Mount of Temptation – Jericho

I was leading a group in Israel and Jordan and one of the sites we visited was Mount of Temptation – Jericho. We entered into Jericho in the evening of 7 Dec, a day after Trumph’s announcement of acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jericho is Palestine and not Israel. The streets in Jericho were quiet as there was an economic protest where all shops and restaurants were closed. I have been to Jericho many times and this silence was unusual.

Somehow the silence reminded me of the silent march of the Israelites around the ancient city of Jericho. We did not go to take over the city neither were we on the march. Yet the silence in the streets indicated that something was to come. In the Biblical story it was conquering the Promised Land. We were there to see the land. 😊 On 8 Dec after we left Jericho early morning, protest and demonstrations broke out in Palestine, including Jericho. Thank God for His divine protection and timing for everything.

“When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there. Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.” When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” Joshua‬ ‭6:8-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬ (emphasis mine)

On 7 Dec, our Jericho guide waited for almost 2hrs as we were late. Our itinerary was to head straight to Elisha Spring, Seed of Hope and to the hotel. Instead, without asking for our consent, he brought us to the foot of Mount of Temptation. Yes, there is a big shop right at the foot of Mount of Temptation. I was not too concern since shops were supposed to be close. A quick stop to see the mount from the base should not be a problem even though we were tight for time. When approaching, I saw the shutters of the shop down so there shouldn’t be any distraction. Guess what? The shop assistants came out in the dimly lit road with samples of dates and half the group were more interested in the dates than the significance of the Mount of Temptation. A side note, Jericho does produce good dates!

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was reminded of Achan who were tempted by the spoils of Jericho and secretly kept some despite God’s command against it. I find it rather interesting that the temptation of Jericho is still at work now, even in small things like dates and shopping. 😅

“But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.” Joshua‬ ‭7:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I believe it is a personal warning God has for me this season even as I have come out of the wilderness and the first battle of “Jericho” comes with temptation in the most unexpected manner. Temptation is waiting in the dark corner to spring a surprise offer that I might not be prepared to resist. The spoils of the first battle, just like the first fruit, belongs to the Lord. Don’t even think about touching them as the consequences will be dire, just like the battle of Ai.

I pray that myself or anyone of us will not fall prey to such temptations. Let us fix our eyes on our Lord Jesus lest we be distracted.

Authority, Forgiveness and Discipline

Authority, Forgiveness and Discipline

As the title “Authority, Forgiveness and Discipline” suggests, this post touches on the role of leaders. I am referring to those with authority as people who are responsible for the growth and well-being of others. This includes parents, teachers, superiors in workplaces, pastors, youth leaders, and as you can see, almost anyone depending on how you define your roles.

Forgiveness

As humans, we are far from perfect but are being made perfect. Yes, we do silly things that can irritate, anger and hurt the people who are around us. This is the time when those in authority need to exercise forgiveness. Forgiveness is not released only after an apology is given. Forgiveness is not holding anger and bitterness towards the person despite what was done or said, or sometime not done or said. It is to still be able to look at the person with the love of God and giving the person the worth and value God have for him or her. Forgiveness is often taught and talked, where many are struggling to practice, including myself.

Discipline

Perhaps it is this struggle that is why we often end the process at forgiveness. As by the time we manage to forgive, we are done with the matter already. Yet Biblically, there is one more step.

Let us refer to Matthew 18:15-20 (NASB):

15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

The heading for this section in the NASB version says “Discipline and Prayer”. We often quote verses 18 and 19 for prayer, but it is not often that we look at it in context of discipline. Verses 18 and 19 deal with spiritual authority and how this is connected to verses 15-17, which is the context of these truths. This is corporate spiritual authority that we see Jesus taught here. The source of the power is of course from God through the work of Jesus Christ. I believe verse 15-17 lies the key to unlock this authority and power given to the church.

Sin and Spiritual Authority

God hates sin. When sin is present, God does not bless and the flow of authority is stopped. In the Old Testament, God judges sin. Individuals like Achan and even King David had their sins judged. In New Testament, the most dramatic incident was Annanias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). These were sins that were hidden from the knowledge of the church. Yet for sins that are known to the church, God gives His body His authority to judge, release forgiveness and discipline. Discipline can only come when there is forgiveness, then the actions taken will be to correct and for growth. Without forgiveness, any action taken is revenge which is not to seek the good of the offender. If the offender is to remain in the community, as per normal, the gravity of sin from God’s perspective is never fully reflected, and thus it is not possible to learn that sin is an abonimation to God. It most probably is not to the offender. If it is, he or she would have not done it or would have repented quickly. Remember that excommunicating the offender is not a life-time sentence. Upon repentence, i.e. the person realized the gravity of the sin and is willing to change and forsake the old ways, the person is fully integrated back into the church community.

By dealing with sin through the heart of God, considering both God’s hate towards sin and love towards men, this is when the church can exercise the very spiritual authority given in verses 18-20. If these verses are set in full motion, what a great testimony of the glory of God we will be here on earth.

 

Open Tri

Open TriHad stomach problems today, probably a delayed response to some bacteria from my recent Israel trip. This forced rest became a forced sit down session to do a visual response to the almost 2-weeks trip. Motifs from the trip are all embeded, including some personal God moments. I have received so much blessing from leading this group of 44. Much healing took place as well. God is good!

Some photos of the Israel-Jordan trip can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1824297401186038.1073741830.1678984219050691&type=1&l=d0dd4034b4

Under the Shadow

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We love the thought of being under the shadow of God’s wings. It is a place of shelter, a place of safety, a place of rest. It speaks of God’s protection and His love towards us. A very comforting and reassuring place to be.

One characteristics about shadow that we perhaps often did not realise is that it is dark. The covering provided cut out light. Even as it shields us from the dangers outside, it also shield off the light.

Here comes the question: How do we differentiate between the darkness of being under the Almighty’s shadow and the darkness of evil? Do we confuse these two places?

Being under the shadow of Almighty, even though dark, but the warmth of God’s presence can still be felt although not seen. Like chicks being tucked under the wings of their mother, it can be dark when her wings fully covers them but the body warmth of the mother can definitely be felt. Conversely, darkness of evil is the absence of God. There will be no warm presence of God at all. Perhaps one can run on the deception that it is a shadow, but the coldness will one day be felt in the bones.

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Similarly, when God’s hand in upon a person to bring him/her to another place, the moment when His hand comes near, it is possibly the darkest moment where vision is completely cut off. Yet if we allow Him to lift us up from the place we were standing, and move us to the new place He had plan, once His hand is lifted, our eyes will see a very different landscape from the previous. So let’s be at rest and trust God’s hand.

The Father of My Nation – Mr Lee Kwan Yew

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It is amazing how the absence of a person leaves a vacuum so much larger than I knew. I had never thought Mr Lee Kwan Yew’s passing will affect me so hard, but it did.

There are floods of videos and documentaries of old footages of his speeches, interviews, etc and as I watched them, it blows my mind how little I know of him. In his lifetime, he brought a nation from a third world country to first world! In his lifetime!

One thing that stands out to me is his PASSION. Particularly, his passion for Singapore. With his calibre, I am sure he could have been a super successful lawyer, or even a politician in a bigger nation with more resources and prospects (at least at the point in time when he started). Yet, he chose Singapore, which at that time was nothing but a small island under British colony, and followed by Japanese occupation. He did not just chose Singapore, he loved Singapore. This love was not the lovey-dovey mushy kind of love. More often than not, tough love. Mr Lee Hsien Long calls it an “abiding love“. A love strong enough for him to give his life for Singapore. Managing a family, a company and/or community is a task enough to crush many. Here we have a man who not only took good care of his family, but also the whole nation, bringing us out from swampy marsh land into a clean & green nation. In one of the interviews, one of the Singapore ministers recalled Mr Lee Kwan Yew advised him to spend time with his children and teach them well. Mr Lee did not give up his family in pursuit of the vision. He embraces his family so that they move together with him. I was completely blown away to find out that Mr Lee was not willing to single-minded focus on economic growth to jeopardise environment and other basic living amenities. He chose to plant trees, and even embarked on cleaning the stinky Singapore River which took 10 years! He put in place urban planning right from the start so that growth and quality of life advances in tandem with economic growth. He wanted the citizens to own their own homes, to take root and build their families here even if it means small flats. Many other nations consider the environment and comfort of citizens as the last phase of development, and often pursue growth at the expense of the grassroots people. He looks at building a nation holistically. Some may say even though economically we are developed world, but we have yet to learn the graciousness of a developed world. Yes, we are perhaps still need some catching up with our psyche, which is an ongoing process since we are all work in progress. But does this mean that we put down everything else that is good?

I respect Mr Lee’s high moral grounds used to govern decisions that are difficult. Some may find Mr Lee’s autocracy restricting and without freedom. If Mr Lee had not bulldoze and made everyone move in the same direction, would we even have the freedom to talk about freedom now? There is a high chance that we will still be embroiled in racial riots, living in fear for our lives, be it from diseases, poor living conditions or crimes. Such scenarios are not pictures of freedom to me.

2015 is Singapore’s Jubilee year, and losing our founding father is such a hard thing. Not seeing Mr Lee at the National Day Parade will be hard. On the other hand, maybe it is time for the 50-year-old Singapore to grow up and mature. This is the ultimate test that whether we have learnt well from our founding father as much as he had led and lived well as an example for us all.

God, lead us into this new chapter of our nation for You are the eternal Abba for us all!

Window of the Eyes

It is hard to tell at times when it is just my own sensing or the Holy Spirit’s fore-warning. Some says foreboding is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps the reason why the Holy Spirit forewarn is to prepare. Prepare for the battle ahead. Perhaps some faith extremist will say that I shouldn’t even entertain such thoughts as they are of the devil. As a child of God, does it mean that life will be void of storms? Often times, men and women of faith that inspire many are people who have battled storms that the sheer thought of their stories causes many to faint. A person without any storms almost feels as though he/she never earned the right to stand with fellow men who are facing unthinkable storms. Fear is inevitable but not being paralysed by fear is a choice. Preparing my heart, mind and spirit for the battle ahead I don’t think it is being fatalistic. In fact much needed. If the battle is averted, rejoice! If the battle comes head on, I am ready to hold my ground.

Here comes the struggle, will I be willing to take on the battles and bear the scars of victory or would I rather take the comfortable and safe pathway? The adventurous and goal-getting part of me is wanting to gear on forward for the prize of victory. Yet the weary and worn soul is saying give me the easy path as I can’t take it anymore.

The limbo state of waiting for the verdict, medical tests and reports, does make one come face to face with the question, “Is Christ my all?” The Lord has challenged me in many areas that past years almost liken to pulling the carpet off my feet. Some I have overcome, and some still learning to give Him full Lordship. This round, it is the physical. Even if I lose any of my physical abilities, will I be able to praise Him and serve Him with the same heart, mind and soul?  It is perhaps easier to die the physical death than to live a life of physical weakness. Making full sense of Paul’s statement of “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Only when I know that Christ has fully embraced me in His love will I then be able to face this life of physical weakness of pain and suffering in full security, knowing that it is all worthwhile.

This decision may not be needed in reality, but it is a test. No matter how the physical works out, the first thing God looks at is the heart. May my heart be in the right place, in His place.

My Silence

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Spoken words don’t come easy
The usual quiet missy

Often times nothing to add
Often times enjoying the chat

Sometimes visualising the words
Sometimes drifting to another place

Few times wanting the noise to end
Few times tempted to walk away

It is not easy to understand my silence
Perhaps I will tell you when you question

My mind and my heart through audible words
Only come when I am in restful trust

Nothingness is Nothingness

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As a Chinese in Asia, the concept of Buddhism Nirvana where the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion are extinguished, is not foreign. This is nothingness, in Chinese we call it 空 (kong1) which can also be translated as emptiness. There are many stories of men and women who at one point in their lives decide to take the vow and go on this pursuit of nothingness to attain Nirvana. All their desires, dreams and hopes vanished into thin air. Ties with family and friends are cut too.

When there is no purpose in life, there is no reason to live – nothingness.
Living or dying holds no meaning – nothingness.
The existence of a person bears no significance – nothingness.

This sounds like a walking corpse straddling between life and death. The appeal of nothingness is escapism. A state of nothingness means one cannot feel anything, including pain, disappointments and other negative undesirable emotions and stresses. It gives a seemingly valid reason to bail out of life, putting aside all responsibilities. Perhaps it is a suicide of the soul.

Is this how life is meant to be?
Doesn’t life consist of a spectrum of experiences – laughter & tears, excitements & disappointments?
How is life defined without these?

What does it mean when Jesus Christ tells us to die to self? Isn’t it similar to extinguishing our fires of desires, aversions and delusions? People have told me that dying to self is like a dead dog not affected by its surroundings. This also means that this dead dog is unable to react to what is good. Sounds like a walking zombie to me.

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Dying to self is only half-truth. Jesus Christ died on the cross, but this is only half of the truth. Living only by this half of the truth represents a powerless and pathetic faith that is dead. The other half of being “alive in Christ” is less emphasised. Here are a few key scriptures about being dead and alive.

Romans 6:11 “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:10 “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Ephesians 2:4-7 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Dead in this context is to sin, and also our flesh nature, not dead to God’s design of a human to think, feel and live. How is it that a state of nothingness is a goal? Nothingness is nothingness, it will never satisfy or fill. What deception to get into this goal that amounts to nothing? To be dead scripturally is to “kill” the sinful nature, the very thing that makes us dead. The way to do it is not switching off into nothingness and shutting out God and all His blessings. It is achieved by being alive in Christ. Human is not able to let go of something without grabbing hold of another. Trying forgetting something and the harder you try, the more it will come to mind. Same as the sinful nature, the more we consider it, the more it consumes us. Filling our lives with Christ is the only way to flush out sin. Only Christ is able to kill sin and be victorious over it. As we run towards Christ, we run away from sinful nature that results in death. This end is far from nothingness. It is FULLNESS. FULLNESS to the MAX. 🙂