Jacob – the Blessed Wrestling Schemer

TJACOB-3For many years, I find it hard to reconcile Jacob’s blessings and his scheming ways. I am a firm believer that the end does not justify the means and the life of Jacob seems to suggest otherwise. The recent weeks, Jacob is once again brought into focus.

Jacob was grabbing hold of Esau’s heel at birth (Gen 25:26). This was why he was named Jacob, meaning “he catches by the heel, i.e. he supplants”. These twin brothers were already at war within the womb, causing their mother Rebekah much distress (Gen 25:22). The first round winner was Esau as he emerged firstborn of the womb, pushing himself out before Jacob. This is not surprising as Esau was possibly stronger physically, who grew up to be a hunter. The fight did not stopped there. Jacob still wanted to be the firstborn. He quickly bagged in the win for round two when he traded his bowl of red lentil soup for the birthright of Esau. The final victory was with the aid of his mother Rebekah. Jacob deceived his own father, Isaac, and received the firstborn blessing. Very unorthodox means of getting to the ends which are hard to accept as acts that lead to blessings.

God did not intervene in any of these sibling rivalry. Some people believed that it is already ordained for Jacob to be blessed so God chose not to intervene. If it is ordained, all the more there is no need for Jacob to do what he did as the prophecy will come to pass without him helping God in such manner. Surely there are consequences to sin, even King David lost a son because of his adultery and murder after his genuine repentance. Why is Jacob favoured despite his scrupulous actions?

“His heart.”

This was from a still, soft voice within that I wanted to brush off as ridiculous. Yet there was a solid and deep truth that I cannot dismiss flippantly. Surely God looks at the heart and how can it be that a scheming man has a good heart? It was almost like a court room within me and I was a prosecutor of Jacob whom I never met! It is of course a losing battle in this court room and out of it, I learnt a precious lesson.

Jacob’s heart was fixed on eternal blessings and never swayed by the present. He knew what was valuable and precious – the birthright and firstborn blessings of his father. It was out of the deep longings of his heart that he took every opportunity to grab hold of them.  This same longing of the heart was seen in how he was willing to work another 7 years for Rachel after being cheated to marry Rachel’s sister. The final fight was at Bethel. His fight for eternal blessings which only the Lord can offer. It left him with a limp but with a new name and locked him into his eternal blessed destiny. This encounter ended Jacob’s trail of scheming narratives as I believed his heart was finally filled to the brim by God. This was his destiny.

His trickery of both the birthright and firstborn blessings led to his exile from the house, a fugitive. He did not enjoy the blessings he schemed for during those years. A man who was described as “a peaceful man, living in tents” (Gen 25:27 NASB) now found himself cast into the “wild world” and in the open field to shepherd sheep even though he was still under the protection of his extended family. A modern day drastic career change will be from a computer guy to a construction worker overnight. The birthright to his father’s inheritance was with Esau since he was on the run. This does not look like the blessed life he fought for. Having to leave home is the consequence of his scheming ways.

Rather than seeing him as a cold-blooded man, Jacob was a hot-blooded man fixated on what his heart’s desires. He pursued hard and even prevailed against God. It is interesting that the Bible described him as peaceful and some versions use the word “complete” for a schemer. Peaceful perhaps meaning that he does not shed blood as compared to Esau who is a hunter. The description of Jacob was not negative. His name that describes him as a supplanter is not a negative word in military terms but one of strategy. Comparing Jacob’s heart attitude with how Esau despised his birthright, Jacob’s thirst made him the man whom God used to bless the nations.

Do I desire God’s blessings enough to contend with Him throughout the night, knowing that I would never prevail? I wish I can give a loud yes but in full honesty, my prayer would be “God give me the portion you have for me”. The thought of putting up a fight with the Lord for blessings would never crossed my mind. This sounds like a very submissive and obedient prayer but is this a true reflection of my heart? Maybe it is a coverup. Perhaps I dare not believe that God will give me the desires of my heart or that He has my interests covered. If it is so, then I am not honest with Him with my heart. Or I know that the desires of my heart are not aligned to his? Whichever is the case, the hypocrisy of my heart is revealed. Jacob, despite his immature and unorthodox ways, was true to his heart and to God, believed in it and walked it.

This is a repentance call for me. It is so easy for my heart to be distracted and won out, hiding behind the word “resignation to God’s will” when the tough gets going or I am swimming against the tide. The fear of failure holds me back from engaging the Lord in a wrestle for blessings. It is not about winning, but it is a matter of how desperate do I want it. Jacob set his heart on the blessings of God and this gave God the opening to correct his ways, repent and change. So the key is to set my heart towards God and with that, He can do His work within me so that His promised destiny for me can be fulfilled as He moulds and shapes me along the way.

 

 

Peace in Storm

Mat 8:23-27; Mar 4:35-41
Jesus could sleep in the storm because He was certain of His authority over it. On the flip side, the storm obeyed Jesus because it was unable to ruffle His feathers. In a way, Jesus had to sleep to calm the storm, demonstrating His complete restedness in God. Perhaps this is not a show to the storm but a lesson to us about the restedness in God despite circumstances.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” – ‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NASB‬‬

This peace is power in the Kingdom of God. Nothing can shake His people if we grab hold of this peace, not even in the strongest and most devastating storms. It is not just silence or absence of conflict. But one that is completely rested in God’s sovereignty over creation and the devil.

Peace I need. Peace I receive.

Defining The Tabernacle of David – Word Study

  
Born and bred in an urban city, tent is not a common sight for me. Since the topic is about the Tabernacle of David, I feel the need to understand tabernacle better. I am no Hebrew and Greek scholar but the lexicon is usually a good starting point.

I will start from the New Testament since there is only one verse with the mention of Tabernacle of David. The Greek word for Tabernacle in Acts 15:16 is Skene (σκηνη, Strong’s Number: 4633). Skene is defined as a “tent, tabernacle (made of green boughs, or skins or other materials)”, and also “the movable temple of God after the pattern of which the temple at Jerusalem was built”. In Acts 7:43-44, skene was the Tabernacle of Moses. In Rev 13:6; 15:5 and 21:3, skene is used in the context of after the judgments. There is no difference in words used for the Tabernacle of Moses and Tabernacle of David.

The Old Testament Hebrew has more vocabulary for tabernacle than Greek and English.

The word ‘ohel (אהל, Strong’s Number: 0168) is frequently used for the Tabernacle of Moses in Exodus. ‘ohel means a nomad’s tent, a dwelling, home and habitation. Even though it is nomadic and mobile, it functions as a long-term dwelling, a home. The Tabernacle of Moses withstood 40 years of wilderness wandering and entered the Promised Land! It was definitely highly durable and permanent.

A different Hebrew word is used for Tabernacle of David in Amos 9:11, which is the key Old Testament verse. The Hebrew word for tabernacle in Amos 9:11 is Cukkah (יככה Strong’s No: 05521). Cukkah is a booth, “a rude or temporary shelter”. The Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths (Lev 23:33-43) uses the same Hebrew word, Cukkah. The people of Israel are commended to build temporary booths or tabernacles and live under the Cukkah during the seven days of the feast. The Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned in Zec 14, which wrote about The Day of the Lord, which is commonly interpreted as the final Judgment Day. The passage of Zec 14:16-21 prophesied that the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated after the Day of the Lord. Even though Cukkah is temporary in its physical nature, God has a long-term purpose for Cukkah.

Here lies the paradox. The extremely durable Tabernacle of Moses was not required after Jesus established the New Covenant but the rude temporary Cukkah of David has a purpose beyond its durability. Interestingly, ‘ohel is used in Isa 16:5 for the Tabernacle of David in the context of final judgment by the One, referring to the Messiah.

Physically, the Cukkah being a temporary tent requires restoration over time, especially for the Day of the Lord. Yet, is the restoration just the physical tent? Since it is meant to be temporary, restoration of the physical tent will be challenging and replacing it might be a better solution. If the restoration work is not only referring to the physical tent, what does it then refer to? We can only restore what we know. The definition of the Tabernacle of David that is to be restored is not found in a word study. So a Biblical study is needed to understand this.

 

A side note: The Tabernacle built by Moses was not called the Tabernacle of Moses in the Bible but the Tabernacle of the Lord. I will use the Tabernacle of Moses as most of us understand this phrase but thought I will point out that only the Tabernacle of David was named after the builder in the Bible.

True Strength

strength

We judge by what we see.
Strength is the ability to pin opponent under
– at least in this world.

What if the truth is reversed?
The strongest is the one who is willing to be pinned under,
because he IS stronger.

The victory won is not by putting another under.
It is the power to go from under to the highest,
within just three days.

The power to turn the most cruel scars into beauty.
That in his rising up to heights of glory,
brings many faithful ones with him.

Inspired by Isaiah 42:1-9,18-25; 49:1-7; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12 (The Servant Songs)

Nothingness is Nothingness

Embed from Getty Images

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.

2012-09-22-Dead-dogs-dont-bark

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. 🙂

Dare to Dream with My Maker

flying-eagle

In the morning of 10 Aug this year, while I was struggling to get out of bed, I heard a familar inner voice that speaks so gently but firm, “DREAM WITH ME”.

Over the years, I have never dared to dream my own dream. It is not that I do not have dreams. Deep within me I have desires and dreams. Over the years, I have started to believe that perhaps God’s purpose for me is to help fulfill other’s dreams but not mine. Hurts and disappointments have seeped in each time my little steps toward my dreams are dashed by people and external circumstances. Traumatic events, one after another drain me dry, without any ounce of strength to even think about myself, what more to dream.  To others looking in from the outside, I seem to be coping well with all these. As I take on responsibility to do what is needed, dreams begin to drift further and further away from my reach. Managing my expectations, actually to have no expectations for my own good, becomes a protection against disappointments. I am happy to put my heart into helping others to fulfill their dreams if I can as I know how it feels not having one. I am genuinely happy to help but deep within, aches of such longings are exceptionally intense in the process. The only way to cope is to suppress this and ignore its existance. Deep within I am unhappy and dissatisfied  although I know that God has blessed me.

Proverbs 10:28 says that “The hope of the righteous is gladness” and I lost hope – hope that my heart will ever find gladness. Perhaps the only hope is to find this fullness when Christ comes back again. Yet this contradicts the God whom I know as in Psalms 27:13, David declared “I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.” The goodness of God is available even in this fallen world. Dreams are only possible for those who have hope. Once hope is gone, dreams die.

I am once again challenged to come face with dreams that died so long ago and secret dreams that I never even dare to give second thoughts. God’s call to “DREAM WITH ME” is beginning to awaken sleeping desires within. Hope is beginning to arise. I am in the midst of seeing an almost impossible dream which I never even dared to give second thoughts to coming into reality. This internal struggle is immense, to believe or to protect. To believe that something good will come to pass or to protect myself by retreating into the deep black hole so that I will not be heart-broken again.

Learning to once again take courage and press onward for my dreams is taking so much out of me. I do hope that soon I can post about a dream becoming a reality. The practical steps are daunting. For those who happen to read this, and are struggling with something similar, I just want to tell you that you are not alone. Not because I am also going through this, but because God through Jesus Christ has the power to lift you and I out of this deep black hole of hopelessness.

P.S. Please don’t get me wrong. My dreams have never been about wealth, status or position. Some of them are very basic things that many people are enjoying as part of their normal lives.

The Spiritual Gifts

This might be a little controversial to some but the discussion at the Biblical Studies class last Tuesday taught by Rev Dr John Tay triggered some interesting thoughts. I am only sharing parts of the discussion that I think are key points as this is quite an extensive topic.  The key passage is 1 Cor 13:8-12.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” 1 Cor 13:8-12

Some have believed that the Canon of the Scripture is the moment in time “when the perfect comes”. In Greek, “perfect” (τὸ τέλειον) is in neuter. The Word (ὁ λόγος) and Christ (ὁ χριστός) are masculine. It is not possible that the “perfect” refers to the Word of God or Christ when this passage is read in Greek. A possible clue as to what perfect means is from the term “face to face”. The phrase is only applicable in the context of 2 persons and therefore the interpretation of perfect as the Canon of the Scripture is eliminated. The only option left is to come “face to face” with Jesus Christ and this refers to the Second Coming of Christ. Since we are still waiting for the glorious return of Christ, this implies that the gifts mentioned in this verse should still be active in the community of believers as we are in the “partial” and not yet in the “perfect”.

There are 3 gifts mentioned in this passage, prophecy, tongues and knowledge. Nobody in this generation will dismiss knowledge as this whole modern society is driven by information and knowledge – perhaps an over-saturation. Weekly sermons, Bible studies, and other teachings that come forth from the church are ways in which knowledge is imparted to believers which I believe most churches have never cease doing. Yet prophecy and tongues are 2 gifts that have received much less attention and emphasis. It does not seem possible that one out of the three are actively present but the other two have ceased or become inactive. I will leave this as a thought so that those interested can search the Bible for deeper understanding in this.

Here is an account of my own personal experience that totally blew my mind away. This happened when I was in West Timor, Soe. You can read my testimony in how I ended up in Soe in another post. On a Sat evening I was in the car and my host was driving me to the prayer meeting where I was to preach and minister like every other evenings. Prayer meetings happen in many places every evening in Soe. Little did I know that I was going to the home of the highest ranked government official in Soe. I delivered the message and strangely I felt deeply convicted to break out in tongues over the microphone. It is not my practice to break out in tongues when I am preaching as I am fully aware that I need to speak in intelligible language, at least to my translator who then can translate it to Bahasa Indonesia, so as to edify the body of Christ. As I was speaking in tongues, I realized my translator was also speaking in Bahasa Indonesia at the same time. The Lord gave me understanding of the tongues and with my less-than-amateur Bahasa Indonesia, it sounded as though my translator was translating my tongues into Bahasa Indonesia through his microphone. I did not feel led to give the interpretation of my tongues using my own words as I was fully aware that an interpretation is needed. I do not always understand the tongues that I speak and it is definitely for a reason why such clear understanding was given to me then. I asked my translator to read Ezekiel 47 which was what the tongues were about. When my translator was reading the passage, I saw the bewildered and amazed faces of my translator and all those who were present. I was not fully certain of what happened at that point in time but only suspected. I closed the meeting in prayer in English with translated Bahasa Indonesia as I usually do.

After the meeting, I asked the translator if he was interpreting my tongues to Bahasa Indonesia. He affirmed it and shared that this had never happened to him before! It was the first time experience for him and that he supernaturally knew that he understood my blabbering tongues. The reading of Ezekiel 47 was a confirmation for him that he was indeed interpreting my tongues and it was a testimony to the listeners too. All present witnessed the demonstration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work, yes, even the official who was participating in the meeting from a hidden room.

“Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.” –  1 Corinthians 14:5

I have never witnessed the gift of interpretation of tongues in the corporate setting before this! I was speechless when I realized the magnitude of what God demonstrated in that evening. This translator continued to translate my tongues in other meetings. To God be the glory!

 

Stepping Out into the Unknown

Last Saturday, 20 April 2013, I was looking through my iTunes library and found a recording of prophetic word released to me in 2006 by a highly respected minister of God. The focus of the word was directed to my impending mission work in East Timor where I was sent out at that point in time. The summary of the word is that God will perform signs and wonders through me in the land and the lives of the people will drastically improve through community transformation. As I look back, I know deep within me that I did not walk in the fullness of the prophetic word that was given. In my own assessment, I believe I walked about 20-30% of what God intended for me at that point. I did witness AMAZING signs and wonders and was blown away but what I experienced was only the tip of the iceberg that God has in store for me. The journey to Timor was so amazing that YWAM Singapore Faces magazine featured a summary of the my story of how I ended up in Timor. Upon coming back to Singapore, due to pressures from all sides, I did not continue the work and missed out on God’s promise for myself to see the transformation that God will do in this beautiful island. God’s destiny for Timor is not hindered by me as God is bigger than this, but because of the decisions I made, I missed out in being part of a move of God that He has invited me to be part of so as to experience Him in a different way. Below is the article in FACE that summarized God’s amazing work in my journey of mustard faith in 2008.

Article on Faces (YWAM Singapore Publication) in 2009
Article on Faces (YWAM Singapore Publication) in 2009

My church is taking hold of the promise that 2013 will be a year of moving into the new level, a higher level. This is also what the Lord put in my heart as I crossed over into 2013. New level means getting out of my own comfort zone and trusting God in ways I never had before. I cannot let my fear of man and fear of the unknown shortchange me of walking in the fullness of God’s blessings. The only person who can hinder my journey with God is myself.

Here’s the song that has given me much encouragement and strength and hope it blesses you as well! O God, give me Your faith to walk this journey ahead!

Till Death Do Us Part…

Last Friday was the marriage reaffirmation of two couples whose lives have blessed me tremendously by being Godly examples. The first couple, Uncle Seah and Aunty Madeline have been married for 56 blissful years. I am just amazed by how their love for each other grows deeper as the years go by. Just the way Uncle Seah looks at Aunty Madeline, everyone around can tell the depth of his love for his bride and the amount of attention he gives to her is unparallel! Even the zeal and zest of young men wooing their love is not as strong as the love and attention that flows out of Uncle Seah so naturally. The second couple, Tardas and Lenny, is married for 23 years. Although they do not have their own natural children, they have given their lives to so many young people who are now their spiritual children. Their one heart in serving The Lord, even if it means sacrificing their own comforts, blesses me so much. These two couples are godly examples for me of a Christ-centred, loving relationship that cannot but bless the people around them.

I volunteered to help them with their flowers and deco for this special day to celebrate and renew their love for each other. Flowers never fail to cheer me up! So the trips to the nursery and being in the big cold fridge full of all kinds of fresh flowers are already the perk!!! So I made 2 hand bouquets and a table centrepiece, hoping to bring some beauty into the cozy function room. Aunty Madeline requested for red roses and I made a hand bouquet for her with a single cream rose, signifying that she is Uncle Seah’s one and only. Aunty Lenny chose pink carnations but the pink hydrangea looked too good to be missed and it turned out really sweet and matching to what she was wearing!

I had a great time with Christina who was my co-“wedding” planner and we ran around getting all the stuff needed to make the evening special and pretty and also coordinating the logistics. It was a very touching evening especially when they exchanged their vows with words from the bottom of their hearts, and not the usual scripted ones we hear at weddings. It shows that in the increasing rates of divorces and broken marriages in the world, marriages that are genuinely built in Christ and modeled after Christ’s love can still exist and it is a possible reality of faithfulness when couples vow “till death do us part”.

Here are some of the photos for you to share the joy!!!

Christina on the Mac doing up the slideshow of photo montage with oldies in the 50s and 60s!!
Christina on the Mac doing up the slideshow of photo montage with music from the 50s and 60s!!
The cut out glittery foam of the 2 couples' names...
The cut out glittery foam of the 2 couples’ names…
Uncle  Seah and Aunty Madeline pouring out the wine for the toast
Uncle Seah and Aunty Madeline pouring out the wine for the toast
Tardas and Lenny pouring out wine for the toast
Tardas and Lenny pouring out wine for the toast
Pastor Jimmy, Pastor Michael and the 2 couples giving a toast
Pastor Jimmy, Pastor Michael and the 2 couples giving a toast
Rose Hand Bouquet
Red Rose Hand Bouquet with 1 Cream Rose signifying the only love
Hydrangea Hand Bouquet
Pink Hydrangea Hand Bouquet
centrepiece
Red and Cream Roses Table Centerpiece