Rights & Responsibilities

A friend of mine who worked actively in industrial relations said union leaders always talked about their rights. My friend would listen and then respond, “I hear you, and I understand these are your rights, but could you tell me what your responsibilities are?” This was often followed by profound silence.

Children love to receive gifts, but try asking them to do housework or share their toys. Silence.

John F Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

There are Christians who like to claim their right to God’s blessings, but ask them about their responsibilities, LOUD SILENCE.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be expected.” – Lk.12:48 (CSB)

Barnabas Chong

How Would You Remember Jesus this Easter Weekend?

God made the world, loves the world, wants none to perish and therefore sent His beloved Son Jesus to live on earth and die a cruel and painful death on the cross to save us from our sins. All who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!

But how would those who are perishing believe if we don’t tell them? And when do we plan on telling them when so many amongst us only care about and spend most of our time on church services, fellowship meetings, leadership meetings, bible studies, special worship events, Christian seminars and conferences, self-care, personal spirituality, etc.?

While we remember the Lord Jesus this Good Friday-Easter Sunday weekend and what He has done for us, while we soberly and warmly remember His unconditional and sacrificial love, let’s also remember that He did not do this just for us but for the whole world!

If we merely remember Jesus without going out there to tell people about Jesus, if our idea of Christianity is what we do within the four walls of the church building, then we are remembering Him amiss and He finds no pleasure in that.

Our remembrance of Him must be accompanied by a desire to bring Him pleasure through fulfilling His desire and purposes in the world. Have a blessed Easter Weekend.

Jn.3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. …. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Barnabas Chong

Called to Teach and Train

We gotta remember that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are not only called to do the work of the ministry according to their offices and capacities but are intended to equip the saints for the work of the ministry!

That means these five groups of anointed ministers are to teach and train every believer to serve. Conduct classes or through other means, to teach and train them in leadership and church planting (apostolic), operate in the prophetic, preach the gospel, provide pastoral care and teach the Word whether to children, youth or adults.

They are not meant to be celebrities, superstars or ultimate rulers, they are meant to serve the Body of Christ through faithful, intentional and effective teaching and training so that believers can do the work of the ministry. When this happens, the body of Christ is edified and grows to maturity.

Eph.4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Barnabas Chong

Mandatory Aloneness

A colleague reminded me the other day that we need to be careful not to be the kind of Christian who lives for the Sunday Experience whether in church physically or online. This time of mandatory aloneness is indeed a good thing.

Every believer should learn to commune with the Lord without someone else helping us. We should want to commune with Jesus without being told to.

Every believer in Christ should rise up and learn how to worship and sing to God without a band, worship leader, YouTube, Spotify, etc.

Every believer should learn to read the Bible on our own – be encouraged, inspired, taught, trained, corrected and even rebuked by the Word of God through personal reading without anyone interpreting it for us.

Every believer should respond to God’s Word by living a life of faith not fear, giving not just receiving, serving not just being served, peace not anxiety, joy not sorrow and victory not defeat.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

MANDATORY ALONENESS: FACs (Frequently Anticipated Comments)
1. “Not everyone can sing on their own, that’s why we need the worship team and worship leader to help.”

Reply: For the minority (I’m pretty sure we are referring to a minority) who don’t know how to sing on their own, teach them to just read the words with a devoted heart, or half sing-half speak, or just sing the words to their own tune. It’s ok for them that every song sounds like “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” or “Amazing Grace”. It’s the devoted heart that matters. And I guarantee that Jesus wouldn’t mind too. You who know, teach them.

2. “Many don’t know know where to start and how to read the Bible on their own.”

Reply: To be honest, that’s an indictment on the way we have done discipleship in church. Anyway, you can still teach them now, better late than never. Create a video or just call them on the phone, and walk them through a verse or a passage. Do that a couple of times, they should get it. For those who still don’t get it, isn’t this circuit-breaker month a wonderful time to slowly guide them day by day until they get it?

3. “Many of our members say they have problems praying.”

Reply: Teach them how to pray, pray with them over the phone. More importantly, get them to pray with you. Keep it short and simple. As long as a person has breath in them and can talk, they have the ability to learn how to pray.

Barnabas Chong

Elaborating on Yesterday’s Post: A Pilgrim’s Regress

Elaborating on my post yesterday, “A Pilgrim’s Regress”, I just want to say that the Christian faith is not ALL ABOUT ME, but ALL ABOUT GOD.

Sure, God loves us and demonstrated that unconditional love through the finished work of Christ on the cross (Jn.3:16). What greater love is there? (Jn.15:13) It is done, the work of redemption is finished, we have believed and we continue to believe and are thankful. Nothing can and should shake us from this foundation – not a health crisis, financial crisis or relational crisis for nothing can separate us from the love of God! (Rom.8:35-39)

Does God love us? Absolutely! Does He treasure us? Of course. Does He have good things in store for us because He is a good Father? No question about it. Is He faithful to us? Most definitely.

However, that is not all. There are a few other things (maybe more than a few) about being a child of God.

1. He loves us and He expects us to love Him back and not love the world, not love anyone or anything more than we love Him. (Mt.22:37, 1Jn.2:15)

2. He treasures us as the apple of His eye and at the same time, He expects us to delight in Him. When we delight in Him, He gives us the desires of our hearts. We gotta make Him our treasure – finding God and His Kingdom should be like finding that precious great big pearl! (Ps.37:4; Mt.13:46)

3. He has great plans and good things for us, at the same time, He expects us to discover those plans and fulfil them! He is generous with us and He expects us to be generous with Him and towards others. To whom much is given, from whom much is required. (Lk.12:48)

4. He is faithful, absolutely faithful and He expects us to be faithful. Faithful to Him only as our God and have no other idols in our lives – not our jobs, our spouses, our children nor our friends. Sports, hobbies and other interests should never be in the way of us making and giving time to serve the Lord and His church. We are called to be faithful and obedient which will result in fruitfulness. (Exo.20:3; Mt.25:21; Heb.3:14,15)

5. He is with us all the time and so He expects us to fear nothing and not be anxious about anything. Don’t worry about our heath, finances, jobs and our loved ones. Do not even fear death! When we look to Him and pray, the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding will rule over our hearts and minds keeping us in Christ Jesus. And think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. Don’t think of what is impure, depressive, negative, worrying, etc. (Phil.4:6-8)

Barnabas Chong

A Pilgrim’s Regress

“I am a Christian and a pretty positive one too!
Love God’s promises in the Bible
and all the encouraging and comforting words.

Love the fact that God is love,
compassionate, kind and caring.
Love that He always protects me
and that He is always faithful to me.

Love that He doesn’t want me to
do anything that I don’t want to;
and I only need to do what I feel like doing.

Love all the wonderful, uplifting sermons
that remind me weekly of how much I am loved,
how blessed I am and how special I am.

I must be pretty amazing the fact that
God loves me that much!
I am a Christian and a pretty positive one too!”

– A Pilgrim’s Regress

Barnabas Chong

Have You Ever Been Told to Obey Everything?

Have you ever been told that discipleship is about teaching and helping each other (including ourselves) to OBEY EVERYTHING Jesus had commanded us?

That’s what the Great Commission passage in Mt.28:19-20 is all about. “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus said, “go make disciples”, “baptizing them” and “teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you”. But for whatever reason, many of us simply looked at “go make disciples” and started Bible study programmes! Discipleship does not merely take place in a classroom! It may start there (or maybe not), but it sure doesn’t end there.

Bible studies are never meant to be purely informational, it’s supposed to be transformational. Without the walk, Bible studies are just all talk. Jesus was super clear, yet we seemed to have missed it. He said, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”. I missed that for many years too! Our wrong focus could be why so many amongst us who have attended CGs for many years, gone to Christian seminars and conferences, listened to the best speakers can end up living a relatively untransformed life – unchanged temperament, continuing in bad habits and sinful lifestyle, etc.

A transformed life in Christ should look like this: Becoming a disciple who desires and pursues perfect obedience (though we know full well that we may not be sinless on this side of eternity – but we can certainly sin LESS). It’s about becoming a disciple who make disciples who go on to make disciples, because following Christ is not about just me making sure I follow the spiritual disciplines and be personally holy, it’s about making disciples one-by-one.

I’m not saying we have not ever said anything in church about obedience. It’s just that we don’t seem to link obedience to disciple-making sufficiently – in a way that every believer becomes determined to be a quality disciple and realise that the key is in learning to obey everything, not acquiring skills to lead bible study, worship, prayer, outreach, etc. It begins with me learning to obey, and teaching others to obey. It’s about living a life of obedience as a role-model and giving time, one-on-one to help a fellow disciple obey too.

Barnabas Chong

You Are Blessed When You Read the Book of Revelation … Really?

“You are blessed when you read the Book of Revelation!”

An oft repeated phrase I’ve heard since I became a Christian more than 30 years ago. The basis: Rev.1:3 “Blessed is the one who READS aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” The focus many have placed is on READ the words of this prophecy (Book of Revelation). But what about the second half of the verse that says, “those who HEAR and who KEEP what is written in it”? What does it mean to keep what we read?

An easy way to get a little more details is to jump straight to the last chapter of Revelation. Repeating His words in 1:3, Jesus said now in 22:7, “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” He went on to say in 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, TO REPAY EVERYONE FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE.”

We also see in the 7 letters to the churches how our Lord rebukes those in the churches who DO WRONG and promises His blessing only to those who CONQUER and who REMAIN FAITHFUL to the end.

The Book of Revelation is not a book to read and claim God’s blessing – to do that is to miss the main point. Yes, we are to read it and the primary message is the call for all of us to DO WHAT’S RIGHT, CONQUER SIN AND IDOLATRY, and REMAIN FAITHFUL to the end.

Barnabas Chong

Perfect Peace

The sweetest words from the Bible I heard when I suffered a severe life-threatening infection that made my kidneys fail, liver failing, heart flatlining, blood pressure dropping drastically about 9 years ago were these words: “His mercies are new every morning!” (Lam.3:22,23) It came from wife of my caring cardiologist Prof James Yip who visited me before I slipped into unconsiciousness (they were both members in a church I had pastored before).

The Lord did not say at that point that He was going to heal me. All He said was His mercies are new every morning. And that was enough! And all I needed to know was that through it all, the Lord Almighty was with me. When He is with me, who can be against me?

When He is with me, both living and dying were in His hands and according to His perfect timing. His mercies were more than enough. I had no anxiety, but physical pain, plenty. Told the nurses 15 when I was asked to score the pain on my diseased left leg on a scale of 1 to 10. But deep within me, I was perfectly at peace.

That’s what we need today amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic – perfect peace. Understand this, the degree of peace you have is directly proportionate to the degree of trust you have in God. More trust, more peace. Less trust, less peace. No trust, no peace. Perfect trust, perfect peace.

Isa.26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Barnabas Chong

One Victorious Way to Fight the Coronavirus

One victorious way to fight the coronavirus – being FEARLESS in the face of death! A few things the pandemic has done to us: (1) brought about fear and anxiety (2) undermined our faith – just look at how flustered we are and how we desperately grab Bible verses to comfort ourselves (3) robbed our peace – isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace – when we embrace Him, we have embraced peace! (4) instilled the fear of death in us – wait a minute; haven’t we already read the end of the “story” in the Bible? Don’t we know that we win in the end, that we are victorious over death and the devil? When we have Jesus, we already have the full confidence that eternal life is ours! That is His spiritual blessing given to all who follow Him. So, we need not fear death – instead we should be able to say as the Apostle Paul did, “O death, where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory?” (1Cor.15:55 KJV) When we become fearless in the face of death, as the early disciples were, there will be no more anxiety, fear, lack of faith and lack of peace.

Barnabas Chong

 

People Need the Lord

People need the Lord. Whether it is this current global pandemic or some other crisis in the future that causes people to fear for their lives, at all times, Christians need to remember that people need the Lord. We need the Lord, and those who don’t know Christ most certainly need Him. The words of this song by Steve Green comes to mind:
————————–
Everyday they pass me by
I can see it in their eyes
Empty people filled with care
Headed who knows where

On they go through private pain
Living fear to fear
Laughter hides their silent cries
Only Jesus hears

People need the Lord, people need the Lord
At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door
People need the Lord, people need the Lord
When will we realize people need the Lord?

We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right
What could be too great a cost
For sharing life with one who’s lost?

Through His love our hearts can feel
All the grief they bear
They must hear the words of life
Only we can share

People need the Lord, people need the Lord
At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door
People need the Lord, people need the Lord
When will we realize that we must give our lives?
For people need the Lord, people need the Lord

————————–
Many Bible promises have been circulated in recent months and they are mostly about how the Lord will protect us, rescue us, save us from the fowler’s snare, shield us from diseases and pestilences, “do not fear, for I am with you”, “God is faithful”, etc. See the trend – it is primarily about ME. But shouldn’t we go beyond that?

Yes, it is important to keep ourselves grounded and remember God’s promises. But how much comforting do we need? How often do we need to be reminded that we are His treasured possession and that He loves us? Maybe it’s time to remember that people need the Lord. Maybe it’s time for the comforted and secured ones to bring God’s comfort and security to those who are filled with care.

Jn.4:35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.

Barnabas Chong

Rethinking Church

I have believed for a couple of years now that house churches have a huge advantage over large churches.

The increase in the number of people going to any particular church is often accompanied by several decreases, namely one-to-one connection and relationship, life-on-life mentoring and discipleship and finally, accountability.

All these three important areas in the life of a church decline as church membership and attendance go up. In a big church, it is so easy for people to remain anonymous, disconnected and un-discipled. To avoid interaction, there are people who come in shortly after the service starts and leave just before the service ends – no need to talk to anyone.

Today, many Christians have been forced to only gather as home groups for obvious reasons. Well, you may say that even when services weren’t suspended, we were already meeting in home groups or cell groups. True, but now, the only thing many of us have is home groups, not unlike the New Testament church – the only thing they had were house churches. They met daily and they grew phenomenally.

With only CGs meeting in homes, can we not do more than just sing a few songs, do Bible study, eat a nice supper and chat about the economy and the weather? Can we not be like the house churches in the NT that did ministry and outreach together, demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit, and fulfilled God’s Kingdom agenda without the need to meet corporately by the hundreds or thousands?

And when the suspension is lifted, when we gather together again as a large corporate body on weekends, I hope that we would treasure our gathering a whole lot more than we ever did!

I hope that we will treasure one another and look out for those in our church who have often been overlooked and connect with them because Christians are commanded to love one another as Christ has loved us. No one should be left behind. Love not only with our hearts and our words but with our actions – sharing generously what we have with one another especially those who are in need – that’s how an authentic Christian community should look like!

Maybe the “scattering” of the church due to the suspension of worship services is not such a bad thing – it brings us back to the days of the early church!

Ac.2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

1Cor.16:19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.

Rom.16:5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia.

Philemon 1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother. To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house.

Col.4:15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

Barnabas Chong

The Scattered Church and the Gathered Church

In Acts chapter 8, a great persecution came against the church in Jerusalem, as a result they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

We are told in v4 that the scattered believers (the ordinary ones, not the apostles) went about preaching the gospel! In particular, through Philip’s preaching and ministry, many were delivered from unclean spirits, healed of sicknesses and converted to the Christian faith! An example of how THE SCATTERED CHURCH COULD BE A GOOD THING!

We may not call our current pandemic a great persecution, but it certainly scattered the church as many worship services have been suspended.

The question is, what will today’s scattered church do? Maybe the gathered church experience has made us insular and unhealthily comfortable, thus, in God’s infinite wisdom, He has allowed us (as one of the effects of the pandemic) to be scattered so that we may not get stuck within the four walls of the church, instead get out there to preach, deliver and heal so that the world may know Him. God is able to make all things work together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose, so He can certainly turn this global crisis around to serve His divine purposes.

May we begin to see signs, wonders, miracles and salvations not only in our gathering but also in our scattering as believers rise above the tough times we are in.

Barnabas Chong

The Puzzling Theology of Healing

One of the most puzzling things about our understanding of God is in the area of healing.

On one end of the spectrum, some preach that God always heals as long as you have faith. At the other end of the spectrum, they preach that miraculous healing has ended with the age of the Apostles. In between, yet others say that God is able to heal but sometimes He chooses not to for reasons known only to Him and when He does that, He is still good.

The fact is many faithful Christians have died of sicknesses – in some cases, young persons too – and in most of the cases, if not all, strong faith preceded the prayers of healing – yet, these dear saints died. Are there reasons why a family, especially a Christian family, for instance, could suffer the death of a child or young person?

First, some say it is because God was punishing them or their children for their sins. 2Sam.12:13-14 – King David’s son died because of David’s sin of adultery and murder; Job 1 – his ungodly children died because of their sins; Ananias and Sapphira in Ac.5 died because they lied. Punishment may be a reason – but that’s not the only possibility.

Second, it could also be the Lord’s discipline for the Lord disciplines those whom He loves (Heb.12:6) and His form of discipline may include sickness and death.

Third, it could be the work of the devil. The story of Job tells us Satan’s involvement in the death of Job’s children. The New Testament tells us that Satan could inflict sickness and oppression too – Mt.9:32; Lk.13:11; 2Cor.12:7.

Fourth, it could be a consequence of sin in our world and the fallen state of humanity.

Fifth, we just don’t know why. We don’t know everything – we won’t, we can’t. Some things are simply beyond us as our minds are finite. These are five possible reasons amongst others.

For me, the conclusion of the matter is anchored in Who God is. The Bible tells us He is gracious, loving and righteous. He always does what is right. The perfectly righteous God will not and can not do what is wrong. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Ge.18:25) Thus, maybe we should respond like David did after his son’s death, he worshipped the Lord and devoted himself to the Lord which earned David the title, “a man after God’s own heart” (Ac.13:22).

Barnabas Chong

Let’s Be Impressed With God!

I remember Floyd McClung shared in a conference in 1991 about a prayer meeting he had attended in Stockholm. He said something like this, “As pornography especially child and teen porn were rampant in Stockholm, those who were at the prayer meeting shared with each other the latest news and updates about it. They talked about how terrible the perpetrators were and how horrible some of the cases were, etc. They kept saying to each other, “did you hear about this case ….”, “did you know …”, etc.

This went on for quite a significant amount of time. At one point, an elderly lady who had remained quiet the entire time suddenly spoke up. Since she was new and had been quietly listening, everyone stopped and gave her the floor. She said, ‘Looks to me like you are all pretty impressed with what the devil is doing in this city, going on and on about the details of each horrific act committed; shouldn’t we be more impressed with God and what He is able to do amidst all these when God’s people pray? We should get on with the prayer meeting.'”

Lately, there’s been a lot of videos, pictures, texts, etc. about Covid-19 sent back and forth amongst many people on social media. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to keep each other updated. But maybe, just maybe, we too should be more focused on God’s greatness and power, and on what He wants to do and is able to do in our world today. Let’s be impressed with God!

Psalm 68:1 God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him! 2 As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God! 3 But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!

4 Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him! 5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. 6 God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land. …

32 O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord, Selah 33 to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice. 34 Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies. 35 Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel–he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!

Barnabas Chong

Many of Us Have Rather Amazing Mental Capacity and Intelligence!

A young graduate said, “I’ve got a degree, finally!” Another said, “I completed my master’s degree!” Yet another said, “I did it! I hold a phd now!”

This is common in Singapore, so many Singaporeans have achieved great things – for some, it’s educational, for others, in various fields of specialisation. The intellectual capacity of many Singaporeans are amazing. I have a friend who doesn’t have a university degree – but every time we talk, he seems to know so much about so many things!

I have also heard many people say that Christianity is a middle-class religion – well, it is not – but the truth is, there are many in the church who are doing very well in their careers, many who are highly intelligent and middle-class (but that doesn’t mean Christianity is a middle-class religion or middle-class only religion).

The puzzling thing is this – while there are many folks in church who are so intelligent, who have such great mental capacity – but when it comes to sharing our faith with non-believers, we are often clueless! We find it difficult to answer tough questions non-believers throw at us.

What does this tell us? I think it is as simple as this: we have not put our amazing and intelligent minds to LEARNING how to share our faith.

We would sign up for 8 hours of cooking class to learn to cook, 12 hours to learn how to invest our money, 20 hours to learn how to play golf, 10 hours to learn how to dance, etc., but we will not sign up for a course in church on how to share Christ. We would rather invite them to come listen to Nicky Gumbel (for instance) share the gospel on our behalf! What have we become? A generation of inviters? Thought we are called to be a generation of witnesses. Nothing wrong with the Alpha Course, I love it and it has led many to Christ – but it should never become something that make us not promote personal one-to-one sharing of our faith.

A good starting point in learning how to share our faith is for instance, instead of watching all kinds of humorous and entertaining YouTube videos, to watch this one and see how Ray Comfort shares the gospel with two young persons. There’s a lot we can learn from this 19 min video.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” (Phil.1:21-22)

Barnabas Chong

Two Ways People Respond to Pain

Two possible responses from those who go through pain. Take control or give God control.

I have often seen those who decided to take control of the situation themselves fail time after time, go through more and more pain. They get angry with everyone and they get angry with God for not helping. But how can God help when we keep turning to our own wisdom and our own ways? They have no patience to wait on the Lord, they didn’t stay still enough to hear what God had to say about the situation. They wanted something done instantly and were not willing to let God do it in His time. As a result, their problems kept recurring, they just won’t go away. There were occasional seasons of calm and rest and that was only because human wisdom can help for a while, but in the long run, the problem was not solved. The heart still hurt because healing didn’t and couldn’t take place.

On the other hand, I’ve seen those who give God control and laid their pain at His feet. They humbly realised that they were absolutely in need of God and His wisdom. They listened to godly counsel, and they waited upon the Lord and listened to what He had to say. Then, they acted in obedience no matter how difficult it was to do so. They didn’t take matters into their own hands, they waited patiently for the Lord to act in His perfect time. Though deeply troubled, they chose to find rest in God and in His Word. Though the waiting took time, it was always good in the end. Healing took place – it came from the Lord and His Word.

So, in times of pain, should we take control or give God control? The answer is obvious – complete surrender to His love, grace and will. The God Who is love and Who is perfectly righteous will not and can-not do wrong. His love never fails and His mercies are new every morning!

Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Barnabas Chong

Can a Student Go to School Daily and Not Learn Anything?

Can a student go to school daily and not learn anything? Of course. Can you attend a seminar on investment and come out not knowing how to invest? Of course.

Is it possible then that a person goes to church regularly and yet not think, talk and act like a Christian? OF COURSE! Can a person sing worship songs with great zeal without being a true worshipper who lives a life of surrender to God? Yes, most definitely. Finally, can you and I go through a discipleship programme without becoming a true disciple of Christ – one who is faithful in following Him and obedient to His Word? Without doubt, yes!

In each of these scenarios, what does it take to emerge as one who has learned and is changed by what is taught? What do we tell our children when they don’t do well in school?

We tell them to get interested with what is taught, pay attention, do the reading, do the homework, make sacrifices, play less, be more focused, ask questions when they don’t understand, learn materials from other schools, work on their past exam papers, don’t give up, make friends with the hardworking students, don’t hang out with those who are not interested in school, etc. It’s mostly the same for everything else.

Ps.1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Barnabas Chong

Two Most Important Things Are Now the Two Weakest Things?

Isn’t it interesting that the two most important things that Jesus commissioned us to do (in the Great Commission – Mt.28:18-20) are the same two things that are weakest in most churches today?

First, evangelism. Winning souls wherever Christians are located daily is not a strength in too many churches. When the church today thinks of evangelism, we usually think of massive outreach efforts, large scale events that we do a few times a year (not to mention spending lots of money running these events). We don’t think about winning souls daily in our work places, schools and neighbourhoods.

Second, discipleship. While most churches run Bible studies of all sorts, often well-attended too, yet disciple-making the Jesus way seldom happen. Discipleship does not take place in a classroom, it takes place in daily living when we do life together – it’s a daily mission out in the streets, in public and wherever God places us. In these contexts, we can then encourage and teach each other to obey everything Jesus has commanded us – that’s the Jesus way. There is no point in singing passionately about how much we love Jesus and walk out the church doors and not live in obedience to Him (or as Billy Graham said, “deny Him by our lifestyle”). There is no point in having warm fellowship and do all kinds of fun and interesting things in church with fellow believers when we don’t seem to care about a larger world of non-believers outside the church.

Has the devil rob us of something here? The devil is an expert in switching the price tags so we end up valuing the things that are of lesser value. The church today must stay true to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, otherwise, we are just another exclusive club.

Mt.28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Barnabas Chong

We Need a Word Revolution!

There was a time when the church was very conservative in our expression of worship; today, spontaneous, lively, expressive and Spirit-led worship can be found in so many local churches. And it is indeed a wonderful thing! You will also find churches with traditional adult services permitting young people to have their own vibrant contemporary worship services! There has been so much interest in developing and revolutionizing worship that getting believers to engage in passionate worship is no longer a challenge as it used to be. Glory to God!

Now, what we need today is a different kind of revolution – the revolution of the Word of God! While general literacy has made quantum leaps in recent decades and most Christians in a modern city like Singapore are way more educated than Christians in the past, say 30 or 40 years ago, yet Bible literacy is embarrassingly low! In his article, The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches (published July 6, 2015 in Christianity Today), Ed Steyzer said, “Christians claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word. We claim it’s God’s divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren’t reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible – essentially the same number who read it every day.”

In my observation (and I do hope I’m wrong), I suspect the statistics here in Singapore are not far different from the US. Just look at current trends: more worship events, more leadership conferences and more supernatural gatherings held in our country compared to events that actually teach the Bible. In fact, I wonder how many and who would attend a conference on how to interpret the Bible compared to a Hillsong Conference or Kingdom Invasion Conference for instance? (I’m not saying the latter two conferences are no good, they are good – I’m just making a point here about the degrees of interest and how worrying it could be.) Since early 2000 till now, I have often heard young people asking to hold worship events or worship nights without sermons. They say, “Pastor, we just want to worship!” Since when was preaching the Word and listening attentively to it no longer an expression of worship?? 🤔Many cell groups spend more time socializing, sharing personal prayer concerns and struggles than digging into the Word. (If your cell group is not like that – praise the Lord! And if your CG is all study with no community and sharing of lives and personal struggles, that’s a problem too!) Have we not considered maybe if we have a deeper understanding of the Word, knew God better through His Word, apply His Word and walk by faith, we would have fewer problems, struggles and crises? There are many more examples but I won’t belabor the point, I think you get the idea. And this is why we need a Word Revolution today!