The Great Separator

The Great SeparatorChurch Services are suspended. Now I don’t worry about skipping Church anymore. No more guilt. The perfect excuse for those who aren’t that excited about Church.

Covid-19 is a great separator. It separates the committed and the nominal. It reveals those who are serious about their faith and those who won’t that committed.

Covid-19 separates the ones who would rather be at the greens to improve their swings and the ones who rather be in church to improve their walk with the Lord.

Covid-19 is a great separator. It separates those who want to play more and those who want to pray more.

This Corona virus reveals the true state of our soul. It is as if a light was suddenly switched on and the hidden things in the darkness of our soul became clearly visible.

Covid-19 reveals true worshippers. It draws the line between two kinds of online worshippers.

On the one side are those who think since no one is watching them in the privacy of their home, they need not be at their Sunday best. They watch the live stream service in their nightwear, hands holding a coffee mug and newspapers, slouching on their sofa with their feet up on the coffee table.

On the other side there are those who worship at home as if they are in the Sanctuary of their church. They don’t just watch. They participate. They stand to sing with the others in the screen. They bow in prayer when it was time to do so. They send their offering via the QR code. They don’t talk. They don’t snack. They are not distracted by the noise and demands of their kids. They are focused on worship. They listen intently to the Word being preached online. They believe God is present in the sanctuary of their hearts; and He seeks those who truly worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

Covid-19 throws up those who are true worshippers. It separates those who speak the Word and those who live the Word.

Covid-19 is a great separator. It separates the selfless and the selfish. It tells us in no uncertain ways who are the considerate who think not of their own survival but the survival of others even their own country.

Covid-19 is the great separator. It divides the faithful from the fearful, the devoted from the wayward and the selfless from the selfish. Which side of the divide are you?

Is this God’s way of separating the sheep from the goats even before He comes again?

Is this God’s way of separating the “lappers” from the “kneelers” (Judges 7:5-7) to find the 300 Gideon men to fight for Him?

In this challenging time of great disruption to church life and ministry caused by Covid-19 may we be numbered among the 300 called to fight the army of 135,000 in the future.

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