Distracted and Deceived

Distracted and Deceived

In a sermon, Stef Liston spoke about the two main ways the enemy wages war. First, to turn our attention from God through DISTRACTIONS, and second, to make us doubt/quench our full potential through DECEPTION.

It struck me because so often those are the two things I struggle with the most in my faith. Since coming back to Singapore I have been bombarded with distractions. My mind can’t fully be still, even when I’m reading my bible in the morning my thoughts are racing about what’s next, life, lunch. Sometimes with the most facepalm worthy things.

Another battle is fighting the lies about my identity, and these lies become like weeds that wrap round the tree that is blossoming, and choke the life out of it slowly. (Luke 8:14)

In my journeys to and from work, I have observed that many (not all but a seeming majority) Singaporeans are glued to their screens. Some people are reading the news or a book, which is fine, but most are watching movies, playing games or scrolling on social media. Sometimes, by virtue of ‘everyone’s doing it’, I find myself gravitating to my phone as well, checking empty updates of people I don’t really know or care about. That, and reading articles that frankly, have little value on my life.

Why is this an issue?

D I S T R A C T I O N

The Lord speaks to us in the stillness of our hearts and minds, but when we fill our time with visual stimulation and mindless social media, I don’t know how we will actually be able to hear Him.

I call it the abyss of screen time: my mind and awareness darkens, and I delve deep into the lives of other people, of vicious comparison. Either that or I’m numbed to all other sensations because of the escapism of watching videos or scrolling social media.

How distracting it is, and unsatisfying for my soul. To quote a famous man, “But we can give Frodo his chance if we keep Sauron’s Eye fixed upon us. Keep him blind to all else that moves” (Aragorn, LOTR). Distractions keep us blind to other humans, oblivious to the voice of God.

What would it look like if, instead of waiting for that two hour session during a random church camp to go our treasure hunting to pray for people, all of us would open our eyes to see needs on the streets as we are travelling, to observe people and pray for our nation? How much more will God be able to move in our nation? Our cry that God will establish His kingdom here in our nation will turn into action!

What hope do we have against the enemy if we spend that 10 minutes in the morning on the Word of God, and the rest of the time at work or watching videos?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:16 – 17

‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ – I’m convicted to allow my bible readings to dwell in me richly each day, by thinking about them, processing them, breaking them down into smaller phrases and really delving deep into them. Best time to do this? Every morning on the train/bus. Eating lunch alone.

When we are distracted, we leave ourselves open to

D E C E P T I O N

Lies start to creep in about my body image when I scroll the Insta-perfect models. Lies about the futility of my life start taking root little by little when I see all the powerful lives others seem to live. Bitterness and disappointment fight to the surface when I begin to compare myself to friends who are seeing breakthrough in their lives.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 
Ephesians 6: 10 – 13

Putting on the armour of God requires awareness, and focus. Often times the devil’s schemes are subtle, he creeps in like a thief to steal, kill and destroy. To steal our joy, kill our hopes and destroy our faith in Christ. They may start like little foxes, but if we do not remember that we are in a fight, we leave ourselves vulnerable to attacks and they may slowly tear down the good work that God has done in us.

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.
Grace be with you.
1 Timothy 6: 20-21

Paul exhorts Timothy to GUARD the truths, the gifts, the downloads, the faith given to him through the Spirit. Because the enemy will come, and will try to take them away.

“It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters

This is an exhortation to us as believers to be aware of what we let in to our lives, what we fill our time and minds with. It is something that comes up of personal conviction, and a desire to walk more closer with God. To live out the freedom that He has already won for us. Sometimes that takes a bit of uprooting, rock removing, rug pulling in order to free us from the chains that so easily entangles.

What are some of the little distractions that have crept into our daily lives, and keep us from the all-consuming, transformative power of God?

Have you noticed what happens when you engage with these distractions? What are you aware/not aware of?

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 6:12) What are some things that dominate your time and mind and emotions that are not helpful in encouraging your journey?

Fighting Cynicism | Finding Hope

Fighting Cynicism | Finding Hope

You have to move from being a cynical idealist to a hopeful realist” — advice from my mentor which has become a refrain.

Paul E. Miller talks about cynicism in his book “A Praying Life”. He calls it ‘the dominant spirit of our age’, where our adult-ness overtakes our childlike-ness. What it does, as he expounds, cynicism ‘question[s] the active goodness of God on our behalf’, and when not nipped in the bud, it opens up the door to a lot more doubt/disbelief.

Cynicism/Skepticism is glorified in today’s post-Enlightenment age. We are taught to question facts, even the news now require fact-checking because of increasing rhetoric and bias. In my classroom, I tell students to be critical about what they read, what they see on the Internet. It is an important skill to have, being cynical about our world, because our world is fallen. But the problem for us Christians is when that cynicism extends to our faith.

I think about the Alpha Course and how it encourages us to ask questions about our faith, but at a certain point in our journey, we had to put aside the questions and put our faith in Christ, Faith, defined in Hebrews 11, is the ‘confidence of what we hope for, and assurance about what we do not see.’ At the heart of our Christian walk, we had to trust God that he says he is, and believe him in spite of what we yet do not see. And it is in those moments that we begin to witness his grace acting upon our lives, our prayers answered.

When we are cynical about God, we become so trapped by the despair in this world, endlessly anxious about our lives. We lose that freedom that comes from being loved and held by a loving God. If we are saved by grace through faith, and that faith is attacked by cynicism, we begin to doubt God’s grace. The very heart of our Christian faith is questioned.

Other than causing us to doubt God’s goodness, it creates a great numbness towards life. I found that in the past six years, the unresolved hurt of being rejected/unmet expectation was unbearable and so in order to protect my heart from being hurt again, I chose to expect less, pray less, hope less. Miller talks about cynicism as a ‘double-edged sword’ that ‘protects [us] from crushing disappointment, but it paralyzes [us] from doing anything.’ 

In her Ted talk on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’, Brené Brown tells her audience that when we numb the bad emotions, we numb all other emotions as well. There is no isolation device when it comes to numbness. So, when we use cynicism to numb us from disappointment, we also numb our experience of joy and love. I see it now, that perpetual weight of despair and disappointment, the feeling of being trapped that permeated everything I did. Even after a great time with friends and family, I could never honestly feel joyful.

Cynicism also ‘creates distance’, Miller argues. It gives the facade of knowing and being aware, but in actual fact, it tears apart intimacy. It causes us to put up a wall between the good good Father, and eventually, we hide in our corner of bitterness and anger, unwilling to come before God and into his embrace. I treated others’ excitement with disdain, and spoke critically about everything, resisting the full presence of God because ‘I’ve got it together’ (I totally did not).

But how do we fight cynicism and find hope?

In 2017, God spoke to me about my relationship with him in the wilderness. He reminded me of his unending love, and his faithfulness despite my anger and bitterness. He was, first of all, redeeming our relationship, and the way I approached him. I believe the first thing is to come before God again, and learning that he is a good God. He loves us so unceasingly, despite what our cynicism says. We can come to the truth in the bible and read of the Israelites’ unfaithfulness, and God’s responses of love and mercy. He’s angry, and rightfully so, but he always always extends salvation and redemption to this proud people.

Next, cynicism finds its root in disordered optimism. As a younger person I had endlessly dreamt up how my life would be. I placed my hope in things, in education, in people and mostly in myself. The world tells me to ‘think positive thoughts’, that if I put my mind to it I can achieve anything. It tells me that optimism is the solution to a tough life, and I started to idolise hard work, my dreams even. But this narrative in a fallen world fails to be sufficient, and I’m faced with disappointment. God had to weed out/is still weeding out/will continue to weed out my disordered faiths, and to turn my heart back to his constant unchanging unconditional eternal sovereignty.

Then in 2018, once I have understood his goodness a bit more, and started to believe afresh that I am loved by him, he taught me to ask again. Applying for my year in London had been a dream, and while I fought so long and hard to not hope, he provided one thing after another in an assurance of his call to me. He spoke to me through people, some old friends, some complete strangers. He lavished his provision to make this year seem possible. While I had been so worried about rejection and that I was being silly for doing this, He pursued me endlessly to ask boldly. I look back at the last four months before I left for London, and saw that in every single moment had been so carefully orchestrated. Rejected leave, random emails, peace to resign, and then my professional development leave being so surprisingly approved again.

Some mornings, I awake still in disbelief that I am actually here. He answered every prayer about community, about my course. He is healing, redeeming, teaching and I’m learning to daily abide in him. It is as Ephesians 3:20 puts it, he is able to ‘do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us’

He is teaching me to ask boldly, firmly surrendered to him as the good Father. It is such a fine line to tread, and it frightens me endlessly when I begin to dream again. The past two months, with all the healing I have experienced, the dreams started growing again. I’m learning to walk in the delight of the Father, to dream dreams of his. But, the bigger the dreams, the more intimidating it gets. I fear the pain of disappointment, I fear going back into that deep pit of despair. I am absolutely terrified that it would all be ‘wishful thinking’, my ‘whimsical’ ideals. My cynical self looks at these dreams and mock them.

I can ‘put on the belt of truth’ (Ephesians 6) and stand firm on the complete assurance that I have as his child.

ASK BOLDLY — my loving Father loves to give good gifts, and gives me the desires of my heart as I delight in him. He delights in me, he pursues me, he wants to provide. This relationship is not transactional, it is father/child relationship. He wants to give!

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.’– Psalm 37:4

‘If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!’– Matthew 7:11

SURRENDER COMPLETELY — At the same time (not contradictory to asking boldly), because he is the good Father, I can fully trust him. He knows me more intricately than I do, he knows what I need before I even ask, he wants to mold me into his likeness. And so let his will be done. Whatever the response, yes/no/wait, I can fall back on his goodness and steadfast love for me.

‘Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.’ — Psalm 37:5

‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ — Jeremiah 29: 11

‘So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.’ — 2 Corinthians 3:18

Reflections

Have you become cynical in your faith? What are some areas that you have been disappointed in? Lay it before Christ, and let him heal you.

Do you believe that God is good and He loves you, that he is for you and not against you? If not, ask! Like the father in Mark 9:24 — ‘Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”’, cry out to Jesus and ask him to help your unbelief!

What are some prayers you have stopped praying because you have not seen a change? What are some dreams for God you had shelved because life has been so overwhelming? Bring them before God again. Ask boldly, and surrender completely again.

My Heart’s Desires

My Heart’s Desires

I started praying for things again.

I know, it sounds so silly to say it out loud, but I’ve recently started praying for my desires again. I am praying for what I want to see happen in my studies and the biggest breakthrough is praying for a husband again. Why did I stop praying? When did I stop praying?

I developed a strange ‘theological’ cynicism that caused me to see all of my desires as sinful, and God does not need to ‘grant’ them. It’s so insidious how the enemy twists our faith against us. I quote to myself all the verses on how man is but dust, our worthlessness, our evil desires, our sinful flesh, and developed this joyless theology of life. Inside, there were desires, and dreams and hopes that were bubbling, but I suppressed them, telling myself that these are ‘not of God’.

Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord,

and he will give you the desires of your heart. 

First, the psalmist calls us to delight in the Lord, which suggests walking closely with Him, God as sovereign in our lives. We see him as our greatest delight. And in that process, our hearts’ desires are surrendered to him. Walking with God, in my experience, is a constant process of surrender and transformation. Sinful desires are weeded out along the way, and new desires for the things of God are birthed within.

I am facepalming myself right now because this way of thinking had caused (and was probably also caused by) a hopelessness depressive way of living that I so hated. Everything was dull, nothing gave me joy.

Now I see that yes, although my flesh is sinful and the desires of my heart may not always be right, I can trust that as I ‘delight [my]self in the Lord’ he will change my heart where it is wrong, and will fan the desires that are of him. And in his time, give them to me.

I’ve been procrastinating about writing about this topic because I think it digs deep, and I have shut the door on my hopes and dreams for so long that I’m fearful to face the skeletons of these dreams that I have starved.

Ezekiel 37:2-6

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” 

This was the Lord’s word to Israel when they felt that their bones were dry and all hope was lost. But God in his redeeming mercy came to them through Ezekiel and reminded them that He can give them life again, and they would know(again) that He is God. What a beautiful picture of his grace. He can make old skeletons of dreams alive again. He can flesh out those dreams(literally) and give them his breath of life. And in that process, what does he want? He wants us to remember that he is Lord of our lives, our good good Father. 

And so, with that assurance of his faithfulness and his strength, I am stepping into that space to pray boldly again for my dreams and desires. In this newfound intimacy with God, I know that as I lay before him all my heart’s desires, he will take them and give to me what is good for me, even when I, in my limited perspective am unable to see the reasons.

My desire to be married, my desire to love others, my desire to begin ministry, my desire to write, my desire to sing, everything. He holds them all, and in the process, my heart is changing to desire above all, more of him. 

Reflection:

What are some dreams and desires you have shelved because of the disappointment or seeming imposssibility that they would be fulfilled? Remember that God is our good good father, our daddy God who knows us better than we know ourselves. Come before him again with your arms outstretched, with your heart’s desires on them. Offer them to him and find hope in his warm embrace.

I pray that you will find in his presence, that all else fades away, and your love for him is rekindled. I pray for a new desire for the things of God to be put into your heart, and that there will be colour injected into your life. I pray for the dry bones in your cupboard of dreams to be renewed and given God’s breath of life again.

Dependency

Dependency

Dependency is something we unlearn as we grow older. Once we earn our own money, maybe when we move out from our childhood home, being self-sufficient becomes expected.

I make my own decisions about money. I choose when and where I go on holiday. I decide what to do with my time. Honestly as an adult, I don’t need the permission of my parents for a majority of decisions in my life.

Being independent is highly valued in our society, and dependency becomes a weakness. No one enjoys the feeling of being dependent for their daily needs. Ask the competent businesswoman who has to stay home due to the flu, or the successful lawyer who in his old age is bedridden. It is frustrating to have to ask for help with the simplest of tasks: to cook, to clean, to help with the most basic of tasks. In many situations, it is easier for the individual to drag themselves out of bed and to put up with the excruciating pain of their sickness than to call a friend to come over to make soup.

I know, because for the longest time I refused to take sick days off of work, and often waited till I could plan for the lessons I would miss, before taking a day off. Talk about independence. I refused to be dependent on anyone anymore than I deemed necessary.

The narrative I tell myself is: people are busy too, I am more than able to settle this myself. But the truth is probably more along the lines of “I don’t want to come across weak/insufficient.”

But what I have learnt this past few weeks is, I am insufficient. I’m never enough, the world is always going to be too big for me. And if I constantly try to be competent in every single thing, I am going to be the harshest self-critic. I beat myself up for falling ill, for needing my parents’ help, for needing people’s attention and concern.

During my run this week, I saw parents with their young children walking to pick up their older children from school. Other than revelling in the lifestyle dream of being married and taking nice autumnal walks in the park with my family, I felt God remind me again about dependency.

It is the relationship of a young child to her parent.

  1. A young child never needs to ask for her basic needs. The parent(barring extenuating circumstances of course) would always provide for her needs.
  2. She asks for something she wants unabashedly, almost with an expectation that her parent would give her what she asks for.

A young child is utterly dependent on her parent. And there is no shame, no guilt in that dependency. (Have you also noticed how much little children just want to tell their parents about everything?)

I think my parents are quite relieved that my siblings and I are no longer dependent on them and they are free from the heavy responsibility of providing for us. But with my ‘independence’, I began to treat God like I treat my parents. Everything I can do, I do on my own, often without any thought or inclusion of God in my decisions/actions. In my big decisions, I may consult Him, but do what I please anyway. When I realise things are going badly and it is outside of my control, I come to Him with these “if maybe you could perhaps somehow help me’ prayers.

Now thinking about it seems ridiculous. How have I not included my Creator, the Author of my life, the most loving and ever reliable Father in my daily life?

Matthew 7:11

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Matthew 18: 1-3

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Now I think I understand to a greater extent when Jesus used the analogy of children to teach his disciples about the kingdom of heaven.

Firstly, it is really about the relationship we have with Him — we are His children, and He is our Father. He loves us and yearns our love. Just like how my parents are so pleased when I consult them in my decision making, or how freely they would give me something if I asked them for help. Because when we are adults, this inclusion and opportunity to give to us make them feel we are still their precious little children. How much more does my Father God rejoice when in all things I first turn to Him and include Him?

Secondly, the unabashed dependency on God — like a child who needs everything from her parent, we can come to the Father with this loud, straightforward attitude that is fully trusting and utterly hopeful. I think I am always overly suspicious of my own desires, constantly reflecting that they are selfish and self-seeking. This is another blog post on its own, but no matter the desire, we can always come before God with this same attitude of a young child asking for a scooter or a candy.

Thirdly, being like a child is truly humbling — I never quite understood this part about humility. I mean, yes, child-like faith and all, being bold. But dependency IS humbling. It is constantly remembering that I am insufficient, I am weak and only human. It is an act of remembering I am only dust. And that God is God, the Creator. That’s why I think Jesus says “unless you turn”. Turn from what? Probably my pseudo-self-sufficiency, my pride in my competence, my desire to be seen as ‘put together’.

I’m learning again how to be a child. How to accept my earthly father’s generous gifts, to ask for help, to run to community for prayer. Most importantly to enjoy the freedom of being completely loved by Daddy God, to come before Him with my requests again, to include Him in my day. All of this seems so unfamiliar, but also I feel so safe.

Reflection

Two Sundays ago, when I was so beaten down by negative thoughts and was harshly criticising myself, one lovely lady in church came to me and said she felt God say “Don’t hold back”. At the end of the service I was in tears (can’t remember what triggered it) but then this same lady went up and said that she felt that there were people who had heavy hearts, who were struggling with deception and lies.

I knew that the word was for me. It was easy to have just stood where I was so I didn’t have to go through the discomfort of being vulnerable in front of others. Because it was always paiseh (awkward/embarrassing) to break down into a mucus-leaking, eye-liner-smearing sobbing mess. Lies told me: it’s not serious enough. You’re weak for needing prayer for something so small.

But God had already said “Don’t hold back.” Before I knew what He was going to do, He pursued me, He held me.

So I went up to Sally and I said in between sobs: ” That’s me” and that was enough. She and a few others prayed and ministered so powerfully to me. There was a breakthrough that day. No more destructive voices. It was like the wall that prevented me from seeing God’s goodness was torn down.

Are you holding back? Do you think your concerns are too small? Have you maybe been trying so hard to hold it altogether when you know you are crumbling? Come before the Father and let Him pursue you, let Him hold you.

A simple “That’s me” is enough. Your Daddy God is waiting with His arms opened wide, for you to raise your arms to Him like a child again, to embrace you and love you in the most lavish ways.

Hyper-grace/Hyper-works

Hyper-grace/Hyper-works

I have had various discussions with people about the hyper-grace movement. Often we would comment on its failings to present a biblically sound view of grace. The “Grace is amazing but…” statements in order to present, in my view at the time, a ‘holistic’ picture of what grace is.

But in recent times I wonder if there was something there, that should cause us to think deeper about our own understanding of grace. What if we redeemed the word ‘hyper-grace’ and be reminded that there are no limits to God’s grace, and that his grace is enough to cover ALL our sin. His grace is enough to cover the failures of the ‘hyper-grace’ movement, and the failures of all denominations and churches.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying the need for repentance and the turning away from sinful nature. But in this season I am being brought on a journey to re-understand, to be renewed in my marvel for the gift of grace given to us.

Growing up in Singapore, efficiency and productivity are keywords to being successful. Where competence comes in the form of achievements or accolades, and the flag of Meritocracy flies high. We earn what we deserve. We prove we deserve what we get through hard work and ability

And I find in so many ways this worldview distorts my view of grace into one that is ‘Hyper-works’. On one hand, I proclaim that God’s grace is freely given to us, and “For by grace you have been saved through faith”. But in so many aspects of life, I allow my response to grace to become the way through which I earn my salvation.

“Am I worthy Lord of your grace?” I’d ask as I do the works that I felt called to. This can almost be rephrased as “Have I done enough to earn your grace?” Sermons in church give fleeting focus that our works are done in response to grace, but the time allocated to the part of the sermon on our response/action takes away the attention away from His goodness. And so I think, unconsciously and of no real fault of anyone, I developed a mindset that because grace is given to me so freely, I have to prove that I’m worth it. In order for it to not be in vain, I have to ensure that I am useful. And I guess when unchecked, spirals into a ‘hyper-works’ theology.

The last five years threw me into a certain darkness when life became impossible to bear. Being unable to cope with work, I then began to beat myself up about not being ministry focused, not bearing fruit. The group I started fell into pieces, I barely told my students about Jesus, I could not serve in church as I did before. And over and over, the result of my ‘hyper-works’ theology was resounding guilt.

“What if for the rest of your life you are incapable of doing anything?” God asked me one day. What if in some distant future I lose all capacity to be ‘of use’ to His kingdom? Will I still be able to boldly proclaim that his grace is sufficient for me?

I’m learning and I think will continually re-learn the vastness of God’s love for us. Reading Hosea again these few days has hammered in the madness of His love. He loved Israel with such a passionate love. Again and again, despite the hurt and the betrayal akin to adultery in marriage,  He extends his love and promises. He reminds His people of the goodness and security found in Him that is better than what the world offers. What a vivid picture of His grace is painted in the book of Hosea (I encourage you to read it).

Hosea 6:6

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,

the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Psalm 40:6

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,

but you have given me an open ear.

Burnt offering and sin offering

you have not required.

God does not want my empty religiosity, of service done because of habit or routine. He wants my ‘steadfast love’ and my broken and contrite heart.

He wants me.

I’m thinking of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus when He’s in the room. I’m thinking of the sinful woman in Luke who poured the expensive perfume on His feet as worship just because. I’m thinking of all the little children who ran to Jesus, not to offer him anything in return, but only to just enjoy His presence.

They weren’t useful. They weren’t productive. They weren’t big ministry leaders who did much for the kingdom. They just enjoyed him. And there is a tenderness in Jesus’ response to them. He sees them as precious and loved them as they are. It is only after healing the sick, casting out the demons Jesus says “Go, and sin no more.”

It is in this outpouring of His love, of being in His presence, that our works will not become ‘hyper-works’. Our service will be driven by love, by His goodness, by a burning desire that people can share in this same mad, wild, outrageous love. 

It’s so easy to sit at a distance and point fingers at all that is wrong with people’s theology, to be outraged by what we disagree with and forget the vastness and incomprehensible gift of grace. Proclamations of the grace of God always interrupted by ‘but -insert human action-‘

But the greatest ‘BUT’ of them all was recorded in Ephesians.

Ephesians 2:1-5

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses. made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved –

God’s gift of grace, his salvation, while we were yet sinners, was the greatest interruption to the narrative of death. I never get sick of quoting this passage in Ephesians, because I constantly need the reminder. In understanding this, in accepting the gift of grace again and again and again, then Paul says

verse 10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

What will it look like if in church, in our homegroups we do the same? We proclaim the unadulterated message of grace, focusing on the ‘but’ in the narratives of our own sinful lives, and to just be in His presence.

Then, and only then, do we ask the question: Now, what does Jesus want me to do with this love that has been given to me?

Reflection

A good friend in a conversation told me about the profound love of Christ that flooded his heart when he witnessed the love of a mother to her child. “Do I love my Son? Yes. YES YES YES” the lady said on television.

My friend said, “that kind of YES and loud and proud of it, without a flinch without a condition.” and he said to me “God says, ‘do I love my daughter Delphne? YES YES YES so many billion times YES.'”

And in the same way this truth floods my heart again, I say to you who are reading this:

Does God love you?

YES YES YES so many billion times YES.

Loud and proud, without a flinch, without condition.

Lies and deception

Lies and deception

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 

In the incredible work that God is doing in my life the past few weeks, I have been met with an equal resistance. At first, it went unnoticed, the silent undercurrent of thought patterns that often undid the progress. But soon enough, the Holy Spirit gave me an awareness of the lies that ambushed me after each breakthrough. It could not be coincidence because each time, the voices were directly opposed to whatever I had received spiritually.

On Saturday night, it was almost unbelievable how sinister the voices had become. It was easy to just sweep it aside as a depressive episode, or that I’m overdramatising what was happening. But through the night I had a bad stomach pain, and a bombardment of voices filled with lies that kept me up.

Here are some of the lies and deceptive patterns.

1.  You are not worthy of love or community 

I had grown aware that each time after I had an incredible time with community at church or with certain people, I go home and obsessively think through everything I had said. I am filled with disgust with the way I had behaved and the things I said, and imagine all the many ways that I could have offended people. Perhaps I was overly eager, insensitive, maybe I was pretentious, or strange.

But then each time I get asked out again, and people genuinely(seem to) enjoy my company. I’m filled with disbelief that people would like to hang out with me, or choose to be around me. It is ridiculous when I think about it rationally.

The lies that the accuser feeds to me to keep me in isolation. Because he knows that he can’t get to me easily when I’m surrounded by God’s people. He knows that in the love and vulnerability that we experience in God’s family, there is breakthrough and transformation and he hates it.

2. You are not good enough for God’s blessing (comparison) 

This is another insidious lie. After all, don’t the lives of others living in righteousness and doing God’s work inspire and encourage us? Instead, the deceptive one starts to hint at this idea that I will never be good enough.

What is funny(when I analyse my thinking), is that I pick the best parts of people as the basis of my comparisons. So I may look at one person and say, “I’ll never find a husband because I’m not as beautiful as _____.” and then at someone else and say “I’ll never find a husband because I’m not as talented as _____.”

How ridiculous! And yet I find myself battling these thoughts when I’m with people. It’s crazy to compare myself the best of every person I meet, failing to see that I too, have gifts and talents that God has gifted me, and the person I’m comparing to has flaws that I do not see.

God has been birthing in me dreams, new and old, and gentle nudges to pray for certain things in my life. He has redeemed the idea of marriage, he has given me new hope for life, he has shown me afresh my spiritual gifts. And deception wants to steal and destroy them so that I am crippled before I even move towards these dreams.

Above all, I think what this is showing me, is how much the devil hates it when we step into the identity that God has for us as children of God. The accuser and the deceptive one. He wants to destroy us by attacking us where it matters: our identity. 

But Jesus says “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”. I’m learning that eternal life is given to us, but it doesn’t mean that life now has to be lived in constant fear. Yes, there may be trials, but there is liberation in knowing the hope that is in Christ Jesus. And we can live free, hopeful and joyful. 

Oh how often during the past five years I had thought of these moments as just moments of brokenness, and allowed them to snatch away my worth and identity as child of God. I had lived a slave to depression and sadness, a life of hopelessness and self-rejection.

A wise lady released a word on Sunday which I received with all of me. She said, when we are confronted with these lies, we do the very opposite and we will find that they are not true.

So when the lies tell me that no one loves me, I go ahead and find people and let them love me. When the lies tell me I’m not worthy of being blessed, I look at my life and count the thousands of blessings that God has already given me. When I feel hopeless and heavy, I turn to the hope that is found in Christ.

It is so so important that we expose the works of darkness in our lives.

Ephesians 5:13-14

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper, 

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

John 12:46

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 

Because we are on the other side of history, where Christ has died on the cross and rose again, all sin and all power of darkness do not have a hold on us. They may plague us, increasing their onslaught on the children of light as they realise the power of Christ in us. But we can proclaim the resurrection power of Christ and deny the hold of darkness on us. How frustrating for the devil when he realises that each attack on children of God only drives us closer to God and further from darkness.

Reflection:

Ephesians 1:16-23

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and have him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

What are some lies and deception that are trying to snatch you from the fold of God? Expose them, pray & do the opposite.