Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Geylang Family Camp 8-10/6

New House

A new environment, surely, in Bedok North Avenue 2. Just got our internet set up on June 10 and we have started making use of it... doing window and anti-virus updates on my laptop. I am glad things have gone alright for the past few weeks in this house and our SPR application. I am very thankful that God has blessed me with a 2nd Lower Honours and my bro a 2nd Upper Honours for our degree. Haha... we have not put God's name in disgrace throughout our four years in NUS.

However, there's one thing that I think I didn't do well is that I didn't any of my friends I met in NUS to Christ. God has blessed me to be in the same uni with Jia En and Cher Chin, another chance for me to bring them to Christ, but I didn't take the chance due to my "timiditiness". I didn't dare to spread the gospel back then... doing my best now to invite them for gospel meeting, so that they have the oppurtunity to hear the good news... and pray that they are willing to come. Haha... may God help them, let no obstacle keep them from coming to Christ.

Next, friends I knew while I was in NUS, especially the people I meet in NUSHO... especially the group of people whom I worked with for a year... YaLiang, KahYing, HwaChin, XueHui, ChangKiat, YungHua, etc... will try my best to invite them for gospel meeting so that they, too, do not miss the chance to hear the gospel... the good news...

Ok, about my "House", here are some pictures about it... just treat that I wasn't there in the picture if you don't like to see me standing there, haha...

Haha... oopz I should have switched the pictures around... haha...

Geylang Family Camp

Not able to join this time because we started our work on June 2 and we won't be able to take leave for the June 8-10 camp in YWCA. Haha... so the best we can do is to join the evening theme message. The theme of the camp is "Thrist for God". We know... thristy is a natural phenomenon for any living creatures, including plant. Haha...

There's two evening of theme message. The speaker has mainly used Psalm 42:1-5 and 73 (some verses) for the first and second night respectively. Let me started off with the points I took down during the first night.

First Night (8/6)

Do not be attracted by the world, but attract to someone who are more worthy of our praise. Ask yourself this: What are you pursuing? Christians pursue many spiritual things, such as spiritual gift, spiritual power, etc but not God. Is this God's will? Of course not. Conversely, we must put down everything for the sake of God. 我们不热心侍奉主是因为我们不渴慕主。

The main focus of this message is "How we have need to thrist for God". The psalmist of Psalm 42 is a Levites, a group of people among the Israelites closest to God. Levites are professional servant of God, their only job is to serve God. When the psalmist wrote this psalm, he had been exiled to other nations, away from the temple of God. Thus he can't serve God... and was very depressing 失落. They thrist for God... thrist for the service to the Lord.

Do you ever feel this thrist for God before? For example a Sunday when you are sick, and you can't go to the church to worship God. Or another example, when you have to travel aboard, in hotel, would you have the desire to go back to your church back in the hometown to worship the Lord? It is a natural phenomenon for us to know when I am thristy (and go look for something to quench our thrist, such as water)... you don't need anyone to tell you that you are thristy, right? Haha... similar to a deer... the mother deer doesn't have to tell the deer to go drink water because it is thristy. Haha... so... to thrist for God is not a strange thing, but it's natural. We have a spiritual life that need God, that need the constant approaching to God. However, if we don't know how to thrist for God, or don't have the urge to thrist for God, then we are actually having spiritual problem. Just like if you never feel thristy... and you never know whether your body is lack of water or not... in the end you die of lack of water... haha...

Here are some points how we have need to thrist for God:

First, the change of environment... the psalmist, sons of Korah (the Levites) may be serving God habitually. They may not be thinking that they are actually 亲近 God. They took this job for granted. Only when something happen (they get deported) they suddenly realize that days without the Lord is so hard to pass by... they just can't stop themselves from missing God... missing the days when they were serving the Lord in the God's temple.

In Singapore now, we have the freedom to gather, to have fellowship, to be in church worship our Lord... how about this... one day, when the government issue a decree that no one can gather to worship God, no one can have fellowship, etc... or... think... if God is no longer with us? Then only we will treasure the days God with us... so... don't ever take for granted that God has given us chance to spend time with God freely.

Next, let us look at verse 3 - My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?". The psalmist and his group of people were challenged... their faith or religion is challenged by the locals where they exiled to. How blessed we are in Singapore that we are hardly persecuted for being a Christian. When you walked on the street, no one come along to slap your face when they know you are Christian, right? Haha... as a result, we don't treasure our time with God... because we did not need to pay a heavy price for it. If you bought a thing that costs you a huge bucks, you will treasure it right? Make sure you don't lost it, or make sure it doesn't get spoilt easily and so on... for things we got for free... we usually won't treasure them, as similar to what we have to our salvation... we got our salvation from the Lord for free right? thus... ask yourselves... who is our God? Are we willing to pay any price (no matter how great the price, including sacrificing our life) for Him?

Third point from verse 4 - These things I remember as I pour our my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. The psalmist here remembered the good old days in the Lord's temple, serving the God fervently, with joy and thanksgiving.

Are there any particular event that you remember the most? When you recall it, then you feel energetic toward God. Is there such event in your life before? If you have, then recall it, just like the psalmist. Think... what are your thoughts at that time? You don't have to think that "If the time can stop and I can stay at that hour, how nice it is." You can thrist for God now. If you think how close you are to God in the past, but how far you are now from God, you should be sad (if not, then there's something wrong). Yes, it is right to feel sad if you think you are not as close to God now than in the past... but you shouldn't stop there... keep thinking of that sad story... but move on... your next step is to revive yourselves by repent with the God... go back to God again, for He is all merciful (but don't forget about His righteousness). See 1 John 1:9.

4th point from verse 5 - Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Only God can satisfy our heart. For example, you were having a great time with your friends at home... then at a time they went home, you are left alone... feel lonely again... so may be you took a walk on the street, went for window shopping, etc... but in the end... back to square one... you are one lonely guy again...

Ask yourself this... why is my soul downcasted? I have career, a wonderful family, money, many more good things around me... but why do I feel downcast? Did you allow God to fill your heart? Did you thrist for God? You can have the whole world, but if you do not have God, your spirit will never be filled or satisfied... you will carry on searching for things in the world to fill the hole... the thrist from your spirit... but like the water that quench our thrist, God is the only one that can quench our spirit thrist.

5th point (also verse 5) leads us to our many needs in our life... do you think so? We have many needs in our life. We always think that we can use our own ways to help ourselves. But there are things that we definitelycan't solve with effort, e.g. family problem, ministry problem, etc. How do we solve them? Through the advice from friends? advice from brothers and sisters? Ultimately, we should look for God to solve our problems. God did not test us whether we would find the correct person to help, but he want us to have a chance to seek Him.

God's door is always open... whether big or small, our God is willing to help us... He like us to draw near to Him. There's no limit of how many problems you can bring before Him... there's no time limit too (you don't have to worry that God will only solve your problem if you submit your problem before 4pm, haha...)

Last point (from verse 5 too), praise and worship Him. This is the most difficult lesson and there is no fixed method in doing this. Real worship is to know God. How much we know the one we worship? The speaker ask us if we dare to take challenge: Use any words we want to praise God continuously for 5 minute. Haha... ask yourselves... can you beat the challenge? Haha... not if you don't quite know the one you are worshipping. Many time we don't dare to take such challenge because we know our knowledge of our God is so limited... can't even span for 5 minutes. Haha... the 5 minutes just doesn't seem to end haha...

In order to praise God, we need to worship Him. In order to worship God, we need to thrist for Him. If we are having a conversation with our close friend, 3 hours may seem too short. If we are talking to a stranger, few sentences only take less than 3 minutes, so how long will our conversation with our God be?

When we feel downcast, boring, depressed, spirit-down state, etc, do remember God. When we face all kind of problem, don't complain, but think that these are chances we can draw near to God by bringing these problems to God, our Heavenly Father... who want us to go to Him... He can't wait to bless us... the gift for you and me is ready... no doubt the giver (God) is ready... but only the recipient of the gift is not ready... haha...

Second Night (9/6)

The speaker gave us another example... he said when he was going to Melbourne to study 神学, the air tickets were expensive back then, so he took a cargo ship there... need 18 days... haha... wow, that's long... anyway, on the boat, he met a father and a son from Sri Lanka. Both are Christians. So they often had fellowship together on the ship. They told the speaker that when Sri Lanka was still called Ceylon, people can gather freely in the church to worship God because Sunday is a public holiday. Not many people come to church however. Once Ceylon became Sri Lanka, Sunday is not a public holiday then, thus they have to work on Sunday. Their work should start around 9am, so they have to gather around 6am. The regular church go-ers think that the church will be much less people now as we know it is not easy to get up before 6am to be ready for worship.

However, it happened that during their first gathering at 6am, the church was full of people. Because people now realised they have lost the freedom to gather on Sunday, thus they treasured the time for the Lord on Sunday now...

Previous night, we discussed that because of our needs, we need to draw near to God. Only God can fulfill our need, our spiritual thrist. We may need to pay a high price. An analogy will be deers on the mountain need to come down to the stream to drink water... in the midst of that journey, they need to risk their lives... tigers, hunters or any of their enemy know that the deer will eventually come down for water, so they hide themselves behind the bushes near the water, waiting for their prey... the deers know that too, just like we know if we want to go to God, there are a lot of obstacles that are hindering us from drawing near to God. However, the deers can't claim that they won't need to drink the water... water is important to their life just as God is important to our spiritual life too. The deers thrist for the water... similarly, we thrist for our God.

Now we are going to look from God's perspective. It could be God's goodness, God's mercy, God's greatness that attracted us to Him. Just like a beautiful thing that attracts you, make you want to buy it, make you treasure it, make you want to draw near to it...

Psalm 73:1-16 describes how people attracted to the world. The psalmist looked at the people of the world, saw their success, saw their wealth, saw all the greatness from the world, and he almost attracted to them, follow their path. However, if you read the verses after verse 16, the psalmist didn't attract to the world. The main reason is God. How did God retrack the psalmist from the world?

Many Christians think they are foolish for not pursuing the worldly materials, such as wealth and fame. Some people (could be Christians too) think they should only believe in Christ at the last moment before they leave the world. So before they believe in Christ, they can go pursue the worldly materials. Then at the end they still can go to heaven, though they only believe on their dead bed. Won't that is a good idea? One stone killing two birds (一石二鸟)! Haha...

But they are wrong. Don't think that money or reputation of the world (and any worldly materials) are valuable. Philippians 3:7-8 says that Paul willing to give up anything for the sake of the Lord. We thought that Christian's life should throw away everything like Paul (treat everything as rubbish). No... you got the wrong meaning. What Paul said here means that he has found the real treasure, i.e. Jesus Christ... if he compares Jesus Christ and all the worldly materials, the worldly materials are like rubbish, not valuable.

Many Christians know that the worldly materials are rubbish. But after they throw all these rubbish (meaning not pursuing all these worldly materials), they stop there, empty handed... Not pursuing anything is worse off than people pursuing worldly materials (at least they still have rubbish to pursue)...

Psalm 73:25 - Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. If we look at everything is vain (not pursuing anything, including worldly materials), then we are no difference from the monks and nuns. Many Christian thought to be fervent to spiritual things, then will become like that (become monks and nuns)... but it isn't like... things don't stop after we throw away all the rubbish. The bible tells us that we put down the worldly stuff then pursue God... just like we clear the rubbish from our book shelves, then we put treasures on the shelves.

When the psalmist come to the Lord, he realize God is the most previous, the most valuable and most worthy of our praise, our worship and our service. Verse 25 prescribes the secret that motivates us in our life. Not only looking down on the worthly matter, but also looking up or pursuing God.

Going to Psalm 16 brings out the concreteness in pursuing God. Verse 2 - I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.". David (the psalmist of Psalm 16) says every goodness is in God. (The converse meaning of "apart from you(God) I have no good thing") All goodness are in God.

Let us see what David say how he is attracted to our Lord so tightly:

Firstly, David divide goodness into two parts: one in the Lord and one out of the Lord. The goodness out of the Lord are those described in the first 16 verses in Psalm 73. Those are actually what we think is good... appealing to our eyes and our sinful body... David recognizes that those are not goodness... thus he said that all the goodness is in the Lord.

Many Christians may be saying something that their heart don't reckon so. 口是心非. They can say how bad the worldly materials are in front of you, but their heart may think otherwise, "May be it is not all bad!". Do we come into conclusion that all goodness lies in the Lord? If you still think that some goodness lie outside the Lord, then you will feel burden to follow God wholeheartedly. You will think that "I should use my time for rather than in church on Sunday."

Second point, same verse, David claim that "In the Lord, I can find all the goodness, 一切不缺少. Many Christian think that there's some goodness God can't give, such as wealth and fame. (This means that they don't think all goodness are in the Lord)

James said that God did not withhold any goodness from us. He has given us His one and only Son, how about the other things in the world? God is not stingy. He has actually given us the entire package of gifts to us when we believes Him and accept our salvation. But we just don't know how to use these gifts... so conclusion is... all our goodness is in Him.

Coming along to third point, Psalm 16:5 - Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. What can you derive from this verse? Not only we receives the Lord's blessing, but the Lord himself. He is my portion. The Levites are a group of people who don't have a land among the Israelites. The Lord say their portion is the Lord. They have the greatest blessing among the rest. So don't see that we Christians are worse off than the people from the world. We have God as our portion, we inherited the entire world.

"You have my cup" - this cup is wine cup, 酒杯. A sense of satisfaction... ask those who drink wine... they can distinguish the brand of the wine they have drank... you can see their face after they drank a very good wine... their face is full of satisfaction... David claims that the Lord is the satisfaction of his heart. When we think about our Lord, do we feel the satisfaction?

Psalm 27:4 - One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. If we have one thing that all our goodness (our satisfaction of heart and all our portion) lies in it, then we won't lock it up, right? If you have beautiful watch, would you lock it in a drawer of your bedroom? No right? You will wear it and put it to good use... same goes for our God, we should find ways to draw near to it (refering to the thing that all our goodness lies in), i.e. God.

We are so blessed that we can worship our God anytime and anywhere, as long as we are willing. Last time, the Israelites had to go to the God's temple to worship Him. David say he would prefer to be a priest (draw near to God every moment) to a king. David's main aim of worshipping God is to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.

Our God is willing to reveal himself to us (or else no man can know who God is). He reveal himself through the bible. We can know Him through the bible, a mean for us to gaze upon the Lord's beauty. Put the aim of reading bible as trying to know more of God, 认识神.

So today onward when we read the bible, ask ourselves, what does this passage tell us about our God? 这里告诉我神是怎样的? Read the bible to behold his beauty and be attracted to Him.

"Seek him in the temple" - prayers to God. When we read the bible, we gaze upon his beauty, we respond by praying to Him. This is a two way living relationship. Longing for God (thrist for God) is not an one way relationship. When we get close to God, God gets close to us. 当我们亲近神,神也亲近我们. This is the most practical way of drawing near to Him.

May brothers and sisters benefited from my sharing above.

No comments: