Posts

Knowing the Bible is Not Enough

Photo taken by Ian Tan

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Early this year, someone new joined the small church that I attend. He identified himself as a Singaporean working in the United States, temporarily sent back to Singapore for a work project. During one prayer meeting he shared that he was serving as a youth leader back in his home church. He seemed to know the Bible very well and sounded very confident of his own salvation. He could easily quote the relevant verses (John 14:6, Ephesians 5:8 and more), and share how important a faith in Jesus was for salvation. We quickly accepted him as part of our small church family.

But merely a month later, our pastor and other church members informed me that this man was actually a fraudster. He had made up stories and borrowed money from various church members. He eventually fled with the money that our church members had lent him and never returned to our church. His phone line was canceled too and beyond contact. I never saw him again.

I was very surprised at this chain of events. How could a person so knowledgeable about the Bible turn out to be a fraudster?

I realized that knowledge of the Bible does not necessarily translate into godly living. James 1:23-24 says this is like a person who looks at himself in the mirror and goes away, immediately forgetting what he looks like. If God’s Word has no impact on the way we lead our lives, then we will be no different from a non-believer.

Even though I have been a Christian for a number of years, I didn’t always read the Bible. For a long time, I heard God’s Word only in church on Sundays. Even then, I was like the person in James 1:24—my life was not transformed. I was still living by my own flesh. I was a Christian outwardly, but inwardly my heart was not aligned with God. I indulged in my own sinful ways without a repentant heart.

But then I went through a dark period a few years ago. The only thing that comforted me during that time was God’s Word, and I realized how desperately I needed the Bible in my life. I have since learned a few things about reading the Bible, and reading it effectively. Perhaps they might be helpful for you as well.

 

Set aside time

Setting aside quiet time to read the Bible is very important to me, because I want to focus without distraction. This habit started during my period of darkness. God’s Word was what gave me strength to go through that period, and I realized how much I need His Word and how truly it refreshes me. Like Jesus withdrawing to lonely places and praying (Luke 5:16), I try to find time in the midst of my busyness, so that I can slip away and be with my heavenly Father. Daily, God’s Word gives me the strength that I need.

 

Ask God for help

Also, I dare not take the Word of God lightly. We know that all Scripture is God-breathed and is good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but I do not always have the wisdom I need to understand and apply what I am reading. And so, I humbly seek the help of the Holy Spirit, knowing that our God is a generous God and is always ready to give us wisdom without reproach when we ask for it (James 1:5).

When I first came across Ephesians 1:14, for example, I really had trouble understanding it. It says that the Holy Spirit “is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” But other parts of the Bible tell us that not everyone who calls out to the Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). So how can the Holy Spirit guarantee my salvation?

I brought my confusion to a trusted mentor, whom God used to help answer my question. My mentor explained to me that the Holy Spirit helps us to understand and walk in the ways of the Lord as we work out our salvation, and so guarantees our salvation when we do not harden our hearts and allows Him to work in us.

 

Allow God to convict me

As I read God’s Word, I remind myself to invite God to search my heart (Psalm 139:23-24). When I lay bare my heart, God helps me see how His wondrous truths could be applied to my life. There are times the Holy Spirit shows me how to repent of my erroneous ways.

Sometime last year, I said some things that made my friend upset. During a morning devotion, I came across the verse Matthew 15:18, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” This caused me to reflect that the words I speak can defile me. I realized that what I said to my friend was not at all glorifying to God, and it reflected how self-centered my heart was, and how insensitive I had been towards her. I needed to apologize to her and align my heart with God.

God’s Word is like a double-edged sword to me, judging my thoughts and the attitudes of my heart (Hebrews 4:12). When I read the Bible humbly, I allow it to convict me of my sins. Through this, God is shaping me into the unique individual that He designed me to be. Though I will not be perfect until the day I see Him face to face, I know that even now, God is in the process of transforming us into His image with an ever-increasing glory when we allow His living Word of truth to sanctify us (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

Simply knowing the Bible is not enough. Though I had listened to many Sunday sermons, I did not allow them to change my life. Only when I read the Bible with a humble and contrite heart did the Word lead me back to God for salvation. God is always ready to forgive us no matter how far we have gone astray from Him (1 John 1:9). Knowing this, we recognize that the Word of God is like a gift, and effective Bible reading will consistently point us back to God.

Let us be doers and not just hearers of God’s Word (James 1:22). Let us read our Bible so that we can be men and women after God’s own heart, working out our salvation as sojourners. Then we will live as true disciples of Christ.

Malaysia’s 14th General Election—How Can Christians be “Salt and Light”?

Flag image from Freepik.com

 

Written by Sharon Lee, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

Tomorrow marks Malaysia’s 14th General Election. It has undoubtedly been the topic that has occupied the attention of all Malaysians, myself included, over the past few months. Everyone has been looking forward to the possibilities that might emerge from this election.

Even from as early as late last year, I began to see many of my friends, whether those close to me or on social media, urging their fellow Malaysians to participate in the election by voting. I even saw Malaysians organizing fundraising events or donating their own money to help Malaysian students overseas who desire to come back to vote but may be lacking in funds, return home to vote. There are also Malaysians working abroad, who applied for a leave of absence from work so that they could come back and vote, even though this may affect their salary.

Everyone has been eager to do their part—for the country, for the next generation, and for all Malaysians to have a better life. I have been so moved and excited to witness these activities—moved, because I realize how deeply we all love our country; excited, because there is so much that we can actually do! Even though many of those who offered help are not Christians, I see them as examples of what it looks like to be “salt and light”.

Generally, Christians around the world have taken a conservative and low-key stance towards politics and other related issues. However, we, the younger generation of Christians, should not distance ourselves from political involvement, especially if it will help improve the wellbeing of our fellow countrymen. There are many ways through which Christians can demonstrate the love of Christ. There is much more that we can do!

Paul counseled Timothy sincerely, just as he counsels our current generation of young Christians: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Perhaps we are young in age, and perhaps we lack the wealth of experience and knowledge that older Christians have, but we have grown up in this time and age, and we are blessed with initiative, energy, and creativity. Since we have such wonderful gifts, then our actions should not be looked down upon by anyone. To prevent anyone from looking down on us because we are young, we must prove ourselves in the five areas Paul spoke of and only then can we convincingly lead by example, teach, and transform lives. At the same time, this will show others that God can work through anyone. It may even result in the gospel being shared!

Are our words gentle, so that others feel loved when they hear them? In our actions, do we show love to others? Are we on time for worship services? If the floor is dirty, would we think of cleaning it ourselves? Are we actively using our gifts to serve the Lord? Do we notice the needs of others, and offer timely care and help? Do we honor God in all that we do, and live out the faith we have in the Lord? Do we keep ourselves clean before God and man? Although none of this is easy, and it is hard to perfectly do all of them, it should not be an excuse for us to do as little as we can or not do anything at all. We can learn by practicing, and then we’ll become better at loving others.

Take the upcoming General Election for example. Every Christian realizes that national affairs are not solely the concern of politicians or high level leaders. It affects every one of us. And for Christians, we should not avoid participating in politics, because Christ has called us to be the salt and light of this earth (Matthew 5:13-16). Even though we may not necessarily need to take the same actions as non-Christians, can we—like them—turn our passion and love into visible actions? Can we Christians be the ones who boldly stand up for the sake of our country? Can we be that one good example, so that others will see that it is possible, and necessary, to approach elections with a good attitude? God placed us in this country as citizens, and so we should be Christ’s witnesses here on this land, serving our country well.

But we must also be cautious. Though we can participate in the political process, and contribute to our country, we should not be easily swayed by the different voices competing for our attention and lose our focus. We should also avoid getting into arguments or causing any trouble. We simply do our best in whatever way we can, and leave the results to God. And so, regardless of whether we think the political situation might change from the upcoming General Elections, we Christians should not only pray for the country and God’s sovereignty, but we can also actively participate and vote, offering what we can in real action.

I currently work in a Christian organization. A work trip happened to be scheduled during the  election date. In the end, we decided to ask for our overseas colleagues’ understanding, and shifted the date of the meeting. This allowed the Malaysian co-workers to come home and vote with minimal disturbance to our work. At the same time, we have also witnessed the love and understanding of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Although this election has nothing to do with our other colleagues, they lovingly accommodated our request, and were willing to change the date of the meeting for our sake.

God is pleased when our love is shown forth in action. Prayer is extremely important, but it will be even better if you can offer your action alongside your prayer. Often times what we lack is action that is birthed from love. After all, we do not become “salt and light” so that people might think Christians are more holy or perfect, but that they might feel our warmth, and see Christ through us.

Finally, may God bless Malaysia!

 

5 Tips to Stay Woke as a Christian

Written By Breonna Rostic, USA

“Stay woke? Well, I must be awake, because I am talking with you.”

That was my response to a friend when I first heard the term, stay woke*. We were discussing a news article about racial relations in America. The phrase stay woke implies the need to be conscious and alert to avoid being misled by propaganda. It also encourages people to do their own research and critical thinking.

Seems harmless right? I thought so too. When it came to things like advertisements, politics, racial relations, and even news stories, I was prepared to research those things. But what I didn’t expect was someone telling me to stay woke—about my faith.

I was scrolling through Facebook when I came across an ancient Egyptian image with the words “You Still Believe in God. Stay Woke.” It implied that the God I knew, loved, and believed in was a figment of my imagination. It was a subtle shift, a seed of doubt attempting to transform my thinking about God.

Although we know God is not just a figment of our imagination, or the imaginations of over two billion Christians worldwide, the challenge to my faith made me pause and ponder. How many people are being misled by the stay woke movement? At that moment, I was strong enough in my faith to identify and withstand a sneaky attack, but what about moments when we are weak? What happens when this deception comes from someone we love?

As believers, we understand that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), and we can spot the subtle tactics he uses. His manipulation, divisiveness, temptation, and suggestive nature, all sowing confusion in people, can be traced back to his fall from grace. So, if we know what the devil does and how he does it, what’s different now? Why is it so easy for us to become victims of attacks such as stay woke?

We are living in the information age, and we have access to vast amounts of knowledge instantaneously. This isn’t always bad. On one hand, we can give and receive vital information through our connections. However, we risk taking in content that is destructive and deceitful. The enemy uses this as a tool to attack our belief system.

So what are we supposed to do as believers? Stay woke! Let’s take back what it means to “stay woke” and change the narrative.

When Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus, he talked about walking in light (that is, in righteousness and truth), and how light expels the darkness: “This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14). Light doesn’t become darkness; it doesn’t ask darkness permission to be the light. This is what I mean when I say we have to stay woke as Christians.

Below are five tips to stay woke as Christians with practical applications:

 

1. Get Clarity

My pastor, Dr. Jermone Glenn, teaches that the Bible is a constitution. Not only is it the living and breathing word of God, but it is also the foundation of our beliefs, rights, and privileges as ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven. Thinking about the Bible in those terms has given me clarity about its authority so I know how to respond when my faith is questioned.

Practical Application: Study the Bible in multiple translations, listen to trusted teachers, and research historical context to have a well-rounded understanding of the Word of God. (Romans 10:17, Joshua 1:8)

 

2. Have Consistency

Know that the God we serve is consistent and unchanging. While we can receive new revelations about God through prayer, fasting, and studying, His ways—higher and deeper than ours—are always consistent. When we are given new information, test it with the Bible. Does it match the principles found in Scripture? Testing whether information is true and consistent will help us grow in maturity. (Hebrews 13:8, Malachi 3:6, Romans 12:2)

Practical Application: Test new information against Scriptural principles. Use a concordance or other Bible study tools to expand your knowledge base.

 

3. Stay Connected

Being around like-minded people will help us in our efforts to “stay woke”. If you are around others who believe in God and are living righteously, you will be more likely to do the same. It’s easier for us to withstand deception when we are accountable to a community. Division, separation, and isolation all make us vulnerable. (Acts 2:40-47, 1 Corinthians 14:26)

Practical Application: Schedule time with family and friends in your faith community for expanding your faith, fellowship, feasting, and fun.

 

4. Be Conscious

We must always be aware of what we take in subconsciously. Let’s tend to our spiritual diets (our intake through the mind) as we do our physical diets. Let’s be aware of what’s going on in the world, and not live in fear or try to ignore current events. Instead we should be in touch with what God’s Word says about them. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2 Timothy 4:2, Ephesians 5:6)

Practical Application: For a balanced outlook, spend time in devotions and studying the Bible before engaging the news.

 

5. Live out your Creation

Remember that we are the creation chosen to give God glory. We are God’s greatest witnesses on earth. As ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven, we must exemplify a life that glorifies God. The most effective and vital way to “stay woke” is to be a full expression of who God created us to be—by using our talents and gifts for Him. By focusing on living purposefully, we block out distractions. (Matthew 5:6, 16; 13:43, Hebrews 2:7)

Practical Application: Schedule time to perfect your craft. What has God called you to do? Spend time developing yourself in those areas.

 

Making these areas a focus in our lives will increase our spiritual growth and maturity. Tests and temptations will come, but if we “stay woke”, we will be able to withstand them. The Bible tells us to be aware of false teachings and doctrines that try to draw us away from our faith, and one subtle way that happens is the suggestion that we have been deceived by our faith in God. But the next time someone tells us to stay woke, we will be able to confidently state—we are!

 

 *Woke is used as a byword for social awareness and justice. Stay woke became a watch word in parts of the black community for those who were self-aware, questioning the dominant paradigm and striving for better. The word signaled awareness of injustice, racial tension or oppression. This now includes the idea of false belief in the “white man’s God.”

A Fruitful Life

Title: A Fruitful Life
Materials: Watercolour
Artwork by: Jenn Cruz
Description: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

What does it mean to live with the “fruit of the spirit”? How can we recognize these “fruits”? How can we see the beauty of each aspect and prayerfully ask God to help us live out these characteristics as engage in relationships?

Over the last month, I painted each attribute of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit live on Instagram. As I was painting, I invited the followers to discuss the attributes at hand, sharing our difficulties and engaging in encouraging conversation to spur each other on. My intent was to get viewers to ask themselves the question: what does having the Fruit of the Spirit mean to you?

 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

 

 

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

 

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

 

 

Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience (Colossians 1:11)

 

 

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love (2 Corinthians 6:4-6)

 

 

For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth. (Ephesians 5:9)

 

 

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. (Ephesians 3:16-17)

 

 

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

 

 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)