No Formula

I met a church member earlier this year who asked for counsel regarding a particular situation. I shared with him what I felt the Lord was saying, and he looked at me and remarked, “Why is your counsel different for Person B even though we’re in the same situation?”

To which I simply replied, “Because our journey with the Lord is not about a formula, but a relationship.”

I do agree that many times I find myself wishing I had a formula book with all the answers and solutions to all kinds of pastoral issues and problems. Wouldn’t that be simpler?

Then I’m reminded about Samson in the Old Covenant. Judges 15:17 says: ‘As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand.’

Samson used a jawbone to kill the enemies of the Lord, then discarded it. He didn’t publish a teaching or set up a training podcast on ‘Jawbone Warfare’.

Sometimes, we like to fall back on a ‘formula’. We think, just because a strategy worked for us, it should work for every season or for everyone else. But sometimes, there are mountain problems which need tearing down ‘high things’, and there are valley problems which require the Lord lifting things up.

What I’ve learnt is that no two issues are the same. Our journey with the Lord is not a one size fits all – and I’m grateful for that.

The beauty of our walk with God is that He’s constantly wooing us to draw near to Him and to discern His heart.

Don’t we all love to have a blueprint for life that solves all our issues? But the Lord gives us the best Helper – His Holy Spirit. Don’t fall back on a formula, but get to know the precious Helper.

Sometimes the Word is a sword; at other times, a hammer or scalpel. Sometimes the Word dismantles wrong values, does surgeries and exposes motives or it brings healing. The goal at the end of it is to sanctify us till we become more like Christ.

Biblical interpretation is not just about reading carefully, but reading submissively. We’re not meant to master the text, but rather, allow the text to master us. Obedience is part of right-interpretation.

I mentioned the donkey’s jawbone because Ps. Brian Bailey always asked: “Do you just want to be used or do you want to be approved by God?”

We don’t want to be used and then discarded by the Lord.

The precious thing about our spiritual journey is that God is always speaking, and we can learn to recognise His voice even though we’re imperfect.

Matthew 14:22 recounts a storm where Jesus appeared to His disciples while they were in the boat. Fear overtook them when they thought they saw a ghost.

I always found it funny that Peter would risk stepping out of the boat although he thought he saw a ghost! But the beauty of this account is that, when he heard the familiar voice that said “Come”, Peter obeyed and stepped out in confidence.

After spending nearly three years with Jesus, the disciples still did not know much about ministry. They had trouble understanding Jesus’ parables and lessons. Their hearts were still not fully-transformed, and they were far from perfect.

But, to their credit, they recognised their Master’s voice. They came to a place where His voice became known and recognisable – even in the storm.

Don’t ask for a formula for life, but allow the Holy Spirit to do His precious sanctifying work and lead you every step of the way.


Assistant Pastor Elijah Chan

Wisdom 2.0

‘They were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke….’ Acts 6:10

Jackie Pullinger went to Hong Kong from England as a missionary in 1966 at the age of 22. She moved into the lawless, gang-infested Walled City and the Lord has used her mightily to reach thousands of prostitutes, drug addicts, homeless, and gang members.

The rehabilitation rate for hardcore addicts, which includes praying for them to be baptised in the Holy Spirit, is many times more successful than the government programmes. So they donated land to Jackie and her team to operate her rehab centres. She’s received numerous accolades and awards for her contributions, even from the Queen of England.

Jackie graduated from the Royal College of Music specialising in the oboe. But the wisdom God gave her (along with read more…

The Pathway To Promotion

Since I was a young believer, I was taught to aspire to leadership. I learned that there’s a price to pay, but the reward and fulfilment will be well worth the price. Indeed the joy of impacting lives as a leader is beyond what I imagined.

It isn’t just a journey of satisfaction and rewards but also one of facing our pain, insecurities, and fears. If we say “yes” to God’s call to leadership, He’ll place us in situations that will make us grow.

One most important leadership lesson I’ve learnt is that authority in the spiritual realm is more important than a title or position. Spiritual authority comes through brokenness and humility. Only God can prepare and promote us to positions of spiritual authority. If we aren’t promoted, it could be because read more…

An Awakening!

I read this somewhere and it resonated within me, ‘The demise of being prepared is an empty barn, the fixation to be prepared is a choice of the better, and the arsenal to receive more is preparedness!’

More than ever, I’ve never felt a greater need for an awakening in the community and society than at a time like this. Living for the last six decades, witnessing change, economic progress, and shifting values – the very foundation of our way of life is breaking down.

The new reality of social distancing, the picture of a dispersed Church, global donning of masks, work from home offices, remote home-based learning, gender dysphoria, increased unemployment, and struggling economies are the many obstacles we’ve not confronted before.

Whether it’s global climate change or the geopolitical polarisation, food, clothing and shelter which are the basic read more…

The Darkroom

Remember the times of Kodak, before digital photos were stored in our devices? Photographs were captured on dark strips of ‘negatives’ and developed in a darkroom. I found some negatives in my daughter’s room last week and was reminded of the genius and science behind film photography.

Ever wondered why they were called ‘negatives’? The thing about negatives on film is that they eventually become ‘positives’. In fact, in the early days of photography, prints were often called ‘positives’! Cool, right? My daughter’s comments – “It took so long and was expensive to develop 12 pictures” – provided me a great teachable moment.

If you can’t recognise the faces in that old box of family photo negatives, don’t worry! You’re in a good place. Or, if you feel like you’re in that darkroom with a brooding faint red light, hang in there! The read more…

Why Should We Believe Too?

There was a young preacher who just graduated from seminary. He was about to preach his first sermon on the subject of parenting so he entitled it ‘10 Commandments of Parenting’.

A few years later, he got married, had his first child, understood a little bit about the difficulties of parenting. He preached the sermon again but re-titled it ‘The 10 Suggestions for Parenting’.

After his second child, he preached this again, and the title became ‘10 Hints on Parenting’. When he had his third child, it was called ‘10 Prayers for Parenting’. And when his children grew up to be teenagers, the title of his sermon? ’Help me, Jesus!’ Being a new parent, I found this quite funny.

I was studying the book of Deuteronomy in July when I reached chapter 6 – which is the Shema, for ‘Hear, read more…

A Clean Slate

There are two theories for the origin of the idiom ‘a clean slate’, which means to be given a fresh start, an opportunity to begin again with no strikes against you. The first refers to a time when slates were used to tabulate orders when a party came into a tavern for food and drinks. It was subsequently and literally ‘wiped clean’ when the patrons paid their bill in full.

The second theory is something I’m quite familiar with. When I was young, our school blackboards (made of stone, i.e. slate) were cursorily erased but still dusty and smudged throughout the week. But, by Monday morning, we came to class to find they had all been wiped clean – shiny and like new.

My year began with a clear message from Isaiah 54:1, ‘Sing, O barren one!’ Not only did read more…

Faithfulness & Self-promotion

One of the most important qualities spoken about in the Bible is faithfulness. Proverbs 20:6 says, ‘Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?’ 

God has called us to be faithful in small things, which shows they’re esteemed and remembered by Him. We’re evaluated and rewarded in eternity based on the small things we do in this age. Knowing this does something powerful in our hearts. It gives us strength and confidence to be faithful, while imparting a sense of significance in us.

We tend to devalue faithfulness in the small things while giving our time and effort to pursue what looks and feels impressive. However, the Word of God is clear that our eternal impact is tied to our faithfulness in small things.

read more…

Course Correction

One thing many people don’t know about me is my dream job to be a pilot. Although the bubble was burst after I failed the Air Force medical test, my current role as a pastor puts me in contact with all kinds of pilots. I’ve learnt many life lessons from them, and course correction is one essential skill that can save us in navigating these perilous times.

Midcourse correction is defined as a navigational correction made in the course of a ship, airplane, rocket, or space vehicle at some point between the beginning and end of the journey. Commercial flying is so sophisticated that a pre-programmed autopilot function now does most of a pilot’s work. That’s great for efficiency but, the more a pilot relies on autopilot, the more he or she loses the actual flying skills.

You’d be surprised how many plane crashes occur because the autopilot read more…

Of Angels and Of Men

I’ve just finished reading the Book of Daniel. In my opinion, it’s the most exciting of all the books among the Major and Minor Prophets. The visions are at times mesmerising, and others, horrifying.

The death-defying escapes by Daniel and his three friends get speckled between the visions, leading us on a constant ride of action, lessons, and confounding utterances.
 
It’s also in the Book of Daniel that we’re first introduced to two princes – archangels by the names of Gabriel and Michael. Their mention in Scripture is sparse, but their roles seem most defined.

Gabriel appears five times only in the whole Bible – thrice in Daniel and twice in the Good News of Luke. In almost a measured proportion, Michael is mentioned five times as well – thrice in Daniel, once in the Letter to read more…

We Know The End Of The Story

I was reading a book by a journalist, an Ivy League student raised in a secular environment, who chose to go ‘undercover’ at a private Christian college. The book is quite funny and interesting. The author’s experiences at the college did not convert him, but instead gave him a better understanding on the Christian’s worldview.

The author sought to enrol in as many core classes as he could at the college. These included Old and New Testament studies, Evangelism 101, and A History of Life – a Creationist biology class, etc.

There was a phrase in the book which really intrigued me where the author commented: (paraphrased) “If Christians believe that the Rapture and eternity are real, why don’t people at this college take it more seriously?”

What a statement read more…

Power Of Your Witness!

As much as ideas change people, where advertising, mass marketing, and communication have been most successful, people change people, and that is really the strongest influencing force.

This week, we’ve our WoW! Conference for women from 14 nations with over 88 churches. We chose the theme ‘Women of Witness’ because the power of personality is often greater than the idea itself.

In its latest online advertising campaign, Shopee engaged mega movie star Jackie Chan as its brand ambassador, believing the power of a personality will draw in the crowds. These star personalities have short-lived influence as they’ll need another big name for the next big draw. This pressures it to keep pushing for something or someone novel to pique interest.

For Christians, it isn’t a system, a building, an idea or even ethical practices that engage us. There’s only One read more…

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