Day 5

What is sin?

Today’s devotion says, “sin is a formidable barrier that prevents God from having His way with His people (Psalm 66:18)… a heart purged of impurities and for hands that are cleansed of unrighteous deeds”.

Is this too idealistic?

When I think of myself, I don’t think I can ever be totally purged of sin. I think impure thoughts, I do bad things… I don’t think one can hope to even be perfect in this life time. That’s why we need Jesus, maybe?

Perhaps most times, we are sinful but repentant. The problem with a lot of people in today’s world is that they are unrepentant. They act righteous, never apologising and even being smug that they are wrong.

I see that in the government’s actions, in people’s actions. I mean I am guilty of it too. But some times I wonder if I’m violating man’s laws or God’s laws. Which is more important? Some times man’s law supercedes that of God’s laws without us knowing and we think it’s important we don’t break man’s laws when in fact it is meaningless.

How do we know when we’ve sinned? And when we know, how do we repent of it? Is it remorse for having acted upon something bad?

For example, some might find a late night snack sinful and I am told not to snack at night. I eat a midnight snack and feel remorse for having acted against someone’s imposition. Have I sinned proper? Is remorse the same as repentance?

Or does repentance require more from us? A confession of having eaten a midnight snack? Making some kind of promise not to have a midnight snack again?

The problem with most of us, is that we don’t know what constitutes as sin and we don’t know how to repent before God.

You could I suppose, put on an act of repentance but if you dumb it down to a set of steps or to a process but this may not stir up the heart to actually feel it. Feelings are important.

Dear God, please help us to acknowledge our sinful nature. Help us to see ourselves for what we are. Help us to know what sin is. Is it idolizing things or myself rather than worshipping you? Put in us a heart that wants to know you better. That wants all of you. Help us know how to be repentant for actions that displease you. Thank you for Jesus Christ that He helped heal the rift and shed blood to wash away our sins so we can stand righteous before You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Day 3

One of the odd things about being a Christian is how you tend to have to do things against your nature. Being kind to people who don’t deserve it, forgiving those who wrong you and giving when you have little.

Conviction is an oddity. Does it stem from ‘conscience’?

I tend to struggle when I see those who aren’t ‘close’ to God succeed. They get better jobs, they have more disposable income and they seem quite alright. How can this be? Then I wonder if I’m like the elder son in the Prodigal Son story and question myself.

Am I lousy and lazy and thus the rewards are not great because of it and then I blame it on my religion? I wonder how much God loves me if I’m not doing so well. I question my smarts and like I said, I’ve decided I’m not smart at all. I mean, others know so much more about things, finance, investments, politics, engineering, whatever – and they go about getting things done while I pretend to know a lot when I know little.

Some times, I blame my surroundings. It’s easy to blame others for our shortfalls. It feels good even because it just means I’m not responsible for what happens in my life. There are times when I attempt to commit my life to God and say it’s in his hands when it’s still in my hands.

Dear Heavenly Father, what do you think of me? Am I worth your time? Are you really pruning me for your glory? I don’t feel like it. In fact, I feel like a fraud because I feel I’m not doing what you want me to do. Of course, people say where I am now is where you want me to be but is this true? How can I be contented with my current situation?

I guess this is the same for the nation. We’re in quite a tragic place and most people may ask, “God! Where are you?” We want to believe you’re in control and I think you’re still sovereign in the situation yet we still wonder how we are going to come out of this brokenness? Can we be fixed? Or will we have to wait till the end of the world? I hope that time comes soon. It’s tough living in this world where you see it headed to a point of no return. Debts grow, people become nastier, the earth is being destroyed… I mean, we’re destroying the trees and the air and there won’t be much of it left. The speed of the destruction is so fast. O God – I can’t imagine you wanting your kingdom here on earth. Take us to paradise!

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Day 2

Today’s meditation is quite an interesting one. How do I treat God? Am I like a battery system with God where I go to Him continually to recharge or am I plugged in to God continually and therefore always on? Definitely the former.

The truth is, I find it so difficult to remain in Jesus because His ways are not quite my ways some times. I can see His noble intentions but my humanity begs to go the opposite direction. This is why I am weak.

God says He’ll help us and carry our burdens then why do I refrain from just handing it over to Him and washing my hands clean of it and saying, “Well, it’s up to God now.” Why do I get slightly anxious and find it hard to let go?

Do I trust God to handle my problems? Do I want Him to handle it His way? What if it doesn’t go the way I want it to?

When I am connected with God, there’s sense of security and safety. Yet I choose to leave that comfort zone and then enter into doubt and fear. What is wrong with me?!

I wonder if this can be said for most of us.

Recently, I was asked to look at 1 Samuel 24 and in that passage, David cuts of a piece of Saul’s robe after his followers puff him up. It says in 1 Samuel 24:5, “But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe”. That struck me when I read it because often times as Christians we might say, “God told me”, “I felt God saying”, “The Holy Spirit spoke”, you get the point, but why did it say in this passage, David’s conscience? I mean, that’s such a human thing. Does this mean we’re in built with some form of moral compass?

I had a chat with someone who didn’t feel that we should give God credit for anything. He said the reliance on a god-head is a sign of weakness. And that evolution or survival of the fittest makes more sense. I then asked about the moral compass. How did we decide what was good and what was evil? Surely, we couldn’t have come up with that on our own? Someone must have input that into us. I was at the time listening to secular philosophers banter and although they made some good points, I felt they went round in circles, sounding smart but not getting down to the crux.

We should really learn to call a spade, a spade. I recently had a chat with a Christian who couldn’t bring himself to call Catholics Christian. I had reconciled this after following Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching but for this particular person and a lot of Protestant Christians, they look at Catholics with utmost suspicion. So I commented and said Christians can be haters in which he replied that we point it out of love rather than hate, to point Catholics to the right way. But our methods and ways to others sound a lot like hate and that’s the thing. Some times, Christians just need to see that we’re as haters. We have this self-righteousness that we claim to be humility but looks like we’re sitting on some high horse judging others.

I’m not claiming to be smart even though I act like a smart ass. To be honest, I recently came to the conclusion I’m quite daft and shallow. But I’ll leave that to another time.

Back to this idea of conscience. I was reading a news article today and it’s the usual dismal news but one of the comments read, and I paraphrase, “Where is their conscience?” That struck me since I had just read about David’s conscience a few days ago. This idea that we should be driven by some form of moral standard that should be common to all is not what the government is marching to. And that’s the thing. The government may think they are doing the right thing but we claim they are not. Who makes the standard? It has to be based on something, no?

Thus, we look at David and see that he based his life on God’s standards and having regretted his actions, confessed to Saul who was at the time hunting David now to kill him. David knew God would be displeased with his actions. He knew this because he was connected to God.

Dear Heavenly Father, may we develop a conscience that understands good from evil, that knows right from wrong and that can discern with wisdom what You want us to be and do. May our conscience direct us to fulfill our prophetic destiny and to want You in our lives. God help us to see the bigger picture and not get distracted by the details. Help us look at the people around us with compassion and a heart that tries to understand their view instead of ramming them with ours. As we take in what is around us, make our conscience speak loudly so we do not fall and get trapped. The temptations are great but help us to overcome them. Don’t let guilt hinder us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Day 1

Does our view of God and how we see Him matter? Does it affect our worship?

Recently I came upon a comic strip from HappleTea and the argument of the cartoonist is that he finds God very flip floppy. Of course, I laughed at his comic strip and thought he had some good points but it got me thinking about God.

Who is this God I claim to give my life to? Is He loving or does He have unbearable mood swings?

About a year ago, having spent some time listening to the audio bible and hearing God speak, I thought he had some kind of sarcasm and wit about Him. He was definitely not one-dimensional as we some times make Him out to be. My conclusion at the time was that, “Hey, if God can be sarcastic, so can we.” God can be pretty sarcastic. I mean look at Jesus’ retort to the religious leaders. He was sharp. And so when we come up with some sarcastic comment, it’s not entirely evil or against the meek and quiet Jesus that we think He is.

No, Jesus was strong and masculine. He stood His ground and spoke truth without fear or favour. He was authoritative because He knew who He was.

And so when I hear people out there, atheists mainly, who slam God’s character as if they know Him and usually it’s what they see in paintings or based on hearsay, I think about it. Is God wishy washy? Is He evil? Does He destroy cities in the OT for no reason?

It goes against the God that is promoted in churches these days and on the pulpit; a friendly, approachable and loving God. A God who wants to bless us and mould us to be better people. He wants to turn our lives upside down and transform us into the beings He intended us to be. Actually, from my observation it goes against the God of the Bible.

Look at John 15 as an example. This is the passage it seems that will be shaping the next 40 Days. What kind of God do I worship? This does not sound like a God without direction. No, He is the gardener and the Vine. He prunes where He sees fit and He has purpose. He gives instruction on how to flourish and he shares the secret that He wants to bless us and we can be joyful. He wants to keep us on the right path and we need to listen to Him. He loves us and doesn’t want us to stray.

But of course, those who think He’s flippant will zone in on John 15:6 and ask WHY God is harsh and want to throw us into a fire to be burned. And then will exclaim, “What kind of God does that?!” Then they’ll claim that God’s bad and not worth worshipping, He’s arrogant and overbearing and He’s childish.

So as I pondered on the thought(s) of that atheist cartoonist, I then began to ask myself, why focus on God? Why blame God? What about us? What role have we played? How do we view ourselves in relation to God? And it became clearer that we were the selfish ones projecting ourselves and assuming God was like us. Why should God serve us? Who are we? Why should God bow to our demands? Are we saying that we are greater than God? I don’t like God therefore He does not exist? Are we innocent and blameless? Really? It’s all God’s fault?

The God in the Bible has been trying to win us over from the start. He made us like Him, with feelings, with choice, and clearly with this freedom, we chose otherwise. Due to our own folly. As if we know better. And so He’s been trying to present His case, that He’s worth it. That He’ll take care of us, that we won’t lose with Him on our side. He loves us. He’s in it all the way. He’s given us a way out. He wants us. All of us.

Does He get exasperated with our choices? Does He get frustrated when we are blind and foolish? I think so. Does He clang the bells and sound the trumpets when we’re headed the way of destruction? I think so. We hear it, some times like a faint tinkling, other times like an annoying siren and go, “Oh my, what’s up with God now? Why is He making that racket? Pfft. Warn us? As if.” Does God try to make amends so we don’t keep stumbling? I think so.

He does all of this because He loves us. If He was indifferent to us, He could care less what happened to us, no? Like that famous saying, the opposite of love is not hate, it’s apathy.

But if this God is so loving, the atheists would counter, why would He banish us to hell for misdeeds? Or for not believing that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life? If God loved us, they’d say, He would let us into heaven anyway. He’s heartless otherwise.

The thing is, I believe God has principles. He can’t say one thing and do another. That would make Him untrustworthy. Like a parent who disciplines out of love, likewise God is the same with us. I mean, we have standards ourselves. Why can’t God? Should He bend backwards because of us and thereby erase His own credibility? No. It’s his prerogative that if we fail to meet the mark, we have to be set aside. That’s that. It’s not evil. It’s a stand. Take it or leave it. It’s better this way because then we know who God is and He won’t waver. He makes sense in the midst of chaos.

To be honest, even atheists or free thinkers or whatever have a stand. They too believe in something and have a system they abide to. Regardless of what they say and whether they want to give credit or not. So for them to claim that the God of the bible is hard to understand, moody and dicey, I hardly think it’s God. It’s more them, if anyone.

Back to my question, does how I view God matter in how I trust Him and believe that He will work? Yes.

I personally consider myself mushy and I fear I may not finish this race. I hardly emulate Jesus’ faithful obedience. God is strong but I am weak.

But let’s try to think of this less myopically. Do I believe that God can redeem my country? I mean, right now I’m really wondering the end game. Will we as a nation rise together to rebuild ourselves? Or will we abandon it? Do we have the strength to fix what is broken? I mean, what happens after everything? Do we just continue with our lives? Is it like when we watch the season finale and then wish for more?

All this matters because this will frame how I pray for Malaysia in the next 40 days, how committed I am to this land I call home. What is my petition to God for this country? I don’t know. And that’s the scary thing.

Of course I want to see wrong made right, I want to see justice prevail, I want to see fear dissipate. I want light to conquer darkness. I want prosperity for all. I want comfort and security for everyone. But is that too idealistic? I’m reading through Day 1’s prayer topics and feeling a sense of disconnect. Somehow, my heart isn’t in it yet. I think the drama is more attractive, the mess is more alluring and sensational. Do I believe that what I am going to pray for will move God’s heart to reveal His plans for us?

What about for myself? Back to being myopic. What am I looking to God for in my life? Do I have any requests? Some times I live without asking because I believe I won’t get it and other times because I think it’s selfish of me to ask. God, what do I want? Do You know what I want?

Please help me to focus, God. Help me to listen for your pulse so I can sync with it. Help me to see things through Your eyes and help me to hear You loud and clear. In the midst of everything that’s happening in Malaysia, and even at work and at home, please hold my hand and don’t let go. Most times I know I will try and shrug You off but don’t let go! Grip me firmly and take me where You want me to go. Even if I’m kicking and screaming. Help me to understand You better, to feel the love You have for me and give me wisdom to understand Your reason.

For this land of Malaysia, amidst the disappointments that seem to come crashing on us like waves, help keep us buoyed, our heads above the water. May Malaysians keep their sense of humour, temper their anger and find solutions to weather the storm. As for the Church, may we be the vessel that brings Your message of hope, that this is not the end but the beginning. Help keep us upright, stay on course and don’t let us capsize. In Jesus’ name, Amen.