Reality Check

An important topic came up in this weekend’s Sunday morning conversation.  “Your generation needs a reality check.  Kids believe in playing games all day.” The topic was idols and the generation’s dependency on them.

Let me quote Isaiah 44:9-10, 15-17, and 19, an explanation of what God thinks of idols: “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless.  Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing?…It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill.  He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down and says, ‘Save me; you are my god.’ …No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” (NIV)

Isaiah tells us that the items themselves are worthless.  We needn’t defend them against harsh words.  They aren’t sin. But at the same time, they can lead to sin.   Anything that you love unconditionally which gets in the way of your service for God is considered an idol.  If you love something too much to set aside when God calls, you should check your priorities.  That’s an idol: not the object itself, but your level of respect for it.

Anything can be idolized.  Do you love something that’s important to you? Ask God in humble prayer if its ok to feel your heart’s involvement.  Promise your loyalty to Him.  Check your life.  What’s important to you?  Do you love video/computer games, politically pushed values, or hyped movies? Youtube? Is personal nit-picks, team loyalty, or lucrative money-spending of high caliber in your life? Do you consider PhDs, pledges from trendy celebrities and TV publicity, or searches on the internet as a reliable source of information?  Listen for God’s answer: does any of this get in the way of God’s purpose for you?

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Give Me the Bible

My father was stationed overseas when I was born.  Yakota Air Base was our home for the first 3 years of my life, so my family has had a kindred heart for Christians in Japan.  When I would brag to my friends in school that I was born in Japan, they would always come back with a reasonable question: “Can you speak Japanese?”  The question bothered me at the time, because I was a quiet child and didn’t even speak much English until I was 3 years old.

When I was 13, we moved to Germany.  We lived 2 years on the German-Dutch border, in the small German town of Gangelt.  We had a German neighbor and received advertisements in the mail in a language we didn’t know.  We made some special friends in our small church group which met at a chapel at the Nato base my father was stationed at.  If it weren’t for the gracious people of Germany who would gladly speak English for us, we would probably have been clueless about a lot of things there.

So I have always had a pretty good concept of foreign languages and different cultures.

If I were to pick up the little red Dutch Bible that I have in my library, I wouldn’t be able to read the words because I don’t know the language.  Even if I browse the pages of the Japanese Bible that I have, I may recognize a symbol or two from where Lacy and I are working on learning, but I still wouldn’t be able to read it and understand what it says. I can bet that if I were to know Japanese or German, when I read the Bible I would still have to focus on the words and grammar, because it’s not my first language.  It’s not the language that I hear when I think thoughts in my own head.

 “Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.”  Luke 24:45-48 (WEB)

Aside from Japanese, which I’ve always kinda wanted to learn ever since my friends asked me if I could speak it, another language that I’ve always found attractive is ASL.  My mother has always had a desire to learn sign language (and she passed the desire on to Lacy and me), so when she saw a piece of mail with a man on the envelope signing the words “Please open”, it was no surprise that it stole her attention and made her open and read the enclosed letter.  It was from the Pioneer Bible Translators, an organization that translates Bibles into foreign languages.  Their goal is to translate the Bible into every known language, so no man will be hindered from knowing God due to not having His Word in their own language.

This particular letter from Greg Pruett, the president of Pioneer Bible Translators, was talking about a personal experience when he was trying to decide whether to pursue a version of the Bible for the Deaf.  In it, he says “Brothers and sisters, it’s time for us to repent of how we have ignored the Deaf of the world as if they were not included with us in the message of God’s love. It’s time to take action…”

“Now, why would the Deaf need their own Bible?  They just speak English, or Dutch, or Korean, or Italian, or whatever the language of their environment.”  I’m sure that thought would go through the mind of many people.  But in knowing the differences that can be found in languages, it makes perfect sense to me.  Sign Language, as well as other languages like Japanese, isn’t as complicated as English.  Where we speak what we want to say in complete sentences, “I would like to give you this gift.”  They don’t clutter their thought with the needless extra words.  “Give.”

“It is true some Deaf learn to read by memorizing what each sequence of letters represents.  But this is tedious and unnatural, and those words will never be their heart language.  Most Deaf think in sign. For God’s Word to resonate deeply within their hearts, they need it in sign language.” –Greg Pruett

Also, according to Greg Pruett, people who were born deaf have a disadvantage.  When they read a Bible verse in the language of the country they live in, they only recognize the words as symbols on a page.  They have never heard the sounds that they must read.  While people who speak English see the word “Pizza” and think of how it sounds (like PEETsa), the person who uses ASL as their native language might read that word as a “Z” drawn with the index and middle finger.  Like this…

The truth is, Sign Language is an entire network of languages that haven’t even been considered for a Bible version of its own until recently.  And each region of the world has it’s own version of sign language.  ASL is “American Sign Language”, and is used by Americans.  But Pioneer Bible Translators are working to expand their reach to include the Deaf community all over the world.  They want to make many versions of a sign language bible, made into phone apps, a website, DVD, or memory card for the phone or computer; they want God’s promise to be carried even into the most silent of communities, so that all will have the chance to find God’s truth.

They are trying to raise $100,000 by the start of next year.  Would you be willing to help them out?  You can donate on-line or by check, by visiting http://www.PioneerBible.org/YearEnd2017

 

PioneerBibleTranslators

Below are some amazing videos of songs which have been translated into Sign Language.

“Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven! –were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed.  I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed.”   Galatians 1:8-9 (MSG)

Why does God allow persecution?

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  -2 Timothy 3:12

We can see in so many places in the Bible where God’s people were persecuted and even killed!  It causes many to wonder why God would allow persecution to happen.  It doesn’t seem like a very loving thing to do.

The truth behind the persecution of the Christian churches can also be found within the pages of the Bible.  In Genesis 3:15, God’s curse against Satan is this: “From now on you and the woman will be enemies, as will your offspring and hers.  You will strike his heel but he will crush your head.” (TLB)

Satan caused Adam and Eve to bring sin into the world because of the great hatred and animosity that he felt against God.  The truth is, Satan hates God!  And so he also hates humans, because we are loved by God and have His protection.

You can see Satan’s bitterness against God and His beloved creation in the story of Job.

“One day as the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan, the Accuser, came with them. 

“‘Where have you come from?’ the Lord asked Satan. 

“And Satan replied, ‘From earth, where I’ve been watching everything that’s going on.’

“Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth-a good man who fears God and will have nothing to do with evil.’

“‘Why shouldn’t he when you pay him so well?’ Satan scoffed. ‘You have always protected him and his home and his property from all harm. You have prospered everything he does-look how rich he is! No wonder he ‘worships’ you! But just take away his wealth, and you will see him curse you to your face!’

“And the Lord replied to Satan, ‘You may do anything you like with his wealth, but don’t harm him physically.’

So Satan went away and sure enough, not long afterwards when Job’s sons and daughters were dining at the oldest brother’s house, tragedy struck.” Job 1:6-13 (TLB)

Satan comes to God again in chapter 2 of Job and acts the same way. What hatred Satan presents to God!

We are also warned in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be careful-watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart.” (TLB)

There are many stories in the Bible about God’s people being persecuted. Next time you read about them, remember the one who is doing the persecuting; Satan, who is our enemy.

IDOP-StoriesOfPersecution

We can read more about Satan’s animosity in Revelation 12:7-13.

“Then there was war in heaven; Michael and the angels under his command fought the Dragon and his hosts of fallen angels. And the Dragon lost the battle and was forced from heaven. This great Dragon-the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world-was thrown down onto the earth with all his army.  

“Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, ‘It has happened at last! God’s salvation and the power and the rule, and the authority of his Christ are finally here; for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth-he accuses them day and night before our God. They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony; for they did not love their lives but laid them down for him. Rejoice, O heavens! You citizens of heaven, rejoice! Be glad! But woe to you people of the world, for the devil has come down to you in great anger knowing that he has little time.’

“And when the Dragon found himself cast down to earth, he persecuted the woman who had given birth to the child…” (TLB)

So Satan resents God for exiling him, and he takes out his resentment by persecuting God’s people on earth.   You could say it’s Satan’s way of getting God back for punishing him.

IDOP-TypesOfPersecution

But that doesn’t explain why God would allow us to be persecuted.  After all, if He’s a loving God, wouldn’t he have the power to stop Satan from persecuting His people that He loves?

But here’s some news that may seem unbelievable…

We are actually blessed by our persecution.

Yes, it’s true.  When we are persecuted, we can count our blessings and feel joy in these truths:

  • We are identified through Christ Jesus.
"At one time you were separate from God. You were God's enemies in your minds because the evil deeds you did were against God. But now Christ has made you God's friends again. He did this by his death while he was in the body, that he might bring you into God's presence. He brings you before God as people who are holy, with no wrong in you, and with nothing that God can judge you guilty of. And Christ will do this if you continue to believe in the Good News you heard. You must continue strong and sure in your faith. You must not be moved away from the hope that Good News gave you. That same Good News has been told to everyone in the world. I, Paul, help in preaching that Good News. I am happy in my sufferings for you.  There are many things that Christ must still suffer through his body, the church. I am accepting my part of these things that must be suffered. I accept these sufferings in my body. I suffer for his body, the church." Colossians 1:21-24 (ICB)
  • The world is paying us tribute because we belong to Christ.
"But you should be happy that you are sharing in Christ's sufferings. You will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory. When people insult you because you follow Christ, then you are blessed. You are blessed because the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is with you." 1 Peter 4:13-14 (ICB)
  • God compliments us over our service to Him.
"Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you noticed  my servant Job? No one else on earth is like him.  He is an honest man, innocent of any wrong. He honors God and stays away from evil. You caused me to ruin him for no good reason. But he continues to be without blame.'" Job 2:3 (ICB)
  • God is weaning us off of our love for the world by letting us see where our trouble actually comes from.
"Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.  

"You've already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it's time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don't understand why you don't join in with the old gang anymore. But you don't have to give an account to them. They're the ones who will be called on the carpet-and before God himself." 1 Peter 4:1-5 (MSG)
  • God is perfecting patience through our persecution.
"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. 

"If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open." James 1:2-8 (MSG)
  • We are being identified with great saints of the past.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
  • We are waiting to receive God’s great promise to us.
"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won't last very long.  Yet this short time of distress will result in God's richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (TLB)

 

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We typically think that in Jesus’ resurrection, He destroyed Satan’s power which is death. But that’s not true! Jesus actually destroyed Satan’s power and plans with His death, not rising from the dead.  He was sinless- our passover lamb.  His innocent blood washes us clean.

“Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15 (MSG)

“We have this treasure from God. But we are only like clay jars that hold the treasure.  This shows that this great power is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us.  We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. . We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies, so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death. This is so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die. So death is working in us, but life is working in you.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (ICB)

Playing Heaven’s Song

Yesterday after supper, I was extra tired. My eyes were heavy. I didn’t want to go to bed, because I had things to do: write in my journal, exercise, take care of my dog, read the mail, along with other stuff.

Kat advised me, “Just lay down and close your eyes. You don’t have to go to sleep. But if you do, it’s ok. Just lay there and let yourself rest until I get back.” I knew she’d be gone for about 30 minutes. She also revealed to me, “Laying there without doing anything helps me. You can listen to music… but don’t do anything else. After that, you’ll be ready to go on doing what you have to do.”

So I tried it. Getting under my blanket to take the chill away, I stretched my legs out until my toes were nearly emerged. A sigh filled my lungs, and wonderment filled my thoughts about whether I really would feel rested afterwards.

As I peered into the darkness of my eyelids, and let the music fill my ears, the music started fading from my mind when I began to visualize a scene. In the scene, there was me standing there; now normally I don’t picture my own self; I’m always picturing fictional characters or other people I never have met, but this time, it was plain me.

Golden rays of light shone from the sky as I stood, taking a few steps forward in a field of champagne-colored grass. The grass rustled gently, but I didn’t hear it, I only felt the wind in the form of calmness, peace, and joy which surrounded me, and the rays provided warmth all around. On my face was a smile, and in my eyes was a mission I knew I had, as I peered over the field at something. There was a quiet confidence and an assurance I could get it done. In my hand was my mission: I carefully held it, and I was ready to use it.

I couldn’t make out what was in my hand. In my thoughts, there were questions: What am I doing? Why am I standing there? What is it I am accomplishing?

I tried to control the visual. Zoom out. Try to see what’s on the other side of the field. Figure out what you’re holding. The end of a violin suddenly came into view, but I stopped imagining that when confusion arose. I can’t play the violin! Why would I be holding a violin? …That’s crazy…

But I wanted to keep seeing more, so I begin to brainstorm what my mission was, what I should do, and what God might expect from me. As soon as I began to think about the projects that swamp my life and the issues like money and relationships, the peace left me and the visualization blinked out almost like it was interrupted by white noise or a faulty satellite dish. It was gone because I let my human concerns interrupt it.

I saw no more of it before Kat got back, and we began talking. However, later, the Bible interpreted for me. When going to the Bible app on a mobile device, you can find a ‘Verse of the Day’ at the Dashboard or Home screen; in this case, I went to Bible Gateway and the verse of the day surprised me with its relevance:

“Yes, our natural lives will fade as grass does when it becomes brown and dry. All our greatness is like a flower that droops and falls; but the Word of the Lord will last forever.”

It took me off guard for the verse to be about grass because that’s what I saw! Grass – yes it was brown, but glorious and golden! Not brown and dying. I should be encouraged by your Word, Lord, but instead it makes me sad to think my aspirations, and my dreams will die and fade. This makes me sad, not happy. I’m sorry. I know your Word is what lasts, not my projects or what I want to do.

I left the app and went to other things, talking to Kat, getting sidetracked, but then I wanted to tell her about the oddity of my vision, if that’s what I can call it, and the oddity of the Bible verse, so I went back to the app and the Dashboard had a glitch. Oh man, I scolded myself, why didn’t you just write down the verse when you first saw it? Now it won’t come back. But then I realized, the rest of the app was working, so why not do a search? I searched “brown grass” and it took me to the exact verse I had read. This time I read the whole context, and it was in the context I got the positive message, the interpretation.

”For you have a new life. It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will fade away. This new one will last forever, for it comes from Christ, God’s ever-living Message to men. Yes, our natural lives will fade as grass does when it becomes all brown and dry. All our greatness is like a flower that droops and falls; but the Word of the Lord will last forever. And his message is the Good News that was preached to you.

“So get rid of your feelings of hatred. Don’t just pretend to be good! Be done with dishonesty and jealousy and talking about others behind their backs. Now that you realize how kind the Lord has been to you, put away all evil, deception, envy, and fraud. Long to grow up into the fullness of your salvation; cry for this as a baby cries for his milk.

”Come to Christ, who is the living Foundation of Rock upon which God builds; though men have spurned him, he is very precious to God who has chosen him above all others.

”And now you have become living building-stones for God’s use in building his house. What’s more, you are his holy priests; so come to him—you who are acceptable to him because of Jesus Christ —and offer to God those things that please him. As the Scriptures express it, ‘See, I am sending Christ to be the carefully chosen, precious Cornerstone of my church, and I will never disappoint those who trust in him.’

”Yes, he is very precious to you who believe; and to those who reject him, well—‘The same Stone that was rejected by the builders has become the Cornerstone, the most honored and important part of the building.’ And the Scriptures also say, ‘He is the Stone that some will stumble over, and the Rock that will make them fall.’ They will stumble because they will not listen to God’s Word nor obey it, and so this punishment must follow—that they will fall.

”But you are not like that, for you have been chosen by God himself—you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own—all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were less than nothing; now you are God’s own. Once you knew very little of God’s kindness; now your very lives have been changed by it.”

1 Peter 1:23-25, 2:1-10

I can assume, God probably had my Bible app glitch up so I wouldn’t be able to get depressed! It forced me to read Peter’s true message from God, which was that I am the Lord’s “holy priest”, as Peter says, called to build his church in which Christ is the foundation.

I also did a quick Google search on the symbolic meaning of the violin, and some consider it to be the symbol of Heaven, angelic being, serenity, calmness, and majesty. Here’s how I interpret what I saw:

The field of grass symbolizes the temporary life, and those living in it. The rays of light symbolize heaven, where God is, and it shines on the grass, where I stand. My mission is to play Heaven’s song -the violin was an instrument of Heaven- so that light will shine on the grass and it can live gloriously, eternally. Finally, God’s peace and spirit surrounded me, like the wind.

You want to know what added to the mystery? Let me add to the story:

Today, I was telling my mom about the scene I envisioned. Her face lit up. “What’s funny is, I had a dream this morning that I woke up from, that sounds a lot like what you described.” I’d told her about how I couldn’t “zoom out” and see what was beyond the field of grass. Anytime I tried to, the vision was halted.

“My dream had a field of grass, too!” she said excitedly. “I was standing in a field and was looking out over it, and saw three elderly people. One was a woman who had a cane, but she was running towards the other two men, like she didn’t need it. One of the men helped her into the light, and the other man was standing there, waiting to greet her. I tried to squint and see who they were, and then it zoomed up, like you’re saying yours couldn’t do! Mine could. I zoomed up and tried to look harder to see who it was.”

She realized, in her dream, the elderly woman was going from this life into the next, and she was being greeted by her loved ones who’d already passed on. “But there was the field of grass and the light in my dream,” she said. “Just like you described.” After she told me that, I proceeded to read to her 1 Peter (the passage above), and we were all inspired by how the dream, my vision, and Scripture were connected to each other.

I believe the take-away message we can get from this experience is that our mission as Christians is to become the building-stones for God’s family. Life here on earth is temporary. We should keep our minds set above, less on our projects and our careers, and more on how to bring others into God’s glorious light.

At least, in my case, God was telling me that I should focus less on my personal success, or how many sales I’ll get, or whether I’ll finish a project, and instead, I need to make Heaven my goal. If I am not playing Heaven’s song, if my project is not to advance God’s Kingdom, then my influence will be temporary and fade, or maybe God will even let my goals fizzle and be stopped like my vision was, when I got distracted with my human reasons.

For example, the many Christian writings I have done, here on my blog along the way, I have done for the sole purpose of helping others know the Lord Jesus. My writings have never been stopped, and inspiration has always flowed. But the instant I try to make money the goal, or I try to make impressing people the goal, my creations are stalled, halted, or quit by some circumstance.

All in all, there is nothing depressing about letting God’s message get out. Your brain can tell you that you don’t want to focus your time on Bible things or Christian affairs, instead you want to get out and make a splash! Experience the world without reserve. But as I am learning, the only way to have an eternal impact and earn an eternal reward is to take up the cross, become a building-block, and play Heaven’s song.

5 Common Misconceptions of What a PEACEMAKER is:

  • a PEACE WISHER is a person who wishes for world peace: they imagine a world where all people are at peace.  Though they can see the image in their own mind’s eye, they do not act on these wishes.  James 4:17 says that “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (NIV)  Also, James 2:16-17 says “If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (NIV)  To make peace, we must act on the deeds that we know is true and right.
  • a PEACE BENDER is a person who believes they are an expert at knowing how to make peace with other people, and so they insist that everyone must gain their understanding and live by the standards that match what they know peace to be. Matthew 7:15-17 tells us how we can recognize a peace bender: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (NIV) If a person does not try to pursue peace and be at peace with all people (1 Peter 3:8-12), then their actions will portray their spirit. They are not an expert on peace, but are actually a peace bender instead; they bend the definition of peace to match their own ideas.
  • a PEACE MARTYR is a person who would willingly sacrifice anything to keep the peace.  They are willing to sacrifice their integrity, their happiness, and even their salvation in order to keep the peace with their friends and relatives around them.  Philippians 4:6-7 reassures us with these words: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
  • a PEACE YIELDER is a person who believes that peace on earth means no more wars will ever be fought.  They are ready to fly the white flag of surrender in order to “keep peace”, and they protest war and speak against people who would attack evil to subdue it. Though that may sound like a peaceful concept to the untrained Christian mind, our own Savior Jesus, the Prince of Peace, reminds us in Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” 
  • a PEACE HOARDER is a person who is content with life.  He has everything he desires, and lives life only in the comfort of his own circle.  He will not share the peace that he has, whether it’s out of ignorance or out of selfishness. Jesus says in John 16:32-33 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

Life on this earth will not be easy, and there will be many times when it will feel like our life lacks peace.  But blessed is the PEACEMAKER who sees all the hostility and the unfairness in the world and yet works to spread God’s word anyway.  The truth about peace is this: Peacemakers are soul-winners! They are the people who pray for others, who volunteer at food pantries and in relief groups, who invite their friends to church meetings or camps.  They’re the ones who live as Christ-like examples and are unafraid to declare Jesus’ name to the world (and to their friends!).  It’s only through Jesus that we can find peace.

“…since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:1-5 (TLB)
“Peter, an apostle (special messenger, personally chosen representative) of Jesus Christ,

To those [elect—both Jewish and Gentile believers] who live as exiles, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia [Minor], and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by the sanctifying work of the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be yours in increasing abundance [as you walk closely with God].”  1 Peter 1:1,2 (AMP)
“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the  highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.  

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.  

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
“And now there is one more thing to say before I end this letter. Stay away from those who cause divisions and are upsetting people’s faith, teaching things about Christ that are contrary to what you have been taught. Such teachers are not working for our Lord Jesus but only want gain for themselves. They are good speakers, and simple-minded people are often fooled by them. But everyone knows that you stand loyal and true. This makes me very happy. I want you always to remain very clear about what is right and to stay innocent of any wrong. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The blessings from our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you.”  Romans 16:17-20 (TLB)

Hymn of the Day: Blessed Assurance

Blessed assurance!  We are given a promise of redemption and salvation!

Isaiah 43:16-21 says: I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a path right through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses, to lie beneath the waves, dead, their lives snuffed out like candlewicks.

But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert! The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and ostriches too, for giving them water in the wilderness, yes, springs in the desert, so that my people, my chosen ones, can be refreshed. I have made Israel for myself, and these my people will some day honor me before the world.” (TLB)

God will give us new life.  We are His new creation.

Hebrews 6:10-12 says: “For God is not unfair. How can he forget your hard work for him, or forget the way you used to show your love for him—and still do—by helping his children? And we are anxious that you keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, so that you will get your full reward.

Then, knowing what lies ahead for you, you won’t become bored with being a Christian nor become spiritually dull and indifferent, but you will be anxious to follow the example of those who receive all that God has promised them because of their strong faith and patience.” (TLB)

God will not forget all that we do in His name!  We are blessed with the assurance of His promises.

Hebrews 6:13-20 says: “For instance, there was God’s promise to Abraham: God took an oath in his own name, since there was no one greater to swear by, that he would bless Abraham again and again, and give him a son and make him the father of a great nation of people. Then Abraham waited patiently until finally God gave him a son, Isaac, just as he had promised.

When a man takes an oath, he is calling upon someone greater than himself to force him to do what he has promised or to punish him if he later refuses to do it; the oath ends all argument about it. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those he promised to help would be perfectly sure and never need to wonder whether he might change his plans.

He has given us both his promise and his oath, two things we can completely count on, for it is impossible for God to tell a lie. Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.

This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself behind the sacred curtains of heaven, where Christ has gone ahead to plead for us from his position as our High Priest, with the honor and rank of Melchizedek.” (TLB)

Since God is the righteous judge, we can be assured that His promises will be kept. 

Mark 5:35-36 says: ”While he was still talking to her, messengers arrived from Jairus’s home with the news that it was too late—his daughter was dead and there was no point in Jesus’ coming now. But Jesus ignored their comments and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me.” (TLB)

 

2 Samuel 7:22  “How great you are, Lord God! We have never heard of any other God like you. And there is no other God.” (TLB)

Hymn of the Day: Let Us Break Bread Together

When I opened my hymn book to “Let Us Break Bread Together”, I saw it was a Negro spiritual song, which means the song was written by an American slave. Immediately, my heart strings were struck as I read the lyrics:

VERSE ONE

Let us break bread together on our knees;

Let us break bread together on our knees.

REFRAIN

When I fall on my knees,

With my face to the rising sun,

O Lord, have mercy on me.

VERSE TWO

Let us drink wine together on our knees;

Let us drink wine together on our knees.

(Repeat REFRAIN)

VERSE THREE

Let us praise God together on our knees;

Let us praise God together on our knees.

(Repeat REFRAIN)

“I don’t know this song, but let’s sight-read it,” my mother said, and sang alone, first, to show us the sound of tones. Interestingly, when a hymn book provides shape notes (i.e. ‘Do’ is a triangle, ‘La’ is a square) even amateurs can sing! And how blessed to have sung it! The tones rose and fell so sweetly – yet they were powerful! – and the lyrics were equally so.

As I sang, my imagination wandered to the picture of a slave woman, falling to her knees at the start of a new day. Before she even began her work, she was tired and weary from the bondage she faced: the bondage of inequality.

Extraordinarily, the slaves from American history put their hearts on a plate and served it to God in spirit and in truth. How did they do that? The same way Job from the Bible did. Quoting Job, he said,

“Do not mortals have hard service on earth?
    Are not their days like those of hired laborers?
Like a slave longing for the evening shadows,
    or a hired laborer waiting to be paid,
so I have been allotted months of futility,
    and nights of misery have been assigned to me.
When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’
    The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn.”

Job 7:1-4 (NIV)

To honor and respect today’s hymn, I selected many different arrangements of “Let Us Break Bread Together”. Truly, let’s break bread together, each of us with our unique ways of showing worship.

Something else moved me today – with the news of protests happening in America, and Vice President Pence’s statement about the Colts game he walked out on, it is important for each American to understand heritage, and how different each American is because of the unique heritages. Many Americans don’t know their original ethnicity, saying “I’m a quarter” this and that, or 1/10th, or 1/20th, or “going back, on my father’s side”.

Makes one wonder, does heritage matter? Sure. How peoples’ lives are framed comes partly from the traditions their ancestors passed on, privileges earned, and struggles faced. There are countless heritages, and endless beginnings, which made America. It is through diversity that America grew strong. It is through respect that America will stay strong.

Pains of Heritage

By: Lacy Andrews

America for all!

Americans, free.

Whilst they try to remember,

The pains of their ancestors.

 

I soberly wonder

Surely! By this time,

We can forgive and forget,

Perhaps, if we give respect.

 

History roots go deep,

In the hearts of men,

Pilgrims came, died, and conquered

Slaves served, were sold and tortured.

 

Native tribes were ruined,

Spaniards came to save.

Puritans fled government,

And Chinese came for profit.

 

Indians were farmers,

Dutch came as merchants.

Russians fled from poverty,

Syrians were refugees.

 

America for all!

Americans, free.

Yet they try to remember,

The pains of their ancestors.

 

I somberly ponder

Even at this time,

We can’t forgive or forget

Unless we learn to respect.

 

Every race overcame,

The trials of men.

Englishmen settled, peaceful.

Africans became equal.

 

Native children lived on,

The Spanish flourished.

Puritans made Jamestown,

The Chinese made Chinatown.

 

Indians fought for rights,

Dutchmen fought in war.

Russians fought persecution.

Syrians fought omission.

 

America for all!

Americans, free.

Whilst they try to remember,

The pains of their ancestors.

 

I quietly wonder,

If ever in time,

Will we receive forgiveness?

Or forget respectfulness?

 

Multifaceted Mercy

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Matthew 5:7 (NIV)

The world is full of people who are self-driven: as long as they aren’t in pain or in some sort of discomfort, their lives are just fine.  Their own happiness, reputation, and enjoyment are what’s important. They would rather watch and laugh at other people’s misfortunes instead of lending a hand.

"The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy; teach me Your statutes." Psalm 119:64 (MEV)
"This is what the Lord Almighty says... show mercy and compassion to one another..." Zechariah 7:9 (NIV)

We are to show mercy… but what is mercy? It’s surely not something that comes naturally for us, because it’s a trait of God Almighty, but it’s a trait that all Christians must learn to imitate.  It’s part of God’s statutes.

"So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For he who has shown no mercy will have judgment without mercy, for mercy triumphs over judgment." James 2:12-13 (MEV)

Showing mercy is… being able to cry in another person’s skin; it’s feeling their pain, being concerned about their wellbeing, and having a strong desire to do something to help out.  We were put on this earth to show God’s mercy to the people around us.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

Showing mercy is… realizing that we are no different than our neighbor, and reaching out to show kindness to them.  Before receiving God’s grace, we were the same as those who aren’t saved.  It’s only by God’s mercy (the same mercy that we are required to imitate) that we are set apart.

"...you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the age of this world and according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among them we all also once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)," Ephesians 2:1-5 (MEV)
"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:3-7 (NIV)
"If your brother sins against you, rebuke him. And if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turns to you, saying, "I repent," you must forgive him." Luke 17:3-4 (MEV)

It has been said that the difference between grace and mercy is that grace is giving us what we don’t deserve, while mercy is not giving us what we do deserve. That’s true, but only partially true.  Actually, the difference is that grace takes away our faults, while mercy takes away our pain.

Showing mercy is… knowing when to rebuke a person who is wrong and when to allow the person to have the final word; it’s also knowing how stern or soft to make the rebuke, when you are called to give one.

"But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned." Titus 3:9-11 (NIV)
"Brothers, if a man is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, watching yourselves, lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galations 6:1-2 (MEV)

Showing mercy does NOT… always follow the moral standards of the rest of the world. Worldly common sense would tell you to give a homeless man a 20 dollar bill to pay for his meal. But mercy would tell you not to buy him a meal. Rather, teach a man how to work and then he can feed himself.

"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'  

"We hear that some  among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.  

"Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer." 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 (NIV)

Sometimes showing mercy must take an extreme stance: it may require to dis-fellowship a brother or sister in Christ who does not try to follow God’s laws.

"Now if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, then take with you one or two others, that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every word may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile [or pagan] and a tax collector." Matthew 18:15-17 (MEV)
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father's wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.  So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

"Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch - as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 

"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case  you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. 

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked person from among you.' " 1 Corinthians 5:2-23 (NIV)

Most of all, showing mercy calls us to… pray for those who we see living in sin, because “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. So if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have whatever we asked of Him.” 1 John 5:13-15 (MEV)  

As long as we continue to pray for the people we know, God won’t give up trying to reach them to save and to grant them eternal life.

Stop Bad Habits, Start Needing God

Just about everybody has a quirk or flaw about themselves they don’t like. If you’re like me, you have a couple of really bad habits you want to change, but it’s hard. It’s maybe impossible to, and sometimes, you know God wouldn’t approve of the bad habit since the Bible calls it sin.

So the other day, I tried to find a brain hack for my bad habit. Literally. I was emerging out of dreamland that morning, and something made me roll over in bed and punch the ‘Home’ button on my Ipad to wake it up before even I was awake.  I went to Google and searched what part of the brain’s functions governs habits, such as over-eating, smoking, lying, etc.  In a nutshell, this is the facts research tells us:

There is a place where cells are located, at the center of your brain, called the bed nucleus. That cell group sends signals through the stria terminalis, which looks like a cable connecting and transmitting info from part to part. Also, the amygdala (another part) is connected to the stria terminalis, and it releases emotions. If you have a craving that says “I want a hot dog”, emotion is sent from the amygdala to the bed nucleus, where the nuclei send the reply, “Go to Sonic and buy one!”

(Disclaimer: my research is only from scouring various medical writings, and is not doctoral advice.)

I sat up from bed as I rubbed my eyes, wondering how I could stop my bad habit after learning the facts. There’s gotta be SOME way to apply the knowledge and stop sinning, I thought to myself. How?  I pondered throughout the day, but sheesh, I’m no neurologist! I can’t engineer a new way to cure cravings (can I?)! So I gave up on that idea of solving the problem, until late the next night…

…I was going to bed and got that bad-habit-craving again. My thoughts were filled. It was impossible to not think about the craving…

….That’s when a new character entered the scene for the first time ever: RATIONALITY. If my brain was a movie script and there were three characters, RATIONALITY was the new guy in town, breaking the endless cycle. The thought process went like this:

CRAVING: You want it! Get it. Let’s move it, move it.

SELF: I shouldn’t! God says I shouldn’t, so I shouldn’t.

CRAVING: Ok, yeah you’re right... NOT! (shoves SELF) Let’s move it, move it.

SELF: No! I want to please God, not you. You’re not my boss!

CRAVING:  Oh yeah? (scoffs) I won’t let you go to sleep until I’m happy. You will have insomnia, stress, anxiety, and depression.

SELF: ...you’re blackmailing me?

CRAVING: (shrugs) Uh... yeah! That’s what people call it, but why be so technical? Come on! It’ll be fun. Let’s move it, move it. You like it.

SELF: (follows CRAVING)

RATIONALITY enters and stands protectively between CRAVING and SELF, defending SELF.

RATIONALITY: I couldn’t help but overhear. CRAVING is pressuring you right now, SELF; if you give in, you will only regret it later and wish you had avoided it. So you might as well not temporarily reward yourself when the guilt lasts a lot longer than the pleasure. What is there to gain in a reward that you’ve already experienced and know, when you could gain so much more by denying CRAVING and doing what you want – what God wants you to want – instead. CRAVING will always pester you, but you have the power to look into the future, see the consequences, and choose to say ‘NO’.

That was the moment in Wizard of Oz when Scarecrow got an honorary degree of T.H.D. from Oz, and started reciting a complicated equation! It was the moment in Labyrinth when Sarah told Jareth, “You have no power over me”. It was the moment in Anastasia when Anya said “Dasvidanya!” to Rasputin and angrily crunched his glowing vile of life-giving energy under her shoe, breaking it and ending the demon. It was the moment my brain got itself in order, and I could think straight long enough for the craving to fade away. Rationality entered the scene, and Self had the chance to decide before Craving dominated.

I don’t consider what happened a cure for my bad habit, or something that can be engineered to work for everyone, but the neurological research helped me, in that moment, rationalize my brain’s activity, the sending of signals back and forth. That gave me a chance to think about the pros and cons of my craving. Sometimes, a chance to wait out the storm is all you need to say ‘NO’.

Unfortunately for our souls, we live in a world where Craving is the hero instead of Rationality; sexuality is exploited and honored, money is power, and addictions are legal. Love is skewed to mean pleasure not sacrifice; virtual reality governs actions; phones feed our cravings and keep us empty of affection; brains therefore develop into a complicated system of iniquity and we no longer recognize who God is or if he even exists. We live in a world where skeptics doubt a God they can’t see, while sending messages to friends 4,000 miles away in 5 seconds which is easy to grasp because it’s somehow normal and explainable.

Well, I’m here to explain God for 100 more words of your time:

Jeremiah 23:5 says, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch” which is Jesus Christ, the Messiah we now have access to through the historically proven Bible and prayer. To be right with God, to be righteous, we must program our brains to need Christ (1 Peter 2:2, Psalm 37:7). In the Bible it’s known as being thirsty. Read the story about Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4:4-42) for understanding. If you become thirsty for righteousness, Christ will bring you contentment.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval.
They will be satisfied.”  -Matthew 5:6

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Today’s Hymn: Immortal, Invisible God

I was doing a Youtube search for the hymn “Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise” and my favorites I will share with you, but something about the lyrics struck a chord in my heart. The lyrics are old; the meaning is magnificent.

First, the lyrics:

Verse 1
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

Verse 2
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

Verse 3
To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small,
in all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish, but naught changeth Thee.

Verse 4
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
all praise we would render, O help us to see
’tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!

 

Next, how it touched me:

In worship, there was a reading of the lyrics before singing the hymn, so we could better understand the old song’s message. What I interpret from it is this:

  • Verse 1 tells of the unsearchable quality of God, how he is light and yet his light we are not aware, even as we praise him. “Too vague a God” skeptics say, and too big a concept for any of us to fathom, really, but Jesus Christ gives us reason to believe (recommended reading: “A Case for Christ”  by Lee Strobel)
  • Verse 2 expresses the simile “silent as light” which my brain wants to replace the word light with night, due to the popular song “Silent Night”. But then I actually think about it, and how much more silent can anything be, than light? God’s mighty presence is all around us, his handiwork in the sky and mountain peaks.  His plan is carefully brought about by his perfect love. Even in the hurricane, his love never ceases.
  • Verse 3 strengthens the point he is ruler, unchanged by fleeting lives and seasons. Even when the hurricane comes and goes, and the flowers bloom and the grass grows for months on end afterwards, once it is all over, God still remains.
  • Verse 4 finishes the point with the majestic request for God, the invisible, to not let our lack of sight be a hindrance in our faith. God and the angels are there, but our hearts pray, please don’t let our eyes hinder us from seeing the light and believing God is within it.

Last, the spotlight videos from international sources:
Sang by American music group Out of Eden (live performance), along with the song Meditate

Sang by African worship group Soul Winners Worship, an African worship group

Sang by American artist Fernando Ortego

Piano Solo by a member of Singapore church, Life Missions Church