Monday, January 26, 2009

The God of Prosperity

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

The prosperity icon, adorned with red long suit of the Qin Dynasty, with a black head gear flapping its two ends swayed to and fro the mall. The background was filled with the typical brassy Chinese music ushering in the Lunar New Year. He dipped into his red bag for freebies giveaway for the shoppers, usually some vouchers in ang pows (red packets). For many, he portrays the Chinese Santa Claus. Cai Shen, the Chinese folk hero has many versions of history. He was believed to lived a courageous and victorious life and later regarded as a god - supposedly the god of prosperity.

The lunar new year is an auspicious season. It is one filled with bright colours and noise. Yes, I mean NOISE. Joyful noise of every kind. Weeks prior to the celebration, the merry music ushers in the mood followed by busy preparations - shopping galore, and baking all sorts of authentic cookies. Before our days of modern shopping centers, my mum used to sew a lot of new clothes for relatives and friends months prior the celebration. Tailors would stop receiving last minute orders. People had to plan ahead and send their fabric in at least months before the new year and paid a handsome sum to get quality sewing and design. I got a good glimpse of this because Mum was a seamstress.

Chinese have many kinds of celebrations in a year and this is indeed the highlight of it all. Endless energy and resources are channeled into making it a real happy one as it marks the beginning of a new year which hopefully comes with new blessings and abundance. Blessings and abundance are inseparable with prosperity to the Chinese. These terms are synonyms. Although longevity and health are also important but a whole lot of emphasis is placed on wealth. No one can miss that when you hear the greeting, "Gong Xi Fa Cai" which means a wish for prosperity...and of course, the famous saying that follows is - "hong pow na lai" meaning bring forth the red packet. Money, money!

Every year approaching this season, I would catch myself humming and often singing to the tune of these happy songs. Music is powerful. As a child living in the heart of the Chinese community in the city, I picked up these songs and used to love them though I must confess I find it pretty noisy and irritating now. Nevertheless, unknowingly, I will sing, "Cai Shen tao, Chai Shen tao...Chai Shen tao wor chia ta men koa..." meaning (in Mandarin) God of Prosperity arrives, God of Prosperity arrives...God of Prosperity arrives at the main door of my home.

Oh dear, what was I singing?
Whom did I call upon?
Who is my God of Prosperity? The Qin Dynasty hero whom most Chinese adore?

I felt somewhat guilty for falling prey to the negative power of music (I say 'negative' because music has positive inspiration too). The true God of Prosperity had arrived at the door of my heart and walked right in the moment I received Jesus Christ. There were endless rules to learn in Chinese traditions which I was enslaved in. Despite the fact my parents were not really convicted of all the do's and don'ts but we blindly followed some to ensure we had a "good" year ahead. As a child, I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. New clothes, new shoes, ang pows, good food, and holiday packaged in the festive season. As I mature, I began to question a lot of these traditions which may seem to be clothed with aesthetic presentation like a must to buy new clothes and they must be red or similarly bright in colour. Behind the act, there is an enslavement to be pressured to buy new stuff to forget the past and have a good beginning. Maybe today it is mere excuse for us to satisfy our shopping compulsion. Then, there is the rule of the forbidden broom to be seen nor used even though the place is filthy. Lest the good luck is swept away. Firecrackers that are believed to ward off the evil spirits add to the air and noise pollution. The list is endless. People are trapped in anxiety and fear is instilled instead of rejoicing fully in the festivity.

The power of the Cross penetrates the entrapment of all these beliefs. It brings liberation. The Lord Almighty rules as the God of Prosperity....or should I say true prosperity. His blessings extend beyond the boundary of monetary wealth. Ephesians 1:3-14 is the seal of that promise with our covenantal God. We ought to rest in His covenantal promise of blessings instead of striving in our covetuos problem of believing in the myth of more. God's ultimate intention is to bless us but we are often caught in this unnecessary tradition to strive for blessing. He always plan to prosper and never to harm those who walk His way; and live a life of faith and trust in Him. He declares He knows the plans He has for us. He definitely knows! He is the Almighty who possesses All Wisdom and Power. In His wisdom, He grants us a hopeful destiny.

Traditions are important. They lead us to our roots and help us to appreciate our heritage. A lot of times we will find the fingerprints of our Father as we trace back our roots. However, what are some of the traditions in our life which bind us? Remember, the Lord has set us free.

In our quest and search for blessings, where do we begin our search? Where are we led to? Who is our source? Let us search our hearts and ponder on these questions.

The lunar new year provides a marvelous platform to emulate our God of Prosperity in giving generously and pronouncing blessings to the people we visit. For those of us at the receiving end, we receive gratefully.

Heavenly Father, In You, I rejoice and enjoy true prosperity. Thank You for the freedom and the seal of the Holy Spirit who gurantees me the inheritance of Your endless blessings. Let this festive season be an opportune time for me to be a channel of blessings as I receive my gracious portion from You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

From the Gems of My Home to You

Here's wishing our dear Chinese relatives and friends...

We wish you a Glorious New Year as you call upon our God of Prosperity to meet all your needs in Christ Jesus! (Phil. 4:19) and believe fully in Him who is more than able to do anything for you - beyond your imagination, guess, or request in your wildest dreams! (Eph. 3:20)

Monday, January 19, 2009

He Gives Good Things

Fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Psalm 34:9-10

My daughters came home after their ballet lesson one day telling me that their teacher said it was time to get new leotards. I had thought they needed a change too looking at their faded and overstretchced pieces. The garments had lost their elasticity. I was hoping their use could be prolong as much as possible since these are not cheap goods. I promised to look into the matter. I contacted the "angel" who had been sending us used toe shoes over the time. We never knew this person till we met up face to face one and half-year ago at a youth camp. In our exchange of conversation, we found out that she was the kind soul who was the source of my girls' toe shoes. In turn she was glad too to meet us for the first time. What happened was our mutual friend was the one who had helped to arrange this.

I was privileged to get to know this really nice lady and we talked about dance a lot over the short time together. Apparently she works in a dance school in another city and that's how the supply of used toe shoes came about. We never shun used stuff. Frugal living is good. So this time having known this new friend, I took up her continuous offer for used dance materials. I called her personally to check if there are any leotards available and furnished her with my girls' body measurements.

The weeks gone by and I had no reply from her. I thought perhaps this time I just have to fork out the money somehow to get them new leotards even though the season demanded many financial commitments. A surprise came just before Christmas. A cheque was addressed to our four children. This "angel" friend responded and told me to get the girls new leotards! Yes, my girls are very grateful and beamed with joy as they received their new leotards last week.

It is a promise of God that his children will not lack any good thing. Not just lack nothing. But lack no good thing. He is a good God and He gives good things. The Father never witholds good gifts from His children. He generously lavish upon us. He doesn't just give. He gives what is good. The psalm gives a contrasting picture of the lion, being the ferocious beast with a voracious appetite may still lack and be hungry while those who fear and seek after God will receive the best of his blessings.

We would gladly settle for used leotards but God blessed us with brand new ones. Luke 11:11-13 remind us that every father desires to bless their children, even those who are evil know how to give good gifts to their children. God is good and He gives good gifts. All fathers stand extremely pale in comparison to our Father. No one can compare to His generosity. Is there any desires in our hearts which are not fulfilled? Dare we come before God and ask confidently for His blessings? Whom do we fear and seek after in life? If we fear and seek after the True God, then believe He will bless us with the best. And I like what one of my dear friend said to me, "God has no favourites." However, I do believe He knows what's the best for each child and when is the best time to release that gift.

Heavenly Father, I love you and seek to do Your will and follow Your ways. Teach me to pursue You in deeper manner and long after You always. Thank You for loving me so much and recognize that You will not withold good things from me. I place before You____(your desires) and await for the unfolding of these gifts in Your beautiful time. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Just Enough for Today

Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.

Exodus 16:4, 20

My dear husband promised to take me to Tasmania, Australia where he pursued his bible studies almost 20 years ago. Our hearts were thrilled when the opportunity came one and a half year ago when we took our sabbatical year and rested Down Under for more than two months. In Tasmania, we stayed in Smithon, a small town nestled in the north-west. It was simply lovely to be away from the hustle and bustle of busy cities.

Every morning, my daughter, Nat being the early riser loved to date me for morning walks and get our day's groceries from the nearby store. We would bundle ourselves up snugly and head off in the cold winter mornings just enjoying each other's company while getting to know the little town where her dearest daddy had talked so much about. Indeed everything is simple in Smithon - the place and the people. Friendly faces greeted us everywhere we went. It seemed like there's no strangers in this community. It gave us a very secure feeling to roam around. One of the best thing was to hunt for the best deal in the grocery store daily in the reduced to clear section.

Budget was a crucial matter for us. Every dollar and cent needed to be stretched to the fullest to feed the whole family especially when the currency conversion rate was high. We were very glad and grateful to be able to find food daily at an outrageuos marked down prices. I will never find them in our local scene. It was delightful as we went through the items and picked out our daily needs like bread, authentic Aussie pies, milk and desserts. Often we would enjoy a variety of pies for our meals. One time we indulged in a A$6.00 chocolate mudpie for the whole family at the price of 50 cents! Our Aussie friends marvelled at this particular finding. They confessed they never came across such a cheap deal. We believed it was God's gracious provision for us. Nat had really wished for the mudpie during her stay there and God blessed her (and the whole family since the mudpie was 1kg).

One weekend, we decided to drive 5 hours to Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania. Being a melancholy woman, I wanted to be as prepared as always for the trip. So I insisted to pick up our daily needs from the store before shooting off for the long drive. That would save us some bucks instead of eating at cafes along the way. Lo and behold! The sale section had so much to offer that day. One of them was multigrain bread which we never bother considering since we could not afford it. It was more than six times the price of our usual plain white bread. My eyes twinkled in delight as I chose from the selection. I checked the expiry date. Good news. Still a long way to go. At least long enough for our trip and few days' stay in the city. I grabbed two loaves along with other stuff. Proudly I announced to my husband and kids of my treasure for the day since I am pretty particular about nutrition. Multigrain was definitely a premium choice compared to the cheap white bread.

The next day or two, I discovered to my horror the bread had turned stale and molded. We haven't even finished a loaf! My heart ached with regrets and instantly remembered the words of the Lord spoken to Moses instructing the Israelites to collect the manna just enough for that day. Just like the Israelites, I had disobeyed and collected more for the day's ration. God's instruction in Exodus 16 became alive for me. I was supposed to be resting in the Lord and trusting His faithful and timely provision but had in my own wisdom stored up unnecessary.

We are living in hard times. The global hit by economic crisis causes many to be in despair. Many lost their jobs or experiencing pay cut. Others wondered what entails. Are you worrying about tomorrow? What you will eat and wear? Your job or education? Your future? Matthew 6:25-34 calls our attention to God's mindful provision in the field. He feeds the birds and clothes the lilies. What more - we, as His precious children?! Will He not give us what we need? Perhaps we need to trust Him just enough for today.

Heavenly Father, forgive me for not being able to surrender all my needs. I acknowledge You are the Giver of life and my Gracious Provider. Thank you for supplying all my daily needs. Help me to be grateful. Forbid me to be trapped in anxiety and caught up in the race of greed. Release Your peace and give me a trusting heart. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sighing to Singing

I will sing to the Lord, I will sing;
I will make music to the Lord, the God of Israel.

Judges 5:3 (NIV)

My little girl sings to almost anything throughout the day. She is like a Broadway star. Joyful noise filled my home and my car as long as she is present. She makes a song to almost anything she sees and hears. She sings her love to mummy which warms my heart every single time a tune is put together with the words she wants to convey. And oh, that sweet cheerful smile of hers! Sometimes a dance is added to enhance the whole point she tries to communicate. Last week, her singing turned into sighing and then whining because she was in great pain and discomfort from her severe sore throat and fever. Her body was aching all over and her hunger called for her attention all the time but she couldn't eat. That's miserable. The little girl's sighing eventually became whines which was really sapping my energy.

I knew she needed my comfort and care. I told myself to be extra patient because she was in great distress. Any adult would feel awful too. What more for a 5 year-old! "I feel lousy," she would constantly tell me. She would make irritating noises to get my attention. My mercy tank was gradually diminishing. I would close my eyes and held my breath as I whispered a prayer to God to help me contain my impatience and deliver my child from her sickness. Honestly, I thought I was doing pretty well staying calm and composed caring for her till one day I began to feel a stirring of agitation rising within me. Her whines was getting intolerable. She was whining at almost everything. Oh, how I missed her spontaneous singing. Perhaps she has a good reason to behave improper. After all, she is just a minor and was sick.

It made me reflect on my own attitude when I come before my Father. How about you? Is our calling upon him bring delight to his ears or is it irritating noises? Do we make it a point to praise and thank him for every blessing and trial? Trial? Did I say trial?? Yes. Thank him for the trials and challenges that come our way. They are meant to make and not break us. Do we complain and grumble instead of being contented and glad? When we learn to count our blessings, we'll be surprised to find that our spirit is liberated. Liberated to sing instead of sigh. Granted, life is not a bed of roses. There will be constant winds of hardship beating at our face. We may stop singing for some reasons. However, every song that flows from a heart of praise and thanksgiving will never be swallowed by the harsh wind nor storm. Even if it is faint and weak. It will reach the Father's heart. Deborah in the book of Judges made a deliberate choice to sing and make music to God even when she was engaged in battle. Can we echo her, "I will sing..." and witness our misery become a miracle of God?!

Grace, my ex-colleague in nursing always whistled and sang as she went about her duty in the ward. I loved working with her. Her joyful spirit is contagious. Caring for the sick is demanding and draining. But her singing attitude made such a difference to the patients and team mates. The joy of the Lord is her strength. I believe that joy is the trademark of a child of God. Do we possess this trademark? Let us stop sighing and start singing. Before we fret, remember our Faithful Friend...arise and break out in song.

Heavenly Father, fill my heart with songs of praise and freedom. Let my spirit break out in joyful noise and bring such delight to you. In good times and bad times, your joy is my strength. Cause me to see from your perspective. Create in me a singing heart. Let me sing a new song today. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hope for the New Year

Let us hold unswerwingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)

My energy has been drained for the past weeks. These were indeed long weeks. All I've been busy was dispensing medicine to my kids and soothing their pain and discomfort. Each day I hope they will be better (at this point of writing they are not completely well yet).

My 5 year-old looked at me hopelessly and said in betweens her sobs, "Nothing helps". She had not been able to eat due to a bad throat infection which caused ulcers. Knowing that I was a trained nurse, she had hoped I could do something to ease her pain and agony. I wished I could but all my attempts failed to bring any relief. She was really frustrated as her hunger increased and not even sips of water was gentle enough for her throat. She requested for McDonald's in her longing for food. I looked at her with empathy but firmly told her she would not be able to swallow any burgers or nuggets yet. So I promised her a Happy Meal when she recovers if she would continue to take her medicine. That became her hope. I would remind her every time she whined or agonized in pain and discomfort. Honestly, I am not in favour of promoting fast food but I was equally helpless. So anything that could help to divert her attention of the present pain and helped her focus on the future hope would do for that moment.

Throughout her illness, she reminded me of my promise. I told her to I was still observing her food intake - the amount and texture that she could handle day by day. She became rather impatient and would whispered to me occassionally, "Mum, you promised..." Firmly I would smiled at her and answered, "Not yet, but I will."

Two days ago, she looked more cheerful and finished her rice so quickly. She must be really hungry after days of starvation. We all laughed at her appetite. That was a relief for me knowing she was recovering. Later I announced to her we would take her for her Happy Meal. The long awaited moment arrived for the little one who was suffering in pain. Her hope became a reality. I watched her enjoyed the chicken nuggets, steam corn to every kernel and sipped her Milo drink with satisfaction. Then of course, she happily checked out the toy which came together with the meal - a cute pink trinket box. I suppose that's the attraction in the Happy Meal for every child.

As I whispered that promise to my child, a soft prompting invaded my heart reminding me of my Father's promise(s). He is true and faithful to his promises. Numbers 23:19 reinforced that "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil? Life's challenges are real. They are tangible. So are God's promises. They will be reality and manifested in tangible evidences if we don't lose our grip in what we believe. We have to stay focused and fulfilled in the hope we professed in Christ Jesus. A promise is a promise. Our Father will deliver when the time is right. As my child struggled with me, and her own gave me a picture of how many times we struggle with God, and our own pain in life. But the good news - God is faithful. If we allow God to help us through and obediently follow his will and ways, the promise(s) will be reality in his time. For his time is beautiful.

The year ahead may promises great possibilities and potentials for some. Perhaps for others it may be a dread because of past disappointments and pain. Whichever end you stand, let's be encouraged to know that he who promised is faithful. Our hope is in Christ. Let's not lose our grip and hold on to the Cross as we enter a new year.

Heavenly Father, I place my trust in You and want to be vulnerable in Your Presence. Thank You for the hope I profess in Christ Jesus and the promises You whispered to me. I purposed in my heart to believe in every one of them because You are faithful. I trust Your timing. I pray for a fresh beginning of a new year - one that is anchored upon the Cross. In Jesus' Name. Amen.