Friday, November 29, 2013

The Christmas Hope

TITLE: THE CHRISTMAS HOPE 
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 63:15
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: November 29th, 2013

"Look down from heaven and see from Your holy and glorious habitation; Where are Your zeal and Your mighty deeds? The stirrings of Your heart and Your compassion are restrained toward me." (Isa 63:15)

I watched a weepie last night. It was a film made in 2009 called "The Christmas Hope" that tells three stories of how individual persons having lost something, gained something else back as Christmas Day approaches. It is a feel-good movie that begins with tragedy and closes with a teary end. The first scene is about a single mother and daughter (Emily) hugging and enjoying each other's company. Emily's mum works as a waitress and tries to make ends meet. Emily is an adorable 9-year-old who loves everything Christmas, and especially remembers her mum as one who always keeps her promises. Then tragedy strikes with the mother was fatally hit by a car. The second scene is about a couple , an airline pilot Mark, and his wife Patty, still grieving after the loss of their teenage son, Sean, also to a road accident. Two deaths, two remaining families, all longing to cling to some hope, any kind of hope.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Three Fears

TITLE: THREE FEARS
SCRIPTURE: 1 John 4:1
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: November 21st, 2013

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1)
I use GMail a lot. Not only is it increasingly popular among many users, it is eloquently speedy and is widely compatible with a host of browsers. One of the best features by this Google product is the spam filter. There was a time in which mails selling all sorts of products, propagating all kinds of messages, and spewing out all kinds of garbage which made reading emails a chore. In came GMail and the rest is history. Occasionally, a few legitimate mails get caught in the spam folder, but that is a small price to pay in order to get a cleaner InBox.

Many of these spam mails hardly deserve any reading or action. Sometimes, the quickest fix is to simply hit the DELETE button and voila! There goes the thorn that threatens to irritate and frustrate. Sometimes, people do send out other kinds of mail that border upon hate mail. Whatever the message within that spam, there is a general pattern. First, there is a title that grabs attention. It can be based on a famous personality that screams out: "Obama lies!" and so on. Like tabloids that sells based on sensational headlines, spam mails market themselves in order to win clicks to their products and services, the more sensational the title is, the more likely it is going to get people to click on it. Second, it is usually based on a famous name, company, or a nearly legitimate name. After all, putting "Miley Cyrus" or "Tom Cruise" in the headlines will grab attention. Third, it masquerades itself as the real deal. It pretends to be written by some famous or highly qualified individual to authenticate the email. That way, it hopes to have a label of authenticity so that readers will read them with more attentiveness. Fourth, there is usually a product, a service, or a message to spread. The goal is to spread it far, spread it wide, and to spread it fast.

This week, I want to reflect on the three modern fears strangling society today, and to argue that we cannot live on the basis of fear. We need to live on the basis of faith. Fear pushes people down for the sake of self. Faith lifts people up for the sake of Christ.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It Doesn't Matter

TITLE: IT DOESN'T MATTER
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: November 14th, 2013

From time to time, I will ponder about life and the various ways we can get stuck in discouragement or despair. That is not necessary. All it takes is a change in perspective. In God's time and wisdom, we all can learn to re-direct our energies toward constructive thinking and helpful living. This week's Sabbath Walk is about learning to change our perspectives. Below are 21 thoughts.

*********

1) It doesn't matter if the world forgets about you;
     It matters more that God and your loved ones remember you.

2) It doesn't matter if the plans you have made have failed miserably;
     It matters more that you have given your best and have succeeded in trying.

3) It doesn't matter if not many on social media bother to interact with you;
     It matters more that the few who do have interacted with you meaningfully.

4) It doesn't matter if you have given terrible sermons, speeches, or sharing in the past;
     It matters more that each time you give a "terrible" one, you improve on the next.

5) It doesn't matter if you feel helpless about how to assist in the disasters you hear about;
     It matters more if you care to give, and are ready to help at the short moment's notice.

6) It doesn't matter if your superiors constantly complain or criticize your work;
     It matters more if you can distinguish the constructive from the destructive, and respond humbly.

7) It doesn't matter if you have not read all the books you wanted to read;
     It matters more if the ones you have read had already brought benefits to you or to people you care.

8) It doesn't matter if you've only got a C in your mid-terms;
     It matters more if you become more resilient to try again, and aim for an A in life.

9) It doesn't matter if the ham in the oven had become burnt beyond recognition;
     It matters more that you have not wasted the education the burnt ham had taught you.

10) It doesn't matter if the vacation you have been waiting for had been postponed;
     It matters more if postponing it is the right thing to do, and a better time and date is available;

11) It doesn't matter if all the world's a stage and everyone seems to be mere players;
     It matters more if the world stage is your chance to be the best player you can be.

12) It doesn't matter if you do not know what to do with your life;
    It matters more if you do not stop seeking and keep searching for your calling.

13) It doesn't matter if people brand you a failure in things you do;
    It matters more if you see each failure as a step toward success waiting to happen.

14) It doesn't matter if you feel inadequate every time you go to Bible studies;
    It matters more if each time you go, you learn that only in God, one is adequate.

15) It doesn't matter if you feel your life in the past had been wasted;
    It matters more if you recognize that there are still many years left to try living well again.

16) It doesn't matter if you cannot remember all the Ten Commandments;
    It matters more if you put into practice what you CAN remember.

17) It doesn't matter if you feel your spiritual life is stagnant;
    It matters more if you not only recognize it, but is prepared to do something about it. You can start with praying first?

18) It doesn't matter if you feel lonely, or think no one seems to be listening to you;
    It matters more if you know that God listens even when the world turns away. Jesus knows what loneliness is all about.

19) It doesn't matter if you have not brought anyone to Christ in the past;
    It matters more if you learn to shine wherever you are, that you are part of the sowing, watering, or cultivating. Let someone else do the harvesting while you do the planting.

20) It doesn't matter if you feel no one appreciates you, or thank you enough;
    It matters more if you appreciate others and thank God more.

21) It doesn't matter if you doubt what you think about yourself;
    It matters more what God thinks about you.

If you do use any of them, I will appreciate if you can either link back to this article, or simply credit the author above.


sabbathwalk

Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or enquiries. Note that views expressed are personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Why Pastors Pray a Lot

TITLE: WHY PASTORS PRAY A LOT
SCRIPTURE: 2 Chronicles 6:18-19
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: November 8th, 2013

18“But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 19Yet, Lord my God, give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence." (2 Chronicles 6:18-19)

Key to the spiritual health of any minister or ministry worker is prayer. How prayerful are they? How much time do they spend in prayer? How often do they pray? Leonard Ravenhill gives a powerful indictment on people, especially ministers, who do not pray.

No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. The pulpit can be a shop window to display one's talents; the prayer closet allows no showing off. Poverty- stricken as the church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here we fail everywhere.” (Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, Bloomingdale, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1987, p25)

Sometimes, I get asked: "What do pastors normally do over the week?"

It is a fair question. I rattle off the list of things I do. It ranges from teaching to preaching; from studying to ministering; from visiting to emailing; from administrative work to ministry practices; from meetings to caring; and so on. As far as ministry work is concerned, there is no particular 9-to-5 time frame. Even on Sundays, I find myself at work. Sabbath keeping is particularly hard in ministry work. For example, if someone in Church has a need that happens to coincide with the pastor's rest day, what gives? It requires a judgment call. I know it is a cliche, but I will still say it: There are no easy answers when it comes to ministerial duties and allocated time for work.

Underlying all of these ministry activities, programs and preaching, there is something not many people appreciate: Prayer. Of all of the ministry activities that I feel is most significant, I will put prayer without hesitation. Why? Let me share three reasons.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halfway Prayers

TITLE: HALFWAY PRAYERS
SCRIPTURE: John 17:20-23
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: October 2nd, 2013
“20“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

Everything goes back to God.

Looking at the prayer of Jesus for all believers, I notice that Jesus prays what I call complete prayers. Right from verse 20, Jesus does not simply pray for his own disciples, he prays for all believers. He does not just pray for them individually, he prays for them that they may be one, united, and together. He does not just pray for the disciples to be in him, but in “us” directing focus back to God the Father. From God, he prays again with a link back to the themes of unity in Christ, reconciliation with God, and the spread of the gospel to all the world, demonstrating that God’s love had come to the world.

Such prayers remind me of Acts 1:8, that when the Holy Spirit comes, the disciples were called to witness the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the far ends of the earth.

A) Halfway Prayers (College Years)

What are halfway prayers? Since my University years, I cannot help but notice the sharp rise in attendance at prayer meetings when students are too stressed up about their exams. Those who rarely go to fellowship meetings suddenly turned up. People who were not Christians at all, decided to get some divine “power” in order to do well in their studies. Such need-dependent motives are very common. A typical prayer goes like this:

“God, help me with my exam paper tomorrow. I am panicking and you know how I feel right? So help me God. Amen.”
 Another popular student's prayer comes in the following manner. There is a humour in it, but shows forth how incomplete it seems.

“Now I lay me down to study,
I pray the Lord I won't go nutty.
And if I fail to learn this junk
I pray the Lord that I won't flunk.
But if I do, don't pity me at all,
Just lay my bones in the study hall,
Tell my teacher I've done my best,
And pile my books upon my chest.
 
Now I lay me down to rest,
To pray I'll pass tomorrow's test;
But if I die before I wake,
That's one less test I'll have to take.

Even panicking parents often ask for prayers on behalf of their children. Why do I call this halfway prayers? When I look at how such prayers are understood in the light of John 17, I feel like I have not prayed in the manner Jesus had prayed.

Jesus prayed: “My prayer is not for them alone.” How many of our prayers are “for us” or for certain people “alone?” Jesus stretched his prayers from disciples to all believers; from all believers to all non-believers.

Jesus prayed for unity “that all of them may be one.” We pray for good exam results. We pray for calm hearts. We even pray for cool heads and comfort. What about our prayers bringing glory to God? How are our prayers patterned after Christ in his love and concern beyond our small world into the larger world? Jesus prayed for the spread of the message of love. How are our prayers moving that forward? 


POINT: Halfway prayers are basically prayers of a person who desperately needs to grow beyond self-concerns.

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