Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

Chat Through the Bible

July 9, 2009

CB064077Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning God…”

Look at these first four words of the Bible. While on one level this verse simply introduces a historical account of God’s creation of the world, it can also be a lesson for us in priorities.

In the beginning: God. In other words, God should be at the first and foremost place in our lives. He should be number one, sitting on the throne of our lives. And, somehow, when we put God first, everything else seems to fall into place.

In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus promised when He said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Spouse, family, career, finances, health, home, possessions, etc. will all come into alignment when we put Christ first.

It’s easy to say that Jesus is on the throne of our lives, but somehow I find that I keep trying to crawl back up on that throne myself. It’s not a once-and-for-all decision, but a constant battle. I need to continually reassess my priorities. I need to keep turning to God to ask for His will, His plans, His desires for me in my daily life.

So, let me ask you: where is God in your list of priorities? If you’ve caught yourself trying to reclaim that throne for yourself, why don’t you pray right now and ask Him to take back the throne. Have a little coronation ceremony right there in your heart, and crown Christ the rightful king over your life. Kneel before Him in submission as a loyal subject, and lay your life out before Him to take and use as He will.

–Debbie Ong

Gratitude and Grief

July 2, 2009

“…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 5:20

 

Father son oceanA well-loved and highly respected man in our church passed away recently, just ten days before Father’s Day.  He had lung cancer.  He left a wife and three children, ranging from their teens to early twenties.

On Father’s Day, his oldest son stood up and shared a beautiful poem he had written for his father and had read at his funeral service.  It was a celebration of this man’s life and a reflection of gratitude for all that he had done for his family.

It’s not easy to be thankful when we’re hurting.  It’s much more natural to wallow in the pain.  And yet, the apostle Paul instructs us to give thanks for everything—both the good and the bad (see Ephesians 5:20).  So, how do we give thanks when we’re hurting?  How do we feel gratitude in the midst of our pain?

Well, gratitude is a choice.  We can make a conscious choice to be thankful.  This particular family chose to be thankful for the years they did have with their husband and father, rather than mourning the years they would have to wait until they joined him in heaven.  They chose to be grateful to God for taking him home, and for relieving him from the terrible suffering and pain they had watched him go through in those horrible final weeks, instead of wishing he was still there.

I’m sure it isn’t always easy.  I know they wish they had a dad they could hug.  They wish he was around to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding.  They wish he was there to cheer for them and watch proudly as they graduate and receive their college diplomas.  But they have made a choice—a choice to be thankful.

And, like them, no matter what we may be facing, no matter what pain we may experience, we, too, can always choose to be thankful.

Have you ever heard the saying, “I was unhappy because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no legs”?  This is the kind of mentality we can choose too.  There is always someone who’s worse off than we are.  We need to count our blessings, such as they are, and be thankful for them.

Even if you think your home is shabby compared to others’, and you wish you had newer furniture, and you know you have quite a few repairs that need to be done, you can choose to be thankful that you have a roof over your head.  There are others who are less fortunate.

If you are struggling with illness, you can be thankful for friends and family who surround you and support you through the difficult and painful moments.

The point is that gratitude is a choice, not a feeling.  We can choose gratitude, whether we feel like it or not.  We can choose to be thankful, even in the midst of the most difficult or painful of circumstances, because it’s not about how we feel.  It’s a choice we make, a decision of the will.

And, while you’re at it, choose to focus on someone else.  Somehow, when we minister to the needs of those who are less fortunate, we begin to realize how blessed we really are, and we become truly thankful for what we have.

There are plenty of opportunities for you to bless others.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.  Buy groceries for an elderly neighbor who finds it difficult to get out.  Visit a nursing home or children’s hospital.  Bake cookies (or buy them!) for the kids at an after school care center.  Pack up a care package for a missionary.  Make a donation to the Red Cross or Salvation Army.  Volunteer your time and skills to help build homes for lower income families through Habitat for Humanity or some other charitable organization.  There are countless ways you can begin to get your mind off of your own problems and be a help to someone else.

And when you do, you’ll be amazed at how blessed you suddenly are.  You’ll see your life in a different light, and you will not only choose to be thankful, but you will feel truly grateful as well.

What losses have you suffered?  Are you thankful that you were able to have the experience and enjoy the blessing while you had it?  When is the last time you did something for someone else?  What could you do today, or this week to bless someone who is less fortunate than you?  Take a chance, and discover how truly blessed you are!

–Debbie Ong

Father Knows Best

June 25, 2009

father-knows-bestEver watched the old 1950s sitcom? In 30 short minutes, Betty, Bud and Kathy’s little world could be turned upside down and, almost with the snap of a finger, restored to perfect order…just like that.

Unfortunately, real life isn’t always that simple. Some of our problems don’t have such easy solutions.

Life has a way of handing us disappointments just when we thought things were smooth sailing. Just last week, my own family faced such a disappointment. With one simple email, a life dream was put on hold…indefinitely.

Our faith in God’s goodness could crash. Our hope and joy and peace could collapse under the weight of our sudden and dramatic change in circumstances.

BUT… if God truly loves me with absolute, perfect and unconditional love, and He does; and if He wants only the very best for me, which He does, then I can trust Him to have something better in store for our family—even better than the simple dreams we have for ourselves.

Do I really trust my Heavenly Father to do what is best for me? Can I really be sure that He has my best at heart? Can the foundations of our relationship stand up under the strain of pain and disappointment? Does Father God really know best?

God Himself answers the question for us. Listen to what He says:

“My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” — Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

So, how about it? Are you prepared to trust, to just sit back and rest in the promises that Father truly does know best?

 – Debbie Ong

 photo copyright: estates of Young and producer Eugene Rodney

Teaching Thankfulness To Our Children

June 18, 2009

girlSaying ‘thank you’ isn’t just a matter of good manners. It’s also creating and establishing an attitude and lifestyle. You can help your child to learn gratitude through your example and also through a few simple activities you can try at home.

First, there can never be enough said about teaching by example. Lead the way by saying please and thank you regularly in your conversations. You may be surprised to find your children imitating you and sprinkling their conversations with please and thank you, and it actually took very little conscious effort on your part!

Another simple activity you can do to teach your children gratitude is to give thanks before meals. This teaches your children to be grateful for every day things we often take for granted, like food.

Find times in your daily routine to express your thankfulness to God. At bedtime, play a game taking turns to list all the things you’re thankful for. See who can name the most without repeating any.

Begin a family project and keep a notebook, journal, or scrapbook to record special memories, people and events for which you are thankful. This may be as simple as you want it: simply a list of blessings, or it may be as elaborate as a scrapbook, complete with photos, stickers, souvenirs and mementos.

Help children to appreciate their blessings by exposing them to others less fortunate than you are. Get involved in a community service project, volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, visit a children’s hospital or a nursing home, or even take them on a missions trip. Let them see the blessings they take for granted in a fresh new way by recognizing that there are those who do not have what they enjoy every day.

Let your family enter the ‘secret service’. Have each family member write his or her name on a slip of paper. Put the slips into a hat, and let each person draw a person’s name to shower with secret acts of kindness over the course of a week. At the end of the week, have family members reveal whose name they had, and express their appreciation for the nice things they experienced during the week.

Make a family keepsake to remind your family to be thankful. You may want to purchase a solid-colored tablecloth or bedsheet, and use fabric paints to write your blessings all over the cloth. Use the cloth for special occasions, and add the date and event to your special thanksgiving tablecloth. Another keepsake project might be a blessing tree. Mount a tree branch in a plant pot. Cut leaf shapes from colored paper. Have family members write their blessings, or prayers of thankfulness onto the leaves, and tie them with colorful ribbon all over the branches. Your family can add or change the leaves regularly. The ideas are only as limited as your imagination!

An attitude of gratitude can be both taught and caught. Your children will follow your lead. It’s never too late to give thanks, so get started today and begin to cultivate a family culture of thankfulness.  

–  Debbie Ong

My Source of Strength

June 11, 2009

j0438625Last year and early this year I felt so much like Job in the Bible.  Everything suddenly went downhill for me: my marriage, my career, my business, my finances and my child’s health.  It was like being pushed to the corner and receiving one hard blow after another.  I literally spent my days crying and feeling so miserable.  I just could not understand how things suddenly all spiralled out of control.  Life was one miserable existence. The Enemy was having a fiesta seeing me down on the pits  and wallowing in mud.  Where was God and why was I going through all these? I am a good christian girl ( or at least I think I am), and I read the bible and do my devotions everyday.  I even flew all over the region and did missions work. Then why was I punished? What have I done to deserve this?

In the midst of my trials and tribulations, one thing that I found rather intriguing was people and friends were suddenly appearing from nowhere offering help and support.  Someone would appear at my doorstep or in my life at the right moment when I felt so low and dispirited. Then I realised it was when I saw their love and concern that I saw God in action.  I saw God’s concern for me.  I felt Him lifting me up with His pair of steady hands and carried me through the fire of wretchedness. 

I had been through so many dramas in my life, and every single drama that occurred, I felt that God was always there for me and giving me strength to carry on.  It was no accident during one trying period that every morning when I flipped through the Bible the first verse that would always speak to my heart was God telling me not to fear. He had His reasons why I had to go through the tough times.  I didn’t understand why but all I had to do was trust Him. Trust Him when my human emotions were all crying in pain. However, succeeding events later did prove how true was His word of assurance – that there was nothing to fear at all, after all! God never wastes a hurt.

I received a Tweety soft toy with a funny and yet poignant note from a couple who are dear friends of mine.  The handwritten note said “Just as Sylvester can never get Tweety, the Enemy will not be able to get you as the LORD is with you.”  Tweety suddenly has a new meaning in my life.

– nkw