chez Cheryl

Lady-in-waiting. God's precious daughter who's learning that to be blessed is not the end-point of things; rather, it's a privileged position from which I have to extend myself. Blessed to be a blessing. My goal in life is to embrace whatever comes in my way, while keeping my heart ultimately set on heavenly things.

Friday, May 27, 2005

braving strong winds & rough waters

Reading John Ortberg's "If you want to walk on water, you've gotta get out of the boat" has been very enlightening to me. Let me share some things which I've learnt from it so far:

I think the first important lesson about life is that there will be storms faced - throughout. And these storms will get fiercer and more scary as we progress in life. Logically so, if our faith is to grow and to be strengthened. Pastor Jabez made a good point during the last Kairos. He drew our attention to Nehemiah and his rebuilding of the temple walls of Jerusalem. God had placed this burden to rebuild Jerusalem on Nehemiah and he had obediently answered the call. However, he and the Jews faced strong opposition as they carried out their task. The point to note here is that we must expect opposition and oppresion from the enemy whenever we are doing God's work or simply being obedient to what He has called us to. This is something which I think many Christians (myself included) tend to forget; God has not called us to a life of complete comfort and rosyness, but to one of "roughing it out", of doggedness in the midst of troubles. And I believe that once we're attuned to this truth, the nature of the Christian walk becomes much clearer to us, and there can be greater joy because understanding is comforting. And God gives wisdom to those who ask Him. (from James) :)

Another lesson I've learnt is the meaning of hoping in the Lord and depending on Him for strength. During my recent trial in my attachment I felt such a sense of hopelessness and despair because it seemed as if everything I did could not overcome the deep fear which I felt. I began to develop this thing called "learned helplessness" (a psychology term), which simply refers to a condition which is acquired after one has been exposed to a situation which was completely out of his/her control. After the overwhelming experience, the person starts to think that he/she can never control or overcome anything else in the future, even if the obstacle is much smaller than the previous one. I think that in the psalms, many of the writers call out to the Lord when they are in that overwhelming situation. Their cries for redemption and for salvation are always accompanied by desperate proclamations that they cannot do anything else. And I think these are perfectly fine - they're prayers of lamentations which as God's children we've been given the privilege to pray because He is a patient listener. However, there is also a time for action, and God does call people to action. For example, He commanded Joshua to be "strong and courageous." Thrice in fact. He knew Joshua was absolutely petrified at the prospect of having to lead the Israelites to Canaan; however, instead of going soft with Joshua, He, our Great King, issued a decree, a command, which was not to be disobeyed. Godly fear has to supersede, and in fact, completely substitute ungodly fear. We must give in to the fear of God and move ahead, despite our fears of other things.

However, this much said, even when God disciplines us, or commands us to do things, it is important to note that He never discourages. Because even as He commanded Joshua, He also gave a wonderful reassurance (which He gives to us as well): "I will be with you always." Now, isn't that comforting? God never leaves us to weather the storm on our own; He promises that He will be with us. It is not our feelings which we are supposed to depend on - it is upon His Word only. Faith must come before feelings; actions before emotions.

Yet, above all, the greatest reassurance we have is from Romans 8:37-38:

"[I]n all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Let's use a little godly imagination.
"[I]n all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither failure nor success, neither friends nor foes, neither sickness nor good health, nor any other bodily condition, neither our feelings nor our thoughts, neither stress nor rest, nor anything else we will ever experience, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
God's love overcomes all boundaries of time, space, circumstances and feelings.
Voila. :)

Monday, May 23, 2005

if You want me to...

The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear
And I don't know the reason why You've me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I'm gonna walk through the valley if You want me to

Cos I'm not who I was when I took the first step
And I'm clinging to the promise You're not through with me yet
So if all of these trials bring me closer to You
I will go through the fire if You want me to...

It may not be the way I would have chosen
And You lead me through a world that's not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I'd never go alone...

So when the whole world turns against me
And I'm all by myself
And I can't hear You answer my cries for help
I'll remember the suffering Your love put You through
And I will go through the valley if You want me to...

[by Ginny Owens]

"I know that looking ahead all you see is darkness... but be not afraid, close your eyes and hold my hand, and I will walk you through the road before you."

Monday, May 16, 2005

rescued, redeemed & restored. :)

How does it feel to be immersed in God's unconditional love and acceptance? To know in your heart of hearts that regardless of your failings/weaknesses/lack of faith, your Father looks to you with eyes of deep love and mercy?

I started my job attachment last Wed and it was a real trying experience for the following 3 days. I found it very difficult to adjust to the working environment: the small physical space, the clients [mental patients] and the work nature [no structure, "independent" style - help!:p] And what happened was that I just became so overwhelmed by my fears. And of course, Satan couldn't resist jumping in and opening a whole deluge of negative thoughts which flooded my mind day and night. Bad tension headaches followed, coupled with sleeplessness at night. [one note about tension headaches is that the more you try to get rid of them, the worse they become]

When I was in it, it was absolutely tormenting. Such hopelessness filled my heart, as I despaired whether I could ever be rid of the headaches. All I could do each day was garner whatever strength I had, went on with daily living and fall on my knees countless times throughout the day. I remember when I was in school on Sat to see a department tutor regarding my attachment, I went to the toilet and just kneeled down in the cubicle. I really couldn't take it.

BUT, what can I say?? The Lord hears our cries and He saves at the right time.

I woke up this morning with the verse, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

And it was like swoosh! that's it! God is for me, even when I doubt myself, He will never disown me;better still, He will NEVER condemned me. I think that is such a great and precious truth about being a child of God - that our Father never condemns us, His voice will never say that we are bad, lousy, evil, no good. Such voices only come from the enemy who "steals, kills and destroys."

And when that revelation came to me, I felt my own defenses towards the Lord come crumbling down. When you know that someone genuinely loves you and accepts you, there's no reason to keep up a front, or to cower in fear of punishment. As the verse says, "Perfect love drives out all fear because fear has to do with punishment."

I think that what the OT tells us about God's relationship with Israel is very comforting. We learn that time and time again, He forgives Israel, heals them and restores them. No doubt, they do suffer God's judgement but His "anger lasts only for a moment, but His favour for a lifetime." Sure, as humans, we are bound to make mistakes/ungodly decisions/poor judgements but God's mercy is so great that He's willing to wipe out all our sins, which of course has already been done on the Cross.

"Sing, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away your judgements,
He has cast out your enemy,
The King of Israel, the Lord,
is in your midst;
You shall see disaster no more.

In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
'Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."

Zephaniah 3:14-17

The Father's love for His children is so lavish. We only need to open our hearts and hands to receive it. :)

Monday, May 09, 2005

praying God's heart for the lost

A few nights ago I was convicted about my judgmental and oh-so-sincerely-wrong attitude in praying for my un-saved family members. I had been reading this chapter called "praying God's heart" from Dear Beloved [ a collection of letters to Christians] which showed me how mistaken I had been about God's attitude towards those who are still lost. That chapter talked about how many times, well-meaning Christians pray for unbelievers to meet with crises/calamities/difficulties/troubles etc. [whatever that was bad] in order that they might turn to God. But the writers made a very good point: it is so much more difficult for a non-Christian to turn to God and embrace Christ when they are bitter from life's hard dealings against them! And I thought, wow! That is so true! All this time I had been so harsh in my prayers for my non-believing family members! Although I had sincerely hoped for them to turn to God in this way, I was seriously wrong about the nature of God! The Bible repeatedly tells us that God is "compassionate, full of mercy and abounding in grace"; God would much rather people turn to Him because of His goodness, than out of desperation or bitterness.

Thinking about this, there are two biblical examples that we can draw upon to examine this further. The first would be the case of Naomi in Ruth: Naomi left Moab a bitter woman, whose heart had become calloused from life's painful events. She tried to drive her daughters-in-law away but Ruth doggedly remained with her. And it was through Ruth that God brought redemption into Naomi's life when at the end she received a grandson who would eventually be ancestor to Jesus Christ. The other story is that of Hannah: Hannah had been tormented by the cruel taunts of her husband's other wife and she had been in such despair over her inability to conceive. However, she cried out to the Lord in her bitterness and the Lord heard her and opened her womb. We can see from these two stories that although distress/troubles do draw us nearer to God [because they sharpen our focus on God], it is ultimately the redemption/restoration and blessings from Him that cause men [or more accurately women in these two examples :p] to turn to God in praise/worship and thanksgiving.

Let's look at Hannah's prayer of celebration after she had had Samuel:

1HANNAH PRAYED, and said, My heart exults and triumphs in the Lord;
my horn (my strength) is lifted up in the Lord. My mouth is no longer silent,
for it is opened wide over my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.
2There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides You; there is no Rock like our God.
3Talk no more so very proudly; let not arrogance go forth from your mouth, for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed.
4The bows of the mighty are broken, and those who stumbled are girded with strength.
5Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children languishes and is forlorn.
6The Lord slays and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and He lifts up.
8He raises up the poor out of the dust and lifts up the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with nobles and inherit the throne of glory. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and He has set the world upon them.
9He will guard the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked shall be silenced and perish in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.
10The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them will He thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge [all peoples] to the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to [
a]His king (King) and exalt the power of His anointed. [The Amplified Bible]

Wow, you can be sure that that was no rehearsed prayer! Hannah had been so overwhelmed by the Lord's power and most of all, goodness to her, that the prayer was simply a spontaneous outpouring of her soul.

We can see from these stories that men essentially turn to God because of His grace and goodness. Hence, this is how we should pray for those who are still un-saved: that God's blessings be poured into their lives, and that they will recognise these to be from Him. Undoubtedly, there is also a need to pray for the Holy Spirit to convict them of "sin, righteousness and judgement"; nevertheless, it will ultimately be God's good nature that will draw men unto Him.

I'm reminded of these well-known verses from Jeremiah 29:

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call to me and I will answer you." v.11-12

God knows that the best way to draw our hearts to His is by His sweet LOVE. So we should pray His heart as well for those we wish to bring to Christ. :)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

meditations on God's love

Recently, God has been impressing upon my heart the implications of living in His love each day. How are we supposed to understand this thing called "agape" or divine love? Is it something tangible? Is it imagined? How is it received? How can we drink from its source daily and thus be filled?

I don't have answers for all these. But I'm becoming more and more convinced that God's love is inextricably linked to Christ's death for us on the Cross: it is the ultimate metaphor of His great love for mankind. Regardless of how God can shower us with blessings [friends, life partner, job satisfaction etc etc.] none of these can bring the same satisfaction that there is to be found in meditating on the Cross and the glorious Promise that it insures for us. Truly, Colossians 3:1 makes sense in this context, "Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." A spiritual resurrection has already occured in us, and it is only befitting that we start living out from this new status.

I think that when God's love is seen in this light, daily living along with its concomitant struggles/disappointments/problems become more bearable and much less threatening. When one is already secured of an imperishable, un-spoilable, un-fadable inheritance, the little obstacles in the path hardly pose as dangers; rather, they create a kind of excitement at the impending end-point. And isn't life simply an adventure of faith? Haha. I like to think of it that way - it makes things more exciting. ;)

Heard this song yesterday at MOS Orchard, think it's called, "She will be loved." [by Hoobastank? Heh. No i-dea] Nevertheless, it elicited this immediate internal response from me - "but I am already loved!" Hahaha. Indeed, praise the Lord for His great love! While the world yearns and searches for the kind of eternal, all-conquering love, God reaches out to them, and us too, by the Cross, crying out to us: "Here is love! Here is my Son! Here is my heart." By His grace we see this; now, shouldn't we share this with the rest?

Monday, April 25, 2005

mid-exams thanksgiving - "didactic" :)

Thought I'd drop a quick msg of thanksgiving for the Lord's goodness to me during this exam period.

I had a super difficult paper today, which I struggled to study a bit on Saturday night and then again last night - it was a hard fight against fatigue and overwhelming study material. [i had to study 4 lit texts, and by Sunday night, I had only done 1]

Tiredness made me very distracted the whole night through. Chatted with Em on MSN and told her I was just so super unmotivated. So I decided to take some time out to read the Bible and pray. I read Psalm 145 and was encouraged by the verse: "The Lord is near to all who call on Him, who call on Him in truth." But somehow I didn't exactly get a sudden surge of inspiration or hope. I just thought, yes God, You say this to be true, and I believe, though I hardly feel so.
Anyways, as I continued studying, I decided to go the the module's forum to look at some questions which have posed so that I could get some ideas about what to study. And I was just reading this post by a student on "didacticism"- and I was like, "What?? Like what is that?" Haha. To be really honest, for a moment my ego was bruised that I didn't know what that word meant. :p But anyway I decided to do a dictionary check on it and found out that it meant, "to be instructive in a moral sense"; in other words, a didactic text has a moral message in it. So mingled with hurt pride, I felt kinda happy too that I had learnt that new, cheem-sounding word. :p

And, lo an behold! There was a question in the exam today on that!!!! Yah! Goodness, it was amazing! The thing is that I wasn't so awestruck in the exam hall lah, cos though I could at least understand the word, I did not have much to say about it, heh. But just now as I was taking time out to rest it dawned on me how GOOD the Lord is to me. I mean, He really led me through my studying but I was too blinded by my self-centered to recognise His grace. After the exam, I felt a kind of self-satisfaction at having completed the exam through my own strength; I mean though it was not explicit to me that I thought that way but after reflection I realised that that was indeed the reality of my heart. Rather than giving thanks to Him and praising Him for His tender mercies, I focused on my own performance during the paper and forgot how desperate and pathetic a state I was in last night. Sorry God, sorry for being insensitive to You.

Verses 4 - 7 of Psalm 145 say this:

One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
I will medidate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty,
And on Your wondrous works.
Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts,
And I will declare Your greatness.
They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness,
And shall sing of Your righteousness.

David took the cue from those before him and those with him to praise the Lord.
I wish to do so too. :)

Friday, April 22, 2005

i, cheryl, as a child of the Most High, hereby lose my rights...

Had a revelation recently from Philippians 2 on imitating the attitude of humility of Christ. Well, more accurately, the revelation came from a book called "Embracing Brokenness" by Alan E. Nelson. I give this book 5 stars out of 5. It's a fantastic book which explains what brokenness is and how it works in a Christian's life. In short, "brokenness" is any experience which involves pain, suffering and change. If responded to in a positive manner, it can be tremendous opportunity for spiritual growth and character building. The truth is that everyone will go through periods of brokenness but the important thing is to respond to it by whole-heartedly turning to God for healing and help. But anyways, what I wanted to blog about is one of the products of brokenness (and which is also a mark of maturity): HUMILITY.

Haha, yes, not too humble by putting the word in CAPs. :p

Many times I've wondered what humility is and how I could be more humble, or at least act like it so that others would think I am, heh. But this is what I've just learnt about what it means to be humble - letting go of the "rights" that I have as a person.

1) First, letting go of the right "to be me". What this means simply is to forget about being how we think we are like, personality-wise: moody, talktative, quiet, shy etc. [any of the Myer-Briggs or DISC categorisations :p] It's not having the mentality, "this is how I am". This is a pretty big issue for me, as a person who has always been obsessed about being true to myself. But God told me one day that it's not about being true to myself, but about being true to Jesus. Also, this brings about great release as well because one can stop focusing on finding his "true" self and take the lead from Jesus! The verse from Philippians says that although Jesus was in nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. WOW. Now, that is simply mind-blowing. :)

2) Second, letting go of the right "to be somebody". This means forgetting about trying to make a mark in this world, or to prove that one is worth something. Moreover, it could also refer to how we try to "perform" the roles we play: e.g. friend, daughter, student, leader etc. etc. Forget about trying to be the "most loyal friend", or "most obedient daughter" or "most conscientious student". All these set our hearts up for pride to fill when we think that we've met the "standard" or done our job well.

3) Third, letting go of the right "to win". Someone help me here. haha. :p How I love to get my point across! To know that, "Yes, I was right. See?" I guess this side of me is most clearly shown at home with my family, so it might be surprising for some of you who read this, haha. But yes, being humble is definitely about always putting your own opinion/argument/point beneath others'. This is way hard for students I know, being so trained to argue our point in essays, heh. Yet, this is the kingdom way, no two ways about it.

4) Lastly, letting go of the right "to be respected". Why do people get offended? The answer lies assuredly in this fourth point - people get offended when they felt that they deserved better or more. "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, even to the point of dying on a cross!" Was Jesus offended that He wasn't respected as God? Boy, I don't think so! Jesus was simply so fixed on carrying out the will of His father that He couldn't care less what people thought of him, He didn't even bother to think about what He thought of Himself! This is an attitude of humility which is truly worthy for all Christians to emulate. :)

To end off, just want to link this passage on Christ's humiliy with the verse from Romans12:2, "Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you will be able to test and approve what God's will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will."

I always only had a nebulous idea of what it meant to be "conformed to the world" but yesterday, when I was reading the passage which this verse came from, I suddenly realised what Paul meant. To understand this, we must look at the following verse: "For I say to each one of you, by the grace given to me, do not think of yourself more highly than you should..." And then Paul continues with talking about the spiritual gifts and how we should use them. And bingo! The way of the world is that of pride, of self-sufficiency, you know the mantra, "Be all you can be!" The world denies the existence of God [especially so in contemporary times] and therefore exalts Man to become a godlike figure. Going back again to verse 2, this means that it is only when we no longer follow the prideful ways of the world [which means that we humble ourselves before God] then only will we be able to understand His will for us, and not distort it by our own self-aggrandizing dreams.

"All nations before Him are as nothing,
And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless."
Isaiah 40:17

How great, majestic and powerful is this GOD we worship. :)