Salt and Light

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Today’s devotions brought with it some pretty cool thoughts.

Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth, but if we lost our saltiness, we would be fit only for throwing out. There are two things I noticed here – one, is that we would not be fit for Christ’s Kingdom if we didn’t have His flavor in our life. The second one is that the world really does see as fit to be thrown out, because we are different from them.

Jesus continues to say that we are the light of the world, and that a city on a hill cannot be hidden. The world rejects us, but they cannot ignore us when we have Christ’s light shining in and through us.

Therefore, we are to shine this light, so that those around us will see and turn to glorify God.

One thing my family has been learning about both in real life and also through one of our homeschool curricula is loving our enemies. This light we have is like a torchlight. Picture yourself on a campground at night. It’s dark, but you have a torch and you turn it on to help both you and your companions to find your way. This is like God’s light in us- we are not the source of the light, but we can control how we shine the light. We shine it, and anyone can see it, whether friends or enemies, and that connects to loving our enemies too – we help them just the same way we would a friend. Through these, we can turn those around us to glorify God because, a) people wouldn’t say we are producing the light, but that we have a torch – we have Christ- and, b) when we love our friends and enemies the same way, that stands out and turns people to the One who gives us strength to love as He loves.


What has God been showing you through His Word recently? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Living in the Past Part 3

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This post is the last of a 3-part series on living in the past. Thanks for joining me faithfully on this series!

Are you someone who “lives” in the past? Someone who is sustained by memories of the past?

If so, you are not alone. Today I’ll be sharing more of the verses I found regarding living in the past, along with some quick insights. If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I highly encourage you to go ahead and read those as well!

 

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Dear friend,

Have you ever been in a situation where you know what is right but can’t seem to do it?

One of the hardest things that God has been teaching me to do recently is to put aside other things so that I can focus on Him. I am often guilty of cutting short or skipping my devotions so that I can get my schoolwork and chores done. I put so much into ministry I sometimes forget why I’m serving and Who I’m serving.

It’s a silent, yet common trap.

Yet, I want to encourage you today to relook at what you’re doing.

Focus on Him.

Think about why you do what you do. Does it distract or add to your relationship with God?

I’m not saying every little thing that isn’t related to reading the Bible and praying is wrong. I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you’re not thinking about God 24/7.

No.

Think about it this way. Finals are approaching- school is hectic. Your boss is demanding a lot- work is becoming crazier by the minute.

Working hard on those- yes, they actually have the potential to add to your relationship with God. But how?

Leave the past behind. Take the lessons you learnt from the mistakes you made. Focus on the strength that only our Heavenly Father can provide. And, as you see Him strengthening you to complete what you need to do, you grow to rely on Him more and more.

Yet, there are times when that simply doesn’t seem possible, because, where is God??? I can’t see Him!

Take heart! The biggest storms are often the ones that draw us back to God. I love this verse:

… because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your Holy One see decay.

~ Acts 2:27

You are loved by God. Repeat this with me, “I am loved by God!”

God loves you, and He will not abandon you. What you’re going through right now may be no laughing matter.

You may be wondering what on earth He’s trying to do. 

Dear friend, trust Him.

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

~ 2 Timothy 2:4

We have a mission. We are Christ’s soldiers, and our job is not to get caught up with the things of this world, but rather to please God.

Let go of the past. Leave the mistakes behind. Look ahead. See what you can do for God.

Do you see that glimmer yet?

Now go catch it!

Much love,

Szen

 

Thanks for joining me on this series of Living in the Past! Do leave a comment below, or drop me a little note here to let me know what you enjoyed and what you would like to see in the future!

Living in The Past Part 2

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This post is part 2 of a 3-part series on living in the past. Stay tuned for more!

Are you someone who “lives” in the past? Someone who is sustained by memories of the past?

If so, you are not alone. Today I’ll be sharing more of the verses I found regarding living in the past, along with some quick insights. If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series, I highly encourage you to go ahead and read that as well!

And now for today’s post!

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As Christians, we sometimes view sorrow negatively, because we’re supposed to have the joy of the Lord, so why are we sorrowful?

I used to think like that too. I would hide my sad feelings when I was around others because it would make me a “bad” Christian girl. I still catch myself thinking that way. But during a recent meeting with some friends, we had a discussion on what it meant to mourn, and concluded that mourning can actually be good. But how so?

Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Think about that verse, then put it with 2 Corinthians 7:10. We realise that when we mourn for the same things that God mourns about, we are brought to repentance, salvation, and joy. However, we must be careful in discerning God’s heart, because unGodly grief brings death.

This is true in many contexts, and a literal example of unGodly grief resulting in death would be in the area of relationships. I have been conducting some research in the area of dating, and found that there is a high percentage of people who commit suicide (literal death) due to the grief caused by disappointments and hurts in relationships. Isn’t that tragic? If only we were to take a step back to prioritise God and seek and desire His will in our lives, we would be able to discern His heart in a clearer manner and not have to suffer from the wrong type of grief!

The importance of discerning God’s heart is further emphasised in 1 John 2:15-17.

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Discerning God’s heart and prioritising Him helps us to keep our eyes on Him, rather than lingering in the past. Something I’ve been learning recently is that sometimes, God takes things away so that we can focus more on Him. He takes best friends away so that we can learn to love them with a Godly, sisterly/brotherly love, and to teach us to rely on Him.

At church today, the pastor spoke of how sometimes, God withholds things because He loves us. John 11: 5-7 says this, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

Notice that John is saying that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and that’s why he stayed two more days. He has a divine perspective that we don’t have.

Don’t dwell on the past. Live in the present, but look to the future. Be encouraged because God has something better in store!

I’d like to share a final passage- a timeless reminder to myself of who I am and what I’m living for.

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And here’s a short excerpt from a journal:

When what was my life got taken away, God tried to show me that my life is Christ. I rejected it for so long, but now I realise that’s the lesson God wants me to learn. He wants me to focus on Him. Oh, how hard it is!

– C.C.

It’s not easy. But all things are possible through Christ Who strengthens us!

And I repeat:

Don’t dwell on the past. Live in the present, but look to the future. Be encouraged because God has something better in store!

Much love,

Szen ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in The Past Part 1

This post is part 1 of a 3-part series on living in the past. Stay tuned for more!

Are you someone who “lives” in the past? Someone who is sustained by memories of the past?

If so, you are not alone.

About a week ago, a friend and I had a chat, and our conversation led to us being people who use memories to drive us on, or in other words, living in the past. What does God say about living in the past? I wondered.

So, for the next few days, I looked up verses about remembering the past, and what I discovered was truly thought provoking for me!

The first passage I came across was Isaiah 43:18-19:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

God doesn’t want us to dwell on the past. He’s doing something right here, right now, and even though we might not be able to see it, He wants us to focus on what He is doing. We may be in a rough patch, struggling to cope with something, trying to cling on to what little hope there is left. Or maybe things are going great! What I find comforting about this verse is that God is saying that no matter what’s happening now, He’s has a greater plan and He’s going to make something beautiful.

Something else I discovered was that living in the past limits us. It holds is back from doing God’s will. It keeps us tied and doesn’t allow us to live to our full potential. Now, people have told me before, that you just need to put things behind you and keep going, or you will never get anywhere. But to find it in the Bible- that was a hard pill to swallow…

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

I realised that by living in the past, I was allowing myself to be distracted from discovering God’s plan for my life!

Today’s verse took me quite a while to understand.

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.                               Ecclesiastes 7:10

Why was it not wise? I decided to look up the Hebrew word for wise. 

The Hebrew word for wise is chokmah.

חָכְמָה

It means piety towards God (Job 28:28). When we ask why things used to be better, we are -and I won’t mince words- essentially not being grateful. It is disrespect towards God because we are not obeying His will and plan. Now, why do I say we are not obeying His will and plan? Simply because obeying requires cheerful willingness. 

And, I’ll say, I’ve been guilty a thousand times over of not obeying God’s will for me, going over how good things used to be, trying to manipulate things to go better, and wondering why God seemed inexistent at times. I’m trying hard to change.

It’s really hard, yes.

But I guess that’s why I need God’s grace 🙂

– Szen

What are your thoughts? Are you like me, someone who lives in the past? What do you do about it? Comment below⬇! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Goodbyes

Goodbyes.

I don’t like goodbyes, because frankly, for me, goodbyes always carry some sort of feeling that’s simply not a happy feeling. The past month has brought quite a number of goodbyes for me.

Amongst the people I had to say goodbye to were two older friends who left for university in Kentucky in July. And just two days ago, my best friend left for Pennsylvania. Halfway around the world. These people have been a big part of my life these past three years – friends who have taught me, laughed with me, and gone through trials with me, so I’d like to take a moment to remember and appreciate them.

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Nate, you were an awesome gor-gor to all of us. I really enjoyed working under you as the assistant media coordinator/historian, and your guidance has empowered me to take on the media coordinator/historian role now and pass on what you taught me to the next person. You’ve taught me a lot about media, photography, and how to think as a public speaker. 

Eliza, you have been a wonderful big sister to all of us too! You always inspire us by your excellence and determination in achieving your goals. And like Nate, you’ve also taught me so much about media, photography, and being an effective communicator!

Joo Yee, thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and with me. Thank you for everything you’ve shared with me about 5.30am, devotions, being a pianist for worship, being a worship leader, being a SetApart girl, and also being an NCO. 🙂 Thanks for sticking with me through my ups and downs and encouraging me, especially this year. And most of all, thank you for being my Jie. 😘

And to all of these amazing people who have made such an impact on my life, thank you so much. All the best, may God proper you in all you do, and never lose sight of the vision He has for you! Hugs from the land of nasi lemak 😉 

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So. Goodbyes. 

I think in a way saying goodbye is a lesson for me too. Sometimes I just take it for granted that people will be there forever. But goodbyes, especially the most recent ones, have taught me that the only one who’s always going to be there is God. Some leave, some pass on, and still others just move out of my life as I journey from one phase of my life to another.

It’s also taught me to treasure the little moments that may seem insignificant. Don’t pass on opportunities to spend time with people, and serve them. Find time to do little favors. Don’t let chances to appreciate others slip off. 

There are so many more things I’ve learnt and realized. But I’ll keep it short and sweet.

Think about what you want to remember on the day you will have to say goodbye. What will you want to remember? Regret? 

Oh, and one last thing. 

Don’t be afraid of taking selfies, as cheesy as it may seem.

:):):) 

Goodbyes are hard, but they’ve taught me how to value friendships. 🙂

Tried and True

This post is a continuation of last week’s post, In the Storm. You can read it here.

That conversation with my friend got me thinking. In order to pray that prayer, “God, let me see You IN the storm,” I need to trust Him and believe that He has His plans for me. 

Growing up in a Christian family, something I’ve always struggled with is having a real relationship with God. My birth certificate says I’m a Christian, but does my life say that I’m a Christian? Does the way I relate to people say that I’m a Christian? Does the way I respond to trials say that I’m a Christian?

For years, I contended with myself over the issue of whether or not I was a real Christian. I went to God when I had problems and didn’t know what to do, and that worked, but when I tried to do my devotions I never had the energy to hold through anything longer than a week.

People said that when they became Christians, they were so full of joy, they were changed, their mindset underwent a paradigm shift, they were energized with wanting to know God better, and sought Him with a hunger and thirst that I never seemed to be able to experience. What was this? I had the desire to know God but my efforts seemed to simply vanish.

Other times, God just felt so inexistent. My prayers seemed to hit the ceiling and fall back down. I would wonder if my prayers went unanswered because everything was just a coincidence, and I would wonder about why Christians seemed to go through more sufferings than others. I wondered about which “religion” was really telling the truth – all religions claim to lead to heaven, so what if I had chosen the wrong way? 

Now, even as I share this with you, I continue to have my questions that have yet to be answered. But something that I have discovered and decided to cling onto is this: Faith is not feeling that something is true. Faith is choosing to believe that something is true.

When it comes to trials and difficulties, I’ve come to realize that they, like the Bible says, are all a part of God’s plan. God is our Father, and like most earthly parents, He wants the best for us. Sometimes, our parents allow us to make mistakes, get into trouble, or experience challenges. Why? It’s not because they couldn’t care less, but it’s because they want us to learn. Likewise, God allows trials in my life because they will teach me lessons that can’t be taught from textbooks and lectures. 

In Psalm 34:18, the Psalmist writes, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” and that’s a comforting thought to me. I often find it hard to believe, that God actually understands what I’m going through. But when I take time to slow down and think, if He created me and all my emotions and everything else in between, why should He not know how I feel? 

In Jeremiah 31:3, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” 

God’s love for me is everlasting – it’s never going to die down. He’s never going to get tired of loving me. 

So, if He’s not going to give up on me, I can trust that He will bring me through my storms. 

Sometimes, I think that when I face storms, it’s God saying, “Hey, girl. I’m here. Your storm is meant to show you that I’m real.”

And I think that’s true. Through the storms I face, God is giving me a way to make my faith real for myself. Love is not a feeling, it’s a decision. So is faith. I don’t need to feel that I’m close to God to be a real Christian. I only need to make the decision to entrust my life to Him and to seek Him as I walk this journey of life. 

It’s easy to seek God and feel close to Him when everything is going well – after all, He’s the One Who provides all that goodness right? But when the storms come, that’s when my faith is tested. And I know, if I can trust Him and seek Him by asking, “God, let me see You IN the storm,” one day, my faith will be found to be tried and true.

In the Storm

Some time ago, I was talking to a friend about life and its challenges. Our discussion continued deep into the night, and when we finally went to bed, it was nearly three, but despite the general fuzziness that ruled my head at the time, I remember what she said.

And I quote:

“Sometimes, the way God works is… He doesn’t change anything about the situation and we battle on wondering what on earth He is doing and cry out for relief in the storm. And our prayer shouldn’t be, “God, take away the storm.” It should be, “God, let me see you IN the storm. Don’t take me out of it – draw me to you IN it.” And that’s what He does! He doesn’t take us out of the storm. Nothing might even change. Like literally nothing. But He changes US in the storm. Into someone we never imagined we could be. I mean, someone with the grace and strength that we could never create on our own… how can we possibly be gracious and strong in [such] situations…? How could they ever be anything but negative?  It’s literally impossible from the human perspective. Literally the only thing that can keep us going is when our hearts have been transformed IN the storm as we are completely and utterly broken before the Lord.”

I don’t know about you, but that spoke a lot to me. Each of us has experienced our fair share of trials and heartbreaks, and it’s no small feat to get through them.

I think back to times when bad things happened to my friends and family, times when I was betrayed by people my heart held dearest, times when misunderstandings turned things upside down, times when I lost people I loved.

And I think of now. I have friends going through the same things, experiencing the same pain, struggling with the same questions…

And I realize that truly, God has a higher plan for me. And for you, too, whether it seems believable or not. I know there were periods of my life when I felt I could no longer trust Him. Days, weeks, and months on end…

But as I take another step in this journey called Life, I have been shown through my friends that He put me through those tough times for a reason- so that I would be able to understand, empathize, and encourage.

Jeremiah 29:12-14 says, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

It just reminds me of how God uses hardships in life – yes, even those that make you feel like giving up on life – to turn us to Him, so that we may strengthen our relationship with Him, and that we may find Him a true friend and Father – the only One Who truly understands us and Who can help us through our fiercest storms.

So together, as we journey through life, let us not pray, “God, take me out of this storm.” Instead, let us turn to Him and pray, “God, let me find You IN this storm. Never let me go, because You made me. I am precious in Your sight, and I want to discover a whole new depth of my relationship with You.”

Together, let us look to Him, to find Him IN THE STORM.

Blessings,

Szen