Everything

I know that some of you reading this are non-Christians and I really ask that you would not read this out of mockery. It took a lot of courage for me to publicly post this because I don’t normally post such things. This post is meant to encourage. These are my beliefs, and this is my hope. This is how I choose to live my life and these are the values I stand by. If you believe in today’s era of human freedom and liberty, then I ask that you read this respectfully.

This blog post was not intended to boast about anything that I have or am. I just want to show you what God has done for me in the past year and what I am thankful for. You might say ‘Well, it could have just been life. Life just happens; no need for a God.’ Well, if you knew my life story, then I might be able to show you that this is how God has worked in me and shown me His love.

This is what God is to me. This is my God.

God bless.

I was one of the university and college open day representatives today, and the more I brought people around college, the more I realised what an amazing place and university Durham is. This year, Durham has become the only university to have all its subjects ranked in the top 10 for all lists. We’re 4th in law in England and my college is absolutely beautiful, especially so when the sun is shining on the massive green lawn that we have in the middle of the college grounds. Yes, I said it, Mary’s is the best college in the best university 🙂 In the beginning, I created a facebook album for the school year, and I never thought that I would have added 150 pictures to that album!!

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Looking back, I know full well that God has blessed me. I am so, so, so thankful to be in Durham.

It’s truly a place that I know God dwells. I can feel Him here. I can feel Him when I walked down to the town, or even when I’m sitting under a tree in the botanical gardens. As Daphne and I agreed, Durham is God’s little town! I’ve met so many Christians who have been led by God to come to Durham and I clearly see their divine appointments in Durham.

So, my first year in Durham has ended. Many of my friends frequently asked me questions like ‘So what was the highlight of your first year?’ ‘What’s been the worst experience?’

In particular, ‘What are you thankful for this year?’

At first, that question struck me, and I really had to think about it for awhile. and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that there was only one answer: everything.

Yes, I am thankful for everything.

 

My relationship with God:

In Singapore, there was always the hustle and bustle to be distracted with. The roads are always noisy, the shopping malls crowded, the skyscrapers looming over me. Many times, my prayers revolved around the city life and all its worries of success, grades, career and expectations. You always had to keep moving in Singapore to catch up with the rat race, and if you stopped, someone might climb over you. Sometimes to me, living in Singapore was like having a constant heart attack.

However, ever since coming to Durham, I have experienced a more ‘primal’ relationship with God. Here, I stop: to do quiet time in the gardens amongst the flowers, to ponder over His love as I overlook the river wear and to be awestruck by God’s power and majesty as I walk through the hills and fields. To see creation mirror God in all His glory; to see the sunlight peek through the trees in the forest; to behold the delicacy of the flowers that God carefully crafts. As cheesy as it sounds, I sometimes feel like I am rejoicing and worshipping together with creation! These things I marvel and in these things I realise that God is both the Lord of power, strength and majesty as well as gentleness, grace and love.

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Family:

Initially, I was afraid of homesickness. When I first lived overseas a few years ago with my family, I was severely homesick. Back then at 14, the change of environment and the absence of my friends made me very distraught to the very point that I was determined to go back to Singapore by making myself fall sick. So, I was especially afraid that I would now be even more homesick this time because I was away from my family and everything I was familiar with. To top it all off, it was a 20 hour flight plus train away from home. Wow.

However, within the first month of coming to Durham, I had already been blessed with FIVE families! My family, my Durham family, my Singapore Society family and my college family. They were my emotional and spiritual support, the people I had so much fun with and received loads of advice from. They really looked out for me and for them, I am so thankful.

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(My durham family celebrating my birthday. My home away from home)

Most of all, I was reminded of my heavenly family – my church and iFocus. They were all my brothers and sisters-in-Christ and although I may never see some of them again, James reminded us all of our heavenly union.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
1 Thessalonians  4:13-18

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(iFocus group on a weekend getaway with the REAL farm smells…)

 

Friends:

God has been especially wonderful to me by blessing me with amazing friends. During orientation week, I was afraid because I was an international student, I wasn’t sporty enough to be cool (yes, such a silly thought…) and I didn’t drink much. In such a different culture, would anyone want to be friends with me?

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Yet, I got along really well with the first friends I made and we’re now good friends. They are people who make me laugh and smile. They’re the shoulder I lean on when I fall asleep. They’re the people who give me chocolate when I’m sad. So thank you Charm, Amy, Grace, Atifa, Gaby, Natalie, Ada, Rachel, Helen, Ilina, Theo, Daphne and Alethea.

 

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Thank you Theo and Daphne for being wonderful sisters-in-Christ. Thank you for those coffee meetups where we spend hours talking about Christianity and praying for each other. Honestly, I was quite afraid of talking about God so passionately in an open area, but you guys have emboldened me and to be less self-conscious. It’s a free country, anyway!

 

Love:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1

This is a verse that God showed me when I had disputes with one of my friends.

As a Christian, I sometimes felt that there was a certain criterion or checklist to be a good Christian. I steered away from people I thought were different from me, and I chose my friends carefully. Yet, people are not defined by their outward appearances or lifestyles. Getting drunk, body tattoos or smoking habits do not define a person. God loves them just as much as He loves me. In fact, my hypocritical self was no different from them.

People are who they are for certain reasons, be it their background, their culture or their experiences. There is always room for understanding, sympathy and compassion. I know I have much to learn, but I am thankful that He has showed me how to love others more. He has showed me what it is to be more like Jesus in love and character.

 

My future:

Yes, I am thankful for my future – my unknown, misty future. Yet, I put it in God’s hands because He is my anchor. This year, God has given me so many opportunities that I could not have ever imagined. I would never have thought of being selected for certain programmes and internships. Surely, He has blessed me and I am so thankful.

Not to mention, considering I’m already in Durham (you jolly well know where Durham is! 3rd oldest university in England, 4th in law in England), I suppose my prospects seem pretty bright! But again, not by my strength, but by His love, grace and power.

 

In retrospect, particularly in the light of my testimony of how I came to Durham (found here: https://ihaveareasontosing.wordpress.com/about-2/), I have come to realise that regardless of all the blessings that have happened this year, I am and should already be thankful for everything. For He has already given me everything and more, even before I came to Durham. He already provided everything for me, so there is no need to only look at the things that have happened this year and be thankful. I am already thankful for everything.

So, there. I am thankful for everything. I know that many of you were rather puzzled or dismissive of my generic answer. Well, it’s ‘everything’ is a specific answer, and I hope from this post you can better understand why.

I have a reason to sing, for He has given me everything and more.

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Christianity Is Not A Religion

  1. The core

The core of worldly religion is the word ‘ME’. Although it is not obvious at first, you will soon release that many religions purport the notion of god/gods revolving around humans.

A good example would be in the bible when people melted their gold to make idols, or used clay and water to craft statues to worship. When people make gods of clay out of our very own hands, and when we ourselves breathe life into them, who ultimately is the god? Even now, Taoism and Buddhism have gods for many things – god of fortune, god of the kitchen, god of the harvest. All these gods were intended to help humans in their every toils of life. These gods were meant to serve us.

However, in Christianity, we revolve around God, the maker of the heavens and the earth. We were built for His purpose. When we pray, we are not to simply ask for what we want, but what God’s will is. Yes, we can bring everything to the Lord in prayer, but what is more important is to have a heart willing to follow His will. Moreover, our prayer is to become more and more like Jesus Christ in character.

  1. View of Religion

Worldly religion conforms to worldly standards.

I scratch your back, and you scratch mine.

To the world, we must do something for the gods so that the gods will be pleased with us. There is a fear that if certain sacrifices or rituals are not performed, there will anger from the gods. And sometimes, there needs to be a severe infliction of pain so that the gods will look on them with favour. The Tamil Thaipusam festival involves the carrying of a large metal or wooden frame by piercing hooks into the body to support the frame. In Tibet, many devout Buddhists are willing to crawl on their knees from their villages and hometowns all the way to the temple in the city. In fact, some people die to earn their holiness. This is the worldly concept of holiness and purification. The earthly way of purification is by following a set of rigid, painful and sometimes dangerous rules. However, the heart is not changed. So long as the physical body is willing to perform all these rituals, the heart need not be contrite and humble. Religion involves a form of retribution; it’s a business transaction.

The world knows the word ‘purification’, which involves a series of steps that we ourselves must take to earn that holiness/sanctification. But the world does not understand ‘forgiveness’.

Isaiah 43:25
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

 God has forgiven all our sins. We do not need to earn our right to be forgiven.

God tells us that Jesus has already won the victory for us. God chose and loved us while we were still sinners. The God in Christianity is someone who carefully and intricately crafted each of us by His own hands and breath.

Psalm 139:13-16

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

that I know very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

In your book were written

all the days that were formed for me,

when none of them as yet existed.

 

In return, we learn to love Him as a Saviour, God and Father.

Therefore, Christianity is not a religion. It’s a relationship.

 

So I ask you, what does Christianity mean to you? Is God revolving around you, or are you revolving around God? Is it your religion, or your relationship?

 

Greatest Love

Every new day Your glory unfolds
Filling my eyes with Your treasures untold
The beauty of holiness brings worship anew
My greatest love is You

Call me deeper into Your grace
The river that flows from the Holy Place
Wash over me, cleansing me through
My greatest love is You

Do You Love Me

“Do you love Me?” John 21:16

A true Christian is not a mere baptised man or woman. He is something more. He is not a person who only goes, as a matter of form, to a church or chapel on Sundays, and lives all the rest of the week as if there was no God. Formality is not Christianity.Ignorant lip worship is not true religion. The Scripture speaks expressly: “They are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Romans 9:6). The practical lesson of those words is clear and plain — all are not true Christians, who are members of the visible church of Christ.

The true Christian is one whose religion is in his heart and life. It is felt by himself in his heart. It is seen by others in his conduct and life. He feels his sinfulness, guilt and badness — and repents. He sees Jesus Christ to be that divine Savior whom his soul needs — and commits himself to Him. He puts off the old man with his corrupt and carnal habits — and puts on the new man. He lives a new and holy life — fighting habitually against the world, the flesh and the devil.

Christ Himself is the cornerstone of his Christianity. Ask him in what he trusts for the forgiveness of his many sins, and he will tell you — in the death of Christ. Ask him in what righteousness he hopes to stand innocent at the judgment day, and he will tell you it is the righteousness of Christ. Ask him by what pattern he tries to frame his life, and he will tell you that it is the example of Christ.

But, beside all this, there is one thing in a true Christian which is eminently peculiar to him. That thing is love to Christ. Knowledge, faith, hope, reverence, obedience — are all marked features in a true Christian’s character. But his picture would be very imperfect, if you omitted his “love” to his divine Master. He not only knows, trusts and obeys. He goes further than this — he loves.

This peculiar mark of a true Christian is one which we find mentioned several times in the Bible. “Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ” is an expression which many Christians are familiar with. Let it never be forgotten that love is mentioned by the Holy Spirit in almost as strong terms as faith. Great as the danger is of him “who believesnot,” the danger of him that “loves not” is equally great. Not believing and not loving — are both steps to everlasting ruin.

Hear once more what our Lord Jesus Christ said to the Apostle Peter, after He rose from the dead. Three times He asked him the question, “Simon, son of Jonah, Do you love Me?” (John 21:15-17). The occasion was remarkable. He meant gently to remind His erring disciple of his thrice-repeated fall. He desired to call forth from him a new confession of faith, before publicly restoring to him his commission to feed the church. And what was the question that He asked him? He might have said, “Do you believe?” “Are you converted?” “Are you ready to confess Me?” “Will you obey Me?” He uses none of these expressions. He simply says, “Do you love Me?” This is the point which He would have us know, on which a man’s Christianity hinges. As simple as the question sounded — it was most searching. As plain and easy to be understood by the most unlearned poor man — it contains matter which tests the reality of the most advanced apostle. If a man truly loves Christ — then all is right; if not — then all is wrong.

Taken from the book ‘Holiness!’ by JC Ryle