The past couple of weeks has been….uncanny.
Unusual circumstances have piled up to make me notice a strange pattern:
A woman rear-ended the side of my car in the parking garage. Nobody hurt, but massive inconvenience.
I woke up last Saturday to find I was locked inside my hallway. We’ve never locked that door before, but suddenly the lock was broken, not moved by a key or by heavy shoves.
While taking an UBER ride for the first time, I was rear-ended on the freeway. Again, no injuries, but a bit of a hassle.
Add to this growing list of “weird coincidences” :
An offensive conversation.
A night of restless sleep.
A confrontation from a long-time friend.
I could go on, but suffice it to say, there is sufficient data. With circumstances piling up, it seems obvious to me that the enemy of my soul is waging war. And so I put on my armour, as Paul tells us to in Ephesians 6:11:
Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes
I’m not quick to blame the devil. In fact, I shudder when people use spiritual warfare as an excuse for personal irresponsibility. However, I am reminded that “the adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8-10).
So I’m fighting back with a great strategy that Peter outlines:
1. Be sober-minded. (1 Peter 5.8a) The enemy wants to attack my mind and use circumstances to change my thoughts. It’s no coincidence that the previous verse states: “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Whenever I sense the enemy at work, I remind myself anew that my God cares for me deeply. The greatest lie the enemy will use is to cast doubt on the character of God. (C’mon Eve….have a bite. God didn’t forbid you to eat, did He?)
2. Be watchful. (1 Peter 5.8b) Be alert and aware that there is an enemy of our souls, without living in fear. Be attentive.
3. Resist him. Remember that “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.” I belong to Christ, and am protected by Him. My God is greater. Resistance training builds muscles as well as faith.
I hope you experience victory in your walk with Jesus, and that you will join me in fighting back when you sense the enemy starting a battle. Victory is ours in Jesus!
The Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo is world’s largest fish market, moving 700,000 tons of seafood annually, with over 60000 employees; auctioneers, wholesalers, accountants. Together they serve both sellers and buyers; fishermen, restaurateurs and the top sushi chefs of Japan. While watching the documentary ‘Tsukiji Wonderland’, I was struck by the scale of Tsukiji market, inspired by the passion in craftsmanship, and heartened by the importance placed on relationships, which come first in the market.
(Watch the trailer here.)
The craftsmanship of sushi chefs is world renowned, and in the film, it is breathtaking to see the level of care, detail and passion in the meticulous strokes required to prepare just a single piece of sushi. But we also see the expertise and professionalism of the wholesalers and auctioneers, and the chefs acknowledge that no one knows seafood like they do.
In the Bible we see that God values beauty, craftsmanship, excellence, and relationships. In fact in Job 38 he is described as a great Craftsman. We see God’s craftsmanship in his creation, and in the way he gives humanity the ability to create. We are created ‘like God’ in being creative beings.
In the Bible we see human craftsmanship celebrated in the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 31), the temple (1 Kings 7), and the repairing of the city after the exile (Nehemiah 3). In each case, craftsmen are listed by name. It was important to God that they be remembered, and the work they did be remembered. The Bible also honours skillful work:
‘Do you see a man skillful in his work?
He will stand before kings.’ [Prov 22:29]
In the New Testament we see the city of God brought to fulfilment in the book of Revelation, and we see its craftsmanship on display in the beauty of its gold streets and precious stones of the new city (Rev 21). The Bible as a whole affirms the goodness of work, and particularly of excellence in work.
Pastor Tim Keller speaks of two ways in which our faith influences our work. Firstly, God uses human work to provide for our needs. God provides food for every living thing, (Psalm 136), and he strengthens the bars of the city gates (Psalm 147). How does he do this? Through the ordinary work of the farmer, the metalworker and the engineer. Since God uses our work to bless others in this way, God stands behind the work of the world, giving those who do it great honour.
Our faith also protects us from being corrupted by our work. Today’s workers are tempted to compromise their character in order to achieve results. Yet as a sushi chef notes in the film, ‘Small compromises lead to bigger ones down the line.’ The Bible gives us a clear moral compass, something the world lacks, which is able to protect us if we follow its teaching.
So we should take heart in your efforts to produce excellent, godly work, knowing that God sees, honours, and remembers your work, especially work that helps or provides for others’ needs, even if it is unseen or unappreciated by the world.
‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.’ [Col 3:23]
Tabitha and Aaron grew up in different parts of the world but were called as a couple to reach populations in China that fewer mission organisations focus on. They used their gifts as educators to help the children and teenagers in the area while sharing the heart of the gospel. Aaron joins in the work of his extended family, who have long been working to bring the gospel to China through various means. This story is an intimate account of the lives they have chosen to lead in order to fulfill the Great Commission.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
I love the summer holidays! The days are long and there are not the same pressures of work or school routines! It’s a time for the family to spend quality and carefree time together, exploring new places and catching up with extended family.
Every four years the summer holiday is even more exciting as we eagerly follow the Olympics! And now we have the excitement of the Rio Paralympics! When UK’s Mo Farah fell during the 10000m we gasped at how he picked himself up and somehow still managed to win.
He said, “At one moment I thought my dream was over, my race was over. I thought about all my hard work and that it could all be gone in a minute. I wasn’t going to let it go. I got up quickly. I thought about my family. It made me emotional. I was thinking to myself, no, no, I’ve worked too hard to miss the medals. I promised my daughter Rhianna I was going to get her a medal. I wasn’t going to let her down.”
He was not going to let this setback hinder him! He was focused on the goal he had set his eyes on! As we read, dissect and understand Hebrews 12:1-2, we are called to be as focused on our spiritual and heavenly goal as these Olympic athletes are on their sporting goals.
What may be hindering us from our spiritual goals and the race that God had marked out for us? Is it a lack of steadfastness? A lack of discipline or perseverance when times are tough, or perhaps we are enjoying ourselves so much that God is left on the back burner?
We have more witnesses than we will ever know, be it family, friends or strangers. So let us remove ourselves from those things that hinder us, be it sin or be it “busyness.”
Consider getting FIT for Jesus:
Fix our eyes on Him, learn from Him and draw strength from His Spirit
Intentionally study and live out His Word in our daily lives to glow for Him wherever we are, and
Throw off everything that hinders or ensnares!
Then we too can run a good race. Let us get FIT by:
She was an old woman, skin brown and weather-beaten to a texture of a raisin, hunched over but still strong from working the earth for a living. Her home was a hut with packed-mud walls in the highlands of Vietnam, and she did not own a mirror.
One day in the Spring she met a group of men from Hong Kong, our Men’s Fraternity Outreach team, who visited her home and chatted with her and had brought her rice, cooking oil and basic supplies as gifts.
Perhaps the greatest gift they brought that day was an image: a little screen on a digital camera where she saw herself for the first time in a very long time.
“Is that how I really look?!” she asked, intrigued and enthralled and not quite believing that this picture was actually her self.
How many times a day do you look at yourself in the mirror? Every time you go to the bathroom, at least, and probably a few more times in addition to that. We need to have that sense of our Self. We need to see how we present ourselves to the world around us.
Most of us are familiar with our physical appearance in the mirror. But how many of us are similarly aware of our spiritual self?
In James 1:23, God’s Word, the law, is likened to a mirror. It helps us know how we look spiritually and helps us present ourselves to God. It guides us, teaches us what to do and how to act. Essentially it tells us how we can be more like Christ. As you hold up the mirror of Scripture, ask yourself these questions:
Is there an action or pattern that you need to confess and overcome?
Whose example from the Bible you can emulate?
Which Godly attribute or characteristic do you need more of in your life today?
What verse do you need to claim or hold onto today?
There’s another mirror reference that I like in 1 Corinthians 13:12: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Whatever reflection we see, whether we are satisfied with it or not, we live with the hope that it is just a dim reflection. God uses the mirror of His Word to perfect us. The best, most beautiful part is yet to come.