Treasures from the Deep

CREATIVE FRIDAY

Over a thousand years ago, an Arab dhow sailing from China to the Middle East sank in a storm near present-day Sumatra, taking down with it 60,000 pieces of Tang Dynasty ceramic ware and artifacts of gold and silver. There it lay in the sand, mud and debris until 1998, when some Indonesian fishermen found it by chance.

Tang dishes for everyday use

Included in the ceramic ware, made for everyday use, were cups, jugs, bowls and dishes decorated with freehand drawings. Who were those people who created these dishes? And especially, who was the person who made the whimsical drinking cup below? He showed imagination and humor, delighting us even today.

Cup from Tang Dynasty Shipwreck

The majority of us, a thousand years on, will remain anonymous. A minority, like this craftsman, may leave something behind. Most of us will leave imprints on the next generation or two, hopefully for better, not for worse.

The only thing that lasts forever is the Word.

 Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:7c-8)


The Tang Shipwreck is on display in the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore.


Pictures taken by Kathlyn Tsang

The Power of Blessing

COMMUNITY MONDAYS

For some weeks now, I’ve had a small group practice meeting one-on-one and affirming the good qualities they see in each other.

In Asia, this is counter-culture. In most Chinese families, children are seldom praised. The only exception is when a child gets no less than an A grade or is admitted into a well-known university — think Ivy League or Oxbridge. The metric for worthiness is performance, usually to do with academics, not quality of character.

So, meeting regularly with a group that desires to find their positive attributes and articulating them to each other is rather unusual. The result has been much self-discovery as each person realises that traits they take for granted are unique, and a blessing to the community.

I can’t reverse thousands of years of Chinese tradition through these exercises, but seeing people light up as their good qualities are blessed, is a reward in itself. And second, having them internalise these truths in their quiet time have resulted in greater self-confidence and so, a greater ability to tackle the challenges that life throws at them.

We’re still a work in progress, but I hope that affirming one another will be a lifestyle. When we are blessed, we are empowered to bless others.

I am really grateful to Rebekah Scott for her course in Unveiling Beauty, that started the ball rolling for me.

If you’re interested, go to https://sapphiretrainingcenter.com/ to check when it’s next being offered.

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash

(This is a re-post as I’d accidentally deleted it)

The Journey to Fulfillment

WEDNESDAY’S WORD

“When will the inner healing process be complete?” I was asked the other day.

My answer was, “It won’t be complete as long as we’re alive.” Because the passion of God is for us to be His bride, without wrinkle or spot. Because His passion is for us to “Be holy, because He is holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

And because of that, He permits the devil to test us. His Son got tested, His disciples got tested. And we believers will get tested.

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
    and the Lord tests hearts (Proverbs 17:3)

God’s purpose for the test is that we be refined and be a better version of ourselves; the devil’s purpose is that we flounder and stay stuck in a rut.

A friend asked about the conflicts that she faces in community. I said these were opportunities for her to discern if:

  1. It’s an old wound or wrong belief that is being surfaced for her to deal with;
  2. It is the other party’s issue and nothing to do with her at all or,
  3. More commonly, both are somehow at fault and both need to do better.

As we become a better version of ourselves, we become more wholesome, showing more integrity, shining brighter for the Lord. What we say and what we do, matches. And God’s purpose for our lives is made manifest.

Photo by Kathlyn Tsang

Joy after the Rain

CREATION FRIDAY

After a heavy downpour, the skies changed to a mellow hue, the air smelled bright and fresh, and this young tree reaching to the sky caught my eye. It spoke of hope, vitality and new life.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b)

Whatever stressors you’re going through, it will pass.

Honor Your Father and Mother

WEDNESDAY’S WORD

In the church, there’s a lot of teaching of “honoring your father and mother” (Ephesians 6:2), but very little on the following verse:

Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

“Exasperate” means “anger, frustrate or annoy”.

I have been hearing much from adult children who feel angered and annoyed by their parents.

Let me put this in context for my readers who are in the West. In Asia, it is expected for the younger generation to look after the older, which I believe honors God. Unfortunately, there’s a tendency for the older generation to demand it as a right.

The thinking goes something like this: “Because I brought you up, you are obliged to repay me when I get old.” The children are resentful as they are being treated as a commodity — an investment against loneliness and insurance against financial lack. Growing up in an Asian family often means a son, more often a daughter, is expected to “pay back”. The parent-child relationship is transactional, a unilateral contract that is imposed on the offspring.

With that undertone marking the relationship, adult children often express anger, irritation and resentment over something they have involuntarily signed up for. They are “exasperated”; at the same time, they are plagued by guilt over the possibility they are being disloyal or ungrateful.

In addition, Asian parents very often don’t change their overbearing attitude. There’s a tendency to “talk down” to their adult children and they feel hurt if the response is one of irritation. They do not understand that their grown-up children want to be treated with respect and the way the generations relate need to be re-negotiated.

 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

But one must also not “exasperate your children”. The two go hand in hand. Emphasising the first without dealing with the second causes an imbalance in the equation.

Listening to adult children sharing frustration over unreasonable parents, my only feedback was to try to work out a win-win if possible — yes, do look after the aged, but take care of yourself too. Beware that you are modeling for your young children how you would like to be looked after when you get old and God forbid, a little hazy in the mind and a little clumsy in the body.

Photo by micheile || visual stories on Unsplash

Can Christians take Pilates Classes?

Recently I ministered to two people who’d inadvertently gotten spiritually oppressed after taking some Pilates lessons. As a result, the natural question is, is it safe for Christians take these classes?

Photo by Jordan Nix on Unsplash

My answer is first, I am very clear in my mind that every stretching exercise that benefits us is from God. As the enemy has classified some of the stretches as its territory, I would bring a court case to God and dispute that. Every good thing comes from God. Being responsible stewards of our body, we exercise to tone up, get fit, increase endurance. Stretching classes do that. So we have the right to ask God to intervene if the enemy takes advantage of our Pilates classes to oppress us. When we know our spiritual rights we can fight back.

But I wouldn’t learn yoga, which has a long occult history behind it.

So what do we do when we decide to learn Pilates which is a combination of ballet, gymnastics and some stretching exercises that the enemy claims a “copyright”? First, I would bring a court case to God and dispute that — only God has the copyright as He is the designer of our body and by extension, the exercises that would benefit it. He is the originator of all good things, not the enemy.

Second, the instructor is important. We are subconsciously influenced by our leaders. If he or she has clear occult leanings and I don’t feel comfortable, I would switch instructor.

Third, the environment. If it feels unclean spiritually, you may find another fitness centre to go to. But if you’ve already paid for the classes, go into spiritual warfare mode. Before attending the session, pray aloud appropriate bible verses proclaiming God’s righteousness and goodness and that His intention is always to bless us. It will make a difference.

The enemy has falsely claimed some territory, and it’s our right as Christians to dispute that and draw a clear boundary to keep him out. After all, every good thing comes from God and is to be enjoyed as a blessing from Him — including stretching classes.

Eyes to See Love

CREATION FRIDAY

A friend saw Love in the clouds
Another friend saw much Love in the clouds
What do you see?

For me, I didn’t see — I sensed Love coming through the clouds.

Let me back up a bit for those of us who are still new to the things of the Spirit.

We receive from God through seeing, sensing and hearing. Most of us tend to favor one out of the three ways of perceiving God. I usually sense more than I see or hear God. My friends are usually seers. Others perceive God ministering to them mainly through the Word.

If you don’t know how you receive from God, study the scriptures. There are seers, sensers, hearers and dreamers! From these examples, you can place what kind of a receiver you are.

God communicates with us spontaneously, like the wind, whenever He pleases. All we need to do is learn to receive.

No Secrets with Jesus

WEDNESDAY’S WORD

Have you ever wondered why Jesus called out the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and embarrassed her? As an Asian growing up in an Asian society, it’s practically taboo to cause a person to “lose face”. But Jesus isn’t someone who’d just conform to cultural norms, as we well know. Here’s the passage:

43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8, NIV)

Here is someone carrying a deep, secret shame. A woman’s menstrual flow is considered unclean in biblical times, and to have it ongoing for 12 years, for the doctors to discuss her case and for this issue to be quietly whispered about in her neighborhood — she must have felt so alone and outcast.

And so, she hears of this man Jesus who had the power to heal. Quietly, she sneaked up under the cover of the crowds and received healing from the anointing that was just overflowing from Him. She desired to sneak away quietly too, but it wasn’t to be so.

Jesus called her out in public. Trembling in acute embarrassment, fear and shame, she testified to her healing to those around her.

There were a few reasons why Jesus called her out: First, this public testimony served to tell the neighborhood that she was “clean”, and there was no need to shun her. Second, making her speak out about it made the healing real to her. Third, it gave Jesus the opportunity to affirm her faith — not just because she went to Him, but that she persisted for 12 years to look for healing and didn’t give up. Indeed, she had faith that she would be healed, and she was.

But I also think that Jesus was enabling her to take a stance against the strongholds of shame and secrecy that had been haunting her for over a decade. In order to be free, she had to do the opposite of what she had been habitually doing, and Jesus made her take the first step.

Do you need to take a stance against the stronghold of shame and secrecy? For sin — whether you did it, or others did it to you — opens the door to shame, which opens the door to secrecy. Secrecy gives the enemy the power to mentally torment. Mental torment, as we know, often results in physical ailments.

Confession to the right person is powerful and effective to stop the cycle.

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5, NIV)

Photo by Rosie Sun on Unsplash

A New Day Awaits

CREATION FRIDAY

In the midst of tumultuous times, Lamentations 3 grounds us:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

Lower Seletar Reservoir, Singapore. Pic by Esther Wong

Learning God’s Ways

WEDNESDAY’S WORD

What I’ve noticed about God is sometimes, He may not give us a quick answer to our need. He takes us on a journey instead.

Photo by Jack Catterall on Unsplash

So I have repeatedly adjusted my expectations. I sync with God; I don’t expect Him to sync with me.

I enjoy it when He answers promptly and I express my gratitude to Him; when He doesn’t, I prepare myself for a journey, possibly with some dead ends, and trust that all will turn out well.

It is good for our well-being to put our confidence in the Lord.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
    but we rise up and stand firm. (Psalm 20, NIV)

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save. (Psalm 146, NIV)

Selah.