This free gift doesn’t give me the cheap creeps

Salation Mountain 2

They love to say that the Gospel is free. Well, it is free. Like the free public clinic sitting at the corner of the street. Do they just mean the water?

It is free; and the man handing out gospel tracts know it.

It is free, but we don’t like free things too much.

Buy a macdonald kids meal and you’ll receive a ratty free gift that our kids are better off without. You would venture into trying that “free facial” but don’t these things come with a price at the end?

When you say “it’s free!”, we immediately conjure up a catch somewhere, and get the impression that the giver simply can’t wait to get rid of the freebies.

We’ve grown cautious and free is a dirty word.

So… in our minds a free public clinic is somewhat false advertising; and even if it was free… it’s for those who can’t afford it. And those tracts? Probably sandwiched with subscriptions that will never see the light of day.

I am wary of freebies. But this freebie, this one of gospel, grace and God… it gives me none of those cheap creeps.

In fact, there has never been another story in history that offers the most valuable thing in the world to its inhabitants so graciously, without any strings attached.

Unless there’s such a thing as a free massage chair, there isn’t another free gift that can change your life forever.

The gospel is free but it cost a certain someone everything. Angels and demons don’t even qualify for this offer. I have trouble believing I’ve won free truffle fries and now I’m supposed to believe God has paid my debt and I’m on my way to heaven? What atrocity is it that this grand gift doesn’t come with a price tag!

That free clinic over there? It cost a doctor’s money and passion. The tract distributor? His time and energy.

The free gospel? A set of three heavy rusted nails driven into fragility, precious blood to flow, and death; it cost the life of God.

“I won’t charge you by the number of times that you think you need to come for church services. Nor do I swipe from your spiritual credits when you sing worship songs half-heartedly. I don’t exact or demand for your suffering to then bless you. But there’s something I want, and that is for you to pay me…

Pay me the attention that I desire from My creation. That’s you. It’s your attention I want. Your smile, your thoughts on Me, songs of thanksgiving. I promise you that this journey doesn’t have to be free in the way the world sees it- its cheapened meaning. There’s nothing cheap about my love for you, nothing boring. It’s the richest journey you’ll ever take.”

It is the most expensive free gift of all.

What kind of a Giver would love like that?

The free gospel is unquantifiable grace; a million times over.

rainbow-over-hawaii

I am Hole-ly but He loves me Wholly

My existence on earth has got plenty of holes (Sometimes black but mostly colourful).

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And everyday, the Lord takes time to fill in these empty crevices with His grace.

It can be in the form of an undiscovered verse in the bible suddenly illuminating me, a song with lyrics that break my saddened spirit, or a miraculous encounter which could not have been without the assistance of angels. A kind and warm word from a seemingly knowing stranger.

I am not altogether myself daily; I am not an automated being that can forever rest on the laurels of what worked yesterday. I am a human; and that indicates an ever changing nature of thoughts and feelings, irrelevant or relevant, damaging or not, good or bad.

I get assaulted by rude words and hurtful experiences, and sometimes I define myself by them.

These are the holes in my existence, and the Lord fills them in unfailingly day after day. Not all at once, but according to His highest willingness.

Everyday, I am confronted with many different graces, but at the heart of them all, is this: “I gave up my Son for you, will I not give up everything else that aligns to my dreams for you?

You are everchanging, my love is unchanging. You are weak, I am strong. You are care-full, I will bear those cares if you would cast them on me. I am the great Mountain, and I echo unending graces for My mountain sheep. I let you lie down in the best pastures, you just need to listen and rest in my promises. Nothing can separate us, and knowing this will make you bold in Me.”

And thus the cement is poured into another empty space; He is so sweet a perfector, so tender a Father and so kind a Saviour.

Have a lovely Sunday, friends :-)

“I don’t have enough faith”

Doubt is something almost every person experiences at some point. – Philip Yancey, Faith and Doubt

When I jumped off a 8-story cliff and tumbled into the choppy waters below, my faith, in that naked suspension of time, was entirely non-existent.

How I managed to survive that rag-doll fall, I have no idea. I had no faith, nor was even thinking about it; just the fear of breaking my neck or drowning, or both.

And then also; I would hear about how a loved one escaped death – and suddenly I have all the faith in the world.

Faith doesn’t seem like something you can grab and take full control of all the time – it’s like a car on an unknown and alien road, subject to external circumstances: the sudden swerves and the sharp bends. We reprimand ourselves into having “more faith”, but after 20 years of this, one realises how much of a tiresome thing this can be.

So, I thought to myself, “If faith is so easy to gain as it is to lose, then it doesn’t seem to me so precious, after all.”

“… Living without fear is certainly not easy. After all, how do we naturally choose to be unafraid of what we in fact fear? Is this power within our conscious control? Only by a miracle are we set free from fear… indeed, true faith working within the heart is one of the greatest miracles of God.” – John J. Parsons, Faith and Fear

If faith is a miracle, then it logically follows it has to be from God. Any reliance on my brand of faith would be a tragic affair, because I don’t have it all the time. I’m bound to emergency brakes and steering off course occasionally.

The hebrew word for faith is “emunah”, which has its roots from the word “aman”. Aman was used in the bible for when Moses had Aaron and Hur lift his hands until the sun set (Exodus 17:12). “…Therefore his hands were steadied.” The word Aman is used here. It’s to trust, to put your hope in, to lean on.

What better comfort to know that when you’re 10,000 ft up in the air and there’s violent turbulence, that you’re steadying on Jesus and his promise of “Surely I am with you always”?

Or when you’re lost in another country with the smell of death closing in on you – that you pull out “You’re my refuge and ever-present help in times of trouble” and “Even though I walk through the valley of shadow of death… You are with me”?

How many miracles go unheard of, how many tragedies have we allowed into our hearts…? How many times do we not have faith because we don’t have the blueprint, the full picture of the spiritual universe outside our life?

Faith is really all about trusting who Jesus is.

We may not have concrete faith in how circumstances may turn out, but we have concrete faith in the person of Jesus. A historical Jesus who lived, healed, loved, died, then rose again. This truth may not be completely understood or felt while we are still here on earth, subject to pain and death, but it is surety enough.

When I read about Jesus and stories about Him saving people (mostly from themselves), faith, or at least the feeling of it, rises inside me like an ascending roller coaster. It will plunge if I focus on the next tragedy or my soppy feelings, but I know it’s not about me or my faith. It’s about who he is and what he has promised me.

What I have is an invisible faith that desperately clings to Him through the madness that is life with its disappointments and joys. Whatever ascension of faith that I feel now is because of who he is and has always been. We keep on ascending as we think upon his love for us and not our faith towards him.

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them with compassion. It’s as if he knew it would be a problem.

“… But if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed

(which is the smallest of all seeds)…

I will hearken unto you.”

Don’t expect to be Treated Fairly in this Life

I remember feeling really terrible one anonymous day.

It was so bad I couldn’t sleep all night. I felt like the whole world was somehow in it. ‘They’ say your loved ones have the greatest access to your heart. I think ‘they’ really knew what they were talking about. One can never get used to hurt – we may get used to the pain – but the sting that follows is so obstinate and irrational, it’s downright irritating (and you know it)

When I experience hurt like this, I know that I become susceptible to funny, alien thinking. These bouts of alien feelings are smart. They trigger my regret-nerve, and they know exactly how to aggravate the hurt. Alien feelings make me feel terrible yet demanding. They make me insist upon all my rights and I want to pen the injustices down. But I stop myself. Why do I want to write about things that make me upset?

I sit quite still. I realise I needed to hear something that doesn’t come from me. I dismiss my thoughts.

I remember sitting cross-legged on my bed, hunched over my favourite book in hand. It’s by Sarah Young. Everything in me wanted to sleep the pain away forever, everything with regards to that one terrible day. But we know that’s not possible. I flip the book open, and there I see it.

If you’re feeling pretty run over yourself, I hope this reading tides you through those alien feelings, too.


Do not expect to be treated fairly in this life.

People will say and do hurtful things to you, things that you don’t deserve. When someone mistreats you, try to view it as an opportunity to grow in grace. See how quickly you can forgive the one who’s wounded you. Don’t be concerned about setting the record straight. Instead of obsessing about people’s opinions of you, keep your focus on Me. Ultimately, it is My view of you that counts.

As you concentrate on relating to Me, remember that I have clothed you in My righteousness and holiness. This is also not fair, it is pure gift. When others treat you unfairly, remember that My ways with you are much better than fair. My ways are peace and love, which I have poured out into your heart by My spirit.

– N.D, October 2014

Overdose of Graces

Many say an overdose of grace is dangerous
“It might lead people astray,” they say.

But what i’ve been seeing about grace so far
Is that it frees people to endless liberation
It lights the hearts of people like shining stars

They always mutter: “Too much mercy and compassion kills order,”
But I’ll say there’s always need for grace, no matter.

See the teenager and his late nights
Or the lawyer who might not always know wrong from right
What about the landlady who extorts money
Or the social escorts using words like nettle and honey

See the man in the room with his thoughts
Or the woman gazing at the expensive shoe boxes
Look at the kid with angry eyes
Or the grandma who’s just told a lie

It doesn’t matter what you think or say
You need God’s grace anyway
Big sins or small
We all are under death and sin’s call

It’s God’s grace that will be enough for everything
It’s what saved us from the very beginning

Grace spurs the people to say,
“I’ll stick by you always, good and true,”
Isn’t that beautiful?
Grace, by it we all learn what to know and do.

Colours Of God

Purple, blue, brown, green
The colours of love aren’t always in shades of red

Pink, orange, turquoise, grey
Portrayed in Jesus’ words, back in his day

Yellow, cyan, lilac, violet
“Make up the heavens’ hues,” says a lover-pilot

Even white or black, trace them back
You’ll find
It all first were birthed in his mind

Colours – whatever for?

God is creator
He makes colours soar
Like brillance of rainbows and planet’s moons
Of colours and even the colourless
Let’s not speak too soon

That he is dull.

Soap and Jesus

Today Reinhard Bonnke visited my church.

He is a funny man, someone with traits similar to that of the jolly G.K Chesterton. He has that same uncanny ability to cook up spot-on and hilarious analogies in seconds, leaving the congregation in laughing fits… which we could never quite recover from.

A funny, meek and wise guy

Reinhard is very down-to-earth and doesn’t take himself seriously. Dressed in oversized trousers and blazers, he clownishly joked about how his name was totally inappropriate and unpronounceable in a country like Africa. And how he threw his english exercise book into the trench to rid of his guilt of failing english so bad it was like an olympic record (he had 5 red marks on a single word for dictation). He also good-humouredly shared about how his first crusade in the National Stadium in africa had only a turnout of 100 people (“including himself,” he added with a laugh).

“Better an old man with fire than a young man without,” Reinhard said light-heartedly, when he talked about his age and having Facebook followers below the age of 24.

Despite all his wisecracks, one easily senses the firm and deep anchorage in this 73-year old man with an exuberant step and cheerful laugh. An absolute believer in the power of Jesus, Reinhard declares, “Philosophy does nothing for the wife-beater, nor does it give comfort to the beaten wife,” and continues, “Only the power of the blood of Jesus saves. He is the only Saviour!”

Of Witches and Warlords…

The congregation lapped up all his stories as a missionary to africa, including the story of how the world’s most powerful witch went into an asthma attack at the start of his conference after his usual booming “Hallelujah” greeting. That incident was after 4 other minion-witches couldn’t stand in his presence when he preached and sent for the “queen-witch”. One of the 4 warlords (aka bouncers) who was with the queen-witch later returned to share this story with Reinhard. Today, that warlord is an evangelist in africa.

Of Soaps and Jesus

This admirable German pastor shared other amazing stories and testimonies, but his experience with an atheist on TV struck a chord most with me. Here’s what happened:

Reinhard was invited to a TV show where he was to have a debate with an atheist on live television. The show rolled on live and the atheist jumped the gun straight on him. “How can we know Jesus’ blood saves? He shed his blood 2000 years ago, yet 2000 years later, the world is worse than it was before!” The atheist was confident and well-prepared, so he was surprised when Reinhard said, “Mister, i’d like to reply that question.”

“Soap is everywhere, is it not? Yet, may I ask, why are people all over the world still dirty? They know they need the soap. But standing next to even the world’s most powerful soap wouldn’t help them if they would only just stand there staring at the soap. They’ve got to reach out to grab a hold of that bar of soap and apply it to themselves. Then and only then would they realise the cleansing power of that soap.

Likewise, mister, the power of the blood of Jesus cannot be seen unless one reaches out to it, takes it and applies it to one’s life. My good man, I’m sure if you would do that, you will never be the same again.”

At that shocking and clever comeback, the atheist slumped back in his chair as the show went off the air.

After the show, the atheist followed Reinhard to the carpark where he was going to drive back to his house, and whispered (though the carpark was empty) to him, asking if he would pray for him. Which he gladly did.

What an inspiring man of God. We’re so blessed to have him visit us today :)

Little Guardians of the Earth

We merely re-create what He first created.

We’re the little guardians of his earth.

I like that thought.

If all credit of the created world had been given to us, we’d be so bloated up with pride we’d next have our commonest senses and empathy all blotted out, the inability to cope with inabilities, constantly consumed with drives to take over entirely the control of the world, and our minds would be incapacitated with ego-centric thinking and selfish living.

We probably wouldn’t survive very long anywhere.

Unless we admit that we are limited. That there is someone out there who’s taking care of the bigger things. That we needn’t worry about what comes next because we simply can’t do anything about it anyway. We need to entrust the true title of creator and author to Him, the God of the universe. Then we can rest easy and enjoy life.

“Creation, as applied to human authorship seems to me to be an entirely misleading term. We re-arrange elements He has provided. There is not a vestige of real creativity de novo in us. Try to imagine a new primary colour, a third gender, a fourth dimension.” – Letters to Malcolm, C.S Lewis

God’s Mad & Unlikely Love

Mad, mad world

When we think of God, we envision a god half a world away. At other times we strongly believe he’s closer than even our own heartbeat.

Where can we find this God whom we long to see in the flesh? To experience, to feel, to touch, to understand? Can we find the tangible in what’s intangible?

In stranger lands…

Could we find him in the donation of the driest stalk of wheat, grounded and served as flour for breakfast in an african family? Or in a thorny, wilting rose given by an eager boyfriend? Maybe he resides in the undying love between father and children, or the empathetic love between stranger and beggar. Could he? Who’s to say, “Baloney! God is in all things holy and transcendent. How can God care, much less reside in, a bunch of yuppies who only care about themselves?”

God = love?

All we know is he is love, and that is his identifying factor. We know that it is love that kicks ideas into actions, that motivates people to do or see things far beyond the law of the letter, the laws of the world. Just imagine a bare-footed mother running back into the flames to save her trapped daughter even as properly equipped firemen are working hard to rescue the girl.

‘Madly’ in love

“Sure,” I think to myself. “Love is madness – it has no boundaries, it is untameable. Extreme acts are committed in the world (both to heal and harm) in the name of love.” The subjective experience of maddening love is what makes it so frustratingly hard to understand sometimes.

What separates madness from love? There is no separation. Perhaps it is God’s love that is utter madness. An unmatched, absurd love that makes us go “Huh?” whichever way we choose to look at it. Perhaps it is his love that has driven the world mad and split history down into two: Christians best see his ‘mad love’ to be in the shape of a rugged old cross in a most improbable place.