On 16 July, I celebrate my 80th birthday. A couple of weeks ago, in our daily Bible reading, words from Psalm 71:17,18 leapt up at us. Spontaneously King Ling and I concurred that I should adopt them as my birthday text.
Psalm 71: 17,18 “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvellous deeds. Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me O God till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”
I’m eternally grateful for all that the Lord has taught me in His Word and through numerous friends and books. Listed below are words of wisdom I’ve received and released that have proved formative and life-changing…
1. First Things First. Loving and serving the Triune God. Relating to Him as my Father, making His Son pre-eminent and welcoming the Spirit to fill me. Deu.6:4,5; 1 Jn.3:1-3; Col.1;18; Eph.5:18
2. Serving Him together in our family. Jos. 24;15. All our sons, their wives and 10 grandchildren actively love and serve Him. In spite of our busy ministries, we’ve made quality family time a priority. We never skimped on holidays. And when we entertained guests in our home, all three sons joined in.
3. Godly character precedes ministry. Believers look up and follow leaders with Christlike characters rather than those with talents and charisma.
4. Proactively pursue the Important over the Urgent. In planning, decision making and building up God’s people. If possible, delegate urgent to others.
5. People matter to God, therefore to me. View everyone as “made in the image of God” and avoid labelling and judging them. I recognize that in spite of our fallenness, God has given everyone creative potential and the ability to respond to Him.
6. Maintain a daily habit of reading the scriptures aloud. Surprisingly, this helps us to hear God’s voice. Since 1992, King Ling and I read through the entire Bible yearly. This enables us to avoid selective read-and- pick theology and riding on our theological pet horses.
7. Cultivate a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving. Whispering “thank you” to the Lord for His blessings – material as well as spiritual. “Gratitude shows reverence, allowing us to encounter epiphanies, those transcendental moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” (John Milton)
8. Daily encourage and bless at least one person. I do this through face to face meetings, emails and kind acts. I once saw a plaque with the words “Aspire to inspire before you expire.”
9. “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier” (Mother Theresa) Amen and amen!
10. In reviewing fellow workers and work, I get what I inspect, not what I expect. This is in line with Christ’s exhortation to test their fruits. We do not nick-pick and meddle but we need to exercise the role of the walk-about leader. An inspection provides opportunities for praise as well as nipping serious crises in the bud.
11. Distinguish between “Either-Or” and “Both And” God’s Word compels us to choose between worshipping and following Him the true and living God and idols (God substitutes) Either Or applies to issues like blessing or curses, life or death, building on sand or rock etc. Both And relates to winning combination! “Word and Spirit” “Fruit” = godly character and new believers. God is both Lord of creation and redemption. Theologically, grace embraces both common and special revelation. What he has joined together, let no one separate.
12. Lead followers, we’ll have an addition. Lead leaders, we’ll have multiplication. A handwritten note I keep on my desk. I often pray that God will use me to focus on raising up disciple-makers and trainers of trainers!
13. Be humble to admit my sin and failure especially against others. I struggle with this as I tend to be defensive, making excuses for my shortcomings and sometimes blaming others when things go wrong. I learn the importance of two phrases “I’m sorry” “Please forgive me”.
14. In expounding scriptures or in mentoring, aim for transformation rather than information. God has not called us to teach in an academy. Working with His Spirit, our goal is radical change when people meet the living God and motivated to become more like His Son. (2 Cor.3:18)
15. Two vital truths. God who began a good work in me will complete it in the day of Jesus Christ (Phil.1:6) Till then, I have to ask everyone to be patient with me as He has not finished with me yet. I’m still learning, and, hopefully growing.
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