Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Michael Card - Biblical Imagination Series Review

One thing about me - I am an independent learner when it comes to the Bible. I don't go about chasing after the latest, greatest, flavour-of-the-month when it comes to Bible teachers. Why would I do that when I can just stay at home and read the Bible by myself? Of course there are other people who say the same thing, but not that many of them actually read the Bible. I do. I spend extended periods of time in the Scriptures and enjoy it.

But Michael Card has gotten me all excited about his Biblical Imagination Series!

The timing was interesting - I was going through the Gospel of John as part of my Bible reading plan this year and this time through I felt that I wasn't quite getting it. The Gospel of John wasn't quite sinking into me as much as usual. And just about that time I found out that Sought After Music was bringing in Michael Card to teach on the Gospel of John, I just KNEW I had to be there.

And I certainly was not disappointed.

To humour those of us who knew him more for his songwriting than for his teaching, he began by singing three of his songs, including his classic El Shaddai.

Putting it simply, he was singing in Hebrew way before it was considered cool!

Then he went into his prologue, giving us a broad overview of Jesus as presented in the Gospels, pointing out details that make each Gospel account unique. For example, the Gospel of John only spoke about Jesus' emotions four times, while the Gospel of Mark had fifteen adjectives for Jesus' emotions. And Mr Card used this example to drive home his point - we not only have to listen to what the Gospels say, we also have to listen out for what they do NOT say.

Especially for the Gospel of John, what he does not say is very important to note. 92% of the Gospel of John does not occur in the other Gospels. Because yesterday's session was only the first part, Mr Card did not yet delve much into the Gospel of John yet. He did, however, point out that John was a preacher, who by the time he wrote the Gospel account would have had 50 years of preaching experience. He would therefore know through experience when we listeners would need help and would insert parenthetical statements to explain his point further.

For example:

John 7:2-5 (NASB) - Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For not even His brothers were believing in Him. (emphasis mine)

I am not going to go into more detail here, because there is no way I can do Mr Card's material and presentation justice. But I urge you, strongly urge you, to attend his teaching yourself. He teaches in a way that is possible only for people who have spent huge amounts of time and effort digging into the details of the Gospels, the historical context of the events and the nuances of the Biblical languages.

So turn up. Mr Card still has one more session on tonight (9th November 2016), 7.30 pm, at Bible House, 7 Armenian Street, 5th Level. Entry is at $40 for the session, and you'll have to hurry because the seating is limited. I'll certainly be there for tonight's session. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Practice, practice, practice

Many adult students I have think it is much easier for children to learn a music instrument. Having taught young children before, I can tell you they face the same difficulties as the adults do: learning physical coordination for a unfamiliar form of movement, learning how to read music and think in the music language (especially the counts). I see them struggle the same way we adults do.

The main advantages children have, compared to us, are:

  1. They are used to struggling to learn anything. They have just learned how to walk, they are in the midst of learning languages and maybe even mathematics and all that. Everything was a struggle, they learned nothing effortlessly. We adults are used to knowing what we are doing, and sometimes the struggle of learning new things catches us by surprise. Sometimes we let that overwhelm us into thinking things are more difficult than they actually are. Nope, they are not. You want to know what’s difficult? A young child learning English. That is so difficult it is a miracle that some people succeed!
  2. They have fewer demands on their time. It’s easier to get kids to practice an hour a day, or even more. We have to juggle practice with work, family and church. That is why I respect those people who make themselves available to serve at church even at a moment’s notice. Every church needs a few of those in-case-of-emergency-break-glass people. It is a big deal in my eyes! 
  3. They also have parents to pay for the music lessons for them. Admit it, people. No matter how much you currently earn, you would still rather someone else pay for your music lessons and buy you your first instrument, right?

But since we are adults, like it or not, we’ll just have to make do with the time and resources we currently have. What then can we do to best optimize our limited practice time?

Keep turning up for lessons.

Over the years I’ve seen many people will cancel a lesson if they have not been practicing. By now I have taught even more adults than children, and I know with absolute certainty these people end up not practicing in the long run. This just doesn’t work.

You people know I don’t do a prima donna thing or throw tantrums during lessons if you don’t measure up. If you don’t get things right I will tell you, but I still try to show the fruit of the Spirit during lessons. I also pace out the lesson contents so that as long as you keep turning up for lessons you WILL improve, even if you don’t practice. And if you are having any difficulty getting the hang of any particular lesson, lesson time gives me a better chance to figure out what is actually going on and to help you work your way around your difficulties.

So keep turning up!

Important point – when it comes to drums, turning up for lessons is even more important than for other instruments such as piano. Playing drums is a very physical activity, and if you are intending to practice a lot by yourself I need to keep an eye on you to make sure you are not picking up any bad habits.

Fit practice into your lifestyle

I was always the weird guy in secondary school; I carried a pair of drumsticks in my school bag every day. It didn’t help my dating life, but I certainly got a lot of practice done! I have heard of people who work for themselves, and when they want to learn guitar or keyboard they actually keep those instruments in their offices and squeeze in some practice during their lunchtime or during quieter afternoons.

Doing the same for drums is of course a challenge, but there are still things we can do to get more practice done. A pair of sticks and a drum pad allows us to practice our single strokes and all that even on long bus journeys. Listening to a metronome app on your phone while tapping your feet helps you develop your sense of tempo even further. And any time you get to sit down for a couple of minutes, on a train journey or waiting for your food at a restaurant, is an opportunity to train your limb coordination with the ABC drill.

Don’t think you can practice effectively only if you have the proper drum set at home. In my generation, most drum students didn’t have supportive parents or easy access to equipment, so we would make do with drum sticks on the phone book (Yellow Pages), or set up cushions on the family sofa just to have something to bang on. It actually allowed us to focus on getting our movement correct (wrist, not arm) instead of getting distracted by all the bells and whistles on the drum kit. 

Those improvised practice sets could not totally replace practicing on the actual drums, but they made sure that by the time we could sit down there to practice, we could practice just what we needed the kit for. No point trying out advanced snare and tom patterns if you can’t even manage your sticks correctly, agree?

Focus on the foundations

As I just said, there is no point trying out advanced snare and tom patterns if you don’t manage your sticks properly. The foundations of drumming are still essential and you still need to keep practicing them (I still do).

  1. Basic stick control (drum rudiments).
  2. Hand-foot coordination; and
  3. Counting (music pulse).

All these can be practiced with 2 chairs, a cushion (or drum pad) and a pair of sticks. When you start practicing fills you can get away with using 2 drum pads (to simulate the hi-hat and the snare). The point is that you have to show yourself faithful with the little first before you can be entrusted with much. We are now at the point of the lessons when we are learning drum fills and how to apply them. Your hands have to move from the hi-hat to the snare, the toms and the crash cymbal. If you will still continue to practice those foundational skills you will find all of the other stuff you are learning now much easier.

So do not despise doing the paradiddle exercise I taught you in the first lesson. I still practice that myself to maintain my basic coordination and stick work!

I hope all these thoughts help you get more out of your practice from now on. See you at the next lesson! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Videos? No Competition

Some days I still get awestruck at the sheer volume of music teaching available on Youtube. If you price each lesson at $20, the total price of what has been shared there is well over the millions, of that I am certain. Sometimes I bemoan the fact that Youtube wasn’t available during my early days of learning music. If it was I would probably be 3-4 times better than I am now!

That said, however, the fact remains: you will ALWAYS need drum teachers, teaching face-to-face, live and in person. Even video conference lessons aren’t good enough, especially for beginners, for teaching the basics and foundations of drumming.

Why? Because drumming is a very physical art. A typical beginner starts with very poor kinaesthetic awareness. In plain English, most people aren’t very aware of where their limbs are, doing what and when. And that is why you people keep hearing me go like this during lessons:

“Use wrist…”

“Less elbow…’


“Shins 90 degrees to the ground”



"Elbows more to the front…”


Because drumming is very physical, you all need immediate feedback and correction when you are doing things incorrectly. Bad habits are hard to break, and they affect not only your playing but also your physical health. That is why I start our lessons off with warm-ups that improve your joint mobility. These exercises help rehab your arm joints before modern life messes them up for you, and help prevent problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you have difficulty coordinating your footwork with your hands, I have to prompt you during your practice as well, either by demo-ing before you in mirror image, or even by gently prodding your limbs with a drumstick here and there.

During every lesson I am also listening carefully to your playing and counting. I am listening out for hints of where you are unsure of the counts. If your counting is hazy, your playing will be hazy too. I change tempo on the metronome often to check for this as well. I don’t want you to end up being able to play beats or fills at only a few speeds and totally messing up at other speeds.

Many beginners mentally miss out the very last eighth-note count (quaver) of the bar. When that happens it affects your fills. I’ve heard countless wannabes who speed up the tempo after every drum fill. 80%-90% of the time it is because they mentally shaved off that final count of that bar, bringing the start of the next bar even sooner. So the song gets more rushed as it goes along.

Most of the time this is merely irritating to trained musicians. But playing drums for church has become more musically demanding over the past 10 years. Songs like “Beautiful One” by Tim Hughes or “Hosanna” by Hillsong are quite unforgiving; you have to get the tempo correct and maintain it for the whole song, or the worship leaders and the congregation can end up struggling to sing those songs properly.

That is all part and parcel of learning what it means to count, to establish and build upon the pulse of the music.

We are also starting to see the connection between what we sing and what we play on the drums, especially with what I call the “Stand-by-me beat”. This is my biggest value-aid: I teach drums based on what best supports the worship leader and the congregation. This is when counting aloud in earlier exercises start to pay off. The connection we established between your mouth and your limbs will help you match your drumming with the singing.

That makes your drumming a better support for the singing. I worked with drummers whose playing was based more on whatever funky grooves caught their fancy rather than what helped the singing. No matter how good they are, their playing would mechanical and disconnected at best. Very often the playing was distracting, making it hard for the congregation and worship leader to pay proper attention to what they are singing.. Of course I could tell such drummers what to play, but they would easily forget and go back to playing distracting stuff. The musicality was not built into them at the very beginning, so it got more difficult to add that in later on.

So this is what we are studying at this stage of your journey. Work hard on all this material now; we will soon be moving on to things you will actually be playing on the drums for worship.

See you at the next lesson!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Deserving of Pity

Offering the sacrifice of praise is pretty much ingrained into my lifestyle. I haven't got to the point when I would do the morning and evening sacrifices yet, but one or two sessions a day (outside of church) is still consistent.

Just yesterday I had this fiery dart hit me in the mind: if God can pretty much count on me to offer praise to him in the good times and bad, what motivation does he have to let me have more good days than bad?

Psalm 103:11-14 (NIV 84) - For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

The shield of faith went up - the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. The Lord has compassion on me. He has no obligation to bless me, to shield me from unnecessary evil, but he has compassion on me.

Moreover, this compassion is likened to that of a father with his children. That got to me. I certainly have compassion on my two sons. How many times have I seen they were really tired out and just let them sleep, while I settle things for them so everything would be OK by the time they wake up? How many times have I delayed waking up my younger boy from his nap, even though he really ought to be up and studying for his school exams? 

The NKJV version of this verse uses the word "pity" instead of "compassion". I didn't like it, but now I realize that pity implies that the object of pity is in a sad state. No matter how blessed we are in our human lives, we are still in a pitiful state. Really. You can have power and influence, a close-knit and loving family, a few gazillion dollars in the bank and servants to do your bidding, you can have perfect physical health for yourself and your immediate family, but in God's eyes you still need pity, because we are still nowhere near the highly exalted state we would be when Christ is fully formed in us and is fully displayed in us. 

Thoughts like this totally mess up my mind, but in a good way. :)

So God has no motivation to bless my life, except for his compassion. How confident am I in facing life? That would depend on how confident I am of God's compassion, right?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Your Drum Journey

Congratulations on starting your adventure into the world of drums! It will be challenging, confusing and yet satisfying, I assure you. Just so you know, here is the big picture for your drum lessons for the next 3-5 lessons. You will start learning the 3 foundations of playing drums, which are 

  1. basic stick control; 
  2. hand-foot coordination; and 
  3. counting (music pulse).

1) Basic stick-control

What’s the difference between just banging out rhythms on tables and walls (teenage boys do that all the time) and actually playing on the full drum kit? On the kit your playing has to be expressed through drumsticks. If you do not learn how to control the sticks properly, everything you do through your hands on the drums will be flawed. Once you have to play challenging stuff the flaws will become obvious.

So we aim to get some basic stick control first. Correct holding, correct wrist movement and all that. We all start with one hand weaker than the other, and the basic stick drills I teach will help you even it out for both hands and get both hands better. 

It is important to do this from the get-go. I’ve seen way too many people think they can skip this stage at the beginning. By the time they have to work on it properly the bad habits are too strong, it is very painful to fix. I’ve had to undo my bad habits for piano and drums before, and I know: it’s much easier to get things correct the first time!

2) Hand-foot coordination

This is the alphabet of drumming. They are not complex, but most normal people aren’t very well coordinated. The first few lessons help you build new connections within your brain, so that when new patterns and combinations come up your body is already primed to do them. You will also develop independence between your right hand and right foot. This is one of the trademarks of someone who has taken proper drum lessons before. 

3) Counting

This is about taking the pulse, the beat of the music, and knowing where everything you do on the drums fits in. People who are hazy about that are hazy in their drumming. Even worse, they are unable to adapt when the tempo of a song changes.

I’ve been involved with the worship ministry for about 20 years by now, and sat through countless practices and auditions. I was once in the middle of playing a song (to audition someone on another instrument) when halfway through someone sat down behind the drums and tried to play along. He totally messed up because he could only play in one time-signature (don’t worry if you don’t know yet what that is) and the song I was doing was in a different one. 

If he had ever learned how to count, how to discern the pulse of the music, he would have either been able to create on the spot something that can fit, or he would have known what little he knew didn’t fit and not messed up the song for other people. When it was his turn to audition, the other musicians started off at one tempo, and when he started playing the drums he couldn’t latch on to their tempo to support them. He immediately dragged the music down to the tempo he knew. Now imagine him doing that for pretty much every song the band tries to do on a Sunday morning… 

If he had been taught to count he would not have messed things up in the first place. But he never learned how to count. You can never say such people are rusty in their skills, they never had the skills in the first place! 

Counting is vital. The drummer has one job in the band – to count. He or she has to count musically, to count dynamically, but to count. A drummer who cannot count is no drummer at all. And problems in any of the basics cannot be handled with a few tips and pointers during band rehearsals, they have to dealt with one-on-one in proper music lessons. 


In the end, the goal of proper basics is to give you the ability to adapt. Without proper basics, “drummers” can play slow, they can play fast, but cannot manage anything in between. Without proper basics, drummers can play soft, they can play bleeding-from-ears-loud, but cannot manage anything in between. The basics are very important.

Final note: don’t try to find shortcuts around what I teach you. Everything I teach now, and the way I teach now, is to prepare you for everything you’ll need to know for the next 4-6 months. If you come back to this post in a few months time you’ll understand on a deeper level what I am talking about here. 

See you at the next lesson! 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Wear White? Worldly Wisdom

To the Wear-White People

Let me make it very clear: I am a conservative, evangelical Christian. I hereby challenge you, whom I consider siblings in the faith, to observe and consider your own actions. I put it to you that your actions and reasoning are worldly, carnal and will yield no fruit worthy of the Kingdom of God.

Why wear white to send a message? You want numbers to impress the press, society and LGBT activists. You want to put on a show of power. You are, at the root of it all, playing a political game. Now tell me, where in the Scriptures do you see the people of God trying to get their way by a show of power?

Public display? Let me remind you of where in Scriptures we have public displays, people trying to get their way with the powers that be, through a show of numbers. The first was astroturfing with Pontius Pilate, when the chief priests and elders of the Jews persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. Pilate saw he could not prevail, that a tumult was arising, so he gave in. (Matthew 27:20-24) The second was the public rally at Ephesus, when Demetrius stirred up the silversmiths to protest against Paul and his missionary efforts. It led to city-wide confusion that the civil service had to step in and remind the people to follow set procedures and go through official channels. (Acts 19:26-41)

I think these two examples from Scripture are sufficient to show that such mass movements to rally support and put on a show of power are carnal and worldly. You can say the Wear-White display is nowhere like these two examples. I say it is nothing like the approach and the ways shown us in Scripture either. When the Bible shows us the people of God maneuvering amongst political leaders, they operate behind the scenes. Two examples come to mind

Nehemiah – when he desired to rebuild Jerusalem, he first prayed, and then brought up the matter with King Artaxerxes at the opportune time. When Artaxerxes questioned him further, Nehemiah showed that he had already put in thought and planning (able to give the king a time-frame, Nehemiah 2:6). Nehemiah astutely managed the conversation with the King and persuaded the King to provide resources and building materials for the rebuilding. All this was done in a private conversation, not in a public debate.

More importantly, note that Nehemiah only began to rally public support among the Jews only AFTER he had the political support of the king (Nehemiah 2:17-18). If he did it the same way we are trying to do now, you can imagine what the king would have thought of the matter!

Mordecai – When Haman the Agagite sought to use state machinery to destroy the Jews within the Medo-Persian empire, Mordecai did not try to rally support amongst the Jews, nor did he try to call in political favours he was owed by that time (he had saved the king from an assassination attempt, that must have had some political clout). He called upon Queen Esther to use her influence to save the Jewish race (Esther 4:8).

Even in the New Testament, Paul’s problem with the Ephesian rioters in Acts 19 was NOT handled with public confrontation or getting the believers in the city to put up their own power display. The political leaders contacted him behind the scenes and told him to just stay out of sight. If he had tried to counter the Ephesian rally with a rally of his own, you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out it would all turn out very badly!

Finally, it is foolish to play political games with the LGBT activists. They know what they are doing, we have no clue. Example: one of the movies that was made with the deliberate purpose of eliciting sympathy for the LGBT cause grossed US$157.3 million in ticket sales in USA alone. And most of us Christians here in Singapore had no clue about that movie’s true purpose. Many of us probably watched the movie ourselves and even recommended our church friends to do the same. The figure of US$157.3 million, by the way, was only the first installment in the movie series, some of sequels grossed much, much more.

If we could not even discern this one move from one of their sympathizers, how can we expect to out-maneuver them in worldly wisdom? We cannot. Not only will we fail, we will fail miserably. I have read their playbook, people. And it amazes me how dense some people from the Love Singapore movement can be when I explain to them what the LGBT activists want to achieve and what frustrates them. Jesus told us Christians to be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. I’ve seen many of us get the two mixed up…

“Then what should we do, JJ? Nothing? Just let them have their way?”


2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NKJV) - For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds
And I don’t mean pray for Christian politicking to work. I don’t know everything about God, but I believe he has no interest in granting such a carnal, worldly prayer. There are so many prayers recorded for us in the Bible, we should be praying those. Note that the political efforts of Nehemiah and Esther & Mordecai were preceded by prayer. We too ought to pray. We should be praying until we catch the heart of God and receive heavenly wisdom, wisdom that is pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17). We should be praying and seeking God until we truly perceive the glory of God.

And after that we are to display the glory of God.

Matthew 5:16 (NKJV) - Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Contrary to what some of the LGBT community would say of us Christians, we aren’t all cruel, uncaring and merciless bigots. But the wear-white movement draws attention to a wear-white message, when God wants the community we are in to see ALL the good that we do.

1 Peter 2:11-12 (NKJV) - Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Do good works. Show kindness. Let them see what God the Father is like.

Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV) - But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
If we think the LGBT activists hate us and what we stand for, then we have instructions from Jesus to do good to them. And don’t think for a moment we can get-away with a passive-aggressive kind of thing, to buy a coffee or a meal for an activist just to make a condescending point. They won’t be impressed, and neither will God. We have to look into really seeking common ground with them.

For example, when there were gays beaten and even killed in Russia recently, how many of us believers mourned? How many of our churches here spoke up against the beatings and killings? The local LGBT activists could garner at best 200 signatures for their petition to the Russia Embassy. If just a few of our smaller churches started their own petition calling upon the Russian government to stop the hate crimes and violence, would we not easily garner more support than that? Would we not have sent a message to the community at large that God loves the world and we actually do something to show it?

Another example – we all know the activists organize the Pink Dot gathering at Hong Lim Park pretty much every year. Did it ever occur to us that security is a concern for them? If any nutcase goes bonkers there and starts hurting or killing people… *shudder How many of us prayed for the safety of the people, that violence would not erupt there?

My point is this – there will be common ground between us and the LGBT activists. If we are active in doing good in the common ground, that will glorify God. For example, we don’t like to see an effeminate teenage boy get mocked, heckled or bullied in school. We don’t want to see teenagers estranged from their parents because of their sexuality and get chased out of their homes. Because of our resources and connections, we can actually actively help make things better for society even in such areas.

And that is the opportunity we still have at this moment. Whatever message we want to send to the government, press, society and LGBT activists, the MOST important message is: God is real, God loves the world, and we Christians are out to show it.

Don’t tell me I am naïve, unaware of the agenda at hand, uninformed about the persecution that awaits us Christians should those lobbyists have their way. As I said earlier, I have read their playbook, I know what is up and coming. But I also know the Bible, I know how God wants us to live in these times. If we want God’s kind of results we cannot achieve them without doing things God’s way. If we want to know the will of God we have to first make sure we do not conform to the pattern of this world. It all boils down to this: how much do you believe God acts on behalf of those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4)? I am betting on it, how about you?    


This was written in response to 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Songwriting - Personal Opinion

I spent slightly more than a month on night-time gig. It was an interesting one, an eye-opener for me in many aspects. We would regularly do a particular song as an instrumental, featuring a performer on the soprano saxophone. And after our set one of the singers would get on stage and sing the same song, but poorly (it seemed like he was making up all the lyrics as he went along, and in very weak English).

Our drummer would comment, "There are how many billion songs on this planet, why must he choose that one?"

That quite sums up my attitude towards songwriting for worship and for church use. We have a crazy number of songs available for church use these days, why would we need to write more?

Of course, I know that is my personal opinion, and there are people in the body of Christ gifted and tasked to write more songs for church use. Barring any major changes, I won't do that myself, because:

1) There is no assurance what I write is worth using in church;

2) Even if it is worth using in church, it will still need lots of time and exposure to make it something usable, with the potential of becoming what I call a Fallback Worship Song. Given that there are many great songs already available and in use, should my time and effort be put there?

3) I am not in the worship music business, with a quota of albums to create, produce and market. If you are, that's great for you. Be faithful to what God has put in your hand, OK? I am not, and so I see no need to come up with more songs to add to the millions already out in the church music scene.

That said, I wrote a few songs more than 10 years ago. I might get around to recording them and putting them up somewhere. But don't hold your breath, I am no Chris Tomlin, in either quantity or quality of songwriting. I do better in taking someone else's song and making it better! :)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Ever felt cut off from God's goodness before? I know I have.

Sometimes I feel that way because of the current situations I am in. 

Psalm 27:11-12 (NIV) - Teach me your way, O Lord ; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.

When the threats and problems are current, right in your face, so to speak, it is easy to get caught up with the danger and trial and lose focus on the good that God has promised to us. And yet that is when we need to be mindful of God's goodness the most.

Psalm 27:13-14 (NIV) - I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.Wait for the Lord ; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord .

Sometimes I feel that way because of things I have done wrong before. When current trials hit, there always seems to be some bright spark around me who will say "If only that time you had (ABC) then you won't have to go through (XYZ) right now..." Other times I don't need that bright spark around; I remember my own failings and mistakes well enough, thank you very much!

Lamentations 3:19-20 - I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

At such times, this is THE big question - are my mistakes, sins, and failings bigger and more powerful than God's goodness?

Lamentations 3:21-26 (NIV) - Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord 's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord .

The point of the above passage, however, is that it is NOT guaranteed that we will make it through the trial. It is NOT a given that we can clear past a particular storm or crisis. In other words, there is still a chance we will go under.

What does it take to successfully make it through difficult seasons? It takes the goodness of the Lord. And how do we access it? The passage tells us "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him". How does one actually hope in the Lord? By seeking him.

"... it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord" - This tells me the deliverance of the Lord will most likely take time. And during that time, as we are enduring trials and difficulties, we have to continue to seek God. It is not for the faint-hearted or impatient. 

Seeking the Lord will also enable us to discern if he wants us to plant ourselves down long term. Huh? Check this out:

Jeremiah 29:4-7 (NIV) - This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:
"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you intoexile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

Remember, these are people exiled from Israel as a punishment for their sins. Humanly, we would expect that God would either take them back to Israel swiftly as they submitted themselves to God's will, and so they should not be making long term plans; or that God had forsaken them, so they would just wither, shrivel up and fade into obscurity in Babylon. 

But God chose neither. He had the prophet Jeremiah admonish them to make long term plans, and even to pray to the Lord for Babylon to prosper. I cannot imagine how much this idea messed up their minds and their pre-conceived notions of God and his ways!

Oftentimes it is much easier to stay out of trouble. God has already warned us in this Word that sin will have consequences, and we won't like them. God often gives us an uneasy feeling about people we really shouldn't associate with, as they can turn a good situation into bad. The book of Proverbs has MANY warnings that help us recognize problematic people, and avoiding them or backing out of partnership with them is a lot easier than dealing with all the grief they cause later, believe me!

But once we are already mired in the problems, however, getting out of them, and more importantly, achieving God's purposes in the midst of them, takes a lot more wisdom to manage. We really can't see the big picture while we are caught up in the storm, so all we can do is listen to God and have him guide us one step at a time. We have to discipline ourselves to not give room for the flesh, the carnal nature, to rise up and goad us into doing things we will regret later. And we need to keep our hearts and minds on God. 

Romans 8:5-6 (NKJV) - For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

May God continually guide and navigate us through life, and even more so during the difficult seasons!