Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Full Circle

I was preparing the children's outreach service planning for the upcoming Cambodian missions trip just now, when the central message aka the "Big Point" of the service suddenly jumped out at me: "You are special."

The reason is because that was EXACTLY the same message that was shared to me in 1991, when a Sunday School teacher told me about God's love for us. It was the very first time anyone had shared the gospel with me. And I still remember my CGL's gentle voice (his name was Peter) to this day:
"Did you know that the Bible says that each and every one of you is special?"

I was very astonished when I heard that message for the first time, because in my first day of Primary 4, my form teacher had told us all that she would treat each and every one of us equally, that no one was special - her intention was to be fair to everyone, be it reward or punishment. So, the very concept that God actually made everyone special was very surprising to me. I tried to comprehend it, that how, if there's one God and He made everyone of us, how can He treat everyone of us specially? It seemed paradoxical to me at that time. But it sure was good news to me! And that's how God planted the first seeds of faith in my heart - in Sunday school... and that message never left my heart, even when I left God in secondary school.

And now... in the last few days of 2009, I find myself preparing an outreach service to children with exactly the same message that was shared to me when I first heard the gospel in 1991:
"You are special."
- in another land, no less. Full circle. "And the gift goes on..."

If this is not the hand of the Almighty God at work... if this is not grace at its most beautiful... then what else could be?

Thank You so much, Father... let every generation, from nation to nation, speak Your unchanging good news to the next.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6
(Photo from

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Teamwork. Serving tog in ministry. Am starting to feel overwhelmed. Now I understand better the stresses a project manager experiences.

SMSes. Flooding my inbox. And when you're working, calls come flying in. Interruptions, etc. Testing my temper, and adding to the stress.

(That does it, I need an iPhone or something to manage all these SMSes! Threaded conversations are the way to go!)

Things to do. To take note of and keep track. Oh God.

It's a stretching time for me... esp given my natural personality, I prefer to solo. But now, leading a team... I have to know the overall picture, keep track of who's doing what... and remember to account to Hong Teck too. Not just so... it being a ministry group, I also need to know the condition of my team-mates, and disciple them, helping them grow in their characters and their skills as well.

(Hats off to all my leaders... both in pastoral and operational... and wow, thank God for those who are in operational ministries. :) RESPECT... haha)

Character stretching. =) Praise God! It's in the middle of all these, and all the stress... and all the nitty-gritty that needs to be done, and the lousy feeling that you get when there's some bottleneck / screw-up because you forgot to follow up on some SMS reply...

In the middle of all these, it's a good reminder to remember what's the reason for this season.

Or rather, Who is the reason for the season. :)

Let's not lose sight of our first love through it all.

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances...

Monday, December 21, 2009

We sang two Christmas carols yesterday during church service. Angels We Have Heard On High for praise... and the surprise was when for worship, instead of launching into a normal worship song, the first worship song was "O Come All Ye Faithful"... but come to think of it, it's indeed a very apt worship song. Bringing us back to the heart of worship - O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord...

And Ps Jeff talked about the meaning of confessing Christ as Lord. During the first century, in the Roman Empire, its citizens were supposed to acknowledge the Roman Emperor as a god... "Caesar is Lord," was the requirement. The Jews were officially recognized by the Romans as a separate religion, so they didn't have to make that odious declaration, but the Christians weren't recognized at all. And they not only refused to say that "Caesar is Lord,"... they went on to say that "Jesus is Lord." Of course the Emperor was none too pleased, and the Christians were fed to the lions, burnt, decapitated and so on.

But nowadays when we say Jesus is Lord (Greek: kyrios), we tend to say it as a matter of form, without remembering the revolutionary meaning behind such a statement. To say that one is Lord means that person has power and dominion, supremacy, control, authority... wow. It would be good to refresh our memory of this powerful word: Lord. Think of Lord as in... say, Lord Vader in Star Wars... think of Lord of the Rings... think of the Roman Emperor inspecting his vast legions... Napoleon inspecting his troops... think of all those epic fantasy movies, where you see powerful lords, well, lording it around...

And now, think of Jesus as Lord over them ALL. LORD OF LORDS. Whoa.

What do we mean when we say that Jesus is LORD?
Anyway, my unit had a fun Christmas party last weekend on a riverboat at Marina South Pier. Nice food and good time... my CG was to dress up in the costumes of our childhood dreams... well, yours truly dressed up as "The Mad Scientist" ala Dr. Emmett Brown from the Back To The Future movies. Haha... and guess what? I won Best Male Costume... thanks a lot Guanrui for lending me your killer lab costume and goggles... Clarence, Qixiong and Rachel dressed up as the Super Mario Bros. characteers... sweet... not forgetting Clarence's and QX's Super Mario dance - classic... Also, Clarence said the "M" on his cap stood for Macho... not Mario... which made his girlfriend, Junting, giggle and poke him haha...

Peter dressed up as a bus driver. Very funny... we ended up doing a 'catwalk' together. And knowing Peter's trademark humour, he brought a toy steering wheel, and pretended to try and 'run me down'... crazy bus driver runs down mad scientist. Haha... i should've asked him to take me to 88km/h (those BTTF fans will know what I mean!)...

But anyway, there was a Christmas skit and song as well... which I think lent more meaning to the party in a way. It was meant to be an appetizer for the upcoming Christmas service. Perhaps we can have the chance to share testimony next time.

Gosh, I really dream of having my own Christmas party for my family and neighbours...
I just so want to organize a Christmas gathering at my place. But really can't. Just feel quite sad. Have been wanting to open up my house for CGs and especially holding Christmas gatherings... so that can also share the message and meaning of Christmas. :\

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Just talked with a dear friend over the phone. We encouraged one another, shared testimonies and prayed for one another. Deeply refreshed. One quote my friend shared with me: "We should spend more time talking with God about people's issues, than talking with people about their issues."

:) And about being led by the Holy Spirit... "There is a time for everything; it's just we don't know what time it is!"

Oh, let's be more and more dependent on God in prayer. Let's learn to rely on His leading in more and more situations. Let's ASK the Lord...

Well... come to think of it, probably quite a lot of people are discouraged from praying, even though they know the power of prayer. Just want to encourage you, don't worry. Just pray short short also can. The key thing is that we know that God cares - and He hears. Pray with faith. And pray in the Spirit with all kinds of requests and on all kinds of occasions! You'll see God work in ways too wonderful to imagine. It's like a soldier issuing a short, sharp radio burst for an artillery barrage. The power of the radio burst lies not in how long, or how loud, the soldier speaks, but how big the artillery shells are. And the more specific the coordinates, the more useful the barrage becomes. We often pray so generally and generically - "World peace, amen." - that it covers everything and accomplishes nothing. Throw here, throw there. Cannot lah. Try praying as exactly as you can, and you'll see more clearly how God can work! :)

And don't have to wait till a better time to pray. Why not just whisper a quick prayer right now, before you forget? You can follow up with a more detailed prayer after that. But pray, and pray often. Keep in touch with God always. Because He has commanded that we are to pray, so that He may act in response.

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Value of Teaching

SHB2958T. That's the licence plate of a very nice taxi driver today. =) Took cab to work, and the taxi driver took a route that was longer than the route I was familiar with. So decided to let him know about the shorter route that I knew of. To my surprise, he didn't know about the shorter route. So, at the end of the trip, he tried to return me the difference in change... about $1 difference. Only after my repeated insistence that he keep the change did he finally keep it. And he was actually very thankful.

So that made me think. Besides the obvious niceness of the taxi driver, and his making my day... I was thinking about the value of teaching. I had taught the more experienced taxi-driver something that he didn't know. And he was so appreciative!

(BTW did you know that taxi drivers prefer to take many short trips instead of one long trip? Because it's more profitable... just do the maths!)

Having read a recent article on mentoring, and recalling Hong Teck's exhortation to me to "be a father and mother to your team." When I asked him what he meant by it, he said it means to protect (father) and to nurture (mother) those under your care. Even though I'm in an operational ministry, it doesn't mean any less that I should disciple those I'm with, and care for their needs.

When one of my friends blogs, she blogs in an instructional, teaching style, with the intention to teach others about God. Personally, I find her blog posts refreshing, especially when it's teaching about God. Then I realised that the blogs and sites I enjoy visiting most are those that teach something - be it web design, or programming, or current affairs - but especially those regarding life and God. The kind that go beyond mere skills and knowledge... the kind that not only teach you how to walk... but where to walk to.

And why not? Between you and me, aren't some of the best sites that you visit those that actually teach, instruct and educate you in the deeper things of life? Cotton-candy fluff has its place, to be sure... but there's nothing like a substantial article that leaves you feeling like you just finished a tasty, meaty prime-rib dinner. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

One way how Jesus loved people, besides feeding and healing them, was to also teach them.
Mark 6:34
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
And when He went up to heaven, one thing about the Great Commission that He gave His disciple was to "[teach] them to obey everything I have commanded you."

I think while having degrees, qualifications, experience and so on are important and essential... (I mean, if you're going to teach brain surgery...!) the most important thing is whether what you're teaching is true. And whether it might help the other person as well. So it'll be good to speak gracious words to instruct and teach others what you genuinely do know to be true, to work... it doesn't mean that only if you're a leader in church, only then are you able to teach others. The key thing is whether you're teaching the truth in love... and that's what the leaders are there for.

To illustrate what I mean, Acts 18:24-26 says it clearly:
24Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
Now, Priscilla and Aquila were tentmakers. Blue-collar workers. Ordinary people like you and me. And Apollos was a learned man. Eloquent speaker, standing out even in a culture that already had a pedigreed breed of classical orators. Likely a professor, Th.D. :) Groovy Greek name some more! But that didn't let Priscilla and Aquila shrink back from explaining to Apollos the way of God more adequately.

And what a refreshing joy it is to be taught the grace of God, the word of God, the obedience to God... So yup, let's do our best, to teach one another about God... to teach one another in love... never to condemn, never with a self-righteous 'I know more than you' spirit, but with the heart of wanting to build one another up in love. =)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a]with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat."
Wow! I just realised that there are times when Jesus can literally step into our workplaces - after all, the boat is the fisherman's workplace - and start teaching people from there. Jesus can step into every area of my life, and from there, minister to others... would I be willing to give Him the permission to do so? =)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wow, praise God. Two testimonies in the past two days.

Had been praying the past few week for opportunities to share my faith more in the office. Then today my boss saw my open Bible on the table. So curiously, she asked me what's the reason I read the Bible for - "Is it for inspiration?"

So told her it's for me to know God more, and also for moral guidance and so on.

So haha, she asked me how I become a Christian. So thank God! Shared with her. =) She shared her own perspective, that religion helps people be good. That's one reason why she's interested in understanding more about religion. in fact she had even interviewed the Dalai Lama herself!

Well, asked her to share more with me about her insights and interview next time... =)

The other testimony:
I've been running low on savings, so need freelance jobs to supplement. Thing is, recently, I had this opportunity to get a freelance project... but after posting my quote to the prospective client, I got outbidded by another freelancer (who bid half what I quoted!).

Then... there was the faith challenge to give towards the church building fund... and of course, tithing. To be honest, I was starting to feel a bit of a pinch this month, even though I've been tithing for a very long time, whether I had lots of money or very little...

So as I was walking back last week, I was feeling a bit anxious. So talked with God about this, and shared my problem with Him. He reminded me to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness... Matthew 6:33 =)

So, last Sunday, besides giving my tithe, I decided to make the first installment of my planned giving to the church building fund... haha... of course, can feel pinch in my pocket, but there was no worry in my heart, because I know that God loves a cheerful giver!

Then on my way back home, I started thinking about how to get another freelance project. Prayed about it, and again was reminded of Matthew 6:33, and that God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field! So praised God for His promised faithfulness and grace...

Then! on Monday, I received this email out of the blue from my friend who was helping me liaise with the client for that freelance project which I got outbidded:
Hey bro! Haha, have you been praying or what? My colleague didn’t quite like the work form the designer who quoted cheaper than you, and asked me to ask you if you are still interested...
Wow... praise our Father in heaven! He knows what we need even before we ask! :D "Before they call, I will answer..."

Want to encourage you with some quotes from Hudson Taylor, a man of faith and missionary to China:
"If we are faithful to God in little things, we shall gain experience and strength that will be helpful to us in the more serious trials of life."

"Christ is either Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all."

"God's work is not man working for God; it is God's own work, though often wrought through man's hands."

"Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instruments afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him."

"Let us see that we keep God before our eyes; that we walk in His ways and seek to please and glorify Him in everything, great and small. Depend upon it, God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's supplies."
Yes. If we are faithful to God in little things, we shall gain experience and strength that will enable us to go on to bigger, more exciting - and more challenging - things. Like going for missions and so on... =)

Hee! 2009 has been such a year brim-packed full of God's goodness. So many things... I could write a whole book about all the little things that God has done for me! And even more than that... all these little things are so intertwined together, so tightly integrated, that I can see a clear direction from seeing how all these little things, incidents, experiences and so on, all link together perfectly...

Dear brothers and sisters, God really loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Would you like to be used by Him too? =) Trust Him... surrender totally to Him, and be willing to step out of the boat and walk on water if He calls you to do so.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Came back from a great and fun meeting with my Cambodia missions team... =D haha... but golly gee, there's really a LOT of preparations that need to be made!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hallelujah Chorus By The Silent Monks

This is absolutely priceless, side-splittingly hilarious and wonderfully creative! Maybe the HopeKids choir can try this one day... =D
2009! Such a beautiful and amazing year. There were some hurts, but oh, God has redeemed them so. Not just healed, but redeemed. And I find that every crack is but an opportunity for His light to seep into our shattered hearts... And the joys - yes, the joys - far, far, far outweighs the hurts. I see the sweetness of God's grace so deep like never before. I see how God has used me so much this year, even in spite of my increasing feelings of brokenness and inadequacies, to bless so many more people, in so many more areas of life. Be it the children's ministry, or the community work, or helping friends with their job searches... be it this or that... and reconciliation for some friendships. It was difficult confronting, and talking things face to face... it hurt a lot... but it was so necessary. Deeply grateful to my dear bros who helped me through these times.

And even deeper praises to God... for a covenant friendship, and for a dear neighbour, and for so many deeper things to thank God for. For the prophecies... for the things that happened... What I experienced in 2008 spilled over into 2009... and so many testimonies. Too many to count. God is just so good to a sinner like me!

But I think the most beautiful thing of all was the joy of experiencing God so much more intimately this year. And every year, I find Him bigger and bigger... *deep sweet sigh* And through this, I learn to enjoy a much deeper and sweeter rest in Him. And a greater restfulness in all my ministry, shepherding and so on. That I really don't have to do anything to earn His favour. On the contrary, it is because He has transformed my heart, that I so want to do things because of Him.

And I saw just how much God shepherded Jonathan, my sheep. It was such a joy to see God Himself guide Jon in the very areas that I had been praying for Jon. And delight, because the very insights that Jon shared with me were the things that I had been meaning to help him grow in... which gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation that Christ is indeed the great Shepherd of our souls. I see how God works so readily in Jon's life in response to my prayers for Jon. =D Jesus truly is the Good Shepherd! I am just an overseer, whom God has assigned me for a very short while... may God bring to completion the good work He has begun in Jon! :)

Oh, the wonder of redemption. That every tear in your eye, every tear in your page, is but a token to be exchanged into His beautiful hands, to be clasped, embraced and magically transformed into a precious seed of joy. First the sorrow, then the rejoicing. First the mourning, then the dancing. First the dying, then the resurrection. First the suffering, then the glory.

Isaiah 65
17 "Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.

19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.

See the praises of our Saviour
Rise to open skies
With the dawning of redemption
Your glory shall now arise...


Loving Myself

Such a beautiful post by Shaowei. =) It's something that God also helped me see this year.

So can really identify with Shaowei when he wrote:
Here is the word for this season: "Do what you want to do.", He seems to be telling me. If I do not want to do my homework, I should not do it. If I do not want to do my quiet time, I should not do it. If I do not want to help someone, I should not do it. If I do not want to go to church, I should not go. I was scared because these are the things that I thought a Christian needs to do. I cried out to Him for direction, "Tell me to do my quiet time, and I will follow. Tell me to help that person, and I will go!" He responds lovingly, "You don't need to do anything." To me, it was really frustrating. I realized that I wanted to gain His approval by doing what He commands, but He already approves of me. I realized that I do a lot of things out of obligation, rather than out of passion. We need to be driven by passion, because at the end of the day, it is not what we do that matters but how much love we have in our hearts.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Strange. I didn't have any appointment today - oh, apart from the media team's party which I clean forgot about... but managed to catch up a bit anyway haha - so I went to my favourite hang-out place today.

Then just felt something, an ache, a yearning. Realised it's because Christmas is coming... maybe it's more than that... but I so do want to bring a little gift to Jesus today. Just longing to bring something that's of worth, that will bless His heart.

Hee. Been wanting to do some sketching, drawing or poem or some artwork... that will really bless His heart. But funnily enough, I just don't have any special emotional inspiration at this moment in time to do something beautiful... so I was wondering, what else could I bring before my Daddy?

I guess all I can offer at this moment in time, is a lot of little songs. =) Oh, just to sing to Him Christmas carols. I know it's so little, and God knows I can't sing to save my life (I'll probably get shot, and then shot again just to make sure)... but I do know that He likes true songs from the heart.

There's this song that has been echoing in my heart. Wonder why it keeps echoing, but it's so heartwarming and a very powerful reminder to me to come to Him. And it also reminds me to invite others to come to Bethelehem and see...

Come to Bethelehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing
Come adore on bended knees
Christ the Lord the newborn king

Well, having an über-cüte animation by Sixpence None The Richer really helps haha...

And when even the heavy-metal band, Twisted Sister, starts yodelling, "Oh come let us adore Him...", you know that Christmas truly has this strange magic, this wondrous warmth to, in Ps Ben's words, "strangely warm people's hearts."


But yeah, have been humming that chorus over and over again. =)

Sigh. What can I do, that I could bring to Him, something that's of worth, that will bless His heart? Well... I guess we could pick up a little lesson from the Little Drummer Boy himself:
Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

God of the Blooming Bush

God loves us... in more ways than we can ever imagine. Ah. Love Beyond Reason, by John Ortberg. =)

Reminds me of the time when I was down one day, and I walked past a hibiscus bush burning with red blooms. And I saw such a beautiful red hibiscus flower in full blossom. Never seen a lovelier flower. Suddenly, I realised that God was whispering to me through that flower that He made this hibiscus flower, just for me to see. =) "Beauty that made / this heart adore You..." And tears rolled down my cheeks like the dew on the flower.

Yup, God spoke to me from a blooming bush. =)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Promise?

Was reading a Bible commentary for Luke 1 and 2. And something that caught my eye when I studied Luke 1 was about when God fulfills His promises, He does it to meet a variety of needs as well. So, when He caused John the Baptist to be born as the forerunner to Jesus, He not only met His promise to send the Elijah to come; He also met Zechariah's and Elizabeth's personal need as well.

It strikes me how caring God is. And how wonderful He is.

Still, about promises being met, I wonder about it...

I was spending some time in prayer today after work. Was talking with God about whether He'd really promised what I thought He had promised. I do wonder if He actually made that promise at all. Looking at it, it's 21 days left to the end of 2009, so I guess it's not going to pass... not as far as I can see, if that promise wasn't made. That's the thing about the whole confusion - that it's supposed to be a promise.

Just sat around, and was quiet, mulling over all these things... and to be honest, I didn't quite know what else to talk to God about. So I just kept quiet and just thought about life and things like that.

But if He really made that promise... then this is going to be something really amazing. And I should know lah... I've seen Him do miracles so amazing and wonderful... both in my life, and in others' too. But I think, personally, this is my greatest test of faith for me so far. And to be honest, I have so little faith. Forgive me Lord...

If He really made that promise, then hmm, what I read in the commentary today is a very timely message, right after I'd finished praying to God about my doubts and so on. Because it's about waiting for God... and well, God has His own timing - and that timing is not arbitrary, but strategically chosen to meet a whole bunch of different needs and so on, at the same time.


In any case, to be honest, I asked God rather exasperatedly... "What do You want of me, actually?"

Perhaps He wants everything of me, even this area... or He just wants to be quiet...I can't figure out anything at the moment. So I guess it's a case of walking the dark valley alone. Faith. Being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. Oh. Wait upon God. Not to rush. That one, was clear.

Maybe God's message at the start of the year was really clear: Let Me handle this. Don't try to rush anything. 21 days left, wondering how/if God will do what I think He said He'll do.

In any case... I told God finally... "It's ok, Lord... whatever happens next... I surrender to You. Do with me as You please. Amen."

Yup... surrender.

I like how Peter put it: Faith is singing His name, even when we are several goals behind in the game.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these three is love.
Trying out Mine's at :) They say that Tumblr's "the easiest way to blog." Haha... if that's so... that'd be v. convenient for me LOL. =)

The gospel as public truth

Anyway, saw this portion from the article mentioned in my previous post... do read it.
The gospel as public truth
In God Is Back, Economist editors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge cite economics as the reason Christianity has fared better in the United States than in Europe. They argue that the disestablishment of the American church opened a free market in which religious ideas flourished while their European state-backed religious counterparts disintegrated along with other politically enforced institutions. This insight offers us hope that European-style decline is not the future of global Christianity, and that the American model may hold the key to the re-evangelization of Europe.

But there is a danger in free-market spirituality. Christianity becomes just another lifestyle option. As we become more aware of the multiplicity of worldviews and religions, and as we rightly value diversity, we can grow increasingly reluctant to commend the truthfulness of the Christian message. Privatized relativism is a real danger for the church. We are tempted to vacate the public square, avoid evangelism out of fear of offending others, and retreat into ghettos. The only alternative seems to be to try to impose Christian values on the wider culture by exerting moral muscle.

Newbigin offers a third way. He challenges the post-Enlightenment separation between so-called objective facts in the public realm (taught at school and presented without the need for the preface "I believe") and the subjective values of the private world of religion and ethics. He argues that the church needs to humbly yet boldly enter the public sphere with a persuasive retelling of the Christian story—not as personal spirituality, but as public truth. He takes the logic for this public dialogue from the scientific community. A scientist does not present research findings as a personal preference, but with hope for universal agreement if the findings stand up to investigation. In the marketplace of ideas, we should likewise present the gospel not as personal preference but as truth that should gain universal acceptance. This allows us to commend the faith with the humble admission that we might not have exhaustively grasped the truth, but that we have truth that needs to be investigated and seriously engaged.
Imagine! Think about it. Invitation to investigate, not to swallow dogma, but to explore the evidence and think through what they imply... that like the (formerly) blind man who simply replied to the religious authorities' assertion that Jesus was a sinner, not the Saviour: "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"

And what the apostles said in response to the authorities' orders to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, as reported in Acts 4:
13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16"What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name."

18Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. 20For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."
Agree? =)

The Missionary Who Wouldn't Retire

A heartening article... and inspired by the missionary who did his most profound thinking in his tender 70s and 80s. Think about it! No one is too old, no one too young, to do great things (and thinks) for God.
Psalm 39
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.
1 I said, "I will watch my ways
and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
as long as the wicked are in my presence."
2 But when I was silent and still,
not even saying anything good,
my anguish increased.

3 My heart grew hot within me,
and as I meditated, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:

4 "Show me, O LORD, my life's end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.

5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath.

6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:
He bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.

7 "But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.

8 Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.

9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.

10 Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.

11 You rebuke and discipline men for their sin;
you consume their wealth like a moth—
each man is but a breath.

12 "Hear my prayer, O LORD,
listen to my cry for help;
be not deaf to my weeping.
For I dwell with you as an alien,
a stranger, as all my fathers were.

13 Look away from me, that I may rejoice again
before I depart and am no more."
A dear bro told me that when we feel insecure, we should receive assurance from God, and not from people. I've heard it a lot of times before, and agreed with it...

But recently I've been thinking. And questioning that assumption. It seems wrongly dichotomized...

Because, if we are the church of God... if we are the Body of Christ... if Jesus himself said where two or three gather in His name, there He is with them... if the Lord's Prayer says, "Our Father who is in heaven..."... if the Scripture says encourage the timid... strengthen the weak... help carry one another's burdens... rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn... and if the Lord in His sorrow asked his closest disciples, "I am weary with sorrow... Stay with me and keep watch..."

I think God likes to show His assurance through people. In fact, He would rather work through people than work directly. Why? Well, somehow God wants to do it that way... and He takes pleasure in doing that! (Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that He said that we, male and female, are made in His image.) But if nobody's around / not willing... then He will roll up His sleeves and step in. Or He can do both, actually.

I've been questioning this assumption about this "rugged individualism"... the idea of the Übermensch kind of Christian... but is that the kind of Christian Jesus is looking for? What, really, is Jesus' idea of strong, mature disciples?

And as I think through the Scriptures... it seems a lot to me that God is looking for people who will love one another as He has loved us. To be mature is to carry what you yourself are supposed to be responsible for, but for those who are weaker... to support and carry their burdens in love.

You know, sometimes we hear this quote: "Oh, he/she's not doing well." It leaves a dry, sour taste in my mouth when I hear that... I've been thinking...

Ah. A bro much wiser than me wrote these words down. So beautiful, I want to share them with you too.
"Is solutionistic approach to pastoral challenges ( note i chose not even to use the word problem) the best ?

Seeing pastoral challenges as a problem reflects our mindset of how we see people. PROBLEM.
But hey..people at different life stations faces different challenges. Use of words like "So and so not doing well,...." has been used sweepingly and potentially can become a stigma.

Solutionistic approach blinds us to the needs and deep crying concerns of people.

An imminent danger of such a approach is quick to dispense solution without truly questioning the unknown assumption and understand and concerning that the recipients so very desire. Or evening overlooking the affirmation that could very much encourage the person. At times, people just need affirmation not solutions. People just need to know that you CARE, appreciate verbally. [I love this brother!!!]

Lack of the above never fails to discourage.

In fellowship, we are called to encourage each other, spur each other on.

CG planning=planning to love, affirm, appreciate and encourage. Through these,creating an conductive environment for people to be more Christ like. Not problem solving.
But I'm not saying that we shouldn't go to God... ah... now I know. We need to help one another go towards Jesus. The NT Greek word for 'encourage' is 'parakaleo' which literally means "to call alongside." And that means that encouragement is not like the army sergeant who says, "You see that tree? Go there, touch it, and come back." Neither is it carrying the person from point A to B... but it means being alongside with the person. Like how, when I was struggling on the track to run, my friend would come up along me and run together with me, encouraging me to keep running on.

We are to help one another find strength in God. But that can't be done merely by telling them to go read their Bibles and pray. I've read about a Christian who did these things faithfully for one whole year, and then was still so depressed that he was about to shoot himself... when God sent along an unbeliever to minister to him by just being there for him... the Christian was astonished, but yes, God really saved his life through the unbeliever. =)

I think it's about being Christ to the brother in need. We represent Christ and carry His name (literally, as we're called Christians). And He did say that whatever the church binds on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever it looses on earth, will be loosed in heaven. Philip Yancey commented that this was a radical inversion of the ancient pagans' view of the gods influencing the earth below. As above, so below. But Jesus portrayed the kingdom of God as so radical, that what we do on earth has an impact in heaven. That we will actually judge angels in heaven. As below, so above. Shocking, right? But this is precisely the kind of authority the church has been given.

And that is precisely the kind of risk that God chose to take with the church.

Edited to add:
Tks WZ for helping me think it through... while friendship is a blessing... it's not to be an idol. But neither is it helpful to dichotomize it excessively...

Different channels from the same River. God can choose to use one channel, or another, or both... actually, this isn't a very complete analogy lah. Maybe it's like, we normally get our water from taps, and it's been so ordained...

But there are times when the taps, for some reason, don't work. Then pick up your bucket, ye thirsty fellow, and go to the springs...

And you can do both. Nothing like the coolness and taste of a fresh spring, nothing like the pleasure of water so clean and convenient from a good tap.

The key thing, I am reminded again, is to learn to see God in all these different things... to open our eyes to His love expressed in so many different ways. "How do You love me? Let me count the ways."

God loves us... in more ways than we can ever imagine. Ah. Love Beyond Reason, by John Ortberg. =)

Reminds me of the time when I was down one day, and I walked past a hibiscus bush. And I saw such a beautiful red hibiscus flower in full bloom. Never seen such a lovely flower. And suddenly, I realised that God was whispering to me through that flower that He made this hibiscus flower, just for me to see. =) "Beauty that made / this heart adore You..."

Yup, God spoke to me from a blooming bush. =)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Just read Luke 1. To think God chose to start the redemption of mankind through nothing less than a baby.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given...

And that He chose another baby to be the forerunner of the baby Messiah.

Hmm... never never never underestimate God's estimate of children. =)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"I Met Jesus"

From Shaowei's blog:
I met Jesus yesterday.

There was an old homeless man carrying a lot of big bags and with a torn jacket. He walked into the seminar room where we were having a department talk on quantum information. He put down his bags, sat on the side steps and started to listen intently to the lectures. Then, he looked at me, and his eyes were so simple. His gaze pierced straight into my core. I thought, he could be Jesus for all we know, but ignored by everyone else in the room.

The King resides in His simple ones.
Love this post. Very timely, and thought-provoking.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Just an excerpt from an email I sent to my Cambodia missions team sharing with them about my HK trip so far.
[...] Haha thank God glad can access internet from hotel. abt SGD2 / hr... but have to buy min of 4 hr (non-stop). Haiz... oh! we went to HK Disneyworld today! gosh... it was FANTASTIC.. hahaha... once in a lifetime experience... haaaaaaaa.... i show u the photos when i return k! =D

and have to exercise when i return... we are eating like crazy over here... :P eat, drink and be merry, for tml we EXERCISE...

Oh yah, managed to drop by and visit Hope HK... missed the sunday service, but one of the CLs told me there's a prayer meeting this friday... so i can drop by if free... haha... and i got to know this dear bro, Ah Hoi... he pioneered Hope HK's hearing-impaired ministry! whoa... now it's 2 CGs strong, 25 ppl... God has really used Ah Hoi a lot... and Ah Hoi's really very creative and great with dancing... esp Michael Jackson's dances... amazing... learnt a lot of lesson from just talking w him... he didn't know much English, and I dunno any Cantonese ... so we had to communicate in sign language... which i've forgotten most of it... but he was really v patient with me haha. haha... v blessed just being able to drop by Hope HK and learn from the ppl there... =D even if it's only for a short while... maybe one day, God willing, He may call me to pioneer a hearing-impaired ministry there...

There's another testimony to share behind this mtg Ah Hoi... When i reached Hope HK... i was late, so was a bit disappointed... but sister Susan, the CL, told me that God sees my heart to want to come, and that He will honour my desire...

Then somehow, i felt this prompting to mention to her tt i was hearing-impaired... and lo and behold, she told me that she'll intro me to Ah Hoi, who's hearing-impaired, 'cos they have a hearing-impaired ministry. WHOA. I was totally gobsmacked haha... that even in smtg v small like just dropping by for fellowship w fellow Christians... God's wonderful hand is always at work!

sharing all these, 'cos well, think we can also tk the opportunity to bond w one another b4 we go for the missions trip... so i'll share a bit more abt wat's gg on for my life haha... and also, to want to enc u that if God can work such a sweet thing in my life even in a simple visit to a sister church... how much more He can do even more amazing things in the missions trip we are planning for the children in Cambodia!

So want to enc u with this verse:

2 Chron 16:9a "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him."



PS: Abt HK food, you die-die must eat the wonton noodles there. But even if you're dying of hunger... don't touch the fishball noodles there... :P Cantonese fishballs *absolutely* cannot compare to the Hokkien ones...

Oh! My family and I went to Disneyworld today. Thank God for His providence! 'cos originally we were told wrongly by the hotel staff that the admission fee EXCLUDED the rides... but it turns out, it's INCLUDED... so we all went in the end. And what a trip! Awesome, memorable and ended in a 20-min firework finale...

Also it's been a very thought-provoking time, spent in close proximity w my family. Think God is using this extended close contact w my family to surface certain heart issues in my life... and helping me understand why I have these issues and problems... but He is not condemning me at all... to my surprise, I don't sense any condemnation, just His peace and grace... even when i sin... He is correcting me and counselling me. Very strangely touched and surprised at how kind God is to a sinner like me. =)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

now typing this using my hotel's wifi. whoosh. was a great day today of feasting and shopping w my family.

actually want to thank God for something, even tho it wasn't pleasant initially. was angry w my dad abt some stuff. so i prayed and thot abt it. realised i still have some issues in my heart regarding my family. asked God to forgive me. and was assured.

but God didn't stop there. He engineered things to happen... that i had a kind of a heated discussion w my dad... the heat mostly from my side, actually. and... somehow the words that i said accurately described hw i felt, tho i'd suppressed them for a long time. understood then why i was so angry about some particular things. initially felt guilty abt having showed my real feelings and anger...

but realissed tt perhaps God allowed all these to happene, so that He could graciously help surface some of my heart's issues. relieved, because i didn't have to hide it anymore... and touched, becos my dad's care still remained the same.

complex, but God is working in my life and my heart to surface and refine away impurities in my heart.

=) praise God that He is always at work to this very day.

ok. now reading "12 'Christian' Beliefs that drive you crazy." Awesome belief. I'll post stuff on it sooner.

Anyway we had a great dinner. lots of shopping and walking too. dead tired alr.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Got an email from Hong Teck a few days ago... was very, very pleasantly surprised!
BTW, we had a transition meeting with P6 parents. [K] will need help. He says that he likes you and is able to connect with you because you are intelligent and sensible.

I really thank God for you for making a difference is his life. Let's work on and pray for him to be able to make the adjustment this year to Y-Hope.
K's one of the boys in my HopeKids caregroup. Thing is, he's not one of the most angelic kids in Sunday school, makes a lot of "smart-aleck" comments during caregroup discussions and he doesn't seem very inclined towards spiritual things...

But I saw the potential in him as a person - not even "leadership" potential or anything like that, though he definitely has a brilliant mind and outspoken personality - to make a great impact for the kingdom of God. He has this sharp, analytical, forceful and intelligent mindset that, while challenging to work with initially, can be a great asset in future when he's a grown-up adult to extending the kingdom of God. Really enjoyed listening to him share about how he'd smuggle various goods in and out of his classroom... be it Pokemon cards or other stuff... and I was thinking, "Wow, what if one day God uses him to smuggle in and out Bibles and other stuff for an underground church in a hostile country?"


So I guess the joy that I felt upon reading this email, was exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 18:
10"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

12"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
:) It's an encouragement, that even a really boring and unentertaining fellow like me can be used by God to make a difference in those whom you think might want to be entertained the most - the older children. :)
I guess I'm such a boring person. :\ oh well, just have to accept it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Still in a stall.

I guess I've been burnt-out for the past two weeks. Really thank God for Hong Teck, who understood what I meant, and he even encouraged me, telling me that he himself went through that experience before.

Then yesterday, he sent me and some other bros and sisters this email on how to avoid burnout. It was a repost of his blog post on getting out of burnout.

(No, my burnout isn't really caused by anything big... just a whole collection of small little disappointments that all add up. Proverbs 13:12. Hee. :))

I woke up today, with a glazed feeling, and stared at the empty skies. And the many hopes and dreams and fears leapt upon me like wild animals, tossing and tearing at me like foaming waves on an angry sea.

I think Jeremiah the prophet described this feeling so well:
I looked at the earth,
and it was formless and empty;
and at the heavens,
and their light was gone.

I looked at the mountains,
and they were quaking;
all the hills were swaying.

I looked, and there were no people;
every bird in the sky had flown away.
So I tossed and turned... and then prayed. And somehow hope came trickling back in, that this is not a lost cause. I guess I feel a lot of times that what I do doesn't make a difference, and even the good I do... is so contaminated by my own selfish desires and so on. And I worry whether He is pleased with my grubby works, splattered with so many imperfections and cracks.
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Haha. Amen. Oh, I just saw this picture:
A little girl stood sobbing, ashamedly facing her father with her ink-splattered portrait of him, weeping because she showed her friends her crumpled painting of her daddy, and they laughed at her scurrilously. But her father gently embraced her, and tenderly unfolded the tear-soaked portrait in front of her. And he carefully smoothed out the portrait in front of her, fingering each translucent tear blot for a moment as he gazed at her drawing.

And he whispered, "My dear, I love it. YOU drew it."

"Oh..." and she looked up at him, with tears brimming afresh. "You like it, Daddy? I drew it... because I wanted to show it to my friends, because I want them to know how wonderful you are. But... but... nobody likes it! It sucks! And I know it does! Because... it obviously sucks!"

"No, no, my dear. I can't think of a finer work of art than this. Even the best artist in the world cannot compare to you... because you are my very own child. Every blot, every splotch, every tear drop - they speak words of love for me that even the finest artist's strokes can never say. You love me, in all your imperfections, your failings and your struggles, and that, my darling, is sweeter to me than anything else in this whole wide world."

And he kissed her, took the ink-splotched painting, framed it and set it up in the centre of the living room.

Wah... very touched. :P Sigh. And John Donne expressed it even more forcefully:
BATTER my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,

Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
But am betroth'd unto your enemie:

Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

:) Sigh. I still feel low though, and ashamed of my inadequacies and failings. But it's ok, I'll seek the Lord and I know He will deliver me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:1-10:
1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

2 My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.

7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

9 Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Wow. For those who fear Him lack nothing. Even the most powerful creatures on earth may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. God really is so good. And there is nothing in this world that can ever change His love. Amen, amen, and hallelujah! :')

Friday, November 20, 2009

Downcast and disappointed. Did God really promise it, or was it genuinely a mistake on my part that day? That I misheard?
Psalm 119:123
My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.
Maybe it won't be so, after all. Maybe I have to do it the natural way. But will I end up doing an Ishmael? But did God really say what I thought He said? I am not sure already. If He promised, then yes, it will be done. But if He didn't promise anything for this specific thing...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Worst Moment in Most Church Services

Quick: What’s the worst moment in a lot of church services? Too often it’s when God’s Word is read aloud.
Haha... it brings to mind my weekly Sunday services. You know, it really pains me every time we read the Scriptures so half-heartedly during Sunday services. We read it as though it were a boring textbook. Which should not be the case! "For the word of God is living and active..." we claim, but our own tone when we read out the words of God reveal our hearts' true attitude toward the Word of God. "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."

Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City wrote, "In most church services, the reading of the Word is poorly and hurriedly done. What a missed opportunity!..."

That's why I appreciate our pastors speaking the Word of God with conviction, and asking us to stand up and read the Bible together to show reverence for God's Word. Let's face it: it's perfectly normal to have traditions in our worship services. And I don't think they are always bad - because they can help remind us of what is really important, as long as they don't substitute for the authority of the Word.

In our culture today, it is the normal thing to read a book quietly. But did you know that in ancient times, it was the other way round - to read a book aloud? Libraries of those days were closer to wet markets than our libraries of today. Thus, we see written instructions in some of the Scriptures to read them aloud to the Jews/Christians listening.

I've started doing this with my sheep, and we both really enjoy the time of reading and dramatization. More than just vivifying the Scriptures for us, it helps us remember and savour a fuller flavour of the beauty of God's Word. You ain't read Isaiah until you've read it ALOUD. I remember my Literature teacher borrowing my Bible one day, and reading from Isaiah 55 aloud. His firm, booming diction as he recited these immortal words:
"Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
It was absolutely enthralling to hear my teacher speaking forth each stanza with his rich diction and steady cadence. And I still remember these words to this day.

And how can you not but help weep when you read out Isaiah 53? It is so deeply poignant, and just to hear these words spoken of Jesus Christ 500 years before He was born, oh, it is more than enough to make you weep.
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Or what about this? I heard Ravi Zacharias pronouncing these majestic words from Psalm 19, and it was so captivating to hear him reciting this as though it were an imperial edict:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.

3 There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.

4 Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
The Psalms were meant to be read aloud! :)

And Martin Luther King in his famous speech, "I Have A Dream", rolled these resounding words from the book of Amos:
[Let] justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Haha. Yah, I think in our post-literate post-modern culture, the art of storytelling and speaking is so helpful to help our people see that Scripture is not dry and stultifying, but that it really is sweeter than honey. Especially for those who struggle with reading reams and reams of printed ink. :P

Anyway, I write so much. Can read more here...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interpreting Cultural "Texts"

Whoa, think this is really gooooood stuff to read! :)
Interpreting Cultural "Texts"
It's critical to exegete your culture and not just the Bible.
Kevin Vanhoozer | posted 11/16/2009

Karl Barth once advised young theologians "to take your Bible and your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible." asked Kevin Vanhoozer, editor of Everyday Theology (Baker Academic, 2007) and professor of theology at Wheaton College Graduate School in Illinois, how preachers can do what Barth advised.

Why is it important to exegete the culture and not just the Bible?

While preachers are doing what they can to inform and transform their congregations, they only get them a few hours a week. That means six days out of the week something else is spiritually forming our people—shaping their thought patterns and behaviors. Who is forming our children? Who is forming us? There's a lot of research that indicates people watch TV more than they read their Bible. The culture is where people get their vision of what the world is really like. [read more!]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Endurance and Perseverance

Isaiah 50:4
The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.
The past week has been very fun... and very tiring. Thank God for His faithfulness, sustaining me through it all. I think I've been feeling quite physically, mentally and emotionally tired.

And leading the ministry team God has given me, it's not an easy thing. While I'm very encouraged by their supportiveness, there is still this stark realization that there are tasks that must be done, and duties to be fulfilled. And when to make decisions and say yes or no.

I realise how powerless and weak I am when I don't have enough time with God, especially in prayer, and I can feel the lack of His empowerment in me... the vision starts to fade and you start to dig in and settle down into the monotony of doing things.

Anyway, took a break from going for Hopekids service this month. And a few of the boys have been asking me how come I'm not around. :P Gee, paiseh. But it's nice to know that you are missed... hee...

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Great Inversion

While the APEC guys were doing their stuff over the weekend... a very different kind of feast was given for the forgotten "foreign talent" in our own country. THIS is what the churches in Singapore are doing... THIS is the kingdom of heaven come...

And there's this great report abt this fantastic banquet...

Gives me an even deeper discontentment with the way we are right now... I was chatting with this freethinker (he's just finished his O levels). He's from a Catholic school. And when I asked him whether he'd been to church before, he said that it doesn't make a difference, 'cos everyone just seems to live their own lives after church service - "They all go straight to the LAN game shop after service." That was just a passing remark from him.

But it gripped me. Because... that is exactly what we have been doing.

Are we losing our saltiness as Christians? Are we just becoming a social group? God forbid! I mean, Jesus died a bloody excruciating death on a horrifying cross so that we can just go service and then after that just live a "normal", "proper" existence for the rest of the week?

*deep breath* I was thinking. It's not wrong, it's not bad to have fun and games together. But... we have to remember we are more than just "fellowshipping" together... I think we've devalued the word "fellowship". Go watch LOTR - The Fellowship of the Ring. THAT is real fellowship. Fellowship in the middle of battle. Fellowship in the middle of suffering. Fellowship in the middle of fire and storm, blood and tears. Fellowship in the fire, and fire in the fellowship. We are in a bloody warzone, damnit. And if we don't get our act together and start living for Jesus... then I think He will come and discipline us accordingly. I mean, go read Revelation where Jesus Christ rebuked some of the churches. He means business, and He has the scars to prove it!

*Pause* At this point, just want to thank God for Huaqiang and Sarah, who have organized discipleship training programmes for the DMM. Thank God for Jiayan who organized Bible studies for her people. Thank God for the many unsung heroes... Thank God for Michael who organizes the movie nights. Thank God so much for all the wonderful men and women of God who want to live lives worthy of His calling for them. Their sacrificial lives inspire me to look outwards beyond myself and to live for Jesus.

And Philippians 3 speaks so directly and clearly on this issue:
17Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

18For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
I remember reading in my Bible study guide on Philippians that the "many" who live as enemies of the cross of Christ... were actually fellow Christians. The cross speaks of suffering and hardship. And the apostles said that we must go through many hardships in order to enter the kingdom of God. (Check it out in the book of Acts for yourselves...) Would we be willing to deny ourselves?

Come to think of it... I happened to be listening in to two sisters talking the other day. One of them was sharing about how, when guys ask her out for a date, she uses these opportunities to get freebies from them. Thankfully, the other sister pointed out to her that her motive is wrong... still, it struck me, how even in the church, there are some Christians who have worldly thinking and motives. About how many people, whether brothers or sisters, can be very myopic, not having a kingdom-minded mindset.

And I am increasingly clearer that whoever I look for in my future life-partner, one criteria is: she must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It's not so much about human notions of "compatibility" or "affinity" or "chemistry" or "security"... as it is ultimately about seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And I have found such people to be like gold: precious - and rare. I think that's what makes discipleship so important... we help to refine people... to love God and love people. To seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. To go forth into all the world and make disciples of all nations. (I like this brother's words: "I thank God my gf who follow me to serve very very frequently! She's so pretty!" Haha... that is exactly the kind of sister I want! =D (i mean, not the guy's gf lah! but you get the idea.))

Perhaps some may ask at this point, "What about you? What right do you have to judge?" Well... I can only say that this is my perception. But gosh, Jesus said, "You shall know them by their fruit..." And having been in church for a long time... I'm glad to say tt there are genuine brothers and sisters who have a wonderful love for God, and earnest desire to extend His kingdom. But I am also stunned that there can be pairs of close friends where one is really kingdom-minded, and willing to sacrifice everything for God, but the other sets conditions for obedience, sets limits upon Christ's reign in his/her heart and sets boundaries on whom he/she will love. And these chilling words come to mind as I see: "One will be taken, and the other left behind."

How, how, how can this be so? I wish it weren't so. But there is always hope to be found in God's grace.

In fact, Weizhu and I had been talking about this a few weeks ago. About two brothers. Both of them had very similar backgrounds and had gone through similar experiences. But the thing is, one of them turned bitter and left. The other stayed, and grew stronger. I've seen this pattern repeated again and again. Those whom you never expected to grow mature - become godly men. And those whom you looked up to... collapsed in the end. The Great Inversion. "The first shall be last, and the last first."

This is puzzling to me, and to be honest, I still wrestle with the stunning implications of our Lord's words. And I think it also bewildered the apostles at that time. But yes, this is the way of the kingdom, and we would do well to lean on the Master's words. Because in an upside-down world, those walking the right way up will look upside-down to an upside-down world. But we still walk anyway.

Matthew 14 - Do You See Jesus, the Lord of the Sea?

Extracted from an NIV commentary:
Jesus Wants Us to Imitate His Works (14:28-31)

Although the proposal that Peter walk on water is first Peter's idea (v. 28), Jesus' response indicates that he approves of it (v. 29). Peter is gently reproved not for presumptuously stepping from the boat but for presumptuously doubting in the very presence of Jesus (v. 31; compare 6:30; 8:26; 16:8; 17:20; see Manson 1979:206; France 1985:239). Disciples were expected to imitate their masters, and Jesus is training disciples who will not simply regurgitate his oral teachings but will have the faith to demonstrate his authority in practice as well.

Once Jesus has given the command, walking on water is simply a matter of trusting the One who has performed so many miracles in the past. Peter's failure comes as he observes the wind (14:30), looking to his situation rather than to God's power that is sustaining him. Still, Peter knows by this point whom to cry out to; his feeble attempt to walk on water is no more feeble than our first attempts to walk on land. Our faith may be more infantile than Peter's if we have never even tried to step out in obedience to Jesus' commands or direction for our lives; many of us have less practice walking in faith than two-year-olds have walking physically.

It is important to note that while Jesus is disappointed with Peter's inadequate faith, Peter has acted in greater faith than the other disciples-he is learning. Faith cannot be worked up by formulas or emotion, but it grows through various tests as we continue to trust our Lord and he continues to teach us. Faith grows out of a relationship with the Person of Jesus, and in no other way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Parable of the Sower - Matthew 13

Was reading a commentary on Matthew 13, about the famous parable of the sower.

Fascinating non-trivial trivia:
Did you know that the avg. Palestinian soil, while much more fertile than its Roman or even Egyptian counterparts, usually yielded about 7 or 7.5 times the seed sown?

And Jesus said that the one who receives the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it - that man produces a crop which produces a yield of at least 30 times what was sown! Imagine that... food (literally) for thought.

Yawning at the Word

From Christianity Today (sounds familiar? ;)):
We often hear people say how difficult it is to hear God anymore, and I wonder if one reason is that we've forgotten how to listen to the Word of God when it comes to us in the sanctuary or the classroom. We listen like a husband and wife listen when they are in the middle of an argument: they listen only so they can have ammunition to mount a counterattack. That's not listening. And when we listen to the sermon only to hear what seems immediately and directly relevant, neither is that listening. And yet we've raised a whole generation of Christians to listen like this. [read more...]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

feeling a bit guilty abt some feedback i gave a friend. sigh. i really struggle with this. oh well. wat wld Jesus do?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thanks Venetia for this clip! :)

Carl Honore on In Praise of Slowness

Lakshmi Pratury On The Lost Art of Letter-Writing

This video is stirring, funny, heartwarming, poignant and leaves you thinking - all at the same time. Do watch this video... and when was the last time you wrote a REAL letter (made with 100% electron-free words) to your loved ones? :)

From T.E.D:
Lakshmi Pratury remembers the lost art of letter-writing and shares a series of notes her father wrote to her before he died. Her short but heartfelt talk may inspire you to set pen to paper, too.

The Forging of Firm Friendships

A very dear bro MSNed me just now to feedback to me about something that I had done a few days ago, that offended him. So I apologised... and he replied, "Ok :) Now satan can't do anything to hurt our [friendship]."

Wow. This is such a beautiful Godly attitude that this dear bro has.
Matthew 18:15
[Jesus said:]"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
I love the servanthood attitude implicit in this verse. " have won your brother over."

And this bro was so sweet about it! If you see him in person, you won't naturally think of him as a "humble" person (by the world's definition) because of his outspokenness and perhaps brashness, but really, I find him a genuinely humble person who loves God and loves others. :) And I've seen nice guys who are anything but humble. :(

Who says that men are not as good as women, when it comes to building strong relationships? :) This is something that men can excel in and set an example for the women in church: the kind of courageous love that is willing to meet up and talk it over face-to-face, instead of evading and keeping it superficial to avoid conflict. I say this as a natural conflict-avoider.

It's natural to want to avoid conflicts, but frankly, the finest and strongest steel comes not from a one-time casting, but from repeated heating, hammering, tempering and forging, that surfaces all the intrinsic flaws and cracks in the steel and then hammers them out of the steel. So it is with authentic conflict-tempered comradeships that endure and triumph over the battlefields of the Christian faith. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ecclesiastes 4
8 There was a man all alone;
he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
"For whom am I toiling," he asked,
"and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?"
This too is meaningless—
a miserable business!
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
10 If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!

Just feeling quite alone in HopeKids ministry now. At least thank God for Spencer, who has a really eager heart to serve God, very faithful and supportive and sweet. :)

Maybe I should return to HopeKinders ministry after this year... see where God wants me to go.

Edited to add:
Wow, thank God for His timely encouragement :) Hong Teck passed me a birthday card and present today via Spencer. Actually he wanted to pass to me last week, but I didn't go down for service as I was supposed to have DMM.

And Hong Teck's card was very encouraging. These words really encouraged me a lot:
"Your faithfulness, contribution and genuine love for the kids impacts (sic) the kids in ways that cannot be understood in this side of heaven. Keep on keeping on. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
Hmm. Yah. Thank God so much for His perfect timing! =)
I was reading a beautiful post by Amazing Grace Church on Facebook. And this verse Matthew 6:33 struck me: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Struck me about one of my birthday wishes this year: "To grow in righteousness."

And I think I see God's gracious hand working in my life so real. He put in my heart a renewed desire to seek first His kingdom. And now He's putting in my heart a deeper desire to seek His righteousness. Wow! Praise God. So glad to experience the reality of the Bible in my life. God's Word is not merely a set of printed words. They are living and active! :)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I was reading and studying Matthew 9... reading the Amplified Version.

And when I read the whole passage, I saw how Jesus so earnestly went to those who really needed Him, be it spiritual salvation, or physical healing or even raising dead people.

And I saw with my own eyes how desperate so many people were... be it a paralysed man, or a corrupt tax farmer, or an agonized ruler who had lost his daughter, or two desperate blind men or a badly bleeding woman... regardless of social status, or health, or wealth or intelligence... all of them had one thing in common - they were desperate for Jesus.

And Jesus responded to them with so much compassion.

And when I read these words, they broke my heart:
"And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news (the Gospel) of the kingdom and curing all kinds of disease and every weakness and infirmity.

When He saw the throngs, He was moved with pity and sympathy for them, because they were bewildered (harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless), like sheep without a shepherd. [Zech 10:2]

Then He said to His disciples, The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few.

So pray to the Lord of the harvest to [m]force out and thrust laborers into His harvest.
There are so many people hurting and lost and in need... be they rich or poor, everyone has something that only Jesus can help them with... all of them were at their wits' ends.

And the thing is... you can't but help see the apathy... no, even worse... the cold-heartedness of the religious leaders, who were supposed to be ministering God's mercy to the people... and wah lau, every step Jesus made, these idiots kept making lame comments and saying things like, "You're not doing it OUR way..." Blocking God's moves at every step.

No wonder Jesus was pretty -____-'''. But thank God... like Maradona weaving in and out among the English defenders in the 1986 World Cup, Jesus managed to get through the kayu Pharisees and score His "Hand of God"... =)

This passage breaks my heart. It makes me question myself. Whose side am I really on? Am I tendering mercy to those in need? Or am I staying within my own religious zone? Lord Jesus, I want to be on YOUR side. Not my side...

37Then He said to His disciples, The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few.

38So pray to the Lord of the harvest to [m]force out and thrust laborers into His harvest.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Balance Is Not Worth The Pursuit."

"Be very active in the day and very monastic at night, because balance is not worth the pursuit." - Hong Teck

I like this one! (If you think beyond the 'surface' meaning of the words, you see that this makes a lot of sense...)

'Cos God didn't intend for us to nervously teeter and totter on a daily tight-rope of sian rules and regulations; He intended us to run fierce and free, going out with joy and being led forth in peace, leaping like the deers, soaring on wings like eagles, running and not growing weary, walking and not becoming faint. To run from city to city, proclaiming good news with beautiful feet, through fire and water, fears and triumphs...

There's a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. :)

Because life with God isn't a monotonous plain of plain averages; life with God is an radical range of mountains and valleys, a polyphonic choir of highest joys and deepest sorrows. Life with Christ is never trouble-free... but it is EXCITING! :D

"And Our Father Is Younger Than We."

“A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again,” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again,” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
- G.K. Chesterton

True Maturity

I realised I don't find it very natural or fun to share about things in chronological order... in fact, when my friends ask me how's my week, I literally have to take out my handphone calendar and scroll through my past events to remember what I did!

:P Talk about short-term memory...

But yah, really want to thank God for my bros and sisters who celebrated my birthday. I can barely believe I'm 28 years old. Somehow, it feels that my life has only just started... that I've only just started living, if you know what I mean.

LOL. I don't just want to add years to my life... I want to add life to my years! :)

Shared this with my boss some time ago, and she was quite impressed... one thing she remarked was that she finds me mature in my thinking, because not many people think that way - living only for the moment and just making a living, but not stopping to think about really living.

I was very pleasantly blessed by her words... and it struck me for two things:
i. Whoa! I'm making a good impression on her!
ii. Whoa! She is a wise woman indeed... who really wants to make her life count.
iii. What is true maturity then?

I've been thinking. What is true maturity? Is it about acting properly and so on? Being socially mature? Laughing and dancing and so on? Or being serious and solemn?

Think true maturity is not the absence of childlike behaviour, but rather, knowing the right times to laugh and to weep, to sing and to lament, to work and to play.

True maturity is an 80-years old man singing and skipping barefoot along the beach, singing "Jesus Loves Me", and teaching his 8-year old grandson to do the same.

True maturity is an 8-year old who knows the value of self-control, of holding himself back and not grabbing that marshmallow, in order that he may gain another marshmallow if he waits.

True maturity is a 28-year old man playing a fun and silly game of soccer/Nerf/etc with a boisterous group of 12-years old boys, in order to bond and influence these young men-to-be for the Kingdom of God, even though some people may cluck their tongues and mutter, "How childish!" (I'm talking about you, Weizhu.) :)

True maturity is being willing to sacrifice your dignity for the sake of bonding with those less dignified in the eyes of society.

True maturity is being willing to kneel down in front of a little child, so that he/she can talk to you at his/her eye level.

And true maturity is being willing to take the pain and effort to grow in wisdom and stature, so that you can better mentor younger men/women.

Hmm. I think... perhaps we may not enjoy connecting with children, because we think them too immature for our standards... then probably we are not mature enough to connect with them. :)

If we can't explain the kingdom of God simple enough for a little child to understand, then it means that we ourselves don't understand the kingdom of God well enough to understand.

Let's put aside childish ways, but let's also grow more childlike in faith, hope and love. :)

Anyway, yah, haha, I'll share about my bday... actually I found out that I lost my wallet on my bday! First thing in the morning! So went -____-'''... prayed and asked God to show me where my wallet went to. Then... I saw a picture of myself leaving my wallet in the MRT toilet while I was using the urinal. Pengz. So went over to the toilet, but didn't find it. $150+ gone...

But thank God, my mum blessed me with $200 that she'd won. Whoa! Praise God... v touched! :)

My CG treated me to pasta! :) And Huaqiang did something very sweet - he got my CG to send in their bday wishes... and he typed it all out... AND on top of that, he hand-folded each printed message into a heart! Wow... super-touched. =D

And Spencer bought me the Star Trek III DVD! The Search for Spock! Wow... very touched again. Haha...

And Eilton got some ppl from the HopeKids team to bless me with Astons and Ben & Jerry ice-cream... wow..

And Ellson organized a bday dinner for me as well... he asked me whom I want to invite... so I know that Huanyan, Shuyi and Minchen are from his unit... then Shuyi told Joyce about it, and Joyce came down too! :) Very very very touched. =D Shuyi chose a very nice card too... "we are children of the light," that's how the title went.

And Jon called me just to nuah with me... HAHA... THAT MEANS A LOT TO ME LOL...

Not to mention the lots of fb messages that I got...

So was sitting back and counting my blessings - literally... wow... feel deeply touched. I think over the years, it seems that quality time is actually my primary love language... and words a close second! :)

I think, reflecting on all this, this teaches me to be more and more appreciative of every person I come across. And some people you never really expected to bless you so much... actually went far beyond what you expected, and you got a deeper insight into their hearts and character.

And other people you kind of expected... forgot your birthday. LOL. No hard feelings lah... for some dear friends I know, their memories are such that if they can remember even your birthday date, that is really SPECIAL for them ok! :)