Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Am writing this at this "ungodly" hour, because I find it hard to get to sleep. Ah. Then I read these words after a few hours of struggling in prayer about some issue, and finally giving in to God (very grudgingly actually), I went to open my Bible... and I read these words immediately.

"Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."

Yes, hardships are necessary and essential to the Christian life. There will be so many times we have to deny ourselves, but let us remember that it is an honour to carry our crosses daily. What are some difficulties you encounter? Some frustrations or sorrows that you face because of ministry? That is our cross to bear. Humbling experiences? That is our cross to bear. Misunderstood? Falsely accused? Rejected? Failed? Deny your own rights. Let others step upon you and slap you. Turn the other cheek. Feeling tired? Burnt-out? Lazy? Indulgent? Die to yourself and wallop your inner man.

It is necessary if you want to grow more Christlike. It doesn't sound logical or realistic, but Jesus showed that this is the only way to really experience the Kingdom life that He promised. Hmm. Thank God for showing me... and thank God I'm not alone in being so slow to understand. Like how the disciples took such a long time to understand Jesus' words about denying self.

From the IVP Commentary:
Jesus is always reminding them that the divine call involves service and witness, not the raw exercise of power. People are to be won over and served, not coerced.

The same truth endures for disciples today. The cross Jesus bore is the cross the church is to bear. Giving oneself on behalf of sinners is just as integral to the gospel today as it was in days of old. Ministry is not a matter of power and privilege, but of humility and service.

Jesus will have to make his point several times before the disciples get it. Divine logic requires a listening ear and an open heart.

This passage has two parts: the prediction of Jesus' suffering (vv. 21-22) and the announcement of the "new way" of suffering, bearing one's cross daily (vv. 23-27)


The essence of discipleship is humility before God. That humility expresses itself as self-denial. Taking up the cross daily and following Jesus means approaching ministry in the world as he did. He served and gave of himself daily, even to the cultural ignominy of publicly bearing rejection on the cross (Acts 5:30; Gal 3:13). The Savior bore rejection and death for others, and the disciple must follow in the same path of service. We must be prepared to accept rejection as a given. Everything Jesus teaches his disciples in chapters 9--19 will underscore this point.

The tense sequence in verse 23 is important. Two aorist imperatives are followed by a present imperative. Two summary commands are issued: deny oneself and take up the cross (aorist imperatives). These are basic orientations of the disciple. Then the disciple can continually follow (present imperative) Jesus.

Jesus explains that to seek to preserve one's life will result in its loss, while giving one's life up will lead to its being saved. The remark's context is crucial. During Jesus' ministry, anyone concerned to maintain their reputation in Judaism would never come to Jesus, given the leadership's developing official rejection of him. Someone whose life and reputation in the public sphere were primary would never want to come to Jesus. But if they gave up a life of popular acclaim and acceptance to come to Jesus, they would gain deliverance. Jesus understood that trusting in God means nontrust in self and nonreliance on the security the world offers: Whoever loses his life for me will save it.

Not self-debasement, but self-denial. So what if I have a trillion talents? It doesn't matter in God's eyes. What matters is the attitude behind how I serve. Is it inconvenient to serve? Serve anyway if I want to follow the Master's way of service. Is it painful to serve? To get rejected for sure? Christ was nailed to a cross. Do I have to wake up super-early to meet a need? Welcome to the straight and narrow road! Do I have to stifle my natural anger and frustration? Self-control. Do I have to beat my body to make it my slave? Do I have to work hard even when I'm down emotionally? All for His kingdom's cause.

I wish I weren't so slow. But it's a comfort to know that I'm not the only one... if Jesus' own disciples took ages to get it even after GOD himself had told them God-knows-how many times...

Anyway, emo thoughts aside, praise God for the workshops that went well today! :) Working with Yufen to do the workshop on ... don't laugh at me... time-management. Sweet irony... but am delighted to see how the youths enjoyed the activities that Yufen and I planned for them, and whoa, really felt God's empowerment on me personally, as I started off the workshop introduction. Plus I'm very thankful for the good chemistry between me and Yufen (well, she is fun to work with haha)... and God's grace upon me even though I had a very bad streak of short-term memory lapses...

Then the brothers played Uno with the Cambodian brothers, while Esther led the girls in jewelry-making. The Cambodian bros introduced a very fun twist on the Uno game, where everyone tries to slap the '9' card if thrown... but if it's '6', you have to draw double.

And when it came to sharing about our lives... the Cambodian bros shared sincerely and openly about their lives. We were very surprised, but encouraged, by their perseverance in the face of difficulties and hardships. It really is God's work here as these bros are quieter and more reserved. Really thank God for His wonderful hand at work!

I've only described a very small bit... share more when we get back home.

Now I'm looking at the other missions team's blog. Their schedule is even heavier and tougher than ours... ours is really really really 'shiok' compared to theirs! But one thing I'm thinking about as I read through their blog, is that this is the next generation of young graduates taking a step into the field of church-planting. Julian Lee and the uni grads of his generation are now discipling a new generation of leaders who will go on to impact and change the world.

And for the *ahem* older ones like Marcus, YF, me, Esther and Spencer? I don't think we're left in the fridge... I was reflecting about it, and I think God has His plans here to stir our hearts towards community service and support ministries in one way or another. It's like seeing God do a remarkable flanking maneuver in the spiritual battlefields with multiple divisions of His army.

Personally for me, it's a great insight into the difficulties and challenges of doing community service overseas, and the planning and perseverance needed. It honestly tested me a lot, especially in the area of teamwork. But I was reminded that God prunes us so that we will become even more fruitful. And yes, this trip has served to confirm that God really has called me into children's ministry, especially ministering to children of a different culture AND language.

More to come soon...

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