Saturday, December 10, 2005
I personally do not believe in any 'call' of God to enter the ministry or mission field. The term call evokes the picture of God giving a subtle, whispering plea to special individuals and not to others. Those who are not 'called' can go about their merry way pursuing the vocation that they please while those poor Christian workers are subject to the onslaughts and trials that await them, beckoning them toward impending doom - their only consolation: you will receive treasures in heaven. There is no call in the sense that person A is supposed to engage in disciplemaking while person B need not.
The commission to make disciples of all nations is not an option for the follower of Christ. It is the very mark of what a disciple does - an absolute imperative. Taking up the cross and forsaking all for Christ's sake is not a suggestion, it's not advice!
Now, how one goes about fulfilling this command in their own individual lives precipitates into what we know as vocations and ministries. People go and do what they are gifted and led of the Lord to do. Some start businesses to advance the Kingdom of God, some go to jungle tribes, some open orphanages, others make movies. But where the explicit advance of the Kingdom of God is not seen in the vocation of an individual is where flesh and the world have cornered and choked the heart - syphoning off all evidence of personal redemption. It is to this type of man that Jesus says, "How difficult it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven!" The only vocation that is not a ministry is the one belongs to a non-Christian.
What we see a lot of in Singapore (and not alot in the west) are businesses in marriage with religion. You will hardly walk into a family business without knowing the religion of that family. Sometimes worship music is playing in the waiting room of an x-ray clinic, or the sign board of the store reads, "John 3:16 Electronics". There's someone who doesn't need a calling to 'Christian ministry' in order to advance the kingdom of heaven. (Those in the market place making Christ known, I commend you. It's a difficult job, the casualties and compromise runs high).
Having said of all this, there is a downshot. Although not everyone is meant to be a cross cultural missionary/church planter to the unreached. God is looking for volunteers. You will be successful if you go as God's passion is the wind behind your back. If it's one thing the parable of the lost sheep, coin and son is meant to teach, it's that God's heart is hotly pursuing those who are lost. You would be hard-pressed to think of any need that is more critical and urgent to God's heart than the Kingdom that has yet to be established in so many places around the world. God's heart is restless within the city walls of Christendom as long as millions live in outer darkness on the other side.
People who say they are called to missions only say that so that they can feel special or so that people will get out of their way and not question their decisions. They can blame God when the going gets tough.
People who say "I am not called" are either afraid, lazy or completely unconcerned with what concerns God most.
The Kingdom of God and what you're doing to hasten its coming: Outside of this, there is no 'calling'
Sunday, December 04, 2005
It was the most valuable thing I owned and the most expensive
gift that anyone ever gave me. I guess I'll never own another
Martin ever again.
$1350 bucks, it'll pay off my tuition and secure another
semester of Bible school. sigh - what a costly education!
My first guitar, the beat up old Seagull I bought when I was
17 is now the possession of someone else when I gave it away
for the new one.
It's good sometimes to give up our material possessions
every now and then. Good for the soul and provides a sense
of identification with the rich young ruler who was commanded
to sell all his possessions, give to the poor and follow Jesus.
One thing I noticed about that guitar, something very peculirar.
I never seemed to really feel oneness with it, like it was never
meant to be mine. I could never appreciate it, and didn't play
it as much as you would have expected. She was out of my league
I suppose - tagged along with me for a short while but could
never actually be mine forever. I was just too boring, sporting
a pathetic repertoire of open chords and same old strumming
I was so careful with her, never
strumming too hard lest I scar the wood (I've since lost some of my
strumming speed because of that too!).
I would never have been able to take her to the mission field
either. She couldn't endure the harsh conditions like the Seagull
could. That guitar went with me on a dozen mission trips in
5 different countries - i still see her every now and then
she's with a good owner now, many more adventures yet to come
Oh, the memories.
I think I'll go in search for a cheaper, more humble instrument
this time. Something I won't fear will get damaged or scratched.
A guitar that doesn't have a problem begin soaked with blood,
sweat and tears as it resonates its scratchy tones before
the throne of God.
Perhaps in some ways owning an expensive guitar for a year
made me understand how instruments and music can possess
the ability to lure you away from the unheard sounds of
heartfelt passion - the worship that is in worship and truth:
the only worship that God can hear. I became proud of owning
the most valuable guitar in school, and got caught up with
its tone quality, at time even silencing my singing
to focus more on the warm resonance. How pathetic! It's not
as if I can actually tell the difference in tone or resonance.
God, if I become a deaf and mute quadriplegic, I will still
give you all my worship and i will give you all my praise. For you
alone I long to worship, you alone are worthy of my praise.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Ah, what the hay. I'm in the writing mood this evening as the rain pours down creating a pleasant cool breeze upon my back. Oh wait, that's the fan. Well, rain is better than snow. Actually they both kinda suck.
Perhaps we shall discuss something a little lighter and down to earth - though not any less spiritual of course. Sometimes we need to practice merging our everyday lives with our spiritual ones. The fact that I need to preface my thoughts with this shows how uneasy we are talking about everyday issues in such a 'spiritual' blog. Sheesh.
So, I often wonder about my dilemma I'm in these days. Who to marry. Will I even find this girl who fulfills all these narrow criteria I impose on her? Hope she forgives me. See, as a guy I'm naturally attracted to girls who are pretty, who have clear skin, dresses well, with a great smile etc etc. Honestly speaking (and I don't believe I'm actually being so open right now) I may catch a glance at a girl and tell God, "Did you see her God, that's the kind I want!" It's probably happened enough times that God has a pretty good idea what I'm looking for.
But the problem is, these girls that I fancy are not really suitable for me. At least, I don't see how they can be. The ones that I'm attracted are often the ones that half the population are also attracted to. It's not like I'm so different in my tastes than most guys. In a word, these girls are "hot" (no need to take read this term in any sexual way ... it's a figure of speech). The problem with 'hot' girls is threefold: they are either not Christian (therefore sharing nothing in common with me), or they are either taken (happily and longtime taken), or they are the kind who would never dare to leave the city to go with me to the mission field to live in a mud hut and squat defecate. Statistically (generally, not absolutely -- please don't take any offence ladies), girls who are called by God to go to the mission field are not the most gorgeous of girls. They don't style their hair or keep close tabs on their weight. Missionary women are always saying that there are not enough Christian guys to marry. But seriously, are we the only ones to blame? God, please call more attractive girls to the mission field.
So, my conclusion. 1) God miraculous provides. Though this might cause a frenzy of competition that I could do without; 2) I lower my standards for physical attraction and stop being so primally male; 3) Celebacy? So far the best option I must say.
It’s often hard to take orders from someone, especially when you feel that person isn’t worthy to be obeyed. My experience in the army has taught me that the best leaders are the one’s who were once ‘grunts’, low-ranking soldiers who have had their experience of receiving orders, as well as scoldings and punishments. I remember people like Sargeant Johnson and LCol O'Brien. I'd go to war any day with these men and so would anyone in our company. They've been there, out in the rain, blistering their feet. We'll do whatever they say because their experience has earned our respect. They lead well because they once followed well.
A centurion beseeched Jesus to heal his beloved servant, and all that he required Jesus to do was to say the word and it would be done. Here is a man who understood authority, who was convinced that Jesus was willing and fully capable or entertaining his request. Because of Jesus’ authority, all that was needed was his word, and it would be done. Jesus had already proved himself to be worthy and completely dependable; he is infinitely worthy of respect and faithful obedience.
Is Jesus’ word enough for me to obey? Do I enthrone the power of Jesus’ command such that his word becomes my will? To the centurion, the severity of his servant’s sickness and the Lord’s physical presence at his house were inconsequential. It doesn't matter how sick he is, it doesn't matter if you come to my house or not (though I rather you do not because I am not worthy). Just say the word! And Jesus commended the Centurion's faith. Our biggest problem is not that we do not hear properly, but that we do not believe. God is only hindered in as much as we do not take him at his word.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
saying so many things, but who is listening?
does it even matter?
as long as we live in this material world
the word must become flesh.
Jesus has already demonstrated what it means for God's word
to be in line with one's life.
it is easier to speak words than perform deeds.
it is not enough to speak the truth
it must be spoken in love.
that's the hard part.
"I will follow you Jesus ... but first let me bury my father"
"I will follow you Jesus ... but first let me say goodbye"
deeds. so few deeds.
doing so few things, and how great is the need?
Lord, help me do more
and say less.
God has created you in his own image in a way that
is unlike his image in any other person. You specifically
and uniquely reflect a facet of God's image; thus, your
indivduality matters to God. to compare yourself
with another person is to duplicate that very facet
and effectively minimize God's image thereby denying
his manifold expression of his glory.
If you are a red tile in the stained glass window of
God's image, you must not compared yourself with a green
tile, nor does it make any sense to do so. They are two
different entities, made with two different sets of
characteristics or two different purposes. The red tile
must only be the red tile and function where he has
been made to function, for only there does his
characteristic find meaning. The red tile cannot wonder
why he is not a green tile, for that is only for the
green tile to share with his designer. Of importance
is only whether the red tile is being the best red tile
he can be. Whether he is fitting perfectly in his
appointed place, shining with perfect brilliance and
clarity as the light passes through. Again, it is the
light and not the tile per se that is of ultimate
significance. It was for the light that the tile was
created and it is with the light, and nothing else, that
colour is achieved and it is in the light
that beauty is beheld.
the light does take away or diminish the character of
the tile. Conversely, it reveals how truly brilliant
the tile really is. Likewise, when Christ became
incarnate into flesh, he did not substract or diminish
the essence of man; rather he revealed what man could
be and was meant to be. Conforming to Christ's image
means having Christ incarnate into our beings, which,
in no way takes robs us of our essence or unique
character. his light shining through us will reveal
how brilliant we truly are.
Monday, October 31, 2005
But then again, who isn't a hypocrite? If everyone's got an opinion that happens to be some fuzzy version of the truth, and if everyone's life is not a pure reflection of their words. How can anyone NOT be a hypocrite? Come on, let's get real. I have in a plank in my eye, and so do you. It's not that I should remove the plank from my eye to help you with your speck. Rather I should remove the plank from my eye because it's only one of many logdged in there!
The Bible, as long it remains in written form, is subject to interpretation and ambiguity. How many commentators have I read that all have something different to say about a particular passage. And let's admit it: we look to commentators and Bible scholars as our 'authority' on the scriptures. You've heard the preachers that validate their points by saying, "One commentator says that ..." Now I know I may be on the verge of sliding into some Neo Orthodox theology in the vein of Karl Barth, but all I'm saying is, no one's got the truth, even though it does exist.
I don't think Truth can possibly exist outside of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. All intellectual and rhetorical reasonings are fluff as we have seen that many people profound idiots have written many books and received many PhD's. I'm being more and more convicted that the attribution of truth is not in the grandeur of your analytical skills, but in your humility and willingness to listen to Jesus and obey Jesus.
Now, I'm not saying that everyone's opinion is erroneous or untrue - certainly we can discern the truth in statements. We all know the danger of being a skeptic to truth, because we would be forced to be a skeptic of our own minds and thoughts.
God knows that we don't all have it together and it's ok. That's why he calls us to daily fellowship with and dependence on Him. Let's get back to the person behind the Bible, let's get back to the God of all reasoning and truth. He's got it all together.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Probably what God wants more than people who think they know something, is people who do something. Conduct – at the end of the day this is what matters to God. On judgment day, God will never ask us what philosophy we were able to comprehend, or what concepts we conjured up. Rather he’ll say, “I know your works!” Even as I sit hear writing, all I can think of is who will read this and say, “wow, what deep thoughts!” what a wretched man I am! Sure, we gotta use our brains, they are an indispensable tool and weapon in our spirituality, but thinking thoughts for the sake of impressing others is completely missing the point and is pride par excellence - even if it is theology and apologetics that you have mastered. According to Romans 12, renewing our minds is a function of already having offered our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. The discernment of the will of God comes after the body has been offered to God in worship - this is talking about deeds! How ashamed would I be if I were to fill my head with brilliant ideas, but to leave my hands empty and unused for God’s purposes!
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Now, I'm no open theist. God is not a learning new things and experiencing the future with the same degree of surprise as we do. That is just plain unbiblical. But, I'm sure there's room in our theology for a God that experiences time in some sense or another. There had to have been an interval between God deciding to create the world and God deciding to redeem it from its sin.
Let's slow down in our lofty thoughts about God before we make Him into a being that we can neither really know or relate with.
Monday, October 17, 2005
How do we know this? First all, he said so in Matt. 24:14, "This gospel will be preached as a testimony to all nations, then the end will come." Secondly, Rev. 7:9 says that around the throne are peoples from every tribe and tongue. So let's get this into our heads. JESUS AIN'T COMING BACK TILL ALL THE ETHNIC PEOPLES HEAR THE GOSPEL. Now, can anyone tell me what implication that has for those who want Jesus to come back? Well, from my understanding, we should get our butts in gear and preach to the unreached.
But who are the unreached? Missiologists define them as people groups that do not yet have a church planted among them. Fine and well, but all too often this definition means those peoples who don't have many Christians. But, let's examine what 'unreached' really means. It seems to be, by the very semantics of the word, 'unreached' means those groups who have yet to have been reached with the gospel. It does not mean those with minimal exposure to the gospel, but those without any exposure to the gospel. So, Han Chinese, Thais, Cambodian, Indonesians, for the most part, are not unreached - they simply don't have many Christian converts. As long as one person from an ethnic group has heard the Gospel, they are reached. Now, that only leaves those small and neglected tribes out there in the jungles who are largely uncivilized. They are the ones truly unreached and untouched by the gospel. You would think hoardes of missionaries would be clamouring for the chance to reach these groups, but not so.
I think we're totally missing the point altogether. We spend all our money and efforts plugging away at the millions of 'unreached' in Asian countries trying to get the numbers up, when it's not numbers of individuals that is most critical per se, but varieties of peoples. While we try our darndest to evangelize those groups who already have converts in their number, entire tribal groups in the Amazon and Papua New Guinea are so far from the Gospel, that they don't have a single word of the Bible written in their native language nor the luxury of hearing Jesus' name ring in their ears even once. The languages of these people are not being heard in heaven, and Jesus isn't coming back until they are.
If the truths of the gospel were to be put in economic terms, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Why is so much being done to feed those who already have so much while generation after generation of genuinely unreached tribes perish? 2000 years of feeding the fat cats at home when we were supposed to be going to the farthest end of the earth - we ought to be ashamed.
Robin Hood was one who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. We need more of those in missions today. Once all the nations have been accounted for, then work on getting the numbers and the quality up. Doesn't this make sense?
Friday, September 30, 2005
1. God is supreme, in complete control over everything.
2. God never loses a bet, no matter how bad it may seem.
3. It's ok to attribute every little thing to the hand of God. He's certainly not threatened by the claim that he is ultimately (not directly) responsible for everything that happens: good, bad and ugly. I think we're more offended at that idea than God is.
4. God's looking out for our best even if he needs to find it in the crappiest of places.
5. God is much bigger, much better than we can ever know.
Here's another cool thing. I took a break from writing this paper cause i needed to go get my guitar back from my cousin who borrowed. With my head filled with material I was writing, i decided to pray that God sovereignly send the 855 bus just as i got to the stop. Surely enough... absolutely perfect timing. We hit the curb at the exact same moment. There was no pause in my cadence from walking to the bus stop to stepping on the bus.
Here's another cool thing. On my way to my cousin's place, i pray again. God, let a taxi meet me on my way back. Surely enough ... exact moment I walked onto the sidewalk. Mr Taxi is driving by, no passengers. Perfect God - perfectly illustrating in deed what i had just learned in his word . He sees, he knows. He makes things happen. This is the God you can trust in.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
But here's the thing: has there ever been an era in human history which did not resist true Christianity? In what sort of religious milleiu did the Church begin? I'm not a Church historian, but from my understanding, first century Roman empire and today's postmodernity had at least a few things in common. One thing is that the Romans governed territories which held many different beliefs, which could be inferred, that they wanted to keep the peace in a religious sense - everyone can have their own beliefs, just keep it to yourself. Secondly, I think the Roman empire wasn't very fond of Christianity in its early days. It was a religion that was highly suspect, a disease among the people. And so in this sort of "postmodern Roman empire", what do we see the Church doing?
I see people like Paul preaching and debating fiercely with the people in synagogues, on the street, in public squares. I see apostles who appeared before Kings and proclaiming the Gospel, not doing friendship evangelism. How "insensitive" of them! I see a Church who was aggressive in engaging with their culture and environment and did not blend in and compromise their convictions in order to be "relevant" with the world, or to potentially gain more converts. They were being the Church and the world and was not loving anything of the world, not even the culture, and the world was certainly changing. So have things really changed that much since then? Maybe we might be a little more effective if we began smearing our faces red with war paint instead of looking and thinking like everyone else. Jesus loved the world enough to incarnate himself into it, but he loved it too much to keep it the same
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Oh that we would become a little more like our maker and take a few drastically audacious steps every now and then - after all, it is not that God is like us, but that we are like God. He took the cosmological nose-dive into the dark abyss called time, matter and space. He lived the greatest life and suffered the worst death all for the thrill of his glory revealed when God would be manifested to the world in all his fullness.
Sometimes I find myself lowering my volume on a crowded bus when the topic of God comes up with friends. I find myself wanting to be accepted by people before I confront them with the truth of the gospel that they are dead in their sins and must repent. Christians in Singapore are so careful with the 'no-Christian gatherings' laws that they spent huge amounts of time and energy putting on fun and tiring activites for the community who doesn't even know that it was Christians who put it on. So, in effect whatever roads were paved with the gospel was snowed over before we weren't willing to engage society and make a name for Christ.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
At the end of the day, those who believe in God were not convinced from philosophical argumentation, but from a deep and personal sense of the presence of God. We believe because we simply do, because we cannot deny it, because we've experience him. Now all these may seem purely subjective and invalid as logical proofs, but who gives a damn? The only person who needs convincing is already convinced.
The existence of God and the Bible as God's word need nothing more than the argument: It is. Just because. It's like when your dad asks you to do something using his sheer authority and identity as his reason, "because I said so!" God started it all, not us with our tiny peanut brains. His word is the revelation of him because it is. These things should just be accepted as a matter of fact, but unfortunately we need to accommodate a world hungry for reasons and questioning everything. Proofs usually mean stating the preceding arguments that lead to a conclusion, but with God and his word, there is nothing previous to him that can be used as a reference point. He is it! The Bible said it best: In the beginning, God.
Friday, September 09, 2005
So I was walking the other day and my sandal tears in half ... darnit. I go to the Bata shoe store to pick up another pair of cheap slippers and decide to make a change to a flashy-looking blue pair with a red and white trim; the sole's even got some of those reflexology pressure point bumps that tickles when you walk. So I buy it, put in on and walk out. No sooner do I walk about 100 meters that I find that the straps are rubbing the skin right off the dorsal aspect of my feet. Ouch!
A couple of days of that torture, and I've had it. I go and buy the same pair that I wore before: A modest grey slipper with blue trim, 10 bucks, good to go. Feels great. Feels familiar. Why did I ever think that I could find anything better than the one I already had? How much more perfect could something be?
Those who have ears ... let them hear.
On the other hand, there is change. I got a hold of a Canada friend's web link to some of her pictures of the old London gang and my beloved home town. As I scanned through the pictures, old sights were seen and even old jokes replayed. I could almost smell what home was like and what the chatter would have been about. Then I realized one thing: I will never be home again - not in the same sense anyway. I've gone too far from the "Shire" and there's no turning back. Asia is home now, even if no previous acquaintances ever see me again. No more returning to that comfort of North American pleasure-seeking. No more competing to get into a program with hopes of becoming successful, settle down, buy and house and car, get married, have 2.5 kids, host dinner parties and go to the cottage during paid vacations. Nope.
Lord, let my blood be spilled on Asian soil to nourish a church that follows hard after you.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
There are two things that the church is doing these days. First, it is trying to get something out of God. Whether it's wanting to experience a new sensation during their worship time, how to be financially prosperous, a good leader, a better wife or husband, competent decision maker, skillful professional, wiser thinker, we're looking for God to fill in the gaps of our lives which are lacking. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these things. They are in fact noble and worth pursuing as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
The second thing the church is doing is finding ways of doing something for God. Whether it's mission, teaching sunday school, volunteering at a fundraising function, we are wanting to serve God. Most people are doing it for good reasons, some are not, but no doubt God is still using imperfect people with imperfect motives to advance his kingdom.
Here's the problem. Between wanting something from God and doing something for God is a gap which receives very little attention. GOD. Notice how quick we are in our sermons to jump to the conclusion, and that conclusion had better be the part where we discover how this affects my life. The good sermon is relevant for the here and now and must have application. This is true to some extent but what kind of application is valid? Why isn't the Church studying the Eternal, Triune God any longer? Why has the appetite for theology proper been replaced by a demand for theology practical? Surely it cannot be that the Church feels they have grasped the fundamentals of knowledge of God that is necessary for life; that we've somehow arrived with adequate knowledge of God suitable to carry on with our more pertinent daily issues.
We are worshipping God out of shear ignorance and has been reduced to sentimentality instead of reverent awe. Buddy-Christ mentality has infiltrated Christendom and the Triune God has become minimized and not magnified. When our view of God diminishes, worship suffers, missions suffers, holiness degrades, and the unsaved world turns their head totally unimpressed. Doesn't this sound like a description of today's church?
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
And so, I would have to repent of some of my words and acknowledge that I will never be completely honest and open with all that's going on inside the cistern of my heart - sometimes because I will rather wish to paint myself in a better light than I ought (pride), or omit information because I simply do not really know myself like God does (ignorance).
Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, so please indulge me. My posts will often be flaky and shallow. A whine here and a character assassination there. I will often cover up my true weaknesses and exaggerate my achievements; I will often think highly of my ideas as if they were original masterpieces and criticise the thoughts of others.
Change my heart O God, make it ever true. Change my heart O God, make me more like you.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
The Psalmist says, "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me ..." The question is whether I know myself; whether I'm willing to delve into the darkest pits of well-concealed secrets and thoughts that are too taboo to mention lest people think less of me. Am I willing to ponder myself, ponder God, ponder life as honestly as I know how? To speak from a mind that is fundamentally depraved and crying out to renewed to the likeness and submission of Jesus Christ? Am I willing to go out on a limb and be wrong with most of what I think, so that in humility I may change the erroneous pattern of thinking that I have embraced so dearly? As I reflect on life will not God's spirit illuminate my heart to truth although every cell of grey matter in my brain may fight to eradicate it?
In the same that deep calls out to deep, I believe that truth calls out to truth.