Tuesday, November 13, 2007
God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to Him, "Lord, we don't need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing.
In other words, we can now do what you did in the 'beginning'."
"Oh, is that so? Tell me..." replies God."Well", says the scientist, "we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man."
"Well, that's interesting. Show Me. "So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil."Oh no, no, no..." interrupts God, "Get your own dirt."
Sunday, October 21, 2007
However, I have been having trouble reconciling this in a religious light. I thought to myself, as I was watching the violence on television, what happened to the souls of the dead?
In Christianity, we believe that all who do not obey the call of God are doomed to eternity in hell. My first instinctive thought was to regret that we are not able to go to Myanmar and preach to these monks; save the souls of these courageous and good-hearted people who, apart from having devoted their lives to the service of a god they believe in, have grasped the concept of an after-life enough to sacrifice themselves for the well being of Myanmar's citizens. That's something we Christians should strive for.
But then I got to thinking, how great would our preaching to them be? If one of these monks were to accept Christianity, would he be as zealous in his religion as he is now? I don't think it's about the personality. Otherwise we would have as many monks as we have Christian preachers. Somehow, it seems that there is a flaw in our religion, or perhaps in the way we practise it.
In Buddhism, to give up one's secular life for monkhood is revered. Look at how the Thais and the Burmese treat men of the cloth. In the Christian society, however, we don't exactly foster devotion to God. In fact, we don't foster devotion to much. It seems that there really isn't as much meaning in Christianity as there is in the devotion of the monks.
I'm not really sure how to make sense of my thoughts, and I hope to invite others to share their thoughts on this subject. It would help my faith, and perhaps the faith of others out there.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
(1) Money cannot buy love. Way back in the 1960s the Beatles were singing, "I don't care too much for money, 'cause money can't buy me love." It was true then, and it is still true now. Money may impress folks and attract them to a money-possessing person, but money cannot buy genuine love. Young people, are you listening?
(2) Money doesn't grow on trees. How many times did we hear our parents tell us that when we wanted something that we could not afford? Because it is true that money does not grow on trees and we cannot have it at the snap of our fingers, then we need to be good stewards with the funds that God has placed in our hands (1 Corinthians 4:2). Our Lord says, "Owe no man anything" (Romans 13:8). Christians ought not to use credit cards to the extent that they get themselves into debt that they cannot pay off.
(3) Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). The love of money is covetousness, and covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Such a love affair with material riches has ruined friendships, marriages, and even congregations. How sad.
(4) Money never has and never will save a soul. Money can be used to help support the preaching of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:8, 9). It is also an instrument that assists us in edifying the faithful, but still, money cannot save souls.
(5) Money will not accompany us when we leave this world. Regardless of how much money one has, the money stays behind—you can't take it with you. "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out" (1 Timothy 6:7).
(6) Money is not success, and success is not possessing money. Oh, if we could only help folks, including ourselves at times, see this point! Some rich people will go to hell. Some poor folks will go to heaven. One's eternal destiny is not determined by his/her financial status. You want success, you say? Then listen carefully to what the Lord once told Joshua: "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Joshua 1:8). THAT is true success.
Let each of us resolve to accept the truth about money, and in the process beware of "the deceitfulness of riches" (Mark 4:19). —Roger D. Campbell
Thursday, August 23, 2007
1. Wake Up!! Decide to have a good day. "Today is the day the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalms 118:24
2.Dress Up!! The best way to dress up is to put on a smile. A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks. "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance; but the Lord looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:7
3.Shut Up!! Say nice things and learn to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking. "He who guards his lips guards his soul." Proverbs 13:3
4 .Stand Up!!... For what you believe in. Stand for something or you will fall for anything.. "Let us not be weary in doing good; for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good..." Galatians 6:9-10
5.Look Up!!... To the Lord. "I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me." Phillippians 4:13 6. Reach Up!!... For something higher. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, And He will direct your path." Proverbs 3:5-6
7.Lift Up!!... Your Prayers. "Do not worry about anything; instead PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING." Philippians 4:6
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
First, you come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses....
FOR THE GARDEN OF YOUR DAILY LIVING ,
PLANT THREE ROWS OF PEAS:
1. Peace of mind
2. Peace of heart
3. Peace of soul
PLANT FOUR ROWS OF SQUASH:
1. Squash gossip
2. Squash indifference
3. Squash grumbling
4. Squash selfishness
PLANT FOUR ROWS OF LETTUCE(Let Us):
1. Lettuce be faithful
2. Lettuce be kind
3.Lettuce be patient
4.Lettuce really love one another
NO GARDEN IS WITHOUT TURNIPS(Turn Up):
1. Turnip for meetings
2. Turnip for service
3. Turnip to help one another
TO CONCLUDE OUR GARDEN WE MUST HAVE THYME(Time):
1. Thyme for each other
2. Thyme for family
3. Thyme for friends
WATER FREELY WITH PATIENCE AND CULTIVATE WITH LOVE.
THERE IS MUCH FRUIT IN YOUR GARDEN BECAUSE YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
How we get to heaven
Adapted from an article by JOHNNY C. GO, SJ
Most of you would be familiar with the scene from the first Harry Potter movie (or book) in which Harry and all his schoolmates are made to put on an old, ragged-looking hat called the “Sorting Hat”.
The hat is a magical one and possesses the ability to look inside its wearer’s head and access his or her inner thoughts. It is this hat that decides which “house” students enter in their new magic school Hogwarts – whether they are grouped with the wise Ravenclaws, or the humble Hufflepuffs, the sly Slytherins or the courageous Gryffindors.
In a way, the Day of Judgement is probably going to be something similar. We’ll on stand nervously in lines, in much the same frame of mind as a pupil on a first day of school (though perhaps a great deal more afraid). We’ll all worry about where we might be sorted to – heaven or hell. And we’ll all dread what the “Sorting Hat” will see when he takes a look into our head.
Of course, the “Sorting Hat” in this scenario will be none other than our excellent, omniscient Father in Heaven. And most likely God will poke about inside our heads and our hearts to see where we’ll fit in better.
But if you recall again how the hat sorted Harry Potter into Gryffindor, you will notice one very important thing. The ultimate choice of where to put Harry Potter was not actually made by the hat, but rather by Potter himself who inwardly pleaded with the hat not to put him in Slytherin. It was a CHOICE.
I’m not saying that there will be people on that day itself who will be pleading with God not to put them in heaven. And of course, it isn’t as easy as telling God we choose to go to heaven. Instead of thinking of that all-important choice as a one-time decision on the Judgement Day, we need to think of that choice as a daily one.
Our choice of whether or not we want to go to heaven will be the sum total of every single choice we make every single day of our lives. Every time we choose to wake up early to attend a service on Sunday morning, we are telling God that we choose to go to heaven. On the flipside, each time we choose to sleep in, it is the equivalent of telling God that we’d rather enjoy our pleasures now and don’t mind suffering for them later.
This article was especially insightful for me because it brought me to the realisation that every choice we make in life counts towards our striving towards the goal. It isn’t enough just to attend services every Sunday, be nice to people around me and read my Bible daily. Instead, I now realise that every single decision I make has to reflect that I have put my God first.
Perhaps that doesn’t sound too difficult on paper. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that a lot of the decisions I make on a daily basis are not very well thought out. Instead, I find myself labouring a lot over things that ultimately aren’t going to matter much in the end.
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. – John 6:27That pretty much sums up how we spend our lives, I think. I wake up early every morning to work out because this preserves my earthly body. I spend the next ten hours at a desk labouring for the bread that feeds that same earthly body. After work, I come home too tired to do much else that is very important. Of the 16 hours I spend awake each day, I think only about two hours are spent on God. If I sum that up, the total isn’t a good tally for the heavenward side.
I could always argue that looking after my body and my health is a commandment of the Bible. People always use 1 Corinthians 6:19 to argue that since our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, we must not harm it but should instead take care of it. But the subsequent verse says that the body is to be used to glorify God.
And I could argue that it is also a commandment in the Bible to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). But although the Bible says that Paul worked for his own bread, the Bible also tells us that he made many mission trips and we can definitely infer that Paul spent a large part of his life devoted to God and the only reason he worked was so that he could continue spreading the word – which is definitely not the reason I am working though I think it should be.
The golden mean
Obviously, the answer to my quandary is to seek moderation. That’s easier said than done though. Since joining the working force in May last year, I have been struggling with this balance. Trying to fit my work goals and my personal goals and my spiritual goals into one page has been an uphill job and I don’t think that I have gotten any better at it despite over half a year of trying.
I’m still seeking the right road, trying to make the right choices myself. So this article is by no means a sharing of wise words: being so young I profess to have none. Perhaps I’m voicing out something that other people my age are experiencing as they make an effort to feel their way around and carve their place out in this materialistic world.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Most of the students spent less than an hour out of the 15 waking hours doing something for God. In fact, most of them spent less than half an hour. They only made it past an hour when I added chores as something you do for God (because it's part of honouring their parents I think).
But I think often we older youth are all the more guilty of spending less and less time on God. On Saturdays, I spend about four hours cleaning. Another four hours or so reading or doing things that I didn't have time to do during the week (like filing my bank correspondence or writing letters). This month, I have also spent a lot of time preparing for my classes, on average about five hours. So I guess that is good. And thanks to Jon, there is usually something on at church on Saturday that I take part in. So far, I think my weekends are pretty balanced.
Lately, however, the weekdays have been merging into an endless work blur. My editor recently said to me, "Joan, after a while work and life just merge into one." I protested at that, but I realise it has become true. Apart from the occasional run in the morning, the time I try to allot to Bible study (but usually fail) and my eating and showers, there seems to be no time to do anything else. I've been working longer and longer hours as the workload increases.
To that end, I am now making a resolution to spend less time at work. To try harder to make the work-life balance an actual balance instead of a permanently upended scale. And I suppose for those who are studying, it becomes a study-life balance. Count the hours and see whether it's worth it. Because ultimately, there is no earth-heaven balance. It's eternity.
Monday, March 12, 2007
I was testing the children in my Sunday school class to see if they understood the concept of getting to heaven.
I asked them, "If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage saleand gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?"
"NO!" the children answered.
"If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?"
Again, the answer was, "NO!"
By now I was starting to smile. Hey, this was fun!
"Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children and loved my husband,would that get me into Heaven?"I asked them again.
Again, they all answered, "NO!"
I was just bursting with pride for them.
"Well," I continued, "then how can I get into Heaven?"
A five-year-old boy shouted out,"YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!"Just for laughs =)
And it is only through these lessons that we learn about life, people, relationships and God.
WHEN SOMEONE LIES TO YOU, it teaches you that things are not always as they seem.The truth is often far beneath the surface. Look masks people wear if you want to know their heart.And remove your own masks to let people know yours.
WHEN SOMEONE STEALS FROM YOU, it teaches you that nothing is forever. Always appreciate what you have, for you never know when you might lose it. And never, ever take your friends and family for granted because today is the only guarantee you have.
WHEN SOMEONE INFLICTS AN INJURY UPON YOU, it teaches you that the human state is a fragile one. Protect and take care of your body as best you can, it's the only thing you are sure to have forever.
WHEN SOMEONE MOCKS YOU, it teaches you that no two people are alike. When you encounter people who are different from you, don't judge them by how they look or act; instead base your opinion on the contents of their heart.
WHEN SOMEONE BREAKS YOUR HEART, it teaches you that loving someone does not always mean that person will love you back. But don't turn your back on love because when you find the right person, the joy that one person brings will make up for all the past hurts put together. A hundredfold!
WHEN SOMEONE HOLDS A GRUDGE AGAINST YOU, it teaches you that everyone makes mistakes. When you are wronged, the most virtuous thing you can do is forgive the offender without pretense. Forgiving those who have hurt us is the most difficult and courageous thing Man can do.
WHEN A LOVED ONE IS UNFAITHFUL TO YOU, it teaches you that resisting temptation is Man's greatest challenge. Be vigilant in your existance against all temptation. By doing so you will be rewarded with an enduring sense of satisfaction far greater than the temporary pleasure by which you were tempted.
WHEN SOMEONE CHEATS ON YOU, it teaches you that greed is the root of all evil. Aspire to make your dreams come true, no matter how lofty they may be. Do not feel guilty about our success, but never let an obsession with achieving your goals lead you to engage in malevolent activities.
WHEN SOMEONE RIDICULES YOU, it teaches you that nobody is perfect. Accept people for their merits and be tolerant of their flaws. Do not ever reject someone for imperfections over which they have no control. Man's capacity to love is the greatest gift he has. At the root of all kindness is love.
EACH ACT OF LOVE ALSO TEACHES US A LESSON.
WHEN SOMEONE LOVES US, it teaches us that love, kindness, charity, honesty, humility, forgiveness and acceptance can counteract all the evil in the world. For every good deed, there is one less evil deed. Man alone has the power to control the balance between good and evil, but because the lessons of love are not taught often enough, the power is too often abused. When you enter someone's life, whether by plan, chance or coincidence, CONSIDER WHAT YOUR LESSON WILL BE. Will you teach love or a harsh lesson of reality? When you die will your life have resulted in more loving or hurting? More comfort or pain? More joy or sadness?Each one of us has power over the balance of love in the world. Use it wisely. Don't miss an opportunity to nudge the world's scale in the right direction. "A man can't stop people from having a bad opinion about him but he can stop them from being right."
Monday, January 01, 2007
I don't know if I should be saying this but Happy New Year. I know You are eternal and not bound by time and all that but I also know that You ask Your children to share their joys with You.
Honestly, I am not all that joyful. I'm all alone this year, my friends have all gone home to their respective home towns (and home countries) and the few who remained wanted to go home after dinner and so I all I did was walk around the city alone. It was quite pathetic but I guess I just didn't want to feel alone. This is after all, my first new year away from family and friends.
The city was teeming with revellers partying the night away. Cars were jammed throughout and honking loudly; some because they were stuck, others because it was the new year. The noise was deafening. Of course, there were the drunkards, the fights and those who popped one too many pills. The police had to patrol just in case. I was glad that at least I did not have to drink myself silly to celebrate anything.
But in my soberness I saw the homeless, those who huddled in dark corners with what little clothes and dignity they had, while the throngs walked past. I thank You Lord, so much, that You have blessed me so richly. For although for this one short period I am alone, I have a bed, and warmth. My heart aches at the thought of those who have to suffer the cold and ask for change. While the rest of the city celebrates, their backs rest on chilly stone and they brave the wind (and it is windy tonight!). It is awful to be homeless. To be homeless in a cold country is worse. To be homeless in a cold country during the festive season is unfathomable. Bless them dear Lord. Please bless them.
Today at service I heard about resolutions and the preacher noted well that resolutions almost always involve only ourselves, in a sense that no one else is part of the resolution making process and hence we are only accountable to ourselves. Which is why they are so hard to keep; no one keeps tabs on us, we don't answer to anyone for failure. No one else is going to make sure we loose weight, or spend less or work harder.
And then he went on to speak of covenants, promises we keep not to ourselves but to others. He spoke of Your covenant with the Israelites in the Old Testament and the new promise of salvation in Christ. And he noted how in a covenant, both parties must keep to their end of the promise for the covenant to be upheld. And he asked us to review how we are keeping our part of the commitment to be faithful Christians, how we fared the past year, and how we will perform in the next.
Well, I did not make any resolutions this year. No point; I know from experience that five minutes after the clock strikes 12 the first one will go with a Cadbury bar and 1 month later I still would not have jogged but still be buying fruit and nut bars. So I didn't bother.
But I did think about the past year and the coming year, and how You fit into the picture, as the preacher suggested. I have many things to be happy for. I had an immensely enjoyable (albeit hectic) year at my university college in KL, mainly because I found friends there who truly accept me and love me. And I made it to the uni I wanted to go to. For these blessings, I am truly thankful.
My grandfather passed on this year, that was sad for so many of us, but I accept that it was his time, and that we have to move on.
But as always, I have things in the future to be worried about. As this year marks my 20th year of existence on Earth, I draw ever closer to the harsh and very real responsibilities of adulthood, and ever further from the ideals and childish things of youth. I don't know if I'm ready to be an adult, honestly. Or if I want to for that matter. I still am not fully certain what to do with my life. On the lower end of worries (though they are no less problematic for me), I'm finding my social life here not exactly as simple and manageable as I had hoped. My exams are coming near. I am stressed. I ask that You help me and guide me through all this.
As for my performance as a Christian, well, I have somethings to be proud off, and some things to be, well, not proud off.
I think I've tried making a positive change in others over the past year, especially the youth in Klang and Malaysia. I tried some rousing speeches that I think they did make a difference; but as far as I know, not a lasting one. Talk is cheap. Maybe I should have done more and talked less?
I started a group blog, with lofty aspirations and dreams that this time, yes, this time I've got on to something. But even as my administrative partner and I tried to recruit others to the team and strategise more on how to draw readers, we got caught up with our own lives, more so myself than her. The writers we had seemed to need huge invitations sent to their doorsteps to get any posts, and soon I lost momentum and shortly after that enthusiasm.
But, well, I went to church often last year, I guess I prayed here and there, I was quite nice to most people; I guess I was ok as a human being. But year after year, it's just ok, and that just doesn't cut it. I know You expect more of me than ok. Church became almost routine, that can't be ok. Prayers were lifeless, faithless, that can't be ok. You were moving more and more out of my life rather than into it. That's surely not ok.
I lost interest in so many things that I should not have lost interest in, I became more and more nonchalant about my faith and spirituality. I should have been looking for more to do but I rested on what I did, and, more often than not, was defeated by what I had failed in doing. I was, slowly but surely, becoming what I always saw in other youth as a terrible thing. I became the indifferent, passive, do-the-minimum, unloving person I spoke against. I joined those I could not beat.
But coming here has made me open my eyes to a different congregation and how they live their lives and worship, to a different society and it's cultures, and to a way of life that relies on me (and only me) to be accountable to my conscience and to You, no longer under the eyes of other Christians or parents. It's harder to go to church but I still try hard to make it. It's a (much) smaller congregation but I am trying to cope.
But Lord, let the next year be one where I go the extra mile. Let it not be 'ok' but 'great'. Let it be one where You lead the way, where my trust is in You, fully. Help me to be a better person and Christian. Help me glorify You in my life by doing more charity, showing more love to other and thinking less of myself, by being more patient, by being a better example to others. Help me learn more about my faith, and take an active interest in the religion I profess. I know I can be better. I know I've said all this countless times before, but give me one more chance this time. I cannot be perfect, I will fail in some ways, I know that, but I will try.
Lord, be next to me, show me the way. Light up the steps in front of me, but more than that guide me to the path beyond because it is that which I fear the most, the uncertainty of the future.
And by the way, I'd really like to pray for world peace too, but this time I will start with giving more to the homeless. Help me do that, Lord.
Help me keep my part of the promise. Because I know You will.
Dear Lord, Happy New Year.
In His Name, Amen.
Happy New Year to the Sparks team all all readers! :) May you have a blessed year ahead.
Sunday, December 31, 2006
This year, I think that we (meaning the contributors and readers of this blog) should make an effort to make God and Christianity a larger part of our lives. Instead of just being Sunday Christians (and Thursday or Friday Christians as well for those who attend mid-week services) let us try to be Christians every day of our lives.
How can we do that? Here are some suggestions that I will be endeavouring to implement in my own life for 2007.
1. Immerse yourself in the word - Read the Bible daily and study it. Better still, do it with a partner. My dad has been e-mailing me these Bible study questions every week and I think the questions are quite useful because it aids the studying process. If anyone would like these questions, do let me know.
2. Spend more time with church people - That means spending less time with people of the world. When I first came to Singapore, I noticed that I had very little time to do my own things or have "Me Time". A lot of the reason was because the congregation here at Lim Ah Pin has activities almost every week. And we attend all of them. In the beginning, I found it quite tiresome. But after some reflection, I realised that spending time with members of the Lord's church would be better than spending time with people outside the church.
3. Do more things for God - Look for ways to serve in church, no matter how small. Someone has to wash the cups from communion. Someone has to sweep the leaves that clog up the drain. Someone has to write articles for the church bulletin. There are always ways we can help if we just ask. And helping out gives you a sense of belonging.
4. Stop giving excuses - Nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, is more important than God. Lots of people don't realise this and so they give excuses such as: "I have to go for tuition" or "I have to study because my exam is near" or "I have some school activities". It is all right to give these excuses occasionally. But remember, there is no such thing as optional in Christianity. If you know something is good and you don't do it, that is wrong (James 4:17).
5. "Let no man despise thy youth" - I Timothy 4:12 may be over-referenced; but there is a reason why. Much as the world may hate to admit it, the youth are the driving force of the world because unlike the seasoned adults, we are daring and unconventional. Notice that the youth groups are almost always more active than the adult groups. So there is much we can do even if we haven't much of a say in the way congregations are run.
Have a good New Year. May the good Lord bless us all in 2007 and the years to come.
Friday, October 20, 2006
A nice story to share with you.
He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work
on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across
the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops.
As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received A steady
stream of refusals.
Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer.
"Are you a good farm hand?" the farmer asked him.
"Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man.
Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, Hired him.
The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the
farmer felt satisfied with the man's work.
Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore.
Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the
hired hand's sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, "Get up!
A storm is coming!
Tie things down before they blow away!"
The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, "No sir. I told you, I
can sleep when the wind blows."
Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot.
Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm.
To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered
with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops,
and the doors were barred.
The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down.
Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.
When you're prepared, spiritually, mentally, and physically, you have
nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life?
The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the
farm against the storm.
We secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves in the
Word of God.
We don't need to understand, we just need to hold His hand to have peace in
the middle of storms.
SEE YOU GUYS AT YDP!!!!!
In Christian Faith,
Jonathan Yang Zijie
Monday, July 10, 2006
... three one, three two, three three, BANG!
Check, Turn, Check, BANG!
Look up, straight ahead;
Heads tilt up, on parade.
Lance in hand,
This test of will,
Up in the clouded sky,
Planes flying high;
Rolling tape reels,
Yet standing still.
Legs and arms cramp,
Pain through the heels;
I'm standing still.
In the blazing heat,
The bass drum beats;
On my burning feet,
Taking my retreat.
If asked to do again,
Through sunshine & rain;
Me, Standing still,
I know I will.
Being involved in the national day celebrations, has allowed me to draw much similarity between our Christian lives in general, and Faith in particular, with being on parade.
Being on parade, you have to be still, unwavering and looking smart and proud. Not even paying heed to the various distractions around you, be it the crowd, the beat of the music, the aircraft flying a mile above your head, the journalists walking around you trying to take pictures etc etc.
Uncomfortable your position may be, with your wet uniform and cramping muscles, you are expected not to move or fidget, relying on your focus and paid attention to the task to carry you through the parade. Only when the final drum roll is played are you permitted to move off.
Our Christian walk is like being on parade. We are to be unwavering in our faith, through all the trials and tribulations (represented by the rain, heat, wet uniform etc) as well as the distractions that abound (represented by the rolling tapes of the media, the spectators, the lights, the glitz, the "important" people who pass you by, and so on).
Until the moment that we are to retire from this present life (our sounded retreat by the drum beat), we shall not be moved... just like a tree planted by the water's side. We SHALL NOT and MUST NOT be moved.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.”
“But the word of the Lord endureth forever.” – 1 Pet. 1:24
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. (Gen. 1:1, Rev. 22:13).
God the Father spoke the world into existence, and God the Son shall judge it one day. Between Genesis and Revelation, God has always been there. And God will always be. Generations have lived and died, nations have risen and fallen, yet our all-powerful, all-knowing God is still there. Time and again, men have tried to ignore the presence of God, have deviated from the truth of God’s word, and tried to destroy His word.
He is still there, His word is still there. And nothing, nothing, can erase the existence of God.
For some reason, men think that they can deny the existence of God. Back in the days of the Old Testament, pagan worshippers tried their best. If I recall correctly, God sent the fire when Elijah prayed…not the worshippers of Baal. How about during time of the
But guess what? The Bible is the number one selling book every year. A few years ago, it was recorded to be the most translated book in the world. But of course, the media doesn’t want you to know that. Let’ see…oh! It’s Dan Brown and his Da Vinci’s Code. New York Times bestseller. But did they tell you that it’s also one of the greatest mockeries of God’s word? No, they wouldn’t tell you that. Where’s Mr. Brown going to make his money?
But, this I know. One day, the name Dan Brown will be a distant memory. One day, The Da Vinci Code will be taken off the bookshelves of your local bookseller to make way for yet another bestseller. And God’s word will still be there…as it has always been. (please refer to the excellent article below about the fallacies of Brown’s Da Vinci Code written by Victoria Chang for more information about this book).
Praise our Lord for His marvelous word which we have today, and by which we have hope and our salvation.
All else will fail…but the word of the Lord endureth forever.
Friday, June 09, 2006
1. "Did Jesus REALLY marry Mary Magdalene?"
2. "Can the Bible really be trusted?"
3. "How do we know that the Scriptures in the Bible today are true ones?"
Being the young and insensitive Christian that I was (perhaps still am), I dismissed their questions with an airy wave and pointed out to them the small print in "The Da Vinci Code" book, which stated that the book was merely a work of fiction.
Seriously. At first I felt that people were making too much of a big deal out of this book. After all, Dan Brown's idea of the Holy Grail being the bones of Mary Magdalene wasn't a new one. And I coudn't really relate to the big fuss that was made over the Holy Grail. After all, I am sure Jesus isn't taking kindly to the fact that people seem to believe in the 'power' of an ordinary cup he was drinking from at the Last upper rather than believing in HIS power and prestige as the Son of God.
It was only much later that I realised that as ficticious the book may be, it was SERIOUSLY misleading many of the close non-christian friends I have been trying to encourage to enter the Lord's family. Which is why I find it vital to address this situation here, in this article.
First of all, Jesus was NO ORDINARY man. He did things that a man can never achieve. He walked on water. He turned water into wine. He healed the blind. He raised Lazarus from the dead.
And those things that he did weren't merely parlour tricks. They were MIRACLES. In Colossians 2:9, we read of Jesus being fully man and yet fully God, "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
Jesus, being the son of God, was the perfect man. And I hardly think that the perfect man would choose to engage in sexual intercourse with Mary Magdalene. He was here on earth with a Godly purpose of washing our sins away with his blood; to be the ultimate sacrifice for us in order to provide us with salvation. As seen in the famous verses, John 3:16-17, we know that Jesus was sent by God so that we "should not perish but have everlasting life" and that "the world through Him might be saved."
Secondly, I believe that the Holy Bible is the only book you can seriously trust in this world. And not only do I believe this, I KNOW this. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, we can be assured that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, throughly equipped for every good work."
We know that the Bible we have in our hands today is perfect and without mistakes simply because God says so! The fact that all of the prophecies in the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ's first coming were fulfilled precisely proves that the
Bible is indeed well-accounted for (e.g Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23).
The Bible was written over a span of a thousand and five hundred years by many different authors. However, despite this diversity, all it's Scriptures are miraculously linked and united. This proves that the Bible is of God's word, and not man's word, though men have helped to put God's words on paper.
Last of all, I would like to emphasise that though "The Da Vinci Code" is an extremely creative piece of fiction with many fascinating theories, we should not be so overly intrigued by it that we neglect the truth of the Bible.Though I must admit that "The Da Vinci Code" is really an interesting book, we must not be misled by it and we must always go back to the Bible when in doubt.
Victoria Chang is 16 years old and a member of the Jurong Church of Christ. She also happens to be an avid reader. Welcome Victoria to the team!
Sunday, May 28, 2006
I don't proclaim to be an expert on this subject and I'm sure many of our readers will have something to add on, which they may do in the comments section. But here is a preliminary look at the topic to get us all started.
Firstly, there are a few ways that Christians use to confirm that the Bible is the inspired word of God. I shall try to touch each of these elements briefly.
The Bible contains numerous instances that present scientific facts before they were known. I list only a few here.
- Astronomy - The earth is a sphere.
Isaiah 40:22 writes: It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in. Here, the word circle is translated from the Greek khug, meaning spherical. Remember, the people at that time thought the earth was square. This shows foreknowledge before its time.
- Oceanography - The perfect ratio for seaworthiness.
In Genesis 6:15, God gives a perfect ratio for a sturdy and seaworthy vessel. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. The ration of 30:5:3 was discovered to be perfect for a ship in 1844.
- Medicine - Blood clotting.
God's infinite wisdom requested, in Genesis 17:12, that he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. Notice God's exact instruction that a child be circumcised on the eighth day. Till today, this medical instruction is still followed by all institutions of health whether they believe in God or not. The reason for this is that on the eighth day, vitamin K levels are at their highest point they will ever be in a person's life - as much as two to three percent higher than usual. Vitamin K being essential for blood clotting, this shows knowledge that man never boasted till many centuries later.
There are too many of these to list so I will only list a very small sample. However, it is important to remember that there are probably many stronger archaeological evidences of Biblical truth. Only, it is not possible to uncover them because proper archaeological work is forbidden in the Holy City.
- In the book of Joshua and Judges, it describes that the Israelites settled in the hill country. Later excavation has found settlements in these very same hill country. We know that these cities were inhabited by the Israelites because while pork bones have been found in the garbage dumps of most cities, the hill cities contained no pork bones. Remember that under the Law of Moses, the Israelites were not allowed to consumer pork. They were only allowed to eat animals that chewed the cud and had cloven feet (Leviticus 11:3).
- A temple from Old Testament times was found in Jerusalem in 1984. There, they found a silver pomegranate with a Hebrew inscription saying it belonged to the temple of Jehovah.
- In 1993 and 1994, inscriptions were found written by Hazael, King of Damsacus, describing Azakiah, king of the house of David. The inscriptions also described other Biblical kings.
- In the 1980s, a tiny silver scroll was found in Jerusalem dated 700 B.C. The scroll contained a blessing from the book of Numbers, chapter 26. This shows us that the word of God has been around for many years.
- All Biblical descriptions of the Holy Land have been confirmed by archaeology.
Fulfilment of prophecies
The Old Testament portion of the Bible is filled with prophecies and it is often amazing to see how accurately these prophecies are fulfilled centuries after they were made.
- Destruction of Tyre
Ezekiel 26:1-14 predicts that many nations would come up against the city of Tyre (verse 3), that it would be levelled (verse 4), utterly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (verses 7-8), that it would be cast into the sea (verse 12) and fishermen would cast their nets in the area (verse 5). Each of these prophecies came true to the letter and are verifiable by historical accounts.
- Naming an important person before he was born
Isaiah 44:28 reads: That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Here, the Bible predicts that a man named Cyrus will build up Jerusalem and lay the foundations of its temple. About 100 years later, Cyrus was born and indeed he did do all this. In fact, the Bible's prediction is so accurate that Cyrus was involved in nothing more than laying the foundations of the temple.
- Prophecies about Jesus
There are about 334 prophecies about Jesus and each and every one of them came true. Some of them include his birth of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), the time of his ministry (Daniel 9:24-27), the price paid for him (Zechariah 11:12-13), his crucifixion (Psalms 22) and that he was called a criminal (Isaiah 53:12). There are people who believe that Christ made it a point in His life to go about fulfilling these prophecies. But how could he have determined the place of his birth or his burial?
Unity of the scriptures
The Bible contains 66 books written by more than 40 different authors, all from different walks of life. The books were written over a period of two millenia. Yet the Bible is consistent and coherent throughout. How else could this have been possible if it wasn't inspired by a higher power?
Finally, the Bible itself claims to be inspired by God. In a court of law, we allow a person to give his or her own testimony. So, is it not fair that we allow the Bible to testify for itself?
In 2 Timothy 3:16, the Bible states: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
Another verse, John 17:17 says: Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
I sincerely hope that this piece will strengthen the faith of all my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as it did mine. And I hope that if you are a reader who is not a Christian, this will prompt you to find out more. If you are looking for direction, do drop us an e-mail at this address: sparks dot admin at gmail dot com.
Thanks for reading.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
I've discovered/learnt much on my trip to India, most of which are not related to the military. Here's a quick summary on what I've experienced through my short trip.
1) . "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork." Psalm 19:1.
Indeed God is all-powerful and His creation showeth forth his excellence.
My accomodation for the trip is in the middle of the desert. And through the blistering heat of day and the frigid cold of night, I have seen His power in all of creation.
He has created valleys deep and mountains high; plants that are able to find water in the driest of places; crystals and gems that sparkle in the brightness of the sun. Looking towards the heavens at night, viewing the star spangled sky through the crystal clear sky, seeing the fireballs of meteors screaming across the horizon, brings one to reflect on the magnificence of Him who has created all things.
"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." Revelations 4:11
2). "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15.
The need for the gospel to be preached has never been more apparent to me. Seeing the sheer numbers of people on the street worshiping idols and images was a stark reminder that there is still so many who haven't heard the GOOD NEWS.
3). "Home is where the heart is." Annonymous.
Without a doubt, the above statement is true. Nothing felt better than arriving at the airport in Singapore.
20 days of isolation away from loved ones (those along on the trip don't count as loved ones), really took its toll on me. I missed my family so much! But thank God for taking care of me all the way there and back. I have drawn much closer to my family since then.
1) We don't have to go to far-off places to see God's handiwork. It is right there facing you in the mirror everyday. EVERYBODY is a walking testimony of His power, for He has made us each special and unique. Be proud of what He has given you.
2) There are souls that need a-saving all around. I'll take myself for example. Looking at the people that live directly next-door to me, none of them are saved. Walk down the street: chances are less than 0.01% of them are saved.
3) Treasure your family. They are the people who care most about you. They are the people who saw you grow up and who will see you grow old.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Some of you, like me, may have caught the screening of The Lost Gospel of Judas on National Geographic. Those who did not would probably have read about it in the papers. There's a media hype over it now and if you don't know about it, I suggest you get informed.
Here's a link to the National Geographic's site if you're interested.
And here's another link to an article debunking it, written by Gary Young from the Church of Christ in Melbourne, Australia.
However, if you are too lazy to go straight to the sources, do read on for an extremely brief summary of what is going on.
What is the Gospel of Judas?
Recently, an old manuscript was found, put together and translated into English.
On translation, the manuscript claimed to be the gospel according to Judas. The opening text reads "The secret account of the revelation Jesus spoke ... to Judas Iscariot".
In this gospel, Judas is supposed to be the favourite apostle (not Peter). Jesus apparently instructed Judas to betray Him in order for the crucifixion to be carried out. Judas is described as someone to whom Jesus revealed information not told to the other apostles - secret information. Basically, the whole gospel is trying to say that Judas was not the bad guy, just misunderstood.
Is the Gospel of Judas Authentic?
According to Gary Young, who has a Ph.D. in Roman History and is the foremost archaeology expert among the Churches of Christ, the gospel of Judas is not part of the original gospel. He gives three reasons for this.
1. The terms used in the Gospel of Judas are commonly-seen in Gnostic literature, suggesting that the Gospel of Judas is also a piece of Gnostic literature.
The Gnostics are a sect that believes there is secret knowledge not revealed in the Bible (the tern Gnostic comes from the Greek gnosis meaning knowledge). Gnostic texts were all written around the second century A.D. and therefore they are not reliable sources for information regarding first century Christianity.
2. There is no evidence that the Gospel of Judas was in existence before 130 A.D.
The manuscript found (the official word for the thing they found is codex) is dated between 220 and 340 A.D. The earliest reference to this work is found in a 180 A.D. writing by a Christian scholar named Irenaeus. All the gospels in the Biblical canon are cited and attested to in first century Christian writings, proving their early existence. The Gospel of Judas is not and thus was probably written long after. The Gospel of Judas was never widely accepted in the Christian churches and there is no reason why it should be now.
3. The Gospel of Judas is written in third person
All our four gospels are written as any person would write a story. Luke does not say "and Luke said" in his gospel, Mark doesn't do it either. But the Gospel of Judas refers to Judas in the third person with phrases like "Judas answered them as they wished". Obviously then, the gospel was not written by Judas but by someone else. Whom? We do not know. So how can we know if the person who wrote this was not just inventing it?
So now you know. I hope my version of events has made things clearer for you. Again, if you are interested, read the source texts of my summary in the links above. Comments appreciated.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
All too often, we are like the chicken’s friends in that children’s fable. We want to eat the cake, but we are reluctant to sow and reap the wheat, grind it into flour, and bake the cake. We just watch. We say, “I’ll help you later.” And when the fruit of the hen’s labour is served on a platter, we say “I’ll help you eat it.”
2 Thess 6:10-11 “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.”
How often I have heard people say, “Mmm…you try first la. If it works out, then I’ll help out/join you.” It won’t work out if you don’t help in the first place. So many of us praise the plans laid out before us, saying how good they are. Yet, so many of us expect a select few (usually our leaders) to do the job. “So-and-so can do it,” or “So-and-so is a competent leader. I don’t really need to do much.” And if by chance the endeavour should succeed, then we praise and celebrate and (sometimes) take credit. This is not the way things should work.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not belittling moral support in any way. It is an important duty of a Christian to give encouragement to other saints. But let’s face it, the BEST moral support you can give is to get your hands dirty when your brother needs help. We need people who will actually move when push comes to shove, not a large troupe cheerleaders and banners. We can only do so much with those.
Matt. 9:37-38 “Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Jesus was a fine example of a leader. He was the ultimate leader because he was the ultimate servant. He could talk the talk and walk the walk. He did it; he delivered. He was even willing to give up his life for us. We are reluctant to even lift our fingers. How can we compare to Him?
Mk 9: 34-35 ‘But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”’
Life, and Christianity, is not a spectator sport. We need more servants, not cheap talkers. Lest I fall into my own categorisation by babbling on in this post, I’m thinking of what I can do for God today, and by a small measure, I have. Hope you think (and do) something too.
Have a nice day!
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
let my loved ones sleep as well as I.
Lord forgive me for the wrongs and lies
To right them and repent; I constantly try.
Lord, enchant the lives of the loved, make them not cry
for never will I present to them my sadness in life.
Lord bless their meals and places they sleep-
for they know not how lonely, how much I do weep.
Dear Lord, bless upon me strength to overcome;
For when love does fade, I find not the power to lead.
God, bless upon me a will to have full use-
because without love, this fight I might well lose.
Lord, as sun shines and dew rest on leaf;
Let them too witness thy glory, thy faith and belief.
Lord, like dirt and the sweat that crusts on my face -
Let them never feel this; alike to my disgrace.
Lord, from your humblest creation thus true
Let them always awake - feeling anew.
Lord, as I lay weapon down to seek rest
Please let them know how they always have my best.
Lord, like the stars in the night that doth shine
Let me have their care - as much as they have mine.
Lord, though I may fade in their memories
Let them know they have all of me.
Lord, love them always, as much as I do -
in trust and full heart, I kneel before you.
Lord as I sleep with my cheek on greased steel
Make me forget; of how terrible I feel.
- Sal ( An old friend of mine)
Sunday, March 19, 2006
His question was: since God knows everything, and can foresee the future, why did He still create man, knowing that man will turn from Him and sin? What is God's purpose in creating man?
I didn't have an answer at that time. I mean, it DID make sense! It made me wonder about my purpose in this life... It made me ask: why do I believe in God, when I don't even know why he created man so that man can turn from Him.
I think i might have an answer (at least something that I'm satisfied with).
1) man is created perfect and free.
Contrary to popular belief (thank you John Calvin), we are born PERFECT, SINLESS, SPOTLESS. Just as Adam was created VERY GOOD, each and EVERY person was created VERY GOOD.
We are certainly not created with a natural propensity to sin. Having said that, however, through various traps and devices Satan always manages to get people to sin. Living in a world filled with sin and temptation certainly does not make things easy for the PERFECT creature to REMAIN in that state. thus the creature is LED ASTRAY.
The only way to be led astray is to be created with a CHOICE, or the power to choose. As free moral agents, man is able to choose between following God, or following the proverbrial DARK SIDE (i.e. Satan).
Without this ability to CHOOSE, we might as well be like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator series of movies: ROBOTIC.
2) the plan of salvation was in place FROM THE BEGINNING.
certainly our Father DID know that man would eventually turn to sin due to the influence of the Devil. thus from the BEGINNING of time was the concept of a plan of salvation in place to redeem the creature from the claws of Satan.
"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel." - Gen 3:15.
Certainly salvation of the world was on the cards RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING. God is (as mentioned in an earlier post) ALL-POWERFUL. He knew of the fall of man even before man was created.
Jesus Christ did not come down to die on the cross for the remission of our sins as a BACKUP PLAN. He was part of THE plan. THE one and ONLY plan of salvation.
3) My question to those who question.
Would you like to be a robot?
I know my answer. Given a choice between being programmed without a choice and having my free will to decide my fate, I'd rather be a being of choice.
Being free moral agents, we have the POWER to decide what's good or bad for us. Just as Eve chose to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, in so doing breaking God's commandment, many in the world today choose to disobey and hearken not to His word.
Man was created PERFECT. (all infants are perfect, without blemish).
Man was created with a FREE WILL. (man chose to sin).
The plan of Salvation was in place FROM THE BEGINNING.
I hope the readers will be able to understand, I've tried to make it as simple and concise as possible. If however there are any doubts as to the points raised, or if there are any comments, I absolutely welcome them! =) It's a learning journey for me too.
This piece was written over a period of 2 weeks. It might not sound coherrent and probably does not. Please forgive this piece if it's been a little too disjointed for your liking.
I'm flying off to India tomorrow (Monday, 20th March 2006). Please pray for my safety. Thank you! =)
Saturday, March 18, 2006
So sometimes, it seems really difficult to do my part for the church or for God. I know you're going to tell me that I should be preaching to my friends but that's not really a strong point for me. I haven't got that big a circle of friends. Of my secondary school mates, about 10 of them I don't really see anymore, one is in US and the remaining two I see only once in two or three months. Of my university mates, well... it's hard to talk about this sort of thing with them because they aren't really interested in talking to me unless it's school-related (my being the top student is not helping this).
Yeah, I have a group of about nine close friends and we watch movies together and mamak together but religion isn't a big part of their lives (except for two who are already Christians and one who is a Muslim) so I've never quite known how to introduce the topic to them.
Well, I've gone a really roundabout way to what I want to share but here goes.
About three weeks ago, the sermon on Sunday was about how people could contribute to church work. I was so delighted because the speaker (bless him) was so practical he gave us a list of things we could do. I want to share it with you all because it inspired me so much and opened my eyes to things that were actually in my power:
- Worship session - preaching, song leading, prayer, planning the men-to-serve list
- Bible session - train teachers, take responsibility for different classes and needs
- Record keeping - attendance, accounts, charting trends
- Building - maintenance, painting
- Guests - greeters, guest cards, show hospitality, follow-up
- Teaching the gospel to the lost - performing baptisms
- Edifying the weak - encourage, admonish, strengthen
- Technology - help the church in using technology, teach adults how to use it
- Communication - bulletins, Web sites
- Serve others - food, professional help e.g. medicine, law, finance
Monday, March 13, 2006
Many in this world will view getting onto that list as one of the greatest achievements a man or woman can accomplish in life. In our capitalist culture of wealth worshiping, the people on that list are probably revered as demi-gods of our time. I know too many people who admire Bill Gates, Orprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, the Walton family (of Wal-Mart stores fame) not for their business acumen, admirable personalities or determination, but simply because they are plain filthy rich.
There is nothing wrong with being rich, or getting rich. In fact, using our money to help God’s cause is highly commendable. But when our lust for wealth becomes an all-consuming obsession that blurs out God, we’re obviously in for trouble.
I once had a friend whose life ambition was to be a millionaire (or was it billionaire?), yet when asked how he would do it or what he would do with the money, his answer was “It doesn’t matter, I just want to be rich.” I can’t really tell if he meant it all 100%, or if it was his idea of a joke. Maybe at that time, we were still young snd immature. Yet, his rationale bewildered me at the time.
Perhaps his is an extreme case, but when I look around, our culture’s obsession with all that glitters has anything but disappeared. Consumerism, brand-consciousness, even TV shows that highlight obstentatiously huge mansions are all signs of how much we want to be rich and how much we want other people to know the fact.
In fact, moral integrity is fast disappearing in place of ‘do-all to get-all’. It doesn’t matter whose toes get stepped on the way, how many lives are ruined by our actions, how much we had to compromise. As long as we get what we want in the end, the means were fully justified.
Yet, what does the Bible say?
I Tim. 6: 6-10 “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Mark 8: 36-37 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Matt. 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Highly potent reminders in virtual anti-thesis to what the world now teaches, aren't they?
When you think of success remember to measure it with God’s yardstick, not the world’s. And when you think of acquiring wealth, always keep God in the picture.
Have a nice day!
Monday, March 06, 2006
If yes, explain the implications. If no, explain the implications.
This was the question given as an assignment for my Ethics class in college. Designed to trick those who believe in an omnipotent God, this question is a so-called “paradox”. If you answered yes, that would make God no longer powerful, because there would be a more powerful being than Him. If no, then God is not omnipotent anymore, because He cannot create that being.
From the outside, this seems to be a win-lose situation. The atheist has won, because both ways, God is no more omnipotent. Or is He?
This so-called “paradox” is a misnomer from the start. It’s not a paradox, but rather it is question that fails to understand the real meaning of omnipotence.
Omnipotence indeed means all-powerful, but that does not mean that God can do anything. This question may seem logical at first, but the problem excludes vital information about the nature of God, which makes the conclusion invalid.
What the so-called “paradox” above lacks is information about the nature of God. The omnipotence of God is something that is not independent of God’s nature, but rather it is part of it. Therefore, He has a certain nature and His attributes, in this case, His omnipotence operates within His nature. The attributes of a certain being cannot escape the nature of that being. For example, as a human being, I can run. This is my nature. However, I cannot outrun a fast-moving car because my nature does not permit it. My ability to run is linked to my nature and I cannot violate my nature by running faster than the car because I cannot violate my nature.
The same goes for God. His omnipotence is part of His nature, and therefore, He can only do things consistent with his nature. Omnipotence is not the ability to do anything, but the ability to do anything consistent with His nature. This does not mean He can violate His own nature. For instance, God cannot lie. God cannot show partiality. God cannot allow those who have not been saved to enter eternal bliss. If God were to do something against His own nature, He would be self-contradictory. To be self-contradictory, would mean that God would not be true. Similarly, if He were to do something like create a being more powerful than Himself, it would be violating His own nature and therefore self-contradictory. But because God is true, and not self-contradictory, He cannot do something which would violate His own nature.
Another point that this question fails to see is the concept of all-powerful. If something were to be ultimate, in any sense, there cannot be anything that is more ultimate than it. For instance, if something were to be the best in its field, nothing else could be “more best” or “bester” than it. As an example, if a bread company were to claim that their bread is the healthiest in the world, but a few months later produces a different kind of bread which is even healthier than the previous one, that is a paradox. If a certain object is the ultimate in its field, nothing can supersede it. Likewise, God is omnipotent, all-powerful and therefore nothing else can be more powerful than Him alone.
God is Almighty and nothing can stop Him. Not even atheists who try with all their might to do so.
Next time a skeptic asks you a question similar to the one above, dissect the question first. You’ll find a weak spot.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
There is much to be said of the quality of numbers. The Americans (in the Korean war) found out the hard way just how immensely potent the strategy of QUANTITY, which the Chinese used to overrun and overwhelm the Americans, proved to be. Essentially, the Chinese had more soldiers than the Americans had ammunition to kill them with.
I had my brush with this value of quantity just a couple of nights back... here's what happened:
I was doing guard duty at my camp, and due to my current injury, I was placed at the sentry post, which keeps track of the traffic (vehicular or human) at the camp gates.
As usual, guards being the same the world over, I was eagerly waiting for the change in duty whereby I could return to the guard-house for some well-deserved (all right, probably not WELL deserved) rest.
To kill the boredom of duty, I sang songs... everything from Guns n Roses to Green Day and even the Goo Goo Dolls. About an hour into the solo repetoire, I noticed this black dog lying down at the entrance to the sentry post. I'm not much of a dog lover, but this being the year of the dog, I decided to be nice and not disturb it from its rest and carried on dishing out the hits.
Around halfway through 'Something About You' by Five for Fighting, I heard the howling and barking of the other dogs next to the post (there were a total of three in my immediate vicinity). At first I thought they wanted me to keep silent since I'm not much of a singer. But upon turning my head and taking a quick glance around the area, I noticed a pack of around nine dogs fast approaching my position.
Within seconds, the pack was surrounding the sentry post, howling like hyenas and baring their teeth just like the New Zealand All Blacks while doing the Haka war cry. It was then that I knew there was going to be trouble.
To spare all the details, the original 3 were each separated by the 9, and each were soon attacked and overwhelmed by the numbers on the other side. The 3 suffered bite marks and were bleeding from their inflicted wounds. It got pretty tense for me as the dog that was resting at the entrance retreated to the refuge of my legs before being assaulted. I DID try to fend off the rest of the other dogs by using the baton issued to us, but to no avail.
What have I learnt from this long encounter with our canine friends?
1) Satan's army is big and resourceful.
There is so much that the Tempter can beguile us with. The cares of this world, the pride of life, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye all can lead us away from safety.
In our busy schedules, punishing workload or time spent with friends not from our spiritual family, it is often easy to lose track of what's most important to us.
And just like the dogs, Satan can and WILL shoot his fiery darts not one at a time, but a few or many at a time, so as to overwhelm us, to make us shout out loud and say: "I GIVE UP!". No matter who we are, we can be caught up like the seed which grew amongs the thorns in the parable of the sower.
2) There is strength in numbers.
Of course, quality of growth is considered spiritual growth in the kingdom too. But like the adage of old goes: many hands make light work.
With more people in the kingdom, the work of the kingdom can be spread out. And who knows what talent each new person in the kingdom will bring with him? Just like the parable of the talents, some are blessed with 5, some with 2 and others with 1, but every single talent is useful and profitable to the kingdom.
Just like the dogs, in numbers, the kingdom is strong. You never know how the next person you bring is going to contribute to the kingdom. So go out there and bring in the sheaves, for the harvest truly is plentious, but the labourers, oh so few.
The victimised dogs are indeed all fine now. They're still staying at the guardroom each night, the bloodstains from that assault have all been cleaned up.
I've learnt much from my experience with the dogs, but i'm sure that there's so much more that could be brought out. Perhaps those reading about this encounter would like to pen down your reflections... I'm sure a lil' sharing would benefit the whole a lot.
Lucas Quek is a member of the Lim Ah Pin Church of Christ in Singapore and just turned 20 in January. He is currently serving his two years of compulsory national service with the Singapore Armed Forces. More importantly, he is also a faithful servant of the Lord. Welcome Lucas to the team!
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Fear is imagining what the worst possible consequence is.
No, it's more than just feeble products of imagination. It's almost foresight. Seeing it happen. Just that it hasn't. It would, or would not. Premonition not on what it is to be, but what could be.
Fear is a defensive mental mechanism.
Fear was standing at the divider of a busy road, trying to catch up with my brother, aged 16, feeling all intrepid bravado being stripped away and coming to terms with the magnitude of the situation. Fear was the intensity of headlights zipping past. Fear was being swallowed by the whirlwind of swishes. Fear was not knowing whether to jay walk across the busy road of a cross junction. Fear was seeing a car coming right at me.
Fear was remembering that humans are flesh and blood, weak, fazed, vulnerable and succumb easily to error.
Relief was seeing the traffic light change from green to red. Relief was finally making it through to the other side unharmed. Responsibility was making sure my brother was safe.
Do you know fear?
Ecc 12: 13 - Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
Psa 112: 1 - Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in the commandments.
Heb 12:28-29 - 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverance and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
Fear is being afraid. Being very afraid.
Relief is making it through to the other side. Relief is knowing that there is a place in Heaven for a faithful Christian.
John 14:1-3 - 1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that were I am, there ye may be also.
Responsibility is preparing ourselves to meet our God.
Amos 4:12 - Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people.
Do you know fear? If so, what are your plans for eternity?
Saturday, February 25, 2006
I visited the Ti-Ratana Welfare Home in Kuala Lumpur with some of my classmates last Friday. It was the final part of a charity drive that the Law Society at my university had organised over the past month. We were to hand over the money collected through our volunteer work, as well as give gifts to the home. We spent time with old folks and orphans: talking, singing, playing with them and helping the kids with homework. It was not my first time at a home, but it had been a while since I went to one and it an enlightening experience nonetheless.
The home has 150 kids and they are cramped into the most Spartan of surroundings. They live on the bare essentials of life. They share rooms, toilets, clothes, toys, books, food, utilities, everything. They sleep in dorms with hard beds and with a lot of other kids. Their clothes are donated, not ironed, and labelled with names. Look at what you’re wearing now, where you stay. Chances are, it’s far better than anything those kids have.
They have about one adult to 35 kids. Can you just imagine how hard it is to get someone to listen to you, let alone demand that they meet your needs? The high school kids there get RM2 a day for pocket money. They don’t get to play computer games or go to the mamak as and when they like. They rely on donations from the public for everything. Some have gone through abuse by family members, and many show the scars, both on their bodies and in their hearts. On almost every aspect, I have it so much better. Chances are, you do too.
In their position, it is impossible to even think of enjoying the things we enjoy everyday. Things like freedom, mobility, choice, variety, love and attention from our families and friends, a good education, a good home, having our needs met, even getting to choose what we want to eat for lunch or what to wear. We take so many of these gifts from God for granted.
The visit reminded me of how lucky I was, how fortunate, how blessed by God. When I looked around the church building that evening, I saw how God had indeed blessed all of us so well, both materially and spiritually. The trip also reminded me of how I should, as a Christian, be less demanding and more appreciative of God’s providence. Sometimes, in fact a lot of times, we not only forget how blessed we are, but insist that God grants us the things we want; our whims and fancies. We don’t realise that what we have is already beyond what others can even phantom enjoying.
Look at your life. Look all the little things in life you enjoy daily, and give thanks to God that you can enjoy them, because so many people don’t. The song’s line rings so true, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” Stop being too demanding and start being thankful.
Col 3:17 ‘And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.’
Monday, February 13, 2006
As youth of this generation, we are constantly subjected to many different types of temptation, some of which are almost impossible to detect. We constantly fall prey to the various new weapons the devil has in his arsenal. To top this all off, there are minor disagreements within ourselves just to make life a little more "interesting". As a young adult myself, I have seen my fare share of arguments, among youth as well as adults. Some end in a peaceable resolution, some end in one side leaving the church. I want to focus mainly on the disagreements between youth and adults. I hope the people who read this take this in the right light. and with the proper mindset.
More often than not, youth and adults have disagreements of over a few matters: dressing in church, language in and out of church (which is difficult to keep tabs on), and social etiquette of the youth in BGRs with other youth of the same faith. I have probably left out some other things but the above are the things that surface most of the time in my conversations with my dad when we try to bridge the gap between the church leaders and the youth.
So to put in some standards that can help us decide if we are in the right or whether the adults are giving sound advice, here are a few verses that will help.
Christians are to be concerned with transforming, not conforming (Rom 12:2). Is the bandwagon we are jumping on morally correct?. A danger to youth that are weaker in the faith? A danger to ourselves even though we might fail to see it now?
We often want adults to be more modern in their thoughts, to not have old-fashioned thinking we say. Don't be so conservative can? We ask.
My denominational friends always say, we need a new gospel of approach to worship for this new generation. We may not agree to that, but now we embrace new ways of life, new styles of dressing, new lingos when talking to friends such that we are often more influenced than we are willing to admit. GOD DOES NOT CHANGE (Mal 3:6), CHRIST DOES NOT CHANGE (Heb 13:8) and most importantly the BIBLE DOES NOT CHANGE (Gal 1:6-9).
We as the youth of today MUST keep ourselves unspotted from the world (Jam 1:27)
Purity in lifestyle is the key to differentiating ourselves from the youth who are not of the church. We must retrace the line that differentiates the church from the world, a line that worldliness has blurred.
Dancing - We have dancing in proms. From the words lasciviousness and revelllings, we can tell that the bible does not allow these things (Gal 5:19-23).
Immodesty - Although from 1 Tim 2:9-10 we only see reference to women, both guys and girls should be dressed modestly at ALL TIMES. There has been debate often on the dress code of the youth during service. I don't know of a verse that says we must wear shirts and ties to every service. I for one do not feel that we need to go to that extent of formality. HOWEVER, I believe in respecting the decisions of the leaders of my church, any church for that matter. If they decide that it is necessary and keep it as a matter of opinion, I will listen to them.
Impure speech - This is usually the one that kills us all. In one period of our life or another, we would have been influenced to speak in sentences that contain various vulgarities. I for one am guilty of it and give no excuse for my behaviour. It is important to understand the importance of purity in speech especially when we're with our friends who are not of the church. No corrupt communication is to proceed out of our mouths (Eph 4:29).
These are the few things we often contest with our leaders. I understand that we as youth are often open to new experiences and like to try things even if they are often dangerous to our spiritual health. More often than not, it makes it so much more exciting when we have the adults trying so hard to stop us... haha. Just think about where our church will be 100 years from now if we keep giving in to new ideas set before us by the world. Just one a year and we would have deviated from the word so much, we would be no different from any of the denominations. Let us work together to keep our youth pure at heart, mind and spirit. We are after all, the leaders of tomorrow.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:11-19
These wonderful words of exhortation were given by Paul to the Thessalonians, who are considered by some scholars to be the 'model church'. They are an encouragement towards better Christian living that I find to be concise, simple and yet profound. It is a far cry from the lifestlye doctrines of this modern age, especially compared to the corporate culture of 'eat or be eaten'.
Today's 1 Thess 5:11-19 might go something like this...
Therefore distress and backstab each other, just as you also are doing.
We urge you to ignore and offend those who are above you and those who work for God, esteem them very lowly because their jobs are inferior compared to yours. Be at war among yourselves.
Now we exhort you, brethen, join those who are unruly, dispose the fainthearted, step over the weak, be over-demanding to all.
Always render evil to everyone, especially if they started it. Pursue what is good for yourself and what is bad for everyone else.
Be quick-tempered and depressed always, pray only when in deep trouble. Thankfulness is unnecessary, you deserve everything; the will of God in Christ Jesus has nothing to do with you.
Quech everybody's spirit. Despise everything spiritual. Accept all other things; hold fast what is bad if it profits you. Embrace every form of evil, it's fun.
Now, which 1 Thess 5:11-19 do you subsribe to?
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Of all the casualties of globalism, religious sensibility is the most hurtful. I once noticed in Baghdad airport an otherwise respectable Iraqi woman go completely hysterical when an American guard set his sniffer dog, an “unclean” animal, on her copy of the Koran. The soldier swore at her: “Oh for Christ’s sake, shut up!” She was baffled that he cited Christ in defence of what he had done.We are all familiar with the Matthew 5:16 verse Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
I suppose the soldier wasn't a Christian. He probably wouldn't have used God's name so freely if he was one. But I've heard many Christians do it (and I admit I am guilty of it too). This article is a startling eye-opener to what non-Christians may think of our conduct and speech.
It's not just using God's name in vain. It's also about making sure that people always think of Christians in a proper way. I guess this is just my reminder to me to be careful what the world thinks of me. I hope it reminds you of something too.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
What exactly is the church to you?
For Catholics, it is their grandiose and extravagant cathedrals, filled with candles and incense, statues, stained glass and clergymen in robes. They expect to feel God’s presence when they enter these lofty buildings, and feel a celestial aura which they do not feel outside, or so they claim.
For the Salvation Army, it is a charitable organization, whose raison d’etre is to help feed, clothe and alleviate the poor, sick, or war-stricken. For the United Church, it is a social club, where connections and deals are made and where social standing can be cemented. For the Church of England, it is an assembly for the royal family and members of the government, a group with great political clout. For TV evangelists, it is a profit generating machine, through attendance and appearance fees, sales of books and recordings.
For the Mormons and cult groups it is an organization of people who are to be extremely apart from the world and are not to be associated with others who do not belong to the church.
For unbelievers, it is an organization divided over itself, with a confusing and conflicting variety of doctrines, structures and names. For them it is filled with old- fashioned people, hypocrites, extremists, and madmen. Some see it as money orientated, some see it as an obsolete institution, unsuitable for the modern world.
We may scoff detachedly at these prevalent views, but upon closer inspection, we may hold some inkling of them. When we say “go to church”, it is understood that we are going to the building where we regularly assemble with the saints to worship. Yet, the more appropriate way of saying this would be “Going to the church('s) building”, “Going to assemble at the building”, "Going to worship at the regular meeting place” or “Going to worship with the saints/other members”. Using a building to meet regularly in is not contrary to scripture, but the church is not a physical building, in fact it is said that the early Christians had no permanent meeting place or structure.
If something, say a flood, were to render the building we use now unsuitable for assembly, any other place would still be acceptable, and we would still be “going to church”, so to speak. The Greek word ‘ekklesia’ which is translated as ‘church’ means ‘called out ones’. The church is actually its members (I Cor. 12:12-14)- a group separate and called to holy, apart from the carnal world. Do you personally view the church as a building or specific place?
Do you view the church as a social club? You may not think so explicitly, but examine your reasons for coming regularly. Do you come to church to meet friends and catch up over news? To fill up your Sunday mornings with some social interaction? It is not wrong to encourage each other and have fellowship when we meet, in fact it is scriptural (Heb. 10:24-25), but that should not be our primary reason. There are other occasions where we can meet up for leisure, but on Sunday mornings, our main reason is to worship God with the saints.
Do we come to church to get a ‘high’, from the singing, fellowship and sermon? Do we come to get a ‘buzz’ to live on for the week? Do we even come to feel good about ourselves, proud that we are doing something ‘holy’ or ‘religious’? It is good that we are encouraged and spiritually fed when we assemble, but our main reason should not be to selfishly enjoy any warm fuzz feel-goodness in our bodies, or to justify or merit ourselves, but rather to please and worship God.
Do we come to worship for social privileges? Do we brag to our friends that we are active church members? Do we show off that we belong to an elect group of people? Do we feel more privileged, more blessed than others? We may be, but that is no reason to get haughty. We should be thankful of our opportunity to worship, but we should not come to glorify ourselves.
We are to come to the assembly to worship and glorify God, first and foremost (I Cor. 14:26-27). We should come for that reason primarily, not for our own selfish purposes. We should avoid being distracted by things other than this when we sing, when we study or listen to the sermon, when we pray, when we partake the Lord’s Supper, or give our offerings. We should not be thinking about what we will do after the service, what happened the day before or what we will eat for lunch.
So before you instinctively answer my fist question with “To worship God”, think about your intentions and motives first. Remember we must worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:24) Are you coming for the right reasons at all?