Monthly Archives: December 2009
Jesus looked at [the rich young ruler] and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24-25, NIV)
Singapore is a great country to reside in – it truly is. I can say this because I’ve lived in Shanghai for nearly two years. We take pride in our credible and proven governance of meritocracy – where, by dictionary definition, “people [are] selected on the basis of their ability”. In other words, if you do well enough, you’ll probably get by. However, I’d like to think that meritocracy is poisonous, especially for a Christian making an honest attempt to live his life relying on God.
I’ve always lamented about the overly rigourous and demanding education system here. A young student is forced, whether voluntarily by his own will or involuntarily by unhealthy peer pressure, to do well in Singapore. Sadly, sometimes it’s not about doing well for his own good, but about doing better than someone else. We have produced countless outstanding people because of how (insanely) competitive we are. After all, it’s a known fact that Singapore’s greatest resource is her people.
Hence, existing in an environment as such, we have been continuously engineered to believe that we just need to do well enough, and we’ll be able to get what we want – chiefly wealth and status amongst others. Unfortunately for us, we have also allowed this secular mentality to creep into the Church and worse, into our walk with God. More often than not, we’d rather sort ourselves out first before going to God rather than going to God first to get sorted out.
We approach God thinking that if we have ticked the checklist boxes of praying, doing quiet time, worshipping, reading the bible, etc., we’d be accepted and be presentable before God. How scarily distorted that can be! Having a checklist may not be wrong, don’t misunderstand me, but it is severely inadequate.
A classic example is how we typically go to God in prayer only when we take our exams with insufficient preparation or when we commit a major mistake at work. It’s like we consider getting God involved only when matters are completely out of our control and domain of influence. Or sometimes when we ask for good results or work promotion (or even dating success), we use “I promise I’ll spend more time with You, Lord” or “I promise I won’t visit those sites again anymore, Lord” as stakes, thinking that it may actually move God to accede to our “requests”.
How dangerously misconstrued that is!
In a society where meritocracy calls the shots, we start to tattoo in our hearts and minds, “I CAN DO IT“. Great optimism and confidence, don’t get me wrong. But it may lead to one thing – that “GOD CAN DO IT” will slowly and steadily be obliterated from our operating system. We need to be extremely cautious because this swelling pride can mislead us – from trusting in God to trusting in ourselves. We constantly wage war between societal and biblical reality.
Now, may I beseech you to be alert and to quicken your spirit to this, that you do not draw confidence in your flesh but in God. Don’t become complacent when you exit an exam hall after a good paper because it doesn’t mean that you seeking God ends. In the same way, don’t become overly concerned about beefing up your resume just to raise your chances of getting a good job. Place not your confidence in yourself but in our faithful God who never fails to deliver! Be excellent but not wrongly/overly-confident.
For those with average grades, do not be discouraged – our God can operate with Bs and Cs (and even Ds and Fs!) and still give you success and a good future, only if you seek Him wholeheartedly. For those with soaring on societal favour and success, do not get complacent thinking that all these achievements arrived by your own merit – God can give but He can also take away, and what we are constantly challenged to say is, “Blessed be Your name”. Keep your eyes on Jesus, my friends!
Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul declared quite famously in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV),
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‘ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
When we rely on ourselves, we may fail. But when we rely on God, He will deliver! Let us declare that we can’t and that God can!
I snapped this picture at the 777-feet Seoul Tower, located on the summit of Namsan Mountain, South Korea, where stalls upon stalls displayed little knick-knacks for sale. I aptly titled this photograph, “Useless”, simply because (almost) everything in this picture is. Why do we even bother buying gifts of little or no practical use? This reminds me of what it means to give.
Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. The gift of God is in His Son, Jesus Christ. The gift of Jesus Christ is His own life. I’d like to think that Jesus could have chosen not to die even though He was sent to die, hence I refuse to take for granted His sacrifice for me on the cross. With Jesus, it was solely Him giving and us receiving. So, what could we actually give to Jesus?
Try as I may, I am unable to find anything worthy to give to Jesus as a form of reciprocation. Even if I were to give my life – and that’s about all that I can give – it is still an unworthy gift. To better grasp the unparalleled gift of Jesus, I realise that I could neither out-give my mother’s 26 years of sacrifice nor HY’s gift of purity; regardless of what I do now, I will never be able to give my mother or HY the equal value of their gift to me.
I cannot imagine being born to die. That statement may be extreme, but even if I were to water it down, I still cannot imagine being born to give. I’m inclined to think that we have been wired to receive, regardless of how generous we have been raised to be or innately are. Every fibre of my being longs to receive more – pleasure, love, happiness, etc. It takes effort to give – at least for me it does.
And so this Christmas, I’d like to give to Jesus the best gift, still unworthy as it may be, that I can ever give right now – my future – because it is unknown to me and out of my control. Join me then, in rededicating and surrendering your life to Jesus once again as He dedicated His whole life to you. It is my earnest prayer that you will find new faith, hope and love in the Lover and Savior of your soul. And just to put the icing on the cake – He’s also the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and He lived to die just for you.
I conclude this entry with lyrics from two Relient K songs that made me tear the first time I heard it – “Give” and “I Celebrate The Day”.
“I’ll give, give, give – until there’s nothing else
Give my all – until it all runs out
Give, give – and I’ll have no regrets
I’ll give until there’s nothing left
“And the first time that You opened Your eyes
Did You realise that You would be my Saviour?
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever?
And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life”
Have a blessed and meaningful Christmas, dear readers. (:
God’s love is not created to be contained or kept selfishly. It is necessary for the good news of the Gospel to be preached – so that it can spread. And our role in evangelism is to propagate it!
Paul instructs us in a systematic step-by-step process in Romans 10:14-15. And this passage is obviously talking about sending out preachers of the Word – but not just pulpit ministers but anyone who proclaims the good news of the Gospel – that’s us!
“But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”
The Father has sent Jesus. And Jesus sent His disciples. Get this – we are sent! It’s not a choice, really, because it’s already part of our “contract” when we became Christians. It is a pre-existing responsibility that we cannot and should not shirk.
How can people believe God if they have never heard of Him? And how will they ever hear of God if we do not tell them about Him? For most of us in our youth, our occupation would either be as a full-time student or a young working adult – but don’t forget that our pre-occupation is first as an evangelist! There comes a time for good deeds and meeting the needs of our friends, but we must never neglect to tell them about the God who has changed our lives.
As evangelistic Christians, let’s challenge ourselves today in our rightful duty to give others the opportunity to hear the good news, so that they have a chance to believe in God!
I thoroughly enjoyed sharing at the workshop I conducted today, prepared together with HY. We hope that those who were in attendance went home with new knowledge and perspectives! Here’s the executive summary:
First and foremost, we need to acknowledge that leadership, while predominately carried by the guy, is also a shared responsibility. A failure to communicate this will lead to a mismanagement of expectations, which can be dangerous if issues are allowed to drag, get ignored or be swept under the carpet. The gal has to remember that she’d have to take on certain leadership responsibilities as well.
I commenced the workshop with a deliberately tricky activity that proves two assumptions:
- The guy naturally knows and understands how to lead, how to be a(n ideal) leader and does not consider the gal for a leadership role in the relationship.
- The gal is naturally confused about her leadership responsibilities in a relationship, left leadership to the guy and is uncertain about her involvement, if any at all.
We defined courtship this way:
- a continuous process,
- a journey of empowering, enabling, supporting and understanding one another,
- a two-way partnership, and
- that it begins with marriage in mind.
We believe that leadership is about:
- serving one another
- taking responsibility for things already done
- bringing out God’s best in each other
- taking initiative for things that are yet to be done
I concluded the workshop with another activity that exposes the guys’ understanding of the gals’ needs and their understanding of their own needs, and vice-versa. With this, I introduced the five love languages (made famous by Gary Chapman) and stressed the importance of understanding the love languages of their partners.
I encouraged the participants to go on a paradigm shift with me:
When you know the need, you will know how to lead; only then will you be able to show one another how to love each other.
Finally, I presented a biblical yardstick for everyone to refer to, in any event of uncertainty:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, English Standard Version)
Disclaimer: the contents above are original and does not represent anyone else’s opinions except our own.
“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44, English Standard Version)
All this while Jesus seemed to observe the action without indicating his presence. The poor widow and the rich folks didn’t seem to realise that Jesus was actually watching them; he simply took his seat opposite where the action took place and became a spectator.
Now, consider this – this woman wasn’t just a widow. It was as if losing a husband wasn’t bad enough. She was also broke. I’d like to think that the bible used this extremity to demonstrate that if someone like her can give, then surely everyone can – what excuse could we give?
It’s not about the amount but about the heart and attitude behind it.
Now, how did Jesus honour this poor widow? He commended her actions and said that it outdid the rich. I don’t know about you but I am relieved that Jesus doesn’t determine the significance of our offering by its monetary value but by its motivational source.
It’s not about how big the amount is, but about how big your heart is.
Jesus used a different yardstick of measurement and we should be glad, otherwise only the rich can move God. Hence I conclude that it’s not how much we give but how we give it. And it’s about what God can do with what we give. So let’s focus on what God can do and not what man can do.
A sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless it hurts. I’m sure that the poor widow considered the consequences of her actions and contribution before she actually gave the two copper coins. She probably knew that she would have to starve for the week. She probably knew that she would be worrying when she slept that night. Yet she gave and she gave until it hurt. And well, she got the attention of Jesus.
If we want to get the attention of Jesus, we’ll have to give an amount that hurts. And I’m not even talking about just giving our monies. I’m talking about our time, resources and talents. Our reward is the commendation of Jesus, and I pray that that itself is enough for you (as if the mere attention of Jesus isn’t enough).
A few weeks ago, MF approached me to send her some lessons learnt while I was growing up. It wasn’t difficult coming up with content and I could write a lot more but here are 10 lessons that rolled off the top of my head. Seven of them were published in the R-AGE bulletin, so I’ll add three more here.
- You will make mistakes. Just don’t make the same ones.
- You will only get busier and busier, so start the habit of serving God as early as possible.
- School friends are friends for a season. Church friends are friends for life.
- Accountability doesn’t imprison you but sets you free.
- Having someone believe in you is the greatest gift you’ll ever receive.
- Never underestimate the power of encouraging someone else.
- No amount of ministry can compensate for failure in the familly.
- The quantity of close friends decreases as you age, but the quality of friendship increases. Invest more time in less people.
- You cannot please everyone, so stop trying. There is nothing more assuring than God’s approval.
- The higher you rise in leadership, the more you need to be comfortable with being alone.
I guess I could go on and on with a plethora of thoughts, really. That’s precisely why I have decided to resume blogging – to capture one thought a day, everyday, from an otherwise overwhelming influx of ideas. It’d be an achievement if I could capture and expand on 365 thoughts annually. Let’s see how far this blog would take me on my cognitive journey.