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originality through imitation (part two) – the grandeur of the creation of man.

Previous post: Introduction – The Quest for Originality

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Again, I state that the best creation is the original creation. To understand why I say it is the best, let us first examine the grandeur of the creation of Man; this blew my mind when I pondered over it studiously.

The Last Creation

Since Man was the last item God created, he obviously did not participate or had any hand in the creation of the world. No wonder Job was rhetorically and categorically rebuked by God in Job 38:4 – “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding”. Man certainly wasn’t present at first creation!

And there are two obvious merits in being last place. It was first an honour. God added on to His already perfect creation (only He could do that!) and it resulted in Man. I think that’s why God added “very” to “good” in v31. Then it was a favour. To be the final jigsaw of the masterpiece meant that Man could fit in perfectly with all that has already been created. This simply means that Man didn’t need to adjust to his environment because it was custom-made for him! Think about it – no one wants to move into a halfway-renovated house.

The Latest Creation

Is there a difference between last and latest? In my opinion, the former speaks of a(n pre-)arranged order and the latter indicates actual chronology. The whole of creation was already there for Man at the point of his creation. As such, according to Genesis 2:19-20, everything was there for Man to contemplate upon (that’s why Adam named every creature) as well as to take comfort in (as every plant was given for Adam’s consumption), according to Genesis 1:29. What a privilege! I think Adam must have been an extremely creative person with a formidable vocabulary to be able to name every single living thing!

The Lone Creation

The creation of Man was truly unique. Through observation, you’ll realise that everything that was created before Man was by God’s word of command (see vv3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 16, 20, 24) and this signified authority. However, for the creation of Man, it became a word of consultation (see v26). It was as if the Trinity personally undertook this creation together and it signified God’s affection for Man. Doesn’t it give you a warm fuzzy feeling to know that we were made out of love!?

A self-esteem check here; think about it for a moment – Man certainly seemed more important to God than day and night (v3), land and sea (v6), heavens and earth (v9), plants and creatures (vv11, 20, 24), time and season (v14), sun and moon (v16)! If that doesn’t make you feel special enough, then I think you have serious esteem issues! Come on, you and I are more important to God than all that! WOW.

Also, note that the creation of Man was conclusive and not concurrent; in the ESV translation, everything else created was with the conjunction, “And”. But for Man, it was with the conjunction, “Then”; To me, the real business of creation was in making Man because everything seemed to be leading up to it. Hence I think it’s not far off to say that, in the observation of Man’s consecrated creation, we were already set apart by God from the beginning of time; no wonder we are called to be set apart for God today.

The Likeness Creation

This is the part that overwhelmed me because I felt that Man was undeserving of God’s grace. With the greatness of Man’s creation etched in our minds, we must realise then the gravity of this magnificent creation which involved the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That distinguished Man for he was to be dedicated and devoted to his divine Team of designers. As if being the last, latest and lone creation wasn’t enough, God made Man to be the only creation in His likeness. WOW!

Observe – I think God really stressed the significance of creating Man. He described this creation with two different words of similar meaning – “image” (Hebrew: Tselem) and “likeness” (Hebrew: Damuwth); to me, this really manifests the intense identicalness Man has with God.

So, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that at the point of creation, Man was perfect. After all, could there be anything more perfect than this? You can’t perfect perfection! If you add, alter or abstract anything away from it, it will no longer be perfect. Sin was added, the nature of Man was altered and the likeness of God was thereby abstracted. What a tragic ending to what was intended to be a beautiful beginning!

Sin became the blot of water on a canvas of oil painting – it ruined everything. We must come to understand that God cannot have any part with sin. So know that when you sin, you bring about damage and destruction to what was formerly a perfect creation – you. Thank God for His saving grace through Jesus Christ!

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Next post: The Double-edged Commandment and Jesus Christ the Trump Card

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sermon recap: time for spiritual puberty!

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First and foremost, I think it was amazing that R-AGE spammed Facebook over the weekend with testimonies of how God impacted our lives. I shared about purchasing Skyville with HY. Click here for the Facebook note and here for the original testimony. This activity was part of the Evangelism Pillar that RL, KY and I produced. It’s a simple idea that turned out to be brilliant beyond our imagination; we designed a lesson to help our youths share how God changed their lives and to tag at least five Christians and five non-Christians, then invite them to R-AGE services this weekend. It went better than we had expected and I’d like to believe that it’s an activity worth repeating a few times every year.

I can’t wait for Saturday! The first PLUG & PLAY (!) since PIERCE will take place at 2:50pm bring your friends this Saturday and be early! With PUSH at 2pm, service at 3pm, Be Our Guest at 4:45pm and cell at 5pm, July looks set to close on a high! RY will also be preaching the third installment of the LIVE LOUD series. We’re doing a verse-by-verse study on the book of James and I had the privilege to open the series with the overview. CX preached last weekend and I’ll be preaching again next weekend. I know this sermon recap is two weeks late but better late than never!

  • James is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get and an in-your-face book that teach us not just to live normally, but to live it out loud for everyone to see. The author is straightforward, direct, practical and honest. He was writing to young Christians who were scattered and were facing trials.
  • These five chapters are like a synopsis of the issues that the church faced then, and even now; the things that caused disharmony in the fellowship. The one root problem in these issues? Spiritual immaturity. James exhorted his readers to mature spiritually.
  • People, unlike the all-knowing God who can see through your heart and know instantly if there is faith in there or not, cannot see the contents of our heart; the world knows the faith in our hearts by examining the works of our hands.
  • BH phrased it perfect: “We are not saved by works but we are saved to work… …Faith is the root of salvation but works are the fruits of salvation.” Works are indeed the consequences of salvation. “People will work because of their salvation for work comes forth from faith.” (Woohoo! I can’t wait to meet BH for our mentoring session on Wednesday morning!)
  • Maturity is not 1) how old you are, 2) how much you know, or 3) how much you have done, but to be “brought to its end; a finished state; at completion; perfect human integrity and virtue; and a full grown adult of full age”. It is a process that doesn’t stop until we meet Jesus Christ.
  • He offers us eight distinguishing marks of maturity. A maturing person:
    1. Is positive in the midst of problems (James 1:2)
    2. Keeps his or her desires under control (1:4)
    3. Is accepting of others (2:8-9)
    4. Has consistent beliefs and actions (2:17)
    5. Is careful with his or her words (3:2)
    6. Strives to be wise (3:17-18)
    7. Has a humble attitude (4:10)
    8. Is connected (5:16)
  • We have to love God and others actively (NT) and passively (OT). It’s extremely easy to fall short of God’s holy standard so it is only by God’s grace that we can make the cut. I always believe that the way we treat the least and the weakest of us show us how strong we truly are as a ministry.
  • The mark of a true Christian isn’t in a perfect lifestyle, but a lifestyle that is being perfected. Your friends will recognise the effort that you make to change. If you keep doing what’s right, no one can tell you that you’re wrong. Consistency is proved and achieved over a long period of time and reputations are built on consistency.
  • When there’s a breakthrough with our words, there will be a breakthrough with our lives. I issued the official R-AGE language challenge: to once and for all get rid of crude words on top of all known vulgar words – from real-life conversations, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and MSN. Let people notice the difference by noticing the absence.
  • People may admire a person if he or she has a righteous, faultless and sin-free life but people will respect a person who desires to change. Wisdom is necessary for maturity because it will govern the way you speak and behave; so always strive for wisdom.
  • I introduced IBM (In-Between-Meetings): I encouraged everyone to have at least one IBM in the week. Initiate and organise meet-ups beyond the weekends – be it to study, pray, eat, or even play together. Don’t give up meeting one another. A united youth group goes beyond meeting once a week!
  • I challenged all leaders: Having a mature individual around brings about steadiness to a group. Love it or hate it, leaders are being watched and mimicked. Hence, we should lead by example by setting and being the example for the younger ones who look up to us.
  • Everyone grows up at a different rate and time, and the maturation point is what we strive for – being completely mature. God alone will bring us to that point. The key to unlocking maturity has nothing to do with us, but with God, so boldly ask Him for wisdom today.
  • Selfishness and self-centredness is the greatest obstacle to maturity for it is instinctive to think about ourselves first. When we can’t look beyond ourselves, we can never look toward the needs of others. It does take effort to consider the needs of others’ better than our own.
  • A maturing church is a growing church. Just like physical puberty, when you spiritual puberty you will experience all kinds of spiritual growth – gradual, sudden and new growth. When we emerge out of our comfort zone to mature spiritually, we will grow as a church.

I look forward to preaching again next weekend!

how should you apply and appreciate talent?

As I lounged into my seat to observe AS’s piano recital at the Yong Siew Toh Music Conservatory yesterday, I realised that I grew frustrated at my inability to fully appreciate the beauty of the Chopin pieces that she was apparently playing so brilliantly. It was an accomplished performance, no doubt; her fingers moved so much faster than I could move my lips, musically it sounded like a formidably difficult piece to pull off with so many off-beats, odd synchronisations, and flats and sharps that seem to fit in perfectly when they normally would sound out of place. It was only the second time I saw Singapore’s child (now teenage) prodigy in action but there I was, reclined in my comfortably red seat, wishing that my musical knowledge was more inclined so that I could appreciate her performance at the level that it was meant to be appreciated at.

How do you enjoy a performance you can’t appreciate? I’m inclined to believe that talent is best appreciated by the talented, for our enjoyment is vastly limited and restrained to our personal capacities and standards – I could never fully comprehend the difficulty of AS’s piano pieces and the level of her accomplished techniques; my enjoyment was sadly limited to a mere sensory admiration, instead of a technical, emotional and intellectual appreciation. Football, music and even preaching are all art in various forms but our appreciation of even its respective equipment knowledge or showmanship styles has been greatly marginalised due to our ignorance of these art forms. We won’t even be able to comprehend the painstaking efforts and countless hours invested to perfect the art.

I found myself asking two questions:

  1. How should you apply the talent at your disposal?
  2. How should you appreciate the talent on display?

So as I fidgeted in my seat, I naturally recalled the parable of the talents, where it’s not about how much talent you have, but about what you do with it. Each of us would have our assigned lots in life. The whole idea is to utilise the lot in the best way you know how to; for the more you use it, the better you get at it and may possibly even acquire new skills along the way. I think this is applicable to any art form. Think about it – if I decide to practise scales in a bid to up my guitar playing ability, and I get good at it, I will open up the door to new genres of music for me to learn and appreciate. In football, if I put myself through dribbling drills, I will eventually get stronger on my weaker leg, and I will open up the option of eventually shooting or crossing with my weaker foot. Before I could polish my abilities as a lead singer, I had to ensure that my basic singing abilities were above average. Practice doesn’t just make perfect – it paves the path for new skills.

I remember a quote by John Keating from one of my all-time favourite movie, Dead Poets Society:

“… And medicine, law, business, engineering – these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love…

These are what we stay alive for.”

I think that beauty is multi layered – where one standard of excellence is carefully smuggled beneath another. I juxtapose the foundations of three art forms – the left and right hand of a pianist, the skill and the fitness of a footballer, and the preparation and oration of a preacher. The pursuit of excellence and the discovery of new art forms will exponentially enhance and elevate our appreciation of life.

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