And the sun every morning cannot wait to shine
And the stars every evening are all standing by to light the sky
Give the rocks and the stones voices of their own
If we forget to sing praises to our King
Praise God for He is infinitely good.
Praise Him for His blessings and love.
Praise Him for His beautiful world and wonderful creation.
Praise Him for His spleandour and majesty.
Praise God who is high above all things.
Praise Him who is seated in the highest heavens.
Praise Him who is strong and mighty.
Praise Him who is glorious and triumphant.
Praise God for He is faithful and true.
Praise Him for His everlasting covenant.
Praise Him for His holiness and oneness.
Praise Him for His ways and promises.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him from whom all life is birthed.
Praise Him for life, and life more abundantly.
Praise Him for life, and life everlasting.
Monday, April 20, 2009
We are humans placed in the midst a machine that is spinning round and round. We are living beings caught up in non-living systems of society, economics, politics, etc. We are flesh and blood standing in the strongholds of mechanics and mechanisms that turn like clockwork.
The call and challenge for us is simple, but not easy. Are we capable of remaining human while faced with all the inhuman systems all around us? Are we able to stand as image bearers of the Creator who made us when confronted with other idols and images that are shaping us in their likeness?
I do believe that the influences of the systems around us are definitely very strong. I relate especially to the systems of education in university. While I am in the system, I am inevitably dealt a huge amount of pressure and workload and stress that at many times bring the worst out of me. When placed in the system, I often run along with the rest of the people on a treadmill that goes round and round - trying to finish work, trying to cram in for the exams, etc. And sometimes, I perhaps even use the 'high workload' as an excuse to ignore the people around me or to treat them indifferently and ungraciously.
Then the question came to my mind: Why doesn't this world care about me?
And perhaps use that as an excuse to wait for other people to act first, before I show grace to them.
Yet, when you look at another way, if everyone else was asking the same question, then inevitably, grace would never come! Indeed, it requires a few people who are willing to forgive and to start extending grace to the people around them, regardless of the benefits they might derive from it (In fact, I can say confidently that you would probably not get much appreciations for your efforts).
And truly, this is a very difficult thing to do!
I didn't have to look far to find ways to show grace to others. In fact, the more I ponder about it, it is in the smallest spaces or the most common daily routines where we display grace and love for others around us. I discovered this as I cooked for my housemates today, even though I was tired and still had a lot of work left to be done.
I asked myself: What was motivating me to do it?
Was it because I can get something in return? Well, my efforts would most probably not be appreciated.
Was it because I can make good use of my time? Well, I'd say that I have many better uses for my time then cooking dinner for someone else.
Was it because of my nature that I love others and want to care for them? Well, the more I look at myself, the more selfish I know I am.
The answer then dawned upon me: the Spirit! Truly, it was the inspiration that came from the Spirit that enabled me to show grace to others despite my selfish nature, and despite being placed in the middle of a system that is unrelenting and unforgiving. It was the Spirit that prompted and motivated every act of kindness and grace that I showed to others.
We might tend to think that the Spirit only leads us in BIG things and BIG visions. But that is most certainly NOT true. The Spirit leads and guides and nudges and prompts us in every single choice, big or small, grand or simple, far-reaching or local, that we make each day of our lives, be it in policy-making, be it in teaching others, be it even in small things like cooking for others.
Truly, it is only by the Spirit that we are able to stand in the messiness of the world around us and in the midst of the tyranny of the systems and structures that try to make us into automatons, as true human beings - in other words anthropos in machina, humans in the machine.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Why do I believe in Christianity? Why do I trust in the God of the Bible, this entity, being, or whoever He is who I know so little about? Why do I hold on to the promises that He gives to me and to humanity, promises that are not only audacious, but outright irrational?
To those who demand logical, scientific answers to these questions, to be honest, I haven't a clue as to why I dare to believe in this God who is beyond logic and rationale, whose ways transcend the "natural" or scientific order of things. To be truthful, I've gotta admit that my trust in this God has not been founded upon scientific evidences or sophisticated proofs that many so-called learned people like to find. My faith in the promises of the Bible has not been based on its logical arguments, or its reasonable tenets, or even its good, moral principles because far from being a practical, commonsensical rule book, the Bible really pushes forth a daring, almost insane hope in a God who can raise the dead, and with that, a sacrificial, almost reckless kind of life that requires us to join in the sufferings of Christ that we may share in His glory.
This is not to say, of course, that there are no scientific evidences whatsoever to support the claims of the Bible - that at the beginning of His creation project, God made the heavens and the earth, and that more than 2,000 years ago, a man called Jesus walked on this earth, died on the cross because of our sins and then rose again from the dead. There is definitely ample of evidence supporting and undergirding the authenticity of the Bible, as well as the arguments and proofs leading persuasively to the existence of the Creator and His Will for this earth.
Some of these evidences that I can think of from the top of my mind include:
- The early writing of the Biblical manuscripts - The New Testament was written within a few decades after Jesus' life, with the earliest letter from Paul dating to 55 AD and the last book, the book of Revelations, dating to 90 AD. All these writings all date back to within one to two generations after Jesus' life, when there was still strong eye witness accounts and testimonies from first generational believers who saw Jesus' with their own eyes.
- The number of Biblical manuscripts and their coherence to one another - Up to date there are thousands of Biblical manuscripts discovered in many different places throughout the world and there is a general coherence among them in terms of their core doctrine. More than 90% of the variations among these manuscripts are mostly spelling variations that do not affect their core message in any way. The presence of many manuscripts that are coherent with each other, coupled with the early writing of the manuscripts, suggest that the Bible is less likely to have been the product of myth makers or fanciful story tellers. Today, we believe in the historicity of events in the empire of Rome, for example, based upon a few writings of historians that date several generations after the events have occurred. Now, we have a historical record that was written within 2 generations after the said event with thousands of copies of it found in many places throughout the world. So what does this say then about the Bible?
- There are records of non-believers around about the same period of time depicting and detailing about the life of Jesus and the founding of the early church - There are writings from historians who themselves are non-Christians living at around the same time as Jesus and the first believers talking about the life of a prophet or teacher among the Jews who was rejected and despised, and of an early movement of believers founded upon the belief in a man raised from the dead.
- There are shameful events in the Bible - Historians place more weight and give more credibility to accounts that include shameful records and details in them because it shows that the authors are more likely to be telling the truth and not making up their own stories, for who trying to concoct a grand fairy tale to gather believers would talk about shameful acts that would only discredit them, unless if it were true? In the Bible, we see numerous such shameful events, such as the apostles deserting Christ, the apostle Peter denying Christ, Christ tortured, beaten and crucified, all of which are not exactly top class material for a nice, neat, hero's story.
The scientific world is replete with such evidence all pointing in the direction of the authenticity of the Bible and the presence of a good Creator who raised Jesus from the dead. I have merely touched the tip of the iceberg and presented the appetisers, yet I shall not attempt to expound on and explicate each and every single evidence and argument for the Creator, the Bible and His promises because it is not my intention in this entry.
Scientific evidence and philosophical arguments are only able to get you to a certain point. Beyond that point is chasm and to get to the other side requires you to take the step of faith. The evidence will get you to the point of realising the possibility of the existence of a Creator and the truthfulness of His promises as revealed through His Word in the Bible. Yet, as to any form of evidence, no matter how persuasive it is, it is disputable and indeed, many people have found more and more profound arguments and challenges to the evidences presented, regardless of how good or compelling they are. Therefore, I believe that the evidence should either propel us to the knowledge of the Creator, or undergird and lend support to our faith in the promises of the Creator, but they should never be the sole reason or core foundation stone of our faith.
To be sure, however, we are not called into blind faith. Yet, at the same time, faith does not mean knowing everything or having all the evidence to the point where we can incontrovertibly say to the atheist: "See, I'm right. You're wrong!" because possessing the knowledge of everything and having the whole details of the plan no longer makes faith, faith. Faith, as the apostle Paul tells us, is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. The first part tells us that faith requires a sub-stance (or under-standing) of the things that we hope for. It means that we have caught glimpses of and experienced partly the promises of God for us, and we invest into the promise knowing that it is good and purposeful. The second part tells us that faith is being sure of things not seen. It means that for the remainder of the things that we have no physical evidence of, there is the certainty that comes from the understanding the promises of God to know that they are trustworthy and true.
So then, if faith is not about trying to get more evidence to prove that I am absolutely right, then what is my faith about? What the reasons behind my faith?
I believe that my faith comes in the fact that His promises for humanity is good and meaningful. I believe in the goodness of the Creator revealed in the Bible, calling humanity to a life of love, peace and meaning. We know and believe deep down to be true that the way to bring restoration and healing on to this earth is by people who are willing to lay down their lives in love and sacrifice, who are willing to give their lives calling people into purpose and identity, an identity not defined by other people's judgements or comparisons, but one that is unique and personal to each and every individual. I believe in the ways of Jesus as told in the gospels to be the true way of living that brings grace, salvation and meaning to all of humanity.
Just in case it comes to the question of the Bible being a good set of moral teachings telling us how to be good and nice people, it hammers out the promise of the resurrection. As insane as it sounds, resurrection makes so much sense to me. If one has invested his life into building something, yet did not live to see it come to fruition, the most intuitive thing to do would obviously to wake him up from the dead so that he can enjoy the fruits of his labour. If one is called to lay down his life to bring goodness and salvation to the people, then the most "logical" reason for that is because he will be raised from the dead again.
This may sound illogical and completely nonsensical, but I believe in a faith that comes from the glimpses of goodness in the promises of God for this earth and for humanity, and a faith that comes from the power and authority of laying down one's life to bring grace and healing and of taking it up again in resurrection.
Illogical? Yes. Purposeless? Absolutely not!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
We live amidst an era dominated by rat races and corporate clashes. We are inhabitants of an earth that is governed by social strata and peak productivity. Our current generation's mentality is a product of inherited mindsets and traditions passed down from former generations, and is compounded by the systems and structures of the world around us. A lot of these mindsets often perpetuate existing systems that keep spinning mechanically on and on, passing on to subsequent generations, until perhaps they reach critical points where the systems collapse and are displaced or replaced by revolutionary ideas or innovations of previously held ones.
One of the systems that we have inherited from past generations is our current education system. Our modern day education system, in most Asian contexts at least, is characterised predominantly by an endpoint of getting the grades, amassing as many 'A's as you possibly can and filling up your resume with longer lists of achievements compared to your peers.
Not surprisingly, the system remains to today because it is set against a background of the need for an upward social mobility and the need for greater qualifications to compete against a multitude of other seekers for a shot at a better paying, highly-esteemed, white-collar profession that would not only ensure financial security but also allow one to upgrade one's lifestyle to a more comfortable one.
At the face of it, the system does not appear to be harmful in any way. Rather, it may even be seen as the saviour of the poor because it provides people with fair opportunities to strive and improve their standards of living. It is good in this sense because it provides individuals with a means by which they can earn better lives and enjoy the things their parents or grandparents were not able to in their poverty and hardship.
Yet, the more we peer and scrutinise, the more we challenge and examine the system, we discover the inherent meaninglessness that is characteristic of it.
Firstly, this kind of education system is founded upon the mindset that the ultimate goal in life is to get a better paying job so that you can get a better life. While it is not wrong to desire a more comfortable and affluent life, to set that as the centre of all life's struggles seems to be reducing the meaning and purpose of life to mere competition and survival games, to outdo one another to reach the top of the pack. While that may be good momentarily because it promotes healthy competition which encourages growth, chronic exposure to the system would only foster rivalry, jealousy and pride, which serve to enhance and accentuate the prevailing tensions in relationships between human beings. Hence, instead of forming a generation who can stand in unity to move forward towards a common purpose, it creates instead a divided, individualistic race of humanity who care only for their own ambitions, desires and survival.
Secondly, the system kills and stifles any form of creative expression of individual personalities and talents. The standard of measure of success imposed by the system is such that individuals who garner the most number of 'A's are deemed successful while those who are not able to perform are labelled as failures. Hence, the only measure of success, it would seem, is the ability to ace the exams, often times by gross memorisation and regurgitation. Any other forms of talents and creative personal expressions, such as arts, music, politics, drama, dance, etc. are seen as a waste of time and useless in the pursuit of better income in the future. Hence, these innate individual talents are suppressed and inhibited, and without the proper platform on which these abilities can be nurtured and developed, they often wither and waste away. As an end result, the individual becomes just another 'clone' or 'factory product' amongst many others that keep the system turning like clockwork.
For me personally, this second consequence of the system strikes close to my heart, and is the source of much of my anger and frustration with the system. I believe I do have many more talents besides studying that could possibly have been better developed and nurtured had I not been part of the system, gifts in music, arts, politics, public speaking, debating and drama. I believe that had I not been boxed into the 'top A scorer' category in the system, I could very well have explored and experimented with my gifts and cultivate the many talents that I have. It is for this reason that I hate the system as it is, and truly I cannot wait for the day when it would finally crumble to dust.
Ultimately, the education system that we are so entrenched in may appear to be bringing good to humanity in the short run, but only results in wasted talents and a whole bunch of individuals who are mere copies of an artificial and arbitrary image of success in the long term. It is meaningless and serves only to breed and manufacture selfish, cynical and petty individuals who are not able to hold any vision for humanity, other than those that promote their ambitions, self-interests and self-preservation.
So what does it mean then to provide education for the next generation?
The word educate relates to the word educe, meaning 'to lead out'. To educate, I believe, is to lead people out from darkness and ignorance into light and wisdom. It is to guide people, to lead them to grasp and follow a calling that is much larger and greater than themselves and to lead them to respond to that calling to step out and embrace visions for a purposeful life and a meaningful humanity.
To educate is not to impose standards or images of success on people, but to allow the gifts and talents that are budding within them to grow and flourish such that the uniqueness and distinctiveness of each individual being can be captured and released. It is not to create clones and machines doing the same things to keep the system churning, but to raise up distinctive individuals who can carry visions for families, communities and cities, and express and outwork them in their personal and unique ways.
To educate is to lead people to the full knowledge of the Creator and His agenda for this earth and for humanity. To educate is to lead people out of the slavery to the system of small-mindedness, self-preservation and selfish ambitions to the knowledge of the One who desires to bring His goodness and life into every part of His creation and who desires to outwork His plans of redemption and restoration into every sphere of humanity. And in that place of adoration of the Creator and His will, then, to be empowered to pursue bigger dreams and visions to bring life and fruitfulness onto this earth, to step out in faith to call forth purpose and meaning into every part of humanity, and to do so in the unique and distinctive qualities and personalities of each individual human being.
Ultimately, to educate is to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and taking every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor 10:5).
And truly, there needs to be a new and living way to educate the next generation, to lead them out of the blindness and slavery of the current system, and into the light and life of liberty, freedom and love.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
I believe that we are made in the image of God, made with fear and favour, made in delight and destiny, made to love and to live, made for goodness and grace.
I believe that we are predestined to carry His purposes and promises into every part of His creation, into the highest heavens and the deepest depths, into every seed-bearing plant and every creature that has breath, into the radiance of day and the dimness of night, into every season under heaven and into every biorhythm and biosphere upon the earth.
I believe that we are called to carry His light and redemption into every part of humanity, into thought, word and deed, calling the nations back to the awe and adoration of one true God who is infinitely good and gracious, drawing the people back to the wonder and worship of the faithful God whose purposes for humanity are trustworthy and true, and whose promises of healing and restoration endure forever.
I believe that we are baptised into the life of the Spirit, walking in the life and peace that comes from the Spirit, standing as a conduit for grace, power and healing to flow to all nations, crucifying and burying the flesh of sinfulness and death, and living the kind of life that is the full embodiment of the proclamation of a new Kingdom that is steadily and triumphantly advancing into every corner of this planet.
I believe that all our faith hinges and pivots on the resurrection, the foundation and cornerstone of all Christianity, the culmination of the covenantal promises of God through generation after generation, the promise that if were true sets us free from the slavery to sin and the tyranny of death, the seal of the victory of life over death, the power of which liberates and releases us to grow and mature to the full stature of the measure of Christ, to hear and be led by the voice of the Spirit who brings life to our mortal bodies and who is making all things new again, to lay down our lives for the cause of the cross only to take it up again, and to invest into building, planting and founding generations who will seek the face of the Lord and carry His image in their lives, relationships, communities and home.
I believe dearly in the certainties and clarity that the Lord has given me.
I believe deeply in His ways and plans that are life-giving and good.
I believe truly in His purposes and promises that are unfailing and true.
Yet, when I see reality around me, I cannot help but wonder if hope is possible in the face of the giant monsters and machineries that are running amok on this earth. I cannot help but question the possibility of the task of redeeming all mankind from their bondage to their strongholds, idols and demons already so deeply rooted and colonising their heart, soul and mind. I cannot help but doubt in the power and leadership of the Creator in advancing His Kingdom and rulership into every part of Creation.
In the face of all the evil I see on this planet, I cannot help but wonder if ultimately, the forces of life and goodness will purge and cleanse this world of all sickness, disease and death. In the place of fear, uncertainty, doubt and despair, I cannot help but long for the promises of God for healing, redemption, restoration, renewal to be fulfilled and consummated.
And it is in this realm of mystery that we journey each day, this realm where there is the good promises of a loving God on one hand, and the evil, present and frightening reality on the other hand. Would I have enough faith to traverse this delicate line of tension between certainty and reality? Would I have strength enough to hold on firmly and dearly to the truthfulness and trustworthiness of the word and oath that have been declared and dictated by the One who made all things, who holds all things together and who works all things for good?
As I tread with fear and trembling in this realm of mystery and reality, I am thankful for the many wonderful relationships that I have been privileged to be part of. I am thankful for the opportunity to share the journey of faith with the many great people that I have met along the way, people who desire to see more of the Kingdom of God on this earth, people who have gone through the depths of emptiness and despair, people who have been redeemed and sanctified by the blood of the Lamb, people who are learning to embrace a new way of life of hope and peace.
I am thankful for people, who like me, have their weaknesses and failures. I am thankful for people, who like me, have their struggles and battles, who have times when they stumble and fall, or get stuck in the mud.
I am thankful for people who in the midst of their shortcomings and sins, can hold hope for the promises of God that is true, people who in the midst of unexplained and unrestrained storms are learning to trust in a God that is indescribable and untamable, people who in the fires of testing and tribulation dare to see beyond the flames of hell to catch glimpses of heaven on earth.
I am thankful for people who are not there to merely solve all my problems for me or to just offer me some handouts or pity, but people with whom I can hold hope with, people with whom I can celebrate and mourn, people with whom I can share joy and tears, people with whom I can break bread and share wine.
I am thankful for friends who I can embrace and love, friends who I can push and propel, friends who I can cheer and encourage, friends who I can comfort and reassure, friends who I can strengthen and affirm, friends who I can speak and bring life into.
I am thankful for friends who walk and run with me, for the times we share stuck in the mud together, for the times we share pulling each other of a ditch or pushing one another up a mountaintop, for the times we share holding ground or breaking strongholds together, for the times we share fending off the enemy or marching on in victory.
Ultimately, I am thankful for friends who are on the journey together, holding hope for life, fruitfulness and restoration in the midst of the chaos, confusion and death.
So, thank you to all of you who have journeyed with me thus far. I am looking forward to the things that God will continue to outwork in our lives as we lean in to the promises of God and press on to the goal of the full stature of the measure of Christ.
And let it be so. Amen.