Monthly Archives: September 2012
One of the greatest challenges in making disciples is transforming lives. But life transformation cannot occur if there is a lack of understanding of our own worldviews. Worldviews are basically embedded mindsets which we truly believe in. These are the things that shape our lives. Even when we become Christians, our old worldviews will not be totally displaced. These old worldviews can only be displaced at a rate of our discovery of them and at the same time, be open to God by believing in His kingdom worldviews. Many believers actually live their lives without transforming their worldviews, as such, their lives remain unchanged even after years believing in Jesus. No one loves to change anyway, especially changes that inconvenience them.
Most people tend to focus on other things. They tend to focus on outward actions and service to God. They even use these outward activities to provide a mask to their inner lives. But by doing so, it only complicates matter. We can end up with a hollow and shallow spirituality that cannot stand the tests of God. Therefore, transforming worldviews should not be avoided. We should take up this challenge and be transformed by God.
However, it is not easy to surface our worldviews. Most of us would usually tackle the symptoms rather than tracing the roots of the symptoms. We actually need to meditate on the word of God and search our hearts in greater depth in order to know our worldviews. When we get to know what is within ourselves, we can then ask God to remove our bad roots and replace old worldviews with new ones. Let us therefore allow God to transform us at the root of our beliefs.
Neil Andersen has shared that humans’ greatest struggle is for three things: significance, security and acceptance. At the heart of these three things is actually the struggle for self-worth. When we do not find our sense of worth, we would always struggle to find ways to prove our worth. As such, we are concerned about how important we are in the eyes of others. We are worried that we are not well accepted. This results in insecurity in our lives.
The proof of our worth can impact different areas of our lives. It is not just something that we struggle for in the world. Yes, we may be more familiar with such a struggle in the world, but it also exists in the church as well. One of the most common area is Christian service. Many believers actually use service to prove their worth in God. They want to be noticed and be appraised by men. They feel jealous when others have more opportunities to serve than them or assume a higher position that they think they should assume.
There is actually no need for us to prove our worth simply because our worth is never meant to be attained this way. So no matter how hard we try, our worth can never be increased. The truth is that our worth is never about attainment, it’s about reception. Our worth is bestowed upon us by God as His lovely creation when we reconciled with Him through Jesus Christ. Our worth is given freely to us by His grace and not something earned. Our worth never changes in the eyes of God, no matter how much we serve Him. Let us, therefore, find rest in Him. Don’t worry too much about how others look at us or how we think others look at us. Don’t even be imprisoned by the way we look at ourselves. We are forever precious in His sight.
People are mostly concerned whether we have done something and neglected the part about how we do something. Both parts are equally important. For instance, besides asking ourselves whether we have loved someone, we also need to ask ourselves how we are loving that person. Some assume that it is all right as long as they have started doing something. But if we neglect the part about how we are doing it, we may actually get a negative result. For example, our children may know that we love them and do things for them, but they are going to feel it if we do so unwillingly or grudgingly.
I share this because this is a very important lesson in spiritual formation. We do so many spiritual things every week. We assume that we are all right. We assume that we would grow. But we don’t, why is this so? This is because we only focus on doing something and neglect how things are done. Concerning prayer, we may be praying everyday but the prayers did not make us more Christ-like. Why? It’s because we only know how to pray for the things we want, the needs we have and the problems we need to solve. We might not have prayed for others and for ourselves to have greater faith or to be more obedient to God. We end up having a lot of self-centred prayers which will only make us more demanding, from God and our friends.
Concerning Bible reading, we might have read the Bible everyday, but how we read it is important. Do we read the Bible just to satisfy the questions we have or also to know God better in the process? Some people just read the Bible to feel good. But in reality, reading the Bible do make us feel uneasy because we are confronted with our sins and wrong mindsets we are holding to. We are challenged to be transformed.
The list goes on. This applies to our service, fellowship, worship and cell group as well. It is good that we start doing something but do not stop there. Pay attention to how we do things too. It is this process of ‘how’ that really helps us to grow in the Lord. It is not about how long we have been doing those things.
Pursue authentic Christian living, not a superficial one. We might have done many things. But what good is it if it is a prayer without discernment, a Bible devotion without depth, a service without devotion, a fellowship without edification and a cell group without feeding?
These things are happening in the church today. We need to restore the ‘ancient paths’ of God, especially when in the last days, Jesus said that our hearts would turn cold. It is time that we awaken the church so that we may guard our hearts with all diligence.
The correlation between personality and spirituality should not be neglected. This is because our personality can affect the way that we build our spirituality. Based on Tim Lahaye’s model of 4 main personality types, we can briefly say that the cholerics tend to focus on doing. The phlegmatics are more passive, so they focus more on waiting. The melancholics tend to focus on thinking. While the sanguine tend to focus on talking because they are more outgoing. The implications on spirituality is that the cholerics may actually focus more on serving God more than building their inner lives because they are people of actions. The phelgmatics would tend to wait upon God which can possibly end up in procrastination because they tend to wait for others to take the lead. The melancolics tend to think too much and become too detail in which they may fail to see the big picture of what God is doing. The sanguine may be talking too much. They may be good at bringing friends but they may be shallow in their relationship with God.
Each personality may have its pros and cons, but we must not just build our spiritual lives based on what we are good at. We need a balance of all personalities when we are building our spirituality. We need to learn to do, to wait, to think and to talk. Why don’t we take some time to think how we have been building our spirituality? Has it been lopsided, just focusing on what we already are, or do we dare to move out of ourselves and build a more balanced spirituality?
Deep within our hearts, we may know that there are two sides of missions – the giving and the receiving ends, yet we tend to focus on the first. As those going out to do missions in another country, we tend to think that we have more to give to others than to receive from them. While I do not doubt the genuineness of our actions, some do have a warped mindset.
I would propose that missions is an interaction of cultures that results in learning experiences for both the mission team and the local church. It is never a one way thing. As we go into another culture, we should adopt a learner’s mentality. Do not think too highly of ourselves as though we have a better technique, a more complicated teaching or a more systematic administration, etc. What works in our culture may not work in others. Even if ours are really better, let us be humble enough to consider others better than ourselves. There are bound to be areas where we are lacking in and we can actually learn from them. Missions is not just about output, it’s a time of great input too. Our reliance on techniques and technology may be redundant and irrelevant to them. If we only know how to make the teachings of Jesus sound more complicated, what good is it to them if they do not understand? If we only know how to play mind twisting intellectual games, where is the fun of simplicity? Let go of those “colonialistic” mindsets and stop the “tyranny” of missions. Even if we are pouring our money in, please do not use money as a weapon of missions to control others. It is just a tool for missions to help accomplish the will of God on earth. Let us do missions with a humble heart: to give and also to receive.
Much have been said about being driven. Though it is a very much accepted word in churches today, but it is still my hope for churches today to move from our drivenness to being motivated.
The world is very much driven today. People are often driven by many external factors such as wealth, fame, power, family and even friends. We can be driven by more than one thing at a time. Even when we have God, it can just be an add-on to those things we already have on hand. Actually, we can be driven by even more things. Many Christians today are driven by their service because it gives them a sense of worth.
Therefore, we can see that drivenness is an external force pushing us to do something. It is like our pastor keeps bugging us to do our quiet time. But when he is not around to check on us, we would skip it. Our relationship with Jesus is just the opposite. Jesus is never like a slave-driver, trying hard to get us out of our comfort zone to serve Him. Instead, He draws us from within, into a most wonderful relationship with Him. Jesus changes us from inside out so that we may experience the true joy of serving Him rather than trying to prove our worth. Within us, we are deeply touched by His grace. We are motivated by His love. This experience gives us the strength to walk with Him without the need of being pushed all the time. My dear friends, have we understood the cross correctly? Have we mistaken our Master to be a mean old man trying to pick faults with us? It is time we change our theology. Don’t be driven by the world and not even God, but be motivated by God.
It’s great to grow our church, especially to see more people coming to know the Lord. However, to grow our church must be taken as a purpose for our church rather a performance. The purpose gives us direction, motivation, and meaning. However, church growth today has become a challenge of wit, techniques and strategies. It is measured by management tools with regard to its effectiveness and efficiency. While these tools and techniques can be a guide, we must be careful not to let ourselves fall into the performance trap. God never calls every church to be big and pastoring a small church does not make us a failure. For that matter, we might not have considered Jesus’ ministry to be very effective or efficient if we were to measure Him by today’s standard. The greater question is whether we have done what God calls us to do. If God calls us to be like Paul who could lead thousands of people to God, praise be to God. (By the way, Paul was not successful in every town that he went to.) But if God calls us to a stubborn and stiff-necked generation like Ezekiel, praise God and be faithful to our call too. We praise God in both situations because we are fulfilling the will of God. If everybody is going for people who are easy to reach, then who would then bring the love of God to those whose hearts are hardened. I know we may have problems with our sending church, sending organization or our sponsors even, because they want to see results. But I would suggest that we stick to our calling and trust God to provide. It’s a sad thing, but it’s true. This performance trap has jeopardized the work of many. Some even ended up making up results just to secure the funds. Yes, we might say that they are dishonest, but how truthful are we to God if our sponsorship is based on performance. God’s ministry is not a transaction. Though it is similar to running a business, it cannot be run like a business fully. At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves whether we have done what God has called us to do, even if we do not see the performance we desire. We may not be fruitful in the eyes of many, but the Lord has borne His fruit in us already. The Lord will still say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Let us persevere even when our ministry is tough. Pray that the church today would have a greater sense of purpose rather than a pursue for performance. Amen.
Seeking transformation in the Lord requires us to understand about active passivity. We have to be proactive in seeking God such as spending fruitful devotion time with the Lord, actively reflecting on the word of God and His ways, cooperating with God by yielding our lives to Him and actively doing and living out our Christian lives. Yet this activity is not something we do out of our own strength, it requires that passivity from us too. As we seek God, we are to passively wait upon Him. As we read the word, we have to be patient for God to reveal His will for us. As we cooperate with God, we have to surrender and submit to Him and subject to His sovereign control. As we serve Him, we have to wait for His directions and strength. These activity and passivity must be held in balance and in tension. I suppose we often mix up the two. When we should be active, we get passive and when we should be passive, we actually run ahead of God. Let us keep these two elements in check as we grow our Christian life.
Many times we are not aware of how we might have hurt people around us. One of the most common problems is that we are not patient enough to listen to others. We tend to speak before others finished with what they want to say. As a result, they feel that they are not being heard. In our minds, we may just want to give a suggestion to solve the problem or simply cut off that person’s conversation to save our time. We are not truly interested in how others are feeling or thinking. Let us learn the art of listening because people must feel that they are being heard before we earn the right to help them or lead them. If they are not being heard, we might just end up hurting them.
In the early morning of 27th August, I was sleepless throughout the night. The Lord gave a message for the church leaders in Thailand. Below is the brief outline of the sermon that I preached. I think it is relevant to most of the churches today as well. Hope this is helpful to you too.
Many a times, we tend to see the needs of the church and we try to solve those needs. But today, God wants to show us something deeper. He showed me three areas that the churches need to transform so as to build stronger churches in Thailand. I would share based on Rom 12:1-2.
1) Firstly, we need a Christ-centred theology. In v 1a, we are told to look at the mercy of God. It is because of this mercy that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. The cross focuses on two things:
a) R: Redemption. The cross is about redemption. It gives us a new meaning in life. It is the motivation from within as a response to God’s love and grace to us. As leaders, we need to appreciate and be grateful for the things Jesus did for us through the grace of God.
b) R: Repentance. The cross is also about repentance. It allows Christ to be the Lord of our lives. If there is no real repentance, the church cannot be strong. Believers without true repentance would be playing with fire. As leaders, we must be courageous enough to lead our members in repentance and walk right with God.
In our theology, we must be careful of 5 Ps that God showed me:
a) Prosperity: This theology builds the church to believe that God would bless them and make them rich materialistically. This does not always happen. Believers can be poor yet living a satisfied life in God. Rather than asking for material blessings, let us know that God is the greatest blessing. In Him we lack nothing.
b) Prophecy: This gives people hope that revival is coming so we should go out and win souls. Though it is good to have revivals that brings in the crowds and excites everybody, revivals cannot be sustained. Our spiritual life cannot be sustained by revivals. Revivals can make us feel excited, but we still need to build our lives in Christ. The question is not just whether we are ready for revivals, but are we ready for the coming of Jesus? Believers should be prepared for bad times and not just good times.
c) Purpose: This builds the church based on certain purposes or goals to attain. It is great to have a purpose or set goals for our church, but we must not forget the processes in the purpose. God is not here to get things done for Him because He can do it very easily Himself. He let us do it because He is using these to transform us. Sometimes, we may not achieve our goals, but God has finished His process in us. We need to focus on our “being” rather than our “doing”. We must understand that God has called us to make disciples and not just converts. Making disciples is actually the most important work in the kingdom of God. But we tend to forget that making disciples is a process and not a point. This process of becoming more like Christ is God’s greatest purpose.
d) Power: This aims to have more power by building bigger churches. We can end up fighting for our own name and power. There is nothing wrong in building small churches. We must know that our members’ faith is not built upon us but on God.
e) Partnership: This is to be involved in different partnerships with other groups to build unity. If we are involved in too many, we will have too many meetings to attend and too many programs to run. As a result, we can get so busy that we do not have enough time to minister the word of God. We need proper management.
2) Secondly, we need a sacrificial mentality. Since Jesus has sacrificed for us, it is now our turn to offer up our lives as living sacrifices for God (v1b). God’s grace has been given freely to us but it is a costly grace. It is time for us to respond to God. Sometimes, we have a receiving / dependent mentality. This is an attitude where churches tend to see that they are poor and cannot do anything. They are just waiting for somebody to help them. But we must move out of this mentality and know that we have a big God and we can always give out of our poverty. The Bible recorded for us two incidents of Jesus feeding the multitudes. One is feeding of the five thousand and the second one is feeding of the four thousand. But both times, the disciples did not have enough faith even though the second time they had less people and more food. Do we have the attitude to give like the little boy? Let us build our church with a right attitude. We must be ready to help, to give and to commit to our churches.
3) Thirdly, we need a transformative living. We must not conform to the world’s thinking but be renewed by the transforming of our minds (v2). Only through the transforming of our minds, can we understand the will of God. Do not assume that by having our Sunday Services, cell groups, visitations or trainings, we will breed disciples. They may just be training the disciples in knowledge. In discipleship, there are three main areas: character, skills, and knowledge. Of these, character is the most difficult. For skills and knowledge, we can use training, but to build disciples we need to spend personal time like Jesus—to help them with their thinking, feelings and doings. We need to instil biblical values and principles for life. Churches today need to have proper discipleship. Most churches have fellowships and trainings but little personal discipleship. But it is personal discipleship that we can build strong disciples who would in turn become future leaders. This may mean that we need to cut down time for some meetings or activities so that we can use the time to disciple our members. Only then, our church can become stronger. We cannot build a building taller without digging deeper foundation. We cannot build a building upright without putting the pillars in place.
Dear leaders, let us not build churches which are anthropo-centred, need-centred, goal-centred or problem-centred. We need Christ-centred churches that have a right theology, a sacrificial attitude and a transformed living.