Monthly Archives: October 2012
The Word of God is a timeless truth. It is still relevant and applicable to all of us today. Even though the setting and the story are different from what we encounter today, it has lessons that guides our everyday life. These are precious lessons that help us to know God and understand ourselves better. But many times, we fail to see the relevance because we just focus on knowing the story. Like one of my lecturers put it so well, he said that we ended up knowing the Bible of God rather than knowing the God of the Bible. That is why there are people who know the Bible very well, but still live a carnal life to glorify self. The Bible is reduced to some cerebral exercises that tickle our mind and not transform our lives. We can end up being so caught up with the interpretation that we missed what the Bible is trying to say.
Of course, nowadays there is another extreme. Preaching and teaching can become a kind of entertainment. Rather than using the pulpit to teach, we use it to entertain. Sad to say, many listeners like it because they find the Word of God soothing. They feel relaxed and refreshed after laughing the whole session. Speakers with a special kind of charisma is so captivating and intriguing. But if the Word of God does not captivate us or intrigue us to the extent of moving us to repentance, then we may be just playing God. Many people today do not care whether the sermon or teaching are taught correctly, they just hope that it is not boring. Nowadays, we still add in sounds, lights and media to our worship service. Yes, technology has advanced and people’s attention span has shortened over the years. But the Word of God should never be compromised. Though it is good to use technology, we must not forget that it is a luxury. Though we need techniques to help in our preaching and teaching, techniques is not everything. We must remember the basic that we do not go church to worship technology or techniques, preacher or teacher, music or management strategies but God. The timeless truth of God must take the centre stage, not any other things.
In our preaching and teaching today, it is also common to have the whats, the whys and the hows. This of course is a neat way to present a topic. For example, we can talk about what is prayer, why we need to pray, and how to pray. But what is sometimes lacking is to teach the principles and values from God’s perspective. From the initial days of my conversion, I know that prayer is communicating with God and if I have any needs, I can tell them to God and He would answer me. This is the assurance of answered prayer. That’s true but not complete. More important than presenting our needs to God, I later know that prayer is a way of discerning His will and yielding to Him through communing with Him. God is actually more important than my needs. I just wonder why this was not taught to me first. It is actually very important for me to change my wrong value of putting myself first in prayers and to know that praying to know God is more important than having Him meet my needs. I could have mistaken God for a Santa Claus if I have built the theology wrongly. If principles and values are centred on us, we are sure to get selfish Christians. Perhaps, that is why we see less Christians who are like the early church believers anymore. We only see more and more nominal Christians who are demanding and self-seeking. Incomplete theology can lead to impaired believers.
Like it or not, we often compromise the Word of God. Even when we share the Gospel, we do not share the full Gospel but we mellowed it down. When we go for rally or revival meetings, we hear of all the nice things from God. We have the grace of God, prophecies and promises, but where is the call for repentance? Well, we may just finished it in a few lines for fear that it would affect the response later. How many of us dare to preach like John Sung today? To be frank, we actually care for the results more than the souls. We are hard up for our church to grow. As such, we hope to ‘lure’ them into the kingdom of God first and then ‘convert’ them slowly. But subtly, we are actually building them on a theology that centred on human beings. We ended up trying to solve their never-ending problems in church and start blaming them for not growing. It maybe us who have taken a wrong footstep in the first place.
Why not come back to the basics? Do not just tell Bible stories or build our church that centred around human beings and techniques, build our church on God-centred principles and values. Be bold to show why and how God’s principles and values are superior than ours, and move to a call for genuine repentance. Build true disciples for Jesus. Do not be threatened by the fact that the church is growing slowly. It is still better than not growing or growing very fast but without a genuine faith in God.
One of the greatest challenges we faced in transformation is to change our eclectic mindset. It is basically the art of choosing what we accustomed to, what we already believe and what we are already doing. I called it an art because we do this so subtly and so unknowingly that we ourselves can go unnoticed. Like it or not, we see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear and do what we believe only. As such, even when we read the Bible, we may not ‘see’ all of the text. When we listen to God, we may not hear everything that God wants to say. When we obey God, we may also be selective to just follow what is comfortable for us.
Our minds are always in a constant process of choosing. We tend to choose those images, words or pictures that our minds are familiar with first. This is the same for our beliefs. We tend to choose those that match our current beliefs. We choose those that are easy to accept and do first. Leaving those ‘new’ and difficult things to the last. As such, we may actually select those commandments that are easy for us to follow first, while putting the rest aside. We can possibly fool ourselves and even try to fool God by just doing those things we are good at while neglecting the rest.
As Christians, however, our obedience is not selective. God expects us to love Him with our heart, with our mind, with our souls, and with our strength. He calls for a total allegiance. Therefore, even those beliefs that match ours must be checked. We must understand that we are not finding concepts in the Bible to conform to our thinking but rather to make our thoughts submit to the Word of God. Every thoughts should be tested with the Scriptures. There is always some differences between our thoughts and God thoughts, between our ways and God ways. Our Christian beliefs is never a buffet to go and pick only those that we like. It comes as a whole, not a piecemeal. If so, it would be easy for many of us for we would be able to continue to live our old lives without the need to change.
Many of us are not aware that we have this eclectic worldview. As such, we continue to find what fit us rather than being shaped by God. We continue to find what is easy to accept and easy for us to do. We still live in our own framework. But to live for Christ, we have to deny ourselves, carry our cross and follow Him. We need to dethrone ourselves, even those of which are familiar to us. We no longer adopt a eclectic mindset to ‘buffet’ the Word of God, but to accept the Word as it is in a neutral state and let it speak to us as God wills it to be.
Let us seek to transform this eclectic mindset. Let us not left any thoughts untested just as we do not leave any stones unturned. We need to constantly take captive of our thoughts and make them submit to Christ. We are to dethrone our own thoughts and ways so as to receive Christ as the sole Master of our lives.
This is a busy society. We have so much things to do that we often feel awkward when we are free. Some of us would even feel guilty when we take a rest. We would tend to find something to be occupied with. Even when we are free, many of us would read a magazine, listen to the music, or now our favourite –play with our smartphones. There is just so much we can do.
With all these ‘noises’ of this world, we are driven to act. Very seldom, we would spend time in solitude and reflect on God. Actually there are many things we can reflect. We can think about the Word of God and what God is saying to us. We can also reflect about what God is saying to us through the things that are happening around us. Rather than rushing into action, we can also reflect on what God is doing. Our experiences are also good to reflect, so that our experiences would not go futile. While reflection without action can lead to passivity. Action without reflection can lead to foolishness and impulsiveness. We may end up doing a lot of things without learning. God may also allow us to go through the same experience again and again in order to chasten us and discipline us.
Therefore, it is vital that action be coupled with reflection. Then there will be meaningful actions and wise lessons learnt. Let us think before we do and reflect after we act.
How do we feel when we read the same old passage again and again? Sometimes we get bored and switch off our thinking mode assuming we already know the passage. While it is true that we may know the story, but we may not have been renewed in our minds. We need to learn to extract biblical principles and values from the passage and use them to renew our mind. It is these principles and values that are timeless. But many failed to do so.
Instead of spending time to unravel these precious principles and values, some turn to other sources to look for ‘new’ teachings. When people talks about numerology in the bible, symbolism in the bible, allegories in the bible, they become very excited. We must be careful not to read too much into the bible. These kinds of knowledge just puffs us up without substance and content. We can end up becoming Christians who are hyped up on the outside but hollow inside. For these kinds of knowledge can never build up our spiritual lives. It is more worthwhile to go back to the ancient paths of God. There are more than enough for us to digest. It is a matter whether we want to dig into this gold mine or not. Do not always wait for people to spoon feed us. While receiving teaching, make sure we learn the biblical principles and values for our lives rather than just going for the knowledge. Let us be people who not only know the story but also living the word of God.
Nowadays, many Christians tend to evaluate a ministry based on its works. People flock to churches where there are prophecies, casting of demons or various miracles. They see these works as proof of God’s presence. So whenever there are some popular speakers in town, they would go for their meeting. I was surprised at the turn out of one meeting in Thailand even though the speaker was well known for preaching prosperity Gospel and even misuse of funds. I realized that our faith has been reduced to looking for what works rather than looking for what’s true. To many, if there are signs and wonders present, then it must be true. Deep within our worldview, we are still concerned about what benefits us rather than what is really true. We forget that even the magicians in Moses’ time could perform lots of miracles and wonders. Jesus made it clear in the Gospel of Matthew that not everyone who calls Him Lord would be allowed to enter the kingdom of God, even if they prophesied, cast out demons or performed miracles. The authenticity of our ministry is not by our works but by our belief. Is our belief rooted in the word of God or do we manipulate them for selfish gain? Are we really building our faith on the solid Rock or on shaky sand? Let us renew our minds, do not just get excited by the external works. We must get the truth of God into us and let it bear the fruit of repentance in our lives. Do not blindly follow those leaders who exalt themselves but are so clever with their words that we are taken in by them. We should always check them based on the word of God, even if we can derive some benefits from them out of their preaching or their miracles.
There are many things that can happen to us in our lives. Some of which we may feel that it is not fair. These result in doubts or bitterness. Some of these things can also result in uncertainty and change in our living conditions too. These circumstances can actually result in points of contention with the Lord. When we allow these contentions to accumulate, they would subtly but definitely affect our faith in God. They distort the views we have about God. We usually end up seeing God as One who is stingy and One who is always making things difficult for us. But our God is actually not like this. He is a generous God who blesses us more than we can imagine. His loving plan continues to unfold His goodness in our lives despite our failure to follow Him closely and to understand His good and perfect will. Therefore, let us not be ignorant when we face trials, they are for the purification of our faith, so that we may experience more joy and hope. Instead of contention, let us ask God for a heart of contentment. Whether rich or poor, good or bad, smooth-sailing or rough-going, we can be contented in the Lord. Our faith rests not on circumstances, but on God Himself, who never fails us. He is greater than what we experience. He is more loving than what we think of Him. He is more gracious and merciful than what we expect of Him. Let our contentment in God overwhelm our contention with God. Sing to the Lord a new song and rejoice in Him.