Thursday, September 14, 2006

Follow Him, all the way.

When I am weary, I remember what the psalmist said in Psalm 103:14 – For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

Yet, when I think of the battles lay before us to fight, I find it hard not to lay my spiritual swords and helmets of salvation aside.

For if God has delivered us from darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son, (Colossians 1:13); then it must be so that our worldview faces a drastic change. How can we claim to love the Lord when the lure of earthly status and comforts beckon?

If Christ were the firstborn of all creation, in which all things were created through Him and for Him; and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17), how can we claim that the world is Christ’s, without holding out our consciences as citizens of Christ’s Kingdom outside the walls of our churches?

So, to the young generation of the Malaysian Church,

The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful-- for he cannot deny himself.
(2Ti 2:11-13)

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart”.
(2Ti 2:22)

Choose your battles wisely, and fight them to your deaths for the sake of Christ.

*This post marks the end of bohtea’s run. The writer expresses her heartfelt appreciation for friends and readers. Your visits to this blog provided much encouragement and inspiration. Nevertheless, there are other battles out there worth fighting for, and the writer wants to move on; with the grace and guidance of God, to these battlefields as much as they are harvest fields.

Peace by the Lord Jesus Christ to all.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Seeing Psalms

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920)- a Reformed Christian, Dutch theologian, politician, journalist, university founder and seminal thinker of modern Calvinism; wrote this when he was in the Alps, recovering from his breakdown.

In the Roar of Your Waterfalls

God the Lord did not give us His revelation in a land of plains but in a land with mountains. Only in these highlands does a person learn to understand many a saying in Scripture.

David, too, roamed the mountains when he fled from Saul. There in the mountain caves, amidst cliffs and rocks, he heard an exhausted deer cry out for streams of water. In that cry he heard echoed the cry of his own soul for his God.

From mountain heights the world looks majestic, elevated, divinely great. On the plains and in the valleys man is everything. There he builds his cities and towns and fills them with his worldly possessions. There he accumulates his wealth, creates his pleasures, and covers the earth with the works of his hands.

But on mountain heights the picture is very different. There man is the creator of nothing and God alone is the majestic master craftsman. There every peak, every cliff, every gorge is an eloquent witness to His divine greatness. There one sees lightning and thunder clouds working in concert, not above himself but below and all around. There God the Lord has His eternal snow and never-melting icefields. There the only witness of His royal splendor is the eagle and only the gemsbok prances before His face.

Silence, a sacred silence, fills the air over those mysterious highlands. There the pounding of hoofbeats, the rattle of implements, the buzz of human voices is never heard but everything lies wrapped in solemn and divine quiet. God's power on those mountains became to him a revelation of His wrath. As on those mountains, so were things in his own soul. There, too, deep gorges yawned. There, too, the waters of the Lord came down with a dull roar. And when in nature, full of majesty, deep called to deep, David felt how in his own soul one abyss called to another with an enormous groan, ever calling out to the God of his life in whom alone was his help.

Still, it is not in the mountains but on the plains that God has provided a home for humanity. Though a person might roam on the mountian heights, he could not live there, and after years of being tested David too, returned to the plain of Jordan. But in the memory of his God as he received it in God's mountains remained indelibly imprinted on his soul.

A Song of Ascents.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
-(Psa 121:1-8)

I had the privilege to meditate on this reflection here and saw how the psalms jumped to Life every day.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Making sense out of witnessing.

Picture of Frankston Pier, Australia- courtesy of Nains

I have once said how agreeable we can be to being witnesses of Jesus Christ. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is perhaps, one of the most frequently-memorised verses in the Bible and one which is preached over and over again in churches throughout all ages. It merely reiterates again and again, the seriousness of being called a disciple of Christ and the implications that surround it.

For a start, we must stop being foolish into thinking that the world is all evil and therefore, commitment to the public sphere ought to be kept at a bare minimum. The fact that Jesus did not bring any of the disciples with Him when He ascended to Heaven, signified that we were called to live in this world and be in touch with the public sphere everyday.

But at the same time, we are also called out both singularly and communally to leave our world with significant marks of allegiance to Christ. It is an attestation of His salvation for us, not only from Sin but also for True Life. And we are to attest this at work, at school and at home, as much as we testify His love in church.

The means of attestation have already been said- through giving the firstfruits of our gifts for His Kingdom and upholding justice and righteousness in a twisted world. But, while they ought to be encompassed in our daily Christian living, we are never to view them as equivalent alternatives to proclaiming the Gospel. Instead, proclaiming the good news of salvation ought to be the most glaring modus operandi. All platforms that serve to create space to preach the Gospel must pale in comparison to the actual preaching of the Word itself.

Therefore, the presentation of the Gospel must be clear, crisp and downright plain to understanding. Many a times, we find platform stages and concert lightings so blinding, they distract people from receiving the Good News. Other times, the Gospel is reduced to making us happy and secure without making references to our need for a Saviour from our sins. In the end, Jesus is only known as “friend” but not “Lord”.

A careful reading of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 tells us that we are to make disciples, not merely going to. Making disciples is more than just hoping for people to fall on their knees in evangelistic rallies- it is a continuous process of saturating believers with the Word of God so that they may turn from their sins, turn to God and obey Him. The marks of a true Christian must eventually prevail.

Yet, we must never credit our participation in the Great Commission to ourselves, as though our salvation is enhanced by it. The work performed by Jesus on the cross is complete. None of us can ever tamper with it nor can we jointly take pride in it. Such is the same in the office of the Holy Spirit that prompts and ministers to the hearer. It is only by His strength that we are enabled to preach the Good News. Nothing is of our own.

And so, our ultimate calling is this- to love Him with all our hearts, souls, strength and minds that no treasure is too precious which we cannot forsake for Him; and to love our neighbours as ourselves that we shall not bear to look away when they cry of oppression.

More so, to preach this love to people of all tongues and tribes, simply because He has first loved us.

(Read again!)

Making sense out of giving

Making sense out of justice

Friday, August 18, 2006

Let People Think!

“Let me write the song of the nations, I don’t care who writes its laws”.

Loosely based on his book, “Deliver us from evil”, Ravi Zacharias spoke with courage, passion and conviction on moral relativism, hedonism and eliminating faith from the public sphere; and how all these brought forth the loss of shame, reason and meaning to Life and Society.

It was a public lecture like no other, especially when it was held within the walls of a Malaysian university; which ironically, had become a hostile ground for education and critical thinking and a fertile ground for indifference and moral relativism.

Drawing Logic and Reason and significant teachings of the Christian faith, Ravi Zacharias gave us all an important consideration about knowing the one true God.

Listen to the public lecture here-
The Three Great Challenges to Religion and Society- A Proposal for True Spirituality

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Making sense out of justice

We cannot deny living in a world of tensions. Nor can we deny being uncomfortable watching bloodied body parts strewn across streets of Lebanon. And the last thing, we want to do is merely flick the channel or leave our couch after watching all that madness.

Evangelical Christians have been noted for keeping mum while nations burn, plunder and kill. This is a terrible mistake which we have made over and over again throughout history. What made us apathetic is still a mystery to me. But, I suspect that we may have grasp too little of what it means to be living in the Kingdom of God; or too much; that we may have got the whole idea wrong.

When Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,” (c/f Mark 1:15); He was not speaking of a kingdom of floating palaces and harpists with shining hair. The Kingdom is to be in God’s reign and if God were to be Ruler, His ways will be the mandate for this Kingdom. Yet, we tend to overlook the fact that this Kingdom we so long to see is already in power, only that it is waiting for full consummation by our Lord Jesus Christ’s second coming.

I know this to be true because the signs of the Kingdom are already here. Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah through His proclamation of good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovering the sight of the blind and setting free the oppressed. (c/f Luke 4:18-19) The Gospel will penetrate the hearts of men through justice and righteousness.

In the Hebrew language, righteousness and justice are connected to represent one complex idea. Even before the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land, God gave them His Laws, and showed them the way to live as a community of faith to Yahweh.

From the Ten Commandments to laws concerning the year of Jubilee, God gave them a social covenant that they would live in justice and righteousness. The slaves would be freed, their wealth restored; no man shall murder another- these are laws pertaining to social justice, not mere private piety to God.

Hence, when Jesus Christ sent us to proclaim the Gospel to every tongue and tribe and to the ends of the world; He wasn’t implying that we merely repeat after Him. The way and meaning to Life have been displayed through the completeness of the work on the Cross. But, they are to be proclaimed and seen to be proclaimed through means of justice and righteousness- eradicating corruption, channeling funds to build and sustain a healthy community livelihood, canceling debts of poor nations, condemning acts of conquer through wars and defending the fundamental rights of mankind.

The Church is living in a tension between evil powers and principalities and forces of good, mercy and righteousness. While waiting for Christ’s second coming, we can silently watch our neighbours die from inside our church buildings or support military conquests of the Holy Land to justify our sincere ushering of the Kingdom of God.

But let it be then, that we perish with them who perished, not only from the same missiles we thought we are well-protected of in our churches but also in guilt and judgment.

Or we can live and die under Christ’s lordship- overcoming evil of the last ages with good, praying unceasingly for deliverance and liberating those who are oppressed through significant means of justice and righteousness, as He has commissioned us to.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Making sense out of giving.

Many times, my conversations with people about callings, vocations and missions end in a very confusing note. We probably would be very agreeable to being a witness for Christ in general. But, most Christians would probably run for cover the moment specific callings are being raised. Perhaps, we have been too comfortable with generic terms. Corporate calling has been played down so much that it has seemed to us a choice that we can choose to take or reject, not a commission to be upheld with great stride.

But, God above all, is not a God ‘in general’. I believe He has called us corporately to be His witnesses. And at the same time, He also calls us individually by giving us unique means to be His witnesses effectively. Perhaps this is why God is not only addressed as the God of Israel but also specifically, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I admit that the journey to knowing our callings individually is anything but a stroll by the beach. Sometimes, it is upon seeing a painful scenario of poverty, hunger and sickness. Sometimes, it is about dealing with ‘mismatched’ gifts and passion and meeting with more urgent needs. Sometimes, it is about experiencing little self-deaths through the loss of loved ones. But whatever dynamic experiences we would have to go through to discern our specific callings, it is almost certain that all of us would have to struggle with it first.

Having struggled with possibilities after possibilities does not however, necessarily make us professionals at discerning God’s will for us. The necessary turning point for us is to be able to pray God’s will for us- a prayer that aligns with the exact calling He has for us. And it will never be a prayer after God’s will if we do not die to ourselves and the worldly desires that grip us and at the same time, we are gripping at.

To make things more difficult, it is more than just letting go that Porsche and home in Tropicana. It may even be about letting go that beat-up Kancil in place of a rusty bike, that room in the city for a shack along the Mekong delta or even someone whom you would very much want to be your future spouse. Whatever it is that grips our hearts most, it is only upon releasing it that we can be released to be truly servants and witnesses of God.

Grappling with the fears of uncertainties is both tiresome and terrifying. It may even lead us to making hasty and unwise decisions sometimes. All the more, it is a course of humility and pride- being humble enough to surrender and proud enough to offer and know it is wholly accepted by God. It is the story of the woman who gave little in the eyes of others but gave much in the eyes of our Lord simply because she gave her all.

So, it is that simple. And at the same time, most difficult.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

True spirituality


by Dr Ravi Zacharias
Visiting Professor at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University

Date : 17 August 2006 (Thursday)
Time : 3.00 p.m.
Venue : Auditorium, Asia Europe Institute, University of Malaya

Please reply: 14th August 2006
Tel: 03-7967 5697 / 7967 5468 Fax: 03- 7967 5692


"Culture is the effort to provide a coherent set of answers to the existential situations that confront all human beings in the passage of their lives," suggests sociologist Daniel Bell. Yet one of the symptoms of a society that has lost its ability to think critically is that it deals with life-defining realities such as who we are as human beings in a simplistic manner. Furthermore, a culture that loses its shame, its power of reason, and its sense of meaning has little to hope for in the future. What has brought this demise about? Many scholars have attributed it to the eroding processes of secularization, pluralization and privatization. This lecture examines these 3 challenges and proposes a deeper and hopeful understanding of who we are and who we are meant to be.