Tuesday, July 30, 2013

SO WHAT?



















After studying in theological college, I came to understand that it can be very easy to slip into a knowledge acquisition mode in theological study. The pursuit of knowledge becomes an end in itself and every profound truth is eagerly grasped and filed away in the mind for future regurgitation at some opportune moment. This was brought home to me in a class discussion when a classmate leaned over to me and cynically said, “we theologians can take something simple and easily make it complicated.” How true, which is why I am very grateful for those of my teachers who constantly challenged us to ask ourselves what we will do with the knowledge that we learn. My theology professor constantly reminded us that theology seeks to apply truths to life and thought in order to guide us on how we ought to live accordingly. Another lecturer was always bringing in a “so what now that you have learnt all this?” dimension during our class tutorials.

As we come to church every Sunday, as we listen to the message and participate in Christian Education lessons, I believe the “so what now that you have learnt this?” aspect of Christian Education can never be over-emphasized. All that we study and hear is to help us know Him better, not know about Him better. After all God did not give us a book so that we can gain more knowledge of Him as we would read an encyclopedia for expert knowledge on a given subject. Instead, He gave us His living Word to walk with us and guide us in our daily lives. We experience His still small voice when we read his Word, whether it be comfort, rebuke or exhortation. Yet at times it can be hard to hear His voice and so we fail to obey the “so what?” part.

Do you find it a problem to hear His voice sometimes?  I must admit it happens to me many times. One of the problems I believe is the busy-ness of daily life. With our fast-fix mentality, we want to hear God enlighten us the moment we pray and read our Bibles. When we spend our Quiet Time, we start with prayer or reading our Bibles mechanically. We do not make it a habit to practise quietness before God. God tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). Being still is not just about finding a quiet place without any distracting noise. It is also about the heart and mind being still before him. That means letting go those anxious thoughts about your financial problems or that nasty neighbour next door or that mean colleague in the office, legitimate concerns though they may be. It is about being willing to let go of those selfish desires and motivations, although they may cost you since many others have the same motivations. This is how we can listen to God’s voice more effectively. Once we have heard his prompting, it becomes essential that we obey what He has said to us. The Bible was meant to be obeyed, not just for the sake of hearing his voice. Then when we obey, we are leaving behind the Bible knowledge acquisition part of our faith and crossing over into the “so what?” realm of our faith. When we do so, we will then manifest our faith in our daily lives by being a blessing to the people around us.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Called By the Unchanging One


 



















In the last General Elections, we witnessed the fall of some mighty big guns of the ruling party, two ministers and one mayor. This was something that no one would have predicted would happen just five years earlier. It was unthinkable that this could happen on the Singapore political scene. Yet it happened. It is a reminder to us that the one unchanging constant in life is change. Indeed in the last decade, we have witnessed many changes in life and circumstances as we were buffeted by the global financial failure of the banking system, Euro and US currency instability, the terror of religious extremism, the devastation of diseases such as SARS and avian flu and many other disasters.
 
Psychologists tell us that change is stressful and I am sure we all agree with them. Even positive changes such as promotions, birth, etc, are stressful in their transitory stage. How then do we cope with these stressors? Depending on our own faculties and abilities is no answer as many have found. Perhaps the answer lies not in ourselves, resilient as we are, but in the Unchanging One who is our God. What are the unchanging attributes of God in which we can find the answer then?
 
God is unchanging in his unconditional love for us. No matter how we feel or where we are, whether we can see the resolution of our problem in this life or not, we know that his love is with us. We may abandon him, stop doing daily devotion and even fall into sinful behaviour and yet he does not stop loving us and stands ever-ready to welcome us back into fellowship with him. This is a wonderful assurance to us, that despite our flaws and failings, he does not waver in loving us. How do we respond then to such love? Do we fold our arms and take his love, care, sustenance and provision for granted? That would almost be like the Me-ology that we have learnt about in Cat & Dog Theology. Rather his unconditional love makes it safe for us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in striving to become better children of his, who honour him with their lives.
 
God is unchanging in his commitment to make us his agents of change in this world. The Bible reminds us that “we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph 2:10. We are saved not to sit back and indulge in our old ways but to fulfill his agenda for the redemption of man and creation. Think about it, an omnipotent God has called you to be his partner. In calling you, he has not left you to your own devices but instead promises you his presence at all times. Does this thought quicken our hearts as we reflect on it?  Responding to God-ordained changes is the best way to overcome the stressful changes that we experience in our temporal world.
 
What does our belonging to a local church mean to us?  Is it just a place to sing songs and hear a message on Sundays?  Or do we see ourselves as being divinely called to a community through which God intends to restore others, still in darkness, to fellowship with him.  We can be very sure that there is no accident to our being part of the church. We can be sure that God has a plan for our local body, whichever one we belong to. So then even as we live our individual lives in obedience and trust, let us also seek the Lord to know his agenda for our community and ask for the grace to fulfill his will.