Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Marriage and Money… (Hebrews 13-4-6) 160909

One night, I was trying to figure out how long have my wife and I been married. By next year, it will be ten years! Ten years, I have been living with my wife for ten good and bad years by the end of next year. We look at each other with amazement, and perhaps with amusement. For past nine years, we have gone through much in our marriage. We had lost almost all of our friends in the beginning of this relationship; we had a miscarriage of our first child; we had an income reduction when I decided to step into full-time ministry with the church; we had a further income reduction when I decided to stop working for three full years to study in a Bible College (it was when our daughter arrival); we had gone through a family crisis when my father had to go through a major surgery and I was experiencing a serious burnout and depression perhaps as my daughter arrival; and recently we decided to make a radical change in our service to the Lord to move on to something really new to us.

I am thankful for my wife, I think she is crazy and out of her mind, when she decided to marry me, and went through all these with me for the past nine years. I am really thankful to her. I believe this is marriage, it is when two share each other joy and struggles; it is when two share each other intolerable habits and behavior; but still honors each other. No wonder the author of Hebrews insists that marriage is to be honored by all (v4).

Then the author moves on talk about the love of money. He exhorts his readers to keep their lives free from the love of money. In other words, live a simple life. And the main trust here is to trust God, for He is trustworthy.

As I ponder and meditate on these verses, I think they speak about how we maintain a life which is simple and in contentment. I think when a man or woman commits adultery or sex outside the marriage; it is an expression that he or she is not contented with what his or her spouse can offer sexually. They are looking out for more, they are not contented. And it is the same with money, we can never have enough. The more we have, the more we want to have. This is utterly discontentment. This is greed. This is the root of our sinful nature. We want more than what God has given us. Adam and Eve wanted to have wisdom more than what God has already given them to be dominion over the earth. We want more sex than what our spouse can give it to us. We want more money than what we need. But our real need is to have God to be with us. If God has forsaken me and leave me, there is nothing else I can have to replace Him.

Are you unhappy with your marriage? Go home and give him or her a good big hug! And maybe have a night of good date and even sex (I hope this is not too R-Rated)! Are you loving your job, your money and your possession more than you need? Maybe it is time to learn to give away more (you can give them to me if you don’t know who to give them to) and learn to live simpler.

There was a saying: Live simple, so that other can simply live. But I would add that Live simple, so that God can simply live in you!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Keep on loving… (Hebrews 13:1-3) 140909

I think the most distinctive feature of a Christian is love. I am not referring to mushy romantic kind of love here, neither am I referring to loving-in-exchange-for-something kind of love. I am referring to the kind of love which is an outward expression of God’s amazing grace and wonderful works in our lives. Christians call it unconditional love of God, and most Christians believe that only God can have such kind of love. But I think the kind of love which the author of Hebrews is referring here in verse 1 is the same kind of love which we call the ‘unconditional love’, and we as Christians should be expressing it in our lives.

There are three groups of people the author exhorts us to love, or rather keep on loving. In other words, our love for others is not a one-off event; it is an ongoing activity and habit of our lives. We are told by the author to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (v1), strangers (v2) and prisoners (v3).

Well, it is not so difficult to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ; after all they are supposed to be nice people. But the truth is that it is actually not so easy to love Christians. I confess that I have difficulty loving some of my Christian so-called friends. (I am not going to elaborate here, because I work in an all-Christians environment!)

Therefore, sometimes, it is easier to love a stranger; because there is no string attached. When the author mentions that we might be entertaining angels without knowing it, he is probably alluding to Abraham, when he showed hospitality to his heavenly visitors in Gen. 18:2 – 15. For me to buy a meal for a stranger who has been starving for days, it is easy, though might be inconvenient at times. But the author challenge for us is to keep on loving. Keep on loving a stranger? This sounds strange. How can a stranger be a stranger if we keep on loving, keeping remembering and keeping on entertaining him? He will be a friend or even a brother in Christ by then. I think this is the point of the author. He wants us to ‘entertain’ stranger in into God’s family. He wants us to treat strangers as if they might be angels. He wants us to keep on loving.

And then lastly, he wants us to remember those who are in prison, those who are suffering, those who are being mistreated, those who are on the fringe and those who are being neglected. He wants us to suffer with them. He wants us to identify with them. He wants us to at least, remember them.

Do you have people around you who are in these categories? There are people who are being marginalized by the society. These people are around you and me. In my church, there are the girls from Andrew and Grace Home. These girls might have been behaving badly in the past, they might have committed some mistakes or crimes in the past, but they might also be unfairly treated by their family, friends, and even society in the past. They are in my church, every Sunday, but do you even notice them? Do you even remember them or even their names? Maybe this is one thing we can do, get to know the name of at least one of these girls, remember them in your prayer everyday, keep on greeting them in church whenever you see them, and keep on loving them.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Do not be shaken… (Hebrews 12:25-28) 110909

Today is 9/11. Something happened eight years ago took the entire world by surprise and changed the way we lived and believed. Many were shocked by the event; many had lost their faith in the superpower government; many began to live in fear and in suspicious of one another. The world had changed.

As I read and meditate on today’s passage, I was shaken by the Word. I was shaken by the truth and reality that the world will one day be consumed, one day all that I have achieved will be considered rubbish, and all that I have accumulated will be gone and become worthless ashes. But the good news is that, there is something that will not be shaken: God’s Kingdom!

When I was still a theological student, I have to struggle with the topic on Eschatology; which is the study of the end times. One of the issues in this study is our understanding of Millennium Kingdom of God. Is it going to be a literal rule of Christ for a literal one thousand years (millennium means a thousand years)? Or is it going to be a literal rule of Christ or Christians for a symbolic millennium (an arbitrary period of time)? Or is it going to be a spiritual rule of Christ in heart of Christians for a symbolic millennium (from the point when a person believes in Christ)? There are many possibilities and views, because the Bible is not specific about it and we as interpreters of the Scripture have our worldviews and creatively interpreted accordingly to our preference worldview.

But as a good Presbyterian, I think the Kingdom of God has begun the moment when we believed in Him; and we are looking forward to a literal ruling of Christ or Christians in the future before the end. But no matter what views we take or believe in, the Kingdom of God will not be shaken and cannot be shaken (v28). This means that we who are Christians who have been grafted into the Kingdom of God, now and forever, will also not be shaken!

Therefore, let us be thankful and so worship God (v28). This is our only and right response. Are you facing a crisis in your job whereby your faith has been shaken? Stand on the Kingdom of God within you and give thanks for the many good years He has given you. Are you facing a crisis at home whereby you do not know how to discipline your child or how to take care of your sickly parents? Stand on the solid rock which is the church of Jesus Christ, worshiping Him. I have no guarantee that your crisis will be gone, but I can be sure that your perspective about those crises will be changed as you learn to be thankful and worship. Do not be shaken.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The story of the two mountains… (Hebrews 12:18-24) 100909

During my off day recently, I took a morning to wash and clean up my new family car. It was a joy to do so, though washing the car alone was tiring. It was something new, and it was a sign of God’s providence to me and my family. Then, I remembered my motorbike, my Phantom Bike. I have not been riding on it for about a month, ever since I got the new car. So I went to try to start the engine of the bike, it didn’t work. One of the reasons why I like motorbike is that it has a simpler mechanism; when you can’t start a bike, you can push start it. So I tried to push-start or jump-start or run-start (whatever you call it) my bike. I changed its gear to first gear, and held on to the crutch and pushed it up and down the car park, hopefully to be able to get the engine started; but it didn’t work. I pushed and ran with the hundred-over-kilograms-motorbike for almost an hour, just to come to a realization that I couldn’t start the engine. It is not working this time.

My old Phantom Bike is not working. My new Hyundai Matrix is my new hope. This is my story of two modes of transportation, but in today’s meditation we have a story of two mountains: the mountain of the Old Covenant (Mount Sinai) and the mountain of the New Covenant (Mount Zion). I am impressed by how the author of Hebrews intentionally structured this passage with seven images for each mountain. Of course, the climax is at verse 24 when Jesus was being mentioned:

The climax is reached with the reference to Jesus, seen here as "the mediator of a new covenant." The word for "new" (neas) is applied to the covenant only here. It refers to what is recent. The covenant involves "sprinkled blood" (cf. 9:19-22), which reminds us of the cost of the covenant. The idea of blood speaking is not common and there is undoubtedly a reference to Genesis 4:10 where Abel's blood cried from the ground for vengeance on his killer. Jesus' blood speaks "a better word" than that. His blood opens up a way into the holiest for people (10:19): Abel's blood sought to shut out the wicked man. (By Leon Morris)

As I continue my meditation, I realize that the description of the Mount Sinai is one with terror and fear; and the Mount Zion is one with hope and joy. My old Phantom Bike causes me to have muscle aching all over my body (imagine pushing a hundred-over-kilograms motorbike running up and down the car park for almost an hour); but looking at my clean Hyundai Matrix, I am satisfied.

Do you have religious experiences of the past causing you not able to move forward together with Christ now? I have. But I have also learned to look forward to the new mountain of faith and hope as I move on into new ministry. I am not too sure what some of your past religious experiences are or even traditions which have hindered you to move on, but there is always something new and better before you as you journey with Christ. There are always two mountains, one in front and the other one behind. Look to the one in front which is with new hope and joy, leave the one behind which is with terror and fear.


Monday, September 7, 2009

No one… (Hebrews 12:14-17) 070909

Today is Monday again! I am not so blue today. Today, I make a few visitations in the morning, to encourage and pray for people whom need such grace of God. When I see the joy flowing out from their eyes when I visited them, I know that this is what God has called me to do. I know that my future ministry will be one of which I will enjoy.

When I am back into office, continue my meditation on Hebrews, I am drawn to this verse saying: See to it that no one misses the grace of God (v15). This is a double confirmation of God’s calling upon my ministry life. I don’t think I am doing God a favor by stepping out of my current comfort zone into new ministry; I am simply thankful to God allowing me to participate with Him and letting me to be so filled with joy and grace, as this is where my heart is drawn to. I want to see that no one misses the grace of God. Yes, no one.

And interestingly, there are two others ‘no one’ in this passage: 1) without holiness no one will see the Lord (v14b); 2) see that no one is sexually immoral (v16a).

Of course, according to the structure of this passage, the author was saying that without holiness no one will see the Lord, and what he meant by holiness is no to have bitter root (v15) which is in other words, no one is to misses the grace of God; and secondly to be holy means to have no one is sexually immoral. When the author used ‘no one’ three times, I think he meant it.

The author meant for no one to be unholy, he meant for no one to miss the grace of God, and he meant for no one to be sexually immoral. And the ‘no one’ includes you and me. In other words, I am to be holy if I want to see the Lord; I am to have the grace of God (no bitter root for me); and I am to be sexually moral (else I will be deemed as godless like Esau).

It is easy to declare that I am a holy man, since I am in full-time service in God’s ministry; but in reality, I am not as holy as I want myself to be. We can give all sort of standard or definition about holiness and even quote scripture to justify that we are considered holy by the blood of Christ (I think we are only considered righteous because of Christ). If we honestly ask ourselves, are we holy? You can keep the answer to yourself.

If we want to see God, we have to be holy. We have to make every effort to be holy (v14). We cannot simply sit around and expect ourselves to be holy. I think the author of Hebrews knew the psychology of humans, he pointed our correctly that the two areas whereby we struggle to be holy are: forgiveness and lust.

Do you have anyone to forgive? I have. Or do you need to seek forgiveness from anyone? I also have. Do you have any sexual thought which is inappropriate according to the Word of God? I have. (Don’t look at me as it I am a sex maniac, I just couldn’t match up with God’s supreme standard or sexual purity). But I am making every effort to see that I left no one not being forgiven (as far as I know and as far as I can); and I left no impure thoughts not confessed. As without holiness, no one will see the Lord. I want see the Lord, I want to come into His presence, and I want to meet Him face to face!
I don’t want to be the no one.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Endure disciplines… (Hebrews 12:4-13) 040909

My daughter has begun to assert her will. She will let us know what she wants, and what she doesn’t want. Sometimes, what she wants is good, so we give it to her. But there are times that what she wants are not good for her or maybe even dangerous; so we don’t want to give it to her. When we go against her will or her ideas, she will be angry and sometimes she will cry or scream. Then, my wife and I will discipline her. We will insist she apologizes to whoever she throws her temper at, and we insist she goes to reconcile with whoever she has hit or screamed at. Sometimes, she will obediently do so; but there are also times when she cries and screams even louder. As good parents, we keep our ground and stand firm with our decision (though it can be really difficult, but we do so because we love her).

I think my experience with my daughter is not unique, I believe when we love someone, we unconsciously set a boundary for him or her, so as to protect him or her from getting harm. My wife is pregnant, and her job demands her to work late. Because I love her, I always ‘pressurize’ her to leave her workplace as early as possible; I even encourage her to take leave to rest (and she did it recently, slept almost throughout the day). Of course, I do not discipline her it she doesn’t, but I will express my unhappiness as some form of ‘discipline’.

Our imperfect love towards each other will cause us to discipline our love ones for the good of their well-being. Likewise, God disciplines us for our spiritual well-being (I think also for the well-being of our soul and physical). No wonder the author of Hebrews encouraged us to ‘endure hardship as discipline’ (v7). In other words, be patient when I withhold giving in to your request as a discipline.

What do you do when you know you are being disciplined by God? God disciplines us for our sins, or even just to direct us to His will. Do we get angry with God? Do we get away from God? Do we withdraw ourselves from God? I hope you don’t. I hope you endure hardship as discipline.

It is not going to be pleasant to be disciplined, and s going to be hard. But it is definitely good for you. Endure!




Thursday, September 3, 2009

Don’t grow weary and don’t lose heart… (Hebrews 12:1-3) 030909

Finally, I have completed the chapter of faith. As I look back, there are dead faith, impossible faith and fearful faith; there are also obeying and doing faith, blessing and worshipping faith, and a future faith. I am stunned by my statement of faith, as it is no ordinary faith for me to be the people of faith. As I look at my scarlet faith, I have more faith until I receive the perfect faith!

All these amounts to a great cloud of witnesses describe in Hebrews 12:1. These are not only people, but these are the people who carried the stories of faith, the stories of God’s faithfulness. And all these stories point us toward the author and perfecter of faith, Jesus Christ our Lord (v2).

It seems very idealistic and theoretical. But in reality, faith is to live out with much struggles, opposition and temptation. In reality, faith is always being tempted. In reality, faith is always challenged, faith is always tested.

Faith needs me to act in love, the love of Christ. I remember, I was utterly discouraged by my struggle and lack of faith. I was visiting someone at a government hospital. It was a six beds ward. Besides the person I was visiting, there laid an old and sickly lady, and apparently she was not very alert to her surrounding. This old lady somehow accidentally spilled a bowl of sweet and sticky stuff on the flour. No body came to her help, no body came to ask what she wanted; all that the nurse did was to clean up the flour and ask that old lady to lie down.

There was a surge of compassion within me. I thought to myself, I should go over to give that old lady some assistance. But as I looked around, my sense of courage died; and I began to reason within my heart (sounded like the rich fool in Luke 12) that it might not be appropriate for me to go over to help her. I was struggling within me, I didn’t have the faith that if I went over, I would be able to bring about God’s love to her. I waited and didn’t do anything.

Then, I saw another young lady patient, staying next to that old lady, she got out of her bed in pain, went over to that old lady; asked her what she needed. After knowing that old lady wanted to clean her hands, the young lady took out her wet tissues and sat by that old lady bed, gently cleaned up every finger of hers. No body noticed what that young lady did, but I noticed. My heart was pierced deeply by the rebuke of my lack of faith to bring the love of Christ to that lonely, sickly old lady. I was the beauty of that young lady. It was not her figures or her features or even her face, she was simply another sickly young lady patient in the hospital. But I saw the beauty of one who loves, one who cares and one who gives of herself even though she was in pain.

How about you? People are watching you, you have a cloud of witnesses, you have people of faith cheering you to act in faith; but are you acting in faith and in love? Have you lately missed an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love in faith? I have, I hope you don’t. I hope you will persevere in your struggles and trials. Do not grow weary in doing good, and do not lose heart in faith.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Perfect Faith… (Hebrews 11:39-40) 020909

I am so thrilled that I have a comment on my Monday’s blog. I don’t know who that anonymous is, but I hope he feels much better about his situation at work. He may not be able to understand why he is in such a situation, but I guess this is what faith is all about. It is to trust God for a thing at a time, taking a step at a time and waiting for the perfect time.

Those people who were being commended in Hebrews 11, none of them received what had been promised (v39)! When I think of it, it is like broken dreams or unfulfilled ambitions. I remember that I used to want to be a mandarin pop song songwriter cum producer, but I never got a chance to have my dream to become true. It remains only as a dream.

But God’s promise is more than a dream, it is a real hope. Recently I watched a Christian movie by the name Faith like potatoes. It is real life story about a Scottish farmer living in Africa experiencing God’s miracle in and through his life. The main character aid that faith is like potatoes, it got to be tangible, something you can hold it, smell it and feel it. But before a farmer can harvest potatoes, they are all under the ground. You never know how they have grown until the harvest, until the prefect time for them to be unearthed.

I thought that is a very good illustration of faith. At this point, we are merely planting the seed of faith. There are so many things in our lives which we put our hope and faith on do not come to pass, as far as we know; but faith is believing that God had planned something better for us, we just have to wait for His perfect timing (v40). We know this truth in our head, but our hearts are often drifted away from sure assurance. That is why, we need to keep coming back to the Cross, the Author and Perfecter of our faith!

Do you have unfulfilled dream? Do you have promises from God which are yet to be fulfilled? Do you have the faith like potatoes, to wait till the perfect time? Not our perfect time, but His perfect time. So that we can receive the prefect fruit of faith, just like potatoes; you can touch it, hold it, feel it, and smell it!

I am waiting now… for the perfect faith.