Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mid-Week Musings : The Revolution of Love

This is how we know God loves us. This is how we know the love of God, the way we perceive it, the way we understand it. He laid down his life for us. He died for us; he did something. He did not sit up in glory and sing, 'My earthlings, I love you, I know you are mine.' The did not do that. That is what we do. We sit in our meetings and sing, 'My Jesus, I love you,' and yet often we are not in speaking terms with the man in the seat beside us. Anyone who can sing that without going out from that meeting to show love in his life has passed through a religious pantomime that is an insult to Almighty God.
~George Verwer~

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Pitfall of Being Entrepreneurial

When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord's anger burned against Uzzah, and He struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark.... - 1 Chronicles 13:9-10

There are good things we can do, but only God-things we should do. Those activities not born out of the Spirit will result in wood, hay, and stubble. What seems good in our eyes may be an abomination in God's eyes. For instance, if you decide to build an orphanage but God has never directed you to do so, then God will not see that work as good; it was born out of your own strength, even though it was a "good work."
The most difficult challenge a Christian workplace believer will ever have is to know what things to be involved in and what things not to be involved in. Many workplace believers have a great ability to see opportunity. What appears to be a "slam dunk" may come back to haunt us if God never ordains us to enter that arena.
There are many good things we can be involved with. However, there are God-things we are supposed to be involved with. Uzzah was a good man in David's sight. It was a time of celebration, and David and the people were transporting the ark of God. However, the ark hit a bump, and Uzzah reached for the ark to hold it steady. He touched the ark, and he immediately died. David became very upset with God about this situation; he questioned whether he could serve God.
God's ways are not our ways. The most important quality God desires to develop in us is our dependence on Him and Him alone. When we begin to make decisions based on reason and analysis instead of the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit, we get into trouble with God. David later learned the importance of this principle in his own life. This encounter was one of the stepping-stones in his pilgrimage. David was an extraordinary entrepreneur. He ran the nation very successfully, but he, like each of us, had to learn the difference between "good things" and "God-things."
Are you involved in anything in which God has not directed you to be involved? Do you seek God about every decision, every action before you take it? This is where God wants you and me to be. Ask Him to show you how to walk with Him in this way.
~ Os Hillman ~

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Do you obey or do you justify?

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than the fat of rams.1Samuel 15:22

Saul was given very specific instructions by God to attach the Amalekites and destroy everything that belongs to them - putting to death men, women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys (v3). However, Saul spared king Aga's life and kept the best plunder (v9). He justified how he can honour God with the plunder (v15 & 21). As a result, God's favour departed from him.

At times, we "justify" our actions under the pretense of bringing glory to God. Pursuing a relationship with a non-believer under the pretense of adding another soul into God's kingdom. Making money, at the expense of one's integrity (as mild as putting in 100-hr work week to as blatant as corruption), under the pretense of giving it away for God's purposes. If I could imagine God's face, it would be a sly smirk, one eyebrow raised with a sarcastic "Oh really?". More often that not, we fall away - the pilgrimage is diluted and we keep the money. It is the motive, it is the issue of the heart. God doesn't need anything from us - He is no one's debtor. He wants our love, and at the heart of our love for Him is obedience (1John 2:4).

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Call To Obedience

Sometimes in the zeal of professing our faith about the many wonderful things about our relationship with God, it strikes non-believers as ludicrous at best and arrogant at worst. To claim to know God’s will surely sounds presumptuous; to claim to know God just a bit preposterous. And the claim that we are children of God is a double-whammy. What makes Christians so favoured and their claims true and not mere boasting?

On one hand, we are children of God hence we possess immense privileges by virtue of that relationship. On the other hand, we must be constantly reminded that we have definite responsibilities as God’s children. Here is an unequivocal stance to smugness and arrogance that implies superiority over non-Christians: it is in our conduct that we make our claims to be God’s children believable. The outward manifestation of our walk exhibits an inward spiritual integrity.

God in a box?
In this age of unprecedented wealth, consumerism mars our culture. In many developed societies, life is so good that “give us our daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer is just a pious uttering. We get to pick and choose what we want, and discard what we don’t. We are spoilt for choices. The sentiment is so strong that there is a new breed of Christians - McChristians. We open the bible, pick and choose the principles that fancy us and ignore the ones that don’t; and then carry on living life our way. Many Christians want to share Christ’s glory, but not his sufferings.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German martyr during the Nazi Occupation, penned this: “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate”. Cheap grace is living as though God ignores or condones our sins. But forgiveness means that sin is real, and must be dealt with. We cannot ignore it, because God does not ignore it. The denial of sin is not grace: it is a lie. Cheap grace means living without the demand of obedience upon us.

The Call to Obedience
If I were to summarize the Christian lifestyle into just one word, it would be obedience. The Bible is full of examples expounding obedient and disobedient characters. The underpinning principle is simple: God blesses the obedient, while the disobedient runs into problems.

Obedience is the conscientious efforts to live out God’s commands and principles, regardless of whether surrounding circumstances are favourable or not. It is a consistency of our discipleship that matters, and not individual acts taken in isolation.

Obedience is not a checklist of rules. Such hollow, legalistic approach saps the essence out of the life of faith and the pilgrimage loses its character. You know the difference between the cheerful obedience of an affectionate daughter or a dutiful son, and the forced obedience of a wretched drudge. One is spontaneous, hearty, affectionate, free, and is accepted as such; the other is extorted by fear, or given with an eye to the wages. We obey, not that it is a test to gain access to God, but rather it is the manifestation of our access to God.

No two-ways around it
There is not such thing as “I love God, but” in the Christian pilgrimage. And there is also no such thing as good intentions. Someone once commented that the road to hell is full of good intentions. Eugene Peterson once remarked that we don’t become whole persons by merely wanting to become whole, by consulting the right prophets, by reading the right books. Intentions must mature into commitments if we are to become persons with definition, character and substance.

Scriptures is blunt to state that if a person claims to know Christ but does not do as Jesus commands, he is a liar (1John 2:4). There are good reasons why God does not tolerate disobedience. Firstly, the psychology behind a disobedient act undermines faith. We know that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Secondly, as God commands to be holy because He is holy (Leviticus 19:2), disobedience implies a sub-standard spiritual stance. Thirdly, it taints our declaration of love for God - only those who truly love Him will do as He says (John 14:23-24).

The call to obedience may seem like a lofty, unattainable perfection. However, as children of God, we can be sure that His grace is enough for us. If we love Him, we obey him - that is our part of the deal (1 John 5:2). God’s part of the deal is that when we obey Him, we are empowered to overcome (v3-5).

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Of Conviction, Confession and Conduct

With thy lips thou hath confessed

Where art thy conduct?

That reflects conviction of thy heart?

What good is thy heart's conviction?

If thou hath not confessed forth

Nor hath thou bring into conduct

What is worth of thy conduct?

Bereft of thy heart's conviction

Hollow confession of deceitful lips

O Lord heareth my cry!

Engrave Thy conviction within

Confessing Thee with my lips

My conduct are Thy ways

~Mel-Vern Toh~

Monday, September 03, 2007

Moving With The Cloud

Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out.
~ Numbers 9:21b ~

Imagine living with the uncertainty of this situation. One day you work at getting your "house" in order, only to have to pick up the stakes and move. Your ability to plan is totally gone. But even greater is the temptation to move when the cloud did not move because you felt it was time to move. For the Israelites, perhaps the grass was no longer green. Perhaps the water was not easily accessible. Perhaps the bugs were a problem. Whatever the case, they were strictly prohibited from moving if the cloud did not move.

It is still the same today. We are not to move unless the Holy Spirit instructs us to do so. We are not to make that business deal on the basis of whether or not it makes sense, but on the leading of the Holy Spirit's "cloud" in our life. It is a difficult process to move only when we are directed, and to remain if we are not. The pressure is always upon us to move, to plan, to act. But if we act, we may move into a place where the presence of God may not be. Hence, the rub. The Christian workplace believer must learn to move when God says move; it is a sign of complete surrender and dependence on God's Spirit to direct our steps.

Ask God today if you are sitting under His cloud. Or, have you moved when He said stand still? He will show you.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
~Proverbs 16:9~

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mid-Week Musings : What Are You Prepared to Die For?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer died for what he believed. Character for him was what was formed in his childhood days at his father and mother's table when they studied the Bible, sang hymns, and affirmed the creed. Deposited into his soul at the deepest levels was a belief that people should be free, that oppression should be fought, and that God was man's highest authority.

That was why it wasn't hard to understand Bonhoeffer's choice when in the late 1930s, he chose to leave a professorship at Union Seminary in New York and return to his German fatherland and almost certain persecution. His friends begged him not to go, as the friends of the Apostle Paul once prevailed upon him not to go to Jerusalem. But he insisted that Hitler-dominated Germany was where he belonged. At one point he wrestled with the genuineness of his character in a marvelous poem :

Who am I? They often tell me
I could step from my cell's confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I would talk to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I would bear the day's misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself,
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands are compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Whom am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a comtemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
feeling in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer died on the gallows at Flossenburg prison. There he commended his soul to God and died bravely. There was a character in his behaviour and attitude all the way to the end. A man of Godly valour.

Most of us do not know what we're prepared to die for. We've not lived in a time or a circumstance where death was required. The closest some of us have come to such a gutsy decision might be to lay a job on the line when a matter of ethics or legality is at stake.