Saturday, January 21, 2006

Why I Begin Blogging

Why I Begin Blogging

I always think that a blog is a stain on my shirt after I ate laksa noodles until someone pointed out to me that a laksa sauce makes a blot but a blog is a specialised website where you can write your journal or your ideas and post it into the Internet for all to see. Thus, in an attempt to reduce my ignorance, I ventured into the land of cyberspace and to my delight discovered that there is a vast domain there, waiting to be explored and to bring into the influence of the Kingdom of God. Here are some of  the reasons why I blog for God.

Firstly, there is a vast store of information stored in the Internet. While it is important to recognise the fact that not all information on the Internet is reliable but this is also true of much of the information from television, books, newspaper and our friends. The onus is now on the receiver of the information to filter them and decide which to trust. One rule of the thumb is that the source of information must be trustworthy. An educational or recognised organisation is more reliable than a personal website (unless you know that person, of course).

Secondly, the Web has made a true democratisation of knowledge. Information and knowledge has always been controlled by government censors, media magnates and professional watchdogs (also called peer reviewers). Now, anybody can post their comments and their thoughts on the Web. Where some websites have moderators to block the more offensive contents, independent websites are relatively free to post whatever they want. The bad side is that a lot of nonsense is on the Web. The good side is that there is a freedom of speech. What has impressed me is the ‘wiki’. A wiki is an encyclopaedia-like website where people are working together in consensus to build up a searchable information database free for anyone to use. One good example is wikipedia Here is a large encyclopaedia slowly being built up containing most of the knowledge of mankind. Contributors are professionals and others who are giving away their knowledge for free. One would expect such a collaborative effort to be full of errors. A recent study done by Science shows that the context of wikipedia is as reliable as online Britannica Encyclopaedia!  Personally I feel more Christians should be contributing to the building up of this type of databases. The apostle Paul asked a question of how  people are to know of the gift of salvation if they have not been told about it first.

Thirdly, over the years, the ways we are learning have changed. Gone are the days when we can sit down and listen to two hours long sermons by Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards. We are now used to being given information bites in small amount, interestingly packaged with sounds and pictures courtesy of CNN and MTV. Teens are learning more from the Web than from the church or schools. The forms of communications have changed. And the church has to change its forms of communication if it is to be relevant to the present generation. The church’s mandate is to go forth and make disciples, not wait for the disciples-to-be to come to them. The message has not changed. Only the ways of saying it.

Finally, Weblog is an area in which online communities can form. A blog is a personal website where one can post whatever thoughts or comments. This is a form of discussion forum but less structured. This is read and commented upon by other bloggers (people who write blogs). If there are common interests, over time communities will form. Christians and seekers have also formed such online communities. One of the challenges I see to the church in the coming years is that these communities will become more numerous and may even outnumber the existing brick and concrete churches. Such church communities share sermons transcripts, listen to sermons online and offer comfort and fellowship to one another. Instead of condemning such communities, the church should embrace these communities and incorporate them into the existing church structure. I am waiting to for pastors of cyberspace churches to appear.

People perceive and receive information differently nowadays compared to those twenty years ago. For people to believe the good news, they must first hear it. To hear it, they need to have the good news communicated to them. The forms of communication have changed. It is time Christians learn to use the new forms of communication. Why do I blog? To communicate. Welcome to blogosphere. Come and visit my website and my blogsite .

For a more complete article, please visit Shalom

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Burning Bush

If you are driving along the Tebrau Highway and you see a bush that is burning and yet is not consumed (not burnt up), what will you do: (a) whipped out your hand phone and call 911 to inform the Bomba; (b) ignore it and drive by to your next appointment; (c) slow down, get out of the car, join the rest of the crowd to see the spectacular free show or (d) recognize the presence of God?

While recognizing our civil duty to call in the Bomba, most of us will not do so. We do not want to get ‘involved’. Someone else will call in will be our justification. However, that may not stop us from calling our friends to tell them about the fire. Most of us will ignore the burning bush and just drive on. We are in a hurry and there is so much to do and so little time to do it. Some will get out to look at the burning bush. “How do they accomplish this special effect?” they wondered. “Are they making a movie?” Very few will recognize the presence of God and even fewer will move close enough to hear the voice of God as Moses did (Gen.3:4).

What we choose to do is a reflection of our spirituality. Most of us have the ‘do not get involved’ attitude. Let someone else do it. We know we are to love our neighbours (Mk. 12:31) but let’s not get too involved. Many of us are suffering from the ‘hurried’ syndrome. We spend our days rushing from one task to another, filling our lives with stressful hurry. We forget the one thing needful (Lk.10:41). Many of us also love the spectacular and like to be entertained. A continuously burning bush. Wow. What a spectacular pyrotechnic show. Very few of us will notice the presence of God. Why? That’s because we are so attuned to the natural world, so centered in our own lives that we are not open to the presence of God around us. What the mind do not think of, the eyes do not see. That’s why St.Paul called us to train our minds (Rom.12:2).

There is a story of two fish in an ocean. They set off on a spiritual quest to find water. Water is said to have special qualities. Water gives life and can exist in three states: liquid, solid and vapour. They spent many years searching yet they cannot find this water. One day, they asked a wise fish, “Where can we find water?” The wise fish replied, “Water? It’s everywhere. You are swimming in it!” Are we like these two fish? We are living in the presence of God and yet are not aware of Him. We see a burning bush and disregard it, not knowing God wants to speak to us. So let us be mindful of the presence of God in our everyday lives and not miss ‘a burning bush’. Soli Deo Gloria.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Choosing the Right Way

“How I wish God will tell me exactly what He wants me to do.” “I want to do His will but how do I know what His will is?” “I know I am supposed to see what God is doing and go along with Him, but how do I know what is He doing?” “How do I know it is God’s will for me to change job/ marry this girl/ train for this career?” Do these questions sound familiar? It should because it has been asked by millions of Christian everyday as they seek to live their lives in obedience to Him. Don’t you ever wish God will come out directly and tell us what He wants? Life would be so much easier.

There are times when I wish God will talk to me in an audible voice, “Alex, I want you to do this…” So much easier. No more doubts. No need for decision making. No need for seeking the counsel of friends and church leaders. No need to look for confirmation in the Bible. “Is that what you want me to do? Okay.” Of course, for many of us, when God calls, we are often not at home.

But God does not lead us that way. Often He will leave us to make the decisions on our own. He provides the information for decision making in His Word, in the wise counsel of friends and more mature Christians, in circumstances and in the peace (shalom) of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Even as we made the decision and commit to it, we are never 100 % sure that this is the correct decision. That this decision is God’s will. No matter how many years you have been a Christian, how mature you are in Christ and how skilled you are in discernment, there is always doubt. So be encouraged when you have doubts. You have lots of company. Finally, you need to launch forth in faith, trusting that you have made the right decision and trusting that even if you have made the wrong decision, God is there with you and He will help you to correct your mistakes if you continue to seek to obey Him. It is obedience that He seeks. God is more interested in your attitude toward Him than in what you do.

As Hannah Hurnard wrote in her book, Hind’s Feet on High Places, “When you continue your journey there may be much mist and cloud. Perhaps it may even seem as though everything you have seen here of the high places was just a dream, or the work of your own imagination…But you have seen reality, and the mist which seems to swallow it up is the illusion. Believe steadfastly in what you have seen. Even if the way up to the high places appears to be obscured and you are led to doubt whether you are following the right path, remember the promise, ‘Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left.’ Always go forward along the path of obedience as far as you know it until I intervene, even if it seems to be leading you where you fear I could never mean you to go.”

So, my brothers and sisters. Put your trust in the Lord. Make your decision in accordance to His Word, godly counsel and circumstances. Then trust in Him to look after you. God’s purpose is greater and wider than we would even appreciate. It is like a big river flowing to the sea. We are like a leaf fallen from a tree into the river. As we float on the water, we may be bobbing up and down, the eddy current may carry us in the wrong direction for a short while but in the end, the energy of the flowing water in the river will carry us to the sea. Just trust that He will take care of all things. Make your decision and go forth in faith.

Soli Deo Gloria

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Que Sera Sera

Hong was a poor farmer in ancient China during the times of the Warring Kingdom. During the plowing season, he would work in the field, pulling his old wooden plough by himself. One day, a horse wandered into his field. The neighbours exclaimed, “How lucky you are, Hong! The heavens smiled on you by giving you a horse”. Hong merely grunted and went on with his work, saying “What will be, will be”

The Lord has blesses us with many things. Some are intangible like love and peace. Others are tangible like wealth, health and safety. Sometimes He likes to surprise us with unexpected blessings. As His children, we must learn to be grateful for what He has given us. He has already given us the greatest gift of all, the gift of eternal life with Him. And He has given us the Holy Spirit who is sealed with us until the time of His coming again. And He has ordered his angels to care for us. So let our gratitude overflow in prayers to thanksgiving and praises as we continue to worship Him as our God. One of our greatest weaknesses is to take the gifts for granted and then concentrate on the gift more than the Giver. And it is very easy to do that. One of our greatest temptations is money. When the Lord blesses us with abundance and our bank accounts increase, we are grateful. But after a while, we begin to think that we have a right to that money because we worked hard for it. And not only do we want to exercise on the right to use that money as we please, we also want more of it. So we work and schemed for more. Soon increasing our wealth becomes the focus of our lives. We have less and less time for the Giver and instead concentrate more on the gift. Jesus warned us of the danger of serving Money.

One day while riding the horse, Hong’s son fell off the horse and broke his leg in two places. The neighbours exclaimed, “How unlucky you are, Hong! The heavens must be punishing you by giving you this horse”. Hong merely grunted and went on with his work, saying “What will be, will be”

And how do we react when times are bad and we are poor again? Wealth, health and power are sure fragile and elusive things. It can be taken away from us suddenly and often without warning. All our hard work can vanish in the smoke or a tsunami or a hurricane. Or we may be dismissed from our job. One moment we have prestige and power. Next moment we are nobodies. And suddenly all your ‘friends’ have disappeared. Will we still be grateful to the Lord? Or have our gratefulness vanished with our money and we become angry and resentful to the Lord. Do we still continue to pray with thanksgiving and praise or do we begin to doubt the goodness of the Lord? In bad times, do we draw closer to the Lord or do we draw further away?

Then the soldiers came, looking for new recruits for the army. All the young men in the village were taken except Hong’s son who had a broken leg. The neighbours exclaimed, “How lucky you are, Hong! The heavens smiled on you making your son fall off the horse”. Hong merely grunted and went on with his work, saying “What will be, will be”

The teachings of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes can be summarised as ‘under the sun life is difficult and then you die’. We do not know what will happen in our lives and we have no control over what will happen in our lives so we just have to bear it. But on careful reading of Ecclesiastes, there is second teacher present (Ecc.1:1-11;12:8-14) who is actually using this teaching of the Teacher to teach his son. The second teacher taught that ‘yes, under the sun life is difficult but what is important is that we must remember God and obey Him’. In good times and in bad times, God is still the Giver. And as Hong’s story shows, we just do not have the eternal perspective to see how each incident in or lives fit into one another. But we do know our God. He loves us and even now is working out His plan for us for redemption and salvation. So let us concentrate on the Giver rather than the gifts and live our lives one moment at a time. Rumi, a Sufi master wrote a poem entitled The Guest House:
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival
a joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all
even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.

Still, treat each guest honourably,
he may be cleaning you out for some delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

What will be, will be. It will be.That’s not fatalism but living under the Sovereignty of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

Labels: ,

Monday, January 09, 2006

Lion of Narnia

C.S.Lewis said, “Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as He became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.” Thus the chronicles were created. It is a series of seven books about the adventures of six children (Peter, Edmund, Susan, Lucy, Eustace and Jill) who entered Narnia through a wardrobe in the attic of the house where they were staying. Narnia is a land of talking beasts and walking trees. When Mr. Beaver first explained to the children about Aslan the lion in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Susan and Lucy wondered whether it is safe to approach the lion. “Who said anything about safe?” answers Mr. Beaver. “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. And He’s the King, I tell you.” In the course of the story, Aslan sacrificed himself for Edmund and was resurrected echoing the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia, centuries has passed on Narnia while the children returned to England. The land has forgotten Aslan and was ruled by evil Miraz. The children were summoned to restore the rightful king, Caspian to the throne and bring back the Old Narnia of talking beasts and walking trees.

The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” is a sea adventure. Caspian set sail to find the seven Narnian lords who sailed to explore the Eastern seas. Edmund, Lucy and their cousin Eustace joined them on this sea voyage. Reepicheep, a mouse came along on a more mystical quest- to find Aslan beyond the dawn. It is in essence ‘a spiritual journey’ of Reepicheep.

The Horse and His Boy is about two runaway children- a peasant named Shasta and a princess named Aravis escaping to the north to Narnia. In the story the two runaways and their talking horses were driven together by Aslan who also comforted Shasta at the tombs. Aslan helped them to defeat the invaders of Narnia.

In the next book, The Silver Chair, Eustace and Jill were commissioned by Aslan to rescue Rilian, Caspian’s son who was abducted. They have to go to the Underworld to rescue him.

The Last Battle sounded like something from the book of Revelation. It is in the last days of  Narnia, a false Aslan (actually a donkey covered in a lion’s skin) had taken over the land. Again the children, Eustace and Jill arrived to help. This time, even they could not redeem the land. Aslan destroys Narnia and it ends in ‘a rising sea and winter cool’. The next morning, a new Narnia arises where everyone’s final destiny was revealed for eternity and those who are good is rewarded.

The Magician’s Nephew was written later to explain the creation of Narnia. That’s why it is listed first in the chronicles even though it was written last. Again there is echo of the book of Genesis. Narnia began as a dark void, until a Voice began to sing and creation began. Aslan calls certain animals and set them apart from other. Those who are called, responds, “Hail, Aslan. We hear and obey. We are awake. We love. We think. We speak. We know.”

Lewis is adamant that these fantasy children stories are not allegories. Instead it is children stories. Yet the Christian belief of C.S.Liew shines through in these stories. ‘Aslan is not a tame lion’ is the thread that binds the series together. What can we learn from these 50 years old stories?  

One thing I learnt is that our God is not a ‘tamed’ God. He is the great ‘I am.’ He is an awe-some God, striking fear in those who approach Him yet He is also love, taking care of our smallest wounds. We must always be mindful that we do not put Him in a box and recreate Him in our own image. He is the Lion of Judah.

Another thing I learnt is the power of stories. Each of us is living a wonderful story- a story full of adventures and dangers. Yet throughout our stories, if we search carefully, we see that God has always been with us. Like Aslan, God may appear in different forms but He is present all the time and He is orchestrating, behind the scenes, all the events in these wonderful stories of our lives. That is why I love listening to other people’s stories and reading biographies. It reveals God intervening in our lives, forming and transforming us.

Finally I learnt about what a privilege it is to be called and set aside by God for His glory. As the children in the Chronicles felt a special kinship with Aslan and all his created creatures, I too sense a special kinship with God and all my brothers and sisters in Christ (everyone from creation to eternity). It is a good feeling to belong to something that is bigger than me.

The Chronicles of Narnia is a reflection of life on earth. And here we, like the children Peter, Edmund, Susan, Lucy, Eustace and Jill, should take an active part in the greatest adventure of our lives. Don’t wait for the movie. Live it now.

                                                                                                      Soli Deo Gloria

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Henri Nouwen on a Friend Who Cares

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Labels: ,