Sunday, October 26, 2008

I love my son

“When I see David Blaine, I will say hello to him for you” I half jokingly told Samuel, the amateur card magician, my son, the day before I flew off to New York. Did I really believe that I would meet up with the world-renowned street magician and endurance artist? Not in a million chance would I have the opportunity to meet David Blaine in New York. But I half wish that it would happen. Sam and I used to watch David Blaine’s card magic on TV. We both enjoyed watching him doing street magic to entertain the crowd and also some of the ‘pushing to the limits’ endurance stunts. David Blaine is a unique person who is out to prove something to the world. He has a message to tell the world.

Imagine my joy when I read in the New York Post that David Blaine will be in Manhattan Central Park. He will be hung upside down for 60 hours, which medically is impossible for his body to endure. The pressure will be so enormous that he would go blind. I told my friends that I would be going to Central Park to get his signature for my son. It so happened that there were no classes on Wednesday, the day where David Blaine supposed to end his stunt and take the ‘dive of death’ at 11pm. I joined the long queue just to take a photo and signature of David Blaine. I did it for Sam. Its kind of silly, an oriental man in his 50s taking a digital camera in the crowd of mostly youngsters, wanting a photo with David Blaine. It was a sunny day, quite hot on that mid morning; I patiently waited for my turn.

My Philippines course mates were wondering why I was so eager and determined to get David Blaine’s signature. “You mean you did this for your son?” They were obviously touched by what I did for my son. I told them that this meant a lot to Sam and he would really be thrilled.
“Hi, David, My son Sam says hello to you. He is also a card magician.” I unashamedly greeted David Blaine with those words. “Urgh, urgh…” David was groaning. I could see his face was reddened with blood pressure.

I got a photo taken with David Blaine and also I got him to pen his signature on a card signing upside down.

Later that night I watched live telecast on David’s ‘dive of death’ at Central Park. The TV also showed some of his stunts that he did previously. David shared about his life story and what he said caught my attention. When interviewed who influenced him the most, David unhesitatingly mentioned the name of his mum. “My mum taught me two things: First, if I put my mind to do anything, I could achieve it. Second, she taught me unconditional love.” Probably his mum’s teaching had shaped his philosophy of life. David constantly pushes himself to the limits in those stunts that he did that no one would dare to do. “If you make up your mind to do anything, you can achieve it.”

David was found doing card magic’s to cheer the victims of Katrina Hurricane. He was also giving away money through his magic to the destitute. Could it be that he who has experienced unconditional love is now able to show it to others. David often does his magic to strangers in order to bring cheers to them. He likes to make people happy through surprises that came from the art of magic.

That Sunday I heard Dr. Tim Keller preached on the Parable of the Lost Son. How the father ran to his wayward, scoundrel son threw his arms around him and kissed him. It was so undignified for an elderly Middle East father to pull up his long dress and ran. This younger son who had taken his share of the inheritance and spent it all on wild living. The father threw a party to welcome his home coming without a word of rebuke. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, Quick! Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ SO they began to celebrate. The father showed his son grace and unconditional love. His son wanted to be treated as his father’s hired servant. But to his father he has never ceased to be his son no matter how wayward he had become.

The parable reveals God as a heavenly Father to us. We are more loved by God than we ever realized.

I love my son, Sam. But I can never outdo God’s love. The extent I go to show my love for Sam is nothing compared to what God did for us.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Unforgettable Night

Listening to Frances Hesselbein’s keynote address was most refreshing. Frances Hesselbein, (Chairman & Founding President Leader to Leader Institute & Former CEO, and Girl Scouts of the USA) a diminutive and frail looking woman spoke gently and yet with authority at the podium. She challenged the Christian leaders of New York City who gathered at the Launch Dinner of The New York City Leadership Center to lead the city with courage, integrity and mercy. She embodies the spirit of volunteerism and summons leaders to give their time, energy, creativity and talents to be volunteers to serve society. Hesselbein was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America’s highest civilian honor, in 1988. She was also the Founding President of the Drucker Foundation. The audience gave a standing ovation at the end of her speech. This is the woman who walks the talk. She had led the Girl Scouts of the USA from 1976-1990. She took over the helm of the Girl Scouts movement as Chief Executive Officer when it was fast declining in numbers. She was able to bring the movement forward and did so with much courage and wisdom.

Hessebein had neither led an academia or big corporation. Leadership is, as far as she is concerned, expressing oneself through one’s character. The late Peter Drucker spoke admiringly of her: “This is one woman who knows what she is called to do and where she is going. She will not deviate from her calling.” She does her work with excellence, courage and wisdom. She was a volunteer and probably was not paid to do her job.

The moment Marie Barlow Martin stepped forward to sing a repertoire of Broadway songs; the audience was mesmerized by the beauty of her voice. You could hear a pin dropped on the floor. Marie is an international singer who has performed before hundreds of thousands in over 30 countries for theatres, orchestras and churches with a voice described as a “national treasure.” She responded to God’s call recently and left her very successful career living in Manhattan as a musical theater singer and actress in the Broadway community to begin a music ministry with her husband Gordy. She felt that she could express her faith more fully now than ever before. I was simply bowed over by her voice.

I was not supposed to be there at the dinner event. I was invited by RCPC as a guest and it came as a surprise. Listening to these two outstanding women, one through speech and the other through songs, both equally compelling and forceful, not by brute strength but by sheer elegance of their character, commitment and courage, I knew God showed up that night.

Outside the Marriot Hotel, thousands of New Yorkers have to go through nights of uncertainties. Many lost their jobs because Wall Street stock market suffered its biggest fall since 9/11. There were groans, howling, moans as many lost their lifesavings. Outside the Manhattan headquarters of Lehman Brothers Holding Inc., Geoffrey Raymond, a 54-year-old Brooklyn artist urged passers-by to sign his latest work, a painting of the bankrupt investment bank’s chief executive, Richard Fuld. New Yorkers filled the canvas from edge to edge with comments about greed and comeuppance. He was paid handsomely as CEO but the lack of character led to his downfall.

It was an unforgettable night for many.

“Leadership is simply an expression of what one does through his or her character” – the wisdom of Frances Hasselbein rings loud and clear.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gospel DNA

Redeemer Presbyterian Church is a mega church with 5000 members in its multiple services. The worship services are traditional and contemporary depending which service one attends. I found that both traditional and contemporary worship services of RPC convey the sense of the worth and beauty of God through thoughtful liturgy, kingdom-centered prayer, Christ-centered preaching and joyful music. The worshippers are not particularly expressive type. Given the intellectual culture of Manhattan and the professorial style of preaching by Dr.Tim Keller, Redeemer church naturally attracts the professionals, the academia, and the college students who appreciate content rich sermons. It is not a Charismatic church and yet the growth is phenomenon.
I interviewed a few members of the church to find out what made them want to come to RPC and the consistent answer I got is this: “Tim Keller’s sermons touch our lives. Redeemer has a balance gospel ministry. The church is able to reach out to secular people. RPC knows how to engage the culture without condemning the evilness of the culture.”

So what is the real secret?

Tim Keller is able to make the truth of the gospel clear and real. His expository preaching consistently shows how all Biblical themes climax in Christ and his work of salvation. His teaching on the gospel of grace is a death blow to legalism, moralism and relativism. If gospel is clearly preached, the church will not produce self-righteous, judgmental, self-centered Christians.

Secularism tends to make people selfish and individualistic. Religion and moralism in general tends to make people parochial and self-righteous.

But the gospel however humbles and affirms us at the same time, since in Christ, we are simul iutus et peccator. In the oft repeated famous phrase of Tim Keller “At the same time, we are more flawed and sinful than we ever dared believe, yet we are more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope” Such gospel truth moves people to holiness (not legalistic, pharisaical self-righteousness type of holiness) and service out of grateful joy for grace, and out of love of the glory of God for who he is in himself.

RPC has a ministry called Diaconate where the deacons and deaconesses carry out the ministry of help and mercy to those needy members in the church so that there are no needy persons among them. The volunteers serve joyfully out of a deep sense of gratitude to God’s redemptive grace in their lives. The artists and musicians convey truth, beauty and excellence in their professions. They express their creativity through music and worship service in such a way that the beauty and worth of God is seen and felt. The members are passionate about justice issues and engage the New York culture with the aim to transform with the power of the gospel.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church is certainly impacting Manhattan and other major cities of the world. My 6 weeks here with Redeemer Church Planting Center will certainly be and has already been a life and ministry transforming experience for me.

God in his graciousness has given me this exposure to see how Tim Keller builds that kind of church that impact and influence the culture of cities and nations.

CDPC already share many aspects of the DNA of Redeemer Church. We need a united and strong team who share the same vision to take CDPC to another level.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The three men who influenced me

Looking back the last three decades, I could see the unseen hand of God moulding my life for his purpose. He used three men in different periods to shape me to become the kind of person that God wants me to be. I am grateful to them and thankful to God.

Dr. David G, a protestant, was my first ‘boss’ in church. He was the first church leader I worked closely when I came back from UK. He had helped to shape my spirituality and mission consciousness. He demonstrated quiet and gentle leadership, no less impactful in Christian ministry than charismatic and forceful leadership. One does not need to be platform leadership and yet can be greatly used by God. His love for mission is infectious. He loves mission because he loves the God of mission. He taught me consistency and resilience. He was a skillful dentist.

Chong Nik Seow, a Catholic, was my boss in engineering department when I started my first job. He showed me how as an uncorrupted government servant, one could be a blessing to contractors. He taught me thoroughness and meticulousness in engineering work without which it could have serious consequences. He did his work well and set high standard. He was a skillful engineer.

Dr. Chuck Lowe, my lecturer in SBC and now a good friend. He taught me exegesis. He is a first rate theologian. He is skillful as an exegete of God’s word. After having served God in Singapore for 16 years, he moved back to USA and settled down in Boston and worked as a pastor in a Chinese Church. Travelling 23 hours in the plane was tiring but the confined space and enforced time gave me the opportunity to reminisce 30 years of my life to Sarah. I outlined the three periods and the influence of these three great men in my life as the plane sped on at 960km/hr. Having landed and collected our luggage at the baggage conveyor belt, I saw a man from a distant walking toward me, instantly I recognized him. Balding, putting on weigh, Chuck looks more like a business man than a pastor-theologian. The last time when we gave him the farewell was 8 years ago. This is the man who imparted the skill of exegesis. He reinforced further what Chong Nik Seow had done the significance of thoroughness and meticulousness. This is amply seen in my research. We had great time talking. We talked about church works, we discussed theology, and we ate Tuscanini ice cream which is better than Haagen Dazs ice cream. We walked for more than one hour just to look for the Tuscanini ice cream (because I told him that Haazgen Das is the best ice cream). New York Time declared that Tuscanini is the best ice cream in the world.

All these three men share common traits: hardworking, good workers, thoroughness, skillful in their trades, great love for God, uncorrupted, men of integrity, faithful men, and willingness to impart skills…

I am indebted to these three men.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Time with Sarah

I took four days off from work to spend undistracted time with my daughter Sarah who came back for her summer holidays. One of the things I enjoy most is listening and talking to her. We both have the same temperament or rather she is the chip of the old block. Sarah is a good listener and I find that she possesses the rare gift of giving a person her full presence when one talks to her. That is why many love to talk to her because they can unload their problems to an exceptionally good listener. She makes you feel important and feel that you are worth listening to. In just nine months in Calvin College reading English Literature, she has grown intellectually and spiritually. She is a good conversationalist as her knowledge has been broadened and deepened through American education system. Listening to her gives me great pleasure and satisfaction.

Sarah and Sam get along extremely well. They can talk for hours. They often tell us that they are having ‘deep conversation.’ It’s a joy to see the sister and brother enjoying each other’s company immensely. This sibling close relationship is also a gift from God. Constance and I have been spared from the heartaches of sibling rivalry and fights between Sarah and Sam. Sam truly admires and loves his sister dearly and deeply. Sarah cares a great deal for her brother. She genuinely enjoys Sam's creativity and fun-loving nature.

We went to BORDERS, a book room which is like heaven to us. Sarah shares my keen interest in reading. When we reached the place, she headed straight to the literature section while I made my way to the religion corner. We knew exactly what we wanted. With stacks of books in our hands, the cashier at the counter was beaming with broad smile. It was a sheer pleasure to buy books for Sarah as she seldom made demand on me.

I told her to walk gingerly when we made our way through the front door of our house. I thought Constance will give us a shelling for going overboard. I have spent my entire holiday money on buying books. To my surprise Constance was rather cheery. Sarah seems to have a way with her mum. It is very difficult for anyone to be angry with Sarah. She is an obedient daughter, thoughtful and considerate, a straight ‘A’ student since primary one and with the GPA score of 3.96 for the first year in college, how would any parent be unhappy. She is very pleasant to live with and makes us look good as parents.

This morning I became her chauffeur taking her to her former school and to 1 Utama to meet up with her friends. She visited her students whom she taught during her gap year. They were fond of her and her visit warmed their hearts. How many teachers border to visit their students and show their love? She counseled and encouraged a student who is going though family crisis. She is unselfish with her time and incarnational with her touch. She remembers her schoolmates and initiated to meet up. The little gesture reveals that Sarah treasures friendship. Such qualities endear her to many.

I treasure this father-daughter relationship. It’s a gift from God.

The church will celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday. My heart is already filled with joy as we spent quiet moment reminiscing many fond memories. Sarah is flourishing and blooming as a person. What greater joy can it be than seeing your daughter walking with God and blossoming with great potentials.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Story of Dr. Margaret Brand

When I saw the title of the book “Vision for God – The Story of Dr. Margaret Brand” I did not need any persuasion at all to purchase the book. Dr. Paul Brand was well known internationally as a 20th century pioneer in orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation. He had spent the bulk of his life in India helping the lepers and giving them the sense of dignity. He opened the new frontier in discovering pain as a gift from God and applied that knowledge in aiding the lepers from further aggravating their hands and feet. Much accolade had been heaped on him for his achievement in the field of leprosy. What is less known is his equally capable and remarkable wife who has been his companion for over 60 years. In the midst of World War II, Margaret studied medicine in London. She topped the class with Paul Brand as second. They both pioneered practices in the treatment of leprosy in India and throughout the world. Almost by accident, without formal training in eye diseases, she became an ophthalmologist and one of the foremost authorities in the field of ocular leprosy. Reading the book and watching DVD featuring her work among the lepers in India, I was spellbound. With great skills and compassion, Paul and Margaret Brand had accomplished the rare medical feat of treating and loving patients simultaneously.

Without Margaret, Paul Brand would not have become the great surgeon and the great man of God. She worked alongside him in an obscure village in India for years. Both worked in astounding partnership and yet each other’s individuality is not negated.

I like what Philip Yancy, a close friend of theirs, said: “Having spent many hours with them both, I cannot help but think that this was the vision of God for humanity: talented people serving others with cheer and compassion while embracing life-all of it- with contentment and gratitude.”

I silently prayed that my children Sarah and Samuel who are both talented and capable would one day turn out to be the kind of woman and man who serve others with cheer and compassion while embracing life – all of it- with contentment and gratitude. It is a road less traveled. When talents are used to amass wealth for oneself to live opulent and self-centered lifestyle, he or she cheapened the grace of God.

The untouchables of India who had been treated and loved by Paul and Margaret Brand saw in their lives the image of Christ. The gospel that Paul and Margaret preached and lived was easily understood and readily embraced by the lepers. The rejects of the society had encountered Christ through the skillful hands and the loving touch of these surgeons.

I am so glad that Dr. Margaret’s story is told at last.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Equally Smart

Supriano, an Orang Asli (Aborigines of Malaysia) was disorientated when she came in to my church office. She is only 10 year-old and has never been to Kuala Lumpur. She has never seen so many cars and tall buildings in her life. I was equally disoriented as I was lost in the jungle where there seems to be no sign post. Just as I was terrified by the ‘roads’ which nearly wrecked Kok Wai’s 4-wheel drive, Supriano was awed by the modern technology.

We were on a rescue mission in the morning to a remote village in the interior jungle. Kok Wai’s jeep skidded and bumped on the protruding rock. When I saw Supriano, I could see in her face a bright aborigines girl. What surprises me was that she could speak fluent Mandarin! Later I learnt that she is attending a Chinese school in a Chinese village. My two children, Sarah and Sam can’t even speak Mandarin although they are of Chinese descent. Supriano has been looking after her infant brother (4 month-old) who is abandoned by his parents. He has no name, no birth certificate, and no identity. Supriano scavenged milk from women folks of her kind. What she got was not enough to feed her brother. So she fed him with coffee and tea. The infant was reduced to only bone and skin. The infant’s father is an Indonesian and his mother is an Orang Asli. I decided to give him a name. The word ‘Suparman’ floated in my mind. I have an Indonesian friend whose name is Suparman. It sounded like Superman. Indeed Suparman is a Superman as weighing 2.1 kg yet he survived under harsh condition imposed upon him. Though he goes down in history as the most malnourished infant in Malaysia, he also sets the record as the fittest infant. Drenched in rain water, bitten by mosquitoes, burned by cigarette butts, Suparman rejected and discarded by his biological parents but was superintended by his Maker. The pediatrician who examined him remarked that she has never seen such a malnourished baby in Malaysia. In her clinic many mothers were waiting for their turns to take their babies for round of examination. The babies were safe in the arms of their mothers, well fed and looking heavy and healthy. What a contrast.

Supriano absented herself from school for several months. There was a divine call to save a feeble life. She fiercely protected her brother from hunger and thirst in the jungle. She was ostracized by her mother and grandfather. She detested their cruelty. I could see that in her eyes. Without knowledge of health care, hygiene, feeding infant, Supriano has an innate instinct to care for her brother.

It was a long day, a tiring journey running from one clinic to another, from one town to the other and finally Suparman is temporary fostered by a Sabahan pastor whose wife is an Orang Asli. Supriano followed Sarah and I home for a few days.

Constance, my wife spent 3 days teaching her Maths and found her to be intelligent. Sarah is like a big sister to her and showers her with affection. Supriano was clutching the two beautiful sling- on bags that Sarah gave her. Her smile exudes happiness of having found the gems of her life. Supriano will remember Sarah for a long long time. We discovered that Supriano delights to go to the wash room. She often remained there for a long time. Inside the wash room is a big mirror. Constance had bought her a few blouses and she looks pretty. Perhaps she has never seen herself in full portrait before in the mirror. We don’t mind to adopt her but its not possible.

Constance told Supriano to come again and stay with us during the school holidays. We have invited her and her friends to come and Constance will conduct some tuition for them. We believe that Supriano would one day go to Harvard or Oxford, Cambridge University if given the opportunity. She has the intelligence endowed by her Creator who gives freely and equally. It’s the political environment and educational policy that limits them from achieving their full potential.

I am so proud of Kok Wai, Sue May, Jocelyn and the Orang Asli team of CDPC. Their compassion, dedication, and sacrifices have gone a long way to help Orang Asli children to be as educated as any bright Malaysian children in the main stream society.

Change one life, one at a time. Supriano has shown us the way.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Poor Church that outdo others in Mission

I was fascinated with the mission story told by Jonathan Bonk, a Canadian missiologist at STM few months ago. The Mizo Synod with a population of 500,000 members raised US $3.4 million for mission in 2003. How many denominations in Malaysia can match that mission fervor? Most of the Mizo people are farmers and relatively poor as compared to the affluent Christians in mega churches in Malaysia.

When I sat there at Presbyterian Church of India General Assembly on April 13 2008 listening to the reports from Mizo Synod, I was curious to look at its mission collection. There was a slight dip in the figure, but US $2.7 million is still an impressive figure. Mizo is certainly a missional church. There is so little write up about this church in mission journal. The Mizo women motivated each other by setting apart a handful of rice from each meal every day for a year. The handful of rice is then put into a container and to be sold in the market and the proceeds go to mission funds. Collectively the Mizo women raised US $1 million for mission each year. Such effort is known in Mizo language as “Buhfai Tham.” The Khasi Synod which is one of the eighth Synod inn PCI has the same tradition. The Khasi women also raised money for mission through “Khaw Kham.” (Handful of rice). There is so much that Malaysian church can learn from this poorer church tuck in a corner in Meghalaya. These unknown women are the unsung heroes in the annals of God’s mission history. Just as there are no little people in God’s kingdom, there are no little church.

My trip to Shangpung, Meghalaya has opened my eyes to the multiple possibilities of raising funds for mission. The size of the church does not matter what matters is the size of the heart for God’s agenda.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The descendants of the Great Genghis Khan

Badma and Badja are the first Mongolians I met three years ago when they spoke at City Discipleship Presbyterian Church. They aroused my interest of Mongolia. They mainly talked about the great need of Mongolian church. Mongolia gained its independence from Russia. It was only 18 years ago. The church is relatively young. In 1990, there were only 5 Christians in the whole country. Today Christian population numbers about 60,000. The growth is phenomenon. Mongolian Christians are aggressively planting churches and are passionate to evangelize their nation. My memory of Mongolian history flashed back to Yuan Dynasty in which the Mongols ruled China during the 13th century. In the twelve years between 1211 and 1223, historians estimated that more than 18 million people died in northern China at the hands of the Mongols. Genghis Khan was a fearless warrior and a world conqueror. His empire was greater than that of Alexander the Great.

Hugh Kemp, an OMF missionary wrote a fascinating Mongolian church history in his book “Steppe by Step.” It is the first book about Mongolian Church history that I laid my hand on. The stories gripped my heart and I could not put down the book. My heart resonates with the agenda of God and I could see God’s hand upon this nation.

“In the 13th century the Mongols carved out the greatest land empire in history. Their invincible warriors conquered Russia and penetrated Hungary and Poland to the borders of Germany. Medieval Europe quailed before them. There was nothing to stop the Mongol blitzkrieg from storming Paris and Rome and annihilating the cities of Christendom as they had already razed innumerable cities in central Asia. Then in 1241 the Khan Ogedei died and the Mongol armies voluntarily withdrew to elect a new Khan. Europe and Christian civilization were saved. It was one of the great turning points of history.” (Hugh Kemp, Steppe by Step, p.15)

Mongolian history and Chinese history might have been rewritten had the Pope responded positively to Kublai Khan’s request that one hundred Christian missionaries be sent to Mongolia and china. Tragically, the Pope sent only two Dominican friars, who never made it to Mongolia and China –they turned back half way. Mongolia winter can be very harsh (minus 30 degree Celsius) and the Silk Road was treacherous and dangerous. Sadly by the time the first batch of a few Catholic missionaries arrived in Beijing in 1294, Kublai Khan had died, the Mongols had turned to Tibetan Buddhism. The window of opportunity for the gospel was missed.

What has not been known is the missionary movement in the 7th century by the Nestorians who for 700 years brought many Mongols to faith in Jesus Christ. It was known that the Queen mother of Kublai Khan was a Christian. The rise of the Jesuit Catholic missions in the 16th century and the Protestant missions in the 19th century failed to pry open the hearts of the Mongols. The gospel remained shut. The hearts of the Mongols were bolted not until the collapsed of Russian regime in Mongolia. 1990s was the watershed moment when Mongolia got its independence. Since then the church in Mongolia has grown rapidly.

How God transformed his descendants’ DNA is quite remarkable- from conquering surrounding nations to evangelizing people.

Eric Fung, the national director of Asian Outreach Malaysia, who spoke at CDPC mission conference, challenged me to bring leadership training for Mongolian pastors and church planters, I immediately responded with a resounding yes.

The first leadership training was conducted over 3 days in Ulaanbator during the cold month of November 2006 when temperature dipped below 0 degree Celsius. The weather was bitterly cold but my heart was warmth as I witnessed the spiritual hunger of the Mongolian pastors and leaders. 36 pastors and leaders came from different parts of Mongolia. Some had to travel for more than 15 hours journey. Language was not a barrier as the translator did a superb job of bridging the hearts and minds. Judging from the interaction and questions asked, I knew that they had grasped the leadership principles well. Hwei Yeow, a church member assisted me in training them. Together two of us demonstrated the model of partnership between a pastor and a corporate leader.

I supposed we did a good job in training when Asian Outreach Mongolia invited us to go back again in 2007. But the trip did not materialize until May 2008. 70% of the original 36 came back for second phase training revealed that they really wanted the training. May 2008 was spring time but it snowed the day when we landed in Ulaanbator. There were some heartwarming stories Badmaa told me that he and a few other Mongolian leaders had used the materials and conducted leadership training for 20 town mayors and leaders. The response from secular leaders was overwhelming. Norjii, a woman Christian leader who came twice for the training also used the materials for educationist and teachers in Mongolia. One doctor found the training so beneficial for him that he decided to conduct similar training in his hospital.

I had the opportunity to meet up with Pastor Batbold’s church leadership for 4 hours. Batbold is a senior pastor although he is only in his mid thirties. It is not uncommon to find that most senior pastors in Mongolia are very young as majorities are first generation Christians. The history of modern Mongolian church is only 18 years old. I was able to process leadership issues with them. Batbold and his wife Mega came to my hotel and continued our conversation until 1.30am. He wanted to learn exegesis and sermon crafting. He wanted to know more about leading the church. I happened to be older than him and more years in the pastoral setting. I became his mentor in the ministry. The joy of ministry in Mongolia is unspeakable. I have forged good relationship with Mongolian Pastors and church planters. The frustration of being delayed by Air China for 2 days on the ongoing flights and further delayed for 14 hours in Ulaanbator and held up again in Beijing for another day on return flights was soon dissipated. The Nestorian missionaries traveled by foot over hills and steppes for months and the Protestant missionaries sailed for weeks in order to reach Mongolia. Mine was relatively an easy ride. Its only 9 hours traveling time by air from Kuala Lumpur to Ulaanbator. This time I had ‘wasted’ 4 days due to Air China lame excuses of bad weather. The plus point is that I got to spend a lot of time with Hwei Yeow who came along to co-train with me. We had free hotel and free food in Beijing at the courtesy of Air China. I think it’s a 'ploy' on the part of Air China for us to see the grandeur of Beijing airport and the superb Beijing Olympic preparation so that we become their ambassadors. More likely its the usual logistic issue of the airline industry. However we responded positively to what could have been potentially a ruined trip. We took it that God wanted us to rest. I had time to reflect on my life and ministry.

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Political Realities in Malaysia

Everyone in Malaysia is talking about the new political realities after the General Election in which the Barisan National, the ruling party was dented in its ego.

The new political realities: Umno’s dominance is crippled. Its invincibility is exposed. Umno like the proverbial emperor is without clothes.

BN has never lost two third of Parliament seats but it did. Worst, BN lost 5 states to the opposition party, which is unprecedented. BN leaders wanted honest and brutal post mortem so that they could win back the hearts of the people. But whom are they hearing from?

The Barisan Rakyat is euphoric and in cloud nine and the Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng and Menteri Besar of Selangor, Khalid had implemented clear policy of transparency and integrity. All tenders must be open tenders and for public view and scrutiny. It is to be totally above board. They are on the right track so far. But will power corrupt them eventually? Time will tell.

The arrogance as epitomized by wielding the keris at the Umno General Assembly, the blatant corruption at high places, the unfairness of awarding government contracts without open tenders and many other factors led to the downfall of BN. Umno Putra have benefited from the power of the ruling government. The Bumi Putra are resenting against the Umno Putra. Even Malays are not happy with the government. The swing votes were telling sign of protest.

Many Hindus temples were demolished, the poor Indians were marginalized and the pent up feelings finally exploded and shocked the nation. Social injustice as experienced by the minority Indians had brought about Hindraf rally- a tipping point that toppled Samy Vellu and brought about Tsunami effect in the General Election.

Churches and Christians have been harassed by the little Napoleans – banning the use of God’s name Allah, banning of Christian books and literature which use the name Allah, demolition of Orang Asli church buildings. Christians have been denied legitimate places of worship. Fairness and justice is just empty slogan. Malaysia is a pluralistic society and not an Islamic republic.

The local councils are corrupted and incompetent. They shut their ears to the voice of protest by the Rakyat.

These days our RM $50 have shrunk.

My reflection on political realities:

The race-based policy by ruling party has been rejected by the Rakyat. Christians cannot go along with such ethos, as it is unbiblical.

Leaders whether political or religious are not to be self-serving but to serve others. If there is ambition in leadership, it must be ambition to serve others. The worldly system thinks of greatness in terms of mastery and rule, in God’s kingdom, greatness is manifested in service. The way forward for BN and BR is to be humble in lowly service, to fear God and to be uncorrupted.

The greatness of a nation is not in its wealth or superiority in weaponry nor technological advances but how it reaches out and take care of the minority, the poor, the destitute, the marginalized regardless of race, creed or religion. Righteousness exalts a nation. Therefore national leaders must do what is right in the sight of God. Church must take the lead to share its wealth with the poor.

The Church must be awakened to its role in nation building. More Christians must participate in Public Square. Christians must be encouraged to take up politics as a vocation.

Church leaders must teach political theology and good governance to Christians. Church to model good governance and structure and practice.

Christians must learn the moral courage and moral vision of great men and women who brought changes to their nations (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nelson Mandela, Aleksandar Solzhenitsyn, Ghandi, Aung San Suu Kyi…)

Church must see itself as an NGO that can play significant role in society.

Civil Society can act as check and balance for the government through wise and righteous policy.

Ordinary Rakyat can be a voice of conscience to the nation.

God can use righteous, fair-minded non-Christians to speak up against injustices.

Christians need to learn how to work alongside people of different faiths for the common good of society.

Racial integration and reconciliation are possible and Christians must take the lead by loving people and communities unconditionally.

Human hearts are corrupted. The depravity of sin is present in every human heart. Everyone needs the gospel. Evil structure and institution can only be changed when human hearts are transformed by the gospel.

We need to pray unceasingly for our nation.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The One who changed my destiny

Rembrant, the Renaissance artist painted the picture of the crucifixion of Christ, which is known as The Deposition, or Descent from the Cross. Christ's body was taken down from the cross. Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy and respected man who was secretly a follower of Christ, obtained permission from Pilate to bury the body. Traditional representations in art show a ladder against the cross, with Joseph of Arimathea mounted on the ladder and lowering the body. Mary received the body and kissed the face. Mary Magdalene kissed the left hand, and John kissed the right. Nicodemus extracted the nails from the feet. The painting vividly portrayed the death of Jesus.

The Gospel of John recorded that Pilate granted the permission because he had already ascertained that Jesus had died. The soldiers initially wanted to break Jesus’ legs so as to hasten his death but when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But to be doubly sure, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. This again is a clear evident that Jesus had died. His death is beyond any shadow of doubt.

When the crucifixion were being carried out at Golgotha, standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), Mary Magdalene, John and the crowd that followed Jesus to the site of crucifixion. The rest of the disciples were just devastated and too disappointed to want to be there. Their dream and hope of the Messianic kingdom was shattered to pieces. No one had come away from Roman crucifixion alive.

No one needs to convince the bystanders, onlookers and the executioners that Jesus really died.

That is the reason why Mary Magdalene and Salome and Mary the mother of James went out and purchased burial spices so that they could anoint Jesus’ body. On Sunday morning, just as sunrise, they went to the tomb and were shocked to find the tomb empty. Jesus’ body was not there! In the tomb they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The young man turned out to be an angel. He said to them, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened (Mark 16:1-8).

The abrupt ending of the resurrection narrative in the Gospel of Mark is surprising but more surprising is the risen Jesus makes no appearance. It is accepted by biblical scholars that the most reliable early manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end at verse 8. Does this mean that there isn’t any proof of Jesus’ resurrection since Mark Gospel did not mention Jesus appearing to his disciples?

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke use Mark Gospel as their primary source, and the John Gospel which may also count Mark among its sources, all include the appearances of the risen Jesus. In the earliest resurrection tradition Paul in his letter to the Corinthians Christians also attested to the resurrection appearance of Jesus: “I passed on to you what was most important and what had been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said, and he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also…” (1 Cor 15:3-8). The eyewitnesses’ account of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus is just too overwhelming to be fabricated. It is easily verifiable both by the believers and the critics during the 40 days in which Jesus proved to his disciples that he was actually alive (Acts 1:3).

The complete turn around of the apostles from cowardice to bravery is a very convincing proof that something dramatic have had happened. They deserted Jesus at the crucifixion site and then went everywhere to proclaim the good news of the resurrection of Christ. There is no plausible reason other than the fact that Jesus had appeared to them after his crucifixion. The rapid growth of the church in spite of severe persecution right in Jerusalem and throughout the towns and cities of Roman Empire is also a convincing proof that the disciples had seen the resurrected Jesus. Paul, the great persecutor of the church became the staunchest follower of Christ. In his own words: “…and last of all Jesus appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecute the church of God” (1 Cor 15:6-10). Paul went on to become evangelist, church planter, pastor and theologian. The centrality of his message is the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. No one can refute his personal testimony of encountering the resurrected Christ and how this experience had forever altered the course of his life.

If the post resurrection appearances of Christ are the important features of the other Gospels and also Paul’s writing, why then Mark Gospel ends abruptly without mentioning the post resurrection appearances of Jesus? Was Mark’s omission intentional and by design? Was he purposely making a bold statement about the significance of the announcement “he has risen, he is not here”? (Mark 16:6) Was the abrupt ending served to engage the hearers rather than providing a closure?

Prior to his crucifixion, Jesus had told the disciples “ after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” (Mark 14:28). The angel in the tomb also told the women that Jesus isn’t in the tomb, he is risen from the dead, he is going ahead of them to Galilee. The women were to go and tell the disciples that Jesus is waiting for them in Galilee.

Galilee was the place where God’s power was manifested in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus healed a man with leprosy and for the first time in his life the cleansed leper could mix around in his community without being shunned by others (Mark 1:40-44). At Jesus’ word, a paralyzed man jumped out, grabbed his mat and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We have never seen anything like this before!” (Mark 2:1-12). Imagine a man who once was paralyzed and was totally dependent on others but now was able to walk and to take care of himself. Jesus also restored a man with a deformed hand. The man could now do so much with a hand, which had been restored. Jesus went throughout the region of Galilee; he brought healing; he set people free from demon possession, he taught them about the kingdom of God. Galilee’s ministry is a sign of the redemptive act of Jesus for the world. Mark’s resurrection narrative refers back to Galilee, the place where the power of God to heal, liberate, feed, teach and restore points toward the resurrection of Christ. In other words, the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection in Mark Gospel is to be found in recalling his proclamation and enactment of God’s kingdom in Galilee.

In celebrating Easter, we are directed by Mark Gospel (even with its abrupt ending in Mark 16:8) to think of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee that the power of God to heal, to liberate, to transform is still true and available today. Simply because Jesus isn’t in the tomb, he is risen from the dead!

I know Jesus is risen from the dead because I have encountered the resurrected Jesus and he has changed my destiny.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Prodigal sons and daughters come home

“My adopted son rejected the Christian faith and my world was collapsing before me.” Dr. Paul Kooistra shared about his pain before an audience of 80 people. I sat there in the sanctuary listening to his story with transfixed eyes. His son’s open rebellion brought shame to Dr. Paul and he did not know where to hide his face. Isn’t the pastor supposed to be a role model for the congregation? Does that mean he has to leave the pastorate because he could not manage his family well? During the period of her son waywardness, Dr. Paul’s wife demonstrated unconditional love by persistently and consistently through actions and words affirming her son that ‘there is nothing he does that will stop her from loving him.’ He never ceased to be their son even when he turned his back on them. Eventually the ‘prodigal son’ came home. In Dr. Paul’s words, God’s covenantal love reached out to his son.

Another heart wrenching story was told by Dr. Paul that gripped my heart. He told a true story of a pastor whose daughter rebelled against her parents. The story was written into a book entitles “Come Back, Barbara.” “Mom, Dad, I don’t want your rules and morals. I don’t want to act like a Christian anymore! And I am not going to,” Barbara barked at her father at age 18. As her father desperately tried every possible ways to win her heart, Barbara grew more resentful, choosing a path of immorality that only deepened her parents’ pain. Barbara dropped out from school and lived with a man. Eventually they got married but the relationship was short lived. She then married a drug trafficker who was wealthy. “Everyone was horrified. I had left Tom and moved in with a drug dealer who carried money in his briefcase and a gun in his belt.” Her father could only watch in silence and at a distance completely helpless. During those dark periods, he became to talk less but prayed more. Barbara could never understand the agony, the frustration, the wounded feeling of her father. As a pastor he had to preach, to council and to provide pastoral care for the hurting ones in his church and yet he had to hide his tears from the crowd. He carried the wound silently in his heart. Sadly Barbara lived in luxury oblivious to the pain of her parents. However, the opulent lifestyle did not bring happiness to her. Finally she moved out of that relationship and drifted into another one. Her father’s faith was tested to the limit. The more he prayed, it seemed the further she moved away from God and from the family.

For parents, the pain of watching their children move in wrong directions, knowing that no word of rebuke or drastic action will reach and change them, can be overwhelming. Barbara’s story is not uncommon.

Pastor John Miller and his wife persevered in their belief of the faithfulness of God. They continued to trust in the covenant keeping God who is sovereign and who is working out his purpose for Barbara. Their persistent love and unconditional love finally won Barbara over. Barbara remarried and together with her husband, Angelo, went to study in Bible seminary. Barbara is a Bible teacher, editor, and conference speaker. They founded the youth ministry at New Life Presbyterian Church. Who would have thought that Barbara would reconcile with her family and renew her relationship with God? Not even pastor John Miller! When the fog seemed thick, the cloud was dense and dark, a pilot has to believe that the aviation instruments are working and reliable. In the darkest hour, one has to place his hand into the hand of the loving God who is wise and powerful and walks in faith.

I think of many friends I know whose children have become wayward. My heart goes out to them. As I heard the story and read the book, I know the prodigal sons and daughters will surely come home one day. It’s just a matter of time.

"When the prodigal son finally came to his he returned home to his father..." (Luke 15:11-32)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Man unfazed with materialistic lifestyle

When Ian came in his Volkswagen to take me around Charlotte, he pulled over his car in front of my American host’s bungalow, his ‘old junk’ stood in great contrast with the expensive modern vehicles parked there. Judging from the look of the car, I seriously doubt its reliability. But the Germans are noted for manufacturing solid tankers.

Ian drove his Volkswagen as if it is a Ferrari. He even overtook several bigger cars along the high way. All along the journey my left foot was stepping on the imagery brakes. Ian is a huge American. He looks like Francis Schaeffer, the great philosopher and theologian whom I admire. Ian was completely contented with his ancient machine. He was unfazed with materialism. I find his attitude towards money refreshing.

Ian spent a few days taking me around Charlotte. He was most generous even though he wasn’t rich at all. Being a missionary kid, he grew up unlike most American kids who have more things than they ever need in their lifetime. He has very little and yet possesses much. He has a big heart and kind. When he insisted paying the bill for the pullover I bought at Billy Graham Center, I could not fight with him. His size dwarfed me.

This is a man who chose not to go to University and yet had written 3 books. He once worked in the Hollywood’s studio and is gifted in literary, video shooting. His gift will enrich my church when he comes to us.

His wife Darlene sings like an angel. Darlene is a Sundanese and also a missionary kid. They have 3 lovely children. They live a simple lifestyle. It’s such a joy to know this family who are committed to serve God wherever He calls.

Jesus’ sermon on birds of the air and lilies of the field was fleshed out in their lives.
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field… So do not worry…but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…”

It is often said that we will not be judged by how much we possess (hoard) but by how much we gave away to be a blessing to others, and yet many have bought in the materialistic culture lock, stock and barrel.

We save our lives, we will lose them. We hoard our possession, we will lose them. In giving away, paradoxically we find them and possess them in return.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Serving God and being faithful in spite of illness

In a Christian culture where people flock to healing rally expecting their diseases and illnesses to be healed, I find this one woman to be unique. She does not make a fuss about her condition when she was diagnosed to have stage 1-2 Parkinson disease. Her shoulder is stiff and tense after a day of hard work in the office. Her mobility and motor activity has slowed down considerable and noticeably. Doctors who are her friends spotted her Parkinson-like movement and advised her to see neurologist. She is too young to suffer from Parkinson disease. But a specialist confirmed it and she is being treated with medication.

She works twice as hard.
Like the Proverbs 31 woman, she is wise. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Her wisdom is sought after by many particularly those who work under her. She is perceptive and insightful. I often wonder why she is so wise even though she did not have a degree in counseling.

She is industrious.
First to arise in the house and she makes sure that everything is done for the family. Literally she gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls (Prov. 31:15). She sleeps only 4 to 5 hours a day. I have known her to be a woman of strength both physical and mental. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. Everything she does, she gives her all. Her colleagues commented that she is a ‘super woman.’ This may have to do with her mother’s upbringing. Her mother is a tough woman herself.

She has entrepreneur’s blood running in her vein.
She could have been a CEO running a big company. But she chooses to marry a pastor and give her time serving God. Not unlike the Proverbs 31 woman, she sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers (Prov. 31:18-19). She works hard to make sure that her business is built upon biblical values. Today she runs an education business with 3 other partners and the center has a reputation that provides excellent and quality education for the children.

She is compassionate.
She employs a woman who once was struggling with her life both financially and spiritually. She took her into her center and made her to cook for the children and the staff. She helps her to be strong and to get on with her life.

Recently this ‘super woman’ decided to take in an aborigine girl to her education center to train her. I was thinking how she is going to train an illiterate young girl. “I would train her for 10 weeks so that she could go back to her village and to teach other children. And from time to time she could come back to the center to be trained. This is one way we could help the Orang Asli (Aborigines). Ramla could also stay in my house during the period of training.” This is neither the first time nor the last that she has shown mercy to the marginalized and the destitute. She opens her arm to the poor and extends her hands to the needy (Prov. 31:20). She has a heart of gold.

She dresses in style.
She is clothed in fine linen and purple (Prov. 31:22). Her dress sense and taste is far better than her husband. Always elegantly dressed for work, she exudes grace and poise. Now I know why her daughter is crazy over purple color. She is the chip of the old block.

She makes her husband looks good.
She is as theologically trained as her husband. She has 2 master degrees but hardly anyone in the church knows about it. She does not know how to brag at all! She serves in the Sunday school, sourcing books and devising curriculum and teaches a class regularly for 7 years since the founding of the church until now. Many would have been burned out by now. Not a word of complaint found in her lips.

The best-kept secret is that she is a better preacher and communicator than her preacher husband. Many think so highly of her husband but not many know that she is the better half. She is the source of his strength. Every time when he is deflated when discouragement of ministry sets in, she is always there listening, cajoling, spurring him to move on. Her husband grew from strength to strength. She is the woman behind his every success. Today her husband is respected at the church gate where he takes his seat among the bishops of the land (Prov. 31:23). She makes her man looks good.

This is the woman who is suffering from Parkinson disease. Does she yearn for divine healing? In quiet confidence, she looks to her God for mercy, grace and strength. Despite illness, she goes about quietly serving God, loving others. She watches over the affairs of her household, she watches over the affairs of God’s household, she watches over the affairs of her business. She does not allow her ‘immobility’ to immobilize her. She may be slow in her movement; she is fast in her thinking and in doing good to others.

How do I know so much about his ‘super woman’? She happens to be the wife of noble character that God gifted me.

Sarah and Sam arise to and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

God's Kairos Moment

I received a phone call from a total stranger yesterday telling me that God’s Spirit had spoken to him and directed him to come to Malaysia. The Holy Spirit stirred his heart for the Vietnamese in Malaysia. He fled Saigon in the early 90s as a young man. His father was a captain in the army and used to work for the CIA. When his father was released from the prison, the whole family migrated to USA. The communists continue to rule Vietnam. Life was hard for everyone. Christians were persecuted and church activities were greatly restricted. This young man moved on to USA and finished his tertiary education. Called by God to the church ministry, together with his wife they studied in the seminary. Being ordained as a Presbyterian minister in Seattle, when he came to Malaysia, naturally he came looking for reformed pastors in Presbyterian Church of Malaysia. He was given my e-mail address and that was all he has. Somehow his e-mail did not reach me. But he managed to locate me through ‘accidental’ contact with an ordained minister of Presbyterian. The line was connected and the contact made. Sitting in front of my desk, he shared the amazing story of God’s orchestrating his purpose.

When I got the call from Rev. Truong yesterday, God has already prepared my heart for the Vietnamese work. I came back from Ho Chi Minh City on Monday. Hwei Yeow, William and I went to Vietnam to train the pastors. I met Rev. Khoa, the moderator of Presbyterian Church of Vietnam in Bangkok at Mission Consultation. He then invited me to come to Ho Chi Minh to train his pastors. The 4 days mission work in Ho Chi Minh has opened my eyes to the work of God in Vietnam. The country is fast opening up to the outside world. The young population is responsive to the gospel. The country is growing economically at a rapid pace. The labor force is huge and cheap as compared to Malaysia and even China. It has attracted big amount of foreign investment. The desperate need for economic development provides opportunities for tent-makers in business and in teaching English. English centers flourish in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Christian NGOs, which propose legitimate aid projects, are increasingly invited to work in Vietnam. The pastors are eager to learn and have passions to plant churches. From just a small house church movement, the Presbyterian Church of Vietnam (PCV) has grown to a size of 7000 strong in a span of one decade.

Truong shared his burden of being directed by the Holy Spirit to reach out to the Vietnamese migrant workers in Malaysia and to disciple them and send them back to Vietnam, intuitively I sensed God’s prompting that this is the man God has prepared for a time such as this. He was planning of relocating his family of 2 young children from Seattle to Subang Jaya. His heart is at the right place.

There are 180,000 Vietnamese migrant workers in Malaysia. Many have received the gospel in our country. In just 3 weeks’ stay in Klang, Rev. Truong had baptized 400 Vietnamese. I can sense the urgency and the passion with which he spoke about the movement of the Holy Spirit among the Vietnamese. He firmly believes that we should disciple these Vietnamese and to send them back to the churches in Vietnam, revival will come to the nation of Vietnam.

This is God’s kairos moment as the window of opportunity for gospel work is wide open.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

No Sex Scandal

The Billy Graham Library is one of a kind in the world. It is not the normal library which has rows of books. It is rather a center which features the life and ministry of Billy Graham through large screen video presentation. Large posters displaying his evangelistic crusades around the globe are posted at strategic place. It displays many of his personal things which are associated with his evangelistic campaigns. One prominent one which caught my attention is the Bible that he read and studied and has his personal notes at the margins of the Bible. From the look of it, one could guess that Billy Graham is a serious student of God’s word. How else could he thunder so convincingly each time he stepped into the lectern: “The Bible says….” If he has not soaked or saturated himself with the word of God.

I stood there in one of the rooms speechless when I saw Billy Graham (Video presentation) placed his Bible on the stump of a tree, he kneeled and prayed to God and exclaimed that he accepted and believed the Bible in totality as the inspired word of God by faith. After that singular moment of utter surrender, Billy Graham never waivers for one bit about the Word of God. Always with the Bible in one hand and the other hand gesturing vehemently, he would speak with great confident and summoned the crowd to come to Christ and to put their faith in Him. “The Bible says!” is his clarion call. We can better appreciate this incident when we understand the context that Billy Graham was in. During the early stage of his ministry, it was a time when Bible was subjected to higher critical method of interpretation. Many doubted whether the Bible could be trusted in its entirety. Miracles recorded in the Bible defy rationale and were considered untrue. Charles Templeton, a better preacher and more brilliant man than Billy Graham in those days, shipwrecked his faith because he rejected the authority of the Word of God. Templeton did not believe that the Word of God is fully inspired and therefore could not be trusted completely. Billy Graham too struggled but he came to a settled conviction and by faith took the Bible at face value as the Word of God. He never looked back.

No wonder God uses Billy Graham as His mouthpiece to convict hundreds of thousands of people of their sins and to turn them to Him.

No wonder God uses Billy Graham to bring revival and renewal around the world.

No wonder no one can indict Billy Graham of any scandals. He is completely above board with regards to sex, money and power.

Billy Graham has anchored his life and ministry solidly upon the Word of God.

In an age when politicians, movie celebrities, spiritual and business leaders at the ecclesiastical and corporate world faltered and hogged headlines because of sexual or financial impropriety, Billy Graham stands tall. Billy Graham merely stands in biblical tradition where great men and women who were greatly used by God because they held on to the Word of God and allow it to shape and mould their lives.

“For the gracious hand of his God was on him because Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws…” (Ezra 7:9-10)

Friday, January 4, 2008

A time for hibernation

I went into hibernation during the month of December which was supposedly the busiest month of the year. I did not even preach at the Christmas eve service in my church even though many expected me to preach since I am the senior pastor of the church. I took time off to be with my family. We had a gala time enjoying undistracted and undisturbed time with one another. Sarah was back home from Grand Rapids and we had so much to catch up. Without me around in the church to make sure things were done properly, things turned out to be even better. I could sit back to enjoy the Christmas drama presented by the young people in the church. One thing I learned: pastors must not take themselves too seriously, the church often functions well even when they are not around because God is directing his people.

The short Sabbath refreshes and rejuvenates me. I discovered that while I rest and sleep, God works out his covenant grace to bring about healing, restoration of strength. He makes his church grow. He sustains the universe by his word. I can't build the church by my own effort, neither can a Christian business man earns the whole world by his or her business acumen. God invites me to participate in his creative work, to enjoy his creation. There is a rhythm which he puts in the universe and he expects me to flow with it. We begin with worship, then work and follow by Sabbath (Hebrew word for rest) and play. Sabbath and play is spiritual and God takes delight when we do that. When we work without Sabbath and play as if the world or the work depends on us or else it would collapse or fail, we are taking ourselves too seriously. We forgot that there is a God who is the creator and sustainer of the universe.

Without biblical balance and rhythm, work can become a drudgery, family life may suffer, children may be neglected, friendship becomes utilitarian. I am glad God's word provides me with wisdom.