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.