Show Me the Money

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Euro Pound Banknote Lot

Let’s imagine!

You have been a Christian for a few years now. You know for sure you are counted among God’s redeemed people. However, in the past year, life has taken a dramatic turn. God has not been in your mind and heart, let alone your Monday-to-Saturday vocabulary, for quite a while now. Mind you, you still go to church. You even identify yourself as a Christian. However, each decision has been made without the love for God in the picture. God has been but a distant memory for you.

Suddenly, perhaps because of a sermon, or a gentle nudge by your Christian brother or sister, or a whisper from the Holy Spirit in your conscience, you realise that you have been walking on the wrong side of the road. You understand it’s time now to make a U-turn and to head toward the right direction again. The next question is: Where do you start?

Imagine that situation… what would you do? Where would you start?

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Can Christians…?​

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When we become a Christian, we are a new person, and therefore, we assume a new identity.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17)

For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1 Thess. 5:5–6)

With this new identity comes a new set of conduct. There are things that we used to do, but we must stop doing. There are things that we thought we couldn’t do, but now we are free to do. With the truth in our mind, we know better about what is right and what is not.

Inevitably, we find ourselves asking ourselves or being asked these ethical questions every day: Can Christians smoke a cigarette? Can Christians have tattoos? Can Christians watch an MA15+ rated movie? Can Christians play violence-ridden video games? Can Christians spank their children? Can Christians eat blood? Can Christians date someone from different faith? Can Christians pick up food from the floor if it is less than 5 seconds? Can Christians…? The list just goes on.

However, please don’t stop asking such questions. The fact that we ask them means that we want to make sure we live rightly, and that’s a really good thing. So, let me share with you a few guidelines (far from comprehensive, of course) that I personally use to help me make moral decisions.

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What is Red, with Horns and a Tail, and Holding a Pitchfork?

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I love studying the Bible in a group. It deepens your understanding of God and the world and, at the same time, it gives you a glimpse into people’s lives and worldview. Another interesting thing about group Bible studies is how one topic can lead to another and suddenly the group ends up talking about something totally different from the topic. Although it is generally advisable to keep the study on the topic, at times an off-track discussion is welcome, especially if time permits and/or the off-track discussion is an important or timely issue that will help the lives of the group members. That exactly what happened last weekend in one of the student groups at the church I am pastoring.

We were discussing about handling disappointment in God looking at various Bible passages, including 1 Peter 5:6-11 and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

2 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV)
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

As we talked about it, it became clear that we actually have many misconceptions about the devil, most of which are from the way the world depicts Satan. One such misconception is this: When we die, those whose sins have not been atoned for will face eternal damnation in hell, tortured by red-skinned Satan with horns and a tail and holding a pitchfork. I used to believe this too. The problem is not so much about the existence of heaven or hell, but rather, the belief that Satan actually rules in hell and that he will be the one overseeing the eternal damnation program there. 

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What about those who cannot express their faith?

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30374960116_727c3db981_bAt the recent post, I outlined a few points to keep in mind when it comes to the question: “What about those who have not heard the gospel?” The basic principle must always be that the Bible be the ultimate authority when it comes to any theological question. The Bible is clear that everyone born in Adam is born in sin (Rom. 5:12-21), there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12), faith comes through hearing the gospel, and whoever ‘confess with [their] mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in [their] heart that God raised him from the dead‘ will be saved (Romans 10:9). Therefore, the command to proclaim the good news to all the earth still stands and is still urgent.

There is one huge question, however. What about those who are unable to hear nor comprehend the gospel nor express their faith? We are not talking about those who can but never have the chance. We are talking about those who don’t even have the ability to do so. This includes still-born babies, infants who died at a very young age, or people with intellectual or physical or mental disabilities. Apostle Paul writes in Gal. 3:22 that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ is given to those who believe. However, what about those who don’t even have the capacity to comprehend the gospel, let alone believe?

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What about those who never heard the gospel?

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Image result for aloneOur church has just finished our preaching series on 1 Thessalonians. We have Q&A in the service to allow the congregation to send SMS questions to the preacher to attempt to answer after the sermon. When I preached on 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11 on the return of Jesus, one question that came up was this:

In relation to the dead rising up, what about non-Christians who never heard the gospel?

Now, in the passage, Paul is trying to give comfort to the Thessalonians by assuring them that those who have died will not miss out when Jesus returns. Those who have passed away will be raised again to be with Jesus together with those who are still alive. Therefore, they must not grieve as if they have no hope. So, Paul is not dealing with the conditions or destiny of nonChristians. However, the question about those who never heard the gospel comes up rather often, both in the service and in personal conversations. So, I thought I will write some of my thoughts on this issue.

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Approaching God through the Psalms – Psalm 3​

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pexels-photo-272064My bedroom is right at the front of the house facing north. It’s great because the bedroom gets the sun almost throughout the day. At the same time, whenever a car passes by, the neighbour dogs bark, or the birds chirp, I can pretty much hear it. They can be a blessing or a curse. The birds chirping – a blessing. The dogs barking – can be a blessing or a curse, it depends on the situation. At night, however, the whole situation can turn totally upside down. The birds chirping that is welcome during the day, is not so welcome at night, especially when you realise that there is a bird’s nest in the roof and the baby birds could not stop chirping at night, and meanwhile, you are trying to sleep. Although the barking of the neighbour dogs adds to the sense of safety of your street, you can’t help but worry a little bit whether or not something bad is happening. Afterall, if a bad guy broke into the house through the window or an alien hover boat crashed into the house, it is quite likely that my bedroom window is the one to go first. Furthermore, as I am a light sleeper (I am heavy, but I am a light sleeper), the littlest of sound would wake me up at night. So, a restful night is actually a great blessing for me. Actually, it can be a great blessing to you as well, whether or not you believe that alien hover boats exist.

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The Loneliest Person on Earth

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Who do you think would make the top 5 in the list of the loneliest person on earth? An astronaut who spend months in a space station? A remote convenient store worker who spend twilight hours by himself awaiting any lonely customer wandering in before dawn?

On March 28, 1934, Admiral Richard Byrd decided to live alone in an isolated advance base to study the weather through the Antarctic winter. He would not see any other sign of humanity for more than four months. Byrd wrote in his diary that at the moment the lonely feeling started to sink in, “the things of the world shrank to nothing.”

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“But, they don’t deserve my honour!”

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The fifth of the Ten Commandments says: “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

There are parents who are always forgiving, always present, always loving, never yell, always humble, quick to apologise, and slow, I mean extremely slow, to anger. They are very rare, so let’s humour me for a while. For those with such parents would find it no issue to honour their parents. Or at least, they could not say, “But they don’t deserve my honour!”

But what about those with parents who fall short from our imaginary perfect parents? What if my parents really don’t deserve my honour? Should I still honour them? Why should I? Surely, God does not want us to honour our bad parents, does He?

Let me share with you a few things that hopefully may help you think through this issue when it comes to honouring bad parents.

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Earth-shattering Moves

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“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.”
– Acts 16:25–26

As a Chinese Indonesian, I grew up reading some Kungfu comics and watching many Kungfu movies. Not the Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan’s type. But the ones where the guys adorn man buns with long smooth silky hair and the girls always use their big long sleeve to dab dry the droplets of sweat off their foreheads (think Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon movie, but with a much worse visual effect). While Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan have their Wing-Chun or Wushu skill to defend and to attack, the crouching-tiger-type ones would also have their secret move before unleashing an earth-shattering chi-releasing move that will incapacitate their enemies (think Kungfu Panda but without the cute fluffiness).

Well, Acts 16:25-26 records literally an earth-shattering move of Paul and Silas. They had been beaten up with rods and thrown into a deep dungeon with their feet chained. Paul was schooled not in a kungfu academy, but in a Rabbinic education system under Gamaliel. Silas was a prophet and a church leader. So, in that dungeon, kungfu moves would not come to their mind at all. However, they knew some ‘moves’ that would unleash an even greater power. They prayed and they sang. Yup, that’s right. Instead of mouthing some secret magic spell, they talked to God. Instead of screaming, ‘Jiaaat! Haiyaaaa!’, they lifted up scriptural songs and praises to God. Little that they knew, their moves would literally shake the earth, opened all the doors of the prisons, and unfastened all the prisoners’ chains.

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Missiological Snip

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Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places,
for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
(Acts 16:3)

At the first leg of Paul’s second missionary journey, he stopped at Lystra. There, he recruited Timothy as his protégé, and Acts 16:3 says that Paul circumcised him (or at least Paul had Timothy circumcised if he did not get his own hand dirty). This comment, however, might simply pass simply as a factual reporting, a nice-to-know-and-let’s-move-on kind of fact. However, reading what happened just before this event would inevitably raise at least one question.

In Acts 15, Paul had just debated the Jews who came to Antioch from Judea about the merit of circumcision for one’s salvation. The Jews insisted that circumcision was necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1). Paul, however, insisted that the snip-snip was unnecessary. None of them was willing to back down. So, Paul brought the matter up (or south) to Jerusalem Council. The apostles and the leaders at Jerusalem would need to settle this matter swiftly: do Gentiles need to be circumcised to secure their salvation? The council made a historic decision that Gentiles did not need to become Jews (or proselytes) in order to receive salvation in Jesus. This was a big win to the Gentiles. So, Paul returned to Antioch with affirmed and endorsed conviction that circumcision is indeed not meritorious for one’s salvation.

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