Feelings and Convictions

Our actions are influenced by a variety of things around us. If we try to trace back where our actions come from, we would first say that our “decisions” influence our actions – we choose to actively perform that particular action, and we also decide our action is “right” or “wrong”. But where do the decisions for our actions come from? I would like the investigate just two sources which loosely covers where all our decisions and actions come from – our minds and our hearts. When we think of our minds and our hearts together, some of us might instantly think of the notion that what we think and what we feel are opposed to one another; a battle of logic against emotions that rages within us. As Christians, though we already have been saved through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, we still need to pay careful attention to the way we live. And if indeed we go by the classic idea that our convictions and our feelings are opposed to each other, then we need to figure out how we’re going choose the right thing to do.

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Grace and Gratitude

Commonly when we do things for other people, in whatever ways it might be in, we typically want something back. In light of seeing God’s grace (a free gift that we do not deserve) for us through Jesus Christ, Christians have learnt what loving grace is: it is caring for someone else without expecting anything in return. Whether it be saying something encouraging, giving someone a present, giving someone a lift or spending time for someone, we know that it is real genuine love if we do these things without wanting anything in return. Love is selfless and with the idea of grace permeating the whole of a Christian’s life, the balanced “equation” of receiving what you give out no longer holds. To some degree, the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is talking about doing things you “hope” others will do back for you, but they may not necessarily return that favour. The golden rule is about giving than receiving.

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Christian Dating Part 2: Leadership and Submission

Before we get into the practical side of dating relationships, we should continue looking into the Bible at what the final outcome of dating relationships (ie marriage) should look like from the heart. Let’s move onto the topic of submission, as it’s the one that’s still widely misunderstood by non-Christians. If you haven’t been paying to all the marriage debates that have been going on in the last year or so, let me bring you up to scratch with why secular society looks badly at the word “submission”. Society seems to synonymously replace “submission” with “domination”, so that a wife submitting to her husband means “letting the husband do whatever he wants, without any regard to what she wants or doesn’t want”. And alarm bells start going off because this seems to suggest that the husband has the option of abusing his wife (in a world where domestic violence happens somewhat frequently), and so for Christians, we seem to be allowing husbands to abuse their wives, because they are “commanded” to submit to their husbands. And of course there is this notion that the wife is now inferior to her husband, and Christian marriage doesn’t seem to have gender equality.

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Christian Dating Part 1: Overview

In this day and age where many people get into (and fall out of) dating relationships, it probably gives good reason to address this topic. And perhaps at least, we finally get the chance to put onto the discussion table what the Christian perspective of dating is. Bear in mind, though I myself am not currently in a dating relationship at the time of writing, I am quite convicted about the truths in the Bible and the way they should shape how dating is done today. So although it may make me seem like a hypocrite and one who cannot talk about what I haven’t experienced, the ideas I want to present here and those that I will live by – they are, in some sense, my personal plans on how I think God wants dating to be done in my life. I would not only like to address this to non-Christians (to educate them on what some Christians think about dating) but also to some Christians (particularly to those who are also doing it with a lack of understanding of the Bible). As with all posts, I hope this creates food for thought in conversation (where we can further develop and refine these ideas), rather than try to set in stone some legalistic system of how dating “must” be done.

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The Rationale on Charisma (Part 1)

This is my current take on what I think of the “Charismatic Christian” movement. Because it is such a sensitive topic, I have been trying to avoid the subject until I felt like I had gathered and researched enough of the underlying information out there before making a call. However, there seems to be more and more charismatic Christians out there, and due to my where I stand as a Christian (in terms of my statement of faith – which I haven’t really properly written up) I find it as something that desperately needs to be addressed. Let me say in short that I am very strongly opposed to “charismatics” because it seems to pervert what a relationship with Jesus is all about; but let me spend the rest of this post qualifying what I mean by “charismatics” and why it doesn’t exhibit what a Christian’s relationship with Jesus should be about.

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Mid-Year Conference 2012–Monday

Strangely I kept waking up throughout Sunday night; not sure why but it also didn’t impact me that much. One of my roommates sometimes snores a bit, he shall be purged from this world later this week if it persists. No, I’m just kidding; but I am a very light sleeper, which is why I opted for an ensuite as opposed to a dorm room (three people versus either in a room) – leads to a lower chance of having snorers and other distractions throughout the night.

 

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Today was a pretty fun day, waking up to get ready for the car and bus-loads of students coming to camp, welcoming them and helping them get up to speed with the pace of the conference. In short, it again was very daunting seeing the number of Commerce students in total. The numbers went up a bit this year to over 140, which is really crazy and hectic. I remember being in our faculty common room as the only 4th year, along with two of our MTSers, and we had to somehow control over 100 younger students, definitely not an easy feat. But likely everyone is mature and they all fell in line soon after being given an order. I don’t think there’s much to say about numbers that I didn’t already mention in last year’s posts. I suppose there were so many of them that I didn’t know this time round, mostly students that were at least two years younger than me. And yeah this is one of those opportunities to meet as many new people as possible. Although I would hope to speak fairly and say that it isn’t as big a deal for our grade anymore considering that we’ll be gone in the next six months and won’t really be able to actively take part in helping the younger students grow spiritually in uni. Yes, the fact that looms over us is that we’ll be expendable really soon since we’re about to graduate.

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Mid-Year Conference 2012–Sunday

And so begins my last year’s experience at UNSW’s MYC before I graduate. The major difference so far that I can speak about is that my week begins on a Sunday, as opposed to the standard Monday as in the previous three years. Pre-MYC is a small “event” that takes place on the day before the week of MYC, simply as an extra day for those who come to prepare themselves for the week ahead, and for them to plan how to serve the rest of the faculty and campus; this includes things such as preparing the folders of material to give out the next day (that is, tomorrow) and to help with decorations and organising how to usher people to park their cars and direct them where they need to go.

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16. Regret

Surely the feeling of regret is one that most of us are very familiar with, although we may not always be talking about it. Generally, we feel some sort of grief or sorrow at the way a particular incident plays out, based on a decision that we made to influence it, or an action that we undertook. I reckon we all feel some sort of regret for nearly any situation we face in life, it’s just that we might not always feel the same “amount” of regret for each situation.

 

Let me share a now light-hearted story of regret from my high school days. Back in year 10, I was one of those typical guys who wasn’t good with BGR (boy-girl relationships) and had a sudden urge to find a date for the year 10, since it was the first such event most of us would’ve encountered in high school. Anyhow, so there was that girl I wanted to ask out, and then there were my friends, who wanted to know who I wanted to ask out. One day I had succumbed to peer pressure and decided to tell one of my closer friends who I wanted to ask out; I thought that if I had to tell someone, it would be that friend. And my hopes were that he’d keep my secret, as friends should. I told him at the start of lunch time that day; and within the span of 30 minutes before lunch ended, the rest of my friendship group knew, along with others who had overheard. Obviously there was no need to wonder how they all found out. Clearly my friend had betrayed my trust.

 

And so I felt a fair amount of regret at having told my friend what he had so deviously pestered me about. At the time I suppose it felt like I was in a really dangerous situation. In hindsight today it feels like a very comical situation. So the regret I feel about that situation today is actually far less than the regret I felt at the time. Either way, there was some sort of regret due to my decision to place my trust in him.

 

The one thing that can be noted from any situation where we feel regret is that there’s nothing we can do to change what has happened. Once you realize something is wrong, there’s no going back and undo-ing your “mistake”; there is no way to change the situation such that you won’t have to feel that regret. But that’s okay. I feel regret is never about contemplating “how” you could’ve changed the situation (it’s quite pointless; we can’t go back in time). However, feeling regret is a stimulus for us to think of what we can do “in response” to the bad consequence. Sometimes, broken things can be repaired. For my situation, I simply chose not to ever ask that girl to the formal. Like sure, I didn’t get my way exactly, but I at least managed to avoid any sort of future pressure from confirming the “rumour”. And consequently I now don’t tell my friend anything personal in regards to BGR. Problem mitigated, not solved.

 

There are some very simple patterns that we observe in life that confirm this. When we make a mistake, we feel regret over it, and then we work hard to not make that same mistake again because we know it’ll make us feel bad. I suppose this generally applies more for the common mistakes we make everyday, and also the ones where we don’t feel too much regret. For the more serious incidents such as making a decision that resulted in someone getting hurt in some way (I’d rather not name any specific incidents), we work towards not making that mistake again and we also work towards trying to help the other person recover from the hurt that our decision “caused”. And by that, I don’t think the phrase “no regrets” holds true, because nothing that happens, happens perfectly in the way we want it to. Have a think about it next time something good happen; did anything happen (even the slightest) which was bad?

 

One other thing I want to deal with in regards to regret is that I think it’s something that gives us strength in something we have to move forward in, but cannot avoid. I would not hesitate to say that in important things to me such as my ministry at church and all, I have felt much regret (made up of many events, each feeling a small amount of regret). And when I say regret I’m not thinking: “Oh, I wish I never did it at all.” My thoughts are more like: “I feel sad because bad things happened along the way.” But despite recognising the bad things (for me) that have resulted from the way I’ve done ministry all these years, I’m still resolved to continue forward in the things I do for church, knowing that there is more good to be gained than bad. We may always choose to run from the things we feel regret about because we want to avoid that feeling; but regret is our strength when we choose to push onwards despite such negative feelings. For something that we know is good at the end of the day, regret helps us persevere in that good task because we choose not be deterred by all the bad things which may result.

 

Genesis 6

We don’t see the word “regret” in the Bible much (depending on the translation we read). I don’t do Greek but I suppose if we cross-referenced the Bible for all accounts of the word “regret”, we’d also have to look for synonyms such as “grief”, “sorrow” and other words. One verse I found recently from Genesis 6 goes like this:

 

When the LORD saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the LORD regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Then the LORD said, “I will wipe off from the face of the earth mankind, whom I created, together with the animals, creatures that crawl, and birds of the sky—for I regret that I made them.” – Genesis 6:5-7 (HCSB)

 

Funnily we always missed this passage in our NIV Bibles because the word used in those verses is “grieved”, which I suppose carries enough of the same feeling.

 

It should come as no surprise to us that God himself can feel regret. After all, we, who are made in His image can feel regret. Then surely the one who created us can feel the same thing. In this passage of the Bible, God is feeling regret that he created mankind because of how nearly everyone in the world was wicked and that evil had pretty much consumed the world.

 

What does God do? He could’ve turned back time and un-did everything such that mankind would not result in all this evil (we might not be able to time travel, but God surely can). But God doesn’t do that. Instead He moves forward and chooses the harsh option of destroying the whole world with a flood. Yes that does sound quite drastic; God seems to be overreacting at what the world became. Surely we see a lot of evil today as well, but perhaps none of us would think of wanting to destroy the whole world because of that. Has God lost His mind?

 

Or perhaps, His decision to destroy the world highlights just how horrible sin is to Him (even if we may not feel the same way towards sin). His way of wanting to “cleanse” the world of evil makes a lot more sense if we understand His perspective on sin. An example: Suppose you have a bucket of dirty water, how would you make it clean? Aside from trying to use chemical reactions to remove all the dirt and substances from the water, the simplest solution is simply to pour out that bucket of water, and get some more (hoping that the next bucket of water will be clean). I suppose that’s what God did. It’s not easy to understand why God chose to rid the world of evil in the way He chose, but if we did a similar thing with a bucket of water, who are we to judge God?

 

My point from this passage is simply to show that God feels regret too; surely we can relate to Him and learn from the way He dealt with regret. He took steps to fix the problem; but even more so, the problem He was so eager to fix (that He would go to such desperate measures) is that of sin.

 

For all of us, we may simply feel regret about small incidents here and there. Sometimes, we may feel regret at the way we’ve lived our whole lives. But I think that regardless of how long, or how great our regret is, the problem at the core of all that is sin – our desire to turn away from God and to live our lives the way we want to, making decisions on what we believe is the right way to live, on what is fair and not fair for us and the people around us; simply being our own God.

 

Feeling regret for sin is a good thing; first and foremost because you recognise that it is bad. But more so, in order to correctly respond to that regret, we need to change the way we live and move forward, away from that sin. And doing so means coming to Jesus Christ for forgiveness, and accepting Him as your lord and saviour. My purpose here is not to give a reason “why” it should be done or why it’s this way (perhaps I’ve done a bit of that elsewhere), but I wanted to show how the idea of “regret” fits into the Christian message of salvation.

 

Lastly I want to share this verse:

 

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10

 

If we ever feel regret about the things we do in life, the proper regret we should feel (here it’s being described as “godly”) should be one that motivates us to want to change, by repenting and turning to Jesus. Read the verse carefully here, our decision to turn to Jesus is the thing that leaves no regret. Turning to Jesus will be by far the best decision anyone can make in their life, in that nothing bad will result of it – we are all destined to receive eternal life as a result. As a bit of a technicality issue, I don’t think Christian suffering is something that can be linked to our decision to come to Jesus, because technically suffering is common for both Christians and non-Christians. The worldly sorrow mentioned here I reckon is one where we try to live our lives better through our own sheer effort, and not relying on Jesus to sanctify us; yes, that will lead to death for we will never be able to become perfect by ourselves.

 

So if you do find yourself feeling a lot of regret in your life, may I suggest giving your life to Jesus? You certainly won’t regret that.

Luke 15:11-32 – The Prodigal Son

I preached at my church for the first time today; and by preach I mean give a sermon or talk. It wasn’t anything too serious, it was an evangelistic talk on the prodigal son; which most of us would’ve heard at some point. But just like in year 12 when we were the last grade to do “journeys”, I had to come up with a way to present the prodigal son parable in a different way (that of course was still Biblical).

 

Long story short, my talk will be uploaded below, as well as my powerpoint slides to aid the talk; so feel free to be the judge of what I say yourselves. Writing the talk was a bit difficult at the time because I kind of left it a bit too late, and before I knew it I found that today when the talk was due, was sandwiched between a class test I had on Thursday, and this huge assignment which was set to be due this coming Tuesday. So it wasn’t looking to be a pleasant weekend; and the distractions that kept me from thinking about my talk got to me.

 

Eventually I got quite stressed over last week and I suppose it all nearly overwhelmed me. But it’s strange how God works. Within the span of a few days and by the time Saturday (yesterday) came, several things turned my situation completely around for the better. On Thursday after my exam, the tutor went through the answers and miraculously I think I should get 100% since all my answers matched up (not sure about the working though). And come Saturday I found out that my assignment deadline was pushed back from this coming Tuesday, to the Monday after (6 day extension). And so even though I really only had that final Saturday free; God had somehow changed my circumstances so that I would be completely unburdened the whole day to work on the talk. And though I still struggled on Saturday I managed to get it done by midnight; and well, here I am sitting at home talking about it.

 

It was a really challenging week for me as a Christian but as always God pulled through for me. And as always when I publicly present something from the Bible (at youth group normally), I really felt the power of the Holy Spirit working through me and giving me the words. I know I didn’t really qualify that last sentence well, but it’s hard to describe the effect of the Holy Spirit and I’m more mesmerised by what I was able to accomplish through God. Anyway it’s time to work on the assignment. Thank you all who asked me about my talked, prayed for me, or attended on Sunday to see me speak.

 

One last thing, I didn’t publicize it at the time because I didn’t want people flocking over to my church just to hear me speak, and also to give up their own church service as well. As such I kept quiet about it, it’s not that I didn’t want to tell people about it; it just makes me feel bad if people are skipping their own church’s to hear me speak (not to mention that their leaders would probably get mad at me anyway). So hopefully people understand why all the *hush hush* about it.

 

[SMAC] (2011.10.02) Luke 15 (pdf)

 

Note that a bit of the beginning wasn’t recorded but it wasn’t anything too important.

 

1: One Saviour. One Life. One Night. Don’t Waste It.

Last night, about ten thousand people from all over Sydney (and maybe a bit further) gathered at Sydney Entertainment Centre to hear from John Piper and John Lennox, two renowned speakers from America who have written quite a number of good books. This was a completely new event that has never been run before in Sydney but the reputation of the speakers certainly attracted a lot of people to come; seating capacity was completely maxed out and both speakers preached a very powerful message to a full house, such would be deemed the success of the event.

 

For a few of us, the topic of event seemed quite ambiguous and we didn’t really know what to expect from the speakers. I think we’ve all heard about “not wasting our lives” (particularly in the Christian context) and I also wondered what more could be said about the idea. Last night was a night to re-ignite the spirits of those who attended, that they may burn with a strong passion for Jesus and indeed not waste their lives but live it all to their max, for the glory of God.

 

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The night was filled with worship and was MCed by Al Stewart. All in all, the night was quite simple and very heavily focused around the speakers; and they themselves focused heavily around the Bible, it was quite an intense event in terms of the amount of stuff we were hearing. They also gave us very cute little booklets with information and also space to write notes and all (photo above).

 

John Lennox

John Lennox came up to speak first and he began by addressing the concerns of investing our time, and even our lives, for Jesus. He explained both points of views, that indeed it would be quite a waste of a life if we invested into someone who wasn’t real and the promises of heaven and all were not real. However, if we did not invest into Jesus and he turned out to be real, then we would be in serious trouble. John talked about the transfiguration of Jesus and how that event was a truly remarkable change not only for Jesus but also for those who witnessed it. The eyewitnesses (and apostles) who saw all that Jesus did would be able to invest in Jesus because they actually saw what Jesus had in plan for those who believe. And as eyewitnesses they shared this news with the people around them because the way we live our lives would certainly have an eternal difference at the end. Lennox also talked about how the transfiguration demonstrated Jesus’ power, and it was not a power of this world and while we might not receive this same power,  we are called to trust in the one who does have this power.

 

Lennox moved onto talking about death and leaving the world; because if indeed there is an eternal reward waiting for us at the end of time, how we live our lives up to the point of our death is important. The Bible shows us examples of how some people live their lives and went out with a “bang”: Moses died (but lived a very arduous life), Elijah left the world but did not taste death, Jesus was crucified, and Peter was crucified upside down, in order to not shame what happened to Jesus. If we are indeed convinced of the value of our investment in Christ and of the eternal difference that will show itself at the end of time, then indeed it makes perfect sense to live our lives as best as we can, to reflect the treasure we have in Christ.

 

Lennox’s talk was a good opener to the evening and explaining why it made sense to invest our time and our whole lives into Jesus.

 

John Piper

After a short intermission, John Piper came up to speak. For a 65-year old man, he demonstrated quite a lot of energy in his preaching and I was glad I was able to hear him and the ideas he presented last night. Piper introduced a lot of radical concepts that I hadn’t really thought about before but I was deeply moved by what he said. He started off by reminding us of some of the world events that resulted in various numbers of deaths, namely the famous incidents, starting at 9/11. These, and many more, are incidents where the goodness of God is questioned and a lot of people hear the question: “Where was God in all of this?” Funnily enough Jesus himself was not as sentimental about life and death as we would expect. Piper read out Luke 13:1-5 and showed that amidst suffering, Jesus did not comfort those who lost loved ones but instead called everyone to repent. And of course many people would dare to say that Jesus was unloving because he didn’t show a care for those who died.

 

The radical idea that Piper presented was that we should not presume even one more breath of our life but be somewhat expecting of the bad. For those who suffered accidents, some of which led to death, we should be surprised not that it happened to other people, but that it didn’t happen to us. Too often we play the “where were you God when ‘this’ happened?” card and replace ‘this’ with something bad that happened. But we don’t seem to ask “where were you God when ‘that’ happened?”, replace ‘that’ with something good. The perspective shift Piper asked us to take on was that bad things are the “default” and anything good, even the next second of your life, is a blessing which we must make good use of, clearly because those who are dead do not have such a gift.

 

I didn’t find it too hard to take on this perspective, I imagine people who don’t have their trust in Jesus would find it harder to accept such a view. But adopting such a view really turns your world upside down. While it does make you seem pessimistic (because you’re always anticipating something bad), it makes you much more joyful and motivated when good things happen. Not only does it put our perspective on life right, but it also corrects our perspective on God. God has all the right to end our lives and pour His judgement our on us, but He chooses to have mercy on us instead and when we begin to contrast His blessings against His judgement, we begin to value what He’s given us.

 

Lastly, Piper talked about us learning to give up everything we have in favour of Christ. That is, we don’t literally go around selling everything we own, but in whatever we own or have, we should be prepared to make Jesus more important than that. And I think it works to say that having as much as we want isn’t a bad thing, as long as we are able to value Christ even more, which will end up in a willingness to give us everything else we own (hence you really only become rich to just give it all away out of generosity). How we our lives then should be to magnify Christ in everything that we have and everything that we do. By “magnify” we think of how a telescope magnifies the vast vast universe so that those looking through a telescope can see the magnificence of the universe; same with our lives and God.

 

Response

Well, they asked us to make a response as to how we intend to live our lives from this point on; how we plan to not waste it. There was a small section in our book for us to jot something down. Here was what I felt at the time:

 

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I’ve never felt like each day in my life was truly a waste because it always felt like there was something to be learned, and something to be gained, not matter how big or small, and no matter whether it was a good or bad day. But I suppose the call for me is to sharpen my life and be more and more proactive with my time which would be the main challenge since I’ve packed it with so much stuff. But that can’t be right since I should always have time to slot people in when needed.

 

I hope I’ll continue to have time to blog. I have so many pending things to type up that I’ve kind of just left it all to one side. Frankly, it took a while to even finish this post up (probably partly due to my laziness and my wanting to do other things at the same time). But all in all this was a night for us to think about out long term investments for Christ. And while Lennox and Piper didn’t say specifically “how” we should spend our lives, the main focus indeed was to spread the glory of God to all around us, in whatever way we feel comfortable with. For some of us like me, the ministry field seems most applicable; and so I shall try to redouble my efforts at my church.

 

To end on a semi-dim note, sometimes all my years of leading youth group have felt like a waste, perhaps not a complete waste, but there are times where it seemed pointless or not as fruitful as doing something else. And that definitely discourages me when my passion and vision for youth group doesn’t turn out the way I had hoped it would. But through God’s grace I’ve seen more than enough change to conclude that all my efforts have not been in vain and indeed any amount of energy was worth it to see the fruits that were yielded, and the fruits that will be reaped if we persevere in our race. I believe that to be true of any other aspect of life we devote to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He will see us through to the last day.

Mid-Year Conference 2011 – Friday

So for once on the last night of MYC, I managed to rack up 3-4 hours of sleep as opposed to 0 hours. Still, the dawn of the last day pretty much meant that camp was coming to an end, and we would soon no longer have all that time to sit together with other Christians, to have fellowship and to study God’s Word. Which is probably why over the years we’ve managed to see that the time spent at MYC is precious and needs to be used in a manner that reflects how rare the opportunity is. Just like all the speakers say, you really don’t get a daily chance to study God’s Word so in depth outside of MYC.

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