(Sharing and Reference 21 July 2011)
This is a long overdue post that I intended to post 1 year ago back in July 2010 (yes, it is that long), and some thoughts/voices of an elder.
I was so busy at work 1 year ago, that I began to think about the darkness of the Era that affected me. Every progressive era went on to further greater darkness, and we all know that this century is the time where information gets everywhere and social, so that everyone becomes more of a flat hierarchy, are all mentally and emotionally affected, and it becomes a necessity to deal with EQ and self-actualization and self-realization now.
However, the Emmanuel God definitely did not abandon us. Each era did not destroy the work of God, but actually advanced the progress of the understanding of the gospel and spurred it to greater heights. I began to do some little research and prayers on what happened in the history, and why God made them happen for the greater opportunity of the remnants. Indeed, it is all for the sake of bringing the gospel to a higher calling. I knew my busyness caused by this dark era had a reason, and this is to bring the next progress of the gospel spiritual understanding and this is Emmanuel. No wonder everything is going so fast through the easy information highway of internet, duo/quad/etc core processors coming up, green technology to tell people to work even more efficient than before, and everyone talking about re-evaluating ways of working, and everyone talking about transformation. This will of course make people die (including believers), but a breed of blessed believers will rise up reaching the unreached in all of us. Yet, how many will know that this is a calling of God not to live their lives for the purpose of gaining riches on earth, but to live a life seeking after the assurance that God is pleased with our love for Him and the sheep He has left to us to tender?
I just attended a Singtel M2M event that has a innovation speaker speak very well on how to know and ride on the era of ready markets to transform solutions and services (for all the other speakers who are locals, I was trying to keep myself awake). People are starting to re-evaluate about good-looking spreadsheets that do not absolutely point to a good business. People are also saying failures teach us the most (they make us remember the most lessons), so they are thinking of how to fail more, but more cheaply and quickly. These are, suspiciously, values that are brought down from the Western Christian culture. Yet, they are used now in all business models and all walks of life. In fact, it is so confusing now in this era that our messages sometimes have to remind people that we are not doing psychology on the pulpit when we talk about the heart. This era is really a confusing era, and we really have to grasp the cross message, differentiate the spirits, and enjoy Christ.
“The fields are white, but the workers are few – Lord, send me.” I just cannot escape thinking about being a full-timer. I was told to find my own inheritance as soon as possible, and this was told to me even while back in year 2003. From then on, I kept searching for what my role is. 8 years has passed and I become an elder in the local church with a life full of sufferings (sanctifications). My senior pastor told me that his convictions for me never change, and this is to find my specialization in this era, and like an elder who can support the church and missions. Do I have convictions? Slowly, over the years, I have surrendered. Yet, every time I go to work, I find motivations, technologies, continual learning, and business transformations more and more meaningless. I wonder how I could go from there. In the past, I announced I was okay with being a contractor. Slowly, I loved being a contractor (I do not belong to the world). One day, the company has to choose between me and another colleague for conversion. I was chosen, I tried to decline and pass it to my colleague, but was rejected based on experiences and which you can call it the grace of God. I am still not a full-fledged regular IBMer, but I got used to it even less than 1 year. I told people around that I still feel like a contractor. I learnt a lot of things in the church, and have gone through creating the church’s website http://lcm.zftp.com (some of you might remember) everything else, everything from managing church leaders to visions to preaching to the lowest form of support work in church. I bumped into many things, failed and re-align myself. I got bullied by the pulpit and gulped down every misunderstanding from the words of the pulpit, always calling out to God to make justice, yet acknowledging that God has every right to humble me, if I only could grasp the purity of the gospel of Jesus Christ like Paul. Did I totally die and resurrect? Somehow, I went from dying and resurrecting, but was hinted many times that I have not totally died and have not totally resurrected – the elder’s spiritual battle. Recently, I got to know that the teachings that my father listened over Christian radio at night are taught by an elder. Hey, an elder is not only someone who is stupid enough to do secular jobs and be a slave to the church, but he can teach! He can pastor. What is the best elder? Is he the one who earns the most? If God plans so, I am all for it. Is he the one who loves sheep and keeps thinking of them day and night? If God plans so, I am of course, more for it. Yet, everything has God’s timing and plan. He knows best. I am not God. If you are feeling injustice though you know a lot, you must know that man is not God, not even the pastor. It is from this fact “my senior pastor is not God” that I begin to pray seriously and treat God as my God, and take His promise as my promise, and face the limited 70 years on earth. The kingdom of God belongs to those who desires and works the hardest to enter it, and it belongs to those who can enjoy evidences of the kingdom of God most. To this, I repent.
Now, our church is in need of another full-timer. Her name is Huijun. She is so old now (young of course, but only a few years younger than me), but what I mean is that the recent church messages kept me worrying for her pastoral career ahead. We are one in a bond of love, one community of destiny. Years ago, I agreed so much to a childcare center done by our church. Why? I had a motive. When my child is born, I hope to have him taken care of by a childcare center who have teachers knowing the Emmanuel Message. Even if you have the 36 lessons, if you do not have someone who embodies the 36 lessons in Word and Spirit, it will be worse than if you do not have the 36 lessons (the curse of the Pharisees given by Jesus Himself, and the curse of the fake gospel written by Paul himself in Galatians). My child (don’t know where it is now) will affect me positively or negatively, and our future, and the descendants lie on the Emmanuel childcare center. Every era always depends on the youths. The youths make up the culture of the society and the world. We need to take care of the youths, and we need another full-timer pastor. Her plight is my family’s plight. If I do not pray and be careful with my life, to keep it in holiness, it will affect the whole church. The church/brethrens are interconnected. Do I sound calculative? But it just melts me to see her trying her best to keep her intimacy with God and her faithful cares on her small group members. I wish for the best for her and a future.
A very practical question now comes. In Singapore, we have taxes, but we also have our CPF taken away from the government monthly. Yet, frankly speaking, the government told employers to pay into our CPF account too, and we use that money to buy flats and we live in them. Do we live in flats for free? Compare that to rental rooms that use cash. Do we give tithes of our take-home pay, or do we give tithes of our full salary (before the 20% entered into CPF), or do we give tithes of our full salary plus what the employer will be forced to give into our CPF account? If we have tested our hearts, and have known that in our timetable of faith that we have been a good and faithful servant of the Lord, we would not be paiseh (ashamed/fear/cannot pass our own conscience) of handling receipts to the treasurer for claims of the church. May it not be that we keep thinking whether we are wicked and lazy servants! I cannot live in peace with that thought. Another thinker to CPF and tithes: in the bible, it is shown that a full timer Levite can come out and be fully supported by 12 persons, i.e. a full-time minister can be raised from 12 persons (yes, there is this perfect will. The nation of Israel or the church needs pastoral/discipleship care in the ratio of 12:1, or else the church won’t be taken well cared of). Yet, there is no mention of the rental amount for the place of worship, needed for the ministries by Levites. David himself prepared everything – in riches and also in spiritual – for the temple of Solomon. For the Israelites led by Moses in the wilderness, their place of stay was all around the tabernacle. Now, who paid for the rental premise of the tabernacle when they stayed at a position for e.g. 3 years? If there are already 12:1 tithes given, where does the resource come from to rent the tabernacle? In a certain sense, the church at Citimac is part of our place of stay, but we go and use the place for free, thinking that tithes are enough just for the full-time people. If we take pay away from the full-time people, they might rely on other sources of offerings and they would pray less for the church therefore. The ones who are at the very most disadvantaged would be the very layman of the church. In real life, no churches can give full 10% tithes, perhaps maybe 70-80% of the congregation would do tithes. Yet, a colleague told me that their church can buy a four-storey high commercial building as their church, and most of the church’s income actually comes from a few people who gave much more. Frankly speaking, perhaps the 20-30% that never pays tithes is all covered up by some of the 70-80% of the congregation who gives more than their tithes. Will not my actions affect the other brethrens as an elder? If I am single, it would be easy. I am married, it is harder. For those who have children and elderly parents to take care of, it is even much harder – to pass off the conscience, to entrust everything to God’s hands, and to find the perfect will of God.
This world is very practical. Some elders in the church are ordained just because they are some important figures in the society. It might not be totally wrong. The more I serve and do secular work, I find that the higher people climb in career, even though there is great temptation and darkness our there in the world (People in the secular world are more or less affected by the worldly values.), their willingness to remain committed to the church vision in offerings and attending meetings more or less shows that they have passed the test. (Of course, there are many other areas needing testing and approving.) Moreover, those who hold more important positions or manage projects in the company would need to handle people and think about the big picture always. Their parallel experiences would actually remove some mind blocks and obstacles when welcoming and taking care of new-comers. Their experiences would also help them display relevant wisdom when leading on the pulpit. (Of course, this can only happen if that person is already born again and knows God’s covenant for him for lifetime, else handling church would be a wrong business way.) Recently, I became more bold to ask God to give me more faith and insights, 10 times better than the next leader below me, just for the health of the church. If God is willing, an idea of expanding and going into a specialization or business would be a good testimony to give to the universal church. I saw that when opportunities are given to me to lead responsibilities in job, they really lead me to think about how to accomplish a task and positively overcome a task. This is sometimes very much connected to expanding the works of gospel through practical works after prayers. I can think of many stages in my life where I slowly know what is meant by prayers and practical actions. It never occurred to me that seeking for people of good soil would be the first action after praying for doors of evangelism. No matter how I prayed, no answers came. It was partly because of my maturity in life as I never sought for such practical answers. Family background hindered me to think in the positive active form. Did not the bible already said to find people of good soil first? Yes, but if there is no incarnation, or some things seeable, learnable and explainable, there is no way I could understand it, let alone live it out. This answers why God allows the world of practicality and relevance, because when the remnants see “evidences” and “workability”, their level of understanding just differs.
Yet, before this kind of practical Emmanuel faith can come, there has to be a sort of self-realization and self-actualization. The Emmanuel message is about what God is doing right now. If we can see Him transforming our hearts, we can decipher what the Holy Spirit is telling us. E.g. There are always two perspectives to a problem – one is that it is a challenge, the other one is that it is going to destroy you. We don’t try to ignore the latter to live a better life, but self-realizing this message will make you understand that this information has come to you to make you have advantage over both the two perspectives already. You see, we can never self-actualize unless we have some “information” in our minds. Some academic sense is needed to make a lasting impression so that the experiences of “evidences” and “workability” instruct us to self-actualization. The Diploma or University education that we receive is an intense course-work which normally presents no practicality in the later society work. However, the research and study put in makes the lasting impression of a particular subject work.
Recently, I wrote a blog on the four parts of Theology. It’s for my own equipping, but I found God’s perfect will for me to keep on being diligent. I have been searching as to what I can do meaningfully for my part-time ministry, my role and what I can do to prepare for God’s usage. We have a vision not to keep us looking into heavens, but to keep ourselves focused on deeper prayers to love God and love men. I have two small groups now at evenings, one night for completing the Bible Overview Notes, one evening of time for my wife, one evening for time of preparation of small group. For the daytime, I cannot just work like a robot and finish the work. Each day, I got to see the Emmanuel God’s kingdom expanding. I cannot just have lunch with people in the company, find no doors of evangelism, then become numb in that area, which means, having no more hope in lunching with colleagues but just talk about latest things in the world. Yet, I find that the darkness of the world is really difficult to overcome for the part-time minister. We can be careless sometimes, but with the person really in the secular work, we can be careless a lot of times, easily tricked by Satan, and finding hard to return to the Lord. (It becomes faster over time, but the way has to go through alternating repeats of success and failures in life.) Practically speaking, you are handling two or more things at the same time, but we only have got one heart. We can multi-task in our brain, but can we split our heart? I got to find a role that fits everything and I have been trying to find one for months (or maybe years). Probably no one can understand and I got to stand on my toes. I cannot live each day and see what could come by. It has been more than a month since the church camp. What has changed? We cannot keep ourselves thinking that everything is alright but there is no assurance that God is touched with our lives with our diligence right now. God gave me an answer: to diligently do Project-Based equipping and deliverables. Since I am an introvert (the web says that an introvert is a person who is more energized by being alone and whose energy more is drained by being around other people. It does not mean they are anti-social, but they get more tired playing around with people. I, however, don’t bind myself as to what people thinks of me but of what Jesus Christ has made me), perhaps I can start with some academics, and then use it to serve the Holy Spirit in my heart.
We are not focused on Theology and Historical knowledge, but academics really give lasting impression. So here goes in my blog of what happens in the 21st Century.
What I have written below may not be totally accurate, but it seems a good reference? I am back to watching some documentary videos lately, but not for long. It’s a project based learning, anyway. The thing to learn is Emmanuel.
Egypt (precious life of VIPs, whole lifetime of slavery labor to construct pyramids, and the concept of afterlife (pyramids/great structures made by mud bricks and hard labor/ship beside pyramids/mummies) -> under these circumstances, Abraham formed the understanding of Ge 12:1-3, the life of circumcision (set apart from the world), and 4 gospelizations heaven and hell to make a difference in after death, thereby, even treating burial places and the bones of fathers as carrying the very covenant of God)
=> Canaan inhabitants to conquer (disturbance in living -> forming the need of the static and mobile tabernacle and the need to walk with God in inheritance so not to surrender, not to compromise, but to overcome Canaan as the land flowing with milk and honey)
=> Egyptians, Phoenicians (Tyre and Sidon), and the smaller “Ammonites, Moabites, Philistines, Edomites” (3 main types of paradoxical unbelievers – Egyptians: having political and military power, Phoenicians: having great economical power, and persecutions (Ammonites: sneering the weakness of Christian faith, Moabites: comparing similarities between the results of unbelievers and believers, Philistines: always tempting believers, Edomites: always having fits of anger and jealousy towards blessed believers because they grew up as peers before) = appear right, but in fact wrong -> forming the carbon-copy belief in Northern Israel as compared to Southern Judah, who made it a point to worship the right God by building a temple of God. In the rise of the kingdom of Israel, their riches were actually used to build the first holy temple. In the fall, they became a constant thorn to discipline Israel -> the concept of the “kingdom of God” was born)
=> Assyria (cross-borders/intermarriage/assimilation -> though a barbaric nation that bullies, Israel is tested to love even the enemies as themselves in the book of Jonah: Israel is to be a blessing to love all nations, whether Israel knows the love of God as deep as how God loves His creation)
=> Babylon (grandness and power -> the gospel must be understood not in external grandness but in the fruits of having a heart of stone turned into flesh, so that the Jews were even exiled, the likeness of total demolishment and rebuilding = total death and resurrection, in order to be utmost gentle to hear the voice of God)
=> Persia (a kingdom that rediscovers brotherhood, generosity and beauty that brings seductively fierce united powers –> King-linage Zerubbabel to return to rebuild a second temple of Israel, priest-linage Ezra to reseat back to God’s covenant to uncover back the lost scribes of the laws of Moses, prophet Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem to join together all breaches that failed Israel, in the hope to restore the promise of God)
=> Greece (gods, culture and language, each property has a spirit behind, and combining spirits will give birth to sons and daughters of a more powerful spirit/god, all on Mount Olympia; two schools of thoughts/education: Spartan (strict nobility, morals and never bowing down to weaknesses = simple, obedience and war) and Athens (using compassion and spirits to conquer = dwelling into creativity, education, arts, sciences), but Athens wins at the end; deep philosophy requires understanding spirits and gods behind attributes that are in the human world. A preview here: The Olympians are a group of 12 gods who ruled after the overthow of the Titans. They lived in Mount Olympus:
(1) Sky (Zeus = King of the gods, lord of the sky, the rain god, thunderbolt, married to Hera but is famous for his many affairs; punish those that lie or break oaths)
(2) Marriage (Hera wife and sister of Zeus = goddess protector of marriage and takes special care of married women
(3) Seas (Poseidon brother of Zeus = god of the seas)
(4) City (Athena daughter of Zeus = goddess of wisdom, the city, handicrafts, and agriculture)
(5) War (Ares son of Zeus and Hera = god of war, murderous, bloodstained, coward)
(6) Earth (Demeter = goddess of the harvest, fertility of the earth, the seasons, harvest, sanctity of marriage, the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death)
(7) Visions (Apollo son of Zeus and Leto = god of the Sun, theatre, music, playing a golden lyre, archer, healing, light, truth)
(8) Chastity (Artemis son of Zeus and Leto = goddess of Hunt – chastity, wilderness, fertility, protector of the young, resides over childbirth)
(9) Engineering (Hephaestus son of Zeus and Hera = god of Fire – technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes; only god to be physically ugly)
(10) Beauty (Aphrodite daughter of Zeus and Dione = goddess of love, desire and beauty; wife of Hephaestus)
(11) Measurements (Hermes son of Zeus and Maia = Zeus messenger, fastest of the gods, god of thieves and god of commerce, guide for the dead to go to the underworld, invented lyre, pipes, musical scale, astronomy, weights and measures, boxing, gymnastics, care of olive trees)
(12) Pleasure (Dionysus = god of wine and pleasure)
* Underworld (Hades brother of Zeus = god of underworld; not included in the 12)
* Healing (Asclepius son of Apollo = god of medicine & doctors)
The culture of Greece went on to plays forming the foundations of movies and cinemas, only men acted in Greek Plays, Oracles are female portals to advice gods’ voices, temples are built to hold gods’ spirit, not for worship, Athens became the first democracy in the world, the centaurs are half man, half horse, Acropolis means "highest city" = Citadel (English) -> Ancient Greece gave rise to Olympic Games, Art, Architecture, Science, Mathematics, Literature, Drama (Theatres), Study of History, Religion (Organized development through teachings of myths and legends) = birthplace of western civilization (U.S. Supreme Court, US Capitol, similar to our Singapore “National Museum Building”, “Supreme Court”, “Parliament House”). Greek philosophy and the basic teachings of Socrates and Plato: Justice, right/wrong, what to teach the young, lover of wisdom, philosopher. Socrates “The unexamined light is not worth living”, arguing with people on sidewalls, question and method of teaching, reasoning purpose is not to get to the point but to sympathize with people, sharp tongue, brought to trial which he refused to stop questioning people. Plato, most famous disciple of Socrates born in 428BC when Parthenon already built, wrote many books including “The Republic” exalting Socrates, yet first 23 years witnessed the rage of wars between Sparta and Athens (Peloponnesian War), philosophized nature of right conduct and the ideal political state: Utopia, an imaginary and perfect world, where everyone gets one job for life, designed a social ring, no war because philosophers are kings, children are only allowed to hear heroic and uplifting tales, started school called “The Academy”, best student Aristotle, who tutored Alexandra the Great. Alexander the Great 325B.C conquered everywhere he went from age 22 till west of India, wanted to be a god, died at 33
-> the basis empowering the thought of Jesus Christ the manifestation of God, Son of God, Spirit of God, having the weak winning the powerful = the Holy Land is profaned by the abomination that causes desolation till the point that the Son of God bearing the Holy Spirit is and must be born. This will tell us to really appreciate the manifestation of God in the Son of Man Jesus Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost)
=> Rome (has no culture of its own, but added/absorbed even more provinces/gods/wisdom and seven roads for all culture, mainly Greek culture to be spread to all the world -> birth of the concept of church, and the spread of Christianity, even till making Christianity the national religion in 312, when Caesar Constantine was converted, and started calling councils in 325. This makes it possible to canonize the 27 books of the New Testament at the Council of Hippo (in Roman Africa) in AD 393. Translation was made possible too. St Augustine (354-430 AD): first system/theology came out.)
=> Europe (identified by fall of Roman Empire in 476 AD. Middle Ages (from 5th to 15th Century): (1) Early Middle Ages (5th to 11th Century ), (2) the High Middle Ages (till 13th century?) = the "flowering" of medieval culture/society, castle-building/magnificent cathedrals, material culture, feudalism, (3) the Late Middle Ages (till 16th century?) [dark ages = barbarians = wars/fights/return to naught, return to spirituality = monks and monastery -> renaissance)]
-> Wars vs Christian monks -> live in peace and simplicity vs high-ranking pursuits -> arts vs reformation (restoration of essence of the word of God) -> science – printing press vs Calvanism clear theology forming a good foundation of the bible so that God is okay to allow bible to be distributed -> European world exploration and colonization vs missions -> engineering vs denominations of church came up to purify and engine the church)
=> America (world wars, industrialization, leaning/efficiency/productivity, outsourcing, entrepreneurship, globalization and the internet <-> missions, discipleship, charismatism in packaging the system in meaning and in form)
=> China (not in the steps of economic giant Japan but slowly learning all of America’s industrialization, pirating and learning everything, going out at all costs, basis of infrastructure/hierarchy/economy, people-power, yet very relational, on deep logical thinking, and on uncovering heart -> see Rhema of God’s temple, hear Spirit of God’s original heart in parallel, 24 hours in all things Emmanuel compassion and wisdom, but the greatest is love)
As you can see above, history has gone through its length of many things (I only chose the history of mankind with the chosen people of God, since God centers history on them.) It is a history made by God.
– Transcending Being of God (Mesopotamia/Sumerians)
– Knowing heaven and hell (Egypt)
– Need of walking with God (Canaanites)
– Need of Holy Temple in our hearts (Israelites’ enemies)
– Blessings to all nations (Assyria)
– Death and resurrection (Babylon)
– Restoration of the pure covenant (Persia)
– The power of language to theologize systems into perfect will (Greece)
– The church (Rome)
– Missions and culturalization (Europe)
– Engineering Discipleship (America)
– The Heart and the Holy Spirit (China)
As we go through building a local church, I wonder how many of you have seen that we have gone through and experienced the whole history of mankind. It is therefore inevitable that our secular work and even the church pastoral work now are not as simple. We are facing the 21st Century now with the immense measure of mental problems but also with an opportunity to be totally set apart and give the Holy Spirit in His whole practicality and relevance. May God help us pass the Holy Spirit to our descendants in a greater measure than what we have received.