Deuteronomy and Joshua

Hey peeps,

I’ve just started work at a law firm in Hong Kong.  Would appreciate some prayers:

1.  That I have opportunities to share the gospel

2.  That I’m not afraid to lose my job as a result of His calling (though I need the money for the wedding and other things to come, I know He will provide nonetheless if I stick to His guns!)

3.  In relation to (2), that I’m *sure* it is His calling to speak at a particular time – so I must be sensitive to the Spirit!

4.  That He will give me some inspiration to set up a regular method through which I can speak to people about Jesus, and to raise up brothers and sisters who can start up the group with me as an OUTREACH rather than a “self-support” group per se.

Thanks!

On top of prayer requests, here is my Deuteronomy commentary which has been long time coming (also on the sermons/paper page).  I’ve also updated my Genesis commentary document, because I realised that I didn’t copy and paste the last part of chapter 49 and chapter 50 to the word document (though I wrote about them on this site).  Also added a “Pentateuch” page to gather the five commentaries so far, ending an “arc” per se of commenting on Moses’ books (until we return to his psalms in the books of Psalms!).

Finally, I’ve added a “Why Jesus?” page, because I realise that there are probably just as many Christians as non-Christians stumbling on this site.

Hope to resume blogging chapter by chapter beginning with the book of Joshua sometime this week!

Deuteronomy and Joshua

Xining, Qinghai

After about 4 weeks back in HK, I’m off again!  Much like last time, I won’t be blogging from 9-Jan-09 till 2-Mar-09 because of internet censorship.  During this period, I’ll be participating in God’s work in the North-western region of Mainland China predominately filled with Muslims and Buddhists (Islam is the official religion of the city).  Just a photo of the city:

Xining

And a map to show where Xining is (it is where the red arrow begins in the middle of Mainland China.  I got the map off the net, so don’t be mistaken – we won’t be travelling outside of Xining!):

route_s

Here are a couple of prayer points if you will!

1. Ministry:   There are three separate ministries which Cadence and I will be participating in: Project TWELVE, the local orphanage, and teaching English classes.  These three are but a few choices through which the gospel is effectively preached, but we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.  TWELVE is a theology-seminar-ish course, and we will be teaching theology in Chinese, so pray that we can communicate effectively given our last few months of Mandarin training.  The other two are avenues through which we express the Good News.  Undoubtedly, pray for the addition of more and more people to Christ’s body!

2.  Health:  The weather there is between -15 degrees Celsius to -25 degrees Celsius, far lower than anything we’ve experienced (since Cadence and I live on the equator, that is, Hong Kong).   Xining is on a higher region, which means there is a possibility that I may not be able to adapt to it, so pls. pray that we can both enjoy our time there without too many health difficulties.

3.  Relationship:  This is tied into prayer point #1.  Given that we are only spending 7-8 weeks there, it is unlikely that we have enough time to build long-lasting relationships unless we re-visit Xining on a frequent basis (and I cannot foresee that anytime within my training contract at a law firm in Hong Kong).  Prayerfully, this will not hinder our work there and that we will be supportive of the local leaders’ much longer-lasting impact.

4.  Personal study:  Cadence and I take theology very seriously, because we both believe that poor theology can be a sign of unbelief.  Theology is not a luxury for those “interested”, but a necessity in every Christian’s life because it is a term which simply describes your views of God (whether based on the Bible or not) and how you relate to Him – a study of the truth of God (Theo; Logos).  Given how the chronicles of church history have shown that poor theology has sown seeds of heresy and poison into people’s hearts, we are more than satisfied to challenge un-Christological truths rather than merely debate for the sake of intellectual curiosity or browbeating.  We will both spend the rest of the time outside of ministry on building up our relationship as a couple prior to marriage, as well as committing to in-depth bible studies and church-history readings during these 7-8 weeks.  Pls. pray that our time will be well-spent, rather than on DVD’s or whatnot that may contribute to procrastination (N.B:  I’m still working on the Deuteronomy commentary – just goes to show how likely I am to lose focus!).  Ultimately, all this personal study must be combined with the ministries which we are participating as per prayer #1, lest we be “spiritually obese”.

Thank you all who prayed for my time in Beijing, this is the second lap of the race in Mainland China!  May Christ be glorified to the four corners of the earth!

Xining, Qinghai

Sexual Identity

(PS:  New theme for new year!  I don’t think I’ll be in the habit of changing a new theme every year, but anyone who knows me also knows that I like many types of art and art graphics is one of them.  If I ever get my hands on a personal domain, I will spend quite a while on the custom art!  I hope this theme is easy on the eyes for the readers, because my previous theme’s font was a bit small (It would be OK if I was writing short posts like this one, but that is rare given the biblical commentary nature of this blog))

In response to Glen’s posts on science and cosmology, it is no doubt apparent that Christ has claim over all aspects of life, along with the famous (perhaps overused but there’s a reason for that) quote by Abraham Kuyper:

There is not a square inch
in the whole domain of our human existence
over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all,
does not cry: ‘Mine!’

Over the past few months I’ve increasingly seen the use of Facebook for several purposes, one of which is the outbursts of truth statements made on people’s walls, ‘about page’ just the same way Christians use theirs (I’ll get onto that perhaps another day). Many friends who proudly proclaim the rainbow banner (both Christian and non-Christian) tend to look at sexual identity in the following lines:

“It’s all about love really”
“It doesn’t say specifically that homosexuality is a sin”
“Christians who think that (‘insert thing which bugs the writer off the most’) is a sin is judgmental”

Now, I think there are several confusions here but it is perhaps too quick to just send off a general message to these people. Here are a few thoughts. The people who say these things may have:

  1. Been on the receiving end of some hurt from church or from Christians who have little faith in Christ (thus, having little good works to show it).
  2. Caricatured views of an unbiblical God from Christians who have bad theology (this includes an overemphasis of God’s love or overemphasis of God’s judgment without any reference to Christ and the glory, rather than shame, of the cross).
  3. In connection to point 2, a misunderstanding of the Christian life.  There are specific passages (namely Romans 1:18-32, that famed Leviticus 20:13, amongst others) which have meanings read into it which are grammatically and contextually out of place, especially those who claim that it refers to a particular strand of sexual immorality or homosexuality (c.f. Newsweek article).
  4. Been preached to ceaselessly about the sin of homosexuality (as opposed to other sins which are also very serious, and the Christians themselves have been hypocritical and overly forgiving of).  I could care less whether a non-Christian decides to be heterosexual or homosexual because we are not in the business of behaviour modification, but in changing the depths of people’s hearts in their willingness to become living sacrifices for Christ Jesus (Romans 12:2).

In societies like Hong Kong and certain parts of the Bible-belt in the States, it is extremely difficult to hold to one’s sexual identity without being immediately persecuted, either as failing to be a ‘man’ (e.g. under traditional Chinese patriarchal mode) or the old Adam married Eve, not Steve argument. Political stigma and drama doesn’t make it easier either.

The video clip I posted is a good example of Christians engaging with the homosexual pornographic community (brought to my attention from Paul Blackham’s ‘blog’ here). However, I can imagine all types of malarchy from people reading all types of things into the video so I want to make some things clear:

  • However much the video is about love and not about judgment, the very fact of the matter is that the ministry is reaching out to a community that already understands what it means to be guilt-racked by an impersonal deity. Surah 2 (Al Baqarah) of the Qu’ran makes a fine case of a God who preaches judgment without explaining how “He” can love and be merciful without any solution of doing away of one’s sins, save at “His” whim. That type of thing is so strong in people’s minds that they have forgotten the tender compassion of a Christian loving them without also being one of them.
  • This is not a message for a particular strand of homosexuality (i.e. homosexual porn) – this is a general message of Christian truth materialised through Christians living, rather than simply preaching like Jesus.
  • There should be no doubt as to the Christian stance throughout the video – we are not condoning homosexuality nor pornography, but we want to preach God’s redeeming and new creation love through our presence, in the light of God’s impending judgment on all who stand outside of Christ (homosexual or not!).
  • This deserves a fuller post (perhaps even a short essay!), but any Christian who is also homosexual, who believes that God did not state clearly enough whether homosexuality or pornography is a sin has forgotten or is unclear on his object of worship – beginning with the Holy Communion of Three Persons, not an impersonal monotheistic deity.

The clip is short, only about 10 or so mins long. The XXXchurch ministry is focused entirely on curing people of their porn addiction, which is a cultural problem in the wave of low (if at all!) internet censorship.  This does not stop people in China who have ways around web censorship; and this all stems from a heart problem since the fall of Adam.  If you happen to be struggling with this problem, keep looking to Christ and let the Spirit fill your heart with the love and glory of the cross where we find our pain is destroyed and our healing begins.

Gal 5:13-17  For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  (14)  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (15)  But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.  (16)  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  (17)  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

As a side note, specifically look out for the email from the organiser of the show to the XXXchurch ministry near the end of the clip which is particularly touching.

Sexual Identity

There and Back Again

Harlo.

Finally arrived back in Hong Kong since last Friday.

Things I have learnt in the last 3 1/2 months:

1.  China is thirsty for the eternal living water.

2.  It is easy to dumb down the gospel for quick-fire conversions.  The Chinese do not need half-hearted missionaries – they need people to engage in relationships with them.  How do you suppose the idolatrous thinking from the Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong is going to evaporate because you simply preached “Christ crucified” a la 4 spiritual laws style without explaining who Christ is and what the crucifixion means?  It is throwing biblical jargon to an unlettered blue-collared man, their object of worship merely a man who sacrificed himself for them.  Where is the prophecied son of God, Visible of the Invisible, Head of all creation who reconciled the whole world to himself through the cross and is positively pleasing in the Father’s eyes on our behalf?

3.  If the Spirit is willing, no matter how incapable you perceive yourself in speaking in a foreign language, He will speak through you without a filter.  He has enabled me to preach and evangelise to local Christians in Mandarin with my pitiful 3 months of learning and by and by almost not a single word was wasted on working out what on earth I wanted to say!

4.  There are plenty of amazing witnesses who have been pulled out of rural villages, telling of visions and dreams concerning Christ.  However, there is also an over-emphasis on these ‘incredible’ stories, making the average-joe Christian doubt whether he or she is saved considering the less spiritual drama prior to salvation.  If we were all dead in God’s eyes before being given the Holy Spirit, is that ‘amazing’ story of circumstantial changes going to cloud the greater truth concerning all Christians that we are actually risen from the dead in Him?

5.  Do not forget to find the RSS feed of your favoured blogs and subscribe to them via http://www.bloglines.com.  It is frustrating in a country like China where most blogs are blocked, but some websites can legitimately work around it.  I have spent hours and hours catching up with blog-readings – unless you are into that time-consuming sort of thing, get that RSS feed!

Resources to share:

1.  Paul Blackham, the pastor @ Tarleton Farm Fellowship, has started a new archive of his work!  Find the link at the right hand panel of my blog!

2.  Carolina Tam, a sister-in-Christ from Hong Kong, is now in England working at the All Souls Clubhouse and sharing her experiences there as well as on Speaker’s Corner.  Riveting stuff @ “Oil in the Lamp“.

3.  Ben Hung, a brother from UK has just started a new blog @ “I know that my Redeemer lives“. woot woot.

4.  I have completed a commentary on Numbers (check out my “Sermons/Papers” page), and still working on Deuteronomy.  I will not be posting Deuteronomy till I’m done unfortunately!  So please direct your opinions to my Numbers commentary if possible because I’m sure there are plenty of things there for other Spirit-led siblings to discern!

Specific things to share:

1.  I am now engaged!  Tentative date is December 2009.  Please pray for my fiance Cadence and my steadfastness during this period as both our families have gone slightly nuts over the idea of an early marriage.  Since the engagement in Sept/October period, it has been a blessing and has taken both of us closer to Christ than ever.  For all those brothers and sisters in Christ reading, I have said it once and I say it again – don’t settle for conventional dating when Christ wants to get married to us!

2.  There are a few ‘underground’ fellowships in China with several awesome Spirit-led siblings – pray for these people!  They are especially lacking in Christian male leaders who can speak Mandarin sufficiently.  Pray for the raising up of more Christian leaders!

3.  A friend and I helped lead a Bible study on campus for approximately 9-10 weeks and covered the book of Colossians whilst we got to know between 10-20 students from the intensive Mandarin course.  Over that period we have had many Christians and non-Christians from several backgrounds asking questions during and outside of the Bible study time.  Pray for more idols to be shattered in their minds as the Trinity is preached faithfully – it sounds like they have more ridiculous caricatures of Jesus Christ than westerners make of Him.  My teacher, my friend’s host family and my own host family now have their own Bibles to devour and to understand the deeper implications of what Jesus had done for us.  I will be uploading a little tract I wrote to them after some further necessary edits considering my relatively poor handling of Chinese.

4.  The Communist party and the generalisations made by those peering into China are cliches for a good reason – because these locals genuinely have a duty to share in their weekly or monthly Communist party ‘fellowships’ whether they have noticed some illegal activity concerning Christian evangelism or whatnot.  Christian bookstores do not blatantly sell Bibles, unless you have gained the trust of the shopkeeper who will eventually sell you the Bibles and different variations (i.e. Bibles with commentaries/study Bibles).  However, praise Jesus that many are tired of this ‘ratting-out’ attitude and many simply go to say how great the party is, only to return home with the same confusion in their minds as what (or should I say Who) Truth really is.

For this month I’m hoping to prepare for the mission trip in January, but meanwhile (besides Deuteronomy) I’ll be hoping to post some food for thought especially in this hyper-hyped period that is Christmas.  To give it a head start, here is a comment I received (amongst others in the last three months on this blog which have been very encouraging and humbling):

Religion should be a choice. However, if in choosing Christianity you get a free lunch, or a free pencil or a free bible, or free shelter, then that really is not a choice for Christianity, but a choice for that free pencil, or free bible, or free shelter
I have always been a supporter of helping Children… but not in such circumstances. Providing free education Without implications. Providing free education for the sake of providing free education, not for the sake of the enhancement of Christianity.

I would say emphatically that in accepting the knowledge of the true Christ crucified, you are getting more than a free lunch, pencil, Bible and shelter – you are getting Christ himself as your inheritance and participation in that love and glory which Christ experienced before the foundation of the world:

Joh 17:4-5  I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.  (5)  And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Joh 17:24-26  Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  (25)  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.  (26)  I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

There is no such thing as giving without implication.  If you are already enslaved by the shackles of sin, then every philanthropic deed is marred with a Satan-glorifying intention – the idea that there can be an ounce of hope or salvation which does not come from the Sent One who gives Redemption its very meaning is nothing short of heresy.  I would rather the free provision of shelter remind them of the eternal home, glory and love which they will inherit (John 17; Hebrews 11), than provide a man-made house to remind them that life is a self-persisting struggle and nothing more.

There and Back Again

Away for three months

Hi people,

The last 4 months have been exciting since I started the blog in April, and I have had the chance to check out other blogs and spaces and engage in some good theology-dialogues.  Cadence and I will be spending 3 months in Beijing working on our language skills (namely Mandarin) from tomorrow onwards, so we can be of some use later on next year for our mission trip in Qinghai, the North West of China.

A few things to pray for:

1.  The internet there (everywhere in China) is censored and monitored – so please pray that if I don’t blog here (not because I don’t want to, but simply because the blog is blocked; and my emails are monitored), I am still doing my commentary offline.  I hope to finish looking at Numbers and Deuteronomy by the time I get back in Christmas, so please pray that I don’t procrastinate on that front.  If you happen to send me an email, please refrain from using Christian terminology, and just learn to censor words (Chri*tian, Je*us, Y-H-W-H – or learn to refer to Christ with the other names given to him in Scripture, be that ‘Anointed One’, ‘High Priest’, ‘Second Person’, ‘Presence’… whatnot.  I happen to find this a very helpful spiritual exercise!).

2.  That we plug into a church there immediately and serve wherever God needs us to serve.  I hear the teaching in Beijing is generally awful and not Jesus-focused, so perhaps God can use me where I can somewhat contribute with my Christological convictions; and of course, pray for the servants-in-Christ over there.  I’m sure they are having a tough time if they are genuinely serving Jesus there.

3.  Mandarin training – 3 months is not a long time to study any language (given the basic education in boarding/high school of German and French which lasted for at least 4-5 yrs and I still CAN’T evangelise in either of those European languages), yet Mandarin will be the basic language which I will be using when I work with the missionaries in Qinghai.  It is no easy task, and as of now I have been asked to help lead some theology courses there in Chinese.  Pray the Spirit will be working through this entire process and that God’s Wisdom will be the source of my achievements in Christ for the next 3 – 6 mths.

4.  That I enjoy my time with new brothers and sisters in Christ, friends, family and with Cadence this year.

Hope to see you back here in Christmas: I won’t be blogging so feel free to catch up with the Genesis-Leviticus reading and help me discern the areas which are not clear, or questionable in my attempt at Christological exegesis.  I’ve uploaded the three book commentaries on the ‘Sermons/Papers’ page.  It would help to know that I am not writing in a vacuum.

Finally:

May you remember that as a truly circumcised Christian, Jesus and his Spirit are continually interceding for you, so you can persistently and confidently take and live the true life of a son and daughter who is already redeemed!  Christ has done it all for us!  In the words of Luther:

“If you are a preacher of Grace, then preach a true, not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly. For he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here we have to sin. This life in not the dwelling place of righteousness but, as Peter says, we look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. . . . Pray boldly-you too are a mighty sinner.”

Away for three months