But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this
all-surpassing power is from God and
not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Is the Bible trustworthy?

It is no surprise that people these days do not place highest regard on Bible (Scripture). Instead, we place highest regards on what we can see and feel, and make important and critical decisions in life according to the acquired knowledge we have, our intuition, or information gathered over the Internet. Over the years, we see people in and outside of church moves from trusting the inspired Word of God to trusting non-Biblical resources, including themselves. While there are many reasons to this observation, I would like to share one reason why I was deterrent of the Bible.

Image result for Holy scriptures

Being a self-acclaimed "intellect" myself, I used to struggle with many things about the Bible, especially when the Bible claims of things that do not reconcile with my acquired knowledge, feelings, or reasonings. In addition, I tend to wrestle with certain claims from the Bible when it challenges my scientific mind, some examples include the many phenomenon in the Bible like Joshua 10 "the sun stood still, and the moon stopped...." -- how can it ever be possible? How is the Bible  faultless, reliable, and errorless when there are many contradictions? These doubts towards Bible deepen as reports on "did the Red Sea really part?" and questionable fall of Jericho wall appear as archaeological findings unravel bits and pieces that do not quite echo what is recorded in the Bible. I used to struggle with passages like how Jesus cast out demons on a child (Mark 9:14-29). The reason being, in my view, the people during that historical time did not know that the boy was experiencing a seizure ( in clinical term), and I could easily abort it with a dose of anti-epileptic -- but Jesus stopped this "seizure" with His Word.

Image result for social media vs bibleOver time, I read less of the Bible, while exposing myself to other non-Biblical resources which I relate better with. They include my personal experience, sharings from others through various channels, what my spiritual mentors said and my feelings. I rarely go to God and ask Him to deal with the doubts I have of His holy book. It is no doubt that people do not read the Bible as much these days, for they do not trust the Bible enough to anchor all aspects of their lives onto it. As a result, when believers face problems, they follow what the Bible says when it is something they can trust, while following other methods when the Bible claims of things which they cannot really accept or trust.

How trustworthy is the Bible?

In 2 Peter 1:21, it is said, "for prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

This verse has huge implications on us if we believe it, for Peter is telling us that -- when the Bible speaks, God speaks.

Peter was a mere fisherman, how could his letters be the Word of God? Certainly, it is not what Peter said isolated-ly that mattered. Rather, it is what God was working through human agents like Peter to write those letters that mattered. The Bible is divinely inspired by God, in that Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God) worked through human authors such as the apostles, prophets, and their distinctive conditions, such that the written words are the very Word of God. Not that human is errorless, but God, being errorless, did not allow human to err even with their finiteness. This echoes the "omni'" and sovereign attributes we know of God. Even the apostles themselves recognize each others' letters as authoritative, calling the letters Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). Therefore, the Bible is trustworthy because God remains the ultimate Author.

Being breathed out by God, the Bible is inerrant and trustworthy in its affirmations on faith and living, while not in particular seeking to affirm archaeological and scientific facts which bothered me for the longest time ever. In 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness."

I realized that in Joshua 10, the sun and moon appeared to stand still to Joshua at that point of time, it is as truthful as it seemed to him. When it happened, Joshua did not know the modern findings we will uncover today. Our current culture is different from that of Biblical times, and we carry our own perspective in reading the text. When we take this phenomenon reported in the Scripture as error, it is with respect to a reference point (e.g modern science). Description and reality can be very different. Similarly, description of the Red Sea parting and the reality parting of the Red Sea can be different. However, both are nonetheless pointing to the fact that God is intervening and working for His people. It is a matter of understanding the parts in light of the whole (the heartbeat of God), which is why we should not be impeded by the parts we do not know now, but continue to study the Word until we grasp the intentions of God in that text.

What about the contradictions in the Bible? 

The Scripture touches on historical and science-related matters, but it does not seek to affirm scientific infallibility. Similarly, the Bible recorded devil's speech or lies told by human such as Abraham's in Genesis 12 and 20, but it is not to affirm them. Neither does the Bible teach math like in 2 Chronicles, when describing the dimensions of the structures involved. It is not an archaeological, astronomical, mathematic, or medical book aim to teach in those areas. Nonetheless, the latter existed in history, reported in phenomenal language as truthful as they were to the author, yet it was not technical.

Image result for jericho wall really fall?
Fundamentally, the Bible is not meant to teach everything it touches on (e.g history, geography, math, science...), but on our faith and living, as written by Paul, ".. for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness". The Bible is inerrant in its affirmations, using the prevailing literary convention of authors' time, with the referent being God's purpose of writing that text. In essence, the Bible drives us to act upon the Word (obey), not mere information provision. Because the Word is the authoritative Word of God, we are called to test and approve, and obey after having understood it.Using various phenomenas, the Bible teaches believers to be "thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17, 2 Peter 1:3), and is thus completely adequate for this purpose.

What then can I get from the Bible?

The Bible, inspired Word of God, is like a road map to God. It is not a dictionary. It gives you an approximation of who God is. For instance, if you turn right, you will get to the destination. But it does not give you the exact description of how nice is the turn. If you follow it, trust upon it, it will surely lead you to God.

A famous theologian Barth once said, "Faith in Christ means trust, agreement, and knowledge of God." Trust is the main driving factor - trust the record, trust the spoken Words of Christ, and trust that God is superintending in the process of forming the Bible despite limitations of human. The knowledge is not the main driving factor but one of the supporting structures.

How do we view the reliability of the Word of God determines how we will interpret the Word of God, which subsequently impact how we walk with God. Indeed, the Bible carries tension, and has difficulty we cannot explain, which is why Holy Spirit is given us to help us understand the Word.
"The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments..."(1 Corinthians 2:10-15).
Placing highest regard on the Scripture (Bible), though sound absolute and old-school, is nonetheless the most important way to safeguard our faith in Christ in a counter-Scripture era we are in today, where feelings and human reasonings trump.  For we are fallen creatures (Romans 3:23), none of our feelings, discoveries, advancement in science, and knowledge can be the perfect benchmark to question the trustworthiness of the authoritative Word of God. When confronted with discrepancies which we have yet to resolve convincingly, we should humbly admit that we do not have all information readily and are truly limited. But by God's grace and persistent wrestling with God, they may be made available or reconcilable in future. Moreover, we also read the Scripture with our current existential thinking which can be different shades from the writer’s, so is the way we all perceive and describe the world to one another. There is indeed a lot to study and explore in understanding what God is affirming through the Biblical text. 

Image result for social media vs bible

So God taught me one thing over time - when we cannot understand the Bible, or when the Biblical statements sound unreasonable to us - do not let our logics trump. Go to God, wrestle with Him, and study His Words diligently with the church. Slowly but surely, God will open our hearts and minds to know Him better through His very own Word. You may be surprised, the living and active God may correct your presumptions and understanding through the Scripture itself.  

It is no wonder that Moses called God's Word - Life. 
I come to realise, I get God and life through the Bible.

Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not idle words for you - they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess - Deuteronomy 32:46-47

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Study the Word - Why?


Without solid understanding of God's revelation of Himself in Scripture, how can we be sure that the spiritual influence we sense (e.g. changes in emotions, or "convictions") is truly from God?

Therefore, to avoid misguided reliance on the Holy-Spirit, study the Word of God diligently!

One may say, "I trust God, and Holy Spirit is with me!"

However, the Spirit actualises the fruits of our prayer and study, He does not replace it.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

One-on-one with God



28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[d] he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” - Matthew 14:28-33

Do you like Peter?
When I started reading the bible, Peter is an apostle whom my heart is drawn to greatly. The reason is not merely because he is a great apostle to the Jews, but it is also because of his multiple one-on-one experience he had with Jesus that I could resonate with.

In the passage of Matthew 14, the disciples who had been following Jesus closely and had witnessed miracles after miracles performed by Jesus were sent by Him onto a boat. As they were left on the boat by themselves, they were being hit by the waves and the wind, greatly distressed by the inner insecurities and external threats they were in. When Jesus came to their rescue by walking on the water, they were terrified and thought that He must be a ghost! And then came Peter's one-on-one experience with Jesus here.

Like the disciples, believers like ourselves who have experienced grace in our lives often become distressed when we are hit by waves of lives and the perceived absence of Christ in our struggle. We are distressed because we tend to equate God's presence to no waves, no wind, no struggle, and no fight. As much as we would like to deny, we secretly long for a smooth-sailing life that is freed from troubles.

God knows about our heartfelt inclinations too. He knows that it is not the trouble-free life that makes us strong, it cannot strengthen our feeble arms against the demonic attack. Instead, it is faith and assurance in Christ that are strengthened through trials that enable us to enjoy a life that is more satisfying that a trouble-free life. Which is why Jesus comforts us saying,
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33).

What should we do when we are thrown into struggles that threaten to destroy our faith in Christ? I often find hope through Peter's response to Christ in this incidence, and also from Christ's response to Peter's baby faith.

Jesus walked on the water (v 25)
Why did He have to walk on the water? Certainly, He being God He is, is able to do any supernatural things including walking on the water. Here, the boat of disciples were distressed in the middle of the lake, and to come to them in the fastest possible time, both swimming and rowing a boat will be too time-consuming - thus Jesus walked on the water so that He can come to them in the earliest possible time. The Lord does it to demonstrate His love and willingness to do whatever that is necessary to rescue His sheep, and there will never be a place on earth where Christ cannot find us and save us.

In response to their fear and calling Him as ghost (Matthew 13:26) , Jesus said, "Take courage, It is I! Do not be afraid!"
The disciples may not be expecting Jesus to come to their rescue. If they have, they would not have shouted in fear and unable to discern Him. They called Jesus ghost because they cannot accept and believe the reality that Jesus would come to them in this manner. But in response to all these, instead of scolding them, Jesus understood their vulnerabilities and affirmed them - Take courage!

Why?

Because "It is I. Do not be afraid". There is no reason to fear, because the God who created Heaven and Earth, and you, is here with you, helping you, guiding you, and empowering you. There is no reason to fear because Christ has taken all our sins when we were still ignorant, and died on the Cross for us so that we can be freed from condemnation. There is no reason to fear because He will neither leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)

Then came the 1-1 experience of Peter with Christ.

Peter said "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water". He said, "Come!"
With the lingering doubts, I also pray that believers can deal with the doubts about Christ, who is for us and with us, the Peter-way. Instead of remaining in doubts about Jesus, Peter asked for clarification with Jesus, hoping to get verification from Him alone. It is not so much of Peter himself wanting to do supernatural act of walking on the water, it is more of Peter's willingness to pursue this personal experience with God - one which we fear, yet desire.

Jesus encouraged Peter by saying "Come". Come and test and approve my will. Come and learn about your weakness and see how Christ's strength is made perfect in your weakness. Jesus didn't say swim over, Jesus just said - Come. I see that as Christ encouraging us to come towards Him with all we are - with our broken heart, our ordinary conditions, our disbelief, our insufficiencies...

So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
Peter indeed walked on the water when he focussed on Jesus. What kept him walking on the water wasn't Jesus's physical hands on him at that point of time, rather, it was Peter's trust in what Jesus had commanded him to do that kept him walking on the water. Trusting in Jesus for what He has said and for who He is, are so crucial. When you trust, God's power becomes our power; when you trust, God's promise becomes yours; when you trust, God is also trustworthy to show you He is indeed living and active even in the seemingly scary circumstances.

As Peter walked, he saw the wind and was frightened, and he began to sink. But as soon as he sank, he cried out "Lord, save me!" Immediately, Jesus reached out His hand and caught him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Peter's faith was weak and imperfect, but it was certainly real. Like Peter, when our eyes are focussed on other things except Jesus such as our insufficiencies, less ideal conditions and other factors, we also find ourselves sinking, despite we have attempted the first step by faith in Christ. But the very least we can do is to learn from Peter, in our helplessness, struggles, and doubts, cry to the Savior whose hands are always extending towards us to catch us from sinking.

How blessed are us who can hear Jesus saying to us "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
It's Christ's reminder to us not to focus on the wrong thing but on Him - His character, His promise, His power through the indwelling Holy Spirit in you who believe. Indeed, the waves and wind are at times very strong, but our spiritual mind and experience can go ahead of our rational mind. Like us, Peter's understanding of Christ was faulty and imperfect, but Christ is always working in us and transforming us simply because we love, trust and want to listen from Him, and when we honestly meant to obey Him.

May we also pursue that One-on-one experience that Peter had. Our faith can be small, but if we exercise our faith in Christ, we could also one day proclaim with awe and adoration of Christ like Peter, "You are the Son of God!"

Fear not the waves and wind. No matter how ferocious they are, they are within Christ's sovereignty. They are merely elements in God's workshop to strengthen our faith, repair our insecurities, and deal with our misplaced faith. Draw on our faith in Christ for who He is and His finished work on the Cross.

Peter walked on the water, you can too. All we need is to focus on Christ, and Holy Spirit will work beyond our imagination so that Christ receives all glory.





Saturday, June 25, 2016

Be Still, and Move On


"Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today... the Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still...move on.." (Exodus 14: 13-15)

This is what God told Moses when he led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and pursued by the Egyptian army after their exodus.


Despite having witnessed God's miracles and works during the Passover,  and witnessed the plagues that came upon their enemies, the Israelites were terrified and started complaining, losing faith in God when they were being pursued by the Egyptians, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" (Exodus 14:10-12)

How familiar these grudges are!

"God, what have You done to me and my life? After confessing my faith before my parents, they left me, and I am worse than an orphan now!"

"God, before becoming Christian, I used to have more friends, more free time, more enjoyment! But now, I seem to only have sufferings and sacrifices! It's such a painful life."

"God, is this still Your good and perfect plan? Why then am I in great torment?"

"Why is it still the same after knowing You, O God?"

"Why do the enemies, the hostilities, the undesirable things, still follow me?"

But when faced with all these grudges, God only said, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today... the Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still...move on.." (Exodus 14: 13-15)

And we know how God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to walk on, confused the Egyptian army and wiped out all who pursued His people, gave instruction to Moses to stretch his hand over the sea and pay attention to God's works that followed. Eventually, "the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and in Moses His servant" after seeing the great display of God's power and glory in the entire battle.

The story of Moses and Israelites was one of the most comforting story we have heard in church. Yet, often, there remains an un-identified disbelief in us - will God also fight for us and lead us like how He did to the Israelites? In face of trying circumstances, doubt just springs and grow like a yeast inside us.  However, in face of trying circumstances, it is also God's litmus state to our hearts of our faith in Him. Do we trust Him?

If we trust Him, our response will be:
Yes Lord, I need not be afraid.
You are in front of me, and You will fight for me.
I need only to be still.
And move on doing what God calls me to do in my current state,  trusting that You will deliver me and lead me to the destination You've prepared for me. Not later, but move on, now.

The light which we read in Genesis, that came to earth with God's Word, is also the light which shines upon us. The creative power of God's Word is still with us.

Is there anything too hard in God's creative hand?
Fight the doubts that linger in our hearts by trusting in His promise and that He made all things beautiful in His time.

His rescue is never late.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

我的一生在祢手中

在主面前,细细数算神的恩典 
我才明了,你的奇妙带领 
我等候,愿能摸着你的心意 
未来的路,愿走在你旨意中 

献上我最爱,在祭坛前不带走 
带领我前往你所应许之地 

我的一生在你手中 
惊涛骇浪主与我同在 
我的一生在你手中 
勇敢前往向标杆直奔 
我的一生在你手中 
甘心顺服得最终奖赏 
我的一生在你手中 
我深知道我的一生在你手中 


在主面前,细细数算神的恩典 
我才明了,你的奇妙带领 
我等候,愿能摸着你的心意 
未来的路,愿走在你旨意中 

献上我最爱,在祭坛前不带走 
带领我前往你所应许之地 
我的一生在你手中 
惊涛骇浪主与我同在 

我的一生在你手中 
勇敢前往向标杆直奔 
我的一生在你手中 
甘心顺服得最终奖赏 
我的一生在你手中 
我深知道我的一生在你手中 

献上我最爱,在祭坛前不带走 
带领我前往你所应许之地 
我的一生在你手中 
惊涛骇浪主与我同在 

我的一生在你手中 
勇敢前往向标杆直奔 
我的一生在你手中 
甘心顺服得最终奖赏 
我的一生在你手中 
我深知道我的一生在你手中 

我深知道我的一生在你手中