2012-07-24

Meditation on the Bible by Reduction

Meditation on God Words by making it shorter and yet not loosing any meaning requires hard work but it is extremely useful and powerful. We use Php 3:7-15 as an example with a mind-map to show how. Learn the wisdom gained too.
Most meditation teachings on God's Words go by adding and extending the meaning the of the words. Another effective meditation technique is by reduction. It is about reducing a passage into a tagline and still not loose its meaning. This is different from giving a title; for a title is just a rough outline. It is like writing a precis. You can be shorter but you cannot loose its meaning. Making it shorter allows us to remember it better and we can chew over it the whole day. It can sinks into our heart and affect our mental state and the decisions that we make. That is the purpose of meditation after all.

Making things simpler and shorter is great because it is easier to remember, understand and apply. But we cannot simplify too much that some key meanings are lost and misunderstanding occur. Consider the popular story of Adam and Eve's sin from the eating of 'the tree of knowledge of good and evil'.  See Knowledge Tree of Good and Evil. What is the shorter form?
Many people erroneously shorten it to "Tree of Knowledge" and then wrongly concluded that "knowledge is evil!". The accurate short form should be "Tree of Moral", because moral is about the knowledge of right and wrong. "Tree of Right & Wrong" is the right short from. In fact, a more accurate short form is "Tree of Self-Determination" because it is about Adam's decision to decide right and wrong apart from God. Adam declared to God that he shall be his own judge and want to go on his own.

The key of 'Meditation by Reduction' is then to extract the essence of passage without any loss for better memory and reflections. We shall again use the mind-mapping technique discussed earlier in the following posts:
A good mind-mapping software to use is Freeplane. I shall be using the beta 12.16 version which have many useful features over the stable version 1.1.3.

We shall use a very powerful passage Philippians 3:7-15 for our study and meditation by reduction.

Step 1 Split and Group Key Concepts

Here is a mind-map of the passage.
1. Break each verse down into its main concepts.
2. Move the topic to get some alignment and grouping.
We can easily see that there are many repeats of "I count as loss", "count as rubbish" etc.
3. Highlight (by color or icons) the topics that express similar concepts and see we can give a title to summarize it.
4. By going through the whole map, I can pick up 3 groupings and they are "I loose", "I gain", and "How-to" live this new life; the thinking of the mature as expressed in v15.

Step 2 Re-Organized with the Key Grouping as first level.
1. The software provides selection filters so that I can filter out the branches with the icons and paste them over a new map. You could delete the less important branches and just keep the icon'ed branches work on the same map. But you will loose the trace.
2. The re-organized new map will look like this:

3. v15 impressed me most and it says this is the way the mature should think. Hence, I want to pick this a main topic and regroup the rest around it. So I re-arrange the get into the next Step 3.

Step 3 Thinking of the Mature Believers - Simplification Again & Again

1. Try to remove, shorten and re-group without loosing meaning the various concepts. Keep the key branch, e.g. "from the law", to ensure precise meaning is not lost.

2. Coming out with a Tag-line.
The final extraction should to come out with a tagline that summarize the whole passage.

Please make sure we don't loose any meanings in the passage without simplification.

I came out with 2 tag-lines, either one will do, for your consideration.

3. Surprise, Surprise!
When I came out with the tag-line, I was straight away reminded of similar verses in other part of the Bible. In this case, the passage of Paul is precisely what Jesus said in John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches and apart from me, you can do nothing. Paul has given us a very good exposition on Jesus' word. You will be rewarded with your diligent study of God's words.
See also We can do Nothing apart from Jesus.

4. Meditate on the Tag-line with additions
Now that we got the tag-line, we can go back to meditation with additions; but this time, we are to be guided by the context of the passage. I have added in some key reflections in the map as example. Feel free to add more in your own map.

Here is the final mind-map:
5. The Big Jewel - Paul's very best was counted as rubbish relative to knowing Christ

We all know quite well about "To live is Christ and to die is gain" which expresses the key concept of this passage. It can also be used a tagline with additional wording. "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and loose his life?", a saying of Jesus, is also a good one. 

But one detailed point that I picked up and did not notice before is about "forgetting the past and press on to goal ....". I used to think that forgetting the past is about forgetting our past failures and hurts. Those are things to forget. But Paul did not mean our past failures but about our past successes and glory. Paul's past successes were great achievements. He was a Pharisees of high ranking and their kind of righteousness (righteousness by the Laws). He was given authority to capture the 'Christians'. He studied under great teacher. In today terms, he was a graduate of Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge or Oxford or LSE. He had all world adoration and things going for him. These are the very things that Paul counted as rubbish when compared with the knowledge of Christ. 

Paul wants us to forget and not to rely on them - the adoration of people, the wealth we created, and the desire to accumulate more for self. But to give them out in exchange to know and gain more of Christ's, even in suffering, in dead and in demonstration of His resurrection power. 

Christ has made him His and he want to make Christ his.
Christ has owned us through the Cross.
Do we show the world that we have Christ in us? 
Are we still pursuing our career, wealth, family apart from the call of Christ in us?
* Your call is not and usually not into the so called full-time in the church or para-church. Your call is likely into full-time service in whatever vocations, including politicians and entrepreneurs, in showing Christ to the world. See Secular vs Spiritual Jobs

Lim Liat (C) 24 July 2012

2012-07-17

Meditating on God's Words using Mind-mapping

Bible study is good. But meditating on His words are better. This is because God's Words are kept in our hearts from our mind by meditating. Meditating is about digesting God's words. We can do word by word, concept by concept or verse by verse meditating. For word by word meditating, I prefer to use a mind-mapping software for support. The software forces me to go through the word one at a time and also provide easy adding of comments as I go through the process. Here is how.

Let me pick a verse Rom 5:8 as an example. It is important that we don't take a verse out of its context. So when we are meditating on this verse, it is good to refer to verses surrounding this one.

1. Break the Verse into Main Concepts.
For Rom 5:8, we can find two key concepts as follows:

It is good to recap what we have meditated and so I added a 3rd branch called "What I learned", and you can even add a 4th branch called "What I can apply:".

2. Break the Concept into Individual Words:

3. Go through Each Word and Add Your Comments (Your Meditations)
In the example, I added some learning from verse 7. It is good to stay in context.

We can also add related verses from our memory or other prompting of the Holy Spirit. These are shown in the final mind-map.

4. The Complete Mind-Map of Meditations on Rom 5:8

5. Remember to Summarized Your Meditations and Apply Them.

You can keep the learning in your heart and mind through out the day and re-look and updates the mind-map in the evening or any time. Mind-mapping is designed to grow with you.

Hope you like it and use it as a tools for your spiritual growth journey.

Lim Liat (C) 17 July 2012.

For more on how to meditate on God's words and a alternative use and presentation of mind-mapping, see 

2012-07-16

Why is there Suffering for Good People - Job's Answers

The book of Job is supposed to give the answer to the age old question of "Why is there suffering, even to the good people?". But we don't seems to find the answer even in God's response to Job. But Job got it even if we don't! The answer lies in the world-view and not in another's statements. We must understand it from the world-view. Suffering does not mean punishment. Know that God loves us enough to bring us through victoriously no matter what.
The World-View According to the Book of Job:

1. Spiritual World influences the Physical World

This physical or naturally world that we see and touch is not the only thing that exists. There is the world of the spiritual. The spiritual world influences the people and events that happened in our physical world.

2. God and Devil Exist in the Spiritual World

The key entities in the spiritual world are God and the angels. One particular bad and fallen kind of angels is called the devils. They all exert influences on the physical world, the weather, the earthquakes and the lives of men.

3. God is Great Creator, Love and Just.

God, the creator all things, created the world and is the most powerful force. God's character is explained in the book of Job. We can see He is the Creator. God is also the highest authority as the other spiritual beings must present themselves before him. Devil has to get God's permission to harm Job.

We can very clearly see that God is just and He executes punishment on all the unjust and evils. We can see the love of God in the creation when he provides the environment and the unique attributes of each creation for their growth and existence.

God has 3 ways to deal with the sufferings caused by men or devils:
  1. prevents
    God prevents the disasters or the harms by evil.
    This is what happened at the start of the book of Job. God did not allow the devil to harm Job's family and wealth. God prevents the harm.
  2. protects
    God may at other time protect His people and their possessions in the midst or through the storm. We can see that in Psalm 91. 
  3. uses
    God allows and uses the suffering to develop a person. This is like any Olympic contestants going through very tough training over a long period to develop the skills, stamina and mind set to be a champion. A form of 'use' is discipline. Hebrew 12:4-11. The 'suffering' in training is part of the development process of a champion. This is the case of Job. Often, we are disciplined by the errors and sins that we committed. This is not the case for Job, as Job's friends saw it, but not as God see it as God declared Job as upright and blameless. 
4. Devil is the Thief, Destroyer and Killer.

The devil's purpose is to destroy men and to indirectly hurt God. He is the accuser and accuses Job for manipulating God - Job worshiped God only because God gave him wealth and health. Remove the blessings and Job will curse God.

Devil uses men, in this case, the Sabeans and the Chaldeans to steal Job's live-stocks and servants. Devil also uses the weather, the wind and the fire, to destroy and kill Job's children and live-stocks.

5. Good Deeds bring Good Rewards


This is the standard case that good brings good. Chinese has a famous saying that good heart brings good compensation 好心有好报. The bible also teaches that you reap what your sow. See Law of Harvests- Sowing and Reaping.

6. Justice - Evil Deeds bring Punishments - Give Time to See it.

The inverse of point 5 is evil deeds reap punishments. This happens because we have a God that is just and He executes judgements. It is God who upholds the working of His Laws. Galatians 6:7-8  God is not mocked and a man reaps what he sows and if he sow the his flesh, he will reap destruction.

However, sufferings, as we see in point 3, could be intentional for good as training. It is not a punishment just because there is suffering. If suffering is punishment for our sins then Paul was probably the greatest sinner after he was saved because he suffered the most see 2Cor11:23-28. In fact, before Paul was saved, he was living a very good life with lots of authority as a potential religious top brass. 

Usually, our sins will take some time to discovered us. Because of this delay, many think that they can get away with their evil deeds.

7. Answer - Know and Trust God no matter what

When Job encountered God, he was satisfied that he knew a great God of tremendous wonder that he limited mind could not grasp fully. He just need to put his trust on this great God of creation, love and justice.

To know God is sufficient and come what may.

He has fixed his greatest fear of loosing his wealth, health and family, the very excuse and accusation that the Devil used.

He trusted Him to execute his wise judgements.

Do we worship God as He is or is God our means for blessings like the Chinese God of Prosperity?

Our worship of God is found in our actions out of our heart for Him. As we mature in Him, we will have more of Him and less of us and our ties with our possessions. Job has a breakthrough. Do we have one? Do we say with David in Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd and I have no want. God is the answer to all my needs. Only an encounter with the true God will help us realise this.

See also Christians are Fated too - To be Like Christ In Romans 8, Paul tells us that all things, even the suffering, are meant to bring us a step closer to become like Christ - Read v28 up to v30.

Lim Liat (C) 16 July 2012


Transactional Relationship and Purpose of Life - Update 11 Sep 2014

Job and his friends had the worldview that could be easily abused by Satan. They believed the purpose of life is to live rightly before God so that they can gain blessings and avoid sufferings. Any wrong doing will bring forth punishments, The first part became Satan's accusation against Job that Job only worshipped God to get blessings. God is just a means for Job to get blessings. It was a transactional type of relationship. Job worshipped God so get God's blessings. For the second part of punishments from sins, 
Jobs was angry with God for his sufferings when he was so sure he did no wrongs and demanded an answer and justice. 

Job's suffering could be better understood by asking the more pertinent of "What is the purpose of life?". Man was not created just for his own pleasures. Man was created to worship and enjoy God. Man can only truly worship and enjoy God when he became and mature to be like God - a transformation of rebirth achieved by Jesus Christ on the cross for man. All things, including sufferings of all forms, has but one purpose of maturing like to be like Christ Rom 8:28-30. In this process of growth, some may do it the easier way of obedience, where as some others may want to go through the more painful process of rebellion. Some are just there to help build us up and are not due to any wrong doing of our own.

Consider Job again. Job passed the painful test of choosing God because of God and not because of wanting a better and richer life. Satan was created by God with greater gifting than Job but Satan chose to rebel against God. Satan was not created with the defect of rebellion. Otherwise, God has no rights to punish Satan for his rebellion. But it was Satan own choosing though he was created in pure. Job gave God a very good ground to judge and punished Satan for his rebellion.


2012-07-11

Thinking in Other Dimensions - What give Happiness?

More than just salary and things for happiness. Our values is revealed in what we say. What are other dimensions for happiness and joy. Mencius can tell us. We can compare it with the Bible too.
Some friend in Facebook shared a photo containing the following encouraging quote:
Be Grateful, that you don't have everything you want. That means you still have an opportunity to be happier tomorrow, than you are today.
On reflection, I felt that the encouraging quote could be better if it just stops at "Be grateful". Adding the extra "that you don't have everything you want...." reveals the author's values framework. It consists of optimism, always look at the bright side of life. However, it is still in the dimension of materialism of more things means happier life.  Not that material possessions are bad but that life is much more than that. In Luke 12:15, Jesus warned us of greed for wealth. Then he said to them, "Be careful to guard yourselves against every kind of greed, because a person's life doesn't consist of the amount of possessions he has."

By the way, no one will admit that he is greedy though we often complain we have not enough and forget about Ps 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

To see the other dimensions, let me quote from Mencius that I happened to be reading:
君子有三乐,而王天下不与存焉。 父母俱在,兄弟无故,一乐也; 仰不愧于天,俯不怍于人,二乐也; 得天下英才而教育之,三乐也。
Wise man has 3 joys and being a ruler is not one of them. Parents are well and bothers and sisters have no problems is the first joy. Looking up to heaven and feeling no guilt against God; looking down on earth and feeling no guilt towards anyone is the second joy. Having the best and talented students to teach is the third joy.
In Mencius mind, having power to rule the nation is not a joy. Material possession is also out. The true joy is in the 3 dimensions of family wellness, a life of integrity and righteousness and having good disciples. Are not those values biblical?

If you are a believer, I am sure you know how to count your blessings. Thank God that we know Him and letting us to be his instruments to bring His love and blessings to others is a joy indeed.  


Being grateful is the foundation to joy.

See also: 

2012-07-04

Reflection 5 Justice vs Loyalty - Understanding the Support for Kong Hee

Knowing that people in the East places loyalty over justice helps us to understand the strong support that was given to the accused leaders of CHC. A wise person need not go for either or. He can do above. This is precisely what Jesus did on the cross. To uphold justice, man's sin must be punished. To uphold love for mankind, mankind must be saved. So Jesus came to die on the cross on our behalf that the punishment is paid and man are saved from hell. Jesus went one step further to give us a rebirth as a new creation without which his death on the cross is but a licence for us to sin. That is the good news - a new creation and not just a improved version.
Chinese Values - Righteousness is Loyalty 讲义气
A bring difference between the values of East and West lies in this relative importance of "Justice vs Loyalty (Relationship)".

Broadly speaking, in the West, Justice/Righteousness/Fairness comes before relationship loyalty. Whereas in the East, relationship usually comes first before justice. Being loyal to your friend is regarded as more important than obeying the laws. There is even social pressure against a person who testify against his friends or relatives. The closer the relationship, the stronger the pressure. Among close friends, one key value of the Chinese is 讲义气, literally, speaking about the spiritual strength of righteousness, or the strong obligation to support one's friend, or simply, loyalty. Loyalty is a righteous values.

So it is extremely difficult to get the abused wife to report the abusive husband to the police. She will be scold and cursed by her parent in-laws and relatives. Hiding the shame within the family circle is another values that the Chinese have. Face saving is very important to the Chinese. Any whistle blower is going to get a lot of persecutions. He/she will be regarded as the betrayer.

Confucius stressed on '仁' - love. “仁者爱人。泛爱众。“四海之内皆兄弟也。” Love is about loving people. How is that done? Treating everyone within the four seasons as brothers or simply, everyone is your brother.

The passive form of love is expressed as “已所不欲,勿施于人。” What you do not like, please don't do it unto others.

In the proactive form as “已欲立而立人,已欲达而达人。” You must help others to be successful (be independent, stand-up, understanding, riches) as you have achieved your success.

The Highest Chinese Values "Die to gain Love and Righteousness". 
His disciple Mencius stressed on "义" - righteousness or justice, knowing that people may misunderstood love. He said “生,亦我所欲也;义,亦我所欲也,二者不可得兼,舍生而取义者也。” "Life is what I want. Righteousness is also what I want. When we can't have both, then I give my life to gain righteousness". This become the famous “杀身成仁,舍生取义” Die to fulfill love and Die to gain righteousness. 


So we can see that Chinese values love and righteousness equally high and higher than our own lives. When there is the need, then we can give up our lives for them.


Jesus Christ - The Fulfillment of "Death for Love & Righteousness"
For me, it is amazing that Jesus is the very one who die to achieve love and righteousness. 


Christianity world view on people is that man has sin. Man disobedience and sin need to be punished to satisfy justice. 

Out of love for man, God cannot vanish man to hell. To fulfill both demand Jesus, as God's only Son, came to become a man and to die on man behalf so that man, accepting his substitutional death, will need not suffer the eternal punishment as his punishment have been taken by Jesus.

But saving sinful man from punishments without changing his sinful nature is actually giving him a licence to sin. So Jesus, upon resurrection, need to give man a new sinless nature. Anyone who accepted Jesus' salvation plan will be rebirth by the Holy Spirit into a New Creation (2 Cor 5:17) that is sinless. This is even a better deal than Adam. Adam was created in the image of God and made from earth. New births in Christ are created by very Holy Spirit of God and become the children of God and taking upon the godly nature of God. The is the great great good news. Salvation is not about an improved man but a new creation of new nature of god. Too good to be true but it is the truth. Otherwise, we will not call it the Gospel - the Good News. Not no punishment but much more, the very nature of God in the rebirth man!

How we apply love and righteousness in real life?
We have heard the true story of how a woman caught in stealing was sentenced by the judge to jail or pay a fine. The woman was freed by paying the fine with the money that the judge had given her.

How do we handle this case of the accused CHC leaders?
But standing on the side of truth and justice and not interfering with court proceedings and judgments. By praying that the judges and lawyers be given wisdom to discover the truth and to be fair.

But standing on the side of the accused by giving them materials and prayer support and in whatever needs that may arise for the accused and the family. By not prejudging them. By going through their records and finding new evidences and facts that may shed better light on the issues. By implementing and following rules of governance to prevent any accusations that may arise in the future. Bible has told us that as leaders, we should be above reproach (1Ti 3:2, Tit 1:6). The church should set and practice standards that are above the worldly standards so that the world cannot find any thing to accuse us for. We need to show greater accountability and transparency. It is a great embarrassment for the church to be brought to court by the worldly legal systems. Nevertheless, we prayed and are sure that the church and all people involved will come out stronger than before (Rom 8:28) no matter what the outcome.

This ends the reflections on this affair.


Reflection 4 Riches is No Evil & Poverty is Not a Virtue

Some how people has this strange believe that being honest in business will not make you rich. They seem to believe that one must be a bit crocked to get rich. Hence, they also believe that poverty is a virtue. Yet such people are envious of the rich and look down on the poor. Such inconsistency is probably the cause of their misery. This post hope to clarify that riches is no evil and poverty is no virtue. The evil is in the greed of people, the rich and the poor are alike. The virtue is in the sharing of the riches.
Luxurious Lifestyles is for the Members to Decide
In the Kong Hee's alleged misuse of fund affair, many people pointed to articles like From $127k HDB flat to $9.3m Sentosa Cove penthouse as if it is a wrong thing to do or insinuating that the contributions of members are used for their enrichment. But such accusations have no basis. Upgrading from HDB to private houses are typical actions of majority. As one's career and wealth growth, one move to a better place and buy better cars. It is the most natural and human thing to do and there is nothing wrong. If you consider running a mega church of 30K people and yearly budget that runs into tens of millions, as a business and the CEO of such a business should deserve a high salary. Consider again that this large church is built from scratch by the founders, don't you think that they 'earn' it? The charge of the courts in this case is not about how well they reward the pastors and leaders and the lifestyles of the pastors but about the undisclosed misuse of funds. 
We should let the members who contribute to decide on the lifestyle of their pastors. They are free vote with their feet and contribution.
Many of the tele-evangelists in US live in big mansions, travel first class or even with their own private jets, yet the government did not take them to courts. They have declared publicly that they have such things. They even raise funds from their members to buy the private jets. They proudly show the private jets that their members have bought for them to use. If you disagree with the way they are spending their money, you can decide not to give them any thing. You can decide to quit their churches. By the way, the richest pastors are found not in US but in Nigeria!

The is nothing illegal in enjoying a rich and luxurious lifestyles with people contributions provided that they are made known to the people who willingly give to them to enjoy. If bankers and CEOs of large corporations can have luxurious lifestyle why not for our pastors that we love and adore so much? How we spend and live with the big contributions that our members give us is not a legal issue but a morale, social and biblical issue. Everyone of us is likely to have a different view point on the life of our pastors. Most people think that pastors should earn a small salary, live in a HDB flat and drive the church bus for visitations. After all, they are to be God servants and serve the people. What is the Biblical stands on riches?

Riches is a Blessing from God
The command from God after the creation of man is Gen 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." 

The blessings of is Deuteronomy 28:1-23 about great possession and wealth. 
slavery in Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey. Just take 2 verses:

4 “Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. 5 “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
God give you power to get wealth in Deu_8:18  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.

If wealth is not the right to have, then God would not have given you the power to get it.

Persistent Poverty is a Curse
Immediately following the blessing of Deu 28:1-13, comes the curse which is the death and un-productivity. 
17 “Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18 “Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.

Job was blessed with riches. The Devil came to destroy and kill. God restored him a double portion of what the devil destroyed. We can say that godly wealth comes from God and poverty, sickness and destruction come from the devil.

The Issue of Wealth is about How it comes and How it is Used
Someone wisely said that "Money is a good worker but a terrible boss." It is the greed for money that is sin. 

1Ti_6:10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 

The way to master wealth is not to seek it.
Seek After Righteousness first money will come is the The Golden Law of Wealth as told in Mat 6:33. See The Golden Rule for Business Mat 6:33

The Bible warn us about putting wealth first ... it will fly away.

Pro 23:4  Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.
Pro 23:5  When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.

The rich and famous in Silicon Valley tells us:
The Best Way to Use Wealth is to Give it away
I defined wealth not as the amount of asset you owned but by the amount of asset that you spend on others in improving their well being. See Advice for the Wealthy – I-Ching #14大有 Great Possession.

Jesus advised us not be worship mammoth (the God of Money) Matthew 6:24 but rather invest in Treasure of Heaven.

Mat 6:19  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 
6:20  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 

Sin of Riches is to Hoard it for one own exclusive use.

Jesus told us the Parable of the Rich Fool Luke 12:16-21.
The rich who spent his life gathering richness for himself will not live to enjoy it but be given away. We are stewards of the wealth that God has richly provided for us. May we have wisdom to earn and use it wisely.

Pro 10:22  The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. 

Put God first and other things will be added to us that we may then share it out with others.

May God bless you richly so that you be God's channel of blessings to others.

Next: Reflection 5 Justice vs Loyalty

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Related Articles are:
  1. Reflections from CHC Kong Hee Alleged Misuse of Funds.
  2. Reflections on the Reactions to Kong Hee Alleged Misuse.
  3. Reflection 2 People Don't Change - It is the Situation.
  4. Reflection 3 Christian Faith is Not Blind
  5. Reflection 5 Justice vs Loyalty

2012-07-03

Reflection 3 Christian Faith is Not Blind

All religions stressed on belief and sincerity almost to the exclusion of thinking and reasoning. Those that think that Bible and Science cannot co-exist suffer from this wrong belief. Strong faith comes from reasoning that eliminate doubts. Sincerity in a lie is of no use. Preachers that stress on having strong faith has missed a key point. Faith works not just because of our faith but more on the faithfulness of God and His words. 
Last two posts, Reflections on the Reactions to Kong Hee Alleged Misue of Funds - 1 and Reflection 2 People Don't Change - It is the Situation cover the two key factors that determine the behavior of people. One is the situation and the other is the nature or character of man. In this post, I want to talk about thinking, or more specifically, reasoning on the faith.

Many people considered the supportive behavior of CHC members for their leaders as blindness or foolishness. Religion, in many people mind, is the suspension of thinking and just belief. They call it having faith. Faith and religions are used interchangeably. Faith have been wrongly defined as belief without reasons or evidence. 

Thinking + Reasoning Increases Faith
Christian faith is not like that. Christian faith requires you to use your mind and your reasoning. Examine the evidence and then form your conclusions. Then put your faith into actions but acting on the conclusions that you drawn. Base on this definition of faith, you can see scientists are the ones that have faith. They have great faith in their theories and laws and build great structures, airplanes, space crafts and devices of all kinds. How dare they send people into space? How can they be sure they will return safely? It takes great faith to send the first man into space and to the moon. Similarly, Christian faith is like that. We study the Bible to know and to put into practice. First on little things and later with greater experience of its trustworthiness, we do by faith, greater things. CHC started with a 20 people home group. As they grow, they put their experience validated faith, into work, dream bigger and achieve higher. All churches are built that way, starting from small and grow in putting acquired faith into greater actions. We belief God for the small things and later through experience, we belief God for greater things.

Jesus tells us to look and see as the way to increase our faith.
Jesus, in Matthew 6:25-34 addressing the worry that people had and of their little faith, tell them to look at the birds of the sky and the lilies of the valleys. Jesus' advice on increasing their little faith is to ask to look and think. If the heavenly Father so take care of the birds and flowers, He will surely take care of you, who are more worthy than them. 

Faith is Evidence
Hebrew 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The Bible tells us that faith gives the substance for hope to stand on. Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Not seen here is meant to be "in the future" and not just invisible since we are talking about hope. Faith must be evidence based. The evidence gives the substance for our hope so that our hope has strong basis. The way to increase our faith is not to just ask us to belief more but to show more evidences. By being presented with more evidences, by meditating on the evidences, questioning the evidences with our doubts, and getting our doubts cleared, we increase our faith. 

Strong Faith is Built on Strong Reasoning on the Truth
The Reason that your Faith is weak is because you think not. By studying the Bible and discovering the truth through seeking, knocking and reflecting, we increases our understanding of the truth and our faith in the truth. 

The Cause of Blindness
But today, many Christians are lazy and do not want to do the hard thinking by themselves. They prefer someone else to give them the answers and they just want to believe. They elect and idolize their leaders, preachers or pastors and do the easy, lazy but dangerous thing of trusting their leaders. Leaders that enjoy their worship are only too easily tempted to give them their wishes. So we have the sad mutually reinforcing trends create potentially dangerous blind following and leading of large number of people.

But the Bible does not teach us that. The Bible tells us to use our brain to check all teachings. Consider:

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
19  Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
It is laziness in thinking that promotes blindness and blind faith that are easily manipulated by others.
Please use our brain and increase our faith and that we may act on our faith and bring benefits to all.

Next: Reflection 4 Riches is No Evil & Poverty is Not a Virtue.

Reflection 2 People Don't Change - It is the Situation

People do not change. It is the changed situation, the new opportunity, that brings out the best or the worse within their nature. It was there in the first place looking for opportunity to show itself.
In the previous post, Reflections on the Reactions to Kong Hee Alleged Misue of Funds - 1, I presented the side that "People change", even godly people can change citing examples of King Saul and David from the Bible. However, there is another view about human nature that says People do not change. It is the changed situation, the new opportunity, that brings out the best or the worse within their nature. It was there in the first place looking for opportunity to show itself.


Chinese has a saying, "江山易改本性难移", translated, "It is easier for the dynasty to change than for human nature", or the equivalent English saying of  "The leopard cannot change its spots."

Why then we did not see the person hidden potential for good or evil? The answer is in the situation. A small dot is not easy to spot. But when view under the microscope with many times of magnification, we can see it. The situation provides the magnification or amplification than reveals the original nature.

Jesus taught us this lesson in Luke 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. When the scale of the business is small. We don't notice the small things. But when the business scale up, we can see the difference now. The secret for great success and scaling up business is to take care of the details. When the operation is small, it is easy to change thing and fix the defects. When the operation get big and messy, it may be too late to make any change. For more on this, see Kingdom Discussion 11 Law of Amplification - Growth with Care for Details. We are to pick people that are faithful in the little and not to believe those that say give me greater responsibility and then I will be faithful. The test of character is how we handle the little things of life when no one is watching.

The Biblical concept of sin, or more accurately, sinful nature, is not just the acts of violation of God's laws but the tendency to violate God and People when all the restrain is removed. If no one is watching and if we could not be caught, what we would be doing? This will reveal the true nature.

The Gospel message of good news is then not about giving people a set of laws for good behavior, about asking man to be good, but about giving man a new heart that want to be good. The Bible call it New Creation or Born Again.
The newness begins within, placed in the same old mind and body. There is therefore the need to grow up, from baby in Christ, to mature in Christ. It takes a process and takes some time. Consider the challenge of this growing up process as a sports man training for the Olympics. Philippians 3:14.

BTW, if you like to change the behavior of others, please note that the change begins with you. If you change the way you treat others, they may change the ways they treat you. See Changing Behaviour (1) Mine.

Next: Reflections 3 Christian Faith is Not Blind

2012-07-02

Reflections on the Reactions to Kong Hee Alleged Misue of Funds - 1

This Kong Hee's Alleged Misuse of Funds affair had generated a lot of discussion, debates, and in simpler term, traffic on many websites, forums, tweets and Facebook postings. Ignoring those poking fun and cynicism aside, there are a few major thoughts or stands that are interesting to note. This is the first in a series of reflections. In Chinese, we have the phrase, 借题发挥, borrowing the issue to expound our thoughts. It is with this spirit of discussion and no pre-judgment is implied in this series of reflections.

Reflection 1 Does People Change or Not?

The most common stand for those in support of the CHC charged leaders is that they started out as man of God of integrity. They gave of themselves to start the church and continue to contribute to the church and world at large. They have been people of integrity and therefore they could not have committed any misuse of funds. They are innocent. The past is a good forecast for the future, that is what this group of people think.

There is the other group that called these supporters blind. They expressed their amazement at such blind faith. But we may ask, "Don't you trust someone who you know rather than someone who you don't."

The history book and the bible give us many instances that such is not so. (This is for discussion and learning. People can change does not mean the CHC leaders have changed. The verdict is not out yet and we should refrain from drawing any conclusions). 

King Saul started out as timid, same may say humble, person. But as he grew in power and enjoyed the glory and benefits, he became insecure. He succumb to the demand of the people, wanting to be popular rather than godly, and started disobeying God with accuses. He tried a few times to kill the young successor David. He committed suicide when he lost the final battle.

David, one of the most godly person in the Bible, the author of the so many great psalms that touch our hearts, started of in a humble state as well. In case you may not know, he was the most neglected in the family. When Samuel the prophet was instructed by God to go to the house of Jesse, David's father, to anoint the coming King, David was not among the sons of Jesse that was presented to Samuel! David grew up killing lion and bear and made his name in killing the giant Goliath! When Saul sought to kill him, David spared Saul twice when he could have just easily killed him off. David uttered the famous words of "touch not God's anointed" that was misused by many pastors to exert control over their members. Nonetheless, after David became king, he committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of his loyal captain. He plotted a scheme to get his loyal captain killed in battle. To others, the loyal captain died in battle. But in the eyes of God, David killed him. God sent Prophet Nathan to get David to realize his sins. The goodness of David was not that he sinned not but how he handled his sins. He had a teachable heart. He wrote the famous Ps 51 for our learning as well. While David's sin was forgiven spiritually by God, he had to pay for his sins of adultery and murder with the sexual immorality and murders within his family and he had to face the rebellion of his son who wanted to take his place as king.

Some people said they believed in the Bible because the Bible faithfully recorded the sins of its heroes. Here is a popular summary of God's heroes:
Noah was a drunk (after the flood that destroyed the people!)
Abraham was fearful, a lier and too old.
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar and cheat
Joseph was abused
Moses was a murderer and a stutterer
Gideon was afraid
Sampson was a womanizer and was fooled (He was called be a Judge like Samuel to deliver his people)
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David was a adulterer was a murderer (After he became King)
Elijah was suicidal (after his great victory over the Baal's prophets)
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Peter denied Christ 3 times
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was a persecutor of believers ....
We realize that many great people fall just after their time of great victories. Success brings with it the hidden danger of pride and carelessness that subsequently causes the downfall. The Book of Change, I-Ching, put hexagram 12 否 Stagnation immediately after hexagram 11泰 Vibrant Flow of Abundance. See How the Great Falls - Learning from i-Ching #12 否 Stagnation.

So, what is the moral of such stories of the heroes of God?

The only unchanging one is God.

Our lesson is:
Trust only God and Not Man.
Don't idolize man. Man can fail you.
Never leave the faith because your hero of faith failed.
The Bible and the Church also have many stories about bad people turning good. Drug addicts and gangsters become pastors and evangelists. They have such glorious life transforming testimonies that sometimes those normal believers like us feel inadequate. Their transformation show that God is a good God and gave all the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or ... th chance if only we are willing to receive His grace for us.

Any good and honest preacher or pastor, should always draw people attention to Jesus Christ and not himself. Preachers and pastors should do well to remember the words of a great preacher, "I am what I am, not because of myself, but because of the grace of God working in me".

(In one of the message that I heard in my younger days, the great preacher referred was Billy Graham. But now I could not his quote in internet. Not that internet is complete. But I wish the story was captured to be retold).

Next: Reflection 2 People Don't Change - It is the Situation