Month: May, 2013

What is Enough?

by Peter Eng

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“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness”
(2 Corinthians 12:8-9)


When it comes to money, surveys show a majority of people give a number that is about 10% more than what they make. When it comes to a woman in your life, what is enough? Why do so many men have a desire for someone in addition to their wife? Is it the “10% more” discontent transposed to our wife?

When the other woman comes into our life, what is happening? What are the emotional and spiritual dynamics that will lead us astray or keep us true? Here we have the phenomenon of pleasure and pain once more. But the temptation is so well disguised that we often fail to identify it as temptation.

We are confident we can spot temptations and make the right decisions. The reality is quite the opposite. The simple temptations are apparent. But the most powerful temptations come in an insidious disguise. “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

The husband about to abandon his wife for the other woman does not say, “I have been unfaithful to my wife; I cheated on her; I am going to dump her to gratify my selfish lust for the other woman.” Instead, he will invoke the best excuse known to our age—love. He will say, “I love my wife, but I also love the other woman.” In some instances, he will say, “I have a child with the other woman. I cannot ignore my responsibility towards my child.”

We use love as the reason to do many things that are really motivated by less noble passions. Men tend to think in a more compartmentalized way than women. Even then, men find it hard to sort out their own desires. Is it love? Is it lust? Is it a mid-life crisis? Is it an escape? Is it boredom? Is it an opportunity to start life over?

The Chinese culture in Singapore retains the social memory of a wife who is submissive in the home but strong and independent in society. She is like the idealized characters in Chinese wuxia (i.e. Kung-Fu) novels. These women may be powerful fighters, but the Chinese social order expects them to submit to their husbands.

The other woman is extremely accommodating. She taps into our social memory of the submissive wife who prioritizes her husband’s needs over her own. The Singapore man who is accustomed to a self-willed, self-directed wife, who perhaps, over time, has become kids-centered, now experiences something lying dormant in his social awareness. He now lives the pleasure of having a submissive partner, one who makes him feel ten feet tall.

Sufficient in God’s Provision

There will always be something the other woman has that your wife does not. This ignites the fire of romantic love.

Romantic love is powerful. It makes the grass greener, the sky bluer, the food tastier, the smell more aromatic. When we are in-love, life is just better. We need less, we enjoy more, we laugh more, we behave better, we try harder. Love is such a wonderful thing!

The passage of time in a marriage can make us lose a measure of romantic love. The other woman makes us alive again. The call to leave her and your child and keep to your wife is quite an unthinkable denial of pleasure.

And we justify the other woman easily by calling it “love.” But romantic love with the other woman is that disguised angel of light. It looks good, feels good, and when that relationship stands in isolation, it is perfect. Temptation is the enticement to sinful pleasure.

colossiansI will not dispute a husband’s love for the other woman. It may be lust, or romantic love, or a mixture of both. What so easily blinds us to sin, what makes it so easy for us to be deceived by temptation, is that it seems to have the glow of love surrounding it. It is not useful to argue about the nature of the feelings for the other woman. It may be love indeed. But wrong love is sinful love.

We are to love the Lord our God with all our being. If we love passionately, but assign that love to an object, it is idolatry. The wrong object of love makes love a sin. Love is good only when the object of our love is good. The amount of love, the nice feeling that comes with love, the need to make sacrifices for that love, all do nothing to turn a wrong love right. Loving is not God’s love when the object of love is wrong.

We choose to love God, we choose to love our wife, otherwise we choose to love an idol, or to love the other woman. Loving someone, in itself, does not make it right.

John Adams (2nd President of the US) and his wife Abigail lived in different cities in Massachusetts before marriage. They had a courtship that depended heavily on writing letters to each other. After their marriage, they suffered frequent separation because John was always away from home in the service of his country.

John and Abigail Adams were passionately in love throughout their marriage. We know of this through the letters they left behind. They exchanged 1,100 letters! In them, we see their shared burdens, hopes, and passions. They were never emotionally detached despite their separation.

They had a good share of parenting problems, financial problems, career problems, etc. But Abigail never forgot whom she gave her heart, and John never vented his suffering on her. They suffered many stresses, but they chose to suffer together. They chose to love the right person.

Abraham suffered terribly when God asked him to abandon Hagar and Ishmael. “The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21:11-13).

Abraham came to a time when he had to abandon his son Ishmael. But God’s promise to Abraham was that his provision and blessing will sustain him and Ishmael will also be a great nation. There are times in our life when we need to do the thing that is difficult and trust God for things over which we have no control.

If you have a child with the other woman, you need to hear God’s message to Abraham. And trust God for his provision for your Ishmael.

Sufficiency in Christ Alone

There are women who neglect their husband. Some wives practically drive their husband into the arms of the other woman; and then whine about their husband.

They all call him, “Doctor.” He was already ancient when I was a child. My relatives tell me, “Doctor is a Christian.” That is not remarkable. But they also say, “Doctor’s wife is mental. But he looks after her himself. When he is at work, he employs a nurse to look after her.”

I was only in Primary school. But this doctor’s devotion to his wife was indelible in my mind. I could not understand how he could do it. Of course, I never spoke with him since I was only a kid. But it was clear that my relatives attributed it to his Christian faith. I am guessing that he meant his marriage vow, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health … till death us do part.”

Most of us marry because the other person makes us happy. And when we marry, we are supposed to become happier. What we forget is that happiness in a marriage is the result of a good marriage, not the purpose. If we marry to become happy, we forget the other person also marries us so that she can become happy. What we have are two sinful self-centered persons wanting the other person to make them happy.

Let us step out of marriage to learn a lesson about God’s purposes. Generally, what is God’s purpose for us to meet this or that person? We know not everybody makes us happy. God brings them into our life to make us holy. There will be some who encourage us God-ward and therein lies how they make us holy. But there are others who do the opposite. They bring out the worst in us. These people, no less, are also there to make us holy! They try our patience; they tempt us to anger, anxiety, frustration and other negative emotions. And they play a necessary role in God’s development of our character. They make us holy.

Marriage is the closest relationship two people have with each other. Marriage, more than any other relationship, makes us holy. There will be aspects of the marriage that fosters holiness in a positive way, as in mutual encouragement, love, doing things together, etc. But there will also be aspects of the marriage that are negative, like an indifferent wife. The indifferent wife with negative aspects is no less God’s instrument in characterforming to make us holy. The husband who has an indifferent wife is blessed in a unique way. If we are in this predicament, we will be in a situation we do not want, to learn something we need. We are about to learn sufficiency in Christ.

We will be tempted to reject this pain. We will say we have done our part and what we are going through is unfair. Life should not be like that. We should not be given pain for all that we have done. And we are right. There is pain that we ought to have because we have sinned. But when there is also pain when we have done right, that is a special position in life.

James I:2ff says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter different temptations … that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It is in such a situation that we can know we are completely in God’s will and not suffering the consequences of our own sins. We are in a place of pain because we ought to be there. This is our Garden of Gethsamane.

This is one time when pain temptation is clearly laid before us. We are to embrace the pain of an indifferent wife and reject the pleasure of the other woman. When we accept the pain of “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health” we become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The coldness of an indifferent wife is not reason for embracing the other woman. It is reason to embrace the pain.


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.True Happiness Among Kingdom People – Part 1/2

Sermon:CLICK
Bible References:

  • Revelations 19:7-8
  • James 2:18-19
  • Ephesians 5:15-21
  • Matthew 6:33
  • Matthew 6:1
  • Matthew 35:37-38
  • Romans 4:13-18
  • Matthew 5:12
PowerPoint: DOWNLOAD

 

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Faith in the Public Square

Mike Huckabee was a Baptist pastor who became the governor of Arkansas, ran for the Presidency of the United States, and among other things, is the host of the The Huckabee Show on Fox News Channel.

There are some things l like about what this man is doing. One of them is how he brings good moral and social values into the public square. Another is his readiness to talk about faith in public.

I know he is new to my friends in Singapore. Enjoy the clips below where Huckabee interviews Francis Chan.  You will see two men committed to Jesus engaging the public.

 

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZR1I-ULyAj0[/youtube]

 

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OOsh_ebRQg[/youtube]

Pleasure and Pain

by Peter Eng

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“Nature has placed mankind under the government of two sovereign master, pain and pleasure – they govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think.”
Jeremy Bentham


The temptation a man faces with the-other-woman is intense, but the dynamics are similar to all other temptations. It doesn’t matter if your besetting sin is laziness, the love of money, lack of forgiveness, or idolatry of things and people. The devil has a pattern of attack and if we know that pattern, we can repulse that attack. Our adversary uses the pincer movement of pleasure and pain.

Think about your motive for doing something, anything. Let’s say, your motive for getting out of bed in the morning. Let’s see if your motivations are similar to mine.

I know I accept the pain of crawling out of bed each morning to start a new work day because the alternative is the far greater pain of privation and hunger. If I endure the pain of working beyond my necessities I am motivated by the pleasure of rewards I wish to enjoy, or the pleasure of security, or the pleasure of providing more for my family, etc. The simple act of getting out of bed in the morning to work is a complex mix of motivations, but they all have to do with pleasure or pain.

As a child of God, I seek to purify my motive for getting out of bed to work. Even then, I do it to have the pleasure of God’s approval, and I do it to avoid the pain of God’s displeasure. It is in our DNA. We do things for pleasure or to avoid pain.

When a man is tempted by the-other-woman, he is facing a temptation of pleasure. The proposition is simple enough. It is the proposition of the “adulteress” in Proverbs 7. It is the promise of stolen pleasures without consequences as long as the parties don’t talk about it. It is excused as actions between consenting adults, and nobody gets hurt.

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Why does a person steal? One reason is that he thinks he can get away with it. Why does a person catch AIDS through sex? Because he thinks he can get away with a certain event or lifestyle. The proposition of the “adulteress” is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience without consequences.

When a person takes drugs, he is manipulated to think in the same way as the victim of the adulteress. Why do people indulge in substance abuse? The overwhelming reason is for its pleasurable effect. A secondary person may be peer approval – which is also pleasure. Most people do not become physically addicted with a single incident of substance abuse. But that one no-consequence of the incident leads to another, and another. The horror of drugs, like heroin, is that after a time, the dependency is so severe that getting off the drug involves a process of great pain. Now the reason to consume the substance transitions from an indulgence in pleasure to avoidance of pain.

The shared dynamic of temptation is this. The pursuit of pleasure brings us to sin, the avoidance of pain keeps us in sin.

The two faces to temptation are pleasure and pain. In modern English we use the term “temptation” to refer to things of pleasure, and not to describe the avoidance of pain. But in older English, such as found in the venerable King James Version, the word “temptation” is used for both the temptation to pleasure, and the temptation to avoid pain. One example of such a use is in the term “The Last Temptation of Christ.” By this, we mean the event in the Garden of Gethsemane. That was the place Jesus spent his last hours before he was arrested. There Jesus agonized over the looming darkness of the cross. What was the nature of that temptation? It was the temptation to avoid the pain of the cross. There was no pleasure involved, there was only pain.

The Greek word for temptation is peirasmos. We notice that the KJV consistently translates “peirasmos” as “temptation” and never as “trial.” But changes in the meaning of “temptation” have caused modern translators to use the term “trial” in place of “temptation.” Below is a comparison.

  • My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (King James Version)
  • Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, (New American Standard Bible)
  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (New International Version)
  • Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy (New Living Translation).

I had struggled with temptation and I came out bruised and beaten, notwithstanding the repeated assurances that as a child of God, I am supposed to have victory over temptation. As the Lord led me to study Scripture for myself, I was stymied that I did not even know the meaning of temptation. I cannot recall what led to my study of James 1. But it was here my understanding of temptation was challenged.

So how should I read James 1? As “temptations” or as “trials”? “Temptation” has to do with pleasure, and “trial” with pain. How can these opposite experiences in life reside in one word?

First, we note that opposites are connected. If they are simply unrelated, they will not be opposites. Temptation and trial are related as opposites. The trial/pain and temptation/pleasure contrast is connected by motivation in life. We observe there is hardly any action in the ordinary course of life that is not motivated by either pain or pleasure. On this account, the devil uses these same two motivations to entice us to sin.

Second, we note that they possess the cause-effect connection. We know from experience that when we seize pleasure that is improper, we will enjoy the pleasure but suffer pain as the consequence. Conversely, when we accept the privation of not yielding to sinful pleasure, the result is true pleasure. Yielding to sinful pleasure produces pain; and embracing righteous pain produces pleasure.

So when the Bible uses the same word “peirasmos” for both pain-temptation and pleasure-temptation, it calls us to recognize there is a cause-effect of pleasure-pain in temptation. The indulgence in pleasure produces pain, and the acceptance of pain produces pleasure.

When we are tempted, we are tempted to indulge in a sinful pleasure, or we are tempted to avoid a necessary pain. When we indulge in a sinful pleasure such as a tryst with the little dragon maiden, or an addictive drug, we seize the pleasure, confident there is no pain at the other end. The same dynamic applies for all sins, like the sin of gluttony. We delude ourselves into thinking that we can indulge and not bulge. We think we can be lazy without poverty. We think we can overwork without breakdown. We think we can ignore the spiritual disciplines and still be spiritually strong.

We live in an age when we think pain is the greatest evil. I recall Saddam Hussein broadcasting the confessions of a captured pilot, who denounced his own country. It is apparent the pilot was roughed up with a swollen face. Many people say it didn’t matter what he said because he was tortured. The temptation he faced was pain avoidance or staying true to his country. Many US pilots captured by North Vietnam suffered similar temptations, but most refused to give in. The temptation to avoid pain can be very compelling. And it is right for us to accept a pilot’s betrayal as having mitigating factors. But it does not change the reality that the act itself is motivated by pain avoidance.

Coercion is possible only when we fear pain or the ultimate pain, the pain of death. Once we no longer fear pain or death, we are liberated from this temptation. This is the victory of the early church when they faced persecution. They accepted pain and death for loving Jesus supremely, and Rome lost its power over them. We witness the same victory that overcomes the temptation to deny Christ among the persecuted Christians in China and India today. They have the victory because they are prepared to accept the pain.

Most of us do not suffer the pain of persecution. We just suffer ordinary pains in the course of life. For instance, we avoid the pain of developing a career and think that we can somehow escape poverty through our wit. We think that if we avoid the pain of living within our means, and just keep borrowing, things will somehow work out, and there is no day of reckoning. We think we can avoid the pain of rehabilitation from substance abuse, but discover that our addiction has led us to terrible things.

We are naturally driven by either the avoidance of pain or the pursuit of pleasure. The use of peirasmos for temptation and trial (pleasure and pain) returns us to what motivates our actions. Together, they provide the push and pull motivations of life. They also become the bases for sin. When the Bible uses the word peirasmos (temptation/trial) it covers both the sinful indulgence in pleasure and the sinful avoidance of pain.

I will avoid using the term “trial” for peirasmos because it causes us to think of the event differently. Instead, I will use the term pain-temptation and pleasure-temptation as the need may arise.

I think it is important for me to jump to a topic we will cover later, and note that all true pleasure comes from God. There is nothing wrong with pleasure. God gave us the capacity for pleasure. And it gives God pleasure when we enjoy our life with thanksgiving. The devil perverts the pleasure that God gives us for our proper enjoyment. The devil corrupts true pleasure into something selfish, excessive, or abusive; thus turning holy pleasure into temptation to sin.

This is easily observable. Food is good, but food in excess is sinful towards God and harmful for us. Rest is good, but laziness is a repudiation of the productivity God expects of us, and such indolence is harmful to us. Work is good, but when work defines our value or we become workaholics, we depart from God’s purpose for work by neglecting our loved ones. Temptation as sinful pleasure is a perversion of God’s blessing of pleasure.

When we see that the sinful indulgence of pleasure and the sinful avoidance of pain naturally result in the exact opposite, we begin to appreciate the true nature of temptation. To yield to immediate pleasure of sinful indulgence is to choose long-term pain. To accept temporary pain that we are called to bear, is to choose long-term pleasure.

When the Bible uses one word (peirasmos) for both pleasure-temptation and pain-temptation, we see two nuances driving the meaning of the word. First, we become aware of the motivation for our actions. Left to our own devices, we are almost always driven by our anticipation of pleasure or pain. These two opposite motivations are what the devil use to lead us away from God. Next we accept the cause and effect of pleasure and pain. This sensitizes us to the real results of sinful pleasure or the rejection of just pain.

Once I understood how the devil uses both pleasure and pain to induce me to commit sin and remain in sin, I understood how and when to call upon the Holy Spirit to empower me in my weakness. This was a seminal moment for me because it placed everything in perspective.


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.Making Your Happiness Complete

Sermon:CLICK
Bible References:

  • 1 Peter 1:3-5
  • 1 Peter 6-9
  • Hebrews 2:10
  • Hebrews 10:34
  • Hebrews 12:1-2
  • Matthew 5:12
PowerPoint: DOWNLOAD

 

Video References:

 

Reference in the message taken from video time segment 12.07-14.30

 

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Journey of Hope: it helps to know where to start

“I want to hold him, but he pushes me away,” a mom describes her angst. “I know it is his condition, but I still feel the rejection.” Moms with kids in the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) face challenges others don’t dare to know.

“I have been praying desperately for my son, and when I learned of this treatment, I was so hopeful, but it didn’t work. Sometimes I feel that God is not really listening to my desperate cry for help.”

“This preacher prophesied that my son will be healed of autism, and I believed him. But it has been five years and it doesn’t look like anything is happening.”

“There is no cure, no hope for my kid. I know it and there is nothing to pray about. God won’t be healing my kid, and there is no use praying or trying, or go around looking for a cure.”

How do we find hope when there are so many options and no real promise of a treatment that works? Where is God in all this?

Moms suffer the pain of alienation from their autistic kids. It hurts. God knows the pain of alienation. Jesus cried out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” when he hung on the cross and suffered the pain of alienation from his Father. But beyond that alienation was great joy.

“ let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverancethe race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrew 12, NIV)

Hang in there with me will you? We will take a route that leads to the perfecting of faith and arrive at the prize of joy.

Did Jesus heal autism?

If you lived during Jesus’ time and you have an autistic child, would you bring him to Jesus for healing? I would jostle crowds, break through a roof, climb a tree, do whatever it takes to get my kid to Jesus for healing. Jesus healed people from all sicknesses, but autism was never mentioned.

It is quite apparent that the term “autism” will not be in the Bible as the term was coined only in the 20th century. Instead, we look for descriptions that might suggest autism, and in a short-handed way talk about autism / ASD in ancient texts. I still cannot find any such description in the Bible.

According to people cleverer than I, the incidence of people with the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is 6-11%. By comparison, the incidence of blindness in India, one of the highest in the world, is 1.6%. Let’s assume people in Jesus’ time had three times more blind people than India. This brings it to 4.8%. If there were more autistic people than blind people and so many of the blind came to Jesus for healing, why didn’t the autistic come?

The world’s oldest medical manuals: the Chinese Huangdi Neijing, the Hippocratic Corpus, and the writings of Galen also fail to identify ASD. Can ASD be an illness that started only in the 20th century, like AIDS, SARS, etc.? Many suspect the 20th century toxins as the culprit: lead, mercury, PCBs, pesticides, dioxin, BPA, car exhaust, etc. Is something poisoning us that we have not figured out? Perhaps we are like the Romans who were poisoned by lead in their drinking water and sweetener and didn’t know it. Some even argue lead poisoning caused the fall of Rome.

Argument from silence is never absolute. But I think there is significant silence on autism in ancient texts all the way through to the 19th century. I know of no ancient text up to the 19th century that identifies autism. My tentative conclusion is that autism was rare or non-existent in biblical times and arose in the 20th century, or maybe a little earlier. So if we look for references to autism in the Bible to find hope, we will be disappointed.

The reality about faith and autism is that the Bible does not talk about it directly. Our hope and prayers are built on the reality that there are probably environmental factors creating this global crisis.

Seven prayers for the parent with an autistic kid

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4)

The most common way God heals us is “through means.” That is, God uses available means to heal our mind and body. For instance, if a person has a gall stone, the most common means for God to heal is through the hands of a skilled surgeon and through the follow-up treatment.

The problem we have with autism is that we don’t have a cure. Those publications that declare there is no cure for autism should qualify it as “no known cure according to the methods of determination used by the scientific community.”

The first prayer for your child’s healing needs to go beyond your child. What you, and others, really need is a cure for your child’s condition, not just for your child. Pray for a cure, not just a miraculous healing for “my kid.” Pray for those who are looking for an effective treatment for autism, that God will lead them to find a cure for this condition.

The second prayer also goes beyond your immediate troubles. Pray that researchers can discover the cause of autism. This is different from a cure because a cure without knowing the cause. However, knowing the underlying cause is important because it can produce a more robust treatment program and allows a correction to the underlying issues.

The medical establishment has a very rigorous process before they will declare a cure is found. This is good in that it prevents charlatans from cheating us. But it is bad because it also denies the validity of a cure until it has passed through their evaluative processes. If a treatment is already discovered but it is cheap and nobody stands to gain from it, the likelihood is that such expensive and rigorous tests will not be conducted and a sound treatment remains in the realm of anecdotal evidence. This reality leads us to the third prayer. If there is a treatment already discovered, pray the Lord lead you to it. At the same time, ask the Lord to keep you from charlatans who claim a cure only to enrich themselves.

The fourth prayer is for yourself as a caregiver. When you are a caregiver, your health, your strength, your mental state, are all affected. Pray for yourself.

The fifth prayer is for God to provide. A parent with an autistic child faces incredible challenges, not the least of which is the cost of care or treatment. I am not suggesting that God has to provide you money for every flaky scheme out there, but ask God to provide your child’s real needs. Ask the Lord for wisdom to manage your finances. Your needs are likely to be specific – pray for them.

The sixth prayer is for you to understand the role of pain in your life. Some Bible teachers give false hope – this leads to disillusionment. Others give no hope – this leads to despair. I like to suggest to you there is a real hope in the midst of pain. Real hope accepts reality and finds God’s goodness in the midst of what may be a harsh reality. Real hope gives strength and courage in times of despair. Real hope returns happiness to a life surrendered to the tyranny of autism.

The seventh prayer is usually our first and only prayer. I leave this to the last because it is the exception rather than the rule. We pray for God’s supernatural / miraculous intervention to heal our kid. There is every reason for us to believe that the Jesus who healed out of compassion still does so. Some things are not meant to be, for reasons we do not know. But from time to time, God has the blessing of a miraculous healing for an illness.

This last prayer is a rather self-focused prayer. It benefits nobody but you. And that is one reason why God often does not grant it. God hears our cry for help. But he knows things we don’t know, and if our apparent good is not ultimately good, he will not hear us.

God is not a befuddled old chap who indulges our every desire. There are prayers he will not grant, there are prayers he grants in limited instances for reasons he alone knows, and there are prayers he loves to grant. He loves to grant prayers when our hearts are opened to the needs of others, when we pray for the healing of all autistic kids.

Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ

Peter Eng

  • Next article: The journey of hope: it helps to know how it will end
    God’s journey of hope is not a journey just hoping for the best while fearing the worst. God has given secure promises of how your journey will end.

See this: Raising Autistic Kids


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Media, Politics and the Kingdom of God

In my previous blog, I had talked about how Channel News Asia represented the Malaysian General Election 2013.  There is a term for this. It is called Dominant Culture Rhetoric.  This means CNA reports the position of whoever is in power.  If the opposition had won, they become the Dominant Culture and CNA will report things from their perspective.

In contrast, some sites in Singapore are filled with Contra Culture Rhetoric.  These are the sites that attract people who oppose everything that is held by those in power.  All policies are consistently opposed, regardless of their soundness (like the Occupy Movement).  Their role in the larger scheme of things is to provide a platform for dissent. In practical terms, they can improve good policies by pointing out where the weaknesses are.  Contra Culture Rhetoric tends not to have a direction of its own.  They function just to oppose.  It is like the football fan who goes to the game with the T-Shirt “Referee Kayu” (Referee is Dumb [Wood]). They are not there to see if the referee does a good job.  They have decided ahead of time he is not going to do a good job.

I want to make clear my position to you.  I adopt a Counter Culture Rhetoric. This is the type of cultural rhetoric found in the Bible.  The Bible was not pro-Roman empire, nor was it anti-Roman empire.  If it were pro-Roman, you will find the Roman worldview represented.  If it were anti-Roman, you will find a seditious worldview.  We don’t find either.  Instead we find the Bible has its own agenda.

When Jesus came, he inaugurated God’s Kingdom.  It is not a “spiritual-only-kingdom.”  Such a view is Dominant Culture Rhetoric.  It is the view that says it doesn’t matter who holds political power on earth or what they do, the Kingdom of God is a personal thing, it is within your heart.

Interestingly Liberal Theology and Conservative Theology have their own brands of Contra Culture Rhetoric. Liberals have Liberation Theology, and conservatives have disparate expressions such as Reconstructionism, Dominion Theology and Kingdom Now Theology. These see the existing political leaders as evil and are in need of replacement or at the very least, they are the antithesis of Christian values. They tend to suggest a vague and more ideal government, but their main task is to criticize the existing governments.

I believe the Bible is Counter Culture.  It was not pro-Rome, it was not anti-Rome.  The Kingdom of God had its own agenda.  At times it fit into the Roman structure, at times it was diametrically opposed, and at times it was unrelated to the Roman worldview.  Let me give you an example.

The early Christians value human life as people created in God’s image.  They couldn’t love God without loving people. The Roman worldview did not accord an equal value to all human life.  Infanticide was common.  Slaves were killed without any legal consequences.  People of lower social status did not get the justice they needed.  The early Christians set out to realize God’s Kingdom.  They did not try to overthrow Rome under the banner of these human rights abuses (which would not have been seen that way during that time). Instead they rescued abandoned babies and raised them as their own. They insisted that slaves and masters were both brothers in Christ.  The spiritual egalitarianism as the basis of their social interactions rejected the stratified rights found in Roman society. They advocated a legal framework that recognized the equal right to life of every human being.  Instead of killing political leaders, they worked to redeem them from error, sin and destruction.

Counter Culture can, and does confront Dominant Culture.  But it is a moral-ethical confrontation not a confrontation by swords and spears.  It is the rejection of evil by living-out and advocating virtue. Counter Culture has its own culture and does not find its raison d’etre in opposing Dominant Culture. The Kingdom of God is neither pro-government nor anti-government.  Secular governments operate with a set of assumptions.  Some are right and some are wrong.  Secular governments create laws and work out their goals, which may be right or wrong.  The Kingdom of God is based on a different value system – the one taught by Jesus Christ.  The existing government can remain, reform or be replaced.  Jesus Christ is not Democrat or Republican. When he returns, Christ will fully realize his Kingdom on earth.  The Kingdom of God is neither a ‘personal-only/spiritual-only kingdom’ nor is it ‘Kingdom Now.’

Christians are called to live-out and to proclaim the inaugurated Kingdom of God on earth now, and the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God when Christ returns.  We are to live for the present expression of God’s Kingdom while we wait for Jesus himself to bring earth into its glorious future.

My rhetoric is consciously Counter Culture.  I do not have dog in the political fight.  We have a worldview whether we are conscious of it or not. Mine is to live-out and proclaim God’s Kingdom.  You will see me advocating and rejecting things done by the same political entity.  My faith is neither in the PAP, nor WP nor SDP, etc. When I lived in America, I was neither Democrat, nor Republican, nor Libertarian, nor Independent.  I do not live for or against the institutions of man.  I live for the Kingdom of God.

So help me God.

His unprofitable servant,

Peter Eng

myosotis

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It’s Not the Same

by Peter Eng

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“for a harlot may be hired for a loaf of bread,
but an adulteress stalks a man’s very life.”
(Proverbs 6:26, RSV)

The sun’s last rays are casting long shadows on houses and people alike. One person catches my attention as I look through the lattice of my window. I see this strong, healthy young man returning home from work as he would on other days. He crosses the street to the other side even though the last angry glare of the setting sun blazes on the other side. He is not unique for I see several young men prefer that side of the street as they approach this particular house. Word has gone round that she is a cougar. If you are young and strong, you may get lucky with her.

She steps out of her doorway and faces him as he makes his approach. Those piercing rays shine through her thin gown, showing him what she has to offer. I have seen this before. She is hunting her willing prey.

“Hey big boy,” she says coyly. He stops in his tracks.

“I’m looking for company tonight. Do you want to be my company?” she asks, dripping with honey.

The young man cannot believe his luck. If he is speaking I cannot hear him as he is turned away. But I think he is at a loss for words.

“You are a shy one,” she says, throwing her arms over his neck. But I see you cross the street to pass by here, so I know what you want.” That is when she must have noticed the crucifix around his neck.

Her bases are covered. “I went for confession today, and paid my penance. I donated to the church, and now I am ready for more,” she explains. “God is really quite ok with two people who love each other, and I love this big boy,” she says, placing her finger tips lightly on his heaving chest.

A smile spreads over her face. I can guess his answer.

“Come, my bed is ready! I’m ready. Are you?”

He peeks into her open window.

“Don’t worry! My husband is cool with this. We have an open marriage. He doesn’t mind what he doesn’t see. And he’s gone on a long business trip. Come, I will show you things every young man wants to know.”

My heart is screaming for this man as I see his back slip into the doorway of her house. He is like an ox not knowing that he is going to his slaughter, like a deer about to step into a trap, like a bird feeding into the snare.

(Proverbs 7:6-23, retold as a modern day story)

IamanAdulteress

This is the picture of the little dragon maiden in the Bible. She is called an “adulteress.” The word is used to refer to a thief of marriage. The adulterer is a man who steals another man’s wife. The adulteress is the woman who steals another woman’s husband.

The Bible tells us she is dangerous.

We have been too polite to talk about our sexuality as Christians, and as a result, we fail to understand what the Bible says. Not all extra-marital sex is the same. The adulteress tops the danger list. She is the xiao long nü to Singapore men.

Polygamy

Polygamy stands out as the most apparent marriage difference between Old Testament times and our times. We need to look at this subject squarely because it is the first justification for a man to have more than one woman in his life. Most of us can look back to the generation of our grandparents to see polygamy or concubinage. In our parents’ generation, polygamy or concubinage became uncommon. As a community, we have become more naïve about the xiao long nü, and have lost the Christian skill in handling what must be a common issue for Christians of our grandparents’ generation. I am not suggesting it was easy for them to handle it, but they were more aware of the issue than we are.

Let’s get the short answer about marriage, divorce, and polygamy by diving straight into the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 19, NLT).

3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

As in every age, there were stricter and more lenient views on divorce. We know of three views during the time of Jesus concerning how they read the OT statement on divorce

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house,” (Deuteronomy 24:1, NASB). 

This was a trap by the Pharisees because whatever position Jesus took, he would alienate people with the other two views. In a way, as God’s servant, I need to resist this temptation of not declaring the truth for fear of alienating some people.

The strictest Jewish view was that a man may divorce his wife if he finds some gross indecency in her (Greek: porneia, from which we get the word pornography). For instance, he discovers on his wedding night that she has been with others before him; or if she has an affair with another man. The second view was that he may divorce her if he discovers anything displeasing about her, like if she burns his dinner. The third view was that as long as the woman no longer has favor in the husband’s eye, even if he is the one who eyes on other women, he can divorce her (Mishnah Gittin 9.10).

The question of the Pharisees, “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” suggests the most lenient position view for Jesus, perhaps thinking that Jesus’ willingness to forgive sinners means he has a lenient view on divorce.

4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” 5 And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.  6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

Jesus took a position that was stricter than the strictest view! What a shocker! Jesus says the whole point about the marriage relationship goes back to Genesis. At the creation, God made one man, and one woman. And God also made it clear that when a man marries a woman he is setting up his own family. He leaves his parents’ home physically and emotionally and joins to his wife to become one (as a principle, not to be used as an excuse for abandoning one’s parents). The physical union of husband and wife establishes the oneness of these two persons. So, let no one split these two persons now become one.

In this, as in other interpretation of the OT, Jesus returns us to God’s intention. That is our starting point. Before we ask, “Is polygamy allowed?” we need to get back to the more basic question, “What is God’s intention?” We need to return to God’s heart. That is the right starting point. And God’s heart for us in marriage is clearly expressed. God’s purpose for husband and wife is for them to remain together until death takes them apart.

7 “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked.

Jesus’ answer begs the question, “Why the provision for divorce if marriage is meant for life?” It is a fair question indeed!

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”

Herein lies the rub. Divorce is a concession. The focus on permission for divorce is incorrect. Instead, Jesus gives a ruling that astounded his disciples. Jesus explains that Deuteronomy is talking about a man discovering his wife’s unfaithfulness with another man. Not some frivolous reason like a man’s own lust for another woman, or his wife becoming displeasing because of a burnt dinner, or just any indecency which a culture might impose (like showing her face in public). It is strictly limited to marital unfaithfulness.

The only justifiable reason for a man to divorce a woman is when she is unfaithful to him. The looseness of the Law of Moses was a concession because of “the hardness of your hearts.”

divorce-spells

We need to recall that while the nation of Israel was supposed to be a nation of faith, the reality is that there were as many rascals there as anywhere else. If the national legislation insists on God’s ideal without any concession for the evil in man, there would be worse consequences for the wife. We still see this in some parts of the world. When a woman does not bring the promised dowry, she could be killed by the man. In those days, when a woman may have to leave her village to go to her husband’s, she has to place herself under her husband’s care and protection. If her husband is evil and wants to put her away, but the law does not allow it, what would happen? She would clearly be in grave danger because of “the hardness of your hearts.”

Jesus makes it clear that God’s children live by a different standard. We do not impose an ideal on everyone. We need to recognize that national laws promote good by limiting evil. Laws are notoriously ineffective in enforcing good directly. We need to want to do good; we cannot legislate people to moral good.

10 Jesus’ disciples then said to him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!”

We are like Jesus’ first disciples. We rarely focus on the crux of Jesus’ teaching – God’s intention for two people when they get married. We focus on the dos and don’ts. Shocked by the strictness of Jesus, they responded by saying, “In that case, once you are married you are committed for life! That is terrible! It is better not to get married in the first place!”

Even the disciples of Jesus found it hard to embrace God’s intention of marriage. They were children of their culture. They were influenced by existing interpretations of the Law of Moses. And we like them are children of our age. Our idea of marriage, or of sexual morality, is more deeply affected by our culture than we care to admit. The polygamous native finds it hard to understand monogamy. The easy divorce of our day looks at Jesus’ view as too restrictive – just as his own disciples did. But truth is truth. Jesus comes to reveal God’s heart to us – even if it is not what we like to hear.

11 “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps. 12 Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

Accept which statement? Jesus’ statement or the disciples’ statement? I believe Jesus is responding to his disciples’ statement. The disciples were saying, “If marriage is such a permanent arrangement, it is better for a person not to get married.” The content of Jesus’ reply is to “not marrying.”

Jesus affirms singlehood, or not marrying, or celibacy is a valid option. But singlehood is not for everyone. Not marrying is a grace that is granted to some with God’s help. We must understand that in our loud and crude world, we can miss out the polite euphemisms in older writings. The discussion about eunuchs is about celibacy.

There are three classes of people. Some are born eunuchs, meaning they find celibacy quite natural in their life and don’t feel the need for sexual intimacy. So not marrying is fine with them. Some are made eunuchs by others. Celibacy or singlehood is imposed on them. These are people who may feel the natural desires for intimacy or companionship, but choose to place such desires under control and remain single for the sake of the Kingdom of God. While Catholics overemphasize this last point and turn it into a requirement for their clergy, Protestants ignore it, and sometimes contradict it by requiring their clergy to be married.

Jesus closes the discussion on singlehood by saying, “If you are able to accept singlehood, go ahead.”

Now we return to the immediate subject at hand – polygamy. Christians live under the inaugurated Kingdom of God. We have a set of principles that are different from the world’s. To the extent that the world embraces God’s best, they find blessings. But as a rule of thumb, we mind our own house before minding the house of others. And the household of God is patterned according to God’s purpose in marriage: one man, one woman, as long as they both shall live.

If our conversation on marriage dwells on God’s concessions, we miss the point; and we miss the blessing because we ignore God’s best. Polygamy was a concession for an ancient people who did not have a social framework like ours.

On polygamy itself, we need to see that certain protocols apply in the Old Testament, and these protocols are shared with other cultures that practice polygamy. The global culture of polygamy retains a certain order that we modern people may not understand. That is to say, in polygamy, the first wife never loses her place. This is essential for the family unit to remain. In the case of Jacob who had Leah as first wife by mistake, her position was not changed even when he also took on Rachel, and then the slave girls of Leah and Rachel.

The adulteress is not the second wife or the surrogate child-bearing slave girls. The adulteress is not the desperate, destitute slave girl who subjects her body to the wishes of her mistress or master. She is an independently minded woman who seeks to conquer.

Even when polygamy was practiced, there was a breed of women called the adulteress. She was not the second or third wife. She was not a concubine (a slave bought for sexual gratification). She was not a surrogate child-bearer. She was a special breed of women who preyed on men to get something from them. And eventually, she preyed on their soul.

The One-Night Stand

There is the once-off foolishness of both men and women. This is the one-night stand type of marital unfaithfulness. It is wrong, but it is not in the same class as the adulteress, the little dragon maiden.

Sex before Marriage

This is so common today even though it is not acceptable Christian conduct. I will not dwell on this except to say that so many Christians today go for their honeymoon before marriage. I refer to those vacations together sharing the same room. What happens behind closed doors between two persons should not become a public spectacle. Yet there is a natural assumption of intimacy when that happens. It is like when a court hears a case of a charge of adultery against a spouse. If there is evidence that two persons are alone in a darkened or private place for an extended period of time, especially if it is repeated, that is adequate proof of adultery. Vacations before marriage surely falls under this same assumption.

The sex before marriage phenomenon is something single Christians can take a stand in obedience to God’s intention that intimacy is to be engaged in a marriage relationship.

We need to remember that the love nest the little dragon maiden makes is not the love nest of two young people who allow their passion to get ahead of their commitment.

The Prostitute

The Bible compares the man who visits a prostitute to the victim of the adulteress (the little dragon maiden):

“for a harlot may be hired for a loaf of bread,
but an adulteress stalks a man’s very life. (Proverbs 6:26, RSV).

The one who says “Yes” to a harlot is poorer by the cost of a meal. The prostitute wants you to pay her the cost of a meal. But the adulteress is not after that cost of a meal, she is after your very life.

We must not imagine that this verse gives permission to engage prostitutes. It is addressing the cost factor, not the moral factor. There is no justification for patronizing prostitutes. When we compare the two events, the grave danger of the little dragon maiden becomes clear. A prostitute will make you poorer by the cost of a meal. But the little dragon maiden is after your very life.

She will hook you, reel you in, take all you have, destroy your family, and reduce you to nothing. You will have no home, no family, no career, no dignity, no friends.

There is a huntress out there. She is looking for Singapore men. She is your lucky break xiao long nü. Can you recognize her? In reality, they exist in every culture.

In Greek mythology, the Sirens of the Sea are beautiful but dangerous creatures. They sing to sailors and lure them towards a shipwreck against the rocks. Some modern people think that all ancient folks believe in a literal breed of women called the Sirens. But we forget that cultural myths are not there for you to believe them literally. They are created for the community so they have a moral reference point. And the moral teaching of the Siren of the Seas is the danger of the beautiful woman who says things you find irresistible only to shipwreck your life.

Fables serve the same purpose. Chinese fables have a fox spirit (huli jing), with a Korean counterpart (kumiho). This fox (huli is gender neutral in Chinese) is always portrayed as a female, a vixen. She transforms herself into a beautiful woman. She offers him all the delights of the flesh, flattery, exquisite food, and anything a man of appetite may desire. She works very hard at getting her man. The point of these fables, which grew out of the social context of polygamy, is that there is a woman who seeks to ensnare men to take their very life. This is no indulgence in peccadillos. It only looks that way. There is a type of peccadillos that will claim your soul.

I want to make another appeal to you that we commit a grave injustice if we regard women from China as such vixens. The real men and women of China are as much victims of the vixen as men and women in Singapore. In addition, Singapore is very capable of producing our own vixens. The vixen of our day, our little dragon maiden, is enjoying great success and feasting on the souls of fallen men because our men choose to be victims.

If we see the threat the little dragon maiden in sex alone, we miss the point. “Free” sex is only the appetizer. The little dragon maiden allows herself to be conquered. This feeds the ego. She allows herself to love you for a time, but her objective remains clear, so if you test her love, you will not find it wanting. She strokes your ego while your wife points out your faults. She bears her own burdens while your wife asks you to share hers. And it is also quite common for her to “accidentally” get pregnant. Now it becomes the right thing for you to be with her. She ties you down morally and emotionally. Your child with her is a reality you have to deal with the rest of your life.

Conclusion

The little dragon maiden is not the second wife in polygamy, not the sex object in concubinage, not the one-night stand, not sex before marriage, and not the prostitute. She is the “adulteress” in the Bible. Not the regular use of the word adulterer or adulteress, but a special reference to the woman who seeks the soul of her victims.

In the material realm, she wants your money, your security, your achievements. She is not really out to destroy you, she is out for herself. She goes for the older men who have already accumulated wealth. But in the process of getting what she wants, she will not hesitate to destroy the rival first wife or your life. In the spiritual realm, she has become a tool of the devil. Don’t hate her. She needs redemption just as we need redemption. She is not the real enemy. She is the agent of our true enemy, the devil.

This does not suggest that men are any better. Men become what women want of them, and women become what men want of them. Men are often willing victims of sexual temptations. And when his appetite demands attention, he is more than happy to satisfy his craving. Men’s lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life created the xiao long nü.

24 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
pay attention to what I say.
25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths.
26 Many are the victims she has brought down;
her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death.
(Proverbs 7, NIV)


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.Happiness in the Future

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