Month: August, 2015

God Knows Me and Still Loves Me

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Bible References:

Pastor Peter’s “Letter to My Grown Children: Women in Your World”

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An open letter to my grown children

Hi guys,

There have always been men who decided they don’t want a woman in their life (e.g. monks), and men who decided they will conquer as many women as possible (e.g. Don Juan). And there will always be women who choose singlehood (e.g. nuns), and others who sleep around a lot (e.g. the story of Moll Flanders). Whether men or women, these were the two ends of the spectrum and the demographic graph would look like a bell curve.

Today, the picture is very different. The top of the bell has flattened out, and the sides have risen. Today in America, only 47% of women of marriable age are married. Singapore is fast getting there. The center of the curve is only twice the height of the two ends! What is happening? In the case of African American women, it is a U curve with only 26% married. Singles are a very fast growing demographic in America and Singapore.

The most common reason why a woman is not married is that a man has not asked her. Those who turn down proposals are less common – I think. So the reason for single women is men not wanting to marry them. There are two categories of men who do not want to marry: 1) MGTOW and 2) Players.

MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) are common now. These are men who find women to be such a pain that women are just not worth whatever she is offering in turn. This is mainly the “monk” end of the spectrum. The “Don Juan” end of the spectrum today are the “Players.” These men do not run away from women but string women along in their lives, use the women as they please, and them dump them or keep them on the side.

I like to suggest there are three reasons for this phenomenon leading to men not marrying women. 1) The abuse of men in media and life. 2) The wrong empowering of women. 3) The wrong submission of women.

The abuse of men in media and life is acceptable to all. Look at shows like “The Simpsons.” Both Homer and Bart are the dumb males in the home. Lisa is the bright kid and Marge is the level-headed wife. The movie “Are we there yet?” is about a dumb man eviscerated by clever children on a road trip. In life, women get together and engage in husband bashing. A wife may ridicule her husband because he is not successful in his career and she deserves better, because he is not as potent in bed as she would like, or because he has some other social short-coming. Supported by the ideals of feminism, women today think nothing of bad-mouthing their husbands because women are superior to men. I even heard a famous evangelical preacher say, “Moms are special. Now, Dads? Well, any stick of a man will do.” Is it any wonder men don’t want to marry and have kids?

The next two reasons are diametrically opposed to each other and represent the far ends of the spectrum: the wrong empowering of women and the wrong submission of women.

Women are essential in God’s design. Women carry half the world. A woman stands behind every successful man or every man who is a failure. Women may seem soft, but are exceptionally resilient in bad times. Women are loving mothers who know no pride when their children’s welfare is at stake. Men and women are different by design, and where each is strong, the other is not as strong.

We complement each other. But in recent decades, several things happened. a) The rise of feminism that says. “Since men can sleep around, so can I. I will use men for pleasure as men use women for pleasure.” This is presented as the empowering of a woman. She can choose her bed partner, and as many as she wants. b) The invention of contraceptives. This allows a woman to do what she wants without fear of pregnancy. c) The legalization of abortion. Should a pregnancy occur she can have an abortion. d) She no longer needs a man to supply the home. Even if she remains single, she can function well on her own [in itself a great good]. In fact, at work or in the world, she is sometimes more protected because she is a woman. e) “I don’t have to make myself attractive or likable. Take it or leave it.” This attitude is especially true of some women after they are married. f) The husband is my ticket to an easy life. Once he marries me, he has to provide for me, I can stop work and become unkempt. If there’s a divorce, I keep the kids, he pays for them and for me, and my life will be as before. In fact, it’s a great deal. He pays for everything, I get a free ride.

The wrong empowering of women is carried into family life with disastrous consequences in the home and in society. Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) is one response to the wrong empowering of women. When men cannot be men, they become gay, or they become disconnected males – MGTOW. Btw, if you don’t know what I am talk about, just check out YouTube under “MGTOW.”

At the other end of the spectrum, we see the wrong submission of women. Some men become “Players.” In our world, men who are attractive will not find it hard to “get laid.” This attractiveness can be wealth, confidence, good looks, good liars, etc. They use women and dump them because they do not see women in God’s image, and as God’s cherished daughters. They are to be conquered and once vanquished, dumped.

While there are such men in every generation, this tribe increased profusely in our time. How did this happen? I like to suggest several reasons: a) Frustration with the wrong empowering of women [as above]. b) the penetration of hip-hop culture into society where women are no more than “bitches” and “hoes;” where a girlfriend is no more than “my bitch.” c) Porn. The pervasiveness of porn and the increased degeneracy in porn has produced a culture that abuses women and allows men to treat them as no more than means of pleasure. And women likewise submit and conform to degrading acts because men expect them to do so, and they expect it of themselves. This point about porn needs elaboration.

When I was growing up, porn was nudity and private acts of intimacy displayed for the world to see. The world quickly got tired of this. To attract an audience, porn became more perverse, violent, and degrading. Japan is a prime example of jaded sexuality in public display. There, we see bondage with sadomasochism. Pretend rape. Pretend (or real) incest. Abusive acts that derive pleasure from another’s pain or degradation. These are now common place and legal. Pederasty, and pedophilia are spreading despite attempts to keep them in check.

Look at the spike in sex crimes around the world. And not surprisingly, rape perpetrators think their victims enjoy the experience (as presented in porn). In America, Singapore, or India, we are confronted with a spike in sex crimes. Not all Players are criminals. But Players are people infected with the same attitude towards women as these criminals. They demean women.

I know you guys shield us from what is going on around you. Kids don’t want their parents to know that when a girl goes out with a guy, the guy often expects something in return, even on a first date. Kids don’t want their parents to know when they are no longer virgins. Girls don’t want their parents to know that unless she makes herself available, she becomes invisible to men.

When there is so much immorality and relationship gaming going on, the attractive guy says, “Let me get into this game. Willing and dumb girls are aplenty. I can get my share of the action without risking marriage and divorce.”

Sex has always been part of love and marriage. But today, sex is dichotomized from love and marriage. And who broke this bond? Who is paying the price for breaking this sacred bond?

I have taken much space to spell out the problem. I don’t know how to do otherwise. If the problem is complex, We cannot expect the solution to be simple. Indeed, how can we live as disciples of Jesus Christ, as men and women according to God’s design? And can that ever work in our world? The man-woman relationship as presented in the Bible seems to stand aloof from the failed relations, jilted love, and broken lives. How can God’s world guide us, and how can God’s world heal us and redeem broken lives?

Speaking to the need of singles today is way beyond “how to find your husband or wife.” There is a desperate need for a strong theology of the relationship between men and women, the value of women, and appetites of men, and a host of other things. Then, there is the need to live out God’s truth. The sickness of our world today is chronic. I don’t pretend I have the answers. I am only the one saying there is a problem, and we need to start looking for answers in the Word of God. We must make a new commitment to seek God’s design for man and woman as husband and wife. How can we return to innocence when Pandora’s box is open? There is no easy answer. But we will continue this conversation.

[Continue the conversation, next week]

With all my love,

papa

A Hope We Share

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Bible References:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6jSKLtmYdM[/youtube]
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CwCvpEMEJU[/youtube]
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ilxjo5RlzFc[/youtube]

 

Pastor Peter’s “Letter to My Children: One Danger You Can’t Ignore”

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An open letter to my grown children

Hi guys,

It is common for us to become engaged in the day-to-day issues and forget we need to keep an eye on macro dangers in the world, and our spiritual connection to them. You are aware the greatest global struggle that will last several generations is Jihadist Islam. There is one other danger you can’t ignore: the worsening relations between China and America.

I don’t know where the South China Sea tension will lead, but current developments are not good. The “Council on Foreign Relations” says, “Although the possibility of a major military conflict is low, the potential for a violent clash in the South China Sea in the near future is high, given past behavior of states in the region and the growing stakes.”

South China Sea Conflilct
You intersect with this tension in several ways. You are from Singapore, you are still Chinese, you live in America, and you will be drawn into a Sino-American conflict. Singapore is host to the Seventh Fleet which is the naval force in conflict with China. In the unlikely event of a major war, the world as we know it becomes quite different. I can’t say how, but it will not be business or economy as usual.

I’ll not go into the reasons behind the conflict. You can look those up yourself if you’re interested. But there is one clear teaching from Scripture:

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, (1 Tim 2).

Sometimes when I look at global events, I just resign to the results of those in power. It can even seem an exercise in futility to pray. What will be will be. Yet that is not what God tells us. He wants us to pray for all those in authority so that we may live peaceful quiet lives. It pleases God that we do not take the outworking of political events for granted. Our petition should clearly include those in power. Those who can act based on inflated egos, ambitions of global hegemony, material or mineral wealth, or more correctly, to act based on the peace and quiet that people need.

I have deep misgivings about the actions of Shinzo Abe. The US wants to cut defense spending and have Japan bear a greater responsibility to contain China. China’s protest against the Japanese occupation of the Diaoyu is the pretext for Japan to rearm. This is dangerous given Japan’s history of aggression, the compliant mindset of the Japanese, their racial pride, and their capacity for extreme cruelty seen in WW2. The rise of Japan is far more dangerous to the Asian countries than the rise of China. But American policy is to contain China. And I have grave doubts this will work out well.

Pray for America to have wisdom. The United States is still the world’s largest economy. I am not as confident as many who predict the imminent rise of China to surpass America, but for this conversation, let’s assume they are right. It is long understood that economic and military strength run on parallel tracks. Can America play the role of the world’s hyper power with an enfeebled economy? I think is makes much better sense for the US to cultivate a strong alliance with China against Russia. What Obama is doing now is to push Russia and China together. Remember political theories lead to wars. The Domino Theory led to the bloody war in Vietnam. The Containment Theory can lead to war with a China that refuses to be contained.

Pray for America and China. The decisions of those in authority can lead to days of peace or days of rage. Let your prayers include thanksgiving for the good done by the national leaders. Peaceful and quiet lives without the molestation of war are conducive for great good. Yes, God can purify gold in crucibles of fire, but wars are also the occasions of horrific evils. It pleases God to bless us with peace and quiet. Our adversary the devil loves misunderstanding, suspicion, strife, fighting, war. These are not the works of God though God uses them for his own purposes.

Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God. May his kingdom rule in the hearts of man, may God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. If we can be agents of God’s peace, do it. We are not America or China nationals speaking up for country. We are citizens of God’s kingdom speaking up for peace and praying for peace.

America has done great good for the world and continues to do more good than other nations. However, the Obama administration has led the nation towards a path of unnecessary confrontation and provocation of China.

Please don’t think that I am saying China is a morally superior country. China is an inward looking, selfish nation with a policy of “non-interference.” China does not care about human rights, does next to nothing to combat militant Islam (except within China), is extremely corrupt as a nation, a destroyer of the environment, enforces abortion, promotes atheism, etc. It is just that at this point, I believe America is wrong in denying China what America has.

Make a clear distinction between China and Singapore. Always correct people that we came from Singapore and not China. Do not get engaged in anti-China rhetoric or anti-America rhetoric. We can praise a nation’s good or call out a nation’s fault But we must live above nations as citizens of God’s Kingdom – seeking to promote righteousness in every nation.

Diaoyu Dao

We need not feel that we are incapable of doing anything about the direction of nations. Our prayers make the difference. The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord. People made the difference. President Nixon first diffused the tension between America and China. Deng Xiaoping transformed China by abandoning the communist economy. Pray for the coming elections in America, and support the candidate who plans to engage China rather than antagonize China. Pray for China to embrace Christian values and the dismantling of the Communist Party. These things take only one national leader in each country to accomplish.

We cannot ignore this looming danger. We are not in positions of authority to promote peace. But we can call upon the God of creation to turn the hearts of man.

With all my love,

papa

Resounding Failure and Restoring Hope

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Bible References:

 

Pastor Peter’s “Letter to My Grown Children: Letting You Go”

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An open letter to my grown children

Hi guys,

It’s hard to let you go. A cartoon depicts this well.

first day of school

It’s hard for parents to make that transition. Yet we must.

Being Asian in America allows us the option of switching from one mindset to another in terms of how long you remain with us. There is no stigma for Asian kids to remain at home with their parents. If anything is true, it is Asian parents hanging on to their grown kids for too long.

Nai Nai is exceptional in this regard. She has always provided us security, but also given us freedom to roam. She may be concerned about her kids but she does not bind us with her concerns. Among my siblings, I was the most eager to launch out. No one stopped me. And for a time, it was good to roam. But the open door and open heart made the difference. The freedom she gave was genuine, not manipulative. She freed us to leave Singapore. She prayed for us but never imposed her faith on us. She entrusted us to God.

I know you all were surprised when I said, “You don’t have to ask permission to go out, you are grown up.” But it is only respectful of our love for you that you inform us where you are going. And you have honored that. Thank you.

In Singapore, most people are just incapable of becoming untethered until their late twenties, especially men. At 25, they would have just begun their career. At 30 the combined savings of a couple would be enough for a down payment for their home. If they remain they have to wait till 35 to buy their own HDB home. With this social reality, the phenomenon of grown kids moving out is delayed and parents have a longer time to adjust.

You have the ability to move out earlier. You all already own your own cars. Housing in America is more dynamic and more affordable. And it is likely that you will be able to afford to buy your own homes within several years of starting fulltime work. So the reality is that mom and I have to start preparing for your moving out. My guess is that the first of you will start to move out around 4-5 years from now, and within 7 years, you will all be out. There will be the real empty nest then.

By American standards, you will have stayed home much longer than your contemporaries. (I can’t resist a point on grammar. Note the rare use of the future perfect tense.) In a sense, I am glad that social pressure has been reduced in recent years because the miserable underemployment under Obama has made it impossible for most of your contemporaries to move out regardless of how motivated they may be.

Your growing independence is not the greatest concern for us, though we will invariably feel that loss at a visceral level. What I hope you will hold tightly and never let go is Jesus himself. God has set the example for me to let go of you. He has given us free choice: to choose him or to reject him. Free choice is a God-given aspect of our life. It’s so inviolable that God will not stop us from rejecting him or harming ourselves.

Understand this at the intellectual level. Not many people wish to delve into the arguments for the existence of God – so we do not get into it much. But know that the evidence is heavily weighted to support the existence of God. Atheism has a mere veneer of intellectual strength. The truly robust argumentations do not happen at the popular level. But should you ever need to access them you can find them readily. If you choose rightly, you will always choose God. If you do not choose God, you will have chosen foolishly.

Understand this in your daily life. More people drift away from Jesus not because of some intellectual deficiency in our faith. The cares of this world, the pressures of work, the lust for success, the idols of relationships, and even the boredom of peace and plenty, are tools the devil uses most effectively against us. You need to build strong Christian relationships to keep you true. Yes that is hard because you will go through many physical moves and relationships are hard to build when we have to move. But there is one thing that is 100% within your control. It is good routine / habits. I limit myself to 2 so it is easy to remember.

Worship Service. You need to lock in Sunday worship as inviolable. No in a legalistic way, but in recognition that God has set aside one day in seven for rest, reflection, and repair in the context of worship. You must never allow boredom with a particular church to be an excuse for absence. Just look for another one that suits your needs.

Tithe. Returning to God one-tenth of what you make is our tangible way to worship God and acknowledge that he has given us the wherewithal to a means of livelihood. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Without cultivating your heart for God, you may gain everything, but you will remain impoverished.

When you all were little, it was possible to protect you from pain – to a significant degree. But as you grow up, that becomes impossible. When we let go of you into the world, you must know for a certainty that you will experience pain much more than at home, but much less than if you go without God’s protection.

We hope to minimize your pain. We hope you will seek our counsel on life matters. You will seek input from other people too. For a time, some of such counsel will seem wonderful. The true test of any counsel you receive in found in God’s word: “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (Proverbs 1:10). Such counsels are pain machines.

Second, we hope you will seek our comfort in your pain. Even if you have gone against godly counsel and land yourself in pain, the comfort we offer is unconditional. It is the comfort and restoration I have discovered in Jesus. Never run away from God our heavenly Father, or from us, your earthly parents. Regardless of what place you find yourself, in success or failure, when you have God, you will find your true abundance. Even in what the world calls failure, you will find sufficiency to be only in Christ our Lord. Never exacerbate your pain by running away from the ones who love you.

At this point in your life, you have all gone ahead of us in your respective fields of expertise. There isn’t much more we can teach you in career skills. There may still be a thing or two about life you can still learn from us. But there is no more learning we can impose on you.

from baby to Uni

Letting you go is hard. But it is easier when I remind myself I am letting you go into God’s loving hands. Stay in the hollow of God’s hands.

And from my fav musical:
Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older
When, did, they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they, were, small?

With all my love,
papa

Pastor Peter, 15 August, 2015

A Brighter Hope for a Darker Day

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Pastor Peter’s “Letter to My Grown Children: Soft Effectiveness”

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An open letter to my grown children

Hi guys,

You were born in Singapore, but your childhood memories of Singapore must be vague. This little red dot holds special affection for me. Her faults are many, but her successes even more. From the macro view, no city has paralleled Singapore’s economic success, pace of growth, social cohesion, defense capability, education and creation of a garden city, in the span of 50 years. SG is an effective country by most measures. A recent success is that Singapore has moved from a hard effectiveness to a soft effectiveness, in good measure.

When we left SG, the government understood it had to change to become less authoritarian, more inclined to listen to the people, and become less harsh in her efficiency. Old habits die hard, but as the nation turns 50, there is significant change in the administration of the nation, a softer efficiency.

One fine example is the installation of elevators for pedestrian overhead bridges. I am not aware of the government giving a rationale for this, or use it for a political end. But its usefulness to an aging population, and general relieve for all, are not lost to the public. It is not cheap to build or maintain this public service with no immediate economic returns. It is the softer face of efficiency.

The social contract in Singapore is that the nation provides an effective public transport system, and those who choose private vehicles must pay a premium. In recent months, the government placed numerous cameras all over the island, to catch and fine anyone guilty of an infraction. The 24/7 efficiency of the camera is relentless and harsh. An example of reverting to harsh efficiency.

Another example is the social etiquette in public transport. There are repeated calls to give up our seats to someone who needs it more. This has gained traction. However, the call for people not to keep their backpacks on (and bump people behind them) has been ignored. There is no fine for this inconsiderate behavior. I credit this to a softer approach.

I celebrate Singapore’s move towards a softer efficiency. And I want to use this as both an illustration on what I mean by soft efficiency and a segue to how we can practice soft efficiency in our lives.

First, I want to talk about Jesus – the quintessential example of soft efficiency.

When Jesus came to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, everyone thought he would eventually call his disciples to take up arms, break the Roman yoke, and liberate the Jewish nation. Instead, he did no more than to teach, to heal, to forgive sins, to show love, and to grant grace. He did not fight flesh and blood, but fought disease, ignorance, sin and finally, he fought death.

Jesus possessed a clarity of mission like no one before him. He decoupled all earthly kingdoms from his mission. He offered to redeem the profane and immoral, the educated and the uneducated, the diseased and dying, Roman soldiers, Gentile demoniacs, in short, everyone. Including Israel’s cultural, military, and political enemies (Greeks and Romans).

Let’s use 50 years as a benchmark. 50 years after Jesus rose from the dead (c. AD 83). Jesus was embraced by so many in the Roman empire that 30 years later, it attracted severe persecution under Nero (AD 64-68); and grew so rapidly that another round of persecution was about to begin (during the reign of Emperor Domitian) .

Through to around AD 400, the soft effectiveness of the Christian community remained true, and Rome had clearly lost the hearts of the people to Jesus. Emperor Julian who was trying to regain the power of paganism said the Christian faith, “has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers and through their care of the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single [Christian] who is a beggar and that the [Christians] care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help we should render them.”

When the church became corrupted through the centralized power in Rome, Christians abandoned soft power for hard. And we have the crusades – a sorry blot in the history of the Christian faith.

Leaving politics and ecclesiastical polity, we ask, how does this pan out in life? I have two points to suggest: (1) Conversion to truth; (2) Work with limitations; stay hopeful.

Conversion to truth. There are three possible motivations for action. People can do things based on: coercion (penalty for non-compliance), compensation (reward for compliance), and commitment (doing something because we believe in it). The best employees are the last because they believe in what they do (commitment) even though their initial motivation might be to get the salary (compensation).

I like to suggest that you conduct your life and direct your career energy on a soft effectiveness. That is, you need to be very clear why you do what you do. You come to that by knowing God’s call in your life, and you need to articulate it clearly. Any work you do that is coerced would be always below your best. Your effectiveness is strongest when it is soft. The disciples of Jesus were won over by Jesus’s soft effectiveness and modeled their lives after Jesus.

We can see this played out in the market place. People can do a job because they are afraid they get fired (coercion), or because they want the money (compensation). Too few employers and employees seek real commitment to the company’s mission and values. Let’s say, I work only for money. One day, I spot an opportunity to make millions out of the company even when the result would be disastrous to the company. I will be inclined to take my money and run. That is consistent with my objective of work – to make money. But if I work to build God’s Kingdom, the opportunity to make a quick buck at another’s expense will make me look another way. When I am a “convert” to work that builds God’s Kingdom, work that glorifies God, that conversion gives me the power of soft efficiency.

In Singapore, the “no-littering” campaign was coerced upon the population to produce immediate results. But there was continued persuasion of the people that we must not litter. Today, there is no one ticketing people for littering (perhaps except the most egregious instances). There is a buy-in, a commitment, by the population. When foreigners come to Singapore, it is clear Singapore became a dirtier place. But this time around, there was no harsh coercion. Over time, the new immigrants also see the virtue of not littering. That is soft efficiency.

Work with limitations. In this regard, SG performed remarkably well. SG was considered too small to be viable, so when SG got booted out of Malaysia, the Prime Minister LKY was so disappointed he wept. But he would not lament SG’s smallness. The leaders went to work accepting Singapore’s land limitation and turned it into an advantage. The same goes for almost everything. The most significant limitation was the population in Singapore. Uneducated, untrained, and leaning towards communism. What can you do with a population like that?

I think I started school in 1966, one year after Singapore’s independence. National resources were scarce. But there was no doubt the nation was investing in our education. This determination to turn an underperforming population into a performing one has been surpassed. SG is now over-performing. Education, with the importation of talent, has resulted in Singapore scoring an average IQ of 108. The highest of any country. And that is possible because we are small.

Singapore 2015

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, …” (Zech 4:10).

We all have limitations. You may think you have more limitations than others. But your perceived limitations are not a limitation to effectiveness for God and in life. Let’s say you have only one talent. Work that talent for all it is worth. Your choice is determined. You already have clarity. You can focus on execution. Your one skill can produce better results than a person with ten skills and darts from one to the other.

Jesus tells his disciples the use what they have. In the parable of the master giving his servants 5, 3, and 1 talents, the master expects each one to use what he was given. Let’s turn the parable on its head. The one given 5 talents buried his talents, but the servant with one talent traded and made 5 more. What would you think the commendation of the master would be?

Singapore is like the country given 1 talent, and produced 5 more. We are given a talent set which we cannot change. Our attitude towards our talents make the difference. Knowing your limitations and working on what you have been given is the surest way to understand your life calling and effectiveness. It is a soft effectiveness because it does not force you to produce results in areas you have not been gifted. This idea of small beginnings and working with the talents we are given is the soft effectiveness with which Jesus empowered his disciples.

It’s worth cultivating.

With all my love,
papa

Pastor Peter, 8 August, 2015

A Hope We Don’t Deserve

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Bible References:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQgCGFemNNQ[/youtube]

 

Pastor Peter’s “Letter to My Grown Children: China Rising, Jesus Coming”

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An open letter to my grown children

Hi guys,

You don’t have to be a news junkie to know there is global tension with the rise of China.

I think some Christians are quick to link the rise of China to the end times. They say the “kings of the east” will raise an army, cross the Euphrates River, and engage in the battle of Armageddon. So China, coming from the east, is the evil empire. Let’s look at the text. Revelation 16:

12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. 13 Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

15 “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.”

16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

Everything must be read as the author intended for his audience. The audience of that day understood their world as being divided into east and west. The west is the Roman Empire, with the city of Rome and her client kings. This is commonly called the “whole world.” (e.g. Luke 2 1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.) The east referred to the Parthians (Persia/Iran). In the first century, Rome proved to be the dominant force, but Parthia was never conquered by Rome. The two big boys were Rome and Parthia (“kings of the whole world” and “kings of the east”). “East” should be thought of in the way we think of magi from the “east” who came to visit the child Jesus. No sensible Bible scholar ever claimed the east here referred to China. These men were from Parthia. China is rarely featured in biblical literature.

In earlier chapters, it is clear that the evil trio: the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet were from the west (the Roman Empire). What we have is the statement that the evil trio (from Rome) will issue forth three impure spirits from their mouth to gather the whole world (Rome) and they will team up with the kings of the east (Parthia). The combined kings (both east and west) will battle in the place called Armageddon. Therefore, the passage speaks of the Roman Empire together with Parthia, as warring against God. China is not in the picture.

Western interpreters see non-westerners as the evil ones. The reality is that Rome is clearly portrayed as the chief architect in the Battle of Armageddon and they had help from the kings of the east (Parthia).

China’s rise is irrelevant to biblical prophecy in the same way that China’s stagnation for over a hundred years is irrelevant. And for the sake of argument, we concede the kings of the east refer to China, the battle of Armageddon will still be at the instigation of Rome.

Before your time, there was a lot of talk about the EU being the end-time empire, and it is represented by the 10 toes of the image in Daniel 2. Christians got all excited when the EU was about to reach 10 nations to match the 10 toes. They claim when that happens, the end will come upon us! Of course, the EU reached 10 and then 11, and …. Such news interpretation of the Bible can cause excitement for a moment, but are not sustainable. In fact, people can end up rejecting the Bible because they think prophecy failed. Prophecy has not failed. Wrong interpretation is exposed.

How can we understand the issues with China? The better known ones are: (1) her dispute in the South China Sea; (2) her dispute over the Diaoyu islands; (3) US containment of China; (4) China’s attempt to break out of US containment; (5) Obama’s pivot to Asia, ostensibly referring to China as the motivation.

These are the affairs of players far above my pay-grade. I don’t pretend I can make a difference. But I think we ought to understand the world around us. The western media is hostile to China and sees a potential problem with China rising. My view, for what it’s worth, is that these are the affairs of the world and the stronger power will always assert itself to secure its interest. Whatever China is doing now is nothing compared to what the USA did during its growth phase.

Growth of the United States 1783-1853

click on image for larger picture

The United States blatantly went to war against Mexico to annex Mexican land (under President James Polk [D]) to realize its “manifest destiny” to become a country that spans from shore to shore. China’s assertions over a few small islands are a miniscule fraction of land grab in America rising. Further, America killed off millions of native Americans in genocides so the European immigrants can seize the land belonging to the natives. China’s worst atrocities were done to her own people – sadly. I don’t see anything in China’s rise worth becoming concerned with in terms of our security.

Nations rule by power and we must expect the world to behave that way. Will China become as wicked as America when it has over-whelming superiority over its neighbors? Maybe. But the real and present dangers are the Islamic militants and Russian annexation of Crimea. Compare their activity to China’s and you can see why I think Obama’s pivot to Asia is quite misguided.

So what’s my point on the world situation and the second coming of Christ? I’m not suggesting “Jesus is not coming back soon, so relax and let’s do our own stuff.” What I am saying is that crying wolf to get our attention about the return of Christ gets old. Instead, we need to return to the true message of Scripture: “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.” We need to break free of this self-scaring through world events to find our motivation to prepare for the coming of Christ.

Revelation is first about world events in its time. In their turbulence, we have a message that endures: Be ready for Jesus to return anytime. Our motivation to be ready comes from the warning that Jesus will come unexpectedly (like a thief in the night). We must not second guess when Jesus will bring about his Kingdom on earth. His Kingdom will surely come. The King will surely come. “When” is a total mystery and “how” is a poor guess. But his coming is not in doubt.

Guys, you have your whole life ahead of you. Jesus may come in your lifetime, or even mine. We will each give an account to him for the life he has given us. Let’s make our life count. Whatever we pursue, our work must “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.” That is a cameo of how we live our life between the tension of planning long term and being prepared every day of our life.

I know this takes some fleshing out. But for now, I urge you to live above this world and clearly articulate how your careers will be pleasing to God. It will be the most fulfilling life. In brief, the points to note are:

1.  Your life must be a response to God’s calling. A “call” is external of you, it comes from God to live your life a certain way, and do your work a certain way. It can be almost any field of work. But all work can be sacred when all work is the fulfillment of God’s call to you.

2. Money, sex, power are what the world go after. The nobler secularist will talk about personal fulfillment, and self-actualization. These goals remain intensely self-centered. It is only when we surrender to God’s call that we actualize our reason for living. (If you need more specificity, you can listen to my sermons on the work series.)

3.  Articulate your work. Do not use the title. E.g. do not say, “I am a teacher.” Instead it should be something like this, “My calling from God is to teach young people so that they …” Do not give a bald statement like, “I am a businessman.” Be specific, like, “My calling is to produce and promote health care products so that people can have the most effective means to improve their lives by ….” You catch my drift.

What is important for us is to be prepared for the return of our Lord at all times. And we should not do this by whipping ourselves into a frenzy of news application to Scripture. Instead, it is the application of Scripture to life.
It all comes together in a singularity (to borrow the language of physics). Living all of life for Jesus – making your work also Kingdom building work; being ready for the return of Christ at any time; understanding and applying Scripture; finding your life calling; living out the abundant life; being purpose filled. These are all facets of the one life you live. This life is meaningful only when you live to build God’s kingdom and hence in perpetual readiness when Jesus comes.

Live well. Live for Jesus.

With all my love,
papa

Pastor Peter Eng, 01 August, 2015