Month: December, 2015

The Fight for Freedom

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Merry Christmas

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For sure, there is the problem of secularization and meaningless partying during Christmas. For sure, Christmas is commercialized. For sure, we need to keep reminding people that Jesus is the reason for the season. Not Santa, not sales, not lights, not snow, not jingle bells.

Our community is not in danger of the secularization of Christmas. So we are comfortable talking about what we are not guilty about. But we tend towards the other end – solemnizing of Christmas. I know my series about how Christmas is God’s declaration of war against Satan (Revelation 12) can add to our tendency towards a strict religiosity during Christmas, so I like to affirm for all of us that Christmas is reason to celebrate and be merry.

Christmas is the irruption of God on earth. While eruption is the bursting out of something, irruption is the bursting in of something. Christmas is God bursting into a world that is unable to save itself. It is our Everlasting Father engaging in a cosmic war to spread a table before us in the presence of our enemies. Jesus came to save us from sin, from alienation with God and man, from a world bent on self-destruction, and from a failed fatherhood (our theme for next year).

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Once a year, we set aside time to celebrate the birth of Jesus – the irruption of God into our world. We celebrate the Son of God becoming the Son of man that the sons of men might become the sons of God. And strangely, the world is willing to join us in this celebration! (Unlike the other Christian celebrations.)

I rejoice over the fact the world joins us in celebrating the birth of Jesus. Even though the birth of Jesus is both the liberation of humankind and the start of the battle to liberate humankind, we need to celebrate. Why? Because unless we celebrate, we forget why we are at spiritual war. Because even in war, soldiers pause to celebrate. Because celebration brings us together. Because God builds the love of celebration into our DNA. Because without the peace, happiness, and pleasure of celebration, warfare, even a spiritual one, will leave us exhausted, jaded, and unmotivated.

Don’t be afraid of a merry Christmas. There is time for somber reflection and active service through the year. We celebrate Christmas as a season of joy and invite the world to join us. Yes, they get carried away and forget Jesus at Christmas. So we don’t want to join the world in celebration. But this does not translate into not celebrating! We throw open our arms and embrace the world to come join us in our celebration.

We easily forget to accept, to include, and to love. Once a year, we remind ourselves to do that. We ask the Holy Spirit of God to transform in us from the indifference and selfishness that characterizes our life, to become more like Jesus. While most of us have not come to the point where we leave the comfort of home, as Jesus did, to bring joy to others, we have the capacity to celebrate and include others in our celebration.

Let’s celebrate, not furtively because we are afraid we will lose the meaning of Christmas, but passionately, and invite the world to share our joy.

The Triumph of the Lamb

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Everlasting Father

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“And his name shall be called … the Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6)

We say, “Jesus is the reason for the season during Christmas.” Rightly so. But in what sense? The Bible gives us one surprising answer.

One reason Jesus came to earth as a child was to confront the failure in fatherhood and to restore fatherhood to its proper place.

“Really?” I hear some say. “Where does Scripture link Christmas to fatherhood?”

Everlasting Father

It’s a text you may already know:
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers ….” (Mal 4:6, KJV).

Strictly speaking, the verse refers to the work of the Elijah-like prophet (John the Baptist) who would come before the Messiah. But we need to bear in mind that Elijah does only in part what the Messiah does fully. Elijah will preach the redemption of fatherhood. Jesus will execute the redemption of fatherhood.

What is also truly significant is that this is the LAST verse of the whole OT. The verse calls on all Israel to look forward to the redemption of fatherhood by Messiah. The Holy Spirit of God chose to close the whole of OT Scripture with the promise of a redemption of fatherhood when Messiah comes.

“Why not motherhood?” you may ask. “Doesn’t motherhood need redemption too? Or maybe the patriarchal society does not recognize the role of mothers?”

To say that fathers need to turn their heart to their children and children to their fathers, is NOT a compliment to fatherhood. It is a statement of need, of brokenness. There is certainly brokenness in motherhood as well as fatherhood. But God has ordained the leadership of the father at home. And it is the brokenness of fatherhood that brings about the dysfunction of the family more than any other reason. Yes, there is brokenness in motherhood, but the fixing must start with the redemption of fatherhood. It is the root failure and demands priority. From this redemption, other familial dysfunctions may be fixed.

The brokenness of fatherhood is very real in our times. But it is not unique to our times. The entire OT Scripture is filled with broken fatherhood. There was no real solution to this brokenness, so that brokenness was seen but not talked about. There is no point talking about a failure to which we have no good fix. But the prophet Malachi speaks the promise of God to the people. When Messiah comes, he will heal the brokenness of fatherhood.

We close each year with Christmas, remembering God’s gift of Jesus as our Savior. And one key redemption of Jesus our Savior is the redemption of fatherhood. This is the perfect segue to our theme of 2016: “Our Father.”

I am both excited and intimidated by this theme. I invite you to join me as we explore the redemption of fatherhood together. We have reason to hope for a better father, a better man, better leadership in the home, and in the face of such failure to find in Our Father that father we never had—the Everlasting Father.

The prophet Isaiah declared our need for an Everlasting Father. The prophet Malachi told God’s people that the redemption of fatherhood is around the corner, when Messiah comes. Let us find that redemption as a community. Let us turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.

Born for Glory

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Pastor Peter’s “Letter to My Grown Children: There Are No Facts, Only Interpretations”

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An open letter to my grown children

Hi guys,

This quote from Friedrich Nietzsche [pronounced: Neatz-shuh] is repreated ad nauseam on Singapore’s very limited TV programming. It promotes a thinking that is popular – “It all depends on how you look at it.”

Vase

They show the Rubin’s face-vase illusion to demonstrate the point. If you look at the white, you see a vase. If you look at the black you see two faces. So it all depends on your interpretation or perspective. But does this really show there are no facts, only interpretations? I like to suggest to you the picture shows the exact opposite. That without facts, there can be no interpretation.

White Square

Let’s look at the next picture. What do you see? Do you see a vase? A face? Flowers? Animals? There is nothing there. If you see something, you need to see someone – the psychiatrist. Without the black and white colors on paper, there is nothing. You can interpret the black and white shapes to be vase-face, but there is nothing to interpret when there is nothing in the picture. The black and white are the facts. Without the facts, there is no interpretation.

Nietzsche can be easily refuted. But people quote him because they like what he says, not because it is true. They make it true because they like, they do not like because it is true.

Did Nietzsche have a personal axe to grind?

Nietzsche was a philologist (one who studies the technical aspects of a language) in Greek and textual criticism. He later became a philosopher. Clearly a learned and brilliant man. At the age of 24, he became the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel. He is one of the most able advocates of moral relativism. He made outrageous statements and fuelled a lot of controversy and thus became famous.

Anti-Christians love him because he attacks only Christianity, not other religions. This is why I feel motivated to respond to Nietzsche’s quote on TV. He selectively chooses aspects of the teachings of Jesus to argue against Christian morality. If you hear comments about Christians being “judgemental” and morality is relative, one of the sources of such thinking would be from Nietzsche.

He wrote “Campaign against morality,” and introduced the phrase, “God is dead.” He argues God is merely a creation of a person’s mind. The “Christian God is so ridiculous, a God that even were he to have existed, he would have no right to exist.” And all this is focused on morality. When Christians are hypocritical and immoral, they kill the God of their imagination.

Nietzche influenced the rise of Nazi Germany with his argument for pan-Germanism and a transnational European community (Hitler’s attempt to conquer Europe). During WW1, German soldiers were given copies of his book “Thus spoke Zarathustra” (This inspired Richard Strauss to compose the powerful music ‘Also sprach Zarathustra Op. 30’.)

Today, people blithely quote Nietzsche as though he were some great thinker. He was great in his destructiveness, a great tool of the devil, an avowed enemy of God whose thinking brought great pain upon humanity.

Nietzsche calls himself an immoralist. It is therefore appropriate that he died of mental illness as the secondary effect of syphillis. Revisionists argue his mental illness was a manic-depressive condition. It is clear he chose to live in deliberate sexual immorality and paid the price for it.

Nietzsche is clever, no doubt about that. People like to take pieces of his cleverness and when they quote him, it gives the appearance of their own cleverness. Nietzsche’s writings are evocative and he has the penchant to state something in a way that invites controversy, thus making him famous.

We do well to remember he wrote with the clear objective to justify his own immorality. That was his goal. His writings undergirded German militarism that led to WW1 and WW2. Some may have the capacity to deconstruct his teachings to access the good and discard the bad. But it is more likely that many will be lost in his argumentation and that they will be sucked in to his perverted thinking.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Col 2:8)

Part of my job as the undershepherd of Christ is to protect you. Brethren, be forewarned. There is an evil the media is promoting. Read the word of God and reject the hollow and deceptive philosophy of the world lest you be taken captive by it.

With all my love,

papa