Blog.

Is It True?

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That question “Is it true” does not seem to matter anymore.

We are in a “post-modernist” world—for better or for worse. And one aspect of this world is that we all have our opinions. Four people can have five opinions, and they are all supposed to be equally right. We are hearing the angry, frustrated, and increasingly strident assertion: “You can have your own opinion; but you cannot have your own facts.” There is a desperation to this call for truth. But it is falling on deaf ears.

We are moving into the post-truth era. It is no longer “I have a right to my opinion,” but “I have a right to my own facts.” False information is not so blatant that we can spot it easily. Most of us will admit we were mistaken before, but too many believe we cannot be mistaken at this point in time.

There have been times when I come across some information that makes so much sense, and it confirms what I think is true. This information can be an email, or an appeal letter, etc. I promptly send it off to other people because the sender says if you agree, send it to 10 other people. Some are indeed genuine appeals. But I discover to my dismay that what I have resent is fake news thinking it is true. For instance, I get a message that says as we speak, Christians in Syria was being massacred by Daesh, but that news is two years old. I can be fooled because these atrocities are generally true.

You can say there is no harm in praying even if the appeal is not true. Yes, there is some truth in that. But believing a lie to be truth is harmful to us as Christians. It is like saying, “I have a right to be gullible because it is a spiritual matter.” Or worse, to think “So long as it increases my devotion to God, it’s all right.”

That was the take of the Roman Catholic Church which led to the Reformation. The reformer John Calvin rightly said there were so many pieces of wood claiming to be from the cross of Christ that if you were to bring them together, you have enough to build an ark. During the Reformation, people got their religious kick from venerating relics. (These are pieces or remains of “saints” or articles of religious significance.) There arose the powerful myth of the “holy grail” which remains the grist of many a story today.

It’s easy to point out false information from the past. What is not so easy to spot is present falsehood. We will find certain falsehood easy to believe, and we pass them on with good intention but they remain bad information.

There was a time when we get our news from the mass media, like certain news reporting agencies. Today, we use them less and less. We get news from tweets, or messages sent to us by friends, and in various other ways through the internet. We have good reason to distrust the mass media, but we trust our friends. Christians have always been bullied by a left-leaning, god-hating, and now, LGBT-promoting media. Many of us switch off. In Singapore, our media used to operate under fairly strict guidelines from the political powers that be. Today, the media is less controlled, but it remains unsatisfactory because: (1) it is left-leaning and LGBT promoting; (2) it presents selective, politically-correct reporting; and (3) it exercises political self-censorship, and remains the stooge of the government.

Many of us are fed-up with the mass media, and we take delight in news reports that challenge the established platform. Example one: the surreptitious moving of MRT train cars for repairs. Example two: our armored personnel carriers impounded by Hong Kong. These two recent events came to light through non-standard media. They help confirm our suspicion towards the mass media. If you are still too trusting of the media, you may benefit from a more critical view of the news you hear. (I am not advocating unhealthy cynicism; or supporting conspiracy theories.)

Our weakness, our typical failure, where we fall prey, is when we discover something that confirms what we already suspect is true. We believe it is true because we want it to be true. Let me give you some examples.

Many Christians dislike Obama for his leftist principles. So we are prepared to believe everything bad about him. It doesn’t matter that these assertions are not true but we love them so much we believe them and pass them on, and we don’t care that there is no credible evidence to support these assertions. Before Obama was George Bush. Some people hated George Bush so much they choose to believe lies about him, like the common assertion that he attacked Iraq for oil. This myth is fueled by hatred, not common sense. War for oil must be the most expensive way to get it. (Today, there is similar myth that China’s interest in the South China Sea is about oil.)

Do you know how people are trying to manipulate you?

1. They make use of your assumption and create fake news out of it. If you are a conservative Christian (which I am), I will invariably get a lot of negative news about Clinton. Google records where we surf and what we click. They create a profile of you through your searches, and begin to pitch things to you based on relevance. For instance, I will get a lot of fake news against Hillary Clinton, and a lot of fake news about how dangerous the world is, and how America needs a strong leader to reverse the policy of Obama. These reports mix truth with scary falsehood based on my assumptions so I will be tilted to support a certain candidate. And Google (or Facebook) does not censor or filter.

Another example is that I prefer food products that are not processed. What I search online tells Google that. What I get on my YouTube recommendations will skew towards that. I will see a lot of false claims based on my own bias (together with reliable studies). I will see a lot of posts on natural cures, home cures, alternative medicine, TCM, holistic medicine, etc. And I need to be quick to add that most of it is nonsense. And as I turn away from these posts, they magically appear less and less.

2. Beware! Your assumptions will do you in. The internet is NOT a filtered source of information. I do not like the liberal filter I see in the mass media. And if you are conservative in your thinking like me, you would probably be also getting a lot of false news that support the conservative position. My red flag goes up when I see news that seems to fit everything nicely. That is not the nature of reality. Truth is simple but not simplistic. Truth often surprises us, and may not be what appears at first. If we see our assumptions affirmed by “secrets” or if the news fits everything too nicely, I would suggest the need to verify. Someone may be trying to strum your strings and nudge you to where they want you to go. Whatever you want to believe, you will have the fake news to back you up. Keep your beliefs, but reject the fake proofs. People cannot manipulate you in what you are skeptical about. But you will have a tendency to be gullible in what you already believe, even if that belief is fundamentally sound.

Christians must stand as defenders of all truth – even when truth is inconvenient. Our faith is not based on feelings though it is a passionate faith. It is not based on community though there is a lot of community. It is not based on personal views though there is enough of it. The Christian faith is based on truth. On the one hand, there is truth that is clearly demonstrable – like the resurrection of Jesus; and on the other, there is truth that cannot be falsified, like the reality of God.

If we make it a habit to allow falsehood to justify religious passion, we will head the path of the dark ages. That is when the ability of relics to inflame passion is more important than the reality that relics are useless at best, and fake at worst.

Most of us come from a good church tradition that emphasizes truth. That is one invaluable aspect of our tradition we must promote without apology.

Preconceived notions that are reinforced by means of false news are harmful to us individually and to us as the body of Christ. When the Christian faith values views more than truth, we condemn ourselves to darkness. And you can be sure the same darkness that breeds the evil found in the medieval church will resurface if we, like them, choose the false news that is convenient rather than hard truth that makes our case more difficult. But a case for truth that is hard won will be thorough, enduring, and pleasing to God.

Pastor Peter Eng

 

Christian Political Engagement

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To the delight of some and the dismay of many, Donald Trump has been elected POTUS 45. I am among those who dread Trump as president. There is a general agreement both Hilary and Trump are terrible choices, but in the case of Trump I have publicly rejected him as unfit for the office. He is the only candidate on whom I have spoken so outwardly against. And it is fair if some wonder why I am so opposed to him, or even if I should talk about him. Let’s discuss.

Minister of the Good News of the Kingdom

I may have my views on Trump’s wall, his take on the TPP, on his view of Russia, taxation, etc. But I do not speak of them as a minister of the Good News because that is not my calling. I am, however, called to uphold biblical truth and Christian character, and to that, I have both right and duty to speak to you as a minister from the truth of God’s Word.

tpp

Some of you have been with me for a time, and you may have noticed a pattern on my political engagement. I wrote about whether Ben Carson is electable on account of his being a Seventh Day Adventist, and concluded that he is electable as an Adventist. That is a faith matter. Before that, I wrote about whether Mitt Romney is electable as a Mormon, and concluded he is not electable because Mormonism is a cult and his presidency would give Mormonism permanent legitimacy. That is a faith matter. Both of these are Republicans. But it does not mean I support Democrats!

When Obama was candidating and gaining the support of many Christians, I evaluated Obama’s candidacy on three things. (1) Obama is not just a supporter of abortion, but a promoter of it. He has blatant disregard for the life of the unborn and was only one of two senators who chose not to support the ban on partial birth abortion. This is a procedure when a child is partially delivered and the abortionist inserts a tube to puncture and suck out the child’s brain. (2) Obama has been a lifelong liberal on the far left spectrum, farther left than Hilary Clinton. I was incredulous when he declared that marriage is between a man and a woman when the left position had always supported gay marriage. I did not believe him, and asked Christians to question his sincerity. (3) Obama belonged to a church that taught black liberation theology. This is a black-people first ideology and it is corrosive and socially divisive. I believed that would not be helpful to the nation. (No, he is not a Muslim.). All these are matters of faith.

I did not believe Obamacare could work, but I did not talk about it because it was not a faith issue. I think his economic plan will produce an anemic recovery and it turns out I am right, but I did not talk about that either. I believe he will engage in cronyism and he did, wasting national resources. That is a moral-ethical thing, but I was not as certain about it and did not talk about it. If I have considerable doubt about where he stood, or if the subject matter does not concern biblical values, I abstain from public comment.

I openly reject Trump as unsuitable to become POTUS on biblical values. I agree with many of the non-religious issues he raised, and disagree with many. But I do not comment on them. I am a minister and I come to you as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not speak my views on non-biblical matters; only on biblical ones.

trump

Trump is the worst possible candidate because he is a moral and ethical wreck. Let me just give you a short list. (1) He owns casinos and makes dirty money. (2) He owns strip clubs that abuse women for his personal gain. (3) He uses bankruptcy laws to protect himself and defraud creditors. (4) His rhetoric promotes hatred and racial divisiveness. This is an ethical issue, and we who live in Singapore are aware that racial harmony is a function of an upright government. He actively promotes racial division. (5) He abuses women through his power and teaches other men to do the same. (6) His pride is legendary, and God hates pride, perhaps above all the sins of man. (The list goes on.)trump-casino

But, Christians don’t care. And I wonder why. People tell me, “It’s the economy, stupid.” OK, so I am stupid and I am not talking about the economy. But the economy, or security, or defense, are not my right to comment. My only right to comment is on matters related to faith. But Christians don’t care. I get that. Christians don’t care about how flawed Trump is as a person. I maintain that character matters first (apparently most Christians don’t think that character matters.)

So I lay out for you the nature of my political engagement, and I believe that is also the right Christian political engagement in terms of political leaders. Yet, I do not believe we have come to the core of Christian political engagement because these are only peripheral to the main point of our engagement in politics.

pence-and-trump

Our Main Political Engagement

Let us remember that Jesus died on a political charge: “Jesus King of the Jews,” still seen today on crosses and crucifixes as “INRI” (Latin). When Jesus rose from death, he made it clear that things are not to continue as before. In relation to the powers of this world, he said, “All authority has been given to me, in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus did no less than to declare that with his resurrection, he is now the true king over all the earth. Anyone who does not receive him as king is in effect living in rebellion.

Christians need to remove our spiritualizing of the rule of Jesus Christ. He is the Lord of heaven and earth. He has come to redeem humankind and to redeem the earth itself. The Word of God declares, “…creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:21). Jesus has come to redeem us, and through us, to redeem the world, before he comes and brings that work to completion.

Jesus also gives clear instruction on how we are to bring about his kingdom. First he makes it clear he has authority over heaven and earth. Next he tells us how he will exercise his authority through his disciples, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT).

The main course of Christian political engagement is not in politics itself, but in building God’s kingdom by making disciples.

Look at the example of the early church. They did not engage in the politics of Rome by trying to overthrow Rome. They were not even fighting over the issues of public morals or ethics in the Roman Empire. For instance, many children were exposed and left to die. Christians did not petition Rome to outlaw this practice. Instead, they adopted these children and raised them as their own, and founded orphanages. They saw the poor impoverished care given to the sick, especially those who were poor, and they started hospitals to look after the sick.

The early Christians eventually won over those who persecuted them because they obeyed Jesus in their political engagement: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And when the situation arises, “Love your enemy;” “Bless those who persecute you.”

Christians engage in politics by making disciples. The Bible cannot be more clear how Jesus wants to assert his lordship. And for the longest time I too was caught up with the easy road of hatred. It is easier to hate Muslims or atheists than to love them. It is easier to hate communists than to love them. It is easier to engage in the politics of this world and roll in the mud with all the commotion than to stand aside and win them. It is easier to swing a violent fist than to offer an open hand.

One reason why Christians forget to love is our pessimism. Many Christians today will tell without hesitation this world is getting worse, not better. And that the world must get worse until Jesus comes to make it better. That is one view of the end times, and by no means the only view. The historic Christians were more positive about the world. They believe that by making disciples for Jesus, they can change the world for the better.

The result of a pessimistic view of history is that Christians have joined the ranks of those who grab what they can. After all, if the world will be destroyed and all will be gone, and everything is getting worse, it makes sense for me to grab a piece of the pie for myself before it’s all gone! Brethren, our core beliefs control our view of the world around us. And that is a very wrong view. (It is possible to have a pessimistic view of the world and still do good, but that is not my narrative, and someone who advocates it must create that narrative.)

Christians today are many times more passionate about engaging politics like the world does, and lack the passion to make disciples – even though Jesus is as clear as he could be that disciple making is to be our main political engagement.

It is fair to ask how making disciples translate into political engagement. The answer is both simple and sublime. Genuine Christians in power living out what is true in their walk with God at all levels of government regardless of political party is powerful. It is more powerful than for American Christians to rush behind Trump or before that, to rush behind Obama.

Look at Obama as the case in point. How has Obama’s administration in 8 years advanced the cause of Jesus Christ our Lord? Was the Christian view of marriage protected? Did those suffering injustice get justice? Did the gap between the rich and poor not widen (assuming that is one measure of social justice)? Is the church blessed in any way? Christians who supported Obama have to admit that his administration failed to produce anything that is worthwhile to Jesus Christ. Why? Because Obama was a social activist, who subsumed his faith to the interest of the blacks in America, as seen in his long standing attachment to the black liberation theology church.

In contrast, look at George Bush who is a true believer in Christ. The media vilify him because of their liberal bias. But look at what he did or tried to do. He outlawed federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research and was pilloried for this. The result is that scientists discovered how to get stem-cells from skin, and the sanctity of life is preserved. He tried to amend the constitution to assert that marriage is between a man and a woman, but there was inadequate support. At least he tried to do things in the right direction. He promoted family life among the blacks as there is clear evidence that children from homes with a father and a mother grow up much better. He was gaining success when the liberals took power under Obama and reverted to single moms looking after children.

Bear in mind I have excluded non-faith related aspects from the discussion.

What I want to point out is that when we place good Christians in position of power, they may or may not do things we agree with in some areas, but they do advance the kingdom of God among humankind.

Making disciples who gain political power, or the conversion of those in power to become true disciples of Jesus, is the best way to realize the authority of Jesus. This is so simple and so powerful. It can be used anywhere in the world.

We see this direct teaching of Jesus and in the actions of the disciples. Jesus taught his disciples, “You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.” (Matthew 10:18, NLT). “You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.” (Mark 13:9, NLT)

Jesus tells his disciples they will be tried and that is the price they must pay to get an audience with those in authority. When the disciples appear before these people, they are to testify of Jesus and not present their own defense. What a price to win over those in power! At the same time, Christians will be tried without choosing to be arrested. And in that situation, they are to testify for Jesus.

We see this played out in Acts. When Peter and John stood before the Sanhedrin they did not talk about the charges for which they were arrested. The talked about the resurrection of Jesus whom the Sanhedrin killed (Acts 4:8-12). When Stephen was put on trial he explained why God is more than the God of the Jews (Acts 7:2ff). God interrupted Philip’s work among the Samaritans to speak to one strategic man, the Ethiopian who eventually turned Ethiopia to Christ (Acts 8:26ff). When Paul and Barnabas arrived at Paphos in Cyprus, they reached out to the proconsul there named Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:6-12). When Paul was tried by the crowd he presented Jesus (Acts 22:3ff). Paul before Felix the Roman governor in Caesarea focused on the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 24:-21); and when Paul explained to him the judgment of God, he became afraid (Acts 24:24-26). Paul stood before King Agrippa II and it became clear to Agrippa that Paul was trying to convert him (Acts 26:28). When Paul was shipwrecked on Malta, he ministered directly to Publius the chief official of the island (Acts 28:7-10).

The early Christians were politically engaged by reaching out to political leaders so they become disciples of Jesus. Christians have lost sight of this truth. Let us return to the political engagement Jesus calls us to build the kingdom of God. It is to make disciples.

Why do we get worked up over politics?

We get worked up over politics because who gains power and how they govern affects us. In the recent election, it is clear to all that if Trump were to carry out policies on which he built his platform, it would adversely affect Singapore. This is not my expertise, but I am referring to what is commonly reported and so widely accepted as true (and reasonably so). If Trump were to throw out TPP, trade will slow and Singapore would be affected. Trump had singled out Singapore as one of the places stealing American jobs. Motely Fool, a popular commentator on Singapore markets comes to the same conclusion as the more established media that Trump is bad for Singapore. Our economy is barely in the positive and with the inward looking Trump we may slide into recession. So we have very strong anti-Trump sentiment – I think.

Or perhaps we just get caught up with the social mood even when there is little or no stake on our part.

It was not too long ago that Singapore had our elections, and I know I had to forcibly refuse to allow anyone to use our church as a platform to advocate party politics. You can belong to, or support a party. I will be happy to hear you out whatever your position. But the church of Jesus Christ is not about party politics. We can and should talk about Christian values. In the case of Singapore politics, there is little by way of reprehensible character like Trump that I had to talk about. But I publicly addressed the legal challenge to Section 377A of the penal code against male homosexual practices. In this case, I supported the status quo which outlaws such activity and gave my reasons for it.

I make a deliberate effort to emotionally distance myself from political parties or people. In Singapore politics, I will support whichever party best expresses the values of biblical faith. I will not accept or support a party platform uncritically. For instance, all parties in Singapore fail in that no one is interested to protect the interest of the unborn child. If one party supports the unborn child, I will lean towards that party. At the moment Singapore’s governance does not favor churches and causes Christians to compete for land in an unseemly manner and pay exorbitant prices for land leases which only enrich the state. I do not find this arrangement acceptable, and I would support the politicians who provide a more equitable way for churches to meet.

It takes special effort to disengage emotionally. But I can say that it has been a great blessing for me to do so. I recommend it.

Conclusion

I think Christians need to return to God’s agenda on politics. God is not PAP or opposition. God is not Republican or Democrat. Jesus is Lord over all.

Would you consider with me to rethink your political stance? Will you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? Will you direct your political energies to Jesus’ politics of making disciples?

Pastor Peter Eng

 

Should I Remove My Tattoos?

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It is not uncommon to find Christians with tattoos.

As much as you will find every possible position on every possible issue, you will find Christians in support of tattoos. While I think having tattoos is not the best option for Christians, I do not think it is so important an issue as to divide Christians.

Even though the biblical evidence with other implications suggests to us we should avoid tattoos, and Christians should think before they ink, what should you do if you regret your ink? Should you remove your tattoo?

tattoo-removal

My first consideration is that the biblical evidence is not so conclusive as to preclude fair objection. And in keeping with our value of being biblical: asserting what the Bible clearly asserts and refraining from asserting what the Bible does not clearly assert, I would not overreach and treat tattoos as something so terrible that Christians need to undo them. At the same time, if you have reasons for removing your tattoo, it is also something you may do.

Remember your tattoo is only skin deep. Many sins of the heart are truly pernicious and bring us to our knees for God’s Spirit to root them out. But a tattoo is a matter of the skin – literally. If we overreact to tattoos, we canal into the danger of minding the superficial and ignoring the weightier matters of our faith, like when Jesus cautions against cleaning the outside of the cup and not the inside. While I think Scripture and reason bring us to a largely negative view of tattoos, I remind most of us have more compelling sin issues than tattoos. The removal of an existing tattoo should never take priority over the removal of a besetting sin in our life.

Many mistakes in life cannot be undone. For example: losing your virginity before marriage, marital infidelity, perverse unjustified divorce, experimenting with harmful drugs, hurting people we love, foolhardiness that leaves you permanently crippled, etc. The tattoo is something you do to yourself, and possibly to the disappointment of people who love you. And in the grand scheme of things, it is not a terrible mistake. In some ways, a tattoo can be easily undone in a way that other mistakes in our life cannot be easily undone.

When I say “easily undone” I am not underestimating the pain and cost of a tattoo removal which usually leaves a scar behind. In effect, you will probably be replacing a tattoo with a scar. I am not sure how much undoing that really is.

In certain cultures, like the Maoris, tattooing is common, even face tattoos. It is unlikely that a Maori Christian can come to a point when he will say his tattoos are not good. When people are so invested into something, they are extraordinary if they can break from their investment. I would not make a big issue about it; in all likelihood, you will not find me engaged in conversation with a Maori Christian about his tattoos. It is too minor an issue to expend excessive energy over it. It does not concern our salvation, and it concerns only one or two texts in Scripture.

My take on the removal of tattoos is that it gives you only a small advantage and unless there are other reasons, the fact that Scripture and reason suggest we should not have tattoos, is not reason enough to remove them. However, there can be other reasons why a Christian may want to remove a tattoo.

(1) You want the removed tattoo as a reminder not to act impulsively in the future. (2) You don’t want a visible tattoo to influence other Christians to make the same mistake. (3) Your tattoo is sending a message that is not glorifying to God: such as a racist tattoo, a gang tattoo, promotion of violence, an ex-lover, an unchristian value, etc.

I would suggest that the presence of a tattoo in itself is not enough motivation to remove it because it actually does additional injury to your body. However, if the tattoo conveys something you now want to disavow, then there is good reason to remove it.

There are times when the undoing of a wrong act may be both unnecessary and harmful to the body. We remember the Christian view of the body is that the body is good, but the body, like the soul, has been corrupted by sin. We do not abuse the body; instead, we treat it with dignity while we wait for God to restore our body during the resurrection.

One instance of undoing a wrong is the issue of reverse gender reassignment. That is, sex change. This means a person, usually a man, chooses to go for surgery to become a woman. He then decides that it is not good and goes for surgery to become a man again. That is the reversal of a reassignment.

Sex change is not limited to the surgery. There is a prolonged period of hormone treatment to change a person’s gender characteristics ending with surgery, often multiple surgeries. Sex change does great violence to the body, and requires hormone therapy for life. When a person reverses the sex change, the whole process reboots with a second round of violence to the body. To reverse what was once violent by another violation of the body does not naturally commend itself to most people to be a God-honouring way to treat the body.

While undoing a tattoo is nothing close to undoing a sex change, there are important Christian principles in the act of trying to change something on-essential. Let’s hear what the Holy Spirit instructs us through Paul:

17Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches. 18For instance, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. And the man who was uncircumcised when he became a believer should not be circumcised now. 19For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments.

20Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you. 21Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. 22And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. 23God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world. 24Each of you, dear brothers and sisters, should remain as you were when God first called you. (1 Corinthians 7, NLT).

The powerful principles we have before us are:

1. The principle concerning the non-essential. Do not get fixated on anon-essential matter. Focus on what counts. The important thing for a child of God is to learn to obey Abba Father from that point on rather than to try and change circumstances or reverse what is done to the body.

2. The case of circumcision. In the case of Gentile converts to Judaism who underwent circumcision, the question seems to have arisen as to whether they should reverse their circumcision. (The traditional Jewish circumcision involves only a small cut, and it was possible to reverse circumcision.) Paul tells us uncircumcision is inconsequential. There is no virtue in uncircumcision as there is no virtue in circumcision.

3. The principle concerning the past. What is past is past. The redemption of Jesus Christ is good for all our major and minor follies or sins. The Christian is called to focus on the present into the future. We can focus on making right the things that are less than ideal, or we can focus on making the non-ideal situation work for us. If the Lord is willing to redeem us from a bad situation (like slavery), we gladly embrace it. But we will focus on our own obedience despite non-ideal situations.

4. The case of slavery. Some of the Christians were slaves. We would think slavery was a life situation they should try to change. Paul counsels otherwise. Even slavery does not keep us from the freedom in the Lord. Today, we are free from slavery, but Christians today remain enslaved to things of this world. Paul is surely right to point out our enslavement to the world is the bigger issue. However, “if you get a chance to be free, take it.” Paul is not saying that remaining a slave is a good thing. He is saying being a slave is not the ultimate enslavement; and our spiritual freedom in Christ is not limited by our lack of freedom in the world. In fact, being a slave can put you in a situation where you find it easier to die to the world.

The example from slavery, like the example of circumcision, calls us to the things that matter – our heart before our Father. We can work to change all the external matters and ignore the internal changes we need to make.

It is easy for Christians to fall into legalism that says everything must be pristine – which is impossible – and neglect the more significant matters of our walk with God. Shallow is always easier than deep. The removal of a tattoo that is only skin deep must be seen in light of the depth of sinfulness and rebellion on our hearts.

Remove the tattoo? Sure, if you want to do it. But that is not the point. Removing our stubborn refusal to obey God fully—that is worthy of great effort.

Pastor Peter Eng

 

Pastor Peter’s “Letter to My Grown Children: Securing God’s Blessings”

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An open letter to my grown children

When we look for direction in life, it is so easy for us to do it the same way as everybody else. We look at the money prospects, the security or lack thereof, the quality of life, our interests, abilities, etc. All of these are important and I would agree you look at them. But if you want God’s blessings in your life, you need to ask what God says about securing his blessings as you launch out into life.

I find it interesting that the very first statement in the Psalms tells us

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers
(Psalm 1:1)

It seems that our Father in heaven begins the story of how we can be blessed by what we should not do.

At one point in my life, when you were all very young, I became interested in market trading. I asked questions about the ethics of trading, the contribution to society, etc. I then joined a commodities trading company to learn about commodities trading. I soon learned the environment was toxic, and it was likely that this was a “bucket shop.” I was out as quickly as I knew how. [Bucket shop: a fraudulent trading firm that secures clients through aggressive sales, and churns the clients’ accounts to generate brokerage fees for themselves.]

I knew I could not “walk in step with the wicked” and try to live above them at the same time. The entire setup was there to make use of the relationships the broker has to gouge his relatives and friends (or strangers) for the broker’s own benefit. But the Lord showed me their scam. The brokerage was using the brokers’ greed to steal from the people around him, and in the end, the company steals from these people and the broker himself. There was no soundness in the business, and I cannot be blessed by God if I walk in step with them. As long as I do what they do, I am unblessable. I had inadvertently joined a brokerage that was fraudulent; I am deceived. But that does not mean I stay deceived and deceive others in turn. So by the grace of God, I did not do a single trade with them, and just left the brokerage. This experience led me to join the Singapore Monetary Exchange as a legit setup. But I also left SIMEX because though the organization was legit, I had reservations about my own spiritual health in such an environment.

Certain industries are fundamentally sound, and some are unsound. Certain companies within an industry have integrity while others do not. Let’s take education. It is an industry that is fundamentally virtuous. There is no issue for the person who wants to teach. At the same time, there are educational institutions that are scam institutions out there to make money without providing a real education (e.g. degree mills). So being in education does not guarantee you do not “stand in the way that sinners take.”

Certain industries are neutral, like finance or banking. But it is apparent there are different types of banks with different standards of moral-ethical integrity. The financial crisis of 2008 was caused by banks creating fraudulent products. People, institutions and whole countries were brought to their knees. Now eight years on, the world is still picking up the pieces. How can God bless you if you are involved in something like this? Yet at the height of the scam, the math is so complicated, created by people so clever that most who do it were not even aware they are part of a fraudulent scheme. And that is the real thing to look out for. If you are part of an evil enterprise, you will not even know it unless you are the one planning it. You need discernment to know it.

Some banks are notorious for ethically questionable actions or outright participation in fraud. It doesn’t matter they are not doing it now. It is more likely they are still doing it, but you don’t see it. If they have a reputation for unethical actions, you must keep away from them if you want God’s blessings in your life.

On the other hand, there are banks that stepped in to prevent the financial market from collapsing from the sub-prime crisis. People can dismiss their motivation as self-preservation, of which there is some truth, but they did take the bullet to prevent a greater disaster. These banks have a record of social responsibility. When you work for such a bank, you are blessable.

I think it is even possible to be in an unblessable church, not to talk about an unblessable financial or educational institution.

We have a picture of this in Revelation 1-3. There are seven churches in those chapters. These are real historic churches. And of those seven, two churches receive no commendation (Sardis and Laodicea). They are like many churches today. Imagine a church where Jesus is not present. That is what Jesus tells the church in Laodicea. He tells them he is outside of the church. He does not live with them, and does not fellowship with them. They are churches only in name. And the heart-breaking picture is painted for us: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20).

Jesus stands outside his own church and knocks at the door. How unblessable it is to be in such a church! And what sorrow lies in store for the leaders of that church who lead the church into this alienation from Jesus Christ!

I propose to you then, the first order of the day to secure God’s blessing on your life is to know where you should not be.

Above all else, seek God’s blessings in your life.
With my love, papa

Plastic People

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Every generation rejects fakeness.

“Plastic” refers to the girls who go for plastic surgery to achieve an ideal look. In the process, we see a generation of American girls asking for plastic surgery as their 18th birthday presents. We find Korea leading the charge in perfecting female beauty, and today, beautiful Korean girls look strangely similar. China’s women will not be left behind and China’s “surgeons” compete on price. Singapore girls lament we lose out. But really? Is plastic that desirable?

The plastic face is nothing compared to the tsunami of plastic lives. The plastic is promoted by Facebook. We use it to tell the world, “Look at my perfect, wonderful I am.”

I know it is easy to be ashamed of our imperfections.

There was a seminary student who listened to me preach and afterward, he expressed his appreciation, not only for the sermon but for the candor, and the personal imperfections that come through. To him the imperfections make me real and lovable. He had intended it to be a compliment, but I was uncomfortable with his remark. This was more than 10 years ago, but I remember it because I ask myself why I am embarrassed by my distinctiveness. I know I enjoy the distinctiveness of my family members, their imperfections that make them unique. A mole here, a wrinkle there, a dimple, a funny gesture, etc.

God in his perfect wisdom makes us different—mild imperfections to make us more lovable.

The church is the bride of Christ. Each local church is also a bride of Christ. Every woman is blessed with imperfections that make her perfectly desirable to her husband. Every local church is blessed with imperfection to better enjoy the love of Jesus Christ our Lord.

When the church was born, the Christians were so excited about what God was going to do through them that many sold all they had and gave it to the common purse to feed the many needy people. Naturally, the people who did that were recognized and held up as examples of faith and generosity. Ananias and his wife Sapphira also sold their immoveable assets and claimed they too join those who surrendered all to the work of the Kingdom of God. But in truth, they hid some of that money for themselves.

They did not have to hide anything. There is no dishonor in not giving everything. But they wanted the praise of man for giving everything when they did not. They lied as though there is no God in heaven watching over their actions. And they were struck dead. For all their profession of faith and generosity, they didn’t seem to think it mattered that they sought the praise of man by lying to God.

The church was going through explosive growth. That was a good thing. But there was one problem that God considers more important than making ever more disciples – it was the making disciples who are real. We are not given the ability to judge the hearts of men, only God has that ability. We have no ability to judge hypocrisy, pretense, even self-deceptive spirituality. Ananias and Sapphira were wonderful people as far as we can tell. But God wanted a lesson to go out into the new community.

Here is the Good News of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. While the disciples did not know if the new disciples were frauds, God knew. And just as surely, God knows today, he knows on the judgement day when he brings in his kingdom to its full extent. So let all who wish to enter the kingdom of God know this: God knows your heart. You don’t have to be perfect—just don’t be plastic. You can appear wonderful to everyone, but God will hold your pretense to account.

I am surprised at the importance God placed on honesty-integrity in the church. We live in a world that looks at the bottom-line of donation given by Ananias and Sapphira, and say a little undeserved glory is surely not too bad. But the Holy Spirit of God sets the standard here. We can be honestly imperfect. But God does not accept the dishonestly perfect.

The plastic face is only a chasing for a beauty that fades;, but the plastic life is a far more dangerous thing. Jesus said, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” (Matthew 23:27).

The dirty, smelly, imperfect Sabbath keeping people of the land have hope because they are real. The plastic Pharisees are in a moral tailspin because their external perfection hides a rotting evil inside that they themselves can neither smell nor see.

Maybe, we should not be too surprised that the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ applied judgment on the plastic couple since Jesus Christ himself condemned the same when he walked this earth.

Pastor Peter Eng

What Dietrich Bonhoeffer said about the Church and the Cost of Discipleship

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“It is not we who build. Christ builds the church.”

“This is the end — for me, the beginning of life.”

These are the reported last words of German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed in Flossenbürg concentration camp in 1945.

Bonhoeffer didn’t only write about costly discipleship and grace. His life fully reflected his work and Scripture. It was a life he surrendered into the hands of Jesus, not just on the day he died, but years before that. As a pastor in Nazi Germany, he worked tirelessly to encourage the church to stand up for issues of social justice and human dignity.

Even now, Bonhoeffer’s works and ideas challenge church views of Jesus, grace and the Christian walk. May these quotes encourage you to remember the purpose of the church: to preach and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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“The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and His work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity.”

“The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians.”

“The Cross is not the terrible end of a pious happy life. Instead, it stands at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ. Whenever Christ calls us, His call leads us to death.”

“A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow Him. “Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on the stand.” … The bushel may be the fear of men, or perhaps deliberate conformity to the world for some ulterior motive.”

“I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.”

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

“It is a great comfort which Jesus gives to His church. ‘You confess, preach, bear witness to Me, and I alone will build where it pleases Me. Do not meddle in what is not your providence. Do what is given to you, and do it well, and you will have done enough… Live together in the forgiveness of your sins. Forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.’”

“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for costly grace.”

“Sanctification means driving out the world from the Church as well as separating the Church from the world. But the purpose of such discipline is not to establish a community of the perfect, but a community consisting of men who really live under the forgiving mercy of God.”

“The will of God, to which the law gives expression, is that men should defeat their enemies by loving them.”

“How would you expect to find community while you intentionally withdraw from it at some point? The disobedient cannot believe; only the obedient believe.”

“Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends.”

Pastor Peter Eng

Our Simple Purpose & Structure

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OUR SIMPLE PURPOSE

It’s simple. That doesn’t mean it is easy. When something is simple but not easy, we complicate the matter so it becomes easier. But it doesn’t get easier, it only gets messier!

Our purpose as a church is a simple thing. Because it is simple but not easy, we can complicate it, and then lose sight of our purpose. It is good for all of us to be on the same page about our purpose.

Our purpose must be what Jesus Himself gives us. We cannot fabricate our own purpose because we are building the Church of Jesus Christ, His Kingdom, not ours.

Our purpose is to live out
the Great Commandment
and the Great Commission

The Great Commandment: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)

The Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

OUR SIMPLE STRUCTURE

A simple purpose deserves a simple structure. We want a structure that reflects the simplicity of our purpose so our energy and resources can be focused.

Our structure is the
Worship Service and
Discipleship Groups

Worship Service. The Worship Service is based on the Great Commandment. The weekly Worship Service is the centerpiece of the Church of Jesus Christ. We enter to Worship and depart to Serve. This ministry that focuses on loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. Worship expresses, encourages, and purifies our love for God. But no love for God is genuine unless we also love and serve our neighbor.

Discipleship. Discipleship is based on the Great Commission. It is the weekday program when we meet in discipleship groups to (1) minister to one another, and (2) the pre-faith, through (1) prayer, (2) study, and (3) tangible actions. We make disciples by sharing the Good News. And when we obey everything Jesus has commanded us, we have the Good Life. Discipleship is about the Good News and the Good Life in Jesus Christ.

Pastor Peter Eng

With All Your Heart

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Good enough – Whatever — Never mind

We produce our best work when we are most motivated.

This is why I believe the Lord calls me to serve Him as a pastor. When I serve Him and His people, I am motivated to do my best. When I am “tent-making,” or doing something else, I don’t have the same motivation. So when Scripture tells me, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” I understand the bar is high. The beautiful thing is that the Lord is pleased when I try my best, even when the world does not think much of what I do.

Yet, the irony is that when I do my best for the Lord, my best comes out, and I grow. Sloppiness does not bring glory to God. Something is not good enough until it is my best. And when it is my best, it is good enough—with God.

What grabs me is that sometimes, it takes time to develop this motivation. “Working for the Lord” is unpaid work for all of you, and unsupervised work for me. When a person is not paid (you) and not supervised (me), doesn’t that person produce the worst work? Yet, Scripture tells us to serve wholeheartedly as to the Lord.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Let’s put it the other way around. Let’s say, we need to serve the Lord as though we are paid $1 million a day. Would that make better sense? For many, that would make more sense than to say we need to do our daily work as though we are serving God, with no pay and without supervision.

What happens when we serve Jesus because we love Him and love one another? Our motives become purified. The person who volunteers to serve will often do something well within his abilities. There will be times when that work is recognized and he receives affirmation. There will be times when it is not recognized and God whispers to him, “My child, you are doing it for Me, remember?”

The way our heart works is that when we work for money, beyond a certain point, money no longer motivates. God creates the human heart so that we need more than money to motivate us. Serving our Father without payment, without supervision, and sometimes without praise, purifies our heart.

We serve God because we love God. We love God because we serve God. Our heart will not leave us at peace if our love for Abba Father does not express itself in some way tangible. And when we learn to express our love for God in service, our love gets purified and it grows.

I think one reason why the best Christians do the best work in the world is that God uses our service to purify our heart. And the heart that is purified for service does the better work.

The ministry here is still young and we have a lot of space for people to grow. We are not the established church that has perfected every ministry. We are folks serving with all our heart as unto the Lord. And we encourage each other to serve with all our heart.

Every generation will have “whatever” people. People who do not care. People who just show up and expect to be the star of the show. We are not “whatever” people. We are “all your heart” people because “it is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

When we serve the Lord in community, and work in the world, with all our heart as though we are serving Christ, we can look forward to an inheritance from the Lord as our reward. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit of God purifies our motives and transforms us.

Are you ready to make a difference in your life? Serve the Lord with all your heart. Start small, but start and do not give up. You will see the truth of how your giving will make you grow, how you will receive much more than you can give away – as you serve with all your heart.

Pastor Peter Eng

Unstoppable Blessings

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It is the first worship service @theWell. We have no idea who will show up. And you show up! And you are here today.

Pastor Tan lifted up our hearts in worship to God our Father, and I shared God’s Word with you on the theme “Unstoppable.” We have now worshipped together for 104 Sundays. And these two years have been a season of unstoppable blessings from God.

I am not suggesting the past two years were trouble free. Even now, some of us struggle with personal difficulties. But God has been good to us despite our challenges. We rejoice with the Psalmist,

Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you. (Psalm 91:7)

Our sick have recovered. Our wounded are mended. Our families live securely. Our children are growing up well. Our parents are aging gracefully. Our community is growing. We are growing personally.

When we do wrong or sin, we humble ourselves and return to our loving Father and He continues His blessings. Conversely, if we live in bitterness or anger, God’s blessings will stop.

If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18)

The evil one is at war against us. He brings pain and suffering to snare us. He entices us with sinful indulgences. And sadly, he sometimes succeeds, and he trips us up. We don’t pretend we do not sin. We confess and set things right, and God has not withheld His blessings.

We will not pretend we do not have burdens. By and large, I notice our burdens concern people we love. When it comes to the actual members of our community, we are remarkably blessed. I believe this is not because we are better than others, rather, it is because we are a fledgling community and God grants us special grace. In my many years of ministry, I cannot recall a community as blessed as this.

That is to say, because you are in this ministry that requires special care, you have also become a beneficiary of God’s special care. At least, that is why I believe I have seen such goodness from God. Blessings come not because I am good, but because He is good, this community needs it, and as a member of this community, I share in what God bestows on this community.

My sharing with you two years ago was the Unstoppable Kingdom of God. Not only is God’s Kingdom unstoppable in its growth, God pours out His unstoppable blessings when we engage in kingdom work.

I was hoping that we might have something definitive to share with you about the missional move we were praying about. God in His infinite wisdom appears not to have opened the way for us. And that is fine. As Pastor Tan and I shared with you all, every direction is from the Lord, and every direction is a blessing. He sees pitfalls we do not see and He sees opportunities we do not see. His timing is not only the best timing, it is the only timing we should go with. For now, it looks like we will continue to enjoy the blessing of worshiping in this comfortable place. All praise to God!

At the same time, we look to the Lord to guide us into another kingdom opportunity, another opportunity to make disciples. He knows the best for us, all we have to do is to be sensitive to His leading. Every closed door is a blessing no less than every open door.

I am very thankful to God for our exploration of a missional move because it makes us articulate our mission more clearly: (1) We are willing to explore a move or an outreach, whichever is more viable. (2) We do not reject, but we avoid capital acquisitions so our resources can be more focused on people. (3) If the Lord opens the door for us to have a ministry without having to pay for the place, it would be ideal. (4) God willing, we can find an ideal ministry partner who takes care of the business and the premises and our pastoral staff engage in the core spiritual work.

It is a great blessing to have this focus!

We have every reason to hope for God’s unstoppable blessings in the months ahead because we want to put ourselves always in that need. We want to be poor in spirit that we may be blessed. And every blessing turn back to praise the Lord our God.

Pastor Peter Eng

BREXIT

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The die is cast. Brexit it will be. The response is swift and there is chaos and confusion. Scotland and Northern Ireland indicate they may choose EU over UK. France may want out. Netherlands may want out. Trading markets drop as the decrease in trade is imminent. Gold shot up. The USD moved 3 cents up against SGD overnight. Singapore has suffered 19 straight months of consumer price decline (May 2016). Brexit can only add to Singapore’s deflationary pressures.

I recall the time when Christians were arguing that when the EU has 10 nations, to correspond to the 10 toes of the image in Daniel 2, the kingdom of the anti-Christ will be established. Where is that argument now? The European Union may fall apart if France leaves. It is unlikely the small nations want to surrender to the only large economy left—Germany.

Brexit affirms the danger of newspaper application to the Bible. It is good that we want the Bible to come alive and apply to our lives. There is a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. Most Christians who interpret every incident as proving that Jesus is coming soon, are motivated by the desire to create urgency so we will get our life in order. The desire is good, but the generation of falsehood detracts from truth, and from the real motivation for us to get our life in order because Jesus is coming.

First, I want to affirm the Bible teaches us:

1. The Good News must first go out to the whole world (Matthew 24:14).
2. The “man of lawlessness” must first appear (2 Thessalonians 2). He will set himself up as though he were God.
3. Conclusion: there is hardly any observable point as to the coming of the Lord apart from the man of lawlessness. I believe the political readings supporting the soon return of Christ are more Christian imagination than biblical interpretation.

Second, I want to point you to a positive view of what we should expect until Jesus comes:

1. God will establish an everlasting kingdom in Jesus Christ. “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.” (Daniel 2:44-45)
2. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
3. God’s kingdom started with Jesus, and will grow stronger. “He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)
4. Conclusion: we should expect the Kingdom of God to advance and be victorious, we are not struggling in a losing battle. Jesus secured our victory.

Response to Brexit

Should Brexit lead to the departure of Scotland and Northern Ireland, we may be witnessing the closing chapter of the British Empire on which the sun did not set. The kingdoms of the world come and go. Our true focus is on the kingdom of God. The everlasting kingdom, the kingdom that works towards God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. It started with Jesus coming to earth and it will end when Jesus returns with the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1-4), when all of creation will be redeemed (Romans 8:22-23).

On the practical front, we can expect Brexit to have negative economic pressures on our livelihood. We can expect deflationary pressures to get worse in Singapore, and we may be wise to take a defensive posture in most areas. That is part-and-parcel of life on earth and it has impact on how we plan our programs, not on the imminent return of Jesus.

Our economic well-being is not related to the well-being of God’s kingdom. The Jewish Christians suffered a much worse loss of status when Jerusalem was destroyed (AD 70). The Jews rejected Jesus’s warning to stop looking for a new messiah, and they turned to Simon Bar Kochba. It resulted in their further destruction and dispersion under Emperor Hadrian (AD 132). National Israel suffered, but spiritual Israel continued to grow and prosper.

We are Spiritual Israel. We are the Kingdom of God. We will grow and fill the earth until all the kingdoms of the world pass away. We will be here after the United Kingdom becomes the Untied Kingdom. We will be here when Singapore no longer exists as a nation. We will be here when the United States also become untied. We will be here when China, India, Russia are all gone. We are God’s forever kingdom. Seek ye first the kingdom of God.

Pastor Peter Eng