Archive for May, 2011

Dennis <3 Sara

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Click on the photo to move forward or use the thumbnails below.

Photography: Cho Yu-Shan, ambiphotography (http://www.ambiphotography.com/)
Make Up: Cleo Chang (http://www.cleochangmakeuphair.com/)

So shine

Monday, May 30th, 2011

The value of God’s glory does not lie solely in His intrinsic and infinite worth and goodness, but in the publication of Himself. When God revealed His glory to Moses, it was more than a revelation of His goodness, it was a demonstration of  His goodness. That show of God’s glory was His goodness compensating entirely for man’s wickedness. But that wasn’t just for Moses to know and shut up about. It had an outworking effect on Moses.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai… his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD.
Exodus 34:29

And in case we thought that was amazing, Paul tells us that the glory that came with the law was good, but the glory that comes from the spirit is even better. It is even more glorious! It’s impact is far greater!

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate (reflect) the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Oh but there is more!

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

This change in us leads to nowhere but glory to God!

求 你 显 出 你 的 荣 耀 给 我 看 。

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.
Exodus 33:18

Can there be a more audacious request?

Looking at what had just happened, this request seems so much more impossible. The whole process in which God takes Israel in as His own nation on Mount Sinai was much like a betrothal to marriage ceremony in which God, the groom, is married to Israel, the bride (Exodus 19:3-6). After that, He often refers to Israel as His bride (Jeremiah 3:12-14; Isaiah 54:4-5; Hosea 2:14,16,19; Revelation 21:9-12; ). Read: http://www.messianicclub.com/Ex19_Num10.html

At this point in time in Exodus 33 (the betrothal period), God was preparing His wedding gift – the commandments on stone tablets. God was instructing Moses on His commands and instructions, and handing Moses stone tablets which had been inscribed by His own hand (Exodus 24:12; Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15-16). That is a significant gift! The commandments not only protected the Israelites with boundaries, they stated how to establish intimacy with God. It was like a love letter with secrets to God’s heart. Plus, it was written with God’s own hand and handwriting! Who has ever seen what His handwriting was like? Exodus 32:15-16 could not emphasize this more.

While all that went on, Israel worshiped a golden calf (Exodus 32:2-4) made of the very gold that God had divinely blessed them with (Exodus 12:35-36) and called it their god who brought them out of Egypt (Exodus 32:508). God was so angry that He wanted to annul the marriage. Reasonably so. In an amazing turn, Moses interceded for Israel.

It was during this intercession that Moses asked such a ridiculous request.

And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.

Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.
Exodus 33:19-20 (also Exodus 34:5-7)

Here we get a glimpse of what God’s glory is all about. God’s glory lies in His goodness! In case you didn’t already know, the whole earth practically cries that out. When God had made His grand masterpiece (the earth), He stamped his distinct style on it – His goodness (James 1:17). He acknowledged that Himself (Genesis 1:24,31; 1 Timothy 4:4). When it was “not good” for man to be alone, He fixed it with woman (Genesis 2:18-25)! And when the angels worship God, they cry out “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Of course it is! All that He had created is good, so it cries out His glory!

Why is God’s glory His goodness? Because what is good is God. Goodness does not exist without God. Psalm 16:2 and Matthew 19:16-17 makes that clear. Goodness is like a summation of all his attributes / nature / character (Exodus 34:5-7). His compassion, graciousness, love, forgiveness, faithfulness, holiness and justice are all summed up in His goodness. Here God doesn’t just reveal a little of His goodness to Moses, it is ALL His goodness.

“I believe the glory of God is the going public of his infinite worth.”
John Piper

In God’s goodness, He is sovereign over all. He says “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Whatever God desires gets done, whatever He wants, He gets. And whatever He wants is good, because He defines good. In His sovereignty, He could have chosen our destruction or damnation, but He did not. He chose to give us what is good (Matthew 7:9-11). When we accept Christ, we get to taste the goodness of God (1 Peter 2:3)! The fullness of God’s goodness is embodied entirely in the person of Jesus. The fullness of God’s glory is embodied in the person of Jesus (Hebrews 1:3).

God says to Moses “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock… I will put you in a cleft in the rock… ” He didn’t say stand on the ledge, climb on a tree or go into this cave. He was specific about standing on the rock because this rock on Mount Horeb is Christ typified (Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:4-7). When we stand on the rock, God will put us in the rock – the cleft of the rock. We will hide in Christ (Colossians 3:3). We get to see God’s glory, the fullness of His goodness when we are in the Rock, that is Christ (Luke 1:19, 2:10; ). His glory is directly in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6)!

Notice also that God said the rock was “a place near me“. In Psalm 73, the Psalmist says “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart… But as for me, it is good to be near God.” (Psalm 73:1,28) Where we get the revelation of goodness is when we are near God. This kind of proximity to God is attained none other than in Christ (Hebrews 7:19).

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
Psalm 34:8

When God says “I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence”, He wants His goodness to be known by His name. A nameless good is of no value to the publication/proclaimation of His glory (worth)! What good is it to know that a person is wonderful if you know not who the person is? God wants His name to be tied to His infinite goodness and worth. Look at how Moses bargained to change God’s mind (Exodus 32:12). Look at how God showed goodness towards Israel for the sake of the glory of His name (Psalm 106:7-8; Jeremiah 13:11; Isaiah 49:3; Exodus 14:4,18; Ezekiel 20:14, 36:22-23; 2 Samuel 7:23; 1 Samuel 12:20, 22; 2 Kings 19:34). He wants to be known by His glorious name, and He wants the reputation of that name to be of unrelenting goodness! That is God’s glory, that is His infinite worth!

To God be the glory!

Read:
http://bible.org/seriespage/goodness-god
http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols61-63/chs3448.pdf
http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/Matthew-Henry/Exod/Moses-Desires-See-Glory-God
http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/biblical-texts-to-show-gods-zeal-for-his-own-glory

Glory glory

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

About a month since God illuminated John 17 to me and I had a bit of a revelation about His glory, a good friend/mentor of mine brought out this verse to my attention. Note the emphesis in italics.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17:20-23

A most interesting passage, especially since the discussion relating to this verse is, what does it mean “I have given them the glory that you gave me…”?

Well, if I would summarise this message of this passage, it would go like this:

  • The message of the disciples is: believe in Jesus because He is God. That is His message (John 17:3).
  • God’s desire is that we will be in unity with one another (horizontal) as a reflection of Jesus and the Father’s unity.
  • God’s desire is also that we will be in unity with Jesus and the Father (vertical).
  • Our unity with Jesus and the Father causes the world to believe in His message.
  • God gives us His glory. The glory that comes from the Father. More on this later.
  • This glory causes us to be united in 2 ways – horizontally and vertically.
  • When horizontal and vertical link is there, it is a “complete unity”.  
  • This complete unity shows His message and His love.

The oneness of Jesus and the Father is a continuing theme in John (John 1:1-2, 18; John 10:30,38; John 14:7-11; John 17:5,10-11). We can see that the prayer focused on just one end result – that the world might believe that Jesus is God (John 17:3). He didn’t just leave us in the lurch to achieve that end result, He has already done what is necessary – to give us His glory (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). It is no wonder that the Holy Spirit lives in us because the Holy Spirit gives God the glory (John 16:14). What is truly amazing is we, mere humans, carry His glory – His most holy, righteous and honourable name.

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”
Isaiah 48:9-11

God is very particular about His glory. He came in glory, he leaves with glory (John 1:14; John 17:5). His work was to glorify the Father (John 1:14; John 17:1,4-5). God isn’t centered around man, He is centered around Himself. Everything he does is for His own name’s sake – His glory (John 7:18; John 17:1,4;). When we receive salvation through Jesus Christ, it was not primarily for us. God is just glorifying Himself, and we are receiving the secondary benefits of that (Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 25:11; Ephesians 1:4-6,12,14). His glory is in His name and to elevate His name is His ultimate goal.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
John 17:24

Jesus wants us to see His glory. To that end, He has given us the glory that came from God. That gift is so precious because it is given out of deep love. A love that began even before the creation of the world. Now that gift is given to us as well, out of the same deep love (John 17:24-26)! God desires that His love is in us and He is in us.

God gives Jesus His glory (John 17:24), Jesus gives us His glory (John 17:22), we give God the glory back (Matthew 5:16; John 17:10; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 4:11).  This is all because, God loves Jesus (John 17:24), Jesus loves us (John 15:9,13; Romans 8:39), we love God (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37; 1 John 4:19). We are restored to what we were created for (Isaiah 43:6-7)!

This loop is the perfect portrayal of God’s message! This is what will cause the world to turn to Jesus. When the world sees the love God has for us and the love we have for God, they will look at Christ (the one who was sent to stand in the middle) and believe. We are a walking love story stamped with the full glory of God – Jesus.

Read:
http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/biblical-texts-to-show-gods-zeal-for-his-own-glory

Matrimony

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Marriage is a strange and wonderous thing. It is a lifetime committment to another person whom you will be responsible to have moral sexual relations with. Yes, that is right. Outside of marriage, sex is immoral. It is as simple as that. Marriage is a passport to have sex. Not just to have sex, but to have mind-blowing sex. Marriage makes you responsible for your partner’s sexual satisfaction.

Question is where in the bible does it specifically state all that? The word(s) used for sexual immorality, πορνεία (greek: porneia) and זָנָה (hebrew: zanah), is unclear. It could mean anything from bestiality, incest, adultery, fornication, prostitution to lesbian/gay sex. The main idea of course is illicit sexual intercourse, but what does it mean when? There is a specific list in Leviticus 18, but there are also tons of other instructions that we don’t follow in there. We could get into a huge debate about the meaning of greek/hebrew words, but that is far from helpful.

Well, lets go all the way to the beginning.

“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Matthew 19:6

In Genesis 2:24, we are told that when a man commits himself to a woman (his wife), they are one flesh. In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus affirms this and adds on to it saying it is God who joins husband and wife together. Marriage is as relevant in the New Testament as it is in the Old Testament.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
Hebrews 13:4

Exodus 2:14 is as clear as it can be “You shall not commit adultery.” The word used for adultery here is נָאַף (hebrew: naaph), which directly translates to adultery. If that wasn’t clear enough, in verse 17 it says “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife”. And if that isn’t clear enough, see Hebrews 13:4 – the word used for adulterer is μοιχεία (greek: moicheia), which is the greek version of naaph. Without a doubt, sex is only permissible within the boundaries of marriage. That is pretty clear.

“Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”
1 Corinthians 7:1-2

Now, what about sex before marriage? Those verses pertain to people who are already married. Well, 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 pertain to both the single and married. The gnostic belief that everything of the body/flesh is bad and the spirit is good has seeped into the church and the Corinthians wrote to Paul about this matter saying that “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” They thought that sex was wrong, because it was pleasuring the flesh! They had swung the other way and thought that ALL sexual activity was immoral.

Paul replies, saying that the cure for sexual immorality is to get married and have sex with each other, instead of not having sex at all or having illicit sex. Verses 3 – 6 gives us the idea that sex is to satisfy the sexual desires and it is our “duty“. BUT only within a marriage. Marriage feeds sexual desires and allows people who are married to each other to have sex without sinning. (Note that Paul’s reply starts with a “but”. Meaning, he agreed in part with what they said, and the reason for this is found in verses 7 and 25 – 35.)

In the Old Testament, we have the story of Amnon and Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-19). Tamar was Amnon’s half-sister and he was in love with her. Tamar however was heavily protected because she was beautiful and a virgin. She would had hordes of men after her. So he devises a plan with the help of Jonadab and executes it, forcing himself onto Tamar.

Tamar called what he did a “wicked thing” that would make him a “wicked fool“. In that conversation, she offered a solution to Amnon. She said “Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you“. Her godly solution to his sexual desire is to marry! (Note that in those days, marrying your half-sister was quite acceptable.)

Without going into endless debates about the meaning of porneia, it is clear that God’s plan is that sex is permissible only within marriage and marriage is the solution for our sexual passions. That is great news isn’t it! We should all go around finding the most beautiful/sexy/luscious partner to marry and have a whole lot of sex. Hmmm but not quite.

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body (each one of you should know how to take a wife for himself) in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.”
1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

Drawing close parallels with 1 Corinthians 7:2, John Piper concludes that “each of you should learn to control your own body” is better translated as “each one of you should know how to take a wife for himself“. In verse 4, Paul admonishes that men should not satisfy their sexual desires through immoral means – fornication/prostitutes/adultery/seducing other men’s fiances or wives, but to take their own wives.

He goes even further to say that we should do so “in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.” In other words, marriage is not just to satisfy your sexual desires as pagans make it out to be. Marriage is so much more! Our sexual passions need to conform to Him, and our marriages need to be more than just a passport for sex.

The truth is, God’s purpose for marriage is so much bigger than what we make it out to be:
Partnership – Genesis 2:18
Pleasure – Proverbs 5:18-19
Purity – 1 Corinthians 7:2
Picture of Christ and the church – Ephesians 5:22-33 (v32)

It also comes with responsibilities, to name a few:
Provision – 1 Timothy 5:8
Procreation – Genesis 1:28
Sexual fulfillment – 1 Corinthians 7:3, 5
Love and respect – Ephesians 5:22-33 (v33)

Well, to my single friends, I say happy hunting. To my married friends I say, enjoy!

Christian education

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

I was about 17 years old when my traditional Chinese parents had loosened their grip on me a fair bit since my secondary education had been completed. I remember that was when things started to become hazy. I was free, but this new freedom came with an attack on the foundations of freedom. Freedom came with choice. Choice came with the ability to pin myself under subjection again. This time, not under my parents but everything else. In fact, the ability to have perfect choice meant that I was a slave to myself.

That was a pretty scary prospect. I was in fact, a slave to my desires and cravings. Not just that, I was a slave to my abilities, my talents and skills. I was imprisoned within my own body, a captive to myself! That was when I realised that I will never truly be free.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

Lets face it, there is no such thing as true freedom. We would have to be God to have that kind of freedom. Why? Are we not a slave to the laws of physics? Are we not limited by mortality? Are we not imprisoned by our need for food, water, relationships and entertainment? 

Freedom stands on a foundation. Political liberaty stands on democracy, civil liberty stands on human rights. Freedom stands on truth. That truth limits the expression or character of the freedom you have. It defines what you have freedom from and the limits of that kind of freedom.

Oh if only it were that simple that knowing the truth would set us free. But just before John 8:32, Jesus says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples” (verse 31).  It seems that freedom is the outcome of knowing the truth, and knowing the truth is the result of being a disciple and that is attained by holding to His teaching. Freedom seems like quite a bit of work. But sure as hell, freedom is worth it. Patrick Henry spoke for the whole world when he said “Give me liberty, or give me death!” How true, without freedom (from sin), we ultimately get death.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
John 8:36

Mind boggling

All that brings me to my main point: what does this freedom mean in our daily life? Now, here begins my problem with Christian education. IT. IS. BORING.

In a typical bible study class, we could now ask ourself questions like:

  • What is the truth? (John 14:6)
  • How do we get the truth? (John 16:13)
  • When Jesus says set us free, what are we free from? (John 8:34)
  • What is the limit of this freedom that we have? (Romans 6:18)
  • How is this applied in our daily life? (read my bible and pray every day)

As true as these questions and answers are, these sounds more like bland regurgitated truth. Real questions that we face on a daily basis sound more like the one in John 18:38, when Pilate asked in front of Jesus, “What is truth?” It involves asking questions where we are at being relevant to our culture in our respective vocations with our convictions and decisions.

  • How intimate can I be with my girlfriend/boyfriend?
  • Where is the line between art and pornography? What about movies classified M?
  • Should I be listening to songs that promote sex and violence? What about Lady Gaga?
  • Should I pierce my belly button? Get a tattoo? What about a Christian tattoo?
  • Should I be exercising? Should I eat Macdonalds?
  • What is wrong with wanting a comfortable life? How comfortable is too comfortable?
  • Should I get out from under abusive authority? How abusive does it have to be to be considered abusive?
  • Is it all that wrong to steal someone else’s girlfriend/boyfriend?
  • Should I SMS my friend during worktime?

Perhaps these questions are all really grey area and not entirely realistic. Well, they are to me.

Yawn

The presentation of bible study material is also lacking. If school has taught us something, it would be that stuffing our brains with paragraphs of truth do not necessarily make us able to internalise the truth and apply it. There are better way than endless paragraphs of text and questions that don’t engage. Even regurgitated truth need not be bland!

Now to the fun part. My wife (Sara) and I will be working on some bible study material. What we hope to do is to make Christian education interesting, biblical and challenging. For free. These will be posted online, so keep a look out.

Monday, May 16th, 2011

“Welcome Home” is what you will first read when you enter our church in Bibra Lake, Western Australia. We (I and my wife) have been struggling with calling this chuch our home. Home is not quite how we feel when we step in the church.

This is not because the church is horrible. We already know it is not perfect. What inhibits us from experiencing the kind of church that we can call home is cultural difference. While our original (racial, family and experience) cultural identity bows down to the kingdom culture and we find unity in the kingdom culture, our expression of kingdom culture is different.

This affects everything, from a macro level (administrating and organising the church) to a micro level (a single comment in a conversation). I guess we have yet to fully assimilate into the Australian culture. It simply isn’t that easy. In every conversation, my mind goes racing back and forth to find a culturally appropriate experience to what I am hearing, then speed around again to search for a culturally appropriate response, all while my face produces an agonising awkward look (usually a kind of laugh). Imagine this happening in every conversation in every single small group, ministry meeting, after church coffee time. I’m suprised I don’t break a sweat while having a conversation.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
C. S. Lewis

I think I have a new found respect for missionaries and bible translators. To be an alien in the foreign land and live as one of them without disregarding their cultural identity and at the same time appreciating a different culture, that takes skill. Then to mix it all together and form an appropriate expression of kingdom culture, that is all God.

神的爱

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

After cell yesterday, I had another look into the relationship between power and love.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:14-19

We seem to work on the assumption that Christ love is easy to accept. Like a free gift that only needs unwrapping, its all ours to take. We make love sound much easier than it really is. The truth is, not everyone understands love. At least not the kind of love that Paul is talking about here.

When God says “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), how many of us have had this kind of experience in this life? I dare say, none! Human love is such a poor reflection of God’s love that when we are faced with the raw and unadulterated love of God, it is so bewildering and so foreign to us that some of us reject it (Luke 5:8)!

The truth is that human relationships are filled with disappointment and rejection. Absolutely everyone has been hurt by someone else in the past, even someone whom they love and who loves them. We have all been given a rock when we asked for a fish at some point in our life. Even Song of Solomon ends in a longing for the perfect union in love (Song of Solomon 8:13-14).

That is because God defines love (John 10:11, 1 John 4:8). But we only get a partial definition.  Like a weak mobile phone signal, all the fallen love that we have and experience is derived from the God’s love (1 John 4:8). It is at best only a partial experience of love (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Sure we can grasp love. The idea of human love. A romantic love even. Even to experience God’s complete love (1 John 4:12). But to fully grasp the love of Christ? To understand and feel a love that spans the width cross (1 John 4:9-10), it’s height reaches to the heavens (Psalm 36:5) and it’s depth to the deepest ocean (Jonah 2:3-6)? No wonder power is needed to strengthen us to understand that love! It is simply mind (and heart) blowing!

“How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?”
Lifehouse – Everything

My wife, Sara, spoke of this love that forcefully bursts into our world, that causes us to live and breathe differently (2 Corinthians 5:14).  Once we understand that our tiny hearts cannot even begin to contain that huge amount of perfect love, I believe our tiny hearts explode. Yes it does. It explodes. And the only way we can cope with it is to let it splatter everywhere. Thus begins our ministry of reconciliation.

I had lunch with Ps Dan Sheikh. What a lunch. Here are some highlights of our meeting.

“If you call yourself blessed because you have a house, a car, a wife, two kids and a boat, the unbeliever beside you is just as blessed. In fact, some of them are more blessed than you!”
Ps Dan, speaking about goals in life

“It was never meant to fit. Its like trying to put a square block into a round hole.”
Ps Dan, speaking about the incongruence between our life and God’s call

“Most people sitting in the church settled.”
Ps Dan, speaking about God’s call

I walked away with a sobering thought: what if we are settling?

Polka Dots and Moonbeams

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

I’ve finally moved to a new server and registered for a domain, coutesy of my friend Ganesh (www.bootstrike.com). He is awesome! If you are in Singapore and you’re geeky as me, check out his blog and website. He’s got tons of tech resources and more!

נהר הירדן

After listening to a sermon by Peter Tsukahira (www.godstsunami.com), I was struck by the meaning of River Jordan. Bible geography is probably one of my weakest areas, its about time I started looking at that.

The name of the Jordan is what sparked this interest. The name in Hebrew (ירדן) or Yarden (pronounced yar-dane), is derived from the root “to descend”. The name probably derived from it’s steep descent from Mount Hermon to the Dead Sea. Travelling a total of 251km (325km if calculating it’s length), it goes from a peak of 2814m (above sea) to -416m (below sea). The steepest descent happens at the upper section from Mount Hermon to Lake Huleh. Understanding the meaning behind the name gives added meaning to Jesus’ baptism.

Jesus was baptised by John in the river Jordan at 30 years of age (John 1:29-33, Matthew 3:13-16, Luke 3:21).

Jesus states that his baptism was to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). This is because the Mosaic Law required him to be baptised. According to the Levitical Law, the Levites who were set apart for God’s work (at the tent of meeting) was only to be between 30 to 50 years old, which Jesus was (Numbers 4:3, Numbers 4:30, Numbers 4:47, Numbers 8:23-26, Luke 3:23).  According to the example set forth by Moses and Aaron, they were also to be washed and anointed before entering their service (Exodus 29:4-7, Leviticus 8:6-30).

Also, Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. Who recognized himself as much lower than Jesus (Matthew 3:11, John 1:30). Afterall, John was no more than a normal human being, standing before the 100% God and 100% man Jesus. None the less, that was John’s calling (John 1:31). It was all part of what was prophesied about Jesus (Isaiah 9:1-2, Matthew 4:14-17).

How appropriate that Jesus had chosen the river called “to descend” to be the place where he was baptised to start his ministry. Just think: our great and almighty God, clothed as man, submitted himself to the religious laws (which he wrote to govern his people and to make himself known) and was baptised by human hands. He played by his own rules. He even submitted himself to be baptised by his creation! Imagine a pastor asking a 6 year old young believer to baptise him! How about asking your lego pieces that you play with to baptise you? Now imagine that God himself asked a mere human being to baptise him! What a picture of our great God descending to identify with our humanity! What a great way to start ministry!

أسامة بن محمد بن عوض بن لادن‎

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

I struggle as a Christian to respond to Osama Bin Laden’s death.

I do not have relatives or friends who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks. I have not had any friends or family die from terroism. I have not gone to war in Afghanistan or Pakistan as a soldier. But I am a citizen of this earth, living in a time when terrorism is real and living. I am first and foremost a Christian.

I remember the day when the twin towers collapsed. I got home late, at around 8-9pm. Just before opening the house door, I got a text from a friend saying, “Watch the TV, world war 3 just started.”. So I got home to see my family huddled around the TV looking at a blazing World Trade Center. That was scary, even from our extremely safe little apartment in Singapore.

It is strange seeing widespread rejoicing at one man’s death. NY Square and gound zero burst into party town. A sense of closure (we hope) is felt by victims of this wicked man’s actions. But don’t we look like the terrorist now? Osama killed for what he believed was true – his God. We retaliate for what we believe is true – justice and protection (James 4:1-3). As if it is a show of whose truth to be greater, surely God is on the side of whoever wins. USA has won! God has brought justice for the USA! He is with them! Doesn’t this go down to nationalism trumping faith? Or ethnocentricism trumping faith? footballism trumping faith? Which side has God’s favour? That isn’t really the issue, I just want to be on God’s side.

But what is God’s side? What should my response be as a Christian? Should I be happy or sad? Is God happy or sad? What is there to be happy about or sad about? Should I join in and rejoice? Is God shaking his head disapprovingly?

Proverbs 24:17-18 says “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.” Similarly, Ezekiel 18:23 says “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Soveign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.”

This same bible also says in Proverbs 11:10, “when the wicked perish, there are shouts of gladness.” and again in Proverbs 21:15 “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.”

“I’ve never wished a man dead, but I’ve read some obituaries with great pleasure.”
-Mark Twain

My first response was one of sadness. That we had repayed violence with violence. That we have actively sought to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10) another human being and we have taken justice into our own hands (Matthew 5:38-48). No matter how wicked a person is, he still is a person. One that God dearly loves and wish that they would not perish without having accepted Christ (2 Peter 3:9, John 3:16). The fact that he had died without first receiving Christ is not something to rejoice about. Hasn’t the story of Jonah taught us that God loves the people we hate?

Maybe God did give him time to repent. As one person said in a blog post, “In effect, God is so merciful that He gave Osama 10 years to repent.” True that. Osama played hide-and-seek for 10 years, I am sure it all happened within God’s sovereign plan. 10 years of God’s grace but Osama refused, so now God brings justice to Osama.

God has given the authority of justice to governments to protect their people (Romans 13:1-4). It is God’s grace that allows this, so that the lawless and wicked do not dominate the world. Certainly, evil doers need to be punished. This makes the war against terrorism perfectly fine becuase it’s motive is to protect the people. Osama’s death is simply part of God’s justice, acted out by governments.

“I can only think of one death that brough the world peace, and we celebrated that a week ago”
– Anonymous

Perhaps with the death of Osama, terrorism around the world will be given a big blow, protection can now be attanied for the world. The world can now enjoy greater peace. More people will be saved from one death. But are we not choosing the lesser of two evils? Choosing to commission the killing of one as a lesser evil than to allow the killing of many by ommission. Can we then kill in the name of protection? This looks dreadfully like vengence rather than justice to me. So was it man’s judgement (in the name of God) or God’s judgement (acted through man)? I don’t know, but surely our sovereign God allowed it.

Then again, don’t we all deserve death for our sin, however small compared to Osama’s (Romans 6:23)? Are we really any more righteous than Osama to pronounce a sentence of death on him (James 4:12)? He had a $25 million bounty on his head, that is worth much much more than mine. Does Osama’s killings justify us killing him? Certainly not.  I don’t believe that anyone has the right to kill anyone else, even for justice.

I resonate with this commentor on another blog who said “I also feel very saddened when people celebrate the killing of another person, no matter what the reason. Instead of celebration, it should be a time for somber reflection, and searching for another way to resolve our conflicts.” That being said, our fallen nature simply has not allowed alternative resolutions to conflicts, especially ones that are so complex as terrorism. Yes, we are so fallen that killing each other is sometimes the only resolution we can come up with.

I am not happy that justice is served in this way. I am not happy that a wicked man has died without having received Christ.

Let me sum it up for you: justice doesn’t bring a dead person back, redemption does.

More reading:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/mayweb-only/osama-justice.html?start=1
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/mayweb-only/osama-donotgloat.html
http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/is-god-glad-osama-bin-ladens-dead