I Love God but Don’t Give a Damn About His Creation

port-dickson-beach2

One the adjunct lecturer in MBS, Dr Mark Lovett was one of the speakers in a conference entitled “Challenges facing Christian Leadership in Malaysia Today.” His session focused on “Leadership in Environmental Issues” and it was good.

One of the parody’s about being Christian and saying that we love God and everything, we have no time to think about being care takers of his world and earth. I’m not sure why this is. I mean we read Genesis 1-2 but focus our attention more on 3. An over emphasis on chapter 3 leads to the idea that it is only humanity who get prior attention  in the drama of redemption. Here are the notes I scribbled while listening…

Why us?

1. The Earth is the Lord’s (Deut 10:14; 1 Chron 29:11; Ps 24:1)

2  God Loves this World (Gen 1:31; Deut 11:12; John 3:16 [an article I wrote])

*It is interesting to note in Rev 11:18 that God would destroy those who destroy the earth!

3. Mandate to care for creation

-Gen 1:26: Being made in the image of God means exercising dominion in the context of God’s will. But do we do this well?

-Gen 2:15

 

Finding Certain Echoes of Philippians 2:6-8 in 1:12-27

The very thing that hampers unity is the self; selfish ambitions inhibiting individual persons. This causes fragmentation of a team, group, a unit, in moving purposefully towards a goal. If situations such as this happens it will ultimately lead to failure and disintegration of the group.

Paul calls for unity among the believers in Phillipi (e.g. Phil 4:2). He firstly points to the shared benefits in Jesus experienced by the believers found in 2:1 to be joined together with them being united together in 2:2. All this points to unity. In verse 3 it is the self disconnected from the plight of the community that causes friction and eventual death of unity.

Paul points to the attitude of the mind in Christ as a ‘remedy’ to how they should be in relation with each other. With this we can ask questions such as “What sort of attitude is needed or spoken of here? Is it humility, servant-hood, obedience which is taken in the context of Jesus’ relationship to the Father?”

Earlier, if we read through 1:12-27 we can find echoes of Paul’s own example as he lays out 2:6-8, in that we find Paul’s resolute obedience and his servant-hood towards Jesus and the Gospel, being a humble follower regardless of the hardships experienced by him.

In 1:12-14 we find Paul telling them of his imprisonment. It did not hamper him nor the Gospel message he was entrusted to proclaim and defend. Instead his situation advanced the Gospel as people come to know that he was put in prison because of Jesus. And in his imprisonment also it made others more bold in proclaiming the Gospel.

In v.15-18, the plight of others did not dampen him. So were said to speak out of motives of rivalry as opposed to some who had pure ones. But Paul doesn’t seem to care that much as long as Christ is preached, and he seems to be joyful of that.

In v.18b-26, Paul is certain that through prayer he will be delivered. But he seems to have two implied meanings to it. Either delivered physically or spiritually. But it seems this did not bother him. Because in v.21 he said “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

In v.27-30 Paul urges them, the Philippians to live lives worthy of the Gospel. This should not be done sparingly but whatever situations the call to do so still applies. Examples of this can be seen in v.29 or in 4:13.

In these progressive verses we see a man who is a servant, humble and obedient to the plan of God; of the Gospel. It talks about someone whose attitude has been engulfed and taken captive by Christ. An attitude needed for Gospel advancement and to proclaim Jesus as Lord.

Coming back to 2:6-8, Jesus’ attitude was that of being at one in purpose for God’s plan, in that it required a single minded devotion to it. And so in Jesus’ attitude to God’s plan he humbled himself, found in the form of a servant, he obeyed to the point of death on a cross. Jesus was without any self motives of his own, he abandoned that and put on an attitude that complied with God.

So, it comes again to us, the question about attitude needed for unity. Sure humility is needed, sure servant-hood is needed, sure obedience is needed but we have to come to see them as having a purposeful end. Being humble for the sake of being humble is nothing, and that applies to being a servant and obedience as well. I see it more like Paul telling them, in keeping united, in one mind, it is for the sake of the Gospel, for the plan of God to ‘succeed.’

The call for us to be a community that is united is not for maintaining harmony or peace but for the sake of proclaiming the message. Without unity, no one will see the message. Without unity the message cannot be carried out. It is for the sake of Jesus we remain a community for the Gospel.

Going Green?

Going Green is the new fad .Well, it’s something I hear emphasized constantly from movie stars, to big name companies and even now in christian circles as well (which is a good thing because the implication of God as creator is that we as his followers are to love his creation and take care of it).

Saturdays, as it is mentioned in supermarkets is no plastic bag day. A call to going green but the funny thing is that there is an option for customers to purchase plastics if they wanted. So with the intent of ‘saving the enviroment,’ the option of being able to purchase plastic bags is a contribution to the big money-making supermarkets to make profits out of selling their plastic bags. Another way of going green I figure.

Famous stars on TV are also advocates of going green, and saving the environment. With tips such as using light bulbs that are environmentally friendly to driving cars that are of that category as well are some suggestions given. But with the people, their houses get bigger and their spending mount up more than their call of going green.

Picking up a public worldwide initiative of turning the lights out for an hour is a good way of starting a habit that would contribute for nationwide awareness of saving energy. But such is the case of public display of good intent, it always stays that way. Nothing much is contributed. No one ever applauds nations where electricity is scarce and the thought about saving energy is not something done but something they live with daily.

I guess I’m probably cynical at all these efforts, not because they have no good intent. But the thing that makes me cringe with disappointment is that I feel there needs to be more serious suggestion made if people are really serious about going green and saving the environment. Simply just being voices does not mount up to sustaining intent of being proactively involved on a prolonged basis of going green.

Some Thoughts on Preaching

Preaching is not something I will ever get used to. It is not something that I’m good at. It is something which I constantly tremble with, maybe because I’m not so much a fan of public speaking and the thought of everyone listening intently to what I’m saying is not something I would get used to (or maybe that will be lessened through time).

But graduating and getting my diploma in theology I had to go through countless transitioning to somehow develop a way of communicating. Well I still haven’t got any advice to give yet because it is something that I’m still struggling with. Personally, after every experience given to me to preach, I am my worst critique (well sometimes I try to be satisfied). It’s not that I take lightly that God can work through whatever I talked about but that personally I believe that preachers have a responsibility themselves to do their best to communicate the message.

Sometimes there are some that (this is said in a sad note) who take their responsibility in preaching lightly. Some don’t want to improve the way they preach, may it be in their preparation or method of communication. Not taking into consideration the people whom they are communicating to. Some see the most important thing is just prayer and just preaching. The important thing is just speaking and God will work through the message. So in that understanding the preacher can just ramble on and say they are preaching the word of God.

I feel this is not taking your responsibility as a preacher of scripture in a serious manner. In our setting time to pray and seek God and the leading of the Spirit, there is such a thing as diligent study and the task of developing the skill of communicating. Well, this is something I get frustrated with most of the time, not because I’m a good preacher and that people can follow my way. It is simply disappointing for a preacher to take his responsibility lightly.

For me, if you always feel satisfied, only the gush of being pumped up, feeling always uplifted after every illustration, feeling like you were uttering only God’s words through your voice, and get irritated when people talk less about your sermon, there is a tendency that you are not taking your responsibility as a preacher in a serious manner. I’m not at all talking about being constantly depressed after every done sermon but a constant somber reflection on how we did our work and looking constantly for room to improve.

When Books are Expensive

As a book lover I find it hard to bring myself to convince myself that sometimes it is OK to walk out of the bookstore empty-handed. I manage to calm myself down sometimes but the task gets harder when there are good new books around.

Today for that manner, having some cash which I try my best to spend wisely, I went to the local Christian bookstore to see what they have in store. I haven’t visited the place for a month so I wondered if new shipments have arrived. And as I entered I saw some books that caught my attention. Two for that manner which were Ben Witherington’s “The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical World of the New Testament, Vol 1: The Individual Witnesses” which cost RM 140++ and John Goldingay’s “Old Testament Theology Vol. 3: Israel’s Life” which cost somewhere around RM 120++. By the way RM stands for Ringgit Malaysia which is our Malaysian currency.

I asked the person at the counter if they were able to reserve the copy for me. He said sure but they could only hold it for two weeks. I quickly searched for the calculator function on my hand-phone as I’m not a good mathematician unlike Aggie (She loves math which I practically clueless about). From my calculation it looks like I have to find ways to cut my expenditures which has to do with eating. I don’t eat much anyway.

Although money is a problem it does help you take the time to think what you actually are buying and if it is something you need, something like a necessity. But sometimes I kid myself that the things I want are always necessities which is bad.

But this is just a side note to what I would like to encourage the church out there if you have theological student who struggle to make ends meet and in the end have to struggle through to purchase books that are expensive, to help them by setting aside some money for them for buying books. Maybe a group could pitch in and this would help a lot. If you would like to see competent scholars and theologians leading the church why not help them in this area?

Regretting Greek?

I have a lot of frustration reading commentaries because of the problem where whenever there are citation of Greek words about a passage comes up in the explanation, I lose my train of thought and I have to go over rereading the passage in the commentary again. I have a problem with commentaries but I have to read them and compare ideas of different authors on the meaning of the text over against ideas I get from my own readings based on the text and the overriding context. The initial stages are always the hardest but I like when clouded vision becomes clear vision.

The above ‘excuse’ is part of the reason I got myself signed up for Greek 1 this semester in seminary, to curb the constant frustration i have with a hope of reading commentaries with more fluidity rather than constantly hitting a brick wall.

I have to say that the initial stages of learning was great. I did well and all that but I think now a form of brooding voice of regret is constantly ringing in my mind to quit. I’m finding it difficult to understand English technical methods of explaining Greek grammar. I’m not so familiar with all these things and somewhere along the line I think I’m just some dumb student who has a problem with English grammar because I don’t understand most of the terms.

Am I at the point of regretting the whole idea of studying biblical Greek? I was but just toying with the idea. I can read some of the words and that is good already, but I need to improve. But I hope to get my hands on this book which I saw online form Zondervan entitled “English Grammar to Ace New Testament Greek

For the Love of Books

I get a kick when the week comes to a halt and its the weekend. Its when i religiously make my way to the city to bury my head in books in the bookstores.

My habit is to dash to the religious corner first and scale every shelf from top to bottom moving slowly reading titles as if they were supposed to be browsed that way. Once i’m done doing that, I browse books by publishers and then by subject manner. I do it as often as I enter a bookshop. So with that discipline I know roughly where a particular title is supposed to be. I guess i do that because I worked in a bookstore for two years. Maybe that is the reason behind the ritual I play by.

After enough browsing religious books I start to browse other genres. Well mainly novels that is. I think the love of novels has become a new obsession, one that I’m relishing at the moment. A while back I posted on two novels i’m reading and I think I’m getting the hand of reading them.

But for all the love of reading comes sacrifice and that has to do with the discipline of using money. I think that is the only drawback to this hobby, at least for me that is. A student does not earn and if he does earn he earns enough to survive on food and transportation and emergencies. So, what i do is always calculate and justify if a book is worth the money i have in my wallet. It is a problem if I overspend. If that happens, well there will be less food on the platter to make the stomach happy. Well, i guess thats not too much of a problem because I think we tend to eat more that we are supposed to anyway.

Some Days

Some days nothing much happens, just the slow progress of writing a paper and packing for a retreat tomorrow. I think that all that scattering has dented reflection and its hard to write when the mind is occupied and constantly moving.

Some days, some people just think about themselves and leave stuff cluttering around. We all have responsibilities which we should take care of. I have tons unfinished but thats not an excuse for me to lurk and sink like a submarine. Its better to get the hands dirty and do what we are supposed to do.

Some days, hunger pangs are like ringing alarm bells going berserk. I’m not hungry but I just want to eat. And somehow the mind tries to justify and give good reasons to dine. I did not eat much today, i just had to make that clear though.

Some days, sitting in front of the computer with a tall stack of books at the side, no idea gets to be typed or gets saved. Well all i had today was just a full page with no footnote. I wish sometimes we could do away with them. But thats just a minor complaint i have there.

Some days, we get transported in the past and its just that. Well just a shallow remembrance of what happened. Well its not that i intentionally try to think about it but these things happen without a reason.

Some days I’m less inspired. it seem as though now my thinking habits have slowed down. The ones that carries me with some good questions and probing but somehow I fell that I’ve lost the spark. I hope not though. I hope its just a ‘some days’ thing.

Well some days are just plain mundane and sometimes they are not.

When the Pessimist in Me Comes Around

Times when i don’t want to be in the thick of things are times when people assume i don’t take any care for responsibility. Sometimes we work hard to meet deadlines on responsibilities and they always keep me awake most nights. I rehearse how I would approach each situation beforehand not wanting to look dumb when I approach to do things.

These things get to me. They seem to be the things that stain my day. I’m happy if i got assignments and all that, its the gritty things, the stuff that make life moving that sometimes drag me. Its the mundane things that seem to make life a chore and irritating. It would be good to somehow erase these things but they are the stuff that allows things to move and have their being.

At the back of my mind thought, i have to confess is its failure or the mere thought of failing that bugs me and somewhat deprives me of joy. I am anyway a pessimist at best. Its that feeling that keeps nagging and whispering everyday that somehow numbs my attention to detail and shuts my well oiled engines to run.

Having anxiety attacks sucks big time.