My First Year in Theology School

Before you know it, one year has passed. I previously wrote my first month review here. This second half was not a lot harder but much busier with more school commitments. Let me share some new lessons that impacted me greatly.

1. Own Your Theology

I’m not talking about making up your own theology but that you need time to wrestle with theological issues. There are a plethora of views for each doctrine, verse, and even word. Scholars can’t come to a mutual agreement so what is the student to do? For one, don’t accept blindly what you are taught. You got to go back to the source (ad fontes) the Word of God to find the answer. If you struggle reaching a proper conclusion that your conscience allows, struggle some more. Struggling shapes your critical thinking in ways that will help you later.

Until you have struggled sufficiently, you have not owned it.  Until you’ve owned it, you cannot live it. Until you’ve lived it, you cannot teach it. Like the Bereans, they checked whether what Paul taught was in line with the Scriptures. Imagine that! They even checked the Apostle Paul. We must have the same attitude.

Acts 17:11

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

2. Don’t Bury Yourself in Books

It’s important to be reading books. There are tons of reading material assigned for each module and it’s hard to keep up sometimes. It’s tempting to skip a chapel, a coffee, a family group or a gym workout just to study. Well, don’t! There must be a balance in your lifestyle. Seminary is not all about studying and cramming as much information into your brain. Building relationships, having fun, and praying are all important to a holistic spiritual formation.

I often hang out for a drink in a nearby shop with a few classmates just to talk about reports, relationships, or just pray. I believe head knowledge is insufficient to survive in ministry. You need heart knowledge too. Having good relationships might even trump knowledge in the ministry. How do you relate to others? Do you see classmates as rivals, as irritants, or as family? Will you help a weaker classmate?

When I look at Jesus, a certain event touches me greatly. He wanted to bring his disciples to an isolated place to rest and relax. However, the crowds caught wind of it and followed him all the way there. But Jesus wasn’t angry for interrupting his rest. His compassion drove him to teach them and later on, feed them with two loaves and five fishes. Jesus was the ultimate source of knowledge. But he also was the ultimate source of love. He never turned anyone away. He made time for them. We need to keep this balance too.

3. Learn to Serve

Serving is one of the ways to grow. This half of the semester, I joined the Community Living committee and we’ve planned a few events so far. I believed it has helped me to grow by working with others and seeing the events foster unity in the community. It has also taught me new skills such as planning and budgeting. Thankfully, I work with two great brothers who help complement my weaknesses in many ways!

Serving in student council is an exposure to future appointments we might take up in the future. It allows others to observe our skills, abilities and weaknesses. All these help us to grow if we have a humble attitude to learn. Without serving, students are dangerously close to becoming armchair practitioners who know a lot about things “in theory”. My advice is to serve!

Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Earth

A prayer for our earth

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All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

Pope Francis, Laudato si, 2015.

Dancing with Great Abandon

For a long time, I felt great restraint in church. I was taught to be a good boy, sitting quietly through sermons or singing mildly during worship. Hands were clasped behind my back like a soldier or in front like a footballer protecting their crotch during a free kick. That was all part of the Christian act.

Of course, I wasn’t an emotionless robot. Outside church, I screamed and yelled while watching basketballs passing through hoops. I danced to the gyrating rhythms of rock music in my bedroom. It was a different place, you understand, worshipping God was different.

Or is it just me? King David shows the way to behave in a church.

It was reported to King David that God had prospered Obed-Edom and his entire household because of the Chest of God. So David thought, “I’ll get that blessing for myself,” and went and brought up the Chest of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David, celebrating extravagantly all the way, with frequent sacrifices of choice bulls. David, ceremonially dressed in priest’s linen, danced with great abandon before God. The whole country was with him as he accompanied the Chest of God with shouts and trumpet blasts. But as the Chest of God came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, happened to be looking out a window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before God, her heart filled with scorn.

2 Samuel 6:14-16 (The Message)

David had great cause for celebration – the Ark of the Covenant (along with God’s blessing) was coming into town! Note how Eugene Peterson describes the celebration.

Even David, dressed in priestly robe, danced. I love how he danced: “danced with great abandon before God.” He didn’t care who was watching. He didn’t care if it cost him his reputation. All he knew was he was filled with so much joy that he had to dance. Not dancing would have betrayed the joy he felt inside.

David might have been kicked out of my church for dancing like that. His wife, Michal, was disgusted and embarrassed by the way he danced. Why? Some commentators think that by dancing wildly in a priestly gown, David exposed his private part in public. Whatever the case, her heart was filled with scorn instead of joy. Instead of focusing on the ark and the glory of God, she focussed on their reputation and image. Some people are like Michal too – they scorn worshippers who lift their hands, dance, jump or cry. God judged Michal with barrenness, a terrible curse for a woman in those days. David did not care. Check it out here:

David returned home to bless his family. Michal, Saul’s daughter, came out to greet him: “How wonderfully the king has distinguished himself today–exposing himself to the eyes of the servants’ maids like some burlesque street dancer!” David replied to Michal, “In GOD’s presence I’ll dance all I want! He chose me over your father and the rest of our family and made me prince over GOD’s people, over Israel. Oh yes, I’ll dance to GOD’s glory –more recklessly even than this. And as far as I’m concerned…I’ll gladly look like a fool…but among these maids you’re so worried about, I’ll be honored no end.” Michal, Saul’s daughter, was barren the rest of her life.

2 Samuel 6:20-23

I recently attended a Palm Sunday service where we were given palm branches to wave. I waved it excitedly, not bothering what others would say. I would have waved it wider if it wasn’t so cramp in the hall. Others weren’t so keen though. Youths were standing dazed and bored during worship. Some scrolled through their phones mindlessly, waiting for a notification.

I wonder if we have lost the excitement for Jesus and what he did for us. Shouldn’t his coming to earth, death and resurrection cause us to celebrate wildly (not mildly)? Shouldn’t we dance with great abandon before God like David did? Shouldn’t we ignore the Michals who scorn us for celebrating?

May God open your eyes to see his glory and greatness so that you be filled with joy. Leave your reputation and image at the door. Worship isn’t about you. It’s about God. Celebrate what He has done for you. Dance with great abandon before God. And when you’re done dancing, live with great abandon before God.

​Where Do You Find Your Strength?

David and his men had just returned to Ziglak and found that their camp had been raided by the Amalekites. It was razed to the ground. All their women and children were taken away.

1 Samuel 30:4

So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.

Their first response was to weep in sorrow. It was so painful that they wept till no more strength remained. Even David’s wives were taken away. It’s okay to cry. After the sadness came anger. They blamed David their leader for this calamity. Some considered stoning him.

1 Samuel 30:6

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God.

David was stressed beyond limits. He was responsible for the lives in his camp. He might have just given up hope of ever seeing his family again. Thankfully, he didn’t. It’s in the word “but”.

But David found strength in the God. He didn’t look to positive psychology or chugging alcohol to drown his sorrows. He looked for the only source of strength – God.

What do you do when you’re running on empty? Turn to God just like David did. And when he found his strength in God’s love and faithfulness, he took action. He was not paralysed in depression, whining “Poor me, why me?”

1 Samuel 30:7a

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, “Bring me the ephod.”

David sought God’s direction on how to resolve this issue. God promised him success. So his men hunted down and destroyed the Amalekites. Everyone got back his loved one intact.

1 Samuel 30:18-19

David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back.

What can we learn from how David handled stress?

1. Find your strength in God.

2. Ask God how to resolve the issue.

3. Obey God and reap success.

Respecting the Elderly

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I recently visited All Saints nursing home that is run by Christians. It is significantly cleaner and more joyful than other homes that I been to previously. They aim to show God’s compassion and love to all the residents there. One of their key verses that motivates this place is Leviticus 19:32.

You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

God commands the Jews to show respect for the elderly by standing up. We are to honour them and speak respectfully to them. The ones that we come into contact most frequently are our parents and relatives. We dishonour God when we argue, scold or curse our parents.

I know a youth in my Sunday School who habitually berates his mother in public for being clumsy or stupid. Sadly, the father doesn’t scold him and the abuse continues unchecked. I cringe each time I see this happen.

Paul reminds children to be obedient to their parents in Ephesian 6:2-3:

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

There are many Mosiac Laws that punish people who curse their parents. This shows that God wants Christians to respect and take care of the elderly. They are weaker physically but much wiser than us. We can learn a lot from them.

Elderly residents in the nursing home are lonely and can become easily depressed. We can show our respect by visiting or spending time to chat. This pleases God too.

“Today’s Problems Come From Yesterday’s Solutions”

Image result for peter senge

In Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, he introduces the concept of System Level Thinking. One of the first principles is this:

Today’s Problems Come From Yesterday’s Solutions.

Senge highlights solutions that led to other problems due to the interconnectedness of systems. As one part changes, other parts correspondingly adjusts to it. He writes:

Police enforcement officials will recognize their own version of this law: arresting narcotics dealers on Thirtieth Street, they find that they have simply transferred the crime center to Fortieth Street. Or, even more insidiously, they learn that a new citywide outbreak of drug-related crime is the result of federal officials intercepting a large shipment of narcotics–which reduced the drug supply, drove up the price, and caused more crime by addicts desperate to maintain their habit.

Solutions that merely shift problems from one part of a system to another often go undetected because, unlike the rug merchant, those who “solved” the first problem are different from those who inherit the new problem (57-58).

Foresight is needed to think long-term and how systems eventually react. The solutions we propose might make today’s problems even worse. Some solutions on first glance doesn’t seem to make sense, but it works. We see two innovative applications in 1) Big game hunting and 2) Drugs.

1) Sustainable Big-Game Hunting Saves Animals (read article HERE)

In the case of trophy hunting, allow hunting to continue, interestingly, saves animals. What some hunters have done is to buy a land and allow sustainable hunting of animals. Sustainable is the operative word here. It provides a win-win solution for big game hunters and local hunters. However, animal activists in their emotionalism reject any form of hunting. Statistics show that when animal hunting is banned, illegal poachers kill even more elephants for their ivory tusks. The animal lovers have killed more animals in the process.

2) Monitored Drug Use Sites Saves Lives (read article HERE)

We know drug usage is bad. Many have died on overdose and also because of late treatment. Intuition tells us to ban all drug usage. No drugs, no drug overdose, no deaths. Simple isn’t it? Think again. That could lead to other problems as Senge brought up such as black market trafficking and illegal usage of drugs in far locations. Starting “Safe Drug Consumption” sites to monitor drug usage apparently works. The author writes:

By providing a safe atmosphere and stable access to services, we can help those struggling with substance use disorder to establish positive relationships with service providers, build trust and begin tackling the challenges in their lives, including substance use.

These support systems reduce drug related deaths. This doesn’t mean that drugs are condoned.

I was chatting to a pastor recently and he found this phrase applies to Christian ministry also. He tells me, “Guns were once used for protection, now they have gun problems. Cars were useful for transportation, now they pollute and cause accidents.” He explains that our traditional understanding of segmenting children, youth, adults and seniors might have been a solution in the past. Now it creates a new problem of transitions. How do you transit youths into adult services? They end up bored and leave church. Possibly, having an inter-generational service might solve this problem. But other issues would crop up. Would adults adapt to style of contemporary youth worship?

Today’s Problems Come From Yesterday’s Solutions.

Why Didn’t Jesus Activate the Divine Cheat Code?

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (1999) was my go to game during my younger days. I particularly enjoyed the campaign mode where you could relive epic battles of Saladin, Joan of Arc and Barbarossa. Another thing about me: I use cheat codes when I can’t win. There’s this cheat code that spawns a blue Shelby Cobra fitted with machine guns. Imagine a gun-toting car laying waste to knights and catapults in medieval Europe! 

One of the campaigns in Joan of Arc was particularly brutal and I was being trashed. So I activated a dozen Cobra cars to decimate the hordes of enemies. It worked. But the campaign just didn’t end. I was stumped. I razed every single thing but I couldn’t win. What was happening?

I reloaded the level and tried again, this time losing the battle without my cars. And I thought I had to restart. Surprisingly, the game moved on with the storyline. Joan of Arc was supposed to lose. Using the cheat codes I changed the tide of history. 

This strangely helps me understand Jesus’s divine and human nature during the Incarnation. He was 100% God and 100% Man. But while on earth, Jesus relied on his human nature and suppressed his divine attributes. He didn’t code-switch at will. The Holy Spirit enabled and empowered him to perform miracles.

We see this in the temptation of Jesus(Luke 4). Satan wanted Jesus to break his humanity by turning stones into bread to satiate his hunger. Jesus would have to use his divine power. Jesus refused. He could have but he didn’t. That would be like using a cheat code to activate the divine. 

Another incident was when the Chief Priests and elders were arresting Jesus in the garden (Matt 26). Peter tried to fight against the guards and Jesus stopped him. He said:

Matthew 26:53-54 

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?

Jesus could have called 72,000 angels to save him! But that would abort his mission of dying on a cross for us. When I activated the cheat code, history would have taken a turn. Joan of Arc was supposed to lose. Jesua was supposed to die. Activating his divine attributes would take him down a path that the Father never intended. Thank God that Jesus resisted all temptation to abuse his divine nature in order that we might be saved!

John Wimber’s 5-Step Model for Healing Prayer

I was miraculously healed as a baby by the prayers of my parents and pastor. You can read it in my testimony where I detailed the whole event. I believe God still heals today. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb 13:8). I write more about God’s PHD (preaching, healing, deliverance) program here.

In my search about healing prayers, I came across John Wimber’s 5-step model for healing prayers. It is not a formula that manipulates God but rather a guide. God is the only one that heals, not the person praying. We are merely a conduit.

Step 1: The Interview

Introduce yourself, ask for their name.

Where does it hurt or what would you like me to pray for?

Natural level – what can you see?

Supernatural – ask God for Words of Knowledge, discernment, visions, words

It’s not a medical interview- get the facts

Move to the next stage when ready – you know the cause, God tells you what to do

Step 2: The Diagnosis

Why do they have this condition?

Natural causes – disease, accident

Sin – committed by them or against them

Emotional hurts causing physical or other pain

Relationship problems – lack of forgiveness

Supernatural – may be demonic

Keep asking for God’s help.

Ask them questions if appropriate.

Step 3: Prayer Selection

What kind of prayer shall I pray to help this person?

Ask the Holy Spirit to come and minister to the person

Body – lay on hands and ask for God to heal

Keep praying.

Command of faith Acts 3:6

Pronouncement – of faith John 4:50

Demonic – rebuke (break their power) bind them(contain) expel (get rid)

Step 4: Prayer engagement

How are you doing?

Watch for the effects – keep your eyes open! Phenomenological signs (warmth, tingling, shaking etc)

Ask questions – find out what God is doing

Stop when – they think it’s all over, the Spirit tells you it’s over, you’ve run out of things to pray, when it’s going nowhere.

Remove your hands, talk to them to indicate you are stopping

Step 5: Post-Prayer Direction

What should they do to keep their healing? ‘Stop sinning’ John 5:14

Read their Bibles, spend time with God

Get involved or keep involved in the local church

Ask them to check with their doctor first. Don’t tell them to stop their medicine.

And if they’re not healed?

Reassure them that God loves them and encourage them to keep on asking. God is sovereign and may choose to heal them at another time.

What should you do if you feel like nothing is happening in your life?

Great post by my brother Sean. Enjoy!

Last Sunday I had the privilege to be teaching a Sunday school class about the life of David. There are a ton of things we can learn from David’s life, but I found one to be particularly rele…

Source: What should you do if you feel like nothing is happening in your life?