Sunday, 21 November 2010

Faith and doubt

Sometimes, talking to her makes me doubt the veracity of my own experiences. It's as if the things that I feel regarding doubt, as strong as they may be, never registers with her because of the assumption that because I was born in a Christian family, I would never have faced the same kind of issues regarding doubt that someone coming from a non-Christian family, or someone who has faced great trials and tribulations would have faced. It's like a slap in the face to be told that I just don't understand. (Mentally I tag on the words and don't pretend that you do).

I am an Isaac. That in itself is true, and the testimony of my much-blessed life is a testimony of His faithfulness to my parent's work and prayers and diligence. It is true that I stand on the shoulders of giants, which makes reaching for God (and the stars) much easier because I am that much nearer, I have that much inheritance of strength and faith and love. It remains true that many privileges of making ministry work is because people know me and know of me through my father and they are willing to take me on that trust, at least at the initial stages. I grew up knowing many things about faith and ministry that many of my peers are just discovering now. I tend to come out of conferences going well, I knew that already where others are going woah, that's new!

Still, at the same time, there remains a dichotomy of being. There is a warring of the soul that says I believe and yet I'm not sure that I really do.
I may not be able to say that I have gone through a traumatic hospital experience, praying for loved ones to get healed and struggling with faith regarding God's power to heal. It could be something to do with my cynicism regarding the pursuit of miracle healings in the first place. I believe in realism, that you need to prepare yourself for the worst possible outcome, and yet to hope that God will do something. And whilst realism on one hand negates the faith that you think you should be having, doesn't that make the room for hope all the more?

That feeling is one that I am familiar with. The one where you know you should have faith, but you don't. The one where you think that God won't work if you don't have faith, and yet your faith falters and shatters to crystals on the floor. The one where you're going God, haven't I prayed enough? Don't you love me enough to make this happen? Or are you not powerful/loving enough? Or have I done something wrong? It's living with two realities, something that every person of the faith should be living in. It's knowing this hurts; this isn't right; and asking why God isn't doing anything about it - but it's also at the same time affirming (even if it's only with your mind) that God is all-powerful and all-sovereign and doesn't have to act the way we expect Him to, because this is coming to terms with Lordship

It's the ability to say I don't know if it's true even whilst you acknowledge that God has been and is working good in my life. It's being able to say I don't have all the answers, something that church has always secretly taught us not to admit. It's being able to sing Your Kindness is forever, Your goodness is forever, Your mercy is forever when nothing in your life is going right and doesn't seem like it will ever make good. It's being truthful enough to say I'm not sure I really believe whilst allowing that core of your being that does to hold you in check and declare but I have decided that I believe and I will set my sights on what I know is true and right and constant, even if I can't explain how I know it.


And sometimes faith on a string is enough.


It's just enough to be strong
In the broken places, in the broken places
It's just enough to be strong
Should the world rely on faith tonight
Faith Enough; Jars of Clay 

Sunday, 31 October 2010

salt and light

We were talking about being salt and light, thinking of practical things we can do in the coming week to make an impact in the lives of our friends and family. Simple as that. We've talked about this in iBridge camp on a slightly larger scale - practical things that we can do to make a difference in the different spheres of our nation, i.e. politics, economy, health care, social works (I can't remember the other one). 

These problems seem really big. I mean, you start thinking about it, and you get frightened. It's overwhelming. You look at the forest and go woah, and what were we supposed to do again? But frankly, it isn't our job or our responsibility to change the whole world overnight. It isn't our job to overhaul the system. We can't. The system is rotten and we know it. But right now, with the resources we have, we just cannot change it.
However, what we know is this: if enough people do something about it (or even say something about it), things will change. It's not good enough to say that the system is rotten and it's not fair. We know that. The question is, what are you going to do about it? It only takes a single stone to start and avalanche (or maybe a single snow ball). It doesn't seem dangerous when it starts but it gets big pretty quickly and that really changes things.  
It really isn't any use lamenting the fact that we know that these things aren't good and fair and complaining or wondering why those with the power aren't doing anything about it. We know they aren't, and probably won't unless a miracle happens (we can pray). We know they have too much interested vested in it. It doesn't work to go, "but well, if I were the son of the MP/person in charge/person with power I would do something" because they too have a vested interest in keeping the status quo.  
But the best way to make sure that the people put in charge really do the right thing is not to sit around and complain about it. It's to go out there and give your opinion loud enough so that they have to listen. It may even be about replacing those people in charge with the right ones who will do something. 
It isn't easy and it isn't safe. But doing the right thing isn't about being safe. I can't remember who said it at camp, but he said if you're doing something right... expect to get into trouble. Why? Because all those who have interests vested in it aren't going to be happy. And they're going to try their best to shut you up. The thing is, it's never going to change if we never do anything. And if enough people do something, no matter how small, things WILL change. 
How was slavery abolished? By one guy constantly bugging the parliament and attempting to garner support in bugging the parliament. How did the Missionaries of Charity get started? By one woman doing all she could in the slums of India. It works everywhere else... why not with Malaysia?

The problem with Malaysia now... is really our mindsets. 
I guess it stood out extra clearly to me today during our discussion as one guy kept going on about how the system is rotten and how we can't do anything about the system being rotten. What we kept telling him was that yes, we know the system is rotten and we can't do anything about it now, BUT if everyone of us just starts doing the small things that we can do (for example, vote. Or even just helping out in social work, or getting involved in ministries that help the poor and the broken and the migrants) then something will start to change. Even if we can't change everything for everyone, at least that one person you are able to help will have received what he needed. Even if the other 49 still can't fish, at least there is one more person who can fish, and who can help in the work. 
He just couldn't accept that. He kept going on about how it's not his responsibility. He has done his part by paying his taxes and the government should do that bit. To each his own, and let each man decide for himself what he should do. It smacks of selfishness, but we really are selfish people. We want to have our cake and eat it. We want to complain about the state of things but expect that other people will fix it for us. We don't want to get our hands dirty. If I could generalise, I'd say that our age is an age of irresponsibility. We've learnt to pass the buck so well, that we don't know where it stops. 
Our reply to this was fine, to each his own. You decide that you can't do anything and you will not be part of the solution, then that's up to you. We believe that by just doing the little that we can, it will help be a part of the solution (erroneous or not) but we'll take up that responsibility to do that bit. 

I think what really clinched it for me today was the idea of functionality. We normally talk a lot about the analogy of salt and light; salt as a preservative, an aid to healing, a purifier, giving taste and light to show the way, drawing people and giving hope. But we hardly ever think about the fact that salt and light just has a very clear purpose. True, it's wonderful that there are so many things to say about salt and light. The fact remains that for it to just be useful, it has to be used. 
There's no point in having a lit candle if it's already in the light. No one can see it then. For the candle (torchlight for modernity's sake?) to be useful, to serve its purpose it has to be in the dark. And no matter how small or unstable it is, as long as it's there, someone can see. 
For salt to preserve or to heal wounds, or give taste, it has to be in that meat. And meat is by nature, messy and bloody. And if you cook it, it's going to be hot. 

The fact remains that perfection is never going to come in this lifetime. The question is, do you just accept that it isn't and then do NOTHING about it, or do you still do your best to at least get nearer?

Then again, this is just talk. This is just another blog post. What then will we - I - do to make the difference we are talking about? That's where the rubber hits the road, innit?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Shout of the King

The shout of the King is among us
God lives here in our praises
The shout of the King is among us
Praise Him, praise Him
Praise Him in everything
Shout of the King, Blessed 2002 (Hillsong)
The shout of the King, the Son of God
Your presence now here with us
The sound of praise all in a name
Jesus Christ, the one who saves
Shout of the King, Matt Maher
I think I got a little hot under the collar (assuming I was wearing one) at the implication in a not-so-recent worship leader's meeting where someone said something to the effect that all song writers are theologically unsound. I'm probably exaggerating. The fact remains that he DID say something to that effect and the way the senior pastor responded, it sounded like he agreed. (If you think that way, why are you a worship leader and why do you bother with worship in song? I mean, it's all "EMOTIONAL" AND "ARTISTIC" isn't it?)

One such song he brought up was Hillsong's The Shout of the King. He said that 'shout to the Lord' makes perfect sense because we lift up shouts of praise to God. But where does God shout? Why would God shout? Two things that irritated me was the fact that I know that all Hillsongs songs ARE vetted by the senior pastor (or at least the pastoral team) before they are approved and sung, which means that this can't be very far off, even if it was in someways made more "artistic". Secondly, I was relatively sure that I had read this somewhere in the Bible before because I really loved this song and had searched a lot of stuff about it.

Well, it appears in Numbers 23:21:
"He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The Lord his God is with him, And the shout of a King is among them."
Bible study tools has this to say:
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob-Many sins were observed and punished in this people. But no such universal and hopeless apostasy had as yet appeared, to induce God to abandon or destroy them.
the Lord his God is with him-has a favor for them.
and the shout of a king is among them-such joyful acclamations as of a people rejoicing in the presence of a victorious prince.
With Gill's exposition as follows:
and the shout of a king is among them;
of God their King, the Shechinah of their King, as the Targum of Onkelos; his glorious Majesty, to whom they make their joyful acclamations, upon his appearing among them, and on the account of the victories he gives them over their enemies: or of the King Messiah, as the Targum of Jonathan, the King of kings, the Lord of lords; and so, in an ancient writing of the Jews, this passage is referred to the days of the Messiah: and this shout may respect the joyful sound of the Gospel, one part of which is, that Zion's King reigns, and which proclaims him to be King, and speaks of the things concerning his kingdom, both the kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of glory; some respect may be had to the sounding of the silver trumpets by the priests on various occasions in Israel; see Numbers 10:1-11.
And Matthew Henry's commentary:
The shout or alarm of a king is among them. They shout against their enemies, as sure of victory and success, glorying continually in God as their King and conqueror for them. They had had the experience of the benefit of God’s presence with them, and his power engaged for them; for God brought them out of Egypt
If you want something more 'traditional' try Wesley's notes:
The shout of a king - That is, such joyful and triumphant shouts as those wherewith a people congratulate the approach and presence of their King: when he appears among them upon some solemn occasion, or when he returns from battle with victory. This expression implies God's being their King and ruler, and their abundant security and confidence in him.

I don't know. It kind of makes you think that maybe you might want to do your own Biblical research before you call others' into question?
There's another whole post on this here, which mainly highlights the following:

Shout = terua – terua = Alarm (Joshua 6:5; Jeremiah 4:19), signal (Leviticus 25:9), sound of trumpet (Amos 2:2) and exultation of praise to God (Psalm 150:3)The “shout of a king”; therefore, refers to the jubilant sounds by which the presence of the Lord as their King among them was celebrated by Israel.
As a nation, Israel was instructed by signals from the priests blowing trumpets (Num. 10). The Feast of Trumpets illustrates the regathering or Rapture of the Church and the beginning of the regathering of Israel. Another of God's trumpets shall call Israel from the ends of the earth on the Day of Atonement. Isa. 27:12-13; Matt. 24:29-31; 1 Cor. 15:52ff; 1 Thes. 4:13-18
Therefore, The shout of the King must be understood as a militaristic threat, implying that the Lord is a Warrior who leads His hosts to victory. Josh. 6:5, 20; Ps. 47:5; Jer. 4:19; 49:2
So the phrase "shout of the King" is a Hebrew idiom meaning "praise to our warrior King" as noted in the following translations:
Num 23:21 (NLT) “No misfortune is in sight for Jacob; no trouble is in store for Israel. For the LORD their God is with them; He has been proclaimed their king.”
Num 23:21 (GWT) “He doesn’t want any trouble for the descendants of Jacob. He sees no misfortune for the people of Israel. The LORD their God is with them, praised as their king.”

And not to forget this:

"The shout of a king is in their midst." As often happens, the Hebrew here is delightful for its variety of meaningful thought. The word for "shout" (Strong 8643, Harris 2135b) carries the meaning of sound or signal. It is used to mean the sound of trumpet, that is the silver trumpets or the curved horn shofar. In Leviticus 25:9, it is translated "jubilee" Elsewhere it is translated "alarm", and most frequently a jubilant and triumphant shout. Here the shout of the King in the midst of His people Israel is a beautiful reminder to us of the shout of triumph with which our Lord descended from heaven at His return. This is the trumpet signal the Lord's people now hear and recognise, and indeed, the same word is used in Psalm 89:15, "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound.." They recognise the triumphant shout of their King. It is the time of gathering of the church to Himself, gathering too of Israel, first to her land, then to her Lord... the Saviour out of Zion, Who will turn away iniquity from His people.

And yes, I am not quoting these two sites fully here so that no one can fault me and say 'but your research is only online and everyone knows that everything online is false', as also implied by some dumb politician. If you suspect that something has been "edited" online, you could always go back to the printed copies of the commentaries above.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

the story-arch of a worship set

I've spent a night choosing songs, going back and forth over which songs to sing, what would bring out the message, where are we would like to go with this and finally falling back into the rut of 'I think this is too ambitious, my musicians will kill me, it's going to be a disaster, I don't know why I'm doing this, can I sink into a hole and disappear now?' along with the little voice that says THIS IS GREAT! I LOVE THIS! Negativity usually has more vocab than positivity and is usually louder, don't you think?

I doubt I speak for every worship leader when I say that I choose songs for the story. I don't know if it's a normal method, or it's just some strange thing that I do, but I like to choose songs in a sequence and a theme. I like to bring you somewhere from the start of the praise songs to the end. Maybe it's the way I think, or an outcome of being a writer-ly and reader-ly kind of person.

Sometimes this ends up as having a dual theme between the praise songs and the worship songs because I cannot find one overall theme that fits, but sometimes when things click it just arches over by itself. I don't really know how to explain it. It just happens, which is why I don't like recycling songs and song sets. Re-using a good medley that works, yes, if it fits, but not reusing a whole song set or merely swapping one or two songs in and out. That just doesn't work for me.

Each week is a different week. God says different things all the time. Reusing the same song set is like projecting that God doesn't have anything new to say. There are times when certain songs get chosen together over and over, maybe because they work well together. Nothing wrong with that. There are times when a song is sung every week, or keeps recurring regularly because that is really is what on God's heart (or at least on yours). Nothing wrong with that. What's wrong is if it's done because you don't have time or you don't have the willingness to make time.

This sometimes annoys me though, because I start off wanting to introduce a fresh song, or thinking that we should do a song that hasn't been sung in a while and I get excited about it, but when I actually sit down and craft the songs together, it just doesn't fit anywhere. It doesn't go with what has been happening in my life, in the church, in the present. Usually the "isn't right in my life" is the strongest factor though, because I can only lead you in worship to where I've gone before. I can't take you further than that. (ah, that whole revelation thing of worship was something I wanted to blog but haven't yet)

What I'm bringing you through next weekend (if you don't mind knowing in advance) goes with the theme of missions, since it's missions month and we were requested to insert at least one "missions" song during worship. It goes from the time has come to stand for all we believe in to stating that we believe God is mighty to save and where it says I give my life to follow everything I believe in we dedicate our lives, telling God to take my life, I lay it down at the cross where I am found and into Here am I, all of me, take my life, it's all for Thee where we reconcile what we believe and what we should do with Jesus, I believe in You and I would go to the ends of the earth for You alone are the Son of God and all the world will see that You are God.

Then again in my current (negative) state of mind, I might dumb this down. You'll find out next weekend.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

of worth


"Do I have worth?" asked Nutt.
"Yes, Nutt, you do."
"Thank you," said Nutt, "but I am learning that worth is something that must be continuously accumulated. You asked me to be becoming. Have I become?"
"Yes, Nutt, you have become."

~excerpt from the Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
What makes one worthy? Is it something continuously accumulated? Is it something that has to be worked at and slogged over before it can be maintained? What happens then when things fall through?

Do we need a back-up plan for our dreams so that, as Glenda says to Juliet, "you'd know that if it all goes pear-shaped you could always make it pie-shaped"?

"Do I have worth?" Nutt asks often, and it's a question that I ask most days. Will I still have worth when I miss that deadline, or forget an accounting standard? Will I still have worth if I forget the words or miss the beat in the song? Will I still have worth if my writings get rejected? Will I still have worth if everyone goes for lunch without me?

Traditionally, this post should have ended with a happy-clappy "but I know where my true worth lies... it lies with Jesus!" But for the most part, that would have been the most false and hypocritical ending I have ever written. I know we've had endless countless seminars and sermons about self-worth and security and how it can only be found in Jesus and I know that. It isn't anything new.


The fact remains that there are nights when "It doesn't matter because Jesus loves me anyway" doesn't ring true because it does matter to me. It matters very much that in my mid-twenties I am more alone than I thought I would be when I was in high school. The lofty ideas of meeting a great guy and having a great relationship and the wistful dreams of having a close-knit party of friends where I am never the odd-ball, the outsider, the unwanted tag-along has remained just that - lofty ideas and wistful dreams. For the most part, I'm probably to blame because I'm just as introverted and prickly as ever.

Worth. Do I have worth? Yes I do. I know I do. It's just sometimes hard to believe it.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Constantly caught between joy and jealousy

I don't know if it makes sense to you, but at times I find myself caught in this web of being happy and yet jealous at the same time. The thing is, it's getting more frequent.

Every girl reaches a point in her life where she starts dreaming about The One. Okay, not the Matrix, or God, but the significant other in her life. Some girls are fortunate - they don't have to dream much because they've found him (or he's found her, if you look at it that way). But on the other hand, if you've reached the age where everyone else is hooking up / has hooked up / is going to propose / get proposed to, and you're still single...

It's funny, I suppose, because I am happy that they are together, and yet I am jealous because they are. Ah, love.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Rock concert worship?

Something to ponder about:

What's amazing about worship is that it pleases God—when we're worshiping Him, of course—and it pleases us, too. Many Christians experience a sense of God's nearness as well as His transcendence when worshipping Him. He envelops us. He's both close and huge, sort of like He's … onstage?
Rock concerts, like a church service, proffer something approximating a transcendent experience. And that experience is reinforced by sharing it with hundreds or thousands of other "believers." A concert invites us to lose ourselves for a little while, to surrender to the incredible sensation of music pounding ours bodies as well as the intensity of the feelings that the music itself may stir up inside of us. A good show distills the essence of an artist into something tangible, present, concrete, enthralling. It's a powerful feeling for those of us who are wired to appreciate it.

...Just as worship in church invites believers to experience God's nearness and transcendence, a rock concert allows fans to see their favorite artist up close, in the flesh. At the same time, the lights, the sound, the stage, the massive video screens, the pyrotechnics—all of those theatrical elements present a singer or a band in a way that treats them more like superheroes than human beings. We don't call them rock gods, guitar heroes or American Idols for nothing.
Our English word worship is actually derived from an Old English term we no longer use: worthship. As the word implies, worthship denotes the act of ascribing worth to something, of communicating its value. Literally, then, when we worship, we say, "This is good. This is right. This is worth celebrating and living for." And isn't that exactly what happens when we scream in adulation for two hours when Miley Cyrus takes the stage? (Or James Taylor, for that matter—not to let you boomers off the hook.)

We simply can't not worship. We will ascribe honor and glory to the things we find most beautiful and compelling and worthy of praise in our lives. Whether we realize it or not, the yearning, the sense of anticipation, the energy, the connection we feel with other fans at a concert are all shadows of our hearts' desire to experience God and express our praise to Him. And when we don't know how to offer our lives in worship to Him (or, worse, refuse to do so), we'll naturally seek out the best substitutes we can find.
taken from Worship at 130dB

Makes sense?

The thing I worry about sometimes is if church worship becomes a rock concert. In which case, it's hard to differentiate if we are worshiping the music or worshiping God. At least in a rock concert, the distinction is clear.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Heart

There are times that I protest (to myself) that I know what I'm doing and yet at the same time, another voice questions do I really?
The answer is sometimes I do and sometimes I don't, but the heart of the matter remains pursuing the heart of God. It's a matter of pursuing the songs on my heart, even though sometimes the songs may be new. The songs may be difficult. But these are the songs of God for the moment. Maybe for me personally, maybe for the Church as a whole. I don't know. I just sing.
What I know is that this morning, I couldn't stop crying. I am majorly stressed and my body is telling me all about it. I wanted to cancel out, I wanted to be that irresponsible, shirking person I always get irritated at and want to slap, but I am glad I didn't. Because I stepped into church, and they were practicing my song, and everything changed.
There is power in praise and there is power in worship and there is great power in the Name of Jesus. When I picked the songs on Wednesday night (or was it Thursday?) it was just a song that was hanging around in my head, and I was going yes, that would be a great song, a great theme. Then I got buried in a load of work and stress and I looked at the songs and went, yes that's what I need. I need to know that His Name is my strong tower and my shelter and I can run to it to be safe. I need to know that His love is amazing and that it's wide and deep and great and I can't understand it, but I know it.
I wanted to title this post 'chicken' because I have been chicken (and I love chicken. nyum! ahha) but then again, I'm finding my way. I'm finding the steps He has prepared and it doesn't matter if I'm a little chicken once in a while because it just makes Him all the bigger.
Today Ps Margaret from TCC spoke in church and she said that she felt there were a lot of people at crossroads in their lives right now. And then it struck me. A few months ago when they were last up from Singapore, I was still ambivalent. I was in the worship team, yes, but I was still wondering if I really was in the wrong place. Whether I should actually be packing my bags and heading off to the holy grail of Malaysia and I asked her to pray with me. I don't remember the actual words she said, but was something like God doesn't ask you to stay for nothing but to ask God to give me something to stay for.
I think I have.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

giving ALL

It's hard to put into words precisely the way I feel. There's a maelstrom of words, of phrases, of thoughts, and when all this noise comes together, it negates each other resulting in sheer speechlessness. (It could also be the headache I'm getting for reading in bed while my hair was wet).
The longer I take to write it out, the more it seems to jam inside, like... constipation. (I'm hungry. Being hungry also makes my brain shut down).
The thing is, a lot of the things I want to say are negative. But maybe negativity is not the right thing for the moment. I get the vibe that there are too many negative comments, too many but-it-shouldn't-bes, too many put-downs. Maybe what we need now are constructive comments, suggestions for improvement, timely reminders; just people who will pull together and work together with concerted effort.
Definitely there is much to be done. Obviously there is much that is lacking. Practically... it's time to just get on with what needs to be done. Just DO it, like Nike lambastes us (I'm not sure if that is the right word, but my head still hurts). There isn't space or time for worrying about why other people aren't doing it, and why they should be - but to just give all that we have out of the revelation that we have.
Me being the ever-neurotic, self-doubting person, I started to wonder if I was merely putting on a show every week when I was on duty because the most persistent comment I received was about me being lively on stage. (That doesn't sound very well put together but never mind.) The thing is, God's presence sometimes seems so illusory, so vague and ungraspable, but I want that. I want all that I've ever felt and experienced in worship elsewhere to be so tangible and real right here as well. But it seems so hard to catch. I think I am a rather all-or-nothing person.
Worship is expressive. I can't be on stage and not express. I can't sing a worship song and not try to catch that glimpse of God. I can't sing a praise song and not want to clap my hands or dance. (Though I'm getting old and tired and out of shape.) Sometimes it seems fake. Yes it does. I'm not denying it. Sometimes it's an effort, just saying, I'm so tired right now and this is just a repetition of the last few weeks. But there is a crying out.
Anyways.
There was this bit in Darlene Zschech's book, Extravagant Worship, that I had been rereading a while ago. And I wanted to share it, but I didn't, and now, I've lost it again, but (and here I'm rambling because I'm tired) I guess what I wanted to say is that worship really needs to be wholehearted. To quote (the book):
In 2 Chronicles, Solomon often refers to the whole-hearted devotion of King David and the men and women of God that served in the House. A whole-hearted approach releases God's hand.
These passages of Scripture talk about King Amaziah and his reign. The first half of the book is all about victory, talking about his obedience to God, and the second half is all about his defeat and his disobedience. Right in the middle there, I noticed the Scripture where it says that 'he served well as in the eyes of the Lord but not wholeheartedly'. I wonder whether or not his half-hearted attitude was the start of his decline? He was seen doing the right thing (he served well) but his approach was not whole-hearted and that was the issue. King Amaziah's heart wandered and he started to walk in disobedience.
God's hand is limited when your heard is misdirected. Anything you desire to be great at needs to be approached wholeheartedly. When it comes to living as a worshipper in His House, there is no other way.

I do what I do because that is what giving my all entails. My all includes hands that clap until they turn red, singing until I am hoarse, jumping until I am out of breath. Even when I wonder why I do the things I do, I realise that for me, not to do them would be more of a fakery than when I do. It would be half-hearted worship.
I should stop here because I'm beginning to ramble.
And yet, so much more to vomit out... (oh headache, go away)

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

pharisees

Mat 3:7–10
But when he [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

It’s easy enough for us to dismiss this as a warning against the Pharisees and Sadducees (religious authorities) of that day, or to think that this warning only applies for the Jews who believe that as God’s chosen people, they are the only ones who will be saved. Have you ever pondered about its application to modern Christians today? We have whole families whose generations are all Christians, from the grandparents to grandchildren (or more). We call them 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation Christians, etc. Churchianity is on the rise, evidenced by modern exhortations that ‘being born in a Christian family doesn’t make you a Christian as much as being born in MacDonald’s doesn’t make you a burger’ (or garage / car, you get the drift).

Think about it.

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, “We are faithful church-goers,” for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up followers of Christ. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

blah and balderdash

I don't know how to explain where I am right now, though Ben would say that I do know and I just don't want to say it.

Fine, if it makes it any clearer, I am at a place where I want to strike out on my own and do the things I have always told myself that I wanted to do, and YET I am in a conviction where I know I am supposed to stay.

And maybe all the things I should be letting go is the things that I've always said I wanted to do; the drama, the dance, the self-seeking glorification muddled up in words that paint it all for the glory of God.

The question that presents itself then is: what am I staying FOR?

And there lies my weakness. Because I want a reason for staying. Because I want someone to tell me, if I stay, what I will get out of it. Will I be able to build? Will I be able to find love? Will I be able to grow and nurture the things I have a passion for? Will I be truly be doing God's will?

And I need to know this because if I leave, I know why I am leaving. I know that in going, there are things that I will be able to do. I will be closer to my network of friends, I will be purposefully and intentionally seeking to put myself in a position to hone my skills. Skills that people tell me I have, that I have erratic faith in, and in which I hardly know what to do with, and yet skills that I firmly believe are good and useful but which people often ignore and put down.

It doesn't help that you talk about job merits and job environment and job prospects and job this and that, because that REALLY ISN'T the factor at all.

It's difficult for me to put this in words, because I tend to gloss over the things that really need to be said. There's this thing in me that argues about pursuing God's will and how overly super-spiritual that sounds and how tacky and how it doesn't do anything to help in the discussion BECAUSE every time you use that phrase "GOD'S WILL" people will just go "okay" and you NEVER EVER get to anything more useful, like maybe, "why am I covering up this thing in pretending that I heard from God?" or even "how do I even know it's God or if it's me?"

If you get what I mean.

Which, if you've been in the same position, all you will tell me is to pray, and to which I will tell you, pray to what purpose? Pray to what end? It all comes back to the same thing, which in effect is, I am running away. And yet there is a dissatisfaction to the conclusion as if maybe there is something wrong in my lines of thinking. Maybe there is a fault line in this world view of mine that I just can't see. And it doesn't help that you give me vague answers and vague advice because all it does is add to the confusion. It doesn't help when you say to let go of everything because I don't know what there is to let go anymore. I don't know what there is left to say. I've gone from knowing to not knowing to knowing to not knowing to coming to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter and still I need a conclusion. I need a closure. I need a definitive solution which is not coming.

And which, if you've never been in the same position, would just write it off as super spiritual blathering.

Maybe I am afraid of having any passion at all. Or having too many. Because nothing ever works out for me.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

indecision

Indecision paralyses you.
More often than not, it's the waiting for a decision, or waiting for a clue or answer to make a decision that kills you and demotivates you more than if you just decided on the spur of the moment.

I've been playing the waiting game, wondering if there is a right or wrong decision, a better or worse one. And frankly, this over-thinking and over-analysing is driving me nuts.

I need downtime. Desperately.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Worship: missing in expression.

The problem always seems to be this inability to build, as if there is something blocking the worship team from fully releasing from the depths of their souls the worship, the music, the song that is dying to be born from their hearts. There is an invisible ceiling in the midst of worship - and I am referring to the 'slow worship songs' - that prevents us, intangibly, from pushing higher, pressing deeper. If I may put it so: there is no abandonment in worship.

What do I mean by abandonment? I don't mean that each and everyone goes their own way, doing their own thing, playing up their own strengths and showing off - that is chaos, even if it's only musical chaos. What I mean is the ability to be the best and giving the best in worship. There's always this feeling, this atmosphere of holding back, of waiting, of... I'm not sure if you can call it shyness, but something akin to it, in the midst of worship. It's as if we dare not go further, we dare not expose our hearts and souls and emotions to God - or maybe to the people around us?

Because of that, there is no life in our worship. Praise isn't so similarly affected. People (sort of) expect praise songs to be exuberant, loud, joyful. And it is so... but only in a very marginal sort of way. It's as if (and I seem to be using this term a lot) people, even the worship team - or is that especially? - seem to believe that there is this rote form, this style to the worship session. It becomes just that - a form or procedure. It's time to sing. Raise your hands. Sit down now. Stand up now. I'll enjoy the songs (or not). Or maybe I'll criticise the worship leader (or not). And everything seems to hinge on the worship leader.

"Oh, he chose lousy songs." Or "he chose songs I didn't know. I couldn't worship." So what? Maybe you weren't so comfortable with the words or the melody. Maybe you didn't know the song at all. Even so, your heart can still worship even if your lips stumble over the words. It doesn't mean that you then pull back. (On the other hand, not knowing the song is not a good excuse for the worship team. How can you lead people in worship when you yourself do not know what you're singing?)

And because there is no life, no abandonment and no passion, worship is pushed aside as unimportant. It's just the prelude to the Word. Or is it because it is considered unimportant that no one bothers to inject the life of God into it? Yes, there is an emphasis on the word during the service - which is good, and which is right, I am not denying that - but this does not and should not negate the importance of corporate worship in song. (As an aside, considering that generally the word 'worship' is associated with singing, why then is the church service called a "Worship Celebration" when the worship is barely alive, and hardly celebratory?)

Yes, the recently popular catchphrase is that "worship is a lifestyle". It's not just about the songs we sing. It's more than the conventional "singing part of church service". Yet in saying that, we then place no importance at all in the power of corporate worship to change and transform. People may claim that it's only an 'emotional' thing. True - most of it may affect our emotional being more than our mental will or physical being - and yet we ARE emotional beings. Our decisions are coloured by our emotions, and when our emotions are in line with our mental or spiritual will, it is much, much easier to obey and follow God. It doesn't rest on emotions alone, but it is still a very important factor in our total well-being and decision-making.

Another point on emotions - we always talk of the Christian faith as a relationship with God. What is a relationship if there are no emotions involved? How would you express love and devotion, hopes and dreams and fears? Aren't these part of emotions? Isn't part of love really an emotional feeling as well? Worship - whether corporate or private - in song is a way to express this. You know how we criticise those people on Malaysian Idol / American Idol who are so wooden / expressionless in their singing? Someone may have a perfectly good voice, but just because they do not seem to 'express' the song or 'feel' the song, we say that their performance lacks power, lacks presence... there is just something missing, no matter how nice it sounds. This is the same in the worship team. No, it's not a performance, and yet it cannot be dead. It cannot! Worship is an expression. It needs to express. It cannot be hidden or smothered, or made pretty. If it is, it's not worship. It's not praise. It's just... performance, and probably a very bad one at that.

But coming back to the power of corporate worship - if this isn't important, if there is nothing to this, why indeed did Paul urge the Ephesians in Eph 5:19 to "(speak) to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord"? Why are there 150 Psalms (songs) recorded in the middle of the Bible? Remember - Paul and Silas were singing in the prison when God sent an earthquake to shake the foundations of the prison and release them. What did Joshua have the priests do at the walls of Jericho? They were blowing the trumpets before the Lord.

But, if we rank mission over worship or worship over mission, we end up sabotaging both; worship and mission are equally and intrinsically linked. If worship is merely the thing that makes us feel good, feel “full” so we can go and do the important, active stuff, we lose. On the other hand, if mission is the thing that’s flippantly tacked onto our faith, we lose. Either way, our definitions of worship and mission are sickly and insufficient. We are missing the engaging, challenging, and courageous call of the Church to enact both.
(Your Worship Isn't Enough; Trevor & Bonnie McMaken; Relevant Magazine)

There's more to this whole worship thing that we haven't even touched base with. We don't even know what's there to be discovered. Our definition of worship is definitely lacking. And most times, we don't even realise that. We don't feel the ceiling that's over our heads, we don't understand the importance of it, and we don't even see that there is something wanting.

Today, the songs were well chosen. There was flow, there was easy transition, there was a sense that we were moving in a direction, that maybe this would be more than the usual set of songs, that maybe we would really touch God. And then when it could have gone on, when we could have pushed, when we could have built, when it could have peaked, we fell flat again. We hit that invisible ceiling and we plateaued, and we hardly even realised it.

You know what I realised I've been missing? The loud roar of prayer, of singing in tongues, the exuberance of God's people singing and praying at the top of their lungs right in the midst of worship; that wall of praise and the wail of the shofa in Metro Tabernacle. It took some getting used to, but you take it away with you and everything else seems so mousy.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

trajectory

I don't have to hear it, if I don't want to
I can drown this out, pull the curtains down on you
It's a heavy world, it's too much for me to care
If I close my eyes, it's not there
[Headphones | Jars of Clay]

Things have a way of building up, sometimes. A culmination of things ignored, things hoped for, things forgotten, things built up coming to naught. There is always the dream, always out of reach, like a phantom slipping through tired, buttery fingers. Where do you draw the line and say this is it, "I can'ts take it no more" and fight for what you truly desire?



I've said things before that I sincerely believed in. The problem is, now I'm not so sure. Back in October 2009, after the iBridge camp, I said with all sincerity,

Say as much as I wish, there is a locality to my dreams. Yes, I want to build a drama team. But I want to build it here, in Penang. Yes, I want to be a part of a larger vision in the GCF. But I want that to be here, in Penang. I don’t want to always be wishing to be elsewhere.
I guess in the end, a substantial part of my dream is for my dreams to be present here.

At times I don’t believe in it. It hurts when people say, so why don’t you move there? Why don’t you go to such and such a place to study/work? I do want to. But if I go, who will build here?
And if this is my sacrifice for now, so be it.

And I believed it, but there was always that war inside, the voice that said why not go and the voice that protested, but you should stay. And now the internal voice asks again, 'yes, your dream may be to build here, but does that dream say it is to build now?' What's to say that I should not go now and come back later? And yet if you had said that to me four years ago, I would have said no; I need to be back there, back in Penang.

Yesterday, we had a GCF Chinese New Year meet up and during the ice-breaker, we shared where we were from and where we were currently located. I realised that a lot of Penangites are extremely proud of of their island (i.e. I was born in Penang, raised in Penang, living / working in Penang) and I realise that I don't really share that. I don't know why. And it comes to this thought: am I only here (and saying that I need to be here) because I was not ready to leave? Forgive the mixed tenses; the division between past and present is still fuzzy.

I wasted another year, waiting for the words
For things to be more clear
[Forgive me | Jars of Clay]

Maybe it boils down to timing. I have been here because despite my desires, I was not ready to leave. And maybe now I wish to leave, because I am ready. Does that make sense; inasmuch as anything in this life makes sense?

There's been an increasing sense of wasting the years, as if there should be more that can and should be done; as if I am waiting for something to materialise that just won't. Things that I said I should be doing always seems to fall flat again and again. I don't know if it's because I am in the wrong place, or the wrong time, or I'm doing the wrong thing - I could be missing the point totally. The thing is that I don't know.

Nothing is clear enough, but I doubt that it will ever be. And if I keep on waiting for it to be defined, I may be stuck here forever.

Does it have to start with a broken heart
Broken dreams and bleeding parts
We were young and world was clear
But young ambition disappears
I swore it would never come to this
The average, the obvious
[Burn Out Bright | Switchfoot]

I don't know where this next year will take me; whether I will stay or I will leave. Right now, I've given up knowing. Spiritual spins can be put on it both ways - either the Devil is distracting me or God is revealing His plans - so I'll not bother with those. I think I'm becoming increasingly disillusioned with know-it-all statements that "God Has Spoken" and taking events / conversations / happenings as "Signs From God." It's all in the interpretation anyway.

But right now, there are two options open.

One, a highway to dreams, if I take it, though I have no comfort in knowing if the dreams will be fulfilled. Yet it's these castles that capture me, the visions of a life I can build in kayell: A (hopefully) lightweight job. Time to write. Performing arts. Dance classes. Friends. Recreating a life of my own.

Two, to press on here again and again, with no comfort that any of the things I want to do will ever come to pass.

Would you blame me for wanting to leave?

If we've only got one try
If we've only got one life
If time was never on our side
Then before I die
I want to burn out bright
[Burn Out Bright | Switchfoot]

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Link, and comment.

Attack against one faith is an attack against all faiths.

Agreed:
Any attack on any faith in Malaysia is an attack on all faiths in Malaysia. We express our solidarity with the Sirratulrahim Surau in Kampung Sabak Awor and Parit Beting surau, and to the Malaysian Muslim community at large.
...these attacks are at most a crisis of law and order caused by a failure of the Malaysian state, not a crisis of religious harmony indicating a failure of the Malaysian society.
I'm not sure about this though:
...we call upon all Malaysians to have faith in peace, freedom and reason.
I don't know if I believe in peace, freedom and reason here anymore. And I'm not sure if I have any faith left in Malaysia either.