Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dry Days, William Taylor on Matthew 8, Luke 10 and Some Talk on Christian Friendship

It was promising, after consistently going to bed at 3.30am, to find, a few hours later, once the weight of sleep had been fought off, a goodly clutch of smses gathered in the inbox - some dissecting this week's Bible study and several others touting all sorts of plans for the rest of the week.

The plans looked like they might actually come to fruition when finally, after the days of storms and showers, the rains stopped. In the damp morning, the cats took full advantage of the lack of precipitation:
El Fatso
El Fatso (who puffs into a giant furrball once he's dried out and has had a vigorous roll on the carpet) err...stared into a drain.

And Dirty Blackie, who (as Hoobastank said of Paris Hilton) has no class whatsover, took a dump, in unobstructed public view, by the aloe vera plant.

But, the next morning was truly madly deeply dry. Sunlight filling the bedroom! Vivid green of trees! Tanned orange roof tiles stark against the deep blue of a clear sky!

"This is a day for sand!" I said.
"This is a day for sea!" I said.
"Yes, yes!"
"This is a day for Scissors Sisters!"
"No!!", and then there was a pause to consider if whatwastocome demonstrated far too much knowledge of the subject, and then, sniffily,"besides, if one didn't feel like dancin', one oughtn't get whiney to such a dancey tune."

William Taylor on "Investing in Futures - Yours"
The first dry night was for William Taylor (fresh from the Church Missionary Society Summer School in Sydney. See here, here, here and here for more on this year's CMS Summer School) to speak the gospel from Matthew 8:1-17, with encouraging succinctness, at an event organised by SMUCF: where do we think we'll be in 160, 320, 640 years' time? We all plan for the future. Loads of people urge us to invest in something for the future - in financial products, insurance, property, relationships, for our children's education, for health...But the most important thing that we can invest in is heaven.

Heaven is not a pie in the sky when we die. Jesus demonstrated the reality of heaven when he stilled a storm, when he healed the centurion's servant from a distance. There is clear historical evidence that Jesus will be the one to preside at the heavenly banquet. Consider, then, the investment decision of a lifetime. Where will we, our friends and our family be in 160, 320, 640 years' time? Only one thing will matter then: where we will be.

How will we get into heaven? Who gets tickets to the heavenly banquet? It is faith that brings inclusion (Matthew 8:10-13). What the centurion did, and was commended for, had nothing to do with how well he performed or his standard of religious morality. We know next to nothing about the centurion, but we do know this: that he didn't think himself worthy enough for Jesus to come under his roof. Now a centurion was a member of the Roman occupying power in those days. He was in the first battalion of the armed forces, a person of great authority. Conversely, Jesus was a Jew, a person whose land was being occupied by the Romans. And even then, only a carpenter's son. Yet, the centurion must have heard Jesus' teaching, seen his living and observed his demonstration of unworldly power. And the centurion, a rational thinking man as military men usually are, must have come to the conclusion that Jesus was really whom he said he was: the Messiah prophesied by Isaiah in the Old Testament (Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 35:6-8; Isaiah 53:5-6).

We have all lived lives that tell God to stay out. We have all done things that we are so ashamed of that we won't even tell those closest to us. So when we look at awesome divinity, we must say to God that we are not worthy to be in his presence.

But there is a way into the heavenly banquet. The first step is to come clean. What a relief it is not to have to pretend to God that we are worthy. If we acknowledge that we are not worthy, we find that he will be willing to welcome us in. If we think we can waltz into God's heaven, self-righteously, we are not sons of the kingdom. We will be excluded from the heavenly banquet and experience only eternal regret and pain.

Newton Circus Supper
The second dry night was for DG and Bible study on Luke 10:1-24 and then for a few people at supper to get increasingly agitated about Matthias Media's Pathway Bible Guide on Luke 9-12, thereby alarming two nearby suits who were in the process of being fleeced by Newton Circus touts. Everyone acknowledged and agreed, 各方兹承认并同意, (while I, a victim of full-day Mandarin negotiations, tried to wretch a babelfish out of my ear) that the Guide promulgated an atrocious reading of the passage, more terribly terrible when one of its stated aims was to "model good Bible-reading principles". The Guide claims that the main takeaway from the passage is some sort of interesting evangelism methodology. But surely the main point of the passage is really contained in Luke 10:20 ("do not rejoice [that you have power over the enemy], that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven"), because Jesus' words must necessarily guide the interpretation of the narrative. Angry mails (angry at this blatant disrespect of God's word) winged their way to Tony Payne.

On the third day, as we stood and watched in the afternoon, dark storm clouds swept in from the sea, obliterating all colour into washes of wet grey. The wet night was good for a meal inspired by a couple's recent trip to South Korea, a round of thanksgiving for the past year and listening to a talk on Christian love within friendships.

Cafe Del MarCafe Del Mar Opening Party
The next night, it was dry again. Good for the (Red) Ferrari-brigade not to impale themselves on Sentosa's killer humps, and for watching the Café Del Mar launch party overflow - boys in cowboy hats, singlets and Havianas; girls in retro dresses and kitten heels ("Ah doi," clucked someone emotionally,"1940s-inspired empire-waists coupled with 1970s Bohemian print? Vintage is just sooo old by the time it trickles to the masses."), wash up on the less harried shores of Coastes. CDM had white walls, little pools and jacuzzis for kitten heels to slip and fall into, beds on the sand with curtains flapping near garden torches and woohoo!, fire-dancers twirling pois.
Fire-twirlers at Cafe Del Mar
But the music, unfortunately, was run-of-the-mill, between-sets, toilet-break filler (surely even house fiends would disclaim parentage of such bastardised sound). Oh, where were you, José Padilla?
Parable of Good Samaritan
Lying under palm trees and Orion, distracted from reading about the meddlingness of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, the nattering turned to the previous night's talk on Christian friendship. Notes from the talk below (mayn't subscribe to everything but was good launchpad for further discussion):

Christian friendship is more than the mere enjoyment of each other's company. (But having said that, as the Christian subculture places more and more demands on our time, we find that we have no time for friends, much less time to enjoy their company.) Friendship, to take a leaf from Christopher Ash's book on marriage ("Marriage: Sex in the Service of God"), is really "friendship in the service of God".

All Christians have a sense of relationship with each other - we are all heading in the same direction. And it is in our relationship with each other that we work out our relationship with God. Christians, as followers of Jesus, follow his example, so our relationships are meant to be sacrificial - putting the interests of others before ourselves. But this doesn't come naturally, it is something that we strive towards and work for.

In Colossians 3:1-4, we are shown the important consequence of Jesus' resurrection in our lives: we have died with Christ and we have been raised with Christ - how amazing is that! So we must live according to our new status: we must now set our hearts and minds on things above; the whole of our being must be focused on the things of eternal value. Our new status motivates us to put to death our old self, all sin in our lives.

Colossians 3:5-14
tells us how we are to do this, specifically (some of which is relevant to living within the Christian community). Sin comes easily to us. We naturally indulge in sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness (Colossians 3:5). But it is on account of these that the wrath of God is coming (Colossians 3:6). When we come to Christ, when we have been given a new self that is saved from the wrath of God, when the blood of Jesus restores our broken relationship with God, we must put away all these things. The Spirit that God empowers us to change. It is only when we look to Christ that we are transformed.

What is our transformation like? The passage emphasizes the forgiveness of others as we have been forgiven (Colossians 3:13). And also the love that underpins everything else. It is only when we understand how God has loved us that we can understand love (Colossians 3:14).

Influence of Friends
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20)
Time is a gift from God. We must spend it wisely. When we think back over the last week, whom did we spend time with? What did we do when we were together with friends?

What do we usually do when we are with friends? What do we talk about? When we look at children, we adults are quite aware of who their friends are and are always on the look-out for "bad company". But as adults, we are shut our eyes to considering whether we might be in "bad company". We must be aware of how our friends are influencing us. Christian friends should be helping each other grow in godly wisdom and we must be doing this at all cost. We must be assisting each other to grow in Christ.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)
Christians are generally good at "encouraging" each other. We are generally more concerned about what our friends think about us than doing what is good for them. So we make excuses for each other when one of us confesses a sin. We say "oh, you were really tired then" or "you didn't really mean it" or even "well, he deserved it". But this is encouraging each other to sin and so mutually discouraging each other from growing in godliness.

God's purpose of friendship is to push each other to grow in Christ. God tells us we must be ruthless about sin because we are now a new creation. So we should be ruthless about sin in our lives and in the lives of our friends.

Perhaps we might feel like hypocrites, pointing out the splinter in our friend's eyes when, actually, we have a plank in ours. But it is about the motivation behind our rebuking and correcting a friend. Is it judgementalism or is it genuine concern? Only we know our own hearts. We ought to pray about a situation and ensure that our motivations are right, rather than storming in with a quick word when our emotions are running high.

And if friends rebuke and correct us, we must react with humility, not defensiveness. Remember that the wounds of a friend are faithful, but the kisses of an enemy are profuse.

Do not be the one to say, after a friend has fallen away, "Oh, it really wasn't my place to say anything" or "I was just waiting for the right time" or "Oh, I was just praying about it, and now it's too late to do anything"!

All-Weather Friendship
A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)
Friends ought to support each other by taking time to listen to each other's struggles. We must keep praying for our friends and keep pointing them to what is true and what is eternal. When we are going through hard times, it is easy to focus on me and my suffering. But we must encourage each other to lift our eyes to heaven.

The challenge is that we must keep doing it and keep standing with our friend. Adversity doesn't disappear over night. Usually, it goes on for a long time. And we will have to listen to our friend go over and over and over the same thing many times, and it will be very boring. But do stay and listen and encourage.

A friend is for all times, even times when we have been wronged or betrayed by that friend. We may be hurt, we may be in pain, but we must forgive, for the wrong/hurt that we have to forgive cannot be more than what God had to forgive us. Remember the Lord's Prayer ("please forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us")? If we don't forgive our brother's sin towards us, we haven't really understood the cross. The cross motivates us to forgive.

And we don't just love someone when they are loveable or lovely but also when they are not loveable and not lovely. Friendship is a commitment. Love is a commitment. It is for better or worse.

Expectations of Friendship
We cannot hope to have a deep friendship with everyone. It sounds clinical, but we need to make decisions on whom to have a deeper friendship with. We are not responsible for meeting everybody's needs. Of course, this is to be driven by wanting to please God, not man (ourselves or others).

We must not have too high a view of friendship, expecting our friend to be to us what only Christ can be to us. We must not be overdependent on our friends. (The same holds true in a marriage.)

Conversely, we must not have too low a view of friendship. We must work at spurring each other on to grow in Christ, especially through adversity.

Friendships may change over time. If both parties are single and then one gets married, it is usually the marrieds that need the continued friendship of the singles more than the singles need the friendship of the marrieds. Friendship is a different relationship from marriage and there is no reason why friendships should cease with marriage.

Thank God that he has given us the blessings of friends who help us grow in godliness. And what how brilliant it is that God has given us this ministry in which to serve him in growing his people for him. It's a good thing to tell our friends how much they mean to us in Christ.
The Spontaneous Combustion Episode
The Spontaneous Combustion Episode: wherein it was discovered that smokeapotamuses who'd binged on onions and baked beans were at risk of ceasing to exist quite unexpectedly.

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At January 23, 2007 3:12 pm , Anonymous jaz said...

there's hope yet for cafe del mar -i have every reason to believe that
Jazzanova this Sat would bring on hotter music. if you like Jazz at all you would like Jazzanova too. see you here.

At January 24, 2007 10:39 am , Anonymous Harro! said...

like the food photos :)

We've listed you at


At January 24, 2007 11:36 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ask those kitten heels to try birdmotel.

At March 01, 2007 8:32 pm , Anonymous robert said...

Nice post and nice pictures...liked it a lot..visit mine sure u would like it :)

At March 09, 2007 8:15 pm , Anonymous jessica said...

The pictures so aptly compliment what you have written...I loved the way you have described friendship from the christian aspect. I agree to most of what you have said. great post! Do drop by my blog too for I too have something to say about friends and friendship.


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