Sunday, July 20, 2008

God as God Leads Us to Live with Integrity and Prayerfulness

A blur of a fortnight:
Macbeth as seen by the disgruntled backrow
the entire backrow walking out on World-In-Theatre's Macbeth with someone muttering,"Perhaps before experimenting with process-oriented approaches one should start with enunciation? Projection? Blocking? Iambic pentameter?" as we headed to drown sorrows in roti prata and maggi mee goreng next door, before returning to collect sweaty actors for supper, over which too much information was proffered on the follicular-distribution in one-half of a husband-husband couple,

Wine Garage
meltingly good skewers of pork belly and watermelon, equally good Kurobuta pork chop, and tasty whole roasted pink snapper at Wine Garage, while being encouraged by the perseverence of saints in very frustrating and uncertain circumstances,

U Crazy What?! Burger at Botak Jones
ending the virgin foray in a street soccer cage with a loose bigtoe-nail and a U CRAZY WHAT?! Botak Jones burger. Behold the pound of beef in its manly chesthair-inducing patty glory!

Hue Restobar at Amara Hotel Singapore
a birthday dinner with the lush lambs at Hue Restobar, Amara Hotel, where things here today and gone tomorrow were the subject of loud cheers and applause from the entire restaurant but the bland simulacra of Vietnamese food was far less well-received,

Wu Yue Tian Medley!
ending another birthday celebration with a midnight 五月天 (wuyuetian, May Day) medley at a karaoke joint complete with ecstatic use of tambourines,

saying goodbye at the last ARPC service at the Kuo Chuan Secondary School building in Bishan and hullo to the newARPC building back at 25 Adam Road.

The remaining time not spent eating was for listening to Mike Raiter speak on living with integrity on Wednesday and Thursday evening, prayer on Saturday morning and Romans 9 on Sunday morning. There is something about this sort of immersion in the word of God that causes dim eyes to make out, a little clearer than usual, for a little while, a little more of the flesh to the outline of the person of God.

Living the Christian life is not a matter of following rules, being "good" or having a strict morality; neither is it primarily about squabbling over the teachings of gurus - you follow John Calvin of the TULIP, I follow the free-form theology of Dance Praise 2 with extension packs. It is what being Christian is in the first place: having a relationship with God.

Who is this Father whom we are sons of and have a relationship with? It is interesting how fans hang on every act, every change in hair style, and every word of pseudo-wisdom that falls from the lips of their idols but we Christians who claim to worship God are far more concerned about what God can do for us than about knowing anything about him. Like meetings of obsessive fans and rabid stalkers, the focus of our sermons and Bible studies should be on God and his manifold and mightily admirable characteristics. No one who asks "How will knowing Master Chou 周大侠 help me get rich?" will last very long in a real Jay Chou 周杰倫 fan forum.

So we know that God the Father is the creator of the universe, it sustainer and its ultimate judge. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good. But our minds are so befuddled by sin that we are hard put to make good use of this knowledge.

God as Judge
If God (or rather, his delegated authority Jesus) is all-knowing and the ultimate judge, then we live not to be judged by others; neither by our proud/disappointed parents, nor admiring/sneering peers, nor to make a mark in human history that generations might remember us. We live for an audience of one, with judgement day integrity.

Matthew 6:1 - 18 warns us not to practice our righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then we will have no reward from our Father who is in heaven. There should be a oneness and unity within ourselves so that we are the same person at work, at church and at home. Our profession and expression must be the same. Why do we aspire to preach or lead the singing or a bible study or to go out to missions? It ought not be to be seen by others. If it is, then we will get what we deserve - a good reputation and the esteem of people...for now...and judgement of God on the Last Day.

God as Sustainer and Creator, God as God
Again, if God is our all-powerful and all-good sustainer, then we are dependent on God and not God on us. He does not need our time or money (although a church might need them to do its work for his glory) but we need him for our very life breath. Because we are dependent on God, we ask him for things: this is prayer.

If it is God we are asking for things, then praying for the purpose of impressing other people is absurd and bile-inducing. (Matthew 6:5 – 6)

And if it is an all-good God whom we are asking, then we do not have to spam him with empty phrases, manipulative 24 hour prayer marathons that go on and on all day long. As if God were deaf or unwilling to help. (Matthew 6:7 – 8)

And if this God is the ultimate of ultimates who should be our first love and object of worship, then we should feel strongly for his reputation and his name. We get angry when a righteous man is maligned, how much more indignant should we be when a good God is deprived of his rightful glory by people bowing down and glorifying idols made with their own 2 hands? In this way, the salvation of people is secondary to the glory of God. So we ought to pray first and foremost that God’s name be hallowed. (Matthew 6:9 – 10)

If this God is our creator, then he does not exist for us, a heavenly vending machine, but us for him to do his work and to give him glory. And if he is also sustainer and preserver, then we ask him for our daily bread: food and water and air to sustain our life, and also whatever we need to do his will and make his name known in this world. We ask for just enough to do his work, for he will not grant us perfect skill or perfect health because we can still do our jobs in our fallen incompetence as jars of clay, and through our cancers and migraines and amputations. (Matthew 6:11)

And if this God is all-powerful, then nothing in this world happens without his permission. Remember how Satan in the Book of Job had accused Job of loving God not for whom God was but for what God had given Job and asked permission to test Job to prove that once all these goodies were taken away, Job would throw a tantrum and curse God (Job 1:6 – 12). Remember also how Jesus had told Simon Peter that Satan had sought permission to sift him like wheat – oh sure it was cool to follow the all-curing, all-pontificating Jesus while he was free to roam and people adored him. But wait till Jesus was captured by the authorities and strung out to dry on a cross and see which rock the trusty disciples would be found cowering under. (Luke 22:31 - 34 for prediction of chicken-ness at rooster crow) We pray that in his mercy, God will not put us through these trials, but if it must be done, then we ask that he deliver us from the Accuser.

The things in the Lord's Prayer are hardly prayed for, possibly because of our terribly and unconscionably erroneous idea of the person of God in the first place.

Wine Garage
30 Merchant Road, #01-07
Riverside Point Singapore 058282
Tel: 6533 3188

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At July 21, 2008 4:16 am , Anonymous Frank said...

This is an awesome blog posting!
thanks for the nice work!

At July 22, 2008 11:09 am , Anonymous said...

Hi! Remembered that you enjoyed the Harvard Din & Tonics the last time they went on World Tour :)

The Dins will be back in Singapore on their 10th biennial World Tour in August, and will be performing twice at the Esplanade Recital Studio on Aug 8, 7pm and 9pm.

Hope you'll come with your friends and be charmed all over again by the group's signature jazz with a twist!



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