Focus on God’s agenda for the gays

The church in Singapore could do herself much good by reorienting her focus on God’s agenda for the gays, instead of the publicly perceived homophobia of the church and its fear of the gays’ agenda for the world. The gays may have an agenda, but so does God, and God’s agenda and love plan for the gays and the world is what will prevail. The church can ask, “Lord, how can we partner with You in what You are doing among the gays, and how can we  join You in Your work”?  One thing this would involve is the church seeking to understand and inculcate compassion and develop church ministry and care of gay inclined believers. It will take the church out of a war footing into a posture of peacemaking, towels and basins. It will mean the church  identifying with the marginalized, taking risks, and serving with humility.

I was reading a friend’s review of a book titled, ‘Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality’ by Wesley Hill, who is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity School for Ministry. Sze Zeng summarized three lessons he picked up. They helped me see the struggles and loneliness of believers who experience same sex attraction. It helped me feel the plight and pain of brothers and sisters who often endure it all in anonymity. I have quoted two of his lessons. For the third lesson, please read his full blogpost.

Lesson 1: Same-sex attraction is real—the need to struggle with it.

There are those among us who are really and genuinely feel attracted to people of the same gender. For this reason, many have tried to find a connection between same-sex attraction and their childhood. Some even try to link sexuality to gene. Hence the whole debate between ‘nature versus nurture’. Accordingly, there are ‘therapies’ designed to help people to change their sexuality.

The author cuts through this impasse debate by talking about his own personal discovery of his homosexual orientation. He was brought up in a non-abusive childhood and had a fairly good upbringing. It was during high school years that he sensed a “steady, strong, unremitting, exclusive sexual attraction to persons of the same sex” (p.13). The unchangeable sexual desire for homosexual relationship is real to him and to those who experience it. Since then his life is marked by fear, persistent loneliness and inner conflict.

Hill asked a probing question, which I think many homosexual Christians are asking as well, “Can we gay and lesbian Christians who experience no change in our homoerotic desires live in the joyful assurance that our lives are satisfying to God? Can we who remain homosexually inclined actually please God?” (p.135).

To Hill, the answer depends on our understanding of homosexuality: What do the Scripture and Church tradition say? Hill is clear that same-sex attraction is “one of the myriad tragic consequences of living in a fallen world stalked by the specters of sin and death” (p.32). With full conviction and tireless struggle, Hill writes, “I abstain from homosexual behaviour because of the power of that scriptural story” (p.61), and such endurance is a “daily dying” (p.71). As Hill further affirms, “I am waiting for the day when I will receive the divine accolade, […] “Well done, good and faithful servant” (p.150). Hill’s spiritual persistence is exemplary for all Christians in dealing with our own temptation, be it on sexuality or otherwise.

Lesson 2: Homosexuality comes with unbearable loneliness—the necessity of a trustworthy and supportive community within the church.

The loneliness experienced by those with homosexual inclination is not easily understood by heterosexuals. Gay Christians cannot relate to their heterosexual peers’ interest in the opposite gender. They have to be careful not to jeopardize their friendship by developing romantic interest with friends of the same gender. They are afraid that they will be rejected and discriminated when their sexuality is known by their family, friends, and church-mates. They have to constantly struggle against the desire of entering into a monogamous homosexual relationship, especially in society where homosexual practice is widely accepted and legally protected (e.g. civil partnership and same-sex ‘marriage’). On top of these, they have to face negligence in various degrees by their heterosexual friends who eventually get married and start their own family. To Hill, loneliness is the “defining struggle” of his life (p.92) that makes him feels “painfully contradictory” (p.115).

“What I wish,” as Hill once said to his pastor, “is that I could feel the church to be a safe place” (p.42). “The remedy for loneliness—if there is such a thing this side of God’s future—is to learn, over and over again, to do this: to feel God’s keeping presence embodied in the human members of the community of faith, the church” (p.113). Writing from Hill’s own experience with his church, “I began to learn to wrestle with my homosexuality in community over many late-night cups of coffee and in tear-soaked, face-on-the-floor times of prayer with members of my church” (p.48, italics original) Are we, as part of the local churches, willing to learn to provide the kind of safe space for our brothers and sisters in Christ to wrestle with their same-sex attraction?

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What kind of world have you been born into, Chloe?

Mt Alvernia Hospital was still under renovation as you came into our world. It’s the same hospital your father was born in. You came out straightforwardly at about ten at night. You are such a beautiful girl, with simple habits: cry,beautiful feet drink, pass motion, sleep.  You are altogether beautiful – just look at your toes! You are so low- maintenance – to us grandparents, at least. It’s surprising that one so little like you can bring so much joy to so many. It is a privilege and blessing to be called ah kong (grandfather) before people have a chance to call me ah pek (old man).

You probably do not know but you have been born in Singapore, not Korea. What kind of world is this? Well for sure it is kind of stressful. From the time you are three till you die the stress will ebb and flow all through life. It may get overcrowded – as overcrowded as what your mum says Seoul has become. But this projected overpopulation has yet to happen, for we have four general elections before “Excuse me” becomes the most used phrase in Singapore. The cost of living has risen while our wages have been stagnant. Cannot be helped, the experts tell us: global competition. As far back as I can remember, every ten years or so, prices have doubled for most things.  I will change tack now lest you suffer infantile stress or depression.

The world you are born into is one with baby bonuses and one where young couples get the red-carpet for doing what the government wants. It is a world which will shape and condition you and you will need the help of good people to resist some of the pressures to think and behave in certain ways. Things are gradually changing with regards to this and you have come at the right time to this country.

Chloe This world is also a safe place to be in. It’s something we are happy for and have often taken for granted. You will feel safe walking down the streets at night. Just watch out when you cross the roads, especially at traffic lights. The healthcare here is generally good. The education system is generally improving and better than in many countries but it is also highly competitive. Your mum says it’s worse in Korea, so take her word for that and be thankful you are in Singapore! I pray you will be linguistically smart. You need to be. Here it’s English and Mandarin. And you need to learn Korean too to communicate with your grandmother, aunty and other relatives.

Lord, have mercy. You know I was never good at foreign languages. Let Chloe have it easy with learning languages.

 Chloe, you will grow to be tri-cultural. You will be enriched by two proud cultures rich in history: Chinese and Korean. You will also grow up in a home and a church culture and an atmosphere that exudes God’s love.  May this kingdom culture take root in you and grow to be the grand tree that overshadows all others. May you grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Besides the loving watch of your father and mother you will be soaked in the love and favours of your uncle, aunties, grandparents, loved ones and Christian community.

Who knows what this world will morph into? All kinds of changes will take place in Singapore. All you need to know is that God does not change. So whether in sunshine or darkness, in valley deep or mountain peak, you have a Father God who will hold your hands and provide and lead you on. You have family and church who will teach you and journey with you. Through it all, God is your ever present help in times of trouble.

Chloe, you are one very blessed girl.

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

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Church of True Light: many nations in one church

God Positioning Something (GPS)

Tucked into a corner on the edge of Little India, stands a church gazetted for conservation, an Anglican church called Church of True Light. In this easily ignored tight space, God seems to be doing a divine positioning of sorts. Spiritually skilled “craftsmen” with experience seem to be brought together by divine orchestration to set up the stage for some supernatural workings of God that will glorify the Lord and add people to the church.

Light to the nations, testimony to Singapore

Not that nothing had happened before that. God has already been at work in this church with its ups and downs. And the remarkable changes it had gone through are nothing short of surprising from my viewpoint. For one, this originally Chinese church with an English service offshoot is dominantly Chinese but had opened its doors for the outreach to Indians. To date they have an ordained Indian priest, a Tamil service, a Malayalam service, a Sinhalese service and a Hindi service. Not to forget recently they have started an Indonesian service, an international service and a small Korean fellowship also worships there.  I like the way that this church is going counter-culture. While Singapore society totters on the edge of xenophobia, this church, even with its physical signboards, declare that there is nothing to fear: the good news is for all races and God is bringing all things together in His Son, Jesus Christ. Amen and amen.

Friends and familiar faces in the church

The current pastor of the English congregation, Rev. Vincent Hoon, invited me to preach last Sunday, and so I did, on the topic: God’s Love Tattoo.  This church is not new to me. I have taken two of their church camps two decades ago. One was in Port Dickson and the other was in Cameron Highlands. My daughter was in kindergarten then and now she is an adult. The camps were followed by several invitations to preach in the church. Then for many years we were out of touch. They outgrew me for sure. So I was pleased to see at least 8 couples that were still there faithfully serving in the church.  A faithful man who can find? In this day and age, they are as uncommon as mousedeer in the nature reserves.

One of the friends I met and took pictures with are Drs Samuel Cheng and  Chay Giam his wife, an earnest and lovely couple who love the Lord and are the Singapore representatives of the Elijah House. He is himself a psychiatrist and a trainer of ministers of inner healing and wholeness. With his practice and experience, he brings a useful down to earth perspective and spiritual discernment to bear on the fine line between demonic intrusion and mental illness.

The Church of True Light is very much setting up the sails to catch the supernatural wind of the Spirit. My prayer for them is that the Holy Spirit will visit them in waves that will carry them farther than any man-made fan or motor can. May they ever carry the torch of Christian hospitality to the foreigner and stranger.

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Star Vista meeting

Ben, Lyn, JourneymanMost readers who have lively discussions in blogpastor.net on various issues do not have the desire or opportunity to meet face to face. Three visitors who have been active in discussions over topics such as reason and faith, and New Creation Church, met with me over the Chinese New Year period and we had an interesting and open sharing over lunch and a cuppa at Star Vista.  They were Ben, Lyn and Journeyman (see above L to R). We owed this meeting to Journeyman’s prodding and it was his treat. It was pleasing to learn that the blog provided a platform for learning to take place. I detected nuanced shifts and softened opinions and views. There was even openness to adoption of new postures. There was an acceptance that people have different journeys and God is big enough to handle the various stages that travelers find themselves in, and the various approaches they adopt.

We talked about what’s happening in our lives and why we see things the way we do. The range of topics we talked about was wide: the Singapore church scene; our faith and ministry stories; nature of prosperity and the abundant life; explanations of our various approaches and perspectives; and something about what we do. We asserted what we believed, and though at times we were opinionated, in the end we accepted that each of us were on our own respective journeys. While we said our goodbyes, and two will be in different countries, our paths will probably intersect again online, and God willing, perhaps face to face one day.

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The Tampines brothers: the glory in the tragedy

the Tampines brothers went home to the LordA tragic accident saddened many Singaporeans this past week. Nigel Yap, 13 and his younger brother Donavan Yap, 7  who lived in Tampines, a housing estate, were ran over by a cement-maker  truck and were killed instantly. We later learned that they were Christians and we were inspired to hear that the older son had shared Christ with his mother which led to her salvation and reconciliation of his parent’s estranged relationship.  A translation of the mother’s touching eulogy at the funeral service has been circulating and I am making it available in this blog. It has to be God’s strength and grace that enabled her to bear witness with such glowing hope.

“Brothers and Sisters-in-Christ, peace be to you. To all… the strangers who came today, I don’t know you all, but because of your love, thank you for coming today, I really appreciate your presence here today. Your support gives my family & I a lot of strength, or else I won’t be able to stand here today. Today at about 4pm, while I was bathing, I heard a voice. A voice that tells me to share… how I came to know Jesus, and accepted Jesus. I come to know Jesus because of my eldest son. My son Nigel is a hyperactive child, and He gave us MANY problems. My husband & I were on the brink of divorce. I’m not saying 宗教 is not good, because I know this is a sensitive issue. I just want to share with you my experience. Now I do believe there is only One God. And there is really One God. And this God is good. There are divine ways and solutions we were trying to seek, we even went to Malaysia to calm our child. But we couldn’t find the way. My child gave us a lot of problems. But my sister introduced me to Jesus, she said “You tried every way. Why don’t you try and believe Jesus? He is also a God. Just come and try, if it doesn’t work then it’s okay.” So I agreed and decided to ask Jesus, it’s better to try than nothing right?  Once I believed in Jesus, my whole family has changed. In the past my husband and I always quarreled. At that time I was just a new Christian. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we will not have difficulties, we will still face different trials. But relying and trusting in Jesus, we will definitely triumph in every trial. Jesus saved our marriage. And through our eldest son, our whole family was so blessed. Actually Donovan’s not my second child, I had a miscarriage of my second child after 2 months. It was difficult trying to conceive him (cries).  After Donovan was born, He gave us a stronger encouragement. I believe that Donovan is from GOD, and I always thought, Nigel used to give us a lot of trouble, so God gave me Donovan to compensate what has been lost previously. Actually my thinking was very wrong indeed. Because God will surely give us the best. Nigel, is also my best son, my precious son. Last Saturday in the church Hokkien service, I was leading worship and Nigel was playing drums. My son, Nigel told me “Mummy, I don’t know how to drum, I don’t know how to drum Chinese New year songs.” I told him, “I know you can, you can surely do it!” And He really did. We were really good leading together. And my youngest son, He loved to dance and sing. In Sunday school, we also paired up for dancing and singing. And we were a great pair. I really thank God, that through this two sons, I have a lot more blessings than before. I believe right now, they are in heaven. During the night of tragedy, my sister dreamed that they were wearing white robes and a crown of glory, both holding hand-in-hand, and said ‘goodbye’ to my sister in laughter. I really believe one day I will meet them in heaven one day. Because of these two sons, I will continue to live on strongly… (cries). I really thank you Singaporeans, for showing your love and support. I am really extremely appreciative. God is so good. All Glory to God (Hallelujah).” (Transcript of the eulogy of the mother of the two Tampines’ brothers (30/01/2012) – Translated from Mandarin)

While we may be perplexed as to why such tragic things could happen to God’s children, we can be assured that God’s redemptive purpose will somehow mysteriously draw good out of this wreckage. Only that Day will reveal the full extent of good that will be redeemed out of this tragedy. Until then we peer through a frosted window into the mystery that sometimes surrounds life, and trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own limited understanding and knowledge.  We keep our eyes on a loving, sovereign and wise God who loves us with His nail pierced hands.We look at the glory and the hope in the tragedy.

Lord we pray You will sustain the grieving parents, classmates and church mates of the two brothers who have gone home to be with the Lord. May your peace and comfort be their shield and tranquiliser in the coming months. And may the name of Christ be lifted high and proclaimed through this tragic loss.

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