Blogpastor interviews Job

Dr Richard Teo’s illness, suffering and death raised quite a few issues. So I just had to request this interview with Job. I had to sit in the waiting area of his spacious mansion. He had lots of people lined up for appointments wanting to fellowship with him. That is how well known he is to eternity’s residents. Many of them identified with his sufferings and felt an unusual bond with him. Finally I was ushered into the sitting room. He was alone. It was my chance to interview Job of the Old Testament.

God restored Job's family and his wealthDo you feel able to talk about your past painful experience? You know I don’t want to rehash painful memories unnecessarily.

JOB:  Healing takes place when you enter eternity. You still remember bits and pieces but they seem to be bathed in the light of God’s love and you see things very differently. It’s like you have new eyes to see all those old memories with,  and everything is reinterpreted with an aura of glory. Sure, I can talk about it without anguish, the way a mother recalls the laborious birth of her precious child.

I was a very wealthy man. My wealth and assets just kept increasing. God was prospering me left, right, centre, literally everything I touched. My children were living it up and never had to lift a finger to work. My wife had a life of ease. We were proud of our possessions and we had good stewards and servants who slaved for us. Many claimed us as their close friends and I was generous in helping the poor and distressed. Frankly, even powerful chieftains envied me and coveted my herds and popularity.

(He looked down, sighed, and shook his head slowly.)

So you were greatly blessed and felt grateful to God.

JOB:  Yes I attributed the great increase of my wealth and the many sons I have to God’s blessing on me and I faithfully thanked Him with sacrifices of animals. Lots of sacrificial offerings. Some of the things my children did disturbed me, and their behaviour may have offended God. So I prayed much for them too.

That’s why it hit me hard and perplexed me greatly when all the calamities struck. I am sure you have done your research and you know I lost everything in wave after wave of natural disasters and attacks. All my servants, my herds and flocks, my properties and my sons and daughters were all swept away in one massive desert storm. I didn’t know what struck me. I had no time to react. All was lost within a day. Only my wife and my life were spared. I could not sleep. I didn’t want to see anyone. I did not eat. I was weeping day and night. My trust in God was shaken like a tent against a storm. Emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, I shook. The worse was when I lost my health and contracted an unexplainable medical condition and even my wife of many decades left me. Somehow I clung on to God Almighty. The way I see it now, it must have been His grace at work.

It must have been inexpressibly difficult for you. Thanks for sharing your heart. Millions have read of your plight in the Bible and have found great comfort and hope in your story. It was a severe trial by fire. Did you try to make sense of what was happening?

JOB: Naturally I did. I kept asking myself, Why did this happen? What did I do wrong to deserve this? Did my children’s behaviour offend God and trigger this judgment? If God is almighty why doesn’t He stop the storm and the hale and the marauders? If He loved me, didn’t He want to protect me?

I had some friends who came to comfort me but they were all of the opinion that it was because I had failed or sinned in some way unknown to me to cause such scorching judgment to fall on me and my family. It was deeply hurting to hear and their arguments stung like a viper’s bite: God was righteous and He could do no wrong. It had to be my fault: I had somehow failed to walk in righteousness. But I have kept the faith. I have fulfilled all righteousness – ceremonial as well as moral – as best I could as an upright man. Surely God could see that! Yes I strained to justify my faith and righteousness. My friends had probably looked at all my self-justification and thought, What a proud and self-righteous fellow!

So you were not able to reach a kind of conclusion or closure to your unexplainable sufferings?

JOB:  Well, you could say I didn’t and you could say I did. You see I had this encounter with God. He blew me away with a list of questions that sort of meant, I am your Creator and the almighty, sovereign and wise God: all you need to do is to trust Me even when you do not fully understand what’s happening to you or around you.

And that was it? Did that untie the knots for you?

JOB:  Frankly it did not answer my intellectual questions. It just gave me peace in the midst of mystery. I remembered how after that revelation, I simply sat in bowed silence and awe for days before the Lord Almighty.  I lived the rest of my life in reverence of the mystery of life and in gratitude of God’s sovereign grace.

Did your perspective of what had happened change with time and in what way has it matured?

JOB:  Of course it has. But it was not a maturing. It’s just that I now live on another plane of existence, on the other side of eternity. I now see the cross. I fully apprehend the depth and height and breadth and length of the love of God in His great sufferings on our behalf. I cannot see the suffering Son and say He did not care or love us. No way. I experience His love and wisdom in a heavenly dimension continually. I see all my past painful sufferings through the eyes of one who had been bathed in this pool of His incredible love and joy. There is no room in my heart for accusation or doubt or resentment of Him. Questions that bugged me when I was a child and thought like a child, rapidly dissipated like vapour in heaven’s air.

Did you say or do anything that you later regarded as childish or immature thinking on your part?

JOB:  Yes of course. My understanding of God was quite mechanistic, I suppose: If I am righteous, He will bless me, and nothing bad will happen. I had everything figured out in philosophical formulae. There was no allowance for mystery and the unexplainable in my life.

Some people in my generation think that you suffered because you feared specifically that all those terrible things would happen, and that’s why it came upon you: you sort of opened the door to evil in your life by your fears.

JOB:  I was afraid and I had my anxieties and exaggerated ideas of the worse that can happen to my family and business.  If such weaknesses opened the door to evil then I suppose there are millions of believers who would have such severe trials in their lives continually.   Since being on this side of eternity I have seen that God is greater than our darkest fears and He faithfully extends His hands of grace to his fearful and anxious ones as well .

May I ask what were your highest and lowest points in life?

JOB: The lowest point was when my wife gave up and left me. That came when I was already depressed.

My highest point? There were quite a few. The revelation I received from God of His attributes. Seeing how God restored my wealth double and gave me a new family.  However the highest point surely was being ushered into eternity and meeting Him face to face. Nothing could beat that!

What kept you going despite all the losses and pain?

JOB: I had this basic trust in God, and I did not want to die.

Having gone through such a severe trial, what advice would you give to those going through similar ordeals?

JOB:  Not so much of advice because advice does not really help people undergoing such profound suffering. They would need loving listening friends to be with them. I pray that people going through such severe trial will not lose hope in God. When they finally do feel that they have lost their hold of faith and hope, may they surrender and rest in His ability to uphold them.

My wish for them is that they would pray, Father I do not understand why this is happening, but I trust Your love and wisdom and power. You will work out all things for our good and for Your greater glory.

Would you want to go through such suffering again?

JOB:  Are you kidding?

Job, thanks for sharing these heavenly gems with us who continue to live in a fallen world full of pain and sufferings. We do not see as clearly as you do because we cling ever so tightly to our possessions and life as we know it.

JOB: You are welcome. Shalom my friend, see you an instant. I hope you know what I mean. Over here there is no sense of time.

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Malaysian church parody of Gangnam Style

This video is probably the best parody video done by a church of the Gangnam Style. The New Covenant Church of Petaling Jaya cooked up this fun and creative video for its 3rd anniversary celebrations. I saw it today and it put a smile on my face because there are people in it that I know and the Malaysian PSY lookalike is just fabulous in his cheeky movements and facial expressions. The lyrics of the rap “the tNCC style” are shameless and ingenious advertising. Enjoy and may it brighten up your office Monday blues!

To know more about the New Covenant Church click HERE.

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Form and function in education and worship

NTU new buildingWhen form fits function

Last week Channel News Asia reported a bold architectural design for its new Learning Hub. It made me think about form and function in education and worship. The design had tutorial rooms that looked circular and were stacked up into towers. The design was stunning and eye-catching. More importantly it’s form was aligned to its function beautifully. “The seven-storey learning hub will house 55 new-generation classrooms of the future, designed to support new pedagogies by promoting more interactive small group teaching and active learning,” is how Professor Kam explained the design. The building suited the pedagogies that maximized learning. I liked it immediately. It was Winston Churchill who said, ‘We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.” These NTU buildings will create a sense of community, like a family or clan gathered around a fire or a meal inside a circular shaped African hut or Mongolian yurt. The context of informality, collaboration and interaction will create a productive learning HDB church buildingenvironment.

When form and function diverge

The church building too should be an apt expression of its theology, worship, community and context. We have all kinds of church buildings in Singapore. The early church buildings in Singapore were forms imported from the west that gave token consideration to the Singaporean context, mainly its weather. Case in point is the oldest church building in Singapore: the Armenian Church consecrated in 1836. Most of the buildings in the 70s onward were pragmatic, space-maximizing utilitarian buildings built in the suburbs or in the HDB sites in the new housing estates. As land is scarce and expensive, maximizing usable space for various activities took priority over aesthetics. However I must say that the Catholics have done more justice in terms of constructing church buildings that aptly express their ideas of theology, worship, community and context much more than the Protestant churches. An example of this is St Mary of the Angels at Bukit Batok East, so beautiful it even won an architectural award.

starvista1The mega-churches impact form and function

The church scene today resembles the income gap we see in most developing countries. With the rise of the mega-churches like City Harvest Church and New Creation Church we are seeing astronomical amounts being spent on facilities of spectacular scale and impact and mixed usage. This is partly due to the limits placed on the size of buildings that can be constructed on the HDB sites made available for bidding. They would be grossly inadequate for their regular meeting attendances of over 20,000.
When God’s people realize they are God’s real building

On the other, hand there are hundreds of churches, gatherings of God’s faithful in sizes of 50 to 300 members who meet in purchased or rented premises in unglamorous industrial buildings, commercial buildings, private schools, houses, cinemas, hotels and other such buildings. These are churches who have a sharper realization that the church is not a beautiful or spacious or practical building that houses God’s people, but a gathered people and community that houses God. They know they themselves are the dwelling place of God. It is in living out this revelation that we see form and function finally in embrace in the living entity called church.

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Mt Kinabalu Youth Adventure 2

Nostalgia hit me today. We climbed Mt Kinabalu in March 2007. Agnes and I led a busload of youth and some of their fathers or mothers to climb this challenging but beautiful mountain. It was the second climb we organized for the church young people. It was almost disastrous, but the Lord in his grace and power, intervened and made it possible for everyone to climb. You see, permits to climb were given to quite a number at the Park HQ at the very last moment. The local tour agency had not booked sufficient beds but we had already booked our budget air tickets. The Lord was good and helped us through. Some miracles come only at the very last moment after you have kept faith in Him till the very end. I unearthed old photos from 5 years ago today and did this video for pleasure of nostalgia.

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Putting on the armour of God

armour of GodPutting on the armour of God the wrong way

What does it mean to put on the full armour of God? We can look at the different pieces of armour that protect different parts of the body in two basic ways. One is viewing it as something we need to do. The other is to view it as something Christ has already done. I used to hold to the former. This meant I had to put on each piece of armour by praying each piece on. If had not prayed to put it on daily, then I would be exposed to enemy attack. What anxiety I must have had. You see I learnt this from a sermon I heard in the 1980s. Obviously this daily prayer was not maintained for long.

Later this developed into another form of viewing the armour of God as something I needed to do. I needed to inculcate more truth, more righteousness in my life, share the gospel more, and cultivate hope and memorize more of the word of God to build my faith and to use against the enemy.  I soon realized there were big holes in my armour, for my faith often failed or faltered. My righteousness was always short of Jesus’ perfect righteousness. And I had not always been speaking or living out the truth consistently. All this meant my incomplete armour exposed me to the enemy! It was an insecure way to live the Christian life. There was anxiety and defeat instead of peace and victory.

Putting on the armour of God the right way

The other way to look at the armour of God is to see it as something God has already given us in Christ. I first saw this in a book titled “Into Battle” by Arthur Wallis. He saw all the pieces of armour as pointing to Christ and his finished work. The belt of truth was Jesus the way, the TRUTH and the life. The breastplate of righteousness was how God made Christ to be our righteousness. The shoes of the gospel of peace was how Jesus has become our peace by his death on the cross – making peace for us with God and with others. The helmet of salvation was Jesus our only hope of salvation for there was no other name under heaven whereby a man could be saved. The shield of faith was Jesus who protected us and shielded us from the evil one. Finally one of Jesus many titles is “the word of God” which happened to be the sword of the Spirit.

Thus Christ is the fulfilment of the full armour of God. When we have Christ and believe and stand on his finished work we have the whole armour of God on us. Like the switch is to the electric bulb, so is our faith in Christ’s finished work, the switch that puts on the armour. This attitude of faith in Christ brings rest, peace, victory and security.  I believe this interpretation of the armour of God is more in keeping with the overall tenet of Christian living and ministry – “by grace through faith”.

God’s greatest weapon

When the Christian stand in faith on the finished work of Christ and prays in the Spirit at all times with all kinds of prayer, he is God’s greatest offensive weapon in the spiritual battleground. More powerful yet, when such Christians come together to pray for God’s people and God’s servants they are like the Roman phalanx in attack mode.

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