Archive for the 'Following Christ' Category



Gotta serve somebody

Gotta Serve Somebody
As sung by Bob Dylan

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music

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Christopher Hitchens gets it exactly right

During a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, noted atheist Christopher Hitchens laid down some seriously good theology. Most people recognize Hitchens as the author of the bestselling book God Is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything. Since the book’s publication in 2007, Hitchens has toured the country debating a series of religious leaders, including some well-known evangelical thinkers. In Portland he was interviewed by Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell. The entire transcript of the interview has been posted online. The following exchange took place near the start of the interview:

Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the Scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Sewell wanted no part of that discussion so her next words are, “Let me go someplace else.”

This little snippet demonstrates an important point about religious “God-talk.” You can call yourself anything you like, but if you don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead, you are not “in any meaningful sense” a Christian.

Talk about nailing it.

In one of the delicious ironies of our time, an outspoken atheist grasps the central tenet of Christianity better than many Christians do. What you believe about Jesus Christ really does make a difference.

Dr. Ray Pritchard, “Christopher Hitchens Gets it Exactly Right,” KeepBelieving.com (2-1-10)

Easter hope

The following article commissioned by Asian Beacon magazine. Should be out around now at all fine bookstands nationwide.

~

Hope for a better day

What did Peter see when he looked into the empty tomb that day? According to John 20, he saw strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.
 
The linen lying there implied that Jesus’ body had been lifted through the covering or dematerialized and re-materialized in another place. Doesn’t matter. The important thing is: there was no corpse in the tomb that day. The women who came to anoint Jesus’ body was instead greeted by an angel who told them that, “He is not here; He is risen.” Peter looked and confirmed the news. And in that vacant space rested the hope of all mankind.
 
Hope for the criminal on death row, convicted of a dozen heinous crimes. His family does not want him and even if he receives a pardon, it’s unlikely anybody will offer him a job, or a place to sleep. He has no idea how believing in Jesus will help his present situation but there’s still hope, if not in this life then in the next.
 
Hope for the rich businessman, who has everything he’s ever wanted and more. Not that being rich is evil but this particular person has money that he cannot – and will not – account for. Like us at some point in time, he has threatened, lied, cheated, framed, backstabbed, and even consulted spirits to further his selfish ambitions. Unlike most of us, all these have made him very wealthy and unfortunately, unable to trust anybody.
 
Hope for the Haitian quake victim, trapped in darkness under several feet of rubble. Hope for the young girl who was forcibly ‘cut’ – without anesthetic and using filthy, blunt razors – because her elders believed it was an essential step towards womanhood. Hope for the young woman who wants to be a surgeon but is constantly told by her family that a woman’s place is either at home or in the grave.
 
Hope for the prostitute, gangster, gambler, suicide-bomber, drunk driver, depressed housewife, and priest with a penchant for young boys. Hope for everyone who believes that Jesus overcame death and was resurrected on the third day.
 
When I look into the empty tomb, I see Jesus tapping death on the shoulder and saying “Move over, I’m in charge now.” His resurrection tells us that all people everywhere are precious to Him. No matter what they’ve done, what they are or how much they hate Him, He will do anything to give them a hope and a future.
 
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” – John 3:16. The world out there is waiting to hear this. The empty grave gives us hope to continue the good work.

Remembering the forgotten people

The following piece was written in late 2001 and published in my church’s newsletter. I thought it might be good to post it online so as to remember our brethren up north. May His Spirit continue to teach and lead us to pray for the less fortunate.

Thy will be done

The faded, tear-stained photograph brings back warm memories. It seemed like only yesterday she held their tiny bodies close to her bosom. Last night, her eldest child called. He announced that he was going steady with another man. And that he’s moving out. Two months earlier, her daughter ran away with an older woman. Both children have grown up now, she reminds herself.

* * * * *

When was the last time he had a bath or a decent meal, nobody knows. All day long, he hobbles under the hot sun holding out a blackened, sore-infested hand. Where his eyes used to be, there are now bloody, gaping, pus-filled sockets. A bent, toothless old woman is holding his arm. She is his eyes. They make their way through the crowd begging for money.

* * * * *

A dusty, squalid road runs through the the main town. The residents live in dirty, single room shacks. Stay a while and through the windows, you’ll notice little eyes twinkling mischievously at you. Oh, there are plenty of children here – always loud, playful and terribly restless. But unlike most kids, their tiny noses are constantly swollen and itchy. Sniffing glue does that to you.

* * * * *

Her husband travels frequently. She tells everybody he’s having an affair and it’s true. But she doesn’t leave him because she’s afraid of being alone. And besides, there’s a 5-year old with the cutest smile in the whole world. Laughingly, she says she can’t control his behaviour either. She admits that she often screams and throws things at him. Once, late at night, the neigbours had to physically restrain her from strangling the little boy.

* * * * *

Two women meet each other at the playground. Old friends, they smile and sit on the grass while their children make a dash for the swings. Before long, the conversation comes around to their favourite subject: Husbands. The younger woman says she her man isn’t home. She doesn’t know where he is and he hasn’t called in five months. At least I know what my husband is doing, says the other. He’s spending the night with his mistress.

* * * * *

Last December, a group of us spent five days in Haadyai among these people. We sat with them, ate with them and listened to their stories. Ater that, we all went on our separate ways. I returned to an air-conditioned house, closet full of clothes and fridge packed with delicacies. My wife was waiting for me at the door. I thanked God that I am loved and that He has blessed me exceedingly abundantly.

Then I remembered the child sleeping in a small room shared by three families, the old couple who are probably rummaging through the garbage bins looking for food, and the young woman washing her husband’s mistress’s clothes.

Lord, what does it take to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots? Between the hidden people and those who choose not to look? Between those who only know suffering, and those who know the suffering Christ?

I waited for an answer but He remained silent. After a while, I heard His voice. He was crying too.

The zodiac explained

Tai Tai Cat. CNY decoration at a local mall.

Happy CNY folks and welcome to the year of the metal tiger. Everybody’s favourite feng shui master Ms Lilian Too says that we should expect an “agressive, fierce and tough” twelve months ahead. Depending on which year you’re born I suppose. Am no expert but here’s my take on the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac:

Rat
Ox
Tiger 
Rabbit
Dragon
Snake
Horse
Ram
Monkey
Rooster
Dog, and
Pig.

According to legend, the whole thing started when the Jade Emperor invited all the animals to a race. The prize was a coveted position in the Chinese zodiac. The order in which they came thus determined their order in the calendar.

The rat was first, but not because it had the fastest legs. Rather, the quick-witted rodent sat on the ox’s head and jumped off to cross the finishing line just before its ‘taxi’ rumbled in. Meanwhile, the mighty dragon was somewhat delayed because it made a detour to help create rain for a draught-ridden farmland. The snake wrapped itself around the horse’s leg and, like the rat, slid off to reach its destination first. 

There are many versions to this story but for argument’ sake, let’s stick to this one. We can learn a few important lessons here:

1. Despite being the smartest, the rat is constantly fooled by the humble glue board.

2. The cat isn’t on the list because the rat told him that the race was a day later. Which is why they are enemies till this day. Meanwhile, the rat and the ox get along just fine. Of course, this doesn’t explain why the dog and cat are enemies. According to inside sources however, the mutt is and always has been a stooge of the rat.

3. The cheetah didn’t get the invitation or must have overslept, which explains why it looks pissed in every photograph.

4. The peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest animal according to Guinness, is also pissed.

5. If you race a horse and rabbit, the rabbit will win. Or maybe rabbits were built faster back then.

6. The race cannot be scientifically duplicated because nobody can locate a dragon.

7. Pigs can run faster than you think. In some American states, they grease a pig and then try to catch it. Hence the phrase ,”Slicker than a greased pig.” The Chinese on the other hand, prefer to grease a pig after they’ve caught it. 

8. Maybe you’ve read that email saying a pig’s orgasm lasts 30 minutes. Some people say it’s due in the part to the pig remembering it beat 98% of the other animals to make it into the zodiac. For the record, an orgasm is a mental not physical state – so scientists can’t really tell. Also, female pigs tend to fake it.

9. To coincide with the auspicious new year, the tiger dance was introduced in Malaysia. And in case you’re asking – there will be NO rabbit dances next year.

10. But there will be a dragon dance the year after.

~

Yours truly was born in the year of the rat. When I became a follower of Christ, I was born again in the year of the lamb. “Christ is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” – John 1:29. Why a lamb? In those days, the poor lamb was a sacrificial animal that people put on the altar to ask God to forgive them of all the evil things they’ve done. The creature, in essence, paid the penalty for sin.

After a while, this kinda became routine and people weren’t really interested in changing their ways. So Jesus had to basically come down from heaven, show us the way and be the ultimate sacrifice once and for all. When we put our faith in Christ, we are saying to God “I’m really truly sorry for the wicked things I’ve done. You’re fair and just, and I know evil deeds cannot go unpunished. On the cross, Jesus took the punishment that was meant for me. I believe that and have now put my faith in Him. I ask Jesus to teach and guide me.”

Something like that. It’s not easy condensing the entire bible into two short paragraphs! And btw – a lot of you out there really love Jesus, it’s His fan club you can’t stand. I know. I understand. Forgive us. We’re working on getting our act together.

How much are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want?

Thanks to Dr Ng for the amazing video.

The strange and roundabout way

Didn’t occur to me before: God could have picked a girl from Bethlehem (where scripture says the Messiah will be born). Instead, He choose young Mary from Nazareth and made her travel all the way to Bethlehem. A most tiring journey but one that proclaims the higher purposes of God. Below, a poem by John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Mighty Mercy

Why did He choose a northern maid
From Nazareth, who had to trade
Her Galilee for Judah just
To get Messiah where He must
Be born? A strange and roundabout
Procedure for a God, no doubt,
Who values His efficiency
And rules the world from sea to sea!
Why not a girl from Bethlehem?
Well half the girls in town would stem
From David’s line. And carpenters
Aplenty there could bear the slurs
And gossip on a virgin got
with child, who blushed and said she’d not
Once kissed her man this whole year past.
Why not? Because God’s power is vast,
And in one little virgin birth
His sovereign joy and mighty mirth
In saving us from evil bent
Could never, never rest content.
Instead He turned and set His sight
To spangle Rome with all His might;
And took a girl from Galilee
To magnify His sovereignty.
And made the Roman king conspire
With God, to serve a purpose higher
Than he or any in the realm
Could see—a stroke to overwhelm
A few with faith and cause their heart
To know the truth, at least in part,
That, though God loves efficiency
And rules the world from sea to sea,
He does not go from here to there
By shortest routes to save His fare.
He’d rather start in Galilee,
Then pass a law in Rome, you see,
To get the child down south at length,
And magnify His sovereign strength.
God rules the flukes of history
To see that Micah’s prophecy
Comes true. Why did He choose a maid
From Nazareth? Perhaps she prayed
That endless mercy might abound
And take the longer way around.
The mighty mercy we adore
As we light advent candle four.