Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Anglican Via Media

The Church of England’s peculiar history also shaped the tone and scope of the Articles. […] As an established Church, it was also important that she should be as comprehensive as possible, even given the need to exclude certain groups such as the Roman Catholics and the more radical Protestant sects. In this way, Reformation Anglicanism did indeed represent a via media, a middle way, but not in the sense for which Newman argued prior to moving Romeward. It was not a middle way between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism but rather between Roman Catholicism and Anabaptism. This is otherwise known as Reformation Protestantism.
  – pp. 112-113, The Creedal Imperative by Carl Trueman (italics original)

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Fatherhood

Are you a father? Or do you have a potential to be a father? (That’s just another way of saying, are you a man?) This is a great book on what fatherhood is, and what it’s for. Let me give you the opening paragraph of the chapter 2 (chapter 1 just explains what he will be doing in the book, that is to change your mind about fatherhood by showing you what fatherhood is and what it’s for. There, chapter 1 down.)
 “I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to maintain a serious conversation with someone while they are attacking your private parts with a knife, but that’s what I found myself doing one early summer morning in 1996.” 
  - p.19 in Fatherhoodby Tony Payne 

How can you not read on? Get it and read it. It’s a good mixture of humour, personal reflections, and biblical wisdom.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Ordinary? Or extraordinary? I can't decide.

It was a great privilege to do a bit of walk-up evangelism around Sydney Uni last Thursday. I went with a fellow college student, who I knew had a Jewish background. In the course of our conversations with people, someone asked what denomination he was from. My friend answered, “I’m a Jesus-man.” I’m a Christian too. So, telling people on the streets about Jesus Christ is I guess what is expected of us two. An ordinary thing to do. But I can’t stop thinking about that one hour spent together trying to talk to people about Jesus.

Below is a basic summary of what people said as we asked them what they thought about Jesus.

“Nah… not interested.”

“No, thanks.”

“I used to go to a Presbyterian church… I’m looking for a better preaching… a minister I used to know went and did something something something…, my wife has a Catholic church background, something something something… No, I don’t go to church at the moment. No, there are some difficulties with believing things about Jesus, his resurrection and oh, the virgin birth… although that’s a bit easier, maybe something happened with y-chromosome, but then, why… yeah, well, I now gotta go and teach a tutorial, so… thanks.”

“What’s your story? Nah, I’ve (you’ve? He was mumbling.) got something better to do.”

“Err… I dunno. I dunno. Something something something… I dunno. I went to a Catholic school, so I went to the mass and heard all that. No, I dunno. I dunno. I dunno. Basically if you do good, you will have a good life. I’m a Buddhist. I dunno. Ok… so what do you believe? So let me get it straight. You mean, even murderers and thieves, just by believing in Jesus can go to heaven? How is that just? What about sick children? Why didn’t God make things better than this? I dunno, I dunno. Something something something. I dunno. Nah, I haven’t read the Bible as an adult. Nah, I have a Bible at home. I went to a Catholic school. I dunno. Nah, see ya.”

“Huh. You don’t want to talk to me, ‘cause Christians hate homosexuals like me, right? No? Yeah? Fair? (walks off)”

These were people who needed to hear that Son of God came and died for us and rose back to life to be King over us. And there I was, a gentile, trying to tell people about Jesus, side-by-side with a Jesus-man who has a Jewish background. Reflecting back on it, I think I can decide. It was extraordinary.

“The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:6)”

Friday, 22 May 2015

Not assuming the gospel

Could you have preached that sermon if Christ had not died on the cross? Could you have developed that Christian leadership principle had Christ not been crucified? I’m not saying be impractical—the Bible has much to say about being practical—but make sure that the practical is tied to the message of Jesus. Otherwise we are on the road to an assumption that will lose the gospel.
   – p. 41, Marks of the Messenger by Mack Stiles


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Trusting God who rules over all things.

God is to be trusted when his providences seem to run contrary to his promises. God promised to give David the crown, to make him king; but providence ran contrary to his promise. David was pursued by Saul, and was in danger of his life, but all this while it was David's duty to trust God. Pray observe, that the Lord by cross providences often brings to pass his promise. God promised Paul the lives of all that were with him in the ship; but the providence of God seemed to run quite contrary to his promise, for the winds blew, the ship split and broke in pieces. Thus God fulfilled his promise; upon the broken pieces of the ship they all came safe to shore. Trust God when providences seem to run quite contrary to promises. 
  -- from A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson, pp. 86-87, explaining the doctrine of providence (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q11)

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The wicked flourish.

The wicked flourish. This seems to be very much out of order; but God, in his providence, sees good sometimes that the worst of men should be exalted; that they may do some work for God, though it be against their will. ... He makes use of the wicked sometimes to protect and shield his church; and sometimes to refine and purify it. 
  -- from A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson, p. 85, answering objections to the doctrine of providence (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q11)

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The grand design of preaching

The word is called a hammer. Jer. 23:29. Every blow of the hammer is to fasten the nails of the building; so the preacher's words are to fasten you the more to Christ; they weaken themselves to strengthen and settle you. This is the grand design of preaching, no only for the enlightening, but for the establishing of souls; not only to guide them in the right way, but to keep them in it.
  -- Thomas Watson (from A Body of Divinity, pp. 1-2)

Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Jeremiah 23:29 (ESV)


Image credit: "Thomas Watson (Puritan)" by Eugenio.Graziano - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 20 April 2015

I've never been to a mission before... or, have I?

Here's an excerpt from my latest prayer letter. See the whole thing, including pictures here!


Thank you for your prayers as I went on to my first College Mission. I had a great time with other college students and the local Christians at Gymea Anglican Church. I was able to participate in many evangelistic efforts with the church, and also learnt a few lessons I will remember for a long time.

I could tell you many things, but there is one lesson I really want to share with you. Before I went on the college mission, I was thinking that I had never been on any kind of mission and that made me feel quite nervous about the whole thing. Although I conceptually understood that the whole world was the mission field, for me, mission happened only in places like Pakistan, Peru, or at least somewhere in the Northern Territory. However, as I listened to many Christians at Gymea sharing their own experience of being marginalised at work or among friends because of their faith in Jesus, it dawned on me that Sydney was a mission field in a very real way. Sydney is a place where Jesus is not honoured and worshipped by many people, and there are plenty of people who are willing and capable of making evangelism difficult. I do not wish to minimise the unique challenges and greater difficulties overseas missionaries face. But it would be also wrong to think that Sydney is not a mission field. It is just a different mission field compared to one in Pakistan. It was as though the mission field has come home, rather than me going to a mission field.

One practical implication I realised is this. I should never assume a friendly reception of Christian message by the society in general. And they would not always warmly welcome the Christian living (of which evangelism is a part) that is a necessary consequence of the Christian message. Sometimes they may welcome our message and us, but by and large, the gospel message will be rejected and the gospel living will be scorned. And, that's okay. We are on a mission field! Oppositions are to be expected. In fact, it's only natural for people to reject the gospel. But the gospel is still powerful and saves everyone who believes. There is no other hope for the lost and dying people of Sydney than to hear that Jesus died and rose again to bring people home.

So, then. Shall we continue proclaiming that one Name that can save?

Monday, 9 February 2015

Learning biblical greek is a spiritual exercise

Moore College Logo
I have just begun my formal theological training at Moore College last week. And my week has been filled with Greek Intensive classes. In fact, biblical Greek is the only subject I am studying for the first two weeks. Now, here’s a lesson I learnt in the first week of college, which I think is the most important lesson of the week.

Learning biblical greek is a spiritual exercise. This does not mean that only Christians can study biblical Greek or get good marks in exams. What I mean is that when I study biblical Greek as a Christian, I should approach the subject with the same kind of humility and dependence on God as I would when I do a bible study, for example.

I suppose there is a sense in which everything a Christian does has a spiritual dimension to it, since the doer is a living spiritual being who lives before the face of God. However, I initially came to the Greek class thinking that this is a time where I simply learn a tool to really get into God’s word. To be sure, the language of biblical Greek is not divine in and of itself. However, I now realise that studying biblical Greek is much more than simply learning some grammar and memorising vocabularies. As I study biblical Greek, the grammar and the vocabularies, the words and meanings are found from the pages of Scriptures, which is the written word of God. As I engage with a phrase and try to discern the meaning of it, I am faced with the very word of God. Hence, the whole exercise of learning and memorising biblical Greek takes a very explicit spiritual dimension. Learning biblical Greek is more similar to doing a bible study than, say, learning aerodynamics, or even learning French.


I am glad that the lecturers at Moore college have impressed this reality upon me and keep on emphasising the importance of humbling ourselves before God through prayer as we study biblical Greek. I was humbled by the fact that each session began with a prayer even when we had three sessions back to back. I am also glad that I am not doing this alone, but in company of many other like-minded students who are willing to submit themselves to the Lordship of Christ.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Justification by faith, stated.

Lady Jane Grey (source: wikipedia)
Lady Jane Grey. A young lady who had an adamantium conviction regarding the authority of Scriptures and salvation by faith alone.
In a conference (a conversation or a dialogue) with a Roman Catholic monk, Dr. Feckenham, she states what the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone means.

Feckenham: What thing is required in a Christian?
Jane: To believe in God the Father, in God the Son, in God the Holy Ghost, three persons and one God.
Feckenham: Is there nothing else required in a Christian, but to believe in God?
Jane. Yes: We must believe in him, we must love him, with all our heart, with all our soul, and all our mind, and our neighbour as ourself.
Feckenham: Why then faith justifieth not, nor saveth not?
Jane: Yes, verily, faith (as St. Paul saith) only justifieth.
Feckenham: Why St. Paul saith, if I have all the faith of the world, without love, it is nothing.
Jane: True it is, for how can I love him I trust not, or how can I trust in him whom I love not; faith and love ever agree together, and yet love is comprehended in faith.
Feckenham: How shall we love our neighbour?
Jane: To love our neighbour, is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and to give drink to the thirsty, and to do to him as we would do to ourselves.
Feckenham: Why, then it is necessary to salvation to do good works, and it is not sufficient to believe?
Jane: I deny that, I affirm that faith only saveth; for it is meet for all Christians, in token that they follow their master Christ, to do good works; yet may we not say, nor in any wise believe, that they profit to salvation: for although we have done all that we can, yet we are unprofitable servants, and the faith we have only in Christ’s blood and his merits, saveth. 
 -- from The Literary Remains of Lady Jane Grey, as quoted on Lady Jane Grey Reference Guide (bold mine)
She was only 16 (or 17 at most) when she said this. And that was in a prison. Admittedly, she possessed an exceptional intellect, but more than that, she was possessed by the grace of God that gave her unwavering convictions. After some time, she was beheaded at the age of 17.

Will I have such clarity in my knowledge of God? Will I persevere with such an unwavering conviction? I pray that I will. How about you?

(I was first introduced to Lady Jane Grey and this quote by an online resource called Reformation Profiles from Ligonier Ministries.)