I Must Decrease

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And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
(John 3:26)
He must increase, but I must decrease.
(John 3:30)

The verse above offers a lot of food for thought. It is something to meditate upon and apply in our own lives.

How often we long to increase, to expand, go gain power and authority! And yet, how often do we need to learn to decrease. If we had the humility of John, what a great thing that will be!

John saw his role was to decrease, to pave and prepare the way of Yeshua to come. He was the opposite of the men and women at Babel, who sought to create a monument for themselves, to be praised and exalted for all time.

And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
(Genesis 11:4)

And yet, we are to live as “dead” to ourselves but “alive” to God. How powerful, yet how profound!

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20)

 

Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult 

​Jesus calls us: o’er the tumult

of our life’s wild, restless sea;

day by day his sweet voice soundeth

saying, “Christian, follow me.”
2 Jesus calls us from the worship

of the vain world’s golden store,

from each idol that would keep us,

saying, “Christian, love me more.”
3 In our joys and in our sorrows,

days of toil and hours of ease,

still he calls, in cares and pleasures,

“Christian, love me more than these.”
4 Jesus calls us: by thy mercies,

Savior, may we hear thy call,

give our hearts to thy obedience,

serve and love thee best of all.

Here is another deeply encouraging hymn about discipleship.  I always keep my eyes open for them. 

Recently I have started occasionally attending a traditional Anglican Church for morning prayer and holy communion, depending on the Sunday. It’s a beautiful, ancient grey building, vastly different from the simply “unchurched” fellowship back home. 

Traditional churches get a lot of criticism, but I feel there’s always something you can benefit from a church and fellowship of believers, spiritually. No church is or can be perfect and sometimes it’s good just to recognise that we can fellowship with all who call on Jesus Christ, adhere to the basic creed of our faith and teach + practice discipleship. 

Am I a Soldier of the Cross? (Hymn)

1 Am I a soldier of the cross?
a follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause?
or blush to speak His name?

2 Must I be carried to the skies
on flowery beds of ease,
while others fought to win the prize,
and sailed through bloody seas?

3 Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
to help me on to God?

4 Sure, I must fight if I would reign;
increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported by Thy Word.

A Study in Hospitality

There’s something about hospitality that I love so much. Maybe it’s because I love to cook, I love to have people around (even though, *sigh*, there will be the inevitable stack of dishes afterwards). But it’s worth it, so worth it.

A study of hospitality in the Bible uncovered some FASCINATING truths, and I say truly fascinating. The word “hospitality” is philonexus, which comes from philoxenus, which comes from philos and xenos. Philos means love, xenos means strangers. Hospitality literally means love of strangers and it’s the exact and total opposite of xenophobia, which is to hate people who are different.

It’s important to different between what is Christian and unchristian. Xenophobia is unchristian, welcoming people who are different with open arms is Christian, or better yet, Christ-like. The love of money, greed, corruption and bribery is unchristian, but generosity and simplicity is Christ-like. Anger and violence is unchristian, gentleness, love and kindness is Christian. Being mean-spirited and revengeful is the opposite of being forgiving and turning the other cheek. Being wise is the opposite of being foolish. The list goes on and on, and we need to be able to recognize godly values and attitudes and distinguish them from ungodly values and attitudes! Furthermore, Christians shouldn’t be known for being arrogant, for pushing our weight around, for being violent and defensive, etc. I just wish that we could represent Christ, and live “quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and reverence”. Can we be known for having Christ’s love, for being sacrificial and giving?

Discovering the meaning of the word “hospitality” was a lightbulb moment for me. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught to hate or fear people who are different from us, but, instead, we are taught to love. Not in feeling, not in word, but in action –  by being hospitable, by welcoming people with open arms. We are also called to be hospitable with one another, with our brethren.

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

(James 2:14-17)

 

 

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

(Luke 14:12-14)

 

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

(Matthew 25:35)

 

Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:

(3 John 1:5-6)

 

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

(1 Timothy 3:2)

 

For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

(Titus 1:7-8)

 

 

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

(1 Peter 4:8-10)

 

Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

(Hebrews 13:1-3)

 

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

(Romans 12:10-14)

 

 

Forth in the Peace of Christ We Go

This hymn is rich with meaning.

1 – Forth in the peace of Christ we go;
Christ to the world with joy we bring;
Christ in our minds, Christ on our lips,
Christ in our hearts, the world’s true King.

2 – King of our hearts, Christ makes us kings;
kingship with him his servants gain;
with Christ, the Servant-Lord of all,
Christ’s world we serve to share Christ’s reign.

3 – Priests of the world, Christ sends us forth
this world of time to consecrate,
our world of sin by grace to heal,
Christ’s world in Christ to re-create.

4 – Prophets of Christ, we hear his Word:
he claims our minds to search his ways;
he claims our lips to speak his truth;
he claims our hearts to sing his praise.

5 – We are his Church, he makes us one:
here is one hearth for all to find;
here is one flock, one Shepherd-King;
here is one faith, one heart, one mind.

By James Quinn

In His Likeness

As His disciples, we…

Served as He served,
Give as He gave,
Forsake as He forsook.
Trust as He trusted,
Fast as He fasted
Obey as He obeyed,
Proclaim as He proclaimed,
Overcome as He overcame,
Walk as He walked,
Preach as He preached,
Teach as He taught,
Free as He freed,
Weep as He wept,
See as He sees,
Love as He loves,
Heal as He heals,
Pray as He prays,
Bless as He blesses,
Forgive as He forgives,
Live as He lives.

Lessons in Generosity

Let brotherly love continue.
(Hebrews 13:1)

I believe, in the last few weeks, the Lord has been teaching me to be generous, reminding me that blessings and abundance allow us the privilege of sharing.

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Sometimes, I feel like being generous means you’re open to being taken advantage of. Especially if you give and share, and, at the back of your mind, you take notice that people never seem to return your “generosity”, and you start to get calculative… And grumble. And tell God you think you’re being taken advantage of. And then when the opportunity arises again to share with someone you’re just a tad bit reluctant on the inside, even if you don’t show it on the outside.

And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
(Luke 6:34-35)

Then, of course, when you get to know people better you start to see  more of what God sees (that you don’t see). And then you realise why you were led to share with them in the first place!

I’ve started to see more than people, people who on the outside seem just like me – normal, happy, well-adjusted, prosperous… When you get to know people, you find that they have needs that you can meet and areas you can bless them, whether in term of physical health, emotional health, physical poverty or lack… or just a need for help. Not that I can do much except be a friend, share what I can, listen to people…

There’s a joy that comes from living a generous life, and that’s what the Lord is teaching me. I feel like He’s saying that “I’ve blessed you, I want you to live selflessly and bless others”. Not in a way that makes me look good, of course! Not to boost my self-esteem or whatever.

Amazingly, He has shown Himself to be my provider. While I’ve chosen to live frugally and to stretch my pennies, He’s just abundantly provided for me in more ways than I can describe, one amazing gift after the other… more than I could create for myself or achieve through my own “cunning”. And it feels so overwhelming.

So miraculous is this that I want to throw my hands towards heaven and say, “God, I want to live like this. I want to give and live sacrificially, to be a “man for others” like Jesus was”. Of course, once I’ve said this, He’s probably going to test me and challenge me in ways less convenient.

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
(Luke 14:12-14)

Consecrated Living

 

Youtube recently recommended loads of videos about “discerning my calling/vocation” because of my watch history. Naturally curious, I watched many of them and was touched. The lives of the Catholic sisters who live to love Jesus and serve others presents an honest challenge to my own life. Am I adoring Jesus and worshiping at His feet? Am I earnestly praying? Am I truly serving others with humility and steadfastness?

These videos are seriously tempting me! Or at least tantalizing me with ways the life of discipleship is lived out. I’m really encouraged, though I’ll take take up a habit or make the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

My conviction is this: to live the life of following Jesus radically. This means poverty. This means chastity to some extent (as the fixation of my life onto one goal, that is Him). That means obedience.

The call of discipleship is the call to the cross. We hear the one who makes the call, Jesus, and supernaturally encounter Him in our lives. He transforms us, changes us, gives us a new life so that henceforth we are not longer the same. We are no longer our own, but His. And He makes us His disciples – calling us, ordaining us, consecrating us for His divine use.

Each of us is called to live in the world, and yet not to be of it. We are called instead to go into the world, every crevice and corner of it where there are souls and to proclaim the gospel with confidence, teaching all nations, baptizing and discipling them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

And each of us to called to be part of the Christian community, to love one another as He has loved us, knit us together as a household or a family. People from polar-opposite backgrounds – we show the world what unity and peace means.

The three biggest imperatives commanded by Jesus are the love of God, the love of our brethren, and the love of our neighbor. These loves do not come from us. They are similar to contemplative life, community living, and active service, aren’t they?

 

Gospel Women

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated, and that’s because of various life changes like moving and attending a new college!

My recent meditation has been on living the life of a “gospel woman”. That’s a term from a documentary in which a Roman Catholic Sister describes her life as that of a “gospel woman”.

I found the documentary to be very respectful and convicting at the same time. The lives and testimonies of women who live according to Christ’s calling of poverty, chastity, obedience, taking up their crosses, dying to self… that’s a lot that I can identify with with regards to my own calling or “vocation”.

The tireless work of such sisters reminds me that all disciples are called to be gospel women, to live consecrated lives in obedience to Him.  My own belief is that this calling is on each and every one of us, that “religious life” and “vocations” are not for a select few but for every disciple. Some are called to live as mothers and wives, and some to serve in other capacities. But we are all called to serve and make a difference for Him.

Another thought-provoking concept is that of “contemplative” and “active” ministry. Contemplative vocations are prayerful, meditative, silent and cloistered, while active vocations mean working with the poor, the destitute, the needy and so forth. The prime example of this comes from the life of Jesus, who took time to be alone with the Father and to pray, and who also actively ministered and served.

This has got me thinking about my own life. There have been times when my relationship with God was very “contemplative” – studying the Bible and praying for hours and hours and days and days, almost religiously and with a great deal fevour. And then I felt I must move away from that and live out the life of a disciple practically, which in some ways I feel has resulted me in carnally neglecting to spend time praying, communing with God and studying Scripture. So I pray that a new stage in my life will begin when I will have a balance with both.

What does a consecrated life mean to me? Obedience, and freedom. Serving. I have my short-term calling, which at the present means training to be a teacher which I know God will use in some form or the other. I have a strong desire to serve in this capacity.

Then there is that other calling, which has been in my life for nearly ten years now. I do not know when or where God will bring me to live out this calling, recently confirmed again by yet another passage of Scripture. I feel that even if this is lived out in the ministry of prayer and intercession, it will never be a waste. I do not know why God is preparing me and calling me for this seemingly impossible and incredulous task. Sometimes I am filled with doubt as to whether I have this conviction of my own volition and imagination or is it truly from Him. I pray that He will reveal this in time, but for now, I must return to His Word and to Him.

Appropriate Christian Music

What kind of music do you believe is appropriate for Christian worship and meditation?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)

I always feel there’s room for diversity in the Body of Christ. We all express ourselves differently, and as songs (like the psalms) were written freely to express how the psalmists felt and what they wanted to express to God, I feel there can be an element of rawness and honesty – our songs don’t have to be perfectly scripted, just like our prayers. I mean – just read the Psalms!

Being involved in various movements, I know Christians comes from a great many cultural backgrounds. We speak different languages, and we worship God with different kinds of music from all over the world. Christians in the Holy Land, the Middle East, India, China and so forth have written their own praises in their own tongues. So have Christians in the west (hymns, chorales, choruses, etc).

It’s just important that in the way we do things, we don’t become puffed up in our own estimations and look down on others who practice their faith differently. There’s no one way!

Some churches only have certain instruments (organs? harps?), while some have bands, choirs, and more complex arrangement. Still, some others eschew musical instruments altogether and rely on congregational harmony.

Of course, the tendency in Christian music is for it to go out of hand in terms of complexity, style, and emphasis. If we start becoming more and more “showy” and “entertaining” in our music, the focus can be drawn away from simple, honest and sincere worship to elaborate and expensive displays of talent. Then, worship just becomes an experience that’s limited to our senses and can fall short of bringing spiritual growth and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In short, distracting.

Some Christians sing traditional European hymns like those of Wesley, or American hymns like Charles Wesley. There are also so many contemporary songs of various styles and that come from countries all over the world, even if you only consider the English language!

A study of music in Bible times led me to discover that “Davidic” or “Hebrew”music was really very similar to the music in cultures that the Children of Israel interacted with – Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Canaanites, etc. Of course, they sang about other things and worshipped their own gods, but the instruments and technology they used was basically the same. The Children of Israel were distinct because they worshipped the One True God and followed His Torah, but there’s no evidence they lived so very different lives in terms of their language, dress, vocations like carpentry and smithing, warefare, and even their music. That’s why Middle Eastern music today has many characteristics in common with Jewish music – similar chords and scales, for example!

There’s really no “one holy way” to follow. That’s why we all don’t speak Aramaic, Hebrew or Greek, and certainly why we don’t wear linen robes. The important things that we do need to follow are outlined in Scripture, and thank God that we don’t have to sing only in a specific way but can use new instruments, modern music technology, and elements like formal written music, chords, and scales..

But, there are some things that remain true and relevant to this day – God’s Word, especially!

One thing that my own congregation began to do several years ago was to go back to the Bible. I feel there’s a time and place for songs borne out of our walk with God (like Amazing Grace, for example, a story of John Newton’s salvation experience), but that singing Scripture is amazing not only because God’s Word is eternal and powerful and amazing, and that we can learn and grow so much from meditating on it, but also because our own walk and experiences can become more aligned and in tune with God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.

For the purpose of teaching and admonishment, psalms and other passages of Scripture really do the best job!

If you’ve read Bonhoeffer’s book – “Psalms, Prayerbook of the Bible”, then it makes sense the Psalms not only be our prayers but our songs because they are our Lord’s prayers and songs.

I would strongly encourage Christians to write and sing songs from Scripture. Scripture is guaranteed to bless and to minister to each and every one of us  – it is life!