Saturday, May 23, 2015

SPIRITUAL VIBRANCY (Fellowship of the People)

TITLE: SPIRITUAL VIBRANCY (Fellowship of the People)
SCRIPTURE: 1 John 2:9-11
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: May 22nd, 2015

"9Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them." (1 John 2:9-11)

Spiritual Vibrancy #2:
Fellowship of the People
Last week, I wrote about the spiritual vibrancy of the Church that centers around the preaching of the Word. This week, I want to continue with the reflection on spiritual vibrancy by looking at the response to the preaching of the Word. If there is no response, the preaching will be in vain. If there is a response, not only will the people in the community be blessed, the Church will also be blessed. This week is Part Two of the Spiritual Vibrancy series.

In an talk show hosted by Anderson Cooper of CNN, famed marital expert Dr John Gottmann was asked about what was the #1 issue that couples fight about. He replied with a witty word: "Nothing."

The answer was hilarious but also spot on.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spiritual Vibrancy (Preaching of the Word)

TITLE: SPIRITUAL VIBRANCY (Preaching of the Word)
SCRIPTURE: 2 Timothy 4:2
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: May 11th, 2015

"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Timothy 4:2)

Spiritual Vibrancy #1:
Biblical Preaching
Why is it that some churches are vibrant while others are simply dull? Is it because of the quality of the sermons? Or is it because of the warmth of the fellowship? Or is it because of something more practical like logistics, travel, or the convenience of something more unusual like parking? Starting this week, I like to launch a series of three reflections about spiritual vibrancy.

In conjunction with May 30th, 2015 as Global Outreach Day, I would like to say that vibrancy comes about with three things. First, the preaching of the Word. Second, the fellowship of the people. Third, the passion of outreach of the community. Both the second and third elements are active responses to the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. With the preaching of the Word, there needs to be a response. Without any responses, the Word remains within the four walls of churches and Christian communities who gather each week for worship.

The Preaching of the Word

One of the most striking traits in any revivals is the strong preaching of the Word. In the 18th Century (1731-1755), in what we know as the first great awakening in North America, we have men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, whose powerful preaching revitalized the entire society to go forth in faith and witness of the gospel of Christ. In the nineteenth century (1790-1840), there is the American spiritual awakening with Francis Asbury (Methodist), Henry Ward Beecher (Presbyterian), Charles Finney, and others who inspired a new generation with powerful preaching against the ills of society. Then comes the 20th Century (1850-1900) spiritual awakening, thanks to the Pentecostal movement and the Holiness movement. People like Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey were household names. In the 21st Century, we will all recognize the names of Billy Graham, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and in our modern days, Chuck Swindoll, Rick Warren, and Tim Keller. Many of the megachurches all had one thing in common: Powerful preaching over the pulpit.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Praying Through Psalm 30 (For Nepal)

Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: April 30th, 2015
"I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me." (Ps 30:1)
(Photo Credit: BBC 2015)
O Lord, it's Nepal. What is happening there, You know best.
How do I exalt you in the midst of news like that? Can the wounded be lifted out of the depths?
Did the people of Nepal do something wrong to deserve all this disaster?
There is so much suffering and pain over there now. Lord, do something!
Let there be miracles in the midst of tragedy. Let there the enemies of Nepal, wherever they are gloat over the tragedy of Nepal.

"2Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. 3You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit." (Ps 30:2-3)
Lord, You are able to help. Bring forth your compassion through the efforts of the nations who have pledged help. Enable them to send their best. Bring them from afar. Enlarge the capacity of the Nepali infrastructure to cope with the increased demand. Encourage the rescuers with good news. Heal the hurt. Strengthen the rescuers. Spare more lives. Let there be survivors who would call out, cry out, and shout aloud their location. Prevent more people from going to the pit.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Living in a Hostile Climate

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:43-48
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: April 21st, 2015.

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The climate against Christianity is increasingly hostile. From persecutions of Christians in the Middle East by ISIS to religious extremism in Malaysia, life is getting very complicated and dangerous for people of the Cross. Just today, I read about Ethiopian believers being executed in cold blood by the Islamic radicals. The killers even gloated about the killings as something that they do in the name of Allah. The violence that they have meted out is atrocious. The Christians were killed simply because they refused to embrace Islam or pay a heavy tax to retain their faith. The ones who died are the martyrs of today. They died for their faith.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Relinquishing Control

SCRIPTURE: John 8:31-32
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: March 13th, 2015

31So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

It is not easy to relinquish control. The more competent a person is, the more difficult it is to stay away from controlling things, circumstances, or even people. An expert mechanic would be able to sense the reasons behind a rumbling noise behind the wheel. Upon hearing the troubling creaks or squeaks, he would be quick to offer a way for the driver to look into. After all, mechanics are trained to listen for strange sounds or problems regarding the automobile.

Like mechanics, computer technicians too will be ready to solve any problem regarding computers. If a computer slows down, try adding additional RAM memory, defrag the hard drive, or simply reboot the machine. If the software breaks at some point, try to tweak it, or to uninstall and reinstall it afresh. Troubleshooting problems can be very time-consuming, especially when customers do not really know what they have done before. It takes a patient and understanding technician to get to the root of the problem. While skilled technical people find it easy to get into a problem solving mode, it is not so easy to relinquish control of the situation. For some, it is the thrill of finding out the cause that drives them. For others, it is their reputation of a computer expert that is at stake. Yet, for others, they need to satisfy the impatient and increasingly irritated customer.

This is a world of technical prowess in a culture infatuated with speed. If one is not competent, one will lose the job to the competition. If one is not quick enough, customer satisfaction will be affected. For such people, rest is particularly hard especially when it means relinquishing control over things that are within your domain of expertise. For Christians who honour the Sabbath, it is also a practical question. How would you reconcile trying to solve work issues on your rest day? Are you able to relinquish control for an immediate resolution to a problem? Why is it so hard to wait?

There are many reasons why people find it hard to rest. Let me share just three.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What About Saturday?

SCRIPTURE: John 19:28-30
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date:April 3rd, 2014.

"Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.' A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lip. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (John 19:28-30)

SYNOPSIS: Good Friday is often remembered as the day where the sins of the world are laid upon Jesus Christ. Resurrection Sunday is the day of hope. What about Saturday?

So what do we do between Good Friday and Easter?
Today is Good Friday. Christians all over the world commemorate this event as the day where the wrath of God was satisfied as Jesus took upon himself the punishment for the sins of the whole world. This is through no fault of his but all of mankind. Theologians call this the atonement. Also called the penal substitution where Jesus bore upon himself the sins of the whole world for our sake, it is a core doctrine that unites the Church during this Good Friday remembrance. That is not all. In our Christian doctrine of the Trinity, in Jesus is suffering, it also means God the Father and the Holy Spirit suffers too. For God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three persons in one Godhead. When one suffers, all suffer. It is not three Gods but one. It is a mystery that has confounded people through the ages. One of the best ways to understand the Trinity is this:
The Father is the Father because of the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Son is the Son because of the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit because of the Father and the Son.
Those who over-analyze this risk turning the Trinity into some form of heresy about the Trinity. This is not to say we cannot study or think of the Trinity. It simply means that there is an aura of mystery that will keep us in wonder and openness to revelation to come. The Athanasian Creed is particularly instructive.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Thank You Mr Lee Kuan Yew

SCRIPTURE:Romans 12:15
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: March 25th, 2015

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:15)

Sombre streets, sober faces.
Singapore this week looks the same but something feels different.
Painfully different.

From riding on the world-class MRT system, to the humble and reliable buses,
amid the flood of sadness, there is a profound mood in everyone.

Echoes of gratitude for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Grateful for the way he fought for the country.
Grateful for the care he showed during calamities, fires, and tragedies.
Grateful for the leadership he demonstrated through the years.
Grateful for the opportunities he provided for families both near and far.
Grateful for the love he shared with his family and citizens of the country.
Grateful for the passion and patriotic spirit in him for Singapore.
Grateful for the years of wisdom and tough decisions made for the greater good.
Grateful for the prosperity and economic miracle he has helped to create.

During such tender moments, tears speak louder than words.
Emotions leaked ceaselessly from people all over the island, even the world.
It is not a time to be shy. It is simply a time to be appreciative.

Since March 23rd, it has brought people out in numbers.
It has evoked global tributes and responses.
It has unleashed emotions at memorial centers all over the island.
It has also squeezed out poetry from people who don't usually write prose.
That speaks volumes about one death. 

There are no words that can describe how many people feel.
Amid the tide of sadness and gloom, I see hope.
That what one man had started will continue to grow.
How one man can do so much and inspire others to do more.

There are many reasons to celebrate the past achievements.
There are more reasons to celebrate the spirit of nation building already seeded in many.
I see the wonderful solidarity among people of different races, religions, and cultures.
I see a nation weeping together and mourning as one people.
I know my late father would have cried. He had been a long-time admirer of Mr Lee.

No words can describe how most people feel today. Only tears.

Come Sunday, as the nation prepares to say goodbye to him,
Some would call him "Founder of Singapore."
Others would affectionately address him as "Ah Kong."
Still many would readily say he's the "Father of modern Singapore."

Whatever the differences, whatever the disputes or policy disagreements,
Let us this week just put them all aside.
Let us simply remember the good that he had done.
Let us also remember that nobody is perfect.
Like all humans, we all have our flaws.

For the critics, remember that we all too have our imperfections.
For the admirers, remember too that he is human, like us.
For the people of Singapore, just remember him as someone
Who had given his best to Singapore.
This is the legacy he has left for us.

May we all learn humbly from him, what it means to live, to love, and to leave a legacy.
For our children, our children's children, and beyond.

Mr Lee's photo and the Singapore flag at half-mast are left in colour
as a way to honour the meaning behind his name,
which is "light and bright."

This Sunday, I am ready to weep with the nation of Singapore.
Whether one wears black, white, sombre colours or not,
It doesn't really matter.
Mourning is a universal expression of sadness and appreciation.

The Bible says, mourn with those who mourn.
Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
Be comforted, people of Singapore.
We will cry. We will weep. We will remember. 

Mr Lee, sir, I salute you.


Dr Conrade Yap


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Three Thoughts On Youths

SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 1:4-6
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: March 20th, 2015
4The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” 6“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” (Jeremiah 1:4-6)

This week, I offer three brief thoughts about youths. The first follows the calling of young Jeremiah. the second is about the responses of youths and how energetic they are all over the world. The third is about the choices we make when we are young.

A) God Inspires Vision

(Picture Credit:
Jeremiah was in his early twenties when he was called to be a prophet for God. Some Jewish commentators even put him as young as 14. The Hebrew word "naar" (young) can also be translated as a "boy" or someone who is not an "adult" yet. It is hard to pin down the exact age, so we can only identify clues in the passage. We know that God spoke with him and he heard it. God even brought him all the way before he was in the womb. Frankly, for a person that young, it is perfectly understandable. In our society, would we trust someone who had never been to college to be mayor of our city? Would we vote for a young chap under the age of 20 to run our municipality? In many places, people that young should be in school and not meddle around with adult matters. So we should understand where Jeremiah is coming from.

Yet, there are biblical precedents of how the LORD overturned the common perceptions to remind us that in life, God always has the final say, not man. Moses was resisting his call by giving the eloquent excuse (Exodus 4:10). Solomon confesses his lack of maturity as he humbly requests God for wisdom to govern (1 Kings 3:7). Even Elizabeth was humbled when Mary came visiting.

"But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Facing Cancer

Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: March 12th, 2015
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Ps 13:1)
What do we do when our high hopes of faith clash with the harsh realities of life?

I remember being trained for evangelism years ago to share the gospel with people, to open up the Word of God to them, and to share my testimony with them. With step by step explanations and diagrams, I would lead individuals with questions, be engaged with them about the questions of life, and often concluding with a personal testimony of what life in Christ looks like. A typical flow would be something like sharing the powerful effects of faith on born again believers.
  • “I used to be very hot-tempered, but since coming to Christ, I have mellowed.”
  • “I was self-centered but since Christ came into my life, I have become more God-centered and other-centered.”
  • “I was a very unhappy and dissatisfied person, until I met Christ.”
  • I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.” (John Newton)
I can also rattle off a list of blessings that people receive from time to time. It can be a huge salary jump or a triple promotion. It can be one’s book entering the list on the New York Times bestseller books. It can also be a surprise present from nowhere, or an answer to a poor missionary’s prayer. For the sick, people’s hopes rest on miracles. For the down and out, hopes rest on a quick turnaround or in extreme cases, a quick end to life. I am not saying that these are bad. No. I thank God for every benefit that comes from God. What I am concerned about are people who place the hope of such blessings as the primary purpose of faith, instead of the glory of God. For people who converted to Christianity on the basis of blessings, good health, and prosperity, the moment the perceived blessings stop, there is a high chance that they will leave the faith.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

In Memory of Chua How Chuang

TITLE: In Memory of Chua How Chuang
SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 12:9
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: March 5th, 2015

"9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." (2 Cor 12:9)

Dr Chua How Chuang
Today is a day of much grief. Dr CHUA How Chuang went home to the Lord this morning. He is survived by Kaori and his three year old daughter Airi. He was a fellow Regent alum, who recently returned to Singapore from Hokkaido Japan as a missionary-teacher on behalf of OMF (Overseas Missionary Fellowship). After completing his PhD from Trinity, he was back in Vancouver for a visit. I met him for coffee and it was a really enriching time of sharing and caring. Though he was a scholar-theologian, and I was then a student at Regent, I could sense his gift in pastoral care emanating from his warm tone. We chatted like friends even though we had not seen each other for ages. The last time I saw him was way back in Varsity days. He was a VCF Staffworker then and spoke regularly at various Christian Fellowship events. I knew him then as someone who can speak and articulate biblical truths well. He was a well respected figure at Regent, and I remembered hearing about him being one of Dr J.I Packer's best Teaching Assistants. He was one of those students from Singapore who had held the Singapore flag up high in terms of research quality and academic excellence. How Chuang's thesis was based on the Puritan, Richard Baxter, entitled: "Christ, atonement, and evangelism in the theology of Richard Baxter." Not surprising as Dr Packer is an ardent reader of Anglicanism and Puritans.

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