Monday, April 20, 2015

Living in a Hostile Climate

TITLE: 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

TITLE: 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?

TITLE: 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

TITLE: 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.

Respectfully,

Dr Conrade Yap

sabbathwalk

Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or inquiries. Note that views expressed are personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any person(s) or organization(s).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Three Thoughts On Youths

TITLE: 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: sermons4kids.com)
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

TITLE: FACING CANCER
SCRIPTURE: PSALM 13:1
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.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Over The Head?

TITLE: OVER THE HEAD?
SCRIPTURE: Acts 17:11-12
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date:  February 25th, 2015

"Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men." (Acts 17:11-12)

One common phrase I have heard over the years is the phrase, "over my head." Usually applied to situations in which the message cannot be understood, or too difficult for normal comprehension. Whether it is a professor at a University who used complex words to describe normal situations, or a pastor preaching something that is too difficult for the layperson to grasp, whenever there is a disconnect between the communicator and the recipient, these three words said it all: "Over the Head."

The next step is usually this: Forget it. Move on. Next item on the agenda. Maybe, lunch.

I really hope that will not be the end of the matter. I hope people would take time to ponder about whatever little they have heard. I hope they would ask around to see if anyone attending the same sermon or talk would have learned something. For to find ways to understand is the spirit of the Bereans at work.

1) Four Modern gods of Education

Friday, February 20, 2015

How to Read the Bible? (Part 2)

TITLE: HOW TO READ THE BIBLE? (PART 2)
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 119:25-29
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: February 18th, 2015

"My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Thy Word. I have told of my ways, and Thou hast answered me. Teach me Thy statutes. Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, so I will meditate on Thy wonders. My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Thy Word. Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Thy law." (Ps 119:27-29)

Last week, I began this series of articles on how to read the Bible, with a look at modern media usage as well as how people tend to browse/scan works rather than actual reading of it. Compared with hard copies, research has shown that people's level of comprehension and understanding deteriorates upon switching to a digital platform. This week, I want to begin with reading proper, assuming that you the reader has decided on the best possible platform you will use for good, undistracted, and focused Bible reading. If you have chosen paper, good for you. If you prefer digital, at least, know the limitations, ok?

This week, I want to talk about reading the Bible for the busy person on the run. Before I begin, let me offer some preliminaries.

A) Some Preliminaries

First, select a reading plan. For those of us who are really "on the ball" or highly motivated to read a lot, you can start with either a one to three years plan. There are pretty good Bible reading plans if you just do a search on the Internet. The ESV one is quite good. The two-year plan from TGC is also good. If you prefer to take it slow, choose the three-year reading plan. The one from Moody is rather good. Alternatively, if you follow the lectionary, you can adopt the Years A, B, C plans which helps you read through the Bible in three years. In the Revised Common Lectionary, there are verses each day from both the Old and New Testaments. Here is one way in which you can use both digital and paper together in unison. Use the digital medium to store your Bible reading plan. Then read the paper version.
  1. For example, if you are using the lectionary, set your digital browser's HOME page to the RCL page here
  2. Keeping this digital page open, flip to the passages on your printed Bible.
  3. Read.

Second, choose a time and place. We live in a very distracted world. One of the most distracting things is the myth of multitasking. Granted, women "multitasked" better than men generally, it is still better for the soul to be singularly focused on letting the Word have priority over our time. It usually takes a while for the soul to be quietened down and ready for intentional Bible reading. I know of a colleague who would spend time each morning in his parked car, just reading and praying for an uninterrupted period of time. It could be as short as 10 minutes or longer. I recommend at least 15 minutes.

Third, read. If you are following a plan, take the time to read slowly. Do not rush. Initially you will feel a little strange. You will be tempted to check your phones or social media updates. Don't yield to the temptation. Let the phone chill while you focus on being still.

In spiritual formation, learning to read Bible passages slowly and with patience is crucial. We do not read the word to mine information. We read in a manner to let the Word mind us. This calls for biblical meditation. According to the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, "lectio divina" is defined as "Meditative reading of Scripture that leads to prayer." Others have also called it meditative reading. The key point is such reading enables us to focus on God rather than on the needs of men. It enables us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. It allows us to let the Word be the Word and let us be under the Word. Eugene Peterson expresses it well:

"It means not only reading the text but also meditating on the text, praying the text, and living the text."

B) Meditative Reading For People on the Run

Rather than to provide meditation examples for people with lots of time, I want to consider the way meditative reading can be done for busy people. We cannot run away from a busy life. As long as we are connected and contactable, it is not easy to escape the reaches of the world. Who on earth is not busy? Surely, Jesus himself was busy. He had so many people to heal, so many teachings to share, and so many miraculous works to do. Moreover, he had twelve disciples to spend time with. If there is any one person who needed a break more than anyone of us, it had to be Jesus. One thing is for sure. Jesus did not wait for free time to come. He carved out time to be with God. He made time. He kept to his time.

Jesus' ministry was powered by God's Word. We note how quick He was able to support His actions with the backing of Holy Scriptures. We see how Jesus was able to resist the world and to make sure the world did not interfere with his plans.

"And when day came, He departed and went to a lonely place; and the multitudes were searching for Him, and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from going away from them.

But He said to them, 'I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.'"

Jesus is one person who is busy but remembers His priorities. If it is the work of God, surely it is more important to receive instructions and convictions first from God. Without the clear instructions from God, what then should He preach? Without the empowering of the Holy Spirit, how then should He work? Without the sensitivity to the timing of God, how then would He know when to move forth and when to retreat? Spiritual discernment is borne out of meditative reading.

Psalm 119 is a classic psalm that is dedicated to meditative reading on the Word. It is the A-Z of how one loves the Word of God. Eight verses are dedicated to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. With 22 alphabets, there is a total of 176 verses in all. Some commentators have even subdivided the entire Psalm into five parts, which parallels with the Pentateuch. For me, each time I look at Ps 119, I cannot help but be amazed at how the Psalm evokes inner responses.

Ps 119:25 reminds me of my true nature. That I am mortal. That my flesh is bound for the dust. The day will come when I would have to say goodbye to this world. Death will come if not sooner, then later. We need revival to things that are out of this plain world. We need to be reminded of the promise of God toward eternity. We need God's Word to point us forward, to revive us inward, and to encourage us onward. Ps 119:26 is surprising, as it is about the psalmist's confession followed by an acknowledgement from God. How wonderful it is to know that God answers even as we confesses. How does God communicate with us? Primarily through the Word. If that is God's primary channel, should we not spend more time in the Word? If our hearts long for God, we need to be generous with our time to read. Like a fish that is out of water, we long for the living waters of Word after a day out in the desert plains.

C) Three Suggestions for Meditative Reading

Many of us have good intentions and great plans to serve God. That is good. What is necessary is to be able to let the Word of God lead and empower us. Reading the Bible well does not mean we need to be experts in theology. It simply means we let the love for the Word guide us. It is this love that would find ways for us to improve on our reading. There are three ways I can suggest for a better reading of the Word.

1) Memorization

People on the run can be too tired at the end of the day to even bother to read. They may be too anxious to begin the day at the morning rush. Whatever available time slot, they can only read a small portion of Scripture. That's ok. Just read what you can. It's better to read and remember one verse than to read a passage and forget whatever you have read. I believe memory verses will serve us very well. In keeping the Word of God in our hearts, we can let the Spirit teach us through the day.

2) Repetition

Another way to develop meditative reading for people on the run is to read the same verses/passages over and over again. Maybe, for a certain week, just keep reading the same passage. Repetition increases familiarity. Familiarity enables us to detect nuances of the verses. With repetition, we not only develop a familiarity with the Word, we can improve our memorization skills too.

3) Slowly

One of the tendencies of a busy person on the run is the desire for efficiency and speed. Do more things in less time. Accomplish double the things with half the resources. Faster, bigger, better, are all symptoms of such a lifestyle. When it comes to meditative reading, short and slow is best.

THOUGHT: "Serious meditation as the goldsmith with his metal, he heats it and beats it, turns it on this side and then on that, fashions it on both that he might frame it to his mind. Meditation is hammering of a truth or point propounded." (Thomas Hooker)

sabbathwalk

Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or inquiries. Note that views expressed are personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any person(s) or organization(s).

Friday, February 13, 2015

How to Read the Bible? (Part 1)

TITLE: HOW TO READ THE BIBLE? (PART 1)
SCRIPTURE: James 1:22-25
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: February 12th, 2015
22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22-25)
KEY POINT: Before we can read the Bible well, we need to ensure we are in a place where distractions are minimized. Plus, there is a difference between scanning/browsing versus actual reading of the Bible. Knowing the difference will help us read our Bibles better.

VivoCity Singapore
I was at VivoCity the other day checking out the sprawling shopping mall. People told me that it is considered "old," especially when compared to many of the newer malls and shopping plazas all over the city. For me, everything looked new simply because it was my first time there. I felt like a stranger in a country I grew up in. There were plenty of food selections from restaurants to hawker fare, all within a comfortable air-conditioned environment. From retail stores to multiple supermarkets, the whole place was packed with people. I tried to look for a bookshop. There was none to be found. I checked the Internet and the two listed on the web were long gone. Instead of bookshops, there were plenty of stores selling electronic wares, especially cell phones and accessories. It is a global phenomenon that as more people take to eBooks, less people buy real hard copies. Selling books is no longer a viable business for many. The same goes for our traditional Bibles. With the easy availability of eBibles on the Android and Apple stores, it is far easier to download bibles into our phones and take them with us everywhere we go, than to go look for a bookshop, at least at VivoCity. For the modern truth is this. More people are taking their cellphones with Bibles loaded on them and leaving their printed bibles at home. On transit, it is easy to find people with their attention glued to their hand-held devices than to find someone reading an actual book. Even in churches, I see more and more people looking at bright screens in a Church sanctuary.

This week, I ponder at the issue of Bible reading. I believe that there is a difference between reading the printed Word and the electronic version. When we know the difference, we can make an informed choice about what medium to use when reading our Bibles.

Share it