Friday, February 28, 2014

Dealing With Personal Failure

SCRIPTURE: 2 Samuel 12:13-14
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date:  February 28th, 2014
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt fora the Lord, the son born to you will die.” (2 Samuel 12:13-14)

Last week, the Christian world was shocked by the court conviction of David Cho Yong-Gi, founder and pastor of the largest Church in the world, South Korea's Yoido Full Gospel Church. You can read more of it at Gospel Herald, Christianity Today, Yonhap News, Huffington Post, and many others on the Internet. All of them have reported in a manner that mirrors shock and horror at how a prominent and quite respected senior leader to be charged and convicted in a court of law. After all, he is doing God's work right? Others like Bob Rodgers has attempted to supply some background information in order to set the record straight. By doing so, Rodgers has tried to assure the public that David Cho is not as bad as the press reports have made him out to be.

Amid the social media feeding frenzy, many subsequent comments and articles have pointed out to the lack of accountability, the problem with megachurches, the temptation of riches, and the stumbling of fellow believers. I find something rather troubling about how people are suddenly distancing themselves from anything to do with David Cho, Yoido Full Gospel, or any churches or structures resembling the same. A former model and hero of the faith is suddenly ostracized and banished to the pits of the grave of respect. Probably, David Cho will go down the beaten paths of disgrace and embarrassment, just like Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, Vaughn Reeves, and others have gone before.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Drifting Away, Naturally

SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 4:23
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: February 21st, 2014

"Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden." (Deut 4:23)
SYNOPSIS: What causes organizations to move away from their original vision? Why do churches often doing things that do not reflect their founding mission? Clue: Forgetfulness is the natural wave to drift us away.

The phrase "mission creep" is used to describe projects that have spiraled beyond their original mission or objectives. Instead of a laser-like focus on the necessary, mission creep has led to distractions and bloated amount of work that may not necessarily reflect the original vision or mission. In business circles, when companies leave their core competencies, they take on strange initiatives that confuse people both inside as well as outside the organization. There is Intel, the semi-conductor companies that bought over an elderly care website in 2010. Ebay bought over Skype in 2005, only to sell it away to another investor at a huge loss. The fanatical mergers and acquisitions happening across all industries are all part of the desire to grow big as quickly as possible. Airlines buy over airlines. Grocery stores merge into one giant corporation. As they do, their mission becomes more vague and the vision more blurred.

Why? Perhaps, leadership transitions and the different styles of management have distracted the organization from their original purposes.

The problem is not restricted to commercial enterprises. It happens too at the Education sector. In 1636, the founder of a famous Ivy League institution put forth this mission statement.
"Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed, to consider well that the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3), and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning."

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Holy Smoke! It's Not Fair.

SCRIPTURE: Proverbs 1:1-3
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: February 14th, 2014
"1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; 3for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair;" (Proverbs 1:1-3)
SYNOPSIS: Kids often cry out "It's Not Fair." Adults too complain about the kind of justice or injustice meted out in this world. The point is, there is a difference between a court of law and a court of justice. This week's article will reflect on this.

At the heart of the human soul is a deep cry for fairness. We hear it from young children. We hear it with teens at high school. We hear it at our workplaces. We even debate and argue over it throughout our adult life. The reality is: Life is often not as fair as we want them to be.

During my college years, I often see ironical cases of how some hardworking friends of mine barely made the grade beyond C. At the same time, there were students who seemed to be playing everyday, who hardly hit their books, who skipped lectures, and who appeared in every way destined to flunk their exams. These students ended up being at the top with a heap of As. Fair or unfair?

Then there is the job hunting period of life. I heard of some dedicated friends with reasonably good results (at least better than mine!) who had sent out hundreds of job application letters without receiving a single reply. Another sent out just a few applications and received job interviews. Fair or unfair?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Idols R'Us

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 10:7
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap 
Date: February 7th, 2014

"Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: 'The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.'" (1 Cor 10:7)

Do idols have power? Are they able to wield a hypnotizing effect on people near them? Can they enter into our souls and take over our lives? Can Christians be demon-possessed?

Not unless we let them.  Sometimes, people give idols too much credit. They think that the idols have inherent power within them that they can simply zap someone into oblivion. They conjure up images of horror movies whereby the evil spirits somehow possess a person and render them zombie-like. Many Christians have also asked whether Christians can be demon possessed. Those who say "yes" will point to the many instances of "impure spirits" and exorcism done by Jesus in the gospels. The disciples also dealt with lots of cases where evil spirits were cast out of people. However, that does not quite answer the question about believers. People can be demon-possessed, but what about Christians?

In pointing out the passage of Matthew 12:43-45 where Jesus teaches us about an unclean spirit having been exorcised out of a man, goes on searching for a place to dwell in. When he finds an empty house, he will then take refuge in it. The logic follows is that there can be only one occupant. If the Holy Spirit is in a believer, how then can an evil spirit reside in an already occupied house?
According to pastors Brian Borgman and Rob Ventura, there is no way the evil spirit can come in unless we let them. Thus, their recent book on spiritual warfare argues for the armour of God to be constantly worn by believers, so that evil will not have any foothold in the lives of believers. My take is, evil spirits cannot reside in the lives of believers unless believers let them. The power of idols is large only if we empower them.

In popular culture, science fiction movies like the Terminator, The Matrix and Battlestar Galactica, are prime examples of how humans let machines run amok, after teaching the machines all the knowledge and information they need. In these movies, we see how machines began innocently as slaves to the human race. Slowly, as the intelligence of the machines grew, as they perfect their self-learning and survival instincts, the machines turned power hungry and started to see human beings as threats to their own existence. Even before these movies, we have the classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, which essentially is a dark prophecy of how eventually machines became more manlike while man turned more machine like.