Saturday, May 24, 2014

Good Old Days or Brave New Future?

SCRIPTURE: Ecclesiastes 12:1
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: May 14th, 2014
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.”— (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

I was troubled this week after reading Thom Rainer's "Autopsy of a Deceased Church." In it, Rainer , the President of Lifeway Christian Resources shared some grim statistics about the American Church.
  • Healthy churches: 10%
  • Churches with sickness symptoms: 40%
  • Churches that are very sick: 40%
  • Dying churches: 10%
Rainer commented further that "though these numbers are not precise, I do believe they reflect the actual conditions of churches across America." The numbers are disturbing. We have 90% of churches that are either sick or dying. Is that not troubling?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Gift of Prophecy

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 14
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: May 17th, 2014

"Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy." (1 Cor 14:1)

Are there any more prophets of this age? Is one able to prophesy without requiring a title of "prophet?" Why is it that so few people are keen on the gift of prophecy? Is Paul's exhortation about the gift of prophecy only applicable to the Corinthian Church? These questions are considered in this week's reflection on Sabbath Walk. Before venturing farther, let me pose the question. What is prophecy according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 14?

A) Prophecy as Contrast to Tongues
2For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. (1 Corinthians 14:2-3)
If the use of tongues is a way for humans to communicate with God, prophecy is a way for humans to communicate with one another. The words used by Paul are for "their strengthening, encouraging, and comfort." If tongues are intelligible only to God and those who can interpret them, prophecy will be intelligible to all, if not, the majority of people. For professors and authors Hays, Duvall, and Pate,

"Biblical prophecy is a relevant and important topic for the church today. Not only does biblical prophecy provide hope for the future and strength for today, but its broad-sweeping themes help us to understand the entire Bible. Indeed, prophecy ties the Bible together from Genesis to Revelation." (J, Daniel Hays, J. Scott Duvall, and C. Marvin Pate, An A-to-Z Guide to Biblical Prophecy and the End Times, Zondervan, 2012, p7)

We know that the Word of God is also a Word of Prophecy since it is written to reveal God to man. Knowing the Word of God strengthens the Church and the body of Christ as the prophecy of God is made known in greater measure each time believers are studying and learning the Word. By contrasting it with tongues, Paul is helping to anchor down the need for edifying one another with our spiritual gifts.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sabbath- Finding Our True Rest

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 4:9-11
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: May 9th, 2014
"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience." (Hebrews 4:9-11)

Do we really know what we want? How sure are we that our current pursuits are honourable to God? What makes us think that we can run the lives the way we want it to be? How often do we grapple with what is important and what is not? Maybe, it takes a death or a diagnosis to wake us up from a senseless busy lifestyle. Maybe, it requires the shock of losing our familiar jobs. Maybe, it is a lack of understanding our need for rest. This week, I look at the importance of readying ourselves for true rest, by learning to regularly pause one day a week.

A) That Rude Awakening
For some of us, death is a rude awakening about the purpose of life. When Eric Clapton lost young Conor, his 4-year-old son, he fell into a deep period of grief, unable to make sense of it all. Amid the confusion, like many situations of suffering and pain, questions overwhelm answers. Answers if any, are few and far between. Why must the bedroom window be open at that time? Why didn't the house keeper keep an eye on Conor? Why must they live on the 53rd floor? Why are there no window guards to protect accidents like that in the first place?  Why must this happen to me?

If I am the father, I would be totally lost for words, let alone lost in the inexplicable wounds of losing a child. After all, sons ought to bury their fathers, and not the other way round. It is all so cruel and so unfair. Clapton pens the following words in the hit song, "Tears in Heaven." In moments of loss and pain, one cannot explain other than express.
Time can bring you down
Time can bend your knees
Time can break your heart
Have you begging please
Begging please

Beyond the door
There's peace, I'm sure
And I know there'll be no more
Tears in heaven

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Why Pray? (Five Reasons)

TITLE: WHY PRAY? (Five Reasons)
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: May 3rd, 2014

I still remember the words of this Church leader many years ago: "Prayer meeting? You go ahead. I'll pray when there is a need." At that time, that statement made me quite confused about the whole idea of prayer. What is the purpose of prayer? What if we do not have any immediate need? Does it mean that we pray only as a last resort? Why pray?

Throughout history, many saints of old have also been masters of prayer. The apostles learned it first-hand as they watch the Master Himself pray so regularly. Subsequently, the meek Simon Peter the fisherman, turned into a fearsome preacher, becoming one of the most prominent leaders of the Church. The zealous Apostle Paul became a powerful preacher of the gospel to the Gentile world. The fourth century saint, Augustine of Hippo's classic Confessions is an open prayer about his own spiritual state and his hunger for God. Augustine was known not only for his powerful intellect. His passion and love for God has been exemplary for both Roman Catholics and Protestants even today. Influenced by his prayerful mother, his classic work "Confessions" has helped shaped the theological world through honest prayer. So influential is his work that his beginning has been used as a core introduction to the Westminster Confession.

"You are great, Lord, and highly to be praised: great is your power and your wisdom is immeasurable. Man, a little piece of your creation, desires to praise you, a human being bearing his mortality with him, carrying with him the witness of his sin and the witness that you resist the proud. Nevertheless, to praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." (Augustine, Confessions, Book I.i.1)
In just one verse above, there are five reasons why we pray.