Monday, September 28, 2015

Humility in Service

SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 4:2-3
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: Sep 27th, 2015

"2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:2-3)
Is it possible to be completely humble? Given our imperfect selves and our natural tendency to be prideful, how then can we ever follow through on Paul's call for us to be humble?

My quick answer: We can't. Not on our own strength that is.

(Credit: ThorstenConsulting)
Humility has been promoted highly at all kinds of leadership conferences. Gurus trumpet it. Writers publish volumes about it. Pastors and preachers regularly mention it over the pulpit. The trouble with humility is that it is elusive and quite difficult to achieve directly. It is an attribute that can only be seen indirectly through various means. The humble will deny he is humble in the first place. The one who claims he is humble is already on the track of pride and arrogance. This is one of life's irony. The more we want something directly, the less we get it. It is like romantic love where a man pursues a girl, only to find the girl running away from him. The moment the man stops pursuing, stops harassing the girl, and begins to do good works to others, the girl would stop running. She would turn around and with piqued interest, find ways to connect with this "nice man." If humility is that desired damsel, we cannot be too overpowering in our pursuit. We need to take a step back and check our own hearts.
  • Am I seeking humility for my own sake or for others?
  • Am I seeking to be humble in order to gain someone or something for self gratification?
  • Am I seeking the humble route because I want to honour Someone?

According to Professor John Dickson of Macquarie University, humility is defined as follows:
"Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself. More simply, you could say the humble person is marked by a willingness to hold power in service of others." (John Dickson, Humilitas, Zondervan, 2011, p24)
In other words, humility comprises three elements: it presupposes the dignity of others; it is a choice; and it is self-deprecation for the sake of others.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Vote Prayerfully

SCRIPTURE: 1 Thess 5:15-18
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: September 10th, 2015
15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. 16Rejoice always, 17pray continually, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

As the country of Singapore prepares to vote at Elections 2015, it is time to commit the future of the country to God. One of the catchphrases of the elections is "Vote wisely." It has become so overused, so cliche, and so dull that it does not really mean much to the common man anymore. If a politician tells you that, it is a veiled instruction to vote him/her. If a staunch party activist says it to you, it means to vote for the party that he/she supports. If a passionate advocate for a particular candidate says that to you, it means to cast your vote for his candidate. If a preacher tells you that, especially when he has publicly made known which political affiliation he takes, there is a good chance that hearers of his sermons may vote the same way as him.


Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr

Saturday, September 5, 2015

When a Loved One Gets Cancer

Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: September 5th, 2015

"I have Stage One cancer."

Five words speak volumes. Five words strike fear. These five words are like five pebbles dropped into still waters, creating ripples of all kinds of emotions throughout the pond. In five words, all of our busyness and concerns flow back into perspective. Suddenly, life no longer is about jobs, reputation, or climbing the career ladder. Cancer is one of the most dreaded words ever to be uttered in any family. After hearing about it, what do we do?

This week, I heard news of at least two cases of people getting cancer. They were from people I know. It knocked me off my regular schedule. My prayer list just got longer. Like many people, I felt troubled. I didn't know what to do. Downhearted, I took it to the Lord in prayer. Tempted to ask why,
PSALM 13 (italics mine)
1How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
          How long will you hide your face from me?
2How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
          and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
          How long will my enemy (of cancer) triumph over me?3Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
          Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,4and my enemy (that cancer) will say, “I have overcome him,”
          and my foes (fears, anxieties, and pain) will rejoice when I fall.5But I trust in your unfailing love;
          my heart rejoices in your salvation.6I will sing the Lord’s praise,
          for he has been good to me.
Like many other psalms, this is a psalm of lament. It is a plea to God in prayer to help the downcast and the discouraged. It allows the heart to express to God the deepest longings of the heart, to share with God the hurts and the pains that one is going through. According to Walter C. Kaiser, ex-Professor of Old Testament and past President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Psalm 13 is the lament of an individual who was hurting and suffering. There are at least 39 other psalms that can be classified as lament psalms. Instead of succumbing to continuous trumpeting of victorious songs and beating of the happy drums, lament psalms are used to capture the profound essence of what it means to be human. It makes one real and honest enough to confront the things that really matter. Kaiser adds:
"Suffering does not go away merely if we pretend it does not exist; it does exist and it does continue to hurt and cause suffering. Nor is there any sort of magic pill that can suddenly remove the heavy weight that suffering lowers on mortals’ spirits and shoulders. But the most comforting news is that where there is pain, grief, and hurt, there is God!....   The reason for suffering that is the focus of these laments can be attributed to three main causes: self, an enemy, or the Lord himself. In the lament, pain, grief, and suffering are given the dignity of language." (Walter C. Kaiser, "The Laments of Lamentations" in The Psalms, edited by Andrew J. Schmutzer and David M. Howard Jr, Moody Press, 2013, p112-4)