THOUGHTS

Some of my thoughts and musings on faith, life and ministry. All that is posted here are of my own opinions and do not necessarily represent any organisation, church or ministry that I am a part of/affiliated with. 

Why Are People Hostile To Christianity?

 Photo by  Ben White  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

As Christians, we know we should be sharing the Gospel and inviting people to church. In the course of doing so, facing rejection is normal and most people do so with relative tact and gentleness - kind of like politely turning down those salespeople at the mall. 

But, we do run into instances where there are people who are openly hostile to Christianity (and some, any form of religion) whether you have extended an invitation to them or not. Celebrities, politicians, friends, family, colleagues ... sometimes even in media, cartoons, books, the internet etc. They let their contempt be known by sarcasm, harsh criticism, generalisation, mockery - you'll know it when you see/hear it. 

Why are some people like that? I offer a few reasons below. I must say beforehand though, that I am writing this to help us to come to a better understanding and how we should approach these situations. Remember, Jesus did pray to God over those people who crucified him: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) 

 

1. They Do Not Really Understand It

People have many interesting ways on how they react to what they do not understand. A prime example would be math. A person who is not really good at math, or struggles to comprehend it will have a very dismissive attitude towards math. Those who are proficient in it (me not included) would know the importance of math and its contribution to development and will have a more "serious" attitude towards it. 

Many have misconceptions about Christianity. They think that Christianity is outdated, irrelevant or worse still - oppressive, bigoted and promotes discrimination. Some even think that most churches still meet in stained glass buildings, sing songs from the 1800s and sit on uncomfortable wooden pews (I admit, even I wouldn't want to go to that!) To those of us who have walked with Jesus we know this far from the truth - but many out there don't know what we know. 

 

2. They Do Not See The Value Of It

Related to point 1, people won't know the true value of something if they do not fully understand it. I see this somewhat in certain people who are apprehensive and resistant to technology. Have you ever met a person who complains how troublesome it is to learn to use an iPhone? (We usually see this sort of behaviour in older folks - no disrespect intended). They gripe about how a phone should just be needed to make calls and all the other complicated functions are not needed. 

That precisely highlights my point: such a person does not know how much value a smart phone can actually bring to your life when used correctly - it requires education and familiarisation. That's why in Christianity we have sermons (to educate) and we do discipleship (to familiarise). 

Many of us have been transformed by the revelation of God's love and grace in our lives - but people may not see it visibly. A person may have great skin with stunning complexion, but he/she could have certain habits or products in which they rely on - nobody will know unless he/she discloses it. 

 

3. They Are Not Really - You Just Think That They Are! 

While they are some who are hostile to the Gospel, but I find that there are far more people who are actually open to it than we realise. Meeting new people is always an interesting exercise for me, especially when they ask me: "What do you do?". My answer is usually followed by further questions like "what exactly are your responsibilities? why did you choose this field of work?" - it gives me an opportunity not just to tell them about my job but also my Jesus. 

What holds us back from sharing and inviting more often than not is the fear of rejection. It is a real fear, but one that can easily be overcome when we put things into perspective. When people reject your sharing of the Gospel or invitation to church, don't take it personally. They are rejecting God - and He is more than able to handle it. Jesus himself was rejected even after performing numerous miracles. I am sure many of us will not claim to have the same miracle working anointing that He did ... so how much more we are susceptible to rejection! 

But, there are people who need to hear the message - and perhaps maybe God has appointed you to be the messenger. 

 

Know the way, Go the way, Show the way

Jesus spoke of being "the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6) Our telling of the Gospel and inviting people to church is to eventually lead people into a knowledge and relationship with Him. To do that, we must first know Him - not just know about Him. What we believe about God cannot just be from what our pastors or leaders say, it has to be internalised - revelation and not just information. 

Next, we must also "go the way." This simply means we must walk the talk. There is very little use in attending church or being able to recite scripture when it has not changed anything in our lives. The reason many people do not see the value of Christianity is because our lives are exactly the same as theirs! It is not that being a Christian will give us a pain-free life, but being a Christian should give us a purpose-filled one. It is our values and mindsets that should set us apart from the rest of the world. Our hearts and minds must be aligned to God and what His word says. 

Lastly, we must also "show the way." Showing the way by how we live (Matthew 5:16), the way we speak (Colossians 4:6) and the way we behave (2 Peter 1:5-8). On top of that, we must also be ready to give a reason and explanation for all that we believe and live (1 Peter 3:15-16). Trust me, most of the time speaking about Jesus will not cause us to be branded a freak - as long as we do it gentleness and respect. 

There is a saying "Preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words." There is an element of truth in that, however I will add that doing that is like "playing charades but without telling the answer." Preaching the gospel requires both actions and words - they are both different sides of the same coin. 

Bonus point**:

Never, ever get into a online debate with keyboard warriors when it comes to Christianity. It is often counter-productive and unfruitful. The Kingdom of God is spread through the context of relationship. Before you reach someone you first have to build a bridge to get to them. 

 

Questions To Reflect On: 

  1. Do I truly understand the Gospel enough to be able to explain it to someone else? 

  2. Is the way I am living, speaking, behaving, thinking consistent with the principles of God?

  3.  Am I actively looking around me be it at work, college, school, at the shops etc. for people who may need to hear the message of Christ? 

  4. How will I look to build relationships with people who are hostile to the gospel? What are some of the extra miles that I must go and what are some things perhaps I should not say at first? 

  5. What are areas that I need the leading and strengthening of the Holy Spirit even more? Pray to Him and ask for His help! 

 

 

 

Leadership Lessons - Part I

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One of the things that I am very passionate about (apart from Jesus, my wife, motorcycles, Manchester United and coffee) is leadership. While I don't consider myself a guru in this area, but having been involved in different areas of leadership for almost 10 years - I'd like to think I know a thing or two about it. My leadership journey consists of different levels: leading small groups of 10 people to eventually multiplying after hitting 30 members, growing a ministry from 100-120 to 250-300 with 60 volunteer leaders and to now being in a staff development committee for approximately 60 full time employees. 

Some of these principles I am sharing will be more applicable in a Church/Ministry setting, but most of them are relevant to any form of leadership/management context.  Leadership, after all is a spiritual gift (Romans 12:8) exercised by many characters in the bible (including Jesus Himself) and I would even argue that some of the best leaders in the world are in the Church - because they have the challenge of mobilising unpaid volunteers! 

I've got a lot to say about leadership, and I will do so over a few parts. I wanted to put it all down in just this one article but realised I have too much to say... but hey it is my space - so if you're interested here is part one:

 

Personality, Gifting And Talent IMPRESSES People But Only Character, Integrity And Authenticity Can Truly IMPACT Them.

If you truly want to leave a positive, lasting impression on people as a leader - it is going to take more than just showing how good you are (although you do still need to develop certain skills to gain credibility). But that's the good news: anyone can learn new skills, but it takes a lot of intentionality to work on our character (which not many people do) and vulnerability to be authentic with those whom we lead. Character is not your personality (shy or outgoing, loud or not); it is what determines the choices you make everyday: your work ethic, the way you treat others, the way you handle challenges, how you speak to people etc. 

Authenticity I would classify as genuinely being passionate about what you do and the people that you lead. Believe in what you do, find the significance in it. If you are in a school/university club or department in a company/business see it as an opportunity to impact people. The saying goes: people don't care about how much you know until they know how much you care. Leadership is messy. Get your hands dirty. Get close to those you lead. Don't just see those as tools to be used but as people to be developed. Share your failures and struggles - sometimes it goes a longer way than blowing your own trumpet. Here's another thing: if you made a mistake, admit it and apologise to them. Trust me, they won't respect you less for it but rather MORE because of you did! 

People "buy into" persons more than plans, vision, systems or organisations. Show those around you that you are worth following and you will get their support. 

 

Be Personal, But Don't Take It Personally

Oh get this one right, and you would be miles ahead of so many other people! What do I mean by this? Be personal in all your interactions with people. Show warmth, display good manners, always try to extend grace. Make people feel valued, like you are genuinely interested in them (and not just what they can do for you). Encourage and appreciate them, get into their world whenever possible - all these little things go a long way. 

But if people do not respond the way you expect them to ... don't take it personally! Don't take things to heart - it will quickly cause you to lose steam as a leader. People are complex. They are not like mathematics, where if I apply a certain formula to a certain equation I should get a certain result. We do not always get the outcome we expect with people and it is very normal. Everybody has their own battles to fight, and sometimes we don't really know what is really going on with them. Sometimes people need time, so be patient with them. 

If people criticise you or disagree with you... don't take it personally and be personal in the way you respond to them! Nothing causes a leader to lose "buy-in" faster than reacting extremely insecurely to criticism or someone disagreeing with them. 

 

If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go With A Team

You know what I used to really hate back when I was still a student? Group projects. It is difficult to get an assignment done when you got so many people involved, particularly if you got non-contributing or absentee members (and then only one or two ends up doing all the work)! Doing things solo is definitely less complicated but a good leader knows the power of a team. 

A team is only effective when it has a good leader. So what must a good leader do? You must trust your team. Trust that they can get the job done. This is first and foremost. If you do not have faith in your team it will show in the way you treat them - and they will know it too. If they need guidance - give it to them, but don't over micromanage. It is very frustrating for both them and you. If they can get the job done but not in the way you expected - it's ok! If they found an even better way to do it than you originally proposed - applaud them! 

Learn conflict management - this will minimise politics and gossip, which can develop into a toxic culture and kill morale and productivity. Learn how to work with and manage different personalities - recognise that different people have different personalities and work with their strengths. Only address character issues, don't try to change personalities. 

When the right time comes, don't just delegate tasks - delegate authourity. In that way, you are not just producing doers but more leaders. If you just produce doers, you can keep your thing running. But if you produce more leaders... what you are doing will naturally grow. 

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This is simply the first part, and I have more to share. I love discussing leadership and would love to help any who would want it - send me an email or tweet me! 

Should I Stop Going To Church During Exams?

As you enter a stressful season of tests, assessments, exams and deadlines for assignments and projects it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the stress of expectations placed by teachers, parents and even ourselves. Most people would think then "OK - I better focus on doing my work and studying and cut down on other things during this time." 

Naturally, we would choose to minimise activities associated with leisure (Social Media, Movies, Games, Hobbies etc) - which may even include church. I can understand why - exams and finals can be extremely stressful (I often have nightmares of going into an exam hall being absolutely unprepared). The last thing I want to do is to guilt trip any one into coming to church, however I do feel that skipping church during exam season is not a good thing. Here are some thoughts:

1. Church is not just "any other thing" that we do. 

Going to church and being in a community of believers is part of our worship and relationship with God. By all means cut down on entertainment and distractions - but don't cut down on God! God can be our source of strength, comfort, peace and even discipline - we need more of God during times that are tough and when pressure is high, not less of Him! 

 

2. There is ALWAYS enough time.

I am of the firm belief that if God gave us 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week - there should be enough time for us to get what we need done. It is a matter of priorities, discipline and boundaries. Plan out your week efficiently, set aside time for what is important and here's a great tip: get off social media, put your phone away and even stay away from the Internet (if possible)! You will be amazed at how much time can be wasted on social media... get rid of distractions and get organised! Let's be honest - if you feel like you hardly ever have enough time, it isn't because you have lack of it; it just means you need to maximise your schedule or that you are taking on way too much.

 

3. Learn to praise with your problems and move with the mess.

I don't want to sound like a doomsayer, but as you get older life actually gets harder and most of the time pressures increase rather than decrease. I am not downplaying the effects exams can have of us, but if we do not develop a habit of putting God first in the midst of exams life is just going to give us more and more reasons not to in the future. Jobs, bills, kids all can contribute to "good reasons" why we cannot make it to church - hence all the more we should make a decision while we are a student to make God our first priority and not our last resort. 

 

Now, I am not trying to imply that we should rock up at church NO MATTER WHAT. I am sure there will be genuine emergencies or compulsory activities that would force us to miss church from time to time - but it is a conscious decision on our part not to make skipping worship and being in community a habit. 

Its not like God NEEDS us there. God will still be God even if we don't show up, and His power and presence is not dependant on us. 

Acts 17:24-25(NLT)
24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.

I may not be sure of many things in life, but one thing that I am absolutely certain of is this - those who choose to honour God will never lose out in life. 

Psalm 55:22 (NLT)
22 Give your burdens to the Lord,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

Here's a prayer for you to pray if you are going through exams and finals:

Dear Lord Jesus,

Please be with me during this season of exams. Lord I ask for your divine favour and blessing to be upon me, that you would give me your peace, wisdom and strength throughout this time. I pray that I will not be anxious, but help me look to You in all that I do. Protect my health and my mind as I prepare, and give me confidence when I am doing the papers. Thank you for being such a good God and Father, and help me to always put my trust in you and you alone. All this I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Is Christianity really A "Relationship" and Not A "Religion"?

"Christianity is a Relationship, not a Religion."

This is often used in Christian circles, while its intent is a noble one - but it can be misleading. What this saying is trying convey is that Christianity is more than just a bunch of "dos" and "don'ts", and following Jesus is not strictly bound up in rules and regulations. In essence it is more like having "a relationship" and not joining "a religion." Herein lies the problem: the relationship and religion aspect are not at odds: it is not one without being the other. Instead, it is more like two different sides of the same coin. 

You cannot quite say that Christianity is not a religion... because it is! You cannot deny that it is also a relationship: because we are dealing with a LIVING being: a Being that speaks, acts, has feelings, desires etc. Relationship, not just religion, actually have "rules" as well. Think about this: any romantic or plutonic relationships are based on mutual exchanges. This means that while in a relationship with someone, you have to take into consideration what actually pleases and displeases the other person. It is not all about our own preferences: you cannot want the benefits yet deny its implications.

There are many benefits of being in a romantic relationship, but the implication is we cannot do whatever we want. We cannot flirt with other people, we have to be somewhat accountable about our whereabouts, we have to be transparent with our partners. You cannot say "I want the companionship, but I still want the freedom to do whatever I want." Similarly, if you are friends with someone you will not intentionally keep doing something that makes them unhappy thinking that it is fine because after all it is a "relationship."

We are not responsible for how much God loves us, but we are in charge with how well please He is with us. God is not just our Santa Claus or fairy god mother (or worse, our ATM machine) where we only go to Him and expect Him to do whatever we want. A genuine relationship with God will not just seek the WORKS of God, but actually want to follow the WAYS of God as well. Loving God means obeying what He says (John 14:15, 23).

Loving God also means living the way Jesus wants, not doing whatever we want. God does not just want us to be happy, He actually wants us to be Holy. That is what the bible says! The bible actually has clear instruction on how we should live as Christians, and we would do well to be aware of that what that truly means. Read 1 Peter 1:13-25 and Ephesians 4:17-5:20. A real disciple on a true journey following Jesus does not need to have it all together - but must be willing to surrender it all. Jesus is either Lord of all, or not Lord at all. 

Some would contend: wait a minute! Is God not a God of Grace and Mercy? Has He not forgiven all our sins? Does not the Bible say that as long as we believe in our heart and confess with our mouths we are saved? (Romans 10:9) Yes that is all true, but read that scripture clearly: "we believe in our heart that Jesus was raised from the dead but we declare that Jesus is Lord." Declaring is not just paying lip-service, it is actually truly doing it. As they say - actions speak louder than words and you have to walk the talk.

Right believing leads to right living. Whenever a loving parent makes a decision for a child, he does it for the good of that child. There are times when a parent will give the child while he wants, there are times he will withhold. Sometimes he will comfort, other times he will discipline. Sometimes he will give liberty, but other times he sets boundaries. The parent knows why he is doing what he does, but the child has to believe that the parent knows better and has a heart to bless and not curse - and this in turns cause the child to live willingly by the parent's guidance.

We have to realise that we are limited in our own understanding, and how our sinful nature sometimes gets the better of us. We have to trust that God whose ways are higher than our ways, is more than just a mystical being who is aloof - He is in fact more like a personal parent who desires us to grow, mature and experience true blessing and fulfilment.

As Christians, we have to truly follow Jesus - and that means actually heeding the entire Bible, and not just the parts that we like. When you have truly experienced the transforming power and love of God in your life, I am confident that is enough motivation to want to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. A genuine relationship with Jesus will cause us to realise that His commandments are not a burden (1 John 5:2-3) but rather a pathway to a rewarding and fulfilling relationship with an Almighty God. 

If you struggle to accept or understand this, I would suggest you first examine yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5) - have you really embraced the Gospel in your life? Or maybe you need to open your heart and sincerely pray: "God, I want to truly know you, and not just know about you - reveal yourself to me." (Hebrews 11:6)

Grace is not a license to do whatever we want, it is the empowerment to live however Jesus wants

 

 

Is Getting Tattoos Wrong For A Christian?

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Is it wrong for a Christian to get tattoos? To determine this we must look at what the Bible actually says. In order to do so, proper hermeneutics must be done. What is hermeneutics you wonder? Well I am glad you asked - it is the method of ascertaining what a Bible text meant to its original hearers/readers (Exegesis) and then determining how to it applies to us today. 

So what does the Bible say about tattoos? There is only one scripture which mentions this directly, and it is:

Leviticus 19:28 (NIV)
Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.

At face value, it seems almost certain that the Bible forbids getting a tattoo. However, there is a problem with this sort of application. If we are to keep this literally, we should have to keep some of these other laws as well:

Leviticus 19:19 (NIV)
Keep my decrees.
“‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.
“‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
“‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
Leviticus 19:27 (NIV)
Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.
Deuteronomy 14:8 (NIV)
The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.

I am pretty sure everyone reading this would have violated at least one of the three mentioned above. So if we are to say the Bible strictly forbids tattoos, we better be careful about buying clothing that is made of two or more materials (that rules out most of the clothes at the mall), forget about grooming (which is bad news for most Asian people: who cannot grow full, glorious beards) and better put down that BBQ and roasted pork (yes, bacon too). 

So how do we go about this then?

 

1. THE NEW TESTAMENT IS A RENEWAL, NOT A CANCELLATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

The easy answer is "Hey, we are Christians - we live by the New Testament and are no longer bound by Old Testament laws." There is an element of truth to this, but we must understand that this does not mean the Old Testament has less value than the New or that we can throw out everything in the Old. 

Think of the Old and New Testament as "contracts". When a contract is renewed, certain conditions are amended, some new ones are introduced but at the same time some older conditions are carried over. For instance, if you started working at a company you may be given a contract that fixes your working hours, responsibilities, salary and benefits. After a while you get a promotion which means your new contract offers you improved salary and benefits, however your working hours are the same and your responsibilities are increased. 

So, what is voided in the New Testament are civil and ritual laws from the Old Testament. However, the moral laws which bound Israel still applies to Christians today. That is how we distinguish what is binding and what is not in the Old Testament. If you read certain commandments in the Old Testament and go "this does not make any sense" or "why are these rules so strange" - chances are you are looking at a civil and ritual law for ancient Israel.

Moral laws on the other hand, are blatantly obvious to distinguish (like for example the 10 commandments). Make no mistake about it - the New Testament actually holds a HIGHER moral standard than that of the Old. Just read through the teachings of Jesus. 

Ultimately, Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17). That is why we do not follow laws anymore, but we follow Jesus - who is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). In fact, in Mark 7:14-22 Jesus himself speaks of how it is not what is on the outside that defiles a person, but rather what is on the inside. A person could have the cleanest appearance, but yet have the dirtiest thoughts or darkest heart. 

 

2. RIGHTS VS RESPONSIBILTIES

While the Bible does not specifically prohibit tattoos, nonetheless there are still principles that we have to apply as Christians. In 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, Paul talks about eating food that is sacrificed to idols. He speaks of how "we have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial." He further explains in verse 24 that as Christians "we should seek of the good of others and not just our own good." That is also repeated in verse 33.

In this passage, Paul basically argues that there is nothing wrong with eating food already sacrificed to idols, BUT - if it causes someone else to stumble, you should not do it (verse 32). This principle can be applied to anything in our Christian walk as well, and everything that we do should be unto the glory of God (verse 31).

One of the defining marks of a truly mature Christian is that they comprehend how that as they grow and mature they have a responsibility to other Christians - and they are not preoccupied chasing their "rights". 

 As a Christian matures, his responsibilities outweighs his rights - and his priority should be in such order. 

As a Christian matures, his responsibilities outweighs his rights - and his priority should be in such order. 

While I personally do not believe there is anything wrong in getting a tattoo, and I at one point actually wanted to get one - I however chose not to for the simple reason of not wanting to stumble people. Being a pastor and Christian Leader in a conservative environment like Asia, I know that tattoos are often associated with bad character. So for me, my commitment to God and His people is more significant than my want of a tattoo. 

 

3. OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER

If you are thinking of getting a tattoo, here are some factors you should consider as well.

Modification - Be aware that a tattoo is more or less permanent. Getting it removed is not only costly, it is also a very very painful process. Go on YouTube and check out some videos. Think long and hard on what kind of tattoo you want to get, do not just go for the cool factor. What may be trendy and cool now will not be after 5 years - and you may end up regretting it. 

Motive - What is the reason for you getting a tattoo? If it is an act of rebellion towards your parents, leaders or society - ask yourself would Jesus approve of such behaviour? Is it just to draw attention to yourself? Or is it just a personal expression of art and creativity? A follower of Jesus has to check his motives - and ensure his heart is in the right place. 

Modesty - The bible has much to say about modesty, but that does not mean you have to be prudish as a Christian. On the contrary, modesty and trendy are not necessarily at odds with one another. However we really should not be chasing trends but following Jesus anyway. If getting a tattoo compels you to jeopardise your modesty just so people can see it - time to reconsider. 

Message - A big one, and basically sums everything up. What kind of message is your tattoo sending? Some pieces of art are meaningful: it speaks of scripture, experiences, memories of loved ones etc. But others could be sending the wrong message, and as Christians we have to be mindful of the design that we choose. Also think of the environment that you will eventually be in. If you aspire to be a professional (accountant, lawyer, doctor etc) having a tattoo in a conspicuous area may often harm your career than help it. 

Money - In case you did not know: tattoos cost... ALOT! If you do decide to get inked, consider all the other factors and make sure you are making a well-thought, thoroughly-calculated decision. Getting a huge piece may be extremely cool, but it may not be worth the kind of financial trade off that you need to make for it. 

You are free to make choices, but you are not free from the consequences.

While getting a tattoo is not a diabolical sin - we have to realise that choices result in consequences and we have to be willing to bear it. A tattoo may be able to open doors to witnessing to different types of people, it may also help you break into an artistic community or make you more "real" to different people... but you may also get unfairly scrutinised by the people around you depending on the culture and environment you are in. 

Hope this help clears things up :)