Archive for June, 2009

Feed the children

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When I was younger, I used to be really afraid of the dark, especially after watching a horror movie of some sort. Well you couldn’t blame me, I also remember having dreams of skeletons chasing me in some haunted house, and where ever else. I suppose all of us have had experienced such a thing before in our lives, and perhaps even do now. I used to think it that my imagination was just scaring me, and reassured myself that Jesus would take care of me and drive away all the evil things. Well today, we shall define such experiences as spiritual attacks.

Most of the responses to what actually spiritual attacks was were quite standard. Some in my cell mentioned fear, spiritual unrest, doubt in God’s purpose, and so on. I must say they were quite spot on. But evil may even affect us in the most subtle ways. Perhaps having little self control, giving in to temptation, procrastination, and as seen above, fear of the unknown. And we realize that sometimes we just cannot seem to do anything about it. I declare now that these things will haunt us for the rest of our lives. But what makes the difference, is our choice to prepare ourselves against it.

Ephesians 6:10-12
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, first establishes that our battle now, is not one that is physical, but one that is against the evils of this world. And therefore, to equip ourselves against it, we need the armour of God.

Ephesians 6:13-18
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

And likewise, the armour of God is used to represent the defenses that God has provided for us to overcome all spiritual attacks. As Paul knew the Roman soldier’s armour well, he very aptly used them to show us what we have.

Firstly, we have the belt of truth. Of all the pieces of armour, this was the first thing the Roman soldiers put on. The truth, God’s Word must be our spiritual foundation. It holds up the rest of the armour and likewise, God’s Word supports all our defenses against the evil one. Also, in order to fight off a spiritual attack, we have to identify it first. And only by knowing the truth may we realize that the lies of the devil are untrue.

Next is the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate protects our vital organs, and more specifically, our hearts. Because we are Christians, we have already salvation, and our bodies are transformed into one that is holy and purified. But the devil may try to sow doubt in our hearts, against our relationship with God. He may try to stop us from asking for forgiveness after we’ve done wrong by making us feel guilty. But it is because we have righteousness through Jesus Christ, that we may openly rebuke all the claims of the devil. And hold fast to our identities in Christ, as children of God.

The shoes of peace gives us direction in all that we do. Whenever God gives us a direction, or we make a decision that we believe is God’s plan, Satan will attempt to sow doubt in our minds. He will stir up unrest, make us worry, even if it may be about the smallest things. Then we must remember that we have God’s peace, that transcends all understanding, so that our hearts and minds are guarded in Christ Jesus. Also, we are called to bring peace where we go. That is, to spread the gospel to the unbelievers so that they may believe and have salvation. And when God calls us to do so, we are to be with “readiness”. That is ultimately, the calling that God has for all of us.

The Roman shield was really huge. It was large enough to cover the whole body of the soldier, so that it may fully block all arrows from their enemies. Similarly, by our faith in our God, we can resist all attacks from evil, because we know that God will protect and equip us.

Now the helmet of salvation guards our minds, that we may be assured and affirmed that God had won the battle already because He sent down His son to die for us. That we may have salvation and eternal life. So the devil may never lead us astray, or cause us to doubt our salvation.

Lastly, but definitely not the least, is the sword of the Spirit- the Word of God. At this, I must draw a comparison to the temptation of Jesus in the desert. Three times the devil tempted Him, and three times Jesus used the Word of God to counter the devil. It is the best and the only weapon(if you’ve realized) that we may use against all the attacks of satan. So we must arm ourselves with the Word, that at any time, when we face temptations, doubt, or discouragements, we will use it to rebuke the devil. And I would suggest Ephesians 6:13-18 first of all.

For Christians, God has actually already won the battle for us. When Jesus was crucified, the curtain of the temple tore, and when we believe now, we are saved by grace. But we must also be aware of the evil that is ever present in this world. Because of sin, we may be influenced or distracted by things that we may think is right.

John 15:18-20
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

But we shall be wary of the things of this world. Apart from it, as God’s children and disciples of Jesus Christ, we have every power to destroy the influence of satan from our lives. So ask God to equip you, for He always will, and live truly, as a Christian.

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The choir just had our 2nd last performance at the Singapore International Water Week conference. It was a nice feeling, singing with the alumni, and the with the batch for perhaps the last time. We’ve all come so far together, and had such a great time in the last one and a half years. I really do hope we’ll join the alumni and continue to sing the rest of our lives. Knowing our batch, we just need a few to join for the rest to follow. Anyway, the conference was quite interesing. Got to talk to some people over the reception and exhibition. And the showcases looked good too. Too bad we couldn’t really stay on. But hah! I still have my pass, which is supposed to last until Friday. Come to think of it, the food wasn’t too bad either :D.

So holidays are a week left, and possibly another week longer. Can’t wait for A levels to be over.

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I remembered to have spoken of the temptations we go through a while ago. And of the sins we may commit, the 3 ways we humans have always seemed to do so by have been these – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Again and again, these three things never fail to haunt many Christians. We know it as a weapon of the devil, yet why do we continually succumb to sin?

The lust of the flesh refers to our desires to gratify our human wants. It may be over-indulgence in food, or sexual immorality, basically, it usually ends up in habit, or worse, addiction. The lust of the eyes is covetousness. When you see and want material items of the world that you don’t need. And the pride in one’s lifestyle gives us a sense of self-worth, not one resulting from an identity in Christ, but one constructed from what we have or do. These three things are not actually sin. Being able to experience them proves that you’re a human. But they are used by the Devil in order to cause us to sin, and giving in, obviously, is wrong. They were actually mentioned in the Bible, I believe in 1 John. But more subtly, I feel, even in Genesis.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
Genesis 3:6

In the same order, you can see that Eve, when tempted by Satan, experienced the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. She sinned when she ate the fruit. And then that, was what caused the downfall of mankind. Even in the first humans, sin had existed, and has existed until now. But what made the difference two thousand years ago was Jesus Christ. His temptation in the desert by Satan brought much significance to His purpose on the Earth.

When Satan told Jesus to turn stone into bread, Jesus was being tempted as He hadn’t eaten for forty days and forty nights. The lust of the flesh. Then He was told to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. Jesus could have done that, and demonstrated His power as the Son of God. But He resisted the pride of life, and refused. And when The Devil showed Him the kingdoms of the world, the lust of the eyes was overcome.

Thus, as Jesus resisted the three occurrences of temptation, He clearly showed that now, we Christians have every power counter the Devil’s methods of luring us into temptation and sin. As much and Adam brought the downfall of humankind in His sin, Jesus brought the resurrection of our bodies through salvation which came from His crucifixion. And therefore, new life was given to us so that we might live again. Have you ever wondered about the significance of the two names Jesus had? Jesus means ‘The Lord saves’, while Immanuel means ‘God with us.’ As Christ came down to Earth, fully man and fully God at the same time. He fulfilled the literal meaning of Immanuel. But it was because He brought us salvation that cleansed our bodies, that we could finally be reunited with God. Then truly, ‘God with us’.

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Science and Religion

Here’s a short essay I wrote for GP about a month ago, decided to put it up 😀

‘The more science advances, the more religion will decline.’ To what extent do you agree?

Of all the living being on the Earth, humans have been the only species to have studied and understood nature. And by doing so, have been able to use the knowledge to innovate and create. Many developments in the sciences and modern technology have transformed our lifestyles tremendously, bringing convenience and improvements to them. However, there is one aspect of human life that has seen through these changes, never ceasing to exist- religion. Faith in supernatural beings and beliefs in afterlife have experienced reforms, revivals, and even suppression throughout the many years. It is, however, still existent today. Although the recent developments in the schools of thought in science have increasingly clashed with the beliefs of many faiths, it is still possible for both to co-exist in society.

Many critics often speculated that the improvements in science, and new discoveries would cause the death of religion. These views were based not just on archaic scientific theories like Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, but also on recent breakthroughs like Quantum Physics. This new school of thought suggested that the future of the Earth was determined purely by calculated probabilities, or in other words, chance. This clearly disputed the fundamental beliefs of many religions. Islam and Christianity, for example, support the idea of predeterminism, that God, at any point in time, knows the fate of the world. A phrase in the Islamic Qur’an, “Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us,” suggests preordainment for its believers. Such occurrences of conflict with proven scientific truths may lead to heated arguments among groups. But science, being able to justify itself through logical, observable explanations, may eventually cause people to doubt their faiths. Then, it is likely that the existence of religion in the lives of some people, decline.

However, with developments in the institutions of science, people may come to the realization that a God exists, and thus, subscribe to a faith. As more is discovered about nature and The Earth, it may dawn on scientists that there must be a divine being which created everything. Molecular biologists have discovered the uniqueness of every cell in the human body, and declared Darwin’s Theory untrue. Even accomplished scientists such as Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein believed that a God created the Universe. Scientific advancements may prove the beliefs of religion wrong. But inevitably, many professionals themselves are brought back to acknowledging the existence of a God. Because of this, science may continue to develop, but the influence of religion will concur with it.

Furthermore, many have and will see the importance of religion in our societies as a moral compass, accompanying the improvements in technology. Not only have the recent years seen discoveries in schools of thought, but also the use of new technology in improving our lives. This has been evident in medicine. Stem cell research, for instance, has shown a possibility of reproducing parts of the human body. A human in a vegetable state could be kept alive with machinery for an indefinitely long time. Many religious leaders have expressed their concern over such issues, as they are seen as prolonging, or even creating life. However, it seems unavoidable that medical institutions continue to advance in technology despite strong religious views towards such development. People expect more from science with each major advancement, and the future might see artificial organs such as hearts, lungs, and perhaps even brains to prolong human life. What can stop these progressions would be the human conscience. People of many cultures would oppose these advancements based on their moral values. And these morals may be affirmed by religious beliefs. Thus, it is probable that the world starts turning to religion as a moral compass to govern the limits of scientific development. In this way, science and religion will co-exist.

One reason for the continual existence of religion in human lives was that it was of intrinsic value to them. The successes of the world are but material rewards. These do not last as human life eventually ends. Thus, faith brings a lasting meaning to lives. For example, the recent global recession which affected the Singaporean economy saw more people going to mosques and churches. As the working population worry about their salaries and jobs, religion gives them hope. Even as the future brings economic downturns or natural disasters, many would turn to their faiths as science fails to solve their problems. Hence, as such suffering continues to exist in the world, so will religion, regardless of developments in science.

Ultimately, it is to be expected that science and religion continue to exist in society, even though improving technology may pose ethical issues. Most monotheistical religions like Judaism believe that human beings are God’s special creation. As mentioned earlier, we have been the only ones who understood nature and caused change in our lives. As we were given intelligence by God, we should use it to benefit the society and improve our lives. In Judaism, Physicians who practice the administration of medicine and researchers are God’s partners in preserving life. Religion therefore, may limit scientific advancements at times, but also can promote it as beneficial for the community. And then, it will, together with science, remain as essential aspects of human life.

It may be observed that science and religion have an unusual relationship. Sometimes, they may conflict and at other times, complement each other. As much as we wonder at the new discoveries in science, we must also acknowledge the need for religion to define its limits. In this way, humans, bestowed with the priceless gift of intelligence, may use it with responsibility by giving advancements in science and religion equal placing in our lives.

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