Category Archives: Christianity

Christians and Hypocrites

I attended a conservative church for a few years when I was staying in Clementi. This church was a pretty legalistic place,  insisting that you either use the King James Version of the Bible or you must be reading the wrong version of God’s Word.

Of course, during Sunday sermons there, I always whipped out the NIV version that was given to me by my old church friends at Leng Kwang Baptist. I edited out all the “thee”s and “thou”s with every scripture reading.

But I digress from my main topic.

What I do remember most about the dogmatic church, was trying to push Isaac’s stroller from the road into the church entrance, and find the wheelchair access area blocked by big, fat expensive cars whose drivers could not be bothered to park at the faraway car park. I have a really bad memory, but this is one of the things which I will never forget.

I thought then : “How can Christians be so ungracious to the needy in the church itself?”

Which usually leads to “Is this how the rest of the world sees us? We say one thing, but we do another thing. Aren’t we such hypocrites?”

It’s well-known that Christianity in Singapore is often viewed as a religion for the wealthy. Every week, I see lots of expensive Audis, Mercedes, and other high-end makes in our church car park lot. (That’s not to say there aren’t alot of cheaper Nissans and Toyotas :)

Sitting in the courtyard, I observe big fat diamond rings, pricey clothing and lots of maids in tow. The kids in my children’s previous church kindergarten classes are mostly from well-to-do families and throwing big birthday parties are the norm, not the exception.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jealous at all. God has provided for me all these years, I’ve never had to starve even when my mum was a single parent. And today, I have job that can feed my family, let my wife be a homemaker and buy the kids the toys I never had.

What I’m saying is that because of the general visible level of wealth among many Christians, I’m often concerned about how believers are perceived by non-believers. Why would people come to Christ if we blatantly live a life that we say we aren’t supposed to?

Indeed, with wealth, and many Singaporeans have more relative wealth than other people in the region, it becomes so difficult to extract ourselves from the sinful excesses of society. We live it, we breathe it, we cannot get away from crass consumerism and lust for material things. I’ve been through various buying fads like plastic models, toys and recently, leather watch straps. I keep telling myself to stop, but I can’t until I tire of it.

We go to church, we nod our heads when the pastor says not to love the things of this world. Then after church, we go for lunch and do some window shopping in the heart of Orchard Road, filling our eyes and thoughts with the things of this world. Where ever we walk, there is an advertisement, flyer, billboard or sales promoter shoving such pretty items or services in your face.

I open the newspaper, and it shows me glorious new condominiums I should buy just to upgrade my living standards and reach a higher social caste. Never mind that it will land me in debt till I’m really old, because hey, you can flip it and sell it for a profit when the economy does well! Isn’t that a great way to generate more retirement funds? (It doesn’t remind me that I could just drop dead tomorrow from a million other causes, because the condo developer wants you to live forever or until the housing loan is paid.)

Money, money money, must be funny, in a rich man’s world? ~ Abba.

Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim, we live in a society that demands we attain wealth or be left out of the privileges of life. But my own observation is that it’s Christians who of late, been more than happy to flaunt their wealth and tell others that it’s part of their faith. Membership has its privileges you know.

Some call this the prosperity gospel – where God’s promise is to make you wealthy if you truly believe in His goodness. I’ll make it clear that I think it’s all hogwash. Find me ten wealthy believers and I’ll find you ten poor ones, all with equal faith in God. The ways of God are mysterious, and if all true Christians were automatically rich, there would be no other religion left standing.

Ecclesiastes writes that God may give you great wealth, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy:

I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant the- the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.  ~ Ecc 6:1

Jesus, as far as I know in the Bible, never ever, ever promised any one great riches on earth, but offered only eternal riches in heaven. Remember, as Christians, we first stick to the words of Jesus Christ. If your pastor tells you Jesus said this and that, GO READ it for yourself! Be sure Jesus and his disciples actually said that.

From the book of Matthew:

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied.

“There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first

In the New Testament, the preacher Paul told Timothy, that we should seek godliness with contentment:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.~ 1 Tim 6

I’m quite tired of hearing followers of the prosperity gospel insist that it’s not the only thing taught in their churches. The very fact that you subscribe to such a doctrine, already negates the very teachings of Christ, never mind if you’ve done lots of charity work and such. Loving money, or in this case, waiting eagerly for God to shower you with riches, already warps both your own faith, and worse, Jesus’ reputation.

A pastor who keeps moving into bigger and more expensive houses. Doesn’t matter if he earned the money through his businesses or from church tithes. Does he truly love God, or does he love the world?

A female Christian worker who sings to win the lost, but exposes her skin like a harlot and moves like a pole dancer, does she love Christ or does she love her image?

So if God doesn’t make you rich, is your place in heaven still there? Or were you not faithful enough. Our faith cannot be built on such foolishness and silliness.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. ~ Hebrews 13:4

The Bible teaches that believing in Jesus, not the promise of wealth, is the only way to heaven. Throughout the Bible are numerous warnings that the love of money is not to be accepted.

Don’t cast the first stone, take that plank out of your eye, people say. Let God judge!!! But God also tells us to point out evildoers, and to lead my children on the right path. Do I keep quiet when such foolishness exists? God will judge the wrongdoers for their sin, but it is my duty to speak out when the Bible is perverted for sinful means.

Enough of these misguided folks. Read the Bible for yourself and ask God to let you discern between right and wrong. There’s no better solution.

What about us moderate Christians? Do we give up everything now to prove we are worthy Christians? How do we walk the walk when we talk the talk?

I’m not worthy to tell you how to live your life as a better Christian. I am not forgiving enough. I cuss too much. And I don’t do enough for Christ even though he has blessed me with much.

However, let me tell you how I’m going to deal with the hypocrisy I see in me.

When I was a young Christian, I had a long argument with a good friend over these paragraphs in the Bible, which now comes back to me as what I must do, even though it seems so impossible then, and also now:

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” ~ 1 Peter 1

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  ~ Hebrews 12:14

Can I be ever seen as holy? I don’t know.

But for His sake, I must keep trying.

PS: John MacArthur has some great sermons on the problems with the prosperity gospel. Read this long sermon here, it’s worth it.

Darren’s Story Part III

A big congratulations to my old friend Darren who, with God’s help and his own indomitable spirit, has overcome his challenges in so many more ways than one. And the dude is going to be a father soon too!

From Channelnewsasia, 6th Jan 2011:

Eight young S’poreans honoured for contributions to community

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SINGAPORE : Eight young people were honoured for their contributions to the community at a gala dinner on Wednesday night.

The Young Outstanding Singaporeans award celebrates future leaders who can be role models for the next generation.

44-year-old entrepreneur Elim Chew received the Special Commendation Award. Organisers said Miss Chew epitomised an emerging trend, where Singaporeans reach their prime after the 35-year mark.

The other recipients are aged between 22 and 34.

They were recognised for their work in various fields like education, the environment and social work.

One of them, 34-year-old Dr Darren Chua, beat all odds – including a severe stroke in 2000 – to attain a Masters in Science and become an educator.

“After one, two years, it slowly dawned on me that a career in medicine couldn’t be fulfilled, so (I) started to look elsewhere, on what other element that I could fulfill,” said Dr Chua, a recipient of the Young Singaporean Award.

“And at the end of the day, what I really want to do is to be of service to people. Initially it was medicine, and now I found it in education,’ he added.

It’s still hard to believe it’s been over ten years since that fateful day. Here are the previous entries on his long journey.

Darren’s Story Part I

Darren’s Story Part II

Can Christians Think?

When I was in university, we were most amused when a lecturer whipped out a book by the diplomat Kishore Mahbubani called “Can Asians Think?”

And actually, I’ve often wondered to myself – Can Christians Think? Or more accurately…Do Christians Think?

Let’s face it – Christianity is no walk in the park. Every day, I believe many believers goes through major or minor crises of faith. Which Christian doesn’t think to himself once in a while : “God, are you there?”?

But I also believe, from years of observation, that many Christians don’t think very much about biblical issues at all.

Every Sunday, I sit in the church courtyard listening to the sermon, and if I’m not fighting sleepiness (I have a tendency to sleep if asked to sit down for more than 15 minutes without moving), I’m sitting there and analysing the contents of the speech being delivered from the pulpit.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent most of my life in a communications job. But I’m not really critiquing how well a speaker speaks, but deep diving into the content and its relevance to me and my family’s life.

You see, every Christian also knows that there are many tough questions that non-believers and believers alike cannot seem to answer about Christianity.

The most basic one is “How do you know God exists?” and the more complex ones are like “Why do some people speak in tongues and others don’t?” and “How do you know you aren’t going to hell yourself?”

My biggest question is not related to all these though, but rather “How much are Christians pondering on these tough questions that may be raised from the pulpit? Is this church audience simply contented and let the sermon go in one ear and come out through the other ear?

Why do I say that? When I look around the audience, I see people who are soaking it in without much thought, and others who look like they’re considering the issues at hand. But even with the latter group, what is the point of thinking about an issue for a few moments and then leaving it all behind in the pursuit of lunch hour?

Please don’t mistake me for being judgmental here. I judge no one.

But I do seek to know if people think hard enough about what is being preached to them, and whether they accept things blindly.

Eg. if a pastor or priest tells you that XXXX is a godly thing to do, do you ponder why and do you check the Bible to verify if that is the truth? Can you differentiate the Word from what man-made doctrinal stands that your church elders have deemed to be divine? Or do you assume that the pastor is always right?

Our faith is an active, dynamic faith, and those of us who have been believers for some time know deep in our hearts, that God never stops testing us to make us better people and never stops encouraging us to believe in His grace. The Bible also demands that our faith never become lukewarm, and that we take it for granted.

Many display their faith and passion for Christ through action, and God bless them.

But many others just sit there in the pew and remain emotionless or worse, thought- less. Before there can be impactful action, there must be thought. To accept everything at face value in our faith (the clearest example being a “sermon sponge”) without thoughtful questioning and debate, is to waste the brain that God has given us.

The Bible principle I live by when at work

This is the 10th chapter of my (hopefully to be published) book, Some Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Earlier. I can’t believe it’s been four months since I wrote the last chapter!

When it comes to work, we Christians struggle daily with the secular world.

The morals defined by the world often conflict directly with what God tells us to do. We work hard to pay the bills, but face the temptation to love money more than God. We take pride in the quality of our work, and it is hard to remember that it is not us who make great things happen, but God.

I am thankful that I’ve grown up going through various difficult experiences that taught me certain principles to live by, and the same principles are verbalized in the Bible.

Here is one Bible paragraph that over time, I’ve gradually structured my life around because it’s so easy to follow.

It comes from the book of Ecclesiastes, which deals with the philosophical dilemmas that people face daily – Why is life so unfair? Why do evil people prosper? What’s the point of working hard?

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. (Ecc 3:12-13)

This para is both profound and simple in its directive.

Happiness reigns supreme, and people will define happiness in their own ways. The temptation to be happy for one’s selfish sake or egoistic gain is cancelled out by the call to “do good”.

Doing good is self explanatory – it calls for team work, going the extra mile, and being a good guy on the job. I can be a real tough cookie on the job who takes no crap from anyone, but are my intentions noble and for a positive outcome? I have to keep asking myself that.

And doing good calls for one not to play dirty politics, to be clear and transparent at all times.

Why do people play politics? When I was 25, I coined this theory when chatting with my uni lecturer Constance Chay: “People who are not competent enough, play politics”.

These days, I add another sentence: “People play politics when they’re not working hard enough”.

You get the gist.

Back to the verse, some people might mistake “To eat and drink” as to justify being a glutton or alcoholic, but what God is really saying here is to enjoy one’s food, not overdo it. Unfortunately, it does make one overweight when he/she enjoys their food and drink too much.

And a very important thing is to “find satisfaction" in his toil”. People talk about job satisfaction, but why do they stay on in jobs that make them unhappy and resentful? God knows we become restless and bored, and job satisfaction is always critical.

Over the past decade, I’ve encouraged many people to leave their unhappy job state, but very few actually do anything to improve their situation. It could be that I’m a really lousy persuader, but it’s more like that people are inert and prefer to remain in their “comfort” zone, nevermind that they’re not really comfortable at all.

To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecc 2:26)

You know, a lot of people don’t appreciate the value of wisdom, knowledge or happiness.

There is no price to pay for any of these, really, but people often put a price tag to it. The most uneducated person can be the wisest, the quietest man be endowed with reams of knowledge from observation and the person with the least wealth can be the happiest.

Yet we often see around us, people who chase the same three things, but bark up the wrong tree because they don’t know God gives all these for free to those who fear and love Him.

I spend a lot of my time seeking those three things, because when you have all three, you lack nothing.

How about money like the new mega-churches of today like to preach in their “health and wealth” doctrine? Where does money come into this?

My brothers and sisters, common sense will tell us that if you possess wisdom, knowledge and happiness, you will have enough money to get by.

God provides, and I’m so thankful for Him.

Pat Robertson needs to keep quiet

I was saddened when I first read news about the massive earthquake in Haiti, and got really upset when I read this story on CNN:

(CNN) — Pat Robertson, the evangelical Christian who once suggested God was punishing Americans with Hurricane Katrina, says a "pact to the devil" brought on the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Officials fear more than 100,000 people have died as a result of Tuesday’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti.

Robertson, the host of the "700 Club," blamed the tragedy on something that "happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it."

The Haitians "were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever," Robertson said on his broadcast Wednesday. "And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ "

Pat Robertson says Haiti paying for ‘pact to the devil’

It is common knowledge to Bible believers that in the end times, there will be an increase in natural calamities and sufferings (read John MacArthur on this topic) among many other indicators. This Haitian earthquake may or may not be one of the indicators of the end times.

But what Robertson done is not just uncalled for, it’s not what God would have us do. If people are suffering, we do not say “See, look what you’ve brought upon yourself.” In the first place, how would Robertson know that this is the cause of a devil’s deal in the past? Was the devil’s deal even true to begin with? Has this man ever stepped into Haiti? Will he go there now to experience the pain of earthquake victims for himself?

Dear Pat Robertson, perhaps you might want to read the Good Book again. Instead of mocking people’s sufferings, we believers are asked by the Bible to do good where we can:

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. – Galatians 6:10

While the entire world has mobilized its resources to provide relief to a suffering people, this preacher in his comfortable 1st World enclave goes railing about how this is retribution.

Where is the compassion, the sensitivity, and the brotherly love?

This is not Christian. This is not even human.

Darren’s Story Part II

Some of you might remember Darren’s story which I wrote the night after he got married in Sep 2006. When I was a journo I asked Darren if I could write the newspaper story on him, but he was too shy. He’s not so shy now, and my dear ex-colleague Wan Ching finally did the deed a few days ago for The New Paper. I’ve reproduced her article here and it relates in greater detail what happened that fateful night and how he’s progressed since his marriage. Praise the Lord.

image

“I REFUSE TO BE DISABLED”

Helpless and with half his skull lost after a severe stroke, comeback doc wants to inspire others

REPORT: NG WAN CHING

wanching@sph.com.sg

IT HAD been his lifelong dream to be a doctor. He graduated top of his cohort in his junior college and worked hard in medical school to realise his dream.

After five years, he graduated from medi­cal school and was ready to start houseman-ship as an intern.

Then a massive stroke hit him – and killed his dreams. Dr Darren Chua was just 24 years old then.

But Dr Chua, now 33, is not one to look back on life with regrets.

Today, he is forging ahead with a new venture, an education centre, to help stu­dents achieve their best.

A few months after his stroke, he had thought he could be back at work within a year.

“Later I found out it was not very realistic,” he said in an interview with The New Paper.

The stroke, which hit him on 28 Apr 2000, had sent blood gushing into his brain at such a furious rate that his brain shifted position.

“It moved to the right to make room for the blood,” said Dr Chua.

The pressure building up in his head could have caused irreparable brain damage. So doctors removed a part of his skull to relieve the pressure. It made him look like Robocop, in the movie about a super-human cyborg who had part of his skull removed too, he said.

Friends who visited said the same thing, when they noticed that one quarter of my head was missing,” he said with a laugh. His missing skull was put back on his head only six months later. By then, he knew he was not going to get back to work any time soon. The right side of his body was affected by the stroke.

Difficulties

It took him a long time to learn to walk again.

He has learnt to write with his left hand as his right hand is still feeling “tight” as a result of the stroke.

He had already taken his medical degree, from National University of Singapore, when he had the stroke.

“Hence, in a way, I have obtained what I wanted,” he said.

But he could not practise as a doctor as he had not undergone the one-year houseman-ship which was supposed to start a few days later.

On the day of his stroke, he had been home alone in the afternoon.

He was at the computer and preparing for emcee duties for the medical students’ gradu­ation party that evening.

“My entire right visual field suddenly blacked out,” he said. Disorientation quickly followed. He lay down, hoping the symptoms would subside.

“I managed to navigate myself to my bed and that was when the headaches started,” he said.

The pounding was gradual but relentless. He started experiencing weakness over the entire right-side of his body and had difficulty completing sentences.

He called his then girlfriend, who called for an ambulance. By the time the ambulance arrived, he was immobile.

He passed out during the trip to the Na­tional University Hospital.

“I have always been asked, ‘Did you know you were having a stroke?’ My answer is no.

“At that point, I was just more interested in holding myself together and not breaking down,” he said.

Learning to walk, talk

He regained consciousness two to three weeks later but was unable to speak or walk.

He found out later from his parents that doctors had told them they could not commit to how much recovery he could achieve.

Said Dr Timothy Lee, Gleneagles Hospital consultant neurosurgeon, who operated on him at NUH: “He almost died. He had a huge blood clot.”

Dr Chua’s stroke was caused by a ruptured arteriovenous malformation in his left brain. (See infobar, above.)

He stayed in NUH for two months and spent another two months at Ang Mo Kio Community Hospital.

He went back to full-time work 2½ years later as a health administrator for the Nation­al Healthcare Group and stayed for two years.

By then he could walk, albeit with a limp.

Then he was offered a research scholar­ship to pursue a Masters in Science at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

“The decision to accept was not easy. In 2005, the aftermath of the stroke was still very much on my body. My right side was physical­ly weaker and I still could not see in my right visual field.

“The only thing that was going for me then was that my mental skills were very much unharmed,” he said.

Challenging himself

As a challenge to himself, he took on the two-year research programme.

It was also during this period that he got married. (See report, above right.)

After that, he had a one-year stint with SingHealth, before leaving to open Potter’s Clay Education in Parkway Centre in Marine Parade in June this year.

He said: “If there is one thing I have drawn from these experiences, it is that persistence rules. No matter how many times I fell in the hospital, I always willed myself up because I refused to be in a wheelchair.

“No matter how many times I spelt or pronounced a word wrongly, I would attempt it again.”

He would not be treated as a disabled person.

Slowly he saw improvements. What start­ed as a 40-minute walk from Suntec City Convention Centre to Tower 4, can now be done in eight to 10 minutes.

He continues to clock better times, though he still walks with a limp. He is now devoting his time to teaching because he has a passion for it.

And he is telling his story because he wants to motivate students.

“Even when you feel that life is against you, never ever give up,” he said.

SIDEBAR 1: From intrigue to respect to love

SHE says that despite his stroke, he is the man she has always wanted.

He says that she is a fantastic and supportive wife.

Mrs X Chua, 31, who is too shy to reveal her full name, said she and Dr Darren Chua, 33, met at a pub in 2002.

“I was there for work. The pub owner was my client and I was helping him with employee benefits,” said the former financial advisor. She saw Dr Chua drinking and his hand was shaking badly. “The thought popped into my head that he might be suffering from hyperthyroidism, because I had it too,” she said.

Hyperthyroidism is a condition where excessive thyroid hormones overstimulates metabolism, causing “speeding up” of various body systems and symptoms, resembling an overdose of adrenaline.

She asked him if he might have hyperthyroidism and didn’t know it.

“He said he didn’t have hyperthyroidism. He had a stroke. I asked him if he had seen a doctor and he said, ‘I am a doctor’”.

They did not meet again until two years later.

This was at another pub. Again, she was working and he was drinking with friends. Said Mrs Chua: “I think he was a little tipsy. He asked me out by asking whether he could come to church with me.

“Obviously when people ask if they can come to church with you, you don’t say no, right?” Things progressed steadily from there and in 2006 they got married.

“I started by being intrigued by him, then I was inspired by him and I grew to respect him for what he has gone through,” said Mrs Chua, who is now helping Dr Chua with his education venture.

The couple plan to start trying for children next year.

SIDEBAR 2: About AVM

THEY are defects of the blood circulatory system that are generally believed to be congenital. Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are made up of tangled arteries and veins. In Singapore, it is estimated to affect one in 100,000 people, although Associate Professor Ivan Ng, head of the neurosurgery department at the National Neuroscience Institute, suspects that figure might be higher.

Most patients do not know that they have an AVM. Some patients with AVMs have seizures or persistent headaches. An AVM can put additional strain on the blood vessels and the surrounding tissues. The strain on the blood vessels can weaken them and cause a rupture. This is known as a haemorrhage or a bleed. If an AVM bleeds, the patient experiences a very severe headache. The bleed may cause a stroke and even death.

Life is simple, really.

Haven’t had much time to blog due to extreme work commitments over the past few weeks. Came down with stomach flu too on Tuesday, which I had to expel from my system with prayer, willpower and lots of Glucolin. And thank God I was up and running by Wed, a minor miracle in itself.

Just a thought for the day which I didn’t cut/paste from somewhere else.

Life is actually very simple. I’ve observed that it gets complicated when people think that the universe revolves around them and try to fit the pieces of the puzzle together from their own perspective. Unfortunately, they’ll find that the pieces they have don’t really fit together, because they don’t see the bigger picture nor do they realize that the pieces aren’t meant to fit neatly next to each other.

Now when I tell people that I lead a simple and contented life, some don’t really believe me. The answer, cannot be that simple, they argue. But I sleep easy every night (except before major work events, of course), because life is simple, really. Thank God for that.

I can’t prove God exists. So how?

Recently, some of my old postings on Christianity have seen a revival in comments from two readers. You might want to read the posts and the comments

Why, God, Why?

Why I go to church

The latest reply I did to a reader named Stephen is so long, I might as well post it as a new entry (so you other regular readers don’t complain that I haven’t been posting often enough ;D).

It touches upon why I can’t prove the existence of God to a non-believer, yet I continue to believe in Him.

———-

Hi Stephen,

You seek the proof in a particular aspect, and then I have to be honest – I am afraid whatever proof or stories I might write here may not convince you at this juncture.

Like you, I’m always skeptical of miracle cures – I don’t believe in mass sessions of faith healing (eg. a preacher comes and proclaims people sick of their lifelong illnesses, lays his hands on them and they start walking after being disabled since birth and so on).

In this modern age, I have yet to see and hear of a real example of truly fantastical miracle by everyone’s (believer and non-believer) standards.

Yet, the Bible tells that when Jesus came to earth, he was able to pull off such sessions with ease. So one of the tough questions for Christians today is – “Why don’t these great miracles happen today?”.

So back to your point – no, I (and many other Christians) don’t believe that a girl with her legs blown off can regrow her leg again by a mere prayer. But doctors can give her a prosthetic leg that lets her walk again. That is only made possible by man’s intelligence, which we celebrate fully. And Christians believe that man’s intelligence and scientific achievements comes from God. On the other hand. evolution doesn’t really answer why only man is so ridiculously smart as compared to the rest of the species.

That nun you speak about – her claim is most probably hogwash (though hey, you’d never really know right?). And that is the very sort of thing that Christians like me do not depend on to share about Christ’s work. People in general are more willing to believe that Christ rose from the dead after 3 days than a nun re-growing her heart.

Some Christian folks die today because they refuse to seek medical treatment and fully rely on the belief that prayer alone can heal everything. But they seem to forget that one of Jesus’ apostles Luke was a doctor himself, and nowhere in the Bible does God say :”Don’t bother with doctors.” Christians in general believe God gave man science, and that we should not hesitate to seek man-made remedies while seeking God’s grace.

So if I catch a flu, I’ll be foolish not to take flu medication. But if God wills it, the flu might just kill me. That I can accept as well as a matter of faith and it’s not something I’ll get worked up about over.

Neither do I believe in speaking in other mystical stuff like “speaking in tongues” (a disbelief, which one fellow Christian has said in the past, will condemn me to hell, can you believe it) that is a big thing with charismatic and new evangelical churches. I personally think it’s just babbling for the sake of it.

I also agree with you that it shouldn’t take a personal tragedy for people to become a believer.

Yet that happens all too often, only for the simple reason that when faced with a dire situation, people are forced against the wall to re-examine their belief system, their humanity and their life in perspective.

I learnt to believe in Christ because of my mum’s illness (I believe God saved her against all odds after a desperate plea – she was at Stage 4 breast cancer and honestly, she should have been dead in 1992 but she survived for another decade), but today, I continue to believe in Christ because my mum is long gone and the memory of her suffering is but a faint whisper, but I continue to struggle with sin and my humanity daily and still see his redemptive work in my life and others. That, my friend, I find difficult to describe to you because we all lead different lives with different struggles.

When it comes down to it, I understand you are seeking for definite, empirical proof of God by man’s standards.

I’d be branded a fool to say that I can give you that proof, because I don’t have it in a white paper, a box or several paragraphs. Scientists spend decades trying to prove the existence of God, but their instruments won’t show you the results, nor can they even agree on what specific prerequisites it takes to determine the existence of God.

I’m probably as big a cynic as you, because I demand proof in everything in my daily life.

This especially so in the workplace (I work in Microsoft, where only tangible results count in my appraisals and it’s a really demanding environment), As a newspaper journo in the past, I demanded that every story have at least two to three different verifications before it can be deemed publishable. As a press photographer when I was young, I refused to Photoshop any image to thwart the reality I had snapped with my camera. The photos were the proof.

So I might appear to be an hypocrite by saying that with God, I cannot show the proof you want. A case of double-standards by man’s measurements. Yet the Bible says in Romans 1:18:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

In other words, everything that we see around us – the trees, the stars, the mountains – demonstrates quite convincingly the existence of intelligent design. That’s God’s evidence for us. We feel amazement at the ecosystem of the universe, we appreciate the beauty of nature and we ask “how is it that we know this is beautiful?”

But man, even if he feels the sense of wonder in his heart, rejects that idea, rejects the evidence laid before him. And with his intelligence and leadership of all species, decides it is best to put himself in the centre of the universe.

Never mind the fact that he can drop dead any second for all proclamations of power, because his fate is not really in his hands. Man decided to put his faith wholly in science, and make evolution – which is still a collection of loosely linked and not fully verified theories (see how many revisions the scientists make on their theories all the time) – the only answer to everything. If science and statistics are right, we cannot possibly be the only intelligent species in the universe – yet why is Planet Earth so terribly unique in the scheme of things?

Christianity is one of the most criticised things in the world, largely because of the sins of so-called believers (eg. Crusades, the Inquisition, and lately, the war on Iraq and Afghanistan) who killed unjustly in the name of God, as well as overzealous folks who insist on hitting people’s head with a Bible (figuratively speaking) all the time. As a non-Christian for most of my life – I loathed all these things about Christians, and today, I still do. Christians forget that they need to communicate better in order for our message to be understood. A lot of misconceptions about Christians and Christ continue to be perpetuated by Christians themselves and it is not going to be changed any time soon.

The only thing I can do on my part is try to be honest about what I believe in. Again, it seems double standards for me to demand real facts in the secular world, and simply rely on “faith” when it comes to God.

But that’s the ONLY thing God really expects man to do – to simply believe that Jesus once did come down to earth in order to redeem man’s sin forever. Nothing we can do on our own effort and capability will redeem our fallen state. Here, the Bible states in Romans 3:

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

It’s so simple a process it seems foolish to be a Christian. “Simply believe in Christ and live forever? You’ve gotta be kidding me.” But that has spurred so many people to seek the answers for themselves, and later, for many of them to come believe in Christ.

And being a Christian doesn’t mean having to follow all sorts of weird procedures or impossible demands. For example, the Ten Commandments (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+20&version=NIV) are pretty easy to understand and follow. And Jesus’ “Golden Rule” is so simple in concept – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – and while tough to practice, it is possible to carry out.

God expects us to use our intelligence to question everything that we do, not follow any commandments blindly because we’d be no better than robots. That’s why every Christian needs to continually question his faith in order to renew it, not be a slavish follower of whatever a preachers says at the pulpit. If a preacher tells me to speak in tongues today to prove that I’m a believer, I’ll ask him why should I – it’s not what God says I have to do be saved. But so many others happily follow the preacher, and not God’s Word.

Hope that clarifies some more things for you.

Ian