A long time ago, I wanted to do a ‘Why I decided to return to church’ post but I decided that that was only intellectual knowledge and experientially, I was not a Christian yet. Even now, I don’t think I am ready to make that post. It wasn’t until this evening when my DG was studying the book of Hebrews, that R made a point that really resonated with me. The point is this: we can use all the philosophical arguments and scientific arguments to say that there is no God, and also that there is a God, and use external verification (not from the Bible) to prove that the Bible is indeed the word of God. But all of this reasoning will not bring a man to faith. It will not increase his willingness to follow Christ, for since the beginning of the Old Testament there have been humans who hardened their hearts and refused to listen, and it will be so until the end of time.
Intellectual reasoning and the dissecting of arguments about why the Bible is true does not make a complete case for why God is important in our lives. Faith is only something that can be experienced through a combination of reading the Bible, fellowshipping with other believers, being tested in our daily lives, serving in church, and allowing our minds to be reshaped by the new words in our lives. Faith in the word of God is something that takes time to cultivate, otherwise it is just untested emotions based on unsound beliefs, because no one can comprehend the whole Bible (old, new, connections between the two etc) in a single day. Or week. Basic tenets yes, but the deeper ones like how the old prophecies were fulfilled, the meaning of individual words, how God is changing lives daily (experienced through testimonies in church), that takes at least months. Which is why I find it very difficult to explain to people who ask ‘why can’t you date a non-christian’ or ‘why do you go to church’ or even ‘don’t you have better things to do in life’, because all of that stems from my experience in church. Which all stems from a belief that God exists, and more importantly, I am worshipping the right one, and my actions are pleasing to Him because I am reading the right books and it’s not just gobbledygook.
July marks the beginning of my 6th month in church, and the second journey I am taking with a church. The first was FCBC, with my friends from JC, but that was basically for fun and I don’t think I really changed much. This year, I committed myself to a four-year long journey with God, with the right people. The sermons in ARPC are known to be solid, plus my DG has a lot of scarily smart people with a strong faith. I told myself that I am not allowed to stray from that path. It was honestly a punitive mindset because I started out with a “you better get this right, or leave the church forever if you can’t figure out your faith within four years”, but now I think I finally understand what it means to live under a God who is love, grace, compassion, faithfulness, a God who is willing to sacrifice his son (Christ) to die for those who are sinners. It is a mind-blowing concept because there’s nothing like this in the secular world, or in other religions (although I still maintain that Buddhism is a very useful way to live a life by), only in Christianity is there a non-punitive idea of salvation not by good works, but by faith.
One thing that can only be found within a church community (or any small group of Christians) is the fellowship- the trust that we all need God and that we are all on the same long journey towards being better Christians. It is what I really appreciate in my church, because we do a lot of outreach missions, not just overseas but also within Singapore. To those that the world thinks less of- the sick, the poor, the imprisoned, those who live on the margins. Our efforts may not be perfect, but if there is one message that is sent, even if none of them turn to God, I hope it is that they know they are still loved and not forgotten.
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
As Christians, we don’t look at other people with the same lenses that the world uses. You are not worth more than others because you have more abilities or earn more money; you are not less sinful because you don’t visit brothels, we are honestly all the same. None of us should be made to feel small and worthless just because we are not as eye-catching or as bold as others. None of us should be made to feel that we shouldn’t be here, or that we will never be good enough. Because we were not made to live like this, our self-esteems fluctuating depending on what happens during the day. The biggest sin is to live as though there is no God in our lives, to be self-reliant, self-criticising, self-approving, to hold all our anxieties within us and not commit our fears and worries and troubles up to him.
The book of Hebrews is connected to Thessalonians (during camp) in that it reminds us to admonish those who have strayed, and to encourage those who are faint-hearted. And to help the weak.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
-Hebrews 12:3-6 (read as: Hebrews chapter 12, verses 3 to 6)
During DG we will have a small prayer session after the bible study. During the prayer session we will each share about our troubles, group size can vary from 3 to 8 depending on who is on call, and I thought I would just list them here so I will remember what I am supposed to remember- it gets a bit fuzzy after a while.
Dear Lord I would like to pray for these people:
A, that her mother-in-law will be supported by her family members and live out the remaining few years of her life with dignity and peace, even as she suffers from dementia, and that all of A’s family members will be able to get through this period of their lives with faith and love and patience for one another.
Y, that as she starts her new job on Monday that she will be courageous as the most senior doctor on call, and not be intimidated by her consultant (grr, stop being unfair towards subordinates!), that no matter what happens she will remember to look towards you and your words, and that even in her most fearful and anxious and lack-of-sleep periods, she will have at least a tiny silver of peace in her heart.
A, that as she is still finding her way around as a fresh lawyer, that she will be able to find a company that really suits her, even as she overcomes this current obstacle of not knowing what to do next, and that she will always have the support that she needs to get past her anxieties in this period.
And in general-
Of those in the DG and in the church and in the world, people who are living by your word, and especially those who are not, that they will have the peace and comfort that they need when they are facing new beginnings. Beginnings are honestly scary- I am really scared of next week- please show those who are lost, a path, so that they will not live in negativity or be stuck in the doldrums. And those with a path, please send them the support they need to be encouraged, so that they will not stray from that path.
Of good health, especially to the underprivileged and the young, both mental and physical good health.
Of courage, the ability to meet our weaknesses and fears in the darkness when it is just us and them. To confront truths about our lives and how we are fearful to move on, or unwilling to, because we don’t know what lies ahead.
Of love, that we can love one another even in our angriest moments. I constantly struggle between not helping my mother and helping her, but then knowing that I am only helping her hold on to power and more gossip in her church commitments. Case in point: helping her do the roster this afternoon, oh boy I was ANGRY. I know that she volunteers for things she cannot do because she thinks we can do them, and excel spreadsheets are really not her forte. It has been that way for the past few years, and she still can’t kick her power/gossip habits. I really wish she would fulfil the promises that she made in January about resigning from all those committees by April but nope, gossip mode still on.
Of finances, that no one has to degrade themselves or lose their integrity just to survive and to feed their families. Especially those who are living on the margins and about to make that decision to cross that borderline, to have an alternative source of income, which reduces their integrity as a whole human being and how they see themselves as humans.
Of sufferings bravely suffered, let us bend but not break under pressure.
Of strong relationships– to build them up, to maintain them when life gets tough.
To mend the church;
And our hearts.
And humility, patience, tolerance, and faith to those who follow your word.