Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Give Me Faith (Acoustic) - Elevation Worship

So many doubts. So many worries.

Where should one start. This never-ending dissertation, this going back to Asia while not ending the dissertation, this potential move, this what do I do with my life?


I need faith God.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Grace thoughts

This is a transcript of my speech about grace. A good reminder.
Today, I want to reintroduce what grace is. This is not a complicated concept to understand, but perhaps a more difficult concept to live. Throughout this month, we will invite people to share their perspectives on how they have lived grace filled lives in the season that they are in. What we will do today is first establish a common understanding of what grace means. Ie, What so amazing bout grace?

One good starting point for this concept grace is seen in the book of Ephesians. Today, the verses that we read comes from the first 3 chapters of Ephesians. The book of Ephesians was written to encourage the church at Ephesus. It was written to further explain God’s eternal purpose and grace. This is possibly important not only because it was a young church, but also because of the many different influences going on. Ephesus was a cosmopolitan city. They were an important habour, major trade going on. With trade comes people from everywhere with different ideas. In the same way, as we live in Brussels, perhaps there is something that we can be reminded of God’s eternal purpose and grace today as we live amongst people with different idea.

I want to start with a quote that I think is key to today’s message. So, I guess, if you stop listening right now, Philip Yancey’s quote is a good quote to drift away with… Let me read it for you…

“grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less. It means that I, even I who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table in God’s family.” 
Philip YanceyWhat's So Amazing About Grace?

This is so profoundly simple, yet sometimes really difficult. But I think that as long as we stay in the struggle, allow God to reveal this love of his more everyday, I think that it is good. As with all good things, it is a process and journey. What we need to do is to be reminded of these truths every once in a while. During the course of this teaching, what I hope today is to remind you of these truths, and to think together about the implications of this grace in our lives. So Let’s begin! J

 Grace stems from the love of God.

My first point today is Grace is amazing because Grace stems from the love of God.

In ephesians we read:

 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5

We have been discussing Jesus in the past few months. Through his life, death and resurrection and ascension, what is clear is the love of Jesus. Jesus walked this earth because he loved us. The famous John 3:16 clearly links the love of God to his people to the actions of his son Jesus.  

-       Besides Jesus the son which we have discussed, this love can be further understood in the character and actions of the other two divine persons of the trinity: God the father and the Holy Spirit.
o    God the father created creation and called it good. It’s spring now. A wonderful time to note the beauty of creation.  To create that which is good, he must be good too. This love is good, it gives pleasure.

o    God the holy spirit has been present since the beginning of the biblical narrative and will continue to be present till the end of time. This spirit has been called by Jesus as the counsellor. This love is present from the start of time and will continue to be present.

-       God is love, his very character is love. Our understanding of grace needs to come from an understanding of His love. His is a love that saves and redeems through his son. It is a love that is good and gives pleasure. It is a love that has been around through time. Or as Yancey says:  

Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are.” 
Philip YanceyWhat's So Amazing About Grace?

-       The question that to ask ourselves is: Do we truly know that that the God of the universe truly loves us? What is our understanding of this love? Is it in alignment
with the character of God?

Through the riches of God’s grace and love, we become his children
My next point is this grace is amazing because: Through the riches of God’s grace and love, we become his children

Ephesians 1:5-8 In love  he[b]predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—  to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us

In this point, we focus on the fact that we are now called children of his. We are not his servants, or just his friends.

At the same time, we as a community become his children collectively. This is because of the grace of God, not because of what we do. We can all do our part in this community but ultimately, it is the grace of God that brings us all together.

-       As children, we are all redeemed and forgiven, because of the riches of God’s grace. Jews and Gentiles alike—were dead in their transgressions and sins but have been made alive because of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
-       As a minority, an alien in Brussels who looks different, or speaks weird, Or a woman in a theological faculty, I have countless moments of feeling like I am doing something wrong, judged, feeling small, angry, indignant, etc. I call that the yellow bean problem, or the minority complex, or sexism… It’s an awful place to be. Often, poor dirk has been the male white representative, the one who has to right the wrongs of all the men and Europeans in my life, to deal with the emotional mess that I am after a normal day here in Brussels… 

-       Verses like these from the bible have been vital to ground me. It reminds me again and again that first, my identity is in being a child of God. First and foremost, my worth is in being a child of God. The grace of God allows me to be his child. Redeemed and forgiven. Do you also see yourself as a child of God? Fully redeemed and forgiven?

-       Secondly, it reminds me that the person or people that have upset me, stressed me, or I am afraid of, or hurt me, or basically been not very nice. They can be my brother or sister. It is as possible for them to be as redeemed and forgiven as I am. This influences the way I treat him or her.

-       The question then I leave with you at this point is: Does the grace of God, available for all of us,  truly influence the way we look and love each other?

-       Sometimes, it is easier to judge our brother and sister because of our different cultures, attitudes and perhaps different sins?  How can we look at each other with God’s grace as central?  

As yancey said:
“All of us in the church need “grace-healed eyes” to see the potential in others for the same grace that God has so lavishly bestowed on us.” 
Philip YanceyWhat's So Amazing About Grace?

Grace is amazing because it precedes works.

 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

If it is not yet obvious, Grace is a gift. It is inherently undeserved. Because it is a gift, we need to operate from an attitude of gratitude. We do not deserve to be saved, but we are because of the love of God.

Besides approaching grace as a gift, we can also approach it from other alternatives. The story of the prodigal sons can help illustrate this further.  The story is recorded in Luke 15:11-32
The younger brother at the start of the story says “Father, give me my share of the estate.’… We know that he basically squandered his share, and he came back to his father. When he came back, his father gave him a party, and when the older brother found out, he was really upset.. when the father went to find out what’s happening, he says “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’”  Both brothers seem to miss the point.
From the younger brother, we can see that he basically treated his inheritance as a right. As something that he deserves. In the same way, grace can also be understood as a right… It is my right to grace because I was baptized, it is my right to because I have kept all God’s laws.
For the older brother, he was upset because he felt that he was not getting what he deserved. He did not ever get a young goat… Grace is understood as a deserved transaction – I deserve grace because I have been working for God for a long time.
For both the brothers, they don’t take into account the love relationship they have with their father. The father is understood in terms of what he can do for them, instead of the relationship he has with them. Having the attitude of both the older or younger brother can lead to bitterness, anger, and can result in losing the plot. Do we truly treat grace as a gift? Do we remember who God is, instead of focusing on what we want? 

 “Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are.” 
Philip YanceyWhat's So Amazing About Grace?

Our ministry is a gift of grace

Ephesians 3: 7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 

Our understanding of God’s grace compels us to ministry. We are not saved for ourselves, but rather to be a servant of the gospel. We are saved to participate in the mission of God.

It’s fascinating to note that Paul writes about being a servant of the gospel as a gift. For all his Jewish training, he did not see himself as qualified enough for the role, but rather, recognized the importance of God’s grace and power as seeing him through. Do we also recognize the importance of God’s grace and power in our ministy?

In addition, he had a very clear idea what being a ‘servant of the gospel’ meant for him:  (verse 8 says: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things)  It was God who gave him his ministry. In the same way, God also gives us our ministry. As ephesians 2: 10 says:  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. The question to ask then is – DO we know what is our ministry? Do we know what good works are prepared in advance for us? Do we believe that it is a gift? This good works that we are doing? We have all these different tools today that can help us to have a clearer idea what our gifts are, and what the good works can be…

Whilst having a wonderful task, Paul was also suffering. He wrote his letter while he was in prison. Ministry does not mean that we have a smooth sailing comfortable life. It can involve pain. It can involve suffering, which can lead to discouragement. However, suffering is not outside God’s grace. God’s grace is sufficient even for our suffering. Even Christians suffer. But God’s grace is sufficient. I remember the song, “his grace is sufficient for me, his strength is made perfect in our weakness”.  So lets take a look at how Paul dealt with this grace…

Firstly, Paul was clear that his suffering was not in vain, but rather was for the benefit of the Ephesus church. He had faith in the ministry that he was doing. He was very clear he understood the point of his work. his suffering was for the glory of the church in Ephesus. In the same way, in our suffering for the gospel, we need to be clear how our ministry makes sense in the broader mission of God.

Secondly, suffering doesn’t mean the absence of hope. It is important to have a perspective of hope during this suffering.

 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19)

There is hope in this calling. This hope is rooted in the longer biblical narrative, where Jesus will come again. Suffering is only for a point in time. There is a future that is good when Jesus comes. There are good things to come. There is a future where we will cry no more. There is a future that is joyful.

Finally, in being a servant of the gospel, we need to constantly remember and be encouraged that our ministry is rooted in the love of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

“and I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

As God loved, God will continue to love. This ministry is not dependent on our understanding of ‘success’, but in being faithful to the ministry that God has called us to. 

I want to encourage you to remember that we are in ministry not because we want to earn his grace, but rather it is an expression of the grace that we have received. It is God who has planted good works in our hearts. In doing these good works, it doesn’t mean that we wont suffer. But when we suffer, we need to remember the grander scheme of things, and keep the course.


What I have done today is to remind us of the key amazing points of grace. Grace stems from the love of God. Through the riches of God’s grace and love, we become his children, Grace precedes works and finally, Our ministry is a gift of grace.

Grace is a funny thing. It’s not complicated. It is perhaps profoundly simple to understand. What is difficult is to live a grace filled life. Before giving the time to keena who will lead us in a time of reflection.

I want to finally end this teaching time with this quote.

 “All that is not the love of God has no meaning for me. I can truthfully say that I have no interest in anything but the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. If God wants it to, my life will be useful through my word and witness. If He wants it to, my life will bear fruit through my prayers and sacrifices. But the usefulness of my life is His concern, not mine. It would be indecent of me to worry about that.” 
Brennan ManningAll Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

about the inequality felt by women theologians...

i think that ultimately, i believe that theology is people trying to understand God better. So today, we have more people join in to understand God. History t is what it is... white men are the ones who have started this endeavour of studying theology. But i believe that God has used them (white men). Fast forward to today,  coloured non men (think transgender, women) etc join in on this understanding of who God is. We do not start from zero. While, it can be sad that we were not represented at the start, the point is not to be the first. The point remains we are trying to understand God. So, we start from a place of gratitude (of who God is),   join in the quest of learning, and possibly explicate gaps of thinking caused by group think of white men... . its about God. its bout different people trying to understand God.