Saturday, April 8, 2017

Can you put old wine into new wine skin?

Luke 5:36-39   36 He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.  37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.  38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.  39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'"

We often struggle to keep or to balance with tradition and doing new things. When you want to do new things, older people would worry that their tradition will be lost. And if you keep the tradition, younger people would find it irrelevant. And sadly and mostly, most established organization – churches, schools, companies or even government, would rather choose to keep the tradition in order to please their current people. With this decision, many younger generations are left out and eventually leave the church (coming from my context). We certainly cannot please everyone. But can each generation tolerate with one another?

Jesus teaches a very familiar parable which we often use if we want to do new things. He says that “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.” This is really a familiar passage to many Christians. But one day, as I was doing my devotion and was reading this passage, one interesting thought in the form of question came to my mind – “Can you put old wine into new wineskin?”

If we cannot put new wine into old wineskins because it will burst the skins, can we put old wine into new wineskins? I have the great conviction that we certainly can put old wine into new wineskin. Look at the wine shops nowadays, how many of them using wineskins? Most of them are using bottles! You could transfer the old wine from the wine barrel into the bottle. Of course you would argue that the taste would be different so on and so forth. But the question is that will you lose both wine and the wineskins? The change in taste is perhaps what I call toleration. Older generation should tolerate with the new wineskins, the new method of storing wine.

When this came to my mind, the first illustration came to me is about smartphones. I was asking how many older people are using smartphones. I believe many older people (over 60 years old) are using smartphones so that they can continue to communicate with their children. If they can tolerate with the change of method of communication, they should be able to tolerate with changes in church so that younger people can continue be in church and find that we are still relevant.

If we choose tradition over next generation, we are putting the new wine (new generation) into tradition (old wineskins). In the end, we lose both younger people and no one would continue the tradition. And perhaps we often preserve the wrong tradition – the manmade tradition rather that God’s commission.

As church leader, this is ultimately important to us because we are losing the younger generation – children, youth and even the young adults! When our preference is to keep the tradition so that people could remain, we are losing the next generation. We are not reaching out to them. I am inspired by Carey Nieuwhof saying, “Focus on who you want to reach, not on who you want to keep.

Inasmuch as I am saying all these, I don’t mean that the older people are not important that we should ignore them. Remember that Jesus said in Luke 5:39 that the old is better. I think inasmuch as the next generation is important, we should educate and work with the older generation to reach out to these generation. If they can tolerate with changes in smartphones, why can’t they tolerate in tradition to accommodate the new generation?

No doubt that my mind was thinking also how Steve Jobs presented the first iPhone. If you have watched the presentation, I personally like the part when he dismissed the QWERTY keypad in traditional phones. In fact, he did not really dismiss the QWERTY keypad on a phone. He just changed it a different method to type messages. This is one of the things that make iPhone iPhone. Can you imagine if Jobs listened to criticism by consumers to put back the physical QWERTY keypad because without it, it would not be a phone? I think the phone would lose its identity.

It is the same with the church, we have heard too much criticism about the next generation without even trying to understand them and going into their lives and world.

So, can you put old wine into new wineskin?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Baymax has died. Baymax is "risen". Baymax will come again

Baymax has died. Baymax is "risen". Baymax will come again
(ps: Don't kill me with this title :P)
"Are you satisfied with your care?... I will always be with you"

I was watching this particular part with two children during Chinese New Year. There was an impromptu moment that when I saw this part, I said to the children that somehow what Baymax did is like Jesus - He sacrificed to save Hiro and where he said, "I will always be with you." Of course, the children suddenly got the connection.
It might not be theologically sound here. Somehow, "Are you satisfied with your care?" is a question to all of us on the sacrifice that Jesus did on the cross. Unless we satisfied or in another words, unless we accept the reality of Jesus' death, we will not be saved!
As tomorrow is the Resurrection day, we know that in the end of this story, Baymax was resurrected.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

God's Love

It has been a long while that I posted my last entry (sound like every blog). I have already become a father! The journey was fun, exciting and tired because of the sleepless nights, but it is a joy to see my son growing each day. I began to understand the feeling,struggles and of course the joy that parents need to go through. What is more important also, I learnt so much about theology, or about God through parenting even from the beginning of my wife's pregnancy.

In light of Holy Week and coming Good Friday, one particular thought has been bugging in my mind - God's love toward this sinful world. In this post, I would like to share this thoughts about the co-relation of parental love to children (even to the unborn) and God's love to this is sinful world.

When my wife and myself were going through the pregnancy process, the doctor asked us if we would like to do a scan of the baby in the womb if the baby has the symptoms of down syndrome or any abnormal occurrences. But the doctor being a Christian shared to us that this scan would only cause uncertainty to the parents because if they really found something abnormal, abortion is not encouraged at least from ethics and faith perspective.

This has caused me to think, if as parents, we found out that the baby is abnormal and it will not affect the life of the mother, will we decide to keep the baby's life and bring the baby into the world? That is the real challenge. Of course it is easy to be said than to be done.

Somehow, our lives is likened to the abnormal baby that will cause a lot of problems, stresses and uneasiness to parents when the baby is born. I am saying this in the sense that we human beings are sinful and problematic people, abnormal in the sense that we have been deviated from the original plan of God - from God's normal plan. The real question is, "Has God given up on us? Has He 'aborted' us?" The answer is a CLEAR NO!

But we human often selfish as it is, will always think that if the abnormal baby is brought to the world, a lot of time, effort, energy and attention need to be given to the baby. In another words, it will be problematic for us and it causes a lot of inconveniences. And we would feel we lose our "face" because we don't have a normal cute baby. For these few reason, PERHAPS, we choose the convenient way. Often, the problem is not the baby but us! Abortion is just a temporarily solution with serious side effects. Forever you will be traumatize with the decision especially you do it consciously.

God knows we are problematic because of our sins. Yet He chose to sacrifice us and to "deliver" us so that we could be with Him. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Two Questions For Good Samaritan Church

2 Corinthians 12:9-10   9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I have entered into my first year in Good Samaritan Church. It was like yesterday to me because I still remember how quick I have to prepare everything for this unexpected transfer. But I have faced the whole year with challenges, difficulties, struggles, stress, and at one point I even got into a minor depression that I was considering if I should quit. But God’s grace is sufficient for me and his power is made perfect in my weakness. This one whole year has helped me to get closer with God and my faith level has grown as well. I spent more in prayer and reading the Word of God. I never pray for a church as intense as I did in my first year in Good Samaritan.

Throughout the year I asked the Lord what is His will for Good Samaritan Church. In this one year, God often asked me these two clear questions repeatedly in different occasion, whenever I pray for this church:

1.       How many pastors and priests have Good Samaritan produced?
We have produced many fulltime staff in the past. The question is, how many of them still remain? How many have become pastor and priest?

2.       What will be the first impression of people, especially young people, when they see our church – physically and relationally? Will they stay after visiting us for one time?

These two questions have thus become the vision of the Church. I want to impart these questions to you as Good Samaritan Church. God’s grace is certain for our church when we come together in unity to achieve what God wants us to achieve. All we need is to embark with faith and to see God’s work in this church. 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why I believe in Intergenerational Discipleship


Coming from a non-Christian background, I began experiencing faith at the age of 13, even though I became a follower of Christ with an “owned faith” at the age of 19. I had been probing my faith at the age of 16. That was the period when I ran away from God. However, I thank God that, by His grace, He blessed me with a community of faith to bring me back into His presence, and today I can serve Him and write this thesis. I thank God for his bringing me back to the faith that I once had before I ran away from the Lord. This was the period when I was in the stage of “searching faith.”
Later, I went through John H. Westerhoff III’s “Stages of Faith Development.” Even though Westerhoff’s model is proposed to be applied in terms of physical age, yet it is also applicable in terms of the spiritual age of a person, as it did in my case.  
            What led me to study the importance of Intergenerational Worship (IGW) can be traced back to the period in my life when I started to serve in the campus ministry in what was then Inti College Malaysia in Nilai.[1] I had one question, “Why had so many students who were from Christian background left their faith, or why do so many of them feel so reluctant to go to church?” I felt that, had a person been raised in a Christian family, they should have owned the Christian faith and been serving God passionately by the time they reached this college-going age. I did not find an answer to this question until I responded to serve the Lord and was transferred to the Church of Our Holy Saviour in Labuan, where I served in the youth and children ministries.[2] My concern for the youths was that, when the time came for them to move to Kuala Lumpur or other parts of West Malaysia, or perhaps overseas for their studies, they would continue to worship and serve the Lord. I then realized that, in order for them to find a sense of belonging in church, those serving in the youth and children ministries must intentionally spend time with them in order to disciple them. They must be intentionally taught to love the Lord and to serve Him.
In 2008, in order to create awareness for the importance of IGW, the Diocese of Sabah organized the first children conference with the theme of “Children Can Worship.” It was an initial step to mobilize the churches in the Diocese to encourage children to worship together with adults. It was through this conference that I was made aware of the importance of IGW, and it answered the question I had asked above.
            I am convinced that a person’s experiential faith is important for their spiritual formation. One’s experience of faith is the foundation of nurturing the faith of that person. This foundation must be intentionally built by equipping themselves with the Word of God. Despite going through a stage of “searching faith,” they would eventually return to the Lord one day because of their experience with God. They would know the praiseworthy acts of God, just like the Prodigal Son, who came back to his father when he remembered how much he could have, should he return to his father. The youths who would be going to a big city like Kuala Lumpur for their studies would have their faith challenged by all kinds of temptations or ‘Baals” offered by the city, which will be examined in Chapter One. Their priorities might change if they were not careful and if they lack a proper foundation in their faith. This younger generation cannot be lost, for they are the future of their churches.

[1] Inti College Malaysia is currently known as Inti International University.
[2] The Church of Our Holy Saviour is an Anglican church situated in the Federal Territory of Labuan.  

Friday, August 29, 2014

How long and how far?

Righteousness is not an easy path to follow,
To live in righteousness, your life might filled with sorrows,
Sorrows that come from the enemy of righteousness, wickedness,
Sorrows come simply because righteousness could not agree with wickedness,
Even the humble King David cried, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?  2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)

When you choose righteousness, your will know who are your true friends,
Because of fear, your friendship ends,
“How long, O Lord? How far, O Lord? That this path of righteousness will end?
So that I can meet You on the other end”

Why wickedness appear in the path of righteousness?
Why righteousness did not appear in the path of wickedness?
Why righteous men must suffer and wicked prosper although it is just temporally?

It is understandable that suffering because of righteousness is for the sake of Christ,
Perhaps, the sorrow would not be heavy if it is caused by people who do not know Christ.
Instead of going through the sorrow together, why people who knew Christ want to cause sorrow to their brothers and sisters more than those who do not know Christ wanted to?

How long, O Lord? How far should I walk?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tribute to the Late Bishop Albert Vun

15 July is a date I will never forget because 15 July is the day when I start my fulltime ministry 7 years ago. 15 July also marked my 7 months of ministry in Good Samaritan Church. On 15 July 2014, our dear Bishop Albert Vun has gone with the Lord after battling with cancer for nearly 10 months.

I thank God that I worshiped in St. Patrick's Church in the year of 1998 - 2003 until I leave for study. I can remember vividly how he preached the Word of God with passion. I was as young as 13. In 1999, he was the speaker of a youth camp in St. Patrick's Church. It was through this camp that I got closer to the Lord. He was preaching on the book of Jonah. I remember many important thing that he has said such as "Every Cell is a Church, and every Cell Leader is a Pastor." I also remembered that he is a very patient man. I still remember that in that camp we accidentally kick the football and hit Andrew his youngest son until he fell down from his bicycle. At the same time he concerned Andrew, at the same time as well, he didn't want to release his anger to us.

In 2005, I had the opportunity to have lunch with him at IKEA with Jonathan Tse and Eric Ling. He asked me why am I following these two man and was in church? I told him frankly I skipped class because there were no students attended the class because CNY is coming. He also make sure that I refilled my coffee in IKEA 3 times so that it worth the money.

2005 Christmas Eve I was invited to his house for dinner before the service starts. Unforgettable moments. I still remember in 2010, 5 years after that, saying to him, Bishop these 4 warriors are still fighting. He tell us to stay strong!

In 2007, I was interviewed together with Cynthia (my fiancee), Kitt and Nicole because four of use responded to fulltime calling. That short meeting has impacted me a lot to continue to serve the Lord. He told me to obey God's will than my will. Although he wanted to be a missionary in Thailand, but he was elected as the Bishop of the Diocese of Sabah at that time. I still remember he was using Nokia N95.

In 2008, I was "interviewed" by him again because I started my relationship with Cynthia who was then one of his staffs in the Diocese office. As I was in his office, before he says anything, he commented on my clothing and my punky hair. And he said to me, "I treat Cynthia as my daughter". At that time I felt honored. Because of that meeting, I was sent for vocation interview and then was sent to STM for theological study.

During my studies in 2009-2011, on and off I will go to airport to fetch him to church. In that journey I will update him about my progress. And he will always share his vision to me which basically to grow the church, the young people, do not lose to the world and so on. Sometimes we talk about investment as well when he found out that I studied finance before. He was surprise with my analysis which relatively in the same opinion with him. He will not allow me to pay the toll for him. I still remember he used his GPS in while I was driving. I didn't know that his GPS was equipped with alarm if I exceeded the speed limit. One time the alarm rang and triggered him. He woke up and say, "Ka Seeeennnggggg! Slow down" 

When he knows that I go back to KK for holiday, he will spend his time with us over lunch or dinner. It was through these personal times with him that I get to know him better.

I remember after my first year of study in STM, I do not have a laptop yet. I ask from him if the Church can help me to get one laptop. He gave his personal laptop to me. Although it was old, but it helped me for one semester. He is a generous person. He always concerns the welfare of the church, the clergy and pastors, the students and their family. He always give the best in term of quality to people.

Once I graduated from seminary, I served in All Saints' Cathedral in All Saints' Day 2011 which was the Centenary Celebration as well. From then, I serve closely with him. I became his chaplain. I drove him to the places he needs to go. He never waste any time to mentor me and to disciple me. Even a short 10 minutes drive. Every Christmas and Chinese new year, he will remember me and Cynthia. 

He always make sure I preach strong and powerful message. Always called me to his office and asked these few questions: how many sermon have you listened? what have you learnt? have you memorized scriptures?

One of my preachings he was there in the Wednesday Morning prayer which we use to training graduates and clergy. I knew I preached terribly and did not make enough preparations. He rebuked me in front of the senior clergy. I felt disappointed with myself. I knew I have disappointed him. But with a humble heart I take that as a lesson that I never want to go back again. From there, I put my best effort in my sermon preparation. After that I also found out that he asked others if I am okay. He asked other why my preaching was not up to standard that day. I felt that he really concerned me to the end.

Towards the end of his life here on earth, I managed to spend time with him. He knew that I was pressure and stress in ministry. He whatsapps me "Do not be fret. I am praying for you. Let me know if you need to talk." Now, he is praying in heaven with Jesus for me. His last advice to me was "Be strong and courageous. Stand firm. Build the Church. Know your position in Christ". We had Holy Communion together on that day.

Although he was in sickness and pain, I will never forget that he said, "I will give every drop of my energy to the church!" He meant it. I did it. Preach his last sermon with power! He challenged us to serve God in time of suffering when God take away something from you. "Will your serve God for nothing?" That was his last challenge for us.

When I was down and stress up to a point that I want to quit this ministry, his life spoke to me to continue on. His life pointed to Jesus to endure. He inspired me to serve faithfully even when it is tough!

I thank God for his life, his teachings, and mentoring and his leadership. He has been a spiritual father to me. He has been a friend to me. I will never forget all the moments we cried together in prayer for the church and diocese. I thank God that my marriage counselling was conducted by him. I have truly learnt a lot from him.

I am glad to serve beside you. I treasured every moment of it because I surely learnt something form you. I will never forget when you say, "Learn from this ahh Ka Seng"

Your legacy and passion will pass on to the next generation. We will see the completion of the House of Celebration which has been your burden and desire.

We will see you again Bishop. Thank you for your prayer of blessings upon Cynthia and myself. How we wish to have you to conduct our wedding. But we know you are in a better place. Now you know the answers on the pearly gate. I know you are praying for the church and diocese together with the angels.

Ka Seng

Can you put old wine into new wine skin?

Luke 5:36-39    36 He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he w...