Friday, January 20, 2017

GOD IS IN TOMORROW, AGAIN

Welcome. You are about to read The Cleaner Diaries, a very intriguing secretive heart-pouring piece of writing revealed from the diary of an extraordinary cleaner.

Just kidding. I am not extraordinary at all, judged from my not-so-clean-house.

Prologue: I thought I was going to finish my study by July, and I would move to Rockingham after in August. So my plan was to look for a full-time job related to my field of study, but meanwhile I still needed to do my part-time cleaning job, until I got another job. However, Karrinyup is like 3 hours by train and bus, round trip. Of course, I wouldn't be able to continue working there, even though I really loved my workmates.  

Sat, 18 June 2016,
Going to work as usual, and when I finish my shift I go to see my manager to give her wedding invitation. We discuss about how I am going to move to Rockingham in August, and she said we have Airlite (the company where I work) in Rockingham Shopping Centre! She also knows the manager well, so she said she can easily transfer me down! I just need to give her 2 weeks notice if I want to move. Woo-hoo, at least I get a job secured when I move later. So happy!

Tue, 21 June 2016,
My pastor and my lecturer ask me why I am still living on campus in Karrinyup, while my husband is down there. Then, I think, yea, why don't I move now since we are married anyway, and my study is almost finished. But I have told my manager I will transfer in August, there is no way they have shift available all of a sudden. Meh, then I have to travel all the way from Rocko to Karrinyup to do my 4 hour-shift. But, okay then, at least if I move now I don't need to pay rent anymore. Okay! We decide to move on 28 June!

Mon, 27 June 2016,
Hooray, tomorrow I am going to catch up with my ex-workmate in Karrinyup! Then maybe tomorrow I can see my manager and let her know I am moving soon.

Tue, 28 June 2016,
In the morning I get a text, saying:
"Hi Martina. I know you said you will move in August, but the manager from Rocko just rang me and asked if you want to start earlier, someone just quits and they need a cleaner, it's a good shift you get weekend, too!"

Then I reply:
"YES I WANT! Actually I plan to see you today and ask if I can transfer earlier because I am moving down tonight. It's funny that you text me first! I will see you this afternoon!"

Then I see her and WHAT A BLESSING, they really need someone urgent because the lady who just quits has a lot of problem and she quits all of a sudden. But maybe I will start in 2 weeks, just coz, maybe my manager needs time to find my replacement. Then she said, "Can you start there this Thursday?"

Eh, ehm, WHAT? So I said, "Yes, but what about my shift in Karrinyup?"
She said, "Nah, don't worry about that I can easily find a replacement".
UUU-YEAH! I am moving down tonight and I can start my job in Rocko this Thursday! WHAT A GOOD TIMING!

The only downside is, I don't have time to say goodbye to my workmates. LOL. But they will come to the wedding reception anyway. So it's okay. 

Wed, 30 June 2016,
Going to Rocko Shopping Centre to meet my new manager, get my new uniform, and talk about my shift. So I get Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday (all morning), and Sunday afternoon. Not bad, This is just temporary, tho. 

In the afternoon, I get the news about my visa and how I should study for another year. #canyouhearmyscatteredplan

So I have to do this cleaning job for another year, because this job is the best in terms of time and money. NOW I AM SO GRATEFUL THAT I DIDN'T JUST QUIT MY JOB OTHERWISE I WILL BE JOBLESS WITHOUT KNOWING I HAVE TO PAY ANOTHER 18.000 BUCKS!

I am worried, tho. My class is usually Tuesday to Thursday. If it interferes with my shift, then it will be a problem, because this shift is not flexible to change and adjust. Praise God, after discussing with my college, I can do Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, plus two independent classes. BUT, I can't do Old Testament Theology, which I really want, because it's on Tuesday morning. Oh well, life's tough. #wipingmyrunningsnot 

Mon, 15 August 2016,
Week 3 of the semester. Suddenly I get an email from Airlite saying there's a roster change. Uh-wow, this is a big change, directly from the head office, and not happened often! Everyone is affected. AND GUESS WHAT??? MY SHIFT IS THURSDAY NIGHT, SATURDAY MORNING, AND SUNDAY FULL! Similar to what I did in Karrinyup! This is sooo GOOD for my study, less hours same income! And this is Week 3, which means I still can change my unit! So I ring college and say I want to do Old Testament Theology!!! YAY finally I can do OT Theology this semester! Praise God! 

Epilogue:
Sooo, when I write this I have been working in Rocko for almost seven months. Oh wow. Time flies. It still amazes me that God doesn't only provide me with a job, but also changes my shift in such a way that I can do the unit I wanna do. Btw, this is the sequel of God is in My Tomorrow, my first story about funny 'coincidental' job search in Australia.

"Where God guides, He provides."


Monday, December 28, 2015

IT'S TIME TO KISS 2015 GOOD BYE

"Sometimes, it's the journey that teaches you 
a lot about your destination."
Drake

Few days left before the end of this year! It also marks the 3/4 of my journey as a post-graduate student in this country. Continuing my previous post In the Middle of the Story, I want to thank Him for being faithful all this time. Just another six-months to go, but I am still in the middle of the story. The story of struggle, learning, growth, discovery, and exploration as one phase of my life.

So, I finished my graduate diploma in June and started my Master in August. Gee, suddenly all my lecturers become way more strict with my grammar, which I can understand, considering this level of study. It's just a bit of a shock that previously, I wrote my assignment just as how every sentence came to my mind, and I got a good mark, while now I applied the same method and I got called to the office and was asked by my lecturer, "What are you talking about in this essay, I don't understand. Does it make sense to you?" and I would answer, "Yeah, it makes sense to me", haha. Talking about syntax, grammar, and sentence structures, duh. Then, I was always hesitant to ask people to proofread my assignment, just because I didn't like to bother people. I know reading a 2000 word-assignment is such a pain and it takes time, so I just felt, as long as people can understand my point, minor grammatical mistakes sure won't be a problem? But yeah, it is a problem now. 

I don't know why, but I am sure my fellow students can relate to this, you know, the feeling when you can't think of anything when the assignment is not due yet? Then when the time is tight, suddenly inspirations come and I feel super intelligent. Not that I don't want to admit it's procrastination, but seriously, I tried to do my assignment in advance. But there's always something that hinders me from doing it. Like the internet was suddenly off, or something like that (#anotherexcuse). Then time passed and I would, as usual, spend the last weeks of the semester staying in the library until 1 every night, like for 6 consecutive weeks. Strangely, usually those 'last' essays and reports get the highest marks, haha. And the good news is, now I have a proofreader who is happy to read all my assignment! But it's all a happy ending (at least for this semester), although I was dragging myself with baggy eyes and tons of coffee, and although the result is not as good as the first semester (I told you, it gets harder, hehe), I am happy my third semester is done.

As for my job, I am still faithful and loyal (#um) to my cleaning company and shopping centre. They did change my roster, tho. Now I have my 8 hour-Sunday back, and the rest 8 hours are Thursday night and Saturday in the food court. I was so happy that they moved me to food court because it means no more night cleaning (yes!), less dealing with the toilets, and when the food court gets quiet I can chat with my workmates, so less boring. But does it mean I am less tired? Nope. Does it mean I will stop saying I am tired? Nope! Haha. Does it mean there is less drama?? Big nopeeee! Especially this busy Christmas season, one of the tenants was super horrible to us, the innocent staff. It turned out well, tho, thanks to my super cool manager who always defends me. I can laugh about it once everything is over, but it was not so pleasant when things happened (listen to the cry of this miserable cleaner, hehe just kidding). Then for Christmas I work my b*tt off especially in these three weeks, but it's okay it's all worth it! Now I can rest because it's over. Well not really, I still have my own regular shifts to do, just no extra shifts. But still.

Then, this year is special because I meet someone special. Hehe. I'll just enjoy this time together and see how things go. Summer is here. Everything is extra hot. I always know Perth is beautiful, but now that I have someone to share it with, everything becomes way moooore exquisite (I even get this vocab from him, lol). The beach, the waves, the stars, the flowers, the bush, the city, the mountain. I am grateful for this year, and let me welcome the new year and the next adventure in excitement, wondering what's ahead. I have to admit, sometimes I fear. I have to keep reminding myself, that God has been faithful, and He will always be.


Love,

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

THE DISCIPLES OBEY


Book Review
The Cost of Discipleship
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer, D 1995, The Cost of Discipleship, Touchstone: New York. 316 pp.

“Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes” (p. 63) may sum up the whole theology of discipleship presented by Bonhoeffer in this book, since these two propositions appear again and again as the emphasis on how faith comes from obedience and obedience generates faith. These two must come together because if we only focus on one of them, it might result in either the danger of “cheap grace” or “salvation through works”, which is the false interpretation and understanding of following Jesus (p. 68). Using the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew, Bonhoeffer portrays his view on how discipleship is supposed to be applied in the light of free grace, yet costly. This book review will focus more on how to respond to Bonhoeffer’s view through physical, emotional, and spiritual dimension personally, existentially, and theologically.

Bonhoeffer defines cheap grace as “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross” (pp. 43-47), basically like we enjoy parking our car under the rain and has this grace wiper to wipe the water on and on, just to let it be wet again, that “grace alone does everything, and so everything can remain as it was before”. On the other hand, costly grace is like once we have our car wiped, we take action and drive to the dry place, trying hard to keep it dry, or as described nicely by Bonhoeffer, “the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has, the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.” He then adds that such grace is costly because we are called to follow, but it is grace because it is Jesus whom we follow. This grace costs His life, but it gives us life. It condemns our sins but justifies us the sinners. Therefore, this costly grace is to be protected and valued, not to be thrown away just because it is free (p. 47). Basically if I may illustrate his principle, it looks like this.

According to Bonhoeffer, obedience means “to rely on Christ’ word and cling to it as offering greater security than all the securities in the world” (p. 79). Emphasizing on the importance of this grace, he challenges us to think whether we have treated grace cheaply all this time. It is dangerous to be too left because it is cheap grace, but it is dangerous to be too right because it is legalism. He asserts that the ways we reason and negotiate with the Scriptures, although sometimes may not be intentional, look like we have tried to fit the Scriptures into our own comfort. Yet, he also states that the real problem is when we put so much “burdensome rules and regulations, false hopes and consolations – that it has become extremely difficult to make a genuine decision for Christ”. Preaching is so hard to understand, overburdened with ideas and expressions. So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say, yet they are always going back home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus” (pp. 35-36). So is it too easy or too hard, how easy is too easy so that it will not be cheap grace, and how hard is too hard so that it will not be legalism?

Meanwhile, from how he treats the Sermon on the Mount, he looks like taking it quite literally, yet he made a good point about degrading Jesus’ words by giving the example of father who asks his child to sleep in the case of obedience (p. 81). This challenges me to think whether we have seen obedience and grace lightly all this time, as he suggests, that “we are trying to evade the literal obedience”, and whether there is a need to change, since Bonhoeffer believes that “we must take the call of discipleship more seriously than ever” (p. 49). So, is it true that by not taking Jesus’ commands (sometimes literally), we have misinterpreted the Bible and failed to be obedient? Or does the ways to treat it differ depending on the aspects of life?

The Sermon on the Mount covers so many aspects, including community, righteousness, relationship, lust, truthfulness, revenge, love, rituals, and devout lives, which I am going to categorize into three dimensions, physical, emotional, and spiritual. So, the first dimension I am going to talk about is this physical context in becoming disciple. Jesus was talking about being the salt and light of the world, which I believe include sharing the gospel to those who haven’t heard. However, seeing it from the physical perspective, how far should we go in obeying His command to share the good news? Seeing it from the fact that Bonhoeffer died as a martyr (Robertson, 1966, pp. 10-12), he took this quite literally. As he states (pp. 60-62) that “if needed, the law must be broken for the sake of Jesus. Our faith cannot mean sitting and waiting anymore”. Should then Christians unite and destroy ISIS? If we say “No, it’s not wise, that’s not what Jesus wants”, are we treating grace cheaply, not willing to lose the lives which actually do not belong to us anymore? I think the case of obedience applies when we are sure Jesus wants us to do something and we have to choose whether to obey or not. It is true that “suffering is the badge of true discipleship”, and that in order to pass suffering, it has to be endured, just like how Jesus drinks from the cup of wrath (pp. 91-92). However, we also can learn from the gospel (like in Matthew 10:23) that we should not rush and seek martyrdom, because He does not call us to intentionally try to lose our lives, yet He expects us to be willing to lose it for Him. 

The same case as money, which is an important issue since long time ago, and gets worse nowadays. How should we deal with it as His disciples? Should we work and give our money to people, because we believe God will provide for us anyway? As long as we have enough then we can share the rest. However, if every Christian think this way, then there will be no source of funding, because all this time actually Christians support each other financially in the mission field. Then what does it mean to be disciples when dealing with lust? It is natural and biological as human. I knew that when Jesus said cut your part of body he doesn’t mean it to be literal (or did He?), Bonhoeffer also questions that. I believe it is an act of obedience to choose abstinence before marriage. It is an act of obedience to immediately repent when it is in our mind. It is obedience to not compromise and put ourselves in temptation. But to not really think about it all, I don’t think that is possible, because temptation is always there no matter how hard we try to avoid it.

The second dimension is to see it within emotional context, this includes relationships and feelings, and interests. We as humans have to deal with emotions every day, and Jesus also mentioned about it. How we shouldn’t revenge and instead, love our enemies. How we should stop judging others and instead, love them. How we should let go our anxiety, and instead, love His plan. These things cannot be done except by our willingness to obey Him, and I understand that. How we should forgive someone, and “give another cheek”. But does that mean we allow them to hurt us over and over again? Should we stop pursuing our own happiness and desire, and instead, love what God loves. How does we apply obedience here? Do we then have our own value of existence? Shall we follow our interest? Does it even matter? 

Seen from the existentialist’s point of view, Jesus does demand “authentic individual obedience” and the worst that can happen to human is losing ourselves (Macquarrie, 1973, pp. 20-21). We are not supposed to be afraid to lose our lives, but how about us as a person in our existential being? Jesus lost His life, but not His name, memory, authority, desire to love us, interest in ministry, etc. He did not lose Himself. Then the question is, if everything is about God, is there anything about me at all? Because I believe that our interest, hope, intelligence, sexual desire, and talent are not random things, as long as we subject them to Christ, those are put by God in our hearts in order to glorify Him. 

The third dimension I am looking at is spiritual which I use to categorize everything related to our devout lives, like prayers and religious rituals as mentioned there. Jesus points out the tendency for us to pray in front of people, the way we show people that we are fasting, and He mentions us to keep the secrecy, or the hiddenness of prayer as stated by Bonhoeffer. However, it doesn’t mean that we cannot pray in public at all. The problem is not the place of prayer, but the fact “that they may be seen by men” (Geisler & Howe, p. 334, 2008).

From those three aspects of our being, I think the way we deal with Jesus’ words depends on our motivations and perspectives in our existence as a human being. If we have right motivations and perspectives, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we will have this wisdom to know His will and obey that. By treating grace cheaply I think we just act like the guest without proper garment in the parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22). Surely we are still sinners and will still stumble along the way, but wouldn’t our hearts desire to seek what is pleasing God if we love Him? Therefore, I believe that the right motivations and perspectives lead us to obedience that generates faith. 

In conclusion, faith requires obedience because it is the first step, and obedience requires faith because discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend, as Luther said that “it must transcend all comprehension” (Bonhoeffer, pp. 93-96). Therefore obedience comes from within, from our Spirit (spiritual), to our soul (emotional), and body (physically), with the right motivation and perspective. Like how we can know whether we have been too left or too right, too cheap or too legalistic, all depends on what motivates us to do something and how we see it, because for me obedience comes as a result of a humble heart, while legalism is the contrary.


Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, D 1995, The cost of discipleship, 1st ed, Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, New York.

Geisler, NL & Howe, TA 2008, The big book of Bible difficulties: clear and concise answers from Genesis to Revelation, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI.

Macquarrie, J 1973, An existentialist theology: a comparison of Heidegger and Bultmann, Pelican books, Penguin, Harmondsworth, England.

Robertson, EH 1966, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Makers of contemporary theology, Carey Kingsgate Press, London.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

GOD AND HIS STORY

A Lecture Reflection

The Old Testament might be a difficult set of books to read, or at least for me. I remember in my early phase of Christian life, my Bible was colourful in the New Testament part and sticky in the Old Testament part, simply because I was not interested at all to read it. I thought, why bothered with confusing stories if we could have Jesus spoken directly to us in the gospels and letters about things which were more applicable to our daily lives, like love, peace, joy, and relationship, in comparison to war, weird culture, sacrifice, tradition and rituals, and many other things. 

However, learning to see the Bible as a narrative, particularly the Old Testament with its plot, characters, setting, and other elements has totally changed my perspective, even on the accountability and credibility of the Bible itself. As stated by Brisben & Klein (2012, p. 326), the failure in understanding the Old Testament as a story can lead to pious and religious legalism. It is important to read the Old Testament for its doctrine and theology, however, it is not enough for our spiritual formation, because we will only have “heads without hearts”. This is personally true for me, because the way God tells us this story shows the relationship He wants to have with us, just like a father who reads story to his son every night, instead of giving a set of certain rules to be followed. It is supposed to have transformational power which can provide growth in faith and life, as also mentioned by Corcoran (2007, p. 34).

I remember when I was asked, “Why is it so hard for you to read the Old Testament but it is so easy for you to read a set of seven novels with the thickness of a dictionary?” I just thought I did not understand and it was hard, but now I realise maybe because I treated it wrongly. Song (2008, p. 28) explains beautifully that a story “grips you in the depths of your hearts and minds, forces you to look deeply into yourself and into human nature”. I never feel so engaged with the Old Testament and its characters before, which could be the reason why it was so enjoyable to read those seven novels instead. Song (2008, p. 28) continues that a story make us relate ourselves to others, to the world, nature, and also with God. So, it is theological to treat the Old Testament as a story because it relates the relation between human being and God.

The biggest problem in reading the Bible, besides the different historical, cultural, and geographical issues, is the different stories occurred in different books, which often leads to confusion. Therefore, the first lecture points out the importance of treating it as a story; that it was told by people and should be seen through perspective. This includes various points of view and that being different does not mean it is wrong, simply because narrative is a story about something happened to someone, somewhere, sometime, as told by someone, somewhere, in a particular time, as discussed in class. We can only see what is presented to us, just like we can only read what is told by the narrator in the Bible, from his point of view, and for what he considers important. This is a big deal for me because it changes the way I view the Bible, not only the Old Testament, but also the four gospels in the New Testament.

Therefore, to read the Bible as a narrative, we ought to see the characters and setting as well. Learning about major and minor characters, as well as foils, explain it well for the reason of why certain weird stories are included in the canon. I know this is for the purpose of the narrative, but I still wonder if there is such thing as foils in God’s eyes. I want to believe that everyone is as important and precious in front of God, but I cannot deny that sometimes some people are more than others. Sometimes this is affected by someone’s status, intelligence, physical appearance, charisma, personality, and talent, which sometimes (again) leave people with no choice and no control. Can it also be affected by someone’s faith and obedience? If so, there is also a possibility that someone has no control over their faith and obedience, simply because they have no chance to understand deeper, which then lead them to be ordinary, and to work as foils in this story of God’s meta-narrative? 

Back to the narrative elements, Crain, 2010, (pp. 110-126) suggests that we can identify characters through the context, actions, other characters’ responses, words, and description. He adds that by learning from the characters, we learn and understand more about our motives, attitudes, and moral natures. However, if God is the central character in the Bible, and it was told through omniscient point of view, how can the narrator be omniscient then? This relates to a lot of things, just like the statement “the Lord regretted that He had made man on earth” in Gen 6:6. As Fokkelman (1999, p. 56) states, that the first sentences of the Bible betrays the characteristic of the narrator, because he is omniscient. The narrator tells us about something with no one including himself being present. The narrator knows because he says it, which is not necessary to consider that it is historically reliable. As it was discussed in class, that maybe God is not omniscient. I still think that the way the narrator portrays God cannot fully describe God’s divinity. The omniscient narrator is able to show us prior knowledge of what is to come because he knows it (Fokkelman, 1999, p. 124), so it is subjective based on what he knows and what he feels.

Another essential element in a narrative is the plot. It was discussed in class that the Hexateuch is preferred to Pentateuch because of the plotline, which actually makes sense. A plot in the story consists of exposition, conflict, complications, climax, resolution, and conclusion, which integrates the whole narrative in the Old Testament. The first is exposition. This is the introduction of everything, including characters and setting. The story starts with the prehistory from Creation to when God calls Abraham. Creation has never been a struggle for me because I think I just need to believe that God is able to do it literally in 6 days and science must be wrong. However, it is actually dangerous because it results in my ignorance, which I realised when I was doing my field research report on creation account. According to Geisler & Howe 1992, pp. 32-33), there are two ways to reconcile with science. First is that modern science is wrong and earth is not that old. Others argue that universe could be billions of years old without considering Genesis 1 and 2 wrong. It can be because of the time span or time gap. I stand on this position, because our calculation and understanding about time is not the same as God and ancient people. However, I learn that the most important point is that there is no demonstrated contradiction of fact between Genesis 1 and science, and it’s only a “conflict of interpretation” (Geisler & Howe, 1992, p. 33). Then it was discussed in class about the difference in Genesis 1 and 2, which also bothers me. For me, they are both the same, as Geisler & Howe (1992, p. 35) explain that Genesis 1 is more about the chronological order, and Genesis 2 is more about the topical content.

The discussion continues with the Garden Narrative which tells about the fall. This is when they were conscious of their deception and also their disobedience. They try to cover their shame with apron of fig leaves (Schultz, 2000, p. 14). This story presents a wonderful realisation of God’s mercy and grace when He was looking for them and still made the garments from animal skin for them (Gen 3:21). However, I am curious if they had no shame before, then would human have to deal with lust? If being naked is not so special, how would they reproduce? This just comes to mind since lust is the biggest struggle snaring human being in this life. Relating this to another class where I learned about Jesus’ command in Matt 5:29, I was arguing that it is impossible for man not to have this lustful thought because they are visual persons. Yes, it is obedience for them not to continue with their thought, and not to compromise, but it is impossible to be pure in mind at all because it is just our nature in this broken world and broken body.

Therefore, the effect of sin is disharmony. The relationship between man and woman, God and human, brothers, neighbours, parents and children are spoiled. We can see this narrative pattern consisting of “harmony, revolt, punishment, and divine grace” occurred throughout the story (Deist, 1982, p. 2). However, this then leads me to wonder if God actually destroyed Adam and Eve that day, then there would be no misery in this world, and He did not need to see these people sent to hell.

The composition in Genesis 1-11 serves as the exposition in this plot, showing the chiasm structure in which fall and punishment become the centre. Connecting it with the conflict which happens in Genesis 12, this prehistory serves like a prologue to Hexateuch and further, to David Narrative, the New Testament, and the world today.

The conflict arises when God calls Abraham and makes a promise with him, which then is also known as the Patriarch. Here God makes a covenant with Him that Abraham is going to be a father of a big nation, which means that he will get a descendant, land, and blessing. It is a big problem because Abraham’s wife, Sara, is barren. In addition, they are nomads, and they are sinners. It seems impossible. Delays and threats come along the way as the complications of the conflict, or known as the rising actions. Then, we also learn about Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Each story develops certain issues that portrays God’s character, about His providence and sovereignty. One of the promises is fulfilled in Exodus 1, when “they become too many” as Abraham’s descendant. However, this is just part of a bigger plot, because it rises another conflict. Since now they become many, they need a land to become a nation. As stated by Deist (1982, p. 15), the idea of the Promised Land is a “safe and blessed home”, because out there is dangerous. How will God fulfil this promise? The story continues with Moses leading them to go out from Egypt. Exodus to Deuteronomy talks about how God deals with His people along the way.

Finally in Joshua, all the promises fulfilled, as the theme of the Hexateuch we learned in class, that God is able to stay true to the promises He made to His helpless people. We can see in Joshua 21:45 “Not one of all the LORD's good promises to Israel failed; everyone was fulfilled,” works as the resolution in this story, followed with the rest of Joshua as the conclusion. This is a soothing feeling when we see that God keeps His promises and everything is beautiful in His time. It is God’s commitment, not Abraham, but he only believes. It is Jesus, not us, we just need to believe. Abraham is not great because of what He has done, but because of the God He serves. However, this troubles me because it is hard to differentiate whether something is delayed because of God’s timing or our disobedience. When God promises something, we do not know when it will be fulfilled, whether it is delayed or it is what God intends it to be. It is easy to see how God journeys with His people in the Old Testament because we are the third person who knows the end of the story. 

Even when they settle in the land, we can see that they still do not obey God and turn their back on God. They have the Judges era but then they are not satisfied. They want a king just to be like the other nations, although they have God as their king. Then they start nagging although God has told them that He is their King. I feel this relates to us. Sometimes we nag to get something in our own time and desire, and we often end up disappointed because it is not as we imagine. If only we listened and waited. Yet still, God can make something good out of bad. When Saul is appointed to lead, he disappoints God because of his self-centeredness. Then the story continues with David, and we can learn so much from his relationship with God. God still blessed Israel through him, and he is known as “Israel’s greatest national hero” (Drane, 2000, p. 94). It was discussed in class about how could David who looks like doing more wicked sin than Saul actually is called a man after God’s own heart. We learn that it is the attitude of humility, which should then be applicable to our lives as well. No matter how bad we think we are, as long as we humble ourselves and confess, we can be someone after God’s own heart, too. Then here we have Solomon who is so wise, but he still falls. He ends up ignoring God's warning, which is weird because he is supposed to have this wisdom to take God's warning wisely. When Solomon prays for wisdom, as mentioned by Drane (2000, p. 280), he asks for the ability to rule “with justice and to know the difference between good and evil”. This makes me worried, if a man who gains his wisdom from God can be so unwise, then how about us?

Then because of the consequences of sin, the kingdom has to be divided. One thing that catches my attention is when King Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:8) chooses not to listen to the wise elders and prefer to consult with the young people instead. It is ironic that now the younger generation seems like losing their respect to elderly people, supported by the advance technology that makes the older generation looks even dumber. They tend to disrespect and look down at them think that they are way smarter. However, experience cannot lie. It can be wrong, but still it has passed so many stages of life and learn from the mistakes. It is good to explore with the uncertainty of the future, but it is even better to learn from the certainty of the past. 

From the past, we learned that Jerusalem is the city of David and the Israelites believe that God is there because the temple is where God dwells. His covenant that David’s kingdom will endure forever and his descendant will always be on the throne is a big deal for the Israelites when they were sent to exile, because then Jerusalem apparently is not an everlasting city that never falls. So their theology was shaken. I think this is applicable to our cases today where something happens and we get shaken because we have a wrong understanding on where God is and who He is.

However, then they learn that there is a reason for them to be in exile, and that there is hope, too, as they can see from the Deuteronomist perspective. They have turned their back on God, but again, as the theme of the Hexateuch occurs again and again, God is able to stay true to the promises He made to His helpless people. This is also the reoccurring theme for our whole lives. I think when the Israelite went into exile, this is like the phase of disorientation in the Psalm cycle for them, where they ask God why this happened and if there is any hope. However, some of them chose to believe in the God which they know, to hold on to His promises and reflect back to His goodness, which is the time of reorientation. When they finally go back to Jerusalem from exile, they see that God keeps His promise and they enter the phase of new orientation, as pictured by the Chronist. The Chronist invites people to see that God is generous, merciful, and faithful, despite our own failure (Goldingay, 2011, p. 168) which is also applicable to the way we see life.

The Chronist focuses more on cult, on everything that happens around the temple. Therefore David and Solomon are portrayed really well because they kept the cult. He also looks at history differently from the Deuteronomist. As it was discussed in class, the Chronist emphasises that it is God’s invitation that is extended to people to experience the abundance of life in Him. If we treat the Chronicles right, its message is still relevant to us. As stated by Deist (1982, p. 98), “the Chronicler's powerful message that God intervenes in history and that salvation is meant for all people, is an important statement in the religious history of Israel and it should continue to be appreciated by believers today”. Every rule and regulation is God’s protection. God sets this framework for His people, not to be carried out legalistically. Even by discussing about the sacrifice of the animals, I finally understand that it is because we have been saved, therefore we do this, to remember the price we have to pay for sin, which is in coherence with the death of Christ. 

In the end, we can see from this set of lectures that God indeed has a plan for us, but how to relate this to God’s sovereignty and our free will? The explanation presented in class is the best way to conclude and close this last class. We are part of God’s meta-narrative, part of His redemptive plan. When I first became a Christian, I believed that God would lead my every step, what major I should choose, which university I should study at, what company I should work at, and which country I should stay in. All are written as a wonderful testimony. They are all miracles and I don’t say that now they are not. However, I come to this understanding that God indeed has a plan for us. It is dangerous to tell people that God doesn’t care what you wear and what you study about. I think God does care, because He loves us, and if it can strengthen the relationship, why not? I imagine myself asking my dad what I should wear today. Will it make me look good? Will it represent and honour Him well? Will it please Him and please the people I love? From the simplest unimportant thing to the biggest important decision, I think it is good to involve Him. On the other hand, it is also important that as long as it is inside the framework of His plan, we are not obliged to study certain major at certain university, and if not then we ruin His plan and our lives. It doesn’t work that way and we need to understand. We do not need to be like robots and do not consult our hearts and interests at all. I believe that God puts interest and dreams in our hearts not as random things, but it can be used for the purpose of His glory.

I portrayed that this life is a story with a plot. Since I was born, to my primary school, high school, university, and work, I feel that God draws this one line which I need to follow. If I did not go straight with His path and turn somewhere, I couldn’t come back, or I could but I would waste my time to make the turn around. So I always prayed before deciding anything. Someone once asked about this company where I work, “Are you sure it’s from God?” I was pretty sure because I miraculously got this job and I loved it. Yet this question bothered me and stole my peace because I was still with my old understanding. I started thinking if I was at the wrong place. However, now I can say that it’s in His framework. Now I can see that God can make a new way out of our choice. Maybe when we mess up because of our sinful nature and free will, it may take longer to find the light, but we will. Then for us who try to be obedient and ask Him in everything we do, there is no such thing as wrong way. We will always find the light heading to the goal of His plan, which is the redemption for people.

I think this is very important. People come to us to ask about the most important things, yet the most difficult. Is God happy if I marry him? Is he the one from God? Can I study this, or actually God will be happier if I choose that? What do I need to study? Or some people will say, “Well I want to study at Bible College, but I need to pray if it is God’s will”. It is a godly thing to say and yes of course we have to pray before making decision. In the time of waiting for answer, we can see how God really support this idea and we get reassured, which is important to strengthen us in the time of hardship. But how many steps are not taken because we are too afraid when we do not hear any answer? This will not happen if we know whatever we do as long as it’s heading toward His plan for us, we can just obey. 

In conclusion, the Bible is actually a master story about God’s plan for us, and we can learn so much when we treat it right. It is important not to disregard the Old Testament, because it plays the crucial part in the Bible, as precious as the New Testament. Without the New Testament, the Old Testament is only a collection of unfulfilled promises, yet without the Old Testament, the New Testament is just something which can be claimed to happen by anyone, anywhere, anytime, or as plainly stated, “the New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed” (Schultz & Smith, 2001, p. 8). 



Bibliography

Crain, JC 2010, Reading the Bible as literature: an introduction, Polity, Cambridge, UK.

Corcoran, HA 2007, 'Biblical narratives and life transformation: An apology for the narrative teaching of Bible stories', Christian Education Journal, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 34-48.

Drane, J 2000, Introducing the Old Testament, Rev. ed, Lion, Oxford, England.

Fokkelman, JP 1999, Reading Biblical narrative: an introductory guide, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.

Geisler, NL & Howe, TA 2008, The big book of Bible difficulties: clear and concise answers from Genesis to Revelation, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI.

Goldingay, J 2011, Key questions about Biblical interpretation: Old Testament answers, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI.

Klein, A & Brisben, D 2012, 'Reading the Old Testament as story: a pedagogy for spiritual formation', Christian Education Journal, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 326-341.

Schultz, SJ 2000, The Old Testament speaks, 5th ed, HarperCollins, NY.

Schultz, SJ & Smith, GV 2001, Exploring the Old Testament, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL.

Song, CS 2008, 'Story is the matrix of theology', Theologies and Cultures, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 28-48.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

LADIES, WE ARE NOT ALWAYS THE VICTIM

Most of my blog posts and status on Facebook seem not to do men justice by focusing too much on women. It's not my intention at all, though, like my status few days ago, saying if a man loves a woman, he shouldn't steal her purity because love is not stealing. Not that I am trying to say man is the one who steals, always, and woman is the victim, always. No. I know it really well; how it works. I have a brother in Christ who literally cried after he made this mistake with his girlfriend that costed him his purity, and it was his girlfriend who initiated it. And yes, it's not completely that girls' fault, because my friend agreed to do that together, but we also realize that we are broken people living in the broken world. Spirit is willing but flesh is weak. Same when a girl gives her purity to her boyfriend, it's not 100% the boy's fault, too. I know it's mutual.

However, what breaks my heart so much is that we don't treat sex as something holy and precious anymore. Now it's so cheap that we toss it away freely, using 'love' as the currency. Is that love even real? I am not saying that having sex before marriage can't be based on love. Yes it can. But, I just don't understand. When a man loves us so much, wouldn't he try to protect us and not to harm us? To keep us from anything that can ruin our future, like being pregnant? Wouldn't a man of integrity and a man who loves Christ honor our purity above anything else before putting a ring on our finger, because he knows he can't return it once we have given it to him? When a man sleeps with his girlfriend without wearing any protection, isn't it enough to prove how selfish he is?

Same when a woman lures her boyfriend to have sex, Wouldn't a woman of Christ who loves you dearly try to protect your mind, your eyes, and your desire through the way she treats you, touches you, and dresses for you? She knows your weakness. Would she provoke you if she knows you won't be able to control it? Would she ruin your future and stop you from your dream by seducing you to sleep with her and with the risk of becoming a father when you are not even ready?

Or else, when the relationship doesn't work out as we expect it, wouldn't it be so hard for one of us to move on with life? Because when we have sex, half of our soul goes with our partner. Isn't it something we shouldn't play with? Aren't we supposed to protect the most fragile part of people whom we love the most, instead of playing with it and tossing it when we are done? Wouldn't that be the real meaning of love? Wouldn't it trouble us when our loved ones have to deal with insecurity and guilt?  
  

So yeah, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I think the way our partner treats us show how much they respect and love us. And ladies, we can't only expect guys to be the gentlemen, without being willing to be shaped by Christ to be the women who deserve them. So my point is, the types of gentlemen that you want, that you expect, that you wish for, be so. The types of jerks that you hate, that you try to avoid, that you can't stand, don't be so.

Love,
Hedwig