Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The CMMI - Christian Maturity Model Index

Reflecting on the current sermon series at Church on missions, it has coincidentally impacted me personally as I prepare for a new stage of life and the journey I am about to embark on. As I sit here in a busy Sydney airport waiting to go home, I began to reflect on my whirlwind of journey through life. As early as my primary school days, all through my teens and my rocky semi-adulthood, through the Singapore Army, marriage, relocation to Australia, career and eventually now... The above diagram sums it up pretty much...

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." - Matt 28:18-20, ESV (The Great Commission)

I've always known the above verse in my head in some way shape or form. Sometimes I'm “guilt-ed” legalistically into trying to do more. To keep telling myself, why am I not doing more evangelism? To read the Bible more? To Pray more?

The diagram above depicts in a very loose way my journey. And I think, as I reflect on what many calls the Christian maturity and what Paul calls running the race, I am humbled by how God has brought me through it. The hurdles that He helped me “jump” over. The trials that He used to mould me and shape me towards the “missionary” phase. You see, I feel that these are stages we go through as being a Christian. We all start off with an obvious disadvantaged position of “Hopeless Rebel”…

“All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” - Rom 3:12, ESV

But then, lucky for me, I was explained the Gospel and I accepted what Christ did for me and became what I call a “Grateful Reborn”. To be honest, for me, growing up in a Christian family, there wasn’t a WOW moment or great fire or passion or zeal. It was a gradual progression thing. I know for some, this gratefulness of the grace and truly understanding this undeserved love has led to fortified zeal to read the bible. To understand everything there is to know about this new Heavenly Father after the adoption… But for me, as I understood what I thought was the “true” meaning of the gospel…

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Eph 2:8,9, ESV

… I got complacent. This is where I think a lot of us are. Have a look at me self-reflection on Christianity as a hobby here. After all, we’re saved right? Nothing we can do and need to do… So let me just hand up my feet and just enjoy this ride to the end! In comes the “Saved Rebel” phase. This is a dangerous “phase” to be in… And I was in this “phase” for a good 20+ years!! My turning point was when my assurance was shaken. Somehow, in God’s amazing mercy, the Holy Spirit stirred me towards this verse…

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matt 7:21-23, ESV

This verse radically challenged me and made me second guess my faith. Was I the “worker of lawlessness”? Was I practicing “cheap faith” by simply going to church, singing songs, doing “Christian-y” things just to try and “buy” my way into heaven? If I am not, why I am still living like a rebel? The world couldn’t tell me from any other non-christian… Where is my fruit of the Spirit?... Non-existent!

So… begins the “missionary” phase I believe. For some of you, the “jump” from Grateful Reborn to Missionary is instantaneous. You got the right follow up, the right readings, the right convictions, the right leaders, the right mentors… Praise God! For me… it took 20+years and my current Church, God’s merciful trials and many many more things to get me here.

“Unlocking” the missionary phase is truly liberating! It puts a lot of things into perspective. It explains a lot of “things” that as a “Saved Rebel” I struggled with, ‘cos all I understood was I was saved and justified so I could do anything I want. I continued to ignore God Monday to Saturday and sing praises to Him only on Sunday. God changes hearts…. I know for my journey, it had to happen in exactly this way for me to get it… for me to be convicted enough to “thrust” into the Missionary phase.

Right, so what is the Missionary phase? I think it happens when you truly understand the commission that Jesus gave to us as Christians. When you get in its core the purpose of our adoption and it changes your heart from within. This change is evident from the need, hunger, thirst as the bible calls it to want to make disciples. To feel so inadequate to make disciples you want to read the bible all the time. To know Jesus and His Character more and more so that you can better make disciples. To be challenged to live out your life like the person you look up to – Jesus… So that... you can make disciples. In summary, you thirst for this shapes your everyday decisions, goals, thinking, prayer and worship.

Finally, I look forward to finishing this race. To ultimately be the Perfect Child when the new heaven and the new earth comes again. To ultimately be receive the “well done, my good and faithful servant” praise…

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Work is hard. Suck it up!

Work has been indeed piling up. Stress levels are surging... My line of work is not so much hard labour but more a psychological one. Constantly worrying about things. Keeping on top of tasks. Plan strategies. Plan plans. Second guess what I could have done better. Stress over lack of results. Deal with people's emotions, hidden agendas, politics... you get the picture. Many call this "daily grind". I laugh it off by semi-joking that Adam made work hard and Cain made work fruitless... Selfishly, I blame them. I blame them bringing forth God's judgement on us so now we have to toil...

"By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Gen 3:19, ESV

"When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Gen 4:12, ESV

I guess society teaches us that if you are not happy, do something about it. If you don't like your job, move on. Complain about it. Make a change. Take a stand. But lately, more and more, I am feeling that to do comply with this self-love attitude might be a pride and self-centeredness thing to do. Sure we shouldn't be a door mat and have people step all over us, but I have since learnt that no one promised that work will be easy. In fact, quite the opposite. If I look hard enough, 90% of the feelings stem from fear and selfish pride. Through my stresses and turmoil these few weeks, I am beginning to get how Christian freedom, the undercurrent of joy and ultimate peace from God hangs together. Its strange how God works through my stress!...

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. - Col 3:22-14, ESV

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. - Phil 1:21, ESV

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Eph 2:10

The above 3 verses among other many verses added together drives my attitude at work (and life) now. In action, thought and prayer... Especially when it gets tough and stressful like today...
  1. Am I stressed, angry or worried at work due to my pride? 
  2. Am I "obeying in everything those who are my earthly masters"?
  3. Do I honour God when I act or speak up against or in defence of myself or the situation? ("To live IS Christ", "with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord")
  4. Remind myself. My boss is Christ (serving the Lord Christ) and not my earthly masters.
  5. I am secured in Heaven. Life is temporal (to die is gain).
  6. God is sovereign. He prepared good works for me that I can walk in them. He is ultimately in control and when bad things happen, there is a reason that is beyond my current understanding.
This is what freedom means: to enjoy the peace in Christ and to busk in the joy found in a future more important that whats before me right now. Despite the waves of emotion and daily toil, the undercurrents of peace and joy still flows. That is what I ultimately meditate on and cling onto at the end of a hard days work.