17 February, 2018

1 adjectif + 1 nom (2e partie)

In the preceding blog post, I introduced 2 words, philoxenos (adjective) and philoxenia (noun).

What I am going to say next will not make a shred of sense unless you've looked at what I've already written - and I hope, if you call yourself a follower of Jesus, that you might take time to read it if He has given you some free time (and you're on the internet right now!).

I wanted to give some real-life examples, experiences I've had, to illustrate what I think IS this true hospitality, this idea of philoxenos or philoxenia. This word group that highlights showing the love of a friend to a person that we might be least comfortable with.

~

Example 1: Pre-existing group of Christians (around 8 girls).
A group of believing girls are standing around chatting after the Christian meeting. None of them are close friends of mine, though as an extreme extrovert who loves people I'm always happy to talk to or get to know any of my sisters in Christ a bit more. I join their conversation.

What happens next has got to be what philoxenia is all about.

Whilst the girl currently speaking doesn't necessarily stop talking, she and all others in the group subtly but surely widen and rearrange the circle in which they are standing. Very slightly - to include my late arrival. As much as they can in a medium-sized group, they also include me in eye-contact as whoever speaks, speaks. If one girl decides that the conversation requires a bit of filling-in-the-background-information, she tells me briefly in a low voice. If I decide to join in the chatter, they reciprocate. And so on. Though I don't see myself as necessarily belonging to this group of Christian sisters - they have geographically, non-verbally and verbally made me welcome.

~

Example 2: Passenger on bus ride.
Have just boarded a bus away from college. One of my Christian brothers, whom I know only vaguely by face and possibly name, rushes onto the bus just before the door closes. Have seen this one around campus for nearly 4 years, but because I've been a crazy-busy part-timer over that period and he appears to be a combination of very quiet plus super busy (and always seems to be around the same little mixed group of friends), we've never had a formal conversation at all. Not even an introductory one, I think!

Though he's obviously quiet and quietly spoken - he takes the initiative to make conversation. Of course, being happy to chat to anybody, I'm up for it (as noted during Example #1).

I am not this brother's friend. We have never spoken before, to my knowledge. Since then, I think we have been in the same vicinity to have only one other conversation, and that's OK.

But it's noteworthy that, although I'm not part of his friendship group, and although it's probably a sacrifice of his emotional capital to start and maintain a conversation with an extremely chatty extrovert like me, his attitude strikes me as philoxenos. He is friendly and kind, and though I don't view myself as anything like him - certainly not the kind of person he would make friends or connect with easily, this does not stop him from making an effort.

~

Example 3: 2 friends going to have coffee.

I join 2 other Christian sisters after lunch having a chat. After some brief conversation on how our morning classes were, one of the 2 girls indicates that she and the other are going to walk to a nearby café to catch up (she's a full-timer, our friend is a part-timer). "Are you free? Want to join us?" she says.

It was clear that in the time before I joined this chat, they had planned to catch up together, just the 2 of them. Like so many other situations I've been in (and almost all with Christians training for church leadership/ministry at this college), they could so easily have said their farewells and walked off for their little catch-up because they weren't prepared to be THAT inclusive.. .. ..

But philoxenia was at work here. They took me along on their close-friends-style coffee catch-up, openly shared news, struggles and prayer points, invited me to do the same even though I was technically playing gooseberry/a third wheel, and I think they may even have paid for my drink afterwards. They were a couple of philoi, close friends who knew each other from before, and I was the outsider, the xenos - but in the whole interaction they treated me with the same level of openness that I think they still would have shown had I not joined them at all that day.
________________


Now I'm NOT saying we Christians need to be like this all the time.
I recognise we all have different levels of energy and different personalities.

But what I've tried to illustrate above is a general attitude of godliness - an openness and willingness to share with others even if you're not particular friends (and maybe never will be); even if you might not get along straightaway; even if you had other more private plans.

These are, I hope, encouraging stories that hopefully may inspire you in your Christian walk & conduct. Not because you can, from your own strength, or even of your own free will - but because you (and I) have a Master in heaven who gives us the suffficient grace we need in every interaction to be like this.


So how will you be philoxenos, show philoxenia, towards those outside of your comfort zone?

~

L/T.

1 adjectif + 1 nom (1e partie)

1 adjective, and 1 noun.

Both have to do with the concept we call "hospitality". But not quite in the way you'd expect.

Both are Greek words, so closely related that it made sense on f'book to write about them in one sitting.


φιλόξενος [philoxenos], ον - an adjective φιλοξενία [philoxenia], ας, ἡ - a noun

(lit., Loving of strangers, or, Friend of foreigners) What follows is what I wrote on these words, in a Note on my f'book wall. ________________ These 2 words only appear a total of five times in the NT but they are EPIC.
And not in a modern sense - I’m talking the pre-Generation-X definition of epic, a Homer’s Iliad style understanding of epic... Each is a compound word; made of 2 separate words, “philos” and “xenos”. PHILOS The “philos” word is the kind of love one has for friends. In the Gospels it is used of Jesus (He’s a friend of publicans & sinners, MATT. 11 & LUKE 7) and by Him when talking about the kind of friends we’d lend anything to (if they nagged us hard enough, LUKE 11); the kind of friend we’d invite to celebrate with us (LUKE 15), the kind that’s a bridegroom’s BFF (JOHN 3). In John’s gospel Jesus uses it a lot when talking to/of His own friends (e.g. Lazarus - JN 11:11, and in JN. 15:13-15). XENOS For the “xenos” word, in all but one New Testament occurrence it is understood to mean someone (or something) strange or foreign. Someone non-local. Not of your people. Not anything like you. For example, the non-Jewish Christians of Ephesus - in comparison to the Jewish believers they did church with (EP. 2:12-19). So.. .. .. .. .. ..These 2 little compound sibling words, philoxenos and philoxenia, seem to be giving the impression that what we lamely call “hospitality” is, in fact, the following: the treatment of strangers or foreigners - that presumably we’ve never met before/don’t know well/may even feel really awkward towards - as if they were our close and valued friends that we’d do anything for or with. ~ LEADERS. My friends. My fellow leaders. My overseers... You know those 2 passages that somewhere in your ministry training somebody showed you? The 1 Timothy 3 and the Titus 1 text? (If we want to sound impressive we call them The Pastoral Epistles.) Guess which word appears in both, telling YOU what YOU need to be like in order to be a godly leader, above reproach..? Oh yes it is. That little word, philoxenos. In the Timothy and Titus lists of leadership qualities, it’s just one word and you could almost miss it - but the apostle Paul does include it. “An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” (1 TIM. 3:2 - δεῖ οὖν τν ἐπίσκοπον.. .. φιλόξενον).. ..or.. ..“an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (TITUS 1:7-8 - δεῖ γαρ τον ἐπίσκοπον.. .. φιλόξενον). The point? Leaders = PHILOXENOS. I love how that “must” (δεῖ) is used. It is necessary that we do this, be this, show this. It is NOT an option. It is compulsory to be like this! In the way I described above - seems like we must be philoxenos (in the accusative case): An attitude towards strangers or outsiders so familiar that it reflects the same treatment we’d give to, or at least the same heart we’d have for, the close friends we’d pick for our bridal party if one were single and God ordained for one to then get married. {Oh, and don’t think I forgot about philoxenia - when used in the letters to the Romans and the Hebrews, it is in commands addressed to any Christian, not directly leaders at all: “..practise hospitality”, ROM. 12:13 - την φιλοξενίαν διώκοντες^ - and actually, that diokontes^ word seems more a “Pursue” than “”Practise” word.. “..do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers”, HEB. 13:2 - τῆς φιλοξενίας μη ἐπιλανθάνεσθε. No excuses for any Christian here.} [WARNING. Rant coming.. .. ..] Do we actually live these words? Does philoxenos describe us, if we’ve been called/encouraged into leadership? Do we pursue philoxenia, even if we see ourselves as ordinary, average, lay/pew-sitting Christians? Does this kind of hospitable love even for those outside our comfort zones exist in us? Because it feels like the Bible is saying it should. Do we actually treat people this way - every one, equally? Every person, regardless of differences or personality clashes? Will I invite and include everyone, or just the Christians I feel it’s easiest to get along with, the ones I click with best, just my special friends or my BFFs? Are we willing to care for and share with any Christian that we encounter, when we encounter them? Or limit ourselves to just the people we’ve always hung out with and feel most comfortable around? Ask around to your believing friends or mentors. Do a philoxenos/philoxenia check. Do one on me - I’m not immune, I’m not above this. But for God’s sake, consider these 2 sibling words. Because I will say, right here and now, that we all need to work on this as Christians. In the last 4 years, when I’ve felt hurt by Christian sisters or brothers - especially those training for leadership, those our communities view as exhibiting godly character - I’d hazard that the problem was an absence of philoxenia; that they in some way weren’t making any effort to be philoxenos. It’s not automatic and I could probably think up a ton of personal excuses for why you, or I, should be able to ignore/rationalise away this little word and its implications for us. But I cannot, and I will not, because this is God’s Word. A word that, if we be His servants, we are called to live by. ‘Nuff said. ________________ L/T.

11 January, 2018

3 disciplines principales de ma formation théologique


3 subjects - the last 3 subjects required for me to finish first year at College - were the focus of my attention in Semester II, 2017.

I have loved every subject I've been graciously allowed to study at Moore since starting in February 2014 {although having been forced to stick to part-time, this has been accompanied by significant frustration on two fronts -
 [1] feeling constantly on the social fringes owing to not being on-campus all day or all week (among other things);  and,
 [2] that financial circumstances have meant I couldn't complete all my first-year subjects any quicker than part-time from 2014 to 2017}.
________________

That said, there were professional and Christian relationships I was in during 2017 (as noted, my fourth year doing first-year studies) for which, it seems, the timing of my final 3 subjects (History of Christian Missions, Doctrine 1 and Understanding Buddhism & Islam) has been providentially perfect.


I. History of Christian Missions (HCM)
As part of income generation, I've been doing private tuition/coaching and homework support for Year 6 boys - I'll call them "6T" and "6S" - both living with their families in the inner west.

Student "6T" (Indonesian mum, Australian-Scottish dad) attends his local Catholic primary school and has been increasingly annoyed at his religious ed. homework, involving such non-Protestant concepts as the seven sacraments and the Rosary. However, thanks to HCM's crash-course style overview of the era from Middle Ages Catholicism to the 1517 Reformation and beyond (learned during 2nd semester 2017), I've been subsequently able to address questions 6T has about differences between Catholic and Protestant beliefs/teaching, and could help him to check things against what the Bible actually says. {To clarify: As a former Sunday School student of mine and now a regular visitor to Village Church (Annandale) youth group, 6T is fine with opening and reading Scripture when encouraged to do so.} He has also been pondering key issues related to gospel truths, such as the purpose and existence of hell - on occasion, interrupting the academic tuition hour with burning questions about Christian teaching.

In short, there are discussions 6T has initiated during coaching, leading to opening doors for me to share information from HCM, and the good news of Jesus - which 6T himself sees is completely different to the Catholic doctrines he's meant to research for homework. To top it all off, 6T has told me he sees how simple Protestant teachings are to understand, and this feeds into his frustration about and growing dislike of the Catholic faith he is expected to tolerate at school.

When I began coaching 6T in 2014 (the same year I began at Moore), at that time - like your average Year 3 child - he wasn't old enough or curious enough to be reflecting on Protestant VS Catholic teachings.

But now, as he's at a point of noticing and exploring such doctrinal differences himself - in God's good plan, me voilà, la bergère petite, helping with his homework just as it has been for 4 years - yet this year presented more opportunity than the last few, since studying HCM uniquely equipped me to be able to point 6T back to what the Bible actually teaches.


II. Doctrine 1
In 2016 and 2017 I was in a Wednesday night Bible study (English-language, but we all look Asian) with a large bunch of university students and early-career workers. Through giving lifts home to other young sisters in Christ I've gotten to know some of these girls quite well over the last 11 months.

The blessing of studying Doctrine 1 this year has shown itself in the fact that we have had deep conversations about doctrinal issues such as the Lord's Supper and baptism, the practical application of which they have been thinking about for themselves as younger Christians. Funnily enough, our most recent chats about this happened within the same week as the Doctrine 1 exam, where I'd had a go at an essay question about Scripture and infant baptism!

So once again my studies were directly relevant to these recent carpool discussions;
and I must admit that - had I completed Doctrine 1 during 2014, 2015 or 2016 - these conversations would not have happened because (until 2017) we girls didn't quite know each other well enough to share openly about these things in the car on our way home.


III. Understanding Buddhism & Islam (UBI)
Part of the UBI course requirements involved 2 conversations with either a practising Buddhist or Muslim person, with the aim of researching aspects of personal faith (and then submitting our reflections for academic assessment).

My 2nd Year 6 coaching child, Student "6S" is best friends with 6T (whom I've already mentioned above). In the course of my academic duties during 2016 and 2017, a friendship has developed with 6S's mother; she and her husband are both Burmese Buddhist emigrants.

When my College classes for UBI began last July - starting with studies of animism and Buddhism - I would often ask 6S's mother brief questions about Buddhism after her boy's tuition hour was up, as it seemed to be a complicated religion with a diverse historical background and I figured she might re-explain some of the basics from a personal perspective.

Once the time came for me to do my required assessment conversations, 6S's mother was more than willing to meet outside of her son's tuition time and answer all the questions I had about the Burmese approach to Buddhism (Theravada). Throughout all our chats about her Buddhist faith - on her porch, in her kitchen, in front of her family worship shrine, in a restaurant nearby where she bought me lunch - I was enabled to find out what she believed about Buddhism and how it affected her life;  and, in time, I also got to ask her about her perceptions of Jesus and Christianity.

Then, in the run-up to the end of Term 4 2017, I knew that 6S's mother was interested in sending 6S along to the Annandale youth group (Village Church, where his friend 6T already goes). So one evening after coaching, I suggested to 6S's mother the idea of visiting one of the Christmas services at Village Church.

This led directly to her asking questions about hell, and the forgiveness of sins, and what if more sins were committed by someone after they had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour from sin? (She had heard of these things from 6S since when he was younger she had enrolled him briefly in his public school's Protestant Scripture classes.) By God's grace and mercy, the nature of her questions and the discussion that we had opened the door for me to read John 3:16 and 3:36 with her, and also to share the good news of Jesus more fully with her via the Two Ways To Live evangelistic method (picture boxes).
________________

None of the conversations or opportunities I had this year could have really taken place in the 3 years prior to 2017 as I juggled work hours with my part-time Moore subjects.

In that regard it seems clear to me that God has, again and again, set me in His place, and at His time to witness to others.

Whilst in some ways I have hated the fact that it has taken me 4 years [financially] to get through just one year of theological study at Moore, I cannot deny, nor fail to give thanks for, the way that God has used the experience of last semester's subjects to declare His glory among people from the nations.

He graciously opened new doors in 2017.

Doors which were not ready to open during my first, second or third years of studying.


Doors that opened at the exact time that I was placed and equipped:

  (1) to encourage Indo-Scottish Australian 6T in his growing understanding of the greatness and yet the simplicity of the good news of Jesus;
  (2) to support my Asian-background sisters in Christ as they clarified doctrinal truths for themselves;  and,
  (3) to share directly about the saving work of Jesus, once for all sin, with 6S's Burmese mother
- both by opening up the Bible with her and evangelising via Two Ways To Live.
________________

The sense of being located within God's perfect timing has been very strong as I've reflected on the past few months.

If nothing else, it puts in mind the following..
"And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
~  ESTHER 4,14

L/T.

03 November, 2017

3 ans comme étudiants en théologie

An open letter to the 3rd year students at Moore College in 2017.

________________

[To the church of the Third Years at Moore College write:]

I’m not saying this as an apostle!
Nor do I speak as a prophet/ess. Though possibly you might call me a tongue-speaker (interpretable), but I digress.

If you recall it (by some freak of nature), we met in 2015, when I was doing First Year, Episode II. On reflection over the months and years since then, I have some expressions of thanks to give that are specific to your year group. It is the right time to say these things because I know that a number of you are finishing up your studies and leaving the College community at the end of 2017.

I am thankful to God not only for your partnership in the gospel, but also for the love I perceive that you have for all the saints.

In four years of studying first-year subjects  -  whilst feeling like an eternal fringe-dweller on the edge of the Moore community  -  the love of Christ has been uniquely expressed in your year group (well, at least in anyone that I know by both name and face!).

Both collectively and individually, I have seen this love practically expressed through your welcoming and inclusive attitudes to one and all.

It has also been evident in the way you have cared and prayed for those who are struggling.

This love is clearly reflected, moreover, in the heart that so many of you show (or have developed) for gospel-poor churches and people groups outside of Sydney and Australia. It has been a blessing and a privilege, not only to see your labour that is prompted by this Christlike love, but to have personally experienced it as well, every year since the start of 2015.

Above all, I am thankful to God, who in His mercy
 has made this Third Year group who you are today.
He is the One who has made your love increase and overflow
 for one another and for everyone around you (1 Thess. 3:12).

Whether we meet much in the future or not:
May He who began a good work in you carry it on to completion
 until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6),
 and may He strengthen your hearts
 so that you will be blameless and holy in His presence
 when Christ Jesus comes with all His holy ones (1 Thess. 3:13).

I look forward to seeing and hearing how God might use you all for His glory in the months or years to come. Prayer points will always be welcomed!

L/T.

30 September, 2017

3 amis et plus de bénédictions

3 friends and even more blessings.

As a single person, family and friends become of increasing importance.

In the past week I have been exceedingly thankful to God reflecting on the people and relationships He has mercifully given me. Not only my family, whom most of the time I get along with surprisingly well, but the many friends I have.
________________

I want to briefly note 3 such friends, though not by name (to protect the innocent).

One from out of town (she lives in a climate somewhat warmer than Sydney) who made sure to see me around my birthday because she knew she'd be within literal poking distance. And she gives great hugs and has a wonderfully bubbly laugh that I first heard about 21 years ago and am delighted to have heard again in close range in recent days.

The other two friends in view here - both Sydney residents, one a believer and mission-minded yet quite introverted gospel partner, whilst the other is an unsaved ballet friend - both sacrificed time (and significant emotional energy) precious to them just to spend an hour in my company during the aforesaid birthday week. Time that could otherwise have been spent, one in additional church ministry preparation, and the other on a relaxing few days away in the mountains with her husband. Time that they spent with me anyway, for which I am both joyful and thankful!

As a sinful human person with incredibly low self-esteem, whilst I struggle not to attribute value to myself based on what anyone thinks of me or how people treat me, I do feel very blessed that the God whose esteem for me is all that matters for eternity has given me not just these 3 friends, but many more like them.

Maybe even you, if you count yourself my friend.

And my prayer not only for me and for them, but for you also, is that our identity and our hope be found only in Christ Jesus who came into the world to save sinners (of whom I am the worst, 1 TIMOTHY 1:15ff).

"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever."
1 TIMOTHY 1:17

L/T.

15 July, 2017

45 enfants en vacances

45 children on holidays.. .. ..

Or, as I like to call it:
"Paid playtime in Little Europe".
________________

The down-side of being a poverty-stricken part-timer at Bible college is that you spend your semester break working whilst all your College friends go away on holidays to nice places and post photos on social media with unintentionally smug invisible captions or hashtags that all say, in effect, "sucks to be me".

The unexpected up-side of having to work right through the 2017 semester break was discovering that "Little Europe" has come to Sydney's lower North Shore.
________________

During March this year, for principally economic reasons, I changed out of a 15h p/w after-school care job into a 21h p/w role.

My first 3 months in the new job proved much more challenging and stressful than I had anticipated, and especially in May/June I spent spare time wondering why on earth God had placed me on the lower North Shore (when I could bear wasting spare time on such musings).

But the last 2 weeks in vacation care (it's NSW school holidays), have seemed a divine, albeit simple lesson in why I might be here.
________________

A tangent.
Last month at my cathedral's midweek women's Bible study, we began studying the Old Testament book of Esther.

In chapter 4, one verse that sticks out is verse 14.
From the Greek (LXX, since I haven't learned Hebrew yet), ESTHER 4:14 runs kind of like this:
"Who knows if in this time you have come to be queen?" (τίς οἶδεν εἰ εἰς τὸν καιρὸν τοῦτον ἐβασίλευσας;).

Or, from my old NIV which I grew up reading, "Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"
________________

It was a pleasant surprise to find that I actually enjoyed the last 10 weekdays of vacation care.

Partly because the children were a bit younger (ages 5-7) than my after-school care clients (ages 7-11).

Partly because they, children on the outside, liked doing LEGO building and did lots of that with me (myself a LEGO-loving inner child).

Partly because they were responsive to gentle guidance of their behaviour and welcomed any friendly interest shown in them, even if it was basic stuff like me remembering their names, ages, family languages and cultural or religious backgrounds.

And partly because the rewards of a little friendliness, a little personal interest and a little hello to parents at end-of-day collection time were discovering just how many Western and Eastern European nationals live in or around North Sydney and Neutral Bay.

Many of my new little friends in this vacation care not only had quite cool Euro names, but their countries of origin included the Balkan nations, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia and Slovakia. One French mother was more excited than I was that I could speak more than passable French to her five-year-old son.
________________

So it appears that a taste - no, wait, a large mouthful - of Europe has come to northern Sydney, if you have the chance to look closely enough.

And for me - whose heart has been with France and the Francophone countries of Europe since my first Paris GBU mission week in 2009 - this means a lot.

And even if none of our holiday program families had been French, I know just as well that non-Francophone European nations are appallingly gospel-poor and need to hear of Jesus just as much as the French do.

But how can we reach these unreached families?

Is it as simple as inviting them to a church where Christ is preached (like St. Thomas' Anglican in North Sydney, or St. Augustine's in Neutral Bay)? Doesn't that mean you have to know who they are first?

What if you're in a professional role that forbids you from openly talking about Jesus (as I am in my role with my reputable but very secular childcare company) - and therefore you are not in a position to invite them to an evangelistic event or gathering?

What if you're the Protestant Scripture teacher in their local school, but most of these families will probably put their kids in non-Scripture, or worse, Ethics, instead?

As long as we can't be in Europe.. .. ..
.. .. ..how can we pray for a "Little Europe" that knows Jesus?

L/T.

~

06 January, 2017

10 ans (l'âge)

Are you happier than a 5th grader?
________________

After recently witnessing a day of emotional extremes for two 10-year-olds in my regular vacation care role, some reflections.

Like  me, both are from Asian families. Unlike me, both are boys.

Like me, both have anger management and emotional regulation issues. Unlike me, as far as I know from conversations with them, they seem without hope and without God in the world.
________________

I remember something of being aged 10-11 and finishing Year 5. I'd had an OK year that year. Not perfect (and in Year 4 I'd been excessively bullied most of the year at school), but I seem to remember not feeling hugely sad, or angry, or depressed very often. (Mind you, this was before Mum and Dad's marriage broke up due to selfish life choices on my Dad's part.)

And if you were my Sunday School teacher, or a Christian in the 25-40 y.o. age bracket, and if you asked me when I was in 5th grade, "How do you know you'll get into heaven if you died tonight?" I would have said confidently that Jesus' dying for me on the cross meant I was saved, forgiven, and sure of new life in heaven. Even then, though life between that time and now would prove sad, frustrating, depressing, enraging, and most of all quite honestly more unfair than many of my peers, I never wanted to die - never felt hopeless - never felt that anything could take away my joy in the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Though I understand it better now than when I was a 5th grader, Jesus was always my life and I am so thankful to God for His mercy even when I was small.
________________

In thinking over the issues leading, this week, to an angry, verbally abusive and physically violent argument that exploded between the two Year 5 boys I first mentioned (boys who are friends with each other, might I add), it occurred to me (not for the first time) that

- whilst both these children, not yet eleven years of age, have the same low self-esteem, the same violent temper, the same inability to manage extreme emotions in a socially appropriate way as I did even up until recently -

they are in a state of despair that God has so mercifully spared me, because He gave me parents who taught me about His love shown through Jesus.

I know they despair, one boy because I know the personal and academic pressures from his family and I can see it in his exhausted body language, and the other because he told me he hates his life, it seems so hard, and sometimes he feels he wants to kill himself. Not (according to a colleague working with me) the first time he has expressed such sentiments.

These boys need hope.
They need God.
They have neither.

At the same age as they were, I had both. And I remain, to this day, as secure in my eternal destination and purpose as I would have been in Year 5 had you asked me the "what if..?" question back then. In fact, more secure, more confident because as a 5th grader I'd barely suffered the way I see that they have, whereas now I've lived through pain.

And yet the difference is not so much an easy life or a hard life - the difference, I see so clearly, is the merciful Lordship of Jesus Christ.
________________

L/T.

05 November, 2016

1 oeuvre (musique)

Ever since I discovered the complete recording of Tchaikovsky's Casse-Noisette (Nutcracker ballet music) in my early teens, I have associated this particular adagio movement (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnmbas-eOWI) with feelings of nostalgia.

Sometimes also with a longing to hold on to something that you know you need to let go of.
^

----------------

It has been an emotional couple of days at college contemplating the loss of a large handful of friends who depart the College bubble indefinitely this month.

A loss for me because some of them will no longer be based anywhere near Sydney (Brisbane or Armidale for example) and, realistically, it's going to be so hard to keep regularly in touch, so different from seeing them every day or at least once a week.

A loss also even for those moving on into ministry (or returning to the workforce - or a bit of both) within the Sydney metro' region
- because although I love these people and feel they're such valued friends, life is so busy for all of us serving full-time or part-time here that you don't really get to stay connected as much unless you're labouring hard on both ends to maintain correspondence. (Also, unless they feel they have the time to keep up as much with me as I wish to with them - and since over half are introverts by nature this might well drain them of the energy they need for ministry.)


Time to go and read ACTS 20; my memory of that section tells me that could be helpful for Bible-based reflection...

...well, passages like this may resound a bit, anyway.
"Mais je ne fais pour moi-même aucun cas de ma vie, comme si elle m'était précieuse,
pourvu que j'accomplisse ma course avec joie, et le ministère que j'ai reçu du Seigneur Jésus,
d'annoncer la bonne nouvelle de la grâce de Dieu.
Et maintenant voici, je sais que vous ne verrez plus mon visage,
vous tous au milieu desquels j'ai passé en prêchant le royaume de Dieu."
ACTES 20,24-25


L/T.
________________

^ If watching the clip rather than just listening to Tchaikovsky's music - see how the girl wants to hold on to one, but how this is complicated by the other...

20 September, 2016

nombreux paroles

They say "of making many words there is no end", but I liked these, so I'm replicating them from f'book.

Merci beaucoup tous mes amis!

_______________

Ab.L ~ Happy birthday lovely!!
Ad.L ~ HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!
Al.G ~ Bonne anniversaire!
AKY ~ Happy birthday beautiful lady! Hope you have a great day! x
An.L ~ Feliz cumpleaños!
An.Z ~ Happy birthday
Be.Y ~ happy birthday ----tia!
Be.L ~ Happy birthday ----tia!
Ca.Li ~ Happy birthday !
Ca.K ~ Happy birthday, ----tia! Have a great day. :)
Ca.La ~ Happy birthday ----tia! 
Ch.T ~ Happy birthday MLTC
Ch.E ~ Happy birthday lovely lady!!! Hope you've had a great day! xx
Ch.R ~ Happy birthday ----tia! Hope you have a lovely day :)
Da.H ~ happy belated bday!!!
Er.C ~ Happy birthday ----tia!!!! ☺☺
Fi.B ~ Happy Birthday ----cia xx
Ge.Z ~ Happy birthday T---!
Ir.P ~ Happy birthday my friend!
Ir.HY ~ Happy birthday ----tia!! Hope you're having a wonderful day! Lots of love from the Yamagishis.
Iv.Z ~ Happy birthday ----tia! :)
Je.Ch. ~ Happy Birthday 💕
Je.Cr ~ Happy birthday MLTC - lots of love - The Crawford's🎉🎈🎉🎈
Je.L ~ Happy Birthday 🙂
Je.S ~ Happy birthday ----sha! God bless :)
Jo.H. ~ Happy birthday!!
JOW ~ happy birthday, ----tia! :)
KYC ~ Happy birthday, my friend. 🍰🎉🎊🍾💐😃
Ka.Cc ~ Happy Birthday lovely! Hope you have a good day :)
Kr.C ~ Happy birthday!
Le.G ~ Happy birthday!
Le.M ~ Happy Birthday dear T---! Hope you had a lovely day too ❤
Lil.L ~ Happy birthday ----tia!
Lin.L ~ Happy Birthday ----tia! May it be a special day for you, to know that you are a special and wonderful part of His family!
Lu.L ~ [ (cake picture) ]
Ma.G ~ Happy birthday ----tia! Hope you had a joyful day with those you love at college, learning many good things! :)
Ma.H ~ Happy birthday T--- xx
Ma.D ~ Happy birthday.
Me.N ~ Happy birthday T---! :)
Mi.Y ~ Happy birthday :).
Nh.Y ~ Happy bday, T---!!!🎉🎉🎉 Hope it's a wonderful and enjoyable day!😎 May God shower you with His love, mercies and rich blessings for the year ahead!🙏😘 love, N. & J.
Ni.TM ~ Happy birthday! Hope you've had a great day
NNS ~ Happy birthday ----cia, nyo & Sid
PRS ~ Happy birthday :)
Ph.P ~ Happy birthday, ----tia!
Ra.E ~ Happy birthday T---!! I hope you have a lovely day :) x
Ra.B ~ Happy birthday!
Re.H ~ Joyeux Anniversaire! Gros bisous xx :)
Re.Y ~ Happy Birthday ----tia!
Sa.D ~ Happy birthday ----tia!!! Thank you for your encouragement and conversations! God bless you
Sa.K ~ Happy Birthday!
Si.W ~ Happy Birthday L and L!
Te.C ~ Happy birthday, ----tia! Have a blessed one :)
TMM ~ Happy birthdaaay!
Va.G ~ Happy birthday lovely!!!
Vi.W ~ Happy birthday!!!
Vi.X ~ Happy birthday!! Hope you had a lovely day! :)
Yv.Z ~ Happy Birthday ----cia!
Zo.W ~ Happy birthday ~~~~~

________________

An.K ~ Have a great day today, Miss-l't. Happy birthday.
An.L ~ Happy birthday!
DL(unc.) ~ Happy B'Day !
DH(lec) ~ HPBD2U
Ja.T ~ Happy birthday ----tia! And [twin].
Ju.F ~ Happy bday!
Pe.H ~ Joyeux Anniversaire MLTC! .. Affectueusement en Christ ..P. + R.
Ro.C ~ Happy birthday!
Si.C ~ Happy birthday.
Te.K ~ Joyeux Anniversaire!
To.T ~ Happy birthday ----tia!
Wi.W ~ Happy belated birthday ----tia!

________________

30 July, 2016

1 jour de joie (chant)

30 juillet, 2016.

Over 10 years ago, I wrote a song for 2 friends who were getting married. I had offered - they said, Yes. I said, do you want light or heavy evangelistic? They said, Heavy, please.

The working title for their wedding song was "Day of joy". I think I finalised it in October or November 2005.

I'm going to quote the 2nd verse here, for the sake of the spouse and progeny of one of my cousins, Tina - who would have been 40 this week, had she won the battle with cancer in November 2015.


Music & Lyrics © L.T. Cheng, 2006-2016. Not to be reproduced without written permission.

________________

There is a day of joy, for which we wait in hope,
When our Lord and Christ His bride will have received,
And His bride will be the Church, all who have followed Him,
Who when they heard His good news, they believed.

And they will be there at the Lord's wedding feast,
And His invitation is for everyone.
Will you accept the saving grace He offers you in Christ?

It's much more than marriage - it's eternal life.

L/T.

17 April, 2016

2 ou 3 dons, semaine de 21 mars 2016

Between mid-January and late March, quite unexpectedly, I received 3 gifts of financial significance from 3 different sources.
________________

For those who follow me here or glance occasionally into other social media outlets where I am active, I should tell you that since the start of 2015 there have been sharp, unforeseeable increases in my housing costs.

With strata levies and special levies being raised on properties across my city, I had been facing the sad prospect of maybe returning to full-time paid secular work in order to earn enough to keep up with the essential property costs (of living in a 38 sq.m. box worth $355k that mainly belongs to my mother!) This would have meant even greater losses for me - giving up part-time theological study at Moore, giving up time I wanted to spend doing more Christian ministry and growing in ministry skills to prepare for the future, not to mention giving up my stabilised sense of mental health (my last FT job at school in 2011 created a very bad state of mental health with severe anger management issues).

Whether this sounds noble or not, I was praying (both by myself and with others) for a short-term resolution to these unavoidable financial hurdles - at least, for the kind of resolution where I would not be forced into returning to full-time school teaching and therefore dropping out of Moore for 6 months (or longer).

I estimated that at least the first of these strata-plus-special levies would be around $1300, although I did not make this widely known.

________________
14 janvier 2016

At this time, an uncle informed me that someone he knew would be sending a secret anonymous ministry gift my way. Shortly thereafter a cheque for $200 arrived in the mail, a gracious provision from God which made paying a small electricity bill a whole lot easier.

________________
21 mars 2016

In this week (the Easter week), the 2 other gifts I inferred in my post title arrived. One given in secret, from an honest and hardworking source I am not permitted to disclose, amounting to $1000. The other, a thanksgiving cheque for $300.

Now do the mathematics, friends. What does $1000 plus $300 equal..?

It is important right now to clarify that NEITHER of the 2 donations above (totalling the exact $1300 I had estimated) were given by people who knew:
(a) I was in need of this kind of support, OR
(b) I had calculated, and was therefore asking for, a provision of $1300 in the upcoming quarter.

!!!!!


God in His great mercy was at work, behind the scenes, moving these 2 sets of people to give particular amounts that in fact, when combined, matched the exact amount I thought I might need and was praying about - without either of the donating parties having ANY idea of the precise sum!

I thought it was great reading about this kind of stuff happening to George Müller in the 19th century (see http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/george-muellers-strategy-for-showing-god#57 or http://www.sermonillustrator.org/illustrator/sermon11/george_muller2.htm for more).

I didn't assume, nor claim certainty that it would happen for me - because whilst God does promise to provide all our needs "according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (PHIL. 4:19), it doesn't follow that what I define as a NEED is what God may agree or decide is one.

That said, I am extra joyful and thankful about what God's provision through these unknowing (and exact!) donations has meant for the next few months.


From George Müller himself:
"The gifts have been given to me 'without one single individual having been asked by me for any thing. The reason why I have refrained altogether from soliciting any one for help is, that the hand of God evidently might be seen in the matter, that thus my fellow-believers might be encouraged more and more to trust in Him, and that also those who know not the Lord, may have a fresh proof that, indeed, it is not a vain thing to pray to God.'"


I am not so noble as he, only a little shepherdess
-  and yet in His grace and mercy, God has once again given water in the desert and streams in the wasteland as drink to me whom He chose, that I might proclaim His praise (ISA. 43:20-21).

L/T.

08 July, 2015

1 rédaction

In His mercy, God has just granted me a credit result for an essay.

I was thinking of sharing it publicly regardless of the result, as it's an issue on which most people I know have differing opinions. But I feel vindicated about sharing it now since the quality of the writing was considered passable.


Enjoy the next 2000 words and I hope it makes you think more deeply than before...
________________

Essay topic:  How God’s people should clothe themselves, specifically what is considered appropriate for Christian women serving God.

As a woman involved in Christian ministry in mainstream Western culture, it is important for me to reflect God’s standards concerning what I wear, rather than conforming unthinkingly to society’s view of acceptable clothing. Not only does this topic relate to my integrity as a gospel worker, but it also has pastoral implications. Over a decade helping out at NextGen conference, where young male and female leaders learn how to correctly handle and teach the Bible, I have noticed in recent years that many female NextGen delegates wear outfits no less skimpy or modest than what the average Australian non-Christian woman wears today - not, I suspect, because female believers have thoughtfully chosen the fashions they wear, but rather because they are unclear about the Bible’s teaching on this and are simply absorbing their surrounding culture. As a female Christian leader past thirty, and therefore one of the mentors to younger women at my church, it is crucial also that I model a godly, biblically informed attitude to how we dress as women who profess to worship God (1 Tim. 2:10).

Old Testament ideas
On consulting the Scriptures some interesting issues regarding clothing arose. The first was that God created humanity without clothing; man and woman were naked and were not ashamed (Gen. 2:25). At creation, there was nothing to be ashamed of. Everything was good. However, once man and woman had eaten the fruit that God had commanded them not to, they became ashamed of their nakedness and sought to cover up (Gen. 3:7), hiding from each other and from God.

In His mercy, God clothed them with animal skins (Gen. 3:21), almost certainly more adequate covering than fig leaves. The idea of shame associated with nakedness surfaced again after the flood, when Noah became drunk and uncovered in his tent (Gen. 9:21). He commended Shem and Japheth for their respect in refusing to look at him even as they covered him up (9:22-23), whilst Ham’s attitude was cursed. Moreover, in the Law given to Moses, God commanded that linen undergarments covering hips and thighs be made as part of the priestly outfit for Aaron and his sons, lest the exposure of their naked flesh mean that they ‘bear guilt and die’ (Ex. 28:42-43). Also by Moses’ time, it was clear that clothing was perceived to have a practical function. A cloak taken in pledge, for example, was to return to its owner by sunset (Ex. 22:26) because it was needed for physical protection from the elements during sleep. A similar idea appears in the description of the woman of noble character (Prov. 31:21); she is commended for clothing her household well in time of snow.

Israel's history
Clothing in Israel’s time, when mentioned in detail, seems to have had some significance for the wearer and observers, for example the aforementioned priestly garments of Aaron and his sons as directed in Exodus 28. Pieces of Aaron’s outfit were symbolic, such as the signet-stone breastpiece with the names of the twelve tribes (28:15-30). And the people themselves were told to make blue-corded tassels on the corners of their clothes as reminders of God’s commands, and so they would not follow their own desires (Num. 15:38).

Some reported incidents in Israel’s history draw on these aspects of shame and religious significance with regard to dress. One to note is when the ark returns to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6). David, Israel’s king, danced before the LORD wearing a linen ephod - perhaps stylistically similar to the priestly ephod worn by Aaron’s sons in service. On the one hand this could be seen as a worship celebration with appropriate religious clothing; yet the king’s wife Michal considered it shameless and vulgar (2 Sam. 6:20). The outcome for Michal suggests that, as God had stated to Samuel years earlier, hearts are more important than outward appearances (1 Sam. 16:7).

Wisdom literature
Proverbs 31:10-31, as already mentioned, also emphasises inner qualities over external adorning in profiling the woman of noble character. It focuses primarily on her good works, actions by which her entire household benefits. When reference is eventually made to her appearance in verse 17, she is first depicted as dressing herself with strength (also in 31:25). The fact that she and her household wear scarlet, fine linen and purple indicates attractive and practical attire (31:21- 22), and her efforts at buying and preparing material are key to this (e.g., verse 13, working wool and flax, hands holding distaff and spindle in verse 19, making garments in verse 24). However, it is clearly emphasised throughout how she works to provide for her household, rather than on how well they all dress.

New Testament - Gospel references
Clothing is attributed some significance in the gospels. Following the Beatitudes Jesus teaches his disciples not to worry about their apparel (Matt. 6:28), promising that the Heavenly Father who clothes flowers will also clothe them. In his denouncement of the Pharisees, one issue Jesus addresses is their overemphasis on religious garments (Matt. 23:5). When a woman suffering from long-term bleeding follows Jesus for healing, she touches the fringe of his garment (Luke 8:44). Including this detail evokes the Numbers 15 tassels instruction, indicating that Jesus dresses in accordance with Mosaic Law. Another implied law is that of Leviticus 15:15, where contact with a bleeding woman renders wearers and clothing unclean - yet, because Jesus is He who fulfils the Law, rather than His garment being contaminated at her touch, she is cleansed, receiving healing.

Yet another occurrence is in Jesus’ wedding banquet parable (Matt. 22), when a man not wearing wedding clothes is evicted from the king’s feast into outer darkness (22:11-13). Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of heaven warns that those entering dress appropriately - most likely in what the King gives them to wear rather than their own choice of attire. This may be an indirect reference back to Isaiah 61, where the LORD garbs His servant with clothes of salvation and righteousness (61:10), and pre-empts the bride of the Lamb in Revelation who is given fine linen to wear, the righteous acts of the saints (Rev. 19:8).

The early church
It seems that clothing, among other things, became an issue for the early church. James warned his Christian hearers not to treat one another differently based on their attire - to avoid the worldly tendency to treat people wearing finer clothing better than those who appeared shabby (James 2:2-4). Paul instructed the Ephesians to put on the new self (Eph. 4:24), to clothe themselves with qualities like compassion, kindness and love (Eph. 4:32-5:2) and to put on the full armour of God (6:11-13). Not long afterwards, as Timothy pastored in Ephesus, Paul had more specific words for believing women to adorn themselves with good works rather than elaborate hairstyles or jewellery and the expensive, often immodest fashions around them (1 Tim. 2:9-10). Likewise, Peter, writing to the diaspora, advised women to seek the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit over externals (1 Pet. 3:3), then later instructed all his believing readers to be clothed with humility (1 Pet. 5:5). That the apostles addressed heart issues over and above outward adornment shows that the culture in which the church lived placed much value on outward beauty. 

Secondary literature

Secondary literature consulted during topical research included a range of genres - careful, detailed Bible exposition (MacArthur, Roberts and Smith), systematic theology (Bridges) and Christian Living (Hughes, Ramsay and others). The expository texts kept the material tightly in context with thoughtful reflections on key Hebrew and Greek terms and had no perceived weaknesses. A minor weakness common to the Christian Living books was that certain statements could be misinterpreted as legalistic in terms of actions recommended, although in each case these seemed justified by the Biblical principles in view.

Common to some of this literature is the 1 Timothy 2 text being key information on what clothing Christian women should choose, even today. Smith (2012, 28), in her expository chapter on this text, notes that women’s behaviour and dress are ‘to show restraint and modesty, good judgment and self-control.’[1]  Hughes (2001, 175) expands on the text by saying, ‘we do not spend excessive time or money on our appearance. Our primary attention and emphasis shouldn’t be on the external things – that is, what we wear – but on what we do.’[2]  MacArthur (1986) states that Ephesian women's overemphasis on appearance hindered the gathered believers, asserting their worship was ‘polluted by women who saw it as a way to flaunt their wealth, to demonstrate their beauty, to put on a sexually attractive demonstration to men that would draw their focus away from the living God’[3].  Harris (2003, 91), whilst not directly referencing the text, raises this when he tells young Christian women, ‘...when you wear clothing that accentuates, draws attention to or highlights the feminine parts of your body, it’s like wearing a flashing neon sign pointing to the very thing [a young man]’s trying not to be consumed with.’[4]  Smith sums up the contrast: ‘What is to draw attention to [women] is not how they look but how they live.”[5]

Two key sections of Scripture have not yet been discussed. Both were written by Paul to Christians concerning whether or not to eat certain foods - Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. Roberts (2011, 108) stresses that the principles taught in chapters 8-10 of 1 Corinthians ‘still have a wide application to us today, as we try to work out the godly way to behave in matters where there is no direct command from God.’[6]

In addition to answering the believers’ initial concerns, Paul taught these principles to inform their attitudes and conduct. Common to both texts is Paul’s counsel that no-one should cause a fellow Christian to stumble by anything they do - that no obstacle or hindrance be put in a believer’s way (e.g. Rom. 14:13, also verses 20-21; 1 Cor. 8:9, also verse 13). The Roman Christians are exhorted to act in love (14:15), avoiding what might destroy God’s work and make mutual edification their goal, with a parallel encouragement also given to the Corinthians to build up others for their good in everything they do (1 Cor. 10:23- 24). That is to say, in deciding what to eat, drink, wear or otherwise do, God’s people need to consider whether this will be of help or benefit to another believer.

Mainstream Western culture is quick to insist on our own rights - freedom to eat, drink, wear or do whatever we like with virtually no consideration for how our actions might affect others. Apparently this sense of entitlement was common for the Corinthians too. More than once Paul refers to the rights that he or others have (1 Cor. 8:9 and 9:12-15), however then instructs believers not only to avoid causing others to stumble but also to put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel (9:12). To win people over to the gospel of salvation is why he renounces freedoms he might otherwise utilise (9:19-23). He desires God’s glory (10:31) and seeks the good of others over his own, that they be saved (10:33). As Roberts continues, ‘we are to be concerned not for ourselves above all, but for others. Even when God’s word and our conscience tell us we are free to do something, we should still refrain from doing it, if it might have a negative effect on Christians [...], or on non-Christians’[7].

Ethridge and Arterburn (2004, 93) also allude to not being a stumbling-block and walking in love when discussing how greatest commandment’s influence on women’s apparel when they say, ‘…we can always go back to Jesus' commandment [Matthew 22:39] as a guideline for how we treat others, even when it comes to how we are to dress’[8],  with challenges such as, ‘Would wearing this outfit be a loving expression, not causing my brothers to stumble and fall?’[9]


Topical researching about appropriate apparel for female ministers of the gospel has turned up both specific instructions and broader principles driven by humility and passion for the gospel of salvation. Christian women living today in Australia, like believers in the Roman Empire, live ‘in a world where appearance counts. Clothing has little to do with function, and more to do with adorning our bodies and making an impression on those we meet.”[10]

 It is a temptation to worldliness, recognised by Bridges (2007, 171), who observes that “especially younger [Christian] women, are going along with the styles of the unbelieving world around them.”[11]  He warns that if they ‘simply go along with the immodest fashions of the day, you are worldly in this area of your life.’[12]  Elsewhere Bridges writes, ‘Quite possibly there is no greater conformity to the world among evangelical Christians today than the ways in which we, instead of presenting our bodies as holy sacrifices, pamper and indulge them in defiance of our better judgment and our Christian purpose’[13].

The calling for Christian women today, especially those serving in ministry, is to conform by their clothing choices not to the world, but to their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 



FOOTNOTES
[1] Claire Smith, God’s good design (Kingsford: Matthias Media, 2012), 28.
[2] Barbara Hughes, Disciplines of a godly woman (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2001), 175.
[3] John Macarthur, ‘God's High Calling for Women, Part 1’, Grace to You, last modified 2 February 1986, accessed 30 May 2015, http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/54-14/gods-high-calling-for-womenpart-1.
[4] Joshua Harris, Sex Is Not The Problem (Lust Is) [Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2003], 91.
[5] Smith, God’s good design, 29.
[6] Vaughan Roberts, True spirituality (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2011), 108.
[7] Roberts, True spirituality, 118.
[8] Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn, Every young woman's battle (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2004), 92.
[9] Ethridge and Arterburn, Every young woman's battle, 93.
[10] Lesley Ramsay, ‘Acceptance’, in What women really need (ed. Lesley Ramsay; Sydney South: Evangelism Ministries, 2005), 75.
[11] Jerry Bridges, Respectable sins (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2007), 171.
[12] Bridges, Respectable sins, 171.
[13] Jerry Bridges, The pursuit of holiness (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1978), 111.