Saturday, February 05, 2022

Reading Notes: Existentialism

Existentialism is not a school of thought so much as a trend that appears throughout philosophy during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Prior to this time, philosophical thought had grown to become increasingly more complex and abstract. In dealing with ideas of nature and truth, philosophers began to exclude the importance of human beings.

However, starting with Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche in the nineteenth century, several philosophers emerged placing a newfound focus on the human experience. Though there are significant differences between philosophers of existentialism (a term that would not be used until the twentieth century), the one common theme among all of them is the notion that philosophy should focus on the experience of human existence in this world. In other words, existentialism seeks out the meaning of life and finding oneself.

Though existentialist thought varies from philosopher to philosopher, there are several common themes. One of the key ideas of existentialism is that the meaning of life and discovering oneself can only be attained by free will, personal responsibility, and choice.

Paul Kleinman, Philosophy 101


Thursday, January 27, 2022

Notes on Philosophy: Belief

Your beliefs are your map of reality. They guide you through the day. They are the lenses through which you perceive the world. They are also the deep well from which your actions, attitudes, and feelings flow.

There is nothing more important about you than what you believe. What you value is equally important. But some philosophers think that this is just because a value is nothing more than a special sort of belief. When you value something, you just believe that it is important and worthy of honor.

Your feelings are certainly an important part of who you are. And so are your desires, hopes, and dreams. But they are all either result of your beliefs, or else are in some other way dependent on those beliefs. You desire what you believe to be good or pleasant. You hope for something because you believe it will contribute to your personal happiness or your overall success. Again and again, belief is foundational to who you are.

Philosophy is the love and pursuit of wisdom. At some level, we all want wisdom for living. No one wants to wander this world as a fool, hobbled by false beliefs about important matters and misled by counterfeit values that can lead to nothing but misery. Because of this, philosophers have always suggested that it is important for us to examine our beliefs. Are those beliefs justified? Are they true? Are they capable of giving us good guidance in life? Do we have among our current beliefs real knowledge about the world in which we live, as well as about ourselves, or are we all just stuck with nothing better than mere opinion? These are questions we all need to ask, and answer.

 Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know. — Montaigne

by Thomas Morris

Monday, May 03, 2021

Why Do We Worship Together?

Hebrews 10:22-25

Introduction

Evangelical Christians came to Thailand almost five hundred years ago. Today only about 1.2% of people in Thailand are Christians. We are very few in a predominant Buddhist country. 

What makes it sad is that many people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ do not attend worship services. More so, thetake partrticipate in the church activities. Imagine if the 1.2% of Christian are faithful in attending worship service every Sunday. What do you think will happen?

Hebrews 10:22-25 says,

22 Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Here in this passage, we will find three reasons why we worship together in the church every Sunday.

We draw each other closer to Jesus (22)

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings (22)

Why do we worship God in the church, when we can worship Him everywhere? Anyway, God is everywhere, Jesus is everywhere. But the Bible says that worship is a special moment when Jesus is present. A presence that is different from his presence in the world. There is something special when we gather together to worship him in this place. Verse 22 says it is because “draw near to God.”

Why do we come together here every Sunday? We come here to draw closer to our Lord Jesus Christ. We do not come to the church to hear a sermon, to listen to music, to fellowship with others or to give an offering. These are all good reasons, but the most important reason is we draw near to Jesus.

The book of Hebrew reminds us that in the Old Testament times, only the High Priest can go to the Holy of Holies to be in the presence of God. The ordinary people stay in the outer court and wait for the priest on what God will say to them. 

But today, when we worship together in this building, we all go directly to God. We don’t go in as individua, but we all go in together as a church, as a community. When we worship together we all go direct to God because of the blood of Jesus Christ. And because of that we are in the presence of Jesus whom we worship.

We declare our faith in Jesus (23)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 

Notice the word “unswervingly” this means “we do not change direction.” It seems that during the New Testament time there are many Christians who are “swerving.” They change direction. It means they stop coming to the gathering of believers to worship. In the New Testament time, when they stopped coming to meet with other believers. It meant they go back to their old ways of life.

In other words, in the New Testament time a person boldly declares his faith in Jesus if he regularly joined other Christians in worship. On the other hand, if he did not come to worship with others, he blatantly denied his faith in Jesus.

This is a challenge for us today, do you know that when we come to the church to worship, we are declaring our faith? It is like we are saying, “I still believe in Jesus Christ.

This is how important for Christians to be faithful in attending worship service. If a person is no longer coming to the church, then he cannot claim to be true follower of Jesus Christ. 

The church and Jesus Christ are not the same but they are inseparable. If we are not faithful in attending our church worship service then we are also not faithful to our Lord Jesus.

We have to make a firm decision to be faithful to the church of Jesus. Attending our church worship is not all our witness but it is a very important part of our witness. If we are faithful to our church we are saying to the lost that we are faithful to Jesus.

I challenge everyone here right now, if we only are all going to be faithful in attending our church worship.  I am sure, there will a big increase of number of people who will come to the church and will believe in Jesus Christ. 

We encourage one another (24-25)

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

When we worship together, we also encourage one another. How do we encourage one another? 

First, we encourage others by our presence. When we come to the church, we are saying God is important.  Jesus is important and our brothers and sisters are important to us. When were are here you are saying I love Jesus and I also love my brothers and sisters in Christ. Isn’t that a big encouragement already?

Second, we can encourage our church family when we take part in worship. We don’t come here watch but to worship; we do not mere come here to sing but to serve! We do not come just to listen but to do what we heard. When we worship with all our heart, we encourage others to worship with all their hearts. 

The truth is we need each other. It is our responsibility to encourage our brothers and sisters to love one another and to help them do good works. We should also inspire others to grow in their faith. 

We cannot grow in our relationship with God apart from other Christians. Our relationship with God grows deeper when our relationship with other Christians grows deeper too. 

How do we grow and encourage one another? When we worship God together our love for one another grows deeper and our faith in God grows stronger.

Conclusion

There was a church that was built in the 1550’s in (Doubes) France. In that church building they had no candelabra. They had no lights. The mayor of Doubes instructed everybody was to bring his own lantern to the church. At the end of the pew there was a place where the people would hang their lanterns. 

As people would come one at a time, bringing their lantern to church, they would hang it at the end of the pew. And the more the people came, the brighter the church building became. If no one came, the church building was in darkness. 

Every time we come to church to worship together; we are bringing the light of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we choose not to come, just imagine, we put out our light a little until the darkness overcomes us. If we come and worship together, our church light become brighter, and we defeat the darkness.

Why do we come and worship together? When we worship together, we draw closer to Jesus, we declare our faith in Jesus and we encourage one another.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Community of Priests

"The whole Earth is mine to choose from, but you’re special: a kingdom of priests, a holy nation." - Exodus 19:6 (MSG)

As Christians, we are all priests. We make connections to God on behalf of others. As a priest, we represent the needs of others before God. We set God's word before men and women.

The Israelites in biblical time became a community of people and became a priest for one another. The Lord trained them in the rigors of faith like listening to God and receiving his grace. Moreover, obeying his commands and receiving his promises.

Israel realized that their identity is in God. Without God's presence and action in their lives, people would not know who they were. This is so true with Christians.

It is sad that many of us forget this. We forget the God who saves us and that he is with us. We need each other  to remind us of this truth.

God put us in a kingdom of priests, made up of simple Christians like you and me. We present people to God and God to people. -Eugene Peterson

Prayer

Lord, help us to speak and act your reality to those we know. Presenting them to you and you to them. Amen.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Suffering is Our Badge


My friends, be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. But you must learn to endure everything so that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything. - James 1:2-4

We should be thankful if we do not get sick and experience pain. Some people are not so fortunate. God does not promise that we will not experience pain, difficulties, and heartaches. 

Because these experiences help us to persevere and grow. He might not relieve us of pain but it makes us a better person. More patient, more caring, and more loving.

Quote

“Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his master. Following Christ means passio passiva, suffering because we have to suffer.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Prayer

Lord, in times of pain and suffering, please help us understand that relief is not the goal. But this experience will make us grow to become like you. Amen.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Freed to Serve

My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love.  - Galatians 5:13

In the Gospels, Jesus was not portrayed as a middle-class conservative. Much less, a political radical. He did not join the Sadducees or the Zealots. Jesus gave us an alternative to these two positions.

His way put God's kingdom and concerns at the center of His activity. He rejected the man-made rules which encouraged religiosity. Religiosity did not free people from their sin, hopelessness, and social rejection.

Jesus does not belong to religion nor politics but to the world. Not to those who have it all but to those who need justice and mercy. He calls us to serve in love especially the poor, widows, and orphans.

Quote

"The world exercises dominion by force... Christ and Christians conquer by service." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Prayer

Lord, help us to be not to be too concerned with politics. But more about your kingdom. Proclaiming the good news by helping the poor and serving those who need justice and mercy. Amen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Cheap Grace


What should we say? Should we keep on sinning, so that God’s wonderful kindness will show up even better? No, we should not! If we are dead to sin, how can we go on sinning? - Romans 6:1-2

God's gift of new life in Jesus Christ is a gift we received. This gift is costly to God. He made it available to us through the death of His Son, Jesus.

Living a new life daily is not easy. It is a continuous response in faith and trust. Living in humility, confession, and submission to Christ as Lord of our life.

Quote

“Cheap grace is 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, grace without Jesus Christ—living and incarnate.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Prayer

Lord, grant that us may not cheapen Your grace by taking it lightly. But help us dedicate ourselves to doing your will. Amen. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Learning to Listen

James 1:19-20

Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. Human anger does not achieve God's righteous purpose. 

We have to admit it. We are not good listeners. Our own thoughts and concerns distract us from doing so. Doing what we want for others is not serving. Serving others is finding out what they need and help to meet them.

How do we know what other's needs are? By carefully listening to their hopes, fears, and concerns. Effective service comes from listening and it only happens when we give our time to others.

 “The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Prayer

Lord, please help us to give our time to listen to others especially those who are in need.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Thursday, January 07, 2021

We all can pray

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

"We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." 

We can do many things for one another. We can love, encourage, help carry each other's burden. We can challenge, support, give, and serve. But we have to realize that we cannot do everything for others.

The pandemic shows us that we cannot be with our friends and families who are infected with covid or other sicknesses. We cannot do anything to show our love except maybe extending financial help.

Yet one thing we all can do is to pray for one another. We pray for people we know who are in need of healing, provision, and victory. We should pray for people who ask us to pray for them. And there is no reason under heaven that we cannot. 

“And above all, we must not neglect the greatest service that is left to us, our faithful daily intercession.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  The Way to Freedom

Thought

The greatest act of friendship is to pray faithfully for those we care about.

Adapted from Charles Ringma, Seize the Day with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

We owe to others what God did to us

Matthew 6:14-15 

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 

Christians should act toward others the same way God acted toward us. God is generous, faithful, and gracious. We can not help but treat others with these attitudes.

God forgives us so we should forgive others. He blesses us so that we can enrich others, and sets us free so that we can serve others. Having received so much from God, we can give to others out of the gratitude of our hearts.*

 “When God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with our brethren. When we received forgiveness instead of judgment, we, too, were made ready to forgive our brethren. What God did to us, we then owed to others.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together 

Prayer

Lord, having received from You, help us to bless others with Your blessing. Amen.

*Charles R. Ringma, Seize the Day with Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, January 04, 2021

Live Beyond Our Limitations

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God - Psalms 42:5

Our life situations, most of the time, are not ideal. The year 2020 proves this is true. But the situation and events in our lives should not control the way we live. 

It is what we make of them that will define the direction of our life. When we overcome our fear, anger, disappointment, and frustrations.  It is the time to celebrate what we have, our ministry, and trust God for the result.*

“The important thing is to make the best use of one’s possessions and capabilities—there are still plenty left—and to accept the limits of the situation, by which I mean not giving way to feelings of resentment and discontent.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters And Papers From Prison

Prayer:

Lord, give us the strength to follow your will and not be bound by the limits of our situation. Amen.

*Charles R. Ringma, Seize the Day with Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Reading Notes: Existentialism

Existentialism is not a school of thought so much as a trend that appears throughout philosophy during the nineteenth and twentieth centurie...