Saturday, July 13, 2013

This blog is moving.....

Hi everyone,

I want to thank you for reading and subscribing my blog all these years.  I am sure you noticed since I came to Singapore I hadn't been as active in posting.  I apologize for that.

I hope you find this blog an encouragement. I never consider myself much of a blogger.  This blog is more of a space for me to put down my own thoughts and convictions.  It is amazing as I read some of the older posts to see how the Lord changed me through the years.  Simply awesome :))

I am in the processing of creating a new blog at www.clifftam.com.  I will start blogging there.   If you like to continue to follow me, please go to www.clifftam.com.

Take care and God bless!

Cliff

Monday, June 3, 2013

Easier life or stronger man?


"Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your task."

- Phillip Brooks

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Missionary Manual: So I send you



I picked this from my wife's bookshelve when I first got married.  This is perhaps one of the best books I read on preparing as a missionary for a long time.  I always learn a lot from Oswald Chambers' writings.  I read his devotions, My Utmost for His Highest, on a daily basis. 

This book is deep and solid.  Some of the thoughts and wisdom behind it is so deep that there are times I have no idea what he is trying to say.  At the same time, I am always thirsting for more.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is serious in follow Jesus.  I don't think this book is particularly for missionaries.  Though, missionaries will find this book helpful in  them be fueled by the Holy Spirit and not by might.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What does it mean to help the poor?

This has been the question on my mind for a while now....

Tomorrow, my wife and I will share about poverty to teenagers at a school.  As I am preparing my slides, I re-read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself.

The author used a classic illustration of how sometimes our good intentions might do more harm than help!


And now we have come to a very central point: one of the biggest problems in many poverty-alleviation efforts is that their design and implementation exacerbates the poverty of being of the economically rich—their god-complexes—and the poverty of being of the economically poor—their feelings of inferiority and shame.  The way that we act toward the economically poor often communicates—albeit unintentionally—that we are superior and they are inferior. In the process we hurt the poor and ourselves. And here is the clincher: this dynamic is likely to be particularly strong whenever middle-to-upper-class, North American Christians try to help the poor, given these Christians' tendency toward a Western, materialistic perspective of the nature of poverty.

This point can be illustrated with the story of Creekside Community Church, a predominantly Caucasian congregation made up of young urban professionals in the downtown area of an American city. Being in the Christmas spirit, Creekside Community Church decided to reach out to the African-American residents of a nearby housing project, which was characterized by high rates of unemployment, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and teenage pregnancy. A number of the members of Creekside expressed some disdain for the project residents, and all of the members were fearful of venturing inside. But Pastor Johnson insisted that Jesus cared for the residents of this housing project and that Christmas was the perfect time to show His compassion.

 But what could they do to help? Believing that poverty is primarily a lack of material resources—the last row in table 2.1—the members of Creekside Community Church decided to address this poverty by buying Christmas presents for the children in the housing project. Church members went door to door, singing Christmas carols and delivering wrapped toys to the children ineach apartment. Although it was awkward at first, the members of Creekside were moved by the big smiles on the children's faces and were encouraged by the warm reception of the mothers. In fact, the congregation felt so good about the joy they had brought that they decided to expand this ministry, delivering baskets of candy at Easter and turkeys at Thanksgiving. 

Unfortunately, after several years, Pastor Johnson noticed that he was struggling to find enough volunteers to deliver the gifts to the housing project. At the congregational meeting, he asked the members why their enthusiasm was waning, but it was difficult to get a clear answer. Finally, one member spoke up: "Pastor, we are tired of trying to help these people out. We have been bringing them things for several years now, but their situation never improves. They just sit there in the same situation year in and year out. Have you ever noticed that there are no men in the apartments when we deliver the toys? The residents are all unwed mothers who just keep having babies in order to collect bigger and bigger welfare checks. They don't deserve our help."

In reality, there was a different reason that there were few men in the apartments when the toys were delivered. Oftentimes, when the fathers of the children heard the Christmas carols outside their front doors and saw the presents for their kids through the peepholes, they were embarrassed and ran out the back doors of their apartments. For a host of reasons, low-income African-AmericanAfrican-American males sometimes struggle to find and keep jobs. This often contributes to a deep sense of shame and inadequacy, both of which make it even more difficult to apply for jobs. The last thing these fathers needed was a group of middle-to-upper-class Caucasians providing Christmas presents for their children, presents that they themselves could not afford to buy. In trying to alleviate material poverty through the giving of these presents, Creekside Community Church increased these fathers' poverty of being. Ironically, this likely made the fathers even less able to apply for a job, thereby exacerbating the very material poverty that Creekside was trying to solve!

Fikkert, Brian; Corbett, Steve (2009-06-24). When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself. Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

This is not a post to be cynical about every project we endeavour to stop poverty.  Rather, we need to be discerning and analytical whether what we are doing really does help to stop poverty.  The point of stopping poverty is to love our neighbours as ourselves.  This include the poor as well.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Six Months


A long overdue post. Sorry. Sometimes, the longer I don’t blog, the longer I don’t want to. It is probably because I feel like I missed so much already. But sometimes it is good to come back to an old habit that helps you jot down and reflect upon a portion of your life.

Six months. I’ve been married for six months. I cannot imagine how things have changed so much in six months.

As Wai Jia and I spent last weekend celebrating being married to each other for six months, I started to realize how much I have changed. I understand a lot more about her which I never had before. I discovered there’s a lot more I do not know about her, about myself and about us. Above all, I am in awe at how God has brought us together.

After watching our video, many people often think our story is a fairy tale. In a way, it does portray that things were dreamy and beyond both our imaginations. When I first read about Wai Jia on her blog, I just thought it would be nice if we were together but never seriously considered the steps I would take to court her. In fact, there were many moments where we  sought the Lord when it  concerned us. Those moments, though, were not just asking the Lord to bring us together. We simply surrendered our relationship to the Lord and let Him lead.

For me, these spiritual experiences and lessons taught me greatly about our Father’s heart and His Ways. He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to follow Him. He wants us to surrender to Him. He wants us to love Him so much that wherever He goes, we will follow. There’s a strong security and assurance in this Love. Perhaps this is why Jesus tells His disciples to abide in His love. I find it amazing, how the idea of love (agape), the sacrificial love, is one of the key characteristics of the Holy One. Just reading 1 Corinthians 13 is a small glimpse of this love. It is not a doctrine too far for us to grasp. It is real and it is genuine. This love from Him is the solid ground where we can build our livesupon.

I used to be one of those people who was so tired of listening to 1 Corinthians 13 at a wedding. I would tighten up and tell myself, this is out of context. Though it is true that Paul wasn’t writing this letter with marriage in mind,  I cannot help but see that our marriage is filled with that same agape love. Marriage should be the spiritual union of two people formed through this type of love. And why not? After all, God is the one who created the institution of marriage (Genesis 2). He also uses marriage as an analogy between Jesus and His Church (Ephesians 5). In this case, marriage, my marriage, should reflect His Love and His Glory.

When it comes to marriage, there are generally two groups of people. The first group is the cynical group. This often portrayed by the media that once you are married, your life is over. Perhaps this is also related to some of the heartaches we have seen when marriages didn’t work. Then, divorce takes place and families are broken. Maybe this is why we are cynical. It is a very personal and painful subject that we need a defense mechanism for. On the other end of the spectrum, we have this fairy tale belief that once you have found your partner, it will be happily ever after. There will be no more heartache.Perhaps, we also sold ourselves into the ideas projected from movies.

I believe that both views of marriage are incorrect. Marriage is neither a living hell nor a heavenly paradise. The truth is Wai Jia is not perfect (though she is great in many aspects!) and neither am I. We both have our strengths and our weaknesses. We both have our differences. We have our own struggles and our own aspirations. When two driven individuals who grew up in opposite ends of the world come together, there is bound to be conflict from these differences. Because of the commitment we promisedeach other through marriage, we aim to encourage and build each other up, not tear each other down.

Many missionaries told me that when you are out on the mission field, all the sins which you thought you had dealt with will rise to the surface very quickly. I see that in myself. I thought there were areas in my life which I thought I had dealt with. The marriage helped me expose areas where I needed to work on. I honestly believe that conflicts within marriages are usually not the other person’s fault. They are mirrors of the sinful nature which I need to put away. The fleshly part within meneeds to die (and die QUICKLY!).

This is hard work. It is hard work because not many of us want to talk about it. This is one of the differences between dating and marriage. When Wai Jia and I date, we just want to have fun: go to a nice dinner orwatch a movie. Sure, we pray and read the Bible together but it is nothing like the intensity of living with someone on a day-to-day basis.

When I sin, she bears the consequences. There are some sinful actions or words I wished I didn’t do or say to hurt Wai Jia. She, in her very forgiving and loving nature, doesn’t give up on me or ridicule me. Rather, we talk about it. We pray against it. We accept each other. We try to help each other grow.

Whenever I read about Paul’s passage that we have to be worthy to live out the calling of being God’s children,, these words become reality when I grapple with my sinful self.  In Colossians 3, Paul says we have to put our old selves to death, while in Ephesians 4, he says we are to lay our old selves down and put on our new selves. Wow.

As I look back, some of the best things thathappened to our marriage were in the preparation stages before being together in marriage. The Marriage Preparation Course taught us the “Speaker-Listener technique” to work through our differences. It really helped us invest in building a foundation for our marriage. For me, to be one with Wai Jia is far more important than the logistics of a marriage (getting the house, what type of furniture to get etc.) Stuff comes and goes. They are important but they are not the most important. Investing in ourselves and in each other, building each other up, loving each other are far more important.

I hope I can still say the same thing a year, five years, ten years, and twenty years from now.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Following Jesus to Smokey Mountain

This is how wikipedia describes Smokey Mountain:
Smokey Mountain is the term coined for a large landfill located in Manila, Philippines. The area was cleared decades ago and became the site of numerous public housings for the impoverished people living in the slums surrounding the landfill. The slums were also cleared, which was the home of 30,000 people that make their living from picking through the landfill's rubbish.

A CNN report wrote an article about her experience at Smokey Mountain:
It's this looming mass of decomposed rubbish, standing more than 20 meters high. From a distance it looks like an enormous mound of Earth, almost of equal height to the towers that stand next to it, but on closer inspection you can see the layers of plastic bags, tires and bottles all squashed together -- the remains of 50 years of Manila's trash.

A few weeks ago, Wai Jia had a sudden burden for Smokey Mountain.  She visited there a few years ago with a friend.  The same friend is now serving there full time.  She received news that the kids had very yellow eyes and not sure what's the illness (or the cause).  I felt this is like the Macedonia calling.  We've been discussing and wondering what we can do.  Yet where we like to help, the doors were closed.

It was a Sunday afternoon.  We sat and we prayed for Smokey.   We didn't know what to do and we just told God that we are available and like to help.  He just had to open doors for us.

A few doors were open.  Wai Jia was able to get leave in last minute notice.  I was able to get our tickets online.   Just last night, a doctor gave us a bunch of multivatimins for the kids.

Since we got married and the past few months, I've been re-discovering what it means to follow Jesus.  What it means to depend solely on Him. I was medidating on a verse in Genesis 18 when God appeared before Moses and Sarah.  God told them they would have a child next year.  Sarah didn't believed it.  In return, God said...

Is anything too hard for the Lord? (Genesis 18:14)

Jesus is drawing me once again.  To follow Him.  Just as He called the disciples. Peter, John, Matthew.  Just follow Him.  Not to worry about what to eat or what to wear.  Not to worry about money or other things.  Follow Him.

Living in Singapore, there's a tendency for me to become complacent.  Wai Jia and I spent a lot of discussing and praying where God will take us.  When will we 'help' the poor.   How do we love our neighbours who live below the poverty line?

Going to Smokey Mountain we don't know what God will show us next.  We are ready to be use by Him.  We are ready to follow Him.  We are ready to give stuff up (they are a blessing from Him, anyways).

And so here we go.  Tomorrow afternoon.  Wai Jia.  Me.  A suitcase fill with mutlivitmains that will last for two months or so.  We don't know what God will do.  But what we pray for is for Christ to show up in the darkness.  We pray for His Spiriti to work through us to show His Glory in the midst of poverty.  We pray for Him to work in our hearts.  More compassion.  More mercy.  More grace.

Let's focus on the weightier matter of the law...justice, mercy and faithfulness.  To spend on behalf of the afficted.  To share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  To love our neighbours as ourselves.


Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.  (Matthew 23:23)


and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
(Isaiah 58:10)



Wai Jia wrote a post about this experience.  You can read it here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lighten Your Load

A vivid dream from last night...

I was in my highschool and I was cleaning up my locker.  The locker was shared with someone else.  While I was going which things I needed to pack, I noticed there were a large amount of Singaporean dollars.  Since we were in Canada and my locker partner had no use of Singapore dollars, I took it with me.  I put all my things in my bag.  I had a race tomorrow and the weather would be cold.  I was figuring out what type of running gears I should wear.  Should I wear a short sleeve technical shirt with a long sleeve over?  I was trying on a piece of clothing but it was too tight! 
The school bus was leaving in a few minutes.  But my bag was too heavy for me to get to the school bus on time.  My alternative was taking public transport. It was would take a long time to get back home....

...and then I woke up.

This morning as I was praying for God to discern this dream, three words popped in my head.

Lighten
Your

Load

...last night, my wife was praying for me that she felt I was carried expectations from others on my shoulders. I needed to let go and focus on seeking God's approval instead.

And so now with more prayer to seek Him.  And to find ways to lighten my load.