“Tell me a bit of your story”.
I recalled telling my story to my cell group members in St. John St. Margaret’s church many years ago. The story of how I came to know and believe in Christ.
Oh yes, I was reading “The Case for Faith” by Lee Strobel. It was a book that I chanced upon at Xinyi’s bookshelf during her housewarming party. I looked at the back cover of the book. A book on emotional barriers to the Christian faith. Interesting. A look at the content page. “It is offensive to claim Jesus is the only way to God”. Cool. Way too cool. What I have been looking for (all these years). As in, I have always been bothered by the claim in the bible that Jesus is the only way to God. If that is the case, it would mean that muslims, hindus, etc in the world are damned (and destined to go to hell). I have not been able to reconcile myself to this notion, which became one of the few stumbling blocks to my faith.
Back to my story. I had low self-esteem and no friends. There was one day where I felt so lonely that I purchased a bible to be placed next to my pillow. I figured that the bible, if not God, would be company to me. I have always visualized the Christian God as someone who is up in the sky, listening to me, ever so attentive. I am not sure if I considered myself as a Christian at this point in time.
Two years down the road, Joyce from St. Andrew Junior College popped me the question: I would like you to visit my church. How about that? I put up a wall of lame excuses, non substantial and concrete. I gave in. I went to Hope of God, Singapore.
God works in wondrous ways. I had finished junior college and was serving my basic military service (“BMT”) at Pulau Tekong. Sunday. Day for church. Picture me at church, during worship. I was standing there, singing to the lyrics flashed on the screen. To raise hands or not to raise? No, no raise. These were the thoughts that flashed through my mind during the slow lyrical worship songs. The tempo changed to a quick praise song. Some people around me were dancing / oscillating to the music. Okay. Let me blend into the crowd by tiptoeing in rhythm to the music. Someone is waving at me. Oh. It’s Terence (name has been changed due to memory lapse), the commander/sergeant in charge of my bunk. He worships at this church too? Wow. Isn’t this too much of a coincidence? From then on, during my remaining days at BMT, I wasn’t tekan-ed as much as the others during the physical training sessions whenever Terence was around. God is good to me.
I stopped going to Hope of God because … (another memory lapse).
My economics tutor, Martha Chan called me. We had a short chat. She said that she had been to cinema earlier on before calling me. I was sincerely astonished and replied that I was amazed that teachers watch movies. She said something along the lines of “Of course, we teachers are human beings too”. She told me that her church, St. John St. Margaret (“SJSM”), was going to conduct the Alpha course, which is a series of 8 or 10 sessions to introduce participants to Christianity. I agreed to attend the first session, which is an alpha introductory dinner without hesitation. I was ready to experience and better understand this God that I was seeking.
SJSM. The church that is on the way whenever I travel on the bus to and fro from home to SAJC. A church that is a few bus stops away from home. I secretly desire to attend this church instead of Hope of God during my junior college days. Has God been eavesdropping on my desire to attend SJSM such that He got Martha Chan to contact me to attend the Alpha course?
Subsequent to the Alpha introductory dinner, the Alpha course continues by having sessions at homes of cell groups that have agreed to host the course. I went to Benny Chey’s cell group with Martha Chan the week after the dinner. The cell members were:
• Tek Mun and Yin Hwee
• Corrine and Carine (I paired them up as their names are similar)
• Helsa (and Daniel)
• Kun Qiang a.k.a. Peter
• (the persons that I have left out…sincere apologies)
I felt accepted in this cell. They listened to me as I talked. Incredible! God has been very kind to me – He had blessed me with such nice persons who listened to my speech which I perceived as boring. This was a great balm to my lowly self-esteem. As I am writing this blog, I felt touched on remembering my first contact with this wonderful cell group. My eyes are moist on this recollection. I say with certainty that I would not have been the same person as I am now if not for Benny’s cell. I am very honoured and blessed to be part of this God loving and supportive cell group.
I had been attending church regularly every Sunday since I joined Benny’s cell and completed the Alpha course. There was this urge and joy in me every Sunday morning that made me look forward to church service. Life seems rosier and I have something to look forward to on every Sunday and Friday (cell group meetings).
During a Sunday service, Pastor Rennis announced that baptism classes were starting again. Baptism candidates should register for the classes after service over the next two weeks. Benny popped the question to me “do you want to be baptized?” I told him “Yes, I think it is time.”
It was the day of the baptism retreat. I was in the queue for the buffet dinner. A man behind me tapped me on my shoulder and asked “Do you feel more confident nowadays?” Strange. How did he know about me being more confident nowadays? I asked him that and he replied “God told me so”. Amazing. God is good to me.
Fragmented recollection to be continued…………
For Christians and Catholics, how do you read the bible? When you read it, do you read it literally and apply it to your life? This calls to my mind something I read in a Nicky Grumbel*’s book – a man willingly castrated himself because of Matthew 5:30 “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” (KJV). It has come to my attention that the bible also states that one should not wear clothes of mixed fibers because of Leviticus 19:19 “Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee” (KJV). And there’s the 10 commandments in the old testament as well – which I kinda remembered learning (in SJSM) that we are required to follow even though we are under the new covenant when Jesus died for our sins. Which brings to mind some Christians don’t believe in observing the 10 commandments because of the new covenant. But I remembered someone, perhaps Benny or Paul saying that to counter that argument.
Oh boy. how to read the bible or rather using the bible to understand God better is proving to be confusing and troubling. I was watching a youtube video on the history of the bible when the narrator mentioned that human beings, presumably scholars, decided the books to be included in the bible. Wait a minute. I thought that the bible is the divine word of God. So scholars get to decide which parchments (from the dead sea?) constitute His word because on their judgment, wisdom and ? I guess they must been fasting and praying to get some insight from God before they remove a book / chapter from the modern day bible.
And now, I’m doubting the splitting of the red sea when the Israelites crossed it to shake off the Egyptian armies. Was the “split” a natural phenomenon which observers during the BC days observed? A google search on this subject elicited numerous links. Apparently, there’s various studies and experiments, and hypothesis – the split was due to a tsunami, strong winds, etc.
At the end of the day, regardless of what the bible says, it’s about the heart. And perhaps the corny WWJD (what would Jesus do?) acronym may help. Would a loving Jesus encourage Christians to enslave others, to burn “witches” alive, etc? Oh ooo… I’d better watch my mouth. Jesus probably won’t say that arabs are stupid and lazy – which was I have been saying…it’s time … to pray.
* He’s the founder/author of the Alpha Course which started in the UK, I believe and was brought to Singapore. The Alpha Course introduces non-believers to the Christian faith with plenty of cool company, discussion and food. And yes, I attended (most of) the Alpha Course. Thank God for Martha Chan for persisting in inviting me to her church. And thank God for Benny Chey for his wonderful cell and cell members (Benny & Elin, Tek Mun & Yin Hwee, Carine x2, Helsa, Dickson & damnit how can I forget this lovely singer’s name?, and Peter)