First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to you all from the US… especially for Bernard and his family who are celebrating this special holiday either for the first time or for the first time in many years…
We are with Kathy’s parents in NJ and hope to return to Philly tomorrow (Friday). Meanwhile, we continue to struggle with jet-lag, making me wish that the earth were flat and not round… Anyway, I am hoping to use some of my better waking hours to catch up with emails, sermon and else…
Here is one I still owe you… a recap from last Sunday’s lunch conversation…
Remember how I began our Sunday conversation with the penetrating thoughts of the sharp and witty G. K. Chesterton (a Catholic thinker)… I don’t have the verbatim quote, but here is the paraphrase…
There are two basic longings in every human heart…
Security and Adventure…
Only in Christianity can both be fulfilled.
The fact that humans long for security is quite indisputable. Look at how modern men “line up” everything — education, schooling, jobs, career, retirement, healthcare etc. — from birth to death; how we live not only for today but are also storing up for tomorrow. We are security-driven beings, from birth to death.
What about “adventure”? In what ways is that a basic longing of every human heart? Well, just look at the TV series / movies we love! Jack Bauer in 24… Superman… Batman… Spiderman… Captain America… X-Men… etc. What makes them so special and appealing? They are all superheroes who live adventurous lives! For 2 hours or 3, every man longs to escape his / her “secure but boring” life in exchange for a fantasy in the adventurous.
[I think also of Stephen Chow’s 2004 “Kung Fu Hustle,” in which an ordinary man was turned into a Kung Fu hero. In his post-production interview, Stephen confessed that he made the movie because he himself often lacked courage to face and fight against evil in the real world. So the movie served as an escape and / or an inspiration for his otherwise uninspiring life.]
Given all of the above, can you imagine people actually paying $$$ to watch “A Day in the Life of An Investment Banker“?
No, I can’t, unless that guy caused the whole market to crash… Or the guy actually left behind his life of security for a risky adventure that runs counter to his former life. But in order to do that, that man… that security-driven investment banker… must first become somewhat sick and tired of his boring and uninspiring life and then he must summon enough courage to leave security for adventure!
Let’s pause for a moment and consider this important theme of “security for adventure.” Notice that this is actually a very biblical theme… a Abrahamic theme!
Gen 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram,
“Go from your country and your kindred
and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
When we move from the Old to the New Testament, we see Jesus pick up where Genesis left off… Putting Himself in place of Yahweh, Jesus summoned His would-be disciples in a new yet familiar fashion… He is turning the Abrahamic theme — security for adventure — into an authentic Christian theme, a theme of true discipleship…
Mar 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them,
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself
and take up his cross and follow me.
Still, it would not be quite right for us to think that Jesus is calling us to leave security for adventure. No, Jesus is not calling us to trade in security for adventure; rather, He is calling us to trade in our apparent security for real, solid, lasting, in fact eternal security plus a life of kingdom adventure!
“Do not fear,” said Jesus for in Him we have received “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:27-28), that we may now live freely and unreservedly for God’s kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Alas, Jesus’ definition of security is quite different from — in fact, counter to — the human understanding. To us, security means having all that we need and want; to Jesus, security means placing our trust in God and not in material possessions and even our survival instinct.
Take a serious look at Jesus’ kingdom logic (since God is your security, you need no other securities) and radical calls…
Luk 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Luk 12:33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.
Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old,
with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail,
where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
Luk 12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Luk 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body,
and after that have nothing more that they can do.
Luk 12:5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed,
has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
What are the applications then? First of all, it means that we must carefully examine our hearts to see if God is the foundation of our security, or if our sense of security is actually based on our material possessions, jobs and career, physical and mental abilities etc. Secondly, there is a serious call for us to ponder about the possibilities of a “vocational shift” from a security-driven career into one that is more in-line with kingdom adventure. Our lives are half-gone, we cannot afford to waste more time in pursuit of pseudo-security and in jobs / systems that run counter to God’s kingdom adventure and our new nature in Christ.
Remember what I shared with you this past Sunday about David Brooks’ NY Times article… “The Life Report“… on some interesting observations in reading “50th Reunion” reflections posted by Yale’s Class of ’42… Here are a couple of representative quotes…
The most common lament in this collection is from people who worked at the same company all their lives and now realize how boring they must seem. These people passively let their lives happen to them. One man described his long, uneventful career at an insurance company and concluded, “Wish my self-profile was more exciting, but it’s a little late now.”
The most exciting essays were written by the energetic, restless people, who took their lives off in new directions midcourse.As much as the above quotes illustrate the “security for adventure” theme, it lacks the spiritual nature and divine dimension in our conversation. Indeed, if we do end up taking a few risky moves towards kingdom adventure, it would not be merely a movement towards self-actualization. Rather, it will be resulted from a love for the Christ and a deep desire to follow Him wherever He calls us to — even to the point of death.
Where can we summon such courage? We can only find it in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This unfortunately is also(dare I say) most lacking among the Hong Kong churches, and the Chinese churches as a whole. Without a proper understanding of the spiritual dynamics and a deep-longing for Christ-centered Gospel preaching, Christians and churches alike will remain powerless even if they are shown how to live and what to do. This is indeed the most urgent need of our time, and let me again urge you to be watchful and vigilant.
Unfortunately, I will not have time to elaborate and dissect for you those spiritual issues, at least not in this already-quite-long email. I have gone a bit deeper with Felix over our 8-plus-hours of personal face-to-face time. Perhaps Felix can share what he remembered with you when you do meet again in person. Take very good care of yourselves and press on to know God.
You are welcome to write me if you have any thoughts or questions. May the Lord richly bless you and keep you.