Wednesday, December 13, 2017

On Sunday just passed, I graduated from a four-year course of Bachelors in Ministry and Theology. It was really exciting to complete that phase in my life but it the moment of celebration was eclipsed by an event that took place the afternoon prevprior. My firstborn was baptised. Uriah and Jai (a young 12 year old man in church family) both were initiated into discipleship and the family of God on the Sabbath afternoon beforehand,...and that...that felt like a true graduation for me. 
In April 2017, the two boys had made a decision at a camp meeting (that lasted a week) to bring their experience to a commitment and chose to do Bible studies leading up to baptism. In December, this commitment came into fruition. I can't explain how proud I am of seeing two boys make big men decisions. They stayed committed to their decision and followed through. We need more men like that in our society!
Secondly, this had to be most well attended baptism for a couple of people, I had ever been apart of. Both family's of the two boys were there, so were a few people from my college and from Uriah's school, but the turnout from Toronto Church was amazing. Their attendance to the event really affirmed to Uriah and Jai that they were highly valued in the Toronto church. They have been there for the four years I have known them and they were there for the baptism of the boys. Both were showered with gifts and there is no mistaking that they understood that this baptism was much bigger than them. 
In the Samoan culture, when a celebration is well attended, the hosts feel incredibly valued, and when there are high chiefs in the mix, the affirmation is lifted even higher. I counted five retired ministers in attendance, (two of which officiated the baptism - Pastors Kevin Amos and Ray Baird). And in my own heart I was celebrating a high day in Zion! I think Uriah got sick of me telling him how blessed He and Jai are, but that's not going to stop me from continuing to tell him.
Saying thank you to God isn't enough, my mouth can't articulate what my being is feeling and thinking, but boy do I feel like I have been rebaptised and recommitted to fight the good fight. At this moment, Sokha and me are still at stress levels trying to pack the house, but the fusion of the stress with the excitement of the weekend makes me stress with a grateful heart. 
I graduated on Sunday and received my certificate, but on Sabbath afternoon, I believe the voice of God spoke to me through His son Jesus Christ, and said "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." (Matt 3:17)


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Everybody wants peace, but not everybody will go to battle for it.

Uriah reported last night of his disappointment in missing out on making the HRIS (a wider school competition for representatives of local schools in the area to compete) team for high jump. He said, that only the top two qualified for HRIS and that he came in third. After some discussion in gleaning out his thoughts and feelings I found myself telling him that all is not equal when we volunteer ourselves to compete in specific playing fields. The bottom line is the competition vied for the top two, and he just missed out. I urged him to process and take responsibility of his emotions and thoughts of disappointment. After sharing a promise from the Bible and praying together, I assured him that handling failure is what separates the men from the boys.

The concept of  competition is seen as something of a sinister enterprise in my upbringing as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. My Dad wanted my brother and me to get into boxing, but from the advice of our pastor and his personal convictions he felt that it may lead my brother and me astray, but who knows? Dad decided we wouldn't do it, however, both my brother and I craved the pull of sport, competition and the need to put our body on the line just to chase a ball around. It wasn't until I was older that I read some inspired writing from Ellen White on how sport was distracting a lot of the youth in her time from a life committed to God (it still does today). Then it made sense why competitive sport was discouraged in our church beliefs.

Although, I accepted the counsel, there was still something missing from my conviction that all sport was evil. Although sport was frowned upon as a catalyst to cultivating a competitive spirit, I noticed competition in school, as we studied and tried for good marks. I noticed it in the family when my brother and me would try and earn brownie points with mum and dad, and I even noticed it in church when people wanted to work in specific positions. It didn't stop there, as soon as I entered the workforce, I observed the need for people to compete for positions, time off, a less demanding job etc. Now that I'm studying, there's the odd student that makes the inquiry "what mark did you get?" when we get our assignments or essays handed back. So was sport the problem or was there another factor I hadn't considered.

When exploring this more, one of my mentors told me that it was the pride and  competitive spirit of Lucifer that set his heart against Jesus and now we find ourselves in this demise of having to deal with sin and suffering. Now this is where the rubber met the road for me! In prying over this thought a little bit further, it dawned on me that the term "The Great Controversy" (which is the metanarrative of the Seventh-day Adventists understanding of the gospel) is literally a competitive phrase. Isn't God vs Satan a war and a competition to win the hearts of every individual that's ever lived and died (because of sin) on this earth? Is God not able to excuse himself from the competition?

It was here that I was introduced to a Jesus that I hadn't really been shown to me (or I may have not being paying attention). I'd always heard that Jesus loves me, that he died for me, that he's compassionate etc. But in good timing, I was introduced to a Jesus who battles and fights for his people. (Revelation 19:11-16) that at one quick swoop 148000 Assyrian enemies were slaughtered in one night (2 Kings 19:35), and so many more battle stories began to resonate with a God that I was willing to follow into battle and die fighting for him. He literally died a gruelling and humiliating death and beat death to humiliate Lucifer.

In a discussion with my brother in our early twenty somethings, I asked him, "if you could live in a time in bible history, when and where would it be?  My brother said something that I will never forget, and his response was quick "I'd live in the time of Joshua so I could fight for him in the battles". Curious I inquired further, "Why would you want to fight?"
He said, "I'd it finder easier to fight and die for him than to live for him, you know what I mean?"
I did know what he meant, he was echoing the sentiments of the speech of Tyler Durden, that I had highly resonated with,

 "Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who have ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. Goddammit, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s@#t we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man; no purpose or place. We have no Great War, no Great Depression. Our Great War is a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised by television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. But we won't; and we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."

Today, the very thought of removing competition appears to be a very unreasonable one, especially for boys, especially for men. My whole social structure is driven by a competitive spirit. But not in the sense that was communicated to me, which was very much tainted with a Marxist idea. The idea that Lucifer rebelled because he felt that God's government was oppressive and thus it was only right that a revolt was the only resolve to rise up against the tyrannical reign of God. The Bible reveals (Isaiah 14:12-14) that Lucifer wanted to be God! This idea of wanting to be God should be the focus, the fact that here is a spirit in humans that want to remove God at the throne and place ourselves in that seat! This idea is not only reasonable, it's incredibly relevant!

The Marxist idea of Utopia where everyone reaches an equal playing field from starting a revolution has manifested itself in a grotesque and gross manner. The idea of being "oppressed" has shifted from legitimate claims of racism (the days of the Black Civil rights movement like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr), to a "Black Lives Matter" idea that pushes and compels white people to feel guilty for being white and privileged and whether you like it or not, you're a racist . In times past homosexuals were being killed and treated unfairly to now the LGBTQ(+) pushing the agenda in just about every government in the Western world while claiming "oppression". Straight people that speak up for traditional marriage are automatically labelled and/or viewed as bigots. Women who rose up in the cry of unfair treatment in times past (when they couldn't vote etc) are now claiming "oppression" from the structure of patriarchy. Thus, inferring that men are somewhat conditioned to be "oppressors" and at the sound of speaking up for themselves are called misogynists. 

Being a straight white man in western countries must be a hard gig these days, I sometimes wonder whether being Samoan gives me a bit of relief. But unfortunately, as one training in the field of ministry and the gospel, I'm volunteering myself to walk in the fray of a traditional view in the west where these views are seen as bigoted, racist, misogynist you name it! And if that's part of the game of gospel ministry, then I'm willing to take the hits. 

I realise it's important I reveal to my kids the competition and the playing field this family will be involved in. I've accepted my marching orders and God knows full well that he sees fit that my wife and kids are equipped for this task. There are rules to this game, and in this competition of gospel ministry, we accept that God is the arbiter, ,the Bible is the training manual, and the game is going to get ugly, but it is what it is. We've signed up for this.

Uriah agreed that he had accepted the terms for competing in the High Jump, he played by the rules and didn't make the cut. The fact is (as I told him), the other two boys were better than him at High Jump. Maybe they trained harder, maybe they have natural talent and athleticism, maybe it's both! Whatever it was, the fact is he didn't get into the top two, and heck, third is pretty darn good! These are the rules, you failed, but in-between the time of failure and when you attempt it again makes you a player worth joining the game again. Everybody wants peace, but not everybody will go to battle for it. "Fight the good fight of faith!" (1 Tim 6:12a)