Drug Rehabilitation

We met a drug rehab worker in Taiwan during our mission trip last Spring. He had been transferred to Toronto for a six-months term, so we visited him to see how he’s getting along. His organization provides Christian spiritual therapy for people under bondage to substance abuse. They do not use any medication nor rely on self-will, but depend only on the power of Jesus’ gospel to rehabilitate the addicts.

Our friend told us that while the drugs of choice in Canada (ketamine or Special K, Ecstasy, Meth etc.) have less severe withdrawal symptoms than that in Taiwan (heroin), he found it more difficult to help the addicts here. Although the demographics of the users are similar (primarily Millennials, or Generation Y), the hurdles arise from:

1. Patients. This is an issue of their upbringing. I’m referring to fringe youth who live on the edge, not the whole generation collectively. In Taiwan these young adults have more respect for their elders, and more discipline. They will do what their teachers or counselors tell them. Not so in N. America, where fringe youth have little respect for authority and simply refuse to cooperate when they don’t like it. They won’t get up early to do devotions (part of the spiritual therapy), nor help in chores (to build self-discipline through responsibility), but know how to insist on their “rights”. In short, they have been spoiled and wasted their own lives. Our friend is not the one who teaches them the Bible nor their counselor, more like a house superintendent. He is already trying very hard to teach them some life skills like cooking or growing their own vegetable garden, but you can only do so much without cooperation.

2. Parents. Parents sometimes contribute to the problem. To help break the addiction, in Taiwan addicts are not allowed to leave the rehab facilities during the first few months, use their cell phone, or the computer except to do assignments. They also know they can’t go home until they are reformed, as the parents won’t take them back. Here, parents can come every weekend to take them out, where they could mix with the wrong crowd again and get access to drugs. Those who do this are just not helping.

3. Language. This obstacle is common with missionaries going to a foreign country. The workers are trained in Taiwan, and speak Mandarin plus some basic English. Most addicts here are Canadian-born Chinese, and speak English and Cantonese. Thus there is a language barrier, with the addicts sometimes rudely telling the workers to go back to Taiwan. In addition, the workers feel they are isolated with few people they can talk to in their mother tongue. Like missionaries, they feel lonely with little or no resources to help them.

4. Management. There may also be a lack of understanding between the workers and management. When the workers want to instill discipline among the addicts, the latter may complain to management that the teachers/counselors are too harsh. Instead of exercising “tough love”, management may feel that the teachers lack sufficient love to patiently work with the addicts, which make their work that much harder without proper support.

This reminds me of trying to counsel couples with marital problems when one spouse doesn’t want help, or working with troubled teens who came to see the pastor only when forced by the parents. We can help only those who recognize they have a problem and ask for help. Until then, there is little we can do for them if they won’t cooperate. A drug rehab worker’s job is much tougher, as they may also be dealing with criminal elements. If not for the love of Christ, you could not pay them enough to do what they did. More power to those who labor to restore dignity in people’s lives.

Missionary Challenges

We spoke with our friends in Japan, who shared some challenges commonly faced by missionaries. They have been there for about a year, and as expected for most newcomers, the adjustment is a steep climb uphill.

First and foremost got to be the language barrier. We experienced a little of that ourselves when we went to Taiwan for our first mission trip. Although we are ethnic Chinese, we were born and raised in Hong Kong in the 1950s’, and spoke Cantonese, not Mandarin. So whenever we approach the local folks, they assumed by our looks that we speak fluent Mandarin, and would talk at such a speed (to them: normal, to us: way too fast) that we could hardly understand what they are saying! It’s only when we ask them in our broken Mandarin “Can you repeat that please?” that they realized they have to slow down.

Typically there are two routes to deal with this challenge. The hard way is to spend several years to acquire the language, so that they can function in the native tongue to evangelize, disciple, train leaders, and plant churches. This is tough depending on the complexity of the language, but opens more doors if you want to serve large segments of society, especially the working class. The other way, without knowing the language well, is for missionaries to feel more comfortable staying among English-speaking expatriates, and teach English as the means to do outreach. This takes less learning time, but limits their exposure to only those who want to learn English.

The second hurdle is culture. Some ethnic groups are by nature more friendly and open to foreigners. Others, such as the Japanese, are more reserved towards strangers. They are polite, but not warm in welcoming aliens in their midst. In fact, the more eager the missionaries are in getting to know their neighbors, the more guarded the neighbors become, assuming there must be some ulterior motives in the missionaries’ friendliness. One more factor peculiar to Asian missionaries. During WW II the Japanese fought against the Chinese and the Koreans, and some have not put this animosity behind them, which adds another barrier.

A third obstacle is isolation and loneliness. Unless your ministry is reaching out to foreigners who emigrate to your country, cross-cultural ministry means leaving your family and friends to move overseas for the sake of the gospel. That means cutting ties with relatives, friends, home church, classmates etc. Even though technology made it so much easier to maintain contact now, the fact remains that most of your support network is gone, and you feel like walking on a tightrope without a safety net. You love to have your buddy there to talk things over when you are encountering difficulties, but you can’t. To be sure, you can still Skype or WhatsApp with them, but they can’t be there physically like when you were still in your hometown. It’s just not the same anymore. Loneliness and sometimes helplessness sets in, even depression. You got to build a network of friends and advisors to de-stress and bounce off ideas, otherwise you and your ministry would suffer, sometimes irrevocably.

The fourth is children, especially teenagers. Every missionary with children is concerned with how they will be educated, how well they adjust. For themselves, they already counted the cost when they responded to God’s call to go to the mission field. They know about spiritual warfare, culture shock, getting out of the comfort zone etc., and are prepared to pay the price. But the children? They did not choose to sever ties with their friends. The decision was made for them. Some adjust well, others not so well. The parents are prepared to suffer for the cause of Christ, but it hurts to see their children in pain when they can’t adapt to the new environment.

These are just a few of the challenges faced by missionaries going overseas. I hope we can learn to appreciate and support them more. Some go abroad right out of bible school or seminary. Others have had successful careers before giving up everything to follow where Christ leads them. Pray for them. Don’t assume because they are outside the four walls of your church they are less important. They are fighting on the front lines for the Lord, to extend His Kingdom. Support them in whatever way you can. They are worth it.

Difficult Case Witnessing

Q. How do you witness to friends whose unsaved parents have died? The thought of them suffering in hell turned them off so they won’t listen to the gospel.

A. The situation you described applies also to the surviving spouse whose husband or wife had passed away. They told me they would rather go to be with their spouse than to leave him/her to go to heaven. What would you say or do to help them?

First, I would console your friend. Witnessing is important, but so is timing. To give condolences and comfort your friend is important during his time of grief, or he won’t hear you.

Second, I would use the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:
Lk 16:27-28 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Even though the rich man ignored Lazarus’ plight during his lifetime, after he died he was concerned about his five brothers and wanted to warn them to repent so that they won’t end up like him. The deceased parent or spouse may not be pitiless like the rich man, but if they are unsaved and in agony, they would NOT want the same thing to happen to their surviving children or spouse. They would want them to be comforted in heaven, instead of joining him in suffering.

Besides, if your friend won’t listen and reject the gospel, his own children may be influenced to follow in his footsteps. So several generations may be affected by his foolishness. The past is gone and can’t be reversed. But he can affect the future by making a wise choice himself. So between comforting his emotions and appealing to his heart and will I would try to persuade him to commit to Christ. Hope this helps.

Is Paul a Male Chauvinist? Part 2 of 2

(Continued from yesterday)

• You may be reading too much into 1 Tim 2:14. All it said was Adam was not deceived but Eve was. It said nothing about Paul’s attitude towards women, that he was a woman-hater as some feminists claim, or at least a male chauvinist. Paul was not married (1 Co 7:8) so he never had the responsibility of a husband to protect his wife, nor did he condone men blaming women for the husbands’ mistakes. My opinion is based on:

1. As a Pharisee who knew the Law (Php 3:5), he understood fully a husband’s “covering” of authority over his wife:
Num 30:6-8 “However, if she should marry while under her vows or the rash statement of her lips by which she has bound herself, and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her on the day he hears it, then her vows shall stand and her obligations by which she has bound herself shall stand. But if on the day her husband hears of it, he forbids her, then he shall annul her vow which she is under and the rash statement of her lips by which she has bound herself; and the LORD will forgive her. (Also Num 6:10-12)
If Adam were there all the time, since he said nothing and did not forbid Eve, he gave his tacit approval by his silence and eating the fruit himself; he cannot avoid his responsibility. I understand the Law came later, but the principle is the same.

2. Paul was the one who penned:
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
• Eph 5:28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
• Eph 5:33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

As such, it is highly unlikely that he would condone husbands blaming their wives for their own mistakes.

3. Although Eve sinned first, Paul never charged woman with greater responsibility. The primary responsibility of sin and death entering the world rest with Adam as head of his family and mankind:
Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned
• Rom 5:17 For if by the transgression of the one (Adam), death reigned through the one (Adam), …

So I find faulting Paul for something he never did, or even stood against, to be an unfair accusation. Hope this helps.

Is the Bible Sexist? Part 1 of 2

Q. I disagree with 1 Tim 2:14 that “it was not Adam who was deceived. It was the woman who was deceived and became disobedient.” Adam, being older than Eve, should had been wiser than Eve. He should have told Eve not to eat the fruit, unless he wanted to know good and evil himself. Adam was beside Eve the whole time. Being a gentleman, he let Eve take the first bite. He could have refused to take the second bite. His own intention is revealed here. It must had been the delayed effect that Eve, after her first bite, did not immediately realize what she had done wrong. In verse 14, Paul was shirking the responsibility of men of loving and protecting his wife. He condoned the men to blame the women for their own mistakes.

A. We need to observe carefully what the Bible said and what it didn’t say, or we may be wrongly charging God or the human author with error, when the mistake was really in our assumption. The Fall of Man is recorded in Gen 3:1-7, which Paul commented on in 1 Tim 2:14. Note the following:

• Gen 3:1-5 give the dialogue between the serpent (the devil and Satan, Rev 12:9, 20:2) and the woman (Eve, Gen 3:20). We infer from v 6 that Adam was there, but there was no record of any exchange between the serpent and the man, nor between the woman and her husband. Adam may be there all the time as some commentators believe, or he may have just arrived as Eve ate. The Bible is silent and we aren’t sure which is the case.

Gen 3:6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. According to 1 Tim 2:14 Eve was deceived and fell into transgression. Adam was not deceived i.e. he knew what he was doing. It was a willful disobedience of God’s command.

• We don’t know when God made Adam and Eve what age He gave them. Likely He made both in their prime. Other than that all we know is that both were created on Day 6, so we really can’t say Adam was older and wiser. Both were without sin prior to the Fall, and did not know good from evil before they ate the forbidden fruit. God commanded the man not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Gen 2:17, before He made the woman in Gen 2:22. So either Adam told Eve afterwards, or God told Eve Himself, otherwise she would not have known the prohibition as indicated in Gen 3:3, although she added the “touching” part herself.

• The Bible did not tell what went through Adam’s mind as he ate the forbidden fruit, so we don’t know his intention. Was it being a gentleman and “ladies first” as you suggested? Or was it not trusting God’s words despite His warning? Any imputation of motive comes from us, not the text. We can’t be sure it must be what we assumed, as there is NO hard evidence to back up our claim. The only thing we know for sure is that Adam was NOT deceived, so it was not out of ignorance, but deliberate, and therefore more deserving of blame. So the second option above is more plausible.

(To be continued)

Chrislam

Q. In spite of your usually tolerant attitude, I assume you cannot tolerate the new cult of Chrislam, arising in Protestant churches. Many Christians think that Allah is the same as Yahweh. What is your view?

A. My tolerance goes as far as the Bible goes, hopefully no more and no less. Chrislam is an attempt to merge Christianity with Islam (syncretism), assuming they only call the same God by different names. My view is that those who try to blend the two do not know the God of the Bible at all.

Christians believe in the Triune God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – Three Persons in One God. We believe that Jesus is God incarnate, and that salvation is available only through Him:

Jn 1:1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
• Jn 10:30 I and the Father are one.
• Jn 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
• Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name (Jesus Christ) under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Islam, on the other hand, believes that Allah has no sons, that Jesus was only a prophet lower than Mohammad, and certainly not God. To Muslims calling Jesus God is blasphemy. It is not a matter of calling the same God by different names because of different culture, but fundamentally different. They are poles apart. How anyone can reconcile the two is beyond me. The two are irreconcilable and can never be. It is simply Satan blinding the minds of the unbelieving so that they can’t see (2 Co 4:4).

Type of Christ

Q. Which OT characters do you consider to be humanly speaking perfect, who exhibit the character or qualities of Christ? I thought of Joseph but he has a cup which he uses for divination.

A. What you are asking is for the “types” of Christ, which could be persons or objects. The word “type” is generally used to denote a resemblance between something present (OT times) and something future (NT times), which is called the “antitype” (Christ).
Several people walked with God and were called “pleasing to God” or “blameless” in the Bible:
Gen 5:22, 24 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. … Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. Heb 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.
• Gen 6:8-9 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.
• Job 1:8 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” 2:3 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”

But if you want longer narratives where you can study their biography for yourself, instead of only a few verses for Enoch, or recording Noah’s flaw in getting drunk and uncovering himself, consider Daniel. Some books on types (e.g. Torrey’s New Topical Textbook has a section on Types of Christ with 45 entries) do not list Daniel among them. However, when you read Daniel in detail, you will discover that the Bible did not record any sin in his life, and his courage, dependence on God, wisdom certainly reminds us of Christ’s qualities.

As to Joseph’s cup:
Gen 44:5 Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.
• Gen 44:15 Joseph said to them, “What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?

V 5 is what Joseph taught his steward to say to his brothers when he overtake them. V 15 is what Joseph himself said to his brothers to test them. It could be that he used the cup for divination, or it could be that he said them only to trick them into thinking that he can discern what they were hiding. Joseph had this cup because his wife was Asenath the daughter of Potiphera priest of On (Gen 41:45, 50; 46:20), and he was just saying this as an excuse. In any event, this is circumstantial and not concrete evidence to prove that he practiced divination. I believe his position is stated in:

Gen 40:8 Then they said to him, “We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.”
• Gen 41:16 Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”
• Gen 41:25 Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do.
• Gen 41:28 It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do.

Repeatedly Joseph attributed the interpretations to God, not to his divination. So I would not hold the possession of the cup against him.