Gideon the author is in the back row, 3rd from the right
In this essay I hope to summarize what I have learnt and present my key takeaways from the STEP programme. Crammed up in my brain is an endless number of questions and thoughts floating around so let’s start by organizing that mess.
Week 1 saw us through Hermeneutics, Presbyterian Theology, Presbyterian Organisation, Christian Leadership, Science & Faith and Predestination. Safe to say these kinds of topics made my brain tingle with excitement, and I took in a lot of information in such a short time frame. By Week 2, my brain function started slowing down as there was much to eat but little time to digest. Over the week, we went through, in quick succession, The Theology of Worship, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Christian Spirituality and Apologetics. I tried to take the pockets of time I had in between sessions to slow down and reflect, apply and think through what was taught – keyword: ‘tried’. Come Week 3, I was surprised that I wasn't already dead. Thankfully, the topics were lighter and less intense. Notably Biblical Counseling, Women's role in ministry and Singleness & Marriage were some of the sessions in this last week.
Out of all the thought-provoking discussions, I’d like to provide a short summary of my favorite topics.
Presbyterian Organization stood out to me, as I managed to stay awake the entire time Rev Peter was talking. The church, one with many followers of Jesus Christ, is often thought of as a religious organization (might not be the best way of describing it), in some sense it is. However, this talk helped me see that for the church to function at the scale that we are normally used to (entailing large congregation sizes of 50 to even over 1000), organizational management is quite an important practical issue. While leaders of the church require faith and trust in God, on the practical side of things, proper systems are required to keep order. I’d like to emphasize that through these systems God works, and putting trust in the system, as all other systems without God, leads to chaos.
Church leadership was a topic I struggled with at first. During devotion going through Titus, the main message was for the church to choose its leaders wisely. The tough question in my mind after devotion was: “If I am a human, as fallen and sinful as I am (and all humans are), how can I possibly judge my leaders and expect to judge rightly? When Samuel asked the people of Israel to choose a leader, they chose because Saul was tall and handsome.” A kind gentleman by the name of Ps Chee Hong managed to clear my doubts with his answer (which I am most thankful for). He explained that human judgment was different from God’s judgment. When we seek to appoint leaders, we should judge by God’s standard. This means looking to Scripture for some of the principles made known to us by Paul, like making sure we know the leader well, to aid us in this tough but necessary process.
Lastly, the topic that interested me the most were the talks on Science & Faith as well as Predestination & Election. The Science and Faith talk was thought provoking, the idea that Science neither conflicts nor exists exclusive of Faith is somehow interesting. My takeaway was that although science can explain so much in our world, there exists much more that cannot be explained. The Bible is a book to point us to our Creator, it’s hard to use the book Animal Farm to form a historically accurate timeline of the Russian revolution, all man can do is theorize, only God knows the truth. And truthfully, learning about Predestination & Election made me scratch my head a lot, I find it hard to convey my thoughts on this subject, so I’ll leave it at that. I can accept the fact that even in my sinful human state, being intrinsically incapable of saving myself and totally undeserving of God’s favor, God’s grace still reaches out to me.
These 3 weeks of learning, thinking and fellowshipping hold unforgettable memories for me. The common theme that I found myself stumbling upon was God’s Sovereignty.
Exodus 6:6-8 says: “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as My own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’” When reading this passage I felt God's mighty power, but at the same time His comforting assurance. It’s hard to explain, but the words ‘I am’ and ‘I will’ give me this assurance of His knowing, doing and being.
When I think of the Church, Calvinism, Science, Faith, Predestination, Election and many other tangible things of the world, I can’t help but revel in God’s awesome creation and His Goodness, Love, Omniscience, Omnipresence and Sovereignty.
This piece only uses pencils to achieve a monotone finish. The background of the scenery has the word undecided, the name of the art piece written in a vertically elongated text style. Closer to the center of the work are the many round hills, slowly growing larger in our view. The unrealistic rounded style of the hills help illustrate a fantasy cartoon environment.
At the center of the art piece, a boy sits atop a fence, as the common idiom goes: “sitting on the fence”, which means to be undecided. However, the focus is not the boy being undecided, rather, his view atop the fence allows a clear view of what lies on either side, allowing him to revel in all of its beauty. In addition, the scenery on both sides of the fence both look out into space, and the beauty of the galaxies stand out more than any differences between the sides of the fence.