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Show Mercy

Religion is empty if it is void of mercy.

Jesus said, “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.” (Matthew 9:13 NLT)

True religion consists; not in external observances: not in meats and drinks and shows of sanctity, not in little particular opinions and doubtful disputations, but in doing all the good we can to the bodies and souls of others; in righteousness and peace; in visiting the fatherless and widows. Notice that Christ’s thoughts, words and actions are always filled with mercy and grace, tirelessly promoting the conversion of souls: the greatest act of mercy imaginable; saving a soul from death.

Are our thoughts, words and actions filled with mercy?

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How to Survive in a Traffic Jam

Yesterday, while I was driving slowly and safely on the left lane, a car behind me started to honk. The honking repeated for a while until it became an infuriating, resounding blare. My natural instincts told me to stop my car in the middle of the jam, grab the hammer under my seat, get down from my car and smash the other car’s windscreen.

Well, I didn’t.

Instead, I just continued crawling in the jam and ignored him. Well, it turned out that the other driver was just impatient and wanted to make a quick turn left to escape the jam and I happen to be at the turning that was stopping him (he seemed to have overlooked the fact that we were all in a jam and I cannot move anywhere else). In his agitation, he showed me the middle finger as he made his left turn. In that split second, in my anger, I wanted to curse his next ten generations so that they will all be caught in car accidents involving huge trucks and if that doesn’t kill them, the cement slabs from the flyover constructions will collapse and crush them like minced meat (all of these happened while I had loud Christian music playing in the background).

Well, I didn’t.

Instead, I retracted all my murderous, diabolical thoughts and said a prayer. I asked God to forgive me for allowing my carnal self to foster such thoughts. I asked God to bless him, keep him (and others) safe on the road and that this man would reach home safely to his family.

You know what? Jesus did that too (no, not driving recklessly on the road). Unlike any other prophet or deity ever, Jesus asked God to forgive those who hurt/offend Him. He prayed for those who were against Him. When He was wrongly accused by those who were against Him and unjustly crucified for crimes He did not commit, He prayed for His accusers, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NKJV)

Now, that’s what I call living (and driving) with style.

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Knowing Me, Knowing You

I have a question. How well do you know yourself? Or rather how well can you know yourself?

Take me for an example, i think i know myself but truth is, I don’t know myself at all! I can be such a paradox, a living oxymoron. Sometimes I’m passionate, sometimes indifferent. Next, I think I’m smart, but end up making the most foolish decisions later. At times, I’m full of faith, and the next moment, threaten to leave God. In control, lose control. At peace, worries my head off. Likes this, hates that. Says this, does that. And the list of my contradictory and capricious behaviors continue.

We can be so unpredictable. So… ever changing. And how can we possibly say we know ourselves when we can’t even imagine what kind of person we will be tomorrow? Yes, we know ourselves from the present and past tense but tomorrow? Who will we be tomorrow?

In this life-long quest of finding our identity, I’ve known a lot of friends who have “changed,” detoured and sidelined from the person I’ve “known” them to be (note that I’m using these terms loosely simply because I may not even know who they really are in the first place) because they were trying to assume the identity of those (good or bad) around them. We imitate, duplicate, replicate. As the old saying goes, “Monkey see, monkey do.” But see, that’s the problem. Imitating limited human beings is as good as duplicating a pirated VCD (think substandard, blurry movies, choppy audio, with silhouettes of people’s head in view). That makes us as good as pirated imitations, I guess.

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” – 1 Corinthians 11:1

The Bible tells us to imitate Christ. And here I am talking about discovering ourselves. How ironic! How can we possibly discover our identities by imitating Him?

I don’t think the Bible is just asking us to merely imitate Christ’s appearance, actions and conduct as a person. I believe this scripture calls for a time of soul-searching, if our hearts (our very essence) and desires (our life’s purpose) reflect God’s. We are created in His image, as His reflection after all. What else are we supposed to do other than to reflect Him and to resonate with what matters in His heart? To do anything else is really likened to a broken mirror that reflects a different image than what is shown! How frustrating it must be for that mirror when it fails to serve the very purpose it was created for! Maybe that’s why sometimes we’re so frustrated with our lives. Maybe.

In my humble opinion, this is our identity: a holistic reflection of Christ in all aspects of life and chasers of what’s in His heart (in our work, in our lives, in our families, in our ministry, in the goals and focuses of our lives, in our dreams and aspirations). A life that is full is a life that has experienced the fulfillment of His purpose here in this existence.

From now on, this shall very well be my life mantra, “The more I know Christ, the more I know myself. The more I reflect Christ, the more I serve my purpose.”

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Who Is He?

I had the opportunity to act in a short skit for our Easter service last weekend and man, did I have tonnes of fun (and pressure from memorizing my lines)! It was a skit based on the question, “Who is Jesus? Is He a megalomaniac, schizophrenic, philosopher or messiah?”

There were four characters in the skit: a revolutionist who was angry at Jesus for being another power hungry figure (That’s me! Yeeha!), a gypsy who loved Jesus’ lunacy and outrageous teachings, an intellect who crowns Jesus as a master philosopher and a simple woman with a broken life who encountered Jesus’ love and mercy. All of them have their own opinions on who Jesus is but I love how the skit directs the final question to the congregation.

“Who is Jesus to you?”

Honestly and personally, I think all four views apply to Jesus. I think :

1. He is a Megalomaniac because He does desire absolute surrender of our lives! However, He only has our best interest in mind and that makes surrendering everything to Him worth every bit of it. Besides, we suck big time when we’re given power due to our human nature and tendency to abuse it.

2. He is a Schizophrenic because He is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent! He is the God Man after all. For mortals like us, we will never fully understand His ability to see the past, present and future, to be here, there and everywhere else and to do this, that and everything else at the same time! Confused yet? Well, he’s not. We are. In fact, He is in perfect control! In our shortsightedness and limitations, He proves Himself to be a big, amazing, almighty, all powerful God who holds this very existence in balance!

3. He is a Philosopher because He is the author of wisdom. Let’s face it. It doesn’t matter who’s the greatest philosopher of all time. He must be the greatest of them all since He created and gave these philosophers their awesome brains! Need advice? You know who best to ask now.

4. He is the Messiah. Add all three attributes above and an unconditional Love that never fails, you get God’s most powerful attribute: His ability to save. This, I cannot elaborate. You must experience His saving grace for yourself. And I believe you too, will come to know him ultimately as your Messiah.

So, who is Jesus to you?

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My Complain

I’ve been very upset and depressed for the past month. Mainly because of work that’s not related to design or producing art where I excel best (lotsa admin, management, finance and other life-sucking tasks). I feel like I’ve no outlet nor the time to design new stuff and this has heavily bogged down my unfulfilled soul. It sucks to be a designer who cannot design (like a bird being caged when it knows it’s destiny is to fly high) since the essence of what we do is fueled by the satisfying of our curiosity, trying out the uncharted and creating new things.

So, I do what I usually do best! I bring my complains to God! You know, I’ve come to discover that He’s the best person to pour out your complains, frustrations and heartaches to. Mind you, I meant “pour out to” NOT “pour out at” (there’s a world of difference in these two postures and believe me, doing the latter doesn’t help the least). And guess what? God is BIG enough to handle your complains.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” – (Proverbs 13:12 NKJV)

As the Holy Spirit prompted me to read this verse, I’ve to ask myself, what is my heart’s greatest desire? God or design? Do I find more delight in God’s love or from loving my own designs/artworks? The answer’s pretty obvious judging from my month-long depressive state. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit never fails to gently remind us when we’ve strayed a little from the original path that He has intended for us.

Is your heart sick, like mine too? Has your heart’s desire been for God? When was the last time you delighted yourself in His Love when you were bogged down by the cares of this world? When was the last time you heard His soft, still whisper that made sense and clarity of all the mysteries that you’re going through? When was the last time you knew what you were doing was exactly what He has made you for?

Maybe now is a good time to do a quick (if not, long) check? And if it helps, do complain.

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How to Die for an Ant

Good Friday and Easter is never just a holiday for me. While others are exchanging greetings of “Happy Easter holidays!” or “Happy Good Friday!”, the truth is, these days are a time of sobriety and solemnity to me.

You see, I’ve never (and still haven’t) understood why God would allow Himself to die on the world’s most cruel form of punishment, a crucifixion to demonstrate the greatest act of love of all times. It’s not even easy to think about sacrificing yourself and laying down your life for a loved one, for example, your family or friends who matter the world to you.

But… for an infinite God to give up His life for finite humankind?

Let’s put it in perspective. Will you die for an ant?

Yup. Sounds atrocious, almost offensive. Why would I give up such an awesome, wondrous life like mine for a worthless, puny and temporal little creature which is here for a moment and gone the next when I (or someone else) accidentally step on it? And how can you even compare the worth of my life (my achievements, intelligence, experience capability and good looks, if any) to an ant’s?

The gap sounds irreconcilable, like comparing heaven and hell.

Now, put yourself in God’s shoes, the Creator who breathed the entire Universe and Cosmos into being (without even lifting a single finger) with all your glory, might and splendour. Would you give up your life and everything you have for a worthless, puny and temporal little creature like a human being who is but a mere speck and shadow, here today and gone tomorrow?

I won’t. Frankly speaking, I won’t.

But God did otherwise. He did the unthinkable and unfathomable.

He came in the form of a helpless baby, lived amongst failures like us, was crucified like a criminal, died like a mortal human and on the third day, He is risen, conquering death and sin once and for all. And the motivation behind it all?

Love.

And this is my proudest achievement and greatest blessing in this life: to be given the chance to know my Saviour and to place my trust in my Redeemer.

And this is the reason why Good Friday and Easter is worth celebrating and rejoicing, if you ask me.

“For I am certain that nothing can separate us from His love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

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The Stove that Lost its Fire

The stove in my kitchen stopped working a year ago. It used to work really well. With just a turn of the knob, we have fire coming out of the stove. Not anymore. Well, it still dispenses gas but it needs to be manually lit with a spark gun. Won’t get no fire from my stove unless you have another existing source of fire to light it up. You can call it half-broken or half-working (depends on if you’re an optimist or pessimist).

And just now, as I was preparing to cook my lunch, my stove suddenly decided to work again without the help of the spark gun! I had fire at the turn of a knob again! Do old things really fix themselves over time? Boy, ain’t I glad I didn’t decide to throw it away the moment it stopped working! And I beamed like a madman when it worked.

Sometimes, in life, we lose our fire too.

Probably, we too were once burning with fiery passion for a certain cause. Loving God, serving in the church, loving people, giving sacrificially, chasing after our dreams and ambitions, making a difference in the world because of what we believed in and so on. Inevitably, along the way, obstacles appeared: rejections, disappointments, unrealistic expectations, betrayals, shortcomings, persecutions and whatever that can deter our will to continue. And just like my stove, slowly but steadily, we burnout. We lose the last bit of the spark in us to reignite the fragile fire that once burnt so ferociously. No longer do we want to accomplish new things, go new heights and face new mountains. Now, we’re left cold, indifferent, confused, hurt, bitter, discontented and caught up with the “normal” life when you know deep down, you were made to be more than this.

Well, whatever state you’re currently in (be it 0 degrees or 100 degrees), don’t throw yourself away. I repeat, don’t throw yourself away. Like my stove, all you need is just an existing, external source of fire to light you up again. It may take a while for you find that Source of fire and I’m not saying it will be quick nor easy. But whatever it is, don’t throw yourself away. Don’t throw that passion away. Don’t throw that dream away. Who knows? One day, like my stove, you might end up finding that fiery, unquenchable flame in yourself again? And when that day comes, you too, like me, will beam like a madman.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galations 6:9

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Time & Money

One of my friends forwarded me this email about time and money and I thought it was wisdom worth sharing. Gave my life a good, long, hard look to see where I stand. What about you?

1. No point using limited life to chase unlimited money.
2. No point earning so much money you cannot live to spend it.
3. Money is not yours until you spend it.
4. When you are young, you use your health to chase your wealth; when you are old, you use your wealth to buy back your health. Difference is that, it is too late.
5. How happy a man is, is not how much he has but how little he needs.
6. No point working so hard to provide for the people you have no time to spend with.

Remember this: We come to this world with nothing, we leave this world with nothing!

“Keep your Creator in mind while you are young! In years to come, you will be burdened down with troubles and say, “I don’t enjoy life anymore.” Someday the light of the sun and the moon and the stars will all seem dim to you. Rain clouds will remain over your head. Your body will grow feeble, your teeth will decay, and your eyesight fail. The noisy grinding of grain will be shut out by your deaf ears, but even the song of a bird will keep you awake. You will be afraid to climb up a hill or walk down a road. Your hair will turn as white as almond blossoms. You will feel lifeless and drag along like an old grasshopper. We each go to our eternal home, and the streets are filled with those who mourn. The silver cord snaps, the golden bowl breaks; the water pitcher is smashed, and the pulley at the well is shattered. So our bodies return to the earth, and the life-giving breath returns to God.” – Ecclesiastes 12:1-7

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The Grace for my Todays and Hope for my Tomorrows

“Mom, I’m so glad you raised us up as Christians. I just can’t imagine life without Jesus,” I blurted out one day when I was having a conversation with my mom.

It was a genuine statement, not meaning to condescend other religions or beliefs, but humbled to be called a child of God and to have a wretch like me be made a treasure that’s worth His very own life. I find myself asking the question of “What if I was never a Christian?” so much more especially when Easter is just around the corner.

I’ll probably still be clueless. Not knowing what is my purpose in life, wandering aimlessly like the rest of world, working my life away day to day hoping that my future will be better tomorrow and not knowing if I’ll ever reach my fullest potential or at least accomplish the reason for my existence. Would I choose to live safely in my small, comfort zone or would I live life stepping out into an adventure of reaching out to others and making a difference in the world? When would I know if I’d lived “enough?” When would I ever know if I was… good “enough?”

I’ll probably still be hopeless. Broken with every guilt and shame I’ve tagged on along a life of mistakes. Waking up everyday knowing that everything that I gain, accomplish and achieve under the sun is rotten and stained with selfish sin and will all soon fade and be utterly meaningless when I die. Worse, where would I find the strength to carry on if I lost the things that matters most to me before I first die?

I’ll probably still be restless. Anxious about life and the afterlife, asking “What if I die today?” and not knowing if I’ll end up in heaven or hell or in a nirvana of emptiness or being reincarnated as a cockroach in the next life only to be stepped to death and be caught again in the pitiful and cursed cycle? If we live to die, then why live in the first place?

These are exactly the reasons for such a statement.

Him.

He is my reason because I am His and the God who has made everything made me the apple of His eye.
He is my reason because it is He who defines who I was, who I am and who I will or can ever be.
He is my reason to live simply because He gave His life in exchange for my death, so that I can live for Him.

He is my reason because He is the grace for my todays and hope for my tomorrows.

“Yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” – 1 Corinthians 8:6

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Fruitty Business

I have failed. Again. After two years of much restrain and self control, I went berserk yesterday and roared at the delivery guy who made me wait the whole day for him, falsely accused me of not being home and was utterly rude. Technically speaking, I have every reason to be upset and every right to give him a piece of my mind. And I did. And I was the spectacle of the neighborhood when I roared at him at my front porch (if you know me, you’ll know that God has blessed me with a loud and pitchy volume). And it violated my conscience.

You see, I remember losing my cool two years ago screaming at another guy who ticked me off and I discovered it is not cool at all when I lose my mind and self control. Doing so never fails to make me feel like an uncivilized barbarian or a total idiot. Hence, to avoid the sleep-robbing-violation it does to my conscience, I vowed to never do so again in the future.

And yesterday I failed. Miserably. It was also the day that made me question if I’m a genuine Christian.

Ironically (or not), I was preparing to blog a post on the manifestations of the fruit of the Holy Spirit if we are real Christians. I guess God decided to use yesterday’s incident so that I can take a long hard look at myself in the mirror even as I write this.

“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” – Matthew 7:16-20

Ouch.

If you read the Scripture right, going to church, reading the bible, praying and doing all sort of spiritual stuff does not make you more “Christian”. If you are for real, it’ll be undeniable and evident from the inside out. It will show. Just like a real tree and it’s fruits. Everyone will be able to identity what kind of tree you are by looking at the fruits you produce in your conversations, actions, behaviours, the principles and values that you practice and stand for. And the next scripture gives us exactly a list of these fruits that should be evident in our lives if we’re to call ourselves Christians.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” – Galations 5:22-23

There’s a Sunday School song that teaches us to remember these fruits and it’s deeply imprinted in my mind because I’ve been singing it since I was a kid. Now that I’ve grown older, I find myself asking, “Are these fruits evident in my life?” Well, judging by the incident, I definitely need a larger dose of patience, gentleness and self control. Add on kindness, goodness, peace and love (that’s almost all of them).

But there’s no need for me (or for you too, if you, like me, lack some of these fruits I’m your life) to feel utterly hopeless and guilty because I believe the manifestations of these fruits are a process until Jesus returns. It is Him who makes us perfect, not by our might, strength nor self-righteousness so that we can’t boast about it.

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” – 1 Peter 5:10

How about you? Which fruit do you need most to be evident in your life so that the world can recognize which vine do you belong to?