,

The Thankful Complaints

I complain about being overly busy, occupied with work and barely have time for anything else. In my busyness, I can still manage to login to Facebook to keep in touch with loved ones, get almost seven hours of sleep everyday and share the same productive 24 hours with the rest of the world.

I complain about feeling sick, unhealthy, lethargic and tired. In my weakness, I can get up daily from my bed to face my tomorrows without the need of a life support system, I’ve a complete body (with all my limbs still attached and functioning), I can see, hear, feel, touch and taste, I can live my life doing “unhealthy” things like having supper late at night without having the need to fear that my body will fail to function and the list of “I can”s go on.

I complain about not having enough money to spend. In my scarcity, I’ve never been shortchanged of food on the table and a roof over my head or clothes to keep my warm in the cold nights, I’ve equipments to work with which some people could only dream of owning and I’ve the spare change to buy my friends a decent meal over dinner.

I complain about not being loved enough. In my loneliness, I’m engaged to the world’s most amazing girl, I’m remembered and invited to birthday parties, weddings and other festives, I’ve friends whom I can share my burdens with by being as transparent as I want, as weak and as vulnerable as I really am without fearing they’d judge me nor take advantage of me.

I complain about God being distant and quiet. In my disappointment, I’m beginning to see glimpses of His reflection (a mark clearly left in His creation and His people around me), I’ve found Godly men and women who exemplify God Himself and I’ve a spiritual family who’d never let me have the luxury of a quiet or dull life in their attempt to live a life of purpose.

I complain too much when I clearly have so much to be thankful for. For that, I am grateful.

“Praise the LORD, my soul! All my being, praise his holy name!
Praise the LORD, my soul, and do not forget how kind he is.
He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
He keeps me from the grave and blesses me with love and mercy.
He fills my life with good things, so that I stay young and strong like an eagle.
The LORD judges in favor of the oppressed and gives them their rights.
He revealed his plans to Moses and let the people of Israel see his mighty deeds.
The LORD is merciful and loving, slow to become angry and full of constant love.
He does not keep on rebuking; he is not angry forever.
He does not punish us as we deserve or repay us according to our sins and wrongs.
As high as the sky is above the earth, so great is his love for those who honor him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us.
As a father is kind to his children, so the LORD is kind to those who honor him.
He knows what we are made of; he remembers that we are dust.
As for us, our life is like grass. We grow and flourish like a wild flower;
then the wind blows on it, and it is gone— no one sees it again.
But for those who honor the LORD, his love lasts forever, and his goodness endures for all generations of those who are true to his covenant and who faithfully obey his commands.
The LORD placed his throne in heaven; he is king over all.
Praise the LORD, you strong and mighty angels, who obey his commands, who listen to what he says.
Praise the LORD, all you heavenly powers, you servants of his, who do his will!
Praise the LORD, all his creatures in all the places he rules. Praise the LORD, my soul! Praise the LORD, my soul!”

Psalm 103:1-22

,

The Dispensable Traffic Light

When I go to work, I pay RM1.60 at the highway toll. But when I return, I avoid the toll by using a small back road. Not many people choose to use that back road because it’s quite windy and the roads are not exactly in the best condition (unless you drive on the right lane all the way, like I do to avoid the potholes and ever uneven left lane). As I was driving home from work just now, it suddenly hit me and I realized that there were quite a number of traffic lights along that road. The problem is, I’ve never noticed them nor obeyed them! That means I have been speeding red lights all this while! And guess what? No one else does too! Everyone else, like me, speeds through the traffic lights as though they were non-existent! (I’ve seen cops do that too!)

You see, traffic lights were created as instructions so that we can have a smooth and safe journey to wherever we’re headed. It’s not a guide. It’s not an option. It’s not an opinion. It’s an instruction. Period. Obey it or risk dying (literally). Without traffic lights, we risk our lives, getting into accidents and worse, cause other innocent people to be hurt along the way.

May I ask? What’s your traffic light in life? What or who has the final say of where you’re headed is the right or wrong way?

Money? Too superficial. It’s too promiscuous. It will tell you to prostitute and sell your soul just to get more of it.
Fame? Too shallow. It’s too much of a fad. One moment you’re famous and another you’re down in the dumps.
Your parents? No disrespect, but they don’t even know what will happen to their own lives tomorrow.

Luckily for me, I’ve found my traffic light. Of course, I’m referring to the Bible, which claims to be the rhema (spoken) Word of God and to be God itself (John 1:1). This traffic light speaks clearly with authority into all areas of my life. In my relationships, in my purity, in my dreams and ambitions, in my future, in my work, in my finances, in my life purpose, in my social responsibilities and so on. I have yet to find such comprehensive authority from one single “book” as such. Not in another philosopher’s assumption, not in another prophet’s revelation, nor in another governing head’s decree. People ask me why I hold on to the Bible as my way of living and I answer, “If you can find me a better way to live, I’ll follow.”

None compares to it. None even comes close.

“For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

So, what’s your traffic light, if I may still ask? If you have none, you’re really driving in life like the way I drive on that back road, never knowing when you’ll crash into something dead-or-alive serious.

, ,

The Vicious Cycle of a Lonely Life

When I was a university student, the circle of my friends was daunting. I have so many friends it was scary. Christmas was probably one of the most dreaded seasons for me as I’d be dead broke buying gifts and cards for everyone who was close to me (and that’s still a LOT of people). However, somehow, somewhere, that began to change when I turned into a full fledged working adult. That circle shrank. Tremendously.

Recently, Pastor Tim has been preaching on a series of sermons entitled “Connected” and it was a good slap on the face for many of us. “If you’re always busy and have no time for people, then you’re just replacing relationships with self-centered priorities,” he said. So is the culture that we’re living in today, where everyone is busy and ever busy with being busy, busily busying their busy lives away (phew). And when I think about it, most of the time, my busyness has NOTHING to do with relating to people. And that’s a very sad fact because people should matter more than matter.

I wonder what happened? What went wrong?

You see, we start off by being individualistic. We tell ourselves, “I am all that matters. I am the truth. This life is about pleasing myself, doing what I like to do, going where I want to do…” and the self-absorbed notions go on and on. Puffed up with pride, thinking we’re all-capable, we move on to an independent state of mind, thinking “I don’t need anyone else and I don’t want to involve others in my life. Why should I, since I am self-sufficient?” When this mentality continues to spread like a cancer in our souls, we isolate ourselves from our communities of friends. We prefer to do things alone, without the need nor urgency to involve others in our daily lives and activities. Pretty soon, with others out of our lives, we become indifferent and careless about people altogether. News about innocent people killed, young girls getting raped and other inhumane happenings do not bother us anymore. Our hearts are hardened like stone, without a heartbeat for compassion or love. And this vicious cycle completes itself in idolatry, placing ourselves as supreme and utmost important. And God? Who needs God when one’s idol reflects his own deceitfully beautiful but wretched image?

That probably explains the loneliness epidemic in the world today. We’ve got all that can keep us connected with one another. Facebook, Twitter, Skype and mobile phones, you name it. But people are still lonely. Still individualistic. Still independent. Still isolated. Still indifferent. Still idolizing.

Have we forgotten how to take time and enjoy another’s friendship and company? Have we forgotten how to laugh together, cry together, accomplish and build together, believe together and just to be… together?

Take time today. Ask your soul (and I’ll ask mine), “When will we finally choose to break out of this vicious cycle and live a life of togetherness again?” A life full of people who care, love and believe in one another. A life that matters to others. A life that counts.

, ,

Thanks But No Thanks

Have you ever had those moments when some stranger makes an inappropriate remark about you that clearly crosses the boundaries (hey, you barely each other, ok?) and you feel like hurting that person physically, like slapping him with an encyclopedia or jabbing his eyeballs or thrusting your fingers into his nose so deep that he nosebleeds?

I have.

If you’ve seen my mobile phone, you’ll know that I’m an antique collector. My old faithful is well worn out, adorned with scratches, coated with patterns of peeling paint and has the evident, glorious appearance of a mobile phone well used and appreciated. The bottom line is, it has served me very well and we’re happy together.

And out of the blue, came this stranger (whom I have no clue who he is) in all his carnality and remarked, “Wow, what’s THAT?” and “I think it’s about time you changed to a new phone!” in his jokingly (but unfunny), obnoxious and condescending tone as he waved his brand new IPhone 4 at me.

I smiled gracefully. At that moment, I wanted to adorn his face with scratches, coat it with patterns of blue-black and give him an evident and “remarkable” appearance so that he can show the world how much I “appreciate” his unasked for comment. But of course, I didn’t. I am an educated, civilized and well poised person and I will not go so low as to retaliate at such shallow remarks. And yes, I have forgiven him =)

Incidents as such remind me of how stupid it is to chase after temporals. To chase after mere inanimate things that add up to nothing but rob me of my contentment, satisfaction and enjoyment of the things I already have. To accumulate lifeless objects that make me feel my self-worth is measured by what I possess and not by who I really am.

Jesus is clearly against such “idols” when he prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He wasn’t referring to the things we want, but the things we really need. He wasn’t referring to the things that will give us a better tomorrow, but the things that will make today count. He wasn’t referring to us tiresomely working and earning a living for ourselves but to rely on Him and ask Him to supply all our needs so that we can enjoy life itself. He wasn’t referring to the things that will make us happy, but the things that will make us see His grace in our lives.

“The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.” – Anonymous

So, do I still need a new phone? No, thanks. Unless it’s free.

,

The Longest Distance in the World Is From the Head to the Heart

Sometimes (if not, most of the time), I think I think too much. I am also a very critical person by nature. Add these two into the equation and that makes me a critical thinker, which makes me take the courses of my actions led by reasons but not instinct. Just put me in a situation which I have to make a decision and my brain will autonomously calculate the figures (even if there’s none), map the possibilities (and impossibilities), weigh the consequences (and its consequences) and without consulting my feelings, my brain would’ve already made a stubborn and pessimistically inclined decision. Without me even trying.

And I am at that junction of making a decision now. To add to the dilemma, this one decision will probably determine the course of my life and I have no idea what to expect.

You might ask, “But you’re a Christian. Why don’t you ask God about it then?” Well, to be completely honest and personal, I don’t believe that God will boom in his low-key voice and say, “Do exactly this,” or “Do exactly that,” and save the day. But I believe that God allows us to make our own decisions and He will give us the wisdom (our heads) and grace (our hearts) through the Holy Spirit (who is already in us) to do so.

The problem is, my head contradicts with my heart. This great divide is caused by my head saying “No,” and my heart lingering with the thought, “What if…?” So, which should I listen to? Surprisingly, the Bible made it very clear with this proverb:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

It’s heart over head, just in case you didn’t get that. Funnily enough, time and time again in the Bible, one finds God humorously using the “weak and stupid” to shame the “strong and wise.” Believe it or not, Yahweh is also the God of the mysterious, illogical, incomprehensible and unbelievable.

At this expository, going with the intelligence of the mind seems like a pretty stupid idea. Ironic, isn’t it?

,

Center Point

“If the sun was to move even the slightest bit, the whole solar system and all the planets will go off tangent and will start crashing into one another,” said the ever intelligent Ps Shawn as he was preaching at this morning’s church service.

He wasn’t there to give us a lesson on astronomy though. He used that as an illustration to show the importance of a center point. An anchor that holds everything together. In the context of astronomy, he was referring to the sun and how it holds together the laws of the universe (gravity, heat, proximity and etc). In the context of life, he was refering to the power of the cross and how Christ holds together our lives (emotion, physical, spiritual and every other aspect).

But all too often, and very naturally, we trade our center points with other more “tangible” and earthly things. Fame, money, success, family, health, wellbeing, power, pleasure and so on. Guess what? All these are are mere “temporals” and they’re bound to fail one way or another. It’s just a matter of time they fail, and when they do, our worlds come crumbling down (the same way planets crash if the sun fails to stay put).

So, why should we set Christ and what He has done on the cross for us as our center point? What’s so significant about Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross? To answer that question, Ps Shawn gave us a short English lesson on each of Jesus’ final words when he was hanging there on that cross. The famous final three words,

“It is finished.” (John 19:30)

The word “It” refers to the sacrifice for sins, “is” refers to an ever-present notion that never expires nor changes and “finished” (from the Hebrew root word “Tetelestai”) refers to:

1. An act of completion/perfection (when nothing else can be added)
2. A transaction/deal made final (when nothing else can be changed)
3. A notion of paid in full (when nothing else can be compensated anymore)

So, when Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished,” it means:

1. It is utterly arrogant for us to think that our good works/actions (which the Bible calls filthy rags) can make God forgive us more because Jesus has already completed/perfected the “work” part by dying on the cross for us.
2. It is utterly offensive to think that our works/actions (be it good or bad) can ever change God’s mind to forgive us when Jesus has already sealed the deal with God. His body and life for ours. That was the deal. Not (and never) our works for our salvation.
3. It is utterly foolish to work/serve harder in order to “pay” God more for our forgiveness when Jesus has already paid for our ransom in full.

For these three words, I am thankful. Thankful because I can never outdo what Christ has done for me out of His eternal love for me. Thankful because I can never be holy or evil enough to make God change His mind about me, always the apple of His eye. Thankful because I can never repay God enough yet nothing can ever rob me from His promise of undeserved salvation.

, ,

The Book Of God

Two days ago, I started reading this book called “The Book of God” by Walter Wangerin Jr. I bought this book two good years ago (yeah, I know, stop judging me), and I finally found the time to read it. And guess what? I couldn’t stop reading.

It’s actually the Bible written as a novel. Imagine that. Something like the whole series of Harry Potter (or something better) in one book only more exciting, enlightening and life changing. I’ve read the Bible through and through multiple times, with various versions, various languages (English and Malay because I can’t read Chinese) and accompanied by various commentaries. To be honest, after reading it so many times, I’ve lost the ability to imagine and put myself in the author’s shoes and circumstances. I just read and… read.

But this take on reading the Bible as a novel is a totally fresh change. Walter Wangerin did it pretty well by retelling Biblical stories with imagination, passion, depth, personality and warmth. I shed a few tears here and there reading the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Isaac and Joseph. Yes, I’ve only just finished the book of Genesis (in two days) and you’re probably asking what’s there to cry about these stories. I’ll give you an example. Remember the story of Rachel and Leah? Of how Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah? And how Leah gave birth to lots of children to earn Jacob’s love and Rachel was barren? That whole portion of the story was written in a monologue. Leah’s. It was a monologue of how she hoped that Jacob would look at her, but instead of seeing Leah, he only saw not-Rachel; of how she felt when Jacob told her to leave her new house back to her mother’s house when Rachel came into the picture; of how she felt when she did not speak for her sister for more than ten years because of jealousy; of how they reconciled and realized they both still loved each other dearly. For the first time, after reading this story for so many times, I felt the pain, the rejection and the confusion Leah went through. And there’re many other instances where “insignificant” stories like these were amplified and put in context.

I highly recommend this book, if:

1. You think your Bible reading times has gone mundane and it has become a drag more than an excitement.
2. You’ve read the Bible but you don’t understand why certain parts turn and twist in such a drastic manner (as though certain portions have been fast-forwarded)
3. You want to read a shorter and concise version of the Bible (yes, it does cut short a lot of repeated sections in certain chapters)
4. You lack imagination when reading like me =)

,

All Clogged Up

For the past month, the kitchen pipe at my home was clogged up. Every time when we do the dishes, the pipe hole right on our floor will overflow with… dirty water (I shall not elaborate for the sake of the weak hearted reading this). So, very naturally, we have resorted to not use the sink at all and have come to ignore the problem completely. Until lately when I couldn’t stand it anymore, that is.

I bought some unclogging solution from the hardware shop, poured it into the pipe, waited overnight for the solution to pierce through the stubborn (and gross) sludge and grime, the next day flushed down a whole pail of water into the pipe and voila! The sink is usable again! Water once again flowed gloriously from the sink to the pipes and to the drain (Imagine the scene in Lord of the Rings when Arwen summoned the river to stop the Nazgul).

I think I see a spiritual parallel there now, do you?

Sometimes when you grow older in life, things seem to clog you up. Your ever demanding job, never ending mortgages, dysfunctional relationships, worries of the future, parched spiritual life and unearthly church expectations. These stuff ring a bell? And what do we normally do? Like with the pipe, once clogged and when a mess takes place, we choose to ignore the important matters of life. We escape.

Well, escaping doesn’t really do anyone any good, the same way resorting to not use my sink was a foolish act that wasted a lot of time, convenience and opportunities. All we need is just some “solution” (spiritually) to unclog these issues in our life so that we, like the free flowing water, can move on with our lives in freedom.

“The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

,

Faith: Trusting in Silence

Ever wondered why God allows “terrible” things to happen to His people? I have.

Ever wondered why God doesn’t answer your seemingly good, selfless and expectant prayers? I have.

Ever wondered why God seems so distant and far away no matter how much you try to please Him, read His Word, fast and pray, serve and do everything you can to get Him to come closer? I have.

Ever wondered why God doesn’t show up at times when you need Him the most? I have.

But isn’t that faith? To simply trust unwaveringly despite the deafening silence, knowing that He has the best interest in mind for you?

“Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God’s approval, and his approval creates hope.
This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.” Romans 5:1-5

,

The Giving Of Ourselves

There once was a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor’s corn also improves.

So it is with our lives. Those who choose to live in peace must help their neighbors to live in peace. Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.

The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn.

It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself.

– From the Bible,
Proverbs 11:24-25