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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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Chillin’ On Unanswered Prayers

I’ve always wanted to buy my own house. Several times, I toyed with the idea of doing so, calling up agents to view houses for sale and so on. But somehow, it never got me anywhere near getting my own house.

Currently, I’m renting from my landlady and it has not been a green pasture. Why? Hmm, how do I put this in a good and constructive manner? Let’s just say she’s extremely calculative and her love for money supercedes her responsibilities as a landlady and kindness as a human being. She can be very dishonest and tends to take advantage of us. Many times I’ve been driven up the wall and to be frank, sometimes I feel like pushing her down the stairs. But no, I’m a Christian. I can’t do that =) So, when angered, I’ll just scream, “I BLESS YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST! ROAR!!!” in my mind while talking to her because I believe when I choose to bless others, blessings will come my way. Besides, God is my avenger and He will not shortchange me. Either way, I’m not at the losing end.

Recently, the tension has escalated to an unbearable point that Chrystin and I have decided to look for our own place. We prayed for a landed property in Puchong that costs RM350k or less. A bit too much to ask for as Puchong houses are way too expensive now. With that kind of price, you can only get an apartment/condominium nowadays. After a month of searching for houses, we found a small little house that’s perfect for us and our wallets (it was RM30k cheaper than what we prayed for)! Thank God! It’s minutes away from church, there’re shops nearby and the best part is, it’s located at the turning before Puchong’s horrible jam at IOI Mall!

And yesterday, we’ve paid the deposits and we’re proceeding with the bank and legal processes. We’re getting our own house, honey! And we’re already churning up with so many ideas! A house of ministry, a house to host people and parties, more rooms, island kitchens, rain showers in the bathrooms, a small pond in the yard and so on! It’s so exciting, sometimes I can’t sleep!

Remember how I’ve always wanted to get my own house and never did? I’m starting to wonder if God purposely held me back so that I can share the experience of buying my own house together with my wife. It seems pretty selfish of me to indulge in all the excitement and anticipation of getting my first property without her.

The moral of the story? Sometimes when our prayers ain’t answered immediately, it simply means He has prepared the way and a better plan in store for us. Awesomeness, isn’t it?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

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Steven Who?

There are certain people in life whom I wish never existed. Come on, be honest about it and stop judging me like I’m the only one who thinks that way. I know I can list a whole page (or probably a few) of these people. But I thank God, that on the other hand, I have discovered a handful of those whom I wonder how I would’ve survived without them.

One of them is my pastor, Steven Teoh.


Yes. He is a real pastor. I checked.

Recently, we celebrated his 40th plus plus plus birthday and I can’t really recall when was the last time we celebrated his birthday (we’re never around as his birthday always falls somewhere on Chinese New Year and we’d be back in our hometowns). During the party, Jocelyn asked us to share our first impression of Ps Steven and something to encourage and bless our old man.

Well, my first impression of him: he eyeballs you. Yup, this man doesn’t blink when he stares at you while you’re having a conversation with him. Very intimidating for shy people but then again, I ain’t no shy guy. But his eyeballing simply shows that he cares about what you’re talking about and the best part is, he remembers what you’ve said! Not me though. I may eyeball you but I’d still have no idea what you’re talking about.

And he’s also the reason why I am here. In Eaglepoint and still here in Klang Valley. I was already marked from the moment I told him I’m coming over to KL for further studies. I was destined to be rooted and grow spiritually in Eaglepoint. And like all (mostly) East Malaysians, we yearn to go back to our homelands after we complete our studies but I stayed. Mainly because of the church and him. There were also times where I wanted to leave the church, but I stayed. Also because of him. It’s kinda like how the sinners seem to flock to Jesus and not the Pharisees in the Bible. I don’t need someone who acts holier than me and pretends to care for me. I need someone who genuinely cares, is deeply compassionate and accepts me despite my weaknesses and shortcomings. Like him.

Along this journey of life, I have learned a great deal from him. Well, he’s not exactly the handyman type you’d turn to when you need to change a bulb or fix a car, but when it comes to the matters of life and God, there’s no one else I’d rather turn to. You see, I don’t just want to follow a GOOD role model. I want to follow a GODly role model. Someone who follows Jesus, as I follow him. Because that way, we’ll never go wrong. Like the way he believes in a life of purity, a stand to not defile the marriage bed (aka no sex before marriage)! Obviously that’s not something that Lady Gaga agrees with but definitely something worth following if you want a fulfilling and meaningful marriage. And boy, ain’t I glad I listened! Me and Chrystin kept our purity and we had our first kiss on our wedding day! Call me old fashioned, but it made my marriage darn special. How many people on this earth shares their first kiss with the love of their lives on their wedding day? Not many in this century, I’d say. And right now, he and his wife oversees our relationship and marriage. I couldn’t ask for better counsellors than these two love gurus.

What’s the one thing I really love about having him around? It’s gotta be the permission to confide with one another. Usually pastors are quite reserved when it comes to the way they conduct themselves. You know, the blameless outward appearance and holy aura emitting from them (nothing wrong about this) that they gotta maintain so that their sheep do not question your shepherding? But hey, not him (not that he’s unholy)! He laughs, complaints, gossips updates, goes karaoke, stays up late and the list goes on just like everybody else! Sometimes we talk so openly, I forget he’s a pastor! And because of this, I find it irresistible and almost impossible not to confide with him my deepest concerns or greatest joys with him. And judgement is never the response I’ve gotten from him (probably he secretly judges me in his head).

I call him “ah pa,” meaning dad in chinese and yes, I have three dads: my earthly father, him (my spiritual father) and my Father in heaven. I guess that pretty much sums up our relationship and how much I love and respect this man. I am blessed because you, Steven Teoh, are a godsend!

“You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn. If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

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Top 10 Reasons I Love Malaysia

1. Awesome food found nowhere else. And everywhere else’ food can be found here. And I can eat at any time of the day, thanks to 24/7 mamaks.
2. So multiracial sometimes I forget I’m Chinese and what’s my mother tongue.
3. Watching movies at the cinema is dirt cheap and I have come to appreciate Malaysia’s censorship measures to avoid awkward sex scenes with my parents sitting beside me.
4. I can drive as fast as I can, I just need to slow down when I reach a permanent speed trap (locations posted on the internet).
5. The internet is so slow sometimes it forces me to go out and have some sunshine before I turn vampirishly pale.
6. We’ve got ridiculously corrupted politicians to spark amazing patriotism and instill hate for evil and love for righteousness that I thought I’d never have in me.
7. The weather is blazing hot all year long and I’m constantly burning calories and losing weight due to the excessive sweating.
8. The shopping malls here are so freaking huge, it must be God’s way of instilling patience in me to walk from one end of the mall to the other just to get a pair of shorts (not to mention the extra workout).
9. We’re spared from SO many natural disasters happening all around us.
10. It’s the only place I call home.

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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?

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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

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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.