Archive for February, 2011

Crisis of boredom

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Semi-charmed kinda life

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

I want money, but I don’t want to work. I want time, but I don’t want to schedule. I want to cut corners, but I don’t want to be a bad person. I want to get buff, but I don’t want to work out. I want to be fit, but I hate to control my diet. I want a nice house and car, but I don’t want to pay for it. I want good infrastructure and safe streets but I don’t want taxes. I want a delicious meal and I want it now. I want to be affirmed of who I am, but I don’t want to grow to be more than I am. I want to realise my dreams and I want it to fall on my lap. I want it all.

None of us are exempt from wanting it all in this life. None of these things are necessarily bad. Having a house, owning a car, marrying a wife, being Godly, keeping fit are all good.

The problem with us is not that we haven’t got enough time in our 24 hour day or that we haven’t get enough money. The problem is that we want it all, we want it good and we want it now. We want to have our cake and it eat too. We want time, money and godliness with no effort. Anything that can bring comfort to bodies, anything that we can envision and anything that will affirm us as unique, extrodinary and beautiful individuals (1 John 2:15-17). Anything that can give us more of everything, bring it on!

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:10-13 (TNIV)

I want to be content with this semi-charmed kinda life.

שָׁאוּל

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Reflections from a lively discourse with my muse, Sara, about the meaning of sacrifice (the act or the idea) in 1 Samuel 15:22-23. It was brought up by Brendan during worship practice devotions.

By which God is propitious

But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”

1 Samuel 15:22-23

This was the last straw for God and now he has rejected Saul as king. The monarchy failed even before it’s first king passed on. What happened?

On which the problem is great

The real underlying problem with this whole situation is that Israel was never meant to have a human king (1 Samuel 8:7, 19-21). Their only king is to be Yahweh, but they chose to reject Him. In God’s mercy, He allowed Israel to have a king (1 Samuel 12:19-25). However, his intention was never that the king (or monarchy) would overshadow God’s rule (1 Samuel 12:12-15).

If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God—good! But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors.
1 Samuel 12:14-15

The problem was not that God set Saul up for failure, but the nation set themselves up for failure. Firstly, although God was merciful and allowed Israel their king. Israel would not be entirely satisfied with any king. In the same way that they have treated God, they now treat Saul (1 Samuel 10:27). Secondly, a human king was prone to change. Saul was outstanding physically and the Spirit of God rested on him (1 Samuel 9:2, 10:6 & 9, 11:6-8). But under man’s pressure, the good king backflips quickly (1 Samuel 13:11, 15:24).

In contrast, Yahweh is unchanging. Samuel describes God as “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (1 Samuel 15:29)

To which the future is cautioned

These are perhaps Samuel’s most famous words, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). He states categorically that God desires obedience more than sacrifice. The religious act of sacrifice is meaningless without the moral motive of obedience. Verse 23 mentions rebellion and arrogance as the state of moral motive when religious acts are carried out without obedience. He wasn’t discrediting acts of sacrifice, instead he was saying that obedience is more important.

“To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Mark 12:33

This was also a warning for the future. The law was a reflection of the holy and righteous character of God. Its sacrifical rituals was the mercy of God for a sinful people – to atone for the huge gap in holiness, and a form of worship. The moral laws reflected God’s justice for the poor, hungry, widows and fatherless. The importance of the law, sacrifical rituals and moral code in reflecting the holiness, righteousness and justice of God will not change, but it’s weakness will be revealed in God’s people.

In the future, the kingdom of Israel and Judah would religiously meet the requirements of the sacrifical rituals without the moral code (Isaiah 1:8-17, Jeremiah 7:22-24, Matthew 12:7). It will deepen the habit of atoning for sin without any change of behaviour and heart (Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:6-8). This pattern will increase in intensity until the law and traditions become so twisted that religious observance becomes the form of “righteousness” (Matt 5:20, Luke 8:9-13).

The weakness of the law is this: it’s inability to change people because it works from the outside in.

For whom Christ came for

Today, we are told to read our bibles and pray everyday, join a church and give our tithe (amongst a million other things). Our stories are often the same. The pattern of religiously doing traditions without a change of heart. Unless these acts flow out of His love and grace (1 Corinthians 15:10) that compels us to bring our faith to action (James 2:17-18, John 14:15), they are absolutely meaningless.

Only one God-man could right this wrong. Jesus Christ made good by rectifying the problem from the root (Psalm 40:6-8, Hebrews 10:6-9). He is the King, who is God (Mark 15:2, John 18:36, 2 Peter 1:11). He does only what is obedient to the Father and that is His only goal (John 4:34). The heart of God in the law is summarised in Christ (Mark 12:33). He was obedient even to the sacrifice of Himself (Philippians 2:8). He sent forth the Holy Spirit who works to God’s will from the inside out (John 16:13, 2 Corinthians 4:16). It has all been done for us!

Never before has it been easier to be obedient to a loving God.

At least be as smart as a bush

In the debates over evolution, be sure you do not become less intelligent than the beasts, the birds, the bushes, and the fish. They know something the brilliant godless do not know.

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7–10

Blogged by John Piper at desiringgod.org. Source here.

τὰ βιβλία τὰ ἅγια

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

“Gifting is from the Lord, but character you need to build yourself.”
– Pastor Tristan Siu

Looking through my notes, I stumbled across this interesting quote from one of my bestest friends. How true! Gifts (1 Corinthian 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, Exodus 31:1) by definition come free. However, character does not come cheap.

Fruit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:13-6:10 (22-23 quoted)

The best way I can think of that the bible describes character is in the Fruit of the Spirit. It is the most distinctive physical manifestation of a Christ-transformed life. It comes as a singular fruit, in the same way that character is seen – as an inherent complex of attributes that defines a person’s moral and ethical quality.

I am pretty sure durian is a Fruit of the Spirit as well. Source: Wikipedia

After an emotionally charged appeal to the Galatians not to return to the observance of Jewish law in all its religiousness and legalism (Galatians 5:1-12), he goes on to state what our new freedom means (Galatians 5:13-26, 6:1-6).

The opponent seems to shift from the law (Galatians 5:1-12) to the flesh (Galatians 5:13-26). But really, the law and flesh work together (Romans 8:3-4) to bring condemnation and death. The inability for the law to bring salvation is found in the weakness of our flesh. When we kneel at the altar to submit our lives to Jesus, our flesh is still sitting aside with folded arms.

In stating that “They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Galatians 5:17) Paul acknowledges the battle between our flesh and our spirit. Although Paul makes it sound like our default desire is to follow our flesh, he makes it clear later in verses 24-25 that our default has changed (Romans 8:4).

Sure, there is discipline involved in building character but it is not an enforced discipline (such as the law) but a discipline we subject ourselves to because we are free to and we already naturally do. Nothing is hard when you know that you’re already a natural at it and no one is forcing you to. Just like a favourite hobby!

Seeds
Much is at stake here with building character. Galatians 5:14 states that communities can destroy themselves. Much like the plot of the Lord of the Flies, civilisation will collapse into itself. The sobering truth is that if we are not careful, we “will be destroyed by each other.”. And even if I live as a hermit, I cannot escape the eventual consequence (Galatians 5:21, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

This does not mean that our salvation is based on works. It simply says that character (fruit) reveals what is planted within. Galatians 6:8 makes the connection, skipping past fruits, it goes straight from seed to consequence: “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Our authentic faith in Christ is revealed partly by authentic Christian character – something that we ALREADY have (1 Corinthians 6:11).

All it takes is that the right seeds are planted and that we keep planting. That seed is simple: “… serve on another in lovelove your neighbour as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14) This love is none other than the love that is the nature of God which flows from Christ (1 John 4:8, Matthew 12:32-34).

“Plant an apple seed in a trash heap and it will not produce trash – the character is in the seed.”

Trying to harvest fruit without planting seeds is a painful experience. It is like pretending to eat imaginary food from an empty plate and expecting to be full. It is as good as lying to ourselves. Galatians 6:7 says “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” No sow, no reap, no harvest. If we do not love others, we are unlikely to be kind or gentle. If we do not love ourselves, we are unlikely to be joyful or peaceful. The principle works towards ourselves and towards others.

In practical terms, the seed to having great character looks like this in Galatians 6:9-10: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. I think we often misread two very key words, Paul said all people not other people. This means that we are entitled and responsible to be good to ourselves as well! It might not be easy, but Paul does include a very crucial tip: “Let us not become weary… do not give up.” And if that seems too difficult for you, don’t you worry. It is being done in us, for us – by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10, Hebrews 13:21, 2 Thessalonians 1:11).

Context schmontext

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1:23-25

Kudos to my younger brother (Darius) who blogged about verse, giving me fresh revelation.

Up until now, I have read verse 23 without looking beyond. Just reading verse 23-24, Paul’s exhortation to be doers sound almost like a command without a clue. It reads like, “If you listen and don’t do, you’re an idiot.”

But the true gems of this passage is found in the verses following.

“Whoever looks intently… not forgetting what they have heard… continues in it”
As Darius pointed out, the key is to be a hearer. A very persistent hearer. In a similar principle to Luke 6:45 (and Proverbs 4:23), our doing is an overflow of what we put in. The more we put in and keep putting in, more is stored inside and more will overflow! Our actions are no more than the spillover!

“into the perfect law that gives freedom”
The perfect law that gives freedom is none other than the law of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17, Galatians 5:1). As my father says, “Practice does not make perfect, but perfect practice make perfect”, by this he means that practicing the right thing is as important as practicing itself. In context, we need to be looking intently at the right thing – the freedom in Christ. We do what we hear not out of fear or obligation but out of freedom – because we can.

“they will be blessed in what they do”
Another way of saying it in the KJV is “shall be blessed in his deed”. Our doing is blessed when (because) it stems from an outflow of persistently soaking in his freedom.

It’s hard to do, but it certainly is not hard to persistently enjoy the freedom that is in Christ!

Creature confronts

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of..”

Jackie DeShannon

I guess this is one of the times when love sweet love seems absolutely useless.

But thats all I have.

The strength of compatmentalisation and the failure of disassociation

My greatest strength might be that no matter how wildly my world spins around me, it cannot move me. Almost as if I am separate from my own world. Sure, I do get sad, happy or disappointed but it generally does not have a great effect on my functioning. It makes me sound like a robot, but it keep me going pretty good. It is my way of not fixating on problems. My world, functioning, emotions and thoughts are compartmentalised neatly in boxes.

In situations, my brain doesn’t go elsewhere; my thoughts do not drift off into a far away land. I still feel sad, happy or disappointed or whatever else I feel but I am not overwhelmed or overly expressive. I think Wikipedia explains it most correctly this way, from the article on Emotional Detachment: “This detachment does not mean avoiding the feeling of empathy; it is actually more of an awareness of empathetic feelings that allows the person space needed to rationally choose whether or not to be overwhelmed or manipulated by such feelings.”

Coffee and sugar do not mix

As much as I would like to say that this is perfect, it is not. It is almost as if I am so disassociated from myself that my outward expression is almost stoic. In other words, my mind (and heart) distances itself from my experience – therefore my actions. It is perhaps my own outworking of Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” If nothing bad goes into my heart, then nothing bad can flow out from it.

What if it seems like nothing flows out of my heart at all? What if I need to be able to associate myself emotionally? How do I show that I care, while not being overwhelmed? How do I relate to broken people with a constantly smiling face?

Problem is I don’t actually know how to be anything other than myself.

קֹהֶלֶת

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

A question
“A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth”

Robert Frost

Solomon wasn’t alone it seems.

Happy Chinese New Year

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Huat ah!

We’re tangled

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

You and me. Big mess. All good.

Bland blend

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011