Tuesday, July 31, 2007

No More Autopilot.

Talked with Peter today regarding what Sharon asked me yesterday. To summarise...

I've a lot of little foibles that may be very small in themselves, but put together - lots of little pepper grains make one big irritant. And it's been that way for eons.

And ... hmm. I think I am finally seeing the value of changing, or in Peter's words, "detraining" myself from this habit of going on 'autopilot' aka situationally unaware / indecisive / ultra-passive.

Because it irritates others. Small things, to be sure, but they all add up to become very emotionally draining. Have you tried relating with someone who's very lost in his/her own world? It's super-draining. I know... I've done that too, and it really drains the spirit. And I'm like that too.

But, in any case, the key thing is that it's emotionally draining on others, because they don't want to struggle with anger and impatience.

Asked Peter whether I have grown in this area. He said: "A teensy-weensy bit. At least you've grown much more real." Thank God for that. Valid statement from Peter, 'cos he's known me for a long time already.

Mulling over this feedback, I became very angry. Angry not with Peter, but angry with God. Asked Him why did He make me like this? And why did He place me in this family, where my family members are also... like that?

Felt very angry with Him - "After all these years, I've been trying so hard to change, praying to You for help, and... I'm still like this? WHY?

... I know in all things You work for our good... but WHY?

... I know this life experience can be used by You... but WHY? WHY? WHY? I want to know why did You put me through this experience?"

Meanwhile, Peter took out his PDA and tapped to Philippians 1:12. Quietly, he showed me this:
"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel."

Mmm. God answered. Now it's my turn to respond.

It's been a very colourful time indeed. Seeing my sins and faults in clearer and clearer colours. Scarlet they are indeed. But He died to redeem me from sin's slavery.

"Though your sins be as scarlet, yet will they be as white as wool."

Felt overwhelmed at the beginning, but thank God for His help all the way. Sorted out my thoughts and understood why I was so overwhelmed. Actually, just take one step at a time, and work on this tendency to go for a 'space-walk'.

Well, no more autopilot... :) bear with me yeah?

Then read Psalm 139. It spoke to everything of my fears. Despite my feeling of worthlessness and uselessness, because of me being an irritation... God made me, and He knitted me in my mum's womb. He made me with much, much potential, and He is more eager than I am to see me grow. =)

And the last verse in Psalm 139 really encouraged me. "See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

Just a lot of things to think about, but gee, that's the danger. Of going into 'autopilot' mode again.

Tired. Jesus, hold my hand. Hold me close, Son of God. And make me whole.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Lessons from the Bible for Job Seekers

Was feeling quite stressed today with my job, so prayed to God. Then hee hee, I chanced upon this article... wow, it's very timely and helpful. Lots of very good and practical tips for fresh grads like me... with less than half a year's worth of working experience. :)

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Old Couple

Yesterday, my CG was having dinner eating Lorong 9's famous beef horfun at Geylang, when suddenly someone tapped Sharon on her shoulder. She was startled, and we turned around to see who it was.

It was an old couple. An old man, struggling to hold himself up on his two crutches, frail as frail can be. And an old woman (probably his wife), assisting him, while laden with what seemed to be the only goods that they ever had.

And we gaped at them, not knowing how to respond. Think the same question that was on all our minds was: "Are they genuinely in need, or are they just pretending?"

Perhaps it was because the old couple stood there, not saying a word, though their postures said a lot.

Then Huaqiang broke the impasse. He said, "We can give them food or money."

So we chipped in.

And I ran over to where they were. And as I passed the money to her, I said, "God bless you," not knowing whether she'd understand my English.

But the look on her face told me she understood, if not the words, the heart. Somehow I feel that they are genuinely in need of help.

When I went back to our table, couldn't help but tear when I saw them. Just felt a lot of compassion for them, and it's so incredible - it makes you really want to cry. And I think this is just a tiny inkling of Christ's intense love and compassion for the poor, the needy, the lost.

So grateful to God that He patiently let us help this poor couple. And... but for the grace of God go we... we were eating Singapore's finest beef noodles, and we have people who are hungry, not due to their own fault, but because of sickness and infirmity.

But what a faithful wife to the crippled husband. "For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, 'till death do us part."

Dear Lord, take care of them, and please watch over them... send them more kind-hearted people, and teach us who claim to follow You be more and more kind-hearted like You too. In Jesus' name, I pray amen.

"And You will be found by me."

Help me seek You, seek You, seek You
Help me seek You, seek You, seek You
Help me seek You, seek You, seek You
And my heart will find You

Help me seek You, seek You, seek You
Help me seek You, seek You, seek You
Help me seek You, seek You, seek You
And You will be found by me

This week, somehow it seems that my life's just running on normal mode, not really brimming with vim and vigour. Not that I'm feeling very sad or emo, but just that... my heart doesn't seem to be eagerly desiring the things of God.

And think it's because I've been working so hard this week. Been doing my best to keep in touch with God, and really thankful for His strengthening me and encouraging me. Still, it's like... my Daddy is waiting there for me, and I'm running here and there, only pausing for a few moments to just ask Him for this, or that... just like a busy little boy.

When have I taken time to truly sit down and just seek Him for Who He is? To wait upon Him for His daily guidance?

As it is, I'm just living the natural life of the flesh, not the supernatural life of the Spirit that He wants for every believer, at the moment. Tried inviting my colleague for this Sunday, and when he asked me how I'd found the service last Sunday, realised that ... I didn't have very much to say about it.

And that caused me to reflect and take stock of how have I been.

So I need some extended time to just be with God. Tonight we'll meet, just Him and me. =)

And thank God truly for His Holy Spirit. :)

As I was climbing up the stairs to work today, I'd been praying in the Spirit for the past half-hour, as best as I could, but just had a lot of thoughts and concerns and questions about the future, so was telling God about all these things.

And hee... as I almost reached my office, suddenly I found myself bursting into this prayer:

Help me seek You, seek You, seek You
Help me seek You, seek You, seek You
Help me seek You, seek You, seek You
And You will be found by me.

And I think that is the prayer that really expresses my heart's true need, and puts into heartfelt words what I've been wanting to say, but didn't know how to.

Touched. :) The Wonderful Counsellor has interceded for me with "groans that words cannot express".
Romans 8
26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Making of a Friendship

Read this article on how to build a real friendship - especially for men. It's an excellent article.

When I read this, a question came to my mind, that a sister asked me some time ago: "How do I find a close friend?"

That's a very good question... because the fact is, there are some friends you've been with for years, but are not close, and some friends whom you've only met for a few days, and yet you know that this is one friend who shares the same heartbeat as you.

"Shares the same heartbeat as you." Think that is the critical ingredient in making a Friendship. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis described the difference between Romantic Love and Friendship Love this way:

- Lovers walk together, looking into each other's eyes.
- Friends walk together, looking to the destination/vision ahead.

More simply, it would be, if you find someone who shares the SAME values, vision and passion... a friendship is born! As Lewis put it so funnily: Friendship begins when one says, "What! You too? And all along I thought I was the only one."

Hee. I remember some of the close friendships that I formed in church over the years... and how some drifted apart. I know, because we eventually walked different paths that God called us to, so even though we see each other regularly, the friendship's not so deep now.

Think last time I would have been very upset about losing the closeness of a friendship, but now, with God's help, I've learnt to see the purpose of a friendship from His perspective. A friendship that honours God is one that helps both of us draw nearer to God. Like how Jonathan helped David, in his most difficult times, draw strength from God. And also, just as importantly, helps us fulfill God's destiny for our lives. Like how Ruey Fong encouraged me and helped me discover my calling to minister to children. And spurred me on to be all that I can be for Jesus! :)

Wow. I really don't treasure RF enough. =) He really is a gift from God - there's no other way it could have been. Normal friendships are nice, but friendships with Christ in the centre... wow, that is so wonderful!

And think that's the sum of it ultimately - a good friendship is really a gift from God - you can't ever buy or earn or work or beg for friendship - it must be given freely. It really is a grace of God.

In any case, when we meet finally for ever and ever in the Golden City, the New Jerusalem, we'll never be parted again for all eternity. :D
"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

BTW do read The Four Loves if you haven't yet! :)
C.S. Lewis's famous inspirational work on the nature of love. C.S. Lewis's famous work on the nature of love divides love into four categories: Affection, Friendship, Eros and Charity. The first three are loves which come naturally to the human race. Charity, however, the Gift-love of God, is divine in its source and expression, and without the sweetening grace of this supernatural love, the natural loves become distorted and even dangerous.

And, "Christian History Corner: J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, a Legendary Friendship"
Our world would be poorer without two other worlds: Narnia and Middle-earth. Yet if two young professors had not met at an otherwise ordinary Oxford faculty meeting in 1926, those wondrous lands would still be unknown to us.

British author Colin Duriez, who wrote the article "Tollers and Jack" in issue #78 of Christian History, explains why this is so in his forthcoming book Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship (Hidden Spring). Duriez tells the story of how these two brilliant authors met, discovered their common love for mythical tales, and pledged to bring such stories into the mainstream of public reading taste.

Tolkien and Lewis shared the belief that through myth and legend—for centuries the mode many cultures had used to communicate their deepest truths—a taste of the Christian gospel's "True Myth" could be smuggled past the barriers and biases of secularized readers.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Haikus Are Fun

Seen on a T-shirt:

Haikus are fun
But they don't always make sense.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

And In Other News...

And in other news, the Hope university grads stayed back after Sunday service today to take photos together. We had a really great time, and it was such a joy, seeing us share lives together - thank God for Shunrong, who initiated the whole photo-shooting thing, and Kim Chun and Sherwyn who spontaneously joined in to lend a hand! :D And thank God for Ps Jeff who stayed back to take photos with us, even though he had to rush off. Oh yah, we should send him the photos too.

And also took photos this morning with a dear friend, super-blessed. Was very funny, how the whole thing went... but also very heartwarming, because this friend took the effort to wake up so early! :D

And Yufen and Shunrong joined me for HopeTots today... gosh, Yufen and Shunrong are really great volunteers - I can see clearly that God has really called them to serve in this ministry - they're very good with the children! :D So happy to see more saints mobilised to serve in the church-level ministries!

And oh yes! I'm so excited! Told Yung happily right after she assigned me the task of telling a Bible story to the Kindergarten 2 children... that I really enjoyed it! And she asked me whether I want to do story-telling next next week... so told her, yes! And wow... the vision that God showed me in 2005 is really coming to pass... it was a vision of me sitting on a chair to a group of children from all over the world the story of Jesus...

And I'm actually going to tell a whole roomful of children a Bible story! :D :D :D Wonderful! Marvelous! Beyond my wildest dreams! And I never imagined that I would ever end up doing such a thing in my lifetime... and I love it! I really do! He has given me more than all my heart could ever desire... He has given me life, life abundant! :D

Isn't God so COOL? "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us - to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, both now and forever! Amen!"

(Sorry man, I know this is silly, jumping about all over with exclamation marks... but honestly, when you realise that what you're doing now is exactly what God wants you to do... and that this is part of His perfect plan for you... how can you heart not rejoice? Because not only are you doing what is right in His eyes... you are doing what is giving Him pleasure in His eyes... "And at His right hand are pleasures evermore."

And something that struck me as I was thinking: All too often, we think that we'll only enjoy what we are naturally inclined to do. And that's fine in a way - if we can enjoy doing the work that our natural personalities incline us to (as long as it's good work), then it's a gift of God.

But! Jesus came to give us an even greater joy: the joy of doing something that you know is so totally beyond you that you would have never naturally done it ever... the joy of experiencing God's power working through you! :D

This is something that I realised today. Because normally being with 20++ children drains me of energy. But with the arrival of Yufen and Shunrong, a huge burden is lifted off my shoulders... that is one prayer God has answered - He has sent more workers into His harvest field!

Furthermore, when I pray, really pray and ask Him to fill my heart with love for the children, and empower me with strength, He enables me to go beyond my natural introverted personality self... if we try to go beyond our natural personality selves using natural strength, we feel very drained and don't have much joy doing it. BUT if He enables us to exceed our natural personalities, we no longer feel the drain - because we are now tapping onto a Higher Power Supply - power from on high!

It's like how Jesus enabled Peter to walk on water - it's pretty unnatural for a barefoot human to walk on water, you know. But Peter did, and wow... And an analogy: if we try to fly by ourselves - it's impossible and super tiring. But if we depend on a strength greater than ourselves - like the power of a jet engine, for example, then we can rest on the aeroplane, and walk up and down, relaxing... or just flying for the sheer joy of it.

wow. :D Like what this dear bro said: "Ok cya tomorrow for hopetot then for special service then nexus convo. Wow looking forward for this meaningful day with the lord. Amen."

Yeu Ann: Cultural Learnings of Life for Make Benefit Glorious Social of Situations

Writing this down to remind myself what Hua Qiang answered me over the phone, when I called him to ask him to ask me some questions to help me sort out some thoughts that I was thinking.

Because was thinking how come it is that for a few people, especially those who seem more blur to me, I naturally take initiative to lead the way, direct and just do things like, "We'll go here, go there." And when I am by myself, I'm pretty fine, and can do most things on my own. But when I'm with others, especially those I see as more senior / mature /capable people, I prefer to let them do the directing.

So trying to sort out these apparent inconsistencies. And Very Puzzled. So messaged HQ, "Hey bro, was thinking about some thoughts, and trying to sort them out. Hee, could you help ask me questions to help me think through them deeper? When's a good time to call you?"

The reply came back almost immediately: "Now?"

As the taxi zoomed down the expressway, I called him, and told him about my conundrum, all the way till the taxi turned into the junction of Braddell and Bishan.

Then HQ asked me thoughtfully, "Is it because you prefer to throw the responsibilities to those you see as more capable, and that makes you assume, and you don't want to take the initiative, accept the responsibilities? In a caregroup, everyone has a role and responsibilities to play."

I demurred. "Hmm... think it's because my assertiveness is naturally low, according to that Caliper personality test I took..."

He chuckled, "My assertiveness is also low mah. But you don't find me like that."

Going on, he said, "It's about two possibilities: firstly, you don't know what your responsibilities are in that situation, and the other possibility: you know your responsibilities already, but don't want to accept these responsibilities. One is about knowledge, the other is about attitude. So which one do you think it is?"

I thought about it for a while and replied, "Think it's a mixture of both."

So we went on, back and forth, a Q&A time. It was a really strengthening time, and really thank God so much for HQ's empathy. :)

"Now about expectations... hmm... for example, the Bible tell us to look to the interests of others. But that doesn't mean that we thus refuse to accept good from other people because of that. Don't get me wrong when I say that. What I mean is that the principle of looking to others' interests is not a situational thing. It's something that we all should be consistent in. Thus, the underlying principle in every situation is that. Ok, so maybe it's not so much about expectations I'm talking about here but what the biblical principles are - values, beliefs - and they all should remain consistent in every situation we are in."

And he went on:
"Regarding expectations, which is what you are expected to do in a situation (hope I quoted you correctly, HQ!), there are things to consider such as what are the resources you have available at the moment, what are the problems that need to be solved, and which directions to go.

And another meaningful quote:
"Not every one is naturally a problem-solver. But you do your best to grow in this area."

That statement encouraged me a lot. Because I felt very stressed about solving problems, and I think these words helped me accept this aspect of myself. Because I know my natural personality is not that of a problem-solver. Told him that.

"Haha... I know. For you, you tend to be very anxious. I don't think it's so much of losing focus, which you have kept on saying. There are other factors that make you 'switch off'. Anxiety is one of them. So relax, stop and take a look at what are the resources you have, the problems and what you need to do. If cannot do, then just follow the leader."

"Oh I see! Yah, think it's very true. Because when I'm stressed..."

He chortled, "Yup! So just relax, count to 10, and breath in, breath out."

I interjected, "And I can use a Bible verse to help me too here! Philippians 4:4-7!"

"And this verse too: 'Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you!'"

And we laughed heartily.

Then before I could ask him a question that was on my mind throughout the conversation, he continued:
"Now how do you know what your responsibilities are for a situation? Well, you can read books to learn more about your given responsibilities in a particular situation, whether it's from books or the Bible. For instance, you can learn more about your responsibilities in a community from one of the teachings that ... hmm... I think there was one teaching last time about this, our roles and responsibilities in a community. After that, you then apply into your situations. Finally, you can ask people for feedback on whether you're applying what you've learnt correctly or wrongly. So it's Learn - Apply - Feedback."

"I see... but what about... let's say, for example, I make someone angry, and he has a black face... you know, I'm afraid that he'll blast me for that."

"Oh, then you ask other people about him lor. Don't have to ask him directly. Haha!"

So that's that for today's learning experiences. It was a great relief, and think three of the most practical things that I can apply immediately are:

- Calm down when i'm in tight situations - i get very prone to 'switching off'. Use the Word of God to help 'cool' me down... :D

- Find out more about my responsilities in a situation.

- And take initiative in what I already know are my responsibilities.

Thank You Lord for teaching me something new today! :D In Jesus' name, Amen!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Turn Yourself into a Simpsons Character!

This is so cool! :D

Go to simpsonizeme.com, upload a photo of yourself and the application analyzes your face, turning you into an honorary Springfield resident.

Here's a pic of me as a Simpsons character... haha... well, think it's a pretty good try... though I doubt I do really look like that! :P

Peace and Joy!

Colossians 3:12-17 (NLT)
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Was reading this passage to meditate on this, and I just find it ... renewing. :) It feels a lot like a mirror, because when I read this, it causes me to reflect on my own life and deeds and attitudes.

"And always be thankful." I was wondering why did Paul put in this sentence - at first glance, it looks like something added on as an afterthought. But, think I understand better now why he said that. In the context of this passage, Paul was talking about the relational unity of those who are truly His, in order to counter the Gnostics' false teaching that the physical world, including human relationships, does not matter. We could be very "spiritual" to the point of asceticism, but if we do not love our brothers and sisters, whom we can see, then how can we love God, whom we cannot see?

Hence, if we have a grumbling spirit - one that is easily discontented and does not give thanks - such a murmuring spirit will eventually poison every aspect of our lives, including our relationships with our brothers and sisters. We become increasingly discontented in our relationships, having unrealistic expectations, not showing grace, and constantly finding fault with others over the smallest things.

That reminded me, because while on the bus back last night, I was being moody again, despite many wonderful blessings (e.g. a great dinner with Yufen and Zhiwei, and oh yes, a pay raise - it was such an unexpected blessing!) yesterday, I still was rumininating on some worries about work, instead of thanking God for His many blessings. One of the stupid things I was doing was trying to compare my pay rise with my other colleagues...(go figure... I've already got a pay rise within one month of joining and I'm STILL complaining? I really deserve to be whacked upside-down...)

Then, after praying to God, I realized that I tend to be very easily discontented and start comparing. Think God was asking me, "Why are you comparing your blessings with others?" And I was reminded of the Israelites' constant grumbling in the desert - and how God was very angry with them for their ungrateful hearts. As Paul later told the Jews in Acts 13:18, "He endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert..."

Hmm. Realised I haven't repented yet of this sin. Oh no. It's now or never!


So think that's why Paul added in that part about being thankful. Thankful for what? Thankful for everything good, no matter how big or small. Think if we are thankful for little things today, we are enabled to be thankful for greater things tomorrow. Just as discontentment can take root in a believer's life and ruin his/her soul, so can a grateful and thankful spirit, with God's help, take root and flourish a rich and joyful heart.

And isn't a joyful heart great for building bonds of love, peace and unity in the Spirit?

"And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful."

For when I'm thankful, I enable the peace that comes from Christ to rule inwardly, and I enable myself to live in peace with others outwardly.

To put it more personally, I think, even right now, today, a lot of us still do not experience much peace in our hearts. Haven't we all felt, at one time or another, fear at times when we meet up in our caregroups or church services? Longing just to relate to one another in Christ's peace - the peace that transcends personality, ethnic, cultural and language differences? Yet the fear that we'll get rejected because we sinned against someone, even though we sincerely are sorry, or because we feel different from the rest of the brothers and sisters? Or because of this and that... We might even begin to feel that they wouldn't care if we died. :P

This kind of experience is very real for many Christians. But thank God, we aren't alone, because even back in the first century, the apostle Paul was writing to the church regarding this issue.

Actually, I know someone who has a heart of complaining and is often very moody... as a result, this person is not close to God and to other people too. So after looking at this person's life, I also realise that my tendency to be moody and complaining in my heart does affect my own walk with God and people.

God doesn't want me to drag myself along life's lonely road, murmuring and complaining... unless what He said about "Ye shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace! and the mountains shall burst into song before thee..." was a big fat lie. But He does not lie. If Christians in death camps can sing joyfully to God, then hee, a thankful heart is a very powerful witness for our dear Lord Jesus! :D

Wow! Think that is something I learnt from this verse. So must pray for myself and my CG and unit and sub-d... that we'll grow in an increasingly thankful heart to God... really looking forward to a transformed ministry where everyone is growing ever and ever thankful to our great Saviour! :D Hallelujah!

Band of Brothers - Operation Bear

Band of Brothers - Operation Bear

Situation: Terrain: river, 25m hill, cave & enclosed field

Friendly Forces: All fellow brothers in church

Enemy Forces: 3 L's (Lack of masculine model, Lack of initiative & Lack of encouragement)

Mission Objectives: Manly fun, strengthen ties & develop mutual support

Execution: Rendezvous Point: SAFRA Sports Adventure Centre (Yishun)

Time: 9 Aug 2007, 0900 to 1300 hours

Attire: Sports/PT attire (note: prepare for river crossing)

Description: Register by 29 July 2007 through Sub-district Administrators. Your commander/deputy will call to inform you of your unit & further details. Units will gather at RP for pre-mission brief before commencing on their mission.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wow, just checked out my sis's MySpace page (the one in England)... she's very musically inclined... found Josh Groban's MySpace link through her page too. =)

The Ten Commandments of Gelato

Had a good dinner with James and Weizhu at Spagheddies today. :) Great time of chatting...

And after that, WZ and I ate Gelato from the Gelato stall near Lido Orchard Cineplex. "Best gelato I've ever eaten," enthused Weizhu. So we ate. Mango flavour tasted fresh, though the chocolate hazelnut had this cloying sweetness. But whoa, two whole hazelnuts in there. Go figure!

Anyway WZ came up with some crazy lines, the gelato ice-cream being so good and all that... read these and weep!

The Ten Commandments of Gelato:

"Thou shalt have no other gelato before me."

"Thou shalt not make for yourselves an ice-cream containing other gelatos..."

"Honour thy rum and raisin."

And the killer:
"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's flavor."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Spirit of Excellence

Read Guanrui's latest entry, and wow, it is very inspiring. :D I remember how he told me that when he became a Christian in NS, he wanted to shine for Christ and inspire his soldiers even as he did his duty as a platoon sergeant. So he did. :) And praise God, he has impacted many lives through his faithfulness for Christ in his daily living. :D

Think that is something about Guanrui's life that I really look up to him as a role model for me. Especially now that I'm working. His spirit of excellence for the Lord. Honestly, there are many Christians who have inspired me in many ways - but this brother is especially inspiring to me in my life to be faithful to the Lord. Thank God for you, Jacob! :D

And oh, I think I didn't mention this before, but bro, if you happen to be reading this, think I just want to affirm you for your humility. Especially how you responded so readily, willingly and sweetly after I had scolded you and someone else. Actually was really super-touched when I saw that sweet spirit - it's something that makes me ... hmm... feel a bit teary-eyed. :D

Whispers of His Righteousness

I was sitting at my desk, and worrying. Then while trying to check my office email, the proxy server was down. So decided to continue reading "How People Grow". Something I realised recently was that I was lacking in desire to read good books, especially the Christian ones... somehow I just didn't want to. Which, think for me, is a symptom of spiritual dryness.

Then as I flipped through the pages, this verse caught my attention. Not very dramatic, but it was just there.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Felt that God was whispering to me these words to me, even though I could have just ignored. But thank God I decided not to ignore... so just read this verse a little more, and ... I think He is speaking to me even now. Realised that all along I'd been wanting Him to shout loudly to me, but realised that He'd rather whisper to me softly and gently, for He himself said that He is gentle and humble in heart. And don't lovers whisper to one another? How much more the God who is Love...

What He whispered to me:
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

No wonder I'd been feeling so amiss - I'd been very seeking after His Kingdom, kingdom-minded, and really desiring to share Christ with so many people...

But I forgot something important too. His righteousness. It's so important for me personally, because in my work, I need to work right with God. That means no sloppy work, no skipping over details, etc...

That, and other aspects of my life. Righteousness. His righteousness. How I want to walk RIGHT with God.

Again I'm reminded of what RF exhorted me when we ate our last meal together: "So many people are smart and talented, but they don't get the opportunities that they need to get ahead in life. And such opportunities can only come from God. So walk right with God, and He'll walk right with you."


Wow, surprising. Stayed back during lunch, because wanted to just spend some time reading the Bible and talking to God. But surprisingly, bumped into my sup as I was going out, and we ended up going to the canteen. No talk about work, just a pleasant chat about his home country and so on. =)

Think just want to say thank You Lord for being with me throughout this time. it's been a rather sian-ish kind of thing today, b'cos really no tasks for me to clear today, apart from sticking up a bug tracker list. Been asking around if they need help, but really nothing else at the moment. So think I'll practise the application that we're working on.

And just came back from praying during lunch time. Read "How People Grow", and reminded abt the value of suffering and pain (the good kind) - how essential it is for growth. Realised after my fears and so on, things gg like that during work, all these serve to drive me back to God, and go closer to Him.

But I feel sad b'cos must it be tt God has to keep disciplining me to come back to Him? "Those I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent."

But yah... I know my heart is so deceitful... but I long to be with You.

Oh dear. God, it's been an awfully dryish kind of time, where i really don't know how to express everything that's been in my heart and mind... tt's why I'm so thankful to You for the Holy Spirit.

Hold me close, Lord Jesus. It's gonna be a long while and I really need You.

Maybe why I'm feeling dry is because I don't think I've been hearing from You lately. Could it be because of my pride? Unconfessed sins? Unwilling heart to listen? Or something else?

Monday, July 16, 2007


I think work's been passing by quickly. And it's quite ok, settling down. But gee, I long for fellowship with the other bros and sisters, even if it's just an SMS or reading their blogs (so all ye who haven't updated thy blogs... repent! haha).

Anyway, am just feeling rather melancholic at the moment. Had a good lunch with my colleagues, but yeah, I wish I wasn't so quiet at times. Actually, hee, I am quiet at times in church too, even, and honestly, I keep thinking that isn't a good thing.

But am I conforming to other people's expectations of me, or am I conforming to what God wants to see me be?

I remember how I used to play the class clown back in secondary school and JC, because I wanted to make people laugh. Honestly, I do enjoy that, but also I think it was partly because of insecurity. Hmm. Come to think of it - I'm comparing myself to the others when it comes to making jokes - I don't know where in the world they get all the good jokes from. :P Haha...

But real friendships are never built upon a joke. And I know my strengths - listening and sincerity and loyalty. As HH told me before, your strength isn't in joking... it's in your sincerity. So maybe it's because I'm too impatient to build relationships with others that I see humour simply as a bridge to build surface relationships.

Surface relationships. Hmm. Somehow I have this view that it's important to connect with people. Hey, yah, it IS true - before you can go deeper in friendships, you have to connect first. Took this test before, and found out that by nature, I'm an ultra-reserved person - I don't disclose very much about myself - which is important to building deeper relationships. One can talk a lot about himself, but not a lot about what is in himself.

But thank God for Peter and Ruey Fong who helped encourage me to open up more. :)

A lot of thoughts swirling around in my mind. That, and the desire to reach out, share more of Christ's love to those around me... feeling a bit... discouraged? because I keep seeing this task as beyond my personality, calling for better qualified people instead. And I hear many discouraging voices telling me that I can't do it - there's always someone better than me.

But, God's Word then speaks to me:
We demolish arguments and every pretension
that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

And I remember that what really counts in His eyes is obedience that comes from faith. And that the righteous shall live by faith. It's a dare, it's a dream - and I shall probably fall flat down and be defeated. So be it. But if my God is for me, who can be against me? :)
Wow, there's so many things that I want to jot down recently.

Well, think the most important thing to write down first is the sermon today - "Getting Life on Track" from Micah 6:1-8: Be Accountable, Be Grateful and Be Humble.

Then just some personal thoughts based on Micah 6:8... this verse really kept going on and on in my head after I left the service.
"And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

1. The part about Being Grateful:

This was one of the points in the sermon, how it can help us keep on track in our walk with God.

Was thinking about this, and though I mentally assent to the fact that God has always been good to me... it's been a very long time since I remembered specifically. In Micah 6, God recounted to the Israelites what He had specifically done for them, like a prosecutor holding up "Exhibit A", "B" and "C" in court.

And I remember that day He first came into my life. I was feeling uncertain about my salvation, but I remember that if what the preacher said was true, then well, I'll take it as true, because I did want to have this Jesus in my life, to transform me, because it was a mess.

And how he changed my heart over time, in inexplicable ways. One of my friends said that I looked different. Was very pleasantly encouraged. Others were stunned - asking me, "How come you're so holy now?"

And I remember the first time that he convicted my heart. That day was when I lost my temper with my mum and hid her laptop because of that. She was so worried when she was in school, finding her laptop missing. But even before I went back home, the Holy Spirit kept convicting me so much throughout the day, that I was in tears as I walked back home. And when I reached back home, for the first time in my life, I just apologised to my mum and listened to her scolding. And strangely, I felt a deep joy in my heart, knowing that God had forgiven me of this sin.

So many things to recount. Like how he helped me during my A levels. And how I told my grandfather, as he was dying on his bed, "I love you, Kong Kong." I doubt I would have ever done that before I became a Christian. Felt a lot of peace in my heart when we were at his funeral, because I know that he accepted Christ into his heart just before he died. That time I was still a very young Christian, but I knew that he'd gone to heaven and I'll see him again.

And how during my uni days, he broke my spirit and humbled me, when I became proud. Stripping me bare, telling me so clearly that day after service - it was almost audible, that voice, I still remember - that He is all I need. How I needed to hear that voice, because He really stripped away everything in my heart, "reformatting" my spiritual foundations and making sure that I understood what exactly it means to be a Christian.

And how, after that period of brokenness of one year (that time I had even entertained thoughts of ending it all), He poured so many blessings and joys into my life... e.g. Ruey Fong's friendship - wow. He really is a blessing from God. :) And how I experienced a much deeper joy than I'd ever experienced before. And breakthrough in relationships with God and people. And a renewed understanding of grace.

And Weizhu's card to me - I'll never forget those words.

Wow. Jesus really is so sweet. His love is truly deeper than anything I've ever known. If all things in this life were to be taken away, I know for sure that He is all I need. Really.

"And there is nothing in this world
That can ever change His love..."

And oh yes! He gave me hope, and even a new name. :) Abraham. And a ministry some more. Burden for children. Hee. I was so surprised, while sharing with Peter about the children, to find tears rolling down my cheeks. Really can see that this is a divine burden that God has placed in my heart for the children of the world.

And now, I think He may be calling me to go to Botswana for a while. Was sharing with Huaqiang and Sarah. Shared with Peter too. I'm not sure, but really have a burden to tell others about Jesus. I'm really not sure - but well, if it's His will, He'll open the doors in due time. And I'm feeling nervous, because it means stepping out of my comfort zone and taking the initiative. But like Abraham, I want to obey and go, even though I may not know where I'm going.

It's strange yeah. But in the end, it's really not the "titles" in church that count. What really counts is your character, and that can only be transformed when you come to know this person called Jesus Christ. He is my dearest friend in this whole life, in this whole world, and there is nothing in this world that can ever take away His love. :) He has done me no wrong, and He has given me so much. How can I not love Him - and yet I still love Him so little! - after all that He has done for me?

Romans 8:35-39
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Edwin wrote about how God has been transforming him. :) And have been bonding with KC - realised he's been growing in humility - wow! very encouraged by these dear friends and bros in Christ.

And that's one of the greatest joys in being disciples of Christ. Transformation. As Ortberg puts it so succintly: "We shall morph indeed." And as the apostle Paul puts it so extravagantly: "

Hmm. Think something that God is pushing me to be transformed in is a servant's heart. To be honest, I'm very quickly irritated when my ma keeps asking me for help every 5 or 10 minutes. Gee. But her love language is acts of service - it's very clear in the way she does little things for me unasked.

It's very funny in a way - my love language is words of affirmation and definitely not acts of service, whereas my mum's love language is the opposite.

Yet... when I'm irritated, somehow I'm reminded (it must be the Holy Spirit convicting me :)) that I have to learn to die to self, to be a servant, to do everything without arguing or complaining.

And oh, something sweet. :) I was helping my mum with the computer, when while waiting for the computer to load up, I wondered how my mum has been feeling. So just took time to look at her a bit longer. Then she looked at me. I guess she was surprised. Then she told me, "You don't look so skinny now. You've put on more weight."

Very terse, but these from my mum - these words speak of her heart for me. :) It's been so long since we last had some real quality time together.

O God, transform my heart more and more till we are changed completely into Your image. In Jesus' name amen.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Decisions, Decisions!

Oh God, how ah? :) Today's such a free day, I'm feeling at a loss what to do for today.

Not that I'm bored with nothing to do - on the contrary, I've so many things I want to do for God. :) Especially when time is running out - I'm young only once...

So possible choices for today:
- Meet someone up for dinner - Tai Heng or Shawn or Guang Ann or KC or Edmund or Shunrong?
- Sit down at St. Andrew's Cathedral and spend some quality time with God? :)
- Sit down at a coffee-place and read a good book?
- Go to Funan Centre to buy that set of headphones I've always wanted to get.
- Prepare some gifts for my friends?
- Finish typing my mum's notes.
- Clean up my room. (Ugh.)
- Go jogging. (Double-ugh - I hate exercising alone.)
- Learn balloon-sculpting - great for HopeTots (esp after I saw that man on the MRT train last night)
- Add more entries to the HopeKids blog.
- Get lost in a good bookshop. :)

Priorities, priorities. Time is such a precious resource to invest in for God. Now which are the urgent priorities and which are the IMPORTANT priorities? Develop self or develop others? What are the purposes of what I do today?

- Meet someone up for dinner - Tai Heng or Shawn or Guang Ann or KC or Edmund or Shunrong?
[Build relationships]
- Sit down at St. Andrew's Cathedral and spend some quality time with God? :)
[Ask God for His guidance in this quarter-life adventure (why the heck do people keep calling this a "crisis" anyway???)]
- Sit down at a coffee-place and read a good book?
[Develop my mind and fill it with good and lovely things]
- Go to Funan Centre to buy that set of headphones I've always wanted to get.
[Get hold of some beautiful and happy music so that it can fill me with joy at my workplace]
- Prepare some gifts for my friends?
[Build relationships to really bless their hearts]
- Finish typing my mum's notes.
[To serve my mum in love]
- Clean up my room. (Ugh.)
[To save all who enter my room.]
- Go jogging. (Double-ugh - I hate exercising alone.)
[To save my body. :P]
- Learn balloon-sculpting - great for HopeTots (esp after I saw that man on the MRT train last night)
[To bless my children in HopeTots :) plus it's a very useful entertaining skill]
- Add more entries to the HopeKids blog.
[To stimulate mentally the kids who read it]

Now the only thing I need to do is get out of the house. Gee. Looks like I'll never get that room cleaned up. Maybe if I find someone else to do it together, that'll be so much more fun! :)

How My Unbelieving Wife Took The News of My Suddenly Becoming a Christian (Pt. 1)

Oh man, I find this so shiveringly romantic and yet funny too. XD

How My Unbelieving Wife Took The News of My Suddenly Becoming a Christian (Pt. 1)

Anyway, the man Cat left behind on her business trip that week was the Happy Heathen Husband whom she’d always known and tolerated. The man waiting for her at the airport the night she flew home, however, was … well, holding a Bible, for one.

“Is that a Bible?” she asked, after having jumped in my arms, and hugged and kissed me so much it was all I could do to pretend it embarrassed me.

“Uh, yes,” I said. “It is.” By then we’d started walking toward the baggage claim. She stopped dead in her tracks.

“What?” I said. “What is it?”

She closed the distance between us, and fixed me with her humongous brown eyes that always seem to have behind them energy and love piped in directly from, well, God.

“Something’s going on with you,” she said. “What is it?”

See, this is the problem with marrying a woman with freakish, supernatural intuitive powers. I could be just thinking about, say, artic seals, and she’d go, “I just got cold. Are you cold?” It’s like living with Cassandra, the Gypsy Empath.

“No, no” I said, trying to sound casual. I didn’t want to tell her at the airport. “Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s good.”

“I didn’t say anything was wrong,” she said. “I said something was going on with you. You seem … different.”

“Well, a week is the longest we’ve ever been apart,” I replied. “I’m surprised you recognize me at all. In fact, when you first came off the plane I saw you heading for that other guy, that cop-looking guy. Oh, sure, he was handsome. If he hadn’t been so groomed, you’d probably be going home with him right now.”

She reached up, and rubbed her fingers in my longish stubble. “I do prefer the furry types,” said.

“C’mon,” I said. “I’m feeling too psychologically fit. Let’s go get our baggage, man.”

About halfway through our drive home from the airport that night, Cat said, “So? When are you going to tell me what’s going on with you?” [to be continued...]
I came back earlier from a movie outing (Harry Potter) with my CG. As I was on the train, I noticed the guy next to me was working with sausage balloons. Pump placed carefully on his lap, he was putting the finishing touches to a heart-shaped weave of balloons. Wow! I think he might be making it for his wife/girlfriend/children.

As he deftly spun and snapped the balloons into shape, the people around him were curious. But even though a lot of people were craning their necks to see how he could do such an impressive piece of balloon art, he was intensely focused on his work.

Wow! Such beautiful balloon art. I couldn't help smiling in awe at the impressive balloon artwork. Especially considering that he was doing it on a crowded MRT train with knick-knacks on his lap.

As I watched his fingers fly with practiced confidence, the balloons took shape, initially in a very mysterious configuration, leaving us spectators guessing what it would turn out to be in the end.

And as he twisted and turned a brown rubber balloon, the framework came into place, and then the twists and turns, the shape of a face started becoming clear. Then he inserted in a pink one. That became a large pair of lips. Finally, with a twist, he added the yellow eyes and purple nose.

At that point, I had to resist the urge to burst out into applause - it was that good.

While watching, I was reminded that this is how God shapes our lives, and how He created us. We watch Him shape the big and little pieces of our lives, and the angels watch too. We start speculating excitedly - "that piece He's holding there - I think He's making a big heart!" "No, that's the shape of a mighty arm!" "Naw... that's a sharp brain he's making!" - and the angels whisper in awe to one another of what God is doing in our lives. "Even angels long to look into these things." (1 Peter 1:12c)

And His hands are so intensely upon our lives. Just as the man knitted the delicate balloons to form, first a simple but beautiful heart, and then a complicated face, so did God knit our delicate DNA and proteins into living beings - each set greater than the ones before.

"Did you not...clothe me with skin and flesh
and knit me together with bones and sinews?"
Job 10:10-11

"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you."
Psalm 139:13-18

So, for the first time in my life, I experientially understood analogically, the awesome joy of seeing God's work of creation in progress... and how seeing His creation in progress, just simply couldn't help but smile so much when I think of how He not only shaped us physically, but our very lives and destinies, even though right now it is a mystery what He is making us into. Even the angels don't know just how wonderful. But one thing for sure - when they saw Him spin the galaxies into being, and shape the earth with His very own hands...

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone-

while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

Job 38:4-7

Wow. :D And... something precious too: even when you and I are wondering what God is shaping us into, what His exact plans for your life and mine are - don't be discouraged... you may not understand now, but frankly, the un-understandable things that we have to all go through - are to serve as the foundations of His perfect plans for you and me!

Internet buzz over PM Lee's son

Oh man, this is very interesting! From none other than the Straits Times:

ONE day after it emerged that the Prime Minister's son had been reprimanded for firing an email to the SAF's top brass to complain about a fellow officer, the Internet is abuzz over the issue of whistle-blowing.

A trawl of blogs and online forums show that the cyber chatter has even shifted from admonishing what was earlier described as a 'brash act' from a 'white horse' to netizens now empathising with and even supporting Second Lieutenant Li Hongyi...

When I read the email that 2LT Li (PM Lee's son) wrote, I was very awed actually. Of course, it helps a LOT that he's the PM's son, but nevertheless, what he wrote was really... wow, this is one Singaporean we can be proud of - willing to speak up even if he gets kena charged. And he DID get charged for not following the proper chain of command. Yet... he paid the price, but gee, to be honest, I feel proud of this guy. :D think we can learn from him here - not to be afraid to speak up for justice, no less. He's got the power, and he's not afraid to use it for good. :D Thank God for him! :D

Of course, on a more sober note, as some other bloggers have put it, he should have spoken up more carefully. And perhaps, there is the danger in a way of falling into the trap of pride and self-righteousness even when having good and right intentions... so there needs to be a balance here.

Gee. Think he'll make a great leader in terms of character, but as a future politician, he may step on many people's toes if he's not careful to treat them carefully... haha, I'm thinking, he probably has more of his grandfather's personality than that of his dad? :)

Another blogger speaks:
"As I was scanning through the comments and opinions of the other bloggers, it turns out that most of them agreed that Li Hong Yi has done the right thing on this account even though he was punished in the process for speaking out. At least, our Prime Minister can take heart that his son has a better standing with public opinion in terms of his upbringing as contrast to a spoilt brat, Wee Shu Min who got her father and herself into a public backlash with her infamous comments."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cultural Degeneration?

An article from Time magazine. This writer pointed out something that I'd felt was strange with the Harry series. And lots of children reading the Potter series.

But just to think that the world is a poorer place today in terms of culture - as compared to the noble and majestic themes of courage, sacrifice and fellowship in Tolkien's works and the childlike delight of wonder and exploration and redemption in Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, somehow, I just feel that Potter can't measure up to these two noble literary works.

As Grossman subtly, but caustically, writes:
This charming notion represents a cultural sea change. In the new millennium, magic comes not from God or nature or anything grander or more mystical than a mere human emotion. In choosing Rowling as the reigning dreamer of our era, we have chosen a writer who dreams of a secular, bureaucratized, all-too-human sorcery, in which psychology and technology have superseded the sacred.

And I think that's the disease of an arising global cultural discourse in these last days. Instead of attaining cultural enrichment, we have sunk into cultural degradation. Degradation as in increasing triteness, increasing shallowness, decreasing meaning, decreasing permanence. We've mistaken novelty for authenticity. In short, we are "men without chests", and we're participating in our very own "Abolition of Man".

We have trivialised the beauty of man, made in the image of God, and have ground all that makes us human into the dust of the earth - "from dust you are, and to dust you shall return" - humanity's fallenness starkly epitomized.

Just compare today's "postmodern" art forms (think embalmed cows and bejewelled skulls) with the glories of the Renaissance, arguably the prime of humanity's art. In our attempts to scale the mountains of "relevance", we've scaled the peak - and stumbled over into the abyss below.

We have forsaken the spring of living waters and built for ourselves broken cisterns that cannot hold water. Lord, what can we do?

The Doubting Harry
By Lev Grossman

... Rowling's work is so familiar that we've forgotten how radical it really is. Look at her literary forebears. In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien fused his ardent Catholicism with a deep, nostalgic love for the unspoiled English landscape. C.S. Lewis was a devout Anglican whose Chronicles of Narnia forms an extended argument for Christian faith. Now look at Rowling's books. What's missing? If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God.

Harry Potter lives in a world free of any religion or spirituality of any kind. He lives surrounded by ghosts but has no one to pray to, even if he were so inclined, which he isn't. Rowling has more in common with celebrity atheists like Christopher Hitchens than she has with Tolkien and Lewis.

What does Harry have instead of God? Rowling's answer, at once glib and profound, is that Harry's power comes from love. This charming notion represents a cultural sea change. In the new millennium, magic comes not from God or nature or anything grander or more mystical than a mere human emotion. In choosing Rowling as the reigning dreamer of our era, we have chosen a writer who dreams of a secular, bureaucratized, all-too-human sorcery, in which psychology and technology have superseded the sacred.

When the end comes, where will it leave Harry? He'll face tougher choices than his fantasy ancestors did. Frodo was last seen skipping town with the elves. Lewis sent the Pevensie kids to the paradise of Aslan's Land. It's unlikely that such a comfortable retirement awaits Harry in the Deathly Hallows.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Shepping with Peter

1. "Dwelling in sweetness" - trust God, and don't take up your "CPU resources" - think about more fruitful things!

Bible verse: "The heart is deceitful above all things..." Ask the Spirit to search my heart! (And what a relief when I heard that verse.)

2. "Toughening up" - God is using my working life to train me up in toughening me emotionally when I face setbacks - so that I don't get instantly reduced to a puddle of water when I face such obstacles - especially when I become a leader of God's flock next time. Peter asked me, "If you, as a leader, become very emotional when facing setbacks, then how will that affect the people following your direction?" A wise question.

But wow, thank God for His timely telling me. Now I know that this is something that He pointed out to me through my shepherd, I want to grow, from strength to strength, in this area. One acid test would be: if a superior were to suddenly blast out in fury at me, would I be able to stand?

Gee. At my current level, I know I'll definitely melt into a puddle of water. But thanks be to God - He helps us grow! So here's looking forward to a new period of growth and maturity... and joy in the Holy Ghost! :D

Bible verse: To look through the Bible to find out more what it says about handling my emotions. Not suppressing, but handling them. :D

3. "Training in humility" - even if you know you're going to get scolded for asking questions at work, be humble and learn anyway! Asking questions (not the same ones again and again of course) with a heart and desire to learn more, that is good in God's eyes.

Jesus' example as a 12 years old:
Luke 2:46
After three days [Jesus' parents] found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

And the result?
Luke 2:52
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Hee, somehow I love this verse - it just feels so sweet and wonderful, to think of how God became a baby, and then a young boy and into a man. Just felt... that when we look at His very ordinary background as a blue-collar worker's son, somehow, it is very reassuring to know that God Himself grew up as one of US. Wow. Just really warms my heart to think about Jesus. :)


Saw this poll in the Straits Time home page just now.

Homosexuality in Singapore
MM Lee Kuan Yew recently said that "homosexuals are mostly born that way." The Government has in effect adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. With Singapore becoming more cosmopolitan, should society also be more open towards homosexuality?

And the results of the polls so far:
Singapore should be:
More accepting
Less accepting
Maintain current level of acceptance

Very partisan views indeed. Ok, so this isn't a very representative poll. But was thinking - think we shouldn't just be 'accepting' just because the culture says so. There could be a very good reason why more 'conservative' cultures and religions are so dead-set against homosexuality.

As unewolke asks:
Having an open mind means being more tolerant? So having a view and sticking to it is not having an open mind?
Posted by: unewolke at Mon Jul 02 22:17:06 SGT 2007

Good question. :)

And in other news, Jeannie and I were talking about Singapore's economic growth - an amazing 8.2%! :) But personally, I'm not too keen about employers giving out too big bonuses and salaries. Was commenting to Jeannie that it's important for employers to save more money for the future recession that is sure to come. That's why I'm thankful for the flexi-wage allowance - think having a lower-paying job in a recession is better than no job at all. But, is that really a good idea, or are there better ideas out there?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Met one of my new friends, Kingsley. He's actually the brother of one of my old friends, and we met before many years ago when I went to his house to play computer games. :)

So anyway, many years later, he's now working as an investment advisor. So we met up one-on-one, 'cos I'm interested in finding out more about the various investment types available. Gee, he presented well, including the negative risks of investing in land... it's generally not meant for those looking for a fast buck. Takes between 6 to 15 years to mature. But that's what I want... something more stable. :)

But yeah, does look nice... only problem is that to buy one unit requires $10K of principal. That, in real estate terms, is on the cheap side, according to him. Wah. Maybe in a few years' time.

Huaqiang also met up with Kingsley the day before. Think shall ask HQ what he thinks about this kind of investment.

But anyway, very blessed by Kingsley's sincerity. :) Hope to keep in touch with him!

But yeah, investments are important too. I guess, besides the usual "retirement nest egg" and so on, what motivates me to want to start investing is that these funds can be used to help the poor and needy.

Think one of the brothers last time (probably was Huanyan) asked us this question: "What would you do if you suddenly got a million dollars?"

We gave various answers, but the general opinion, we being Christians, was, give it to God, and also to the poor and so on...

Then this bro said, "Why, I'll invest the $1 million and use the profits to give to God and so on."

Wow! What a good idea... and think something that Jesus would have said to, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" :)

'Cos we are called to be good stewards of whatever God has given us. Think the spirit of being an excellent steward, as Jesus taught in his parables, is not to just keep things safe. It's to MULTIPLY them. That is true faithfulness.

So whether it's our natural talents e.g. soccer, painting, dancing, wrestling, investing, learning... or financial resources, or mental resources... we should seek to multiply these resources so that the Kingdom of God can be extended much more effectively here on earth as it is in heaven, whether it is financing missions or feeding the poor and hungry, or even enriching the community around us philantrophically, be it in education, health care and so on.

Because God Himself encourages us to invest our money into good deeds, that we may store up treasures for ourselves in heaven that REALLY last. :) Hee, our Lord is a smart God!

Living as a working adult: Vision

Wow, just really want to thank You Daddy for how faithful You have been to me. Answering my prayers... You know, I was praying in the office for my colleagues this morning..and that very day, these two colleagues of mine, somehow, I had a much deeper conversation with each of them one-to-one that day.

And talking with one of my colleagues - wow, it really has been so amazing. EVERY TIME (and I am not exaggerating) I pray in the Spirit at the start of the day - somehow, the day is no longer ordinary nor mundane, but exciting, even if it means that I get "forced" into new (and uncomfortable!) situations. Like, talking about deep spiritual stuff with my colleague. And honestly, so far, it seems that my colleague, even though he is not a Christian, is much, much, more willing to talk about spiritual stuff than I myself am! Wow. Jesus, You really said it correctly in Luke 10:2! And thank God, my colleague is also a very sensible person too when it comes to thinking about religions, spiritual things and the like. :) I have a lot of things that I can learn from him!

So are all these things that happened today a coincidence? Perhaps. But when we pray, these kind of coincidences happen much more often. ;) All glory goes to God!

Attended the 10th anniversary dinner of the Creative Arts Ministry, headed by Kin Wee. I was invited because of my help as a volunteer in the Christmas MM last year. And wow! it was so inspiring, watching the hour-long video that Kin Wee had edited, seeing how the Creative Ministry has been growing since 1997. And not to mention the quality of the video editing... Ps Ben was telling me that this was like MTV! And I said to him that maybe we should sell these videos at Hope Resources - the very best of Hope Creative Arts Ministry! :D thank God for the MM ministry!

Something that struck me as I watched the anniversary video was how 10 years later, after the first creative arts ministry production, was the large number of younger people watching how the first generation of creative arts ministers (e.g. Kin Wee, Caleb, Chris, Vivian...) all gave their best for the glory of God (and still are!) in these past 10 years - and how some of them are married now with children. So it struck me that these younger adults are the creative arts ministers to the next generation of young adults like you and me. People like Sarah, Sharon, How Joo, Daisy, Winnie and so on.

And praise God, the food was DEEEELICIOUS. And what lovely veggies!

And I was very inspired. Actually, ever since last year, when I took part in a dance for HopeKids, I realised that I really do feel God's pleasure in my heart when I dance. "We're gonna dance dance dance in the freedom we know / 'Cos the freedom we know is going to last forever..."

And hee hee, somehow I've felt all along that my body type is suitable for a certain type of dance (clue: it's pretty close to miming). And after a brother's comment that my physique is good for dancing, I've been thinking and praying about the idea of asking Kin Wee whether he has dance classes available. Better to try now, to explore and maximise whatever God has given me, when I'm 25 and still have energy and strength and am still young enough. :D 25 is already pushing it liao haha. So I shall see what Kin Wee has to say... see what God has to say. Maybe He doesn't want me to dance... maybe He does. But anyway, I want to explore, 'cos think this skill would be useful for HopeKids. I'm feeling quite paiseh, but never mind lah, let's be humble and allow God to use me, even if that means I look like a fool in the process. Better to be Christ's fool, than nobody's wise man. :)

So see, this desire to dance points back to the HopeKids ministry that God has already called me to. :) Even my job as a software engineer is very useful for training me in project management, which HopeKids ministry needs. And my company has the opportunity for me to work in either Botswana or Shanghai - which I shared with Ps Ben that I was thinking of. Botswana seems more likely at this moment in time... but again, need to ask God if and when He wants me to go.

And you know what? If I get this Botswana posting, I'll be able to provide help to provide more entry vehicles, and maybe even $ and housing for our brothers and sisters who are wanting to plant a church there. Am inspired by the examples of Aquila and Priscilla - tentmakers who worked together with Paul, and even risked their lives for him and the gospel.

And IF I do stay long-term in Botswana, I think all the skills that I have right now are already very helpful to a young growing church. e.g. excellent in English, IT skills, and even experience in a children's ministry - a good children's ministry is critical to ensuring that families stay in a church actually, and helps to lay the sustainability and foundation of student ministries.

Interesting to see how, as I propose my plans to God, He accepts and amends them in all His perfect wisdom and foreknowledge. I wanted a media job, God gave me a software engineering job. I wanted South America, God may be leading me to Africa (or even China). And I never thought of HopeKids at all, yet here I am, with the dear children in my care. And the Father is increasing my love, patience, burden and skills for them.

Right now I don't have a clear idea of where exactly I'm going, from what I SEE so far.But! we live by faith, and not by sight. Trust God to lead you and me - because no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has in store for those who love Him - but He has revealed it to us by His Holy Spirit. Jeremiah 29:11!

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He'll give you the desires of your heart." Amen!

Living as a student: Vision

Read Huanyan's latest posting dated Sunday 8 Jul 07. It's very inspiring - really encourage you guys to read it too, and think about what he shared. Especially to a dear friend who'll be going off soon to NOC - I remember you mentioned to me some time ago that you were hoping for God to show you what His vision for your life is, even as you spend a year in NOC... think this article'll bless you a lot. :)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Guoxiong's, Edwin's and Jingyun's Convocations 7 Jul 07

Thanks to Kangwei for posting this! :)

See more photos!


Yufen mentioned today on the train about 70% of our behaviours and actions arise from our values and experiences.

And that struck me, because just how much of my life is governed by biblical values?

In retrospect, I can see that more often than not, I lean on my own understanding, and see life in a way that I attempt to understand using my own framework and logic. But I don't want to live by worldly values anymore. I want my heart and my mind to be completely governed by God's Word.

Inspired by Jan's testimony last time how he made the decision to set his mind on God's Word and how his life was transformed because of that. And Sharon's convictions whenever she shares. And Yufen's quiet strength but deep depth of understanding. HQ too, as he joyfully lives out God's Word. And Peter's growing love and wisdom and he continues to learn more of God's Word.

And I've seen the opposite, brothers and sisters who lean on their own understandings. And how their lives are so futile, unhappy and unfruitful, and stuck in vicious cycles because their values and understandings are not based on God's Word.

Frankly, we can live our lives in many ways. But there is only one Way that actually works. The Way of Jesus Christ.

So was lying back on my bed, and thinking about this. Just where is my heart? I cried out to God to show me, because my heart really is yearning to follow Him. Like the old song goes:
I will not forget
Your love for me and yet
My heart forever is wandering
Jesus be my guide
Hold me close to Your side
Help me love You till the end...

I was feeling very confused, so I prayed and ask God to give me a word, to help me understand what exactly does He want to teach me. So some of the questions I asked Him were:

God, why is it that some Christians grow so fast and have a deep mature transformation, and others still remain the same as they are even after decades? What is the difference?

Also, what role do I have to play in my transformation? And what is Your part? I know that one can only grow so much as Your grace allows, and yet, You desire us to grow and seek You...

And a personal question too that I've been asking Him for a long time.

Eeeh. I think people have told me these answers before, yet I am still so slow to learn! Never mind, I AM slow to learn, but I want to learn anyway! :)

So, after waiting on Him, He led me to this passage: Ephesians 4:17-24, a passage that Zewei shared a long time ago during one of the sub-Ds. (31 Aug 05, I remember that date. :))

And wow! These verses somehow clear up a lot of questions in my mind... hee hee! Think I shall meditate on these verses for the next few days. And share with my shepherd too. The words in bold are the ones that are helping me understand deep

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Here's looking forward to a new depth of transformation as I meditate and chew upon His Word daily.
Thank God so much for Peter, KC, Bowen, Eugene, Swee Leong, Winnie and Weizhu. And thank God for Tai Heng who also came down. :D Very blessed! :D Super-touched especially... Swee came all the way down from Bedok to take photos with me before he had to rush off to Orchard... was stunned when he told me that - very, very, very touched by this dear bro and friend's heart. And also very touched by KC too, how he waited for me during the entire convo ceremony, drinking (expensive) apple juice all the while... and even offered to help me contact my parents who were late. And how WZ came down even tho he was sick. And Winnie coming all the way down from Toa Payoh. :D

Had a good time at CG too today. Had worship (for the first time!), and also a group discussion. Tai Heng dropped by for a short while - he joined me for dinner. Thank God for Sharon too, who took the time and initiative to chat with TH. :D And oh yeah, very touched by what TH said when HQ asked him how come TH went all the way from Clementi to Plaza Sing just to eat dinner with me... he said he likes to have dinner wif me. Hee! Thank God for you, TH! Thank you for being such an available friend... I really cherish the times spent with you!

During CG discussion, HQ shared with us the passage about some friends making a hole in a roof so that they could bring their paralysed friend to Jesus. And how these friends had such an "irrational" commitment to their paralysed friend, that they would carry him a long way and go to all the trouble of climbing up to the roof of the full house and making a hole in the roof... wow. That passage really reminded me a lot of the importance of being commmited to my bros and sisters in my CG.

Then as HQ and I went back to the MRT, bumped into Jits, Joyce, John and Xinying. Wah. 3 Js and 1 Queen! lol! And Wenjiang too - he introduced us to a Canadian brother. Cool! :D Reminded HQ and me of Terence too, our Canadian friend - been quite a while since we kept in touch.

Great time of fellowship and friendship. Thank You Jesus! for this wonderful family You have put me in!

I'm a Phleg-Mel? :)

Tried this personality test - got it from Zhenzhong's blog. Could be more accurate, but roughly it's around there. I took the DISC test again a few weeks back, and I'm an S-C type (in the context of being with friends). Hee hee... test results agree too with my CALIPER test (a highly accurate personality test that's based on the traits theory rather than temperament theory). So there... seems I'm a phleg-mel, rather than a mel-phleg. Gosh, I can't decide... but too lazy to think! :P Some day I'll get around to deciding... steady lah, don't press me... no hurry, this thing... relaaaax! (But i'm worried! what if I make the wrong decision? Alamak... must analyse all the relevant points...)


My stats at: http://www.oneishy.com/personality/results/1936a4e54
Melancholy Strength:6 Weakness:7
Phlegmatic Strength:10 Weakness:11
Sanguine Strength:2 Weakness:1
Choleric Strength:2 Weakness:1

And just for laughs:

Lemme know what your results are!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Running in Circles

Read this article... this article really touched my heart very, very much. Because I can identify very much with some of the painful words spoken here.

Because I've been through some "hamster-wheel" experiences myself. And I can tell you that a "hamster-wheel" experience really is horrible. But while reading this article, I was reflecting on what God has done in my life, and how He has helped me, through other brothers and sisters, especially my dear shepherds Weizhu and Peter, understand how I had been trying to cover up my pain with spiritual-sounding language.

Hee. I remember again that year when God spoke to me so clearly my heart literally pained when I heard those words spoken out so clearly: "He is all I need." And I need nothing else to touch my heart and heal the past pains. And how through that year, He stripped the scabs of self-righteousness and pride and spiritual-sounding language away from the scars of my heart... it was PAINFUL. But hee hee! in the end, He healed so many things in my heart, that I found deliverance from my hamster-wheel of insecurity and inwards-lookingness.

Not that I don't struggle with insecurity and low self-esteem anymore... I still do, from time to time, but things are different now. It's like being in a maze where you once were lost, until Someone came to show you the way out... and from that point on, the maze is no longer a maze to you, because you already know that there IS a way out of the cycle of lostness, and you have already found the way out.

And I think again about this... I think He sends me back into the maze, to help others who have been equally lost to find the way to Jesus, the Door out of the maze. I'm so a-mazed by His grace! :D No wonder we sing "Amazing Grace"... for only grace is able to help us find our way out of the maze caused by sin!

Alamak, I share so long... but I'll jot down one more paragraph that spoke to me a lot:

White slave owners in the Old South knew that once the African American slaves became educated, able to think and articulate their experiences, they would seek a higher form of life and recognize freedom as their inalienable right. So they passed laws forbidding anyone to teach slaves to read.

In the same way, if we stay blinded, uninformed and unable to understand or articulate what is happening to us, we cannot examine how our lives fall short of the glorious liberty we are entitled to as God’s children. If we mistake the hamster wheel for God’s will, we make God an oppressor rather than a liberator, a justifier, an outrageous forgiver and the Author of life. To live in freedom we must think intelligently about our lives and stay open to the possibility that things may not be as predetermined as we thought.

So I've been thinking about this... God has given me the gift of encouragement, plus a natural strength in empathy, a very wonderful dose of sincerity... Plus, my past experiences with low self-esteem, rejection and pain... Wow! I think these traits might help me be a good counsellor, and encourager, especially those with low self-esteem and those trapped in cyclical pain. Gee! now that I see... haha... maybe not really as a professional counsellor, but God is able to use me to minister to those in pain and those trapped by loneliness and misconceptions.

Hmm. :)

Trapped in a Cycle of Pain

"And you call yourself a Christian!"

I noticed how tight and white my mother’s lips were when she spoke. She was standing on the stair landing above me, hands on her hips.

“You’ll never get into heaven with an attitude like that! God knows all the evil thoughts you’ve ever had about me. Not one is hidden from him.”

She continued down the steps, her index finger pointed at me. Her footsteps were heavy, the stubby heels of her black shoes thudding. The thin pale lips were moving again.

“You’ll never please God the way you are. Don’t think you won’t reap the consequences of your evil thoughts. ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord!’” She was upon me now.

I was eleven. I had vacuumed the house and, according to my mother, not done a very good job. I was not fond of vacuuming, and when she ordered me to do it over, I had pushed back. I thought I had done a great job, and besides, it was a daunting task. Our house was a historic faculty home on the campus of a well-endowed institution for higher learning. There were fireplaces in every room, and the rooms were immense.

Maybe she was angry because I had spent time with my father that morning listening to his lecture. He had read it to me with his glasses balanced on the end of his nose. She didn’t like it when Dad and I spent time alone. But I wasn’t really sure what had set off this episode. I never was.

“If you knew the truth—that I am the apple of God’s eye—you would treat me differently!” She was building momentum now, her voice rising. “You are spurning God’s chosen one when you look down on me!” The words shot through the air and whizzed through me with their familiar pain.

The culmination was at hand, the consequences imminent.

“You are a hypocrite—full of evil thoughts and lies. A whitewashed tomb. Everything you do and say is a lie, and Satan is the father of lies, so you must belong to him!”

I could hear the cicadas buzzing outside. There had been a rash of them that summer, and when you walked on the lawn you could scarcely avoid the sickening crunch they made underfoot. I was aware that I was crying.

“Go to your room!” she ordered, flinging her arm out to point up the stairs. “I don’t want to see you again, and I don’t want you to talk to anyone. Have nothing to do with your sister either. This family will not associate with someone who refuses to respect those God has put in authority over them!”

I ran up to my room and lay across the bed, sobbing. I cried like this almost every day. I sometimes wondered if other kids cried all the time, but I didn’t have anyone to compare myself to. Outsiders weren’t welcome in our home. When they did gain access, after a brief honeymoon the relationship was always cut off because of “questionable motives” or a “spiritual oppression” they brought with them.

Even my little sister’s friend, a seven-year-old, was forbidden to come to our home to play. The tears and pleas of my sister, eight years younger than I, did not sway the decision. Friends were not easy to come by under these circumstances, and though I was only partially aware of it, I lived an isolated, lonely life. I was less favored than my sister, and I never had a real friend at all. I told myself I didn’t need friends, that I was fine the way I was. I deadened myself to the circumstances, neutralizing any hopes and expectations. I said “Whatever” a lot.

Mine was a precarious life as well as a lonely one. I was constantly on edge, vigilant, able to emotionally prepare myself instantly for what could come my way at any second. You learn quickly when the only thing predictable is the unpredictable.

We’d be packed and ready to go on vacation, only to cancel on the day of departure because the trip was “not God’s will.” We’d be eagerly anticipating a promised outing or gift and it would be canceled or never delivered, again because of divine will. Pets were given away without discussion. We were dragged from church to church every couple of months, abandoning a congregation once the pastor said something that “disagreed with Scripture.”

My father, a professor and theologian who was endlessly loyal to my mother, kept telling me it would get better, that God would do a new thing. He said this after each blowup, each tirade—and these could last for days.

I tried to believe him, and often after an eruption we experienced a period of calm. It was a scary calm—we weren’t sure when things would flare up again—but it was a calm nonetheless, and I was grateful. Yet the pattern inevitably repeated itself, and despite our earnest prayers and hopes nothing changed. My father sometimes bore his soul to me. “Why does she have to be so cruel to you?” he would say after an angry outburst that had left me shattered and sullen.

I didn’t know.

“She not only puts the knife in,” he said, “but she turns it.”

The fighting between my parents was extreme. Screaming and door slamming woke me in the night. Days of tension paralyzed my sister and me with fear, and we crept quietly up to the attic to play with old toys.

“I need to rise above this,” Dad would tell me in his vulnerable moments after he had been the target of an onslaught. “I have to not let what she does affect me.”

Away from home (and he kept the two worlds very separate) my father’s work and writing helped a great many people come to know the authentic power of Jesus at work in their lives. His combination of intellectual knowledge and conviction of the personal presence of God flooded the lecture halls where he spoke. But the world at home was scary, insane and lonely.

As I grew older I discovered that my mother had been the victim of severe abuse as a child. Even though I intellectually began to come to terms with the reasons for her behavior, I was unable to free myself from her grasp. Still, my father’s comments and judgments against my mother’s behavior helped me begin to grasp the unfathomable and experience a deep courage. Despite her claim that she was God’s voice and presence in the world, despite her grandiose proposals and assertions about her power and unique giftedness, I began to realize that she was—perhaps—wrong.

Maybe these experiences were not God’s will at all. Perhaps it was wrong that I couldn’t have friends over or get involved in social activities. Maybe I wasn’t born to be miserable all the time, and maybe I wasn’t in the grips of Satan with evil spirits lurking in dark corners ready to oppress me and throw me into hell. Maybe I wasn’t contaminated by those demons the way my mother said I was when she came into my room in the middle of the night to cast them out. Perhaps purging the house of evil—praying in each room that Satan would leave—was not the way most families spent their Saturdays.

At one point I suggested to my father that we get Mom some help. His usually gentle face went rigid and he sucked in his breath. He told me my mother didn’t need help, that she was doing better, and he asked where my family loyalty was. He declared that God had given him this situation so he could learn to rise above it. Jesus suffered, saints suffered—why shouldn’t he?

This topic was clearly taboo. It was just too painful for my father to identify the problem honestly. So the bizarre, erratic behavior continued to loom larger than life and define us. One day her tirade might be God’s voice to shape us up. Another day a low mood was a “dark night of the soul” she was being called to walk through. She often believed her struggles were demonic and had many well-known people in the deliverance ministry try to cast out spirits from her. It never seemed to take. Other days she accused my father of having no faith and contaminating her with an oppression she could not shake off.

Years of intensive psychotherapy later, as I look back at the shattered landscape of my early life, I still shudder at the cycle of pain and abuse. The most chilling aspect of those years was the fact that my mother’s spiritual language seemed to validate everything. Although I am sure there were spiritual components to my mother’s condition, her ultra-spiritual terminology gave her assaults frightening leverage in our lives. If I had been able to grasp that my mother needed psychological help, perhaps I would not have taken her actions and words so much to heart. I would have had some mastery and control over the situation, and I would have had the correct words to define the reality in which I lived. Had my father been able to come to terms with the problem, I believe he would have attempted to persuade Mom to get professional help.

When I left for college, I watched from a distance as the situation became increasingly chaotic. During my visits home I saw my dad’s jovial demeanor dissolve into brooding melancholy. He began to question why he was still alive. One day as he was walking out of a bank, he fell over with a massive stroke and died. He was only in his sixties.

Mom eventually left the area, and her behavior continued to deteriorate, especially once my father was gone. His presence had served as a kind of support for her erratic condition; once he died there was no one to contain it.

Our family’s faith was a mixed blessing. Had we not believed in God, we might have sought help much more readily. Paradoxically, spiritual language can be a lacquer that covers over and justifies problems rather than helping us discern the most appropriate, even obvious, course of action.

I am a pastor now, and I see many people trapped in a similar cycle of pain. The woman in the abusive marriage whose husband threatens to kill her tells me, “Maybe if I just clean up that back room and keep the kitchen a little neater, things will get better. The Lord put me in this marriage, and God works all things for good.” The wife of a bipolar man whose wild spending habits have brought them to financial ruin says, “God is telling me to love him and pray harder.” There is certainly nothing wrong with loving, and praying harder is always warranted in difficult situations. But these people reappear in my office a week, a month, even a year or two later asking why God hasn’t done anything. Despite their earnest prayers, heaven is silent. The old patterns keep repeating. There is no relief. In fact, the problem now looms larger than before.

I call this cycle “hamster-wheel suffering.” In my work I have seen countless people who struggle with patterns of thought and behavior that keep them spinning but going nowhere. Unless we work through loss, trauma and abuse both psychologically and spiritually, we find ourselves muted, stymied and shut
off from the present because of the past. The broad landscape of life grows dim and small. There seem to be no options. We cannot remember what used to bring us joy. Our sense of identity—if we ever had one—goes underground. Time collapses; we feel old or convince ourselves that life is almost over anyway. Dreams evaporate and fear interlaces even peaceful moments with dread. Delight, joy and wonder are replaced by obligation, guilt and routine.

When reading Dante’s Inferno awhile back I was struck by how much of the torment in Dante’s hell is cyclical. The people in one group are all stabbed in the chest as they travel along their path. They continue on and their wounds begin to heal. As the bleeding stops, these sufferers find they have come full circle, and they are stabbed again. The healing effort is lacerated, and the cycle begins anew. Health and wholeness are dashed. The hope of a new thing is unrealized. This is the hamster wheel. This is hell on earth.

I know the hamster wheel. To seek God when you are in hell and not be able to find him is the most despairing journey of the human heart. Many people in this situation use spiritual language to cover their cyclical wounds, desperately trying to hold on to some sense of meaning and purpose. I do not look down on their efforts to find God in the midst of crisis and difficulty. Even after leaving home and breathing a big sigh of relief, I continued to relive the chaos I had grown up with. It was all I knew.

But now I know there is a difference between suffering that is cyclical and destructive and suffering that is redemptive. I realize that distinguishing between types of suffering can lead us to a potential Pandora’s box of questions about evil and suffering in the world. To answer these questions is not the intent of this book. Nor do I assume that these distinctions are prescriptive—set in stone. The distinctions I will be making are intended as general guidelines that can be applied practically so that people of God can be freed to recognize their purpose and not be shackled by endless patterns of futility and fear.

Throughout history the Enemy has used cyclical oppression to keep God’s people enslaved, to keep them from recognizing the glorious purpose and hope to which they have been called.

White slave owners in the Old South knew that once the African American slaves became educated, able to think and articulate their experiences, they would seek a higher form of life and recognize freedom as their inalienable right. So they passed laws forbidding anyone to teach slaves to read.

In the same way, if we stay blinded, uninformed and unable to understand or articulate what is happening to us, we cannot examine how our lives fall short of the glorious liberty we are entitled to as God’s children. If we mistake the hamster wheel for God’s will, we make God an oppressor rather than a liberator, a justifier, an outrageous forgiver and the Author of life. To live in freedom we must think intelligently about our lives and stay open to the possibility that things may not be as predetermined as we thought.

In the Gospels, Jesus does not succumb to every kind of suffering that comes his way. His identity as God’s beloved Son and his sense of purpose and calling cause him to avoid certain situations. God reminds him before he goes into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil that Jesus is his beloved Son (Matthew 3:17). This reminder of his identity as the beloved one is to encourage Jesus and build him up before a period of desolation. We too need to be reminded of who we are in the eyes of God. Paul tells us that we are chosen by God (Colossians 3:12), his “beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1).

In the wilderness, Jesus knows who he is. There is no doubt in his mind—and he states it. The Enemy tries over and over to challenge this identity. “If you are the Son of God, let’s see you prove it!” He distorts Scripture, and if Jesus were to follow what Satan wanted, he would come under the bondage and oppression of evil. But he doesn’t. Time after time he answers Satan’s distortions with statements of victory and purpose. When he emerges from the wilderness, his identity leads him to begin his ministry the right way. From the outset he tells people who he is and why he has come. He reads from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)

This is who Jesus is—the liberator of captives and the champion of the oppressed. He states to the people that this is his mission and call. And at first they think he’s great. But when he refers to incidents in Scripture in which God intervened on behalf of non-Jews (Luke 4:24-27), implying that God has sent him to the Gentiles, they bring him to a cliff and prepare to hurl him over. How quickly they change! What does Jesus do? Stand there and let himself be destroyed? Does he say, “It must be God’s will that I suffer for what I said. Go ahead, guys. I’ll die a martyr right now by letting you toss me over this ledge!”

No. Scripture tell us, “He passed through the midst of them and went on his way” (Luke 4:30). On his way to where? To fulfill the purpose for which he came. Immediately he starts healing people, setting them free. The people love him so much they try to keep him from leaving them (Luke 4:42), but Jesus is clear about his call. He responds, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43).

Would you be able to succinctly sum up your call and your reason for being sent to earth at this time? Are you able to spot scriptural distortions that perpetuate oppression rather than liberation? Are you able to act courageously and confidently in the truth that you have been beloved of God since the foundation of the world and are “of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31)? I know many Christians who don’t feel worth one sparrow.

This book is about discovering your tremendous worth in Jesus Christ. It is meant to help you break out of the bondage that can steal your life and rob you of the purpose and call of God. In the following chapters I talk a lot about stopping the cyclical past in order to recognize God’s liberation. The first crucial question to ask on this journey is, “Am I suffering because I am fulfilling my God-ordained call and purpose—or because I’m on a hamster wheel?” To help in the discernment process, I try to give practical suggestions and examples, not a list of self-help solutions. This book is an effort to help you get in step with the Holy Spirit, the only true Helper, and discern his direction for your life. I encourage you to read prayerfully and seek the Holy Spirit’s transformation. Recognizing patterns, remembering who Jesus is and discovering the dreams God put deep inside you can open new channels for grace and change.

What I share with you on these pages is what I have lived. I am here now because of Jesus’ love. Writing this book has made it necessary for me to turn myself inside out, exposing all my ragged edges and uneven seams. I have had to honestly examine the path my life has taken, including the many times my flaws and shortcomings got in the Lord’s way. It has been necessary for me to assess what is holding me together these days and causing me to look forward to living rather than dying. So I share with you my insights, reflections and stories in hope that they might shed some light on who God is and who we as God’s people are called to be in Christ Jesus.

I start by describing the characteristics of hamster-wheel suffering, which we must recognize if we are going to be freed or help free those we love. The courage to change means we must dare to believe that although the hamster wheel is circling, there is a way out, a choice we can make that will launch us into a new way of living, loving and allowing ourselves to be loved.

Taken from Running in Circles: How False Spirituality Traps Us in Unhealthy Relationships by Kim V. Engelmann. © 2007 by Kim V. Engelmann. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426. For more information, please visit www.ivpress.com.

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