Saturday, February 28, 2009

Some Snapshots from the Storybook...




Huili did a great job! =) Thank God for her faithfulness and hard work in doing these illustrations... she's a blessing to work together with!

PS: I put Huili's name there as a watermark, to prevent copyright issues, and against any ppl who would want to rip off her works or hotlink to them...

Thanksgiving Testimony for the Storybook!

Yup, finally submitted the entry for the First-Time Writers and Illustrators thingy.

=) Thanks so much to all you guys who have prayed for, and/or encouraged us through this time.

Here's a twitterish narrative of the exciting story behind the story. Jack Bauer, eat thy heart out.

*****
24 (MINUTES)
--------------
Prologue
It was amazing. I looked at the clock go by, and I knew I couldn't reach the Book Council's office before 545 pm.

So I prayed, and then called the office to ask whether there is any way to submit the entry later.

And the lady on the other line said yes. She told me, "Just pass your manuscript to the Geylang Community Library staff. They'll help pass your manuscript to us next Monday. But... no guarantee that they will surely pass to us. Because they're not affiliated to us - they're just doing us a favour."

Thank God! Deadline extension haha...

Then I rushed down to Geylang Library. I was supposed to watch a movie with Weizhu, but he told me that the book is more important than the movie. He said that he will meet me at the library to accompany me.

Gosh. Was very, very touched when he said that. =) Thank God for Weizhu.


The clock showed 8.35 pm. I dashed madly out of the house, having even left behind my half-finished dinner on my computer table! Saw a taxi on the other side of the road, silently thanked God, jumped into the cab and said to the taxi-driver, "Uncle, Geylang Community Library please!"

He paused for a while, looking rather confused.

Then he asked me again, "Where to?"

Gritting my teeth, I said more slowly, "Uncle, Gey-lang Com-mun-ity Lai-ber-ree."

He turned to me and said, "You know what it looks like? I don't know where it is!"

Stunned.

For a moment I wondered whether to bail out of the cab. But I looked up the address instead, and snapped, "Geylang East Ave 1 - please."

He said, "Ah. Ok." and turned back to his driving.

Then, we got stuck at a red light intersection.

Waited for 2 minutes.

Then, drove off again... to yet another red light intersection. And yet another red light intersection.

By now, I was starting to see red already.

But prayed, "Search me O God, and know my heart... test me and know my ANXIOUS thoughts... help me God, to be patient whatever happens. Because I am so anxious. Will I be able to reach the library before 9?"

And then, my phone buzzed. It was 8.40 pm. Weizhu called me to tell me that the library was going to close in about half an hour's time.

It was Anxiety DEFCON 2, man.

Through it all, I sat back and wondered why were there so many red lights in a row? Was God trying to show me something? Maybe it's how I treat others when I am very anxious. So He could be training me to grow in patience, kindness and gentleness, even when I am extremely anxious.

With that in mind, I apologised to the taxi driver for my earlier frustration. I think he said it's ok, but he was quite surprised anyway.

Funnily enough, it was green light for the next intersection.

At about 8.50 pm, the taxi driver stopped at the next intersection. Suddenly, he asked me, "I think we can go down to Kallang from here. That should be better."

So off we went down that lane.

He sped, he zoomed, he drifted... as best as he could in a congested road.

Then he went off into a remote lane and picked up speed. Before I knew it, the cab reached the library. It was just before 9 pm.

And I saw Weizhu standing at the library entrance, waiting for me. And the entrance was still open.

Wow. Thank God so much. I really didn't expect to reach the library so fast! As we walked into the library, Weizhu said, "Thank God you managed to reach here on time! I'm amazed you managed to reach here so fast... I was praying that the taxi driver wouldn't get lost!"

I turned to him, and said, "You were praying for me? When? Because the taxi driver didn't know how to get here in the first place!"

Weizhu said, "Really? Well, let's settle your submission first."

And the next amazing thing happened. I went up to the library counter with my manuscript and envelope in hand. Before I could say anything else, the lady looked at me and asked, "Are you the one the Book Council people told us would be coming?"

o_O whoa. I half-expected her to follow up with, "... or should we expect someone else?"

But I just replied, "Eh... yes, I am."

"Ok. Don't worry. Just pass to us... take your time and relax. It's ok!"

And when I laid my envelope on the table, she passed me a scotch-tape dispenser, and sweetly said, "You might want to seal your envelope with this tape, just in case."

WOW. I was so surprised by all this royal treatment, 'cos the Book Council people had just told me that I was to pass to the librarians on duty. And I had never expected them to ask the librarians to keep a lookout for me.

It really looks like God's hand is so behind all this. The amazingly-fast taxi ride, the open library, the Book Council people telling the librarians to wait and look out for me, the tape dispenser too...

And later on, I asked Weizhu, "Bro, I'm just wondering... at what time did you pray for me and the taxi driver not to get lost?"

"Hmm... I think it was just a little bit before nine."

"Wow. Because, just a little bit before nine, the taxi driver suddenly asked me whether I want to go the Kallang route, and he somehow went through all the shortcuts, the ulu lanes, as though as he knew the place very well."

Wow. =) Thank You so much, Papa, for Your grace and mercy and kindness too. There have been so many coincidences, ups and downs with this project.

And yet, I see how You have miraculously provided in one way or another, such that we were able to finish all the essential things. Honestly, both of us wondered whether we could ever finish this manuscript. And yet, somehow, one way or another, Huili managed to do all the illustrations, and I managed to do all the writing and printing.

Thank God that we chose to trust in Him, and exercise faith to receive His grace, even when all seemed lost last week.

It's so true. We really can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. YES AND AMEN! =)

Ok! It's done now. Now... is the waiting period. If everything goes well... then by one month's time, we'll know whether our manuscript has made it through to the next stage.

*butterflies in stomach* But if God is for us... who can be against us? Thank God for His indescribable grace!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Alea Jacta Est!

5 more hours till submission deadline for the storybook. Pray for us if you're reading this... hee =)

Is This Your Rainbow?


Excuse me, is this your rainbow
That I found lying on the ground?
Or did someone throw it into a dustbin
Leaving it in a scrunchy mound?
It looks like it's been chewed up
By a half-starved hound.
If it isn't yours, could I take it home today
To show my mum what I've just found?

(Thanks to Weizhu for the title and the photo!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Place For The God-Hungry

I came across this blog from Jiayan's blog. It is one of the best blogs I've read in a long while. Short, simple and sweet... and genuinely spiritual too. Every post made me pause and think.

And hee, actually, I discovered that there's quite a lot of things that he thought about that I also thought about - especially with regards to discipleship and so on. I think that's part of the delight - discovering that you're not the only one to have thought about such things. Or to have arrived at the same, or similar, conclusions.

Do read it!

The Secret of The Easy Yoke

Therein lies the secret of the easy yoke, according to Dallas Willard. In order to effectively follow Jesus into public ministry, we must also follow Jesus into the lonely desert and mountains to be alone with God. It is true that "a successful performance at a moment of crisis rests largely and essentially upon the depths of a self wisely and rigorously prepared in the totality of its being." In other words, "We who are appointed by God to heal others, need the physician ourselves." This necessary relationship between the leader’s private solitude and public ministry, according to Nouwen, can only be nourished "when we have met our Lord in the silent intimacy of our prayer" which will enable us also to "meet him in the camp, in the market, and in the town square. But when we have not met him in the center of our hearts, we cannot expect to meet him in the busyness of our daily lives." (p. 42)

We serve a church that honors frenzied activity and long hours. We are recognized and rewarded for our doing, and not for our being. (p. 40)

"Ministry is service in the name of the Lord. It is bringing the good news to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives and new sight to the blind, setting the downtrodden free and announcing the Lord’s year of favor (Luke 4:18). Spirituality is paying attention to the life of the Spirit in us; it is going out to the desert or up to the mountain to pray; it is standing before the Lord with open heart and open mind; it is crying out, ‘Abba, Father;’ it is contemplating the unspeakable beauty of our loving God." Henri Nouwen (cited in Shawchuck and Heuser, Leading the Congregation, p. 39)

From "As You Consider Your Place in the World…", Jim Martin.

I find the above passage very meaningful. Recently, I've been thinking about a lot of things. Still digesting, though haha.

But one thing that I'm very grateful to God for is discovering the joy of seeking Him first and foremost. I've been starting to do more and more things, in ministry, church, personal developments, work and so on.

And I am so starting to see that without God in the center of all this busyness, everything is meaningless. I'm not saying that what I'm doing doesn't have value. But without time spent in the Saviour's presence,

I was talking with this brother in Silicon Valley this morning. And I asked him what I could pray for him. One of his prayer needs was that God would help remind and renew in him the reason and purpose he started a caregroup there.

Yah. We all need to be reminded time to time why we are doing the things that we do.

Personally, I've been starting to establish a habit of having a personal retreat every week to go to some quiet place with lots of greenery, trees and open air. Thank God that He helped me see that I'm a creation pathway person.

And it's so essential for me to spend time praying to Him. There's simply no other way. I do need and desire the power from on high, to do the work that He has given me to do. AND to know what that work is in the first place.

I don't want to be a machine-gunner, frantically spewing bullets all over the place, but never hitting anything. Rather, I want to know what I'm aiming for. To be a sniper. To make every shot of my life count. And to maximize the damage to Satan's dominion.

So I love to go to a high, quiet place e.g. AMK Park, and just sit on top of the hill and start talking and walking with God. I could spend hours and hours talking till midnight. I simply treasure every little moment spent in His presence. And I'm so glad that I can sincerely say, "my Beloved is mine, and I am His - His banner over me is love." (Song of Songs)

Yah. It's so true. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Aye-men. The Lord's yoke is not burdensome, but easy, and His burden is not oppressive, but light. Would you let Him put His gentle yoke upon you today?

I Saw A Rainbow In The Sky

I was thinking whether to go back straight home to take a nap before going to the airport, or to go to the park to pray for a while first.

And I decided, go pray first. 'Cos I wanna seek God.

Then, I saw a rainbow. A BEAUTIFUL rainbow. Hanging in the sky like a deliciously yummy rainbow lollipop for our eyes to drool in wonder.

Told some people about it.

And Yufen said that she couldn't see the rainbow, but was so thankful to God for sending the rainbow.

Later on, she blogged about it.

Think I'll post my comment here... I typed a lot already haha.
"hey yufen! something that struck me when i got ur msg abt thanking God for the rainbow...

i realised that God is able to bless us even thru an unseen rainbow.

and i think that's the essence of faith - we thank God for rainbows that we can't see, but we know are there anyway. =D

so God is able to give us gifts through ways that we least expect it...

thank God for you, yufen! learnt to give thanks even for unseen blessings from your thankful heart, dear sis! :D

and you know what sis? i only saw the rainbow, 'cos i was thinking whether to go back straight home to sleep, or to go to the park to pray for a while first.

and as i was walking, i was looking down at the ground and praying... when suddenly, i happened to lift my head up, and whoa, i saw the huge rainbow in all its brilliant and vast beauty, suspended in the gray sky... oh my God, it was beautiful all right. :D hanging there like a piece of colourful candy for our eyes to feast upon... :D yum-yum.

but i think it's really because of God's grace here... thank God that i chose to take time to pray... otherwise i wldn't have seen the rainbow... and you wouldn't have heard about it.

God acts in response to our prayers - even before we call, He will answer! :D aye-men...


=D Thank God! Hallelujah...
Who could imagine a melody
True enough to tell of Your mercy?
Who could imagine a harmony
Sweet enough to tell of Your love?

I see the heavens proclaiming You day after day,
And I know in my heart that there must be a way
To sing a greater song,
A greater song to You on the earth.

To sing a greater song,
A greater song to You on the earth.


Who could imagine a symphony,
Grand enough to tell of Your glory?
Our highest praise but a feeble breath
A whisper of Your thunderous worth.
just came back from seeing some bros and sisters who are going to Kenya to help train up the core team there. =D

went with Jason and Jiahui. and gosh, it was so fun talking and sharing - we shared about pretty much everything under the sun on the bus. =D

and oh yah, to my surprise, i saw chris there at the airport. yup, the same chris i met yesterday in hopesem. we chatted, and i found out that he's from the JEDI group. one thing he said to me encouraged me v much: "i really hope that one day God will prepare me to be able to serve Him." =D spoken by a 6-months young believer. :D

and thank God for his providence. i was originally intending to write an encouragement card for David, one of the bros in Hope Nairobi. but it turns out, i couldn't find the card to use... but i realised that he's a very intelligent guy - a lawyer, and he has read Case for Christ before. and it just so happened that i had "Jesus Among Other Gods" by Ravi Zacharias with me that night. so, i wrote my encouragement message on the inside cover and asked Eugene to help me pass to David.

God really provides in very timely ways. =D aye-men. =)

Genuine Interest

was reflecting on the past, about some of my attitudes, and how they still remain to today. and i looked at the fruit of these attitudes... and i think i need to repent.

i'm sorry, Jesus. please help me change and grow into a godlier man.

and i've been pondering over Philippians.

"each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

"i have no one else like [Timothy] who takes a genuine interest in your welfare."

can these two verses be said of me? soberly judging myself, i don't think so.

so God, help me change and grow into a genuinely interested person. want to be more like Jesus, until the end of time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Quantum mechanics, uncertainty principle and the relativity of truth?

this is a very long passage from Scientific American, but i think it's worth reading, because think in the next few decades, people will start using this as scientific proof that truth is RELATIVE. if even the very nature of physical reality as we know it is ever changing and uncertain, then what grounds for absolute truth? and if there is no grounds for absolute truth... you know the rest of the story.

so here goes.

Was Einstein Wrong?: A Quantum Threat to Special Relativity
Our intuition, going back forever, is that to move, say, a rock, one has to touch that rock, or touch a stick that touches the rock, or give an order that travels via vibrations through the air to the ear of a man with a stick that can then push the rock—or some such sequence. This intuition, more generally, is that things can only directly affect other things that are right next to them. If A affects B without being right next to it, then the effect in question must be indirect—the effect in question must be something that gets transmitted by means of a chain of events in which each event brings about the next one directly, in a manner that smoothly spans the distance from A to B. Every time we think we can come up with an exception to this intuition—say, flipping a switch that turns on city street lights (but then we realize that this happens through wires) or listening to a BBC radio broadcast (but then we realize that radio waves propagate through the air)—it turns out that we have not, in fact, thought of an exception. Not, that is, in our everyday experience of the world.

We term this intuition "locality."

Quantum mechanics has upended many an intuition, but none deeper than this one. And this particular upending carries with it a threat, as yet unresolved, to special relativity—a foundation stone of our 21st-century physics.

[...]

Let's back up a bit. Prior to the advent of quantum mechanics, and indeed back to the very beginnings of scientific investigations of nature, scholars believed that a complete description of the physical world could in principle be had by describing, one by one, each of the world's smallest and most elementary physical constituents. The full story of the world could be expressed as the sum of the constituents' stories.

Quantum mechanics violates this belief.

Real, measurable, physical features of collections of particles can, in a perfectly concrete way, exceed or elude or have nothing to do with the sum of the features of the individual particles. For example, according to quantum mechanics one can arrange a pair of particles so that they are precisely two feet apart and yet neither particle on its own has a definite position. Furthermore, the standard approach to understanding quantum physics, the so-called Copenhagen interpretation—proclaimed by the great Danish physicist Niels Bohr early last century and handed down from professor to student for generations—insists that it is not that we do not know the facts about the individual particles' exact locations; it is that there simply aren't any such facts. To ask after the position of a single particle would be as meaningless as, say, asking after the marital status of the number five. The problem is not epistemological (about what we know) but ontological (about what is).

[...]
Radical Revisions of Reality
Albert Einstein had any number of worries about quantum mechanics. The overquoted concern about its chanciness ("God does not play dice") was just one. But the only objection he formally articulated, the only one he bothered to write a paper on, concerned the oddity of quantum-mechanical entanglement. This objection lies at the heart of what is now known as the EPR argument, named after its three authors, Einstein and his colleagues Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen. In their 1935 paper "Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete?", they answer their own question with a tightly reasoned "no."

Their argument made pivotal use of one particular instruction in the quantum-mechanical recipe, or mathematical algorithm, for predicting the outcomes of experiments. Suppose that we measure the position of a particle that is quantum mechanically entangled with a second particle—so that neither individually has a precise position, as we mentioned above. Naturally, when we learn the outcome of the measurement, we change our description of the first particle because we now know where it was for a moment. But the algorithm also instructs us to alter our description of the second particle and to alter it instantaneously, no matter how far away it may be or what may lie between the two particles.

Entanglement was an uncontroversial fact of the picture of the world that quantum mechanics presented to physicists, but it was a fact whose implications no one prior to Einstein had thought much about. He saw in entanglement something not merely strange but dubious. It struck him as spooky. It seemed, in particular, nonlocal.

Nobody at that time was ready to entertain the possibility that there were genuine physical nonlocalities in the world—not Einstein, not Bohr, not anybody. Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen took it for granted in their paper that the apparent nonlocality of quantum mechanics must be apparent only, that it must be some kind of mathematical anomaly or notational infelicity or, at any rate, that it must be a disposable artifact of the algorithm—surely one could cook up quantum mechanics's predictions for experiments without needing any nonlocal steps.

And in their paper they presented an argument to the effect that if (as everybody supposed) no genuine physical nonlocality exists in the world and if the experimental predictions of quantum mechanics are correct, then quantum mechanics must leave aspects of the world out of its account. There must be parts of the world's story that it fails to mention.

Bohr responded to the EPR paper practically overnight. His feverishly composed letter of refutation engaged none of the paper's concrete scientific arguments but instead took issue—in an opaque and sometimes downright oracular fashion—with its use of the word "reality" and its definition of "elements of physical reality." He talked at length about the distinction between subject and object, about the conditions under which it makes sense to ask questions and about the nature of human language. What science needed, according to Bohr, was a "radical revision of our attitude as regards physical reality."

Bohr did go out of his way to agree with the EPR paper on one point: that of course there can be no question of a genuine physical nonlocality. The apparent nonlocality, he argued, was just one more reason why we must abandon the quaint and outdated aspiration, so manifest in the EPR paper, of being able to read from the equations of quantum mechanics a realistic picture of the world—a picture of what actually exists before us from moment to moment. Bohr insisted, in effect, that not only do we see the world through a glass darkly but that this shadowy and indefinite view is as real as anything gets.


I was reading this article on the phenomenon of non-locality as described by quantum mechanics, and a rather disturbing thought occurred to me. if the universe itself - physical reality as we see it and know it - is literally and visibily proven to be non-local... then perhaps God really did play dice with the universe, to contradict even Albert Einstein himself?

and if God really does play dice with the universe, then what hope do we who proclaim absolute truth have - that we have rested all our hopes onto an immovable and immutable Creator and Mover... only to find that our God is a chancy God? A God who takes chances with his creation?

what then, for absolute truth, and even for the very nature and foundation of logic - the law of non-contradiction?

if non-locality has been proved empirically visible, in short, then it must prove Hegel has prophesised true - that the thesis and the antithesis really did meet together in a synthesis.

in short - post-modernism has laid its feet upon absolute truth, not only metaphorically, but physically too.

in fact, one friend did think about this - i had brought him to Christ last time - but his studying of quantum physics led him to pretty much the same disturbing conclusion. and as a result, he stopped believing in God, and turned back to atheism.

now, allow me to present an apologetic for the existence of absolute truth, even in a world that is itself physically uncertain, where the uncertainty principle holds sway.

first, i want to debunk the notion that the physical world and its uncertainty must necessarily determines the foundation of truth. just because the uncertainty principle exists and is true for the physical world and its dimensions as we humans can perceive it, doesn't mean that it must therefore apply to the very nature of truth itself.

for truth is far more than jus what is seen. in fact, the Scriptures say that we know that the world was not made out of what is seen. "...we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." dark matter, space-time expansion, DNA, information theory and all these wonders of nature are simply declaring the glory of God.

"the heavens declare the glory of God
the skies proclaim the works of his hands
day after day they pour forth speech
night after night they display knowledge..."

in fact, did you realise the uncertainty principle is itself very certain. and in order to prove the uncertainty principle, Heisenberg, Bohr and other quantum physicists had to use a most-decidedly antithetical line of reasoning in order to prove the certainty of the uncertainty principle. so much then for Hegel and his gang of post-modernists. synthesis FAIL.

(disclaimer: now, pls don't hammer me on my overuse of the uncertainty principle as an example. i'm just using it as an illustrative (and convenient) shorthand... so forgive me for oversimplifying my arguments... :P)

so then, let's be careful in our interpretations and what certain half-informed pple may have said about what they _think_ they understand about quantum mechanics and uncertainty and all that... Whatever the non-locality principle says - one thing it does NOT say is that a fact is uncertain, and therefore relative.

else we risk falling into Sokal's trap.
1 Corinthians 3:19b
"He catches the wise in their craftiness"


it simply means that the fact doesn't exist in the first place. like asking what's the marital status of 5. or what a square circle looks like. thus the same applies for the position of a single particle.

it simply means that we can never know the world fully. we can't even predict with absolute certainty. all it does show us is our helplessness and ignorance.

**********

now, i'll move into the reams and realms of Scriptures. the next section is for Christians.

Firstly, i'm thinking then. why did God create the uncertainty principle in the first place? To that, I think God will simply ask us the same questions as He asked Job thousands of years ago in Job 38:
"Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?

3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

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

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

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

7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?"
only the immeasurable God is able to fully measure an immeasurable universe. only the Absolute One is capable of fixing both the position and velocity of a single particle perfectly. think about it. if we can't even measure a single particle perfectly... nor can we predict the motions of a trillion stars in a trillion galaxies... =)

and to borrow Bohr's insistence that we can only see the world as "through a glass darkly", and that this shadow world is as real as it gets...

absolutely so. for the Scriptures say in the epistle of Hebrews that this present world is only a shadow of the good things that are to come.

and to describe it more visually... i'll paraphrase CS Lewis from his Narnia book, "The Last Battle". In that book, the Narnian boy-king fought to the very bitter end, when he fell into the wooden shed, and suddenly, got transported into another land.

and he was so surprised to find that this land seemed so familiar. and yet so different.

and that the colours were more real than anything he'd ever seen.

then one of the Narnians (i think it was an eagle) flew up into the sky, and reported back - this IS Narnia. the new Narnia. the old Narnia is no more, and the new Narnia has come.

and to cut a (beautiful) story short, CS Lewis described this new Narnia as an allegory of the real world that is to come. for this current world, is but a fallen shadow of the world that was, and is meant to be.

the physical realities that we see right now, are only a shadow of the good things that are yet to come. heaven isn't a big cloud... it's a place far more real, more brilliant, more glorious, more wonderful than anything we can ever imagine on earth.

we don't become ethereal forms floating around. no, scripture declares that we will have brand-new physical bodies... (i reckon it'll look the same as now - except a whole lot better haha.) "for the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality..." after all, Christ was physically resurrected. not metaphorically!

Secondly, I think God wants us to remember that this current heavens and earth is already so uncertain. thus, quantum mechanics simply testifies that this physical world that looks so certain is absolutely uncertain. (yes, i meant that to be an oxymoron.) He wants us to not place our faith in uncertain things, but only in His Word that is certain and true.

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe..."

but i must clarify - i don't mean that we should go the way of Kierkegaard and make a leap into the unknown. that's just S-T-U-P-I-D.

'cos the world is not totally random. correct? our senses, though not perfect, are a reasonable witness to reality. "Touch and see... stop doubting and believe," Jesus told Thomas.

i tink this is reasonable common-sense. physical realities are meant to be a pointer to the Great I AM.

So put your hope in the Lord, both now and forever, for He is the eternal unchanging God, the Tower of Refuge, the Way and the Truth and the Life - the One who speaks with utter confidence, "I AM WHO I AM." in a universe that is shakily uncertain.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Christian Ethics Course - and God's Kindness

praise the Lord. the course is goooooooood. :) we learnt very deep stuff. like Hegelian dialetic synthesis, Kiekergaardian faith and Sartrean existentialism... and what really the Bible says in counter to these deceptive human philosophies.

And v blessed to make a new friend today. his name's chris. from ntu side. a new believer. abt 6 mths old. but we are very blessed by his sincere, childlike faith and testimony. =D

at the end of the lesson, tze wei asked us to recount and share to one another how God has been kind to us. we shared about this and that... and when it was chris' turn, he innocently said (to paraphrase him), "I really thank God that I can have a good church to grow in, that He placed me in good spiritual soil and that I can read my Bible too."

and we older ones were silent for a while. (and we smiled at the end of it all.)

when was the last time i was thankful to God for my spiritual family, and for the fact that i can even read my Bible freely in public?
Very tired. I have more than enough time to finish my stuff, but I procrastinate. I know why I procrastinate - it's because I feel melancholic.

Oh dear. What a horrible cycle. The more melancholic I feel, the more I procrastinate. And the more I procrastinate, the more tired I become. And the more tired I become, the more melancholic I feel.

Lord, I must admit it's hard for me to look to You in moments like this, but help me up again I pray. In Jesus' most merciful name, amen...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Songs of Joy

There's just so many inexpressible thoughts that's going right through my mind right now. Like the combined choir of a hundred songs echoing through my mind.

It's the balance between being straightforward and prosaic, and yet being cursive and spilling with prose. Don't want to be too serious, and yet not so frivolous.

But I think the overwhelming song in my heart is a song of joy. =)
As morning dawns and evening fades
You inspire songs of praise
That rise from earth to bless Your heart
And glorify Your name

:)

The weekend was such a joyful weekend.

HopeKids service - it was such a hectic time. The video camera that we borrowed got its tape deck jammed, I had to rush my skit rehearsal, usher in the children and so on... it was really challenging.

But you know, as we ended the service with a time of worship... something happened that touched me very much. As we started singing "How Can I Keep From Singing", I noticed that many of the little children were slowly inching to the front.

So I moved to the front too. And this verse came to mind: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

And then the lead singer told the children, "Children, let's draw near to worship God..." And then they all came eagerly to the front.

As we sang, I saw so many of the little ones clustered around the stage, and worshipping God... it simply touched me so much. For all their rowdiness, their mischief, their pranks and their lack of discipline... they were reading the lyrics and worshipping the Lord.

It was a God moment. I simply can't describe the divine wonder of that moment, but the little ones were suddenly transfigured into a choir of angels, a unified paean of praise that day. So many little children all gathered as one, and singing all together,
How can I keep from singing Your praise
How can I ever say enough
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing
It was very heartwarming indeed. Even two of the more mischievous children were really standing there and seriously worshipping the Lord. I was amazed, and touched and delighted and filled with joy. And I think the Lord Jesus was also beaming at the joyous sight of it all. Just a tiny preview of the glorious worship that shall be in heaven for all eternity one day.

:)

Then had a great time of supper with my CG. Edwin suggested that he could help to organize a game of LaserQuest for the CG. Whoa. :D Thank God! And a warm time of chatting and getting to know Dehua better on our way to Paradiz Centre, and Shawn driving Dehua, Jinghe, Jon and me to CyberDome cafe to play Left For Dead. And we banged, rifled, shotted, flamed and exploded our way till 4.30 am.

After that, met up with Jon and we had shepherding till 8 am.

Concussed! :) But joyfully concussed.

And then rested for a while, and went jogging with Andrew, a bro from RP side in Tertiary, for half an hour. Then we had a good time of lunch at my place, and after that, he asked me a LOT of questions about how to set up a wireless connection.

Gosh! I really have so much to learn from his eager and hungry spirit to learn, by asking so many questions. This is an attitude I want to pick up from him.

Am truly blessed by his friendship. =)

And right after that, I met up with Kin Wee over a cup of tea. It was a great and meaningful time of sharing and rambling and thought-provoking discussions...

Then met up with Peter right after that, and we shared about some ideas for some potential opportunities...


Gosh. Learning from children, from my sheep, from a bro in the student ministry, a couple expecting their first child, a fellow bro in Adults, my shepherd...

My life was enriched by so many people this weekend. =) Thank You so much dear Lord.

**********

At the first combined service of the year, Ps Ben announced that he and Ps Dinah and their children would be going over to the Americas soon to take care of the Hope churches there. I was so surprised. And Ps Dinah looked like she wanted to cry - the two of them have been 18 years in Hope Singapore, faithfully building up this church and loving us, serving us, caring for us, leading us, praying for us, ministering to us, asking us how we are doing and so many other things.

Felt a deep sense of sadness in a way, to have to say goodbye to them. 'Cos I remember one of the first sermons that I heard was Ps Ben exhorting us, "We are not only a Bible-believing church - we (desire to be) a Bible-practising church!"

It was so timely, 'cos I had been asking God which church I should settle in. And that statement by Ps Ben assured me that this was the church that God had called me to settle in.

And I've seen this couple's life over the years... how they have loved us, and served us. So many little things they did for us - like Ps Ben sitting down by himself and eating cheap chicken rice from a styrofoam box during lunch-time, just so that he could spend time with the ministry people. And Ps Dinah warmly asking how we were.

I also remember another little thing that Ps Ben did last year that touched me a lot. We were in HopeTots, and Ps Ben happened to be just passing through the room. However, even though he was in a hurry, I saw him quietly closing his eyes and laying hands on every little child's head that he passed by. And he was whispering a quick prayer for every one of them.

Gosh. That really, really touched me very much. =)

Godspeed, dear Ps Ben and Dinah, and your two children. May the Lord go with you all, and may His right hand carry you and keep you safe over there. May He bless all the works of your hands, even as you love Him and serve Him as a family together. May He be with you, both now and forever. Amen.

**********
And for Ps Jeff and Claudia, whoa, we're going to see a year of exciting things happening. I can feel it in my spirit - something good, something great, something wonderful will happen.

This is the year of preparation and consecration to the Lord. We're looking forward to circumcising our hearts, bonding together as a community and surrendering even more of ourselves to the Commander of Commanders.

I've set aside Thursdays to keep people around me in prayer... I've planned to keep Ps Jeff and Claudia in my weekly intercessory prayers too. Support them in your prayers too!

*********
Ok! Time to rest. The LORD our God is with us. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength! Aye-men and Hallelujah!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cadbury Eyebrows


Sent to me by Zaccheus from HopeKids. I'm very inspired by this bro - he's only 12 years old, but his enthusiasm really shines extraordinarily. By extraordinary, I mean he outshines even the other kids. And it's not his personality per se... there's something different about that kind of enthusiasm.

Gosh! I have much to learn from this bro! :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A SIMPLE WAY TO PRAY

This is such a cool article on prayer!
A SIMPLE WAY TO PRAY

by Martin Luther


I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray. May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen.

First, when I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little psalter, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do.


It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, "Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that." Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day.

It may well be that you may have some tasks which are as good or better than prayer, especially in an emergency. There is a saying ascribed to St. Jerome that everything a believer does is prayer1 and a proverb, "He who works faithfully prays twice." This can be said because a believer fears and honors God in his work and remembers the commandment not to wrong anyone, or to try to steal, defraud, or cheat. Such thoughts and such faith undoubtedly transform his work into prayer and a sacrifice of praise...

[Read more!]
When I read these words, the first thought that came to mind was, "Gosh! This sounds very much like a 20th/21st century letter, what with all the busy things... even though it was written back in the 16th century." Some things remain timeless - the busyness and the hustle and bustle even of work, ministry, family and so on...

Wow. Thank God so much that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Aye-men.

So be it the Ice Age, Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Steel Age, Industrial Age, Space Age, Information Age or the Saus Age...
"Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the End
Beginning and the End..."
Thank God so much that we can always pray to Him, no matter what time it is. And I reckon that if God could make the sun and the moon stand still in response to Joshua's prayer or even make the sun go backwards for King Hezekiah' request... then I reckon even if we "waste" time on praying, He literally is able to make enough time for our hands.

So what are you waiting for today? Let's PRAY!!!

Supposed to be doing a Screwtape skit...

... for something later on this week. And I'm supposed to come up with the script. Gosh! Haha... :P

And I'm on for the appetizer skit for this Sat's HopeKids service... but that means I'll have to miss the storytelling for the First-Time Writers/Illustrators thingy... The skit's script's the wackiest I've seen so far. Good good we must go all the way in whatever we do for the Lord, and for the kids! :D Haha!!!

On another note, HL has done up a sketch so far. Lovely! :)

Screwtape Proposes a Toast

The scene is in Hell at the annual dinner of the Tempters' Training College for young devils. The principal, Dr. Slubgob, has just proposed the health of the guests. Screwtape, a very experienced devil, who is the guest of honour, rises to reply:

Mr. Principal, your Imminence, your Disgraces, my Thorns, Shadies, and Gentledevils:
It is customary on these occasions for the speaker to address himself chiefly to those among you who have just graduated and who will very soon be posted to official Tempterships on Earth. It is a custom I willingly obey. I well remember with what trepidation I awaited my own first appointment. I hope, and believe, that each one of you has the same uneasiness tonight. Your career is before you. Hell expects and demands that it should be -- as mine was -- one of unbroken success. If it is not, you know what awaits you. [more...]

Excerpts from C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters"

MY DEAR WORMWOOD,

I note what you say about guiding our patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naïf? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" of "false", but as "academic" or "practical", "outworn" or "contemporary", "conventional" or "ruthless". Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about. [more...]

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Trust His Heart

Trust His Heart

All things work for the good
Though sometimes we can't
See how they could
Troubles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what's best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just can't see him,
Remember He's still on the throne

Chorus:
God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see his plan
When you can't trace his hand
Trust His Heart


He sees the master plan
He holds the future in his hand,
Don't live as those who have no hope,
While our hope is found in him.
We see the present clearly
But he sees the first and last
And like a tapestry He's weaving you and me,
To someday be just like him

(Chorus)

He alone is faithful and true
He alone knows what is best for you

(Chorus)

When you can't trace his hand
When you don't see his plan
When you don't understand
Trust His Heart
Weizhu sent this to me yesterday. I had been sharing to him about something that happened so suddenly that left me quite shell-shocked and disappointed. Then... he suddenly sent me this song, and this song is so BEAUTIFUL. *sniffs* Incredibly sweet of him... =D

Dear friends, I pray the words of this song'll minister to you, whoever you may be... whether you're up or down, right with God or left behind... whatever happens, trust His heart. :)

PS: Thanks WZ! The problem is now over... sort of! =) It really did work out for something even more encouraging... =D but right now things are still in progress... we're on tenterhooks here, so this song really is very timely! =) Thank God for you, bro! And it's so drama the whole thing... haha... but yup, God's hand is in this, whether I see Him or not.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gosh! I'm supposed to write an encouragement card to one of the brothers in Hope Nairobi... WOAH! I'm feeling quite excited, but at the same time a bit nervous... imagine... encouraging someone else from a different country and culture thousand of miles away...

and yet we're all one in the Body of Christ. yay! :)
Every action I choose has consequences. Not only for me, but also for those with me. Do I care and spare a thought for those whom God has put together with me?

Monday, February 16, 2009

What God Has Been Doing In My Life The Past Fortnight

Wow. These past two weeks have really been like a storm, up and down, up and down.

  • Had been struggling with not one, but two, painful emotional hurts simultaneously. It was like fighting a battle on two fronts.
  • And the stress of writing and re-writing the manuscript.
  • Taking care of my own spiritual life, and others' spiritual lives.
  • And preparing praise for caregroup - especially challenging for me, since God knows that I'm musically-challenged.
  • Someone in my family wanted to do something that wasn't right in God's eyes. So I was worried.
  • My new Lenovo laptop started making weird AND loud noises and even had inexplicable disk errors... my heart stopped beating for one second...
  • I seemed to have transferred $300 to the wrong bank account when using the Citibank online banking website for the first time... *sweat sweat*
Had felt increasingly hard-pressed, to the point where I shared with my shepherd that I wanted to take a break for a while. Of course, he was very concerned. But he listened, and understood the struggles that I had been going through and he told me that my feelings were valid, and that it wasn't wrong for me to want to take a break.

Wow. Thank God for Peter. Felt so deeply comforted and understood. And that helped me remember that the Father does understand and care. :)
Jeremiah 15:15
You understand, O LORD; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering—do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.
Actually, God really helped and blessed me so much during the past two weeks. Through the twin struggles that I went through the past two weeks, thank God that He gently encouraged me to pray. It must have been the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

It was very funny actually. I remember I was tired in so many ways, but I just found a place to sit down and pray. Prayed for a short while, committing these two situations to God, even though I didn't know how He was going to answer or help me.

I prayed, "Father, if this is possible, let this cup be taken away from me. Yet not my will, but Yours be done."

In the days after I had prayed that prayer, somehow whenever I felt like giving up, the Lord gently reminded me from Luke 24:26: "Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"

First the suffering, then the glory. That was the message that the Lord wanted to remind me. And He also spoke to me from James 1:
2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.


And this beautiful promise a few verses later:
12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
To be honest, I'm really amazed that I actually made it through stronger and more stable. I didn't even expect to finish this trial - I had actually been quite looking forward to dropping out of this trial that God was allowing me to go through.

But were it not for the prayer for strengthening that I had prayed at the start, and the Word of God daily, and the encouragement of some dear brothers who understood the difficulties...

Now this small and temporary trial is over. I think I've grown more secure and confident in my relationship with God and men. And best of all, I have gotten to know God in a deeper and more intimate knowledge of who He really is in my life. "He must increase, I must decrease." Amen!

And I also see that this kind of trial is actually necessary preparation for some of the things that I hope to be able to do for the Lord next time. But even if nothing else, at least I have gotten to know God in a deeper and more intimate way. Honestly. the Lord really has been so good to a sinner like me. Blessed be His name, both now and forever! Aye-men. :)

*********
And also thank God for a dear brother's gentle listening ear and exhortation to do the godly thing:

Bro: hope u can forgive ( ) for the way he/she treated you...
me: i've already forgiven him/her. God gave me the strength to do so
Bro: amen!

It wasn't easy, but God increased my heart. No doubt praying for this dear friend who hurt me deeply really helped a lot. And somehow God changed the anger and bitterness in my heart into a heart of gentleness and compassion. "Father, forgive him/her for he/she doesn't know what he/she is doing."

Gosh. It's only with God's love and grace that I am able to love like Him. So humbling, but so delightful. Like what Mother Teresa said, I am only a little pencil through which God is writing a love letter to the world. I love that quote!

I'm only a little pencil. :) He will sharpen me, He will hold me and He will push me. And the more I am hard-pressed, the deeper and bolder my impact becomes. And yet... I will decrease and decrease, till one day I shall pass away. And yet, the more I die, the more I really live. Like the etches a pencil leaves behind on a piece of paper.

And yet, in the end, it's not about me at all, but the Author who is writing. He could choose anyone else... in fact, the one recorded time that He wrote, He used nothing but a finger on the sandy ground.

*********
Not just so. God also blessed me very much through my dear sheep. Had actually been trying to prepare a teaching for him when we were meeting up, but I was still trying to stop dwelling on something. But thank God. He helped me snap out of my "stall" mode. And I felt very refreshed by Jon and his crazy jokes. Yeah. His jokes have been getting more powerful. Must be God working in him haha...

Interestingly enough, while I was about to give him the teaching that I had prepared... suddenly, I had this thought come into my mind to change the topic to a more relevant topic at hand. I think it may have been the Holy Spirit's prompting me to change topics. I wondered and asked Him, "Uh, Lord? I change topic to another one? But I never prepare leh..."

But I think God reminded me that He will give me the necessary words to speak. Wah. And surprised by how all the relevant Bible verses started popping into my mind at the right times. Truly, the Lord is Jonathan's shepherd! I'm simply a clay jar through whom He chose to operate through. Aye-men.



I was also super-encouraged by something that he wrote... wow... this is really God's grace at work within his life. And for his sweet spirit, even when I scolded him... gosh. I have to learn from my sheep in this area too! :)


*************
Also, thank God, for some reason, He comforted me in my work. My colleagues really blessed me in small ways, like helping fill up a container with my favourite biscuits (since they know that I'm the resident "Cookie Monster" in the office)... this is totally an unexpected blessing... so reminded that I really gotta keep my colleagues in prayer for their salvations too...


And oh yes, Ps Jo's sermon on Psalm 23:5... about the Shepherd who heals our hurts. GOSH. That sermon was SO SO SO timely and ministering... and it was so much through that sermon that I really received from God... it was a very clear sign that God really let all these things come into my life at that particular timing.


And I think He is already healing my hurts AND restoring what was broken... totally the grace and mercy of God my Saviour... He didn't just heal, but He also restores... wow.


And He also blessed me so much with Andrew's friendship. I'm very touched by his sincerity - not relating as a leader, but relating simply as a brother... I was touched that he actually took the initiative to bless me. And all I can offer him is my friendship and prayer... yet he actually appreciate such small things. Wow. God is good indeed.


God really has been blessing me with more friendships with the brothers since last year and this year... I really pray that we men in the church can continue to develop and grow covenantal friendships in Christ. To help one another become men of God after His own heart! To be M.A.C.H.O. = Men Always Chasing Holy Objectives! Haha... And to be a Band of Brothers. Exciting indeed!


And I'm so amazed. Though I am less than the least of all God's people, and really am less than the least of all men... yet God is choosing and calling even a worm like me to come join Him to make an impact in this generation to make fishers of men... disciples... world-changers for Jesus Christ! So fantastic.


=D More exciting things are coming up already... God is good, all the time! Through the darkest night, His light will shine! Aye-men!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Jake The Cake’s Children’s Poetry

I came across this blog. I LOVE THIS BLOG! Full of fantastic children's poems... =D

A poem good for Valentine's Day...
Fire and Ice
Ice-Cube Boy and Fire Girl both fell in love at school.
He thought that she was really hot,
She thought that he was cool.
But when they tried to hug and kiss
her flame went “fizzle, pop and hiss!”
and Ice-Cube Boy was turned to steam,
evaporating with a scream.
Their parents cried “Our son!”, “Our daughter!”
“Nothing more than smoke and water,
Now it’s clear, it’s just a fact
that opposites should not attract!”
Paul Hughes 2009
Super-thankful and relieved. After days of increasing stress over my writer's block... I was increasing in my desperate prayers to God. Asking Him for any insights... pearls of wisdom from heaven... an angel to appear before me with a Great Story...

well! God did answer my prayer... through my shepherd. I was sharing with him about the story, and the stress I was feeling. So he sat down with me to review the story. And as he read through the story, he started peppering his own ideas... and his ideas got crazier and crazier.

Let's just say that he somehow managed to introduce Transformers and and Lord of the Rings into my story by the time he'd finished.

I have one insanely creative shepherd. And I am so incredibly blessed by all his creative inputs and ideas. =)

Anyway, something I reflected about this is that God does answer our prayers even for creative ideas. After all... He is the Creator, so I figure that makes Him creative! =) So we should pray persistently even in our stress, for He is able to give us creative juices just as He anointed Bezalel:
Exodus 31:1-5
Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 "See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts- 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.

And that He sometimes chooses to answer our prayers through people. In fact, I read somewhere that He prefers to lavish His love and grace through people in answering our prayers. Yeah, He could choose to do great signs and wonders directly, but He so much prefers to use limited humans as His agents. Because they are made in His image. So cool. :) Thank You Lord for Peter.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Led praise in CG yesterday. Haha... thank God He provided me with three backup singers. Felt quite unsure, since singing is super-tough for me. But God helped me. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Amen. :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Met up with Kin Wee again today. So blessed. :) We walked from AMK to Bishan. Talked about writing and metaphysics and deconstruction and childlike wonder and shadow world and other things. Airily metaphysicified. :)
click on the above pic to see the full details!
It's so nice, the illustration! And the poem/rap/rhyme/chant - whatever they youngsters call it nowadays. :D

But more seriously, I've been thinking whether to invite a few sec school guys I got to make friends with during my company's annual com care event. It's very interesting - they were the ones who initiated the keeping in touch... ok, i guess they bonded with me, 'cos i treated them to a Christmas meal of Big Macs. (You should have seen their eyes open wide-wide - four hungry teenage boys - when I told them I'll treat them.)

Still, I hope they won't expect me to treat them more. :) Something I learnt in the past about connecting with people carries over to connecting with kids and teenagers - just be yourself. And don't be afraid to do good. You don't have to act nice - just relate to them at your own comfort level.

But yet... even in the short time of bonding with them, and seeing how God gave me this opportunity to minister to 4 growing boys... I felt uncomfortable. Because of the age gap, and my natural introversion and shyness. But I had to be bold and confident, both for their sakes and my own sake. Perhaps it was because I never really saw myself as a leader, as an influencer of 4 young men-to-be who were looking up to me for guidance and direction.

And I felt so vulnerable. Because I wasn't used to doing any leading, even as a young child. (When you have two older sisters... well, you know lah.)

But this is good, because such things like these force me to look to the Father himself for guidance, confidence and direction. And I'm reminded that in big ways and small ways, I just have to be faithful to sow God's love in the people around me.

I've been thinking. And yet... there are times we are to work in what are clearly uncomfortable times and moments. In fact, I had the joy of being able to pray for a brother in NUS yesterday - he shared with me about his stress of serving as a leader in ministry... and I received a prayer request from a sister today for God to comfort and strengthen her through challenging times...

It makes me realize... doing the right things, the good things, the lovely things, the true things, the noble things... are not always comfortable. But it's through these tough times that we can really experience and feel the comfort of God like never before.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

compassion + fortification = comfort.


Have tried getting in touch with the Youth people to link them up with the boys. But I'm not sure who else to look for. And besides, they're having the Valentine's day service.

I gotta hurry up, pray and get in touch with Shirley Melinda. Maybe there might be a way to jio them for service... if it's all right to do so. (I don't think now's the timing to ask them yet for service, but hee God knows my heart to want to bless them.)

Ok! Off I go.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What I've Been Learning About Myself

Thank God for all the comments that I received. So many of them! :) It's very interesting to see how different people see different things of the same story. =) I realised and learnt so much about other people and myself - different styles of working. Very fascinating!

In part, I also learnt better my personal working style, and more importantly, how I can be more effective for God in what I do. I realised that for me, I work best in a team of two - my partner ensures that I get the job done on time, but he/she must give me time and space to develop my own ideas. And I work best when I am given an initial idea as a starting point. From there, I can spin off new ideas very fast and rapidly develop these concepts. Sorta like an idea factory. Haha...

And how I respond and work with other people's comments and advice... generally, I consider asking the inputs of others important, 'cos they are able to see important details that I have left out.

But, I appreciate it even more when the other person can see the bigger picture at hand, and see what my intended direction is, AND then give suggestions that will make it easier for me to reach that intended goal state. For me, it's much, much more important for me to do the right things, rather than do the things right. Makes more sense that way. If we do the right things, then we can always work on doing the right things right later on.

Hah... then, I realise that I am very easily accomodating to others' opinions and feedback. If someone suggests something, I'll most likely go along with the person's ideas and explore that option. 'Cos generally I prefer not to argue - unless it's something that I consider a moral/ethical issue, or if I think the other person doesn't understand where I'm coming from.

Actually, this aspect of me is very different from last time, back in sec school, when I would override my friends' opinions and suggestions, insisting that my opinion was the best way. Strange how one can change so much over time... but well, I'm a new creation in Christ. :) Aye-men.

Then... haha, I guess I tend to want to accomodate as many people as possible, so sometimes I make compromises to the original vision that I have. The problem is that I tend to take these comments very personally and seriously, so I find it hard to take the comments objectively. This hinders me from being able to make a fast and/or good decision, because I tend to feel that if I reject the other person's comments, I'm also rejecting the other person himself/herself.

Haha... gosh. It's very interesting, learning more about how God has created me to be. And a deeper sense of appreciation for the vast diversity of mankind that He has created all over the world. :D

Ethical Issues

Zachary was asking about what would you do if you were an officer in Hitler's army. Which made me think: are there ethical gray areas in life?

Hmm. Personally, I don't believe there are any grey ethical issues in life. But... because of our fallen world, and our current fallen state, and also just as mere humans, we still find it hard to make sense of things. E.g. would you participate in a plot to take out an ungodly leader committing mass murder of millions?

Sort of like a two-dimensional being trying to comprehend how a circle can be a square simultaneously. Like how God can predestine certain people for salvation, and yet announce that "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!"

Oh, about the 2-D being puzzling.. the answer's simple. A circle can be a square at the same time if you consider that it's a cylinder.

So... I think ultimately we have to pray to God, and obey the Bible in whatever it says. God, who sees everything from the highest perspective and the highest dimensions, is able to give the best answer for all of life's situations.

Ha. I think it's really a case of seeking and trusting God each step in the cases where He hasn't explicitly stated anything.

Learning About Comments

I've been sending out drafts of the story that I've been writing (5 or 6 drafts so far) to a group of people. And I've gotten very diverse comments. Some loved one plot, yet others didn't like this or that... haha...

But in the course of looking into all these comments, I've realised that you don't have to necessarily accept all these comments (unless it's from God himself haha). Rather, we have to weight the quality of these comments by the various strengths of the people who make these comments.

Thus, for some people, they aren't concerned about details, but are able to see the very big picture of things. Thus, they're better for asking about how does the overall 'feel' of the plot feel, or whether the overall objective is being achieved.

Yet others are very sharp with details. They'll give you feedback about the language, the style, the grammar...

And others may be very encouraging, with good (and slightly vague) comments. These people are the ones you need to motivate you when you're feeling down.

Yet others are very analytical. Whether the plot flows smoothly. Flowing smoothly is different from flowing to the intended destination.

And others are just plain creative. Throwing in ideas here and there.



All these comments have to be assessed by the qualities of the people making these comments. Never ever assume that a strong, confident and assertive tone of a comment means that it is always accurate. They may be sincerely wrong.

For example, last time I had this skin problem. I had this very assertive brother in my CG who took one look at my skin, and said that he was very certain that it was fungi.

I was stunned. I asked him, "Are you sure?" He replied, "Yes, I'm very certain."

So I went to the doctor and told him my friend's diagnosis. He looked at my skin, and asked me with a skeptical look on his face, "Is your friend a doctor?"

"Err... no."

He smiled, and said, "Well, I don't think so, but just to be sure, let's do some tests."

So we did the tests, and the doctor came back with the results. "It's not fungi. It's just __________."

I was relieved. And quite angry actually with the brother who had been so confident.

But it made me think. How often are we so confident in diagnosising the spiritual issues of the people under our care? Sometimes we think they are rebellious, when they are actually just confused about what you mean.

To be honest, I, along with other leaders, have sometimes discussed about the people under our care. And one favourite phrase that we sometimes use is: "We need to find the root issue in that person's heart/life," as if it were as simple as that.

But often, growth in a person's life is almost always not so simple as that. There might be a root issue, yes... or there might be several little issues that all combine to cause the person to be like this or that... or it's simply pure ignorance on the person's part.

We need to be more careful in our diagnosis of what we think is wrong with the person we are counselling / taking care of. Not to say that we cannot make a diagnosis, but we need to be humble and careful as well. Personally, I think it is essential to understand where a person is coming from first, before one can administer the "medicine". Else you risk turning off the person by insisting that the person needs chemotherapy, when maybe all he/she needs is just a healthy diet with a good deal of rest. But of course, the opposite may also be true.

So it's not easy, but it's important, to pray as well for spiritual discernment. Pure intuition and pure observation, both aren't reliable. For it says in Isaiah 11 of Jesus Christ the Great Shepherd:
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD -

3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;


4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
We need to partner with the Holy Spirit if we want to effectively shepherd the people under our care.

Recently, I was sharing about an emotional issue with my shepherd. We shared, and Peter gave me feedback. But somehow, I felt that the feedback he gave me, while excellent, wasn't addressing the correct issue. So I told him I didn't really think that was the correct issue he was addressing. And he thought for a while, and said, "Yes, you're right. I think I totally missed the point."

I was so surprised. And very touched by his humility. Gosh. I told him, "No bro, don't worry, the feedback you gave me is very good." He still said, "Well, but the fact is that I totally missed the point you were trying to make."

Oh boy. I felt so touched. =) Really thank God for this dear brother's humility and gentleness. And that's something to consider... that we aren't to lord it over those entrusted to us, but to set an example for us. (1 Peter 5:3)

Which was a very big contrast to another experience a few years ago, when I was with one leader, who had met up with me to counsel me as I was struggling with a lot of issues then. (Haha thank God those issues are resolved already now so don't worry...) I shared with him about my issues, and then he gave me feedback. But I still felt that the feedback didn't quite answer my issues, and said so. He became angry and rebuked me, telling me to just accept what he said.

I do respect this brother all the same, and no, I'm not bitter at all - in fact, a lot of the things he said is very true. And I did act upon his advice to just accept what my leaders told me.

But over the years, I've come to realised that there must be a healthy balance, when it comes to accepting input from our leaders in church, or in the workplace or wherever else. All the inputs and teachings that we get are to ultimately be measured up against the Word of God. Only the written Word of God is safe enough to just accept as it is. It is pure spiritual milk that we can count on. No melamine. :) All the rest is to be measured against the Bible, for they are from imperfect people.

Don't blindly accept, but don't blindly argue. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. Test everything. =)

I'm thankful that God invites us to come and reason with Him. And that He actually let us debate and discuss and even argue with him, like how Abraham, Moses, Gideon and Job did... but they argued with the attitude that they knew that God is the One who is absolutely correct, but they themselves didn't understand.

I guess learning to discuss and debate, to ask good questions, is to help ourselves draw nearer to the path of truth. Not to ask questions for the "ideal" of being seen as an inquiring learner (like how Paul described the false teachers in 2 Timothy 3:7, "...always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth."), but to actually want to find out the truth for themselves. That, I think, shows a noble heart, wanting to see the truth for themselves, like how the Bereans eagerly searched the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul told them was true.

And, so, our faith will be strengthened by the questions that we ask God Himself, with a heart to listen to what He says. But He may answer in ways that we didn't expect. Like how He answered Job's questions with a list of unanswerable questions: "Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer Me."

There was a disciple who asked his rabbi: "Rabbi, why do you keep on asking us so many questions?" And the rabbi instantly replied, "So what's wrong with a question?"

:) Haha...

Hmm. I guess this post was triggered off by someone's comments on the story I wrote. This friend was very direct and rather blunt, so I did feel a bit intimidated. But yes, the comments are good... very good... and I shall keep them in consideration. Because there are other comments that present an equally valid and good perspective.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Truth About Pluralism

"The Truth About Pluralism"
QnA with Jose Philip (Ravi Zacharias International Ministry)
NUS Science Faculty (S16-04-36)
Wednesday, 11 February 2009, 7-9pm
I was on my way back with a brother, while we were discussing about implementing some men's ministry stuff in our unit.

He shared me that it's important to help build the brothers up, firstly by building up comradeship through shared activities. And then to grow the fellowship by helping them build up a shared identity. :)

So exciting!

[Incidentally, I realised I don't enjoy technical roles that much. But I really love pastoral roles, especially counselling and encouraging, even though I'm a natural introvert and not a naturally gregarious person at all. Strange, yeah? But God is wonderful indeed.]

There's one more thing that he said that gave me pause.

"There are not many brothers who have close friends."

I have to really count my blessings then. Though I don't have a wide circle of friends, and so often, I wish I was much, much more popular and sociable... I have a few very, very close and dear friends - and the friendships are mutual. Not one, but more than one godly friend. Which makes me incredibly blessed, actually. And totally all these friendships are the grace of God totally. Because I'm such an unworthy person, less than the least of all God's people. And yet He poured out His grace so abundantly upon even someone so lowly like me. I need to humbly work on being a better and a truer and a wiser and a more faithful friend to them.

Wow. God is just so good. :)
The previous post on grace sparked off another issue that I've been thinking a lot about for a long, long time already.

It's something that Jesus talked about, but the church hasn't been talking very much about nowadays. And maybe that's why the Church isn't considered radical enough to be relevant to this generation. Not following Christ and His radical teachings.

Dietriech Bonhoeffer, too, was burdened by the same issue back in his generation, when the Church in his increasingly Nazi-fied Germany had become increasingly irrelevant. And he realised it was because the Church had lost sight of her true calling: to be the very Body of Christ on earth.

*pondering* Thank God for brothers like Robert, Weizhu, Peter, Yanjie, Huaqiang and so many others, like Jason and Marcus too. Their sharings are helping me deepen my thinking, to see beyond the usual system of doing things. And slowly, but surely, I've been starting to see that if we really want to see a revival, a revolution, a riot... a Reformation, then we need to go back to the Word of God as it really is. To follow Christ and obey His commands totally and wholeheartedly.

And when another bro told me the other time that if we love only those who love us, then we should be ashamed to call ourselves Christians... it struck me deeply, because it's so true - if we claim to be Christians, are we even following what the Lord Jesus Himself taught?

Every generation needs to be taught to return to the Word of God as it really is. To examine and taste the word of the Lord for themselves. Not, as Jon quipped, to eat second-hand pre-chewed food.

If we want to be relevant to this generation, we need to start becoming radical again. And the only way to true radicalness is to listen to the One who told us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily and follow Him.

So we can't depend on human wisdom alone. No to hollow and deceptive philosophies. We need to be disciples of Christ ultimately. Our mentor is to be Christ Himself, and the role of our spiritual mentors is to help draw us to start sitting down at the feet of the Lord Himself. To be covered with the dust of the Rabbi.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that there's simply no other way to win this world for Jesus. We need to, first of all, be disciples of Christ. To be filled with the Holy Spirit. To become little Christs. Literally, Christ-ians. :)

After the discussion with the other bros, I was stunned to realise just how bad our Bible illiteracy is in our own church. How many of us have read the whole Bible at least once? And how many of us can quote even Psalm 23 from memory? And so on.

Just some things for more thought.

No wonder the Church's becoming increasingly irrelevant... it's not putting the Word of God fully into practice! Because if we really did put all the Lord's teachings into practice... God'll be so pleased to unleash His mighty works through fully-surrendered and dedicated disciples, to turn an upside-down world upside-down! :D "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth."

When Grace Arrives Unannounced

She went out for cigarettes. That's my favorite detail of the story told by Ashley Smith. It was not a noble calling; it wasn't even a noble errand. But the craving for nicotine at 2 o'clock in the morning apparently led Smith into the loaded gun of one Brian Nichols, a man who was wanted for raping one woman and murdering another woman and three men. According to Smith, Nichols forced her into her apartment, tied her up, put her in the bathtub and told her, "I'm not going to hurt you if you just do what I say."

What would you do under those circumstances? Scream? Panic? Beg? But at that point, something else intervened. Smith actually communicated with her captor. She says she saw him not as a monster but as a human being. She talked with him. She told her story--how her husband had been stabbed in a dispute and had died in her arms, how she then had developed a drug habit, had been caught for speeding and drunken driving, had been arrested for assault (the charges were dropped), had ceded custody of her young daughter to her aunt. She showed him her wounds as a human being. And she saw in that man his own wounded soul. [read more...]
This story shocked me. It was a real-life story, and yet, it was totally so... different. And I think that is how Jesus' listeners must too have felt when they heard of the rich father racing to embrace that runaway ragamuffin runt of a son.

So shocking. And I am starting to think very hard right now... Jesus' words are TOTALLY right. "Love your enemies... do good to those who hate you..."

I'm so shocked. Jesus is truly the wisest man ever, the one greater than Solomon.

Would I do such a thing? Kneel down to pray for the guy holding a rifle to my head? Help serve the woman who has just insulted me? And so on... would I?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Finally got two letters of commendation for two projects that I have been working on. Thank God so much for His grace indeed... I really don't deserve these little gifts from Him, and yet He gave me. =) the Lord has really been so kind to me... hee!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Encouraged by Jonathan, how he's been resuming reading the Bible, and how 1 Corinthians has been speaking to him in such a timely and real way. Am so amazed at how God answered my prayers for him - Jon shared with me all the stuff that I'd been intending to ask him about, but forgot to do so. And am amazed too at the depth of insight of what he shared... =) clearly the grace of God really is working in his life... =D

Whoa. Lord, You are the great Shepherd of our souls! So encouraged to see how You have been faithfully shepherding and guiding Jon and working in response to my prayers for him. =)

Hey bro, I know you're reading my entry... take heart bro! He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion till the day of Christ Jesus... and am amazed and encouraged at your heart for God! :) Ganbatte bro! If God is for you, who can be against you?!
Weizhu proposed to Huichun yesterday! :) Overjoyed to see the two of them finally get together.

Reminded of Solomon's Song of Songs 1:4b, where the friends of the two lovers rejoiced together with them! "We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

And one of my CG bro/sis emailed me a very encouraging email. =) Was so surprised to receive it, but s/he thanked me for being an inspiration to her with regards to a more prayerful life. Hee. Praise the Lord.
Dear brother,

I want to encourage you too. I am always blessed when I receive your smses on prayer. You take time to think what you want to intercede for others, and for yourself. You know that when you pray, you will receive, hence, you take time to formulate your prayer points. That goes to show how much you know you can depend on our Lord.

My prayer life is motivated by people like you. I am not a very "prayer person". I think you can see that. I do more than I pray. Yet, when I am around you, I see how you put God in perspective through prayer, and by that, I am encouraged to take time to think of prayer points, and pray for people around me as well.

Thank you for being a motivator to me in Christ.

May the Lord keep you and bless you. May His grace continue to overflow in your life.
Thank You so much dear Lord. Deeply touched and encouraged to keep on. :)

I think it all started one night, when Guoqiang was my shepherd. We were at the Istana Park, and GQ asked me, "What can I pray for you?"

I hemmed and hawed, 'cos I didn't know what prayer requests to ask for. So I simply gave the answer: "Pray for me to love God and people more."

Sounds good, right? Well... GQ corrected me. 'Cos he understood that I was giving a "spiritual" answer... but in reality, I wasn't really relying very much on God in my prayer life.

No, there's nothing wrong in asking to grow in love for God and for people, but it's also the reason why I would say that... is it because I genuinely want to grow in love for God and for people, or just give a "spiritual"-sounding answer to look correct in front of my shepherd?

So haha, well fast-forward to today. Over the years, I've been learning to rely on God in more and more ways and to learn to bring more and more of my life to Him in prayer. Sometimes just to walk and talk with Him, as a man does with his friend. And honestly, I tell you, somehow I sense God's presence very strongly when I start spending time with him, walking and talking with him in the park.

Sort of like how it was when the Lord walked with Adam in the Garden of Eden, in the cool of the day. :)

Prayer's a delightful habit to start. You grow into it, and learn to pray according to what He wants. And prayer opens the way for God to do great and marvellous things, things so wonderful that you can't imagine it would actually happen. And there are things that have happened so beautifully and amazingly that even now, I still can't believe what I saw. :)

Thank God for Guoqiang, who got me realizing that I have to learn to humbly depend on God. And for Peter who told me ever so simply, when I was feeling very troubled: "Pray to God. He will help you."

Gosh. And yes, God really answered my prayers. :)

In fact, I was very busy on Wednesday night. Was working overtime in the office. But decided to go to AMK park to just take time to pray and seek the Lord. And gosh, it was such a ministering time, reading the Bible and praying. "He restores my soul."

Stayed at the park till 11.30 pm, even though I was very busy with more stuff to clear. So went back, and did my stuff, till super-late. Was rushing the storybook as well.

But the amazing thing is, even though I had slept very little... the miraculous thing was, normally I'm concussed after so little sleep. But that day, it was different. My body felt naturally sleepy, but inside, I was mentally alert and the surprise is: becoming more and more awake!

Somehow, I don't know how, I really find that EVERY single time, when I pray for a couple of hours the night before, I literally feel so much more energy in me that I can do my work even more efficiently and effectively! The statistics are clear on this one.

So, I understand how Moses could have spent 40 days and nights in the very presence of God without having to eat or drink ANYTHING. For God's presence is literally so powerful... no, I'm not advocating lack of sleep is good. "For He grants sleep to those He loves." I'm just saying that prayer helps us enter into God's presence, and God's presence can be so real, and sustaining - not only spiritually, but also physically and mentally and emotionally too, as He so chooses to.

In fact, I think it was Martin Luther who said that I have SO much to do for today, that I simply have to pray for 5 hours a day. Otherwise I cannot do it!

Whoa.

Well, that's how our God is. :) He richly blesses all those who call on Him in truth...
Psa 65:2
O you who hear prayer,
to you all men will come.


Oh. One more testimony before I forget. I was rushing from work to CG today. So I took a cab. I had only $26 in cash in my wallet that night. So I prayed a quick prayer to God, "Lord, I pray that the taxi ride won't cost more than $20." I was wondering if He had heard my prayer...

Well, guess what? My taxi fare was $19.75. Yesh. And, as the change was only 25 cents, I told the taxi uncle, "Uncle, keep the change lah." He was pleasantly surprised, and thanked me.

So it really turned out to be $20 exactly. And a pleasantly blessed taxi-driver too! :) Not more than $20. Isn't God so COOL? He really can do more than all we ask or even imagine... PRAISE THE LORD INDEED! :D
Something that someone shared with me struck me a lot.
Something I like to share which I think you know about this too:
It is not to expect things to happen but to try all means to make it happen, either by prayer or by suggesting and initiating.
There are some pple who are not happy with the church and keep being negative and in the end they left.
However, there are some who knew that the church is not perfect and they do their best to suggest, to initiate, to persevere for improvement through proper channel.
It's timely, 'cos I had been praying, and somehow this same thought had come persistently knocking at the door of my mind. And then my friend wrote the above comment. Seems like it's God's way of speaking to me here... =)

Shall I be a Doer, or a Quitter?

And another thing I learnt as well:
Do, even as you pray, and pray even as you do.