Why and What If

One day I got Su Ling to believe there were purple-tailed squirrels running around the African bush. I was thrilled – until she found out the truth. Su Ling was never one to shy from physical abuse no matter the size of her opponent! Her bubbly personality belied a fierce determination at whatever she put her mind to. But she was also good at picking the quiet one from the crowd and do her best to draw them in. Su Ling, thanks for befriending the kampung boy with the dad hair. I can’t believe you’re gone but I know you’re enjoying an early catchup with Papa in heaven ahead of the rest of us!

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever -Ps 73:26

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#whathopeisbuiltof

The assembling together of individuals from different backgrounds of class, religion and language, united towards a common goal, one that would (be perceived to be) make a difference to not only those gathering together but their kith and kin continents apart. This happened not in one location, but in multiple cities across the world, almost simultaneously over the space of 2 days, coordinated by people who, until then, had not met each other, and who might never cross paths again. Is this a movie worth making? At the very least, a doco might be in order!

I would never call myself a patriot. Politics never figured strongly into my motivations for deciding where my path would lead in life. Though I’m Malaysian and catch up with the news back home from time to time, I would be hard pressed to name 5 key members of the ruling party let alone the opposition. I’ve never voted, though I’m a registered voter. Global BERSIH, a clean election leading to a clean(er) government and a chance for corruption to be marginalised and fair play + equal opportunities to have their day in the sun are concepts that are vague and idealistic – something that I’d lend my verbal support to, but have little inkling of the depths, backstory and the sacrifice it takes to make it all happen.

This year I decided to register a postal vote for the first time. At the time I felt it would be a relatively easy way to support my intentions with an action rather than words alone (not that I had many words to say on the subject before in any case) but mainly because I felt the process would not be unduly taxing on my behalf. Not without warning, news began spreading that votes might not arrive on time for us abroad to sign and post back to our respective polling stations in Malaysia on the 9th of May. I began seeing texts and Facebook posts of election news and for the first time, took an interest in seeing what was up. The manifestos made for interesting reading, mainly because I could only find one side’s document easily available online!

My postal ballot arrived on the morning of the 7th of May. A courier service would by that point only arrive in Malaysia on the 10th of May, the day after voting. I spent an hour ensuring the form was filled in correctly and the next hour figuring out how my postal vote would arrive back home in time.

Unbeknownst to me, fellow Malaysians around the world were going through the same dilemma and with no help or support from the Electoral Committee back home, took matters into their own hands. Facebook and other forms of social media were used to not just complain about the situation, but purposefully for asking for help. Six degrees of separation ceased to exist as requests were answered by people who knew people who were heading home in person to vote and who would be willing to carry others’ votes home. As the number of requests mounted, meetups were organised by individuals (who largely, up till that point had not met each other, and who were likely themselves working that day) across social media. These meetups would occur at airports, libraries, common areas, all for the purpose of collecting votes and distributing them amongst those flying back on the day. The term ‘runner’ was coined. Spilling over to the 8th, those who still received votes on the day found themselves looking through Google doc spreadsheets, organised by state, country and dropoff locations, for runners that would help carry votes home. Further pickups were being coordinated at flight transit points along international routes where runners would pick up votes from multiple countries before landing in Malaysia. And upon landing, votes would then be picked up by yet another chain of volunteers, to be conveyed to the individual polling stations.

As if this was not enough, courier services like DHL found themselves inundated with calls from Malaysians checking the status of their postal ballots and their expected delivery date. And airline pilots who are travelling back home have volunteered to carry votes on others’ behalf.

Why did all this have to happen? Without speculating on the intentions of the Electoral Committee and the current ruling party, the votes could have easily been sent a few weeks ago to allow for the delay in postage and the return post home. The process of form-filling could have been explained in detail via social media videos to aid those abroad in filling up their votes correctly. And courier services could have been set up to streamline the return process and ease the increased demand on postal services. The voting day could have been moved to a more convenient time to allow more Malaysians to return home to vote. The fact that none of this occurred is at the very least, a grave oversight in the process management of a national election (and an international embarrassment) and at worst, a not so subtle disregard of the rights of Malaysians worldwide (there is of course, an even worse implication which, although left unsaid, is on everyone’s mind at present).

My own vote’s journey was as follows. Upon filling my form out, I was told to contact a person based in a nearby suburb for help in getting the ballot to the airport. This gentleman (who was at work when I called him) then directed me to his wife who was at home with their baby at the time. I pulled up outside a lovely brick house with instructions to ‘knock softly as the baby might be asleep’. With some nervousness I did so, and was greeted by a young woman in a bright yellow Global BERSIH T-shirt who kept apologising throughout the conversation for how messy the home was (it was NOT). I blurted out my thanks and at how impressed and amazed I was that Malaysians were coming out to help each other, and how most people who met today might never meet again. This ballot, along with several others delivered to this house during the day, would be collected by her husband that evening and delivered to the airport to a runner who would fly back to Penang that night (7th of May). Upon arrival, a friend’s sister had volunteered to pick up the votes destined for the polling station in my municipality of Beruas in Perak. A relatively painless process on my part, but how much of this could have been avoided with proper planning?

Much can be made of this being a flash-in-the-pan moment, never to be repeated, and potentially of little actual value in the process. But what actually transpired (and continues to happen as I type) was birthed out of a desire to see fair play and the odds evened out. And so the ‘little people’ came out of their offices, schools, hospitals, rural bedrooms and city apartments and united without fuss or making a scene, utilising the tools that made the Instagram millenials famous to coordinate an intercontinental transport system that should have existed but didn’t.

I would still not call myself a nationalist, nor would I claim to take more than a passing interest in national Malaysian politics, but this (what should have been simple) act of filling in and sending a postal vote in time for the national elections has brought home to me the need for change back home. And while change is dreaded for its’ uncertainty of outcome, and the painful breaking apart of current molds to make way for new ones; if those who are involved in this change have lived through the past decade in Malaysia, one hopes that no matter their religious or political inclinations, that they share a united desire for a Malaysia free of injustice at every level.

I was describing the days’ proceedings above to my Mauritian housemate, who replied that while he could identify with the current sentiment in Malaysia, that the general feeling in Mauritius is that of resignation that the status quo would not change and that nothing can be done about it. This, view, no doubt shared by others around the world in every situation where the odds against the perceived overarching threat are too small, is one which I hope will never come near my home.

Seeking God

At our Encounter Team meeting last night, Ps Ted shared a message with us about seeking God’s presence and that the whole focus of what we do on and off the stage (and in the other days of the week) is to bring His presence wherever we go. For His presence heals (all the times Jesus healed in the gospels), restores (Jer 29:12-14), protects (Ex 13:21), brings life (Amos 5:4) and gives us identity (Col 3:1-4).

Was having a conversation with a friend, who brought up the truth that we carry God’s presence wherever we go, being the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that our life is lived constantly in His presence whether we are at work or in church. While none of this is disputed, it did bring to mind how we use the term ‘seek His presence’ and why we say this.

Why the call to seek His presence?

  1. From a Christian perspective:

On a personal level, it is of course true that I am not constantly aware of His presence, and that I lose sight of Him occasionally in life. However does that mean that I am any less effective as salt and light? I believe that God is able to work His will through us despite ourselves. However, I also believe that when the focus is on Him fully, that there is a greater openness and readiness to both give and receive from Him. And this is evident, in that when I am focussed on myself and my problems, I am less inclined to hear from God and my actions and words reflect what is going on inside me, which at times is pretty ungodly!

This also applies to a corporate sense I believe, in that when we worship / do life together as a congregation/lifegroup, we can do so without acknowledging and indeed, elevating God via song/word/prayer (but yet still carrying His presence with us in our role as temples). If this is the case, 2 things occur: firstly, we are just another club or gathering. And secondly, we miss the opportunity to grasp the significance of God’s presence when we are gathered together. Heb 11:24-25 is an exhortation for us to gather, but Matt 18:20 acknowledges the presence of God in a gathering. Col 3:16 encourages us to pray, teach and even admonish each other as we sing His praises.

2. What about those outside the faith?

The Bible talks of people being blind, a veil over their eyes and that we live in a fallen world where we walk as representations and conduits by which God’s eternal kingdom is displayed to those around us. Mark 6:4-5 describes Jesus not being received with honour in his hometown, where He was not able to do many miracles. Clearly, a lack of faith is key here (Heb 11:6), although there are many instances where Jesus displayed His power despite everyone not believing (feeding the thousands, healing the sick). But this does not mean those outside the faith cannot experience the person of Jesus; in fact that’s what we are called to be!

 

So…..

At the end, I believe that while we carry the presence of God wherever we go, there is also a conscious decision we make to acknowledge it, and to tune our ears to hear Him. James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James wrote this in the midst of such verses as “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (4:7) and “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” (4:1). It is too easy to get distracted in this life. And while we should be constantly aware of His presence in us, we should also consciously turn our ears and eyes and focus our attention to Him at every opportunity, partly because that’s the polite thing to do in a relationship of any kind (!) and mostly because God always answers when we speak to Him; something we do when we acknowledge His presence.

Holding back

There’s always been a sense in my life of holding something back. I’ve tried to narrow it down to the following:

  1. Holding off opening or using something in hopes of a perceived ‘right’ moment whereby its’ use will be most appropriate/appreciated
    • putting off building some of my Lego collection until there is a place to put it (ie when I buy a place of my own)
  2. Putting off the use of and item, or the learning of a skill due to the perceived lack of time to fully learn/use it
    • delaying learning how to use Ableton until I have some time to spare

While I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the above, I have felt for some time now that I am unconsciously shelving a number of things away and not making much effort to carve out the space to actually bring them to life. Worse, I often find it easier to purchase/commit to things that I know will fit into the above categories, thus adding to the backlog (my Steam games’ catalogue is one that I’ve resigned to never finish!).

One of the things in 2018 I’ve resolved to do:

  1. play to my strengths
    • speed reading
    • love of organisation
    • ability to recall
    • love of sharing new experiences
  2. to carve out time in my schedule to tick some of the above off my list
  3. To hold off purchases until some of the list has been cleared, and until plans have been made to utilise what I’m buying

Hi 2018!

In the midst of the post-Christmas rush, I’ve been winding down watching Netflix’s The Crown (a much more sombre affair than Season 1) and decided to write out some reflections of the year gone by and what I’m looking forward to in the year to come.

2017

  • was the year I finished my FRACP Nephrology training
  • was the year I started a clinical PhD on donor kidney organ allocation
  • was the year I had to change my PhD topic from organ allocation, to transplant risk scoring systems, to eligibility criteria for kidney transplants, and finally settle on improving the kidney-pancreas transplant scene in Australia/New Zealand from an organ allocation point of view
  • was the year I moved in with Calvin again – this time in Ringwood!
  • was the year I started doing private nephrology work
  • was the year I felt more involved in teaching in LG (still needing to learn how to do pastoral care!)
  • was the year I took a back step in missions
  • was the year I took a step forward in exercise – with running and weekend sports (my first 10km and 15km were highlights, as were the run-catchups with Sam)
  • was the first year in a long while that I’d been back to Malaysia twice in the same year!
  • I attended my first destination wedding (In Bali! Thanks John and Diana for the invite!)
  • was the year I felt I was more intentional in a few areas: meeting and getting to know the young adults in church more, being involved in Healing Rooms and teaching in LG, keeping up the weekend sports
  • and also felt I could’ve done more with: keeping up to date with the nephrology news, doing more research as opposed to clinic work, being more missions-focused, being more pastoral in LG
  • was the year I stepped out of one relationship, and after some time, into another (Thanks Kat!)

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matt 6:19-20

The Lamp of the Body

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” v22-23

You Cannot Serve God and Riches

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” v24

Do Not Worry

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”v25-34

 

I’m looking forward to a few things in 2018, some of which are big, others less so. Often I am prone to worry, even as I go about my day -to-day. What I need to watch, then, is where my eyes are fixed on. If I’m fixing my eyes on unwholesome things, or time-wasters, it will affect the rest of me. Often, I will have to check myself and ask, ‘Who am I doing this for?’ And finally, in and out of uncertain times, I need to

Seek: zeteo – to investigate, to reach a terminal resolution “getting to the bottom of the matter”

Kingdom: basileia – the realm in which a king sovereignly rules, especially refers to the rule of Christ in believers’ hearts

Righteousness: dikaiosune – the divine approval of God, what is deemed right by the Lord, what is approved in His eyes

 

I need to look for Christ in me, and others, and look for what He approves as the standard by which excellence in my life is judged.

 

And so, in 2018:

  • Work
    • I will finish 2 chapters of my PhD
    • I will publish 3 papers
    • I will present at 2 conferences
    • I will give back to the unit at MMC
  • Play
    • I will run a half-marathon
    • I will lose my tummy
    • I will restart ultimate frisbee
    • I will welcome new people to the sports group
  • Church
    • I will develop pastoral skills
    • I will lead a missions team, not just on a trip, but on a journey which God will use to increase the depth of our love, faith and deepen our bond with Him
    • I will train 2 new musos
    • I will train 1 new LG leader
  • Personal
    • I will learn how to read the Bible
    • I will actually take time to worship and pray
    • I will finally get to grips with Ableton
    • Learn a new language!
    • I will get hold of my finances
    • I will take time to write
    • I will get a RRVisa
    • I will be more open about my faith at work
    • I will buy a house
    • I will have my family over to stay in that house
    • I will meet up more often with my cousins
    • I will talk more often with family back home
    • I will journey along, and fight, if necessary for the right to progress to the next stage of relationships!

 

Come on 2018!

 

 

 

God-breathed

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:19-21

When I prepare a bible study, or a word to share, it often seems to be from a place of wanting to help others, or to accomplish a specific purpose which I feel God has birthed. There is always the tendency to insert a personal agenda into the message, however. This tendency seems to be stronger when the word has profoundly made me think, or has (I hesitate to use the term) impacted my life in some way. Coming from that position, I usually subconsciously (or consciously) feel that it SHOULD impact others as well, and craft a message along those lines.

2 Peter seems to draw out these thoughts, first of all noting that no ‘prophecy of scripture’ is of any private interpretation.

Prophecy: prophetieia in Greek: the gift of communicating and enforcing revealed truth

Private: idios in Greek: peculiar to the individual (stronger than the simple possessive pronoun ‘own’

Meaning, (as I take it), that while Scripture CAN be peculiar to the individual, and CAN have a personal impact upon one’s life, the revealing of truth within scripture top others should never be fully based on one’s private (or idios) revelation for oneself. Where then?

Moved: phero in Greek: to carry along, being brought

By: hupo in Greek: under, often meaning ‘under authority’ of someone working directly as a subordinate

This revelation of truth from the Scripture, then, is being carried along by the Spirit, and is from, and of God. This of course can be personal, and it may indeed be that a personal truth revealed to an individual may be similar to a truth that is for a group of people, but the distinction is clear: not to bring a personally-revealed truth and directly apply it to others without confirming if indeed that was God’s truth for them

Welcome to my crib!

Come and see.

The invite to the greatest relationship, and adventure of our lives. The ticket to Everest, or the Marianas Trench, or exploring Mars (but way better, and safer!) was being figuratively waved.

Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?”

They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are you staying?”

He said to them, “Come and see.”

They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).

John 1:35-39

One of the first invitations Jesus gave during his ministry was in response to a question about where He was staying. And he responded by giving them a house tour! But notice Jesus preceded the question by asking one of his own: “What do you seek?”

We often think we know what people should be looking for, or want, or seek. And we then come up with nice answers and solutions to these perceived questions. And maybe get offended when we find ourselves the recipient of a polite refusal. Maybe we should be asking that simple question first. “What are you looking for?”

The next day, Philip was called by Jesus, and he had heard first-hand about Jesus via Simon Peter and Andrew. Philip got so excited he got another friend Nathanael to tell him about this Jesus character (and about how cool his house was, presumably). Interestingly, Philip also used the phrase, “Come and see.”

See‘ or horao in Greek: perceive, attend to, to see with the mind

So not just an invite to meet Jesus, but to experience the person of Jesus.

What am I doing in my spheres to extend that invitation to others?

What is love?

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By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” I Jn 3:16

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” 1 Jn 3:18-20

 

God sees through our heart, which on occasions is given to waver. On our part, words and intentions are always to be accompanied by actions, and embodying what we say and mean, in real life (truth=aletheia in Greek, synonymous with reality)

It may seem that vs 21-22 indicate a measure of legalism in keeping all the commandments in order to be granted the right to ask and receive from God, but v23 lays down the commandment expected of us:

 

And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” 1 Jn 3:23

 

So what is love? It’s not just about feelings, or words, but needs us to get down and dirty, living our love out by actions and above all, believing we were the recipients of a love far greater and more forgiving and far-reaching than we could ever comprehend.

 

 

Fellowship

Listened to a message on Community, addressing the topic of Loneliness yesterday.

1 John was the passage quoted and studied.

‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.’

V 1-4

The themes of these verses seem to involve all our senses (sight, touch) and involves communication (bearing witness, declaring to others) between God the Father, Jesus the Son (and the Spirit) and the community to which John was writing to (not defined clearly).

The purpose was to reinforce that bond of fellowship, between John and this community, and in a larger sense, with God the Father and Jesus. The reason being that the community’s joy (in Greek, chara – joy because of grace) would be complete (pepleromene in Greek – filled to individual capacity) as a result.

The letter starts off by reminding this unnamed community (and by extension, us) that Jesus, the living Word, existed before time and thereby implying that God was desiring fellowship with us way before we had any inkling He existed.

This is interesting because often “a sense of community” is often defined by how I feel, or what support/role I get/perform in a larger group. Which can also explain my feelings about loneliness and lack of community – making it about myself is one sure-fire way of letting myself down!

 

Such love

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A compact ball composed of a swirling mass of dirty colours, pulsating, threatening to explode. Malignant in nature, raw and exposed. Nothing tidy about it at all. Fear, anger, regret, shame, disgust, envy, pride, they’re all in there somewhere, contained in that ball Inside Out-style. It feels warm to touch in my hand, like a kettle about to boil over.

Not for the first time, I’m self conscious as I approach the throne. Not even thinking about anyone else in the room looking at my hesitant steps forward. Because once I’ve looked at Him, nothing else commands my attention. It’s everything I’m not. He’s everything I’m not. Radiant, resplendent, regal, white and with a light that’s not quite painfully bright but seems to lay my soul bare. I know I can’t hide anything away.

So I continue my walk towards Him, painfully aware of the pulsating ball in my hands, of my clothes, once my best suit now torn and stained – stains that I can’t seem to get off easily.

Words echo through my mind. Grace. Faith. I’m not afraid. Nor condemned. I know where I stand with Him. I just wish I had something better to give, to show for myself. Even though I know he won’t ever be disappointed in me, I’m disappointed in me. But I want rest.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph 2:8-9

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28

I reach the throne. Looking up, I try to meet God’s gaze and suddenly we’re alone. At the last moment, I feel like taking back the swirling mass in my hands, and being anywhere but here. But I stick out my hand and give the ball over to Him.

He takes it in His hands – I want to tell Him not to look, not to examine it, to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Not bearing to look, I close my eyes. I feel a hand on my shoulder. “My son.”

“Never doubt the extent of my love for you. I created you and know you through and through and am not finished with you yet. There will be battles and victories, joy and sorrow but remember this: you are my son, and I love my children.”

Opening my eyes I see a ball of gentle blue and gold in His hands, and looking down, notice the stains and tears in my clothes are gone, in fact, I wonder if they were ever there before.

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 (Rom 8:37-39)