Wednesday, March 31, 2010

At the foot of Sinai

Exodus 33 speaks of particular point in the Israelite's journey. It's a point where the God actually threatened to let the Israelites go into the promised land themselves; His Presence would not go with them.

Moses in Exodus 33:12 to 33:23. He did not want to go up with anything short of the Presence of God. He would rather have camped at the foot of Sinai than go up without the Presence of the Lord.

That's one of the things I've been praying about a lot these days. That's one of the reasons why I've stopped taking up things, stopped signing up for most camps for now (even camps that I'd normally go to). I'm not too sure if I'm putting my efforts into exactly where God wants it to be. So I'm not planning to do much. Just planning to wait on God for now.

Was spending some time in school studying with one of my friends. And I was just telling him. If the things that God intended for me to do (the "good works" intended for us to do, as Ephesians 2:10 says) could be quantified and measured. Then how many percent of that have I fufilled in my first academic year in SMU?

Monday night I had a project group meeting from 7p.m. till 4:45 a.m. All through the night my friends were playing pop songs, ballads and all sorts of secular music, and also looking up music videos for our project. And what struck me time and time again was the debilitating effect of all that noise and emphasis on sex and violence. I guess that after all the time spent with God this year and the changes I've made to my persona life, I could really feel the difference with all this media blaring. It reminded me that one of the most key factors (yet hardest) to keeping oneself pure in thought is to be very careful what we allow to get into our minds.

I was also pondering one of the latest BSF lessons. It spoke of John 4 and the verses 13 and 14 spoke of the water that gives eternal life. That anyone who drinks of it will never thirst again. And I just thought of the truth in those statements. It's true that many of us try to use various ways and means to fill the emptiness in our lives. Many of us today can't quite survive without the music or TV being left on all the time. Is that really because we love music and love entertainment? Or is it really because we're trying to fill up a God-shaped gap in our lives?

What do we do when we feel tired or restless? Music? TV? Computer games? I don't know about you, but I've found that personally, it'll almost always make things worse.

I think the answer is often (not always) to wait on God in silence. When we're bothered. When we're angry. When we're frustrated or worried, angsty or lonely. To turn before God and learn to wait on Him in silence.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Treehouse

"Daddy, daddy," cried the young boy. "I've finished building my treehouse!"

There was the crinkle of a newspaper being put down as the father looked up from his morning paper and coffee.

"Well done son!"

Of course, it wasn't really that much of the boy's own work. The father had bought the wooden planks, the rope and the nails. He'd taught his son to hammer the nails to put the planks together but ended up doing more than half of the work. Whole weekends had passed as the father taught the boy to saw the planks to the correct size, make appropriate measurements, and how to set everything up on to the tree in the backyard.

What the boy really meant was that he had, with the help of his mother, hoisted up a few stools into the treehouse and rolled out a mat. But of course the father was not one to bother. His son's first treehouse. He was quite content to leave it at that.

"Come and see dad! Come and see!"

Oh, he'd seen enough of the treehouse, alright. But the father dutifully complied. Folding up his paper and gulping down the last mouthful of coffee, he strode out to where the tree stood. The sun rays shone through the leaves to play on the faces of the exuberant boy and his father. A slight gust of wind rustled the leaves as the shadows danced on their joyous countenance.

"Well, my dear boy. You must be mighty proud of your work! Now tell me, what do you plan to do with your treehouse?"

"Thanks dad! I couldn't have done it without you," the boy replied, gathering together enough modesty as was possible for a child his age. "But I'm sure glad to have put this treehouse together all by myself!"

The father grinned. But his child wasn't looking at him. The boy was transfixed with the treehouse.

"Since I've got such a nice treehouse. Why not I put more stuff in it?" The boy enthused.

"I want to put in curtains tomorrow morning."

"After that, instead of a rope, I want to have a nice wooden staircase leading into the treehouse"

"Then, I'll need more wood, dad. I want the treehouse to have at least one more room."

"I'll decorate that room too. I think it could use a nice sofa. I want to bring up a TV into that room."

The father turned to look at the boy.

"Well, you'd need some electricity for that wouldn't you? How'd you do that?"

"Dad, we could connect a wire all the way from home into the treehouse!" The boy declared.

"After that, I'll have my video games brought up to, so I can play or watch TV, whatever I feel like doing."

"Then, I want a fridge too. I want food inside to treat my friends."

"I want a balcony for my treehouse, just like we have at home. Only, it'll be bigger and better. I'll need more wood for that too, dad."

"And oh, a birdhouse. A birdhouse in the tree. I want to build a birdhouse!"
The father cleared his voice. His son paused to look expectantly at his dad.

"Do you think that the tree could bear all that weight? If we put so much more into the treehouse, everything's gonna collapse."

It pained the father to see the disappointment written all over his child's face. And yet, what else? Could he have agreed to his son's requests if he loved his son? No. He'd have wasted time and money doing all the renovations. And worst of all, the entire treehouse would collapse. And then his son would be even more disappointed.

So often in life, work and ministry, we want more, more, more. We rush to build up our own treehouses to be bigger and better. But there are things to consider.

1) We really didn't build the treehouse in the first place. It was God. So why are we trying to use our own very limited skills to improve on what God has done for us?

2) The tree can't hold all that weight. Our lives will collapse if we put too much into it.

3) If we're so concerned about putting more into the treehouse, we'll never enjoy the treehouse itself.

4) If we're so concerned with the treehouse, we forget to spend time with the Father.

So I've been thinking for myself. Have I overstepped men's boundaries? And more importantly so much as to completely overshadow the former, have I overstepped God's boundaries?

I gaze upon my own treehouse. The warning signs are here. Perhaps I need to relook my blueprints.

Birthday Musings

I suppose one of the questions people would have to ask is why I didn't want my birthday celebrated this year, why I kept quiet about it. Two key, interrelated points, really. Firstly, the money could be better spent elsewhere. Secondly, I feel that many birthday celebrations (especially those amongst Singaporean youths and young adults) have lost their true value.

I'm glad to celebrate friends' birthdays. However, I don't quite want anyone to splurge for me unnecessarily. I've got my family, my motley crew of brothers, my friends in church, Crusade, school and perhaps a dozen other places. And these relationships and friendships are more than enough for me. I don't need my birthday to be celebrated every year. Perhaps once in a while is fine I guess.

This isn't always the case. But more often than not, as youths, we spend so much of our allowance or income on needless things. One of these is birthdays. If we had a group of say 10 friends. And we wanted to make each person's birthday memorable. Well, we'd spend perhaps 10 bucks for each person. Meaning that each person would have paid at least 100 by the end of the year. Now, take into account various social groups... etc etc. What a huge waste of money.

This is not to say birthdays aren't worth spending on. They are. But perhaps we should use our money more sparingly. Perhaps there are better ways to celebrate a birthday. By putting money into birthdays to buy gifts, we have in a way become ritualistic about it (not in a religious sense). It's a yearly ritual. It loses its value to us.

Do we really celebrate birthdays because we want to? Or do we often do it because we're compelled to?

How bout individuals who feel hurt if their friends didn't celebrate their birthday? Well, to that I say, whether a friend remembers your birthday or not is not a determinant as to whether he or she is a true friend. If he or she remembers, very good. But friendships not all about that.

I think that a great many birthday celebrations are overrated. There was once during NS that they threw a surprise birthday party for a particular superior that we were opposed to. I asked the rest why they did it. Their reply? "It's his birthday what." That one really got me thinking. If we didn't mean it, why were we celebrating his birthday?

I would think a birthday worth celebrating only if I know it is celebrated by people who really love me. And then again, if I know these people really love me, why would I need them to celebrate my birthday anyway? So as it is, the knowledge alone is awesome enough. I don't need them to prove it through celebrating for me.

Once again, I'm not against this whole birthday thing. Just saying that great parts of it are overrated. And as far as I'm concerned, I'm rather glad that my birthday's not a boisterous affair this year.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Brevity, and a Letter

I'd just like to post a quick one. Don't think I'll be able to blog for most of this week. Will be at Vacation Bible Camp from tomorrow night till Wednesday. So gonna sleep at church in the nights and go to school when there are lessons in the day. Really pray for God’s favour to be on the camp. I don’t quite know how it’s all gonna happen.

I’ve been thinking bout many things recently. I think I’ll just share some edited parts of a letter to God I typed on Friday evening.

"Dear Lord,

I’m sitting here at the bench outside the School Of Accountancy. A guest seminar has just ended. Many real cool speakers. Stuff bout entrepreneurship, bout making money. Bout chasing your dreams, following your instincts. Going out there to make a killing. I’m thinking that this is all very good. But somehow, I don’t seem to have that much passion for these things. I’m really not that interested in making that much money. I have one interest right now, Lord. And that is chasing after your heart. Just like Acts 13:22 said that David chased after yours.

I’m thinking. How did Daniel feel when he was in the courts of Babylon? All the power. All the trappings and glory of Babylon. Wasn’t he awed by the royal splendor of the king? What was it in Daniel that caused him to still chase after you in those courts?

I’m in a school in the heart of the city. It seems to embody the city culture. Fast-paced life. Glamour. Nicely dressed ladies and gentlemen. People who tell me that I’ve got to know where I’m going in life. People who say to me that I should enter SMU with a dream. And work hard in that four years to fulfill that dream. Not all of that advice is bad. But Lord, I’m just thinking. Money, fame, power. All the glamour. The chasing of the dream. It does not resonate with me. What do I seek? I seek your face, dear Lord.

Yet for reasons I am not really clear about (I thought I knew why I was studying Business before I enlisted, but that was then), you’ve allowed me entry into this university. Into a Business Management course. I prayed about it. I got in. Here I am. Now what? I stand in an earthly court and I look to a heavenly throne. What do you want for me Lord? Speak to your servant that he might listen and carry out what he needs to.

Here I am. I am standing in a crowd transfixed on the temporal (but of course not all the crowd... there are still a handful who put you first- then again how would I know, you Lord, search their hearts, not I). A place where people look all around them, but do not look up to you. I lift my eyes up to you O Lord. What do you want for me? What do you want from me? All I am is yours, dear Lord. Do as you will.

I’m chasing you. I’m feeling pressured that I may not be chasing earthly things enough. Am I honouring you in what I do O God? Am I spending too much time in ministry? Speak to your servant O Lord. If there is any way in which I do not honour you, please tell me. I want to honour you in everything I do. I seek you with all my heart. Do not let me stray from your paths.

Yet if it pleases you O Lord, guide me. Lead me into the exact place that you want me to be. That I may serve you and please you and work for you O Lord. I will not be sastisfied with money or power or fame or glamour. I desire to cast not a fleeting glance on young women as they sashay their way around the campus in their pretty clothes. I desire to fix my eyes on you O Lord. I will only be satisfied when you are satisfied with me.

I know not how many days I have on this planet. I know my glory is an eternal one. I know that above all these temporal things, I chase an eternal glory. I chase you O Lord. Not the things of this world. I run the race and I desire to hear my well done, thou good and faithful servant. Teach me O Lord. To run with focus. To know what to put my strength into. That in all I do I may be pleasing to you. That the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. That is all I will O Lord. To be pleasing in your sight. All I have is yours. It is at your disposal. Take and use and do as you will. I am yours. Only say the word, that your servant might do what you will. Here I am. Teach me your ways O God."

Yeah, so that's it for now. Also thinking bout ministry stuff and all.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A short break


There's something in me that likes scenery. Something that enjoys the sun, the wind blowing in my face. I'm very thankful to God that yesterday was a relatively cool day. I went for one of those enjoyable runs again. It took me about an hour to run from home to church with my clothes in a bagpack. I truly truly enjoyed myself.
These past 24 hours have been a kind of break for me. A short one though. I cleared my Stats mid-terms last Fri. Tuesday night was Analytical Skills mid-terms. This sem's gonna come to an end very soon.
Tomorrow's gonna be a full day at school. And then Saturday to Wednesday are pretty much gonna be filled with VBC (Vacational Bible Camp). I'm looking forward to it. A large part of the reason being that I too have a lot to seek God for.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The physical, mental and spiritual

I wanted to type a long post. And I started. But after a glance through, I realised that it might not be doctrinally sound. It might not be encouraging. Truth is, I am rather tired right now. Another reminder from my dad not to take up too much stuff as to burn out. And I guess that that's a good reminder.

I suppose that even as we ask God for His rest and for His strength, He's also given us the human ability to sleep, to recharge, to plan our time. I would do well to remember that. In my chasing of God I need to remember that I am human. I have crucified the sinful nature; I have died to flesh. But as it is, I still compose of flesh. My flesh has its limits.

While I endeavour to serve God with all I have let me remember that:

1. It's not as if God can't do it without me. He can. He just chooses to include me in His work. It's really not for me to worry about. It's for me to enjoy. For I do believe that even if the work includes sowing in tears, godly joy can be evident throughout. 1 Thessalonians 5:16. Be joyful always.

2. God created me as a fleshly being. While I have given up the carnal nature, I am still human. God's creation is specifically designed for its own purpose. The mighty tiger has to go out to hunt its prey. It cannot lie down under the sun all its life (even though I do suppose that a delicious cat-nap- if its tinier cousins I see all around the neighbourhood are anything to go by, are one of the things it was built for). Conversely, the great oak needs to be content just where it is. It cannot pluck out its own roots and decide to move even a single foot from where it is placed. It must stay under the sun all the days of its life. And from where it stands, extend its roots out to find moisture.

The tiger is not the oak. And neither is the oak the tiger. Each has its own God-given beauty and majesty. Each has its God-intended design. If the tiger tries to live out its destiny by doing as the oak does, it will die. And the oak, if it were to be able to decide to move, would try to take just one step away from where it is, would probably break its roots and lose its source of nutrients.

Am I trying to live out another man's purpose? Or am I living out just my purpose?

3. If I become less joyful and more pressured, something is beginning to become wrong. John 10:10 declares that the God has come so we may have life in abundance. So it follows that if I have less peace or less joy, something has begun to sour. I need to check myself.

If a car's engine begins to crackle and vibrate, no sane car driver will step on the accelerator and just wish the trouble away. He will pull up his car to the side. He'll lift up the bonnet, and check what is the problem.

Sometimes it will be a process of elimination. Am I spending enough time with God? Check. Am I doing what I should in ministry? Check. ... Am I spending enough time being who I should be? Maybe not.

And then, the car driver will find the fastest way to take it to a suitable workshop. He might haggle about the price. But unless he knows any better, he will probably not have much to say against the recommendations of the master technician.

Lord. Tired leh. So how?

4. To ask for a good night's sleep is biblically sound isn't it? Psalm 127:2 says He grants sleep to those He loves. So besides simply asking for a good night's rest. I should do what God probably expects me to. To go to bed early. To rest.