Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pride, Humility, Family or Airing Dirty Laundry?

"Why are you selling and moving house?"

Our public sharing of this intent has sparked some open questions by some and perhaps even some behind the back questions by others... What am I on about? Well recently over the whole "house" episode (not the TV series about a doctor) about us looking to sell and buy a place, especially me posting our marketing video on YouTube over on Facebook, has sparked questions. These questions are both internal (in my head) and external (asked by people I love). Questions like, "why did you post this online? People might think you're proud." or "why share your intentions to move and its associating issues and concerns to others? why do you air these dirty laundry openly?"

While I am still 50/50 on these things. The title of this post is a mixed set of emotions and questions I have raised within myself about these things sparked by someone bringing these to my attention. What are these things? These things are like:
  • Telling others our intentions to move and why
  • Admitting on FB or at church about our weaknesses and sins in our lives
  • Lead on from the above, to ask people and our church family openly to pray for us in our times of need and issues.
  • Sharing the joy and happiness of life with FB friends through posts and at bible study meetings
  • You get the picture?...

When you struggle with pride as much as I have, it is quite a battle to stop yourself post something on FB and catch yourself right after hitting "post" to realise that what I post in my sheer joy/amusement/happiness could go across the inter-web and arrive at the other end seemingly boastful and proud. With that many "political business rules" I've built up since my Chinese/Singaporean heritage, although my "filters" are not working well, they are there. Always watching, always making sure I don't say something to offend someone because someone else may think its something else about this someone else on this seemingly related issue about this... Anyway, I'm digressing...

Now back to the prideful post bit. Here's another one: "Why did I post this weakness of my pride and sins for the world to see?" "Why air the dirty laundry using this very post?"

Well, here are 3 reasons why I think its alright to air our dirty laundry. Controlled of course! Not everything. But why some can be "aired".

  1. Humility exercised - Although I AM struggling with the prideful posts, I think speaking openly about sins and weaknesses for the purpose of asking the Church family to pray for you is a good thing. I call it the Guard-against-being-a-pharisee technique. By getting others to be your accountability partners, it guards you from pride or keeps you "human". Constantly attuned to your sins and telling others about it protects you from the delusions and from developing pharisee complex.
  2. To manifest/magnify God's glory - You can do this a number of ways. By edifying others, by using your post or public declarations to open the door to gospel sharing (I've done that with my house thing 3 times now!) and lastly through our weakness, God can be glorified. Taking our house thing for example. We had so many let downs and disappointments with our plans so much so that we were able to learn true obedience, faithful prayer and submission to God's plans. When we did this, it was then perfect and beautiful! God's plans started to unfold. It was then irrefutably His. We cannot claim it as our doing, because to us it was NOT possible. But He made the impossible possible! Now I have another full blog post (next time) about this journey and a proper testimony about His goodness because of this House thing.
  3. To live like a Church family - We use this term "Church family" a lot. We know in our heads that we have a Heavenly Father, the God head. We are saved through Jesus His son, our co-heir. And we know we are sealed and made His promised sons and daughters through the Holy Spirit. We read about it. We hear about it in sermons, we study it (even in camp!). But you know what? Sadly, most Christians don't really practice it! Most don't live like we have and are part of a Church family. We go to church, we smile, we talk small talk, we leave... Like meeting friends to do a hobby called Christianity. I don't know about you, but to me "family" means we support, love, serve, cry, laugh, learn and fight with each other all the same! If blood family does this naturally, IMHO the Church family should do more of it!

So please.... The next time I post or say something to you about my personal life. Don't see it as pride or airing laundry. Most of you are my Church family. Others of you, I'm working hard to MAKE you my Church family. I share part of my life with you so you can share in my joy, amusement, excitement, sadness, fear and amazement at God's goodness. I do this as a fellow member or soon-to-be member of my family, God's family, nothing more.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Project Manage Your Life!

Following from the previous post I last made about Christianity being my hobby... And over the last few months I've been systematically re-evaluating many areas of my life and my family's life to see how we can NOT make being a Christian just a hobby. I came to a daunting realisation... Living for God and not wanting just Christianity as my hobby is going to be tough work! And you know what? It IS going to be tough "as it is written"...

"For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." - Matt 7:14

So why did I title this newest post "Project manage your life" with an exclamation mark? Being a consultant for the last 10 years and having advised and consulted on many projects, its issues and helped many organisations through lots of their budget, time, people problems.. I see how tough it is being a project manager. Oftentimes it is hard because the people you work for wants to give you as little as possible to get the job done. And your resources, mainly people, wants to take the longest time possible to finish the work! Giving "excuses" like, "But, I want to do quality work!". In reality, juggling limited resources to produce a quality outcome is what good project managers do well.

Now, how is that all relevant to this post? First question I asked was: from Matthew 7:14, what is this gate that is narrow? What is the way that is hard? IMHO, figuring this out should then become every true Christian, every non-hobby-playing-Christian's "quality outcome". To reach the end of this Project called LIFE and have your key stakeholder, God, telling you "well done, my good and faithful servant".

It is funny how the most profoundly precious things are the most simple. I looked at 3 areas based on my roles in this life for example...

  • The Christian's Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20, ESV); 
  • And also as a husband: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word," (Eph 5:25,26, ESV); 
  • Finally as a father: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Eph 6:4, ESV)

If as a truly born again Christian, you are the project manager of your life and the above 3 examples are to be your goals. Wouldn't you find this really hard to do? Although the statements are fundamentally simple? I certainly did! It takes ENERGY and TIME... essentially precious resources... my selfish little voice inside me said... "you mean I have to spend precious time and energy, the little that I have in my life, to make disciples, sanctify my wife and teach my kids? Everything else is secondary?" 

So, I guess what I'm saying is if I start acting like a project manager and treat my energy and time as precious resources to work towards heaven. The path is NARROW and HARD! I'll always have distractions and useless detours like earning more money, or more coffee hobby time or simply more sleep time (which I enjoy.. a LOT)!

Friends, I am coming to a really confronting realisation that the extra 2 hours I spend playing a computer game is 2 hours lost towards the narrow gate. I am not saying I'm giving up all recreational activities. Just like occasionally having that Durian or KFC is ok, but having that every day? Or every week even, might make me sick or fat or both! I don't know how everyone else does it. I personally struggle with this. There is just so little time and so little precious energy in my weak and small life to even finish what God is asking me to do. How can I afford time to do any other things! Do you know how hard it is to...

  • ..have deep meaningful relationships with people to disciple them? 
  • Or to constantly connect with your wife at the spiritual, emotional and physical level to a depth that would sanctify her? 
  • And lastly, do you know how much energy it takes to teach my kids the right foundational values with love and grace as like the Lord? 

How do you guys do it???

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My hobby is Christianity, is it yours too?

I've got a hobby alright by Mervin Chiang
I've got a hobby alright, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.
I first coined this idea that my gradual yet accelerating zeal for discipleship and Christ-centeredness was my new "hobby" a few months ago. I was searching within myself whether this is a passing fad. Yes! As crazy as it sounds, having the passion for "Christian-y" things can very easily be mistaken for Loving Jesus himself! What am I on about? Read this:

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ ... So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
(Luke 14:v27-30, v33-35, ESV)

Let's draw some parallelism here. Like the example in the passage taught by Jesus, I counted my cost to open a cafe and coffee roastery seriously at the start of the year. I did the budgets, consulted with industry people and talked to finance people to seek opinions. I then decided that coffee is too risky to be my livelihood (for now) and kept it as a hobby. So.. As a hobby, I make 2-3 cups a day. I occasionally read about coffee things on the forums. I may occasionally run or attend cupping sessions and talk to other coffee snobs. I don't make a living out of it and I don't live and breath it. Does that sound vaguely familiar to your Christian life? You read 1-2 chapters of the Bible everyday, you attend church on Sundays, weekly you do bible study and occasionally you attend camp and some conferences...

So, I ask again... Like what I'm starting to worry about myself... Is Christianity really ... em.. your hobby?

The heavy words in the above charge by Jesus has been weighing down on me and challenging me about this point. Words like "bear cross", "renounce all", etc... I did further digging in various books. Like "Guidance and the Voice of God" by Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne and "Do you feel called by God" by Michael Bennett. It seems that Christ-centerdness and being a disciple is hard work! It's not a feeling. No wonder God equates it to a marriage...

To "bear my cross" is to be constantly out looking to seek holiness and to be sanctified by God. To "renounce all" require me to think all the time in all that I do based on what God's plan and command is for me as a Christian and not what the world dictates of me. It's amazing once you look, there is really all there is to be learnt about how to live in this world all written in Bible. It's so simple yet so profoundly hard to achieve without help... Paraphrasing from Michael Bennet's book:

In order not to make Christianity my hobby, but to be a CHRISTian, I have to be a disciple of Jesus and to grow in Christlikeness.

The tough part is how?

Friends, I hypothesis that by merely reading the bible, doing bible study, going to church and even going church camp is insufficient! I'm not saying it's not needed, but just insufficient. The change in me was gradual and is still and always will be happening...the passages like the ones above was allowed to convict me, to grip me in such a way that it "transferred" from head knowledge to Soul and Spirit conviction. The key is to ALLOW it to happen.. to "transfer".

Disclaimer - I do not intend what I'm about to say next as being judgemental but merely pure sadness and concern: Truly sadly, I've seen so many Christians that I've known for the longest time that has the head knowledge, the conviction did not get transferred. It's stuck in the head... How can I say that? Well, as they say, actions speaks louder than words... Don't get me wrong I am as guilty as anyone on this too.

I'm sorry that this post seemed "blurry" and long, but this was my version in my head of the challenge P.Steve used and was borrowed from John Piper, (abridged/paraphrassed) "If all the best stuff in world, all the pleasures, the best food, the best sceneries, everything awesome was in heaven, but Christ was not there with us. Would you be satisfied?" If Christianity was my hobby only, I'd probably be.. Satisfied. I'd be living in heaven now! At the moment I admit that I might not love Jesus enough to say that I would need Him there in heaven to be satisfied... I love my wife too much.. I love my kids too much.. I love my parents too much... I love the money that my job gives too much.. I love my coffee machine too much... I love all the self glory these earthly things give me too much...

My prayer is that the gradual transition is for me to love Christ that much that all I am worried about anymore is the ultimate discipleship of myself and the people around me and their salvation. I want to learn to stop thinking "I love Kat, she loves me, I am happy" but to think "How is Kat's discipleship going?"... Ultimately, I want to truly crave the statement "Well done, good and faithful servant" when eternity comes.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

With Christ, there should be no bull

Sanctification. Holiness. Pure. These are words, if you read the Bible often enough it keeps coming up. Being Asian, I find that my upbringing and even the Chinese culture as a whole, there are practices that goes against these words.

So what does it mean to be Sanctified? Made holy? Remain pure? There are many visualisations I can think of in my head on how God does this. A nice elegant one is like a pearl, constantly polished by sand and grit in the Oyster. Or crudely, like a stainless still pot. Sin entering is like burning food on the pot. Once there, each time you cook it'll just keep charing... The only way to keep my pot "pure" is to scour it. To scrub it to keep it clean. Like the pearl and like the pot, even after all that, under the microscope, there'll still be impurities...

Anyway, why am I saying all that? Well all based on this versed that lingered in my head for the last few weeks... "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Heb 4:12

In 1 Thessalonians we are told to "admonish" one another. Over the last month, I myself have been rebuked by my wife, put straight in my place at work and even admonished at my bible study group to keep my priorities right. So what am I saying?

Well, I'm saying that I appreciate it! I appreciate my wife, friends and work mates being so straight with me. To not beat around the bush, to not sweep under the carpet, to tell me straight up that I am wrong. I want to be sanctified by God, and the only way to get there is for people and circumstances around me to be my "sand". Get it? I am not asking you to go out and look for trouble or cause trouble for me and others all the time. However, if it is righteous, justified and edifying, a fellow Christian should not feel afraid to speak up. To Admonish!

I had to learn humility and stifle my pride to accept the rebuke. Honour and appreciate the admonishment.

Friends, if you are a Christian and are part of a church family that smiles at you each week and talks behind your back without coming to you with the hard conversations, something is wrong. We are not heeding Hebrews 4:12 and obeying 1 Thessalonians.

Do you feel the constant Sanctifcation/scrubbing by God?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Son, My Only Son

My Son, My Only Son by Mervin Chiang
My Son, My Only Son, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.

He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” - Gen 12:22

Despite whatever critics might say about the new dramatised documentary "The Bible, the TV mini series" (Christians or non-Christians). I implore you to watch it as it is... switch your minds off judgemental-ism. Non-Christian friends, watch it for its cinematography and dramatic almost Hollywood-style action (think 300 or The Gladiators). For Christians, "Zoom" out, not asking you to overlook details, but just take in how certain stories we might know for so long but have never really "seen" and just busk in the wonder and awe of our God's plan laid out in the Bible.

Digressing further... Perhaps it's just me not being able to remember all verses in the Bible and cannot remember all the details. So I can't judge on how accurate or inaccurate things are. It's kind of like me watching DC or Marvel movies. I don't know the stories well in the comic. So I loved Man of Steel for what it is. Again, let me disclaim that I do not endorse any inaccuracies as fact or anything like that. But I guess its just my long-winded way of saying that if you are not too busy judging the show and watch it God might tell you something. Like how He did me...

Now zoom back into episode 2... I was tearing at the scene when Abraham almost took Isaac's life. "Why? We all know the story. Abraham would surely past the test...", you might ask. It's not that. Its how the scene penetrated right into my heart tonight. As early as I can remember, I had known this story. I had always assumed that Abraham so blindly just followed God's command. And Isaac just so obediently lie there to let Abraham do God's command. In reality, there would be aching. there would be anguish. The actors portrayed very human reactions, hesitation and sadness. It kind of reflected a mirror directly at me. "Will I be able to do it?" was the question I asked. Then tears started rolling down my cheeks because I realised my sin and how may I can't! The simple answer lied with "Do I fear God more than my son's life?"...

Let me explain this word "fear". It is not the "afraid" kind of fear. "It is a reverential awe of God; a reverence for His power and glory. However, it is also a proper respect for His wrath and anger. In other words, the fear of the Lord is a total acknowledgement of all that God is, which comes through knowing Him and His attributes." (borrowing from

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" Proverbs 9:10a

A simple relaxed Saturday watching of the show has prompted a very simple yet challenging question in my mind and life. Do I fear God? If I do, it means I have faith in Him. This means I can trust Him in all things. ALL things... Even with the life of my son. My career, my life directions, my hard decisions, my future... ALL things... It's all good theory. But when my faith is really tested like Abraham, can I do it? It's easier when we're taking from God... It's harder when we are expected to be obedient. To give, to sacrifice and to NOT be self-centred. What would I do when God asks of me?

Monday, August 12, 2013

God is Sovereign - So quit complainin'!

God is Sovereign by Mervin Chiang
God is Sovereign, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.

I know the title seems to take an extremist view on the matter. But it's not... It's just my human fleshly voice getting this dull irritation that has built up to a point where I really need to vent somewhere! So, please read this with a filter on 'cos it's me being human complaining as well :P

So what ticked me off? Small trivial things I guess, but like death-by-a-thousand-cuts, it amounts to some level of irritation. Let me explain... I check Facebook a lot, I guess many knows that. I see lots of posts about people complaining about things. But hey, I'm Singaporean! It's in my blood to complain... Complain about politics, about how politicians don't keep their word, about how the recent "The Bible" documentary is a lousy depiction and theologically off, about the weather, about life... You get the picture?

Recently, I've been struggling with this a little. You see it's a strange cycle I get into... I am sinning because I am judging you when you are judging others when you complain. Get it?

To borrow words from Job, "“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2, ESV)... So let me walk you through my thinking process... You might complain about the Bible documentary, ask about the age and credibility of a speaker on the pulpit or complain about a politician going back on his words... [insert any ranting complains you did here...].. For me I'm goin' how do you know that God is not using this very situation, event, show, person, circumstance for His plans? If you don't get what I mean, go watch Final Destination or Butterfly Effect for more "confusion" :) Anyway, I digress.. So I judge you for judging the situation, event, person, thing. I think to myself "who are you to complain?" Don't you know that God even uses non-believers for his purposes? (See Jer 21:7, and all through the book of Judges and many more examples)

These verses rightly sums up my feelings... "So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?" (Rom 9:18-21, ESV)

Ok ranting over... Friends, I struggle with this myself. I have to diligently catch myself from judging and complaining about things. But please don't fall into this subtle trap of being quick to judge all things. Facebook and twitter has given us easy access to simply take pot-shots at ranting. Please don't do it too often. God's will and sovereignty IMHO is meant for us to do inward reflections... to ask "why has this happened to me or others? Why is it this way? What can I learn from this? What is God trying to do here?" instead of an outward all-guns-blazing-all-finger-pointing words, comments and posting on social media or face-to-face.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Yup! That's me...

Yup! That's me... by Mervin Chiang
Yup! That's me..., a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.

Every few years I have a new surge of resolve, a new passion, a new direction, a new meaning in life. And each time, hopefully, I mature and have grown more in wisdom than the last... What I mean is... I want to start blogging again..

My last stint was on photography. That still exists.. My current on-the-simmer passion is coffee. However, my latest craze I want to focus on and hopefully with as much zeal and passion as my other previous crazy passions and also to keep it as my ONLY focus is... GOD!

Yup the gospel is what I want to sink my teeth and whole being in next. Not to say that I haven't been doing that before. Don't get me wrong, I'm not recently born again as a Christian. I've been in, near and around Christianity almost all my life. But when God starts showing you things and starts revealing His magnificence to you time and time again without fail and with that much consistency. You'll stop, look back, then look at yourself and then look forward and go... "Woah..."

A good friend I recently caught up with after having lost contact for almost 20 years said something that struck me. I started telling him enthusiastically about what has happened in 20 years. I wasn't sure how much he believed in God, I kinda didn't care. I wanted to just tell him how my life journey was and how God had so many things to do with my life events and how I became this person I am now... he listened and he wowed and he ahhed and he oooed... Eventually he said, "You should write this down! It's a great testimony. A memoir of some sort... " This statement stuck with me for all this time. And the months after that meeting lead to many fast and almost God-zapping sequence of events that lead me to... well.. this post... The start of "writing things down"...

You see, like Neo in the Matrix, I sometimes like to and can almost see life in those green characters running down everything like in the movie. I like to somehow reach out touch and appreciate the beauty of how awesome God's sovereign guidance is. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING happens in accordance to His design. We can't see it until it happens. Narrating my life for 20 years in a 1 hour sitting certainly exposed God's guidance in all its glory when I was with Justin. It's there when you choose to see it. It won't be if we don't or won't...

This was the verse I scribbled down to look up on and to memorise..."And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." - Rom 8:28

Get ready for a series of my life :) (if I get the discipline to keep blogging...)