Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I have "moved"... Kind of...

Just a quick post to say that I've split my blog back up again. I'm keeping brokenvase for its original purpose - Photography... and have moved all my "life and Christian living" posts to If you are following my rantings through RSS, Please update accordingly...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Top 5 Gift Ideas this Christmas

The Ultimate Christmas Gift
"The Ultimate Christmas Gift", an image from Creative Swap.

I admit it, I suck at giving presents. It is especially obvious during Christmas time. I’ll forget. I’ll buy last minute or I constantly need to be reminded to pass someone a gift. I thank God for my wife and my mum who understands present-giving strategies. This made me think of what are sure-fire ways of gift giving that would “stick” for me. I would like to remember to give. I realised that the one way that truly works for me is if I give from the heart. Our core, where the heart is, drives our thought and our actions. If at the core, I truly want to give, then it’ll be meaningful. It will be heartfelt. It will be genuine. All other types of giving are mere formality.

As a pragmatist and minimalist, I realised this must be the reason why gift giving is not instinctive for me. I also realised that the only true and ultimate gift has already been given. And Christmas reminds us of this. Through Jesus Christ who was born on Christmas day, God has already given us what we need for all eternity. Through Jesus we can enjoy eternal salvation with God for His glory.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17, ESV

Think about it. If that’s true, what gift can compare with eternity in glory? It makes a box of chocolate I just got a speck of dust compared to this gift. Ironically, the essence of Christmas that makes us give gifts represent the greatest gift ever given and it’s already been done! This strand of thought has been driving Kat and our Christmases for the last 4 years. You see, if you knew that this was the ultimate gift and believe that in your core that this is true. Why on earth would you give your friends and loved ones anything else? I finally found something that I believe in my core to drive my actions of giving. This one gift, although not from myself, it’s a gift worth passing on.

So, this leads me to my top 5 gift ideas this Christmas. Since a lot of articles I read these days are ad-filled lists of things. Here is mine to share (minus the ads, and you don’t have to allow weird Facebook apps or annoyingly click next for each item)…

1. Gift of Friendship

We’re living in a sceptical information age. The age of Gen Ys and Xs. People these days are natural sceptics. Everything can be googled. We have very short attention spans. What I realise is many still crave traditional, deep, heartfelt friendships. Making friends with a stranger and showing random grace and kindness is rare these days and applauded readily. I’m not asking you to seek self-glory by making friends. Instead, what I’m suggesting is to go out and make new friends with strangers so as to form deeper relationships with them. Why? So that ultimately, you can get to point them to Jesus. The strangers don’t have to be random people from the streets. They could be your neighbour (yes! Finally! Go talk to them!). They could be even people in your own church whom you haven’t formed a friendship with. Guess what? Christians need some “pointing-to-Jesus” too.  Think of someone; give them the gift of Christ-driven friendship.

2. Gift of Catching Up with Intent

We’ve been doing this consistently over the last 4 years with this one. Through Christmas, it’s a time where many would meet, eat, laugh, rest and do it over again for a few days. We might travel to another country. Our home country perhaps. To meet relatives and friends. To catch up. For us at home, every Christmas is an opportunity for Kat and I to catch up with friends who we don’t have time to catch up with through the year. I call this, “catching up with intent”. What’s our “intent”? To get to know them better. To deepen our friendship. To learn how and what to pray for with them. To ultimately point them to the greatest gift – Jesus. Yes, the intent here, again, to is to point them to Jesus. Best Christmas gift ever! Closely followed by your genuine relationship formed as you catch up.

3. Gift of Prayer

This is another awesome gift. This gift can be accompanied by all the other gifts on this list. I have since learnt over many years never to underestimate the power of prayer. God chooses to use this mechanism to communicate with us and to show us His power and Glory. And so a great gift idea would be to make a list of people you care enough about to pray for their salvation in Jesus. And pray for them! Simple, yet one of the more important gifts you can ever give!

4. Gift of Compassion

For those cash-rich and compelled to still spend some money during the festive seasons.  Two ways to shop for material gifts for people besides doing the usual chocolates, hampers, toys, etc… Perhaps think about how their gift can add to God’s kingdom in some ways. What Kat and I found practical would be to give them Christian books if they are readers. Or another way is to buy a Chicken! Through organisations like TEAR Australia or Compassion, they have gift catalogues where you can buy a gift, not for someone directly, but someone in the poorer parts of the world on behalf of the person you are planning to give to. Then write a card to tell them about what you bought on their behalf. It is usually a good conversation opener for… you guessed it! … Pointing them to Jesus!

5. Gift of Faith

Lastly, this is for those of you who are not Christian or are curious and are friends or family of Christians. The greatest earthly gift you can give us this Christmas?... Is to tell us you want to know more about this Jesus. Or decide you want to become a Christian and follow Christ. This. This! Would be the best earthly gift I can ever receive. It’ll make me literally jump for joy. And you know I don’t  jump…

So there you have it. My list of great gift ideas this Christmas. This is a list I can deal with. This is a list I can feel genuine about and remember to do from my core and not feel artificial. Let me know if you've used any of the gift ideas above and how it went! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Let's Pray for the Siege in Sydney

Let us pray together
"Let Us Pray together", an image from Creative Swap.

Over the last 2 days social media and my Facebook timeline has been flooded with news reports and prayer requests for the incident in Martin Place in Sydney. A gunman took over the Lindt CafĂ© at the corner and ultimately he got killed along with 2 hostages. In response to this and also a call to act from my local church, I humbly submit this prayer. I find that it helps me to write such important prayers down to gather my thoughts and to pray consistently. Although this is more for me and my family than anyone else, if you want to pray for the situation and don’t know how or what to specifically pray for, perhaps the following can help too.


Dear Father,

It’s been a shocking 2 days for us here in Australia. Especially for the people in Sydney. 

Lord I would like to pray for the grieving family and friends of the two hostages who lost their lives. I pray that peace and comfort would surround their hearts right now as they go through this time of mourning. I pray for their souls Lord, that through this loss, they will be compelled to find ultimate Hope in You, the giver of eternal life.

I would like to remember the family and friends of the gunman. I do not know what they must be feeling. Pain, anger, sadness? I pray that you would still shower them with comfort and peace. Remember they Lord in your plans. Show them the hope that only you can bring.

Father I would also like to pray for the other hostages, their friends and the community around us. That they too would receive the same peace and comfort. Send them help and support when needed. Compel people around them to show them love and help them when needed. Sustain their health through this trying time. And ultimately, I pray that you would reveal yourself to them as they seek to reconcile what has happened so that they can fine hope in the One true hope in this broken world.

I would also like to pray for the Muslim community Lord. I pray that you would protect them physically and emotionally from what has happened. Protect them from any abuse as a result of backlash from the event. I also pray that your children, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, would mobilise to shower them with love at this time. Their time of need.

Lastly, I would like to pray for wisdom and humility for myself and all my fellow brothers and sisters. We may never know why these things happen. But let this be a strong reminder to us for the urgency of your will and agenda for this world. I pray that you would equip us to know how to handle questions of mortality and judgement in this time where logic makes no sense to the fallen world. I pray for boldness to be able to proclaim the finished work of Christ and point them towards Him as I interact with people around me about this incident. Let me never forget to be thankful and always ready for your good work.

In Christ Name I pray,



“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:43-45, ESV

Saturday, October 11, 2014

An Open Letter to My Future Church

Open Letter to Church
Open Letter to Church, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.

First off, I’m NOT assuming that I will eventually be a pastor of a Church. This letter is merely written if I ever become one by God’s will and miracle. This letter is actually more for me more than anyone else. To remind me of who I am and to never forget this wherever this path of obedience lead. And never be complacent or pride-filled, but to be encouraged during hardship, like it is now.

Dear Church,

I am writing to you in hopes that you can know a little more about me. There are a few things I’d like you to see about me that you may not know or think about when you see me every Sunday at Church. So here goes…

The first thing I’d like you to know is that I am sinful too. I am a sinner in the middle of my sanctification journey. The same way you are. There is only one shepherd. As it is written...

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” 
John 10:11-14, ESV

Please pray that I don’t become the hired hand that runs away. I am not a shepherd; I am a sheep like you.

No, really… I feel the same sins of the flesh. Pride, anger, sloth, lust, etc… I might get annoyed with you when I think you should know better. I might feel proud because I know the bible more than you. I sometimes lose my temper too! I shout at the kids when they don’t listen to me. Or bark at my family when I’m in a bad mood. I procrastinate doing my sermons on a slow week when my energy levels are low.

I’d like you also to know I’m an introvert. It might surprise some of you, but my warmth and friendliness at Church and my hospitality at our house takes a lot of trained and channelled energy to pull off. But I feel and know it’s worth every bit of it. Why am I telling you this? I’m telling you because I’d like you to forgive me if I walked right past you and didn’t say “hi”. I’m sorry if I hadn’t rung you or caught up with you for a while. Please forgive me if at social functions I didn’t acknowledge you or come to greet you. I might be busy, shy or low on my “interaction” tank.

This might be obvious to say, but I’ll say it anyway. I have feelings too. My heart aches when you tell me your troubles. My heart aches when you don’t tell me your troubles! My heart aches when I see others in trouble, persecuted, suffering or busking in sin. I’d like it if you come occasionally to ask me how I feel. Or tell me how you feel and we can pray and cry together. Knowing you care would be nice.

I pray that you will never think that just because I studied at some bible college I know everything there is to know about our Lord and the bible. Like you, I am always a servant and student of Christ. Especially me! I suck at studying… I realise that if God wills it, the Holy Spirit can zap you more wisdom and open your eyes to the scripture way more than what I can comprehend. I pray that you can approach me when I am wrong. To lovingly correct me and I promise I will try my best to receive rebuke humbly and with respect. If I don’t and I argue with you, please pray harder for my heart.

Please know that nothing I plan for the Church can compare to what God had planned for us since the beginning of time. Please know that I will fail terribly in running things compared to how Christ runs His kingdom. I am not much of a leader too, if you have Christ as your Lord. None of my plans, actions and leadership means anything, if I am not constantly sanctified by Christ through the Church. Yes, I need to be moulded too. I need to learn still! Bible College didn’t teach me everything about being the ultimate super holy Christian. Please! It is my constant prayer that I am approachable so that you can come to me with my flaws so I can learn. I am approachable!... Right? Please, how else will I learn?

It all sounds really hard doesn’t it? What’s the point of all this? I hope you see that it’s to show you that I need you as much as you need me, maybe I need more. We are all different parts of the body of Christ remember? It can sometimes get very, very, depressingly lonely on this narrow path when I am walking alone. Even a marathon can by more fun if I had others running with me, supporting me, loving me, praying with me, playing with me, hanging out with me, crying with me, laughing with me… You get the picture. Do life with me!

You know, I still secretly find encouragement sometimes thinking that God used a coward like Moses. He used a defiant man like Jonah. He used a lust-filled man like David. He used a simple-minded man like Peter. And he even used an outright enemy like Paul to do His work. There is always hope for me!

I thank God every day for his saving grace for me. I thank Jesus for fulfilling the gospel. A gospel so precious that He allowed my heart to change towards Him. To be so compelled to love and want to try my best to save others like He did me. I hang on to this truth every day, because He is my hope in my toil, my discouragements and my disappointments. I never want to lose this first love of Him. I say this never to appear holier than you, but to encourage you and pray that one day, this gospel will capture your heart the same way it did mine and transform you towards a Christ-likeness that surpasses mine!

With love always,

Thursday, August 7, 2014

3hrs After the Oxygen Was Cut Off…

Oxygen Conference 2014
Oxygen Conference 2014, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.
As he was breathing in the breath of oxygen that gives him life, he struggled. It was as if his body didn’t want it! That life giving thing that would cure him of his disease. What? His body didn’t want it? Madness! Every breath of life taken was met with resistance from his own body. The sickness wasn’t going to go down without a fight and he knows this. He keeps sucking in the life-giving oxygen. Faster and faster as he tries to fight this overbearing and overwhelming sense that he is about to pass out. Weeks turned to days, days turned to hours, hours turned to minutes, minutes eventually turned to seconds. With each breath of oxygen from this life giving vine the disgusting, ugly and despicable disease fought back. Eventually, he could not hold it any longer and the dam broke. Tears with a mixture of sadness, anger, disappointment and mostly relief started streaming from his eyes. He couldn’t understand this. Why is this so hard? Besides, the doctor promised that this treatment was a breeze! Walk in the park. “This yolk is light!” he says. Strange thing to say, but that’s what he said…

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.
(In Christ Alone, Stuart Townend)

This was me at the Oxygen 2014 conference. The crescendo at the last day, the 3rd last sermon and the last song… The story of the sick man above is me and how I felt all through the last few weeks culminating at the end of the Oxygen Conference today.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved every minute of it. Not only the sermons, the electives or the workshops, but the intense and fruitful conversations with fellow brothers and sisters as we debate, learn from each other and soak in together the Word and God like sponges. At least that was the case for me. Ultimately, all I could do is fall like a heap in front of His cross.

"I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. … For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. …
… I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people,… in toil and hardship, …apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. … I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it … I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth … So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
(Excerpts from 2 Corinthians 11:16 – 12:10, ESV)

I suggest you go read the full passage. But I can almost print this version out as my prayer. This is my prayer right now.

We can’t all be madmen and fools right? Right? 2,500 of us at this conference. 500,000 of us in Cambodia. Millions of us in China. Thousands dying in Iraq. All through history. I’ve met engineers, specialist doctors, IT professionals (me), university professors, mums, dads, really really smart people! All coming together, love this God and got transformed. We can’t all be mad enough to spend money, time, use our brain cells and our energy to come to this conference? Right? To come to this conference to cry like sooks. On our knees all the time. Raising our hands to the sky.

Why? Because we love God. That’s why. But why bother? Can’t we just love God at home? No! Or should I say “Far be it so!” We gather, we cry, we plead, we learn, we stress, we argue all because, at least in this case, we want to recognise that none of us are righteous and free of the need for help. We want to strongly recognise that we are all broken and need help and not as self-righteous as we or others think we are. Secondly, and more importantly, we gather because we want to so strongly “love our neighbours”! We bother because we want as many people as possible to know about this redeeming love. We want people we love to understand that the only way to true life is through Jesus. We toil, cry, ache and kneel because of firstly Jesus and then you. Yes, you. We love you too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Question: Politics. How far do we go before it becomes an idol?

Politics as an Idol?
Politics as an Idol?, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.
This whole Roy Ngerng versus Lee Hsien Loong ridiculous debacle has somehow bothered me and I can’t seem to put a finger to it. Many years ago, I used to have very strong views about Singapore politics as well. A contributing factor to Kat and I deciding to move out. When asked why we migrated I’d use this narration: “You know the movie the Matrix?...” pause for effect… “We took the red pill!”… Watch people’s face light up… Works every time when asked why we wanted to move out of Singapore…

These days (as I aged)… I don’t normally care about politics or news in general, for that matter, anymore. I guess I have now more things to worry about… than to - “worry about tomorrow”. I strongly lean on the “tomorrow will worry for itself” part of Matthew 6:34 now. Ignorance is bliss I reckoned…

So why do I now want to write a post about politics? It’s weird… My Facebook feeds are split right down the middle on this Roy versus the PM thing with supporters on both camps. Actually, more specifically it’s the Roy camp versus the “this-is-silly-lets-move-on” camp. Singaporeans are getting more and more vocal and some even stand behind this character, throwing money at him and really believing that gathering at a park in the thousands (Singapore has many million people by the way) would really make a difference.

Again, so what is the point of this post? In light of the above description of the state of Facebook affairs… This story got stuck on replay in my head every time I see a post on this Roy thing…

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. – Matt 22:15-22, ESV

… OK this might not be the best example to relay my purpose of the post. But the words “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” were the words that keep coming to me every time I see a post (especially from my Christian brother and sisters) sharing about this whole politics thing in Singapore.

I totally get that we should sometimes speak up when we feel that there is injustice or poor management. After all, if we don’t, who would right? But I’m worried, especially for fellow Christians, that we are totally missing the point if we do go too far with protesting in politics (unless you ARE a politician of course… where politics IS your job!).

I know I am potentially opening a can of worms here. But I am willing to have a nice discussion about this – God willing. Especially after a great start this year with our Church theme “go therefore” (Matt 28:19). If I am getting the point about our true mission here in this world while we wait for Christ, compounded with the fact that I know God is sovereign, politics included... you know, he used evil kings in the old testament to complete His master plan and all… wouldn’t it be better to invest time, energy and even money on Godly things? Leave Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and give God the things that are God’s? (i.e. Our time, energy and resources) Honestly, and this is just me, I feel that spending any part of my energy and brain cells in politics as a non-politician is stealing time away from knowing God and working for Him. Plus, dare I say it, where is the Grace in this all if we become the bitter uncle complaining about “garmen” one leg on the chair sipping tiger beer at the Kopitiam? … Metaphorically speaking…

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The CMMI - Christian Maturity Model Index

Reflecting on the current sermon series at Church on missions, it has coincidentally impacted me personally as I prepare for a new stage of life and the journey I am about to embark on. As I sit here in a busy Sydney airport waiting to go home, I began to reflect on my whirlwind of journey through life. As early as my primary school days, all through my teens and my rocky semi-adulthood, through the Singapore Army, marriage, relocation to Australia, career and eventually now... The above diagram sums it up pretty much...

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 28:18-20, ESV (The Great Commission)

I've always known the above verse in my head in some way shape or form. Sometimes I'm “guilt-ed” legalistically into trying to do more. To keep telling myself, why am I not doing more evangelism? To read the Bible more? To Pray more?

The diagram above depicts in a very loose way my journey. And I think, as I reflect on what many calls the Christian maturity and what Paul calls running the race, I am humbled by how God has brought me through it. The hurdles that He helped me “jump” over. The trials that He used to mould me and shape me towards the “missionary” phase. You see, I feel that these are stages we go through as being a Christian. We all start off with an obvious disadvantaged position of “Hopeless Rebel”…

“All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” - Rom 3:12, ESV

But then, lucky for me, I was explained the Gospel and I accepted what Christ did for me and became what I call a “Grateful Reborn”. To be honest, for me, growing up in a Christian family, there wasn’t a WOW moment or great fire or passion or zeal. It was a gradual progression thing. I know for some, this gratefulness of the grace and truly understanding this undeserved love has led to fortified zeal to read the bible. To understand everything there is to know about this new Heavenly Father after the adoption… But for me, as I understood what I thought was the “true” meaning of the gospel…

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Eph 2:8,9, ESV

… I got complacent. This is where I think a lot of us are. Have a look at me self-reflection on Christianity as a hobby here. After all, we’re saved right? Nothing we can do and need to do… So let me just hand up my feet and just enjoy this ride to the end! In comes the “Saved Rebel” phase. This is a dangerous “phase” to be in… And I was in this “phase” for a good 20+ years!! My turning point was when my assurance was shaken. Somehow, in God’s amazing mercy, the Holy Spirit stirred me towards this verse…

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matt 7:21-23, ESV

This verse radically challenged me and made me second guess my faith. Was I the “worker of lawlessness”? Was I practicing “cheap faith” by simply going to church, singing songs, doing “Christian-y” things just to try and “buy” my way into heaven? If I am not, why I am still living like a rebel? The world couldn’t tell me from any other non-christian… Where is my fruit of the Spirit?... Non-existent!

So… begins the “missionary” phase I believe. For some of you, the “jump” from Grateful Reborn to Missionary is instantaneous. You got the right follow up, the right readings, the right convictions, the right leaders, the right mentors… Praise God! For me… it took 20+years and my current Church, God’s merciful trials and many many more things to get me here.

“Unlocking” the missionary phase is truly liberating! It puts a lot of things into perspective. It explains a lot of “things” that as a “Saved Rebel” I struggled with, ‘cos all I understood was I was saved and justified so I could do anything I want. I continued to ignore God Monday to Saturday and sing praises to Him only on Sunday. God changes hearts…. I know for my journey, it had to happen in exactly this way for me to get it… for me to be convicted enough to “thrust” into the Missionary phase.

Right, so what is the Missionary phase? I think it happens when you truly understand the commission that Jesus gave to us as Christians. When you get in its core the purpose of our adoption and it changes your heart from within. This change is evident from the need, hunger, thirst as the bible calls it to want to make disciples. To feel so inadequate to make disciples you want to read the bible all the time. To know Jesus and His Character more and more so that you can better make disciples. To be challenged to live out your life like the person you look up to – Jesus… So that... you can make disciples. In summary, you thirst for this shapes your everyday decisions, goals, thinking, prayer and worship.

Finally, I look forward to finishing this race. To ultimately be the Perfect Child when the new heaven and the new earth comes again. To ultimately be receive the “well done, my good and faithful servant” praise…

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Work is hard. Suck it up!

Work has been indeed piling up. Stress levels are surging... My line of work is not so much hard labour but more a psychological one. Constantly worrying about things. Keeping on top of tasks. Plan strategies. Plan plans. Second guess what I could have done better. Stress over lack of results. Deal with people's emotions, hidden agendas, politics... you get the picture. Many call this "daily grind". I laugh it off by semi-joking that Adam made work hard and Cain made work fruitless... Selfishly, I blame them. I blame them bringing forth God's judgement on us so now we have to toil...

"By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Gen 3:19, ESV

"When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Gen 4:12, ESV

I guess society teaches us that if you are not happy, do something about it. If you don't like your job, move on. Complain about it. Make a change. Take a stand. But lately, more and more, I am feeling that to do comply with this self-love attitude might be a pride and self-centeredness thing to do. Sure we shouldn't be a door mat and have people step all over us, but I have since learnt that no one promised that work will be easy. In fact, quite the opposite. If I look hard enough, 90% of the feelings stem from fear and selfish pride. Through my stresses and turmoil these few weeks, I am beginning to get how Christian freedom, the undercurrent of joy and ultimate peace from God hangs together. Its strange how God works through my stress!...

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. - Col 3:22-14, ESV

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. - Phil 1:21, ESV

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Eph 2:10

The above 3 verses among other many verses added together drives my attitude at work (and life) now. In action, thought and prayer... Especially when it gets tough and stressful like today...
  1. Am I stressed, angry or worried at work due to my pride? 
  2. Am I "obeying in everything those who are my earthly masters"?
  3. Do I honour God when I act or speak up against or in defence of myself or the situation? ("To live IS Christ", "with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord")
  4. Remind myself. My boss is Christ (serving the Lord Christ) and not my earthly masters.
  5. I am secured in Heaven. Life is temporal (to die is gain).
  6. God is sovereign. He prepared good works for me that I can walk in them. He is ultimately in control and when bad things happen, there is a reason that is beyond my current understanding.
This is what freedom means: to enjoy the peace in Christ and to busk in the joy found in a future more important that whats before me right now. Despite the waves of emotion and daily toil, the undercurrents of peace and joy still flows. That is what I ultimately meditate on and cling onto at the end of a hard days work.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I am worse than a keyboard warrior

These few weeks I've been admonish gently and in a very real way by people around me and more importantly by God about something that I thought I'd never fall into. In recent times, I've always guarded myself in avoiding being the "keyboard warrior". If you don't know what it means, it is when you sit behind a keyboard and write Facebook comments or blogs, or anything online about a topic. Taking pot shots at the topic on one side of the fence. Usually nasty, condescending, provocative or sometimes just distastefully immature words come out and it doesn't help the debate or add any value to the discussion or topic. Keyboard warriors are usually not constructive, and even if they are, they will not make even a dent in the cause they are fighting for sitting behind the keyboard.

Hopefully, you get what I mean by now. I was like that. In fact, I was worse. I used to be hot tempered even in real life. I still remember the times when I would fight openly in a train station in Singapore with my then ex-girlfriend publicly when I was a teen. I would fight with my parents all the time. I would rebel against any authority effecting me. I guess its God or simply age. I've mellowed down a few notches. It slowed down to being a keyboard warrior, and gradually even that stopped. I told myself, God demanded us to be meek. It takes more energy to be meek than to be hot headed. Believe me!

"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom." James 3:13 ESV

Up until this week, I thought I was doing pretty good in this department. I catch myself before I "shoot" at things. Make sure that if I'm not edifying anyone or God, that I keep my gaping hole shut. I guess self righteousness, pride, sinfulness of my own flesh is never far from satan's pulling strings. These feelings surfaced in other areas. Areas closer to home. Areas more subtle. It is here that it hurts the most. Where the sin becomes more insidious.

Let me explain. Unbeknownst to me, subconsciously or addictively, I started on a my-bible-knowledge-and-my-church-and-pastors-teachings-are-better-than-you-or-your-knowledge-and-whoever-you-respect quest. It's funny, sad and a little embarrassing really. Imagine a kungfu movie when this young guy chanced upon a really powerful book that teaches awesome kickbutt kungfu moves that would save the world. Sounds cool right. But to make a 2 hour movie, this guy has to stupidly learn some moves, and before he can finish the book, go out to the world, bash some people thinking its the right thing to do and cause more chaos, confusion and calamity than he did good.

At this point, I'd like to apologise to people whom I've done this to. In the next few weeks, I'll be repenting and talking to you about my failings in confusing or stumbling you.

To finish up, I'd like to say to my future self and also anyone who is a keyboard warrior or worse: please do not fall into this trap. Good and sound reformed theology is, in and of itself, not enough to "take on the world". It takes wisdom, discernment, true meekness, respect and a whole lot more fruits of the Spirit, including, most of all, God's power and will to get it right. Otherwise, you'll be causing more harm than good to people around you. Especially your loved ones.

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col 3:12-17 ESV

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Our 10 year anniversary

happy 10th anniversary by Mervin Chiang
happy 10th anniversary, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.

We just came back from an awesome 10 year anniversary celebration. Yes! I executed a covert 10 year anniversary party with a few of our closest friends without Kat knowing until I walked her into the party. And I organised this secret surprise event all on whatsapp. Technology really helped this time!

"Why did we celebrate our 10 year anniversary with a bunch of friends???" you might ask. I figured, we often go on dates and celebrated our past 9 year anniversaries alone, romantically and together. This milestone, I decided, we should celebrate it with key people that influenced us and really helped us as a couple grow in maturity. They helped shaped us into who we are and how we related with each other and with God. I am sure I would have forgotten to invite some of you that did that too, it's real hard to keep the group small.

"This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." - Eph 5:32 (ESV)

Anyway, the video is a collage of photos through our life together. The bible tells us that marriage between a husband and a wife is to reflect and mimic the relationship between Christ and the Church. We may never be perfect, but we must strive towards that image set before us. Kat and I are thankful for the Church family that help us towards this goal. And never stop to encourage us, rebuke us when required, laugh with us and love us as we are. Our continued prayer is for you as our Church family to keep doing this...

"We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves." 1 Thess 5:12-13 (ESV)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Loving coffee is the same as loving God

Coffee and God by Mervin Chiang
Coffee and God, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.
Well... It's more similar than you think. Metaphorically and philosophically of course. I'd like to suggest that at some strange Mervin's-mind-only philosophical level, my love for coffee is like my love to God. Similar to the Christian as a hobby post, you can replace coffee with golf, fishing, tennis, rugby, computer games or anything you are obsessed about. You can then continue this post replacing that with coffee.

Let me explain. If you are a coffee nut like me, you'll know that in order to pull a perfect shot of coffee, you have to get EVERYTHING right.
  • The coffee bean must be fresh. Not more less than 7 days and no more than 28 days old from time of roast.
  • The bean must be ground fresh. No more than 90sec before use. Yes! You grind and use it immediately. Pre-grounds are useless.
  • The microscopic particle size and even distribution of average sizes must be consistent when grinding coffee. If the grinder is not even when grinding the coffee its no good. Spice grinders are useless!
  • The brew method effects the grind size of the coffee. Either very coarse for filter or very fine for espresso.
  • The temperature of the water for making coffee, depending on the device, brew method and desired taste, can vary from 89-94 degrees celcius. No more no less.
  • The amount of time the hot water touches the ground coffee is also highly significant. Too long and you burn the coffee. Too short and the coffee is diluted. Grind size changes time needed.
*Change above tips with any hobby/obsession you know of and are part of. Post works the same.

Ok. Now. Does this make you a head barista at a cafe? Qualified to be competing at the World Barista Championships (yes, they have these. Google it)? Of course not! Like any hobby or sport, you need practice! The more you do "hands on" the more you get better at it. And if you are as obsessed as me, you'll know that there is always something to refine. Something to tweak. Something to learn. The more you dig, the more you uncover!

So why is this relevant to loving God? I'd like to suggest that at a wacky-Mervin's-weird-way, making coffee is like the Gospel (in the framework/metaphor sense). Think about it. In coffee we have water temp, grind size, time. EVERYTHING revolves around these 3 things. With God, we have the Gospel. EVERYTHING revolves around the Gospel.

The reason for this post is a result of me trying to understand perplexing statements by some people I come across that says things like:
  1. "Why are we learning this again?"
  2. "Our studies are so basic."
  3. "Our study is not deep enough. It always just talks about the gospel. I already know all that."
  4. "Its not spiritual enough what we're learning."

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit." - Matt 7:15-18 (ESV)

I'm not saying that the people saying the above statements are false prophets or ravenous wolves, but I am more thinking about the statement "you will recognize them by their fruits". What fruits should we recognise?...

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." - Gal 5:22-23

For coffee, my "fruit" is.. well... great coffee! And people tell me about it. They see and tease me about it. I roast my coffee and walk up to my house smelling like a walking bag of beans! What are your fruits [of the Spirit] as a Christian? Do you "smell" and "taste" like a Christian fruit? Knowing about it and "already learnt it" doesn't make you an expert. Understanding it deeply, applying it and actually have someone come up to you and tell you, "hey you smell like a Christian fruit" makes you closer to being one.

If we chase our perfect swing, perfect pitch, perfect shot, perfect pay check by googling, studying, applying, practicing and maybe even bleeding, how much more should we, calling ourselves Christians, be doing the same about God's word? Saying that the studies are so "basic" may be as absurd as saying, "I've read the How to Golf for Dummies book once, why should I practice and study golf again? I'm ready for the world tournament! After all, I've memorised all the how-to tips."... Problem I have is... Where is your golf trophy??? Where's the fruits of the Spirit?

Friday, February 14, 2014

House Divided - Christian Hatred vs Love

House Divided by Mervin Chiang
House Divided, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.
The gay marriage debates, pentacostals/charismatics vs reformed evangelicals, hillsongs vs hymns, muslims, buddhists, catholics... I was asked last week, "why is the world so divided? Wouldn't it be better if it was unified?". Of course, there is a perfectly, even non biblical, explanation for this. It is impossible for all to be correct and unified simply because there are opposing claims and theories. For example, we Christians believe there is only one God and some other religion believe in many gods. So based on that alone we can't be both right. But that is not the point of the post. I digressed...

What I really wanted to "pen" down were 2 things I both learnt and felt changed as I got deeper and deeper into this "God thing".

1. It is totally justified to judge
...When it is within the walls of Church of course. These verses were "stolen" learning from Kat's study:

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you." (1 Cor 5:12-13, ESV)

Last week's sermon from Steve and also his post here also expands on this. An example can also be seen from Jesus himself when He tossed out the market they made in front of His Father's house. He got angry He judged and He purged them. We are to be discerning (judging) when it comes to wolves within the Church. False prophets. We are to judge them. "What about love?" you might ask. Steve went on to say that we should first purge them because of the poison it potentially does first. Perhaps we can "love" them later. If you had a parasite in your body, wouldn't you get it out first before bottling it and looking at it and feed it or love it later? Or would you rather stroke it and "love" it while its sucking your body of nutrients and life?!

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits." (Matt 7:15-16a, ESV)

2. Do we love or do we hate as Christians?
Here comes the kicker that I've been seeing change through these years as I seek the Lord more and more. As I read the many debates. Be it gay marriage, denominations differences, calvinism vs arminianism, you name it! A good portion of the Christian response were the responses that I used to have. I used to poke at and challenge theories, other Christians and even the leaders of my old Church. I did this all in the name of "finding the truth". I tell myself my Zeal and rigour is the passion for God. But if I am true to myself, I know it was sinfully filled with pride, fear, hatred but mostly pride. I mixed my supposedly godly quests as personal vendettas to be heard, to be acknowledged of my smarts and knowledge of the Bible. To prove to others I am better than them as a person and as a holier Christian. I do not pretend to know everyone's heart. I don't. But reading the comments out there on any of such debates, I can't help but wonder how many of them are fuelled the same way as mine were.

Mind you, I am still not completely "cured" of this illness. I am still prideful. However, more and more I feel that in recent times, my first reaction to seeing blatantly non-biblical things happen before my eyes or on social media is that of aching. Yes, of sadness! Somehow my passionate-self-seeking-righteousness has been, by the Grace of God, replaced with genuine compassion for these people. I can't explain it. It is from within. My heart condition changed...

Don't get me wrong, I will still speak up if its critical to His kingdom or at least control myself to not say anything when I see something that is wrong but not immediately critical. Especially within the Church or among Christians because we are called to rebuke and admonish each other. But I now will do so with more meekness. Plus I now also know that rebuking is a justified act of love for each other. When I speak up, I make sure my motivations are no longer to pick a fight of right or wrong, but an act of loving the other person before doing it otherwise I don't say or do anything and pray.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

First Child, First Day at School

It's Mikaela's big day today. We all woke up way earlier than the alarm clock did. Mikaela gobbled up her breakfast and was eager to get into her uniform...

Looking back at today. Its a lot for a 5 year old to take in. Leaving her parents and spending a big part of the day in a foreign environment with people she has never met before and expect to interact with them. Being an introvert, even I struggle at the best of times up until today about doing such things at conferences! We are SO so proud of our little warrior.

"You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." - Deut 11:19

The above verse reminds us that we have now even lesser face time to teach her THE way. We must be more diligent. When we are sitting in our house, when we are walking by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise up. Every minute now is precious with her. Face time with her will only reduce as she grows up. As she wants to spend more and more time with her peers even after school. Not only do we need to teach her, we need to model it for her to see... God's way... To pray that it is enough to guard her from the world. And to pray that God will do the rest to lead her to the way that will ultimately bring glory to Him as her name says - Mikaela: "Who can be like God".

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." - Prov 22:6

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

We Shouldn't Love God

We Shouldn't Love God by Mervin Chiang
We Shouldn't Love God, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.

Just documenting the key points from the Ignite Training Conference evening talks for the past 2 nights for myself. I feel that LT has really summed it up and reminded me of the what it is to be a Christian and what it means be part of His Church.

"To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:" - Phil 1:1

Paul addressed the Church as "all the saints"... IN Christ Jesus. He then also said "..,WITH the overseers and deacons". This means WE [Christians] are all "the saints" he is addressing when we see Philippi as the church he is talking to. Not just leaders of the church. LT then went on to expand on what it means to be "IN" Christ. Hence the title... This concept is simple yet profoundly complicated (at least for me) when I first heard of it... We shouldn't [just try to] love God, we should really stand in awe of His love for us and can't help it but love Him back uncontrollably. Its a REACTION to His love and not an ACTION in order to gain His favour.

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" - Phil 1:21

This statement was the "catch phrase" for night two and also said to be the defining statement to describe Paul. LT also talked about what a pastor, closed ones and friends would talk about at my (our) funeral. Would they say, "For Mervin, to live is Christ and to die is gain"? That's the challenge for ALL of the church and ALL Christians. So I was challenged once again to not just live FOR Christ, but to live IS Christ. It means to be so consumed by Christ and the gospel that all my actions, thinking, talking and being are an overflow from the REACTION to God's love through Christ. That is to further His Kingdom.

What do we do this weekend? What do we do tonight? What shall my next career move be? Shall we eat out tonight? Where should my kids go to school? Should my kids take up that class? Should I buy that car? Where should we go for holiday? What should I be chatting about at drinks with my workmates?... Are answers to these questions and more in my life driven uncontrollably from my over abundant longing and love of Christ and God's kingdom to eternity? Or am I struggling to remember to pray and when I do, I go..."oh, let's pray that God blesses us with this or that..."? Notice how we dare not say "give us" but "blesses us" :)

Looking forward to 2 more nights of goodness :)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I Want to be Accepted by You

Fragmented Merv by Mervin Chiang
Fragmented Merv, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.
For as long as I’ve been able to think about myself, my heart, my life, I’ve known that I’m a sinful person. I’ve never doubted the reality of my depravity. And if there ever had been any doubt, being married and having children and immersing myself in a local church has provided all the proof I, and they, need.

But lately I’ve been considering one simple and disturbing aspect of this sin: I want to be accepted by you. At least, this is what I believe in most of life’s situations. I just plain want to be in the "in" crowd. I want to look cool, be cool and accepted as good enough. Somehow I never am and will never be. Somewhere deep inside I believe it’s true and too often I live and act like it’s true. Even with family.

This is the old sin of pride, I suppose, the one we talk about so often but deal with so seldom, the one many people put at the root of all sin. And it’s amazing to me how much of my sin comes down to it. I just want to be accepted by you as good enough. I'm never good enough. Too often I’m just plain convinced of it.

If I show you my skills, my knowledge, my wisdom, my deeds, my latest toys, my coolness... You'll accept me. You invite me to join you. You'll laugh with me. I'm part of your crew. I strive to please you, to study, to fake emotional sensitivity, to fake wisdom, to buy new things, just so I can feel you thinking "wow, he's smart, cool, interesting, sensitive... I'll let him into my circle. He's good enough."

I'm a chameleon, always able to adapt. Always ready to mold myself to the clique. Family included. As long as my family, friends, or any group I want to be part of accepts me, I'll be whatever they want, do whatever they want, show whatever they want. Usually by saying and doing things like... "hey, see what I can do!" or "hey, see what I've got that I can share with you that is cool!". After all, I just want to be accepted by you as good enough. If it doesn't go well, I screwed up. I'm not good enough.

This thread, this conviction of my own inferiority, runs deep in the background of my life.

It matters. It matters because while God calls us toward Christlikeness, I prefer to seek approval from others. To be other-likeness. God calls us to hold all things up to the light of his Word, while I prefer to hold all things up to the light of how others view or judge me. Ultimately, I long for conformity to others rather than to Christ. To seek acceptance by the people around me, the society and not God. Or worse! I am never good enough for Him.

If you are like me and honest enough about it, this makes us useless counselors. We are useless counselors unless we can counsel from Scripture and toward holiness rather than a ruse to be accepted as wise and part of the cool local Christian church, the IN crowd of the month. This makes us miserable because we are always convinced life would be easier and better if only others hang out with us and accept us. This lessens our usefulness to God and his kingdom because we spend so much of our time lamenting how others think of us and what we should do, say, or nor do or not say. This increases our sin and hinders our holiness.

I’m kind of a jerk, I know it, and still I have the audacity to want you to hang out with me. It’s baffling. It’s gross. It’s sin. It’s pride.

The above is an alternate context of someone else's post, my version of sinful pride using his format written (Original post from here: It's amazing that while the writer so powerfully wrote about his root sin, I at the same time was thinking about the same sin, but realised its fueled by an opposing force. So instead of trying to string my thoughts into words, I adapted his because it is much more powerful that anything I can write. I'll be up until I receive a complain that I copied too much. In which case I'll rewrite my version...

Monday, January 6, 2014

Spiritual Warfare: Flesh vs Spirit

So, we've moved house! "Again?", "How come so sudden?", "Really? Why? I thought you liked Forestdale?" This blog post is an account of the journey. I think its not secret. I have an issue with remembering things. So this is my attempt to write it down. Why write it down publicly? Well, its because this journey was nothing short of a miracle. This post will be our testimony that God is real. He is concerned for us and carried us through. And also... Satan is real and he has NO concern for us and he would stop at anything to break us.

Disclaimer: This is going to be a long post. It is an account of our journey over more than 3 months. There is something that Steve said which resonated with me as I was wrestling with God asking Him "Why, why must life be so difficult?"... Down in the depths of despair... This very same thing I'd like you to keep in mind as you read, if you are interested in the account: "People choosing to take up the cross and follow Him... in the literal sense, we become bigger targets for the devil..."

"5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." - Romans 8:v5-9

The Call???
At the beginning of 2013, I had decided that it would be a year of change, a year of action. I wanted to do more with my life that would make more sense in eternity than just the mundane. Some would say this is the start of God's "calling", but I feel that His "calling" started long ago. You see, if you had your radar switched on, you can see that God's plan is in motion and you begin to see the beauty of His sovereignty. For a long time, I have been seeing how many major or even minor incidents that had happen in my life was allowed to happen for some very specific reasons. I was being molded, changed and improved for some reason. Bible calls this constant sanctification. Anyway, coming back to the start of 2013. I did my "research". I spoke to my pastor at Church, we prayed, I read heaps... Though the call to serve is a noble one (1 Tim 3:1-7), it is not simple or trivial in its requirements. Would I ever be qualified? Nonetheless, I've got a guide, something to work towards through His grace I grew more and more confident of the direction through the year.

The Decision
Through the intense lessons of The Guidance of God from 2012 Church camp and my various readings, we decided to put the learnings into practice. Kat and I prayed over a few weeks, we discussed long and hard about my decision for the family. I am thankful for Kat's trust in me and her support. Yet at the same time I feel the burden of this leadership. We made sure, at that point in time, that there weren't any issues with righteousness with the decision. Was I wanting to start serving God full time due to selfish gains or sinful reasons? I am fully aware of how easily puffed up I get. Quite like a puffer fish :) I laid out the plan with Kat that the first thing we have to do is to get our finances under control. This would mean moving. We couldn't serve God effectively at where we are. Of course we added other reasons like giving Mikaela a better chance at education by moving to somewhere closer to a good state school. Lastly we also decided it would be good for us to be closer to the Bible College that I'd start studying at this year (2014). After making sure that our decisions did not effect holiness, we applied good judgement to work out where and how to move and narrowed it down to where to move to. (For more on Guidance and the Voice of God see here:

The Analysis of Plan
Decision made in August, being the business analyst that I am, started to systematically execute on the plan. I got a financial planner (message me if you want a referral, he's awesome!), I planned my move through spreadsheets. I started to calculate my budgets for the move and for the next 10 years. I understood that the number 1 reason most full time workers for God burn out or stop is because it was just not sustainable and they stepped into it on blind faith. I did not want to be the one extreme. But I was cautious too that I did not rely too much on my own fleshly worries. It was HARD to discern when to apply faith! Anyway, I started to work out my budgets for selling and buying a house to be closer to Church.

Relationships Reinforced
At the same time the family, parents included, started to get into it. All were supportive of the move and all enjoyed the prospect of "House shopping". There is something about viewing a house that brings joy and excitement :P One thing I knew I had coming was the difficult task of trying to get another house that would match up to our current one then. Everyone loved Forestdale. No one expected me to uproot everyone like this. Even though everyone was supportive of the idea, when the rubber was hitting the road, sparks were flying. House shopping gave rise to lots of heated discussions in the family. Being a person that draws energy from people's happiness, I was really drained when relationships were strained. The first trial hit! Satan knew exactly how to strike. I remember what Susan said when I first shared that we were looking... She said, "If it's God's will it'll be smooth." This was NOT the case here as I would soon find out. Us fighting a lot while choosing a house was to be the start of a NOT-SMOOTH-AT-ALL ride. I was greatly reminded of Job. Nothing was smooth for him. If God wanted us to grow in holiness, he'd allow trials to grow us. The key, like in Job, is to keep the faith and TRUST that it'll work out in the end because there is ALWAYS a purpose. In this case the fights opened deeper conversations with everyone in the family and we grew together as a family even with my parents. It allowed us fight not only with our flesh, but to see the spiritual learnings from it. To be all personally challenged to understand what it really means to take up the cross and follow Him. The first episode of Flesh vs Spirit...

God's Plan is Better Than Mine
Episode 2 of Flesh vs Spirit was to do with selling Forestdale. After much cleaning up and de-cluttering the house was finally up for sale. As days turned to weeks and viewings after viewings of the house turned up with no interest we started to loose heart. Every few days we'd pray for a buyer and I'd be crunching numbers to make sure that we can afford to buy a house when we sell. I remembered that as I started to rely on my numbers more and more all the bad news started to come. I don't think its directly related to my over-reliance on my spreadsheet, but it certainly caused me a lot of distress. First bad news was that we couldn't get bridging loan. The bank wouldn't lend us the money to buy a house first then sell our house. The second blow was that the bank is struggling to lend us the amount of money I was asking for to buy nearer to church. When I did the sums, we were short and could not afford any where near church. The only way was to either abandon the plan or sell and rent for a while, sell our other property and get enough to buy the place near church. After all the house viewings, this was a let-down for everyone. We saw a place we really liked at Fig Tree Pocket and we couldn't offer because we hadn't sold the place and we didn't have a bank that would pre-approve a loan to do so. We were back to square one... or so it seems.

The Sale of Forestdale
The end of Episode 2 came when someone offered to buy our place at the end of October. The only one offer we got. Issue is, they were asking for $10,000 less than what we needed. The flesh in me wanted to take it and keep going. Kat was more objective. We prayed and decided to completely surrender to God's will. Our prayer I remembered was for complete submission to His will and for wisdom to discern what is right. I remembered talking to the agent that night and he said if we don't take the offer, we'll lose them. I texted him saying it was fine, we will not take it and that we'll get the next one. We thanked him for his efforts and thought that was that. What happened next was something that none of us expected since any efforts at negotiation had failed. They counter offered with exactly $10,000 more. Exactly what we needed! Complete surrender to God's will worked!

Can we afford to buy?
Episode 3 of flesh vs spirit began... We really wanted the Fig Tree Pocket place. But all my calculations still fall short of it being affordable. The bank would not lend us the money that we needed. It was short. However, after knowing that we're definately selling Forestdale, I did the sums again. Strangely enough, something weird happened. Something I still cannot explain till now. I went through all the paperwork again and found that I had miscalculated by a LOT! I was $30,000 off. I triple checked and even asked Uncle Philip (our mortgage broker) how we got the figure and we couldn't explain it. The statement did not lie. I punched in the new figure and it miraculously worked. We could afford to buy near church... Just! How did I not see this? How did I work on a figure that made no sense and grossly miscalculate? I could not understand. Happily, we went to the Fig Tree Pocket place with the intent to place an offer. As I was walking up to him at the open house, he sadly said, "mate, we sold the place yesterday". "Wait, what?... How come you are having an open house if it was sold", I asked, thinking he was joking. Turns out he wasn't. It was too late to pull the ad and he was there to tell viewers. "I tried calling Kat, and left voicemails..." We had instructed him to tell us if there was an offer, but Kat never really got the calls. Or we missed the call completely. In short, we were devastated that we missed the opportunity to buy this house. What are the odds that we can get to find a place within these 2 weeks before we have to move out? We'll have to rent... An option we're not too keen on, 'cos we'll have to pay rent and also move TWICE! I couldn't stop thinking about how Jesus didn't reveal Himself to His disciples until he wants to when He came back after His death. Going to pick Kat up from Bloom after the failed open house offer episode all I could say to Kat was, "God did not want us to have this house." Think about it, if I had not mess up the calculation, we would have offered for the house at Fig Tree Pocket. I discovered this precisely on the day before the house was sold!

Buying Chapel Hill
Episode 4 of Flesh vs Spirit. We prayed for a place so we didn't have to rent. But at the same time we wanted to completely submit to His will and if renting is what He wanted us to do, we'll do it. With no anxiety in mind, especially after revealing His sovereignty to us from episode 2 and 3, we continued our house viewings the next weekend. Kat said there weren't many on the market where we're looking that would work, but she shortlisted one. So we went to have a look. She said it was over our budget, but lets go see anyway... So we went. We went, we saw and we liked... But I walked out of there saying these exact words, "We'd be laughing if they sold it to us for $xxx,xxx". The agent kept telling us the sellers are not interested in any offers below that figure that I had in mind. Learning quickly the lesson from episode 2 and 3, we prayed anyway and decided to place an offer that is lower than what the agent said the sellers would be interested in. "They would rather rent it out" were her words. Surprisingly, the agent did process the offer and did not dismiss it as wasting her time. So the offer that was not to be considered WAS considered! Also more glory to God was the fact that we closed to price at merely $3,000 above the value I said we'd be laughing if we got it! The place, its location and its features all pointed towards the fact that the price it closed at was too good to be true. But God allowed it to happen. In this case Spirit won!

Bank Loan Drama
This completely bumpy ride is not over yet. Episode 5. I had a lot of issues getting the loan approved. First there were loads of paperwork they required. But what was weirder where their requests before they would approve the loan. They wanted me to cancel my existing credit cards. I had thought nothing of it at the time and tried to negotiate it away. But this turned out to be the very thing that nearly drove me to depression. The stress of missing the plan and scheduled timelines was too much for me to bear. You see, we had to sell the house, get the money, buy the house and plan to move all our things in the new place. The timing had to be perfect. MY timing that is... Not God's... Within a span of weeks... not even months or years, I had already forgotten God's power and control. I had given in to my fleshly plans. I wanted to take matters into my own hands... It turned out that the credit cards took longer to cancel and delayed the banks ultimate approvals. The delay in approvals, pushed all our plans out and we weren't sure if we were going to get this house at all until 1 week before the settlement date. I knew I could depend on God. I knew that even if He did not allow us to buy the place His plans should be greater than mine. But even within weeks of seeing Him work, I was still weak and sinful. Exactly that weekend the sermon was on Hosea 4-14 about how we can hurt God by forsaking Him and trying to fix our own problems. Anyway, episode 5 ended with my repentance, lots of prayer of everyone about my anxiety and God allowed the loan and purchase to happen without any issues.

Do Not Store Riches on Earth
Episode 6. This is somewhat a battle of Flesh and Spirit, but not exactly. Let me explain. All throughout the move. Out of Forestdale and then into Chapel Hill, I had been somewhat embarrassed by the amount of stuff we have. I kept thinking to myself, how did I let us store up so much "treasures" on earth? This coincided with me looking at our expenses and also reading the Passport Through Darkness book ( I am ashamed and probably still am as to how much I have been sucked into the worlds consumerism. Its embarrassing how much stuff we own and how much we need to spend to make ourselves comfortable. However, this very thing that is a burden in my heart is now being used by Satan as a weapon in my thoughts towards my family. I could not discern between what they needed and when something was deemed as a "treasure" in their eyes or mine. We start to fight over the smallest things because if this. Satan used this to play on my sinful, unforgiving, judgemental nature... This is still an ongoing episode.

This story ends with an open episode 6. Friends, if you love God, can I ask you to pray for my ongoing faith and holiness. I'd be honest that this Christmas and New year period had not been my greatest. In fact, its been the lowest ending 2013. When you are so close to trying to seek God's will and glorify Him, it seems like a clear mirror, reflecting all the ugliness of my sin back at me. Satan is using this in my family to sow evil. My emotional state and spiritual state is fatigued. I question my ability to do fulfill 1 Tim 3:1-7 before I even start. I know in my head that His Grace is sufficient for me. I know episode 6 will end and I will be better after it. But as I go through it and as I look at the long road ahead, I am feeling the runners fatigue at the moment. Please pray for Kat and myself. That we can work through this. That I can work through this with God...

At the end though, I'd like you, if still reading, to also rejoice with me in thanksgiving for God's providence. The sale, the house and also most importantly the trials through 5 episodes of flesh vs Spirit with lessons of walking by the Spirit to be learnt. I hope that this post encouraged you as it did us who lived through it.