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.