Wednesday, December 31, 2014
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 mervinchiang.com. If you are following my rantings through RSS, Please update accordingly...
Sunday, December 21, 2014
"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
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 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 Café 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.
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