a better refuge

sleep is a humbling thing. a third of the day i am utterly vulnerable, so consistently unsafe. ironic then, is the refuge i find in it. how grand is the illusion of sleep – where in being unaware i feel safe.

what else can guard against my thoughts? what is that defence? boiling oil have i emptied onto bloodied tiles, trojan horses burned or welcomed in. archers line the battlements, but i don’t know where to point them.

so i shut my eyes, and embed myself in deep darkness.

You promise sleep, but i cannot rest. You promise rest, but i cannot stop. You promise to end all striving,

So what then is this battle? Who is my enemy? I have trouble distinguishing. Oh my self-sufficient pain!

Who is it that sits upon the throne within those walls? Help me run to Him! Have I not been granted audience? Sonship?

The king who reigns, rules beyond the walls! He alone can decide the design of the courtyard within, and tells me who my enemy is.

I do not guard these gates alone.

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agendaless history

is such a history possible? looking even to the earliest records of Herodotus and Sima Qian, each had their own agenda. dismantle the emperor. promote Hellenistic culture. who has lived that could write without an agenda? is not the agenda the driving force that so compels one to write? words are water that flow with pressure, motions arising from emotional hydraulics. we feel, we speak – and when taught we write.

but at the heart of my struggle: is this a problem? that every history written has an agenda? why do we strive so much for objectivity, or hold in contempt those with a clear intention?

reality is not empirical. life is not experienced as ‘objective’. all of existence is subjective. even if one were to argue the objective reality of atoms or elements, all of that reality is mediated through our subjective experience of that reality. that is to say, reality is subjective.

because what is the point of discussing reality apart from our subjective experience? i’m sure some realms of philosophy have already grappled with this, but even that grappling, that attempt at apprehension is a subjective, human endeavour.

yet i say human not to distinguish it from the divine. if one truly believes that all of existence flows from God, then the reason why ultimate reality is not empirical, measured, scientific, emotionless, agendaless is precisely because God has created the universe with an agenda in mind.

it was not made simply to exist in an objective space, it was made to glorify Himself.

i realise that i’ve conflated subjectivity/objectivity with agenda/agendaless, but i do think my point comes through. we are purposed beings, and hence we understand the world with purpose in mind.

that is not to say truth does not exist. but truth as we think it might be – scientific, experimentally-conclusive, agendaless – perhaps such a truth does not exist, and we hold high a god of our own making.

dealing with suffering.

for as long as i can declare, ‘the worst has come’, it has not. there are limits to words, extremities that it cannot explore.

then we add melodies and chords that give depth, thinking that if we disguise them we will see them for who they really are. there in their obscurity they are revealed, and we are given over to greater depths than mere ink on page.

yet there is a rhythm to song that distracts, a momentum that leaves no room for pause. the song must end, so every station is temporary, with each note leading to the next.

but what happens when it doesn’t end? when all we are left is the 4th minor hungover to silence?

there are limits to how much i can make you understand my pain. there are limits to how much i can express it. but reality has no concern for limits, it stretches on further, farther, pushing the emptyless cart forward.

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who can understand my pain? who can i know its cause?

is it not You Lord?

yet how shall i know You know? is it not through Your words? are there limits to how much i might know Your love?

my words betray me; they say what i really mean.

there are only exhausted avenues. where might i find solace in my pain?

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keep me close to Your words. let my eyes not obscure them.

 

have i ever

have i ever told you
used my words to speak
instead of songs that nothing mean
masquerading in melodies

have i ever told you
use my voice to say
don’t divide between the sheets
and make that difference seen

have i ever told you
i love the rhymes you write
partnered with our love
distilled my heart to bitterness

have i ever told you
about this dream i had
where the silence spoke, and held your hand
and gave me room to breathe

black holes

for when my heart is cold, my fingers numb – when i think i can no longer repent. read His word and be amazed, be in awe once again.

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I remember being stunned the first time i watched Interstellar; the scene with the black hole left me particularly speechless. I remember hitting pause on my laptop just to stare at the spectacle before me, cosmic vastness captured in 15 square inches. I remember being in awe of the amount of engineering that must have gone into recreating that scene, the work of organizations like NASA that have allowed us to even conceive of what a black hole looks like. The beauty and scale of the scene shook me.

Granted, it is easy to stun a Singaporean. We are a people who rarely look up, because the streetlight-stars we see are too small to shock. Hence, even the smallest flicker of an actual star is enough to set our hearts racing. Who would be surprised that the representation of a black hole would enthrall us so?

Yet even now I can remember moments when the beauty of nature stood before me, but I was left unmoved. Sunsets at the end of tiresome days, my eyes too weak, too drooped to catch even a beam. Days when I am a crescent moon turned into myself, all those moments of beauty I missed. It takes little to distract us, to chill our hearts that they remain cold even under the sun.

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The Hebrews were like us in many ways. Constant in complaint, blind to God’s persistent grace and mercy. They were a people turned inward, people who looked to themselves as gods, who crafted for themselves gods.

Jeremiah 2:13 – ‘For my people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves —  cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.’

Another way of phrasing this: My people have rejected me, the best thing they could ever have, and have instead turned away towards false gods who cannot compare to me.

In other words, they remain numb to God – He no longer excites their hearts, no longer is He our fountain of living water.

The prophet Micah prophesied to Jerusalem, calling out their sin and speaking judgement upon the city of God.

Micah 6:12-14

“For the wealthy of the city are full of violence, and its residents speak lies; the tongues in their mouths are deceitful.

“As a result, I have begun to strike you severely, bringing desolation because of your sins.

“You will eat but not be satisfied, for there will be hunger within you. What you acquire, you cannot save, and what you do save, I will give to the sword.’

We often look at the judgement of Israel and Judah and think, ‘Indeed, the Israelites were horrible, stubborn people. They had it coming.’

For sure they did. Yet do these words not ring true for us today as well, even within the church? What then shall we do with these words of condemnation?

What stands out to me the most however is Micah’s final recorded words in 7:18-20.

Who is a God like you, forgiving iniquity and passing over rebellion for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not hold on to his anger forever because he delights in faithful love.

He will again have compassion on us; he will vanquish our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

You will show loyalty to Jacob and faithful love to Abraham, as you swore to our fathers from days long ago.’

Who is a God like you? These are the words of a man stunned! Shocked, laid bare, undone not by mighty power, but by incredible mercy and grace.
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We are rarely stunned by God’s forgiveness because we rarely remember just how undeserving we are of it. The fact that we can repent and again hope in Jesus is amazing news!

It is easy to stun a Singaporean because he so rarely sees the stars, so when it comes he is amazed. How much more should we be stunned by the forgiveness of God when it extends to a people like us!
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We are no different from the people of Israel. Have we not sinned, carving out our own little thrones to sit on? Do we not constantly reject his kingship, setting up our own rules and laws?

We are not a people who deserve forgiveness. We deserve death. Yet God’s forgiveness has extended to us. Who is a God like He? Who loves like He? Who is merciful like He?

Holiness is a summary attribute of God for He is so set apart – there is none like He, in any way, shape or form.
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What then shall we do with the words of condemnation and judgement we read in the prophets?

Let them sink in. Let them strike your heart. Let yourself be made aware of your sin and how much you deserve His wrath.

Then turn to Jesus, and be amazed at the forgiveness God has given to us. Put your faith in Him and remember that He is yours forevermore.

Truly His mercy and love is like no other.

after christmas, before the year ends

Perhaps in no year-end past have I ever been made more aware simultaneously of the glories of Christ, and the depths of sin.

I studied Philippians over the course of 3 days, seeing the wonder that is gospel partnership, the incredible unity there is between those in Jesus Christ. The very next day I am confronted with the realities of church: the abuse of authority, the rebellion against authority, the friction between sinners, the brokenness that is a people waiting for their Saviour’s return. So often we do not look like a church.

I read through 1 Samuel, witnessing a young shepherd boy so in love with God, so enthralled by Him, that he is willing to endure the abuse and evil of men all for the sake of following His king. I think of Jesus the better David, who endured unimaginable abuse and torture in obedience to His Father. Then I turn to my own life and see how proud, how arrogant, how clingy I am to that which I foolishly desire. And I remember that David too fell. There is no hope in men, neither in others or within ourselves.

What hope is there for us in this broken world? Is there a king who would unite us? Is there a king who would save us?

Yes, there is. There came a king who would unite us not by political or social means, but by uniting us to His very self, that we might be united to God. And in doing so He has torn down every dividing wall of hostility, every single one of them. A king who came to save us from our sins. To give us a righteousness we could not have on our own.

I was going to stop the post here, but the past few days in the states have given me cause to pause and take stock. Perhaps triggered by the expected tense environment travelling with my family, or the odd sense of unease that comes between Christmas and New Year – either way i have much to meditate on.

Every night I am on the brink of tears as I think back to how much I do not love Jesus, how much He does not factor into my daily decisions. Day after day I find myself angry, confused, frustrated. My family doesn’t read the Bible together. Yet who I am to ask them to? Do I love the Bible? What part of my life warrants that kind of instruction?

My stomach churns at the thought of my family and the state we are in, yet it falls to the floor when i contemplate my own sinfulness. O God how I have wasted my years! Jesus I am desparate need of you, your grace, your love. Who else can love me? Whose love will I turn to?

I read Matthew 21:16 this morning and thought to myself, ‘Lord, what an obnoxious response! Why didn’t you just tell them that You were indeed the Son of David long awaited?’ Then I remember that more obnoxious is that we have not recognised Him as our long awaited king. Have I not committed the double evil? I have abandoned You the fountain of living water, and have dug cisterns for myself, cracked cisterns that hold no water. O Lord I am in desparate need of You.

And yet I have You. Lord I forget so quickly! Does not Your Spirit dwell within me? Has not Jesus paid the price for my sins? Has He not ascended, and is seated at the Father’s right hand interceeding for me? You are still guiding me, still shepherding me. You are a living God! You have not died and remained dead, but have been brought back to life.

God, this world sickens me. It is hard to remain hopeful, loving, in a world like this. Yet Jesus you are my hope. You have always been our hope. Lord this is not the finality, the end, the world that will remain. This is the world that will disappear, and with it all the sinfulness we see today.

Jesus afix my eyes on You this coming year. Keep me looking to where I will, must be looking for every year to come.

25.5

o Jesus, it is so hard to face the fact that i am not as humble as i thought i was, not as sure of you as i should be, not holy as you are holy. to find my heart still prideful, still hungry for affirmation – o Lord is there no freedom from this? might i find peace here?

yes, and no. help me to know – really know – the peace you give to me, the light and easy burden of fully-paid-for salvation. strengthen my weak knees in biblical theology, fill my broken heart with Christ-love, and stir me to worship you always.