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 in 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.

being unexceptional

There is nothing quite like a class presentation to get you thinking about where you stand not just academically, but socially. It’s that strange place where academia meets the social, where your intellectual opinions spill over into the way your classmates treat you after the class ends. In Singapore’s classroom culture these two don’t often meet, but when they do, they present a high-pressure environment where everything you say intellectually will be judged socially.

I spent hours on that presentation. I stayed up researching every single source, every pertinent example – obsession is what they call it. But obsession with what?

The presentation went, strangely. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the smoothest. I spelled out my arguments clearly, but they weren’t convinced. They nodded, but I could tell not all of them agreed. Some did though.

Isn’t that worse? To straddle rejection and worship – to be truly unexceptional.

I took an enneagram test recently, and apparently Type 4s have the motivational need to express their uniqueness and be authentic.

To be exceptional.

For so long I have been the main character in my story. In all the narratives I’ve crafted, whether they be testimonies or articles or blogposts, the one who gets the glory is me, even when I spend the whole thing talking about something else.

I become foreign to what I write – the content doesn’t matter as much as the response to it is.

(To think I’d find Marx helpful in understanding my inner emotional life.)

So now I encounter a situation where I am not special, not even in the worst way possible. Instead I am left suspended, uncrushed and unlifted. I am neither the subject nor the background, merely a passenger in the crowd.

Am I okay with a life that isn’t centered around me?

“I am not the Christ.”

How can you say that John? Don’t you want people to know you?

“Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

No! Follow me!

“And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots and his horsemen.”

Did we not leave our homes for you God? Why do you get the glory?

“so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

His grace. Not mine.
His purpose. Not mine.
His glory. Not mine.

Those are really hard words for a proud man to hear.

Who is the main character in my narratives? Who gets the glory? Is it not me, constantly? All the time it is about how I have suffered, how I have responded, how I have recieved this grace. How ridiculous it is that we can make our lives about us! Especially if we believe that this new life we have from God is a gift from Him.

You deserve the glory God, and You alone can claim it. My life is servant to the display of Your glory, to the execution of Your will. Help me rejoice in the display of Your glory! That you take centre-stage every time, that you recieve all the credit all the time.

Help me delight in the display of Your glory God. Unexceptional, exceptional – these terms become irrelevant in the display of Your glory. Whether I stand on a mountain top, or suffer in a valley, or float in a strange space between the two, let it all serve Your glory.

“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.”

Help me never to boast, especially when I am talking about You.

ready to leave, willing to stay

o God this world is so marked by pain and suffering. God how could you allow this? how could you stand this? how can this be part of your perfect plan?

are not your people slaves, even now? are not our burdens heavy? how long we have toiled under the sun, and for what? there is no end to our striving! there is no end to our pain! there is only sorrow, heaping upon one another like layers upon layers of stifling cloth, till Your voice is a muffled mess.

God, should i not die now? would it not be better? have i not spoken constantly of my eager expectation of Your coming kingdom? is that not what i remember each time i eat of the bread and drink of the wine, that one day i might feast with You?

why am i still here?

i am so proud God, and every moment i do not get what i want, do not see what i want, i rise up. i rise up against You, against Your will, against Your plans! God i am so so selfish, and daily i struggle to obey You. is this my life now? one marked by pain, suffering and an inability to submit to You?

.

no you fool! have you so quickly taken your eyes off jesus? to what end has he redeemed us? that we may live as His people, that we may proclaim His goodness! is He not your very present help? is He not your sun and shield? o you foolish man, o you blinded wanderer, Christ is here, now! there is hope even now in this world, only in Him. indeed You have passed over me, You have elected me, You have preserved me, You have kept me. should you mock the Lord and His plans? o God, help me to submit! help me to obey! for Your glory alone shall i live; not in misery, not in despair, but in such hope, expectation, anticipation, joy! help me to delight in You now Lord, help me to live for You now Lord.

.

Psalms 2

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

.

be my refuge, now and forever.

sisyphus

a wise man once said

that if you stare into the darkness

you become like them.

how long till we reave,

or cleave to nothing.

how many dimensions must i travel,

till my soul becomes empty

and the nights grow weary –

stay, watch cable tv.

there must be enough of nothing

from something,

.

how many turns and shivers,

groaning like trickles down a stream.

that bustling chariot hurries forward –

she’s a genius!

were that lonely grants memory,

or memory that makes one lonely.

the sandman is silent,

he knows he has made an artist.

.

how many in that darkened night,

have come forth works of art.

that all mankind were lonely,

what a sight of beauty it would be!

.

a wise man once said,

that if you stare into the darkness,

one laughs,

what can compare to that within?

we are all sages in the end.

same

i want to be the same man in front of my father and my friends.
i want to speak the same truths in class and in cell.
i want to find pleasure in the same things in public and in private.
i want to love the same God in the daytime and the night.
.
keep me stable, keep me sane, keep my mind as one.
anchor me in You, in Your Word.
.
You are the rock through every summer, every storm.

(161117@fellowship Bible study w/ josh, ern, tyronne, atharva)

toil

do not despise the toil of your youth!

every moment shall be unto the Lord –

rejoice in His glory, oh my soul,

rejoice!

He is in the working of your hands,

and upon the sweat of your brow –

He who gave work to man

is glorified in work unto Him.

do not despise the toil of your youth,

in Him rejoice! 

in His work rejoice! 

rejoice oh my soul, and lift your eyes,

you work as unto the Lord, and not for man. 

my shelter and shield, my fortress and refuge –

who is a God like you?

take delight oh my soul, in His precepts,

rejoice in righteousness

and despise evil. 

.

yet do not despise these moments,

though they flicker past, yet feel forever –

God and His works are forever,

and here among the toil and grit,

there He is as well.