Grief and Resurrection

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
– C.S. Lewis

Grief is the emotional reaction to multiple fears becoming a reality in one moment; it is fear embodied. Those who fear the most grieve the hardest when it comes to pass. They only recover when they realise that those things they feared didn’t kill them, that they can carry on after the loss.

However, some will never recover, because sometimes those fears do kill people, just not on the outside. Many people carry grief like a tombstone on the heart and live like they are condemned, even after struggling for so long.

That is when people can’t move on, can’t heal, can’t brush it off. They need to be resuscitated, resurrected, reborn. They have to relearn, with childlike faith, how to be human and what it all means; how to see that their destiny is “suffering tainted with malevolence” (Jordan Peterson), but that it can be defied with love.

If we are faithful, then we are resurrected many times before our bodies give way, and even when they do, our actions live on. At least in that, death has no hold over the believer.

Ashes to Ashes

So it’s Ash Wednesday, one of my morbidly favourite Christian festivals of all. So, I thought I’d write something short on fasting. (Yes, I know my blogposts are never short, but let me lie to myself.)

“Moreover, do not let your fasting be with the hypocrites. For they fast on the second and fifth day of the week, but you fast on the fourth and preparation day.” – The Didache

So I really couldn’t find out much about this verse, Google has failed me, and it seems strangley random to fast on specifically a Wednesday and Friday. So my theory is that Jesus was actually crucified on a Wednesday, so early Christians fasted to joing him in suffering, and since Friday is the day before his Resurrection, on Saturday night, they fasted to prepare themselves for victory. It really does shed light on what fasting is and how it teaches us to live differently. We fast to join God in his suffering, to suffer with him, and we fast to mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for when he moves through his chosen people. This is essentially what prayer is too, we are always either praying out of empathy and sympathy for someone’s sufferings, or to prepare ourselves for God to change things up. You can see why the two go together. We remember how God feels, we remember how the poor feel, and we remember the immense strength in both, which can totally blow us away.

Traditionally, in the Medieval era, Christians fasted what is now called the Black Fast, here are the only rules:

  • No more than one meal per day is permitted
  • Flesh meat, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk are forbidden
  • The meal was not allowed until after sunset
  • Alcohol is forbidden
  • During Holy Week, the meal consists exclusively of bread, salt, herbs, and water

Yea, enjoy! As a student that snacked a ridiculous amount, this isn’t easy for me too. We have a lot of weird hipster fasts in our modern Christianity. I think the most familiar one of all would be the Daniel fast. Just a quick response on why that one is flat out made up: Prophet Daniel only ate vegetables because the Babylonian king served unclean meats like pork and prawns. If modern Christians really wanted to fast like Prophet Daniel, they would just eat Kosher. Real and historical fasting is a whole different game. It is the kind of commitment that changes a person for life… every year.

Lent is a season of repentance, we are called to encourage each other to get out lives together. We are made of dust and to dust we shall return, everything inbetween matters. I’ve heard many Christians talk about how “You shouldn’t focus on sin, because you are not that powerful that your sins can really matter”. Well, let me introduce you to the butterfly effect: a butterfly flaps its wings and the wind gains speed until it becomes a tornado on the other side of the planet. Do one evil thing and it spawns another more powerful evil thing. Give someone an annoyed look, they feel invalidated, they vent their insecurity on three other people, two of those three gets paranoid for the rest of the day, and lashes out at a total of 5 people… keep going and you’ll realise you have, by the smallest of sins, have irreparable changed the world for the worse. The hope and victory is not that God is powerful and that you are not, because you are actually immensely powerful in ways you do not see; it is that your sin is strong, but true redemption is stronger. God has been here before the earth began, and he will be here with us when the earth has long been destroyed; we don’t see how we are hurting the world, and therefore cannot stop, but God knows all things, and if given the chance, he will reveal it to us, so we can stop serving death, with our knowledge of good and evil, and serve life instead. When he does, you will then do things that irreparably change the world for good.

God’s power on earth is that it only takes one person to redeem his people forever; no one but Christ could do that. Redemption is a reversal of the butterfly effect of sin, it is one good deed that spawns another and another, until it has changed the world, no small good deed is unimportant. We have this idea in Christianity that evil comes from the sin nature of our own hearts, not from desire, like the Buddhists believe, or from temptation, like the Muslimin believe. How God changes the world is by first changing us, one by one. That is why one person standing in the gap is enough, that is how one man’s death of a Roman Cross changed the Roman Empire from the inside out, a man who never did anything to permanantly change the world for the worse. Lent is when you open up yourself to be used by God, you deny yourself to focus on the needs of both God and others and meditate on the power of God and his image on you.

Lent is THE time to take your life back from sin. It is the time to grow into the hero you were made to be, to walk in Christ’s footsteps and join him in the victory of the Resurrection. Every good thing you do, think or feel moves the world one step closer to everlasting life; every bad thing you do, think or feel moves the world one step closer to eternal damnation and death. Choose carefully.


What is a Christian?

This one is more of in reaction to my family members, all Roman Catholic, who constantly talk about how they don’t like Christians and would never go to a Christian church… because they are Catholic.

Part 1: We Are Christian!

So… I want to be Christian and I want to learn how, what does that make me?
Okay, too fast. I like your Jesus, but I’m not sure if I want to be Christian… and that would make me?
“An Inquirer.”
Well, that was fast.
“Yep, we have a word for everything.”
So… am I Christian?
“Lol. Not really.”

So these two are examples of terms that are relatively inconsequential, but it does demonstrate the clear distinction between different people who interact with the Christian religion in one way or another. It gets more important when you start to label people in other branches or denominations, sometimes even people in your own congregation that you think don’t live up to the mark. So to avoid unnecessary condemnation of people that may not look like us, while still holding to a high standard of righteous holiness, let’s go through a few of those terms.

The most basic distinction you have to make, in this case, is between a Christian and everyone else. To start of, those who have no relationship to the Christian religion, who never did, do not and do not intend to have one are, quite straightforwardly, called Non-Christian. We could call them Antichrist, but that’s a little harsh for our modern day language.

So how does one become a Christian? That one is slightly less straightforward, but not impossible to define. Christianity is an orthodoxical universalising religion, meaning that you do not need to be from a specific ethnic group or have specific practices to be a practitioner of the religion, you just need to have the right beliefs. So, basically, you need a formal declaration of faith.

So the next logical question is: Faith in what or who? That’s where it gets more complicated. While the simplistic answer would be “Faith in JESUS”, but that is, in practice, a lot more difficult to define. There have been many views, throughout History, on who Jesus was/is. Some say a great teacher, some say a prophet, some we say he is God. However, you might notice that the those views overlap; for example: the greatest teacher can only be God, and God can be primarily a teacher. So in all their wisdom, the sages of old have decided that the declaration of faith we proclaim should not be in abstract words, but in action. Some denominations will have this be practical, for example, the Quakers, so that to be Christian is to live like a Christian (whatever that means), but most have this be dramatic; yes, I’m talking about Baptism.

I’m not going to go into what Baptism is, but I.E. sufficed to say, that it is a dramatic expression that encapsulates the most fundamental Christian beliefs. To me, these fundamental beliefs, which we call the Gospel are the the doctrines of Original/Ancestral Sin and Atonement. The first is the belief that mankind is somehow wired to want to Sin on our own, which quite simply just means ‘actions that eventually make things die’; the second is that we have to exchange our human sin for the human Righteousness of God, in order to achieve Life. Therefore, the ultimate aim of the Christian life is ‘Sacrifice’, and to sacrifice in the right way; so that whatever all of that means, is encapsulated in Baptism.

For the last term in this part of the article, we also need to answer the question of: So can a person be made from Christian to Non-Christian? Answer: Yes. They are called Apostates; this is when a person formally denies their Christian faith. Yea, it’s really straightforward. Well, what if a person doesn’t deny their Christian faith, but don’t seem to be Christian? Then what?

Part 2: Are You Really Christian?

I’m Protestant, I swear, but this picture really caught my eye and probably explais why my family is really really anti-Protestant. Lol.

Okay, so this is the main course of this article. We are going to have to first go through what Christian Orthodoxy is; and I don’t mean the Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox Churches, though that is part of it. A long long time ago, in a continent far far away (cos I live in Singapore, deal with it), the early Christian community wrote up a list of what they believe, in Latin, Credo, in English, The Creed; specifically, the Niceno-Constantinoplean Creed. Let’s have a look:

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.

This is the standard of Christian Orthodoxy, and all of the four main branches of Christianity adhere to it: Roman Catholicism (*including ‘Nestorianism‘), Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy; with the exception of the Oneness Pentecostals, but I will get to that later. All Christians who do not adhere to the Creed, with the same exception, are called Heretics, at least by the main branches of Christianity, others might prefer the term Heterodox Christians, because just like the word ‘Antichrist’, ‘Heretic’ comes off a little too harsh; though it is still the technically common term used by Christian scholars of religion. These include Nontrinitarian Christians such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witness and Unitarians, as well as Esoteric Christians, such as the Gnostic Church. We tend to throw around the term ‘Heretic’ a bit too much, and that would confusingly label other Orthodox Christians with these groups. Just no.

(Okay, so quick explanation on Oneness Pentecostals. You might have heard the term ‘Nicene Creed’ used for the Creed I pasted up there, but I called it the ‘Niceno-Constantinoplean Creed’, because the original Nicene Creed is not the one that I have there. Long story short, after the Council of Nicea, the Bishops at the Council of Constantinople decided to 加盐加醋 edit it to more clearly reflect the doctrine of the Trinity. The Oneness Pentecostals are the only denomination of Protestants that do not stand with the doctrine of the Trinity, holding to the original Nicene Creed instead. They still believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but believe that they are different modes of the one God named Jesus. However, they also hold to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which makes them fully Protestant. So to be very exact, to most other Protestants, they are heretics but not schismatics. I’ll explain what that word means in the next Part.)

Part 3: Alright What Kind of Christian Are You?

Alright, then how about other Orthodox Christians from different branches. For example, as a Protestant, how do I think of my Roman Catholic family members, and how should my Roman Catholic family members think of me? Well, believe it or not, there is a word for that too, Schismatic. While all Orthodox Christians draw doctrine from Tradition, Scripture and Reason (or Magisterium), we disagree on which of these is the rule of faith to measure our doctrine.

Essentially, this is a matter of Formal Principle, the same kind that you would already be familiar with in everyday life; these are the rules you use to decide what to do and how to think. Very briefly, to use a very Singapore army analogy: Tradition is what we call the ‘By Left Method’ or ‘Unofficial SOP’, no one knows how to describe it, everyone knows what it is and, all in all, it just works… most of the time; Scripture is like our ‘Record Books’ and ‘Logs’, that are relevant incidents and occurrences, codified in writing, that everyone has access to… but not everyone can fully understand; Reason, of which the highest form is the Magisterium, is our ‘SOP’ and ‘Routine Orders’, it’s decisive, straightforward and no-nonsense… unless your leaders happen to be really bad. So, as you can see, each has its perks and, quite reasonably, different Christian communities might pick either one of those as their primary rule of faith, which then forms their basis for Christian Unity. You can even see this concept of unity in the word ‘schismatic’ itself.

The earliest group to define itself was the Oriental Orthodox, who, by rejecting the Council of Chalcedon, prioritised Tradition that permeates their autocephalous regional churches, followed by the Great Schism, in which the Eastern Orthodox defined themselves on prioritising the Magisterium in their infallible Ecumenical Councils between autocephalous regional Churches. Then in the Protestant Reformation, the Protestants defined themselves on prioritising infallible Scripture throughout their national and free churches, and in the Counter Reformation, the Roman Catholics defined themselves on prioritising the Magisterium in their office of the Holy See, which holds infallibe authority over all its particular churches.

My point is to be careful of how you label other Orthodox Christians from different branches. They are not Apostate, because they still hold faith in Christ and his Atoning Cross and they are not Heretical, because they believe in the same Creed that you do, and all long for ‘One holy catholic and apostolic Church’ to manifest itself in its full potential. To narrow it down to Schism on the basis of Formal Principle, allows us to actually deal with the problem. Like I said, we all want the worldwide and eternal Church to manifest its oneness, that is to say unity, its holiness, that is to say its unique identity, and its catholic nature, that is to say obvious universality, relevant to all mankind; and that starts with every single one of us dealing with the fact that Formal Principle has been the root source of disunity on an institutional level.

To me, the solution is to be both together but separate; we should emphasise our common Christian and Orthodox identity, but also not interfere with each of our approaches to Christian Unity. To me, if the Roman Catholics are right, then the Pope, who holds the office of the Holy See, will succeed in bringing the Church together, if the Protestants are right, then Scripture will succeed at that instead, same for the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox. Either way, it was Our Lord who himself said, “…that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21); a command that the Church, in every branch, has struggled to obey by doubling down on their chosen Formal Principle. We need to get back to that focus on unity, on every level, from family, to friends, to the Christian community at large. We need to respect the validity of other Christians’ conventions and hold fast to our own, all for the purposes of unity. Can we please try to do that? I’m sick and tired… and heartbroken over the sheer nastiness of Christian behaviour towards — EACH OTHER. How do we bring the Gospel to a dying world if we kill each other with words, heck, sometimes with sticks and stones.

I’m not looking for a fluffy, liberal, tolerating blindness that looks pasts differences to “focus on love”, as if ignoring someone’s core identity and beliefs is loving in any way. No! I’m looking for respect and validation, a sustainable way to harmony in the Christian community. How else can we love?

We live in a broken world, why break ourselves before it can even get to us?

In Order to Teach, Listen.

I’ve been really out of the mood to write, cos I’m struggling a lot with just practicing what I know is true. It’s difficult to know whether I’m lacking discipline, or rationalising a failed strategy by forcing it to work. And really, it comes down to one thing: Listening.

(So I don’t really know where I’m going with this one; I’m just going to free form write and post it when I feel this is done.)

Anyway, so teaching and pastorship are two roles which require high neuroticism, meaning a high sensitivity to negative emotion. These types of people tend to be more proactive, because instead of waiting for bad things to happen, we act before it does, and create versatile conceptual if-then maps to shortcut our reactions to life’s situation. A person with low neuroticism tends to learn from experience, try things out and adapt from there, but anecdotal evidence hardly makes for a compelling or even useful set of advice. Unless the exact same situation happens, or you can somehow find the common factor between what they tell you and what you are going through, advice from experience is, well limited. Advice from concept is different, it lays out a pattern of observable experiences that have set responses. For example, “If you feel anxious, stop and breathe” is more versatile than “If you get caught skipping class, stop and breathe”; the first is true in all cases, the second is true only for that specific person at that specific time, maybe you are just not anxious when caught skipping class, who knows? Point is, this is why the people that are teaching or pastoring are generally people who are really sensitive to negative emotion.

Knowing that, we also need to define what teaching and pastoring is, and to me, its quite simple. Teaching is what you do before things happen, Pastoring is what you do after things happen; Teaching is telling someone not to get into relationships with toxic people, Pastoring is helping that fool through the breakup. God knows I’ve been both guide and guided.

So then what is the most important skill in teaching and pastoring? What makes a advice giver a really good advice giver? The difference between the guy you go to when you need support and he guy that is always talking and annoys the living shit out of everyone with his arrogance? The difference is in listening.

How pastoring and teaching works is that when a predicted situation or past situation comes up, it comes up in a very low resolution, blurry and vague way. We often can’t fully express, with words, what we think is going to happen and what has already happened. There are just too many details and we don’t know which ones are relevant. Well, that’s where listening comes in. Allowing a person to tell their story in full, clears the person’s view of the situation and makes the next course of action obvious.

There is two ways you can do this. The first one I know that I do really badly: preemptive structuring, or basically telling the person what they are thinking or what really happened. I use this a lot when I think people don’t understand the stance they are trying to defend. So for example, if I were to discuss religion with someone, I tell them what their religion actually teaches in as clear a way as possible, then respond to that instead. Likewise, if I am training juniors in my CCA or whatever, I tell them what they are thinking and the questions that they will have, and then answer that. Now, this is a hit or miss tactic, because you have to realise that you are essentially talking to yourself and the other person is watching. Now this could work if that conversation is still engaging, but if the other person cannot quickly use your explanation to clear up his understanding of his own stance, then the sheer anxiety of questioning what they thought they knew can cause people to just shut down. Of course the upside is that this is the faster method of effectively teaching and pastoring.

The second way I do a lot better. This one I normally use for more personal matters. So if I’m trying to learn of the person’s backstory, what I’m trying to do is to discover what happened with that person. I don’t see it as that I’m questioning him what he knows happened, because he may not be able to fully articulate his experience, but I ask questions in a way that cooperates with him to discover the truth together. Now this kind of questioning goes beyond just words, it is also his actions, his expressions and the environmental context. A quick flare of the nose when mentioning someone or the slightly wrinkled blue button shirt he is wearing is just as essential as the school the went to or whatever. These clues tell you things the other person may not be aware of. So questioning has to be holistic; it has to point out and analyse everything from the person’s reaction and appearance.

Now, room settings also do this very often. I’m writing my site pages on funeral care and it is something I have also had a focus on; heres a quote:

The layout of the front area must follow either of the following formats:

  1. Seats placed beside a Table, flushed to the backdrop, with an altar Cross or Crucifix and occasionally Two Candles, a Bible, or both.
  2. Seats, flushed to the backdrop, occasionally with a Cross or Crucifix on the backdrop, behind a table, occasionally with an altar Cross, Two Candles, a Bible, or any combination of the three.
  3. Seats placed on an elevated Platform, occasionally with a Cross or Crucifix on the backdrop.

These are standard Christian prayer space and church set ups that are universal, because the people of God have discovered, long ago, that we learn as much with what we hear as what we see and feel. Therefore, these became the only acceptable ways of setting formal worship, infused with symbolic meaning. The next time you are in a church, really take a moment to take in the atmosphere and see how it helps enhance your understanding of what that church teaches.

So I guess, long story short, you need to really listen to know the specific thing that the other needs to know if you want to preemptively structure their thinking and you really need to listen and observe to pick up enough details to form the whole situation into a story, and wait for the next step to appear from that foundation.

A good conversation is not two people giving information to each other, it is two people discovering the range of all possible sets of relevant information together as a team. This is fundamental to good teaching and pastoring, because you cannot see yourself as more knowledgable or better than the person you are trying to teach or pastor; you are just his more experienced partner in exploring the situation. Always keep in mind the reality that you know things he doesn’t and he knows things you don’t; it is in realising that the path forward lies in information, that either of you has, is the key to grounded conceptual advice. Advice is something you both discover together throughout the course of the conversation, not a gift-wrapped and pre-planned set of ideas.

Lastly, don’t forget to let God pastor and teach you when you speak to him in the silence of prayer, and remember to pastor and teach yourself as you think. Remember to listen to yourself, your thoughts, your emotions and your instinct, all three make up who you are, and in an age where everyone wants to tell you your identity, it is crucial to keep grounded by simply listening to yourself and letting God listen to you. I sincerely believe all good prayers are answered in its completion, because the fact that God listened to you means that you now both you what you are thinking and experiencing, in a way that you didn’t before; and it also clarifies your motivations, because intentional and self aware prayer offered to God is proof of your trust in him. We so often want God to answer our prayers by doing the things we think we want, but the best prayers are when God heals you just by listening.

Now go and be a listening ear…

(Didn’t really follow the template and format of my usual articles, and this sounds more like a mini essay lol, but it is what it is. Hope its helpful.)

On a lighter note, as a military working dog handler, Listenig and obseving is something I really don’t do well with my dogs. We have the added problem of them not being able to talk or have actions that mean the same thing to humans, so knowing what they want or need is really difficult. Watching this batch of NS Men like dog-whisperer know how to take care of them really blew my mind.

Dignity in Charity

“That was what we were taught – the lower classes smell. And here, obviously, you are at an impassable barrier. For no feeling of like or dislike is quite so fundamental as a physical feeling. Race hatred, religious hatred, differences of education, of temperament, of intellect, even differences of moral code, can be got over, but physical repulsion cannot. You can have affection for a murderer or a sodomite, but you cannot have affection for a man whose breath stinks – habitually stinks, I mean. However well you may wish him, however much you may admire his mind and character, if his breath stinks he is horrible and in your heart of hearts you will hate him. It may not greatly matter if the average middle-class person is brought up to believe that the working classes are ignorant, lazy drunken, boorish and dishonest; it is when he is brought up to believe that they are dirty that the harm is done.” – George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

I really like this quote, it has nothing to do with this post, but wellz. Okay, back to the real content.

So if you follow my Instagram, you’ll see a lot of “give to the poor” posts and, recently, a lot of “be human, not a tool” posts, and I want to combine to two ideas and talk about the ‘How’ part in Charity.

So when I talk about giving to the poor, it’s not entirely accurate. It’s a small step, but the Biblical standard is higher, in a way you would not expect (the clue is in the image above).

Part 1: Lending to the Poor

I think this verse has been twisted in weird ways, and I want to address that:

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” – Acts 4:32

If that smells like Communism, well, on first glance, it does to me too, but it’s not.

The Penteteuch lays out how we are to practice Charity quite explicitly, I’m just gonna plonk both passages here first, it’s a lot of words, but bear with me:

“‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.” – Leviticus 25:35-38

“If there is a poor person among you, one of your brothers within any of your gates in the land the Lord your God is giving you, you must not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him enough for whatever need he has. Be careful that there isn’t this wicked thought in your heart, ‘The seventh year, the year of canceling debts, is near,’ and you are stingy toward your poor brother and give him nothing. He will cry out to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty. Give to him, and don’t have a stingy heart when you give, and because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you do. For there will never cease to be poor people in the land; that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.’” – Deuteronomy 15:7-11

So TLDR: Don’t give, lend.
Okay, why lend?

Lend, because then your Charity is actually personal. You don’t just hand over money, as if you pity someone less fortunate than you, and walk away to never see him again. No, you lend him and expect him to pay you back, like an equal. Give the poor man his dignity, and make sure to check on him when he tries to pay you back. When he is homeless, let him stay in your home, like a stranger or a sojourner. That is the Biblical standard. If by the Shemitah (7th) year, he cannot pay you back, then the debt is forgiven him.

Bring it back to Acts 4 and you see the early Church actually living this out; aggressively lending money to anyone who needed it and taking in all the homeless. It’s the radical, radical, radical Charity that Jesus demanded of his people since the begining of time. You see why I think keeping to ‘Give to the Poor’ on Instagram is enough, it is nothing compared to the expectation places on Christians.

Part 2: Lending to Your Children

Sad thing is that most of us didn’t grow up with that example shown to us, we didn’t grow up with homeless people sleeping on our living room floor or the old and lonely neighbour staying the night, while our parents were lending them money; so to us, that seems extreme, but to God, it’s normal. Think about it.

I think this mindset of giving rather than lending goes deep. We like to say “My parents give me pocket money”, like wut? No they don’t. If you have been to as many old folks homes and old people churches as I have, you would know how blatantly wrong that idea is. Giving pocket money, implies that parents don’t expect their children to give them pocket money when they are old. No, your parents ‘lend’ you pocket money.

As a parent, you jolly well use the word ‘lend’, because to assume that you are better off than your pitiful children and so they have to rely on you is just wrong. It may be that way for now, but when you grow old, they will take care of you. You must have the humility enough to see that the little baby you hold in your arms is no better off than you in the grand scheme of things, and you better better better parent them with utmost caution, showing respect to the power they will one day have over you. To think that you can actually just give money to your children is pure arrogance.

Well what about savings then? What if parents don’t need their children’s money. Well, most children after the age of 10 don’t technically need their parent’s money, they could in theory work on their own, and throughout a lot of history, child labour was the default. It doesn’t change anything.

Returning your parents money is about values. To Christians, it is about sacrifice, showing your parents that you have fully internalised Christian values when you go out of your way to inconvenience yourself, go out of your way to travel to them, hand them the money, and spend all that time on them, even if you have better things to do. For Muslimin, it shows that you understand cooperation with society and will prioritise the its most basic unit, the family, and safeguard its legacy. For Buddhists, it shows you understand what your parents went through when they raised you, and that you took that experience with you into adulthood. And let’s face it, to God, for God, you will not treat the poor better than you treat your parents, and if you do, there is still something wrong with that.

When children return money to parents, it is a multigenerational symbol of our ancestral values being successfully passed down, a reaffirmation of their parental success, and a consistant opportunity to celebrate that together.

Idk, there is not much to discuss in this topic, it’s really quite simple. Giving to the poor means that you look down on them and that you don’t want to follow up with them. Giving to children means that you look down on them and treat yourself as the superior. Both dehumanise the persons that are receiving, because it becomes quick power play; a one time action and not the start of a long term relationship. We lend out of the respect we have for others, fully expecting that they can and will repay us; we may not expect them to return every dollar, but we expect them to want to do so, and work to do so, and in doing so, keep their self respect. It is the foundation of relationship.

Yea, I’ve run out of things to say, nites fam.

When Hell Hugs Heaven

Long time since I’ve written one of these, but I’ve been spending fewer and fewer days just thinking on long bus rides and lonely walks, so I guess that’s understandable.

So there is this problem in the Christian Community that I’ve observed in that people tend to teach the victory of Christ on the cross in two ways: Either that you should be so guilty of your sin that you should never sin again, or that you should not focus on your past sins and look forward to a righteous life. Yea, both just don’t make sense to me for this one reason: You will have sinned, you are sinning and you will sin again; uncomfortable truth, but truth nontheless. So let’s talk about how to deal with sin.

Part 1: Our Life of Sin

I’m going to start with this, to all Christians, human nature is by default self destructive, the flesh that is you is also the thing that destroys you. We hurt ourselves and hurt others for reasons, let’s face it, we cannot ever fully understand or explain; the absolute depths of our sick love of death, that we paint over with the large trenchcoat of a civilised life. We come to the faith with a book that already has ink on it, stories of the ways we have been hurt and have hurt others, wayyyy too cringy and painful to even think about again.

Christ lived as a “man of sorrows, aquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), and we all know that he knows what it is like to be sinned against. I think this verse really encapsulates the experience:

“And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” – Zechariah 13:6

When those whom you expect to love you end up hurting you, it wounds and scars in a way that doesn’t fade with time. Like an animal that lashes out at anyone near him, when his foot is caught in a bear trap, so too are the wounded throughout their lives, all lashing out at both those that want to hurt them and those that want to heal them; a painfully isolating decay of an existence.

Christ also lived under the weight of sin. This is something less obvious in Scripture, that Christ knows what it’s like to sin, even though he never did. We can all quote the famous verse together:

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15

But more than that, Christ knew the experience of having to deal with the aftermath and consequence of sin, when he endured the shame of the cross:

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:” – Genesis 3:13

AND EVEN MORE than that, Christ knew the overwhelming power of sin when its spirit poseses us, when he stepped into hell and stayed for 3 days; doesn’t sound long, but remember that the dead are outside of time, so he stayed in a state of sin for quite literally an eternity.

Part 2: Light Just Won’t Die

At a first glance, it seems horrendously depressing to be thinking about just how powerful sin really is. Scripture doesn’t shy away from it, and neither should we. Don’t delude yourself, sin is an enemy we must constantly watch; it’s not just part of your past, but a cancer in that your own flesh will fight to kill you if you are unprepared. The idea that we can just ‘not worry’ about sin, because of what Christ has done, looks like the cause of so much suffering to me; people are unprepared for when sin kills their future or those around them… or both.

Beyond that, the more you think about just how completely powerful sin is, the more you affirm your defiance against it’s oppression, because through it all, you’re still radiating heaven by aiming towards good. Christ was submerged in sin and hell when he hung on his cross and descended to the dead, but somehow, after an eternity, the Ressurection still came, that fateful Saturday night where graves burst open and that Sunday morning when his body was gone. Even when the literal full weight of sin was on him, it couldn’t kill the light in him.

Think back to all the times you have sinned, the cringy, painful, pang of regret and let it break you down enomotionally. Then, and only then, is when you realise that the quiet power of heaven can live, even when endlessly hugged by hell. Let the thought crush you and give you strength. You are still breathing, so your spirit still knows the life giving creator. Then, and only then, will you hate sin, truly love those that it hurts and corrupts, and appreciate the humble saviour that took it on and won.

Redemption doesn’t mean that sin is erased, it means that it is overcome. It means that Christ has come to you where you are, and shown you your path back to perfection. That is the beauty of Grace.

Part 3: No More Shame

We also overestimate our ability to reject sin, how can we? It’s a part of us. The real challenge is to stand when it hits, to “carry your own cross” (Matthew 16:24). What is your cross? Your shameful past, your painful present and your foreseeable suffering future. Don’t look away, carry it high, the weight of every ounce of the brokenness around you: Don’t fight the people that persecute you, take it on yourself and work to redeem it, don’t suppress the things you’ve done to others, take it on yourself and work to redeem it, don’t ignore the suffering others go through, even if especially if it was because of their own sin, take it on yourself and work to redeem it. That is the strength of the Christian resolve.

You may still be your shameful self, but living in each of your cells and every breath you breathe, is He who “has overcome the world” (John 16:33) and will ressurect you unto himself perfect and spotless. You live and carry yourself as if the weight of heaven rests on your spirit; you may be a walking hell of a mess, but you can still hold heaven in your words.

Part 4: The Gospel

Our story of salvation is one that can be retold a billion different ways, because it’s nature is that of a story that saves. When a person dies a spiritual death, it is very much like grieving a fleshly death. When you mourn the loss of a loved one, you bear the responsibility of first consolidating their story from start to finish, carrying it with you, and manifesting their dreams in your life as their legacy; that is how you find peace and closure. Likewise, the spiritual death, we live in since birth, can only be brought to peace with a powerful enough story that is part history, part eternity and part us; what we call the Gospel.

Some people live that story, and are said to be sanctified and consecrated; that is the goal. Not that darkness and death disappear from their nature, but that the light of life they carry gets so bright that no one, not even they themselves, can see its shadow. That is when life giving dunamis flows from every pore of your skin, radiating hope and healing. In sin you were dead (John 8:24), in Chirst you died to yourself (Galatians 2:20), but the dead stones of the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” now cry out in the silence (1 Corinthians 6:19, Habakkuk 2:11) for the Logos of God lives in him (Romans 8:10).

Keep telling your story, the full raw and dirty version of it, and keep telling His story, the full radiant glory of it, and watch the power of sin keep its potency but lose its grip on you. You can’t deal with sin by ignoring it, or by just feeling bad about it either. When the memory arises, sit in it, and think about it until you find the story that underlies it; then draw strength from it and keep carrying your cross.

My One Word

Okay, idk why I always start my posts with ‘Okay’, leggo.

Humility is not / Denying / your strengths but / Accepting / your weaknesses

So, in the past week, I’ve prettied up my website here quite a bit, so you can go explore around and give me some feedback on how I can improve it. To make things even weirder, I’m writing this in HTML instead of the standard ‘Visual Aid’ UI that WordPress has. It’s a less stylistic way of doing things, but it gives me a ridiculous amount of control (at least it seems to, to this tech-idiot that has been forcing himself to IT upgrade)… so meh.

Either way, when redesigning the website, I remembered a concept that I’ve heard in every episode of Evan Carmichael’s YouTube Channel, finding your ONE WORD. If I’m gonna brand myself and my writing, then I need to know exactly what my message is, down to the one word. So today, I’m going to talk about how I found my personal one word and how you can find yours, so that you can both live a meaningful life, and have people understand you, at the same time.

Part 1: Togetherness

I was talking to Pastor Andre, from The City Singapore, about my own life issues and seeking guidance and clarity on my own chaotic mess of a life, and one thing I remembered most was him asking “Okay, if you we’re to sum up ‘Ecumenism’ in one line, what would it be?”. Now, if you all have know me for longer than 2 days, you should know that I talk about ‘Unity’ like a beaver talks about wood; I would literally have nothing better to do with my life without it.

Of course, my idea of unity starts with The Church, a topic of discussion known as ‘Ecumenism’. I started my personal faith journey through watching videos by Pastor Doug Perry on YouTube, and he talks a lot on how “The last prayer that Jesus prayed before he went to the Cross, was that we would be One, as He and the Father are One, so that the world will know that the Father sent him”. Here’s the reference:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” – John 17:20-23

Now, the older I get, the more I understand how true this is. We face so many challenges, as a faith community, everyday; even down to the individual decisions we make everyday. Think of how many of those challenges would instantly disappear if we just learnt to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2). What is easy for you may be hella difficult for me, and what is easy to me could be so easy for me; which means, in all these cases, we should be tanking these things for each other. Now, in the case of Church, whether in Teaching, Prophecy, Evangelism or Pastoring, we could all use a little bit of help here and there. The sheer blindness to the day to day struggles in the Church just across the road, is what I think the major problem in this country is. More events and more outreach will not bring people to Christ, unity will.

So back to my talk with Pastor Andre, my answer to his question was “Communication!”. This is something I have to really really overemphasise when talking about ecumenism, because effective unity is not in all doing and thinking the same things, that is tyranny; unity is in watching and paying attention each other, and as a result, acting from a place of both self awareness and goodwill. I am fully fully against the idea of a ‘One World Church Government’ or even a ‘State Church’ where a central authority governs the local faith community. What I think would work best, is a Christian Institution that provides a platform for both clergy and laypeople to systematically interact with their counterparts in the other Churches around them, regardless of branch or affiliation. You might as why is communication so important then? It doesn’t guarentee that people will move in the same direction, in fact, if unity is just communication, then it expects people to disagree and make contrary decisions. Well, that is true, and that is why communication alone, is not very useful.

Part 2: Humility

The other day, I was having dinner with my brother and cousins, just the kids alone and I brought up the topic of understanding what each of us values. Now that is a bit of a hard thing to determine from scratch, but I remembered a video I saw on YouTube (I think it was of Tony Robbins or Simon Sinek, but I can’t remember) on finding your life’s purpose; and the key take away was to start with what irks you. If you want to know what you value, you must first know what you hate. One of my cousins hated when people lie and another hated when people excluded the weak; and what I realised was that, above all else, they valued truth and inclusiveness respectively. For me, the thing I hate to see most, is when people don’t see the greater value in others as compared to themselves, not recognising the strength in the poor person’s suffering and the weakness of their own riches, not recognising that everyone has attributes that make them better than you in some way. In one word, I hate ‘HUBRIS’

I quoted Galatians 6:2 earlier, and literally the next verse says:

“For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
– Galatians 6:3

That is exactly why we should choose to “bear each other’s burdens”(Galatians 6:2), because we recognise that, in interacting with other people, we are not as good of people as we think we are. In one word, above all else, I value ‘Humility’.

Part 3: Achievement

Now, that is a really strange thing to value, because Humility seems like a hilariously passive core value; and I am a decidedly not passive kind of a person, so what the heck, bro? Yeap, that’s the awkward part of living a life with that aim, it’s borderline impossible to explain to every mother-father-son why ‘Humility’is not as simple as ‘Oh, I say myself bad lor’. No, the kind of life I lead is the kind where I always always always live with accepting the possibility that I am critically and fatally wrong about one thing or another, and that overlooked part of my decision making in everyday life is causing great suffering to myself and others. So ‘Humility’ to me is the “I can do better” attitude in every situation, it means aggressively correcting my perspective, until I can live a truly good life. ‘Humility’ is the result of a lifetime of disciplined adventure.

So, all in all, I decided on the motto “Achieving Humility Together” for my website, because it explains, most concisely, what my life is for. The universal message of Christianity has always been Sacrifice, regardless of branch or affiliation, and I’m not trying to replace that cornerstone of the Christian faith. It’s just that I think this aspect of ‘Sacrifice’, the humility brought about by people coming together to answer the divine call to adventure, is what we lack most in this day and age, and that my life should be about spreading that message.

So what is your One Word? I know this website is practically private, so like not more than 30 people will see this, for now, but let me know in the comments below, and maybe we can all help each other manifest our words together.


I was going to share this on Instagram, but I think this is too personal to make a TLDR version of.

Eucharistic Elements

I think that if you have talked to me enough, you’d hear me say that “to serve the poor is the most basic form of worship”, but also “to know God is the most basic form of worship” and that “the Eucharist is the most basic form of worship” which seems like a contradiction, because how can they all be most basic at the same time? So, I’m gonna try to show how both acts of love and holy communion are the core of understanding God. I’ve talked about both topics separately and on their own before, so this will be a summary and recap of it.

Part 1: Knowing God

Christianity is an orthodoxical religion, meaning that you identify with the religion based on your beliefs, rather than practice, which would be an orthopraxical religion. This is important, because we believe that the key to living the most complete and whole life is not in the things you do, but the quality of your thoughts. This is a belief we share with the Buddhists and Muslimin, that we are “Saved by grace through faith… not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This means that every action you do in worship is valuable not in and of itself, but because it is an extension of your valuable decisions; decisions to act on your understanding of God’s will. Our basic beliefs, in the holiness of God, sinfulness of mankind, and salvation through God’s sacrifice, received by grace through faith is a universal belief shared by all branches of Christianity: Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Nontrinitarian and Esoteric. These 4 basic beliefs are a commonality, because they ARE the definition of Christian. There are no set of works that can replace the fundamental role of a heart set on knowing God, holding on to these basic beliefs and structuring your life decisions around them; a house “…built on rock” (Matthew 7:24). To know God is worship.

Part 2: The Eucharist

Now dramatically, “When [Jesus] himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.” (N.T. Wright). We worship in that we know God, but before we even hear the name of Jesus,

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” – Romans 10:14

How do we know the story of the Gospel? I suggest to you now, that the way Jesus intended for his message to be preached is with the Liturgy of the Eucharist (aka the sharing of Holy Communion), and that all other preaching, ritual, song, hymn and psalm is only a secondary extension of the Eucharist. The whole drama of the suffering servant king from heaven, the essence of the gospel is summed up in the Words of Institution:

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Practice this, meditate on its meaning, and you will surely understand the Gospel, and know the heart of God.

Part 3: Serving the Poor

Now practically, Jesus is not just a story, he is a person living among us.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” – Matthew 25:37-40

This is not Jesus trying to act humble like a politician shaking hands with the coffee shop uncle; this was his childhood. Jesus was a carpenter’s (like a modern day contractor) son, born in a (like an SPCA dog kennel), spoke Aramaic instead of Hebrew or Greek at home (like our Hokkien Lang), childhood spent in Egypt (like if you’re raise in Australia back when it was racist), his father wasn’t with him till adulthood, worked as an itinerant, homeless, Rabbi after suddenly abandoning his carpeting work. Like actually think about how dirt poor Jesus was.

“At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns,so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” – Deuteronomy 4:3

Like do you realise that Jesus actually experienced the Levite, foreigner, fatherless and widow life? When you serve the “least of these brothers and sisters of (his)“, remember that they are like family to him because they suffered the way he suffered. To know God is to get to know the people of God, the poor, the last, the lost, the least, right in the middle of their suffering and to act in love throughout. Stories are important, the drama of the Gospel is essential, but the other side of knowing God is practical; so that while you meditate on the Eucharist, your actions continue the Gospel message in your everyday acts of love. That is to know God.

So bringing it back to how “serving the poor”, “knowing God”, “the Eucharist” are all the most basic forms of worship, it is that the drama of the Eucharist and the practical of serving are two sides of the concept of knowing God. That is what I want to leave you with today.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-9