Jesus am I like you?

Digging through BSF notes I saw Romans 8:29: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” The explanation was God is able to use everything in life, good or bad, to make His children more like Jesus.

Logically, “Jesus, am I really like you?” began to nag at me.

This, along with proclaiming how excellent God is, gives me a grand sense of purpose in my life.

If nothing else in my life matters, I want my life to associate with Jesus – to at least have tried to live for God. I know in the end my few possessions, my relationships, my job, my character, all these things aren’t worth as much as my personal and inner dealings with God. Realising this more and more, perhaps that’s why I am sad, lonely, quite pessimistic and jaded with the shallowness of this world and the things everybody else cares so much about. I see that their hopes in these things will not last, and I see that we do not agree on priorities and value. That is why I am alone. A big part of my dissatisfaction with people and constant searching is for individuals who share the same deep, unspoken love for God above all else. I am disappointed to find so few peers.

When I think “Jesus am I like you?” I see some similarities and many differences. At first glance, how can I possibly compare to the Son of God? Yet I think of Paul. In 2 Corinthians he writes that he is known by God but unknown by the world, and he possesses everything eternal in Jesus but he owns nothing else. I can relate so bad. At CCF and Queens I got used to being known, having my name called, being supported and having friends to catch up with at my disposal. Since then I’ve felt unclear of my role within big groups, often misunderstood, ignored and unheard, not given a chance to speak. With the latter I consistently find myself being ‘possessed’ by people, games, habits, and surrendering them as they lead me to being more alone. I feel only truly known by God (and some people), and still many times I forget that He knows and He has personally experienced all of this.

Jesus is so hardcore in his obedience, love and suffering. Believing the bible is true, who am I to complain and grudge to the extent that I do? It is hard to comprehend that Jesus’ life work on earth was to reveal the Father to us, and to save us. He must have wanted to give up every time it seemed unbearable; so how did he come through each and every time? Though Jesus struggled, I’m just starting to see how every choice he made was chosen to please his Father over himself. To know Jesus in a deeper way I know I am called to do the same – honour my Father first and deny my-‘self’ repeatedly.

The apostles rejoiced upon their arrest for gospel witnessing; Joseph endured 20 years of abandonment by his brothers before saying “God intended it all for good”; and David saw that before his afflictions he had gone astray, but through them he returned to obey the Lord’s word. Does my pain too reflect union with my Saviour?

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The Struggle.

Today I realised that apart from intimacy (which I thought was my greatest void and stumbling block), I also desire adventure. I think of Guilin. The adventure was everything outdoors, anything physically exerting, fun and free, challenging, new to explore, and always in the midst of company … this is probably what he was confused about when I said I ‘needed’ this holiday though life in Hong Kong was stable and kick-starting. Through stability challenges disappear and I feel like I’m stuck in a routine at work, or in a box at home. This angst is quite comparable to suffocating. There isn’t the freedom to be spontaneous, to do the unexpected, to discover unexplored neat places that catch my eye or bigger regions. Here I can’t take risks without severe consequences. There isn’t the luxury of time to choose the longer, detour-filled path, or to dwell in a newfound environment and slowly enjoy the company I’m with. I’m thoroughly satisfied winding through the process equally as much as reaching my expected goal. This isn’t valued here. I’ve found with efficiency comes the expense of creativity, and this is why I love and hate Hong Kong.

Lust

Apple

If you would care to ask, Hebrews and Romans have and perhaps will always be my favorites. Every time I go through them I am mesmerized. The same feeling swells and captivates me as I chow through a good, battle-ridden novel. I just can’t stop; and I don’t plan to. Any break in the day I’d continue at the previous cliffhanger – seeing the end to that battle, or that character, plugging my brain into the ‘Matrix’ once again.

I’ve come back to Romans since a friend joked that going through the book 8 or 9 times would make me an evangelist. And I don’t think he was kidding.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

As I examined this over and over, the first thing that came to mind was how Paul uses contrasting notions, polar ideas to let his point flow through. It’s so simple yet beautiful: ‘one trespass’ vs. ‘one act of righteousness’, the former leading to condemnation, and the latter giving us a way out of our predicament- one after the other.

The second thing I notice is how much higher a price the act of righteousness was. The trespass was achieved as Eve stood under the tree, palming the perfect red fruit in her hand. A symbol of naïve curiosity, thoughts of lust, a hunger for more and ‘what ifs’ taking over … setting in motion the Father’s plan to forgive and bring us back to Him. An obedient, humiliating, backbreaking, bloody, long and excruciating, prayerful, hopeful and magnanimous death.

I think, the fact that an apple elicited our first rebellion comes to show that the Lord is less concerned about the object of our sin, but rather our thought-processes as we are sinning. In that moment where an object of lust catches our eyes and we are captivated by its beauty, its potential, we are presented with a choice; although it may not feel like one at the time. We may have lost the battle before it has started. Do we not completely forget about the Lord? Where has He gone? We crush the last thought of Him in our minds and hearts and wish He wasn’t looking on as we indulge to our hearts content. Is this not what displeases Him, when we push away the one we have professed to love?

Time and time again I find myself in this space. Love that turns to guilt, shame and tears. I wish for more obedience, the kind that brought Jesus to come and to be with us, and die. Thanks be to God where sin has increased, grace abounds all the more. There is always more grace. Jesus’ shows his gentleness to you, to lead you to repentance. In the same way that sin reigns in death [in our bodies], grace [will] reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

There is Hope.

I hope this response will help you remember the first Christmas. Merry Christmas, remember that a Christian without Christ is just ‘Ian’, and enjoy family and friends!

Ploys Of The Devil

Lucifer

“In the operation of His kingdom, God rules by the principle of delegated authority. He organized the angels as a hierarchy, assigning levels of responsibility and spheres of service. To act as His supreme lieutenant in directing this kingdom, God endowed one specific archangel with striking beauty, wisdom and power. He named him Lucifer and gave him a throne from which to rule. This angel ruled as God’s prime minister par excellence. How long this harmonious relationship continued in the distant past is not recorded. Endowed with freedom of choice, the crucial test of any creature was allegiance to the will of God. That crucial test came for Lucifer when he shifted his gaze to himself and his God-given features of splendor. Dazzled by his own greatness, he asserted independence and presumed himself to be “like the Most High”. In that moment of decision he thrust himself out of the stabilizing axis of God’s will and began the swirling catapult into the oblivion of a godless being. His decision was final, and he never repented. He was not alone in his choice. With a following of one-third of heaven’s angels, he formed a kingdom of his own – a counterfeit kingdom of darkness” (Ellisen p17).

This is the most abundant and detailed recording of Lucifer, Satan I have read thus far. I found it surprising that, in fact, God rules His kingdom as any other king would, with trusted bodies in a structured and orderly fashion. His kingdom reminds me of Genghis’, whose vast empire was divided into autonomous ‘khanates’ ruled by his brothers and sons upon his death. For me, the most compelling thing about this reading is the personal and almost ‘holy’ manner in which Lucifer is described: “He named him Lucifer [with] striking beauty, wisdom and power […] and gave him a throne from which to rule” (ibid.). It is hard to comprehend that at the time of his ‘birth’ God thoughtfully handpicked a name for His trusted general and companion, and crafted him in His own beauty. In a similar manner, at Gethsemane Jesus – with his eleven – must have seen the angry crowd of accusers coming his way, led by the betrayer. The scene ends with Jesus whispering, “friend, do what you came to do” (Matt 26:47-48). Oh, the crushing heartbreak both the Father and Jesus experienced from brothers they trusted most. I am thankful God’s heart is big.

The pivotal moment of Lucifer’s downfall began with this simple thought, “I will be like the Most High” (Isa 14:14). For but a moment, Lucifer took pleasure and delighted in his own greatness, beautiful figure, wisdom, power and authority. When his eyes left his Creator and landed on himself, Lucifer became a new being: godless, living outside of God’s will. With this hedonism Satan’s rebellious nature materialized into an opposing kingdom, a counterfeit ruled by coercion. Counterfeit, meaning, “made to imitate or to be passed off as genuine” is the only principle Satan uses to delude and enslave. “The more closely Satan can imitate God’s work, the less likely men will seek God or pursue His will” (Ellisen p18). I have found this somewhat abstract notion to be true in my own life. After a long-arduous day serving God, focused on the things of God, almost immediately (that night or the following day) I am most prone to sin. I crave to re-create the ‘highs’ of the day on my own, to feel alive for just a little longer. Unbeknownst to me, I’d just employed the ploys of the devil.

The Father’s Love

311

I never thought this transition period would be so hard. A month ago I’d just graduated from university in Canada – hanging out with my best friends and seriously enjoying the slow summer days – in a small quaint town tucked away from the world. Paradise. And as I said my goodbyes it was so darn easy; I didn’t even look back.

When I landed in Hong Kong the first 2 weeks were so depressing!! Walking through the MTR station I felt peoples’ intrusive eyes sliding up and down my body, and days on end feeling empty, useless and without a purpose. Where are my friends? My fellowship? Where is my faith? I chose to hide in a hole, drowning myself in TV shows rather than talk with family and friends who truly cared. I felt like a failure, and utterly alone.

Opening the tab to the twentieth episode of Arrow, I saw my older brother online. He simply spoke his mind, but for me it would become wisdom and a venue for God to reveal Himself. He said: “praying like a dead dog at home won’t bring any miracles. Go meet with people, go to Ignite and small group and prayer meeting; God answers and honors prayer through people and communities. Go and you’ll know what to do.”

Dang was he right. I’m reminded of Abraham and his son Isaac. At 99 (not IQ) God had promised Abraham a son. Isaac then, became the fulfilment of all God’s promises, the apple of Abraham’s eye, and Abraham treasured Isaac above all things. When God called Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to Himself Abraham wrestled day and night. Finally at the alter Abraham lifted the dagger to slaughter his son, but God saw the fear and obedience in Abraham’s heart, and provided a ram in Isaac’s stead.

God provided a young adult small group for me when I was most depressed. Genuine, deep, and rich conversation and bible study, prayer and food lifted my sadness. More than that, I usually hate high school kids – especially in the summer when they meet in massive rowdy clutters – but Ignite was truly a delight. I love you guys. It was so refreshing to see kids praise God, offering their all and the very little they have, in song and heart. It was ironic that Pastor Nelson asked me to share on ‘Studying For Exams’ (because I didn’t – not gonna lie) but we got through it and we all learnt something new. Over dinner I was reminded that most high schoolers’ don’t really know who they are, or what they believe for that matter. It seems that as a daily follower of Jesus you better get ready for war – or die. And for some, Ignite will be the last place to fellowship before they are uprooted for college.

Ignite is precious.

If you’ve read this far, bravo. I want to talk briefly about what our Lord is doing in SE Asia. The past 6 months, I have had no idea what I’ve said ‘Yes’ to. I’d not prepared and my plan was to walk in and simply do what my teammates told me. Praise God!! When I was in ZS this weekend He revealed Himself to me and His heart so, so, so clearly. The Christians’ greatest love? To share the Gospel – and they don’t ‘just do it’, they share the Gospel in specific ways. One of them, a grandmotherly Taiwanese lady, counsels struggling women with a listening ear and Scripture – God’s word. She leads them to meet Jesus. Another pastoral pair train church leaders to effectively study God’s word, in order for the church to grow together in the knowledge of God. Wow. As I prayed with them my heart curled up in a ball of admiration and joy for these brothers and sisters who have given their lives to serve others with their specific skills. If you ask me, I am more than excited to ready myself this summer and join them soon.

So I challenge you: when you get up every morning do you feel ALIVE for the greatest mission of your life? Are you on a MISSION?

What Every Christian Has Ever Wanted To Tell You

Sin:Son

I’m telling you, this has changed every second and every moment of my life.

Everyday this is something I contend and fight for in a campus, city and culture that scream otherwise.

In a fleeting world made up of uncertainties I choose to trust in this immovable truth.

In my brokenness – through the uncontrollable feelings jolting through my body at any moment, amidst the raging tempests and circumstances- this is what keeps me alive, sane, and gives me peace and a hope that things will get better.

When it ‘clicked’, it left me in awe.

God, who crafted the cosmos, fashioned us in relationship with him. We were with him, we knew our Creator and our Father, he reigned in our hearts and we lived in obedience to him. Everything was as it should be, as it should be for eternity; this world was perfect, the Lord over heaven and earth.

Tempted, Adam and Eve disobeyed and rebelled against their Creator and Father. ‘Therefore as one trespass led to condemnation for all men … one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners’. Adam’s sinful nature has been given to us. Man, all of us are been born into ‘sin’. As sinners that have fallen short of God’s glory and holiness (morally pure and completely different in nature from man), the Lord cast us from his presence so we have become like ‘wanderers and fugitives on the earth’.

Truly, I believe we all have a God-shaped void in our hearts, minds and souls.

We, ‘enemies of the cross’ have an eternal consequence. ‘The wages of sin is death … Sin came into the world through one man, and death through, and so death and eternal destruction spread to all men’. Pastor David Platt said, ‘to be without God is and feels like eternal conscious torment.’

‘In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord. Mercy. The love which God loves towards you is steadfast: always, constant and boundless. Manifested through the birth, life, death and resurrection of his Son – Jesus Christ – who was hunted, mocked, beaten, and crucified. Nails through his hands and feet, thorns dug in his brow, on that cross Jesus gasped for every breath. Through his sacrifice he was ‘for our sake made to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’

Jesus lived a holy, righteous life without sin, the only pleasing and everlasting sacrifice to our Father. On the cross Jesus carried the sins of the world where the Father’s wrath (reserved for all ungodly and unrighteous men) was poured out on him once and for all. As he died and rose again to the Father’s side, he became victorious over our sin and death.

Because Jesus Christ died on the cross, and the Father did not spare his Son, we can be reconciled with our God.

I can approach my Father because Jesus is righteous. Someone loved me enough to die, to take a bullet and spill his blood for me. With him I feel like I am the only one in his gaze.

This is solely by faith.

‘If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ Those who surrender, repent of their sins, cry on his name and believe in faith will be with our God again, now and forever.

[Gen 1 & 2, 4:14; Rom 1:18-19, 3:11-12, 5:10-12, 18-19, 8:30, 10:9; 2 Thess 1:7-9; Isaiah 54:8; 2 Cor 5:21]

Two Worlds.

This is the life of my brother and friend, Matt.

I first met him in Hong Kong through inter-school badminton. I won, obvi (he will tell you otherwise). Somehow we met again at Queen’s University in our first year and he’s been one of my best friends since. We screwed around as Frosh, and now, we serve together for the same cause.

Matt knows only the Truth of the gospel, only Jesus could have changed his mind, his heart, and his very nature. His world with Jesus in the middle of it all is so real, and so much sweeter.

He opens his beautiful, raspy, shaky-vibrato voice at the end – so listen up boys and girls!