Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I have "moved"... Kind of...

Just a quick post to say that I've split my blog back up again. I'm keeping brokenvase for its original purpose - Photography... and have moved all my "life and Christian living" posts to If you are following my rantings through RSS, Please update accordingly...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Top 5 Gift Ideas this Christmas

The Ultimate Christmas Gift
"The Ultimate Christmas Gift", an image from Creative Swap.

I admit it, I suck at giving presents. It is especially obvious during Christmas time. I’ll forget. I’ll buy last minute or I constantly need to be reminded to pass someone a gift. I thank God for my wife and my mum who understands present-giving strategies. This made me think of what are sure-fire ways of gift giving that would “stick” for me. I would like to remember to give. I realised that the one way that truly works for me is if I give from the heart. Our core, where the heart is, drives our thought and our actions. If at the core, I truly want to give, then it’ll be meaningful. It will be heartfelt. It will be genuine. All other types of giving are mere formality.

As a pragmatist and minimalist, I realised this must be the reason why gift giving is not instinctive for me. I also realised that the only true and ultimate gift has already been given. And Christmas reminds us of this. Through Jesus Christ who was born on Christmas day, God has already given us what we need for all eternity. Through Jesus we can enjoy eternal salvation with God for His glory.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17, ESV

Think about it. If that’s true, what gift can compare with eternity in glory? It makes a box of chocolate I just got a speck of dust compared to this gift. Ironically, the essence of Christmas that makes us give gifts represent the greatest gift ever given and it’s already been done! This strand of thought has been driving Kat and our Christmases for the last 4 years. You see, if you knew that this was the ultimate gift and believe that in your core that this is true. Why on earth would you give your friends and loved ones anything else? I finally found something that I believe in my core to drive my actions of giving. This one gift, although not from myself, it’s a gift worth passing on.

So, this leads me to my top 5 gift ideas this Christmas. Since a lot of articles I read these days are ad-filled lists of things. Here is mine to share (minus the ads, and you don’t have to allow weird Facebook apps or annoyingly click next for each item)…

1. Gift of Friendship

We’re living in a sceptical information age. The age of Gen Ys and Xs. People these days are natural sceptics. Everything can be googled. We have very short attention spans. What I realise is many still crave traditional, deep, heartfelt friendships. Making friends with a stranger and showing random grace and kindness is rare these days and applauded readily. I’m not asking you to seek self-glory by making friends. Instead, what I’m suggesting is to go out and make new friends with strangers so as to form deeper relationships with them. Why? So that ultimately, you can get to point them to Jesus. The strangers don’t have to be random people from the streets. They could be your neighbour (yes! Finally! Go talk to them!). They could be even people in your own church whom you haven’t formed a friendship with. Guess what? Christians need some “pointing-to-Jesus” too.  Think of someone; give them the gift of Christ-driven friendship.

2. Gift of Catching Up with Intent

We’ve been doing this consistently over the last 4 years with this one. Through Christmas, it’s a time where many would meet, eat, laugh, rest and do it over again for a few days. We might travel to another country. Our home country perhaps. To meet relatives and friends. To catch up. For us at home, every Christmas is an opportunity for Kat and I to catch up with friends who we don’t have time to catch up with through the year. I call this, “catching up with intent”. What’s our “intent”? To get to know them better. To deepen our friendship. To learn how and what to pray for with them. To ultimately point them to the greatest gift – Jesus. Yes, the intent here, again, to is to point them to Jesus. Best Christmas gift ever! Closely followed by your genuine relationship formed as you catch up.

3. Gift of Prayer

This is another awesome gift. This gift can be accompanied by all the other gifts on this list. I have since learnt over many years never to underestimate the power of prayer. God chooses to use this mechanism to communicate with us and to show us His power and Glory. And so a great gift idea would be to make a list of people you care enough about to pray for their salvation in Jesus. And pray for them! Simple, yet one of the more important gifts you can ever give!

4. Gift of Compassion

For those cash-rich and compelled to still spend some money during the festive seasons.  Two ways to shop for material gifts for people besides doing the usual chocolates, hampers, toys, etc… Perhaps think about how their gift can add to God’s kingdom in some ways. What Kat and I found practical would be to give them Christian books if they are readers. Or another way is to buy a Chicken! Through organisations like TEAR Australia or Compassion, they have gift catalogues where you can buy a gift, not for someone directly, but someone in the poorer parts of the world on behalf of the person you are planning to give to. Then write a card to tell them about what you bought on their behalf. It is usually a good conversation opener for… you guessed it! … Pointing them to Jesus!

5. Gift of Faith

Lastly, this is for those of you who are not Christian or are curious and are friends or family of Christians. The greatest earthly gift you can give us this Christmas?... Is to tell us you want to know more about this Jesus. Or decide you want to become a Christian and follow Christ. This. This! Would be the best earthly gift I can ever receive. It’ll make me literally jump for joy. And you know I don’t  jump…

So there you have it. My list of great gift ideas this Christmas. This is a list I can deal with. This is a list I can feel genuine about and remember to do from my core and not feel artificial. Let me know if you've used any of the gift ideas above and how it went! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Let's Pray for the Siege in Sydney

Let us pray together
"Let Us Pray together", an image from Creative Swap.

Over the last 2 days social media and my Facebook timeline has been flooded with news reports and prayer requests for the incident in Martin Place in Sydney. A gunman took over the Lindt CafĂ© at the corner and ultimately he got killed along with 2 hostages. In response to this and also a call to act from my local church, I humbly submit this prayer. I find that it helps me to write such important prayers down to gather my thoughts and to pray consistently. Although this is more for me and my family than anyone else, if you want to pray for the situation and don’t know how or what to specifically pray for, perhaps the following can help too.


Dear Father,

It’s been a shocking 2 days for us here in Australia. Especially for the people in Sydney. 

Lord I would like to pray for the grieving family and friends of the two hostages who lost their lives. I pray that peace and comfort would surround their hearts right now as they go through this time of mourning. I pray for their souls Lord, that through this loss, they will be compelled to find ultimate Hope in You, the giver of eternal life.

I would like to remember the family and friends of the gunman. I do not know what they must be feeling. Pain, anger, sadness? I pray that you would still shower them with comfort and peace. Remember they Lord in your plans. Show them the hope that only you can bring.

Father I would also like to pray for the other hostages, their friends and the community around us. That they too would receive the same peace and comfort. Send them help and support when needed. Compel people around them to show them love and help them when needed. Sustain their health through this trying time. And ultimately, I pray that you would reveal yourself to them as they seek to reconcile what has happened so that they can fine hope in the One true hope in this broken world.

I would also like to pray for the Muslim community Lord. I pray that you would protect them physically and emotionally from what has happened. Protect them from any abuse as a result of backlash from the event. I also pray that your children, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, would mobilise to shower them with love at this time. Their time of need.

Lastly, I would like to pray for wisdom and humility for myself and all my fellow brothers and sisters. We may never know why these things happen. But let this be a strong reminder to us for the urgency of your will and agenda for this world. I pray that you would equip us to know how to handle questions of mortality and judgement in this time where logic makes no sense to the fallen world. I pray for boldness to be able to proclaim the finished work of Christ and point them towards Him as I interact with people around me about this incident. Let me never forget to be thankful and always ready for your good work.

In Christ Name I pray,



“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:43-45, ESV

Saturday, October 11, 2014

An Open Letter to My Future Church

Open Letter to Church
Open Letter to Church, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.

First off, I’m NOT assuming that I will eventually be a pastor of a Church. This letter is merely written if I ever become one by God’s will and miracle. This letter is actually more for me more than anyone else. To remind me of who I am and to never forget this wherever this path of obedience lead. And never be complacent or pride-filled, but to be encouraged during hardship, like it is now.

Dear Church,

I am writing to you in hopes that you can know a little more about me. There are a few things I’d like you to see about me that you may not know or think about when you see me every Sunday at Church. So here goes…

The first thing I’d like you to know is that I am sinful too. I am a sinner in the middle of my sanctification journey. The same way you are. There is only one shepherd. As it is written...

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” 
John 10:11-14, ESV

Please pray that I don’t become the hired hand that runs away. I am not a shepherd; I am a sheep like you.

No, really… I feel the same sins of the flesh. Pride, anger, sloth, lust, etc… I might get annoyed with you when I think you should know better. I might feel proud because I know the bible more than you. I sometimes lose my temper too! I shout at the kids when they don’t listen to me. Or bark at my family when I’m in a bad mood. I procrastinate doing my sermons on a slow week when my energy levels are low.

I’d like you also to know I’m an introvert. It might surprise some of you, but my warmth and friendliness at Church and my hospitality at our house takes a lot of trained and channelled energy to pull off. But I feel and know it’s worth every bit of it. Why am I telling you this? I’m telling you because I’d like you to forgive me if I walked right past you and didn’t say “hi”. I’m sorry if I hadn’t rung you or caught up with you for a while. Please forgive me if at social functions I didn’t acknowledge you or come to greet you. I might be busy, shy or low on my “interaction” tank.

This might be obvious to say, but I’ll say it anyway. I have feelings too. My heart aches when you tell me your troubles. My heart aches when you don’t tell me your troubles! My heart aches when I see others in trouble, persecuted, suffering or busking in sin. I’d like it if you come occasionally to ask me how I feel. Or tell me how you feel and we can pray and cry together. Knowing you care would be nice.

I pray that you will never think that just because I studied at some bible college I know everything there is to know about our Lord and the bible. Like you, I am always a servant and student of Christ. Especially me! I suck at studying… I realise that if God wills it, the Holy Spirit can zap you more wisdom and open your eyes to the scripture way more than what I can comprehend. I pray that you can approach me when I am wrong. To lovingly correct me and I promise I will try my best to receive rebuke humbly and with respect. If I don’t and I argue with you, please pray harder for my heart.

Please know that nothing I plan for the Church can compare to what God had planned for us since the beginning of time. Please know that I will fail terribly in running things compared to how Christ runs His kingdom. I am not much of a leader too, if you have Christ as your Lord. None of my plans, actions and leadership means anything, if I am not constantly sanctified by Christ through the Church. Yes, I need to be moulded too. I need to learn still! Bible College didn’t teach me everything about being the ultimate super holy Christian. Please! It is my constant prayer that I am approachable so that you can come to me with my flaws so I can learn. I am approachable!... Right? Please, how else will I learn?

It all sounds really hard doesn’t it? What’s the point of all this? I hope you see that it’s to show you that I need you as much as you need me, maybe I need more. We are all different parts of the body of Christ remember? It can sometimes get very, very, depressingly lonely on this narrow path when I am walking alone. Even a marathon can by more fun if I had others running with me, supporting me, loving me, praying with me, playing with me, hanging out with me, crying with me, laughing with me… You get the picture. Do life with me!

You know, I still secretly find encouragement sometimes thinking that God used a coward like Moses. He used a defiant man like Jonah. He used a lust-filled man like David. He used a simple-minded man like Peter. And he even used an outright enemy like Paul to do His work. There is always hope for me!

I thank God every day for his saving grace for me. I thank Jesus for fulfilling the gospel. A gospel so precious that He allowed my heart to change towards Him. To be so compelled to love and want to try my best to save others like He did me. I hang on to this truth every day, because He is my hope in my toil, my discouragements and my disappointments. I never want to lose this first love of Him. I say this never to appear holier than you, but to encourage you and pray that one day, this gospel will capture your heart the same way it did mine and transform you towards a Christ-likeness that surpasses mine!

With love always,

Thursday, August 7, 2014

3hrs After the Oxygen Was Cut Off…

Oxygen Conference 2014
Oxygen Conference 2014, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.
As he was breathing in the breath of oxygen that gives him life, he struggled. It was as if his body didn’t want it! That life giving thing that would cure him of his disease. What? His body didn’t want it? Madness! Every breath of life taken was met with resistance from his own body. The sickness wasn’t going to go down without a fight and he knows this. He keeps sucking in the life-giving oxygen. Faster and faster as he tries to fight this overbearing and overwhelming sense that he is about to pass out. Weeks turned to days, days turned to hours, hours turned to minutes, minutes eventually turned to seconds. With each breath of oxygen from this life giving vine the disgusting, ugly and despicable disease fought back. Eventually, he could not hold it any longer and the dam broke. Tears with a mixture of sadness, anger, disappointment and mostly relief started streaming from his eyes. He couldn’t understand this. Why is this so hard? Besides, the doctor promised that this treatment was a breeze! Walk in the park. “This yolk is light!” he says. Strange thing to say, but that’s what he said…

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.
(In Christ Alone, Stuart Townend)

This was me at the Oxygen 2014 conference. The crescendo at the last day, the 3rd last sermon and the last song… The story of the sick man above is me and how I felt all through the last few weeks culminating at the end of the Oxygen Conference today.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved every minute of it. Not only the sermons, the electives or the workshops, but the intense and fruitful conversations with fellow brothers and sisters as we debate, learn from each other and soak in together the Word and God like sponges. At least that was the case for me. Ultimately, all I could do is fall like a heap in front of His cross.

"I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. … For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. …
… I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people,… in toil and hardship, …apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. … I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it … I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth … So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
(Excerpts from 2 Corinthians 11:16 – 12:10, ESV)

I suggest you go read the full passage. But I can almost print this version out as my prayer. This is my prayer right now.

We can’t all be madmen and fools right? Right? 2,500 of us at this conference. 500,000 of us in Cambodia. Millions of us in China. Thousands dying in Iraq. All through history. I’ve met engineers, specialist doctors, IT professionals (me), university professors, mums, dads, really really smart people! All coming together, love this God and got transformed. We can’t all be mad enough to spend money, time, use our brain cells and our energy to come to this conference? Right? To come to this conference to cry like sooks. On our knees all the time. Raising our hands to the sky.

Why? Because we love God. That’s why. But why bother? Can’t we just love God at home? No! Or should I say “Far be it so!” We gather, we cry, we plead, we learn, we stress, we argue all because, at least in this case, we want to recognise that none of us are righteous and free of the need for help. We want to strongly recognise that we are all broken and need help and not as self-righteous as we or others think we are. Secondly, and more importantly, we gather because we want to so strongly “love our neighbours”! We bother because we want as many people as possible to know about this redeeming love. We want people we love to understand that the only way to true life is through Jesus. We toil, cry, ache and kneel because of firstly Jesus and then you. Yes, you. We love you too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Question: Politics. How far do we go before it becomes an idol?

Politics as an Idol?
Politics as an Idol?, a photo by Mervin Chiang on Flickr.
This whole Roy Ngerng versus Lee Hsien Loong ridiculous debacle has somehow bothered me and I can’t seem to put a finger to it. Many years ago, I used to have very strong views about Singapore politics as well. A contributing factor to Kat and I deciding to move out. When asked why we migrated I’d use this narration: “You know the movie the Matrix?...” pause for effect… “We took the red pill!”… Watch people’s face light up… Works every time when asked why we wanted to move out of Singapore…

These days (as I aged)… I don’t normally care about politics or news in general, for that matter, anymore. I guess I have now more things to worry about… than to - “worry about tomorrow”. I strongly lean on the “tomorrow will worry for itself” part of Matthew 6:34 now. Ignorance is bliss I reckoned…

So why do I now want to write a post about politics? It’s weird… My Facebook feeds are split right down the middle on this Roy versus the PM thing with supporters on both camps. Actually, more specifically it’s the Roy camp versus the “this-is-silly-lets-move-on” camp. Singaporeans are getting more and more vocal and some even stand behind this character, throwing money at him and really believing that gathering at a park in the thousands (Singapore has many million people by the way) would really make a difference.

Again, so what is the point of this post? In light of the above description of the state of Facebook affairs… This story got stuck on replay in my head every time I see a post on this Roy thing…

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. – Matt 22:15-22, ESV

… OK this might not be the best example to relay my purpose of the post. But the words “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” were the words that keep coming to me every time I see a post (especially from my Christian brother and sisters) sharing about this whole politics thing in Singapore.

I totally get that we should sometimes speak up when we feel that there is injustice or poor management. After all, if we don’t, who would right? But I’m worried, especially for fellow Christians, that we are totally missing the point if we do go too far with protesting in politics (unless you ARE a politician of course… where politics IS your job!).

I know I am potentially opening a can of worms here. But I am willing to have a nice discussion about this – God willing. Especially after a great start this year with our Church theme “go therefore” (Matt 28:19). If I am getting the point about our true mission here in this world while we wait for Christ, compounded with the fact that I know God is sovereign, politics included... you know, he used evil kings in the old testament to complete His master plan and all… wouldn’t it be better to invest time, energy and even money on Godly things? Leave Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and give God the things that are God’s? (i.e. Our time, energy and resources) Honestly, and this is just me, I feel that spending any part of my energy and brain cells in politics as a non-politician is stealing time away from knowing God and working for Him. Plus, dare I say it, where is the Grace in this all if we become the bitter uncle complaining about “garmen” one leg on the chair sipping tiger beer at the Kopitiam? … Metaphorically speaking…

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The CMMI - Christian Maturity Model Index

Reflecting on the current sermon series at Church on missions, it has coincidentally impacted me personally as I prepare for a new stage of life and the journey I am about to embark on. As I sit here in a busy Sydney airport waiting to go home, I began to reflect on my whirlwind of journey through life. As early as my primary school days, all through my teens and my rocky semi-adulthood, through the Singapore Army, marriage, relocation to Australia, career and eventually now... The above diagram sums it up pretty much...

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." - Matt 28:18-20, ESV (The Great Commission)

I've always known the above verse in my head in some way shape or form. Sometimes I'm “guilt-ed” legalistically into trying to do more. To keep telling myself, why am I not doing more evangelism? To read the Bible more? To Pray more?

The diagram above depicts in a very loose way my journey. And I think, as I reflect on what many calls the Christian maturity and what Paul calls running the race, I am humbled by how God has brought me through it. The hurdles that He helped me “jump” over. The trials that He used to mould me and shape me towards the “missionary” phase. You see, I feel that these are stages we go through as being a Christian. We all start off with an obvious disadvantaged position of “Hopeless Rebel”…

“All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” - Rom 3:12, ESV

But then, lucky for me, I was explained the Gospel and I accepted what Christ did for me and became what I call a “Grateful Reborn”. To be honest, for me, growing up in a Christian family, there wasn’t a WOW moment or great fire or passion or zeal. It was a gradual progression thing. I know for some, this gratefulness of the grace and truly understanding this undeserved love has led to fortified zeal to read the bible. To understand everything there is to know about this new Heavenly Father after the adoption… But for me, as I understood what I thought was the “true” meaning of the gospel…

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. - Eph 2:8,9, ESV

… I got complacent. This is where I think a lot of us are. Have a look at me self-reflection on Christianity as a hobby here. After all, we’re saved right? Nothing we can do and need to do… So let me just hand up my feet and just enjoy this ride to the end! In comes the “Saved Rebel” phase. This is a dangerous “phase” to be in… And I was in this “phase” for a good 20+ years!! My turning point was when my assurance was shaken. Somehow, in God’s amazing mercy, the Holy Spirit stirred me towards this verse…

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matt 7:21-23, ESV

This verse radically challenged me and made me second guess my faith. Was I the “worker of lawlessness”? Was I practicing “cheap faith” by simply going to church, singing songs, doing “Christian-y” things just to try and “buy” my way into heaven? If I am not, why I am still living like a rebel? The world couldn’t tell me from any other non-christian… Where is my fruit of the Spirit?... Non-existent!

So… begins the “missionary” phase I believe. For some of you, the “jump” from Grateful Reborn to Missionary is instantaneous. You got the right follow up, the right readings, the right convictions, the right leaders, the right mentors… Praise God! For me… it took 20+years and my current Church, God’s merciful trials and many many more things to get me here.

“Unlocking” the missionary phase is truly liberating! It puts a lot of things into perspective. It explains a lot of “things” that as a “Saved Rebel” I struggled with, ‘cos all I understood was I was saved and justified so I could do anything I want. I continued to ignore God Monday to Saturday and sing praises to Him only on Sunday. God changes hearts…. I know for my journey, it had to happen in exactly this way for me to get it… for me to be convicted enough to “thrust” into the Missionary phase.

Right, so what is the Missionary phase? I think it happens when you truly understand the commission that Jesus gave to us as Christians. When you get in its core the purpose of our adoption and it changes your heart from within. This change is evident from the need, hunger, thirst as the bible calls it to want to make disciples. To feel so inadequate to make disciples you want to read the bible all the time. To know Jesus and His Character more and more so that you can better make disciples. To be challenged to live out your life like the person you look up to – Jesus… So that... you can make disciples. In summary, you thirst for this shapes your everyday decisions, goals, thinking, prayer and worship.

Finally, I look forward to finishing this race. To ultimately be the Perfect Child when the new heaven and the new earth comes again. To ultimately be receive the “well done, my good and faithful servant” praise…