on the centrality of Jesus

“So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”
Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”
And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” — 1 Peter 2:1-10

“Rid yourselves, then, of all evil; no more lying or hypocrisy or jealousy or insulting language. Be like newborn babies, always thirsty for the pure spiritual milk, so that by drinking it you may grow up and be saved.” I know these words don’t seem very inspiring. They’re probably not what you want to hear first thing in the morning, on your first day back to school. Continue reading “on the centrality of Jesus”

on the naturalness of death

Growing up in the 90s first in Canada, then in a westernised bubble in Hong Kong, I heard this idea a lot: death is natural, it’s just another stage of life. It sounds sage, it sounds nice, and reliable people say it – Mama Gump and Mufasa among others.

I heard it again tonight at a funeral service for a family friend. ‘We know that death is just another part of life,’ the priest told us. It’s ok, please feel better.

My buddy didn’t. The deceased was his uncle. He looked down at his feet as he told me ‘He got baptised before I was even born. I’ve never heard him talk about church even once. What am I supposed to feel about this?’ Continue reading “on the naturalness of death”

on Isaiah 40

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.”
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!”
A voice said,
“Shout!”
I asked,
“What should I shout?”
“Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”
O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”
Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. — Isaiah 40:1-11

“Dear Granddaughter

It’s strange writing this to you right now, because you’re just a little kid. By the time you’re reading this, I’ll probably be gone. But I want you to remember what I’m now telling you. Continue reading “on Isaiah 40”

on the progress of the gospel

As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
The Holy Spirit said to Philip,
“Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”
Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
The man replied,
“How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
The eunuch asked Philip,
“Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.
As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said,
“Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea. — Acts 8:26-40

Growing up in church, I watched quite a lot of Jesus movies. They were alright, they were pretty cheesy but they were earnest and well-meaning, and they told the story of Jesus as best they could. As I grew a bit older, I couldn’t help but notice how Jesus was always a white guy with dirty blonde hair and a gleaming smile. And then came the late 90s and the early 2000s, and almost always you’d get one or two black actors inserted into these movies and TV shows. One TV show had the apostle John played by a black actor, and I clearly remember thinking “Well that seems a bit forced – John was Jewish, definitely not black.” But then again Jesus wasn’t white either. And I would then think about today’s passage; I would say “This story already shows that the gospel is for all people – Jewish, black, white, everyone – there’s no need to play around with racial equality when this passage already deals with that.” Continue reading “on the progress of the gospel”

on Spore and the gospel

The sadly underwhelming Spore was a 2008 PC game that allowed the player to experience and guide life from the cellular level right up to interstellar civilisation. You’d start off controlling an amoeba-like creature, absorbing nutrients and running away from larger micro-organisms; then progress to controlling a creature as it hunts for food and dodges predators; then a tribe, then a nation as it warred with its rivals; and finally you’d be planning space missions as your planet-state collected precious cargo or exotic life forms from other star systems.

At every single level of play there was something to worry about. Neutralising a source of worry at one stage merely opened up a new horizon of worry: achieving a large enough size on the microbial levels merely meant you’d now have to worry about finding more food (and running from larger predators) to stay alive; achieving safety from predators in a tribe merely meant worrying about other tribes, then other cities, and finally other planets. Achieving what you wanted at each stage did nothing to take away the worry and the challenge.

That’s what (supposedly) made the game work, made it playable as a game. And rather depressingly this is the game we are in everyday. Continue reading “on Spore and the gospel”

on the Son of David

After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats.

At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave!

“Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.

But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. “The LORD knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,” he said to his men. “The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.” So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.

After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him.

Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the LORD placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the LORD’s anointed one.’ Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me.

“May the LORD judge between us. Perhaps the LORD will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. Who is the king of Israel trying to catch anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a single flea? May the LORD therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!”

When David had finished speaking, Saul called back, “Is that really you, my son David?” Then he began to cry. And he said to David, “You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the LORD put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the LORD reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule. Now swear to me by the LORD that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!”

So David promised this to Saul with an oath. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went back to their stronghold. — 1 Sam 24:1-22

I really enjoyed hearing and reading this Bible story when I was a kid. There was the swashbuckling adventure, David and his mercenaries running around in the hills, chased by murderous King Saul; there was the high drama of David’s impassioned plea, and Saul’s tearful reply – it’s good fun. Though I have to say, I enjoyed it the most as a kid because the image of King Saul pooping in a cave was hilarious to six-year-old me. And you know, it must’ve been pretty intense, or maybe David just had crazy ninja skills, that he could creep up to Saul and cut off a piece of his robe unnoticed. Such is the mind of a six year-old boy. Maybe six year-old girls think like that too. Maybe you’re thinking like that now. I’m not judging. Continue reading “on the Son of David”

on give and take

Achilles is the best of the Greeks in the Iliad: the fastest, the strongest, the most warlike. He fights like a god (Zeus is his great-grandfather, after all), he excels at winning, he excels at taking – men’s lives and their booty. He is the best his world has to offer.

But he cannot handle loss. When robbed of his spear-won prize Briseis, the best he can do is cry out to his goddess mother, and sulk, hopefully robbing Agamemnon of his victory. And when he loses the great love of his life Patroclus, he flies into murderous rage: he slays horse-breaker Hector in revenge (fair enough), but also horribly abuses the corpse, and even burns alive 12 Trojan boys in his bereavement. When he loses, when things are taken from him, he responds the only way he knows how: double down and take right back. Continue reading “on give and take”

are you worth a lot?

Are you worth a lot?

Bill Gates is worth a lot. He’s worth $86 billion, roughly.

Your friend is worth a lot. She gets lots of likes on Instagram.

Your teammate is worth a lot. She helped score that big win two months ago. She got to hold the big, shiny cup on stage. You didn’t.

Your childhood rival is worth a lot. She got that Oxbridge interview.

The class genius is worth a lot. She keeps getting top marks. I mean, she works hard, but so do you, and she doesn’t work that much harder than you. And you’re stuck with 78%. Continue reading “are you worth a lot?”

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