I had a flu the whole day so I almost, very nearly, gave up on the whole series of Easter talks because I am quite behind on my revision for the final exam. Then I thought, I shall go anyway because I am not productive with a sniffling nose. I was asking myself two questions after the talk ended- firstly, when did my thighs get so fat? Secondly, the people around me who don’t take notes, how can they remember everything? Unless they have been in the church for years and everything makes sense to them.
To the first, I know, I know. I have been eating whatever I wanted since 15 May 2016. Since then, almost 11 months on, with two internships that provided free food and a semester spent in town/at home with a lot of pringles and chocolate ice cream, and very little exercise, I have gained 4kg. I can fit into almost 70% of my clothes but it’s a tight fit because my body deposits fat on the lower areas- butt, thighs etc. I will probably gain even more weight when I start work but I have great hopes that I will finally be able to afford a gym membership, because I don’t like to exercise alone. I get all demotivated and end up doing things really slowly. Running is the only exercise that I don’t mind doing alone, but running one day makes my left knee hurt the next day.
(Cathy Guisewite. I read all her comics in secondary school!)
To the second, I still don’t know. Everything in church is new to me hence I am the laborious scribbler during services, as if it is worth my 4800$ school fees every semester. I focus on the learning, even if I don’t agree with everything that I said. It might be truth, but I still might not agree, even if to others that makes me silly. Agreeing with something should be intuitive or through logic, I can’t convince myself to agree.
(Dogs are a commitment too. Maybe I should replace ‘volunteering’ with ‘Dogging.’)
Okay learning points for Pastor Paul Tripp and his Wednesday night talk. I like his style, he doesn’t yell. No shouting at all.
He started off by introducing faith. Everyone lives by faith, even for the people who think that there is no right or wrong in the world, because their belief is in their non-believing. The question is, how do we know, all by ourselves what is true? We all hope to live the right way, to do the right things, to do things which will matter to us at the end of our lives. Everyone has faith, and Christians are different not because we also live by faith, but because of the object of our faith. Belief is something not just in your head, belief is something you do with your life. The concept of resurrection changes Christianity and it distinguishes Christianity from being just another moral philosophy, because as Christians we believe that there will be a day when we are all judged according to what we did, said, thought and there are very real consequences if we fail to change our hearts. If we prioritize the wrong things.
After the talk, I was thinking to myself of the one thing that would devastate me. I think it would being aged 40 or 50 and then realising that none of my original ideas about what I wanted to do when I was 22/23 were fulfilled. That I never moved to China, never set up my own business, that I never tried any new experiences because they were difficult or scary. That at the end all I would have in my two hands would be empty air and the knowledge that I have wasted a life. I am scared that I am not doing the right things because I don’t know what the right things are. Then I remembered what I read on desiringgod, about how the Bible is free of any admonitions that we have missed God’s plan for us, and that we are only called to follow Him, and not to worry about whether or not we are following him fast enough.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
-1 Corinthians 15
“Now I would remind you” is to remind us of what we believe in, in the busyness of the midweek rush and of our schedules.
Pastor T. said something that really resonated with me, and why the CHC decision is scary, because of how secular Singaporeans might take it. Christianity is meant to radically change the lives of people, and how we think about our lives. The gospel is meant for us to interpret our lives. It is not meant to just be a Sunday thing, for two hours every week, and then you go off for lunch feeling that you have fulfilled your commitment. In our lives, when we focus all our energies on relationships and careers and even something like running a volunteering business, we might concentrate more on the doing and not on the ‘why’, when we forget what was done for us.
It is difficult to keep God in our hearts when we cannot see him physically and work/school is such a secular place. We forget what life was meant to be, and we start searching for life in our careers and in our relationships, hoping that it will give us self-worth. When we are actually searching for life where it cannot be found.
Other people will not give us worth, our children will not give us worth. Especially in careers, when there are so many things that cannot be controlled. Inanimate objects, like the latest iPhone. Although I do understand selective retention, where people list a thousand examples and then we all latch on to different examples because our brain picks the most relevant ones for us. But it doesn’t change the meaning of his message, because sooner or later, all of us will experience the pull of staying later and later in our jobs and then skipping DG and then listening to the podcasts of services. And we end up fat, in debt, and tired.
Worry in a Christian is a result of gospel amnesia, because we forget that god will care for us and if we really understand the meaning of the resurrection, then we will not worry. Although I disagree on this bit- I think some of us will still worry about whether or not we are doing enough and Pastor T. himself said this, that he was very worried about whether he was accomplishing enough, and that he saw sleep as a disruption in an otherwise productive day. We might not be worried about the absolute result, but we are still worried about whether or not we are doing enough. For while we are all Christians, some of us are ineffective, and some of us are still trying to find out what belongs to us in Christ. What gifts we are meant to use. Maybe the grace to be given is the reminder of the grace of God.
He mentioned two lies that we are holding on to. I thought it was very relevant for my church, because we are based in Bukit Timah, and I don’t think there are HDBs nearby. The majority of the people drive home, walk home, and only a straggling crowd takes the bus. The first lie is our love for money. The second lie is that physical possessions can bring contentment to our hearts. I once dreamed of having a fully stocked kitchen with blenders and ice cream machines and saucepans of every type. I wanted a hanging cauldron so I could be Harry Potter. Then my dreams progressed to walk-in closets and now, a large empty house devoid of people but filled with lovely art pieces. I wish to admire what I cannot accomplish.
Pastor T. also spoke about how he had six surgeries in two years, and how the two years were the most productive years in his life. Because God does not need him to be healthy to use him, and his grace is made perfect in our weakness. I thought about how I have been sick for 2.5 years now, and being on TCM for more than a year. I have fully recovered in terms of food allergies, although I still experience side effects of medication, and mild intolerance effects when I am not on medication. But in the past 2.5 years I have learned isolation and commitment, which helps with my future goals because it was only when I was sick, then did my priorities get refined.
And the last part of his talk, “if you hold fast”. I particularly appreciated him saying that he needs help against sins now, just as much as he did when he first being a Christian. Because independently, we have no power to defeat sin. Our hearts, and what we believe in, shapes our lives. Theology does not only seek to define God and to capture him and his works into small categories, theology seeks to redefine our lives. And that is a humbling message.