Refined by Pleasure and Pain

You who placed this dream
Led me to rest by Your stream
You who fanned this fire
Sustain it that I never tire
Of burning brightly in love
To reflect Your glory above
Yet Your beautiful fire
Was my furnace of desire
Both glorious to behold
And so painful in ways untold
As it refined the selfish out
As it reminds of what life’s about
That we may thrive without doubt
As we walk the pleasure of this route

Cast the First Love

Jakarta, Indonesia + Singapore

Open the Eyes of My Heart

I’ve been asked many times, “Where do you get your thoughts? How do you see things so differently?” I was thinking about that question, in my usual place, the bathroom, I remembered an old song we used to sing in church written by Paul Baloche that went:

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You

To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy

I don’t know why it’s the first thing that popped into my head. I can’t remember the last time I heard that song, but it’s a good example of where my thoughts come, and where all our thoughts come from: from the abundance of our hearts. This is why daily devotions, which means to study and meditate on God’s word and to pray is critical. It opens your heart for Him to not just touch in a superficial way but to fill so that if overflows.

Are actions are all overflows of our hearts. I have a lot of terrible things in my heart that I need God to constantly overwhelm with His power and love.

Power and love. That’s a line from the song. Who knew I would meditating on the words of a song from so long ago? In fact, this song is perfect for this generation that is caught between two types of conformity: materialistic, pleasure-seeking conformity and religious, formulaic, security-seeking conformity, either way they’re both conforming to the patterns of this world instead of being transformed to know God’s will. It doesn’t ask God what the rich young ruler asked Jesus in Matthew 19, which was  “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” instead it is David’s request in Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” The rich young ruler asked, “Tell me how to achieve my agenda the right way.” The psalmist asked, “Help me fall in love with Your agenda.”

In a generation that’s so scared to be rejected, that kills itself over social status, that has an incredibly low adversity quotient, that has grown disenchanted with the formulas to success that don’t work, that is caught between conforming to things that don’t satisfy and don’t mean anything years later when they look back, I find this song to be incredibly helpful. It’s a prayer and a framework for finding God and discovering His will, which is your purpose, and it’s simply this:

Desire to seek God and constantly ask of Him.
See Him for how great He truly is through worship.
As you worship, let Him fill your heart with His power and love.

And out of that overflow, attack your day.

Don’t worry if your overflow doesn’t look too much like that of others. That could mean you’re developing your own voice. I like how Timothy Keller put it:

“When you listen and read one thinker, you become a clone… two thinkers, you become confused… ten thinkers, you’ll begin developing your own voice… two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise and develop your voice.”

More important than living off other people’s convictions is standing on your own and making sure that you stand on truth.

I need to get ready for a meeting. Will continue this later…


Ok. Back.

I was talking about overflowing. If we’re filled by God’s power and love daily, what will the overflow of our lives be? Power and love of course. As I scrutinize my life, especially my private thoughts and actions, I can clearly see, mixed-in with the overflows of good, are a lot of things that reveal a very selfish heart. As I was repenting (which is incredibly often) I remembered a piece I had been writing for a while that was inspired by an article Yasmin wrote. It’s an encouraging thought for people like me, people who have failed quite a bit, and people who continually risk failure living outside of a security bubble. Her post was on the the adulteress that Jesus saved. After reading what she wrote, I had these words in my head: Cast the First Love.

And that’s the title of what I really want to share.


Cast the First Love

“I should have listened. I should not have broken the law. What a fool I have been. Someone, anyone, please save me.” She could hear the crowd screaming at her. She could feel the rough handling. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry…” she repeated in her head, as fear and regret ravaged her soul. The intensity of the moment grew as everything started turning into a blur. She felt herself pushed to the center of a large fearsome crowd. She knew what was coming next: death by stoning. She knew the rules and had known the risks but her empty heart made her fall. She weeped before them, imagining the systematic proving of her guilt, the highlighting of her shame, and finally, the physical pain of the first blow.

But none came.

Instead, she watched as the most righteous, the most credible, the most powerful of her accusers, one by one, walking away. Until only one person was left: Jesus, still stooped down after writing on the stone floor. “What is he going to do to me?” she wondered, still afraid of the cost of her sin. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
– from John 8:1-11

This story always moves me. It moves me because I know I’m that adulterous woman. It moves me because I know that like her, Jesus does not condemn me. It moves me because I know that my purpose is to be like Jesus and to cast the first love.

Those who wanted her punished realized they actually had no real moral authority, and Jesus who had the moral authority, who could have triggered her stoning by others by claiming His right to cast the first stone, instead showed her forgiveness.

This story is incredible because Jesus, as He does over and over in the Gospels, puts the human soul above man’s traditions. Instead of responding in righteous indignation, that convenient term for justifying impatience, harshness, and even violence, He responds in divine reconciliation. Even during the time when Jesus did get angry, it wasn’t out of “righteous indignation”, it wasn’t from a standpoint of “I’m right and good and you’re wrong so you deserve this punishment”. When we take the story of the cleaning out of the temple for example, Jesus gives us His reason, He says, “the purpose of this place is for prayer, the activity of man meeting with the divine, yet you’ve gotten in the way of that.” In other words, Jesus was not righteously indignant. He was relationally indignant. He was angry not because people were making mistakes – He was a friend of sinners after all. He was angry because there were practices that were keeping people from Him. 

Even in His anger, Jesus was cleaning out the barriers that were keeping us from Him. Even in His anger He was casting the first love. 

When people tried to test Him, to get Him to break the traditions, He went along and broke them if it meant casting the first love. 

When the sinners, the poor, and the sick came to Him, He moved among them, casting the first love for those who were disqualified. 

The encouragement of this post is this:

Cast the first love. 

When you’re worried, fight your anxiety by praying for someone else. Cast the first love. 

When you’re angry, fight your bitterness by being a blessing to them. Cast the first love. 
When you’ve failed, fight your hopelessness by rejoicing in someone else’s success. Cast the first love. 

When you’re in doubt about what you believe, go pray for someone else’s dream, someone else’s hope. Go cast the first love. 

When you’re feeling lazy or complacent, go step out and help someone upgrade their skills and solve their problems. Cast the first love. 
When you’re in lack, when you have nothing, pray for the poor around you, ask them for specific things you can pray for, and pray for them. Cast the first love. 

The fishermen have nets and the fishers of men have love. We know from scripture when we cast our nets the way Jesus tells us, we end up with a haul so big we can’t contain. 

Now let’s put this article together:

1. Daily fill your life with God’s power and love until you overflow
2. With that overflow, attack life

3. A Christian attacks life by casting the first love 

Maybe we would have more impact on society if we paid less attention to conforming to worldly and religious societies and more on making sure we are overflowing and casting the first love. 

Who Told You You’re Naked?

Who Told You You’re Naked?

He knew where they were. He knew where everything was at all times. He simply knew everything. Yet He asked them a question in a way His Son would later answer those who questioned Him, not to get answers He didn’t know, like I said, He knew everything, but to reveal the hearts of those He was speaking to.

So God asked a hiding Adam, “Where are you?”
The omniscient God was not asking for his location, He was asking why this man was not in His presence.

In an infinitely less significant way, it’s like when I’m on a date with Yasmin, sitting across her, but with my brain on some other concern, or my gaze fixed on my iPhone typing away. Many times, Yasmin has corrected me saying, “You’re not here again.” It’s possible to be present yet miss the presence of the one who loves you.

Adam answered, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

What followed in the story of Adam and Eve, whether you believe it’s symbolical or literal, is a case of people passing the blame of their guilt on someone else. The man said it was the woman, the woman said it was the serpent.

“Who told you that you were naked?” was God’s reply.

Those words stuck to me. “WHO TOLD YOU…”

Another way to put the question, “Who told you?” is to ask “Who are you listening to?”

Today, there are so many messages coming at us. So many voices telling us what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s cool and what leads to success and what doesn’t, and what leads to dreams coming true, and what leads to failure. There are so so many messages. Calls, texts, emails, comments, whatsapp, Twitter, facebook, likes on Instagram, Viber, Line, podcasts, books, quotes, status message, just so many voices, and many times it’s difficult to distinguish which ones have true value. It’s hard to define what’s true.

For example, there used to be another term for the now popular “dad bod” and it’s “fat”. There used to be a term for someone who has big muscles and no brain and that’s “jock”. There used to be a term for beautiful ladies and it wasn’t “sexy” or “b#tch”, or “$lut”. It was simpler yet more encompassing it was the word “beautiful” itself. Society has a way of watering down, muddying, and then outright changing the definition of things, and in the process removing its meaning and significance. Without understanding the defined meaning of something, without appreciating its significance, we are easily swayed by society’s changing labels, raving over what color is “the new black”, what body type is better, and just going with the flow, using words we haven’t defined properly, and cheering things we don’t understand, with no mental fortitude to assess and ask “Does any of this make any sense? What is this really worth?” We don’t know how to discern value amidst the voices. When we cannot distinguish between voices, we will drown in them.

“Who are you listening to?”

“Who told you that what they’re saying is true?”

“Who told you that you’re going to be a failure?”

“Who told you that you’re poor?”

“Who told you that you’re ugly?”

“Who told you that you’re not good enough?”

“Who told you that you’re evil?”

“Who told you that you’re hopeless?”

“Who told you that the future is dark?”

“Who told you that money is the key to happiness?”

“Who told you that you need a spouse to be whole?”

“Who told you that you need to be a millionaire by 30?”

“Who told you that you’ve been disqualified?”

“Who told you it’s too late?”

“Who told you that you’re a fool?”

“Who told you that your best life involves your dream house and a healthy family, and that if you don’t have that, you’re doing something wrong?”

“Who told you that you’re the prodigal son?”

“Who told you that you’re a slut?”

“Who told you that your mistakes mean you can never be as good as the others who have made better decisions?”

“Who told you your dream is impossible?”

“Who told you to be afraid?”

“Who told you to live ashamed?”

So many messages and labels going around. So many stupid things labeled as valuable and so much unrealized beauty in people because we’ve been listening to the advice, the opinions, and the wisdom of people who are so ashamed of their own nakedness that they respond in the religious covering of themselves or in the rebellious justification of their nakedness.

People so afraid of the consequences of their own sins that they use scripture to limit others.

People so defensive about who they are that they convince themselves that they should fight the insecurity by flaunting the identities they’re are so unsure about.

Shame is the natural feeling that comes upon us when we know that we have been evaluated and have been found wanting. Shame is what makes us hide from God. Which is quite difficult, not to mention impossible, given that He is everywhere. When we are naked, exposed for all that we truly are, there will inevitably be things about us that we don’t want others to see. Which is why nakedness, maybe physical, emotional, or spiritual, is a scary thought. We may not be ashamed of everything but there is always something that causes us to be cautious.

But I really like the poetry of the Bible, God, all-knowing, asks Adam, who has actually been naked all this time because he was made naked, “Who told you that you were naked?” Why would he ask that?

Because nakedness isn’t the issue.

It’s who you’re naked with.

Nakedness between a loving husband and wife is not a reason for shame but a sign of both vulnerability and security, there’s a word for that phenomenon when both of those things happen at the same time. It’s called intimacy.

Adam and Eve were naked the whole time with God yet without shame. They did not notice their vulnerability because they were within the security of God’s perfect love. But when they disobeyed God, they broke the intimacy, and for the first time they looked at each other without the safety of God’s perfect love, and they felt shame.

Once again, nakedness wasn’t the issue. It’s who are you naked with.

Who are you intimate with? Who are you listening to? For me, I find that the voices in my head are always telling me I have to be better, I have to do better, to second guess my decisions, to be more cautious, to be afraid, to worry. This I see happens when I get so close to so many opinions and make the mistake of not focusing on the richness of simple daily devotions, that dedicated moment to listen to God.

I’ve realized that whenever I feel that I lack, whenever I feel that I need to do better, try harder, achieve more, be more of anything, I need to stop from listening to all the voices, all the calls, all the messages, all the expectations, sit down by myself, and pray, “Father, I’m going to listen to You. I hear all these things. I feel all these things. I feel insecure. I feel ashamed for the things I should have known better to do differently, for the things I failed to do, and I’m worried about the results of my life’s work. But here I am, without religious covering, without self-justification, without shame because I know Your desire for me is not a perfect David but all of David, and so here I am.”

That reminds me of a Psalm by a much greater David, the king, who wrote in Psalm 40:6-7:

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire-
But my ears you have opened-
Burt offerings and sin offerings you did not require-

Then I said, “Here I am, I have come-…”

The sacrifice was all about imputing our shame on something else so that we can be presented to God without guilt. Here was David saying, “You’re not after the sacrifices that make me blameless because you’re not after a perfect me. You’re after all of me.”

This Psalm was actually a prophecy of what Jesus would say as Hebrews 10 tells us:

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire-
But a body you have prepared for me;
With burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.

Then I said, “Here I am…”

I can’t say I understand all these verses. I’m not an expert. What I am is very curious. What I am is very hungry. (At this point, literally hungry too! Haha!) so I’m doing what I do with every thought that intrigues me, I chew on it longer, and break it down into simple ideas. What’s the simple idea for this post?

When the messages that are coming at you pull you down, when the voices in your head tell that you’re this or that, when you feel inflated with pride or deflated with shame, when you find yourself striving to cover with religion, or compensating for your flaws with manufactured glory, when the currents of life pull you one way and then another, when you don’t know what to do do, prioritize time with God and start with this prayer: Here I am, Father. Here’s all of me. Naked yet unashamed because I know that You who look at me love me most. Speak to me in Your word. You define me. I am listening to You.

“Father, I don’t like my body. Help me take care of it. Help me use it to honor You.”

“Father, I’m poor, but You said blessed are the poor in spirit. Show me how to receive Your provision.”

“Father, I’m confused. I don’t know what to do with my life. I don’t know what the future holds. But You said You would never leave me. Help me appreciate Your presence in this moment.”

“Father, I have this regret. There’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s been done. But You said that You take our sins far from us, and that You use for good what was meant for evil. Help me live in excitement of Your grace instead of guilt and condemnation.”

“Father, I can feel that our success is making me proud and too comfortable that I’m more selfish than ever. Help me go back to the simplicity of the Gospel. Let the praises of me not mislead me. I will listen to You.”

Whatever it is that’s bringing you shame, take it to God, and allow Him to challenge your rejection with the words, “Who told You I didn’t love You?”