The Fullness of God

This is to add on my previous post on our Colossians study.

For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Col 1:19)

For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 2:9)

The fullness of God – something that is incredibly difficult to be described precisely in our own language. I am not attempting to describe it, but to share how I think we can actually experience it.

Consider Paul’s writing in Ephesians 3:16-19,

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to comprehend how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Do you think Paul wrote these words before having experienced Christ’s love or after having experienced Christ’s love?

It sounds like a stupid question since the answer is obviously after. But many times we have got the order wrong. My point is, merely knowing the scripture in your head doesn’t actually equal experiencing His fullness in the spirit.

Paul’s prayer is not just for us to memorise about the width, length, height, and depth of God ‘s love, but to actually comprehend it – and the reason? So that we can be filled with the fullness of God!

I think this is why sometimes we can find ourselves, or many knowledgable preachers or teachers who although seem to be able to hit every doctrine right, demonstrate very little joy in singing songs of praise. Or perhaps, when they listen to others’ vulnerable sharing, they give little grace and show little compassion.

Or sometimes, in doing our own Bible studies, we tend to drill hard on getting the knowledge right, and yet, we have not learned from Paul to pray to not just grow in knowledge, but to actually comprehend the fullness of Christ by pursuing love that goes beyond knowledge. This goes beyond dead words. (Although our experience shouldn’t contradict the Word.)

Knowledge + love (that surpasses all things) leads to fruit-bearing. The letter (whether you believe it is primarily talking about the O.T law or not the same principle applies) kills; the spirit gives life. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up. The fullness of God comes from not just knowing the scripture word by word, but actually comprehending it, grasping it, experiencing it through and in and by the Spirit with this love that surpasses knowledge.


Colossians: The Cosmic Lordship of Christ

Finally, we have finished studying the book of Colossians today as a group. This is the second time in the past three years that we have done a study on this epistle, and yet these words have never ceased to amaze. Personally, Colossians and Ephesians are my favourite epistles, although my favourite verses are actually to be found in Galatians and Philippians (Gal 2:20 and Phil 2:8).


To summarise a few points that encourage:

  • We have a hope laid up in heaven (1:5); the Christ in us individually and corporately is the hope of glory (1:27)

By the way I think it is one thing to know the indwelling Christ in us is our hope of glory, and yet it is another thing to actually have experienced it.

  • The recurring theme of prayers and thanksgiving for the advance of gospel: we are to pray unceasingly first and foremost for God’s kingdom, for the church and one another , for open doors and opprotunties ( 4:2-3) : from chapter one bearing fruit (1:6) in the whole world to chapter four
  • We are now citizens of another kingdom, for we have been transferred from the domain to darkness to kingdom of His beloved Son (1:12-13).
  • We should set our mind on things above. (How does it affect our daily living though? Does it mean we become passive or we are active participants of His mission?)
  • Not only should we ask for wisdom to discern empty philosophies or teaching, we are also be aware of carving self-made religion or asceticism ourselves. This reminds of Eugene Peterson’s quotes from Eat This Book“Sometimes we read and take the text to graduate ourselves into a superior class of Christians.” and “Pretentious language is just a violation of sacred text. We use them to keep others out of our neighbourhood.”
  • Similar to Galatians 3:28, in Christ, all our earthly status are only temporary.  Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman… Christ is all, and in all. The brothers and sisters who have less education or income are of the same worth in God’s eyes and in the ministry.
  • Christ has disarmed all worldly rulers and authorities. We partake of the same victory.
  • It is God who opens door and it is God who helps us to proclaim clearly (4:3-4)
  • We are to walk in wisdom, not just to speak in wisdom (4:3)
  • We are to redeem our time and to make the most out of every opportunity
  • Our speech ought to be gracious and seasoned with salt
  • The brotherhood Paul and his brothers share shows the real “we live together; we die together; and we shall rise together” in humility and trust.
  • “Remember my chains. Grace be with you” – what a way to end the letter. Remember my chains!

Nevertheless, the two truths that I cherish the most are the cosmic lordship of Jesus Christ, and our union with Christ.

The cosmic lordship of Jesus Christ: Governing all the above principles is the grand idea of the cosmic lordship of Jesus Christ. The Lord is the Lord of all creation. He is before all things and in him all things hold together. That’s why fullness can only be found in Him. In the epistle, Paul lays out step by step how Jesus Christ is the lord over all creation, and the lord over the church (especially in the first half of Chapter 3: putting off our old self and putting on our new self), and the lord over a household (in the second half of Chapter 3)

Our union with Christ: We are united in Christ with a new identity that can only be rooted in Him. We have died with christ and been raised with Christ (just as symbolised by baptism). Only by understanding this can we truly also experience the union of saints in Christ. Paul’s oneness with his co-labour testifies about this.

Also, the fullness of God dwelling in Christ in human form (Col 1:19; Col 2:9) is a crucial theme of Colossians. However, what does it actually mean? I have mentioned just now that I believe it is one way to know the scripture with your mind yet another thing to experience it in the spirit. I have continued on this here.



ONE. Weekend Away 2018

Another year, another ONE. weekend away, with the ones who have, for the past two and a half years, taught me to embody and extend grace, to love deep in spirit and dig deep in truth.

28071125_10156151140519808_4693692296966525915_oI wish I could keep these moments in a time capsule. Perhaps for now the best I can do is to write about it (another experience still so dear to me was “A Week at the Hookses” that took place eight months ago.) We had four talks and discussions this year (featuring Chris Wright, Jenny Gallagher, John Wyatt, and Hannah); an evening of psalms and praises (singing songs corporately, reading psalms to one another, and open prayers); and a communion in the end (to remind us again the significance of sharing in His life as one global body of saints).


Here are some highlights from the talks:

Chris Wright, The Shape of Mission

– The Bible is the story of the whole mission of God for all creation.
– The Bible is not (just) a book of doctrines or rules or promises.
– The Bible is a grand narrative of six acts: creation, rebellion, O.T. promises, Christ and the Gospel (not just His crucifixion but also resurrection and others), N.T. mission (Pentecost and onwards), New Creation (His coming down to earth, not us going up into the air)
– We don’t (just) “apply bible verses to our lives”, but live as participants of His story.
– It is His mission; not ours. Modern-day mission often comes in a form of “our mission” that is human-centric causing many conflicts
– Modern day mission focuses heavily on evangelism and teaching but less on compassion, justice, and care of creation
– Evangelism and gospel comes from the same word; the gospel is not a formula or a prayer you pray to get saved (~ Scot McKnight’s King Jesus Gospel?)
– King Jesus turns all the expectations upside down
– God’s will is not His will for me but to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
– The “Great Commission” is not just to preach and baptise people, but to manifest His lordship over all creation.
– Everything we do flows from the lordship of Christ
– The goal of creation is cosmic.
– Galatians 2:10, “remember the poor”

Jenny Gallagher, The Secular/Sacred Divide

– Every moment is spiritual; there is no divide over sacred and secular.
– Spurgeon: “To a man who lives unto God nothing is secular, everything is sacred. He sleeps on the bosom of God, and lives and moves in the divine presence.”
– There is no spiritual elitism.
– There is no word “spiritual” in Hebrew O.T. as all things were considered as spiritual
– Luther: we are called into, not out of the world.
– Warren: work becomes worship when you perform it in the awareness of His presence
– Work is a good gift to us as part of the cultural mandate in Genesis
– We work to give and share
– Invest your relationship with others in work
– The early church draws people in by the way they love one another.
– They shared everything in common, cared for the needy, and respected women.
– We seek common good for human flourishing by honouring others’ human dignity rather than through forceful legislation
– As the royal priesthood, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and a living sacrifices, we do all things in His name for His glory
– Sermons on the Mount depicts Kingdom values : the last shall be the first and the first shall be the last
– Jesus was born poor and a refugee
– The love of Christ should control us in everything we do
– Seek and see God in everything you do
– Discovery joy, share grace, and hope in the Lord in everything you do

Recommended Reading by Gallagher
– Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
– Wright, Surprised by Hope
– Cosden, The Heavenly Cost of Earthly Work
– Pearcy, Total Truth
– Warren, The Purpose Driven Life
– Yancey, Vanishing Grace
– Yancey, Christian and Politics: Uneasy Partners

John Wyatt, Double Listening

– “We cannot rank our calling and gifting”
– “God gives us deep, profound longings and desire that are rooted in Him”
– “The heart’s deepest longing and the world’s deepest need intersect”
– In the secular world, justice is seen as “fairness”; in the Bible, justice and righteousness are the same word in both Greek and Hebrew
– Make this your prayer: “Lord, make me usable in your kingdom; it doesn’t matter how small the use is. Just use me as an instrument”
– Stott didn’t just preach or teach but lived Christ
– Our generation has an intellectual laziness, but we are told to love with all our mind!
– Double listening: we need to learn to understand others genuinely. Be prepared to dig deep and avoid simplistic answers
– God speaks through non-believers (common grace)
– Read secular books and engage with the authors
– We need humility to learn from believers who have gone before us
– We have a responsibility to use our education well
– The Spirit never cease to lead the Church into new and deeper insights in the midst of challenges

Hannah Hawksbee, Living Simply

– Do we really practice “riches I need not nor men’s empty praise”
– “Christ be in my spending and my saving”
– We are His stewards over creation and resources
– It is by His grace the world is sustained
– When we are not generous, it shows our doubt of God’s generosity
– We are generous because of His generosity
– He is the source of all wealth (even if we “work hard”)
– We always want the one thing that God didn’t or has not given us
– The top 42 richest people own more than what the 3.7 billions poorest people on earth have altogether
– We throw away 1/3 of the food produced
– Learn the tension between fasting and feasting; occasional celebration and normal routine
– Have companions that hold you accountable on how you spend
– Get to know those who are needy and share with them; help the poor brothers and sisters as well as neighbour
– Set some margins in places of spending
– Learn to be content in Christ
– Learn to spend according to God’s economics
– Learn to distinguish “I want this” and “I need this”
– Learn to set your heart on the right place: Christ and His kingdom

Even the final brief messages during the communion shared by Wyatt and Rhys are so encouraging,

– If the spirit nudges us through any of the messages, we just simply need to open our hands and receive
– Always remember the centrality of Jesus Christ
– God always creates something out of nothing. God uses things that are not to put the things that are to nothing. This is often the pattern (nothing to something)
– When you partake of the bread and wine, look around consciously: this is the Lord’s family. You are joined to not just the local but the worldwide, not just the present but the past body of Christ
– And of course the lines from the songs we always sing during communion…”We share in the Bread of Life”; “We will feast in the House of Zion. We will feast and weep no more!”


Jesus Wept.

“Jesus wept” (John 11:35): the shortest verse in the Bible. (At least as far as I know, in English.)

And yet how much weight of sorrow and simplicity it carries, expressing Jesus’ humanity to its finest.


|| My Confessions.|| 2017

fullsizeoutput_1d3If you are going to read only one post I have written this year, I invite you to consider this one, since I am really opening up myself this time.

I have always held this to be true: if you think you have seen and tasted enough of Christ, just wait until he strips away your pride one layer by another. As long as you are willing, you will see how much more He actually is. Years after years, this claim only proves itself to be more solid than ever. On this year’s reflection, I deal with the issue of love; the digging of my wounds; and the matter of death.

. . . On Love . . .

The most quoted verses on love, following John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 13, is probably 1 John 4:19, We love because he first loved us.

For years, I understood it this way: Because God loves me, I should love people.

In other words, it is like a win-win deal: God, since you have done this to me, I’ll do this to others.

The words “command” and “ought to” in other related verses (John 13:14; Mark 12:31; 1 John 4:21, 1 John 4:11; ) further justify this way of thinking.

But “We love because he first loved us” is not a deal. Rather, it is a cause-and effect.

It isn’t until these past few years have I finally grasped the cause-and-effect relationship on our spiritual life: feed on Christ and the fruit (of the spirit) will naturally come. There is absolutely no way you can bear any fruit when you are detached from the root (Jesus Christ), “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

In other words, try living your spiritual life by human effort; you will run out of gas pretty soon.

Well, the same on love.

Feed on divine love, and your love for others will naturally grow.

Yet try loving people by your own effort; you will run out of love-gas right away.

In other words, the principle is simply “Loved people loved people.”

Sounds all too easy right, but this is indeed the most incredible truth I have learned this year. Ephesians 5:1 says we are beloved children. As loved children, we love others. “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else,” (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

I love how Scott Sauls says, God is not just loving, God is love. If you have experienced His love in Christ and continuously immerse yourself in His love, loving people should come naturally. You – just – can’t – help – it. You just want to keep loving people.

Of course I have made it look too simple, since love also consists of self-denial; that, takes a life-long training.

. . . On Wounds and Healing . ..

Throughout the years, I have learned to let God deal with my sin more and more willingly. “Where sin runs deep, Your grace runs deeper” has finally become a personal experience for me.

But one thing I had not let him do until recently, was to let him deal with my wounds.

Sin and wounds are not the same, yet I had been confusing the two.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I mistook sins as wounds, so I, in the name of love, covered up my wounds without actually having God deal with them.

Where there are wounds, there comes the need of healing. Healing, like Scripture says, requires reconciliation and forgiveness.

Yet like Marshall Segal writes, “Reconciliation does not require closeness. It does require forgiveness and brotherly love.” I, though, mistook reconciliation, forgiveness, and brotherly love as closeness. 

And since I believe a follower of Jesus should always strive for reconciliation and forgiveness, and because I thought these two equal to closeness, I felt incredibly guilty every time I had the thought of leaving the situation.

Looking back, I cannot actually believe how many lies I have told myself and my close ones in order to run away from my wounds. To repress my pain. To justify my ignorance.

Likewise, another common mistake is to assume forgiveness as “I’m okay”, even when things are not okay.

When this “I’m okay” becomes habitual, you are essentially preventing God from intervening and dispensing grace, meaning you are not really depending on Him completely.

It means you don’t really believe God knows the best (The old me would have never said this, because I never liked the phrase “God knows what’s best for you.” I rolled my eyes every time I heard that phrase, because it just sounds too self-centered. )

But now I have realised that, God does know and want what is best for you, because ultimately, it is for His purpose.

Like Beth Moore says, “A broken heart heals when we allow the healing to go as deep as the wound went.”  Wounds that have been accumulated for one year, two years, even seven years, or a life-time. I am so glad I have finally, after ages, allowed Jesus Christ to dig up my wounds and actually deal with them. I would have never realised my wound has been so much deeper than what I thought it was if it wasn’t His active pursuit.

I am no longer hiding, defending. and pretending. I find myself as I am found in Him. I am grateful that grace, as a person, has picked me up once again.

“My life is a witness to vulgar grace—a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief’s request—“Please, remember me”—and assures him, “You bet!” A grace that is the pleasure of the Father, fleshed out in the carpenter Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who left His Father’s side not for heaven’s sake but for our sakes, yours and mine. This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.” – Brennan Manning. All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir (pp. 193-194).

. . . On Death and Resurrection . . .

These past few months, two of my friends passed away because of cancer. They were both around my age. It is crazy how cancer drains people. People age so fast within a year, a month, and even a week.

I am much closer to the girl who passed away later, but both of them are known for their remarkably joyful spirits, often expressed through their genuine laughter and smiles, even in the midst of struggles.

Although I have known the girl for only about 10 months, I got to become much closer to her during summer when she was in the hospital.

It is easy to quote the psalmist to say joy comes in the morning. Nevertheless, the sorrow you see in her family may tell a different story.

But I do believe in the communion of saints. I really do; it is not some bizarre abstract metaphor. Therefore one thing I know I can do, is to live on with the joy and strength that she embodies when she was still here on earth. Her joy is my joy, and her strength is my strength.

I don’t care about what “religious” or “spiritual” view you hold; if you have felt the heavy weight of pain that comes with separation and death, you will h-o-p-e, in desperation, that death will be crushed to death.

Whether you agree or not, I believe humans are created with a body that feels the pain of the flesh, a heart with emotional capacities, and a spirit that connects with God.

If even in the midst of all the brokenness in this world, you still think this life is worthy to be lived and celebrated, then an expectation of a life that is everlasting shouldn’t come surprising to you.

Otherwise I really don’t know what you can be living for when there is nothing to look forward to.

When we Christians talk about eternal life, we are not just talking about the length of life – we are talking about the quality of life as well.

Eternal life is not (merely) life after death, it is God’s divine life flowing within you since the moment you receive it.

Humans currently are just on a detour.

Many people, including my dear agnostic friends, believe there is a God, but this God, in their eyes, is a god that embodies hatred and death. You know what, if this is indeed what God is like, I won’t worship this god, too. I absolutely won’t.

But I worship the God who is love and life. His name is Jesus Christ.

“Describe the God you’ve rejected. Describe the God you don’t believe in. Maybe I don’t believe that God either. ” – Tim Keller

Check out my Top 10 Books of 2017 here || Check out my Top 10 Songs of 2017 here


According to The Light Given

Have you ever occurred to you that, you want someone to come to faith so badly, and they do seem to be responding, but then you are just not sure if they are “really saved”. This thought occurs especially more often, I guess, when that person is on his or her death bed.

He doesn’t really grasp the notion of trinity though.

She didn’t really pray that sinner’s prayer though (I am not a fan of this, but it seems like a good example.)

So is he/she in or out?

Our worry does little good, though. Here is the comforting truth: God will judge according to the light each one has been given.

Just continue to be a “dispenser” who lets Christ’s light shine through you; the rest, leave it to the Lord.

P.S. One night, I just suddenly broke down during prayers. There are several people who have been so exceptionally dear to my heart that I want them to come to Christ sooner. My prayers were more like groaning, since I had uttered all I could in words already.

In despair, the Lord spoke, do you really think I love them any less than you do? Do you think I don’t want them to come to Me?

The truth is: God loves these ones more than you love them. Much more.

The God that I trust and pray to, is the God whose love is beyond our comprehension. Like, actually, beyond our comprehension. As Ephesians 3 writes, the width, length, height, and depth of Christ’s love, surpasses all our knowledge.


Top 10 Books | 2017 |

I think this year may have been the year in which I have read the most “Jesus” books (I don’t like to use the word “spiritual” because of the cultural baggage it comes with…) There is no specific ranking for the Top 10 – it is simply too hard to rank them one by one.  Hopefully my few words on each may inspire you to take a look at some of them.

  1.  The Pastor: A Memoir (Eugene Peterson)
    Eugene Peterson remains one of the biggest influences on my walk in Christ. Like Scott Sauls (another “hero” of mine) writes, “Peterson’s books on pastoral ministry in particular (they are magnificent), his emphasis on ordinary faithfulness over a shallow pursuit of extraordinary experience, his repudiation of Christian celebrity, his inspiration toward “a long obedience in the same direction…”  have mentored many. This book is filled with heart-warming stories of how God has shaped Peterson’s pastoral, tender heart that truly embodies grace as a Person.
  2. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (N.T. Wright)
    Wright’s writing sometimes seems to be unorganised (for me), but this book articulates well against the common misunderstanding of Christian faith of being “going to heaven when you die” whereas the reality is “heaven coming down to and on earth”. We Christians have not lived as resurrected people.
  3. Waiting On God (Andrew Murray)
    A wonderful daily devotional by Murray on an active and hope-filled waiting on God.
  4. Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions about Christianity (Greg Boyd)
    I am definitely not an “open-theist”, but it does not at all affect how much I appreciate this book. I have truly enjoyed this book and am thankful for its publishing. Boyd’s love and patience for his father is an inspiring pattern to all of us, not to mention he so eloquently articulates many things that I have tried to expressed in words, yet find it difficult. I think every believer should read this.
  5. All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir (Brennan Manning)
    Many modern-day Pharisees enjoy condescending Manning in either an out-there or a subtle way, but Manning’s life, as recorded in this memoir, exactly manifests “where sins run deep, Your grace runs deeper” (Romans 5:20).
  6. Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Eugene Peterson)
    See my book review here
  7. God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Story-Line of the Bible (Vaughan Roberts)
    Based on Graeme Goldsworthy’s work, Roberts summarises how the kingdom of God is the central theme of the Bible. I came across this book during my time in The Hookses with the brother and sisters in my local church.
  8. A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, & Mission Around the Table (Tim Chester)
    A refreshing read on sharing meals with non-believers by Tim Chester, one of my favourite authors of today (not that I have read many of his books).
  9. You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions (Tim Chester)
    See my book review here
  10. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness (Tim Keller)
    A great little book by Keller, even the non-habitual readers should read it! What we need most today are indeed messages like this: not I but Christ.

“Honourable Mentions”

  1. Heaven Misplaced (Douglas Wilson)
  2. A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (Miroslav Volf)
  3. Art & the Bible (Francis Schaeffer)
  4. Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good (N.T. Wright)
    See my book review here
  5. Love That Lasts: How We Discovered God’s Better Way for Love, Dating, Marriage, and Sex (Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke)
    See my book review here