Season of Darkness

Before my dear friend passed away last year from cancer, she said, “If I don’t memorize the Scripture now, I am scared that one day when I go blind, I will have nothing to hold fast to.”

She continued on sharing how, before cancer began torturing her (she had five failed surgeries before her death), the Scripture often appeared as dry letters, yet during her time of suffering, they became alive to her. “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Those who follow Jesus will not always experience triumphs in life. There are always  seasons of joy and seasons of sorrow. That’s life. That’s how we enter into deeper union with Him.

In our times of darkness — when we are confused about our ways, when we feel distant from God — the word of God enters in as the life-giving Spirit.

In times of darkness, remember His goodness.
In times of darkness, don’t isolate yourself from saints.
In times of darkness, preach the word of God to yourself.
In our times of darkness, hold fast to what the word of God — or actually, Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh— says you are.

God Invented Matter and Friendship: Wisdom From Lewis and Hill

“And let me make it quite clear that when Christians say the Christ-life is in them, they do not mean simply something mental or moral. When they speak of being ‘in Christ’ or of Christ being ‘in them’, this is not simply a way of saying that they are thinking about Christ or copying Him. They mean that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts-—that we are His fingers and muscles, the cells of His body. And perhaps that explains one or two things. It explains why this new life is spread not only by purely mental acts like belief, but by bodily acts like baptism and Holy Communion. It is not merely the spreading of an idea; it is more like evolution—a biological or superbiological fact. There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely’ spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.” – C.S. Lewis

“God never meant us to be purely spiritual creatures. That is why He uses material things like conversations, shared meals and trips, hugs, small kindnesses, and gifts between friends to enrich the new life He’s given us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented human relationships. He likes friendship. He invented it.” – Wesley Hill

With All The Saints.

One of my favourite verses are Ephesians 3:14-21. As you have probably noticed, my blog name is inspired by verse 20!

As I was revisiting the passage today for writing, a phrase stood out to me,

” may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God…”

with all the saints.

with all the saints.

with all the saints.

Sin as “Incurvatus in se”

Luther, under the influence of Augustine’s teaching, suggested sin as “Incurvarus in se”. While Augustine suggested that our primary sin can be understood as pride and a misplaced love, that is, self-love, Luther expanded on these ideas that sin is actually “humanity curved inward on itself”. In sin, humans live inwardly as solitary beings instead of communal beings. What a great insight.

Humanity was made in the image of triune God.  We outflow love to others as those receive love from God. It is an outward living rather than an inward living.

1 John 4:12 Through the Eyes of Victor Hugo

In the finale of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo writes, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Does this not ring true to 1 John 4:12, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”? 

And is it not amazing that Jesus says that if we see Him, we see the Father.

One way to highlight the essence of us being God’s image-bearers, then, is to know we image forth God by receiving, embodying, and outflowing Love, who is God Himself.

On Being Human by C.S. Lewis

I recently came across this fascinating poem by C.S. Lewis that I had never heard of. Have a listen or a read:

On Being Human
by C. S. Lewis

Angelic minds, they say, by simple intelligence
Behold the Forms of nature. They discern
Unerringly the Archtypes, all the verities
Which mortals lack or indirectly learn.
Transparent in primordial truth, unvarying,
Pure Earthness and right Stonehood from their clear,
High eminence are seen; unveiled, the seminal
Huge Principles appear.

The Tree-ness of the tree they know-the meaning of
Arboreal life, how from earth’s salty lap
The solar beam uplifts it; all the holiness
Enacted by leaves’ fall and rising sap;

But never an angel knows the knife-edged severance
Of sun from shadow where the trees begin,
The blessed cool at every pore caressing us
An angel has no skin.

They see the Form of Air; but mortals breathing it
Drink the whole summer down into the breast.
The lavish pinks, the field new-mown, the ravishing
Sea-smells, the wood-fire smoke that whispers Rest.
The tremor on the rippled pool of memory
That from each smell in widening circles goes,
The pleasure and the pang –can angels measure it?
An angel has no nose.

The nourishing of life, and how it flourishes
On death, and why, they utterly know; but not
The hill-born, earthy spring, the dark cold bilberries.
The ripe peach from the southern wall still hot
Full-bellied tankards foamy-topped, the delicate
Half-lyric lamb, a new loaf’s billowy curves,
Nor porridge, nor the tingling taste of oranges.
An angel has no nerves.

Far richer they! I know the senses’ witchery
Guards us like air, from heavens too big to see;
Imminent death to man that barb’d sublimity
And dazzling edge of beauty unsheathed would be.
Yet here, within this tiny, charmed interior,
This parlour of the brain, their Maker shares
With living men some secrets in a privacy
Forever ours, not theirs.

Assigning Motives

Assuming the worst about others’ motives hurts.

Of course I am speaking as one who has done it and has been hurt by it as well, so I am not saying I am any better.

Two quotes I really like that often speak to cases like these:

“Don’t judge a man by where he is, because you don’t know how far he has come” – C.S. Lewis

There is way too much “I thank God I’m not like that Pharisee” in our online discourse. Not enough “I’m the chief of sinners.” – Daniel Darling

Let us reconsider our thoughts and words if they don’t build each another up.

The Fullness of God

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 is something that is incredibly difficult to be described precisely in our own language. I do not what the best definition of it is, but I do want to share how I think we can 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.

Obviously, Paul wrote these words after having experienced Christ’s love. His prayer here is not just for us tmemorizese about the width, length, height, and depth of God ‘s love, but to actually comprehend it. The reason? So that we can be filled with the fullness of God!

To be filled with the fullness of God requires us to first comprehend the dimensions of love with all the saints. Merely knowing the Scripture in your head, therefore, doesn’t equal to experiencing His fullness in the spirit.

I think this is why sometimes we can find ourselves or others who, although seem to have hit every doctrine right, are still demonstrating very little joy in singing songs of praise, showing little compassion to others’ vulnerable sharing, or showing little interest in pursuing love on top of knowledge. As we desire to be filled with the fullness of God, let us also increase in our hunger of just not knowing the Scripture but also comprehending, grasping, and experiencing His love that surpasses knowledge.

The Cosmic Lordship of Christ

Our fellowship group has finally finished our Colossians study today. This is our second time studying this epistle, and these words remain as rich as ever.

I was particularly amazed by these truths communicated by Paul here, that

  • We have a hope laid up in heaven (1:5)
  • The Christ in us individually and corporately is the hope of glory (1:27)
  • We are to pray unceasingly first and foremost for God’s kingdom (1:6), for the church and one another, for open doors and opportunities (4:2-3)
  • 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. It does not mean that we live as passive exiles but active participants of His mission.
  • Not only should we ask for wisdom to discern empty philosophies or teaching, we are also to be aware of carving self-made religion or asceticism ourselves. This reminds of Eugene Peterson’s quotes from Eat This Book“Pretentious language is just a violation of sacred text. We use them to keep others out of our neighbourhood.”
  • Similar to Galatians 3, 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.
  • 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! How often do we remember our brothers and sisters, including those whom we do not know but are suffering in others part of the world?

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: 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. 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-labours testifies about this.