tea

I’m capping this Sunday with a cup of hot milk tea. Never mind that it isn’t the real thing (it’s powdered Lipton tea). Instead of the usual coffee, I decided to have something different tonight—to celebrate the day’s great feat.

And what great feat, you ask?

Well, I heroically tackled domestic chores for the better part of the day. That means doing the laundry (major, major!), vacuum-cleaning (ha-ha-hatsiiing!), floor-waxing (I used the no-buffing-needed variety, especially formulated for lazy singles), and lotsa sweating (no swearing, but almost).

Total estimated man hours spent: 5.

It’s no biggie for most people, but it’s remarkable, even miraculous, for someone as domestically inept as moi. My girlfriend smiled when I proudly reported that I had finally dealt with my condo chores after procrastinating for eternity plus a day and a half. But I dared not take her to my place to inspect the outcome of my day’s striving. I’m sure the lady will find my achievement wanting. Any lady would.

But, hey, this man’s happy enough for tea. Sip, sip.

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trusting strength

“…they [the Babylonians] are deeply guilty,
for their own strength is their god.”
(Habakkuk 1:11)

“The Sovereign LORD is my strength!
He will make me as surefooted as a deer
and bring me safely over the mountains.”
(Habakkuk 3:19)

My strength is god,” or “GOD is my strength”?

The Babylonians were God’s appointed people to execute His judgement over idolatrous Israel and the other nations. This proud people with military might unrivaled in those days would conquer many nations swiftly, including God’s beloved Israel. Pagan Babylon would rule over God’s chosen nation — what an affront to proud Israel! But this was God’s way of disciplining His beloved.

The book of Habakkuk records the prophet’s complaint before God, citing the grave sins of the Babylonians and appealing to God’s justice and love for His own people. God responds by assuring Habakkuk that Babylon will not go unpunished because she is “deeply guilty” for deifying her own strength. In contrast, at the end of his book, Habakkuk declares that the Sovereign LORD is his strength.

God, in His sovereignty, can and does choose to use the wicked things of this world to reveal His glory. But ultimately, He will judge fairly; evil will receive its due punishment. Those who trust their own strength may seem to prosper for a season, but their reign is short and they will, in God’s time, be put to shame. But those whose trust is in the LORD and His strength will be lifted by Him, even as they scale the mountains of their present sufferings.

_______

Notes from my Bible reading in Februrary 2011.

blogger whines

I am convinced more than ever that Facebook and Twitter have both conspired to fan the nasty flames of my blogging indolence. (And, yes, they’re also to blame for my heightened self-centeredness and paranoia.)

I woke up one dark morning and realized I could not write more than 140 characters at a time. Horrors!

Worse, any attempt at “long-distance” writing is frequently interrupted by the urge—nay, need—to check friends’ post so I can “like”, comment, retweet, or get lost following links to pictures, videos, articles, or what-not.

Don’t forget to punctuate with an apt emoticon: 🙂 :/ 😛 😀 ❤ or “hehe”, “haha”, or “huhu.” I don’t use “LOL”.

I have never been a consistent blogger to begin with, but since my love affair with social media’s mini-posts, the inconsistency has intensified to an alarming level.

Believe me, I have not taken the matter sitting down. Well, maybe I have, but only literally: I’ve sat in front of my computer many times in the past month attempting to break the blogging dry spell.

I struggled, despaired, and self-pitied (more than usual), only to churn out half-a-dozen drafts, each never maturing to more than a few sentences.

I’ve read articles—yes, picked up from friends’ FB and Twitter links—that bemoan or celebrate the way social networking media is dramatically changing the way humans (at least the chunk of humanity that has a modem) are thinking, learning, and relating. And writing!

Oh I feel the change.

See, this blog post even looks like a patchwork of Facebook status messages and tweets.

Woe is @aleks_tan.

Then again, maybe that’s the way to win the battle to regain blogging and “long-distance” writing momentum.

Think of each sentence or two as an independent mini-post.

Assemble and then hope the end product resembles something readable, understandable, even “like”-able.

#bloggerwhines

suffering and hope

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:20)

Those who teach a Christianity that downplays suffering to near-absence in the believer’s life is not proclaiming truth. Paul teaches that “creation groans,” that believers “groan inwardly” with it, and that this turmoil is intended to draw many to God’s kingdom.

The world is restless, oppressed by sin and its deathly consequences. No matter how the ungodly deny it, a sense of wrongness pervades the earth. Something is amiss. And God’s children sense and suffer this along with the world. But our suffering, thankfully, is not without hope. In fact, it is our hope in Christ which we are called to be witnesses of to a groaning world.

Contrary to many who preach a bed-of-roses Christianity, the presence of suffering in your life is not exclusively a result of your disobedience or demonic oppression. Suffering in a believer’s life is a given. More often than not, it is a God-ordained necessity, even a gift—to refine a believer’s faith, to strengthen his hope, to rid his heart of lesser loves. All this, not for the believer’s sake, but for God’s glory.  Instead of asking, “Why am I suffering?” maybe we should ask, “How am I suffering?” and “To what end am I suffering?”

Suffering ought not to bring us to despair, but to hope—on our knees. When in suffering we pray, God’s Spirit ministers to us. When suffering’s intensity renders praying with words impossible or inadequate, God’s Spirit translates our moans and groans so that they rise to the Father as crystal-clear prayers that touch His heart.

Thank you, Father, for my suffering. May I honor You in my suffering.

_______
This devotional note was written for Scripture Union’s 2011 Quiet Time Guide,
Light to My Path Each Day. Published in the Philippines by OMF Literature, Inc.

john newton’s poem

Prayer Answered by Crosses
by John Newton

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace,
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face.

‘Twas he who taught me thus to pray;
And he, I trust, has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that, in some favoured hour,
At once he’d answer my request,
And by his love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea, more, with his own hand he seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe,
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this? I trembling cried;
Wilt thou pursue this worm to death?
This is the way, the Lord replied
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I now employ
From self and pride to set thee free,
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in me.

This poem, penned by the famous writer of “Amazing Grace,” visited me this Friday morning, and it brought with it tears. Such unexpected but welcome visitors.