“If heaven were by merit, it would never be heaven to me, for if I were in it I should say, ‘I am sure I am here by mistake; I am sure this is not my place; I have no claim to it.’ But if it be of grace and not of works, then we may walk into heaven with boldness.”

Charles Spurgeon

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always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies

Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.

If life be long, I will be glad
That I may long obey;
If short no laborer is sad
To end his toilsome day.

Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than He went through before;
He that into God’s kingdom comes
Must enter by this door.

Come, Lord, when grace has made me meet
Thy blessed face to see;
For if Thy work on earth be sweet.
What will Thy glory be?

Road to 61

The Big Idea: how do I (1) lose weight (2) but keep muscle mass and strength (3) and have sufficient energy to exercise in a caloric deficit?

(1) losing weight – creating a deficit

The prime driver of weight loss is a caloric deficit (calories in less than calories out).

This can be done by a combination of diet (reducing calories in) + exercise (increasing calories out).

But two good thoughts to keep in mind are that:

(A) you should always prioritize diet. The caloric deficit should handle fat burning (instead of ramping up exercise to crazy levels) especially since you are operating on less fuel ( food) than before, which will slow down recovery. Pushing too hard on intense exercise can raise injury risk.

(B) at the same time, it is better to eat more and move more than to starve yourself. if you are in an extreme deficit for too long a period of time you are likely to have too little energy to function and to be unhappy (since carb consumption contributes to serotonin production). opt for low intensity steady state exercise, like walking more and moving about more, or introducing little activities into your routine.

(2) keeping muscle mass

This matters because you need muscle to perform, to have a higher basal metabolic rate, and to avoid looking soft and drained after the cut.

From the diet POV:
– don’t lose weight too fast. a good pace to start with is to lose 1-2% of your bodyweight per month at the start of the diet, then to taper off to 0.5-1% near the end. expect to lose it over 8 – 16 weeks.
– have more protein! protein has a thermic effect (burns more calories to digest) and gives you greater satiety and preservation of lean mass. this is good when gaining weight, but absolutely crucial in a cut because if you lose muscle you lower your basal metabolic rate and also lose strength.
– drink green tea to help stave off cravings (tea bag, 5 minutes in hot water)
– chew more!! this slows down consumption and helps digestion 🙂
– portion out your meals in smaller bowls to prevent binge eating
– keep a healthy environment: put high sugar snacks away from you!

From an exercise POV:
– keep your intensity for as long as possible (how heavy you lift) but lower volume (number of sets and reps) so your body can recover. a good starting formula is to do 2/3 of the volume you used for growth. this helps to preserve muscle mass and bone density.

(3) energy!!

This one is the most challenging – listen to your body when it is fatigued (especially if there is sharp pain in the muscles or an aching in the joints), and try to consume carbohydrates before the workout so you are adequately fuelled.

31 December!!

Zippity zoom bibabbadoom and just like that 2018 is one and done.

I posted a video on FB of a brief interview with my brother about the work that he is doing, and I really want to share his reply to my post:

“… our work [offering free and practical aid to kids who struggle at school] will not fix any ultimate problems. we can move them out of certain vicious cycles (a commendable thing), but it is by no means a guarantee that the next cycle they transition into will be ultimately better. accepting this can take some stress off the project. acknowledging this can guard us against savior-complexes. 

however, this can also cast doubt on the meaning and motivations of the project. why strive for something with no guarantee of ultimate good? i think everyone who wishes to meaningfully engage in this sort of work will have to find an answer to the aforementioned question. personally, i am at peace. for the gospel that my life is bound in is more than sufficient to drive and direct my efforts. to this end i strive – not that i’m an exceptionally good person, but that i have known what true goodness is, and it was revealed to me in a Person. and it is opportunities to know this person Jesus that i ultimately seek to facilitate.

What a hard hitting reply to end off my year. Why work? Why donate? Why do good? Are people with money and opportunity really better off than those in poverty and with scarce chance? Is being alive really better than death?

I attended GBC this morning to witness a very joyous baptism that is dear to my heart. In going there to give (my support and love), I found myself receiving once more, from the pulpit, the dear reminder that much of pain is a matter of the heart and the mind. The things that hurt us the most are often not physical but immaterial – how we feel, and how our minds flail in the face of suffering. How our human hearts ache and break with heaviness. It is no wonder then that God does not always rush to deliver us from our circumstances. He knows where the root of the pain lies.

This weekend has been full of labor, much of which I do joyfully and cheerfully. But I am reminded that all the earthly good that I can give lingers no longer than the freshest of bouquets, which in an instant, shrivels and withers.

So I say with my brother, and with the Bereans in John’s gospel – we would see Jesus. We would see Jesus, for our need for Him is great, and we would open our lives like a book and pour them out like water on parched ground so that others might draw near and see Jesus. Oh, let this be my 2019.

All that I do have I count as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I gladly suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death. So be it unto me God, by Your grace, for Your glory.

Don Carson: How to Destroy Evangelism with Political Animosity

Tony Reinke

dac

From Don Carson’s eighteenth lecture on Revelation (June 17, 2005):

There is a great deal of anger on the American right at the moment. Let me just say a little bit about it, because it is troubling. It’s hard to know what to do. If you want to make a lot of money with a Christian book in this country, write a book that says what’s wrong with America listing all the bad things that you possibly can on the left. Demonize the left. It’ll sell like hotcakes on the right.

Do you want to raise money for Focus on the Family, or a whole lot of other institutions that are really good institutions in many ways? If they really want to raise a lot of money in a hurry, let them tell you the worst horror stories of the month. The money flows in. The reason it…

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Part III: Jesus and the Dad with no Dignity

I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:18-20 ESV

This is the 高潮 (climax, high point) of the story of the Prodigal Son. It is the bit in the movie where the string quartet will play a moving melody as the father runs along the dirt path, slippers flip-flapping, to embrace his son. And as we read this, almost all of us, religious or not, can see some of ourselves in the son, the wayward son, the black sheep of the family who has finally come home.

But the story doesn’t begin this way. It begins in Luke chapter 15, verse 11, with a man. Jesus was talking to the Pharisees (a group of religious leaders and scholars) because they were getting all grumbly about Jesus spending so much time with sinners. WHY, they asked Jesus, why bother wasting time on useless, immoral people?? 

And Jesus told them a story about a man.

Part I

There was a man who had two sons.”

Not a bad deal, because sons were more valued than daughters then, and could continue the family line and be the man’s heirs.

But the younger son said to his dad: 

dad, give me the share of property that is my due”.

In those times, as it is now, children would only get their inheritance upon the passing of their parents. And in Jewish culture, this request would have been a grave insult tantamount to a slap to the face – the younger son might as well have said to his dad:

dad, how i wish you were dead, because i want your money now

But his dad relented, and so the younger son took his share of the property, and went far off, and spent all the riches that his dad had given to him.

Part II

And in that far country, a severe famine arose, and the runaway son ended up feeding pigs to make a living. He grew so hungry that he longed to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate.

And in his misery the son resolved in his heart to just return home, and beg his father for mercy. He would say to his dad:

Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.

Part III

Here we are, right at the bit where the story swells. We know how it ends. But I want to point out two things.

In the first half of verse 20, which is the verse quoted above, the son arose and “came to his father”. But in the same verse and in that same breath, we are told that his father, the distinguished landowner, the father whose son wished him dead to his face, saw him ‘while he was still a long way off’. Imagine that. A father who was waiting and waiting and looking and searching and yearning, not for vengeance or for some comeuppance, but simply for his son who had scorned him to return home.

Imagine the faces of the Pharisees as Jesus told them this story. What a scandalous story – the respectable head of the household who had been disrespected saw the son that had treated him so poorly, and ran to his son who had just come from a pig sty, and embraced him and kissed him. Jesus’ message must have rung so loudly in their ears – do you really want to know how I feel about sinners, those who bring nothing to commend themselves with? I am looking for them. I am searching high and low and I am waiting for them. I am waiting for every last one of them who will come to come home, and I will run to them while they are far off, and I will embrace them and bring them in.

Part IV

But there is one more son in the story, and one more group that is still in need of a hug.

Right at the end of the story we meet the obedient older son who saw the celebrations, and was “angry and refused to go in“. He was angry because all his life he had labored (unlike his prodigal brother) and obeyed (instead of running away) and been good and proper and now they were throwing a feast for his brother? The one who had messed everything up and lived in a pig sty only to return home empty handed?

And his father comes out of the house, one more time. And he entreats him – he asks him earnestly – to set aside his bitterness, and judgment, and to come in, come and join the celebrations. The father’s arms are open even to the self-righteous who are trapped by their own morality and virtue.

——–

Christmas, in eight words, is this:

though rich, for your sake He became poor

Christmas is about giving. But it is not about us giving from our abundance in a grand gesture, or from our virtue. Christmas is about God giving us Jesus. He’s the prodigal father in the story, the dad who is okay with being undignified and with our mess and with giving grace to those who cannot hope to deserve it.

Jesus is the dad who stands at the door and says:

“I am looking for them. I am searching high and low and I am waiting for them. I am waiting for every last one of them who will come to come home, and I will run to them while they are far off, and I will embrace them and bring them in.”

That’s Jesus’ work on the cross. That’s the story of Christmas – that in your mess and hopelessness, He says to you with love – it is finished. Come, and have rest.

Have a lovely Christmas 🙂

Part II: The Friends of the King

Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.””

 

– Luke 15:1-2

 

The life of Jesus is really quite a funny thing.

 

In the 4th chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus asks a woman for water to drink. Jesus, the Son of God, the creator of water, the one who has the power to turn water into wine, asks for a drink. And the story is peculiar not just because of his request, but also because the woman was a Samaritan woman – a member of a people group in Samaria who had long feuded with the Jewish people. Jesus and the woman exchange words, and by the end of the conversation, the woman leaves her water jar by the well, runs into town, and tells her fellow Samaritans to come and meet Jesus the Jew. By his words, Jesus spoke across ethnic and gendered and religious lines. And “many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony“.

 

Then you have a peculiar scene in the gospel of Luke, where Jesus spots a tiny Jewish man perched atop a tree. The man is no normal Jew – he is a tax collector, i.e. one of their own who now works for the Roman oppressors. He collects money from his own people, gives it to their overlords, and pockets a huge chunk so he can live in comfort. This man’s name was Zaccheus, and if being a tax collector wasn’t bad enough, he was the chief tax collector, the head honcho, and Luke rightly tells us in verse 2 that behold, this Zaccheus man was rich. Jesus passes by the tree, glances up, and says: hurry down, for I must stay at your house today. Here lay Zaccheus, a man who was struggling physically (he was rather short and had to climb a tree), socially (he was the chief of traitors) and morally (he didn’t just tax his fellow Jews to pay the Romans, but to put a little extra in his pocket). He sounded like a man who had all the money he could want, but was sick of it. How he must have longed for someone (anyone!!) to look past his past and reach out to him. And when Zaccheus and his bundle of insecurities and regrets met Jesus, the Bible tells us that Jesus welcomed Zaccheus, and Zaccheus was joyful.

 

And that joy was not a flash-in-the-pan, self-absorbed happiness, because this is what verse 8 recounts:

 

Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

 

In that short verse, we hear a life story poured out. This man was not just an enemy of his people because of his job, but because he was awful. He was not just a tax collector, but a dishonest defrauder who cheated his fellow Jews of their money. No wonder they grumbled when Jesus extended grace to Zaccheus. But where the rich young ruler in Mark 10 turned away from Jesus because he could not part with his comforts, Zaccheus – a man who turned traitor to get rich – gave away all his wealth. The one thing that had defined him and given him power, he could now let go of.
 
Why wasn’t Jesus concerned when the crowds grumbled, or when He sat with the Samaritan lady at the well? You and I would be. We’re really conscious of the company that we keep. Sometimes, it’s people that we are comfortable with, those that are “like us”. Other times, it’s people that are ‘important’, people that we can network with, or that we want to impress. And if we love this feeling enough – of being noticed, being seen with the right crowd, of being admired, we fall in love with managing how we appear to others.

 

Who were Jesus’ homies in His brief time on earth? He did spend time with the Pharisees, and with the crowds, but the stories that capture our imagination most are those where He is with the hurting, and the abandoned or excluded. Isaiah 42 describes these people as the ‘bruised reeds’ and the ‘faintly burning wicks’, those who are almost done for, and on the edge of being snuffed out, and why do these tales stick so strongly in our minds? My answer is that when we read these stories, we know down inside that that’s us, however O-K and put together we might seem.

 

The good news is that that’s precisely why Jesus came. John 1:12 says: to all who received Him and believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.

 

The Message puts it like this:

 

But whoever did want Him,
who believed He was who He claimed and would do what He said,
He made to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.
 
If that’s you today, know that Jesus is the King who came for you in your mess. If you are a bruised reed He will not break you, and if you are faintly burning wick He will not snuff you out. Hear the beautiful words of Luke 15:1 – “NOW, the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Him to listen to Him.” What a wonderful picture. That’s the sort of king he is, one that you can approach and draw near to especially when you feel unworthy.

 

“We are at the feet of the God who washed our feet.” You can come to Him.

And for my brothers and sisters who read this and love Jesus and struggle to love your friends – hear these words and be encouraged!

Inscribed on the very heart of God’s grace is the rule that we can be its recipients ONLY IF we do not resist being made into its agents; what happens to us must be done by us. Having been embraced by God, we must make space for others in ourselves and invite them in – even our enemies.”

God’s mercy to us does not stop with us. It comes to us, yes, but it must come through us to those around us. It does not make loving others a piece of cake. We ourselves have often made it very difficult for others to love us. But whatever love demands, it also makes possible. If you will but ask, God will certainly in His mercy fix your hard heart and help it love those who have wounded it. The arms of the crucified are open to all – even those who do not yet know that they need it (-:

Jesus’ Life – The Life of a King

Today’s short passage is pretty funny for me, because a ‘scribe’ in those days is pretty much what we’d call a ‘lawyer’ today – someone who was literate, of some learning, and was rather disliked (though tolerated) by many. So here’s a short story of when a scribe said hello to Jesus.

Part I: The Residence of the King



And a certain scribe came, and said to him, Master (or Teacher), I will follow you wherever you go. But Jesus replied: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head.”

– Matthew 8:19-20

What does a king live like? Singapore doesn’t have a king, but a close analogue might be our PM, or our President – important individuals who wield power and command respect, who have trained bodyguards shadowing their steps, and convoys to escort them when they travel. A nice residence is usually part of the package too – Trump has the White House, and the British have Downing Street, and the expectation of a dignified and impressive residence is why many were surprised when Halimah Yacob, our new President, initially opted to stay put in her humble flat.

What did Jesus live like? Well we don’t want to go overboard here and imagine that Jesus was some pseudo monk-beggar hybrid just because he once slept in the back of a fishing boat (Mark 4:38), but Scripture does leave open the possibility that Jesus was sort of like an Airbnb traveller, a key difference being that his stay was probably dependent on the kindness of the host rather than any upfront deposit that Jesus made. John 8:1 notes that when the crowds that Jesus spoke to went home for the day, Jesus went instead to the Mount of Olives (which also houses the Gethsemane garden). He could have spent the night at the M hotel (home of Mary and Martha), or in prayer at the garden, but either way Jesus’ own words ring clear:

The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head.”

I wonder how the scribe felt when he heard that. It’s certainly not an easy thing to muster up your courage, march up to someone and say: I WILL FOLLOW YOU WHEREVER YOU GO. And the scribe wasn’t the only man to try making a bold declaration – there was a rich young ruler who ran up to Jesus, and even knelt before Him, but who ended up walking away grieving, because he “was one who owned much property“. 

I wonder what that looks like for us in BTO-crazed Singapore. And I was stuck at this sentence for the longest time, because much of the conversation rings true – Singapore is land-scarce, and property prices are rising, and you do want to get furniture that lasts and invest in real estate that is secure and have walls that match the floors and plan for spare rooms because what if you have children then later you need to move house then how??? I don’t have a neat answer to all that.

But I know that this story really isn’t about homelessness, or a critique on prosperity – the danger is not the money or comfort themselves, but what they do to our heart. Having money often makes you love money, and work at having more money, and more security, and more comfort. There is almost a quasi ‘god-like’ quality to wealth (and home ownership) because it can give us that sense of control and recognition and accomplishment that our hands are always clutching at. 

As I read the story of the rich young ruler, the thought that gripped me was this: when Jesus issues the call to “go and sell all you possess and give to the poor“, I don’t want to love my house and my comfort and my warm blanket so much that I become saddened, and turn away from the call in grief. I don’t want to see the cost of it – sell what I have, give give give – and miss the gentle voice at the end that says “and come, follow Me.

Please don’t receive this as a knock on those who have lovely homes. There is a joy and beauty to be found in decoration and in home ownership. This is not about feeling self-righteous if you only shop once a year (on Black Friday or 12/12) – Mark’s gospel itself tells us that when Jesus looked upon the young ruler, when he saw that young rich man who was in turmoil, He did not despise his struggle, or mock his chains, but He looked on the rich young ruler with love

And as gid once said in devos, that’s because Jesus was the rich, young ruler, the exceedingly wealthy royal Son of God, who gave up His riches so that poor sinners who saw their need could cry out to Him, and be healed, and be brought back to God. Jesus knew the young ruler’s struggle and loved him, and Jesus knows our struggles today and loves us. We can’t just let go of all the things that bind us and weigh us down. It’s too scary, and too difficult, and I find myself not up to the task most days. But I can look at Jesus, and see how He lived and what He did, and receive His love till that melts the hard parts of my heart.

Come home! Come home!

Ye who are weary, come home!

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,

Calling, O sinner, come home!

Amen.