Fruit

things above

Bible Talk: Persevering In Christ October 24, 2009

Greetings

Hello! HSC is under way! In one week I will be flying off to Hong Kong for a holiday while I giggle at all of the poor suckers like the rest of the state excluding myself who still have to study for the week ahead. And giggle even harder at the ones who have to study for the week after THAT.

But anyway, here is something to fill the gap in between my blogs because I am not exactly blogging any more until after HSC finishes. So my blog on ISCF at Ruse will be coming up after this one.

Yes, I said I would put up the talk I wrote in year 10 and also my talk from term 2 ISCF here so this is the year 10 talk (not done at school), with as little editing as possible. It’s not a very LONG LONG talk, so hopefully you can read it without dying in the middle. During stressful times (e.g. HSC), I think it is very easy to push God aside and let your studies take first priority. But I think that striving towards knowing Christ is something that should be constant. It shouldn’t be pushed aside for anything. If we stop doing this for exams, what is taking priority in your life? And what is more important than God? I’ve been challenged myself because a lot of the time I put other things in my life before God but I know this isn’t right. If I have this hope of salvation, then what am I doing in putting things of the world before God?

If you’re reading this and you’re in year 12, I hope you’re doing well and that exams aren’t weighing you down. Don’t stress too much! Just do your best, leave the rest to God and it will all be over soon! Then PARTYTIME! See you all on the other side of HSC!

And if you’re not in year 12, I hope you’re doing horribly. Kidding, of course. I also hope that you’re doing well and not stressing too much over whatever you might have going on in your life.

So yes. Until after HSC,

Peace, love and lol.

Simon

Persevering in Christ

Passage: Philippians 3:12-4:1

Introduction

How do we become more like Christ? Imagine you’re running a 100km  marathon. You’ve still got half of it left to go and you’ve already fallen over so many times on the run because you’re just not that fit (like Andrew Tsang. Sorry, just had to throw that bit in when I re-read this). You remember all the times you fell down and how painful it was and just thinking about it makes you want to pull out of the marathon. The rest of the 50 kilometres you have left… I mean, it’s spastic to even think about running it when you remember how tired you are… and how much it hurt before when you fell over! But should you really be spending all that time thinking about what happened before instead of focusing on the finish line? Let’s look at Philippians and see what it says about what we should do in trying to achieve Christ-likeness.

Passage Breakdown

In 3:12-13, Paul writes “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold on me. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” He starts off by saying that he isn’t perfect. Paul is writing this letter in prison, so even though he’s suffering in prison for Christ he’s not perfect! But something he does is forgetting what is behind and strains towards what is ahead. If you’re having school exams and you just flunked your maths exam, you don’t go home and worry about maths and start studying for it again, do you? NO! That test is already over, so you start studying for your next exam because there is NO point worrying about the test that is already over. In a similar way, we shouldn’t keep worrying and feeling GUILTY about how we’ve sinned against God, because he forgives us for whatever we’ve done. So instead, we are to strain on towards what is ahead. Verse 14 says “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” This prize that Paul is pressing on towards is knowing and GAINING Christ completely. In chapter 3:8-10 in the passage before this, Paul says that everything is a loss compared with the greatness of knowing Christ. He says he wants to know Christ above ALL other things!

In verses 15-16, Paul continues, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” He is writing this to the Christians at Philippi, and is telling them that they too, are not perfect. And if they THINK they are, God will correct them. We need to admit that we aren’t perfect. We are to live up to what we have already attained. This means that if we claim to be perfect, we are to show that we are perfect through our lives. If we AREN’T perfect (we’re not), we need to persevere to become more Christlike.

In verses 17-19, Paul writes “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Paul wants us to follow his example of persevering towards gaining Christ. He says not to follow those who are enemies of the cross of Christ. Following the cross of Christ is suffering and being a servant to others.. while enemies of the cross indulge in the things of the world. But verse 20 tells us that our citizenship is in heaven.. this means that we should have our mind on heaven, instead of following the ways of the world. Say you wanna lose a whole lot of weight. If your focus is on losing weight, you wouldn’t indulge and stuff yourself with KFC every day, would you? Like this, since we belong in heaven, we shouldn’t “stuff” ourselves with earthly things, and instead we are to focus on heaven.

In verses 20-21, Paul says that we as Christians belong in heaven.. and we wait for Jesus to return from there to raise us up with him and transform our bodies to be glorious like his.

Then in 4:1, Paul finishes by saying that we are to stand firm in the Lord. This means we are to forget what is behind, so we can focus and persevere towards the goal of knowing and gaining Christ completely.

Application

So how do we press on towards gaining Christ?

  • We first need to realise we are not perfect. Then we need to forget what is behind us (all the guilt from sins of the past) by asking God for his forgiveness.
  • We need to keep meeting up with each other… ENCOURAGE one another and spurring each other on. It’s so much easier to run the race with others helping you along through it.
  • In striving towards Christ-likeness reading the Bible is very important, as it is there for us to understand Christ.
  • PRAYER: nothing is possible without God. How can we press on towards knowing Christ if we don’t ask God Himself to help us?

So to run the race, we need to forget what is behind us, and persevere towards the prize: the greatest thing of all, knowing and gaining Christ Jesus our Lord.

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ISCF Talk Holy Spirit September 18, 2009

Hello

OKAY. I gave a talk at ISCF on the Holy Spirit so this post is my talk, with as little editing as possible. It might have random ellipses and capitalisations because it was a talk.

So yes, if you weren’t at ISCF and would like to read it, please feel free to do so.

Next “blog” coming up will be about school and finishing up there, in case you’re interested. It will probably be really really long.

I’ll post up my term 2 ISCF talk some day as well and maybe even the talk I wrote in year 10 for Sunday School some other time.

ISCF Talk: Term 3 Week 8 – John 16:4-15

THE HOLY SPIRIT

INTRO

Have you ever thought that it would be so much better if we had Jesus here with us today? Wouldn’t it be great if he could give these talks at ISCF instead of regular people like me? Do you ever think that you would have no doubt in your mind that you would follow Jesus and that your faith would be real… if you could just see him for yourself?

Well, Jesus tells us that it is actually for our GOOD that he left the world.

RECAP

At the start of the passage in verse 4, Jesus says that he has warned them of “these things”. What are these things? If you haven’t been here the last few weeks or if you’ve forgotten, Jesus is talking to his disciples and these are basically the last things he says to them before he is arrested. To recap, in the last couple of chapters Jesus has told them:

  • FIRST: That he is the ONLY way to God – we can’t possibly have eternal life with God if we don’t know Jesus.
  • SECOND: He has promised that he will send the Holy Spirit… which we’ll get into soon
  • THIRD: That we are to bear fruit: obeying his commands and loving one another as Jesus loved us
  • LASTLY: In the passage before this one, Jesus warns us of persecution: that the world will hate Christians because the world hates Jesus

BREAKDOWN

Jesus tells them all these things because he is going to the one who sent him: God. In chapter 14, Jesus says that he is going away to prepare a place for us. This doesn’t mean he’s going to heaven to fluff up the pillows… but it means that he is going to make it POSSIBLE for us to enter heaven by taking our punishment of death for us through dying on the cross and then rising again. Without Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can’t have a relationship with God and we have no hope of eternal life.

But in verse 7, Jesus tells his disciples that it is for their GOOD that he’s leaving them and that he’ll send the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit. But WHY would Jesus say that this is for good?

If your parents were leaving you, would that be a good thing? You might think, “YEAH! No parents!” but then who’s going to cook for you? Who’s going to drive you around, clean up after you, do the washing and all the housework? Unless your parents send Mary Poppins in their place, there is probably nobody who quite measures up to your parents – there would be nobody to give you direction.

But Jesus says that him leaving is a good thing: by leaving, not only does he provide a way for us to be saved, but he sends the Holy Spirit too, who is the spirit of God in US. And what does the Holy Spirit do? Verse 8-11 says that when he comes, he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. Let’s break this down:

  • Firstly, sin, because of not believing in Jesus. So sin isn’t just lying and stealing. The Holy Spirit shows us that NOT believing in Jesus in itself is a sin…
  • Secondly, righteousness, which means being right with God – The Holy Spirit shows us that Jesus was righteous and that is why he could go to the father in heaven. The great news is that we too can be right with God… and it’s not by anything that we can do either! Romans 3 says that there is NO ONE righteous – that we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but if we believe and have faith that Jesus is righteous and took the punishment in our place we are made right with God! AND he was raised and he now rules over the world we live in.
  • And thirdly, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of judgement, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. The prince of this world is the devil, Satan and he has been judged and no longer has power over us, since Jesus is now our ruler here on earth. So then, with Satan no longer having power over us and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can recognise that we are sinful and that we need to get our relationship right with God.

Verse 13 says the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth by speaking what he hears – this truth is of Jesus, that he is Christ, and that the only way to Heaven is through having faith in him.

Verse 14-15 says “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to draw us to Jesus, to ILLUMINATE Jesus. He guides us into knowing Jesus by taking from what is Jesus’ – this knowledge of God and of our salvation through Jesus…  making it known to US so that we can be saved. The Holy Spirit reminds us that the only way we have a relationship with God is by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Without Jesus dying on the cross for us, there is nothing. No relationship with God and no eternal life.

If we let the Holy Spirit guide us into having a right relationship with God, we will get to spend eternity with Him in heaven… but if we aren’t right with God… if we don’t believe in Jesus dying for our sins… that is sin and if we reject the Holy Spirit… and we’ll be judged in the same way Satan is judged.

Application

So what can we do?

  • The first and most important thing is believing in Jesus – that he was sinless and he died for us so that we could be saved and be in a right relationship with God. There is nothing that we can do ourselves that will make us right with God. If you WANT to believe, have a read through the gospel and let the Holy Spirit reveal the words of the Bible to you – He makes Jesus known to us.
  • The Holy Spirit works to make Jesus known to us through the word of God. How can you know Jesus? Reading the Bible, listening in ISCF and meeting up with other Christians are awesome ways in which you can learn more about Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will guide you in these.
  • We need to realise the work of the Holy Spirit – without the Holy Spirit, we can’t know Jesus. Jesus isn’t here on Earth with us now but if we KNOW Jesus we have the Holy Spirit IN US, working to make us holy.
  • Have a think of how your relationship is with God. Are you letting the Holy Spirit lead you into a good relationship? Keep praying, because talking to God is the way to build up your relationship with Him
  • Keep praying – thanking God for His son Jesus, and asking that God will open up the eyes of our hearts to see that Jesus died for our sins so that we could be brought into a relationship with God. Thank God that we aren’t alone in this world because we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into a right relationship with God. Ask that our hearts will be opened so that we will WANT to have this relationship with God and that his Spirit will work in all you so that we can be made right in His eyes, being holy and set apart in a sinful world, so that at Jesus’ coming, we can also be lifted up with him.
 

Career Paths September 7, 2009

My posts are too long

Oh, thank you for telling me how long my posts are. I wasn’t aware ;).

So from now on, I will put just a tiny bit of planning into my posts before I write them so that they might not end up being so long and you won’t have to read so much and we can all be happy!

Mission: concise-blog, commence! However, this one might have a bit more chitchat since it has been a while. But the meaty beef of my blog will be shorter (less than 3000 words, I promise ;))

Word Count: 2040 but DON’T WORRY, the actual blog part is only 800 words. Yeah, only.

MLIA

McDonalds’ Mighty Angus

I find it strange how the Mighty Angus burger costs more than then Grand Angus burger alone but if you buy them in meal form they are the same price. But I digress. I had a large Mighty Angus meal quite recently and it was GOOD. It exceeded expectations as a McDonalds burger, since they are usually terrible and after I had eaten the burger I had a nice stinky beef flavour in my mouth for a long time after. I’m fangirling over this burger right now.

Inglourious Basterds

I needed something to make up for the disappointing Public Enemies the week before so Inglourious Basterds it was. And it was good. Great, really. Just a little sick, even for a really manly man like me.

Hilarious, gruesome, action packed and directed in a really wack way (Tarantino), this movie is awesome… for apathetic guys.

eBay

Capo, guitar strings and Smashin Pumpkins CD all arrived. Restrung geetar. I’m happy.

And now capo allows me to play stuff without having to think about many chords. Lovely. I’m lazy.

Music (my recent purchases)

Smashing Pumpkins came (from eBay) and the rest were JB purchases, from the $10 piles, of course. Someone find me a $10 Transatlanticism (DCFC).

  • Radiohead: Hail To The Thief – Been in a Radiohead phase the last couple of months, so anything Radiohead I haven’t heard yet sounds awesome. But this IS awesome.
  • Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream – Awesome. Especially Mayonaise.
  • Coldplay: Viva La Vida – Pretty good. Will buy A Rush Of Blood To The Head some day (if that’s the one with The Scientist on it).
  • Foo Fighters: The Colour And The Shape – Pretty good. Everlong. Yuhhh. Everlong drums. Pain.
  • Dan Fogelberg: Greatest Hits – Not a purchase… just took it from my mum. Sounds very similar to America. Pretty kool and oldskool. And romantic. Ladies.

Videos

Farting in Times Square – gave me the giggles for a long time

I heart Disney

Zack Kim. Crazy guitarist – using loop (has a lot of videos where he plays both guitars at the same time)

Dude jamming on electric to Rob Dougan’s “Clubbed to Death”. Awesome. I love it when people make epic instrumentals even more epic.

Best prank. Bunch of seniors use an underground tunnel to screw with traffic.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Phat’s pants ripped

Those garments withstood the pressure all these years but finally caved in when he had a successful attempt at an eyes-closed, 1080 degree, three-handed windmill dunk while blowing out the candle of a birthday cake. That is all.

You can go to someone else’s blog if you want the reaction video (James Tang’s), which isn’t really that interesting.

Formal

Interesting.

Thashan’s not one to gossip. 😉

High School

Is finishing soon. So so sad. 😦

Separate blog on this later probably.

UNSW open day (i.e. slightly smoother transition into my blog)

Last Saturday was UNSW open day along with Deva’s (surprise? or not?) shindig (you can read more about the party at Thashan’s blog on Ameya Appreciation Group… and Douglas’ too if you really want, which you don’t).

UNSW open day was alright. Just about everyone has blogged about it, so I’ll stick to what I thought of it personally. I went to five lectures (sort of):

  1. Bridging courses – got there late with about 10 minutes to go. Chairs were way way way too comfy. Listened zero.
  2. Microbiology – walked across the entire university to get to the biomedical theatre. Chose microbiology over medical science lecture. Wrong choice. The guy just talked about how many microbes there are in the ocean. Left after 5-10 minutes to go join medsci lecture but it was full.
  3. Science – hour long lecture. The guy just went on about how great UNSW is. Stayed for 5-10 minutes and then left. Tried to go to exercise physiology after but it was full.
  4. Law – I have no interest in it whatsoever. I went to fill up time before med. Stayed for 15-20 minutes, which I used to plan how to make a hasty and unnoticeable escape from the lecture. Best part was the start when there was a slide and it said the lecture was being given by David. A woman got up and started speaking. I caked myself until she finally introduced the man lecturing us. And it was a man.
  5. Medicine – What I came for. The man was basically Doctor Cox (from Scrubs). Hater. But I found out a few interesting things: UNSW has an extra year (research) which makes the total 6 years of study at uni (or 7 if I combine it with arts to learn Mandarin) + 2 years as a resident + 3-6 years if I choose to specialise (not thinking of specialising right now) = old. I don’t need to do a chemistry bridging course (hooray!). Government bond would suck a little if I got it and had to go far far away to work. I found someone else who hates on UMAT training almost as hard as I do (the lecturer).

Career Paths – What is God’s plan for you?

Me over the years

Throughout the course of my life, my “dream occupation” has changed so many times that I fail to remember many of these dream occupations. Some of the ones I DO remember (I’ll try to order these chronologically): postman (I liked Postman Pat and his black and white cat),  something to do with cars and driving, magician (probably wanted to be a wizard at Hogwarts too), computer game designer, secret agent, professional swimmer, optometrist, psychologist, teacher, doctor. The last three on that list are the three occupations I am considering now, with doctor probably quite a bit more prominent than the other two.

Being a doctor hasn’t been a life-long dream and to be honest, I didn’t really like the idea of medicine or being a doctor until quite recently (it had too many blood, guts and sick people for me). In the last couple of years, I have seen “helping people” (yes, the dreaded UMAT interview taboo) as my desired occupation and in more recent times, I’ve seen medicine as the occupation in which I can do that best.

Of course, “helping people” is very broad, as you can help people with almost any job. However, it has occurred to me recently (and especially made clear to me by the UNSW lectures I went to) that the way in which I would like to help people is through direct contact and communication with them, which would mean a job involving patients (or in the case of teaching, students). I also find the human body and people in general fascinating, which is another reason why I’d like to do medicine. But first and foremost, I see the couple of jobs I singled out as vessels through which I (personally) can serve God.

I guess it’s never too early to start considering what you want to do in life and WHY you want to do it.

Serving God through occupation and indeed, everything

I’ve never had a real job (paper delivery in year 6 doesn’t count), so I don’t really have any experience with this. But these are my thoughts on work and what it should be for us.

Colossians 1: 15-23 tells us that Jesus is before all creation and that the world was created by and FOR Him – that through His death we are made right with God, rather than being doomed to punishment. The reason for everything we have in this world is this: our Creator gave us everything that we have. All our possessions, our talents, our lives are all given to us by God. So how should we live our lives? 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 tells us that whatever we do, to do it for the glory of God – for the good of others so that they may be saved. No matter what we do, we should be serving God.

So what does that mean? Does that mean we should all go to Bible college and become pastors, Bible teachers and missionaries? Of course, if that’s what you would be good at and that’s what you want to do.

But something I’ve only considered in the last couple of years is this: where do all the other occupations of the world come in? Doctors, lawyers, accountants, shop owners etc. I really had trouble trying to see how some occupations could possibly be used to serve and glorify God, especially if they didn’t involve very much human interaction (e.g. researchers, accountants… zoo keepers?). But then there are many ways in which God can be served through work:

  • if the job has colleagues (most likely will), then the workplace is a great place to evangelise, since there are so many people in most jobs who aren’t Christians. The way in which you present yourself, your work ethic, your life and the way in which you treat others with love can demonstrate what it is to be a Christian. We ARE God’s representatives here on earth and what we do should be a reflection of God’s love. We are on display for the world!
  • your job will pay money! And in lots of cases the money will be enough to survive off with extra. Where does your extra money go? It can be spent on anything you want like clothes, cars, a nice house etc. But then, it can also be used for charities, churches and good works in serving God!
  • the way in which you work (read on)

But then it occurred to me that serving God in what you do (not just job-wise) isn’t really about what you do but HOW you do it. In Philippians 2:12-18, Paul says that we are to shine like stars and to do everything without complaining or arguing. This is so that our deeds can demonstrate the salvation that we have in Jesus’ death through our lives (also Matthew 5:16). Our attitude in work (and everything) should be one that glorifies God.

Also, in the world we are God’s representatives: who else does the world have to look at to get a picture of God? The way in which we live and conduct ourselves should serve to evangelise on its own.

1 Peter 4:10-11 talks about the gifts we received from God by His grace – we did nothing to deserve them. In terms of job, I guess this could mean doing pursuing something that you’re gifted in or which involves something that you’re gifted in. If your gift is talking to people, do a job which involves that. If it’s teaching and explaining, then do that. If you’re smart, maybe do something which requires you to be a little smart. But I guess more than anything, picking something you’ll enjoy and be able to serve God through is most essential. The passage also says that we should use these gifts to serve others to demonstrate to them the grace we first received from God. We’re to serve in a way that brings glory to God, not ourselves.

BUT not only should we be serving God through our occupations but in our whole lives and in everything we do. We are God’s workmanship, created to do good works which he prepared for us in advance (Ephesians 2: 10). And not only should we be serving God, we should get joy out of serving our Creator.

So I guess that in a sense, it doesn’t matter what kind of job you do. There is still the opportunity to serve God with whatever you do and with whatever you have.

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Trials and JOY September 1, 2009

I’m back!

(A gentleman’s agreement!) Huzzah!

A few hundred views in just a few days! AND QUITE A FEW OF THEM ARE IN AMERICA! LIKE 20 OR MORE! I’M SO EXCITED (if you American viewers see this, it would make me beyond giddy if you dropped me a little comment or something ;))!!! Yes, I am quite liking the attention! 😉 But even more than the attention, I’m liking that people have enjoyed reading and are challenged by some of the ideas I put forward and I hope that I can keep up with the thought provoking posts. I’ve liked the fact that people have been commenting and also asking me questions and discussing things with me after reading these blogs, so feel free to do that too because I’d be very happy to talk to you! And I’m quite surprised and happy that people bothered to read my 3000+ word post. Props to you. You guys might get lucky with a shorter one this time. But then again, you might not. 😀

Well, yeah I’m 2000 words in right now and it’s not looking like it’s going to finish soon. Unlucky. 😛

I plan for this post to be about HSC trials, trials in life and joy (hopefully I won’t go off on a tangent again. I’ll just be normal. /end Ringo’s lame maths joke). A sort of continuation from my last post. So if you haven’t read that and have a few years to spare, you may do so! 😀

Okay. Following this post, my blogs will probably be much less regular until after HSC finishes (and they might not all be so… sermon style. They might be more personal – I said in blog #1 that this blog is really meant for me, so some of my posts might just be like a diary on how I’m going. But of course you’re welcome to read it; that’s why I’m posting it publicly). And even after HSC finishes they might still not be so frequent, depending on how much time I have. Sorry, fans. 😛

Kidding. About the fans bit.

If I remember, here is the word count: 3312 (sorry again :P)

Again, small talk comes first.

Jibber-Jabber

Australian Idol

Okay, I thought I did enough hating last blog on this. But I watched some of the wildcards show tonight (the people the judges thought were good but didn’t get through) and it was HORRIBLE. AND to make it worse, the judges don’t seem to notice just how out of tune everyone is! Even Dicko seems to be lax with the criticism, telling them that he hopes they go through because they’re great lalala. Now I don’t know if all the TVs in my house have their sound screwed up but I think this show is horrible right now. Haterade tastes so good.

YouTube

Luigi. The forgotten brother.

Painting Mona Lisa on MS Paint. Who needs Photoshop anyway?

Speaking of Photoshop, here is the most awesome Photoshopper. Time lapse Photoshop painting of Slash from Guns N’ Roses:

My favourite pianist on YouTube. David sides is incredible. RIP MJ.

Despite my recent surge of Love Story videos, no, I’m still not a fan. I’m a fan of this man, though. Mmmmmm, Gabe Bondoc. Hi Emma. 😉

This man too. Chris Cendana.

Music

Just eBay’ed Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream ($6.25). End CD drought. Now to wait for it to arrive.

Anyway, get VeggieTales – Silly Songs With Larry. It’s about $5 at Koorong and is amazing if you’re a fan of the show. Best lyrics evaHz~`!

Love My Lips:

“She had a beard and it felt weird”

Yep. 😉

Funny Picture

Get it? ;)

Get it? 😉

Blog: Act I, Scene iii – HSC Trials, Life Trials, Our JOY

My horrible introduction

Enter Year 12 STUDENT, EXAMS

STUDENT: Why, O why?

Exams, thou hast left me to die!

EXAMS: [inanimate]

STUDENT: O, thou detest me, HSC Trials!

Why must thou be’ist as bad as this year’s Australian Idols?

(I apologise for the reference. I can hear Idol outside right now. Someone’s singing Kelly Clarkson. It’s not pretty)

EXAMS: [still inanimate]

STUDENT: Be this the end of mine world?

Thou makest me hurl!

Cursed be thee, exams of hours three,

Thou makest me needeth to pee!

Enter TEACHER

TEACHER: Commenceth thy reading,

Of five minutes only you will be needing.

Enter GOD (and exeunt horrible attempt at writing Shakespeare. Yep, I’m a dorkataur. I don’t care if I hate Shakespeare, that guy was incredible at writing in this horrible English. Don’t know how he did it)

GOD: Where am I in all this? Did I not tell you not to worry? Did I not tell you to set your mind on things above, not on earth?

Exams! Stress! Why?

A lot of the time, it seems that our Christian lives are based on what is happening around us in the world. Maybe we tend to forget God in times of stress because there is just no time for Him. Or maybe we tend to forget God when things are going fine and only turn to Him when we feel we need to. I know that in the past, I have often forgotten God during exams if I was studying (or try to study, at least). I would pray to Him only when I wasn’t coping well and I would skip church every now and then if I had exams or assignments due the next day. But is this the right attitude to be taking?

I will expand on this in my blog but I’ll just say it now. NO. I had the wrong attitude towards study and God in these times.

Stress? Well, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little bit of stress. If you’re not stressed in the slightest thenI guess you wouldn’t be studying or caring about how you do, so I’d say a little stress is healthy for doing well in exams and such. But I would say that TOO much stress for exams is not good, especially if it means neglecting God in any way, which I think is what happens a lot of the time when stress kicks in. Bible reading, prayer, quiet times seem to become scarce or non-existent.

Why do we stress and get anxious? I learnt in PE that our anxiety level is a combination of TRAIT anxiety (how stressed we get because of the person we are) and STATE anxiety (our reaction to the given stimulus – i.e. exams). So although a little anxiety is probably unpreventable, I’d say that we are able to change how much this stimulus affects us. It depends how we look at these exams and how important they are to you. As year 12 goes on, the assessments become “more important”, as they have higher weighting on them than the previous ones. This happens the whole year until HSC trials, the biggest internal exams. And then the dreaded HSC, which is worth just as much as your entire year’s worth of school assessments. And as I mentioned in my previous blog, marks lead to ATAR, which leads to course in university, which leads to job, which leads to money, which leads to… NOTHING, and then death.

So the extent of stress which you experience as a result of assessments is not really because assessments are THAT stressful, but is because we see the course we do at university as something of importance in our lives. I also mentioned in my previous blog that God told us not to worry about things of this world but to have our minds set on things above. If we trust in God, we really shouldn’t be worrying about earthly things such as marks, since our citizenship is in heaven and we should be focusing instead on that (Philippians 3:20). But okay, I guess it’s accepted that we care about what course we do, since we want to do a job that we will enjoy and/or earn us enough money for our needs (or maybe even getting a course that will help you to serve God, which is awesome). We live in this world are are attached to it to some extent. We also can’t be “Amish”-like and just not be part of the world at all, since that would mean we can’t relate to anyone at all (I will probably discuss this in a future blog on worldliness). So then, we can see times of stress as trialing times (no pun on HSC trials intended).

Parents – feedback from previous blog

I had an interesting conversation with someone (I’ll leave you unnamed unless you want me to put your name here – give me a shout) about parents after they read my last blog. We talked about how parents want the best for us and I think that is very true for most people, no matter how hard it is to see it. They might do things which make you wonder how they can love you and care about you in any way but to them it is for your benefit. For example, when you were little, if you were ever punished for doing something “wrong”, you didn’t realise it at the time but your parents were disciplining you so that you wouldn’t do it again and you would therefore, improve. Although sometimes when I hear of parents punishing their kids for certain things which I find unworthy of punishment (e.g. grounding children in the holidays for not doing well in exams), I only find it unreasonable because I don’t understand where they’re coming from. Many parents don’t know anything more than providing a means for their child to earn money, and that is the best they can do for their child. That probably involves pressuring you to do well if your parents have that mindset or a similar one, so although I might have sounded hateful before, I really don’t promote hate towards these parents. I think that having a good relationship with your parents is extremely important no matter how much your views clash with theirs (I’m not intentionally referencing Module C, sorry). They’re not going to be around forever.

My personal experience with previous exams (HSC Trials covered later, keep reading)

I mentioned in my previous blog that I have never been pressured to do well in exams. If I wanted pressure, I had to bring it upon myself. So I think that if I didn’t go to James Ruse or a similar school, I probably would have never done well and it’s only because everyone else is working so hard and wanting to do well that I’ve come to a habit of putting in at least a little bit of effort for exams (at least for year 11 and 12). I also mentioned earlier in this post that in year 11 and 12 I’ve been stressed at times and this has affected my life as a Christian. I saw doing well in assessments as being of a higher priority than spending time with God but this just goes to show how worldly I am.

For the first two lots of year 12 assessments, I did really well. Heck, I aced the exams by my standards and came out with a real snazzy UAI estimate. And then in the third term of assessments, I was really looking to do well so I could maintain this. But then I got really sick before the exams (as I always do), which got me really stressed because HOW WAS I GOING TO DO WELL NOW? I ended up being too sick to do four of my scheduled exams and they had to be done later on. I found it really hard to study because I was so sick and I couldn’t concentrate and my stress was really kicking in. I was in a horrible horrible horrible mood during exams as a select few of you might know, especially when I got one of my maths exams back and I found out I had accidentally left out half a section in it (I also did this in the previous exam, I rock. :D) and ended up failing. In general, I did much worse in this set of exams than my previous ones and was really hoping that I got compensation marks for being sick on the days. But then I was scheduled to do my talk for ISCF the next week and there was a part of it that was on being joyful always.

Joy in trials, joy in suffering, joy in everything

Because joy is such a large large topic I will probably be coming back to it a lot in future blog posts, since it’s not possible to cover it in my oh so short few thousand word posts. 😉

Anyway, I found that through that time of stress in those exams, I was not joyful at all. I was feeling bitter and probably resentful towards a lot of things, including resentment towards God. Did I have any rational reason for it? Not at all! After being cheered up after my fail in maths (hehe thank you, that person ;)), I went home and had a while to eat ice cream and have alone time to think. I figured that I had the wrong attitude and approach to these exams. I was placing this worldly thing above God and not trusting in God at all. Why was I getting so worked up about just one set of exams anyway? I was placing my trust in marks to get me through in life, rather than the one who created me to get me through.

Really, I shouldn’t have seen exams as something SO important that would make me place it above God. There is NOTHING which is THAT important. In fact, we should see trials and suffering (suffering doesn’t necessarily refer to physical torture and stuff, it can be anything that puts you through stress) as something to be joyful about if you place your trust in God! The talk that I gave at ISCF was on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28, and in verse 16, there is a command to “be joyful always”.

There are many instances in the Bible which talk about joy in trials: James 1:2-3, 12 talks about considering it pure joy when we are face with trials, as the testing of our faith brings about perseverance and that someone who perseveres in this regard will receive God’s reward of eternal life. A friend I met at ISCF Leadership Conference a couple years back (Ed Sowden) wrote a great little article on fervr on this pure joy, which you can read here. Another part of the Bible which talks about joy is Romans 5:1-11, which demonstrates this chain: suffering -> perseverance -> character -> hope – and what is this hope? The hope of eternal life with God, which we rejoice (have joy) in. We should ALWAYS have joy, no matter what the circumstance is. Sure, it’s okay to feel down over certain things at times but it’s important to step back and see the bigger picture. The things that get us down are worldly but what can change the joy we have in the hope of eternal life? Nothing at all! Jesus has ALREADY died and saved us from eternal punishment, so this hope of eternal life isn’t going anywhere: it’s been DONE! So with this undying hope, we have undying joy! So these trials and this suffering that we go through in school and in life… we have nothing to be bitter about. In fact, we should be joyful during these times and in ALL times because we know that we are saved and we have eternity, rather than this broken temporary world to look forward to!

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 says to pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. Even with things putting you down, there are ALWAYS things which you can thank God for. For example, when I was sick and not doing as well as I liked in exams, I could have been thankful that I wasn’t SO sick I couldn’t function (I didn’t have swine flu, thank God), no matter how badly I think I do in exams, I still go to Ruse and it’s only because my standards are so high that I’m disappointed. I could have thanked God for every new day, for family and friends, I could have thanked God for Jesus (as we should every day), that he took the punishment for us so that we could have salvation. There are so many things that we can thank God for, no matter what the circumstance is. In the Bible, Job is a man who is righteous and does no wrong but suffers immensely, both physically and mentally – his children die and his wealth disappears, amongst many other things (can’t remember exactly, I haven’t read it in a long while). However, instead of cursing God, he seeks to find out what he HIMSELF did wrong. He praises God, saying that he knows his Redeemer lives. Job perseveres through all the suffering and trials he is put through. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all have an attitude like this – unconditionally loving and praising God, no matter what the circumstance?

HSC Trials Review

So a few weeks ago year 12’s everywhere had the HSC trials. So these were THE exams, which were apparently meant to be the most stressful of all exams in the first 18 years of life. But this was probably the least stressed I’ve been for any exams in the last couple of years. Why? Because I didn’t see the exams as being as important this time. Things were going well in life and I found that it really wasn’t that essential to stress so much over the exams, as long as I placed my trust in God to provide for me. This doesn’t mean that I can just not study and ask God to pull me through and give me full marks: I think it is more a commensal relationship, where both God and myself are working (you reap what you sow).

So, unlike before, I looked at the assessments as not something which was there to bring me down but as something which was there to build me up in perseverance. It was something that would test my faith and trust in God and something to have joy in. I stepped back for once and saw the bigger picture: these exams didn’t REALLY matter in the long run, since this period was just a bump in the road and what really matters is remaining in God in faith through these times.

So with this new attitude, I was determined not to have assessments get me down, no matter what the outcome. I’ve received almost all my results now and even though I haven’t done as well as I maybe could have if I studied harder or had a clearer mind during exams, I’m not complaining or sulking. I’m satisfied with my results because I know that they are only temporary, like the rest of the world. So I hope that I can carry this same attitude through my life and not be sucked into worrying about earthly things.

It is only recently that I’ve had this attitude and it has brought me quite a lot of joy in life. I highly recommend it. 😛

Applying it:

  • What do you worry about? What is important to you? If you’re in year 12 then it is most likely the HSC. If you’re not, it might be work, or parents, or relationships or anything. How important is this world to you in comparison to eternity with God? Have a think about why it is important to you and whether this thing you’re worrying about has been impacting your relationship with God (either positively or negatively).
  • Think about what you are thankful for. There are ALWAYS things that you can thank God for.
  • Pray to God – always give thanks and bring before Him EVERYTHING. If you want your relationship with God to work or improve, you need to communicate through prayer.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. You’re redonkulous.

 

Parents-studying-money, treasures and JOY August 29, 2009

Wowza.

I really didn’t think I would have people reading my last blog. But I checked and less than a day after I posted my first blog and I have 150 views for my blog (that actually excites me :D), so hopefully some of them stayed for the partay and read the RICE blog. I also didn’t know that this blogging gig could take up so much time. I spent two nights writing the blog and another whole night publishing it and figuring out how to use WordPress, only because I’m just THAT good with technology. Yeah, it’s quite the time suck. I’ll see how frequently I can pump out these blogs but this one will probably take me a few days to finish again because I’m great!

At the moment, I plan for this to be a blog about HSC trials and the way in which we and our parents treat exams and school and things but we’ll see how that goes. Again, let’s get the small talk out of the way first. I realise half way (no idea if it actually IS half way) through writing this blog it will be INSANELY LONG. I have a lot to say about these things. Please take the time to read it, even though it is long. I’ll update this paragraph with a word count (if I remember) of this blog after I’m done typing it up. Okay: 3226 words. You readers got screwed. 😛

The chit chat

Public Enemies

Watched this on Wednesday, since it was after trials and partay time had commenced. I won’t spoil it. I’ll just say I didn’t enjoy it that much. The movie had quite some potential with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale being the two main actors. I thought that some parts of the movie were pretty cool and Johnny Depp’s character was cocky beyond belief, it was great. Ending was extraordinarily disappointing but what can you do it’s a historical film… But then they made the ending of the movie worse than what happened in history in my opinion, which was just… stupid. Hopefully when I watch Inglourious Basterds next week I come out not feeling cheated of $14.

Australian Idol

Haven’t followed this year as closely as other years but from what I’ve seen, it seems like the country is out of good idol contestants. Singing is mediocre for everyone and everyone in the top whatever isn’t unique in any way. They’re all just inferior replicas of previous contestants or existing artists. And they refuse to sing songs that weren’t written in the last ten or so years. They just sing Kings of Leon and Coldplay so I’m really not interested or impressed in the slightest. But I hear there’s some dude who did Bohemian Rhapsody well, so I guess I’ll check this guy out some day. Otherwise, mediocre. I’m sippin’ on that haterade.

YouTube (I think I’ll put about 3-5 videos per post from now)

Some day I’m going to go through all my YouTube favourites on my blog. But here are just a few:

TMNT – Donatello gets screwed. I particularly liked this because I had always wondered why Donatello was the ugliest colour and why he had the odd name out of everyone and how he ended up with a stick as a weapon (although it is quite a strong stick which can withstand hits from swords. Yep, I’m a nerd). And I thought Master Splinter was done awesomely in the video hehe (warning: video is very rude and crude if you’re not in the mood)

Everyone has probably watched this by now, but after so long I still can’t get over its awesomeness, especially since I really can’t listen to Taylor Swift without gagging.

And the brand new one of it, which is probably even better.

HSC English creative writing tasks? Agreed.

Japanese game show. Ten ten. Ten ten ten ten ten ten …….

One of my favourite YouTube music artists. Man-crush-worthy, I’d say. You had me at “‘ello”.

Music (don’t know, I might decide to do proper album reviews some day if I’m that good at procrastinating)

Still in a CD-buying drought. I may quite possibly come out of it soon.

But I am loving Radiohead right now, especially “The Bends” (the most recent Radiohead album I bought). Great album with quite a few big hits (High And Dry, Fake Plastic Trees, Just). And this band is just that much cooler since they released “In Rainbows” for free a while back.

Blog: Act I, Scene ii

Parents&studying – what is important in life, HSC Trials review,  and JOY (very briefly – TBC in a later entry)

Okay. Well, after doing what I thought would be the first half of this blog, It ended up with almost 3000 words and if I went on any longer this blog would probably be unreadable (it’s probably already very difficult), so to save everyone from further pain, I’ll review HSC trials and continue on joy in my next entry, unless I go off on a tangent again like this time. 😀

My intro into my own experiences with “studying”

Week after HSC trials finished. I’m writing this now, the day that I presented my English speech, the last ever James Ruse HSC assessment task I’ll ever have to do. Now, just the HSC to go, which is about… 7 or so weeks away? Plenty plenty time to procrastinate now (by writing blogs).

Before doing the trials, I had always been told that it would be the MOST STRESSFUL TIME of my entire school life and I had been dreading it because I had already felt the effects of stress from some exams in year 11 and 12 (before that I never got around to studying for exams). To be honest, I consider myself to be quite a lazy Ruse student. I’ve never been a person who completes all their homework every night and who finishes assignments earlier than the night before due date. Before year 11, I never really studied. In year 11 I studied but I couldn’t be bothered for some exams, particularly because they love organising exam timetables so that I finish exams after the rest of the world and by the end of exam period everyone else would be celebrating, so I just couldn’t find the motivation to study.

At the start of year 12, I said to myself  that I HAD TO STUDY for the final year of school, when it would actually count. It went well for probably the first term, in which I’m quite sure I worked hard. I got stressed about exams, which was probably good for my marks, since a little pressure is needed for optimal performance (as well as optimal arousal levels for the specific task, for you PE students playing along). My parents had always been lenient in my entire school life and they never put any unnecessary pressure on me. They had never forced me into doing tutoring or into doing subjects I didn’t want to and most importantly, they had never put any pressure on me to perform. It’s not that they don’t care: I think that they realise (unlike many many parents, especially the James Ruse variety) that good marks aren’t everything in life (my story of HSC trials to be continued in next blog).

Many other parents look at the welfare of their child this way from birth (may be exaggerated):

  1. Child is born: I hope this child has no mental disabilities.
  2. Formative years: it is important for the child to learn plenty now, so they will begin school on top of everyone.
  3. Primary school: help the child with school work as much as possible so that they don’t fall behind.
  4. Year 3-4: send child to OC preparation so that they get into the OC (not the TV show: the Opportunity Class), so their learning is “accelerated”.
  5. Year 5-6: child made it to the OC or didn’t. Either way, the child has to do selective test preparation. This is WAY more important than OC prep, as it determines the high school they will attend and if this isn’t one of the top high schools in the state, they will fall behind (completely false).
  6. Year 7-11: if child is not in desired school, they must work extraordinarily hard in order to be considered for a transfer to a “better” school in year 9 onwards. If child is in desired school… they STILL have to work hard. It is important for the child to be on top of their studies from the start and the child must develop good study habits.
  7. Year 12: this is crunch time. This child must spend as much time as possible studying, using the study habits and skills learnt from previous years in order to dominate exams and peers. This is the MOST IMPORTANT time for the child, as it will determine the next 60 or so years left they have to live on this earth. High marks will get you a high ATAR (UAI or maybe even TER for you older than year 12 folk), which will get you into whichever course at university you want (or what the parents want in some cases).
  8. Uni, work, marriage, work, having children, retirement: The child becomes independent of the parents and the parents are at the age where they will retire and eventually pass away. The parents want the best for their child and have apparently achieved this if their child makes a lot of money and finds a spouse, but especially the making a lot of money part. Hopefully this child can pass this way of thinking onto their own kids so that they will also be “happy”, since they can make money.

Money – what is it worth?

Sorry, parents who think this way, I have to completely disagree with this way of thinking (above). These parents are trapped in the idea that their role on this earth is to form a super child who will be able to make money, since this will make them happy and will secure their future. Does money make you happy? Maybe in the short term because with it you can buy all sorts of stuff, depending on who you are and what you want. Maybe that is a PS3, maybe clothes, shoes, a car, a house. You can flaunt it to get ladies like in Public Enemies (*cough* yeah, right *cough*). But will any of that bring you any lasting joy? NO! It might bring you a little spark of happiness for a limited time because you have a shiny new toy to play with. But it will become obsolete. Technology and inventions progress so fast now that whatever you bought for so much will probably become worthless in a couple years. You’ll just want a newer toy to play with when the time comes, which will of course, need more money for you to spend.

Everyone who has money wants more, no matter how rich they are. Why do billionaires have so much money? Most likely it is because they’re greedy and good at making money. If they weren’t so greedy, they would have given much of it to charity and to help others and they WOULDN’T be billionaires any more, would they? They just keep making money. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

So why do so many of these parents follow the way of thinking above and believe that money will bring satisfaction to their child?

Well, for many, this small amount of satisfaction is all the “joy” they think this world has to offer. Well, it IS all the “joy” this world has to offer. THIS world. For Christians, earth is the closest to hell they will ever get, while for those who don’t believe in Christ, earth is the closest to heaven they will ever get (props to Jeff and Kitty for this, my Sunday school teachers). If they find they have nothing substantial to look forward to, other than “enjoying life”, of course money is going to seem THAT attractive. Many think that money also serves to “secure the future”. If you have money, you can get whatever this world has to offer and if you accumulate enough of it, you can spend more years in retirement. BUT WHAT IF YOU DIE TOMORROW? There are many passages in the Bible which come to mind on the topic of storing treasures on earth: the second half of Matthew 19 (sadface rich man who couldn’t leave possessions behind to follow God), Matthew 6 (storing up treasures in heaven. rather than earth) and especially Luke 12 – all of these are worth a read, as is the whole Bible ;). So I think that parents (this might be you later on) shouldn’t be equipping their children so that they have the means to be rich later on but rather, should be equipping their children to be rich towards God. This isn’t necessarily sending them to church and youth group every week (you can’t FORCE someone into being a Christian) but I think that like evangelism, it works best through demonstration and leading by example. The parent should be able to show God’s love through their own actions. I’m quite a bit off being a parent myself so I don’t have any experience with this but I hope that when I do have children some day that I’ll be able to remember what I said here and that I will put it into action.

Your treasure – On earth? Or in Heaven?

Luke 12 is the parable of the rich dude who stored up lots of stuff for himself on earth so that he could take life easy and enjoy it bu God calls him a fool because his life would be demanded from him that night. What would he have left? Then the passage goes on to say “This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God”. Ouch. No matter how much stuff you save up on earth, you’ll have absolutely NONE of it when you die. So what’s the point of it? You become a millionaire… then you die. In the end it’s all the same; whether you die rich or poor, you’ll still be dead. BUT the passage after (vs 22-34) gives us hope. Jesus tells his disciples to NOT WORRY about things of the earth and to seek first God’s kingdom and our needs will be provided for. If you place your trust in God and “invest” in Him rather than in money, we have the treasure of eternal life stored up for us in Heaven.

Sure, money can be looked at as a blessing from God. We can use it for many things, pleasing to ourselves and pleasing to God. But money can also be a curse. If we had no money, I’d take a wild stab and say we wouldn’t be as likely to place it over God. We would be more thankful for survival and basic necessities, rather than longing for material possessions. Again, Matthew 19 comes up (mentioned before), as it is so so hard for a rich man to enter God’s kingdom. If we seem to “have it all” on earth, Heaven all of a sudden doesn’t look as attractive, does it? Even though it is far better than earth, many rich people can’t see this, since they love the world so much. Just a thought.

Colossians 3 talks about how we should live: we should set our mind on things above, not on earthly things. These passages aren’t saying that we’re not allowed to have ANY part in the world. Of course we can still earn and spend money on things and enjoy them, since God DID give us this world to live in, after all. BUT do you love creation more than the Creator? That’s when it becomes wrong, as we are setting out minds on earthly things. That, in biblical terms, is idolatry, which is sinning against God. This is a sin that I find much less noticeable than other ones but a good way to see if you are putting anything above God is considering how you allocate your time and energy in terms of what you think about and what you do and how you spend your money. I believe that this is something all Christians struggle with to a huge extent. How much time do we spend praying and reading the Bible and thinking about God, compared to the time we spend thinking about the opposite sex, studying and playing XBox and computer? Where is your heart (Luke 12:34)?

I know that for me, God doesn’t occupy nearly as much time as He deserves. When I drift off in thought (which I do very very often), very often God doesn’t feature in it. Prayer and Bible reading are in many instances, done unwillingly or not at all. A lot of the time, it is not a priority and is shoved in at the end of the night (or early morning…) when I’m way too tired to think clearly. It’s something which I’ve been trying to work at lately, to have God as not only number one as a priority but the centre of my life, with everything else in life having God in the middle. Of course, no matter how hard I try, I am still very far off when it comes to loving God as much as I should and living life the way that He intended.

If we really aren’t worrying about earthly things that should mean we should have all the time in the world for God. But we’re human, so we really suck at this. I have often felt unmotivated because I think that the “standard” for being a Christian is too high: “I can’t read the Bible every day”, “I can’t pray every second of the day”, “I can’t go to church every week”, “I can’t stop sinning”. Even though I feel like I’m not living as a Christian should, I still feel encouraged: the great thing is that being saved by Christ is not based on our own works (because we would all fall very short in this regard) but it is based entirely on God’s grace and our faith in Jesus. There is no amount of Bible reading and Prayer and going to church that can save us. It is faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-10) that saves us and places us in God’s kingdom. Nothing on this earth is able to save us. Nothing is able to provide us with security and lasting joy. The “joy” we get in this world is temporary, just as this world is temporary and everything in it. But the joy we have in eternal life with God is everlasting.

Applying it (this is what I’ve been thinking about lately)

  • Have a think about what you spend your money, thoughts and time on. Where does God fit into all of this? Do you idolise anything/anyone?
  • When you’re “doing Christian things” like praying and reading the Bible, what is your attitude towards it? Obligation or love for God?
  • Are you worried about the future? If you are, think about why you are worried and if you really should be worried.
  • Think: do you treasure this earth or God who created this earth? Do you treasure this earth or Heaven?
  • Make a change

So how will you be investing your life?