Thursday, December 10, 2015

Where is the Syllabus?

I taught Economics. I taught Theology. In both courses, the syllabus was an essential handout. As a student, I somehow predicted the weight of every beginning class from the required syllabus.

If Christianity is a life course, clear navigation is necessary. Much has been said about the journey but there seems an intriguing absence of a given syllabus on how it ought to be lived.

Every excellent course follows from a good guide that seeks to simplify the dots by connecting them with proper order.

Having followed Christ, I have often searched for a biblical guide that follows the form of a good syllabus. Through the long chase, I have found or should I say, the Pilgrim Psalms found me (Psalms 120-134).

God’s people annually sang the Pilgrim Psalms on their ascent to Jerusalem to rehearse both their identity and responsibility based on a divine manual, which discloses the primacy of God’s gracious work in their lives.

This wonderful guide has remained relevant as it presumes the ultimate mentorship of the Messiah in all of life’s stations.

This blog seeks to provide a simple guide by adapting the indescribable symmetry of the Pilgrim Psalms into our daily lives.

The format follows a simple flow. The chronological points of the syllabus are presented based on the order of the Pilgrim Psalms accompanied by a distinct invitation to join God in what He seeks to accomplish through us. Before and after a syllabus Psalm, two reflective original journal entries introduce and validate the distinctive application of its practice, at least in my own personal journey. 

Journal One will be introduced by a story about my life before I knew the wisdom of Troubleshooting (Syllabus, no. 1). Psalm 120 will then be presented as the major teaching point. The journal will then conclude with another story from my life, validating the usefulness of the point being introduced. This format repeats fifteen times (Psalm 120-134).

This is not a journal of random thoughts but an exposition of God’s impeccable wisdom lived out in a most ordinary life. It is my prayer that as one reads through it, one takes on the journey of a psalm-maker, revisiting points of life and praying through a renewal of one’s steps, onward and upward to where Christ dwells.

Now and Then

Journal One: Troubleshoot


 I was not even half a decade old when I stumbled upon what seemed like a crooked discovery. I was quite tall for my age and somehow endued with modest intelligence. My father’s love for knowledge somehow hitched my delight in learning, while picking up clues from his analytical mind and passion for chess. I always lingered as he finished reading the morning newspaper so that I could glance over next. I often wondered why he primarily pondered on the editorial section. I would try reading the first few lines and quickly skid towards the comic section for a scoop of wit and humor. It never occurred to me that the best jokes were to be found in the editorials of human involvements.
My mother was a licensed pharmacist and so she took prescribing about almost anything, rather seriously. She gravitates towards fashion and initiating friendships. One day, she spoke of her alliance with the new first grade teacher. They had some kind of an internal conspiracy. Since there was some shortage of kid-sitters that month, I was inadvertently enrolled without prior proof of requirements. It was probably an inconsequential detail for both but I was only a four-year old smart aleck, turning five in a class of 7’s and 8’s!
The realities of this gulf took its toll right from the first day when I sensed the troubling disparity. It seemed like the boys had beards and the girls had breasts. Through this confusion, my teacher’s kind benevolence always seemed to rig out a safe shelter. Still, it was rather intimidating to walk through the halls of a grown-up fraternity.
My coping mechanism resorted to an introspective asylum: I pretended to be of age by being silent. The evidence for my ploy was well documented. My report card read: first term: he is shy; second term: he is too shy; third term: he is very, very shy. It was rather ironic that a boy so rambunctious could pass for a meek persona with very little acting.
One day, birthdays had to be recited. I somehow naively disclosed my true age: 4 years young. There was a concerted gasp from my aged peers while I quickly deciphered the unspoken script of their jeers: “That boy is a cheat!  What has he to do with Club First-Grade?”  Call it pre-adolescent ethnocentrism, but its apparent sophistication was evident. I was given a tag, which had the stamp of being marginalized as menial.
For someone so lost and seeking for adoption within my new circle, this felt like some great tribulation. That year, I fought back isolation by garnering first honors. The laurel did not mean anything to the pundits, their resolve to put me in a box as a lying scum had been drilled to my coffin, free of charge.
As days went by, I began to realize that lying was to be the generic jargon. My classmates lied, my parents lied, my teacher lied, I lied.
All that I learned that year was the inexplicable truth that all people are liars.
I was to learn later, that what kept men and women in touch within our rather small world is our disposition to lie.
I once asked my dad why he always won his chess games. He nonchalantly revealed: “It’s always about thinking ahead and outsmarting the opponent, by using a gambit.” I asked, “What is a gambit, Dad?” He replied: “Well, it is a move where you simply deceive the other person so you can win.”


A song of ascents.

I call on the LORD in my distress,
and he answers me.
Save me, O LORD, from lying lips
and from deceitful tongues.
What will he do to you,
and what more besides, O deceitful tongue?
He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows,
with burning coals of the broom tree.
Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech,
that I live among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I lived
among those who hate peace.
I am a man of peace;
but when I speak, they are for war.


For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
First Corinthians 1:18 NIV

It doesn’t take much honesty to admit the unrelenting pressure of life’s challenges in our lives. Every person seeking to make sense out of life, experiences some form of distress in one way or another. The initial guidepost in our life syllabus prompts us to confront our troubles by seeking to understand what is truly taking place. The contribution of this initial Psalm is to raise our troubled awareness with a sense of urgency to let out a sincere lament of where we are presently situated. A person who seeks the truth through God’s help will mourn an alienated identity: “I call on the LORD in my distress … save me, O LORD, from lying lips and deceitful tongues.”

It is equally important to carefully choose who becomes our primary guide in this endeavor. Our life support ought to come from an impeccable mentor whose rectitude yields nothing more, nothing less but a corresponding wisdom beyond compare. The Psalmist turns to the LORD for such help in his distress.

The primary challenge in any human struggle hinges upon the reality of where we live. The Psalmist decries his location amidst a climate of deceit. Our fallen world rests upon the fragmented scaffoldings of human wisdom. The plethora of religion and philosophy attests to our on-going thirst for meaning and significance. Every attempt to clarify the origin and destiny of our existence seeks to answer our universal distress upon our shared ignorance. While all these are well meaning and kind-intentioned, they somehow reveal their ineptness to redeem us from our despair. The psalmist refers to all these wonderful human perspectives as mere fiction.

Meshech and Kedar serve as metaphors for all the representative genius of humanity that seeks to understand life apart from God’s revelation. Distress is a by-product of a life lived apart from the centrality of the One who created it. To live without God is to live a life devoid of proper connectivity.

It is to Shalom, the peace of God’s evincing presence, that we are called to lean in. The Psalmist recognizes the urgent need for our deepest cry to be knitted into the fabric of God’s unique intervention. When we allow the presence of God to invade our time and space, life takes on a new form. We experience redemption from deception. We veer away from the lies. While consequently ostracized for our defection from our default location, we find our lament transform into a deep prayer of advanced gratitude: “What will he do to you, and what more besides, O deceitful tongue? He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom tree.”

The beginning step is towards troubleshooting: “Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I lived among those who hate peace”.

God prescribes that whenever we experience any symptom of distress, we have to check our connectivity. If we are plugged in to a compromised source, we are called to recognize the lie and disconnect with a sense of urgency from the myopic circuitry.

We then turn on to the proper source and reconnect to the solitary source that brings Shalom to all our false directions.

The biblical story discloses a meta-narrative of lost peace. God created humans so that they may be ushered into His presence. The fall towards the lie of self-actualization ushered the dark era of a God-denying existence. But God cannot be denied. As He is the very essence of the life He created, the life of peace had to be restored. The singular way for such redemption will have to be His way. The way back to God’s presence will have to be an accompanied rescue, and the extraction from the fall will have to be done by God, Himself. There is no other way to accomplish this deliverance apart from the incredible action of God to send His only begotten Son, to incarnate into humanity in order to restore peace into our war-torn lives. In Christ’s mission, the cry of the Psalmist finds its fruition. The Son of God determined to take humanity’s damnation upon His Being by owning up to the penalty of our sins, dying on the cross of Golgotha, two thousand years ago. While suffering for our rebellion, his words on the cross “it is finished!” said it all. God’s presence has invaded our woeful situation. With unabridged dignity, he refers to himself as the Prince of Peace. The peace of God is found in the person of Christ. No one experiences true life apart from his abiding guide.

The witness of Scriptures points to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as the singular touchstone of humanity due to this revelatory mission. His person confronts every human destiny. It is impossible not to meet Christ within the intersections of life because he was the only one sent to reclaim our true designation. When he stands at the crossroads, it is either you take him at his word or you push him aside while connecting to another source. His claim to being the only way out from all our troubles reveals the very nature of his integrity: God sent his only Son to accomplish only one mission: to redeem fallen humanity, one person at a time by granting His peace, one decision at a time. This personal salvation was made accessible through the unique unalterable once and for all crucifixion of the Son of God for our sins. This rescue operation found its vindication upon the resurrection of Christ. Humans who will turn to Jesus by faith are thereby granted the full benefits of redemption. No other escape is possible from Meshech and Kedar apart from this exclusive peace-invading way: “I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” Only the person of Jesus Christ brings an end to such war by His attested conquest and final victory. There is simply no other way.

There are only two kinds of connectivity in life. You are either connected to Jesus Christ who audaciously claims power over your distress or you are tied in elsewhere. The first thing in our syllabus, if life is to be lived well, according to how we are made, is the call to disconnect from all sources that reflect Meshech and Kedar, devoid of peace and a true understanding of created life.

I lived right through the avenues of lies. At an early age, I was ushered deceitfully into a world alien to Shalom. For eighteen years, I languished, seeking to fill the emptiness inside my soul. Certainly, not by my initiative, I was led to cry for help. It was then that God led me graciously to troubleshoot my distress.


I always had the last word. It seemed not only necessary, but clever to do so in a world that offered divergent conversations. I always had my mental processors hooked up on any and every point at issue. I always flaunted my brazen prowess as interpretive editor of my soul and destiny, ex cathedra.
Renzo was quite like a clone, except that he had more finesse and mafioso. He was one of the senior studs in college. Where there is action, he was there. Where there are girls, he was central. Where there is sin, he’s scuba diving right into it. It was a concession just to be around who seemed like an accomplished dude.
I thought he lost his grip when I spotted him alone reading a bible–he seemed enthralled by some inner calm, just leafing through pages without being bothered by the intrusive campus noise. It was rather disconcerting to observe this mysterious ritual on a daily basis. He turned curiously different–like one celebrity who got caged-in to some addiction.
Detached as he was during those days, there seemed to develop an aura of organic brightness about him–like some kind of disconnection from hurriedness, while projecting calm akin to being exempted from the Quantitative Analysis final exams.
I was at the gym with my friend Joe, when the gossip about Renzo’s metamorphosis snatched our conversation. I was told that I was actually invited to attend his exclusive caucus on Tuesday afternoon, hosted by the Renaissance Man himself. I initially got repulsed with the idea when it was intimated that this was all going to be a talk about God and Religion.
The scrutiny of God was a matter that I have somehow considered open ended. There is simply no way to figure out who had the best handle. I got all A’s in Religious Studies, just because I was a good ape: I just cut and pasted from the theological buffet, whether I believed it or not. And so, it was Renzo’s turn to pipe in his smoke, I guess. It was September 10, 1980 on a Wednesday afternoon when I sat bored waiting for the quasi-social forum to begin and quickly end.
I thought I knew Renzo quite well–certainly not this guy who showed up with his little black book. He began by introducing his purpose for gathering us: to quit guessing about what really transpired in his life. There was a pronounced lack of religious cliché in his talk. He was right on vulnerable about his personal distress and of his silent quest for peace. All he shared was an astonishingly appealing transformative answer facilitated by the person of Jesus Christ.
It happened with a most unusual tenacity. The gnawing sense of emptiness within me began to fill up with every spoken verse of truth. The incongruence of my existence was met by the consonance of his take on how his story is merely an entry within God’s meta-narrative. Deep down, I sensed the unique simplicity of Christ’s gospel as wonderfully true and devoid of any strand of duplicity. Whatever blinds I had pertaining God suddenly gave way to an astonishing awareness of his invitation. Like some sudden shifting of the wind, I came to terms with my need for the Redeemer who was willing to receive my wholesale guilt with an accompanying grant of forgiving grace. The Son of God found my hideous hiding place and ushered me to the one place where I can find peace: within the companionship of His intimate lordship.
At around 2 pm that afternoon, I decided to disconnect from my fictitious life sources, invoking the revelatory person of Jesus Christ to lead me out from my misdirected orientation and lead me into a dynamic recognition of his central presence in my life. For the very first time, I suddenly saw where my journey was meant to be. I did not have to remain in Meshech and Kedar, where definitions of life, are at best magnificent reckonings.
With my newly endowed identity, I did not have to register the last word.
The Word of the LORD had been spoken.

Journal Two: Read


I never enjoyed going to church. I could not reconcile the opportunity cost of losing my Sunday morning play rights in exchange for an interlude where one has to dress preppy and feign enthusiasm to some sacrosanct gathering. Our preacher never made much sense anyway, as he seemed to be more of a cross between a woebegone entertainer and a prosaic politician.
My grandfather was a retired pastor. Ironically, he was my favorite old guy. So dignified. So remarkably quiet. So much like my favorite Martian. He was, however, uninhibited each time he spoke about his faith. I remember a night in his home when I was absorbed deep in a game of hide and seek with my siblings. We got interrupted with the announcement of some prayer time. We were then gathered in a circle, while he read from his tattered book. He droned explanations about some ancient texts with the verbal tonality approximating some archaic prophet. I was bored as hell. When prayer began, I tuned off. Inching close to my sister, I began teasing her with all kinds of devilry. It was a most enjoyable intermission, especially, as all eyes were closed and heads bowed down.
In a flash, like the unforeseen descent of a cascading meteor, I suddenly felt a wrathful swat hitting my nape. It was so firm and strong that I got dislodged from my seat, propelled hard to the floor while simultaneously confronted with my grandfather’s bony point-finger–his voice thundering: “no one plays when we pray to God!” His eyes were like emerald-glazed with fury. I was more flabbergasted with the incredible transformation of this man’s demeanor from meek to wild, just because I disturbed his sacred conversation.
I was engulfed with a sense of mystery. Was his deity as real as his grandson? As my head throbbed, my brain spun wondering why grandpa’s god disdained my unabridged version of practical joy.
As I was left with no words to read what just happened, I began wondering what alphabets I missed about knowing an unseen God who’s supposed to listen to human chatter.


A song of ascents

I lift up my eyes to the hills–
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip–
he who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you–
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your
coming and going,
both now and forevermore.


Here is another reason why we never stop thanking God: When you received God’s word from us, you realized it wasn’t the word of humans. Instead, you accepted it for what it really is—the word of God. This word is at work in you believers.
First Thessalonians 2:13 NIV

From the outside looking in, there seems to be a suspicion of shared arrogance among those who claim to know God in personal terms. The projection of this confident aura somehow makes the irreligious uncomfortable: “I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

On a closer scrutiny however, true spirituality if it is to be authentic, must exhibit a deep personal zeal that reveals the robust object of its faith. True faith is always fiercely intense. At times, it is made manifest with an outstretched hand laid upon the sick to implore healing; At times, it is offered through a calculated spank to a soul so dead, in order to rouse life: “He will not let your foot slip.”

Before the pilgrims set out on their journey, an inquiry is directed towards their lead guide: “how safe is this pilgrimage?” The seasoned veteran recognizes the trepidation and declares the assured watchfulness of their vigilant companion: The LORD of creation watches over their feet along the arduous journey.

When proper connectivity gets underway, the first thing that becomes evident is the transformation within the heart of the believer. Disturbingly recognizable, the sobering reality of Meschech and Kedar’s staunch vision becomes apparent. The world remains the same in the midst of the believer’s metamorphosis. While on journey, the psalmist looks up and sighs: “I lift up my eyes to the hills …” The hills along the way are representative of the alternative altars that are strewn along the way, seeking to pull us back to our former idolatries. The unseen forces behind these heights perceive our propensity to be lulled quickly when beset with fatigue or any sort of weariness. The delicious offering of a detour away from God bears down upon the believer who seeks to walk by faith.

To this allurement, vigilance to lift up our eyes beyond the seduction to read the way of God becomes our second call. We are beckoned to study the table of God’s contents by intentionally digesting the pages of his revelation, both created and written.

Through all of life, connectivity to the Giver and Source provides a stirring encouragement: He himself will provide all necessary help. The unreliability of human chartings will be overshadowed by the LORD’s competence. To the pilgrim, his personal guidance has been committed in word and in oath. God wrote down his thoughts to facilitate pinpoint accuracy on what we ought to do if we are to live well under his tutelage. Any well-intentioned designer provides a well-thought instructive manual to facilitate the proper use of a worthy commodity. It is inconceivable to think of human life, with its weight of unfathomable complexity, not to be augmented by a word from its creator. It is likewise most natural to think that clarity ought to characterize such instructions. As the human mind was created to think, thus the manual had to be read in some way or form. To this, we set our attention in each and every step along life’s trek. The reading relationship with life’s true Guide sets the course.

The nature of this divine assistance differs from the sophisticated technical support the world offers: “He who watches over you … will neither slumber nor sleep.” God needs no caffeine in order to stay awake while in monitor. He has no use for sleep and is thus able to commit a watchfulness that is most comprehensive. Help that is thus provided is backed by the warranty of God’s incomprehensible attentiveness to every detail concerning our daily lives. Our thoughts are invited to observe his commitment to the grass of the fields, the flowers in the garden, the birds in the air, … they never lack, for they are thus provided. He informs us of our infinite worth and of the care emphasized by his spoken word. The scope of this unique protection encompasses every breadth, depth, height, crevice, crack, flaw, leak, anomaly, etc., that involves frail humanity. There is no given issue or concern that voids the loyal commitment of God’s promise. The believer shall travel through life, safe and accompanied by this revelatory and abiding guidance. The commanding force of God’s word rests upon its integrity. Upon such promise, we are called to act upon by reading what we ought to urgently follow.

From the very first step of one’s decision to leave Meshech and Kedar, every succeeding pace follows the cadence of His written guide. There shall be no absence of zealous opposition to the life of faith: setbacks, illness, troubles, bankruptcy, and even death, may be experienced; but a greater reality usurps each and every condition: GOD will be there, speaking his renewed presence, at all times.

Vigilance of this sort is foreign to humans. God’s commitment to see us through the rough and dangerous terrain of this world is contingent upon our posture to accept the terms of his blessings. He is the vigilant one. We are called to run to him for help every single day. We are enabled to accomplish this through the diligent readership of God’s Word. Walking with the LORD must be accompanied by keeping in step with His revealed thoughts. This leads us away from dangerous paths: we are called to read the Bible as our way of life.

This is why those who know God deeply, represent him rather fiercely. When they are stumbling and falling, they know by reading: who leans to pick them up without fail.


I breathe music. Life is too melodious to miss its accompanying score. My spiritual rebirth imbibed a prolific thirst that sought to find expression in song compositions.  I have close to fifty originals that somehow capture the inner raptures of my faith. My favorite instrument is the twelve-strings guitar. The echoing reverb weaves panache to the tone.
My grandfather was instrumental in encouraging me to join the city’s Christian Music festival. It was a weekly gathering of talented artists where a recording career awaits the champion. Most of the contestants sang popular hits while I only sang my own craft. For a year, it was rather surprising that I kept on staying in the winner’s circle, until there were only four left towards the Grand Finale. Since the event was on live national radio, my family cheered on with much glee. My younger brother followed my string of good fortune like a hawk. He saw me as the ordained shoe-in winner, proclaiming that I was quite a cut above the rest. Although this was rather presumptive, I must admit taking delight in deeming it quite true.
The Finals was held at the plush metropolitan auditorium. The crowd swelled to a full capacity as they awaited the one blessed to win. I had a settled sense of confidence that afternoon. One that is quite free from arrogance. It was nestled on simple factual guts. I was ready for the show as my kid-assistant proudly bore my encased instrument. We were two hours early into the event. While on the long wait, some kind of alien virus invaded me. I was suddenly having chills with fever. Through the convulsions, I did not have the luxury to call in sick. The contest began.
The first two contestants sang impeccably. When I heard my name, I thought I was half-dreaming, half ricocheting in space. I stood up with my heavy acoustic. With my first strum, I knew I was out. Right in the middle of the refrain, the twelve-strings dropped with a loud thud, sending a ripple of hush from the audience. I managed to recover, but totally forgot what I was singing. I ended up rendering a totally different piece! Descending from the stage, visibly shaking and flushed from the fever’s heat, I slumped back next to my brother. I whispered, “Tommy, I am so ill …”
The night ended with a drifting melodrama. My brother suddenly blurted: “What happened? Why did God allow your guitar to slide?” With what little strength I had, I explained, “It was not the Lord’s will, my brother. He knows I did my best, but He has some other plans. He knows what is best. His word assures me that all things work together for good, including this painful setback.”
It has been more than three decades and my songs have not ceased from being born. My brother never lost faith and continues to applaud whenever I sing.
The sweeping panorama of God’s grand story silences my propensity to settle in with my backyard dreams. I was intending to sing my way to his kingdom but God’s script differed.
 I was designed to live out the songs of Kingdom Epic through a cappella, preaching from a pulpit, devoid of twelve-strings but resplendent with a thousand images strung.
I am a preacher, by His design.

I know this by reading the book He signed.

Journal Three: Enter


There was a constant air of apprehension each time I got dropped off to school. I always felt a sense of disquiet, especially heightened by the pungent odor of the old school building. One Saturday morning, an exciting break came to be: Cub Scouts were accepting neophytes for the club. I begged my mother to enlist me to balance the equilibrium of my sanity. I got into the crisp blue uniform, knee socks, neckerchief, and of course, the stunning blue cap. The meeting flew by quickly with tons of fun and inspiring promises. Soon, every parent, guardian, friend arrived to fetch their little warriors … All, except mine.
I waited for minutes and hours but there was no sign of retrieve. I couldn’t help sobbing as my little mind began to imagine a solitary trek to our house, which was vaguely five miles through town and highway. As I mustered whatever soul-fuel I had, the first step went out screeching with blubber. My uniform got so drenched with dust and snot as my stride seemed to reach nowhere. Crossing the highway simulated the Alcatraz swim to shore. Somehow, hiking alone for a 4 year old came across like the Everest trail.
Suicide steps finally had me rushing to our front door only to discover a deeper abyss: my parents and siblings were all having lunch, enjoying the succulence of their feast while I literally got feasted and became lunch to feelings of catastrophic insignificance.
Home, sweet home?
Translate that to someone who just lost the meaning of his last name.


A song of ascents. Of David.

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
our feet are standing
In your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
to praise the name of the LORD
according to the statute given to Israel.
There the thrones for judgment stand,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem;
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my brothers and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity.


And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Ephesians 1:22-23 NIV

The third aspect of our life with God involves our affections towards his house. Home is a place where joy ought to exude in abundance. This is most pronounced where the dwelling place is that of the Lord’s: “I rejoiced with those who said to me “Let us go to the house of the LORD.””

In stark contrast to the mercurial atmosphere of our homes, the house of the LORD invites the pilgrim to discover a steady milieu: consummate joy!

While the pilgrim stands at the very gates of Yerushalayim, the joy of the LORD draws the weary traveler towards His living room: “ … our feet are standing … In your gates, O Jerusalem.” The transcending atmosphere induces an act of spontaneous thanksgiving: Praise and worship begins!

The believer’s walk, as it is directed by God’s guiding words culminates in an arrival to where God dwells. The personal joy of every believer is most tangible in the company of gathered praise within God’s house. The place of worship is described with an emphasis on its bonded structure: “Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, to praise the name of the LORD.” Within God’s community, the primary context of life is experienced– shared gratitude for all the benefits of God’s redemption. This is deeply experienced in the gathering of people bonded by a common covenant to live together under Christ’s lordship: each one, volunteering to a covenant contract to live by God’s terms. Nothing more, nothing less but Christ’s will being done within their watchful yet sincere accountabilities.

The call to rejoice while we live out our days of faith must consistently find its context within the household of faith. The covenant-making nature of the church speaks of God’s architectural prowess in inaugurating a joyful company. As co-journeyers towards God’s kingdom, the reality of Christ’s accomplished victory is incarnated within the collective affection of Christ’s followers to nurture one another from the depths of spiritual formation. Such praise is both necessary and spontaneous for it is “according to the statute given to Israel.” As adopted children, we have become joyful associates bestowed with God’s spoken precepts! We hold each one in high regard while nurturing each other with God’s wisdom. Nowhere is this found other than the “house of the Lord.”

While the collective praise of God’s people is lived out from within our intertwined lives, the essence of divine justice finds a home: “There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.” All our depravity and sinfulness are met with the astounding offer of God’s peace found in Christ’s reconciling work. The requirements for peace are met: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”” All our breaches had been paid for. Not a single stain remains as we are ushered to come into His house, brilliant as snow! Justice meets Shalom right at the doorsteps of God’s home producing a feast of secured prosperity for all those who have come: “For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.” The echoes of thanksgiving resound for what God has done, for what He is doing, and for what He has yet to do.

Our homes have been befouled by superficial glee. The spiritual climate occasionally tilts to the protean promises of this world. The cathedrals of entertainment and recreation openly compete with the primacy of worship, every single day. It is by sheer compassion that God’s doors are still left open.

Our third anchor is to enter into intentional joy by prioritizing corporate worship at a specific local church. We are called to come into God’s presence with his gathered people. We are gently asked to leave our stained and worn-out sandals outside the door, while being ushered with beautiful shoes to come inside where joy beckons every guest to stay for good. The joy of the LORD as it is both declared and expressed in corporate worship is much too potent for any gloom!

 Every believer is called to abandon the hypocrisy of despondency and turn towards becoming a joyful witness to all the wonderful gifts that we have been receiving. We turn away from all injustice and cling to God’s offer of settled peace. As we enter His courts with kindred believers, we leave our personal wrath and enter into His mercy-laden vindication. With much leisure and satisfaction, we are admonished to declare our shared experience as we come together in corporate adoration. We relinquish our rhetorical dreams in exchange for God’s guaranteed promise.

Go to church!

Enter into the vibrancy of shared life!

We are joyfully in God’s house, fully furnished by the accoutrements of His glory, honor, and praise!

Welcome Home!


When my call to ministry turned crystal, I was faced with a herculean dilemma of letting go and trusting Christ to fill my shoes to care for my younger siblings.  In our Asian culture, it was expected for the eldest male son to share the load of burden to assist each and every financial obligation the siblings might have until they commence with work on their own. I had a brother and three younger sisters to look out for. This responsibility was made considerably light when three of these left for the US, leaving me with only one sister to support. Before I left for seminary, I had an agreement with God regarding the consignment of this cultural responsibility. I thought He had it clear that it was now fully His purview to oversee my sister’s needs.
Life within the cloistered premises of the seminary was akin to a slice of paradise regained. Challenging as it was, the spurts of growth induced was worth all its accompanying travails. Meanwhile, my sister was faithfully cruising through life back home as a working student. She once disclosed how her good-looking single boss took much interest in her beauty and brains. I visited home one summer and spotted a spiffy sports car parked in front. The young gentleman courteously stopped by to court his young employee. He was dignified and kind in all respects. His warm smile was quite disarming.
While on a choir tour, I was left without a clue on the unfolding saga of delusion ravaging my home. I was informed, that my sister was pregnant by her boss who apparently concealed his true identity: a married man with three children. He had evaporated since discovering my sister’s unwanted condition. I learned later that week that an abortion had been scheduled to take care of our family’s ethical pride. No wonder, my sister’s tears, while languishing in solitary pain, sent upheavals to every crevice of my soul. When I asked her how she was doing, all she could muster was a whisper: “they wish to kill my baby; why can’t I just keep him?”
For two long hours, I argued for life and was granted favor with reservation. I took my sister to a relative from out of town to shelter her from social ostracism.
That Sunday, while I felt quite detached from the visible joy of the congregation, the ministry of prayer, word and fellowship stubbornly seeped through my languor.
One afternoon, demons from the East assaulted my conviction to stay the course of peace. I stole my father’s loaded gun to settle the score with the runaway gigolo.
While I stood trembling with my impulse to take matters away from God and into my fury, I was halted by the weekend memory of believers at church who were all spurring me to let God have his way. It was as almost literal as their cumulative push to toss my sight towards my sprawled bible. With much anger, I begged God to talk now or else, the trigger will have to speak. He did: “vengeance is mine,” was his retort. I unloaded, weeping and trembling from my repulsive withdrawal. There shall be no retaliation. The blood of the Lamb shall replace what had been spilled.
Erico was born to a new home.
Once, I visited the church he attends. He was playing drums with the exuberance of a young man comfortably settled where he belongs. Glad tidings replaced the doom as God himself signed his birth certificate in cursive red.