Sunday, September 30, 2012

Recess Week Event: Admission to the hospital

I was admitted to the hospital for 3 days during this recess week. While I was at the school’s library on Monday, I had a fainting spell while I was surfing the computer. I knew that strange feeling of breathlessness and darkening of vision was symptomatic of an impending faint, and walked towards the corridor towards where the librarians were so that I may call for help if I should faint. Indeed, my body started feeling weaker and my vision became fuzzier as I walked down the corridor. I was losing balance and bumped my head on the corridor wall. I called for help as I prepared myself to fall to the ground as smoothly as possible without hitting my head. The librarians did come to my aid, as well as a fellow Varsity Christian Fellowship senior. I did not lose consciousness throughout the entire experience. I told the people around me to call for an ambulance. Perhaps I may have been overreacting. However, I think my fear was that I might be suffering from a possible stroke or heart failure. There are all the news these days of youths in rather healthy state dying suddenly from mysterious heart failures.

Perhaps I should reveal a truth as to what could have caused my fainting spell. It might have been a panic attack brought about by my surfing of the internet of what may be causing the rather strange pressure I seem to be experiencing in my head these days for at least 2 months now. I hypothesized that I may be having a brain aneurysm and looked up the internet about it. Reading about the symptoms that characterizes brain aneurysm on the internet had a sort of affirming effect of my fears. The panic attack triggered as spontaneously as I read about the symptoms of brain aneurysm on the internet and speculated that I might be having this condition.

The ambulance came, and I was warded at Alexandra Hospital for 3 days. There were quite some tests done, including a number of blood tests, and ECG, and EEG, and even an MRI. I suppose I wouldn’t have warranted such attention in medical treatment had I not told the doctors who were at the emergency department upon my admission that I had been suffering from nervous tics for the past few months. The senior doctor thought that it was necessary to scan the brain to eliminate for the possibility of a neurological problem. I refused to have a brain CT scan done upon me because I have read that the radiation exposure from a brain CT scan was very high and disposed the patient to future risks of brain tumors. I have read that the MRI was a safe way to diagnosed for brain problems because it used magnetic fields which did not have any radiation.

Anyway, the various tests done upon me revealed that I was not suffering from anything abnormal. The diagnosis at the end of my hospital stay was “near syncopation” which means that I nearly had a loss of consciousness. Such a diagnosis merely describes the symptom of my fainting spell rather than stipulating the cause of it. It is a relief though that there is nothing physically abnormal that caused my fainting spell. I suppose the released MRI scan that reveals that my brain is normal and healthy would go some way to alleviating me of my incessant hypochondriacal worries that I have brain problems. I suppose if there is any benefit from the entire experience, I would be able to concentrate better now in my studies because I would not obsess so much about health related worries about my brain.

This entire episode confirms to me the extent of my hypochondria. I suppose I should really be skeptical about worries relating to health because time and again, medical tests have shown that I am really normal. I have gone for the likes of a heart ultrasound scan when I suspected that I had ectopic heartbeats and nothing wrong was diagnosed with my heart. I have gone for numerous audiogram to test my hearing because I suspected I had hearing loss but they have revealed that my hearing is normal. I have also gone for a blood test to test for mercury in my blood because I feared that I had mercury poisoning after breaking a school laboratory monitor during my secondary school O level physics science practical examination. This MRI scan is really the ultimate, and it too have revealed that my worry had been misplaced. I have no brain aneurysm as I had been worried about.

I hope that I would not suffer any more hypochondrias in the future. There is always the danger that I start worrying again about things like whether I have brain tumor from radiation exposure from mobile phones . I really am predisposed to hypochondria.

The only medical condition that I seem to have officially diagnosed about myself is Asperger’s Syndrome. However, even that is dubitable. During my stay at the hospital, when the doctors have cleared me of suffering from any physiological abnormalities at the end of all the tests and checkups, a psychiatrist or psychologist came over to my ward to talk to me about possible psychological treatments. One thing that he seemed to be skeptical about was whether I was indeed suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome since I appeared quite normal to him in my conversation. It confuses me as to whether I truly have this condition, or it is a typical case of a psychologist whimsically diagnosing a patient from the array of supposed disorders they have created to label people. But I refrain from presuming too quickly that I am indeed simply normal because I think I do experience a sort of social difficulty which I do not perceive other “normal” people around me experiencing.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Sermon Mark 9:30-36

Today's sermon by Pastor Richard Chiu was about the topic of serving. In the passage of Mark 9:30-36, the disciples were squabbling over who was the greatest amongst them. Despite being followers of Jesus, they were caught up with the worldly "me first" mentality. Jesus message to them, as well to all christians, is a counter-revolutionary and counter-intuitive one to all contemporary concepts of greatness; that is he who wants to be the first must be the very last and servant of all.

I liked out Pastor Chiu contextualized the passage, giving a representation on how the various disciples would have been acting in that passage. Peter would most likely have said, "I walked on water, and was proclaimed as the rock on which the ministry would be founded". We could envision Matthew retorting "Yeah, but you sank. But it is I who is greatest because I forgo a lucrative position in the government to follow Jesus." John could have quipped, "Jesus said that he loved me the most", whilst his brother Andrew could have said "Jesus called out to me in my name even before I knew him. Surely there must be something special about me." And Judas Iscariot could have remarked most astutely amidst all the squabble "Ah, but it me whom Jesus trusted to handle the money! Surely I am the greatest."

It is certainly easy to slip into a mindset featuring all the contemporary notions of success. I find myself being influenced in my life as a law student in such a manner, especially when one is extolled and praised if he or she is clever, and contrastingly dismissed or ignored in a somewhat condescending manner if he or she is perceived to be stupid. Amongst social talks are the likes of who is the brilliant one, who is the star student, who is the brilliant mooter, who is the first-class honours material, who will make it to partners in the law firm, who has it in them to become the next senior counsel or chief justice in Singapore,  Everyone wants to be the successful one amongst the legal fraternity. I didn't find myself so angst about having to do well in law school when I first entered, but somehow, I find that my mindset has changed quite surreptitiously such that I am deeply angst when I did not do well for my law school results last semester. It does call in question why I feel so aggrieved and angst. I suppose I find myself quite success-oriented in my mentality as well.

I suppose there needs to be some perspective about what the role of excellence is. I suppose success, or excellence in the field of one's vocation is a good thing because it helps one to serve others the community better. However, even if one is not as capable or successful, one should not be too aggrieved if one truly sees the function excellence or success as being that to serve. It seems to me that God has placed people of varying abilities and skills to serve others in their various roles. If everyone were so intelligent and capable, and did very well in school, and aspired to be lawyers, doctors, business person, and the like, who would run the provision shops, cook the dishes at the hawker, drive the buses and taxis, and clean the garbage from the vicinity? I do wish that everyone, including myself, could see things in such a manner and not be condescending in their perception of the lower position vocations in society.

Japanese are eccentric but cute!

There is a unique feature about Japanese popular culture. It has this cute and happy element to it which no other races can replicate. I think the Chinese race is rather down to earth and formal in their mannerism. This is quite a juxtaposition to its East Asian sibling, the Japanese. The Japanese have all these quirky advertisements which I watch on youtube. I do find the inscrutable charms of Japanese culture quite alluring.

I once watched a film titled "Lost in Translation" which intimately depicts the bizarre yet rather intriguing aspect of Japanese culture. From geishas, to Japanese game shows, to Yakuzas, Japanese culture has a rather enigmatic and curious quality to it. Yet it enthralls with its elusiveness.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola

During morning assembly for my high school days at St Joseph's Institution, a student at the podium would lead the school in morning prayer. There is a stock of prayers in the student handbook, of which one would be chosen to be recited for the morning prayer. One of the prayer that was used occasionally is this prayer that is attributed to a person named St Ignatius. It goes as follows:

Lord, I freely yield all my freedom to you.
Take my memory, my intellect and my entire will.
You have given me anything I am or have;
I give it all back to you to stand under your will alone.
Your love and your grace are enough for me;
I shall ask for nothing more.

I abstained from saying this prayer with the assembly because I felt that I would not truly mean what I say. I felt that it would be too difficult for me to accept the prospect of my memory, intellect, and entire being taken from me, and I did not want to say such a prayer casually without truly meaning what I say.

I do place a significant value on the trait of intellect in my life. However, I do realize that having an attachment to such traits can be a vulnerability for me in my faith in God. Indeed, whenever I do badly for my school grades, I find myself greatly angst beyond reasonable proportions against God such that I am profoundly affected in my faith. It is an unhealthy response.

The prayer said by St Ignatius is one that expresses a genuine faith in God, and I suppose if I should be rational about it, I should not be worried about saying such a prayer because indeed, God's love and grace should be enough for a person.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My obligation to live up to my potential

I am not sure what is the reason for my not getting a hang of how to study for law. I am right now trying a "do everything possible" approach to law school studies. That is, I try to study as much as possible, as long as possible, as efficiently as possible, and as effectively as possible. But it seems like other than being able to study long hours, I don't seem to be able to achieve any efficiency or effectiveness in my studies. I would pore through the notes, the cases, the slides, the muggers, the textbooks, the handouts etc....and I doubt that there is really any progress. I am not seeing the links amongst the disparate sources of materials. I am also rather poor in my ability to organize the materials coherently, both in my notes and in my mind. I also don't think that I am truly comprehending the materials, but I am a little unsure about how I can go about comprehending the materials better. And I am not sure how to use the materials effectively to answer the hypothetical question in the tutorial. In the end, I just go into a tutorial session by reading the answers I get from seniors and from the notes.

I suppose I just want to be responsible in the way I approach my studies, and do the best possible for my law school education. It is the least that I can ask of myself, isn't it. I mean, there may come a point where I must acknowledge my intellectual limitations, and which barrier I may not be able to surmount by hard work alone. I hate having to acknowledge such barriers for myself, especially when it pertains to intellectual capabilities. I would like to think that I have the requisite intelligence to do what I want to do. But like all traits that defines a human being, they vary in degrees amongst different human individuals. Some are bornt much more athletic than others, some more sociable than others, some more beautiful than others, and then some more intelligent than others. I don't have traits of sociability, it's something that I am very much deficited in because of Aspergers' Syndrome. I don't think I am that good-looking, although people have told me to the contrary that I am good-looking, and I appreciate those compliments. But if there is any trait that I value more than others, it would be the trait of intelligence. I do wish that I could be the smartest man in the world because then, life would be easy wouldn't it? But alas, I have to come to terms in my life that I am not as intelligent as I would like to be. It angst me somewhat to have to come to terms with a notion that I am limited in my intellectual capabilities. But I suppose that I should give thanks for the amount of intelligence I find in my possession and not gripe too much. I just hope that it is enough to do well in law school.

I mean, I just wish to be a sane and responsible person in how I do things in life. I don't think I can ask for anything more of myself, can I? I want to put in the necessary hard work to do well, such that it cannot be excused of me that it was due to my lack of responsibility that I did not do well. I sometimes present a hypothetical question to myself, asking myself whether someone else who is in my shoes could have done any better. I mean, if someone could indeed have done better if it were me(that is my physical body), then that means that I(the spiritual me) have not fulfilled my obligation to live up to my potential.

Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know (feat. Kimbra)

I heard this song playing overhead on radio while I was having my meal at the Bishan KFC restaurant in the afternoon before going to school to discuss on the presentation for company law that we have to give on Tuesday next week. I like the catchy tribal ornamental xylophone tune, and the passionate, pensive voice of the singer. I thought it would be a pity if I just forgot about such a beautiful song, and so I tried listening intently to the lyrics of the song, but I couldn't make out the lyrics except for the words "used to know". I googled it on my Ipad and found the music video on youtube.

It has quite an artistic music video. It seems like an allusion to the theme of the Garden of Eden. I checked out the lyrics. It speaks of a rather painful breakup experience for the man, who criticizes the woman for being so harsh in the way she seemed so callous in the way she behaved when she broke up the relationship, although he had the sentiment that the relationship was not fulfilling for him. And the woman gave her reason for having to do things the way she did, because she felt cheated in the relationship and was tired of being made to feel at fault when the man behaved badly in the relationship.

Such a sad relationship...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Corporate Law : Director's Duties

I just had a meet up with my group mates in school to discuss the company law tutorial that we are suppose to present for next week. After the session, I realized that I did not know the section of Director’s Duties well enough. My rather haphazard studying of the topic by referencing the multifarious sources has not been very productive in aiding me in my understanding. Professor Hans Tjio rather disorganized lecture and lecture notes has not been too helpful to my understanding as well. But I think I got a more coherent picture what this topic of the course is about after my discussion with the group, and the brief consultation that we had with Professor Dan Puchniak.

Foremost, it seems like I have overlooked certain important features of how the law is structured with regards to director’s duties. I had thought that the law was simply defined in the statutory provision of s157 from which the 3 fiduciary duties (i.e. To Act Bona Fide only in the Company’s interest, avoid conflict of interest, and use powers only for their proper purposes) of the directors could be inferred. But I learnt that there is a separate common law doctrine to which such duties are stipulated as well. The difficulty is to find out where the statutory provision and the common law approach overlaps, and where they don’t. Professor Puchniak just gave this hint that there is a case which features a scenario where the breach of duty regarding conflict of interest is covered by the statutory provision but not the common law doctrine. The significance of which category the breach of duty falls under relates to the type of liability that would be accrued to the offender (i.e criminal for breach of fiduciary duty under the statutory provision and civil liability for breach of duty under the common law), and the available remedy for the breach.

I thought that fiduciary duties were the only category for director duties. But now, I understand that there 3 categories to which Director’s Duties can fall under. So as stated before, there is fiduciary duties, which comprises of 2 limbs – to act bona fide only in the company’s interest, and to avoid conflict of interest. There is actually a third limb of ‘use powers only for their proper purpose’, which according to Professor Puchniak, is not very relevant in the Singapore context. I wonder this is so though; the second category of Director’s Duties is Duty of Care and Skills or negligence; and thirdly, there are statutory duties. I had wrongly misconceived duty of care and skills as relating to the standard of care to which the fiduciary duties had to be performed and not as a separate category of duty. It was certainly a big and possibly fatal misconception of Director’s Duties. I am told by Professor Puchniak that the various lecturers have different paradigms on how they would characterize the doctrine of Director’s duties. I had initially thought that there was a monolithic doctrine on Director’s duties. Funny that I did not pick out the difference in paradigm when I read Walter Woon’s textbook on company law. I suppose I wasn’t percipient to the differences in paradigm as I was not expecting there to have been any difference in paradigm.

Under the first limb of fiduciary duties (Act Bona Fide Only in the Company’s interest) consists of 2 tenuous issues – to whom in the corporate constituency is the fiduciary duty owed to, and the standard to which the fiduciary duty has to be upheld. Because of my misconception duty of care and skill relates to how the fiduciary duty was carried out, I thought that the standard of care enunciated in Daniels v Anderson (1995) 16 ACSR 607 (NSWCA) would apply and the standard of carrying out the fiduciary duty is simply one of an minimum objective test. Well, now that I know that duty of care and skills is a separate category of director’s duties, I suppose that leaves open the question of what is the standard of care to which the first limb of the fiduciary duty has to be carried out. I don’t suppose the standard of care stipulated in Daniels v Anderson could be said to apply to the standard of care to which a director is supposed to act for in regards to the company’s interest? 

From what I hear from my group mates who are doing the question, they think that there is a separate stipulation for the standard of care to which a director is supposed to act in bona fide for the company’s interest. However, this is the difficult part in that it is not very clear-cut what this standard of care is, and what the calibrated standard of care would be for the various types of directors (executive directors vs non-executive directors)

But director’s duties do not just stem from s 157. Professor Puchniak mentions that there are other statutory provisions which specifies other sorts of director’s duties. I suppose the range of such duties are manifold, such as the duty to arrange the company’s meetings according to certain formalities under the section 170+ provisions of the Companies Act as told to me by Laurelle. I am not sure whether these that were highlighted to my attention are exhaustive. I suppose I should be observant to what these duties are as I study on the various aspects of company law.

Then, there are the common law duties which parallels the duties explicated in s 157 in a certain regard. It too specifies duties that can be grouped under the categories – 1. Act in the company’s interest, 2. Avoid conflicts of interest, and 3. Use powers for proper purposes. The challenge is to see how these duties are different from that specified in the s157.

So let me summarize
Director Duties
1. Fiduciary/common law duties
1.       - Act Bona Fide in company’s interest
2.       - Avoid conflict of interest
2. Duty of care and skills
3. Other statutory duties

Quarter-Life Crisis

I think I identify with what David, one of my cell group mates, told me yesterday during cell group meet. He said that he felt like he was going through a 'Quarter-life crisis' where he just feel like life is quite directionless for him. I asked him, "Does Christianity help you to find meaning in life?". "Not really," he replied, "God doesn't seem to tell me what my life is for".

I am not sure what the purpose of my life is as well. I wished that my life purpose could have been characterized much more simply. I had the impression that a life of academia would be most suitable for before I came to law school.This is because I lack the intuition for building social relationships due to my having Aspergers' Syndrome, and I thought that a life of quiet solitude devoted to a life of intellectualism would be most ideal for me. However, I don't seem to have the aptitude for law studies. I did badly for my first year of law school. It's most unfortunate really, because this would deny me the avenue for living a life of academia. I had thought that a person of my character and disposition bore the resemblance to the archetype role of a professor. But it seems like I am denied to given such an esteemed role in life.

What is my life made out to be? Somehow, I feel that there is a possibility that a career in law isn't what I was cut out for. Had I chosen the wrong course for study for my university degree? If not, why then am I facing such struggle in my law studies? Well, what were the alternatives to an education in law anyway? If I had not managed to obtain a much coveted place at the law faculty at NUS, I would have ended up at SMU law school because my parents wanted me to do law. There wouldn't be any difference to the difficulty that I would face if I were to go to SMU instead. I am not sure whether I would find it more suitable for me if I had decided to study for an Arts and Social Science degree. For a moment, I had considered that option after being rejected from NUS law when I first applied to the school. I don't have a problem with writing per se; I only find it difficult to write down technical concepts in my own words, and law is very much that. If the course is not technical in nature, I wouldn't find as much a problem. But then again, perhaps a similar malady would have affected me had I been in the faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Moreover, an arts and social science degree doesn't do much good for one's employment prospects.

I am not sure whether I would have made a good science or engineering student for university. For one, I didn't even consider doing a degree in science or in engineering after my A levels. I was a science student during my junior college days and studied physics, chemistry, mathematics and economics for my 4 H2 subjects. I even did module in H3 economics called game theory and competition. I wasn't too spectacular in my studies of the science subjects. I was rather inconsistent in my results despite putting in utmost effort into my studies. I could get an A for physics for the block test, and then flunk it with a D for the prelims. For chemistry, I hovered around the B range, managing to obtain an on-the-dot A for the prelims. I was also the usual B student with the occasional A for mathematics. My results for economics were rather volatile, but I didn't get an A for that subject during my schooling life at St Andrew's Junior college. Somehow, I managed to get As for Physics, Mathematics, Economics, and Project Work for the A level examination, a B for Chemistry, and a B for General Paper. It was a disappointing pass grade for my H3 Economics. Perhaps it might have been a grade inflation effect. Many of my schoolmates I knew who didn't do very well for the school-based examination similarly obtained a slate of As for the A level examination. I supposed if I had taken up engineering as a degree, I would be obtaining the same cycle of borderline inconsistent grades. I don't think that I would have been anymore spectacular in a studies in the sciences.

For some strange reason, I had an aversion towards studying for a degree in medicine. There is this intuition within me that I was not meant to do something like medicine for my career. I did apply for the course though, after being disappointed with not securing a place at the law faculty, but I think my sentiment was confirmed when I went for the medicine interview, and found the atmosphere of working in such a clinical environment and dealing with such austere knowledge of the human body most stifling.

And I have never considered doing a business degree either.

I suppose considering the totality of things, a law degree seems like the best option for me. I would have wished that I would have found my forte in law, but it seems like that is not to be.

I do hope that God has a purpose and will for me, but recently, it seems like I have lost faith in God. I don't know whether one might think me naive, but I had believed that God can help me do well for my law school examinations even if I don't manage to figure out how to study effectively. Such a mindset might have gotten me complacent in the way I treated my studies, because even though I studied as much as I possibly could, I was rather laxed in my preparation methodology. But then again, I was rather foolish in the way I approached law school examination during the last semester, thinking that I could rely on reading only the textbook to prepare myself adequately for the examination.

Now, I try to study as much as possible and use whatever methods I can think of to prepare myself for the law school examination. I would read various textbooks, use the lecture notes and slides, use the muggers and notes from seniors, ask friends for the lecture notes that took...But I seem quite ineffective with using all these materials effectively to prepare for examination. I seem to lose sight of the connection between the various information easily and everything appears to me in a jumble. Law studies, unlike a simple taking of a General Paper examination, demands more than just being able to comprehend information. It demands a proficiency in using these information for a certain purpose. I just don't seem to be grasp this aspect of law studies.

It's unfortunate that I am not the man that I would like to be. I have a great esteem for academics and wished I could have my existence defined in such a manner. But I must now reckon with reality and find my aspirations dashed. So now, it's a rude awakening for me to see that I can no longer conveniently frame my existence as how I had wanted it to be. And I ask God, what then is the purpose of my existence?

I have asked God to help me do well for law studies, so not being able to get a hang of law school severely affected my faith in God. I still believe that God exist, but I am a little sad that he does not seem to be as personal to me as how I would like him to be by blessing me with such wisdom and intellect as to be able to breeze through law school.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Church Sermon : Mark 7 : 24 - 30

Today’s church sermon by Pastor Soh was on the passage of Mark 7:24 -30. It was about the story of the gentile woman who came up to Jesus to beg him to drive the demon out of her daughter. Jesus replied in what seems like a harsh insulting manner. “First let the children eat all they want”, he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs. “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

According to Pastor Soh, Jesus’ purpose for his seemingly harsh and insulting words to the woman was to inspire the words that came forth from the woman, which were words professing a great faith. She believed that even the crumbs that are left are powerful enough to dispel the possession of demons. And indeed, the extent of Jesus’ power was displayed when he dispensed the demon with the simple words “the demon has left your daughter.”

Pastor Soh says that sometimes, the Lord inspires us with the opposite of what we expect. We pray for recovery from illness, yet our condition deteriorates. We pray to keep our job, yet we lose it. We may pray for success, but God takes us through humbling experience. When we are in the depths of our woes, we will throw ourselves into prayer, and are then inspired to true faith. But we can be sure that when we pray for salvation, we will receive it. God himself has gone through the most humiliating experience. When we ask, we will not find Jesus wanting in grace, power, or wisdom. He will give us more than crumbs. Already, he has given us his flesh and blood, Christ himself, his blessing.

I am not sure whether I would have responded in the self-effacing manner that the woman did. I have come to realize the fragility of my faith after experiencing difficulties in law school. There is the struggle with socializing which I am familiar with throughout my life. There was quite a comfort in being able to be away from having to interact with many people during my army days as a clerk. School life resurfaces the struggles I have to face with socializing. I find myself once again quite a loner around in school, unable to find a social circle to hang out with, and eating alone at the canteen during lunch time. I try to find friendship from the Christian community such as the Varsity Christian Fellowship in school because I believe that there is a shared value amongst Christians to love and care for others, whoever they are. But my condition with Aspergers Syndrome can be overwhelming, such that I feel estranged even from the Christian community because I find it hard as well to associate with them.

I am also experiencing difficulties in my law studies. I am not getting a hang on how to do well for law school. It frustrates me the most to not do well for my studies. I sometimes place my pride on my intelligence, believing it to be compensation for my poor social skills, so it doesn’t do very well for my ego to not do well in my studies.

I have found my faith severely tested from the difficulties I am experiencing in law school. My prayers to God to alleviate me of my troubles seem to have gone unanswered. Like the woman in the passage, I wish that God would dispense with my ‘demons’ by simply willing it so, but it seems that I am being rejected. I don’t think I can profess a humble faith like that woman. I find myself angry at God, to the extent that I would dispute his existence. I find it difficult to find joy in going to church or participating in Christian-related activities because I have been experiencing this gnawing sentiment within me that God doesn’t exists. Perhaps it is God’s grace that I am still keeping the faith. Perhaps there might be reason for the difficulties that I am experiencing, so that my faith may be tested and be proven genuine (1 Peter 1:7). But I do hope and pray that I might see the light at the end of the tunnel as soon as possible.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Central Bible Study Session: Daniel 1

The Varsity Christian Fellowship organisation holds a bible study session with the cell group leaders from the various faculties of NUS forthnightly. This is to prepare the cell group leaders with knowledge of the materials to lead their respective cell group sessions.

For Central Bible Study this week, we went through the passage of Daniel 1. The focus from Central Bible Study session is different from Professor Thio's bible study session on the book of Daniel. The emphasis is on application to student life.

As narrated in chapter 1 of the book of Daniel, Daniel and his friends had been exiled to the kingdom of Babylon and were made to undergo education relating to Babylonian culture. They were also subjected to a dietary regime of royal food as part of King Nebuchadnezzar's plan to nourish them for the responsibilities of the Babylonian administration. Daniel and his friends however refused to partake in the consumption of the royal food as they did not want to defile themselves. They opted for a substitute diet consisting of vegetables instead.

As can be seen from the actions of Daniel and his friends to refuse the royal food, Daniel and his friends had made a resolute decision to act in a manner that upholds their faith in God in the midst of a foreign culture. Likewise, the issue that was brought up for this bible study session was how Christian students can live out their faith in a world that does not acknowledge God. One of the objective of the bible study is to get Christian students to reflect on what meaningful issues he or she can stand up for.

It got me reflecting as to what issues I have stood up for in life. I do wish to help the less fortunate in whatever manner I possibly can. I mean, I would donate in the tin cans of those secondary school students I see doing their CIP rounds in public for some charitable cause. I would feel sympathetic to the handicapped baskers and elderly destitutes selling tissue papers and give them some money. Other than donating to the less fortunate, I also try to be environmentally friendly in my consumer habit, such as refusing the plastic bags which the stallholders have the custom of placing my drinks in. I once wrote on the comment page on the tabloid portal STOMP putting forth my view against the xenophobic comments that I see levied by my fellow Singaporeans on mainland chinese. I try to adhere to copyright laws as much as possible, but this is truly difficult. On my part as a law student, I volunteered to help out in some pro-bono activity at the legal clinic during the semester break.

A church friend of mine who is also my law school senior once highlighted one such other social cause that I could advocate. It is the plight of maids in Singapore. The working conditions of maids in Singapore isn't too admirable. There was no legislation granting maids days-off from their job. My church friend suggested that one way in which I could help these maids is by writing to the Straits Times forum petitioning the Ministry of Manpower to mandate a one-day rest day in a week for maids. I suppose there has been some recent development in this. I would have to admit though that I didn't take up the initiative to write in to the Straits Times.

I am also reminded during my reflection of the importance of the various vocations in the legal fraternity to society. Lawyers, Judges, and Academics have their respective parts to play for the effective functioning of the justice system. It is easy for one to lose perspective of the purpose of the vocation that one is training up for amidst one's studies. I am not sure whether I will eventually serve in a capacity of a legal profession. I do pray oftenly that God would give me the necessary wisdom so that I may be able to do well in my law studies. However, it seems that I have yet to get a hang of law school. Perhaps it is God's will that I should not be given the necessary qualities to do well in law school. I do hope that God has a will for me to do well in life, even if I should not do well in law school.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sunday Sermon - Matthew 15:1-16

On Sunday yesterday at church, Pastor Chiu gave a sermon on the passage Matthew 15:1-16 in which Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy for stipulating that cleanliness was a matter of adherence to the Jewish regulations and customs when they had broken the commandment of God as a result. “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them” (Matthew 15:11) says Jesus.

Pastor Chiu talked about how all human beings are in bondage to sin, which was the result of the fall of Man at the garden of Eden.  Therefore, all human beings come into the world imperfect, bounded by the condition of original sin. Even children are not innocent. Pastor Chiu talked about signs of manipulative behaviors in his children even at a young age, such as when he tells them not to play the computer, they would approach their mother to get permission to try to circumvent his authority.
Pastor Chiu says that as Christians who have received the faith, we have a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26). However, we still experience evil thoughts as a result of the old heart that remains in us. Pastor Chiu says that a Christian life is a struggle between the old heart and the new heart. The old heart is the vestige of our mortal imperfect self that possess the remnant of original sin, whilst the new heart comes from being saved through our faith in the salvation of Jesus Christ. I am not sure what to make of this two hearts doctrine that is spoken by Pastor Chiu. I suppose it explains why Christians are not immune from having evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (Matthew 15:19). Paul’s famous words in Roman 7:14 – 20 does talk about how those in the faith can still be disposed to the temptation to sin. I have not heard though of the use of the metaphor of having two hearts to explain the reason why Christians can have evil thoughts. After all, in Ezekiel 36:24, didn’t God remove the old heart of stone before putting in the new heart of flesh?
Pastor Chiu continued, that all are born sinners, but when you trust in him, you become saved. However, we did not choose God, but God chose us (John 15:16). Ultimately, we cannot overcome our inclination to sin, except through God. Pastor Chiu points out that the fact that we were in church that Sunday instead of somewhere else is the work of God. It was a nice message to hear, and it was a message that spoke to me in some personal way. That morning, I had the thought that I would skip on going to church so that I could catch up on law school readings. I mean, I have been quite a faithful and regular attender of church on Sundays, so I don’t really know why I had such a passing thought in my head that particular morning. I suppose I have been disappointed at God these days over my poor law school results last semester, such that sometimes I have the feeling that God doesn’t exist or will not help me in law school. Nevertheless, I decided to go to church that day. So it’s a nice message from Pastor Chiu that God had a will for me to be in church that morning because I could very well have decided otherwise.

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