Sunday, January 27, 2008

Orbs - Angels or A Load of Balls?

It wasn't until recently that photos with strange looking balls of light became a hot topic of discussion among some of my friends. According to them, these orbs are apparently angels sent from heaven to look after us. They claim that orbs can be easily seen around holy anointed people, and are especially prominent during times of worship or deep prayer...

Or around yours truly... =)

When I first heard about it, my initial reaction was pure skepticism. It wasn't something that I've noticed before, and even if I did, I would never have thought it had anything to do with angels. These are the kind of orbs that people would usually associate with those shown on paranormal documentaries of spooky cemeteries and haunted homes.

And admit it, when you first saw my photo, it wasn't the thought of why I was taking a photo of myself wearing a Mexican hat indoors that first crossed your mind. It was those strange looking balls that were seemingly floating around me.

As a Christian, it was never about the things that I could see that increased my faith. It was the things I couldn't see, like the love, kindness, peace and joy of the Lord that makes my life so worth living. But as a man of science, I can't help but be aware of the underlying principles of the everyday phenomena.

Take the case of a rainbow... How can a small drop of water create such a magnificent sight in the sky? Thanks to science, we've now come to understand that the white warm glow of sunlight is actually made up of a wide range of colours. A rainbow basically forms when sunlight gets separated out into its different colours when it passes through a rain drop. This is a perfect example where a complex phenomenon has a very simple and elegant explanation.

How about orbs then?

Orbs are simply the distorted out-of-focus images of tiny particles being caught in the flash zone of the camera. When a photo is taken, the camera automatically focuses its lenses to capture the distant object. If dust particles are present in the air, they are usually too small to be seen by the camera's photo sensors. However, if they are really close to the lens, they can produce a distorted circular image on the resulting photo. This effect is similar to that caused by dust on your glasses when you're out in the sun.

To prove my theory, I carried out a simple experiment with my Olympus digital camera. The next 3 shots were taken with the camera mounted on a tripod during the afternoon. The 1st shot was a control shot, the 2nd was taken just after I ruffled my hair and the 3rd was taken right after beating 2 pillows together like a madman.

Control Shot

Ruffled Hair

Beating 2 Pillows

I don't know about you, but this experiment proves to me that orbs can be caused by dust particles in the air. It also proves that I really need to wash my pillows and switch to an anti-dandruff shampoo.

So why don't we see this effect in the more expensive professional SLR cameras then? Most compact digital cameras have the flash unit located just right next to the lens. While this may help in taking photos at dimly lit areas, it has a profound effect on the dust particles near the lens.

The flash overwhelmingly illuminates the surrounding dust particles near the lens at about 10 times the brightness of the Sun, and this can be easily captured by the photo sensors in the camera. Professional photographers use SLR cameras with sophisticated lenses and dust covers to overcome this problem. Furthermore, their flash units are quite a distance away from the lens opening, so the dust particles around the lens aren't as brightly illuminated as compared to the compact cameras.

This is the simple and elegant scientific explanation. But how about from a Christian perspective?

Orbs are no doubt a fascinating sight to a believer, especially when captured during moments of worship and prayer. Sometimes preachers use this as evidence of God's support of their ministry. And sometimes the presence of orbs brings a source of hope to those who see photos of their loved ones surrounded by them.

But the fact is, orbs do not pass the 3 rules of discernment.

Firstly, it does not glorify Jesus Christ. It turns the supernatural into something paranormal and mystifying. Orbs reduces the glorious nature of God and His angels into something that only a digital camera can see, but something His own creation cannot. It says nothing about Jesus but boasts about our ability to finally see into the spiritual realm with a man-made device.

Secondly, it does not increase or edify one's faith. To believe in orbs actually destroys the roots of faith. Our faith should be rooted firmly in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, that by His perfect sacrifice, our sins are now forgiven; and that by His resurrection, we can now lead an everlasting life with our Father in heaven. Our faith should not be based on something that appears randomly in dusty places. In some cases, the presence of orbs can even promote fear because it can now be used as a spiritual yardstick to judge if someone is praying enough or worshipping properly. I know this is ridiculous, but a dusty unkempt church building could very well appear to be more "holy" than a clean and tidy one.

Finally, it is not biblical. There is no verse in the bible that comes even close to suggest that orbs are angelic beings. Some dare to quote from the Book of Ezekiel and claim that the orbs are actually the wheels of the four living creatures. I wonder why have they chosen to focus on Ezekiel 1:16 which describes the wheels that sparkled like chrysolite but totally ignored Ezekiel 1:13 which tells of the fire that moved back and forth among the creatures, which was bright, and had lightning flashing out of it.

Surely the lightning and bright fire should be more noticeable than the sparkle? o_O

I didn't write this article to embarrass my friends or insult their spiritual discernment. If I have, I am truly sorry. I don't deny that God and His angels can use orbs as a means to manifest themselves, but there is a point where being too spiritual actually becomes silly.

My aim is for this article to create awareness on the deception currently plaguing the Church and hopefully this will help others discover the error of their ways. As a Christian myself, I believe that my friends will do the same for me if my spiritual walk is in error.

Bless you my friends, and may this passage from 1st Timothy edify you and keep you in Shalom peace always.

1 Timothy 4:1-16
1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons...

6If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly...

9This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. 11Command and teach these things. 12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity...

16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Day One

Today is officially Day 1 of my new career!

I'm still working in the same place, but am now part of the Embryology department across the corridor. I'll be joining a dedicated team of embryologists to help make parenthood a reality to those who naturally can't.

It was quite hard to say goodbye to the Biochemistry lab, especially to my lab colleague. She and I have such a great working relationship, it seems at times like we share a common brain hemisphere. So I'm really going to miss you, Cleo and all the paperwork ^_^

By Your grace Oh Lord, You've blessed me with a job that will help those in need.

YOU are the giver of life, and I thank You for giving me this opportunity to see it happen in front of my eyes.

Bless those Oh Lord who cannot conceive on their own, bless those who chose to seek help, and bless those who are fighting the same battle as You are...

Making their dreams come alive.

Monday, October 08, 2007

I've Been MooTooling!

Time really flies when you're having fun, and that's what I've been doing for the past 7 weeks ^___^

The company is currently in the midst of redesigning their website and I couldn't help but get involved in the development process. I've always loved web design but I didn't have the time nor the reason to keep up to speed with the latest web development tools... Until now that is! ^__^

If you think that government agencies are the only ones seemingly obsessed with using acronyms, you've obviously not been in touch with the web developer community yet. There's CSS, HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS, CGI, AJAX, DOM and heaven knows how many more there are.

But the one that I've been particularly interested in is a web development application called MooTools. It's basically a modular object-orientated JavaScript tool that makes your website do really funky stuff, like dynamically change its background colour, or have links bounce around whenever the mouse pointer passes over them.

And because it's modular, you can combine as many effects together as your imagination will allow. Just don't overdo it. You don't really want your site to become a prime candidate for causing epileptic seizures.

Work is getting quite exciting now, because for some reason, pregnancy rates always seem to sky-rocket during Spring time. Flowers aren't the only things that's blooming this time of the year ^__^

I'm trying to enjoy as much as I can in my current Biochemistry job, because when work resumes after the New Year break, a new chapter in my career begins.

Welcome to the fascinating field of Embryology.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Beyond Our Needs & Wants

Needs. Wants. Require. Desire. 4 words that every economist loves to talk about. It's also the same 4 words that advertisers love to muddle up. We are fortunate to live in a country where our basic standard of living is considered royalty by the poorer half of the world's population. But still, we seem to be living in lack.

If you're expecting me to go on rambling about the difference between our needs and wants, then you are assuredly mistaken. The world knows what the difference between those two words are. From childhood, we've been indoctrinated with the concept that a need is something we cannot live without and a want is something we desire, but not essential for survival. So from the start, we've been taught to associate meeting our needs as a responsibility, but fulfilling our wants as a selfish desire.

Look at the US, they are facing a mortgage crisis. At home in Australia, the credit card debt has gone up to $40 billion. I've spent tons of money on clothes, but sometimes when I look in my closet, I still don't know which clothes to wear. Any parent who has bought toys for their children should know that toys are not essential for their survival, but their rooms are still filled with those colourful little squiggly things anyway.

However what happens when we apply this principle to the relationship between God and Man? I need Him. I want Him. I require Him. I desire Him. You might think that the differences between these 4 words are not significant when it comes to God. But you'll be surprised on how much it speaks about your understanding of the Lord's presence in your life.

In the NKJV Bible, the word "want" occurs 116 times. The most famous mention of it of course is in Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." This gives us an impression that "want" is not a character that we should have when the Lord becomes our Shepard. Is David implying that we should not want or desire anything?

When we let the Bible interpret the Bible, in Psalm 34:10, David writes "The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." The Hebrew word for "want" in Psalm 23 and "lack" in Psalm 34 is the same word, חסר khaw-sare; which means to lack, be without. David was not saying that he shall have no desires, but he was referring to not be without.

The Greek word for "need" is chreia, which can mean usage, employment, demand or requirement. Notice how similar the word sounds with "career". However the word for "want" in Greek is boulomai, which means to will deliberately, have a purpose, to desire.

To need God implies that we require something from Him. But once that need is satisfied, we no longer have any use for Him, until the next lack arises. I challenge you this, rather than instilling such a wavering attitude in ourselves, we should be having a desire for our Lord regardless of our circumstances in life. During times of abundance, praise Him, and times of lack, trust Him. Our bank balance or emotional state at any moment shouldn't change the fact that He is a very real part of our lives.

There is an aspect of want that is not obvious; a want does not have any reason to exist besides satisfying one's own desires. However, as much as we can choose not to buy that 60 inch plasma television that we want so much, a want is still filled with a free choice. Anytime a want crosses our minds, a choice has to be made. How much more does it say about your relationship with God if you choose to have His presence in your life, rather than having no choice but to?

Other notable occurrences of "want" are in Galatians 3:2, "This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?";

2 Corinthians 5:4, "For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.";

John 5:6 , "When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”; and

Exodus 12:48, "And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land."

The last example is particular interesting. The "stranger" does not need to keep the Passover, but if he chooses to do so, all the males in his household have to be circumcised. Now all you guys out there will know that this procedure isn't exactly a walk in the park. As a matter of fact I don't think you'll be walking around that much after either.

There is no such thing as an atheist in a sinking boat. For anyone to say that we should live a life just always needing God, it either must be really comfortable living in a sinking boat, or they must not have experienced life in the water-tight hull of the Ark at all, which is our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is this free choice that differentiates a need and a want. Yes, we need God's wisdom, we need His favor, we need His grace and love. But when it comes to the presence of the Lord, I don't just want to need Him in times of need, I want to want Him even when my needs are met. Free choice is the one thing that sets a believing believer apart from an unbelieving believer. A believing believer saw the choice that Jesus made by sacrificing Himself to be hung on the cross. An unbelieving believer knows Jesus Christ hung on the cross, but doesn't know what that has got to do with him.

If you don't agree, maybe it's worthwhile asking God to not fulfill the prayers of your needs so that we will always need Him, because inadvertently that is what's you're implying.

I carried out an informal survey at work and asked my colleagues if they preferred their partners to say "I want you" or "I need you"? Out of 11 ladies surveyed, 6 chose "need" and the remaining 5 picked "want". The age group of those surveyed was between 30 and 60. They are all mothers; 3 of them are nurses, 5 administration staff, 2 scientists, and 1 psychologist. The gender bias can be easily explained by the fact that I'm the only guy at work. If you include me in the survey as well, the score is dead even.

While this result does not give weight to either side of the argument, it does imply that the world is also torn in half when it comes to knowing the difference between a need and want in relationships.

But the most important question is, are you?

Don't just need God when times are tough. Don't just seek His presence when there is no one else to fill the void. Invite Him in the midst of your friends and your career. But most importantly, want Him, because He first wanted you.
This article was written in response to the discussion I had a couple of weeks ago at a cell group meeting. May this enlighten your confused minds and edify your weakened spirits, my dear friends.

The Lord be with you always...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stairway To Heaven

How many people can you fit on a stairway?

This many...

But how many people do you want to fit on your stairway to heaven?

At any given moment in time, we are surrounded by people, those who we see everyday; at work, at church or at school. There are a couple of them who we get along so well with; and there's those few, who we pray that our path's will never cross.

But just ponder over this for a while. How many of them so called friends that you know, truly want to know you? It is one thing to remember their names, but to know their ways is the real challenge. I sometimes wonder if socially we are becoming too superficial, that we stop just short of establishing meaningful relationships, with friends, with family and even with the Lord Himself.

Someone once said to me he didn't like going to a large church because there were just too many people and he couldn't make any friends. This reminded me of the story of a salesperson who was sent to a faraway island to sell shoes. A month later, he came back not having sold a single pair of shoes. "Boss, you forgot to tell me that the natives don't wear shoes! How do you expect me to sell any?", he complained. The silly salesperson didn't realize that he was sent to an untapped market and if he had taught the natives how to wear shoes, he would have struck it rich.

Likewise, a large church shouldn't be a deterrent to us in making friends. Rather it gives us a huge opportunity to easily make contact with a large number of people we've never met before. If only we opened our eyes to see past our own need for attention and make an effort to get to know the person sitting next to us. Sometimes, a simple hello is all it takes for someone to believe in the love of Christ again.

One truly memorable moment of my life was during my time in Singapore on the Mass Rapid Transit train. You know its really amazing when you can have 50 people packed into a train carriage at peak hour, but not hear a single conversation amongst them. Maybe a off-pitched snore once in a while or the distinct plonk when a tired forehead gracefully meets the hard reality of the glass window. Even the library during exam season has more audible activity than the public transport system. Even here in Perth, everyone has their white wires dangling out of their ears, that sometimes I end up talking to the old lady in her Porta-pram, who can't really hear me anyway.

How many people do you want to fit on your stairway to heaven? I guess it's a good time to start getting to know Someone today...


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Anberlin - The Unwinding Cable Car

When I first heard this song on the radio, my ears latched onto it like a kitten with a fresh ball of string. There are not many times where I get epiphanies outside the confines of the shower, and this was one of them. I caught a glimpse behind the meaning of life itself, something that both philosophers and theologians alike have struggled for so long to understand.

For many, life is a fight for survival. For some, it's a time of service to the poor. For a few, it's a time of discovery.

For me... It is a moment of praise for the One who brought me here.

Anberlin - The Unwinding Cable Car
Emotive unstable you're like an unwinding cable car
Listening for voices, but it's the choices that make us who we are
Go your own way, even seasons have changed just burn those new leaves over
So self-absorbed you've seemed to ignore the prayers that have already come about

This is the correlation of salvation and love
Don't drop your arms, I'll guard your heart
With quiet words I'll lead you in

Backing away from the problem of pain you never had a home
You've been misguided, you're hiding in shadows for so very long
Don't you believe that you've been deceived that you're no better than...
The hair in your eyes, it never disguised what you're really thinking of

This is the correlation of salvation and love
Don't drop your arms, I'll guard your heart
With quiet words I'll lead you in and out of the dark

You're so brilliant, don't soon forget
You're so brilliant, grace marked your heart
You're so brilliant, don't soon forget
You're so brilliant, grace marked your heart

This is the correlation of salvation and love
Don't drop your arms, I'll guard your heart
With quiet words I'll lead you in

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Choice

Many a time, we're faced with a choice...

A choice between doing what's good or what's right...
Sometimes, the decisions we make are not all just black and white.

A choice between having what's wanted and what's needed...
Because having everything in the world doesn't mean you've succeeded.

A choice between believing in God, or just playing it safe...
Inward transformation, outward dramatization or just faith?

A choice between expressing your feelings or being just friends...
When you cross that line, it's either the beginning or an end.

A choice between when to ignore and when to forget...
Some things are just not worth reliving the regret.

A choice between enjoying your job or building a career...
Do you want to drop your anchor or trust the wind and let go of the steer?

A choice between a peaceful solitude or an uncertain happiness...
Eating alone. What can be worse?

A choice between praying fervently for a breakthrough, or living as if it's already here...
Where's our faith if we don't believe that God heard us right the first time.

Many a time, we're faced with a choice...

Maybe it's time to listen.
Listen to the still small voice...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dashboard Driver

Heaven goes by Favour. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.
-Mark Twain

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Where's Andy?

Back in the year 2002, when petrol was cheaper than a bottle of Coke, young Andy was plucked from his humble home in the East Coast of Singapore, to begin an epic journey in a country far far away. Little did he know that it was going to be the start of a wonderful adventure... ^_^

My Home in Singapore

After spending 5 hours in a cramped aluminium tube at 45,000 feet, breathing recycled air and striving off paralysis by wriggling my toes, I finally touched down at the great southern land of Australia!

Homes in South Perth

For the next 4 years, the grassy fields and the luscious lands south of Perth would be my abode. In that time, I discovered the beauty of Australia, in her people and their peaceful lifestyle.

Everyone I met on the road would greet me with a smile. It wasn't like back home where someone on the street would look at me as if I had a twig stuck in my head whenever I flashed my pearly whites at them.

The University of Western Australia

And this was the reason I came to Perth... The University of Western Australia! I had enrolled in the field of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology, with a plan to further my studies in the area of cancer research.

However, all that was going to change at the end of the 2nd year of my course... O_o

Joondalup Hospital & Home

In the year 2005, I got offered a job to work in a Biochemistry Lab at Joondalup Hospital Specialist Centre , way up north of Perth. A year later, after my university degree was officially done, I happily packed my bags and moved closer to work.

I stayed with friends at Clarkson and Mindarie for a couple of months. It was only at the end of 2006 that I finally found a place of my own, just a 2 minute walk from the hospital ^_^

So if you find yourself up in the northern suburbs and haven't got anything better to do... Give me a yell, bring a plate, and if you really behave, you might just get to see what's beyond these stairs ^_^

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Passion...

The Lord dropped a passion of Astronomy in my life, so I could see the beauty of creation, in the vastness of space.

A passion of Cooking; to feel the beauty of inspiration, especially when watching the bread rise.

A passion of Molecular Biology; to be awed by the beauty of nature, even in single-celled organisms.

A passion of Physics; to experience the excitement of experimenting, even when the Law of Gravity told us we couldn't fly.

A passion of Computer Science; to appreciate the beauty of simplicity, in the complexity of programming code.

A passion of Fertility Science; to experience the miracle of life, when nothing else seems to work.

And a passion of Christ; to see the glory in a Man who gave up all, so others may live...