Humble Beginning Honored Ending

by Rev Sng Chong Hui

Those 4 words sum up the life of our beloved former President of Singapore, the late SR Nathan who passed away peacefully on 22 August 2016.

Unlike many Presidents in the world who have a bright start in their lives, born with a silver spoon or from illustrious families, SR Nathan had a very humble beginning.

At the age of 8, his father took his own life. He came to Singapore to study but was expelled from school at age 16. He then ran away from home. Went to Muar and survived by taking on odd jobs, giving tuition, delivering letters and even worked as a hawker assistant.

Then came the Japanese Occupation. He started learning Japanese from a Japanese-English dictionary. And he became an interpreter for the Japanese until the war ended.

Thereafter he pursued his studies in the University of Malaya. Upon graduation he joined the Public Service, where he quickly rose through the ranks.

As director of the Security and Intelligence Division, Nathan displayed his bravery in the Laju incident. He led a group of Singaporean officials as guarantors to accompany the terrorists on board a plane to Kuwait.

Thank God for his safe return together with the other Singaporeans.

Then he became our first elected minority President serving from 1999 to 2011.

As I watched the news I am totally amazed by the tributes and accolades of his achievements during his Presidency.

He had helped Singapore sailed through many diplomatic storms and even improved bilateral ties with other countries.

He strengthened the Labor Movement and Trade Unions. He initiated the President’s Challenge, which has since raised more than $160 million for various beneficiaries.

And most of all, he is widely remembered for his friendly rapport with people, especially those who have special needs.

He died at a ripe age of 92. He lived a full, tough and eventful life. He left a legacy of good works, great examples and grand inspiration that humble beginning can lead to honored ending.

Thus so says our God in Zechariah 4:10 NLT

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin …”

Teaching the promises of God

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Joshua 21:1-22:20; Proverbs 13:15-16

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
Joshua 21:43-45   “Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”

REFLECT
Verses 43 to 45 made repeated statements that the Lord kept to His promises. While such is the author’s remembrance and worship of how the Lord has fought for Israel; it also serves as an important teaching for future generations. The teaching is that the Lord will never fail. He is the Alpha and the Omega who keeps to His promises. In God’s economy, when He said something, it is already a done deal.
The teaching is also that when God made a promise to us, the promise shall be fulfilled according to God’s ways and not ours. Such a teaching is important because for the future generations, they might face similar or worse challenges in the faith. During such times, such reminders hope to enable the people to cling on to the Lord Almighty so that they would not “break faith” like the son of Zerah (Joshua 22:20).

RELATE
Teaching the next generation about our faith is part of discipleship. Discipleship is not only about living the truth; but imparting the life and truth to those who comes after us. The church is generally well versed in imparting truth to the next generation. Over the years, we have experimented with and launched sophisticated ways of teaching the younger: such as bible studies in youth cells, sermons at youth services and even the establishment of mentoring relationships. All these are well and good.

Nevertheless, teachings such as those found in the book of Joshua were expected to be imparted throughout the generations not only within the community of believers; but more so within the context of family. Parents are expected to be well versed with such teachings, live them out and impart them to their children day and night. Unfortunately, some Christian parents have the tendency of “outsourcing” the discipleship of their children to the church’s children and youth ministries. Much time is spent fussing over their children’s studies, career and marriage; but little is done to disciple them to be men and women after God’s own heart. As Deuteronomy 11:18-19 reminded us: “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

REST
Dear Lord, help us as parents to remember your call for us to disciple our children. Help us to be your disciples first, so that as we impart your truth to our children; they know that we are living out the truth in authenticity and in faith. Amen.

Musing on Mortality

by Rev Sng Chong Hui

Last night after returning home from family dinner I quickly turned on the TV to catch the remaining live telecast of the National Day Rally (NDR).

That was when I learned the NDR was suspended because our PM had taken ill.

I was shocked, stunned and shaken. A host of unimaginable fears and foreboding thoughts flooded my mind. It did trigger a wave of prayers amongst my WhatsApp groups.

Thank God our PM Lee did not have a stroke but a “brief fainting spell” caused by “prolonged standing, heat and dehydration.”

When PM Lee returned on stage to resume his speech, it brought great reliefs to both audience and viewers like myself.

However as he talked about the need for leadership succession, he made a poignant remark that “Minister or not, all of us are mortal.”

The Bible gives us 3 pictures of our mortal life.

  1. The Swiftness

The Bible in the book of Job tells us the swiftness of life.

“Now my days are swifter than a runner” (Job 9:25)

“They pass by like swift ships” (Job 9:26a)

“Like an eagle swooping on its prey” (Job 9:26b)

“Oh, remember that my life is a breath!” (Job 7:7)

Such is the swiftness of our mortal life.

  1. The Uncertainty

The Bible tells us the uncertainty of life.

“For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

“For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow?” (Ecclesiastes 6:12)

Who can lay hold of a shadow? Who can be so certain of life? Not even the rich fool who thought it certain, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19)

Such is the uncertainty of our mortal life. 

  1. The Changeability

The Bible also tells us the changeability of life.

“We spend our years as a tale that is told” (Psalm 90:9 KJV)

A tale is a story with twists and turns. Our mortal life is filled with unpredictable changes.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell and make a profit; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow” (James 4:13).

Such is the changeability of our mortal life.

No doubt all of us are mortal yet we worship and serve an Immortal who is described as, “The Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation” (II Corinthians 1:3a-4) 

If we have such a God, it doesn’t matter if our mortal life is swift, uncertain and changeable.

The “very little” things

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Luke 19:1-27; Psalm 87:1-7

READ (Verse chosen for meditation)
Luke 19:17: “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ “(ESV)

REFLECT
This is a familiar verse. Quite often, our eyes might fall on the “ten cities”. What are these “ten cities”? Are they physical health, wealth or mansions in heaven? Yet Jesus’ emphasis in the parable is not about what the nobleman can give, it is about how his servants deal with the “very little” he gave. These “very little” things could definitely take the form of money; but they could very well refer to the things we do on a daily basis – such as those concerning time and relationships. So as we wait for the Lord’s kingdom to arrive in its full glory, how are we really doing with the “very little things” in the new life? When we spend time with our children, are we often distracted? When we spend time with the Lord in our daily devotions, do we just want to get it “over and done with”? When the lift door is closing and we saw a man struggling to reach the lift; do we wait or pretend not to see? When we felt tempted to view websites that are unwholesome, would we flee or would we indulge? Notice also that the nobleman left the ten servants to their own devices with the ten minas; and so in this world we are “left” with the stewardship and worship of God’s “very little things” in our life; especially when no one else (except God) is watching. Are we able to be good stewards of the “very little” that God has given or would we end up like the bad steward who lost even his “very little”?

RELATE
As a pastor, i am often given the privilege to listen to the cries of those in need. Some of these cases are complex and emotionally draining. At times, i just wanted so much to help these persons without taking good time to pray and discern what the Lord wants to do (or not to). During such occasions, I know that i have failed to steward the “very little” because my eyes were unwisely fixed on the “ten cities”. The best thing that happened in these cases is that the Lord still ministers because of His love and grace. The worst thing that happened was that the person felt very discouraged that nothing significant was being given in the counsel. As Leonard Ravenhill reminded me time and again: “No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.”

REST
Oh Holy Spirit, may you help us to be faithful in the “very little” – not so that we want glory for ourselves in the “ten cities”; but so that in whatever the outcome, Your Name is glorified. Amen.

Bird Strikes

by Rev Sng Chong Hui

Bird strikes are rare. But when it happens, it can bring down an airplane.

Recently a bird hit a Qatar Airways passenger plane after take-off.

It was ingested into the left engine. There was a series of bangs. The fan blades bent. It shorted the electrical power. Streaks of flames emitted. Smoke followed. The engine shut down.

The airplane had to make an emergency landing at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. Thank God the plane landed safely and all 312 passengers and crew were evacuated.

So, next time when you are in an airplane and you spotted a bird flying at the same level as your airplane, don’t get too excited. In fact, it might be a good idea to start praying.

And speaking of prayer, the take home truth is that if a small bird can bring down a big plane, an Airbus A330, don’t underestimate the power of a small prayer said in faith that is the size of a mustard seed.

Our Lord Jesus says,

“If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6)

“Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:21-22).

It was the Queen of Scotland who once said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the armies of England.”

Never underestimate the power of one flying bird.

Never underestimate also the power of one praying person.

Pokémon Go Away

by Rev Sng Chong Hui

Today I made Pokémon go away. I deleted the game from my mobile phone. I decided I would stop playing this game.

Two weeks ago when this game was available for download, I thought it good to try out this game to understand the popularity and draw of Pokémon Go.

I gave myself the vicarious reason that I need to know what this game is about in order to connect with the young people including my own son.

The game is free and easy to learn. Not much skill is required. No need for quick reflex.

However, it changed my lifestyle quite a bit. I started looking for Pokemon wherever I go. I could be in the coffee shop, the shopping mall, the park or even the church – and I turned on the game on my hand phone just to check if there are any interesting Pokemon to catch.

This checking of Pokemon on my phone has affected my lifestyle. I could be having dinner with my family and I would be hunting for Pokemon before the food arrived. My running regime became a walking regime because I wanted to “catch ‘em all.” Every time I parked my car in the church I would be collecting poke balls because there is a poke stop nearby.

To be very honest, the game does have a gripping hold on me. The obsessive draw is that you want to have every Pokemon in the index, especially the rare and uncommon ones that are so hard to find.

Needless to say, this game is attention grabbing, time grabbing and energy grabbing. And there is no end to it. It is not like you can finish the game and call it quits.

Today I took the game out from my phone. I felt such liberation. No more checking. No more occupation. No more draining of battery.

I am reminded of the Word of God:

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (I Corinthians 6:12).

I have decided – Pokemon Go Away!

Storms Will Reveal

by Rev Wendy Tay

Matthew 8:23-27
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ 26 He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’

Before getting into the boat, the disciples were with Jesus throughout the villages. They encountered all the healing and deliverance activities by Jesus. One would expect that they should be in high spirits and possessed great faith in the Lord Jesus Christ since they witnessed these spectacular miracles up close and personal. But when the storm came, all they could utter was “We are going down.”

It is interesting to note that Jesus chided them as “men of little faith” even though the disciples confessed their hopeless situation and called out to Jesus, “Lord, save us.”  Why did Jesus rebuke them? I wonder why Jesus questioned their confession.

Perhaps the answer is found in verse 27. It reveals the condition of the disciples’ faith. Jesus was not rebuking them for crying out to him as “Lord”. Jesus knew the condition of their hearts and the storm has revealed the condition of their faith.

The disciples had a limited vision of who Jesus was and what Jesus could do. When they called out to Jesus as Lord, they did not fully believe that Jesus was indeed God and could calm the storm. Which was why they eventually asked that question, “What kind of man is this?” They were afraid because they truly believed that they would die. They failed to see that Jesus was the Messiah from heaven who was the Creator of the Universe.

In the midst of storms in our lives, these storms will reveal the condition of our faith and trust in God. Our devastation and lack of trust during the storms in our lives can limit the true vision of who God really is and how great He is. Although we may confess with our mouths that we trust in God, the fear that grips or the anger that wrestles in our hearts will expose the lack of trust that God is indeed the Creator and He holds all things together. Storms will reveal the condition of our faith in God. We must renew our vision of God today by first searching our hearts.

Do we confess that we trust in God and yet doubt His goodness and faithfulness in our hearts? What are our storms today? What do these storms reveal about our faith and trust in the Living God who is the Creator of heaven and earth?

Ask the Lord of all Creation to renew our vision once again. Believe that Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Living God, is able and will calm the storms in our life.