Zoombies

In this time of safe distancing and stay home, zoom has become our primary means of meeting, working and communicating.

Zoom is our new selfie as we view and project ourselves virtually on screen, hopefully presentable at least for the top half.

Zoom has now become a large part of my life.

I have regular staff meetings on Zoom.

I have daily morning devotion on Zoom.

I have evening teaching every Monday on Zoom.

I have evening vesper every Tuesday and Thursday on Zoom.

I have church prayer meeting on Wednesdays on Zoom.

I have Friday Fun Fellowship on Zoom

While I am thankful for the Zoom Apps that allowed us to stay connected with people, yet I am starting to feel the increasing fatigue that comes with staring at tiny boxes of people on my computer screen.

Zoom ZombiesThere can be no doubt I am bitten by Zoom. I have red eyes like zombies from the strains of staring at the screen for a long time. I look like a zombie with dark eye bags from the exhaustion of being continuously online.

I have turned into a Zoombie.

Before you give me a headshot to put me out of my misery (the way to kill zombies) I want to tell you there is a cure for this “Zoombie” virus.

It will take deliberate effort.

Go for breaks from your computer screen.

Go for walks in the parks and look at trees, plants and flowers. These are not virtual things.

Go take your dog for a walk round your neighbourhood.

Go read the Bible or a book that is not e-version.

Go for a structured time of play (non-video games) with your kids.

Be sure to wear your facemask when you are in public places. You don’t want to catch the Covid virus. What you want to kill is the “Zoombie” virus.

It is in such a time as this, the call of Jesus is as vital and essential as ever.

He said, “Come away from the people (which may include those online). Be by yourselves and rest” Mark 6:31.

Story was told of a man who challenged another man to a wood-chopping contest. The man who challenged his friend worked very hard, stopping only on occasions. The other man took many breaks and had a good lunch. When the day came to an end, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other man had chopped more wood. “I don’t get it,” he said. Every time I checked, you were taking rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did. “But you didn’t noticed,” said the winning woodsman, “that I was sharpening my axe when I sat down to rest.”

It is tempting to imagine the harder you work like a zombie, the more you would accomplish. But remember it is always good and necessary to take breaks to reflect, recharge and refresh. Believe me, you need that.

Don’t become a Zoombie like me.

Homeless

Jesus was a homeless Person.

He was born a homeless baby in a borrowed manger of a stable. His parents were rough sleepers seeking shelter after shelter as they ran from the murderous intention of King Herod.

Right after his baptism, he began his ministry as a homeless person. He said of himself, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20).

Foxes and birds all have sound safe sleeping places. But Jesus, the Son of Man did not have a place where he could lay his head on a pillow and call it home. He lived most part of his earthly life and ministry as a homeless Person.

He died a torturous death on a cross, homeless without the care that dying person can expect in a home.

There is no person who can identify with the homeless better than Jesus. Even more, he is a friend of the homeless.

In Mark 5:1-20 Jesus met a demon-possessed man in Gadarenes. He was a homeless man living alone among the tombs. People distanced themselves from him because of his destructive behaviour. But without being asked, Jesus delivered this homeless demoniac and brought wholeness to his body, mind and spirit.

Jesus cared about this homeless man. And he was not the only one.

In those days, lepers lived lonely lives away from their family and loved ones in isolated communities. In Mark 1:40-45 a leper flouted safe distancing, came to Jesus, fell at his feet and said, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”

Jesus’ heart went out to this lonely desperate leper. And his healing touch allowed this leper to no longer sleep rough but return to his home and family.

HomelessA recent nationwide study revealed there are about 1,000 homeless people in Singapore. They slept on the streets and in places like our housing void decks, commercial buildings and playgrounds.

They are at our doorsteps in our neighbourhood. We might even walk pass them without noticing or perhaps couldn’t imagine there are homeless in our affluent society.

Jesus told the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. He painted the painful contrast of the rich man who enjoyed every good thing but ignored the homeless Lazarus who had nothing.

The painful contrast continues after their death. Lazarus was carried away by angels to be comforted in Abraham’s bosom. Whereas the rich man had gone down in Hades to be tormented . When he looks up, he sees Lazarus at the side of Abraham. He pleaded with Abraham to “send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.”

But Abraham pointed out there is now “a great chasm” between them. During their earthly existence, they lived a very short distance from each other. The rich man had every means to help the homeless but he conveniently or cruelly omitted to do so. Now they are eternally apart and even if Lazarus wants to help, he is unable to do so.

Mother Theresa said, “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”

Can you see Jesus? Do you see his face?

He is on the face of every homeless.

Zoom Zombie

In this time of safe distancing and stay home, zoom has become our primary means of meeting, working and communicating.

Zoom is our new selfie as we view and project ourselves virtually on screen, hopefully presentable at least for the top half. Zoom has occupied a large part of our life.

I have regular work meetings on Zoom.

I have daily morning devotion on Zoom.

I have evening teaching and equipping every Monday on Zoom.

I have evening vesper every Tuesday and Thursday on Zoom.

I have church-wide prayer meeting on Wednesdays on Zoom.

I have Friday Fun Fellowship on Zoom

While I am thankful for the Zoom Apps that allowed us to stay connected with people, yet I am starting to feel the fatigue that comes with staring at tiny boxes of people on my computer screen.

Zoom ZombiesThere can be no doubt I am bitten by Zoom. I have red eyes like zombies from the strains of long screen time. I look like a zombie with dark eye bags from the exhaustion of being continuously online.

I have turned into a Zoom Zombie.

Before you give me a headshot to put me out of my misery (the way to kill zombies) I want to tell you there is a cure for this “Zoombie” virus.

It will take deliberate effort.

Go for breaks from your computer screen.

Go for walks in the parks and look at trees, plants and flowers. These are not virtual things.

Go take your dog for a walk round your neighbourhood.

Go read the Bible or a book that is not an e-version.

Go for a structured time of play (non-video games) with your kids.

Be sure to wear your facemask when you are in public places. You don’t want to catch the Covid virus. What you want to kill is the “Zoombie” virus.

It is in such a time as this, the call of Jesus is as vital and essential as ever.

He said, “Come away from the people (which may include those online). Be by yourselves and rest” Mark 6:31.

Story was told of a man who challenged another man to a wood-chopping contest. The man who challenged his friend worked very hard, stopping only on occasions. The other man took many breaks and had a good lunch. When the day came to an end, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other man had chopped more wood. “I don’t get it,” he said. Every time I checked, you were taking rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did. “But you didn’t noticed,” said the winning woodsman, “that I was sharpening my axe when I sat down to rest.”

It’s so easy to imagine the harder you work like a zombie, the more you would accomplish. But remember it is always good and necessary to take breaks to reflect, recharge and refresh. You need that.

Don’t become a Zoom Zoombie like me.

 

 

Covid Lepers

Nothing scares people more today than hearing someone says, “I’m Covid-19 positive.”

It makes them jump in fear and quickly walk away, covering their mouths and noses.

Such reaction was common in ancient times when people encountered a leper telling everyone, “unclean.” Those nearby who heard it would quickly walk away.

Are we treating Covid-19 cases like Covid lepers?

In those days, when there was no cure for this dilapidating disease, lepers were treated like outcasts. They were doomed to lived in isolated communities away from their families and loved ones.

Today we read reports around the world of the Covid fear that triggers discriminatory, racist and xenophobic behavior.

People, particularly foreign workers are deemed, “unclean” like lepers. They are been turned away from shops, restaurants and even their rented homes. Some were verbally abuse, harassed and even physically assaulted. Even those who have recovered fully from this deadly virus feel they are being stigmatized and shunned by others. No one wants to be around them. They make people uncomfortable.

Are we treating people who are Covid-19 postive like lepers?

How did Jesus treat lepers?

It is clear from the Bible that Jesus is not disgusted with lepers and their dreadful condition. In all the accounts in the Bible (Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-45, and Luke 5:12-16) Jesus reached out to the lepers, even touching them to heal them. He demonstrated for us the great compassion of God towards the sick that are mostly despised and loathed.

If Jesus is our example, shouldn’t we do the same?

Instead of shunning the Covid positive, we should be serving them. Providing whatever help they might need like delivering food, care packages and sewing facemasks for them. Bless the hearts of those did.

Instead of ostracizing the infected we should be offering our prayers for them to recover quickly. After all God is always on the side of health, wholeness and well-being.

Instead of treating them like lepers, we should be touching their lives. There can be no better time than the quarantine period when their hearts, souls and spirit are desperately open to the living God.

Just during the past Holy week saw more than 117,000 came to faith in Christ across more than 100 nations. It has been dubbed, “The Great Quarantine Revival.”

covid lepersThe Covid-19 pandemic has brought untold and unprecedented woes on many people. This shouldn’t be a time for us to be retreating for self-preservation. Rather this a karios time for us to be entreating our God to show His love and mercy and be engaging in acts of love for those in need.

May this be the defining moment for the Church.

Keep Your Distance

Social distancing has become the new normal in our world ravaged by Covid-19.

Social distancing is about safe distancing. It is to prevent you from catching or spreading the virus.

Today, at many places you’ll find lines and boxes drawn to show where you should stand in the queue, be it at the supermarkets or wet markets, even in the elevator lifts.

The objective of social distancing is to avoid physical contact with anyone who could well be an undetected asymptomatic spreader in our community. This strict measure aims to flatten the epidemic curve of this infectious and deadly virus.

For this to work, everyone needs to do their part to keep their distance until the virus could no longer find any host to propagate.

When I reflect on our widespread social distancing I am reminded of what the Bible says about safe distancing.

Scriptures urge us to stay away from the infectious contaminating influence and corrupting ways of the world.

II Timothy 2:16-17 “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.”

Gangrene is bad flesh that spreads infecting the good flesh.

Ephesians 5:11 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.”

Keep your distance.

Proverbs 26:20-22 “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.”

Keep your distance from the company of talebearers, gossipers and contentious people. They will infect you with their poisonous words.

Ask yourself. When you are around them, does it have a good effect on you? Were you at times led into gossip yourself? Did you join in the complaining and tale bearing? Did they stimulate your spiritual growth or perhaps stunt it?

Keep your distance.

I Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”

The water droplets from their attitudes and opinions can land inside your mind and heart, infecting your thoughts, shaping your perspective and influencing your behaviour.

Keep your distance.

Proverbs 22:24-25 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.”

Keep your distance.

No doubt we will never live in a vacuum yet it would be wise to limit our exposure to bad, negative and infectious influence that draws us further away from God.

The truth is we become whom we spend the most time with. Be aware of the company you keep.

If need be, keep your distance.

Home Alone

If you are home alone under Stay Home Notice or quarantine, don’t waste it.Germany Virus Outbreak

This is a unique time for you. It may well be the “pause” you need in your life.

To be home alone is to be away from the crowd with their constant clatter of words and clutter of activities, besides curbing the spread of virus of course.

Home alone can be the “desert time” that our Lord frequently observed during His earthly ministry.

Jesus spent 40 days alone in the desert before He began his ministry (Matthew 4:1-2). He was alone in the desert hills before He chose the Twelve (Luke 6:12). He spent “desert time” in a lonely place when he learned of the death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13). He spent “desert time” by himself regularly (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35). He even tell His disciples, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place” (Mark 6:31).

Make your home alone that “desert time” of purposeful solitude.

Let it be a time of cultivating that inner sanctuary, creating space for God to speak and made Himself heard. Who knows God might want you to reevaluate your goals and objectives in life.

And that can happen in the solitude of a morning cup of coffee or in the evening before bedtime.

Some of you have children at home and find yourself busier than before trying to meet their needs and demands. All the more, you would need to find a suitable time and quiet corner in your home to be alone with God.

So often God speaks but we cannot hear because we are just too busy.

To be home alone is to be still before God and know that He is our God, even when the mountains quake with threatening pandemic (Psalm 46).

Home alone shouldn’t be an empty time of loneliness. Rather it can be a fulfilling time of growth.

I believe in this season of stay home, God is on the move even more than ever to make us better disciples.

As you stay home reach out for your Bible, not click on Netflix. Let your stay home be a time you play your ukulele, guitar or piano and sing praises to the Audience of one. Let your home alone be a time you pray and pray for those in need despite social distancing.

Develop your sensitivity to God and others during your stay home.

Thomas Merton said, “It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers.”

Cry like the Psalmist, You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek You; I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You” (Psalm 63:1).

May God use your Home Alone “to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10).

1756 Repeated?

In 1756, Great Britain was faced with a threatened invasion by the French.

It was an uncertain time for the whole of Britain. Fear spread throughout the nation. Every British citizen was frightened of this dreaded French invasion.

1756 RepeatedAnd the King of Britain called for a day of solemn prayer and fasting. It was to be a day when the whole of Britain would cry to the Lord for mercy.

And John Wesley on 6 February 1756 recorded this in his Journal. He wrote:

“The fast day was a glorious day, such as London has scarce seen since the Restoration. Every church in the city was more than full and a solemn seriousness sat on every face. Surely God heareth prayer and there will yet be a lengthening of our tranquillity.”

Then in a footnote, John Wesley added:

”Humility was turned into national rejoicing for the threatened invasion by the French was averted.”

Today we face yet another threatening and devastating invasion, that of Covid-19.

Surely this cannot be a time for Christian believers to stay home to eat and watch Netflix. Rather it should be a time to stay home to fast and pray. It is not a time to clear the shelves of the supermarket. Rather it is a time to pour out our selves to cry to the Lord our Redeemer for mercy.

And who knows, God might just turn the cries of His church into a national rejoicing as He did in 1756.

Will it be another day footnoted in the annals of our history that Singapore has scarce seen since the days of SARS?

Will 1756 be repeated in 2020?

The Great Separator

The Great SeparatorChurch Services are suspended. Now I don’t worry about skipping Church anymore. No more guilt. The perfect excuse for those who aren’t that excited about Church.

Covid-19 is a great separator. It separates the committed and the nominal. It reveals those who are serious about their faith and those who won’t that committed.

Covid-19 separates the ones who would rather be at the greens to improve their swings and the ones who rather be in church to improve their walk with the Lord.

Covid-19 is a great separator. It separates those who want to play more and those who want to pray more.

This Corona virus reveals the true state of our soul. It is as if a light was suddenly switched on and the hidden things in the darkness of our soul became clearly visible.

Covid-19 reveals true worshippers. It draws the line between two kinds of online worshippers.

On the one side are those who think since no one is watching them in the privacy of their home, they need not be at their Sunday best. They watch the live stream service in their nightwear, hands holding a coffee mug and newspapers, slouching on their sofa with their feet up on the coffee table.

On the other side there are those who worship at home as if they are in the Sanctuary of their church. They don’t just watch. They participate. They stand to sing with the others in the screen. They bow in prayer when it was time to do so. They send their offering via the QR code. They don’t talk. They don’t snack. They are not distracted by the noise and demands of their kids. They are focused on worship. They listen intently to the Word being preached online. They believe God is present in the sanctuary of their hearts; and He seeks those who truly worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

Covid-19 throws up those who are true worshippers. It separates those who speak the Word and those who live the Word.

Covid-19 is a great separator. It separates the selfless and the selfish. It tells us in no uncertain ways who are the considerate who think not of their own survival but the survival of others even their own country.

Covid-19 is the great separator. It divides the faithful from the fearful, the devoted from the wayward and the selfless from the selfish. Which side of the divide are you?

Is this God’s way of separating the sheep from the goats even before He comes again?

Is this God’s way of separating the “lappers” from the “kneelers” (Judges 7:5-7) to find the 300 Gideon men to fight for Him?

In this challenging time of great disruption to church life and ministry caused by Covid-19 may we be numbered among the 300 called to fight the army of 135,000 in the future.

Covid Check

We have just entered the Season of Lent. Besides praying, fasting and giving, Lent is the time for the annual spiritual check on our souls.

Covid CheckAs I did some soul searching today I realized how much we fear the Covid-19 outbreak.

Covid-19 has changed the way we work, the way we conduct our meetings and the way we socialize.

It has brought up the best of us and the worse of us. Some are willing to share their supply of facemasks and hand sanitizers. Others hoard them. Still others charge exorbitant prices for them.

The Covid-19 fear has led many into irrational behavior of panic buying. I can understand buying up surgical masks, disinfectants and hand sanitizers. But toilet papers?

Just when you thought this weird reaction is only peculiar to Singapore, you read about the snapping up of toilet papers in Japan that cleared the shelves of every shop.

After the rapid spike of Covid-19 cases, South Korea and Italy join in the panic rush to buy masks and groceries in drugstores and supermarkets. Pharmacies carried signs saying they’ve run out of protective masks and hand sanitizers.

People are so scared of the corona virus.

To top it all, market survey shows 37% of drinkers won’t touch Corona Extra beer because of the epidemic fear.

If we do a Covid check, we might easily conclude we fear the virus more than we fear the Lord.

If only we fear God like we fear Covid-19, which we cannot see but know for sure is real and deadly.

If only we monitor our spiritual temperature regularly like the way we conscientiously do now.

If only we wash our souls as much as we wash our hands and sanitize them whenever we touch something suspiciously unclean.

If only we masked ourselves to prevent the spread of sinful infection in our lives and the lives of others.

If only we avoid visiting and going to known places that contaminate our minds and our bodies.

If only we self impose isolation just to be in solitude with the Lord.

If only our travel history shows that we have been in the Presence of God.

If only we read the Bible like we read the report of Covid-19 day after day.

If only we be just as weary of rumors of false teachings, fake insights circulating in the Internet, WhatsApps, Twitter and FaceBook.

If only we buy up opportune time to fill up our treasure trove of spiritual knowledge, insights and revelation instead of storing up rice, instant noodles and toilet papers.

If only we fear the Lord like we fear the virus.

LeCrae said, We fear circumstances so much because we fear God so little.”

Jesus made it clear: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). 

Let the spiritual check this Lent reveal that.

W.U.H.A.N

There is no scarier word today than the mention of Wuhan.

WuhanThe city of Wuhan is the epicenter of the fast spreading Sars-like virus. As I write, it has taken 56 lives in China and the death toll is still escalating. There are near 2000 confirmed cases of this Wuhan virus. Ten cities of Hubei province, including Wuhan has been locked down. It affected 20 million residents. Restrictions of travel and public gatherings are imposed. All planned holiday activities are abruptly cancelled.

Anxiety and anger in Wuhan are high as worried residents crowd the hospitals where loved ones are being tested for the corona virus. Medical teams in hazmat suits are stressed in the rush to identify the infected.

The Wuhan virus has spread to other Chinese cities including Beijing, as well as Singapore, the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Australia, France, Canada and Nepal. There is a deepening concern this outbreak may become pandemic.

The situation that dominates our headlines is a clarion call for prayer.

Our hope lies in II Chronicles 20:9

“If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You – for Your name is in this house – and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.”

So we pray:

Dear God our Father in heaven, You are in control of all deadly virus. By Your command You bring forth pestilence to punish. And by Your Word You are able to deliver Your people from pestilence.

So we lift our eyes to You to pray for deliverance from this mutating and adapting Wuhan virus.

Give to the Chinese authorities and the governing bodies of cities and countries, the guided wisdom to prevent and contain the outbreak of this virus. 

Protect the medical health workers. Grant them vigilance and the uncanny ability to detect, identify and prescribe.  

Give to the medical researchers the ability to develop a vaccine to prevent and stop the virus. 

Give to those who lost their loved ones Your comfort and peace. 

Give to those who have caught this Wuhan virus, Your grace and strength to overcome and recover. 

Give to the people in the affected cities, the calm and co-operative spirit to act responsibly and not exacerbate the situation by their anger and frustration. 

We pray to the end that communities may learn to guard against contamination of their health and environment. But most of all, to be grateful to Your divine intervention in this Wuhan virus situation. In the name of Jesus and for His glory we pray. Amen.

May W.U.H.A.N remind us to practice good personal hygiene.

Wear surgical mask if you are sneezing and coughing.

U should take personal responsibility if you have a fever. Go see a doctor.

Hand washing is a good hygiene habit to observe.

Avoid going to Church or public places if you are sick.

Never take lightly the spread of flu virus.

Elevated

Story was told of a running coach in a school. He was looking for potential runners that he could train for track and field events.

One day he spotted a boy named Johnny. What caught his attention was he saw Johnny chasing after girls. Johnny was always running to meet the whims and fancy of every pretty girl in the school. Running to carry their books. Running to buy them a drink. Running to meet every girl that shay sway by the corridor.

The coach said to himself, “That boy has the potential of a great runner.”

So he invited Johnny to join his track and field team. At first Johnny was reluctant. Said he was busy with many things.” But the coach was very adamant and persuasive. Eventually Johnny agreed to give it a try.

The training was tough, rigorous and demanding. Johnny had to give up many things. He had to forgo his favourite fast food, his weekends, his pastimes, even his sleep just to get up early for the training.

There were times Johnny felt like quitting. But his teammates encouraged him not to give up but to press on.

Then came the big day when he had to run the 4X4 relay event.

The gun went off. His teammates gave their best. The race was tight. It was neck to neck with another team. When third baton was passed they lost their lead and was falling behind. But when Johnny took the last baton for the last lap, he ran like Usain Bolt.

His rigorous training paid off. The coach was right to see the potential in him.

Johnny eased passed the lead runner and reached the finish line. And the crowd gave uproar of applause and cheered with standing ovation.

For Johnny, the feeling was just indescribable. His coach was proud of him. His parents were proud of him. The school was proud of him. Most of all, Johnny was proud of himself.

And from then on, Johnny’s outlook in life changes.

ElevatedHe is still the full-blooded hormonal boy who is attracted to pretty girls. But now he has a higher purpose. He is realizing his potential. He is thinking of achieving his higher goal. He is no longer thinking of running after girls. He is thinking of running for the school. He is thinking of running for the SEA games. He is thinking of running in the Olympics.

His thoughts have elevated. His mind is no longer on “things below” but “things above.”

So the Word of God tells us:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV)

Worry Rat

Just when you thought the Christmas shopping is over, the Lunar New Year shopping begins. And we join the rat race to get the best buys to welcome the Year of the Rat.

Since this is going to Rat Year, let me share with you a story I’ve heard recently from my colleague.

Sir Frederick Handley Page was a decorated pilot. Once he was on a flight to an isolated place. After flying for some two hours, he heard a noise in his plane. It was the sickening sound of a rat gnawing.

His heart began to pound. He could visualize the serious damage. For all he knew the rat could be gnawing through a vital cable or control of the plane.

The more he pondered on the situation, the more anxious he became.  At first he did not know what to do. It was two hours more to the next landing field. Then he remembered that rats are rodents and they cannot survive high altitudes.

So he pulled back on the stick. The plane climbed higher and higher, until Page himself found difficulty in breathing. All the while he was listening intently. He was relieved the gnawing had stopped. When he finally arrived at his destination he found the rat lying dead behind the cockpit.

Worry is like the gnawing of a rat. However no rat of worry can survive in the secret place of the Lord Almighty.

The worry rat cannot live in the high altitude of prayer that propelled us into the Presence of the Most High. Worry dies when we ascend higher to the Lord.

May this Lunar New Year and all the years to come be worry-free as you ascend higher.

I leave you Colossians 3:1-2

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things, which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

 Happy Gnaw-free Year!

20:20

We just bid farewell to 2019 and say hello to 2020.

I venture to say most of us welcome 2020 with cautious optimism.

We enter the New Year with news of human loss, tragic events, and global disasters.

We read of the spreading wild fire in Australia, massive floods in our neighboring country, typhoon in Philippines, unrelenting riot in Hong Kong, protest in India, strike in France. The world is chaotic.

The world is changing. It would never be the same after Brexit. The global ethos is shifting with the rising sentiment of anti-establishment, the dispensing with political correctness and the distrust of globalization, free trade and foreign migrants. Added to this is the fear of a global financial meltdown, unrecoverable climate change, nuclear threat, tariff war, recession and job losses.

2020 casts a long shadow of chaos, changes and challenges.

There was also a time when the people of God faced a vast invading army that threatens to change the history of Judah forever.

We read in II Chronicles 20 of three nations that had been nursing long history of hostility suddenly moved against Judah. They were the Moabites, the Ammonites and the Menuites.

The threat is real and imminent. King Jehoshaphat was told, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar”  (II Chronicles 20:2).

The enemies are at the doorsteps. King Jehoshaphat was shocked. His response was more shocking.

It makes no sense by any conventional human standard.

Instead of readying his army to defend the country, he readied his people to fast and join him in prayer.

“Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah” (II Chronicles 2:3). 

The King, the priests and the people had the faith to believe, For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (II Chronicles 20:15).

Subsequent event proved that to be true. In a supernatural act of God, the enemies were defeated, put in disarray and driven out of Judah.

What is most noteworthy is the encouraging statement of King Jehoshaphat to his people in II Chronicles 20:20

“Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld.”

2020 may present to us the “Moabites” of problems, the “Ammonites” of anxieties and the “Menuites” of uncertainties.

But let’s hold on to II Chronicles 20:20.

Let’s welcome 2020 with II Chronicles 20:20

Then and only then, we can confidently say, “Happy New Year!”

Peace Or Pissed

Passing the peace is a major and necessary part of the ritual for Word and Table Service in the Methodist Church.

The Peace is sandwiched between Confession/Pardon and the Great Thanksgiving. The celebrant says, “Let us offer one another signs of reconciliation and love.” And the congregation rises up from the comfort of their seats, reach out to their neighbours, grasp their hands and say, “Peace” or “The peace of Christ. Shalom.”

The gesture is simple yet the meaning is profound. But we have often denigrated it to be a form of greeting rather than a sign of reconciliation.

Peace or PissedThe purpose of passing the peace of Christ is to affirm with one another, “I am at peace with Christ. And I am at peace with you.” This is not a greeting. This is not an intermission when we catch up with each other or meet new comers. This is an intended sign of reconciliation.

And which congregation in the church doesn’t need that?

In any circle of relationships, there will always be people who pissed you off and those who are pissed by you.

Yet we are called to Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

Passing the peace is a major step towards that. It is saying, “I am at peace with God and I want to be at peace with you.”

Otherwise, in other occasions you would rather avoid people who pissed you. You would rather not speak with them. But now you touch, shake hands and speak “Peace.” And the silence is broken, the bad vibes canceled and the negative feelings drained out.

Passing the peace is an important tradition we need to keep and practice. It expressly identifies us as peacemakers. It trains our hearts, our hands and our lips to speak peace. Just like we train our children to say “please” and “thank you.” And even though initially they might do so without much sincerity or doubt the value of such gestures yet over time through regular practice, their hearts are eventually filled with grace and gratitude.

In fact our Lord Jesus encourages us to do so. In Matthew 5:24-25 He said:

“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

It is for this reason passing the Peace always comes before Communion. Before you offer your gift at the altar, Jesus says, “be reconciled.”

Let the peace that guides you to the Lord’s Table be the peace that guides you to your coffee table and lunch table.

Let us remember we are reconciled people of God whom Jesus invites to His Table.

Like any family, there will always be strife, hurts and resentment. Don’t be pissed. Pass the peace.

Me?

A church member told me this story, which I have her permission to share.

She was about to board a plane at Taipei Airport. She placed her hand carried bag on the conveyor belt for the X-ray machine. Went through the metal detecting gantry. Had her body checked. Then as she was queuing to have her passport stamped, a custom officer hollered at the top of her voice, “Who left this bag?” And the immediate thought that came to the mind of my church member was, “Who can be as stupid as that to leave the bag?”

As she turned to look, she was shocked to see it was her bag with the specially tied yellow ribbons on it.

Me?Such is the surprising truth of life.

We wonder, “Who can be as stupid as that?” then we realized, “It’s me!”

We think, “Who would say such hurtful things that leave unimaginable pain in the hearts of those you love?” then we realized “It’s me!”

We ponder, “Who in the world would eat things that damage the health of their bodies?” then we realized, “It’s me!”

We imagine, “Who would ever fall romantically for another when they have caring spouses and loving families?” then we realized, “It’s me!”

And the list goes on.

Deep within we know we are just as stupid, wicked, selfish, proud, envious, lustful, lazy, addicted, bigoted, biased, bitter and more.

We are just as capable and culpable. We are just as vulnerable if given the same circumstances, timing and mood. No one is spared except for Jesus.

So the Scriptures warn.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12).

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment …” (Romans 12:3).

There was a farmer who sold a pound of butter to a baker. One day the baker decided to weigh the butter to see if he was getting the right amount, which he wasn’t. Angry about this, he took the farmer to court.

The judge asked the farmer if he was using any measure to weight the butter. The farmer replied, “I am primitive. I don’t have a proper measure, but I do have a scale.”

The judge asked, “Then how do you weigh the butter?”

The farmer replied; “Your Honour, long before the baker started buying butter from me, I have been buying a pound loaf of bread from him. Every day when the baker brings the bread, I put it on the scale and give him the same weight in butter.”

When you don’t like something you see, don’t scoff, sneer or sue. Look intently within for you might just see your mirrored self and whimper, “Me?

Moved by Unmoved

On bended knee I come,

With a humble heart I come;

Bowing down before Your holy throne …

This song was sung during a recent Bible Study. Somehow it brings to my mind a rather common scene in many Korean dramas.

A man sought to have an audience with the King. But the King did not want to meet him. But the man refused to be turned away by the court officials. He went on bended knee, knelt and waited outside the King’s chamber. For a long time he remained kneeling. By then there were whispering concerns by worried onlookers. The night began to fall. The rain came. Still the man did not move an inch from his kneeling position. He waited and waited. All this time the King was watching from His royal chambers. He was moved by the man who remained unmoved. Eventually he came out to meet the man and hears his cause.

It is so easy to give up and give in to thinking that waiting is a waste of time.

The Bible is full of the injunction to wait.

“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalms 27:14)

“I will wait for You … My God of mercy shall come to meet me” (Psalms 59:9-10). 

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him” (Psalms 62:5).

We read biblical accounts of those who waited.

Like Abraham who was promised a child, waited some 24 years before he became a father.

Like Simeon whom the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. He waited his entire life to see the child Jesus.

Or like the prophet Anna who year after year, decade after decade was waiting with fasting and prayers night and day hoping to see “the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Their wait was rewarded.

Just so we need to go on bended knee. Wait upon the Lord

– When circumstances are uncontrollable and uncontainable

– When people are unreasonable and unchangeable

– When problems are unexplainable and unmanageable

The promise is clear:

“No eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4).

It’s because God is always moved when we are truly unmoved in waiting for Him.

Remember

When I was training for the marathon, I told my running friends that my wife does marathon. They were utterly surprised. And I qualified it’s the Korean Drama Marathon. She can spend hours on end watching over 50 episodes of a Korean drama all the way to the finish line.

Occasionally I join my wife to watch not the entire drama but few episodes where she will bring me up to speed the characters and the plot.

It wasn’t long I noticed there is always the typical scenario.

Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. But there is a rival love interest. Developing situation has caused the boy and girl to seriously consider breaking away from their relationship and turn towards their competing interests. It was a critical moment because both knew it would be a decision of no return.

RememberAt that crucial moment as they were about to walk away, the flashback came. Repeated scenes from earlier episodes came on. That’s why Korean dramas are so long. And the couple’s minds went back to that day they met each other. They remember that moment they fell for each other. The surrounding blurred as they eyeballed each other with googly eyes. They remember falling into each other arms. They remember embracing each other. They remember holding each other tight.

Typically the outcome of that remembering changes everything. It halts them from gravitating towards the pull of competitive rivals. It guides their decision. It influences their outlook. Eventually they return to what they hold most dear.

And the viewers sob, tear and cry with relief as the tissue box emptied out.

There is something deeply powerful about remembering.

The Lord in the institution of the Holy Communion said twice, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (I Corinthians 11:24-25).

He also said to the Church of Ephesus, Remember therefore from where you have fallen” (Revelation 2:5).

Can you remember when you first met Jesus?

Can you remember how in love you were with Jesus?

Can you remember how fervent you were in witnessing for Him?

Can you remember how you longed to share the Gospel with everyone you know?

Can you remember how fervent you used to pray – often kneeling on the bedside or on chair?

Can you remember how you used to read the Bible as if it was a love letter from God?

Can you remember how enthusiastic you were in serving the Lord, giving to the Church and going on mission trips?

Can you remember how passionately you used to worship God with teary eyes?

Can you remember that first love?

Since we are in the month of September, there is a popular song by Brothers Four. If you know this song you are the Merdeka Generation (those born in the 50s).

The lyrics go:

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember and if you remember
then follow … follow.

Note the ending of song: and if you remember then follow … follow.”

The point is remembering is not complete unless you follow through and act on what you remember.

Remembering is never nostalgic. It is not enough to remember how far you have fallen. You need to do something about it. You need to repent. You need to make amends.

Remember that.

Climb to Crater

Recently I went with my family for a vacation at Jeju Island.

One of Jeju’s most popular tourist destinations is the Sangumburi Crater. 

It is a UNESCO heritage site. A Natural Monument formed during Jeju’s volcanic past. Touted as a must see for any Jeju visitor.

The extinct volcanic crater is about 650 meters wide, 100 meters deep, and 2,070 meters in circumference.It boasts of a unique shape that looks like a man-made circular stadium.

After paying a hefty entrance fee of 30,000 Korean Won for the 5 of us, we were all excited to hike up to the top for a breathtaking view of that big crater.

The walk up covers a distance of 1.2 km with lots of slopes and hundreds of steps. It was supposed to be just a 30 minutes walk. But my wife and I took twice the time with stops and rests. I told my 65-year-old knees that it would be worth the effort. I said to my wife that it is like a walk along Lorong Chuan (Hokkien for “short of breath”).

We finally reached the peak where there was already a large group of visitors, among whom were my 3 agile kids who raced ahead of us.

Climb to CraterI was at the top looking down expecting to see an impressive view of the crater. But the crater was not obvious to me. So I asked my kids. They pointed to a valley covered with vegetation. It doesn’t look like a crater at all. It appears more like a depression in the ground covered with plants and trees.

After staring at it for a while and taking some shots of the green valley, I began to wonder why I came. I could only console myself that the workout is good, the weather is cool and the scenery is beautiful that some Korean dramas may have filmed there.

Still I would have to admit the climb to the crater was a huge disappointment. It was a let down after spending money, time and effort.

I wonder if this is also the experience of many. After spending much effort, energy and exhaustive days and nights to climb the social and corporate ladder and finally reached the top only to stare at the crater of disappointment. The empty feeling of “Been there. Done that. So what?”

The Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well must have felt that way. She went through broken marriages. Married 5 times. Disappointed so many times that she wonders what is love and what really satisfies. And Jesus said to her, “I am the Living Water.” Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst …” (NKVJ John 4:14)

A friend of mine who did climb to the crater of disappointment came to Jesus and found that true.

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed” (NASB Romans 10:11).

 

Safety Instructions

by Rev Sng Chong Hui

Do you listen to the safety instructions on board a plane?

On my recent flight to Phnom Penh, the captain came on air, as the plane was about to take off. He made the announcement for passengers to give attention to some safety instructions.

As the air stewardess was giving the well-rehearsed safety demonstration about seat buckle, life vest and exit doors, I looked around and noticed my fellow travelers weren’t at all absorbing the safety instructions.

They were more engrossed in chatting with each other, flipping through the in-flight magazine, finishing another chapter in their book, checking their mobile phone, listening on their headset or watching downloaded movie on their iPad.

Come to think of it the safety instructions was an exercise in futility. No one listens. No one bothers. No one cares.

That seems to be the prevalent attitude of travelers.

As travelers on the journey from earth to heaven, I wonder if we display similar attitude.

We too hardly pay close attention to the safety instructions given by the Pilot of our lives. Jesus gives this safety announcement:

“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).

He goes to demonstrate that safety warning in the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21). He concludes for our safety in verse 21:

“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

He tells us further safety instructions in the event that our life’s journey encounters critical needs.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing” (Luke 12:22-23).

He points us to the “exit door” for our worrying fears:

“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?” (Luke 12:24)

He points us to another “exit door” for our anxious fears:

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Luke 12:27-28)

He instructs us to put on the safety vest of believing “your Father knows that you need these things” (Luke 12:30).

He instructs that throughout this trip heavenward we are to always remain buckle up to “seek the kingdom of God” (Luke 12:31a)

To do so is to dwell in safety that “all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12:31b).

The Captain of our soul has made this safety announcement.

Are you listening?

Bane of Bribery

by Rev Sng Chong Hui

There was a day when turning the newspapers I read several reports of bribery locally and abroad.

These include high profile cases in China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and even our supposedly least corrupt Singapore. They ranged from high officials, top businessmen, and professionals, even Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau staff to low-level employees.

Bribery is so prevalent that it is deemed an ultimate bane of every society.

The Bible gives us insight as to why it is so widespread.

“Some people think a bribe works like magic; they believe it can do anything” (Proverbs 17:8 GNT).

“A secret gift calms anger; a bribe under the table pacifies fury” (Proverbs 21:14 NLT).

“A person will do wrong for a piece of bread” (Proverbs 28:21 NIV).

The Bible is not condoning bribery but telling us why it happens so often. It is because bribery often works.

Many people turned to bribery thinking it is a fast road to high position, power, control, results and the help they need. All of which doubt the goodness of God to provide.

In giving the Laws to His people, God make it clear:

“Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent” (Exodus 23:8 NIV).

Bribery perverts justice and is the fastest lane towards a decadent society.

“A wicked man accepts a bribe behind the back to pervert the ways of justice” (Proverbs 17:23 NKJV).

A leader who seeks bribes destroys himself, his family and his own country. And we have seen it.

“By justice a king gives a country stability, but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down” (Proverbs 29:4 NIV).

When bribery becomes a way of life for civil servants, business people, executives and professionals, it harms the entire community for it destroys trust, made us cynical and distrust the very people we should regard as principled and honorable.

Even before the Law of Moses, Jethro gave this advice: “Find some capable, godly, honest men who hate bribes.” (Exodus 18:21 TLB)

This Midianite father-in-law of Moses saw with crystal clarity that a society could only be strong if the leaders do not take bribes.

Bribery is the bane of society. I thank God that ours is a society that has zero tolerance for bribery.

Don’t take bribes. Don’t offer bribes.