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?

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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.

O For A Thousand A Soul To Save

by Rev Sng Chong Hui

I met a former church member at the hawkers centre.

While browsing through the stalls deciding what to eat, a voice called out, “Pastor!” I turned around and immediately recognized the familiar face. She was a faithful member of the choir in my previous church many years ago.

We had so much to catch up with each other. I learned that she had cancer and is now under remission. She told me that she is perfectly at peace and how she helped to comfort a fellow patient warded next to her in the hospital.

Then she recounted how she had financially helped her niece who was treated for fourth stage cancer. Initially she paid $50,000 for her hospital bill and then she gave an additional $100,000 for her subsequent follow up treatment. In total it was a hefty sum of $150,000.

Even though her niece was given only three months to live yet by the grace of God, she survived two more years. During that time she shared her testimony of the grace of God at a huge gathering in Pulau Bintan. Many were deeply moved by her sharing.

And the Pastor who organized the rally later told my former church member that 1500 persons accepted Christ that day.

The church member was awed by the report. It dawned upon her that the enormous sum of $150,000 she had given to help her niece was worth it. Her niece touched 1500 persons for Christ. It was a thousand a soul to save.

And the church member added that if she could give a thousand for a soul she would gladly do so for the soul is worth every amount given to save.

For so our Lord Jesus tells us:

“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 6:26 NLT)

He also reveals to us:

“In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God …” (Luke 15:7 NLT)

That day there might have been quite a heavenly raucous over 1500 that returned to God.

Let’s bring on the party in heaven!

Complete Waste of Time?

by Rev Sng Chong Hui

A Churchgoer once wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense going to church every Sunday.

This is what he wrote:

“I’ve been attending church for 30 years now. In that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of the sermons. So I think I’m wasting my time and the preachers giving sermons are also wasting theirs.”

That started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column. It invited continuous stream of comments, debate and arguments.

Much to the delight of the editor, it went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for any single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”

Going to church week after week is never a complete waste of time. In fact it may well be our spiritual nourishment, sustenance and formation for time spent with God is never wasted.

Perhaps it’s just why God has incorporated it into the Ten Commandments.

“Remember the day of worship by observing it as a holy day” (Exodus 20:8 NOG)

So the writer of Hebrews exhorts.

“Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25 TLB).

Remember the Rooster

by Rev Sng Chong Hui

It doesn’t take much imagination to assume that Peter could ever forget the rooster.

I can envisage Peter till his dying day must have cringed every time he hears a rooster crows.

Matthew 26:75 tells us, “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”

The story of Peter’s triple denial of his Lord and Master is recorded in all the four Gospels.

For Peter it is an irrepressible account in his life.

Even the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu depicts a golden rooster atop a black cross on its roof. And the name, Gallicantu, comes from two Latin words meaning, “rooster” (gallus) “crows” (cantu).

Peter will always remember the rooster.

The rooster reminds him of the WARNING from the Lord.

Amongst the disciples of Jesus, there was no one more cocksure of his commitment than Peter.

Peter declared his loyalty to Jesus saying, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matthew 26:33). 

And the Lord issued the warning:  “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” (Matthew 26:34) 

Peter confidently replied, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Matthew 26:35).

It was at the exact moment not too early or too late the rooster crows. And Peter remembered the Lord’s warning.

And now he penned a warning in his letter for us not to take confidence in our flesh.

“You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (II Peter 3:17)

The rooster still crows.

But many keep “killing” the rooster. They silence the warning until they couldn’t hear the rooster crow anymore. They muffle the loud inner voice of warning. They deaden their conscience. They killed the rooster.   

God made rooster for a reason. It serves as a warning to wake us from our slumber, our self-assuredness and self-complacency.

The Rooster also reminds Peter of his FALL.

When Jesus was arrested and taken away, Peter followed Jesus and his captors at a distance (Luke 22:54). He was close enough to see Jesus and yet not close enough to be seen with Him.

Suddenly he became a distant follower. And instantly he became fearful of being seen, recognized and associated with Jesus.

Could this be the start of his fall?

Before he was strong as he stood next to Jesus and acted courageously cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest.

But now he follows Jesus at a distance. And he edged closer to the fall. For when questioned by a young servant girl (not a burly fearsome soldier), he denied vehemently with swearing and cursing, “I do not know the Man!” (Matthew 26:69-72).

With each denial the ground of his commitment and conviction begins to crack and crumble. It soon gives way. And he falls.

At that precise moment the rooster crowed. Jesus turned. Their eyes met. Peter can never forget that look. Even though the look lasted only for a second yet the shame, the guilt and the failure lasted forever. So he went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75).

But thank God the story of Peter’s failure did not end there. It is a story of grace. It is a story of second chance. 

Immediately after Jesus’ resurrection, the angel of the Lord dispatched this message:

But go, tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you” (Mark 16:7).

Even though Peter has denied Him three times, the risen Lord wasted no time in making a beeline to meet especially Peter to restore him and help him rise up from his utter sense of failure.

The rooster may crow, warn and remind Peter of his terrible fall yet it does not spell the end of the Lord’s dealing in his life. It speaks to him of the GRACE of the Lord.

No one knows the gospel of the second chance better than Peter. No one knows the feeling of being set free from guilt and failure better than Peter. No one knows the joy of restoration better than Peter.   

This Lunar New Year as we celebrate the Year of the Rooster, let’s remembers what the rooster says to Peter and to us all.

In fact this year is precisely the year of the fire rooster. And there were two fires in Peter’s life. The first was the fire in the courtyard where he denied Jesus three times. The second was the fire where the resurrected Jesus affirmed and commissioned him three times.

The rooster speaks to Peter of the WARNING, the FALL and the GRACE.

May it remind us of the same.

For only then could we have a truly, happy and joyous Lunar New Year this year and always.

God is Green

There is a jiggle that got stuck in my mind. It’s called “Save My World.”

Although this month-long Saving Gaia campaign by Mediacorp is over yet there remains the cry to preserve a greener world for the future generation and the call to go green.

The impact of climate change is observable. Its magnitude is felt in many ways around the world – rising sea levels, more drought, heat waves, stronger and more intense hurricanes and typhoons. As a fisherman, I have seen the impact of climate change. The pattern of monsoon season and fish migration has somewhat changed because of global warming.

Today, there can be no more crucial issue for our generation than to protect God’s Creation from our human destruction of the environment.

We need to care for God’s creation. It is not just for our survival but also for the sole fact that God is green.

In Genesis when God created the world, He places great value on His creation by calling it “good” more than half a dozen times.

“Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

God is green for He tells the humans He placed in His creation “to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

After the Great Flood, God made a covenant between Himself and creation (Genesis 9:12-17). God cares for His creation enough to make such a covenant.

God even stipulate a law to protect the soil and give rest to the land (Leviticus 25:4). God is definitely green.

In the book of Job, God gave a long soliloquy about the glory, majesty and splendor of what He has created (Job 38-41). That alone tells us God is green. He has vested interest in the beauty and well being of His creation.

God is green. Just so we need to go green for “the earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1).

Commenting on Romans 1:20, John Stott wrote:

“The creation is a visible disclosure of the invisible God, an intelligible disclosure of the otherwise unknown God. Just as artists reveal themselves in what they draw, paint and sculpt, so the Divine Artist has revealed Himself in His creation.”

Not only we have the moral obligation to protect and preserve God’s green creation but also we have the spiritual motivation to let a greener earth display the glory of His handiwork that the disbelieving world may join us to declare “How Great Thou Art!” 

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.

When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur

And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,

How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

God’s creation is truly His revelation. “The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)

We need to practice environmental stewardship because God is green!

iChrist Incarnation

by Rev Sng Chong Hui

Two days ago I read about the latest iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

It boasts of a water-resistant body. No more fear of dropping it in the toilet. It has a new camera, longer battery life and more storage.

Apple calls it the newest iPhone incarnation.

“Incarnation” has been for me a special term referring to the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ who took the form of humanity to save us.

But now it seems incarnation is associated with iPhone and we are going to hear more of it in future.

Words change its meaning over time when embraced by majority of people.

Take the word, “gay.” You cannot use that word without projecting the meaning people today understand it to be.

But back in the 50’s 60’s and 70’s “gay” used to mean, “happy.” I remember singing the old nursery rhyme:

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,

Merry, merry king of the bush is he

Laugh kookaburra, laugh, kookaburra

How gay your life must be!

But today, “gay” has lost his original meaning. Today you cannot even sing innocently the old favorite Christmas carol, “Deck the halls” without inviting giggles and laughter.

Don we now our gay apparel

Fa la la la la la, la la la!

Troll the ancient Yuletide carol

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

If you were old enough, you would remember the popular amusement park called “Gay World,” which provided affordable entertainment for Singaporeans before the days of television and shopping malls.

Over time words lose its original meaning. I hope it will never be so for “incarnation,” which holds a special meaning for the church and me. By the way, the church I serve is called, “Methodist Church of the Incarnation.”

It is because of the Incarnation we know what God is truly like. The invisible God became visible.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God became like us. The Incarnation is evidence that God understands our plight.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).

Molokai is an island in the Hawaiian archipelago. In the late 1800’s there was an outbreak of the deadly and highly contagious disease called leprosy.

That disease affects the skin, mucous membranes, and nerves, causing discoloration and lumps on the skin and, in severe cases, disfigurement and deformities. Back then there was no cure for this disease.

In order to keep the disease at bay and prevent it from spreading, the government would send lepers to the island of Molokai.

In 1873, there was a young, brave Catholic priest named Father Damien who volunteered to spend his life serving the leper colony on this island.

When he arrived, he was startled to see people who were not only suffering physically but socially, emotionally, and spiritually. In the leper colony he saw extreme drunkenness, immorality, abuse, and a heavy sense of total hopelessness.

What he saw were people who desperately need to know where is God in their lives.

And so, in 1873 Father Damien lived among the 700 lepers. He knew the dangers and the inevitable result of so much personal contact with a highly contagious disease. He built hospitals, clinics, and churches and some 600 coffins.

Whenever a church service was held, he would warmly and lovingly address the lepers as “my dear brethren.”

Then one morning in 1885, at the age of 45, in a calm clear voice, instead of “my dear brethren,” he began with, “My fellow lepers, I am one of you now.”

The humble priest became one of them. He becomes for them the iChrist Incarnation. It changed their lives for all of eternity for he answered their question, “Where is God?”

Today, people are still asking, “Where is God?”

The only convincing answer you can give is when you become for them the iChrist Incarnation.