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.

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.