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).