Eclipse

On August 21, 2017, the stunning sight of a total solar eclipse awed millions of people in North America.

They woke up as early as 4am. They drove for hours to get to the totality visible zone that stretches 113 km wide and 4,000 km long from the Atlantic to Pacific Coast just to see this spectacular sight in the sky.

The last time such rare cosmic event happened was in 1918.

Millions came, equipped with telescopes, cameras and protective glasses to watch in wonder this once-in-a-lifetime not-to-be-missed event.

eclipseFor two minutes day turned to night as the moon blocked the sun leaving a halo-like solar corona, casting its shadow on the earth and plunging the landscape below into darkness.

Everyone who saw cheered, applauded and agreed it was the most “beautiful” sight they have ever seen.

Sadly I have never yet seen a total solar eclipse.

But what I would truly like to see is a total spiritual eclipse. It will truly be just as beautiful.

I really hope it will happen in my lifetime. Can’t wait a century for that to happen.

I pray it will be something enduring and not fleeting for just a minute or two.

I am talking about the eclipse of God’s will over my will. I want to be doing what God would have done. I want to abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most Highs shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

I want to see a total eclipse of God’s vision over mine. I want to be able to see situations and people as God sees them.

I want to see a total eclipse of God’s heart over mine. I want a heart that follows after God’s heart.

God once said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22).

I want the same heartbeat of God, the same compassion He has for the multitudes, feel the same burden He has for the lost, the last and the least, weeping over an entire city like a mother hen that longs to gather her chicks under her wings.

That surely is a total eclipse of the soul with God.

Total solar eclipse comes perhaps once every hundred years.

But spiritual eclipse can happen now.

Are you ready for such eclipse?

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Payout Poles

Every year across the whole of Indonesia, there is a pole-climbing event called, “Panjat Pinang”Pole Climbing

It started out as a form of entertainment during the Dutch colonial days but soon became a popular event and a uniquely traditional way of celebrating Indonesia Independence Day.

People would gather at the heart of every town and village centre to watch men battling it out as they struggle to climb up the slippery greased poles in order to grab one of the prizes at the top.

It is a sheer test of strength, stamina and even teamwork as these young men band together by climbing onto one another’s shoulders and then sharing the prizes. Prizes consist of foods, such as cheese, sugar, flour, clothes, shoes, and even bicycles.

Onlookers often wonder why these men bother to take the trouble of climbing such challenging poles for such ordinary payouts.

But I wonder if we too engage in climbing such payout poles.

We struggle up the slippery pole of career for rewards at the top. We pit ourselves with others in climbing the poles of promotion just for the prize of a small increase in pay. We hug poles of materialistic acquisitions.

Every day across the world in every town and city, people are climbing the poles of fame and fortune, climbing the poles of wealth and prestige, and climbing the poles of success and position.

Are you pole climbing? I don’t mean dancing poles but payout poles.

Solomon, the wisest man in the world made this insightful remark:

“Human desires are like the world of the dead – there is always room for more” (Proverbs 27:20 GNT)

Our Lord Jesus gave us this warning:

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15 NIV).

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Are You A Racist?

I was having a conversation with a friend who is ethnic Chinese.

He told me an Indian Christian started attending church and seems to be taking a growing interest in his daughter. He frowns on that relationship over concerns of ethnic and cultural differences.

Perhaps jokingly he said, “Between a snake and an Indian, I would kill the latter.”

Although this person does not regard himself a racist yet his strong racially bias feeling and ethnic remark reveal otherwise.

Contrast to this is Warren Webster. He was a missionary to Pakistan. One day he was asked: “What if your daughter falls in love with a Pakistani while you’re on the mission field and wants to marry him?”

Warren Webster replied with great forcefulness: “The Bible would say, better a Christian Pakistani than a godless white American!”

Are you a racist?

You will know for certain when someone of another ethnic group enters your family circle. Or when a neighbor, colleague or client from another ethic group did something really nasty to you. Do you allude to his or her ethnicity?

In Numbers 12 we read of the dissension of Miriam and Aaron. That rebellion was based on racial prejudice because Moses married a black African from Ethiopia.

“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman” (Numbers 12:1).

That rebellion seemed to focus on the skin colour of the Cushite woman who was black.

What is most significant about this story is that God gave to Miriam a punishment that was frighteningly appropriate to her prejudice.

In His judgment, God said in effect, “Look Miriam, you think light-skinned is better. I’ll make you light-skinned.” At once, “Miriam was leprous, like snow” (Numbers 12:10).

I have no doubt that God is teaching the people in a graphic way that there is to be no racial prejudice. Never for a moment imagine that white is superior.

No one can rightly regard one race to be superior to another.

Still the world today is very much divided along racial lines. One would have thought after so much gross racial injustice, disgusting racial inequality and heinous ethnic cleansing, the world would be more enlightened. Yet in this 21st Century we seem to be in the dark ages on this issue of race.

In the midst of this darkness, the Church must be a shining example where ethic and cultural differences are no barriers to a real and profound fellowship.

“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).

The Church of Christ has no racial walls of segregation.

George Wallace warns, “Segregation today. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever.”

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Lost & Found but Kept & Lost

In September 2004 Mary Grams lost her diamond engagement ring while weeding the garden on her family farm.

She searched for it “high and low” but couldn’t find it. She was totally devastated. She cried several days thinking she would never ever find that treasured ring given by her husband in 1951.

She dared not tell her husband for fear that he might be angry and upset with her for losing the precious jewellery.

She kept mum about it and decided to buy a cheaper replacement. Her husband never noticed the difference.

It was her kept secret.

Thirteen years later Mary’s daughter-in-law found the long-lost ring while harvesting carrots on the farm.

One Carrot RingWhile she was pulling the carrots, she noticed one of them looked strange. On closer examination, she saw the misshapen carrot has a ring wrapped around it. It seemed the carrot had grown straight through the ring, which looked a little like a finger wearing it.

Mrs Mary Grams, now aged 84 is delighted to get back her ring.

But she has one regret though. She wished she had owned up and told the truth to her beloved husband.

The precious ring lost was found. But the secret kept became a chance lost to come clean with her husband, who died five years ago.

Imagine the haunting pain of a long held secret.

The Psalmist knows this all too well.

“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long” (Psalm 32:3). 

Still so many tell themselves that “a secret kept can be better than the consequences of a secret known.”

But secrets kept are intimacy lost. Don’t risk it.

An intimate marriage can only be built on the foundation of openness and honesty.

  • Do you conceal things you bought from your spouse?
  • Do you permit your spouse to read your email and text messages when asked?
  • Do you hide friendships with other people from your spouse?

When you start hiding and keeping things from your spouse, it is a sure sign something real is lost.

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Fringe to Front

She is just a cloakroom girl. But she was plucked from the fringe of collecting tickets and checking in coats to perform in front of an audience at the world famous Wigmore Hall.

Milly ForrestMilly Forrest, the 23-year-old cloakroom attendant was asked by the director who heard about her singing abilities to stand in for a soprano taken ill suddenly.

With just less than two days to rehearse, Milly took to the stage. She wowed the opera critics with her “exquisite performance.” She was touted as a future star with a voice that “floated heavenwards.”

Milly recalled how she nearly missed the chance of a lifetime because she had left her mobile phone at home as the director tried desperately to contact her.

If she had called back 10 minutes later, the opportunity would have been given to one of the 17 singers waiting to take on the role.

It was a dream came true for Milly Forrest who has always wanted to “sing at one of the big opera house stages.”

She went from fringe to front.

Stephen and Philip were two of the seven chosen to serve tables (Acts 6:5).

They too were on the fringe of arranging tables and distributing food to the widows.

Several verses later, we find Stephen moved from the fringe of social administration to the front of powerful preaching (Acts 6:8-15). He became the first martyr but not after he left a lasting impression on Saul of Tarsus.

Philip too went from the fringe of social work to the front of evangelistic work. In fact he became the first missionary to bring the gospel to the Samaritans and the Ethiopian official (Acts 8:4-8; 28-40).

Do you feel stuck in the fringe? Do you find yourself on the peripheral doing the mundane? Have you ever dream of being on the frontline of ministry?

Like Milly, Stephen and Philip, be ready to be moved from fringe to front.

Are you holding on to your “mobile phone” of spiritual connection?

Keep it close to you.

You just might get a call to move from fringe to front.

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Taking Credit

Something was pulling the end of the line. It looked pretty strong but didn’t give much of a fight.

Normally the “fish-on” action is fast and furious. But strangely for this one, our fishing buddy, who was first to reach the quivered rod, reeled in the line slowly. The rest of us watched in anticipation to see what would come up.

Then our eyes popped. Our jaws dropped. A bright shiny red color appeared on the surface. Almost in synchrony, we burst out – “Red Grouper!”

Actually it was a Red Coral Trout weighing at least 3 kg. The fish is pretty. The species is rare. The size is enormous.

Everyone wanted a picture taken with this pretty red monster.Red Coral Trout

That is quite natural. But what was quite strange is that all the sudden everyone was taking credit for the fish.

“I am the one who landed the fish!”

“But it was my rod you are using.”

“I was the one who tied the rig – that counts.”

“Don’t forget pastor said the prayer.”

We had a good laugh claiming credits for the fish.

But I wonder if that is a minuscule reflection of a larger reality.

People want credit for every unforeseen success and unexpected attainment.

In any long acknowledgement of thanks, we bother to check to make sure our names are not inadvertently left out.

We want to be given credit, recognition and appreciation for the part we played. We want bragging rights.

Then came that long lull with no more bites. In that quiet wait it dawned upon us that it is the Lord who gave the blessing. God has blessed us with a wonderful catch. And we forgot to thank Him. He is the One who deserves all the credit but we were all seeking to take credit.

“Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:31).

Give God the credit. Don’t take credit. Anyway, who reads the long running credits at the end of a show?

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Dare Game

Today I read the sad story in New York of a 12-year-old girl who poured a cup of boiling water over her 11-year-old friend sleeping on the couch during a sleepover party.

This bizarre attack was all part of a social media stunt called the Hot Water Challenge.

The victim suffered second-degree burns to her face, neck, chest and back. She was taken to hospital, where she remained in serious but stable condition.

Apparently this dare game is a spin-off from the Ice Bucket Challenge, an Internet video sensation that drew thousands of people, including many celebrities, to record themselves having ice water dumped on their heads.

Recently social media dare games are making their digital rounds on the Internet. They include:

Fire challenge – Dousing oneself with flammable liquids and then setting aflame, while being video recorded and posting on social media sites.

Cinnamon Challenge –  Swallowing a spoonful of ground cinnamon in less than a minute without water.

Salt and Ice Challenge – Pouring salt on your skin, placing an ice cube on top, and holding it there for as long as possible.

These and many more have drawn thousands especially the young to do the stupidest, insane and hazardous thing.

Why do people endanger their own lives to perform such dangerous feats?

I believe there is a dark facet of human nature that seeks to prove oneself, crave social acceptance and gain validation of others just to fit in and avoid the fear of being called “chicken” or coward by their peers.

Parents today need to know this growing threat and warn their children of the dangers of such social media dare games. Don’t for a moment assume your kid won’t try the dare game, which is often masqueraded as fun and cool.

Remember when we were young then and someone dared us to do the dumbest thing and we did. We can’t tell what is plain stupid and what is safe. We are unclear about right from wrong.

Today, the dare games are happening through the Internet, with kids taking video of themselves performing the dangerous challenges. Many of them don’t realize just how dangerous these dare games are until it’s too late.

When someone dares you to do the stupid thing, take heed of the counsel of Scriptures.

Sensible people will see trouble coming and avoid it, but an unthinking person will walk right into it and regret it later” (Proverbs 27:12 GNT).

Foolishness brings joy to those with no sense; a sensible person stays on the right path” (Proverbs 15:21 NLT).

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