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?

Standard

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

Moved by UnmovedThe 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.

Standard

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.

Standard

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).

 

Standard

Lifesavers in Sudden Storm

There was one day when Jesus and His disciples set sail across the Sea of Galilee.

Lifesavers in Sudden StormAs they were making their way, a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling” (Mark 4:37).

That sudden storm must have been quite unforgettable for it was recorded in all the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25).

Sudden storms are a part of our lives. All of us will at one time or another encounter sudden storms. The sea of our lives can be calm one minute and violent the next. One minute you can be enjoying fair weather and the next you are tossed about left and right. One phone call, one doctor visit, one error judgment of a driver and you find yourself in the sudden storm of your life.

In the story of this unforgettable storm, I found 3 Lifesavers. 

Lifesaver #1: Promise

Before embarking on the journey Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side”(Mark 4:35).

That is the promise of Jesus, which came to pass. “Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes” (Mark 5:1).

Jesus kept His promise. He will not back away from any promises He has made.

He has promised,And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

He has promised, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

When you find yourself in a sudden storm, you want to know and hold on to His promises.

Lifesaver #2: Presence

When Jesus is present in your boat, you have an advantage.

Mark 4:36 says,And other little boats were also with Him.” There were many boats out on that stormy sea that night, but only one has the Presence of Jesus.

As you sail on the sea of life, you want to be sure and remember that Jesus is in the boat with you.

Having Jesus in your boat makes all the difference.

When you have the Presence of Jesus, you can call on Him in time of need. When you have the Presence of Jesus, you can see Him move in power. When you have the Presence of Jesus, you can experience His peace.

An old Christian song says, “With Christ in the vessel you can smile at the storm.”

When you have the Presence of Jesus, no storm can overcome you.

Lifesaver #3: Power

Jesus has the power to calm the storm.

“Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39)

The wind ceased, the waves subsided and the sea became calm.  The disciples were stunned. “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41).

They saw the Power of Jesus.

In fact, right after they reached the other side of the lake in Gadarenes, Jesus casted out a legend of demons from a demon-possessed man.

Jesus has the power to calm the storm, not only in the sea but also in the body and mind of a tormented man.

With Jesus, you have His Promise, His Presence and His Power.

These are Lifesavers in Sudden Storm.

Standard

PorNOgraphy

The pervasive impact of Internet pornography is undeniable.

In a recent survey conducted by Focus on the Family Singapore, 24% of teenagers in churches said they were exposed to pornography, some even before the age of 12.

Thus said Chuck Swindoll: “Pornography is the greatest cancer in the church today.”

In this battle with pornography, many are fighting a losing battle with their raging hormones and awakened libido. They feel powerless. They experience bouts after bouts of shame and guilt.

PorNOgraphyCan we say “No” to pornography?

Let me borrow 3 pictures from John Piper.

Picture #1 Imagine one day you were under the sway of blazing sexual desire. You think you could never resist the temptation to click on some porn websites. Without warning a black-hooded terrorist drags your beloved wife into the room with a knife at her throat. He said to you, “If you look at that website, I will slit her throat.”

What would be your likely response?

You won’t click. Because the consequences are too great to bear.

The TIME Magazine in its April 11, 2016 issue has a cover story that highlights the serious consequences of pornography. It kills virility and intimacy.

Researchers found growing number of men that are seemingly healthy could not get sexually aroused with actual women due to porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Their “sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn.”

In the face of great and dire consequences, Jesus says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29).

Picture #2 Imagine if one night you have a intense urge to view some porn sites and a man walks into your room and says, “If you don’t look at that nudity, I will give you one million dollars cash, tax-free, tonight.”

What would be your likely response?

You won’t click. Because the reward is too great to want to miss.

Jesus says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Surely that must worth more than a million.

Picture #3 Imagine if one day you have a burning desire to view some porn and Jesus was standing before you in your room, dripping with blood from pierced wounds, hands trembling with pain, breathing heavily like a dying man and His eyes brimming with love are looking at you.

What would be your likely response?

You won’t click. Because the stakes are too high. You just can’t hurt the One who loves you so much when His eyes are on you.

“For the love of Christ compels us” (II Corinthians 5:14a).

Three pictures. One thought. You are not entirely helpless in this pervasive impact of Internet pornography. You can have the self-control you think you didn’t have.

You can say NO to porNOgraphy.

Standard

Pay for Praise

Would you pay to receive compliments from total strangers?

Pay for PraiseApparently many would. This pay for praise phenomenon took the social media in China by storm. It is known as “kuakuaqun” or “praise groups.”

People would join a praise group on WeChat or QQ and pay 50 Yuan (S$10) for five minutes of compliments.

It all started as a reaction to an earlier fad of “curse groups” in universities. Students began to create these “praise groups” to cheer each other on.

Users of such pay for praise services felt it lifted their spirits. Praise groups have fulfilled a basic need for encouragement.

Imagined being showered with lavish praise for your looks by someone who said: “Your eyes are as resplendent as the stars and your jet-black hair is smooth as silk brocade.”

And for a price, someone might say to you, “We love, love, love you endless.”

Exchanges in these praise groups are creative, witty and even hilarious.

Like one user who asked for praise when he was struggling with computer science, was told: “Your heart is too pure to hold any complex algorithms.”

These and many more highly exaggerated, over the top compliments are termed as “caihongpi” (literal rainbow gas) or colourful praise. Somehow they meet the human need for affirmation, validation and self-confidence. The striving business of pay for praise says it all.

Would you pay for praise?

I know I won’t pay for praise. But I know it pays to praise.

Praise is effective in raising someone’s performance. Praise can dramatically change someone’s self-image. Praise can permanently alter the trajectory of someone’s life. Praise, at the very least, can make someone’s day better.

However I am convinced that praise should not be mere flattery. False compliments risk building a false self-image. And that can be devastating as it makes it harder to see one’s true self.

Praise should be genuine and sincere. You should never give praise that you don’t mean. People can almost always tell.

False or empty praise that comes easily from your lips can make someone feel worse than if you had said nothing. But true and sincere praise that comes honestly from your heart is powerful and always valued by the one receiving it.

Let’s give praise when praise is due.

The Bible says in Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure,whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”

If I may add, “tell these things” to people who deserve them.

For in so doing people’s hearts will be lifted and the good works praised are likely to be repeated.

Furthermore when we commend people openly for their good works, we glorify God, our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Let us be fountains spouting praise and affirmation rather than complaints and criticisms.

After all what does the Bible tells us to do when we see a woman of noble character, talented, productive, strong and caring?

She “is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).

Standard