A Litany of Prayer for the War in Ukraine

Heavenly Father,
You are the God of righteousness and peace; Have mercy upon the nations now engaged in a bitter war in Ukraine.


Save us the menace of this war. Guide the leaders of the world to help make this war to cease and restrain it from escalating.


Remove the madness of fear and suspicions, greed and covetousness, hatred and arrogance that separate nations from nations.


Break the power of the aggressor. Deliver the victims. Have compassion on the wounded and dying; comfort the broken-hearted and the bereaved who lost husband or wife or children or parents, livelihood, security and homes.


Give peace in our time, O Lord. You have the power to bring good out of evil and turn the madness of this war to Your praise


Unite the nations of this world towards a common submission to Your most holy will.


And hasten the time when the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of Your Son, our Savior, the Prince of Peace Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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Horror & Hope

The war in Ukraine is a stark revelation of our broken world marred by sin. It is yet another darkest moment in our human history.

Whenever I read the news, I hear the desperate cries of those who lost husband, wife, children, parents, livelihood, security and homes. That’s the horror felt by victims and observers around the world. Further more, this war has impacted every home in the world.


Is there hope for this war-ridden, Covid-infected, fear-dominated and greed-driven world?


Easter brings hope for our sin-sick world. It shows God so loved the world. He came to this world. He died for the sins of the world. His tomb is empty. Jesus is alive. That’s our hope no matter how dark our fallen world has become.


We can identify with the feelings of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Their hearts were broken. Their faith was shaken. Their hope shattered. They “had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). But they saw the chief priests and rulers handed Jesus over to be sentenced to death. They just couldn’t make sense of what is happening.
Disappointment, doubt, disillusionment, defeat, discouragement, despair and death – all of those “D” words sum up how they were feeling. It is rare for anyone today who could claim they are not affected by any of these “D” words.


But something change significantly that made them stronger disciples.


The risen Lord came alongside them as they walk and talk about the sad and disappointing situation on that Friday.
Their eyes were opened and their hearts burned within them as the resurrected Jesus open the Scriptures to them and break bread with them. Their faith was renewed. Their hope was restored. Their excitement could not be contained as they returned to tell others in Jerusalem, “The Lord is risen indeed!”


Let this Easter remind us to walk with someone or a few others in the struggles of life’s journey. Know that the risen Christ will come alongside those who walk and talk together. There can be no better way to become stronger disciples and stronger community.


And let us recognize His voice as Scriptures are opened through the Word being read, preached and studied.


Let us realize afresh His Presence at the Breaking of Bread every time we come to His table.


This Easter let us come together in person or online to celebrate the living hope of our Risen Christ.


“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3).

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5 Reasons 5 Better

This year’s CNY celebration has 5 unique visitors per home restriction.


I am certain many bemoan not having more family members, relatives and friends coming to their homes to share meals together.


What is CNY when we cannot have more than 5 visitors?


Initially I did feel so. But after having two groups of 5 over the past two days, I begin to realize 5 is better. Here are 5 reasons why.


#1 Only those who are serious and committed to meeting up made it for the 5


The 5 visitors restriction has somewhat sieved out those who feel obligated and would rather not come when given the choice. It precludes those who are truly busy, caught in the demands of weightier responsibilities. The reduced number of 5 has filtered out the truly committed.


#2 The small number fits nicely our dining table


In the past, reunion dinner is always buffet style. The large number that came picked up food from the table and settled themselves in smaller groups around the house. This year everyone did not move away from the dining table with their serving plates. It makes for a bonding unlike before.


#3 For the first time we talked together


When the group of people visiting is large, everyone moved from group to group and talked about separate things. But the 5 only visitors engaged in singular conversation moving from topic to topic in the fashion any small group would talk.


#4 We are fully present for each other


The small number makes it easier for us to fully focus, notice and hear out each other. In past years, those who came did not get to talk or engage the various sub-groups that gravitated naturally to individuals they are comfortable with. They even left without conversing with each other except for the cursory acknowledgement, the usual New Year greeting and exchange of Ang Pows.


#5 The conversation is deeper, wider and personal


You can’t sit round a table for two hours without talking to each other in a deeper and more personal way.
That’s exactly what happened when we had the 5 visitors per day in our home. No one just sat and ate quietly. I learned so much about my visitors more than I could have on other occasions.


Just these 5 reasons alone, I find 5 is better. Is that your experience also?

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New Year New Beginning

The pandemic doesn’t seem to go away. Safety measures and restrictions eased down and tighten up like a non-stop yoyo. Many are feeling the strain of living with the virus, then its variants and now its sub-variants.


Is there light at the end of the tunnel?


I want to believe there will be an end to Covid-19 that had wreaked global havoc in 2020 and 2021. I hold to the hope that there will be a new beginning for the lives of many in this New Year.


I saw new beginnings for many in the Bible. They experienced unimaginable pain and suffering for a long time. They must have thought there is no hope. But a new beginning came.


Job thought his world had collapsed. He lost everything – his family, his health and all of his wealth. He even wished he were not born. But the horrible trial ended and God gave him a new beginning that restored to him more than he had originally.


When God hit a reset button for the world and the great flood came, Noah must have wondered many times when the new beginning would come for him and his family. He kept sending out birds. The new beginning came when the dove returned with an olive leaf.


Jacob fled from the wrath of his brother. He finds himself married to two young women and the father of 13 children. When he decided to return home, he wondered if his enraged brother would accept him back. He wrestled with God. God assured him. And there was a new beginning, which never in his wildest dream thought could come true.


Naomi lived during a time when Canaan had a terrible drought. She traveled with her husband and two sons to a foreign country looking for a better life. Life took a nasty turn when her husband and both of her sons died. She lost all hope in life and told her daughter-in-law to leave her and carve her own life. But a new beginning was about to happen for her as she returned to her homeland.


If a new beginning can come for Job, Noah, Jacob and Naomi when the surrounding reality seems hopeless, I want to believe a new beginning can come for many of us who face tough and prolonged challenges.


Didn’t God say: “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for” (Jeremiah 29:11 GNT).


My earnest prayer in this New Year is a New Beginning.

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CNY Tiger Greeting

In this Year of the Tiger, may you ROAR back with confidence and hope in the face of Omicron and the waves of challenges. EYE with watchful patience and care before you POUNCE with great courage and strength towards all your intended goals. Know that by HIS STRIPES you are made whole and strive always to earn YOUR STRIPES as true and faithful disciple of the One in whom we can do all things, even Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Tiger Balm of Gilead

This Chinese New Year is the Year of the Tiger.


What comes to mind when you think of tiger?


For me, tiger reminds me of Tiger Balm.

This balm is a cure all for ailments, like neck ache, stomachache, headache, joint pains, muscle relief, itchy insect bites and many more. My mum used to apply Tiger Balm on me. I can never forget the strong and distinctive smell of menthol and camphor, which smells like a Christmas candle.


There is a Tiger Balm in the Bible.

It’s called the Balm of Gilead. It is derived from a tree found in Gilead, known for its strong fragrance and healing properties.
Very much like the Tiger Balm, the Balm of Gilead heals and soothes.


Jeremiah 8:22 NIV mentioned, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? And because of their unbelief, He couldn’t do any mighty miracles among them.”


Jesus is our Great Physician. He is the Balm of Gilead. He heals and soothes our aches and pain. He heals the physically infirm, the mentally miserable and the spiritual pains of those suffering in sin and guilt. The result is aplenty as shown in the Gospel records.


I remember talking to a man during Chinese New Year. And he said, “Don’t wish me wealth and prosperity. What I truly need is health. Just wish me 身体健康 (good health) is enough.”
And that is so needed at this time of unrelenting waves of Covid-19 and its variants and sub-variants.


When you are unwell and tested positive, reach out for the Balm of Gilead.


When you feel mentally stressed, down and depressed because of long hours of work at home or social isolation, call out to the Balm of Gilead and by faith touch the helm of His healing properties.

When you are suffering in the spiritual pain of sin and guilt, know that Jesus, the Balm of Gilead is just a prayer away.


As you celebrate the Year of the Tiger, may the Tiger Balm of Gilead bring you and your family the wholeness of body, mind and spirit this year and always.

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Lent Lament

Our Heavenly Father who seek true worshippers, may You find them amongst those who worship You online today. 

Forgive our casual worship. We confess watching the service online like spectator worshippers instead of participating and engaging in the offering of praises and prayers. We no longer sing openly, pray silently and give enthusiastically.

Forgive our careless worship. We confess at times our minds are on everything else rather than on You whom we come to worship. Our attention divided between the preaching of Your word and the messages on our mobile phone. We think no one can see us in our pajamas lying on bed with one hand holding a cup of coffee and the other the remote. But You see and You know the condition of all our hearts.

Forgive our consumerist worship. We confess we sometimes channel surf to find another church online that is more sleek and interesting, looking for singing and preaching more suited to our liking. Forgive us for clamoring to be entertained. 

Forgive us, our living, holy and sovereign God of the universe. By the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, help us today and always to be true worshippers that worship You in truth and spirit. For the glory of Your Son Jesus Christ and in His wonderful Name we pray. Amen.

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True Ox Blessing

This year we celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Ox.

The ox is a symbol of strength. Without the strength of the ox, there would be no harvest. What would take many donkeys and horses to do – the ox could do it easily. Hence the idiom “As strong as an ox.” 

The ox is an animal of blessing.

There is a Bible verse about the blessing of an ox.

“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox” (Proverbs 14:4 NKJV).

The wisdom of this scriptural verse is that blessings come with mess.

Oxen bring abundance of crops and harvest but they also bring along the mess in the trough and manger. There can be no blessing without the accompanying mess.

Oxen make the work of ploughing easy but it also get our hands dirty and our feet wet.

So often we want the blessing but not the mess.

We longed for a mighty harvest of souls and not realized that the blessing comes with messy consequences. With more people in church, the car park will naturally be a headache, the fellowship hall messy and the toilets a lot dirtier.

If you want to see growth in the church, you’ll need more hands on the plough and more feet on the harvest fields. You will need to discard the old ways, the old methods, the old structures and fixtures. Church growth is a messy deal.

The blessings of joy and fulfilment in marriage and raising a family are also a messy deal.

Still some lament and reminisce the days of freedom to go wherever and do whatever before they were married.

Remember the perceptive wisdom of Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where there are no oxen (i.e. spouse and children), the manger (i.e. house or bathroom) is clean.” 

So are the blessings of a job promotion or highly paid position. They come with a mess. They complicate life and daily routine.

We long for the blessings of having cars and owning several properties. They too have messy consequences. They divert your time, energy and resources for upkeep, maintenance, repairs and the yearly hassle of insurance renewals and taxes.

Are there blessings without some mess? 

“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.” That’s a true ox blessing.

On this Lunar New Year, I wish you and your family the blessings of the Ox (“Niu”). 

Do bear in mind, blessings come with a quite bit of mess. Still, they are totally worth it.

Happy “Niu” Year!

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Pairing of An Ox

This coming Lunar New Year will be rather muted due to the restrictive measures of Covid-19. 

But surprising timely, we celebrate the Year of the Ox, symbol of strength that is so needed in this time of global upheaval brought by the pandemic.  

As this is the Year of the Ox, let me draw your attention to an Ox-related Bible passage.  

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30)

In the ancient agricultural world, oxen typically work in pairs. 

Two oxen are yoked together. One is a trained seasoned ox. The other is a new young ox. Naturally the experienced ox bears the majority of the load. And since the older one leads, the younger ox does not have to wonder what to do. He learns from his mentor and gains the knowledge and skill to teach others.

This very much resembles discipleship. 

Jesus invites us to “learn of Him,” which is another way of saying, “Be my disciple.”

Jesus also declares His yoke is easy, which does not mean “simple” but “good.” 

Jesus is saying, “Yoke with me. Let me disciple you. I’ll bear the weight of the burden of responsibilities, no matter how overwhelming it may seem to you at times. For My yoke is good and you will find rest and companionship in our labour together.”

Our Lord is saying He is our co-partner in the work of His Kingdom. When He gave us the Great Commission, it means together  (“com”) in “mission.” 

We can trust God to do His part as He expects us to do ours.

We are not alone in our commission. 

We are not alone in our labouring for the Kingdom. 

We are not alone in our ploughing for the harvest. 

We are not alone in pulling the heavy load. 

Remember you are yoked with the One whom you can gain strength and direction.

Remember always you are yoked side-by-side with the One that you can lean on and into.

On this Lunar New Year of the Ox I wish you a very blessed Christ-yoked year.

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Role Reversal

As a Pastor I visit the sick in hospital. 

I have never been hospitalized before. So when I was recently warded for my angioplasty and had to stay in the hospital I experienced a role reversal. The pastor is now the patient.

Let me share that experience with you.

Assurance

I met my doctor for a pre-op briefing in the morning prior to surgery. What he said to me was extremely candid and hardly very reassuring. He told me there is a two percent risk and went on to describe what could be some worst possible outcomes. “Are you scaring me?” I asked. He replied in candid fashion, “I need to protect my backside.”

I realized that when one is going for a major surgery, what he really needs is the assurance of what could be better. 

I decided I would turn to Scriptures for assurance. 

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God … your Saviour” (Isaiah 43:2-3a NKJV)

The surgeon gave me the worst-case scenario. But Scripture gives me the best-case scenario.

Family Bonds

I never had my family showing so much care and concern to me than when they heard the op I would be having. Suddenly they realized our human mortality, the fragility of life and their parent’s health, which they could never take for granted.

The night before I was warded, they came to my bedroom to pray for me. My wife led using the prayer I composed in my blog. I saw the somber look of my four children. They prayed and pleaded with God. 

I never had a family prayer like this. I deeply treasured this sacred moment of our family life. There is nothing that gives you more reason to want to live on.

On most days my children are not that sensitive and responsive to my needs. But now one took leave to be with me in hospital. Others said they would buy me stuff that I like to eat. I literally bask in the attention they gave me. For me, it was a family bonding time. My heart surgery has caused a change of heart among my children.

Witness

I told quite a few that my stay in ICU was a staycation. The nursing staff kept checking in to see if I need any thing. I thought this is the best room service I ever had in any hotel stay. 

When the nurse asked me what I do for a living, he opened the door for me to witness to my faith. In many ways my life as a Pastor is quite cloistered and I don’t usually come in contact with people outside the circle of church people.

Prayers of the saints

I really felt that throughout the surgical procedure and hospitalization, I was kept afloat by the “prayers of the saints” (Revelation 8:3-4)

I was felt cheered on by their faith and prayers. The feeling is like having a shouting crowd watching you run the race and telling you – “Don’t give up. You are almost there. Press on!” Mine was a crowd of prayer warriors shouting, “You are safe. God’s peace is with you. We will see you with a 20 year old heart!”

Tap it right

During the night in ICU, the reading of oxygen concentration in the monitor was unusually low (85). I was given the oxygen tube. My wife thought the tapping on the finger of my punctured wrist might have skewed the reading. The nursing staff didn’t think so. Thought I might have sleep apnea for I snore quite a bit. To prove it, he confidently switch to the other hand and was stumped when the reading of oxygen shot to 100. 

My final point is we need to tap it right. Healing does not come from the doctor. The doctor only prescribes. But God is the One who heals. All healing grace comes from God. 

I look beyond the skills of my talented surgeon, great anesthetist, trained nursing staff, the host of medications and tap my perspective on the God who heals.

This I say with conviction not as a pastor but a patient. 

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