Last Moments Last Words

What would be your last words at the last moments of your life?

The tragic stories of the Grenfell Tower blaze have revealed many who made heartrending phone calls to their families just before the flames engulfed them.

One of the victims of this disaster is an engaged Italian couple. Gloria Trevisan and Marco Gottardi are both architecture graduates who lived on the 23rd floor of the towering inferno.

Gloria, age 27 made several calls to her parents in Italy. First to tell them there is fire. Later she told them, “We can’t get out, we are blocked.” As smoke was pouring into the apartment, she made the last call with these final words:

“I am so sorry I can never hug you again. I had my whole life ahead of me. It’s not fair. I don’t want to die. I wanted to help you, to thank you for all you did for me. I am about to go to heaven, I will help you from there.”

Moments after the phone got cut off. Her father made hundreds of return calls but to no avail.

Her fiancé, Marco also aged 27 made two calls to his father. First to tell him not to worry and that everything was under control. But in the second call, he said, “There was smoke … a lot of smoke was rising up … and the situation had become an emergency.” Thereafter the phone line went dead.

These, among many more, are the most agonizing, excruciating and heartbreaking calls. How it wound haunt many that play and replay those last words in the last moments of their loved ones.

What would you say to your loved ones if you have the chance at the final closing moments of your life?

Think I would not only say goodbye but also tell them,

Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).

Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 34:46).

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Upsize Workout Downsize Diet

Many of us take our health for granted. We think we are healthy simply because we feel fine and seldom see a doctor.

So we imagine it is not crucial for us to exercise regularly. Physical exercise remains low in our daily agenda, especially in our hectic workaday life.

And taking the path of downsizing our workout and upsizing our diet, we eventually reach a point when we not only lose our waistline but also our health. We then discover bit too late that it is easier to maintain our health than to try to get it back.

A friend who shares the same hobby gave me a beautiful Koi (Japanese carp). It is one that won a Koi Show tournament. It is a valuable gift. He even gave me the huge trophy cup together with the Koi.

Now when you are given such a valuable Koi you want to take care of it meticulously. You don’t feed it with low-grade food. You give it sufficient space. You create good aeration and water turbulence to encourage it to swim and not stay motionless at the bottom of the pond. Koi can become sick and pot-belied when it is not active.

Just so God has given us a body as valuable as this award winning Koi.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

We honour God by taking care of our bodies. We need to treasure it, harness it and “discipline my body and keep it under control” (I Corinthians 9:27 ESV).

I discovered that when I keep up with my workout in the gym and run in the nature trials:

  • My pants don’t feel uncomfortable.
  • I feel more relax.
  • I sleep better.
  • I think clearer.
  • I work faster.
  • I have more energy for my pastoral work.
  • I set good example for my children of this slothful generation who exercise only their fingers and thumbs on their mobiles.

No wonder the Scripture tells us, bodily training is of some value” (I Timothy 4:8).

For that I shall upsize my workout and downsize my diet. I will take the stairs rather than the elevator. I will halve the portion of my dinner plate. I will run and thank God for good legs. I will stretch and thank God that my heart is still pumping and my lungs are still working.

Borrowing the words of Eric Liddell, the Olympic sprinter and Christian missionary, “When I run (or exercise), I feel God’s pleasure.”

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A Father’s Legacy

Tomorrow is Father’s Day.

I have scattered but vivid memories of my father. I don’t remember much of what he said but I do recall much of what he did.

I have recollections of the times when I waited for him to return home so that I can use his Raleigh bicycle to learn cycling. It was the most popular and expensive bicycle in those days. It was solid and heavy. The bicycle was rather big for a boy aged 7 and I paddled my putting one leg below the crossbar. My father trusted me with his only means of daily commute for work.

Often my father would bring back some foreign coins from his workplace. Perhaps this may have sparked my interest in coin collection, which I still do today.

I remember him taking us for a movie treat at Great World City. I would always sit on my father’s lap in order to save buying a ticket.

On weekends, he would take us to the Pasar Malam (Night Market), which was the closest thing to a carnival in those days.

My father loved us and he showed it in more ways than he could ever say it. When I received my calling to enter the seminary, my father out of concern quickly made me a co-owner of his apartment. When I was financially stretched for my wedding expenses, he footed the bill for the wedding dinner.

When I looked back, I suspect much of what I do for my four children today stem from what my father had done for me.

Paul Anka wrote and sang the song entitled, “Papa.” In this 1974 song, he talks about his hard-working father. He describes how he kept the family clothed and fed, got the kids tucked in bed and gave him a kiss on the head. He sings about his hope that someday his own children would think of him the way he thinks of his father.

Every father leaves behind a legacy whether good or bad.

We read records of this in the Bible.

“Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did his father David” (I Kings 15:11).

“And (Jehoshaphat) walked in all the ways of his father Asa. He did not turn aside from them, doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (I Kings 22:43).

“And (Amaziah) did what was right in the sight of the Lordhe did everything as his father Joash had done” (II Kings 14:3). 

“And (Zechariah) did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers had done; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam …” (II Kings 15:9).

“And (Amon) did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done” (II Kings 21:20).

“And (Josiah) did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (II Kings 22:2).

If you are a father, may your legacy be one your children would cherish and call you blessed.

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Siblings in Strife

For past two days I have read with sadness the strife of siblings from an illustrious family.

Aristotle once said, “Cruel is the strife of brothers.”

Even though I am saddened yet I am not surprised.

The strife of siblings is as old as Cain and Abel. One couldn’t stand the other. He was envious and may have been trying to outdo the other for weeks, months or even years and finally decided Abel’s approved offering was the last straw.

Then we read about the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau. They were struggling, competing and fighting each other even as they were born (Genesis 25:26). Jacob eventually cheated his brother out of his inheritance and had to flee to another country for fear of his life.

Trouble was brewing in the home of King David. His eldest son Amnon was infatuated with his half-sister Tamar and raped her. Her brother Absalom was outraged and set out to take revenge. He threw a party for royal sons and when Amnon was drunk, Absalom ordered his servants to kill the heir to David’s throne (2 Samuel 13:28).

If you think these are mostly stories from the Old Testament, Jesus told the parable of the two prodigal sons (Luke 15:11-32). One squandered away all his inheritance and was welcomed home by the father. The other, the elder son was so upset for he felt he was not getting his fair share of attention and privileges.

Jesus himself witnessed siblings in strife when he visited the home of Mary and Martha. Both sisters have drastically different ideas of what they should do when Jesus came to their home (Luke 10:38-42).

The Bible is full of stories about siblings in strife.

Iyanla Vanzant, the no-nonsense relationship expert in the Ophrah Show said, “Family is supposed to be our safe heaven. Very often it is the place where we find the deepest headache.”

You still find conflict, antagonism, quarrels, clashes, competition, jealousy, hatred, misunderstanding, disagreement, arguments, hurtfulness, deceitfulness and dishonesty among siblings today just as all these were evident in the siblings of the Bible.

And it is because we all struggle with our sinful flesh.

When self-centred brothers and sisters live in close contact with one another, strife is inevitable. Whilst few things in life are as stressful as siblings in strife yet according to Dr De Haan the nearest thing to heaven on earth is a happy and harmonious home.

Perhaps the apostle Paul has that in mind when he wrote:

“The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbour (or siblings) as yourself. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:14–15).

Today I am not watching the news to see what is the outcome. I am praying for a good outcome for the siblings in strife.

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Life’s Biggest Regret

Sir David Attenborough is the much-loved TV nature expert, whose career spans over six decades bringing the wonders of the natural world to its human audience.

During an interview, the acclaimed presenter of the Planet Earth reveals the biggest regret of his long career. It is spending time away from his family.

His one deep and abiding regret is missing out on time with his children. His work took him away for months at a time when his two children, Susan and Robert, were growing up.

He said: “If you have a child of six or eight and you miss three months of his or her life, it’s irreplaceable. You miss something.”

“There used to be family jokes,” Attenborough added. “You know, ‘You were never there. You don’t remember that, Father, do you, because you weren’t there!’”

In solemn retrospect Sir David Attenborough at age 91 wished he had been able to spend more time with his children. For him, it’s life’s biggest regret.

What is your life’s biggest regret?

I have yet to hear anyone say at the close of life, “I should have worked harder and longer. I wish I had accomplished more. I should have made more money, a bigger house or better car.”

Often the expressed regret is, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I should have spent time with my family. I wish I had been a better father to my children. I regret not saying, “I love you.” I wish I had gotten off my hand phone, my emails and my desk more often.”

Now I am not implying we should focus on the family to the extent we forsake our work responsibilities, service in Church and fulfilling the mission of God. That’s going the opposite extreme.

But in life review, would we regret we have sacrificed family in the name of doing ministry, in the pursuit of work excellence and the chase of job promotion?

The likes of Sir David Attenborough tell us we can have a fulfilling career but a less than ideal family life. A day lost with the family, especially when the children are growing up is gone forever.

To have a rewarding career and a ruined family would be life’s biggest regret.

“Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind” (Proverbs 11:29).

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Church Camp

church campEvery year June is a month of exodus. Convoys of buses and cars leave Singapore for Church Camps across the causeway in Malaysia.

A popular campsite is Melaka. Hotels there are booked to the capacity. Churches converged in that town for their camps. As Singaporeans are streaming in, a friend of mine in Melaka says he is getting out to Singapore perhaps.

Church Camp is a yearly happening. It reminds me of a yearly Jewish festival called the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths (“Sukkot” in Hebrew).

In this festival, the Jewish families build a tent structure out of plant materials, palm leaves and branches. They sleep there, eat their meals there and camp together for seven days.

It is intended as a reminiscence that the people of Israel live in makeshift tents throughout the 40 years of journey in the wilderness after the exodus from slavery in Egypt.

It follows the instructions God gave Moses.

“You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God’” (Leviticus 23:42-43).

So every year thousands upon thousands of Jewish people camp out in fragile crude shelters to remember and celebrate their deliverance by God from Egypt.

The camp out reminds them of God’s Faithfulness.

Living in those flimsy booths reminds them to be totally dependent on God who is ever faithful as He did to their forebears.

The camp out reminds them of God’s Provision.

God provided His people manna for food, clouds for shelter, water to drink, and conditions to prevent their clothing from deteriorating.

The camp out reminds them of God’s Protection.

They were vulnerable to the dangers of snake-infested land, hostile roving bandits and unfriendly inhabitants yet God protected them from their enemies. The Lord is their true source of security, safety and survival.

The camp out reminds them of God’s Teachings.

As God “tabernacle” among them, He gave them the Ten Commandments as the moral Law of perfection. Besides God also instructed them 613 articles within the Law.

The camp out reminds them to live as God’s Community.

During this festival they invite and accept invitations to dine together, enjoy the fellowship of one another and bond with others as they share stories.

“You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days … you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates” (Deuteronomy 16:13-14).

If you are going to a Church Camp, may you also remember and celebrate God’s faithfulness, God‘s provision, God’s protection, God’s teachings and God’s community.

Bon voyage!

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Travel Safe in an Unsafe World

Safety is no longer something we can take for granted.

Today I just read about a deadly shooting and siege in Melbourne. And that after the recent three successive terror attacks in London, Manchester and Westminster. I found myself heaving a huge sigh, “Not Again.”

When my daughter left for Bangkok, we told her to avoid crowds. Her response is, “How to?” There are crowds of people everywhere at the train stations, malls and food streets.

It’s hard to avoid crowds, least of all the potential dangers of sudden and unexpected attacks by those who are radicalized or terror copycats.

There is a Psalm that is often labeled as the Travelling Psalm.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
He will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

ESV Psalm 121

The comforting and reassuring word is the repeated “keep.” It tells us, “The Lord is our keeper.”

The Lord our keeper does not slumber (vs. 3-4).

All other security watchers and guarding sentries may drop of to sleep, but the Lord who guards all His people does not slumber. He is ever awake.

The Lord our keeper protects us by day and night (vs. 5-6).

His right hand will protect us from the danger of heatstroke by day and the danger of wild animals by night.

The Lord our keeper preserves our life (vs. 7-8).

He preserves His people by guarding them from all sorts of evil in their “going out” and “coming in.”

If this Psalm brings the assurance, “The Lord is our keeper,” then I want to take this Psalm with me on my next trip for there is no other that could counter the worries of travelling in an unsafe world.

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