Not In Vain

Out of the blue, a church member from my previous parish texted me. He wanted to meet me for lunch.

My memories of him rolled back some seven years ago.

I recall he was looking to me to be his mentor. He was seeking someone to help him find his way back to God. Even though he was a Christian believer serving in the church for many years yet he appeared to have lost his spiritual footing. He was spiritually hungry for God.

For the next three months or so, he was in my office almost every week. I used a discipleship book, “Roots & Wings” to direct our focus.

I learned he had left his previous job and was looking for a new one. It’s reason why he had the available time to meet me for over an hour each time.

He also revealed he was going through a rough patch in his marriage. He was seeking legal separation from his wife. His relationship with his son and daughter with special need was in a total mess.

Without a job, an empty marriage, angry children and unhappy home, it seemed his world had collapsed. He wanted very much for God to restore his broken world.

And God did. Bit by bit. He broke away from the affair he started with a former colleague. He turned his heart towards God and his family. He withdrew the divorce proceeding. His son and daughter began to warm towards him. He became a devoted father and a loving husband.

And all this was God’s answer to prayers for never before have I seen a man weep and pray so hard before God.

That was seven years ago. I have not seen him since as I have moved on to another church.

I thought the lunch meeting was just to catch up with each other. But it turned out to be an appreciation meal. He wanted to say “thanks” to me for taking time to listen and pray for him.

Then he added. Recently he joined a mission trip to Mindanao in Sulawesi, Indonesia. At the prison centre, he shared his personal testimony of how God restored his broken world to 150 prison inmates. That day, a hundred of them stood up to receive Christ in their lives.

Although all praise goes to God who alone convince, convict and convert every soul yet he wants to specially thank me for helping him to direct his way home to God. He wanted me to know my work in helping prodigals like him was not in vain.

The time I spent on individuals like him counts far more than I could ever imagine. It was never wasted. It bore fruit after seven years.

Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with great thanksgiving to God.

It bears out for me the truth of God’s Word:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).

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Thoughts on Suicide

A colleague of mine messaged. His brother-in-law took his life. He jumped off his tenth floor apartment. He suffered from schizophrenia since his teens. He was aged 55.

That incident saddens me. It also stirs my thoughts on suicide.

When I visited, several friends and family members were shocked into disbelief that a young man would suddenly take his own life.

The deceased’s sister was deeply distraught. In between her sobs and wails, she felt the stab of guilt. “If I had stayed with him … if only I knew … the warning signs … What if I had the chance of preventing him from ending his life?”

Questions like these torment us till no end.

But no one is to be blamed. For we cannot change and control the choices of another person. We must not bear the guilt and accept the responsibility of another person’s decision.

suicideStill I can imagine the burden of pain that bears down on a person to make such a life-ending decision.

Even for some godly men when the pain became too severe, too great and too heavy to bear, they contemplated suicide.

Moses, the great leader of the people in exodus, was under tremendous stress, pressure and failure when he expressed thoughts of giving up leading and living.

I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now – if I have found favour in Your sight – and do not let me see my wretchedness!” (Numbers 11:14-15).

The prophet Elijah in his most vulnerable moment of fear and exhaustion had serious thoughts of ending his life.

“And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (I Kings 19:4).

The prophet Jonah in his anger and frustration also entertained thoughts of suicide.

And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:8). 

If these great men of God can be driven into entertaining thoughts of suicide, what more ordinary Christian believers?

I empathise with those who see no hope in their grief, losses, depression, illness, disorders, financial problems, remorse, rejection, abuse, relationship breakup and unemployment.

The list of causes is unending. The pressure to quit is unimaginable. The trigger to end life is unpredictable.

I am not advocating suicides. Suicide is self-murder, which is a violation of God’s command (Exodus 20:13).

Rather, I am urging us to reserve judgement. Perhaps those who took their lives were not rushing to their death but running from their pain.

In a time such as this, our anchor is a God who sympathizes with our weakness, our pain and the limits of our endurance.

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but one who has been tempted in all things as we are yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15,16).

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Destroyer Destroyed

Among all the US navy warships, the USS Destroyer is a formidable and flexible class of its own.

destroyerThe USS Destroyer has multi-mission capabilities. It can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups and replenishment groups. It is capable of engaging targets on, above and below the surface. It is loaded with anti-ballistic missile capabilities as well.

The USS Destroyer can take a crew of more than 350 sailors. Its 4 gas turbine engines can reach a maximum speed of more than 30 knots. Its all-steel construction ensures a survivable platform.

To top it all, the USS Destroyer is equipped with the most advanced radar and sonar systems, which allow it to engage targets in the air, on the sea and underwater.

This state-of-the-art radar system scans in all directions simultaneously and can ensure no carrier, cargo/supply ship or oil tanker proceeds into an area where enemy action is possible.

Simply put, the USS Destroyer provides the crew with total situational awareness.

Sadly on 21 August 2017, the USS Destroyer collided with an oil tanker, which is more than three times its size near Singapore waters.destroyed

The collision tore a hole in the Destroyer’s port side at the waterline, flooding compartments that included a crew sleeping area. Ten sailors are missing.

It stumps the US navy. How could this happen?

The same question was asked among the Philistines.

Goliath was an outstanding formidable warrior of the Philistine army. He stood over nine feet tall. That is to say, he was almost two feet taller than the Chinese basketball player Yao Ming. He would not even have to jump in order to put a basketball into the basket. All he would have to do is reach up and slam it down.

This awesome looking Goliath was no skinny giant either. He was strong. He had to be. Just look at the armour he wore. The armour protecting his chest and back weighs 125 pounds. And the weapon he carried is a heavy spear. The point of his spear itself weighs 15 pounds. Judging just from his armour and weapon alone, Goliath was super strong.

Goliath had all the makings of a “destroyer.”

But the “destroyer” was destroyed with just a stone from the sling of a shepherd boy.

What are the “Goliaths” in your life?

Don’t let the frightening appearance of Goliath or “Destroyer” paralyze you into thinking they are unbeatable or indestructible.

Always carry with you, those 5 stones in your sling or I should say, these 5 words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:13.

“I CAN DO ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me.”

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Heartbeat

All the Malaysian parents of Carmen wanted was to hear their daughter’s heartbeat again.

Two years ago, Carmen, an 18-year-old nursing student died suddenly in Singapore from an arterial rupture in her brain.

Her parents, Mark and Ariess gave their consent for their daughter’s heart to be donated under Singapore’s Medical Act.

Carmen’s heart went to Serene Lee who was suffering from heart failure at that time.

Although the name of the donor is kept anonymous, Serene connected the dots and tracked down Mark and Ariess after reading about Carmen’s death.

Then on 4th August, after Carmen’s second death anniversary, Serene got in touch with Mark on Facebook after seeing his posts about wanting to hear his daughter’s heartbeat again.

She introduced herself and asked if she could visit him and his wife in Penang where they lived. She also said she would bring along a stethoscope with her to fulfil his wish.

The reunion between Serene and Carmen’s parents took place on a Friday afternoon. It was an emotional moment for Carmen’s parents – something they were “hoping for the past two years.”

heartbeatJust hearing Carmen’s heartbeat again brought a smile, much joy and uncontrollable tears to the parents of Carmen whose heart lives on in Serene.

Every Christian believer has a heart transplant.

God said to His people: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

A successful spiritual heart transplant took place when we receive Christ into our hearts.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).

If it was so emotional for Carmen’s parents to hear Carmen’s heartbeat, how more so for God to hear Christ’s heartbeat in us.

Does God hear the heartbeat of His Son in you?

Does He hear the heartbeat of Jesus’ care and compassion in you?

Does your heart reverberate with Jesus’ kindness, goodness and gentleness?

Does your heart echo the same heartbeat of Jesus for the lost, the last and the least?

If God were to place His divine stethoscope on your heart, will He hear Christ’s heartbeat?

You have received Christ’s heart by grace. Let it now pulsate with the heartbeat of Christ.

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Power of Honor

Recently Mr. Lim Siong Guan, a member of my former parish and former head of Civil Service gave a public lecture entitled, “Can Singapore Fall?”

He mentioned an intangible that has kept us significant and strong as a nation.

“Singapore is a construct built upon two strong legs of honor. The first is the nation brand of trustworthiness; we are a country and a people who honor our word. The second is being a nation where diversity of race, language, culture and religion is recognized as a fact of life to be sustained in social harmony by a people who honor each other.”

Story was told of a teacher in New York. One day she decided to honor each of her seniors in high school by telling them the difference they each made.

She called each student to the front of the class, one at a time. First she told them how the student made a difference to her and the class. Then she presented each of them with a blue ribbon imprinted with gold letters, which read, “Who I Am Makes a Difference.”who i am makes a difference

Afterwards the teacher decided to do a class project to see what kind of impact honoring would have on a community. She gave each of the students three more ribbons and instructed them to go out and spread this honoring ceremony. Then they were to follow up on the results, see who honored whom and report back to the class in about a week.

One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive in a nearby company and honoured him for helping him with his career planning. He gave him a blue ribbon and put it on his shirt. Then he gave him two extra ribbons, and said, “We’re doing a class project on honoring, and we’d like you to go out, find somebody to honor, give them a blue ribbon, then give them the extra blue ribbon so they can honor a third person to keep this honoring ceremony going.”

Later that day the junior executive went in to see his boss, who had been noted, by the way, as being kind of a grouchy fellow. He sat his boss down and he told him that he deeply admired him for being a creative genius. The boss seemed very surprised. The junior executive asked him if he would accept the gift of the blue ribbon and would he give him permission to put it on him. His surprised boss said, “Well, sure.” The junior executive took the blue ribbon and placed it right on his boss’s jacket above his heart.

As he gave him the last extra ribbon, he said, “Would you do me a favour? Would you take this extra ribbon and pass it on by honoring somebody else? The young boy who first gave me the ribbons is doing a project in school and we want to keep this honoring ceremony going and find out how it affects people.”

That night the boss came home to his 14-year-old son and sat him down. He said, “The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office and one of the junior executives came in and told me he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine. He thinks I’m a creative genius. Then he put this blue ribbon that says ‘Who I Am Makes A Difference’ on my jacket above my heart. He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honor. As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honor with this ribbon and I thought about you. I want to honor you. “My days are really hectic and when I come home I don’t pay a lot of attention to you. Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You’re a great kid and I love you!”

The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn’t stop crying. His whole body shook. He looked up at his father and said through his tears, “I was planning on committing suicide tomorrow, Dad, because I didn’t think you loved me. Now I don’t need to.”

Therein is the power of honor. No wonder Scripture urges us:

Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10 NRSV).

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Thankful Is Not Accidental

It was a fishing trip I was looking forward to, especially after a hectic week of meetings and ministries.

Got up at 3.30am, packed my fishing gears into the car and headed out to pick up my fishing buddies.

En route as I approached a traffic junction I heard a loud bang at the rear of my car. The driver behind had rammed his car on mine.

A barrage of thoughts went through my mind. Did I do something wrong? How could this happen on an empty brightly lit road? Does this mean our fishing trip is now cancelled? How do I make an accident report? Most of all, how am I going to tell my wife that I got into an accident with our fairly new car?

The dent on my bumper was pretty nasty. It didn’t drop off but stuck out.

The other car was also damaged on its front fender. Other than the driver, there was no other passenger. He got out of his car, examined the damage and took some photos.

What annoyed me most was his refusal to admit wrong. Smoking a cigarette, he remarked, “I don’t know what happen. Either you are too slow or I am too fast.”

In the midst of my annoyance and racing thoughts of insurance reporting and fishing friends waiting, a scriptural verse seeped into mind,

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

I decided I would give thanks.

I thank God that I was not hurt. I did not suffer any whiplash.

I thank God no one was injured in this accident.

I thank God that even though there was damage yet it was not that serious.

I thank God that I could still drive my car to go fishing with my friends.

And I thank God it wasn’t me who hit another car.

I choose to give thanks.

Being thankful is not accidental but always intentional.

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Christ in Every Frame

I love this song by Hillsong Live:

Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

Every time I sing it I recall this story:

Tim Vanderveen from Spring Lake, Michigan was a great student at Hope College, Michigan. He was tall and handsome with broad shoulders, curly hair and a smile as broad as the dawn.

In the early 90s after graduating from college, he took a job at Johnson Controls. Scurried up the ladder of success about as quickly as anyone can.

One afternoon, Tim called his good friend and former professor, Tim Brown.

Professor Brown said, “Hey, Tim, how you doing?” A weak, trembling voice said, “I’m not doing so good.”

Professor Brown said, “What’s up with you?” Tim said, “I’m in the hospital in Grand Rapids. I got the flu or something. My folks are out of the country.”

Professor Brown said, “I’m going to be in Grand Rapids later today. Maybe I can stop by and see you. Would that be okay?” Tim said, “I’d like that a lot.”

By the time Professor Brown visited Tim, the doctors had already been there. It wasn’t the flu. It was leukaemia.

And that began a three-year, arduous battle that he would lose – or win, maybe.

Fast-forward three years later in Spectrum Hospital. Professor Brown walked into Tim’s room. His mother was sitting in the corner crying. You can’t blame her.

Tim is lying on his side. They had positioned the pillows between his skinny little legs. His hair wasn’t curly anymore.

There wasn’t enough energy for him to look at the professor, so he got down on one knee so he could look him eyeball to eyeball. He said, “Hi, Tim.” Tim said, “Hi, Professor.”

There was a long, awkward pause. Professor Brown had been a Pastor for twenty years and still didn’t know what to say.

Tim broke the silence, “I’ve leaned something.”

The Professor knew this much at least: You don’t trifle with the words of a person who is about to die; you just listen carefully. So the professor said, “Tell me, partner, what have you learned?”

Tim said, “I’ve learned that life is not like a VCR.”

The professor didn’t get it anymore than you are not getting it now. So the professor said, “I don’t get it. What do you mean?”

Tim said, “It’s not like a VCR; you can’t fast forward through the bad parts.”

Long pause. The professor is thinking to himself: Where does he get this stuff?

Then Tim interrupts the silence again to say, “But I have learned that Jesus Christ is in every frame, and right now that’s just enough.”

Here is someone who really knows Christ is enough. Leukaemia could never infect his salvation, impoverish his prayers and diminish his sense of the Presence of Christ.

Tim Vanderveen sees Christ in every frame of his journey heavenward.

“For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Knowing this story of Tim Vanderveen made me never sing it the same way again.

Through every storm
My soul will sing
Jesus is here
To God be the glory
 

Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need.

 

 

 

 

 

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