My Vote

My VoteCome 10th July, 2.65 million Singaporeans will be heading to the polling stations to cast their votes in a General Election. They will be choosing a government that will serve the nation for the next 5 years.

Voting is a moral obligation and a sacred duty. It takes great discernment to choose great candidates for the leadership of our country, especially in this uncertain time of global pandemic crisis, chaos and changes.

May our judgments not be made based on charismatic personalities, great speeches and attractive promises.

May we not be swayed by the opinions of friends and the influx of social media that often blurs the lines of truth and falsehood, right and wrong, good and bad.

I asked myself who or which party I would vote for. I felt a tug towards the kind of government I hope to see.

I vote for a strong government, not a weak one that panders to the whims and fancies of the populace. I noticed countries with a “weak” government don’t fare very well in the handling of the pandemic crisis. By “strong” I do not mean the kind that is an autocratic bully who listens to no one, not even the experts. A strong government is one who holds dearly to what they believe are right, sound and good. Their fundamental principles based on true values, reason and fact, are not easily shaken by the cries and clamors of the people.

I vote for a decisive government, not a divisive one that is stymied by differences in views, opinions and approaches. I realized that countries with decisive government did well in stemming the spread of the corona virus. This is not so in countries where partisan fractions slowed, delayed and even objected to the making of an urgent decision. I don’t want a government whose decisive ability is curtailed by the stalemate of a gridlock of opposing views. There can be no progress in such a stagnated arena.

I vote for a clear-sighted government, not a blind-sighted one that cannot perceive the looming signs of dangers, challenges and hardships for the people. I don’t want a government that makes short-term gains but long-term losses for the people. I want a clear-sighted and far-sighted government.

I vote for a gracious government, not a guarded one that has no room for slips, failures, opposing views and dissenting voices. I certainly would not want a government that goes all out to silent those who disagree with their methods and policies. I pray for a government that is open to contrasting ideas and viewpoints.

I vote for a compassionate government, not an unsympathetic one that makes no genuine effort to help those who are trailing behind at the lower end of society. I want a caring government who not only push for progress but also help the marginalized, the needy, the handicapped, the aged, the technologically challenged, even the migrant workers in our midst.

Is all this too much to ask of a government?

Perhaps so, but it is never too much to ask of our God who said, By Me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly” (Proverbs 8:16).

You can be sure of this – I will be praying before I cast my vote.

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Aliens

I am not thinking about aliens from another world. Rather I am talking about the aliens in our country. Aliens are foreigners that are working and living amongst us.

Singapore is home to about 1.4 million foreign workers. They make up nearly a quarter of our entire population. They work as domestic helpers, construction workers and manual labourers. They are essential in building and keeping our country functioning.

Yet for the most time, these foreign workers were quite invisible to the average Singaporeans. Perhaps it’s because they are housed in self-contained dormitories away from the plain sight of the general public.

AliensIt was not until the “explosion” of Covid-19 infections in the dormitories that the plight of these foreigners is highlighted. Many are shocked to learn of their crowded and filthy living quarters. No wonder the virus could spread so rapidly because there are no way any of them could self-isolate and avoid contact.

Whilst the hearts of many Singaporeans go to these hardworking foreigners living in poor condition yet there are some who showed little sympathy, attributing the spike in numbers to their unhygienic habits even suggesting they should be sent home. Thankfully such xenophobic sentiments were quickly thumped down.

The Bible is very clear about the way we should treat aliens or foreigners in our land.

The Lord who saved the people from slavery in Egypt said this to them:

And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt“ {Deuteronomy 10:19).

The injunction to love means more than just tolerance and co-existence. It implies caring and treating them fairly, justly and kindly.

“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).

The Lord reminded His people that they once had been under the same predicament. The people of Israel are not to repeat the mistakes of Egypt. Instead they are to love foreigners as themselves.

“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

Most countries do have laws to protect their own widows and orphans, but the people of God are unique in caring for foreigners as well. The gleaning laws are a poignant example.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:9-10).

This is an act of social responsibility – not keeping and hoarding everything but leaving what they can spare for the poor and the foreigners.

In the Bible, aliens are not invisible and forgotten people.

We are called to care for them as we ourselves are also “aliens and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13).

Not forgetting the forefathers of Singapore were migrants that came to make this island their home.

It warms my heart to hear our Prime Minister in a recent address said: “To our migrant workers, let me emphasize again: we will care for you, just like we care for Singaporeans … We will look after your health, your welfare and your livelihood. We will work with your employers to make sure that you get paid, and you can send money home … This is our duty and responsibility to you, and your families.”

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Homeless

Jesus was a homeless Person.

He was born a homeless baby in a borrowed manger of a stable. His parents were rough sleepers seeking shelter after shelter as they ran from the murderous intention of King Herod.

Right after his baptism, he began his ministry as a homeless person. He said of himself, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20).

Foxes and birds all have sound safe sleeping places. But Jesus, the Son of Man did not have a place where he could lay his head on a pillow and call it home. He lived most part of his earthly life and ministry as a homeless Person.

He died a torturous death on a cross, homeless without the care that dying person can expect in a home.

There is no person who can identify with the homeless better than Jesus. Even more, he is a friend of the homeless.

In Mark 5:1-20 Jesus met a demon-possessed man in Gadarenes. He was a homeless man living alone among the tombs. People distanced themselves from him because of his destructive behaviour. But without being asked, Jesus delivered this homeless demoniac and brought wholeness to his body, mind and spirit.

Jesus cared about this homeless man. And he was not the only one.

In those days, lepers lived lonely lives away from their family and loved ones in isolated communities. In Mark 1:40-45 a leper flouted safe distancing, came to Jesus, fell at his feet and said, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”

Jesus’ heart went out to this lonely desperate leper. And his healing touch allowed this leper to no longer sleep rough but return to his home and family.

HomelessA recent nationwide study revealed there are about 1,000 homeless people in Singapore. They slept on the streets and in places like our housing void decks, commercial buildings and playgrounds.

They are at our doorsteps in our neighbourhood. We might even walk pass them without noticing or perhaps couldn’t imagine there are homeless in our affluent society.

Jesus told the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. He painted the painful contrast of the rich man who enjoyed every good thing but ignored the homeless Lazarus who had nothing.

The painful contrast continues after their death. Lazarus was carried away by angels to be comforted in Abraham’s bosom. Whereas the rich man had gone down in Hades to be tormented . When he looks up, he sees Lazarus at the side of Abraham. He pleaded with Abraham to “send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.”

But Abraham pointed out there is now “a great chasm” between them. During their earthly existence, they lived a very short distance from each other. The rich man had every means to help the homeless but he conveniently or cruelly omitted to do so. Now they are eternally apart and even if Lazarus wants to help, he is unable to do so.

Mother Theresa said, “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”

Can you see Jesus? Do you see his face?

He is on the face of every homeless.

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Zoombies

In this time of safe distancing and stay home, zoom has become our primary means of meeting, working and communicating.

Zoom is our new selfie as we view and project ourselves virtually on screen, hopefully presentable at least for the top half.

Zoom has now become a large part of my life.

I have regular staff meetings on Zoom.

I have daily morning devotion on Zoom.

I have evening teaching every Monday on Zoom.

I have evening vesper every Tuesday and Thursday on Zoom.

I have church prayer meeting on Wednesdays on Zoom.

I have Friday Fun Fellowship on Zoom

While I am thankful for the Zoom Apps that allowed us to stay connected with people, yet I am starting to feel the increasing fatigue that comes with staring at tiny boxes of people on my computer screen.

Zoom ZombiesThere can be no doubt I am bitten by Zoom. I have red eyes like zombies from the strains of staring at the screen for a long time. I look like a zombie with dark eye bags from the exhaustion of being continuously online.

I have turned into a Zoombie.

Before you give me a headshot to put me out of my misery (the way to kill zombies) I want to tell you there is a cure for this “Zoombie” virus.

It will take deliberate effort.

Go for breaks from your computer screen.

Go for walks in the parks and look at trees, plants and flowers. These are not virtual things.

Go take your dog for a walk round your neighbourhood.

Go read the Bible or a book that is not e-version.

Go for a structured time of play (non-video games) with your kids.

Be sure to wear your facemask when you are in public places. You don’t want to catch the Covid virus. What you want to kill is the “Zoombie” virus.

It is in such a time as this, the call of Jesus is as vital and essential as ever.

He said, “Come away from the people (which may include those online). Be by yourselves and rest” Mark 6:31.

Story was told of a man who challenged another man to a wood-chopping contest. The man who challenged his friend worked very hard, stopping only on occasions. The other man took many breaks and had a good lunch. When the day came to an end, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other man had chopped more wood. “I don’t get it,” he said. Every time I checked, you were taking rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did. “But you didn’t noticed,” said the winning woodsman, “that I was sharpening my axe when I sat down to rest.”

It is tempting to imagine the harder you work like a zombie, the more you would accomplish. But remember it is always good and necessary to take breaks to reflect, recharge and refresh. Believe me, you need that.

Don’t become a Zoombie like me.

 

 

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Beginning of End

Last week I journeyed with a dear friend in the few remaining days of her life. To me, she was a great sister, servant and saint.

After she had resolutely decided not to seek further treatment I visited her everyday in the hospice until she finally stepped into the glorious presence of our Lord.

For seven days I saw her condition deteriorating. She struggled with extreme discomfort. She hardly slept. She didn’t eat at all. Meals were brought in and carted away untouched. She had great difficulty breathing. Coughing frequently because of the phlegm forming in her throat.

It saddens me to see her in that state.

I was very disheartened that her life should end with such agonizing discomfort. I even entertained the thought, “Why God she has to bear such painful discomfort? She lived well. She served You well. Surely she deserved an ending like Enoch or Elijah or any of those who died peacefully and painlessly.”

And God spoke to me in the Scripture passages I read to her during her wakeful moments. One of these is II Corinthians 5:1-10.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

The Bible reminds us our human body is like an earthly tent. It is temporal and not intended to sustain us forever. A tent is not a permanent building. It will eventually wear out through usage, tattered by age and the effects of the natural elements.

And one day, it will be taken down after having served its purpose. But thank God, there awaits for us “an eternal house in house, not built by human hands.” “Meanwhile we groan” with the physical pain and changes, longing for our heavenly dwelling. “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened.”

Beginning of EndA picture came to mind – that of a butterfly in the cocoon. She struggles in the confines of the constricting cocoon. There is no skipping of this end stage of agonizing laborious discomfort. But no sooner she emerges as a beautiful butterfly flapping to a new life.

For my dying friend, that was her hallelujah moment. Her groaning with bodily discomfort gave way to the promised transformation. Her perishable and mortal body puts on the imperishable and immortal body that is fit for heaven (I Corinthians 15:50-58).

In that instant, like “the twinkling of an eye” when she breathed her last, she shouts hallelujah! “Death has been swallowed up in victory! Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

That’s the beginning of her end.

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Covid Lepers

Nothing scares people more today than hearing someone says, “I’m Covid-19 positive.”

It makes them jump in fear and quickly walk away, covering their mouths and noses.

Such reaction was common in ancient times when people encountered a leper telling everyone, “unclean.” Those nearby who heard it would quickly walk away.

Are we treating Covid-19 cases like Covid lepers?

In those days, when there was no cure for this dilapidating disease, lepers were treated like outcasts. They were doomed to lived in isolated communities away from their families and loved ones.

Today we read reports around the world of the Covid fear that triggers discriminatory, racist and xenophobic behavior.

People, particularly foreign workers are deemed, “unclean” like lepers. They are been turned away from shops, restaurants and even their rented homes. Some were verbally abuse, harassed and even physically assaulted. Even those who have recovered fully from this deadly virus feel they are being stigmatized and shunned by others. No one wants to be around them. They make people uncomfortable.

Are we treating people who are Covid-19 postive like lepers?

How did Jesus treat lepers?

It is clear from the Bible that Jesus is not disgusted with lepers and their dreadful condition. In all the accounts in the Bible (Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-45, and Luke 5:12-16) Jesus reached out to the lepers, even touching them to heal them. He demonstrated for us the great compassion of God towards the sick that are mostly despised and loathed.

If Jesus is our example, shouldn’t we do the same?

Instead of shunning the Covid positive, we should be serving them. Providing whatever help they might need like delivering food, care packages and sewing facemasks for them. Bless the hearts of those did.

Instead of ostracizing the infected we should be offering our prayers for them to recover quickly. After all God is always on the side of health, wholeness and well-being.

Instead of treating them like lepers, we should be touching their lives. There can be no better time than the quarantine period when their hearts, souls and spirit are desperately open to the living God.

Just during the past Holy week saw more than 117,000 came to faith in Christ across more than 100 nations. It has been dubbed, “The Great Quarantine Revival.”

covid lepersThe Covid-19 pandemic has brought untold and unprecedented woes on many people. This shouldn’t be a time for us to be retreating for self-preservation. Rather this a karios time for us to be entreating our God to show His love and mercy and be engaging in acts of love for those in need.

May this be the defining moment for the Church.

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Keep Your Distance

Keep Your DistanceSocial distancing has become the new normal in our world ravaged by Covid-19.

Social distancing is about safe distancing. It is to prevent you from catching or spreading the virus.

Today, at many places you’ll find lines and boxes drawn to show where you should stand in the queue, be it at the supermarkets or wet markets, even in the elevator lifts.

The objective of social distancing is to avoid physical contact with anyone who could well be an undetected asymptomatic spreader in our community. This strict measure aims to flatten the epidemic curve of this infectious and deadly virus.

For this to work, everyone needs to do their part to keep their distance until the virus could no longer find any host to propagate.

When I reflect on our widespread social distancing I am reminded of what the Bible says about safe distancing.

Scriptures urge us to stay away from the infectious contaminating influence and corrupting ways of the world.

II Timothy 2:16-17 “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.”

Gangrene is bad flesh that spreads infecting the good flesh.

Ephesians 5:11 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.”

Keep your distance.

Proverbs 26:20-22 “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.”

Keep your distance from the company of talebearers, gossipers and contentious people. They will infect you with their poisonous words.

Ask yourself. When you are around them, does it have a good effect on you? Were you at times led into gossip yourself? Did you join in the complaining and tale bearing? Did they stimulate your spiritual growth or perhaps stunt it?

Keep your distance.

I Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”

The water droplets from their attitudes and opinions can land inside your mind and heart, infecting your thoughts, shaping your perspective and influencing your behaviour.

Keep your distance.

Proverbs 22:24-25 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.”

Keep your distance.

No doubt we will never live in a vacuum yet it would be wise to limit our exposure to bad, negative and infectious influence that draws us further away from God.

The truth is we become whom we spend the most time with. Be aware of the company you keep.

If need be, keep your distance.

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Breathing Debt

After the 93 year old man in Italy got better in the hospital, he was told to pay for the use of the ventilator for one day.

The old man cried. The doctor tried to console the elderly man not to cry over the bill. But what the old man said made the doctor cry.

The grandpa said, “I don’t cry because of the money I have to pay. I can pay all the money. I cry because I have been breathing God’s air for 93 years but I never pay for it. It takes 5000 Euros to use a ventilator in a hospital for one day. Do you know how much I owe God? I didn’t thank God for that before.”

My fishing buddy sent me this story. The truth of the story cannot be verified, but the words of the grandpa are worth our somber reflection.

When we breathe the air freely without pain or difficulty, no one takes the air seriously. Only when we enter the hospital can we know that even breathing oxygen with a ventilator costs money.

Breathing DebtThank God for clean air.

Thank God for healthy lungs.

Thank God you can breathe freely.

Don’t wait until these are gone before you thank Him. It is God who gives us the breath of life.

The Bible in Acts 17:25 says, And He (God) is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”

We owe to our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer God, our life and breath.

Join me to take a deep breath and say, “Thank You, God.”

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Home Alone

If you are home alone under Stay Home Notice or quarantine, don’t waste it.Germany Virus Outbreak

This is a unique time for you. It may well be the “pause” you need in your life.

To be home alone is to be away from the crowd with their constant clatter of words and clutter of activities, besides curbing the spread of virus of course.

Home alone can be the “desert time” that our Lord frequently observed during His earthly ministry.

Jesus spent 40 days alone in the desert before He began his ministry (Matthew 4:1-2). He was alone in the desert hills before He chose the Twelve (Luke 6:12). He spent “desert time” in a lonely place when he learned of the death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13). He spent “desert time” by himself regularly (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35). He even tell His disciples, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place” (Mark 6:31).

Make your home alone that “desert time” of purposeful solitude.

Let it be a time of cultivating that inner sanctuary, creating space for God to speak and made Himself heard. Who knows God might want you to reevaluate your goals and objectives in life.

And that can happen in the solitude of a morning cup of coffee or in the evening before bedtime.

Some of you have children at home and find yourself busier than before trying to meet their needs and demands. All the more, you would need to find a suitable time and quiet corner in your home to be alone with God.

So often God speaks but we cannot hear because we are just too busy.

To be home alone is to be still before God and know that He is our God, even when the mountains quake with threatening pandemic (Psalm 46).

Home alone shouldn’t be an empty time of loneliness. Rather it can be a fulfilling time of growth.

I believe in this season of stay home, God is on the move even more than ever to make us better disciples.

As you stay home reach out for your Bible, not click on Netflix. Let your stay home be a time you play your ukulele, guitar or piano and sing praises to the Audience of one. Let your home alone be a time you pray and pray for those in need despite social distancing.

Develop your sensitivity to God and others during your stay home.

Thomas Merton said, “It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers.”

Cry like the Psalmist, You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek You; I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You” (Psalm 63:1).

May God use your Home Alone “to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10).

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1756 Repeated?

In 1756, Great Britain was faced with a threatened invasion by the French.

It was an uncertain time for the whole of Britain. Fear spread throughout the nation. Every British citizen was frightened of this dreaded French invasion.

1756 RepeatedAnd the King of Britain called for a day of solemn prayer and fasting. It was to be a day when the whole of Britain would cry to the Lord for mercy.

And John Wesley on 6 February 1756 recorded this in his Journal. He wrote:

“The fast day was a glorious day, such as London has scarce seen since the Restoration. Every church in the city was more than full and a solemn seriousness sat on every face. Surely God heareth prayer and there will yet be a lengthening of our tranquillity.”

Then in a footnote, John Wesley added:

”Humility was turned into national rejoicing for the threatened invasion by the French was averted.”

Today we face yet another threatening and devastating invasion, that of Covid-19.

Surely this cannot be a time for Christian believers to stay home to eat and watch Netflix. Rather it should be a time to stay home to fast and pray. It is not a time to clear the shelves of the supermarket. Rather it is a time to pour out our selves to cry to the Lord our Redeemer for mercy.

And who knows, God might just turn the cries of His church into a national rejoicing as He did in 1756.

Will it be another day footnoted in the annals of our history that Singapore has scarce seen since the days of SARS?

Will 1756 be repeated in 2020?

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