Priceless Pearl

A fisherman was fishing in the seas off the Coast of Palawan Island in the Philippines.

When the anchor of his boat was caught on something, he swam down to pull up the anchor. In the process he dislodged a giant clam housing an enormous pearl.

Priceless PearlThe pearl is 30cm wide, 67cm long and weighs 34kg. It is the largest natural pearl in the world with an estimated value of over US$100 million (or S$135 million).

But the unnamed fisherman was totally unaware of the value of the giant pearl. For ten years, he kept the priceless pearl under his bed as a good luck charm. He would touch the pearl every time he went out to fish, not realizing the immense value of that pearl could change his future.

Then a fire broke out this year forcing him to flee his wooden shack. He almost forgot all about the pearl until he was moving out and he remembered he had something under his bed.

He decided he would bring the pearl to his aunt, a tourism official for safekeeping because the pearl was just too heavy to carry along with him.

And that’s when the secret was out. The priceless pearl is now a centerpiece of attraction for tourists at the New Green City Hall in Puerto Princesa, capital of Palawan.

When I read this I wonder how many of us are also unaware of the value of the priceless pearl we have found.

Jesus likens the Kingdom of heaven as those who had found a pearl of great price.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).

Do we value the priceless pearl?

We have found the priceless pearl of salvation in Jesus Christ. Yet we hid it under our bed where no one knows we have such a precious gem.

Do we value the priceless pearl?

We go about our lives treating our precious Lord like a lucky charm for blessing and favor in our business contracts and dealings.

Do we value the priceless pearl?

We don’t seem to value the Bible like a treasure trove that is “more than gold, yes, than fine gold.” Instead we keep the written Word of God under the bed of neglect and obscurity.

Do we value the priceless pearl?

We are not driven to value worship like believers in religious sensitive countries who risk the pain of persecution every time they gather together for worship.

Do we value the priceless pearl?

We only come to realize the immense value of the caring support of our fellow brothers and sisters when the “fire” burned away our earthly hopes and securities.

Do you value the priceless pearl?

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Humble Beginning Honored Ending

SR NathanThose 4 words sum up the life of our beloved former President of Singapore, the late SR Nathan who passed away peacefully on 22 August 2016.

Unlike many Presidents in the world who have a bright start in their lives, born with a silver spoon or from illustrious families, SR Nathan had a very humble beginning.

At the age of 8, his father took his own life. He came to Singapore to study but was expelled from school at age 16. He then ran away from home. Went to Muar and survived by taking on odd jobs, giving tuition, delivering letters and even worked as a hawker assistant.

Then came the Japanese Occupation. He started learning Japanese from a Japanese-English dictionary. And he became an interpreter for the Japanese until the war ended.

Thereafter he pursued his studies in the University of Malaya. Upon graduation he joined the Public Service, where he quickly rose through the ranks.

As director of the Security and Intelligence Division, Nathan displayed his bravery in the Laju incident. He led a group of Singaporean officials as guarantors to accompany the terrorists on board a plane to Kuwait.

Thank God for his safe return together with the other Singaporeans.

Then he became our first elected minority President serving from 1999 to 2011.

As I watched the news I am totally amazed by the tributes and accolades of his achievements during his Presidency.

He had helped Singapore sailed through many diplomatic storms and even improved bilateral ties with other countries.

He strengthened the Labor Movement and Trade Unions. He initiated the President’s Challenge, which has since raised more than $160 million for various beneficiaries.

And most of all, he is widely remembered for his friendly rapport with people, especially those who have special needs.

He died at a ripe age of 92. He lived a full, tough and eventful life. He left a legacy of good works, great examples and grand inspiration that humble beginning can lead to honored ending.

Thus so says our God in Zechariah 4:10 NLT

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin …”

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I Say He Says

I met a new visitor to our church. She is a single mum.

Tears welled up in her eyes as she recalled her only son passed away last September. He was push over the stairs, sustained a hemorrhage and died.

Ever since that day when her 27-year-old son died, she spiraled into inconsolable pain and deep grief.

She told me there were many times she wanted to end her life. But something kept her. She gave me a paper in a plastic covering as if it is her most precious treasure.

On it are written:

I say, “It is impossible.” He says, “With Me all things are possible” (Luke 18:27)

I say, “I am exhausted.” He says, “Wait on Me, I will renew your strength” (Isaiah 40:31)

I say, “Nobody loves me.” He says, “I loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3)

I say, “I can’t go on.” He says, “My grace is sufficient for you” (II Corinthians 12:9)

I say, “I don’t know what to do.” He says, “I will direct you” (Proverbs 3:6)

I say, “I can’t do it.” He says, “You can do all things through Me” (Philippians 4:13)

I say, “It is not worth it.” He says, “It will be – just keep going” (Galatians 6:9)

I say, “I can’t forgive myself.” He says, “You can – because I have” (Ephesians 4:32)

I say, “I can’t make ends meet.” He says, “I will supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19)

I say, “I am afraid.” He says, “I did not give you the spirit of fear but of power” (II Timothy 1:7)

I say, “I can’t handle this.” He says, “Give it to me; I will carry it for you” (Isaiah 46:4)

I say, “I am not smart enough.” He says, “I will give you wisdom” (James 1:5)

I say, “I am all alone.” He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)

Which do you believe? Which speaks louder? Which do you choose to cling on to?

For me I chose to let what He says become what I say.

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Musing on Mortality

Last night after returning home from family dinner I quickly turned on the TV to catch the remaining live telecast of the National Day Rally (NDR).

That was when I learned the NDR was suspended because our PM had taken ill.

I was shocked, stunned and shaken. A host of unimaginable fears and foreboding thoughts flooded my mind. It did trigger a wave of prayers amongst my WhatsApp groups.

Thank God our PM Lee did not have a stroke but a “brief fainting spell” caused by “prolonged standing, heat and dehydration.”

When PM Lee returned on stage to resume his speech, it brought great reliefs to both audience and viewers like myself.

However as he talked about the need for leadership succession, he made a poignant remark that “Minister or not, all of us are mortal.”

The Bible gives us 3 pictures of our mortal life.

  1. The Swiftness

The Bible in the book of Job tells us the swiftness of life.

“Now my days are swifter than a runner” (Job 9:25)

“They pass by like swift ships” (Job 9:26a)

“Like an eagle swooping on its prey” (Job 9:26b)

“Oh, remember that my life is a breath!” (Job 7:7)

Such is the swiftness of our mortal life.

  1. The Uncertainty

The Bible tells us the uncertainty of life.

“For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

“For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow?” (Ecclesiastes 6:12)

Who can lay hold of a shadow? Who can be so certain of life? Not even the rich fool who thought it certain, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19)

Such is the uncertainty of our mortal life.

  1. The Changeability

The Bible also tells us the changeability of life.

“We spend our years as a tale that is told” (Psalm 90:9 KJV)

A tale is a story with twists and turns. Our mortal life is filled with unpredictable changes.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell and make a profit; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow” (James 4:13).

Such is the changeability of our mortal life.

No doubt all of us are mortal yet we worship and serve an Immortal who is described as, “The Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation” (II Corinthians 1:3a-4)

If we have such a God, it doesn’t matter if our mortal life is swift, uncertain and changeable.

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Songs Soothe Stir Save

A Journal Science Study tells us Zebra Finches sing a special song to their offspring before they hatch to help them cope with global warming.

Zebra fnches2No matter what season it is, when the temperatures go above 79 degrees Fahrenheit, the finch parents would sing the “heat” song to their incubating eggs to tell them it’s really hot outside and they better not grow too big.

Through the eggshells, the hatchlings listen and the birds come out smaller. Their smaller size makes it easier for them to cope with high temperatures. It explains how birds learn to cope, adapt and survive climate change.

Whether it’s birds or humans, songs soothe, stir and save. It seems patients in hospitals who listened to soothing music are less depressive, more sociable and they recover faster.

Psychology Today in 1985 reported on a certain mental hospital in Great Britain. One wing of the hospital was built next to a Chapel where there was daily singing of hymns. The sound of the singing could be heard in that wing. And doctors found that patients in that wing got better faster than patients in other wings.

Songs soothe, stir and save. And King Saul knew that.

“And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him (I Samuel 16:23).”

Songs have a way of soothing our agitated spirits, stirring our souls and inspiring our hearts. That is why the Bible is full of songs of joy, songs of hope, songs of lament and despair. Just read the Psalms.

Even the Lord sings over us.

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT).

Songs release divine hope, power and potential.

When King Jehoshaphat was confronted with the prospect of being invaded by the combined armies of Moab and Ammon, he sent out his troops in an unconventional battle formation. The choir preceded the army. The singers preceded the soldiers.

“Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir … and they were defeated … they helped to destroy one another” (II Chronicles 20:20-23).

So the Lord beckons:

“Sing, O barren, You who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, You who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:1)

Sing to the Lord even in your darkest hour for it has the power to change people and situations.

Paul and Silas knew that first hand. They were beaten mercilessly, bruised and bloodied, placed in stocks in the dirtiest and darkest part of the prison. But at midnight, they were not screaming in pain but singing in praise. Their singing made other prisoners stood up and the foundation of the prison shook up (Acts 16:25-26).

Songs soothe, stir and save.

Let’s sing because we, the people of God always have something to sing about.

“Speak to one another with the words of psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing hymns and psalms to the Lord with praise in your hearts. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, always give thanks for everything to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:19-20 GNT).

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Bird Strikes

Bird strikes are rare. But when it happens, it can bring down an airplane.

Recently a bird hit a Qatar Airways passenger plane after take-off.

It was ingested into the left engine. There was a series of bangs. The fan blades bent. It shorted the electrical power. Streaks of flames emitted. Smoke followed. The engine shut down.

The airplane had to make an emergency landing at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. Thank God the plane landed safely and all 312 passengers and crew were evacuated.

So, next time when you are in an airplane and you spotted a bird flying at the same level as your airplane, don’t get too excited. In fact, it might be a good idea to start praying.

And speaking of prayer, the take home truth is that if a small bird can bring down a big plane, an Airbus A330, don’t underestimate the power of a small prayer said in faith that is the size of a mustard seed.

Our Lord Jesus says,

“If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6) 

“Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:21-22).

It was the Queen of Scotland who once said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the armies of England.”

Never underestimate the power of one flying bird.

Never underestimate also the power of one praying person.

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Pokémon Go Away

Today I made Pokémon go away. I deleted the game from my mobile phone. I decided I would stop playing this game.

Two weeks ago when this game was available for download, I thought it good to try out this game to understand the popularity and draw of Pokémon Go.

I gave myself the vicarious reason that I need to know what this game is about in order to connect with the young people including my own son.

The game is free and easy to learn. Not much skill is required. No need for quick reflex.

However, it changed my lifestyle quite a bit. I started looking for Pokemon wherever I go. I could be in the coffee shop, the shopping mall, the park or even the church – and I turned on the game on my hand phone just to check if there are any interesting Pokemon to catch.

This checking of Pokemon on my phone has affected my lifestyle. I could be having dinner with my family and I would be hunting for Pokemon before the food arrived. My running regime became a walking regime because I wanted to “catch ‘em all.” Every time I parked my car in the church I would be collecting poke balls because there is a poke stop nearby.

To be very honest, the game does have a gripping hold on me. The obsessive draw is that you want to have every Pokemon in the index, especially the rare and uncommon ones that are so hard to find.

Needless to say, this game is attention grabbing, time grabbing and energy grabbing. And there is no end to it. It is not like you can finish the game and call it quits.

Today I took the game out from my phone. I felt such liberation. No more checking. No more occupation. No more draining of battery.

I am reminded of the Word of God:

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (I Corinthians 6:12). 

I have decided – Pokemon Go Away!

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