O For A Thousand A Soul To Save

I met a former church member at the hawkers centre.

While browsing through the stalls deciding what to eat, a voice called out, “Pastor!” I turned around and immediately recognized the familiar face. She was a faithful member of the choir in my previous church many years ago.

We had so much to catch up with each other. I learned that she had cancer and is now under remission. She told me that she is perfectly at peace and how she helped to comfort a fellow patient warded next to her in the hospital.

Then she recounted how she had financially helped her niece who was treated for fourth stage cancer. Initially she paid $50,000 for her hospital bill and then she gave an additional $100,000 for her subsequent follow up treatment. In total it was a hefty sum of $150,000.

Even though her niece was given only three months to live yet by the grace of God, she survived two more years. During that time she shared her testimony of the grace of God at a huge gathering in Pulau Bintan. Many were deeply moved by her sharing.

And the Pastor who organized the rally later told my former church member that 1500 persons accepted Christ that day.

The church member was awed by the report. It dawned upon her that the enormous sum of $150,000 she had given to help her niece was worth it. Her niece touched 1500 persons for Christ. It was a thousand a soul to save.

And the church member added that if she could give a thousand for a soul she would gladly do so for the soul is worth every amount given to save.

For so our Lord Jesus tells us:

“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 6:26 NLT)

He also reveals to us:

“In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God …” (Luke 15:7 NLT)

That day there might have been quite a heavenly raucous over 1500 that returned to God.

Let’s bring on the party in heaven!


Complete Waste of Time?

A Churchgoer once wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense going to church every Sunday.

This is what he wrote:

“I’ve been attending church for 30 years now. In that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of the sermons. So I think I’m wasting my time and the preachers giving sermons are also wasting theirs.”   

That started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column. It invited continuous stream of comments, debate and arguments.

Much to the delight of the editor, it went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for any single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”

Going to church week after week is never a complete waste of time. In fact it may well be our spiritual nourishment, sustenance and formation for time spent with God is never wasted.

Perhaps it’s just why God has incorporated it into the Ten Commandments.

“Remember the day of worship by observing it as a holy day” (Exodus 20:8 NOG)

churchSo the writer of Hebrews exhorts.

“Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25 TLB).


A Seed Sown

Recently I attended a reunion dinner for MYFers from a Church where I served for 6 years. The gathering was for these youths that I knew some 30 years ago.

I almost didn’t go. But the organizer, a former MYFer (name for Methodist Youth Fellowship that is now defunct) was most persuasive and insistent.

I had no regrets for attending. It certainly brought back flood of memories from the 80s when I was pastor to these young boys and girls.

I still remember their names. Thank God dementia had not yet set in. These boys and girls are now mature men and women. Most are married with grown up children. Some have morphed in shape and size. Others have hair naturally dyed in grey and silver. Thank God they still have hair on their heads. One had long white shoulder length hair that makes him look like Gandalf, the character from Lord of the Rings.

But they are mostly still recognizable to me. In fact I told some that I saw Jesus in them. They asked, “How so?” I said, “They look the same yesterday, today and … not change one bit.” They unchangeable like Jesus. And they said, “You too!”

It is most gratifying to see all these youth grew up. Indeed the Lord has blessed them and kept them (MYF Benediction). They have become responsible adults. One of them used to help clean the mess in the parsonage where I stayed. He is now a magistrate judge who sentence criminals to the gallows. You better not mess with him now.

But there was one young man whom I could not quite recollect. He was the worship leader during this reunion.

He approached me and said, “Do you remember who I am?” “Sorry no …” “I am Edmund. You know my mother, Mary Ong.”

Suddenly it all came back. Mary joined the Church when I was the Pastor. She was someone then I thought would have a hard time fitting into a church that is demographically highly educated and professional. But she was spiritually enthusiastic, devout and sincere. She had wanted her son to share her faith.

“You remember my mum brought me to see you and asked you to pray for me to be a Christian.”

How could I forget that day when I struggled to share the gospel to this eight year old? But he did say the sinner’s prayer with me. And that was it.

Fast-forward 30 years later. This small boy is now a tall gentleman who loves the Lord, a gifted worship leader in his church and doing fabulously well in his workplace at Perth.

It is such a joy to see that the simple telling of the gospel, the plain act of leading the sinner’s prayer and the mustard seed beginning of faith in Jesus have bore such lasting fruit thirty years later.

a-seed-sownI went home, amazed that a seed sown has reaped such a harvest of joy.

“ … For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap … he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary … for in due season we shall reap …” (Galatians 6:7-9)


Have A Great Rooster Year!

Red Rooster as animal symbol of Chinese New year 2017Remember you are God’s creation (Isaiah 43:7).

May you strut with confidence in the Lord (Proverbs 3:25).

May you always crow to welcome the dawn of a new day (Psalm 57:8), new mercies (Lamentations 3:23) and new opportunity (Galatians 6:10).

May you at all times and circumstances flap your wings joyfully (Philippians 4:4), rise in faith (Luke 17:19) and soar with hope (Isaiah 40:31).

May the Lord use you to counsel, alert, rebuke (2 Timothy 4:2) and warn as He did with Peter (Matthew 26:34).

May you protect your brood, your home and your family from all threats at all costs (Mark 3:27).

May wherever you go bring you scratches of successful finds (Genesis 13:17).

May you always wear the crown of glory, honor and victory (Psalm 149:4).

May people see your colorful and shiny feathers of good works (Matthew 5:16).

Remember you are a masterpiece of His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).

Have a great rooster year!


Before It’s Too Late

A good friend in the same Covenant Group shared this story with us.

It was their wedding anniversary. Aarthi was waiting for her husband Rajiv to show up after office in the evening.

Things had changed since their marriage. Over the years, this once loving couple that couldn’t-live-without-each-other, had turned bitter quarreling for petty issues. They were fighting over every little thing. They had become like strangers living under one roof.

Both didn’t like the way things had changed. As it was their wedding anniversary, Aarthi was waiting to see if Rajiv remembered.

The doorbell rang. She ran to find her husband drenched in the rain and smiling with a bunch of flowers in his hand.

The two started to mend and re-live the old days. Making up for fights, they were planning to have champagne together, turning on light music with the heavy rain pouring outside. It was perfect.

But that perfect moment paused as the phone rang.

Aarthi went to pick it up. There was a man’s voice on the other side.

“Hello ma’am I’m calling from the police station. Is this Mr. Rajiv Mehra’s number?”

“Yes it is.”

“I’m sorry ma’am but there was an accident and a man died.”

“We got this number from his wallet. We need you to come and identify his body.”

Aarthi’s heart sank. She was shocked.

“But my husband is here with me.”

“Sorry ma’am, but the incident took place at 4pm when he was boarding the train.”

Aarthi was unable to hold herself up. She felt faint.

“How could this happen??”

She had heard about the soul of the person coming to meet a loved one before it leaves.

She ran into the other room with tears in her eyes.

He was not there. Is it true? He had left her for good?

“Oh my God” she cried. She would have died for another chance to make up for every little fight they fought.

She cried and fell on the floor in pain and grief. She had lost her chance forever.

Then there was a noise from the bathroom. The door opened and Rajiv came out and said “Darling, I forgot to tell you that my wallet got stolen today while coming home in the train.”

On hearing that, her heart leapt for joy. Tears rolled down her face as she thanked God for giving her another chance before it was too late.

We mustn’t presume life will always give us a second chance. While there’s time, at those opportune moments, before it’s too late, let’s make amends for wrongs.

Our Lord Jesus in the middle of His “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus gives us that bit of wisdom.

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison“ (Matthew 5:25).

Jesus is not simply talking about lawsuits concerning debts. He had earlier talked about keeping healthy relationships. He mentioned anger, murderous thought, hatred, insults and degradation as toxic to human relationships. Relationships suffer when someone harbor such against the other.

Two people going to court indicate a complete breakdown in relationship.

Perhaps earlier their relationship was warm, affable and cordial that one party confidently “lend” to the other. But now when one party has to take the matter to court in order to get justice, that relationship has clearly broken down. The situation has changed and there can be no expectation of restoration. The time for reconciliation has past. It’s too late.

Hence Jesus says, “Settle matters quickly … Do it while you are still together” … Before it’s too late!


No Shopkeeper Shop

There is a provision shop at a HDB Block in Hougang that operates without a shopkeeper.

A handmade cash register displays instructions on how to pay for items you want to buy. You just need to show the price tag to any one of the eight CCTV) cameras in the shop and place the money into a slot. To get your change, just press the button on the cash register.

A former air force technician started running this provision shop with no shopkeeper in June 2015. He came up with this idea to cut manpower and operation cost. He found it difficult to find shopkeepers. He made his own “robot cash register” at less than $200.

But does this honest system work? Would his customers do the right thing or would he return to find an empty shop one day?

After running his “shopkeeper-less” shop for over a year he has many stories to tell.

A man pretended to pay for a can of luncheon meat at the register. He used his head to block the CCTV camera. But he did not realize that another CCTV camera in front of the register caught him putting the coins into his mouth instead. This man is still at large. But his photograph was plastered around the store.

It seems that some of these thieves whose photos were put up actually came back to apologize and return the money.

The shop owner would almost always let them off the hook whenever they approach him to confess.

He said, “If one person can change for the better and not steal anymore in future – it is worth it!” Like the case of three children, all siblings stole food and drinks worth over $10 at his store. The cameras caught them very clearly. After their photos were put up, their mother made them pay back and apologize with a written letter. Needless to say, it woke the kids up.

The owner of this no shopkeeper shop said, “I have caught people of all ages. A lady who dressed up very nicely … A student with a look fitting of a scholar … An old man who looked innocent and helpful.”

Yet still, according to him, 98 per cent of his patrons are honest.

The question remains – Are there people who are honest even when no surveillance cameras are watching them?

There are such people. They don’t need CCTVs, auditors or governance regulations to keep them honest.

They are found in II Kings 12:15.

They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty.”

May we be numbered among them.



World Class Airport World Class Home

Yesterday I read in Straits Times a report, which seems like a familiar scene in the movie, “The Terminal.”

changi-airportA woman in her 50s has been living in Changi Airport for eight years. She has made our world-class airport her home.

She lives in the airport with a trolley full of clothes, toiletries, food and other daily necessities.

For meals she goes to the food courts of the Terminals. For showers she uses the toilet facilities that are frequently cleaned by contract workers. For all of her daily needs and other essentials she finds them in the supermarkets. For naps and nightly rests she retires to the secluded nooks and corners. She can’t ask for more especially sleeping in air-condition on hot nights without worrying about high electrical bills. To top it all, there is free Wi-Fi.

No wonder Changi Airport has become her home for the past eight years.

But it didn’t start that way for her. In 2008 she was hit by the financial crisis. Faced with cash flow problems, she rented out her three-room flat for income and moved to the airport. At first she planned to stay there only for just a couple of nights. Then it became weeks and months and eventually ended up living in the airport for eight years.

She became so accustomed to the convenience that the airport became her home.

Apparently she is not the only person doing that. There are more than ten such “regulars” who regard the airport as home.

But before we pass any quick judgment, I wonder if we too have regarded this world our home and totally disregarded the eternal home that our risen Lord has gone to prepare for us?

Have we become so accustomed to material comforts, earthly pleasures and hi-tech convenience that we no longer sing that Christian hit song, “This world is not my home. I’m just a passing through.”

We imagine that is so 60s. We no longer deem ourselves as pilgrims in this world but rather settlers who are trying their best to survive in this world.

Have we too made the wrong place our actual home?

No matter how house proud and world class your living quarters may be, remember what the Bible says.

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come” (Hebrews 13:14 NLT ).