PIG

Lunar New Year is drawing near. At our shopping malls and in every housing estate, you see stalls decorated in red selling all kinds of Chinese New Year goodies and stuff.

pigAnd somehow, you would know this is the Year of the Pig. The piggy icons are everywhere on decorations, Hongbaos and very soon in our video greetings.

I don’t subscribe to the auspicious interpretation of the Chinese Zodiac. For me, this is never the Year of the Pig but the Year of the Lord.

Yet the Word of the Lord tells us we are P.I.G. vis-à-vis “Precious In God.”

The God Himself says: “Since you were precious in My sightyou have been honoured and I have loved you” (Isaiah 43:4).

We are PIG, “Precious In God!”

When you look at your children, no matter how naughty, stubborn or disobedient, remember they are PIG.

When you look at your teenage youths, nieces and nephews, no matter how weird they seem in their hairstyle, dressing and the way they talk, remember they are PIG.

When you are in the advancing years of dependence, support and assistance, feeling empty and useless, remember you are PIG!

When you face the raging battle of low self worth in the lowest moments of your life, remember you are PIG!

God tells us through the prophet Isaiah that when we pass through difficult times, He will be with us because we are PIG, precious in His sight.

When you pass through the troubled waters of life, cross the swollen river of stress and pressures, face the fiery flame of crisis and challenges, God says, “I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:2). It is because you are PIG (Isaiah 43:4).

You are PIG, in spite of all your problems, weaknesses and failures.

God loves you. You are Precious In God. If God has a desktop display in heaven, He will have your picture on it. God is like some crazy lover, who tattooed the name of the one He loves. He has your name and mine inscribed on His hand. He says, “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:16).

God even asks a bizarre question, “Can a woman forget her nursing child?” (Isaiah 49:15a). Not at all. Even if she could, God says, “Yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15b). 

For that, we celebrate – not the pig but the fact we are “Precious In God” this year and always.

Xin Nian Kuai Le! Happy New Year!

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Retirement Reflection

Just turned 65 and facing the prospect of a mandatory retirement. By the end of the year I join the ranks of Retired Methodist Pastors.

retirement reflectionWhat does retirement mean for me?

I learned from a fellow colleague whose father was also a Methodist Pastor. When it came for his father to retire, he was completely lost and totally devastated. His son found him sobbing away and saying, “What am I going to do now?” His identity as a Pastor was inextricably tied to his pastoral appointment.

I feel my identity as a Pastor is inextricably tied to my calling rather than my appointment. The time will soon come when this conviction will be tested. Will I feel “secure” as a Pastor without a paid salary?

I reflected further. Does retirement mean a withdrawal of service for the Lord? Does it mean I don’t have to serve the Lord anymore? Does it mean I pull myself out from all services for the Church? Does it mean “I have done my part” and now it is perfectly ok for me to be selfish and think only of myself?

I am convinced that retirement is not an excuse to stop serving the Lord. I am reminded of what the Lord said: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10}.

 Jesus also reminds us as servants of the Lord there is no such thing as work done, task completed and time for a well-deserved endless vacation.

“So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (Luke 17:10).

Retirement brings not less but more opportunities to serve the Lord. We need to redeem the time and opportunity. “Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).

Still, the seductive call of our day is to view retirement as a golden opportunity for self-indulgence. The advice given by many, both explicitly and implicitly boil down to this: “Relax, slow down. Take it easy. Amuse yourself. Do only what you enjoy.”

The prescription given is not maximizing usefulness but maximizing leisure.

If that’s the end goal of retirement, then the closing chapter of our Christian life is no longer significant but simply quite empty and useless.

Far from it, we should be running the last lap of our Christian life with greater zeal and vigour. As we draw close to the finish line we should be picking up pace as we see the face of Jesus coming into sharper focus. 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith“ (Hebrews 12:1-2). 

Ralph Winter said, “Most men don’t die of old age, they die of retirement.”

I am probably never going to retire. I am heading for the gym to get fit for the last lap. I am fixing my eyes on Jesus at the finish line. There will be plenty of time for R and R on the Day of Resurrection.

For now, Let me tell about Your strength to all the people living now, and about Your power to all who are to come “ (Psalm 71:18 NLV).

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Certainties in Uncertainties

Had a chat with a friend about his outlook for 2019.

And he said, “I feel the world is getting from bad to worse. And even though he was from ACS, he said, “I cannot say confidently the ACS motto – The best is yet to be. I think the worse is yet to come.”

certainties in uncetaintiesThere is an increasing uncertainty in the world today. Treaties signed might not be honored. Agreements made can be torn apart when new leaders take over. Just one tweet and Wall Street trembles and the Asian market tumbles.

Even with heightening and tightening of security we are never certain if the world ever become a safe place. The recent months have seen more climate disasters besides man-made ones that put travel safety in question.

Who can be certain if there is ever an escalation of trade war, cyber war and territorial war? Who can know for sure what the global economic and business outlook will be? No one has the crystal ball.

No one knows for sure what heartwarming or heartbreaking news the New Year will bring. We are uncertain about our tomorrows.

We are uncertain if our health and the health of our loved ones are going to hold up for another year.

The future ahead is full of uncertainties.

But thank God, He has given us certainties. Certainties found in His Word. Certainties that can help us face 2019 with courage and confidence.

There are four certainties in Romans 8:31-39.

Certainty #1: If God is for us, who can be against us?

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Certainty #2: How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

“He who did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

Certainty #3: Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?

“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us?” (Romans 8:33-34)

Certainty #4: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? … For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor thing to come, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

We must meet the uncertainties in the world with the certainties in the Word.

With these four certainties God has given we can confidently wish each other a Blessed New Year!

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A Spiritual New Year

I welcomed the New Year not with merry making but with covenant making.

A Spiritual New YearI was at the Wesleyan Covenant Watchnight Service, hours before the turn of the year. With no assigned pastoral role and duty that night I had the most contemplative time.

There was no fanfare of any sorts. The entire service was a solemn reflection on the year about to pass.

As I reflected I felt a deep sense of gratitude to God for all His mercies.

I thank God for His loving care, for giving me life, reason, purpose, calling and ministry. I praise God for being the rock of my strength in adversity and temptation. I am truly thankful to God for meeting my failures with His patience, forgiveness and overflowing grace.

During the service I made this Covenant with God:

Let me be your servant, under your command.
I will no longer be my own.
I will give up myself to your will in all things.

Lord, make me what You will.
I put myself fully into Your hands:
Put me to doing, put me to suffering,
Let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
Let me be full, let me be empty,
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart
Give it all to your pleasure and disposal.

To be sure, I said that covenant prayer with a clear mind, an open heart and a willing spirit. In actual fact I also said:

O God, You know that I make this covenant with you today
without guile or reservation.If any falsehood should be in it, guide me and help me to set it aright.

There are church members who pointed out that such Covenant is simply too hard to make, not to mention, demanding and impossible to keep. But I told them we must remember to whom we are making this covenant.

We are making this Covenant with a God whose love always abounds, whose faithfulness is ever great and whose mercies endure forever. He is a God who made Covenant with His people throughout the ages. He is a Covenant Friend of Abraham, Moses and David.

To this Covenant Friend, we made our covenant to serve and worship Him.

This new year, let us not just welcome another calendar year. Let us welcome the beginning of a new spiritual year.

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All of a Sudden

It happened all of a sudden. A deadly tsunami swept across the coastal regions of Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.All of a Sudden

No one knew the tsunami was coming. That tragic day on 23 December saw 426 dead, 29 missing, 7,202 injured and 43,386 displaced, leaving behind a trail of damaged homes, shops and vessels.

There was no warning. No sirens were heard in those coastal towns. People were going about their business as usual. A popular band was playing to a huge crowd on the beach resort. The audience was having a great time singing, clapping and waving. All of a sudden the tsunami struck. The terrifying wall of water came down on them. And they were hurled and dragged far out into the sea.

In this tsunami-prone country, there was a tsunami early detection and warning system. Sadly it was out of action due to neglect, vandalism and lack of funds. One wonder ifthe loss of lives could have been averted if a warning was issued for the 24 minutes it took the deadly wave to hit land?

This tsunami has a lot in common with the parousia (Greek for the second coming of Christ). They both happen all of a sudden. They both taught us to be watchful and ready.

The Bible is full of warnings of the second coming of Christ or the Day of the Lord.

Most Christians are familiar with it but not frightened by it. They certainly don’t sense the imminence of His coming. They live as if the Lord is not going to come any time soon.

Jesus issued a warning citing the days of Noah and the days of Lot. Today He might cite the days of Tsunamis.

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).

The question is not “If Christ will return?” but “When He will return?”

The warning has sounded. The Lord will return all of a sudden when we least expected it “like a thief in the night” or “labour pains that come upon a pregnant woman” (I Thessalonians 5:2-3).

Ready or not, the Lord is coming! It is better to be ready.

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From Hero to Zero

A homeless man became an instant hero in Melbourne.

When he saw a knife-wielding man at Bourke Street lunging at the police, he used his shopping trolley to repeatedly ram the attacker.

The police eventually shot the terrorist who by then had stabbed three people, one fatally.

The homeless man became a social media sensation. He was nicknamed “Trolley Man” whose quick action was filmed by witnesses.

For his heroic deed, someone initiated an online petition to help the homeless man “to lead a more fulfilling life and achieve the goals and outcomes he wants.” A sum of A$140,000 was raised for him.

But a few days later, police discovered this homeless man was involved in a terrifying smash and grab burglary just hours before he helped police take down the terrorist.

From Hero to ZeroThe instant hero became an instant zero. The authorities are still trying to locate his whereabouts.

Despite being charged with a string of offences, many still went on to praise the character of this “hero” calling him a “lovely guy, such a gentleman, polite, kind … always puts people first.”

And it makes me wonder if the present culture is awash with such naïve positivity about human goodness.

We seem to want to believe every person is intrinsically good. But contrary to scriptural assessment, every person is intrinsically bad.

“There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). 

“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:9-12).

“You are good person” is a myth. It is a lie.

If it weren’t so, Jesus didn’t need to come. The good news of Christmas is:

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

 

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Unwrapped Presents

Have you opened your Christmas presents?

Unwrapped PresentsThere are many people do not open the gift that is given to them. They do not know what is inside but imagine it is something they don’t like or ever need. So they left their gifts unwrapped or recycle them as presents to give away.

A story was told of a lady who gave a Christmas present to her neighbor. It was a small but very pretty tablecloth.

The gift was wrapped in such a way to look like a candle. The neighbor did not know that the inside was a pretty tablecloth.

One day the neighbor came to visit the lady and she saw on the table a beautiful cloth. “Oh,” she said, “what a beautiful tablecloth you have. Have you made it yourself?” And her friend answered, “But my dear I gave one to you exactly the same as this!”

But the neighbor denied ever receiving anything like that for a gift! “Yes,” she said, “Remember on Christmas eve I gave you a present decorated like a candle? Inside the candle was that tablecloth!”

“Oh, I am sorry”, confessed the neighbor, “I did not know there was anything inside. I thought it was a decoration. I threw it away after Christmas!”

At Christmas, God gave us a very precious gift.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah (9:6).

Have you unwrap this Christmas gift?

Have you uncover this wonderful truth of Christmas?

Have you discover the Christmas Babe was truly “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”?

Don’t leave this Christmas present unwrapped.

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