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.”

Standard

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).

Standard

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?

Standard

The Great Separator

The Great SeparatorChurch Services are suspended. Now I don’t worry about skipping Church anymore. No more guilt. The perfect excuse for those who aren’t that excited about Church.

Covid-19 is a great separator. It separates the committed and the nominal. It reveals those who are serious about their faith and those who won’t that committed.

Covid-19 separates the ones who would rather be at the greens to improve their swings and the ones who rather be in church to improve their walk with the Lord.

Covid-19 is a great separator. It separates those who want to play more and those who want to pray more.

This Corona virus reveals the true state of our soul. It is as if a light was suddenly switched on and the hidden things in the darkness of our soul became clearly visible.

Covid-19 reveals true worshippers. It draws the line between two kinds of online worshippers.

On the one side are those who think since no one is watching them in the privacy of their home, they need not be at their Sunday best. They watch the live stream service in their nightwear, hands holding a coffee mug and newspapers, slouching on their sofa with their feet up on the coffee table.

On the other side there are those who worship at home as if they are in the Sanctuary of their church. They don’t just watch. They participate. They stand to sing with the others in the screen. They bow in prayer when it was time to do so. They send their offering via the QR code. They don’t talk. They don’t snack. They are not distracted by the noise and demands of their kids. They are focused on worship. They listen intently to the Word being preached online. They believe God is present in the sanctuary of their hearts; and He seeks those who truly worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

Covid-19 throws up those who are true worshippers. It separates those who speak the Word and those who live the Word.

Covid-19 is a great separator. It separates the selfless and the selfish. It tells us in no uncertain ways who are the considerate who think not of their own survival but the survival of others even their own country.

Covid-19 is the great separator. It divides the faithful from the fearful, the devoted from the wayward and the selfless from the selfish. Which side of the divide are you?

Is this God’s way of separating the sheep from the goats even before He comes again?

Is this God’s way of separating the “lappers” from the “kneelers” (Judges 7:5-7) to find the 300 Gideon men to fight for Him?

In this challenging time of great disruption to church life and ministry caused by Covid-19 may we be numbered among the 300 called to fight the army of 135,000 in the future.

Standard

Unintended Good

The Covid-19 outbreak around the world caused massive disruption in the travel, tourist and other industries affected by the supply chains.

Unintended GoodWhilst the havoc in the economic landscape is obvious, I noticed some unintended good this virus has brought us.

Let me name 9 of these good outcome by Covid-19.

  1. It flushes out the large following of a Christian cult. It reveals their deceptive and secretive operations and threw them into the public light. If not for Covid-19, Shincheonji Church of Jesus (SCJ) would have remained functioning in the shadows.
  2. It kills the gambling spirit. Never before casinos are so empty. They look deserted, as if like in the movie the zombies had invaded. Even the hardcore gamblers have decided not to gamble away their lives. Only Covid-19 could do that.
  3. It propels our technological usage. Meetings are now held online via Zoom App. Sermons and Services are podcasted online. The technologically challenged are forced to catch up and catch on. They just progressed from their “dinosaur” ways of working. Thanks to Covid-19.
  4. It accelerates the medical research. Many countries are rushing to find that vaccine. No more taking your own sweet time to map, produce and test. Finding that vaccine will not just save your country but the whole world. Covid-19 has pressed the fast forward button.
  5. It keeps many at home. Under normal circumstances they would be gallivanting. Couples now see more of each other. There is more family time. Covid-19 has brought families closer to each other.
  6. It values greatly our medical and public healthcare workers. The nurses and frontline workers received overwhelming appreciation they never usually had. Covid-19 did that.
  7. It builds our social cohesion. People put out facemasks and hand sanitizers for those who need them. Mediacorp launches songs that rally Singaporeans towards positivity to see through this outbreak. Covid-19 has stirred our creativity.
  8. It sparks personal hygiene in all of us. It makes us cultivate the good habit of hand washing. When before we would not be so mindful, Covid-19 forces us to develop the habit of good personal hygiene.
  9. It promotes the use of facemasks where before most people are too shy about using them even when they are feeling unwell. This culture of putting on facemask when sneezing or coughing, which we see in Japan finally come to us. Thanks to Covid-19.

These are some of the unintended good. Perhaps they might not be truly unintended.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

May all these good outcome continue even when the outbreak past.

Standard

Covid Check

We have just entered the Season of Lent. Besides praying, fasting and giving, Lent is the time for the annual spiritual check on our souls.

Covid CheckAs I did some soul searching today I realized how much we fear the Covid-19 outbreak.

Covid-19 has changed the way we work, the way we conduct our meetings and the way we socialize.

It has brought up the best of us and the worse of us. Some are willing to share their supply of facemasks and hand sanitizers. Others hoard them. Still others charge exorbitant prices for them.

The Covid-19 fear has led many into irrational behavior of panic buying. I can understand buying up surgical masks, disinfectants and hand sanitizers. But toilet papers?

Just when you thought this weird reaction is only peculiar to Singapore, you read about the snapping up of toilet papers in Japan that cleared the shelves of every shop.

After the rapid spike of Covid-19 cases, South Korea and Italy join in the panic rush to buy masks and groceries in drugstores and supermarkets. Pharmacies carried signs saying they’ve run out of protective masks and hand sanitizers.

People are so scared of the corona virus.

To top it all, market survey shows 37% of drinkers won’t touch Corona Extra beer because of the epidemic fear.

If we do a Covid check, we might easily conclude we fear the virus more than we fear the Lord.

If only we fear God like we fear Covid-19, which we cannot see but know for sure is real and deadly.

If only we monitor our spiritual temperature regularly like the way we conscientiously do now.

If only we wash our souls as much as we wash our hands and sanitize them whenever we touch something suspiciously unclean.

If only we masked ourselves to prevent the spread of sinful infection in our lives and the lives of others.

If only we avoid visiting and going to known places that contaminate our minds and our bodies.

If only we self impose isolation just to be in solitude with the Lord.

If only our travel history shows that we have been in the Presence of God.

If only we read the Bible like we read the report of Covid-19 day after day.

If only we be just as weary of rumors of false teachings, fake insights circulating in the Internet, WhatsApps, Twitter and FaceBook.

If only we buy up opportune time to fill up our treasure trove of spiritual knowledge, insights and revelation instead of storing up rice, instant noodles and toilet papers.

If only we fear the Lord like we fear the virus.

LeCrae said, We fear circumstances so much because we fear God so little.”

Jesus made it clear: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). 

Let the spiritual check this Lent reveal that.

Standard

Cyprian-249

Long before the Spanish flu in 1918, there was a pandemic flu called the Cyprian Plague.

The outbreak started in AD 249. You might call it Cyprian-249.

It lasted for 13 years till AD 262. It was such a devastating and deadly infectious disease. At the height of the outbreak, 5000 people were said to be dying every day in Rome.

It caused widespread havoc of manpower shortages for food production. It severely weakened the Roman army, breaking the structural integrity of the imperial machinery and crumbling the frontier system. It saw the end of the Roman Empire.

The plague was named after Saint Cyprian, bishop of Carthage. He was not the cause of the outbreak. He wrote about it. But most of all, he got the church to respond in such a way the pagan world took notice.

When no one dared to go near the sick and dying, Bishop Cyprian mobilized the Christians to care for them. Where dead bodies were discarded on the streets, Bishop got the Christians to go bury them.

The entire Christian community was transformed into a battalion of nurses and undertakers.

Dionisus, a historian wrote: “Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbours and cheerfully accepting their pains.”

Such faith in action and love in action moved the hearts of many and won them to Christianity.

The author of “The Rise of Christianity,” Rodney Stark writes: “though the plague terrified the pagans, Christians greeted the epidemic as merely “schooling and testing.” 

Such unwavering conviction in the threat of imminent death, contributed to the growth of Christianity.

The plague of Cyprian was a horrifying time but it won more Christian converts than any other times.

Cyprian-249Today as our churches, our nation and the world face the rapid outbreak of Covid-19, may we learn something of the way the Christians responded to Cyprian-249.

May the world take notice of our faith in action and our love in action.

It is not a time to be paranoid about catching virus.

Certainly we want be protective of all our loved ones, but even more there must be a preparedness to proclaim the answer to our mortality, to show our faith by praying together, to show our love for those who have caught the virus and appreciating all our healthcare workers.

In the darkness of fear and worries, may our faith and love shine the brightest.

Standard

W.U.H.A.N

There is no scarier word today than the mention of Wuhan.

WuhanThe city of Wuhan is the epicenter of the fast spreading Sars-like virus. As I write, it has taken 56 lives in China and the death toll is still escalating. There are near 2000 confirmed cases of this Wuhan virus. Ten cities of Hubei province, including Wuhan has been locked down. It affected 20 million residents. Restrictions of travel and public gatherings are imposed. All planned holiday activities are abruptly cancelled.

Anxiety and anger in Wuhan are high as worried residents crowd the hospitals where loved ones are being tested for the corona virus. Medical teams in hazmat suits are stressed in the rush to identify the infected.

The Wuhan virus has spread to other Chinese cities including Beijing, as well as Singapore, the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Australia, France, Canada and Nepal. There is a deepening concern this outbreak may become pandemic.

The situation that dominates our headlines is a clarion call for prayer.

Our hope lies in II Chronicles 20:9

“If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You – for Your name is in this house – and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.”

So we pray:

Dear God our Father in heaven, You are in control of all deadly virus. By Your command You bring forth pestilence to punish. And by Your Word You are able to deliver Your people from pestilence.

So we lift our eyes to You to pray for deliverance from this mutating and adapting Wuhan virus.

Give to the Chinese authorities and the governing bodies of cities and countries, the guided wisdom to prevent and contain the outbreak of this virus. 

Protect the medical health workers. Grant them vigilance and the uncanny ability to detect, identify and prescribe.  

Give to the medical researchers the ability to develop a vaccine to prevent and stop the virus. 

Give to those who lost their loved ones Your comfort and peace. 

Give to those who have caught this Wuhan virus, Your grace and strength to overcome and recover. 

Give to the people in the affected cities, the calm and co-operative spirit to act responsibly and not exacerbate the situation by their anger and frustration. 

We pray to the end that communities may learn to guard against contamination of their health and environment. But most of all, to be grateful to Your divine intervention in this Wuhan virus situation. In the name of Jesus and for His glory we pray. Amen.

May W.U.H.A.N remind us to practice good personal hygiene.

Wear surgical mask if you are sneezing and coughing.

U should take personal responsibility if you have a fever. Go see a doctor.

Hand washing is a good hygiene habit to observe.

Avoid going to Church or public places if you are sick.

Never take lightly the spread of flu virus.

Standard

Rat Blessing

Rat BlessingPitta-patta pitta-patta the Year of the Rat arrives.

There are so many good rats to squeak about as I bring you greetings and wishes.

May you be forever adorable as Mickey Mouse, loved by all for the longest time.

May you be smart and innovative as Remy in Ratatouille, whose passion turns dream into reality.

May you be wise, patient and honorable as Splinter, the rat sensei who trains Teenage Ninja Turtles.

May you learn from others caught in the deadly traps of cheesy temptations. May you avoid them and scurry away from the luring baits of immoral pleasures and unethical gains.

May you gnaw away every obstacle that stands in your way this year.

May you sniff out every marvelous opportunity knowing that no rat relies on just one hole.

May you face every challenge of elephant proportion with courage and confidence.

Never never rat on your buddies.

Stay away from associates who are boa constrictors. They are incompatible.

Don’t join the rat race. It leads nowhere.

If you must, be a gym rat. You need to work out those calories you consume this festive season.

Here’s wishing you a Happy & Healthy Year of the Rat!

Standard

R.A.T

In one of the churches I served, a member came to my office and shared this story with me.

Tears were flowing from his eyes as he recounted what happened a day earlier.

He had received a phone call from a stranger. In a gruff voice, the unknown caller said, “I just kidnapped your son.”

And the stranger went on to tell him the name of his son, his age, what he looked like, what he was wearing and carrying that day.”

There can be no doubt it was an accurate description of his only seventeen-year-old son.

He was shocked and distraught. The kidnapper then demanded a huge sum of money. “Thirty thousand in a red plastic bag or you will receive a body part of your beloved son. And don’t bother to call the police. You’ll sure to regret,” said the kidnapper.

The father wasted no time to draw the money from his saving account. He put them in a red plastic bag as instructed. And with subsequent phone calls by the kidnapper he was directed to go from place to place. Finally when the kidnapper was satisfied that no one was watching and following he was told to leave the bag of money on top of a garbage bin.

That afternoon his son returned home. The father was so happy to see his son. He hugged and embraced his son.

The son was surprised and puzzled by the father’s outpouring of affection. When the father recounted his ordeal, his son said, “Dad, I was not kidnapped. I was all the time with my friends in the café. I’m sorry you could not reach me because I left my hand phone at home.”

The response of the son was not one that says, “How gullible you are to be tricked by a con man.” Rather the son was deeply moved by the sacrificial act of his father who went to the extent of using most of his savings to ransom him.

For the father it didn’t matter how much he had to fork out. What matter is the son is home safely. He is simply thankful that his son is alive, safe and well.

R.A.TAs we usher in the Year of the R.A.T, let’s remember we are “Ransomed And Thankful” people

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45)

Standard