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Fellowship of His sufferings

With Him in His sufferings

With Him in His sufferings

Nobody puts out the welcome mat for suffering. Most times it hits us and takes us by surprise. Sometimes we can anticipate the storm. Whichever way it happens, when you are in the midst of it you feel the pressure, pain, loss, hopelessness and fear.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”(John 16:33 NKJV)

There will always be tribulation or trouble, even for Christians. Jesus said it is because we live in this sinful and broken world that Christians too will suffer. We will not be exempted. The difference for Christians is that we have a pioneer who went ahead of us in the path of suffering. Jesus suffered for what He did not deserve. He was unjustly mistreated, tried and sentenced to death. His reputation was dragged in the mud and He lost his life in a torturous and humiliating way.  Yet He overcame in His suffering. Thus He understands those who go through suffering and is able to sympathize and support and supply them with the grace, faith, victory and wisdom needed. We have a companion in our suffering. It is a fellowship and sharing in suffering and victory that we should be aware of when tears and sorrow are our daily bread.

When you are undergoing great trials, see yourself in fellowship with Christ in your sufferings. He has overcome and so will you, when He is with you in it. It will be a great comfort and strength to your weary soul. Be of good cheer.

Benny Ho’s roundtable discussion about marketplace

Benny Ho’s  marketplace initiative

It was with curiosity that I entered the corporate penthouse of Orchard Parksuites. I was not curious about the building behind Wisma Atria, which I never knew existed, but about the meeting which was dubbed: Roundtable Discussion on Marketplace. Apparently Arrows Ministry, founded by Pastor Benny Ho, had earlier organized a marketplace retreat to hear the heart of marketplace people. This built on that and was a conversation between “pulpit ministers and marketplace ministers” facilitated with the help of Pastor Derek Hong, retired pastor of Church of our Saviour. I was invited to eavesdrop on the “conversation”. There were over 40 people present, half were pulpit ministers and half were marketplace ministers.

Pastor Derek Hong on pastors and the marketplace

After the preamble and roundtable introductions, Pastor Derek Hong spoke something pastors need to hear. He shared his journey which shifted from being a pastor focused on growing Church of our Saviour in numbers to a pastor seeking to equip God’s people to be effective in being salt and light in the marketplace. He grimaced about how he used to use people for church growth instead of powering them up to light up the marketplace. This shift resulted in him receiving reports of greater impact for Christ at all levels and spheres of the marketplace. People were saved in the workplace and though they did not end up in COOS, they were in the kingdom of God and that satisfies if you are kingdom-minded. The workplaces too were impacted by ethical applications of the gospel by ordinary people of God. What he shared really resonated at different levels. I do not know if that spoke to many pastors but it certainly spoke to my situation.

What marketplace leaders wanted to say to pastors

The conversation was interesting thus far, but it got more sensitive when Benny asked the marketplace ministers this question, “If you had a chance to tell pastors what they can do for marketplace people what would you say to them?” I wore my bulletproof vest and braced myself. Let me summarize what some of them shot said :

  • Christians are not acting ethically and living out their faith and are stumbling blocks to pre-believers coming to Christ. There needs to be better formation of Christians by the churches.
  • The clergy-laity divide still exists, sometimes in subtle forms, and need to be bridged. The sacred-secular divide need to be broken down.
  • Most church members spend most of their working life in the marketplace while most pastors spend their time in the church and their respective views of life do not match, and this is reflected in the sermons preached, and the ministry focus, and demands of members’ commitment to church activities.
  • Perhaps the fault lies with the seminaries and the way they equip the pastors.
  • Pastors should harness the opportunities of mobilizing members to be witnesses in the marketplace. Part of that witness is simply doing their job well so they have credibility when they talk about Christ. The potential is too great to ignore. Instead of church based outreach activities develop workplace based outreach and prayer with a kingdom mentality.
  • 80% of people feel they have not heard any teaching on the theology of work (Barna).
  • Do not demand so much involvement in church ministries and activities that they cannot even do their workplace jobs well.
  • We need the equipping and support of pastors for effective workplace witness.

These were all good pointers but I must admit to holding my breath at times as we pulpit ministers listened to all the frustrations of serious marketplace people. There are so many expectations to meet as a pastor, and this is another one added to the list. Of course most of us have an awareness of these issues, but many of us are already panting on a treadmill running at the speed of 12 and it would take some skill and great conviction to get off and do something different without a fracture.

What pastors wanted  to say to marketplace leaders

Then it was the turn of pastors to have a chance to say what they would like the marketplace people to know and to do. We did not have much to say actually. Was an apology to the marketplace people needed? Were we too diplomatic? Were we too afraid or ignorant to say anything? Did we want to show we were above giving tit for tat? So we had a little bit of meandering here and there. However, Pastor Benny did share something worth looking at. Many members are in one of several levels in terms of being salt and light in the workplace. The levels are Struggling – Surviving – Stabilizing – Succeeding – Significance. An estimate would put most in the first three mentioned levels but need to move to the last two levels. My take is all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and we need the gospel again and again in all our churches.

I did not take many photos of people because nowadays I am not sure about the Personal Data Protection Act and maybe I was too lazy to ask permission and take photos. I did take some shots of the nice though hazy views from the penthouse and of the exquisite 7 course meal we were blessed with. These cannot complain about their photos being uploaded on the internet.

Nice view from corporate suite of Orchard Parksuites

Nice view from corporate suite of Orchard Parksuites

Nice food - one of 7 courses

Parcel of flounder and chive - one of 7 courses

Poached Chinese pear wiht lily bulb

Poached Chinese pear with lily bulb

Christian veterans of marketplace

I met two Christian veterans of the marketplace. Both of them know my eldest brother Colin. One was David Chan. He was my brother’s classmate at St Andrews pre-university class, and fellow members at St Hilda’s Anglican Church. He worked for many years at senior executive level but had done theology at Regent College and is now a…take a deep breath….Chaplain in Far East Organization. I have heard of armies, football teams and hospitals with chaplains, but this is the first time a famous large corporation in Singapore has appointed a chaplain. I should not be surprised as its owner is a Christian who seems quite committed to applying his influence in the marketplace. He said his most common question is, “What do you do?” I wondered too but I could guess what kind of people would approach him with what kind of problems and it proved to be correct. “What kind of work week?” He works a few days a week. My next question was, “Do you need an assistant?” Haha.

The other Christian veteran I met was Georgie Lee, another St Andrew’s School alumni. This is the second time I have met him. Early in January, I sat beside him at one of the lunches at the Love Singapore Summit. He shared with me what he was doing as Vice President of Full Gospel Businessmen, and I was impressed that this organization, like an ember taken out of the ashes of its past glory and fanned to flame, has come up with a practical nuts and bolts plan to help marketplace people execute the more conceptual vision of mobilizing the church to influence the seven gates of arts and entertainment; business, science and technology; communications and media, divine institutions; education and school; family and home; government and leadership.

As an aside, Galven Lee his son is a first class honours history graduate who once interviewed me about the lesser known school revival of the early 1970s that was formed into World Revival Prayer Fellowship, the church I have been serving these past 34 years. He was doing his thesis about the charismatic revival in Singapore. I think it is a great contribution to Singapore’s church history, done as it was by someone schooled in research methods and under rigorous supervision.

To top it all, I had a wonderful time of talking shop with Pastor Richard Wong from Canaan Christian Church and Pastor William Lee of New Life Christian Church. It is always a blessed fellowship to journey together with spiritual friends.

Slow down, man

I wish there was a mad rush to slow downSingaporeans walk faster than any other people in the world, this data from a study of 32 cities of the world done in 2007. Next in rank is Copenhagen, Madrid, and Guangzhou. Compared to a similar study done in the 1990s, Singaporeans speed increased by 30%. This reflects the hurry and pressure of the day. It points to a physical and social health that needs to be monitored with concern. Christians are not exempted from this. We live in a social system that traps us with patterns of behaviour that is difficult for us to extricate from.

As Christians we can make a difference. We have Christ who dwells in us who is greater than the world outside. We can start by realizing our hurrying does not achieve the purposes of God. Jesus was busy but was never hurried. He lived in another realm called shalom. He abided in an awareness of God and the divine activity around him.

We can imitate Jesus and learn to press the pause button in our daily life: a pause pregnant with silence and a fresh awareness of God’s presence.  Be still and silent for two or more minutes at some points in the day. Breathe deeply and slowly and be aware of His loving presence. Imagine Christ smiling before you. Slow down to the rhythms of God’s grace.

Do this as a fun experiment for a start and see if it heals you of the pandemic called hurry.

OMF Bungalow: how to book

It has been two years since I last went to the OMF Bungalow. This cool place in the Cameron Highlands has been a place where God had often spoken into my life and strengthened me. It had been both a “broom tree” place and a “cave” place for me – which speaks to me of physical as well as a spiritual rejuvenation respectively. Remember Elijah?

This time it was with a reservation that I embarked on this retreat to OMF Bungalow with Koh Seng Chor, former pastor of Evangel Christian Church. We would have wanted to stay six days but only four days and three nights were available. That’s a bit short for a retreat and not worth the long journey up. Nevertheless we took it. After all OMF was quite booked and my application was late and things are seldom ideal when you feel the need for extended time to rest and pray. The length turned out to be just right.

Seng Chor lived in the East Coast and I in Jurong East. He picked me at 6.30 am in the morning and we breezed through the second link and were bantering all the way up the North South highway. Pleasant company makes long drives sweet. We had a late Indian lunch at the edge of Ipoh before turning into the old road that led to Brinchang. We passed by Ringlet town, Tanah Rata and finally passed Bringchang and up the winding road past Strawberry Park Hotel and into the OMF Bungalow at 3.10 pm. We were warmly welcomed my Mrs Chye.

Beautiful OMF Bungalow

Beautiful OMF Bungalow from the garden in the afternoon

Wonderful restful garden space

Wonderful restful garden space

Another view of the OMF Bungalow from the swing

Another view of the OMF Bungalow from the swing

Ant on pretty flower

Ant on pretty flower

Bee having its fill

Bee having its fill

It’s like time stood still and the exterior of the building remained unchanged this past decade that I have been there on and off- which I like. Inside however renovations had gone on – an ensuite bathroom had been added to the room opposite mine. And they were making an additional bathroom at the upper floor of the TV and play room.

I love and hate the cool of Cameron. When it gets too cold at night as it did on Tuesday, I had to wear two layers of woollen. However the morning cool is what I love the most: crisp and fresh and rejuvenating. The afternoon cool comes with sometimes blue skies, which I love, and sometimes a dismal grey, which I dislike.

A friend Rev Dr P J John gave me Psalm 139 on my Facebook post, so I spent my prayer periods meditating and drawing nectar from a few verses in that passage. The verses reassured me that God is always with me to lead and to hold me – always and unconditionally. They reassured me that I am awesome, for I am “fearfully and wonderfully made”.  Seng Chor and me shared what we reflected upon and what touched us during tea and we co-discerned for each other.

The room assigned to me - love it.

The room assigned to me - love it.

A camera, a hot flask, my trusty Samsung Note - Bible and journal and sketchbook in one.

A camera, a hot flask, my trusty Samsung Note (Bible and journal and sketchbook in one).

The afternoons were great for excursions and with a car that was made easy. We went down to Ringlet to explore, to Tanah Rata for Starbucks (actually more for the wireless than the coffee), to Brinchang to buy tea and other provisions, and to Kea Farm to buy farm products like cherry tomatoes, Cameron oranges, and whatever is cheap and will make our wives happy – which means buy everything. We also had a look at the Lutheran Missions House – another nearby bungalow.

Ringlet town street

Ringlet town street

Seng Chor, myself and Yee Siew Meng

Seng Chor, myself and Yee Siew Meng

Ps Siew Meng, Ps Ching Siew Ling, PCC ministry staff, Seng Chor

Ps Siew Meng, Ps Ching Siew Ling, PCC ministry staff (fogot her name), Seng Chor

One of the delights this round was fellowship over meals with other pastors who were there. We got to know two lady pastors from Penang Christian Centre and Yee Siew Meng, soon to be appointed pastor of a City Discipleship Presbyterian Church in Kuala Lumpur. Such conversations expanded our understanding of what is happening in other places and churches and what God is doing in other people’s lives. In this case we heard that the Chinese church membership in Malaysia is in ascendancy with the new generation of Chinese schooled in their vernacular and who are more comfortable with Mandarin than English. The churches today are also more politically active and united.

Myself, Alex from OMF, and Seng Chor

Myself, Alex from OMF, and Seng Chor

I had always wondered what the OMF man who replied my applications was like . I finally got to meet Alex Lee, a pleasant and committed Christian in person. He is the guy who processes all the applications for rooms in OMF Bungalow. I asked and he told me the annual average occupancy of the OMF Bungalow is 60%. They want more pastors and missionaries from Malaysia and Singapore to use this place of quiet for prayer, and for planning too. I learned that one of the busiest periods were Decembers which is surprising to me since that is the rainy season! The off peak months are March, April, July, and August. They have rooms for just over 20 people. What I do is to ask for the dates I want and also ask that if these dates are already taken to please give me other dates available before or after. They have different fees for lay people than for Christian full time workers, and for non-Malaysians than for Malaysians (see the steps to book OMF Bungalow below). If you want to book email to Alex Lee: o.resthome@gmail.com. He is very prompt in his reply.

STEPS TO MAKE ROOM BOOKING AT OMF BUNGALOW.

The bungalow is only opened for Christian missionaries and Christians from established churches. We are not opened at this time for others.

1. Give us your preferred date (s).

2. We will advise you on the availability.

3. If available, we shall send you our booking form. The sooner you send the form the better because reservation is ONLY done upon receipt of your form.

4. We practice first come first serve depending on whose form and deposit is received first.

5. We do not take bookings or any enquiries through phone. We have an official Booking Form. Please request for one if it is not sent to you.

PLEASE BE INFORMED THAT EVEN WITH APPROVED BOOKINGS, PRIORITY IS GIVEN TO ALL OMF MEMBERS FIRST. MOST TIMES, WE SHALL ASK FOR THE ROOMS TO BE RELEASED FOR THEM.

6. Rates (Per person per night inclusive of three main meals**) : Rates revised from 3rd July, 2014.

For Malaysians – in full time / pastors Adults : RM70.00

Children : 2 – 6 years RM25.00 ; 7 – 12 years RM35.00

For Malaysian – NOT in full time / Adults :RM110.00

Children : 2 – 6 years RM45.00 ; 7 – 12 years RM80.00

——————————————————

For Non-Malaysian – in full time / pastors Adults : RM125.00

Children : 2 – 6 years RM50.00 ; 7 – 12 years RM80.00

For Non-Malaysian – NOT in full time / Adults :RM160.00

Children : 2 – 6 years RM70.00 ; 7 – 12 years RM110.00

‘Full time’ means any persons who are permanent staff of a church or Christian organization.

** Meals are inclusive in the rates whether taken or not. No discount or

waive is allowed Afternoon tea Is NOT included.

7. Maximum number of adults is about 22 – 25 persons at one time. With children, the number would be reduced accordingly.

There is no official Conference room but many guests use the living room at the main block or library block.

8. Deposit to the value of 50% of the total amount for the stay would be required to secure the booking. The deposit is non-refundable in case of any cancellations. Further information on making the deposit would be given when we have received your booking form.

9. Most of the rooms are with double beds. Only three (3) bedrooms have attached bathroom/ toilet. Others share common bathroom and toilets. Room arrangements or allotment is at our discretion.

There are a total of ten (10) rooms.

10. Hot beverages is available whole day through. We appreciate guest to top up the water dispenser after using. Most of the time, cookies are also available. Afternoon Tea is NOT included in the rates but may be provided at the convenience of the care taker.

11. There is a TV room with a small amount of toys for children. At the garden, there is a playground. We have a library with quite a selection of books. Please bring your own board games.

12. Baby cots : We would encourage guest to bring their own ones especially if they have foldable ones. We have two cots located at different rooms. They are both not able to be moved out from their existing rooms.

Concentrated on the ministry of the Word

The church today needs the word and men set apart for prayer and preaching the word. Too often the pastor is distracted by other urgent tasks that draws attending to prayer and word. This temptation and pressure is of course not new to modern times. It happened then too.

The infant church of the first century grew through the apostles’ preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ. However, after some time an internal problem arose that could have derailed the momentum of the infant church. The Greek-speaking widows were not being well cared for by the church. Pastoral help and administrative distribution of welfare fell short. It was a glaring gap in the Spirit-filled church.

There was pressure on the apostles to set aside their prayer and preaching times and made time for distributing food.  However by the grace of God, spiritual wisdom and order prevailed. The apostles declared, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables….. (pick out reliable men we can entrust with this task –italics mine)…….But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Act 6:2-4 ESV). So other spiritual men, all Greek speaking, were appointed to the task of serving the pastoral and administrative need. It proved to be a wise move for the next verse described the outcome: “The word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (verse 7).

Why is the ministry of the word so vital? Well for one thing, it builds faith, hope and love. For another, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Pray that the ministry of the Word will prosper and be given prominence in WRPF, and anointed people will be set apart to focus on this work of grace.

The task that energizes me

On the subject of equipping, the three main tasks of a pastor are to feed, to care and to lead. Feeding entails the teaching of God’s word to God’s people. This is done through Sunday sermons, facilitating study groups, through cell group learning, and through the equipping stations. God’s people grow by feeding on the explanations and applications of God’s word. It is the hundreds of home-cooked, wholesome meals over many years, and not the occasional Michelin standard restaurant meals that grow you physically. In the same way, it is not the occasional inspiring, moving sermon that grows you spiritually but the faithful interpretation, teaching and application of the sacred text over many years.

On a personal note, the teaching and learning process is my preferred equipping task. It is what God gifted me for and what energizes me. There are pastors that find this task draining. Not I. True, the challenging and exciting moments of selecting a passage, allowing the Spirit to illuminate it, poring over what others have said about the passage, and preparing a message, can sometimes be tense and a struggle. However when all is settled, and the message is delivered and you trust the Holy Spirit to show Himself strong though a sermon that is often “five loaves and two fish”, it gives you pleasure, humility and peace. God’s word has resounded among God’s people and for another Sunday they have been strengthened in the faith, encouraged to hope, and renewed in love. It is fulfilling.

The Ark: a place of rest

The Ark at Village Hotel Bugis

The Ark at Village Hotel Bugis

The Ark is a Pentecostal church. What a unique name. Pastor Jimmy Hoo started this church after he left the Emmanuel Assembly of God. It is small fellowship of 30 plus and they worship at the Village Hotel Bugis at 390 Victoria Street on the 6th level. I got to know Pastor Jimmy on Facebook. I was introduced to him by Pastor Peter Sze who also helped linked up quite a few grace-based churches and ministers in the region. We met once with Joshua Lee, pastor Kevin Choo and another minister and talked shop over tea at Funan Center. He invited me to take the Sunday message and I was most happy to do so.

Pastor Jimmy Hoo and wife Mabel

Pastor Jimmy Hoo and wife Mabel

I took a cab there with my wife and my son who wanted to visit. It was the first time I stepped into the Village Hotel Bugis and the hotel function room was the size of two large classrooms. They also had a separate room for the children. I met with the members who were there early and we chatted with Pastor Jimmy Hoo and Mabel, his wife, who was very warm, hospitable and friendly. The service started at 9.30am and like the other grace-based church services I attended, the Holy Communion was conducted every Sunday. Soon I was at the pulpit and preaching a modified version of what I preached in my worship service the previous week at WRPF. I talked about how a Christian can still live under the old covenant and experience the miserable Christian life. I talked about what it meant to live under the new covenant. My main text was from Jeremiah 31:31-34. I drew my three main points and contrasts from the text itself, and drew sharp contrasts of what it would look like if you lived as a Christian under the old covenant or under the new covenant. I enjoyed partnering with the Holy Spirit in delivering the message.

After the service we had and early lunch at about 11.40am at a Bugis Junction food court. I enjoyed the nasi padang and the fellowship and warm banter. Inevitably from the topic of family, the conversation went to ministry and I heard a dramatic and  grace-filled story of how this sincere and humble couple were initiated into the message of grace, and how they moved from being burnt-out and effort-driven to a place of rest in the grace of God.

Though many people crowd the Star Vista to hear the grace messages of the New Creation Church, small churches like this also deserves better support and encouragement. I am sure there are people who love the grace message but prefer a small church setting where things are less concert-like and more family-like, less distant and more personal, where they feel less like a spectator and more like a participant. This is one church you may want to explore visiting and being a part of, if you want to learn to rest in His grace, and a have a stronger community life. Pastor Jimmy and Mabel are well equipped with the message, the experience and love to give you the care, the rest and community you need.

Of PSLE and all other dreaded exams

The PSLE examinations and results can be a forbidding hurdle that both parents and children have to navigate. It is a stressful time for all. Everyone prays and works and hopes for the best. We hope our child will manage to get at least into the express stream. We would even accept the normal stream, and hope he gets into the express stream soon after. We get elated or secretly disappointed if our prayers were not granted.

However, life goes on and reality sets in, and sooner or later we realize that God loves all his children, but they are not equally gifted for academic rigours and demands. Sooner or later we will accept that our children have different kind of intelligences and gifts and we perhaps begin to stumble into a more sane view that life will present unequal economic rewards to people with different talents and opportunities. Some of our children will grow to be adults and surprise us, for despite their academic qualifications, they out-earn the scholars. But is earnings the bottom line that frames our perspective of success? Then how different are we from the worldly minded?

Let me put it to you that God’s purpose in creating us is so that we may glorify God and serve and enjoy Him forever. Staying in this zone is what makes us truly “successful”. You can earn a lot and be highly qualified but yet live a life that disregards God’s purpose. This is a failed life. Or you can be a PSLE failure but live a life of faithful service and fellowship with God. This is the fulfilled life. The one essential thing is whether you fulfilled God’s purpose of glorifying Him and serving people with your God-given talents and opportunities.

Our job as parents is not just PSLE and all the other exam hoops our children have to jump through. It is guiding our children to discover their God-given abilities and to use them for serving people and for His glory. It is imparting the values of service, contentment and God-centeredness to them. As for PSLE and “O” and “A” levels, we do our best to support our children, and discover more about ourselves and our children. Shalom.

Hyundai Matrix: farewell

The Hyundai Matrix, the faithful servant

The Hyundai Matrix, the faithful servant

Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, metal to scrap. The Hyundai Matrix that was bought by the church and that has served so faithfully has used up its entitlement to be on the road. It has been ten years. It is durable and roadworthy. But this is Singapore – a cemetery for 10 year old vehicles. It’s such a sad under-utilization of resources. Some of the cars will be re-exported to other Third World countries to be re-conditioned and used for perhaps another 20 years. The rest will end up as scrap metal. Very few will continue on Singapore’s roads. Today I said Goodbye to my Matrix.

Singapore is probably the most expensive place in the world to own and use a car. If you buy a new Toyota Vios at today’s prices, live in Jurong and work in Changi, include all expenses such as repairs, servicing, insurance and road tax, minus inflation, you would have spent about S$200,000 by the end of ten years. This was what I read somewhere.

It is strange but though the car is not a living creature we develop some kind of feeling towards it. The feeling could be positive or negative or both. For me it is all positive. It is respect. The car looks petite but this lady has a big inside that can even squeeze four in the back seats. The luggage space can handle four persons luggage.  It is gratitude. This car has done its bit for the Lord, and for my family too. It is fondness too. After so many years, I have grown to like it. Maybe I am not fussy. Nor have I driven many cars in my life to provide any kind of comparison. I only drove passenger church vans before this car: a Toyota Hiace van and a Isuzu van, before this blessing from the church came into service. She is a petroholic, but I am still fond of her.

She is spacious and generous.

She is spacious and generous.

She is petite and she loves black.

She is petite and she loves black.

Now it has become too expensive for the church to provide a car. I am very thankful to the church that I had one for so many years. The church has been good. The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Even my children said, Take some photos before it goes. The family got sentimental with the car. So before it went we took some shots after lunch. I want to remember its spaciousness, its usefulness and faithfulness.

Well done thou good and faithful servant. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, metal to scrap.

Now I will undergo some major adjustment. I am converting to a BMW (B for bus; M for MRT; and W for walk). Add on a double turbo (T for taxi and T for tompang). First heard this BMW thingy from Benny Ong a popular church speaker. Stuck with me. This will be a challenging and interesting change. Like the Minister of Transport once did, I will take the MRT. But unlike him, I cannot do anything to improve it. I can only adjust and live with it. Let the hardship begin. It cannot be as bad as what others suffer in other countries.

Barclay’s Premier League 2014/15 predictions of top four places

Now that transfer deadline date has passed we all have a better idea of the new players in each squad and can reasonably predict the top six teams of this season’s Barclay’s Premier League 14/15.

All the betting companies and their expert panels have placed Chelsea as the champions. Most football pundits and reporters have done the same. Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea.

CHAMPIONS: ARSENAL

Arsenal the perennial bridesmaid is finally showing that they are willing to spend serious money on proven world class players in the last two seasons. They have also bought well but mostly I will be keen to see how the Danny Welbeck, Sanchez, and Walcott forward axis will operate. It will take time but I hope they will be as deadly and unstoppable as Liverpool’s SAS. 25 goals to Welbeck is my dream and this dark horse to take the trophy at long last.

SECOND: CHELSEA

Most reason that Mourinho will be highly motivated to make Chelsea champions for Abrahamovic may axe him for consecutive failures to haul any trophy. He now has his kind of team formed, having got rid of failed strikers, those who do not work hard at defending, the older hands, and those who take too much risks, and let the team down. His signings are astute to fill up deficits of last year. Costa seems to have a recurring hamstring problem, and in this merciless league, it may take him out for vital games, without equivalent striking capability to replace him. Thus I believe they will be beaten to the title by Arsenal by a mere whisker.

THIRD: LIVERPOOL

Liverpool under Rogers is like a dragon resurrected. Dangerous and unstoppable in their fiery attacks they will melt down many teams. They have lost their bite when Suarez left. But the circus clown has been hired to entertain the fans and if he puts the team results above his antics, Liverpool will surprise doubters and take the third place.

FOURTH: MANCHESTER CITY

Manchester City will come in third and their focus will be on the Champions League to improve on last year’s results.  The Arab owners want this new achievement. They have the group of death and priority will be given to getting out of that group and try to enter the finals. They have won the premier league twice. Key players have had their contracts extended on improved terms. Complacency will be a recurring problem. Fourth place, and definitely above Manchester United. That alone is great comfort.

Simeon Poh: found faithful

Simeon Poh seated on extreme right

Simeon Poh seated on extreme right

Simeon Poh was a young man of 27, with a girlfriend, and a career in precision instruments with Timex. He was Spirit-filled and zealous for his Lord. On the way home from a mission trip to Simpang Rengam, Johor, where WRPF planted its first church, the car that Simeon Poh was in, crashed with a Johor lorry. He almost died. The neurosurgeon did two major operations on him in Tan Tock Seng hospital. A Swedish evangelist, who traveled and preached with David duPlessis, the famous Pentecostal statesman, prayed for his healing. The surgeon was

Simeon Poh at 65

Simeon Poh at 65

surprised at his accelerated and remarkable recovery. Though his physical co-ordination deteriorated, and his personality,  somewhat altered, he was independent, and able to go anywhere he wanted unaided. He still loved his Lord.

Yeo Hiap Seng compassionately gave him work for many years. Then he was graciously hired to clean our church premises for the last 14 years. Friday was his last day of work. He has been thorough, diligent and faithful in his duties, often going beyond what was required of him. His example of a faith that endures setbacks and hardship will encourage many. He could have been a bitter man. He could have turned his back on Christ. Instead, he still loves and serves his Lord.

Simeon will receive due honor on that Day when Jesus comes.  May the Lord, watch over him and bless him with good health and meaningful ministry in the years to come.

City Harvest Church trials: To sigh, pray and hope

The trials of the leaders of City Harvest Church have raised many eyebrows. Accusations and blame and counter-blame have started to fly across the courtroom among those who have been charged. This is painfully embarrassing and shameful for the church to bear. Yes, we are all categorized together as the church in Singapore, no matter how we try to detach ourselves from the CHC leaders. The goings on in court makes me sigh in shame. It causes me to pray for mercy and grace. For I know all too well my own weaknesses and fragility and my own tendency towards self-preservation. It makes me hope for God to work all things so that His name may be glorified ultimately.

Brothers and sisters, let us lift up these leaders and the whole trial in petition to God. Pray for truth and humility and mercy to triumph, justice to prevail, and for God’s church to acknowledge her humanity, weakness and vulnerability.

Thank God we have a high priest who sympathizes with us and we can approach Him boldly in times of need to receive His mercy and grace. And this we must do: approach Him who understands our weaknesses.

AGST Alliance doctoral colloquium 2014

Doctoral colloquium at 7.30pm: a long day

Doctoral colloquium at 7.30pm: a long day

What’s a colloquium? That was my first question mark when I was invited to the AGST Alliance Doctoral Colloquium. It turned out to be an informal exchange with an academic slant. So the three theology and seven education doctoral candidates were there in Bible College of Malaysia in Petaling Jaya to share our progress or the lack thereof with the program director Dr Allan Harkness, and other expert AGST Alliance officials/ lecturers/ like Dr Perry Shaw and Dr Rosalind Lim-Tan and other experts.

In the first session we were presented with the estimated time and the deliberate process of completing a dissertation from the acceptance of a focus area to the submission of the finished work to external examiners. It was an eye opener. It looked like the promise land with its giants and impenetrable fortresses. I needed to take it step by step and each step by faith.

There were three other helpful sessions. One was a review of what was expected in terms of the research question, and the rigour of the research methods that matches the research to be done. The other was a session on expectations and roles of the supervisors that have been attached to us.

At BCM library preparing for presentation

At BCM library preparing for presentation

The most helpful session lasted a whole day. Each of the doctoral candidates had to present the research they had done thus far and receive specific advice and input from the experts and their peers. This was most helpful for me as I saw what was expected in concrete cases and what was taught as general principles became clearer as it was set in the specific context of each person’s research question. There were educational research questions on the ethos of a Christian school in Malaysia; on faith formation in Chinese speaking Christian families in Sarawak; theological reflection of pastors in Singapore; the different outcomes arising from Christian workers relationships with their fathers; and the equipping of the young old in Singapore churches.

The main lessons we learned were that in order for our research to be useful for the kingdom, we needed to narrow down the sample population, justify the research methodology used, be more specific with the research topic.

La Salle hostel

La Salle hostel

We stayed in the La Salle hostel. Each room had two bunk beds and an attached toilet and a balcony for laundry. I stayed in one at $60 ringgit per night. Lectures were held in BCM which was a 15 minute walk. There were quite a number of popular Indian restaurants and a well-known

Room with air con

Room with air con

Ipoh kway teow and bean sprouts and chicken rice joint nearby and we had most of our meals in these places. Travel was a good 4.5 hours bus ride on First Coach from Novena to Bangsar, and from there, a kind classmate, May drove us to BCM.

Now that the colloquium has ended I need to process it and the input they gave to my research idea. The way I look at it. I am now at the entrance of Timpohon Gate and about to begin my trek up the steps and slopes to Loh’s Peak. It’s going to be a test of endurance and faith, but I am going to replicate what I have always done with trekking: take a deep breath and move my feet one step at a time.

Ten reasons to feel blessed on National Day

I do not have 10,000 reasons to feel blessed to be a Singaporean. However, I can certainly come up with 10 reasons to be thankful about being a Singaporean.  I am sure all of you can too. Here are my ten reasons:

  1. We are able to practice our faith without fear.
  2. There is law and order and it is safe to walk the streets even after 10pm.
  3. We have varied paths in our education system for developing different talents.
  4. We have jobs in relative abundance.
  5. We have homes that we own.
  6. A clean and capable government.
  7. Peace with neighbouring countries.
  8. The country is well organized and things run efficiently.
  9. There is a growing increasingly vocal and active citizenry.
  10. A good standard of medical care is available.

What are your 10 blessings of being a Singaporean?

The pastor’s main task

It is the pastor’s main task to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. “He gave some to be ….pastors and teachers….to equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4: 11, 12). The original Greek word was used in the Gospel, of the fishermen mending their nets so that they can be serviceable again. How does a pastor do that?

He feeds the flock. He teaches them by example and by the explaining the word of God so that Christ shines through and they are fed and able to serve one another.

He cares for the flock for most people come into the kingdom with needs, problems and hurts that need mending and wholeness. When they are being cared for, they are able to do the work of the ministry.

He leads the flock by organizing, releasing and encouraging people into that which they are called to be and to do and places them into small groups to make the feeding and caring effective. He sees people’s potential and allows them to minister and grow in the strengths God has given them.

A church where people are getting equipped will have a larger and deeper base of leaders so much so that even if 10% of the committed leaders are not around, the church can still absorb the loss, and continue in grace and strength.

God over Israel and of the State of Palestine

The news of Israel’s invasion of the state of Palestine has caused many to take the sides of either one.

Most Muslims side the State of Palestine and decry Israel’s invasion of its territory to clear out terrorists.  They believe the reckless and senseless killing included civilians who are innocent.

Most Christians support Israel because they find that reports of rocket fire from the forces of Hamas in Gaza are credible. Many others give support to Israel because they are God’s chosen people.

We have to remember that God is God over both peoples – the Israelites and Palestinians. In the Old Testament, God’s righteousness and justice is applied to both the nations that did not believe in Him, as well as the nation of Israel that believed in Yahweh God. Israel was not spared for breaking covenant with God, even though they are God’s chosen people. God knows all things unlike the news media and their biases.

If there is a side to stand with in this crisis, it is God’s side we need to stand with. To stand with Him in pain and sorrow as He sees His creation and His people living in enmity and suffering the consequences on such a devastating scale. We stand with Him in sorrow and intercession for all the losses of both sides and pray for the peace of Jerusalem and of Gaza.

This is the godly posture to have.

The New Covenant Church: recent developments

Observing this young church

Our 2014 church camp was held in Everly Hotel in Putrajaya. I decided to visit my favourite church in Petaling Jaya, the New Covenant Church. My friendship with the pastor, Peter Sze, was started and maintained by social media via this blog and Facebook. I have been a keen observer of this grace-based church that has taken Joseph Prince’s melody of grace and made the song uniquely theirs. It has been nothing short of amazing what God has done, and I have been observing the development of this young church since its formation. You can read the various posts I have written by doing a search on the top right hand of this blog.

Hosted warmly by the family

With Yew Juan and tallest tissue prata in PJ

With Yew Juan and tallest tissue prata in PJ

On Friday afternoon while church campers went home to Singapore a Mercedes Benz shuttled me and my wife off to the pastor’s home where we received a warm welcome from Seefen, the pastor’s wife. Pastor Peter is a managing director of a company and flew back from Singapore late in the afternoon. By around six, he and his wife had to go launch a new community group of the church. Running a company and leading a church requires bi-vocational stamina and passion. Meanwhile we were brought out for an evening meal in IPPUDO at the Bangsar Shopping Centre. Filled up with ramen and pleasant conversation with Yew Juan and Suzanna (the pastor’s daughter), we then had dessert at a kopitiam: roti tissue tower, teh tarik, and chendol – calories for tomorrow’s hike, that’s how we justified our intake.

the tncc regular hikers of Gasing Hill

the tncc regular hikers of Gasing Hill

Hiking Bukit Gasing

Pastor Peter hiking with us

Pastor Peter hiking with us

It was about seven in the morning on Saturday when we got ready and went for the morning’s hike up Bukit Gasing (literally “hill top”). The hill is located on a narrow sliver of green,  smack in between Kuala Lumpur (federal territory) and Petaling Jaya, a city of Selangor. At 160 metres tall it is the small brother of Bukit Timah Hill’s 163 metres. There was a group of hikers from the church who regularly hiked here. Many had climbed Mt Kinabalu recently and some had stories of weight loss and better health as a result of regular hiking.

We enjoyed the hike. It had interesting features like a watch tower, a suspension bridge, and various detours from the main route. One of the steeper slopes was tougher than the toughest slope in Bukit Timah Hill. It was a good workout and we adjourned for breakfast with the group while Pastor Peter had to rush off for a meeting with his leaders. He was busy but had accommodated our desire to hike. If not for us, he would probably have had opted for sleep, glorious sleep. That afternoon we talked shop over lunch and coffee at One Utama.

Recent developments in the New Covenant Church

The New Covenant Church used to have a mid-week fellowship that meets for teaching of the word and small group interaction. Now in addition to this they have developed home fellowships for the caring and belonging of community. I thought this was an important development for as the church grew to its current 600 in attendance, feeling a sense of belonging can be easily lost. These home groups that met fortnightly for fellowship are spread over more locations, making it convenient for members to attend. The increase of such groups will certainly increase body ministry and participation, develop shepherds and leaders, and give the church a greater capacity to assimilate and initiate new guests or converts into the life of grace. It will lay foundations for further growth in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

TNCC Educenter

Another interesting development I got wind of was the formation of the TNCC Educenter. The stated mission was to provide an education alternative for young people at affordable costs. They use a programme called Eduseeds. It is multimedia-based online learning combined with classroom interaction. It is done at the pace of the student. And it prepares students to sit for the Cambridge IGCSE. It is done as a community service too. Pastor Peter shared how the Lord opened the door for them to start this and provided the right contacts, champions and students.

Ian and Charmaine, the worship stalwarts

Ian and Chermaine, the worship stalwarts

On Sunday I saw the large auditorium that tNCC uses for its worship services. This was their third one and it seated 800. I preached there on the new covenant way of finishing well, and gave an invitation for sick people to be prayed for with the laying on of hands. Nowadays, I find that my doctoral research on ageing and spirituality have crept into my preaching and writings. I guess this is inevitable and I do not mind if that is relevant to the text my message is based on, which it was, as I spoke about the biblical Caleb, that senior with great faith, and how he finished well.

Christine, Aileen, and us

Christine, Aileen, and us

Catching up with Aileen and Christine
I couldn’t book a return bus ticket for Sunday and I asked Aileen, who attended our church when she lived in Singapore, for help. She invited us to stay in her home on Sunday and book a ticket on Monday morning. We had a lovely crab dinner near her place and then we visited her daughter’s new start-up café. It was in a glass house situated in a university, and we loved the coffee, lava cakes, macaroons and decor. On Monday morning, we slurped up fish porridge at a local coffee shop, and left for Singapore on First Coach at One Utama.
What an enjoyable and blessed weekend of ministry, fun and fellowship.

The tasks of seniors

People aged 65 to 75 are called the young old and people 75 above are called older old. Throughout the senior years, and indeed while you are in your early or mid-50s you have several tasks you need to begin to navigate if you want to make your senior years meaningful, spiritual and impactful. In my research on ageing and spirituality, I have discovered there are at least seven tasks that have to be processed through. Here they are:

  1. Preparing for retirement
  2. Doing a life review with biblical lenses
  3. Clarifying your life purpose
  4. Developing a healthy sense of self  and community
  5. Deepening your faith in God
  6. Grieving and handling losses well
  7. Preparing to die well

Each of these tasks has to be worked through in a safe, loving and interactive environment. When these are done, the senior years can be adventurous, purposeful and meaningful.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8.

Growing old with grace

Do we have misconceptions about the old?  There are plenty swirling around in society but often we who are becoming seniors have too easily accepted them without thinking. Let me give an example. They say the old deteriorate mentally.  Forgetfulness is a common sign of this deterioration. The young forget to do their homework, forget their multiplication table, forget appointments but do not say to themselves, I’m getting old!  Seniors should not say that they are mentally deteriorating just because their memory sometimes fails them. This is just one example.

Other misconceptions about seniors are:

-seniors are weak and are often plagued with illnesses.

-seniors are irritable, stubborn and unteachable.

-seniors are less productive than their younger colleagues.

-seniors are generally withdrawn from life and activities and prefer to vegetate.

The first thing we need to do is to set free the mind of such misconceptions. If you are becoming a senior, do not allow such misconceptions into your mental software. If you are young, do not look at your brothers and sisters who are growing older in this light. See them differently and treat them differently. This is kingdom thinking and living.

Love anxieties: can we trust God

Love and marriage is one of the important issues of life that a person in his twenties and thirties are usually eager or anxious to settle. I use the word anxious because society and media has increased the pressure on the plain, the ordinary and the nerdy. It seems like the good looking, the intelligent, the highly qualified, the charming are the ones that are desirable and if you do not fall in those categories, good luck to you.

The pressure is greater for the Christian because they see the wisdom of marrying someone of the same faith, but this means the choices are already limited as only about 18% of the population in Singapore are Christians.  Added to this the fact that there are more Christian girls than guys in most churches and this decreases the odds of a successful pairing, that is, unless we put God in the picture.

The ten spies did not put God in the picture and saw giants and fortresses in Canaan.  Joshua and Caleb saw God and said the land can be taken, the giant soldiers and fortresses can be gobbled up. We need to put God in this pathetic, problematic picture of love anxieties. We need to trust God in prayer for a life partner.

Just as important, we need to realize that though having a life partner is important, it is not the most important thing in life. Jesus and Paul the two most impactful men in the New Testament were not married, but they were fulfilled and served God’s purpose well.

We are all created to serve His purposes and to glorify Him. This can be done in the married state or in the single state. The most important thing is that we serve His purposes in this life and for all eternity, and not whether you got married or not. We were created to glorify Him, and this may be better served in one state or the other. (1 Cor 7)