Eagle Story Shot Down

I confess that I have once used this story about the eagle’s renewal in my sermon. I had assumed it was true but now know it is not based on facts. Where and how it originated, I do not know but I can understand its powerful appeal to both the preacher and the congregation. It is a story of hope, of turn-around, of transformation. Sadly it is still available on the internet and preachers still tell the story. 


This story has been circulated in a slide presentation and its origin is unknown. Here is one version of the story of the eagle’s renewal:

“The Eagle has the longest life-span among birds. It can live up to 70 years. But to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision. In its 40th year its long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food. Its long and sharp beak becomes bent. It’s old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, stick to its chest and make it difficult to fly. Then the eagle is left with only two options: die or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days. The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountain top and sit on its nest. There the eagle knocks its beak against a rock until it plucks it out. Then the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back and then it will pluck out its talons. When its new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its old-aged feathers. And after 5 months, the eagle takes its famous flight of rebirth and lives for 30 more years.”


Now here is the feel-good story refuted by someone who knows better: “This has brought to  mind a story that I occasionally get asked by visitors at The National Eagle Center and I have also seen it pop up in the chat room as well.   It is how when an eagle gets to be about 40 years old  and wants to live for another 30 years or more, the eagle will fly to a mountain top and go through a rebirth.

This is an inspiring story that has circulated widely on the internet for years. It is a story of transformation and determination to live. The wide appeal of this story speaks to the eagle’s extraordinary power to captivate and inspire human beings. While this story is inspiring, and may offer us a way to reflect on our own life journey, the story is just that, a story. It is not accurate biologically. I have underlined what the storyteller usually says and then I have written below that a rebuttal to that statement.

“The eagle has the longest life-span among birds”

Eagles typically live between 20-30 years in the wild. As apex predators, they are relatively long-lived compared to many other birds. The oldest wild eagle on record is about 32 years of age.

“It can live up to 70 years. But to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision. In its 40’s its long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food.”

Talons are hard, sharp and curved throughout the eagle’s life. Talons and the beak are made out of keratin, the same material as our fingernails. Think about how long it takes for your nails to grow.

“Its long and sharp beak becomes bent”

An eagle’s beak is hooked to rip and tear it’s food. It has this distinctive hooked beak throughout its life, like all birds of prey. Beak and talons are critical to eagles’ ability to catch and consume food. No eagle can survive without a beak or talons for any amount of time.

“Its old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, become stuck to its’ chest and make it difficult to fly”

Feathers are replaced throughout an eagle’s life. The process is called molting. An eagle does not lose all of its feathers at one time. It is a gradual process, continually renewing the feathers.

“Then the eagle is left with only two options: DIE or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days. The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountain top and sit on it’s nest.”

An eagle’ nest is used only for the rearing of the young. Eagles do not use their nest except for the few months of the year when they are actively raising their young.

“There the eagle knocks its’ beak against a rock until it plucks it out”

Beak and talons are critical to eagles’ ability to catch and consume food. NO eagle can survive without a beak or talons.

“When its new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its’ old-aged feathers”

An eagle cannot survive without food for anything close to 150 days. A few days without food might be possible, but no longer.

“And after five months, the eagle takes its’ famous flight of rebirth and lives for 30 MORE YEARS”

Reading the story definitely makes you feel good, but remember it is biologically impossible  for this story to be true.  Our story that we are watching on this webcam is true, and we all are learning a lot by watching it!”


Sorry preachers, one of our favourite crowd-pleasing stories have been cremated before our eyes. We need to verify stories that seem far-fetched, fantastic, astounding. These days the internet makes it possible for us to verify the claims of others before we present it to our people in sermons. 

We have to be careful or our people will believe a lie and circulate false facts around making them look ridiculous and naïve. Our integrity is also called to question, and if not our integrity, our due diligence as preachers. “Do your best to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who accurately handles the word of truth.”(2 Tim 2:15 ESV)

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Shekinah Assembly of God: a story of hope re-kindled

I must admit to being anxious about guest preaching at Shekinah Assembly of God. I had been resting for six months, staying away from ministry. In May I have to preach three times, two as a guest preacher, one in my home church. Will I be able to preach well or will I be rusty? Will I be able to deliver an effective message? These fears lose their hold over me when I was reminded of God’s words to Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage!” and another formative rhema that shaped my ministry, “I will be with your mouth and teach you what to say”, God’s words from the burning bush to Moses.


I admit to being curious about how this church of about 80 members and another church of about 50 members got “married”. I heard about their union from my friend Pastor Thomas, a good friend of the lead pastor Hock Cheng. I had so many things I was curious about: how it happened, what the process was like and how long it took, and what is the union like currently.

My wife and I arrived early at Parkroyal Collection Pickering, a five-star hotel in Chinatown. I later found out that the Lord graciously provided them this venue when the one they were at was on short notice to be used for quarantine purposes when the government reverted back to tighter pandemic rules. Thankfully we can rely on the Lord in these days of sudden changes. These changes give much stress to pastors, and as one who recently retired, I feel for pastors and their staff. 


We received a warm welcome and a member by the name of Alvin filled me in on the origin of the church which I could very much relate to because of the similarities to my home church, World Revival Prayer Fellowship. They started as a youth group in a school (Tiong Bahru Secondary School) and they moved around till they settled in the Queensway Shopping Centre. My home church began at the back of the laboratory in Dunearn Tech Secondary School. How interesting.  Hearing that, I felt more comfortable immediately.

Then a gentleman by the name of Ian came and told me he had been blessed by my blog, and wanted to buy a Brompton bicycle too!  Such affirmation is like fuel to my engine. I know that by God’s grace, people are reading my blog, but to see the reader and hear him affirm my writing fires me up to keep pressing on.

The service (which was also live streamed via ZOOM) began with pre-service intercession and was followed by uplifting anointed worship led by a two persons ensemble: pastor Apelles, the former pastor, and a lady pianist.  I felt I was in the presence of God even though we could not sing. When It came time for me to preach I went with the flow and delivered the message I have developed with the Lord. It went smoothly. I was at peace. I felt I connected with the hearers. I was encouraged by the kind appreciative words of people who were blessed or touched by the message. 


Pastor Hock Cheng and his wife Camelia brought my wife and I out for a tim sum lunch at nearby Chinatown Square. Over lunch they shared about the recent health challenge they went through as a couple and the inspiring story of the union of two churches. My wife and I were poignantly touched as we listened to their authentic sharing of suffering and joy, the love of the members of the church, and the fruit of the union: a re-kindling of hope in their hearts.

The story of the union of two churches is full of God’s fingerprints, his hand revealed in so many diverse ways. God’s favour and peace, careful thorough deliberation,  prayerful discernment, and attention to people’s feedback were evident in the whole process of union. In the words of pastor Hock Cheng in his “wedding speech” during Shekinah’s 28th anniversary, God’s providence – his arrangement of events and divine appointments – was the key factor in the fruitfulness of the union:

“I believe in divine appointments, do you? – Our God is a God of Providence!

Through a series of divine connections, our journey with CGC began in July 2017 when Pastor Stephen initiated a conversation with Silas and me to explore merging with Shekinah. The leadership teams of both churches subsequently met together (since Oct 2017) to pray and agreed to explore the feasibility of our two churches becoming one. Pastor Benny Ho, being a trusted friend to both churches, was invited to facilitate the meetings and provide counsel to both leadership teams.

Over the last 15 months, both churches have many different combined events, ranging from Christmas outreach, Family Day cum baptism and other special events. I think the climax was in the church camp when God knitted the hearts of both churches together. (When you go on a date, there is a special moment that touches you, and you say to the partner, ‘let’s get married!’ I think that was exactly what happened during the camp, a knitting of hearts that resonated, ‘let’s get married!’”)

Like a newly married couple, both churches have since gone through the stages of dating, courtship & engagement. By the grace of God, we are getting married today!

In the last 15 months, we discovered a few important things about each other:

  • We share the same vision of making disciples who love God passionately and love people practically.
  • The profile and demographics of both churches are very similar. 
  • Both churches are full of people who desire a meaningful community among ourselves while influencing the community outside the four walls of the church. 
  • Our core values, doctrinal statements and worship style are compatible and our commitment to the word of God is unwavering. 
  • We are “united in spirit, intent on one purpose” – to make a greater Kingdom impact than each church can do individually. 

In short, we found that we are better together than we could ever be apart!

  • Both have a heart for families and the next generation. 
  • Both have a vibrant missions emphasis. 
  • We are motivated, gifted people who want to honor God by using our gifts and abilities to advance God’s purposes. 

We want to reach more people for Christ, to multiply our church’s impact, to better serve our local community, to further extend God’s Kingdom”.


Pastor Hock Cheng was very humbled and grateful that pastor Stephen and members of City Gate Church were willing to lay down at the Lord’s feet, the name of their church, and to step down as the pastor. He felt City Gate Church had been very gracious and generous throughout the process of merger, a mark of their maturity and kingdom-mindedness. 

To me Pastor Hock Cheng sounded as grateful as a person who had received an organ transplant from a stranger – sheer grace, sheer gift. The union re-kindled hope in him at a time when he wondered if things would ever lift off for his home church. Now with this union of two faith communities, Shekinah has grown stronger, with a richer and deeper blend of gifts of organization and mercy, with more gifted and dedicated volunteers, a critical mass that can overcome inertia and build momentum. It is a match made in heaven but is being manifested on earth. I pray that with patience the union will bear much fruit for the kingdom. In fact, it has already done so when they did the Alpha Course during their Sunday Services prior to the Covid 19 outbreak, with many added to the kingdom. May  their love as one community abound, and may the Lord continue to anoint their vison of making disciples.

My wife and I went home feeling blessed to have witnessed a marvelous work of God.

LORD grant that more churches will find re-kindled hope in union of their churches with other churches. May there be a humility and generosity to lay down rights, entitlement, self-interest and pride. Let there be more kingdom-hearted leaders in our midst. Amen.

To read about two other churches that has merged click HERE.

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Preaching a Christmas sermon

This meditation was written during the Christmas of 2016. I read it again this morning as I was tidying up my website. It has a freshness and relevance to it. I decided to repost it:


The wonderful truth, the magnificent truth, the incredible truth of the Christmas story is that God came to this hopeless, blinded, wayward world dressed in robes of humanity to live with us and suffer for us and die in our place. God dwelt among us as a babe, as a toddler, as a child, as a teenager, as a working young adult. He identified with our suffering, divided, and uncaring world. He revealed himself to us so we could know him through his words and deeds. He came to make salvation and union with God possible. Without the incarnation there would be no salvation, as much as without the cross and empty tomb there would be no redemption.


There are many characters or “lampstands” in the Christmas story: Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, wise men, shepherds, Simeon, and Anna. However, when we preach about the characters in the Christmas story we need to hold before the congregation the main thing: Jesus was God incarnate who came to reconcile rebellious humankind to himself. The characters were like menorah lampstands shedding light together so that we can all see that God sent Jesus to save us from all our sins.

Without ignoring this contextual truth, we can look at some smaller picture highlights and use them as focused points of relevance. I am thinking of all the seniors. There are four of them and their journeys lend secondary insights that we could apply to lives of seniors today.


There are so many seniors in the churches in Singapore. During the heyday of the revival among evangelicals and the charismatics many youths came and followed Christ fervently. Most of these people are now gray-haired and white-haired and no-haired in our churches. If ladies stop dyeing their hair for a year we will indeed get a clearer impression of the ageing of our congregations. And there is a spirituality for seniors just as there is one for the kids in Sunday School. The seniors have to learn to navigate in a godly way some of the transitions and experiences they will encounter from 55 to 95. The four inspiring seniors in the Christmas story addresses some of them.

Seniors will face a faith challenge. As they near the end of their life, they will think more deeply about faith and life after death.  They will think about God, about religion, and about death and eternity. Zechariah’s story of a disappointed faith restored is a good story to inspire people to think about the quality of their own personal faith, and how God wants to assure them when they have doubts.


Elizabeth’s story is one of deep disappointment, shame, sadness and barrenness. She would have often recalled her past and felt she had failed to make a meaningful life. However, the angel came along and intercepted her pain and tears and delivered the impossible. In her senior years, her life took on purpose and meaning for she and her husband would have the privilege of rearing John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah. This inspiring senior prods us to realize that even in senior years and beyond retirement there can be a higher purpose and great weight attached to living out our faith till death or Jesus comes.


Simeon was another godly senior, a prophet without a card. A man ahead of his time. 400 years of silence – no prophetic word to Israel. Suddenly Simeon filled with the Spirit, guided by the Spirit declares by the Spirt the destiny of the child Jesus when the parents came to do Mary’s purification rites and the child’s dedication. Then he prays, Lord I am now ready to go home. I am ready to die. I have seen the Messiah and it is enough. Simeon was able to pray like that because he lived well –he walked in the Spirit and did not gratify the lusts of the flesh. Seniors in our churches need to learn to live well so that they can die well.


Finally, there was Anna. Great material for inspiring seniors. Seniors will need to learn to grieve well for they will lose loved ones, lose health, lose investments, lose their beauty and they would need to learn to grieve well. As well as Anna who lost her husband at the probable age of 21 after seven years of marriage. The text is silent after that but indications are that she grieved well and had no bitterness towards God or man for she spent her years in dedicated prayers and fasting, serving God and his people and the Temple. What an inspiring elder.

Advent has four Sundays leading up to Christmas day. Do consider preaching a series on inspiring seniors in the Christmas story. Singapore churches need to hear a relevant word for them. Let’s not always focus on the young; speak up to meet the needs of the elderly and inspire them to finish well.

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Guest preaching at Church of True Light

Guest preaching at Church of True Light during covid 19

The Church of True Light entrance looked unusually quiet. For a moment I thought the church was closed. Oops, I was looking at the wrong doors. Two women were there at the front desk. One greeted me and asked for my name. I said, I am the guest preacher for the English congregation. She checked my temperature, and briskly showed me to the lift.

The worship hall was a welcome sight. They had done modest renovations and the place looked more conducive than before. Later, I found that I sounded good over the microphone. They must have upgraded the PA system too. Wonderful.

A tall, tan Anglican priest with silvered hair welcomed me, and I suddenly felt more at home. I have known Revd Vincent Hoon for close to two decades. We met as strangers put together to share a room in a Love Singapore Pastors Prayer Summit ages ago. We have since become prayer partners through thick and thin; fellow-pilgrims and fellow-servants in the Lord’s vineyard.

I met with their new vicar, Revd Barry, formerly from Marine Parade Anglican Church. He was newly posted to this church. This means he must be effectively bi-lingual. Later, at the end of the service, they showed a superbly done video introduction of him, and he came off as someone with confident, decisive, humorous and authentic. The former vicar, Revd Winston had retired, and as in any change of leadership, much prayer and patience and grace is needed in order that God’s purposes be fulfilled by His man in that new season the church is in.

With some curiosity, I took a selfie to see how I look like beside the priests there. I look like some lau hero in a movie about containment of some infectious disease. I cannot say I felt like one when it was my turn to mount the stage and take the pulpit. It felt awkward. I chose a lapel mike. The crowd was sparse with thirty plus folks, and a battery of young adults at the end where the equipment for live-streaming and sound control were. Evidently, the Chinese services would be starting physical gatherings soon and were there to learn how to operate the equipment. So speaking to this disparate groups seated apart from each other except for couples felt different. “Are they listening to me?” I asked myself, as I felt a bit of nervousness. “Am I getting through?” As I reached the final third point I panicked because I realised I had missed a whole chunk of explanation in the second point. Since it was live-streamed I needed to keep it concise to 20 – 30 minutes, I had been reminded earlier. “Doesn’t matter…just carry on. The Lord is able to work with mistakes like this. He will make good come out of it.” Sometimes, people feel relief with short sermons. Hope that at least it is the case here.

The service began at 9am and ended at about 10am. Is this the “new normal”?

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Eventful “circuit breaker” week

This has been an eventful week. The rolling out of the “circuit breaker” to halt the Covid 19 from spreading further in Singapore had commenced. On Tuesday, most businesses and offices closed or began operations from homes. On Wednesday, all the schools began online lessons. On Thursday I fetched my daughter home from a hotel in Orchard Road. She had spent 14 days there in isolation because she flew in from the United States. That very afternoon, I rehearsed and then had my Easter sermon pre-recorded together with the Holy Communion. And today is Good Friday. I went to the Teban Market to buy back nasi lemak and bread and eggs, while my wife bought vegetables in a rush. She said, It’s like Chinese New Year Eve, nobody bothers even though the price of vegetables have gone up. What a long week it had been! I felt relieved the recording had been done. I now hope the media team will give it an editing makeover, and enhance what was done using my son’s Fuji camera, and Zephaniah’s Rode wireless mic. I was anxious about how I was going to figure it our by myself. I was tempted to ask my niece Bethany over to help since she’s 10 minutes drive away, and she is from the media team. However, I was reminded by concerned people that this is contrary to the spirit of what the government is seeking to do – strict social distancing. I tried to rationalize things, Isn’t preaching an essential service that calms and strengthens people’s faith and give hope? After a struggle, I decided to err on the safe side. In the end, God worked all things for good, and my daughter after her release from quarantine, and a video call with Zeph, our media team head, provided the know-how to video my sermon and the Holy Communion for Easter Sunday’s online worship experience.

I tried to use the teleprompter on iPad but somehow it showed too clearly on camera that my eyes were leering off-centre. So I discarded that and held and referred to my sermon notes on my iPad. I hope it turns out okay. We started taping at about 5pm using the light from the windows, the ceiling light, and a table lamp. By the time we taped the Holy Communion, the room had darkened and we had a good laugh. We would need great editing from the media team, or maybe a miracle, for this home-made stuff to be usable on Sunday. It was a good experience.

First meal on homecoming after quarantine
Using my son’s camera and Zeph’s wireless mic to pre-record Easter Sunday sermon and Holy Communion
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