God’s Life Finds A Way

Along the side of the pavement at Chinese Garden MRT I saw this slope of tiles leading to the grated drain. Along its joints and grout I saw fine and green grasses sprouting out towards the sky. It caught my attention for a while and I stood there to wonder what the Lord has for me there. Nothing came to mind. I then took a picture of it with the intention of going back to ponder over it. God speaks to us through so many ways and one of them is through what we see.

A week or two later, I looked at the image as I would look at a text, and let myself be drawn to a particular aspect of it, allowing what resonated to speak to me its message. I looked at different parts of the picture slowly and found myself drawn to the green, light grasses sprouting from the tightest of spaces. I thought about how God’s grace and life are somehow able to find a way to express itself through my life in spite of all my weakness and imperfections, and my inattentiveness to him. God’s life finds a way somehow. And I am most grateful for such expressions of his life through mine.

I was such a shy, reserved and insecure teenager when the Lord rescued me. He put his life in me when I repented and believed in Jesus Christ. How that seed, that life found a way to express itself through me in the tightest of spaces is amazing. I cannot even speak and am socially awkward and yet I was slowly transformed into a speaker, a teacher of God’s ways, able to share his word with audiences big or small. He has also transformed me and made me more socially confident and able to easily relate to and befriend others. 

God’s life always finds a way – even with the imperfect, limited material he has to work with. God’s life in us finds a way to express itself through us. Even if the space is tight and limited and not ideal. We saints are cracked pottery and have lots of imperfections. We are also ordinary clay jars not expensive rare ceramic or jade. However, we hold or contain a priceless amazing treasure, the Spirit of Jesus, a gift from the Father above (2 Cor 4:7). He is God’s seed, life, power and presence in us. He works in us to refine and fill our character with more of Christ. He empowers us with spiritual gifts and enablements that enhances what we already possess by nature or nurture, or where none was present at all. These graces and gifts are the expressions of his life through our ordinary life. It is expressed through us for God’s glory and for the benefit and blessing of others with whom we share these gifts and graces. We certainly ought to thank God for these expressions of life, however little or flimsy they may seem. Stop berating ourself but learn to give glory to God for all the little steps forward and the progress made thus far. Then we shall see even more of his life expressed through us.

How has God’s life found expressions in your life? Feel free to give glory to God by sharing with us in the comment box. 

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Oh To Be Like A Dove

With ease the dove nestles in the gap that she calls home. Home is simple, bare yet solid. Sometimes the rain flushes the floor clean. However, life has its headaches. The jarring screech that vibrates the home throughout the day ceases only after midnight, and then restarts at dawn. She gets used to it. Not her ideal home but it will have to do. She feels content with her current life circumstances.

Here she finds rest and safety. 

She enjoys unblocked views of the Chinese Gardens. On Sundays, she loves watching the foreign workers playing a game of cricket in the vast green before her.

Though she lives from beak to stomach there is no lack.

Anytime, she is free to take flight into God’s vast world and feel the joy of fulfilling all that God has designed her to be and to do. She feels close to God when she uses all the gifts that God has given her: feathers and wings, lightness of body, natural navigation system, sight, and sensitivity to airflow and predators.

God has graced her with peace, goodness and abundance. 

Like the dove, I am thankful that God has put me in a place of grace and peace, of freedom and sweetness, of contentment and fulfilment. The Lord is more than enough. The vista ahead is exciting. The simple life is simply life-giving and life-freeing.

“Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm” (Psalm 45:5-8).

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:2,3).


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Psalm 88: The End Psalm

Last Tuesday evening, my cousin went home to be with the Lord. She had fought a long-drawn battle with cancer for many years. Her treatment reached a stage where the Assisi Hospice at Thomson Road became the best place for her to spend the last weeks of her life.

I confess that I struggle to journey with people who are seriously ill or dying. I admire those who compassionately, patiently, faithfully journey with the dying. They suffer with the dying friend over every setback and regression, and rejoice with them over every step of progress and hope. They hold their hands, look at them in the eyes, listen to them, serve them gently and generously, act and speak kindly to them. I know everyone has limited strengths, but I cannot help but feel totally inept compared to these Mother Teresas. Most of the time, I feel helpless during a visit, and empty, worn and down after it. I sit, I listen, I hear stories and confessions, I serve the bread and wine, I sing, read scriptures, and pray, I leave, and I hope my presence somehow helped.

Kubler Ross observed five stages of loss among the dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I can recognize these stages in varying forms and expressions among those about to go home to God too. I do not try to control or fix them, but just notice them as they appear, disappear and re-appear as time went on till the sick persons come to a place where they are at peace and are willing, even wishing, to go to their loving God and Saviour as soon as possible.

Interestingly, during this period, I have come to Psalms 88 in my regular meditations. I felt drawn into its depths. It is such a sad, depressing, dark, heart-breaking psalm. I learned in seminary that such psalms are called “lament” psalms and served a liturgical and communal purpose for the Jews throughout history. I observed that this psalm does not have a hopeful ending to it unlike other such lament psalms. It is bereft of hope, except the address of the Lord as “God of my salvation”. 

This psalm is of one who has suffered from his youth throughout his life and feels like one who is abandoned by God, shunned by friends and about to die. I wrote on my Bible the emotions present: despair, guilt, anger, trapped, despised, bargaining, bewildered, lonely, abandonment, assaulted, hopelessness. As I meditated on this psalm it dawned on me that some of these emotions may have been felt by my cousin as she laid in the hospice. These range of emotions would possibly be experienced by those suffering and waiting for death. The psalm gave a painful but real sense of one who felt close to death. As I look from outside at all the pain and tears and pleas in the psalm, it moved me to be keenly aware of my frailty, my hour.

The darkness and pain of this psalm was not relieved by the three prayers (ver 1,9,13) that prefaced the three sections. The black sheet can only be lifted by a knowledge that these psalmists do not have: the blessed revelation of what Jesus death and resurrection accomplished for us who live under the new covenant. The curtains open to let in the Light that dispels all darkness and shadows, when we who know the grace of the Lord Jesus, affirm the great hope of a resurrection similar to that of our Lord who died and rose again. This hope alone can transfigure everything at any hospice and any deathbed.

Is the psalm 88 of any use then in this era of the new covenant? Yes it has its uses. For one it provides a contrasting background that highlights and demonstrates the complete and final victory of Good Friday and Easter over suffering and death. If there is no black night, we would never have been able to fully appreciate a beautiful dawn or sunny day!

I also feel the psalm can be a useful passage to pray with for people who are at the end stage of life. It will help them to express their struggles and longings, and to surface and process the authentic and real emotions and struggles they find difficult to label. It may trigger memories and emotions that the person can then reflect upon and talk with the Lord about. As this is done, ideally with a spiritual director, one can by God’s grace find a place of perfect peace, assurance and hope as he or she waits to be hugged and taken home by their heavenly Father. 

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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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The journey of faith

We live in a world where it is expected that you know which direction you are heading in life. It is desirable you have a plan. It looks impressive: you have figured it out, you are ahead in the game, you are in control. People nod in approval. They are impressed and the probing stops. 

What if you have no plans of what you will do, for instance, after retirement? What if you said, “I do not have a plan. I don’t know. I am giving God a blank page.” Such answers go against the grain. It goes against common sense and conventional wisdom. It shows a lack of preparation. It surprises some people and they try to hide their surprise, and change the topic, as if to protect you from further embarassment. 

I am one of those without a plan for post-retirement. Actually, my old self-reliant me would have a sustainable, convergence plan. But I have deliberately refrained from strategizing. I do not even have a tentative plan. I want to rely on God more.

For me personally, it is okay, even imperative to not know what lies ahead. God is weaning me from self-reliance and self-sufficiency. He is teaching me to follow in the footsteps of Abraham, my ancestor in the faith, who obeyed even though he “did not know where he was going” (Heb 11:8b). It’s a journey of faith. He will lead me and I will end up being where He wants me to be, doing what He wants me to do. In the meantime, I want to be content with being with God, until He reveals what I am to be doing for God. Both “being” and “doing” are important but the order is paramount: the former must precede the latter. 

Already He has shown me two things He has already written on the blank sheet. He wants me to write; and second, to journey with younger pastors. Therefore, I will begin to obey Him with these two divine directives. I will obey, and watch and pray to see what develops from these steps of faith. 

Recently, I was hiking when a vista captured my attention. I stood there and saw a path that disappeared into the foliage. I could not see beyond a bend. What I could see were several large rocks at the beginning of the path. I took the photo above.

In silence I stood still and pondered. Suddenly I realized I was on holy ground. I was in front of the burning bush and God was reassuring me that though I may not have charted a map for my future, and did not know what the future held, He was with me at this beginning of my journey, as certain as I could see those rocks.

This reminded me of Thomas Merton’s honest and humble prayer:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust You always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.”(Thoughts in Solitude)

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