Visiting Nepal

It was a good sixteen years ago, in October 2007, when I last visited Nepal on a trek with friends on the scenic Poon Hill trail. You can see the old video HERE. Things have changed considerably in Nepal. We paid toll to communist insurgents to trek through the areas they controlled. Now they are a legal political party currently in power. Once the beloved royal family was in power, but not anymore. Then there was the great earthquake in April 2015, a very painful scar in the memory of the Nepalese. Over 8000 lost their lives, thousands were rendered homeless, and the World Heritage sites I had visited had been damaged severely.

This time round, I visited Kathmandu, a rural village and hiked up to a remote mountain village. The conditions were starkly contrasting. Shopping shelves were filled with all kinds of foods and goods in the city, but in the village there were only tiny family-run provision shops selling essential foodstuffs. Cafes were abundant in Kathmandu, and you get a wide variety of cuisine, but mostly Western, to cater to the tourists, and oh at so affordable prices for us foreigners: SGD$1.80 for decent coffee latte. Taxis were easily hailed in the city but in the small village only two vehicles were available for hire…. and forget about cafes. Opportunities for good schooling and jobs are better in the capital then in rural and mountain villages. The differences were obvious to me. 

It’s a beautiful country of grand mountains, golden grains, and abundant rivers and streams. The people are beautiful too: a hospitable people albeit weighed down by systemic poverty. This became evident when I travelled outside Kathmandu and talked to locals about the standard of living for the majority of Nepalese. It became clear when I shared in their meals, slept in their mud-houses, and used their squat toilets in the outhouse. I have not known such conditions in my childhood. I was born into the era of SIT apartment living, precursor to HDB flats. As much as I felt uneasy, the inconveniences were bearable for it was for a mere two nights. I recall looking at the young people in the remote mountain village and bemoaning the lost potential if they remained stuck in the mountains. This convinced me that student hostels in Kathmandu are a key help for rural young people to have a better education, increased chances of employment, and some hope of helping their family break free from poverty. 

I also met with committed Christians and we were mutually blessed as we shared with one another. I learned several things: 

  • Casteism exists in Nepal (despite its ban) and those in the lower castes are responding to the good news of Jesus Christ.
  • Nepal has a largely Hindu population of 30 million and proselytizing is forbidden by law. However, there are people turning to Christ, and suffering persecution from family and community is not uncommon.
  • The sharing of the gospel was at times accompanied by remarkable healings and deliverances, leading to whole families coming to Christ. 
  • The Nepalese Christians were hungry to know God and his word. Their worship and singing were infectious and inspiring even though I could not understand Nepalese.
  • Sadly, casteism is so ingrained in the culture, that Christians have generally not completely broken free from it, especially when it came to marriage. 
  • The people of God in Nepal need the help, the come-alongside partnerships with the churches outside of Nepal. They need humble spiritual input and prudent financial support, without donor conditions of wanting control and naming rights. 
  • I was inspired to hear about God’s grace among the unreached people, to witness the deep commitment of the gospel workers, and the simplicity of a movement free from institutional barriers. It felt like the book of Acts has come alive in Nepal. 
Share this:

Read More →

St John’s Chapel: a missional family church

It was early Sunday morning at St John’s Chapel, and I was warmly welcomed by Revd Tang Wai Lung, the experienced priest who was newly appointed to lead the English congregation. He showed me around the lovely church sanctuary with parquet flooring and three-pointed arches that led your gaze upward to God. He showed me a set of four plaques that was preserved from their old church building in Jurong. He informed me that St John’s Chapel was originally a church plant initiated by Revd William Gomes and Mr Cheok Loi Fatt to reach out to farmers and villagers in Jurong in 1872.  By 1884, a church building was erected and a congregation established. The church was missional right from its birth. Thankfully, true to its DNA, St John’s Chapel has remained a strongly missional church that encourages all members young and old to sign up and embark on mission trips every other year. When the government took over the Jurong building for redevelopment, St John’s Chapel moved to St Margaret’s Secondary School, and has been there since.

Two pleasant surprises

I had two pleasant surprises before the service began. I met an old friend, Boon Sing, whom I knew from the Christian fellowship in Mindef, while doing my National Service. I recalled how we memorized verses and prayed together. The second surprise was that he was in the traditional choir of the church and they sang a lovely “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”. Why did the song at the prelude and this song moved me? The Lord was reminding me of his presence in the meeting.

Preaching the good news

I was asked to preach a gospel message and I had only one thus far and I have preached this five times before. I still had to sit before the Lord in prayer, hovering over the script, and making minor modifications and improvements. It took time for me to warm up to the new faces in front of me, but as I proceeded, the delivery of the message got better and better. I was glad that people responded to the invitation to pray in the front, for all the kneelers in front of the stage were occupied. A period of prayer ensued and I prayed that these precious seekers of God would be rewarded with real answers to their prayers. While I have been praying for souls to be saved through my preaching, there was no response to my invitation to non-Christians present to follow Jesus. Strangely, I was not discouraged about this. I trust God to anoint his word and let it germinate in its time. 

A missional and family church

After the service, I had refreshments at the school canteen with the priest Revd Wai Lung, and Canon Barry Leong, the acting vicar, and my old friend Boon Sing. I found it amazing that Barry had to oversee three churches in the past, and is currently overseeing two churches for the time being. He said the secret to doing this is to have the right people in place and to trust them. After he left to go to attend the service of the other church he was overseeing, I continued to chat with Wai Lung and we talked about the Revival of 1972, different church polities, the culture of St John’s Chapel and other Anglican churches. He told me besides its missions emphasis, St John’s was a family church, a close knit caring community, which gives deliberate intention to include all generations into its activities, whether it be games, church retreats, or ministry. I thought these qualities are wonderful strengths for smaller churches to have. My observation is that the quality of community closeness fades as the congregational size enlarges. So this is the strength that small churches can cultivate and leverage, and be different from big churches.

Well, this was a visit and ministry I enjoyed. Taking on speaking engagements while you are still pastoring, is different from doing them after you have retired. With retirement, you are well rested, you have more time and space for God to move your heart and prepare yourself, and you are able to preach with more energy, restfulness and grace.

If you are interested to know more about this church and its services, you may visit their website HERE. Other churches where I have guest preached in or visited can be read about HERE.

Share this:

Read More →

Christ’s Finished Work: Blessings

To be at the right place at the right time makes all the difference in the world. Think of this Covid-19 pandemic: if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person, you could catch an infection. Being in the right place and time makes a difference between light and darkness, blessings and curses, peace and worry, and sometimes life and death. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. (Eph 1:3)

In one sense, what is true in the physical, is true in the spiritual. To be in Christ makes all the difference in the world. It is “in Christ” that we have “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places”. The blessedness is found only “in Christ”, and not outside of Christ. Being in the right spiritual position in this hour of grace is imperative. Let your Google location be IN CHRIST.

What Spiritual Blessings?

What are the spiritual blessings that the apostle Paul is referring to? There is no need to speculate. Look through the rest of the letter to the Ephesus church, and they are described, especially in chapter 1 and 2. I will list a few of them, while you may want the joy of uncovering the other spiritual blessings in the rest of the letter. Here is a list of spiritual blessings:

  • Election – “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (1:4, verse 5 “predestined”).
  • Gift of righteousness: “holy and blameless before him” (1:4).
  • Adoption: we become sons and daughters of God (1:5).
  • Undeserved favour: “his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us”(1:6)
  • Redemption: our freedom from slavery to sin and death (1:7).
  • Forgiveness of sins (1:7)
  • God’s ultimate plan to heal and “unite all things in him”(1:10).
  • Inheritance: God’s (1:11): this spiritual inheritance is reserved for us in eternity (1 Peter 1:3,4), and the Holy Spirit is a downpayment/guarantee (1:14), the one who enables us to experience a portion of that future inheritance in the present while we are on earth. Most of all, the Lord himself is our inheritance (Ps 16:5).
  • The gift, the Holy Spirit (1:13).
  • “The hope to which he has called us” (1:18).
  •  The power of God unleashed on our behalf (1:19).

When I look at this list of blessings, many of which I have experienced, am experiencing and will experience in the future, I feel so glad I became a Christian in 1973. The joy and peace from being a follower of Christ has been a constant in my life. It has also been exciting and self-actualizing to serve him in the power of the Spirit.

Only in Christ

These spiritual blessings and many more that can be found in the other epistles of the New Testament are available to all who put their faith in Christ’s finished work. It is all because of Christ’s death and resurrection from the dead that makes it possible for all believers to be in spiritual union with Christ and enjoy all these spiritual blessings of God (1 Cor 1:30).

(This is part two of a series: “A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”).

Share this:

Read More →

Christ’s Finished Work: Access

Access is vital when there is a door or a landslide or an army blocking your way. We want to get to the other side. There is something there that we desperately want. But we cannot and are prevented from doing so because of an obstacle, and because we have zero access. Whether it is a key, a password, an excavator or a bomber aircraft – whatever it is that will open the way or remove the obstacle, we would be willing to pay a tycoon’s ransom to get it.

I know of those who have locked their doors accidentally with the keys still in their house. They had to call a professional locksmith to open it for them, and even change the lock after that. It costs $65 to unlock, and another $300 or more to install a new lock. We will pay the price because we want access to the home and to feel secure after that. There is no other way. The price simply have to be paid for peace.

Spiritual Access At A Price

If physical access is so important, even more vital is spiritual access. Human being’s access to God was shut because of wrong doing and wrong being. Sin blocked human being’s access to God and his abundant blessings. Can we ever pay the price for our sins? It is beyond our ability. The penalty for sin is spiritual, physical and eternal death. There is no way we can pay the price; someone else has to pay for it. Someone who is sinless. 

What we could not do Christ, the sinless one, did for us! “But God demonstrates His love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He paid on our behalf what we could not pay: through His death on the cross. This and only this could give us access to God and His kingdom, to salvation, to eternal life. Good works and philanthropy and religious observance could not give us this access. Only Christ’s substitutionary death. “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). 

In every nation, access to its top leader is almost impossible. You need to be a very important person with a proposal that serves the country’s interests, or a cabinet colleague, or a very close friend to make an appointment. Often you have to wait, or you may be turned down, or given very little time with the head of state. Access to power and influence is rare or costly.

But this is not so if you are in his family – if you are his or her son or daughter or husband or wife. For example, Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Wei Ling, and Lee Hsien Yang had that kind of access to the Prime Minister of Singapore, because he is their father, PM Lee Kuan Yew. 

Beauty of Access

Access to God is beautiful and has many advantages. You have Father God’s love and favour. You can draw close and intimate with Him. You have His ears to listen to your prayers. You have His mind to impart wisdom to you. You have His company to comfort and fill you with peace and joy. You have His hand to empower you and give you His authority to do His assignments.  All He has is yours. Access is that important. And it came to us who put our faith in Jesus Christ as a sheer gift of grace. Unearned. Undeserved. Christ suffered and died to make this access to the Father forever ours. We have the password: J-E-S-U-S.

This privilege of access must never be taken for granted. Remember the apt lyrics of that classic hymn , “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”: 

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Access leads us to a beautiful friendship we can have with Almighty God our Heavenly Father, and when we have Him, it is enough.

(This is part one of a series: “A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”).

Share this:

Read More →

Reliability of the gospel


On Thursday, I read in the TODAY free paper that Dr Aseem Malhotra a cardiologist wrote something in a respected medical journal that busts the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease. That is good news if you love the humble coconut that has been falsely given a life sentence for being dangerously laden with saturated fat. We have been warned unceasingly of having coconut oils in our curries, lontong, chendol and nasi lemak. Now that life sentence can be lifted, and we do not have to settle for substitutes like yoghurt or skimmed milk. Probably for a while…. until another study comes along to tell us the opposite. The words and wisdom of men shift with time and situation and place and it can be confusing to live by man’s word. God’s word however never changes, and we can confidently live by the gospel that has once and for all been delivered to us in the New Testament. With the certainty of the unchanging gospel we can live with confidence and peace. And we can be sure that it will result in the good life.

Share this:

Read More →