30 September 2007

Serving again

I was moved by the many brothers and sisters around me in church last night and this morning. They really served enthusiastically. There were serving God and not men. They were serving tirelessly, Saturday night and first thing Sunday morning(Judy's testimony was stirring!). Many were serving continually, week after week, without a break, in the Sunbeam ministry(children's ministry). And where was I?

1.5 years ago, I was like that for a straight 15 good years. Serving my hearts out in the Boys Brigade ministry. Now, I sit back and with cold hearts - unmoved and un-involved. Nonchalant. Hurt. Dis-illusioned.

Yet, deep within, I knew that I need to serve again. It's God's design for my well-being. As I water others, I myself will be watered (not being watered while holding back). Yet, the inertia is so strong and hard.

I do not know if Children's ministry is the right fit for me. Perhaps, Men's ministry? For one who used to teach others to find a ministry to serve in, I'm sure hopeless when it comes to myself.

Lord, show me the way. I'm not where I should be in now. And it is not helping me at all.

26 September 2007

Book Summary: First, break all the rules

How do you remember what you have read? By having a good memory? By reviewing it every now and then? By putting it into practice?

I have summarised my reading of this book, "First, break all the rules" by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman and presented them into power point format, for teaching or for presentation. Hopefully, this will help me to remember, retrieve the valuable pointers, and apply them when I am promoted next time.


A Famous Man or A Certain Man?

Most people want to be a Famous man. We can easily rattle off famous names, Bill Gates, Li Ka Shing, Lee Kuan Yew, and Gandhi. But a certain man? An anonymous certain man?

Today in reading 2 Samuel 18:1-18, the thought that captured my imagination is the phrase, "a certain man" in v.10. In the Bible, instead of the exploits of the rich and famous, we are often introduced to the poor and obscure. Yet these poor and obscure did significant things that changed the course of history. It was an obscure Galilean carpenter that died for the sins of the world. It was 11 obscure nobody fishermen and rag-tag band that changed the world upside down.

In this passage, it was an obscure soldier that spotted Absalom and told Joab. He was just a common soldier - a nobody, who saw what no one else saw: Absalom, hanging on the oak tree, caught by his thick hair. It was a ridiculous sight. A general (where were his troops?), on a mule (not a horse?), stuck in an oak tree, being careful not to scream for help to the wrong search party.

This certain man. not only saw it, he heard it too. He heard what David told his 3 generals as they left for war, that they should deal kindly with Absalom for David's sake. He knew that he should not kill Absalom bit to capture him alive. But Joab did not share his sentiments nor the commands of the king. Joab speared Absalom thrice and got his armour bearers to finish off the job. This certain man, did not touch Absalom for he feared the king and knew that Joab would not stand by his side if questioned by David. He was a wise certain man, who, saw it, heard it, knew it and also hold it. He had restraint unlike Joab.

For me, I know I'll never be a famous man, since at this past middle age I'm still not one. I am at peace and contented to be a certain man, who values His Word and is obedient to it. One who can see and hear His Word and to apply it to his life. One who knows the Word and orders his life by the Word.

I may not do very big and famous things on planet earth, but I am contented to be that certain man, who through walking with God, do significant and strategic things that will alter the course of history. Here, my source of strength is not in myself, but in God.

Throughout the passage, God's powers and presence is evident. But few can see it outright. The forest devoured more than the sword. The smaller size army won. 20,000 enemy soldiers were killed. Absalom caught in an oak tree. Surely, all these are signs of God at work!

I pray for God's powers and presence to be made manifest in my life daily. Though there is no "pillar" erected to remember me (like Absalom), it is alright. A quiet death and a sure route to heaven is enough.

It is well with my soul.

postscript: Absalom erected a pillar of stones for others to remember him. At death, he was thrown in a deep pit, in the forest, with a great heap of stones erected over it. What a sad ending. Finishing well is important.

24 September 2007

My running record

My boss signed me up for the 10km year end run. While others run for the full marathon, I gamely take part in the 10km run (the quarter Marathon). Hey, it's no small feat for an aging fellow like me!

This afternoon, i ran at the canal near my home. Finished 6 kms at 53 mins. A bit slow, but not too bad. I'm going for completion, not personal best timings - don't want to be like those who dropped dead running!

During the 3 weeks of holidays, I'll run 3x a week, increasing a km each week. By the end of holidays, I'll run twice a week: Wed & Sunday. Hopefully this will prepare me to finish well on 2 Dec.

Running is a joy for me. Though i politely declined when my boss first asked me, I still took it up later and trained hard for it. In 1996 I completed the Marathon up to 3/4. Now I'll finish the 1/4 run and see whether I'll do again next year.

Run on, man!

PS1 - 4th Oct, ran 10km, 1 hr 21 mins.
ps2 - 14th Nov, ran 10km, 57:39
ps3 - 20th Nov, ran 10km, 56:07 Yeah!

23 September 2007

Am I backsliding?

I seemed to be driving a car that has no more petrol and power. I stepped on the accelerator but the car does not speed up. No power. No drive. I can't seem to start this spiritual vehicle.

Spiritually wise, I do not get much out from the Word. Certainly not like what I used to get. My prayer life is just about 1-2 minutes a day. IDT is a "going through the routine" for me - no preparations, just go by flair. Ministry - none existent. Every Sunday is a chore for me - to wake up 3 other sleepy persons who grudgingly go along with me. Sometimes, honestly, I wish I don't need to go.

Am I backsliding? Have I fallen so far back and down that I'm beyond hope and restoration?

I seemed to have died spiritually on March 2006. That was the day that I left full time service in the church. After that, everything seemed to be downhill. I have not really recovered since. There is no more spiritual zest or life in me. I am like a walking zoombie in the spiritual world.

In the workplace, things are better for me. I have recovered somewhat financially and seemed to fit in well in the workplace. The colleagues are great and the bosses "passable". In fact, I have even been promoted to the function head position for time tabling.

It's only in the spiritual aspect that I have died. I see my fellow IDT members - some are faithfully memorising the Word and evangelising. The sad thing is that when I hear it - I have no response. It did not stirred me up. I am still nonchalant.

Today I saw the obituary pages. One of them has this verse from Paul, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith." 2Tim. 4:7. I fear that in the days to come, I may not be able to say that I have kept the faith or finished the race. I wanted to finish well. In fact, perseverance has always been my greatest trait. I always aspire to be like Caleb, to be faithful and strong. My greatest strength has been tested and found wanting. Now it is slipping away.

I want to, yet I have no strength to run on. Why? What would be helpful for me to recover? Is it unforgiveness? It has been 17 months now.

Lord, please be gracious to me and let me run again.

My daughter (3)

"She has double heartbeat and heart murmur," my wife informed me today. My younger girl had a routine medical check up by the school and they detected an abnormality with her. The school advised us to go for an appointment on 1st Oct to verify the condition. We were stunned.

The doctor gave her a letter to excuse her from all exercises. She was the only one in class to receive that letter. She told us, "My teacher said that I am special. I cannot exercise for the time being."

When I read the contents of the letter, it advised us that we do not need to be alarmed. We just need to wait to hear from the specialist later on. My wife felt her heartbeat - it was indeed twice as fast as my older girl's. What does that mean? we are not sure. Is it very serious? Is it life threatening?

This girl has always been the source of our anger and frustrations. But suddenly, when these things happened - the school letter, the thought of the possibility of losing her to death becomes scary and real. I suddenly felt bad for all those times that I scolded her. There seems to be a different lens now and i ask myself, maybe I do not need to be so angry with her. So what if she did not bring her plates to the kitchen after dinner? So what if she is always rude? The crux suddenly becomes - what if she is taken away?

What will happen to her and to us? We don't know. We will wait for 1st Oct. And pray that God will show us the way. In the meanwhile, I try to be nicer to her.

16 September 2007

Books read

After "Rich Dad, Poor Dad", I read the following:

1. Heartwork - Chan Chin Bock, EDB. It's a story about the growth of EDB. It contains many interesting anecdotes on how Singapore is able to draw in big investors to set up factories here.
2. Asian Insider - Michael Backman. Great stories on Asian countries (China, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and Japan). Got some insider news on Lee family owning so much of Singapore, plus the way that the Government owns practically a huge part of Singapore.

Now reading "1st break all the rules" by Marcus Buckingham on Management. Great book!

Books are only good if i have a way to record and remember what I have read. If not, I will read and forget, and those time spent will be wasted. Invest therefore time in summarising and adding on to what I have read. Then it becomes mine. Like what Confucius said, What I see I forget, what I do I remember.

Last day of term

Finally today is here! After 11 exhausting weeks of teaching, and preceded by 3 weeks of supposedly holidays but taken away by Student Seminar preparations, the final day of term is here. Whew. I certainly look forward to my well deserved 3 weeks of break.

For my last class this morning, I chose the easy way out and did a movie lesson - Mr Bean, the Ultimate Disaster Movie part2. The kids watch the movie, laughed, and did a worksheet on it and that's it - lesson finished. My ending was nothing dramatic - just "enjoy your holidays!". I could certainly have done better here. Realised that for myself, I can start with a bang, but usually end poorly. It's as if i do not have the energy to last till the end.

The other thing that weighed heavy on my mind was the time table matters. I had forgotten about the PE part and now there were 3 classes to reallocate. One of them can be easily done, but not the other two. At the end of the day, it was still not solved, and I had to come back on Monday to settle it - 1st day of "holidays" gone :-(

In between these pressing things, we had a celebration of my colleague's birthday, a mini farewell of another colleague - her last day; another farewell - a colleague transferring to another department; and an ISD talk for the department. By 5.40pm as I walked out of the door, I was totally washed out and emotionally drained, with time tabling concerns still overhanging.

But at least the holidays are here! Yeah.


Today was one of those Sundays that I wished to sleep longer and perhaps skip church. But I'm glad we did not. Each Sunday is indeed a challenge in obedience.

SP exhorted us to do our best in IDT. (The mid term check up was just over on Friday. I the DGL, got the lowest, at 72.5) He shared about Aunty Margaret, who though diagnosed with mild dementia, and had to look after her ailing husband, slogged through it all and came away with 98 marks! I was ashamed twice over. !st as the lowest in my DG, and now through Aunty Margaret's example. I am too complacent. Though i did study, it was not with an attitude of excellence, but one of reluctance, wanting to do just enough so that I would not be very embarrassed. Sigh, I am really not a very good DGL.

Sermon today was preached by Ps Chua. He was at his usual best, being funny and yet prophetic in forthrightness. His sermon today was on "Giving that Counts" from Neh.10:32-39. I was struck by my lack of willingness to give God my best, but rather giving God my leftovers. I am still like that, giving God my leftovers, and making the excuse that I had little to start with anyway. I need to change. I need to plan to give. Not simply fishing out a small loose change for respectability as the offering bags are passed.

I am also touched through the sermon to serve again. Pastor story on a memberl who reserved his big amount to give next Saturday at the Anniv dinner touched me. Here we have leaders who wanted to encourage others, especially those who served well. I reflected on my own life. I had served well for 15 years, and then stopped for 1 and a half years now. I want to serve again, and to be like these who show the way on what real service is for the Lord. Show me the way forward Lord. Let me be in a ministry that will be beneficial for your Kingdom and for my recovery.

For my wife today, she also experienced a divine appointment in meeting up with another lady whom she will definitely not meet if she had not gone to the information counter. This lady gave us a good lead on where and how to find a maid. We were thrilled, as we see it to be God's leading for us in the way forward, and hopefully now the way is open for her to start working 12 years after she stopped after the birth of our 1st girl.

Praise God!

Emceeing at friend's wedding

It has been a long while since I was emcee for weddings. The last time must have been more than 15 years ago. That time, I was the more popular choice for wedding emcee. My specialty was in putting grooms on the spot with 'embarrassing' questions, requests and reflections on what they did before.

Today's session was a breeze. Eventhough the last minute request for a Hokkein song was slotted in seamlessly. I think I had this knack of communicating and putting people at ease. I do not have much stage fright and am very comfortable on stage. I would have made a good duty pastor if they had roster me last time. Oh well..

The only boo-boo was my suit. I had buttoned them wrongly - 2nd button to the 1st hole and so on with the last button sticking out without being holed. The end result is that my suit was one end higher than the other! Oh dear, what an embarrassment. But never mind - don't take myself seriously - just have a good laugh over it ;-)

I was happy for the groom and bride. After a long courtship, and weathering the unhappiness of their parents, the wedding finally materialised. For some, the long to marriage is hard. For others, everything just seem to click. Maybe their test comes after marriage?

Rev Oh BK was just fantastic as a preacher. His interaction with the newly weds in his sermon and his rapport with the audience were superb. The interesting thing was that when I approached him to ask for the translator, he was asking me whether he was to preach in Mandarin or another dialect! He is certainly an experienced old hand in this area. No one would have known that he can be so flexible and so convincing in his sermon delivery!

I was reminded again of my wedding vows to my wife. It was 12 years ago. And i have since become complacent and neglected my vow to love her. Time to do it right.

9 September 2007

Sermon Reflections

Today is my church's 29th Anniversary. I have celebrated 18 of their anniversaries before, some high key, going to hotel ballrooms, while the rest were quiet affairs in church with a mere mention that that day was the anniversary. Sometimes I wonder, who actually cared for that anniversary day? the congregation? or the church staff who had to plan something for it?

Today I gleaned several interesting insights and thoughts from the sermon and the worship service. First was through the worship song, "Hear us from heaven". I was reminded how sinful we are and how much we needed that cleansing and healing from God.

The worship leader was a friend of mine, formerly from East Zone. He was always an enthusiastic worship leader who worshipped and led with all his heart. What distinguished him from the rest of the worship leaders was his passion to worship and his depth of walk with God. These are visible and "feel-able" as he led the congregation to worship. How we really need more of such good men, who have the heart and maturity! Especially since he represent the 'older' generation too. It was indeed great to see someone in his mid fifties (i think) still serving actively and leading the way for the younger lot.

SP preached today on the essence of discipleship, which is to mentor on the 4 Ps of Perspective, Posture, Pragmatics and Power. For Perspective, he narrowed down to 4 irreducible minimums of: a faith worth having; a master worth following; a cause worth pursuing; and a life worth living.

Thoughts that hit home:
1. Basis of Christianity is walking with the Master, not seeing the Master. Our faith is not based on systems, but a living Master.
2. Whenever there is a down trodden saint, you can be sure the devil has been influencing and drawing him away from the Word. Let the Word speak into our lives and see the change.
3. Tests for discipleship: changes and choices. Is there a change after we become a Christian? Did our choices change?
4. Blueprint for discipleship is in the footprint of the Master. Follow Him closely.
5. Peter's words, "I am going fishing" in the present infinitive implies that he is going back to his old trade and is not following Christ. This bear much similarity to my situation, and I was struck by the poignancy of it. Why did Peter stop? SP mentioned that Peter felt unworthy because he has failed the Master, so he gave up the cause. Jesus restored him afterward and Peter went on to lead the church. God has not forgotten us, neither has He given up on us yet. Have I forgotten my cause? What is my cause now? 2 problems most of us faced: we gave up too soon; or we just go through the motions. Lord help me to pursue the cause again.
6. Nicodemus taught they knew everything, but Jesus told him, "You must be born again!". Similarly for us, we need new life. The good news is that we can be born again. God is able to do it for us. He gives us that source of hope to do so.
7. Ray Stedman said that all of us should have a B.A. and M.A. Born again and marvellously altered.

For me, of all these important thoughts, I am challenged not to go back to fishing, but to carry on to pursue the cause. In this pursuit, it may not mean a return to FTW, but wherever i am, to do his work of evangelism and producing fruits of Christ-likeness. I must not give up on myself nor forget the cause.

I also need the re-birth. My marriage, my family, my spiritual life, my ministry life - all these need a thorough re-birth and not to be delayed too.

The Word of God is indeed so real. Each Sunday in church, we can hear His voice coming through powerfully, speaking into our lives, into our needs. For me now, I need to obey. No more procrastination.

4 September 2007

My 1st post Overseas trip gift from my daughter

"Daddy, this is for you! I bought it from Malaysia" said my daughter excitedly when we reached home after picking her up from school. I was not as excited as her, but smiled and said "Thanks!" nonetheless. It was my 1st gift from her after her overseas trip. It cost RM7 for what seemed to be a so-so pencil case/bag.

She was in primary 4 and this was her 1st trip overseas without us, only with her 59 other school students and teachers. They went on Monday morning in 2 coaches to Kuantan and KL, staying in hotels, 2 to a room. Not bad hotels too. And all I paid was S$55, the rest from her Edusave. Sure I paid for a lot of other things, like a new pair of track shoes, 2 sets of disposal raincoats, water bottle, handiplasts, mosquito screen pads, etc. that easily costs as much as the price of her trip ticket. But, never mind, it was good training for her to be independent. For the mummy, it was much harder, but they both need it.

I have yet to ask her what she learnt from the trip. For us, the days passed by so quickly that we did not fully miss her, saved for that night that mummy woke me up in the middle of the night, after her bad dream to pray for our girl.

Am I an un-caring father? Could I have done more? Not really. Maybe my wife worries more. Well, thank God she is back - safe and sound.

My Handphone died

On Monday night, suddenly for no reason and without warning, my Nokia 6233 decided to play me out. It just went blanked and when switched on, it could not boot up properly. I called Singtel, but was told that it was Nokia's fault not theirs. I switched the SIM card and verified that it was indeed Nokia's fault.

Today, I popped over to Century Square and reported the fault. On a normal day, this would have been impossible. But today, my bosses are not around and I do not have classes. Hooray!

I arrived there at 2 minutes before 11am, the official opening time and there was already a queue of about 7 persons. Nonetheless it was a quick wait of no more than 10 minutes. The Nokia sales staff told me to leave the phone there and collect it again on Friday.

Had lunch at the mall. Handmade meatballs noodles. When I ate them it reminded me of my paternal grandfather. He passed away many years ago. I actually don't really like him, nor remember much about him, except the meatballs that he made. Today's meatballs tasted just like his. Yummy. Wonder where is he now?

Lesson learnt from the HP episode? Always have a standby HP at home for times when your HP decides to take MC. I did not have an extra HP, but my daughter's is available and I used hers for the time being.

Thankfully God is not like that. He does not breakdown on you - suddenly. His lovingkindness are new EVERYDAY. And His grace are always sufficient for me. Praise God.

2 September 2007

Sermon Reflections (3)

We woke up late today. And after some frustrating attempts to wake up my tired kids, I gave up and went to church on my own. On my way there, as I walked, I pondered how difficult it is for the faith to be continued to my next generation.

During my time, I had to sneak out to go to church. I was zealous for my faith then. My parents were not for Christianity and though they did not make it very difficult for me, they had no good things to say about it either. Now, in my generation, I have to cajole and beg the 2 girls to wake up and go church. Sigh. How things have changed. My concern is in their faith levels - do they see God as someone important or as a family religion.

During worship time, I was touched by the phrase, "Empty hands but alive in God" from the song Majesty, by Hillsongs. I realised that in many ways, I was not alive but far from God. I need to return to Him.

My old boss preached today. I could see that he was much more comfortable now then before and have grown in his preaching (without notes too). His points, bible characters, stories and personal examples were all timely and apt. He is one who always gave application pointers - Bravo! His 3 points, be wholistic in applying the Word; be specific in applying the Word; and be recent in applying the Word were right on. How has my life been changed since the last week? is a particularly great question to ask.

I was touched by the story of his son and Asperger condition. Here, this godly couple were faced with a situation beyond them and were pushed to trust God for the answer that is still yet to come. Faith is needed. As God has helped him 17 years before in his poor results and bleak future, he is confident that God will help him again. Great faith! I felt that for some of us, though God has helped us before, we do not have such good memories to remember them. At other times, our faith may have wane and we forget about God's help in the past.

I remember too that God has helped me in the 1st year of my NUS supplementary exams. I thought at that time I would not make it beyond the 1st year. But God was good and I pulled through. And He has helped me many more times since.

For things and times that we have no immediate answers, let's remember again that He is the God that raises the dead. Why the dead? Death for almost all represent a NO hope situation. But God gives hope. He raised Lazarus and His Son Jesus. At the last day, we will all be raised too! Believe again in the God that raises the dead.

Remember too the words of the song that the preacher mentioned, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life." It will. He will cause it to. Because He cares for you and me.

Thank you Lord.

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