30 December 2011

Yearly goals

For each year, I would review the goals for that year and set my goals at around the last 2 days of the year. For my goals, I would normally classify them under: professional life, family and personal (including spiritual).

As I looked at this year's goals, I heaved out a sigh as I missed the mark in many of the categories. Was I over ambitious at the start of the year? I don't think so as my goals seemed so tepid and unexciting. It's a mere incremental change over the previous year's goals and a continuation from goals missed last year.

I hoped for  more exciting goals. Something worthy, something greater that I can happily die for without regrets.  When there's no worthy goals, the soul shrivels and goes for worthless things to fill up the excess time. Oh, for a worthy cause to die for!!

While I await and seek out the worthy goals, I really need to constantly remind myself and strive harder to fulfill these goals that I wrote down. I realised that I am one who is easily beaten . Not beaten by other, but by myself. Hence I need to regularly re-examine my life, my thoughts and menta models. And work on it!

Remember - Goals are to be worked at and achieved. Not looked at and forgotten. 

26 December 2011

The return of the Relatives.

Once a year, my sister in law's family will either return to Singapore or our few families will travel up to Perth for our reunion. This year it was their turn to travel over on route to US for more holidaying before meeting up for the Chinese New Year and then back to Perth.

The kids love to meet up. Whenever they are back or there, they will meet up almost 24/7 yakking the night away. The adults will also make extra efforts to be together and will go out of the way to buy things or dine or be with each other. It was a time for all of them to look forward to. A highlight of the year.

For me, strangely, and embarrassingly, it was like - huh again? I am not close to them and am glad that our efforts at emigration did not work out. I guess that there are some people you just cannot click with - and you will never know why too.

When they are back, I will drag my feet to the venues and try not to look bored or else my wife will have a lot to say after that. For the last few years, though they asked us to go over repeatedly, we have not been there, only sending our kids over once. It was a big sum of money for the airfare. But I think in truth, the issue is not with the airfares.

Well this saga is going to continue for sure. How can I make it more palatable for me and for all?

There is just something inside me that makes me detest the company. So "sinful" but yet so unavoidable. Sigh. Lord help me be more Christlike and forgiving. It will put a smile on all if that happens.

Book Reflections - Finding Our Way Again by Brian McLaren

Got this free book from Book Sneeze on the condition that I write a review of it after reading and posting it on my blog. I saw it on the bookshelf at SKS today and it was selling for $20.40. Not a bad deal as I save S$20 and all I need was to write a review which I will do anyway to summarize my lessons learnt from this book.

In the foreword, Phyllis Tickle promises this book to be a "no-holds-barred" overview of both the grandeur and the odium of living fully Christian in a post-Christendom society. After a few chapters into the book, I was a bit disappointed at the grandeur but realized most of the odium. It was also supposed to "unsettle every one of us, accusing us each and every one of being less then we must be, and inspiring us with the hope that still there is time" to strive toward fuller citizenship. My own opinion is that it has no done so and is fair at best in its attempt. My analysis stems from the observation that the author's views are one dimensional and covers only the western practices from the early churches, not the Asian or eastern practices which may be more fully alive and filled with the Spirit.

Some lessons and reminders for myself include  that Spiritual practices help us to be more alive, awake and be someone  weighty (worthy of a name and reputation). Here I think the writings of Jack Deere is much more powerful and describes a closer encounter with the God who is alive than this author. 

Another interesting lesson is that of "normalcy interruption". God interrupts our normal daily life to teach us valuable lessons which cannot be learnt during normal living. Hence when we fast, go on a pilgrimage, or enter into extended period of seeking God, He will speak to us in a fresh way that we do not know before. Here I am encouraged to practise more interruption of my own normalcy to find God in fresh ways as I believe it works.

This book on the whole is a good intermediate guide to ancient practices, but mainly from the Western perspectives. To really grow in finding our way again, just following the ancient practices, may not be adequate, but to look into dealing with our inner life issues may be more appropriate. 

A Thomas Nelson book, 2010. Religion. Christian Life. Spiritual Growth.

25 December 2011

A Christian in a Buddhist Columbarium

It was my first visit to a columbarium with my in-laws, a Buddhist one too, on the Memorial day to remember the dead. After being married for 16 years, it was quite an eye-opener to accompany them to see how they offer food to the dead and how they practice their remembrance for the loved ones. I am quite fortunate as all my loved ones are still around and though I have deceased grand parents, I was not asked to  visit them nor did I bother to visit till now.

I drove them to the temple in Bedok, which was quite crowded by the time we reached there at 9.30 am. They packed quite a lot of food for the 3 deceased relatives: rice, "vegetarian" meat, vegetables, bee hoon, sweet dumplings and drinks. All the food had to be vegetarian and no meat was to be served to the dead. And the servings had to be in odd number, i.e. even if you have two dead relatives, you have to provide three sets of food. Apparently it had to do with some Chinese beliefs that it cannot be even numbers as it is not auspicious.

My in laws had three deceased relatives at this site, two of them in the older section and one in the newer wing. I understand that the older section was cheaper, about S$600 per space and the newer ones are in the region of thousand two/three. It will also be good to book now as the prices will increase with demand. Some are position at eye level, while some are very low and the rest can only be accessed via a high ladder. Again, book early for the best spots. This is true for the living and for the dead too.

How do we tell whether the dead have finished their food? I saw my father in law dropped two crescent shaped wooden objects on the floor. If they are both up/down, it means they have finished eating.  I learnt something new again :-) It reminds me of the Biblical urim that the priests used in the temple to discern the will of God.

Before they leave, my mum in law bought some clothes and  hell notes for the dead. It costs about S$19 for three sets of clothing and stacks of hell notes in 3 different currency for ease of change/use. I was quite amused at the thought of this earthly help for their after life - how would they know that it would reach them?

While I do not subscribe to all these practices, I see value in having a day set aside to remember the dead. We do need to remember them to live better here on earth. Only then will we value more of what we have and cherish those who are still living.  

Christmas - a time for shopping and eating only?

The days leading up to Christmas was spent in buying gifts and feasting for us. All the nieces and nephews got their gifts and not forgetting the uncles and aunties too. Gifts ranged from toys, bears, books for the younger ones and books for the older relatives. My in laws cooked the traditional Christmas meal, ham, turkey, beef, lamb and all. We had an additional Todai buffet at MBS too, one of the best spreads so far for S$42 each.
Todai Table mat featuring their restaurant layout

While my wife took up the job of buying for their gifts, I ended up sulking most of the time as I find it burdensome to pay for the gifts from credit and not from what we have. Though there was a 1.75 month bonus, all these was not sufficient for my existing financial commitments and hence the extra financial strain and absence of the joy of giving.

The joy of giving?  - I guessed it applied more for the companies and the children who look forward to receive presents. Still we crossed swords over the purchase of the gifts and I must say that it didn't reflect too well for me. The weight of the financial burden overcame the delight in seeing my relatives receiving with joy in their presents.

As I reflect, I think that I need to share the joy more with others and worry less about the financial burdens.  I also should stress that we need to be less materialistic and have a greater care for the less fortunate in such times. How can I share the message? I tried with my spouse but to no effect. Perhaps its time to share with all verbally.

In all these, Christ was missed - sadly. We did not attend any service on the eve nor the actual day. While many observed the most important day, we behaved more like non believers. Forgive us Lord. 

20 December 2011

Lessons learnt from Nurturing the Student course

Behind every anger is a hurt. Anger is the expression of a hurt, not the primary emotion. And the difficult thing with hurt is that it is usually repressed and not easily observed. The angry students that we see so often in class are mostly hurt and are expressing it in the one way that they know.

14 December 2011

Sponsored a Child

Last week we did something meaningful as a family. At the World Vision counter in Jurong Point, my family chose 1 child to support, from now till she is about 15 years old, when they will do another needs analysis and recommend to us

How much does it costs? The basic necessities for this child amounts to only S$45 for a month. Yes, not a day, nor a week, but one month. This reminded me of how much we have here in Singapore while many are suffering in 3rd world countries.

I hope my 2 daughters will remember and cherish what they have. As we live in our air-conditioned comfort, let us not forget the poor around us.

Temptations of an iPad2

I received an email recently on my contest entry for the LTA Fresh Ideas for a Better Ride contest and was told that my idea, the e-Scroll, was among the top 8 of 667 ideas submitted. I was pleased naturally, but what then caught my eye was that the top 3 ideas can win an iPad2.

Instantly, many ideas start conjuring up in my head. I can enter the voting using my family members' names. I can start to put an entry on FB and blogs and get many people to vote for me. I can also tell all my friends and relatives.....

Until suddenly I paused and realised what I am doing - all for an iPad2. I am being subtly seduced into wanting and lusting after a nice looking object that I lose sight of my principles and what is right and wrong.

Resisting such temptations are hard as they go against your inner nature. Of course I want the iPad2! Besides who will know if I get others to vote? You see my drift?

But at the end of the day, we need to fear God and obey His laws. Disobeying them and living a life based on our wants, only serve to make us no different from animals and other lower life forms.

Help me Lord to walk the correct path.

9 December 2011

Taxi Fare Increase

Lately ComfortDelgro Taxi announced the price revision to its fare prices - upwards of course, which will take effect next Monday. Read more in this link: http://www.todayonline.com/Singapore/EDC111206-0000076/Comfort-raises-basic-cab-fares

Netizens and Citizens are not happy. FB and forums, online and newspapers are all ablaze with fury. But really, they can only voiced out their unhappiness and the fares will still go up. The other taxi companies are watching and waiting for the right moment to join in the bandwagon. 

What can and should we do? As citizens, we can do our part to question and suggest alternatives to the authorities. We should also work out our travel alternatives to ease out the increased financial costs. Take more public transport, car pool, make friends with those with vehicles :-)

Is there anything spiritual in all these? Yes, we can pray to the Lord who holds the kings plans in His palm. We should ask God to give us strength and wisdom to live in the new economy. We should continue to live simply and not lose track of Him and the things that we planned to do for Him. 

Live on. In the words of Habbakuk, chapter 3

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
   and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
   and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
   and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
   I will be joyful in God my Savior.
 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
   he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
   he enables me to tread on the heights.

Trust in the Lord. He knows. 

8 December 2011

Millionaire Teacher Book - a short review

Read this book recently, Millionaire Teacher: The 9 rules of Wealth you should have learned in school by Andrew Hallam. Bought it at Harris for $25+

I have not bought a book for a long while, all the time preferring to borrow it from the library. This book proved to be illusive and is not easily found in my few attempts at the neighbourhood libraries, forcing me to part with my cash.

So, was it worth my money and time? In a way yes, though the 9 rules are repetitive and can be compressed into lesser rules. His main thesis seemed to be: don't buy Unit trusts, but ETFs, and he would give his reasons over and over again.  I like his Singapore practical examples of which ETFs to buy, the percentages for the basket of funds and where to get them from.

The other insights that I gathered from his book are summarised in my back of envelop recording, listed here:
1) Check out www.vanguard.com, a non-profit world biggest provider of index funds
2) Bond allocation: buy at a percentage of your age minus 10
3) Recommend to buy S&P 500 Exchange Traded Index Fund from DBS Vickers
4) His recommendation for Singaporeans: buy S'pore Bond Index, S'pore Stock Mkt Index, World Stock Mkt Index.
5) His recommendation for books to read: 4 Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein; A Random walkdown Wall Street by Burton Malkiel; Common Sense on Mutual Funds by John Bogle.

In summary, I think it may be worthwhile to borrow it from the library to read this book.

Tending the fields

A football field is only good if it is regularly maintained. After the wear and tear of intensive games, it needs scheduled maintenance to prevent further erosion and disrepair.

If this football field is an analogy of our life, what are the areas that we need periodic repair? Would it be in our physical fitness, our relationships with family and God, or our own emotional life?

What will help us in this maintenance? Questions for self assessment? Or a time out with a trusted friend?

Whichever form it works for you, do it. We really do need regular maintenance in all aspects of our lives. I trust we will do it before we see the breakdown sign.

7 December 2011

Slippery path of sin

How easy it is to lapse back into sin! All it takes is some boredom, some lack of purpose or a little seed of thought and you are re-hook by the evil one again.

Will strong resolve not to sin help? Yes, to a certain extent. It will help you to fend off sin for a while. Remember in the fight with sin and the evil one, we cannot just use human weapons, but the weapons that God gave and reminded in us Eph 6. Know that we are fighting not against flesh and blood but the principalities of this world. It is indeed very hard to fight against it - take the internet evils for one.

Also, unless the strongholds of sin within us are defeated, it will continue to be a snare to us hindering our victory over temptations and sin.

Can we ever be fully victorious? I believe so, if not there will not be 1 Cor.10:13. We have to live by faith and keep short accounts with sin.

Fight on. Believing.

5 December 2011

Online gaming and our kids

My children are in the midst of their almost 2 months school holidays, and my stay home wife is getting the brunt of it.

What do the kids do at home? Watch tv and play games. Watch tv and play more games.

For tv, they are hooked into Korean and HK dramas through starhub paid services. They claimed that it is helping them practise their mandarin when they listened to the dialogues and read the sub titles. Current title - Korean production, My Bittersweet Life.

For gaming, they are into Temple Run on the iPhone and the Tetris game (now with a new name where you can challenge online friends). Facebook games are also part of their daily staple and takes up a large part of their waking hours.

Harmless games? Maybe. But when they seduce you into spending many hours on it to level up and dress your hero/heroines - think again. I've recently attended a talk by Touch Community on Online gaming and it really opened my eyes into this online world of MMORG, role playing games, etc.

Our kids at home are at risk - boys and also girls. It is subtle. It sucks you in through role playing, letting you be who you can never be in real life - like a princess or superhero. There are many friends online and they don't bully you or put you down. You can easily level up and achieve significance that this world don't easily gives you.

In a word - dangerous. As parents we need to know what they are doing and educate ourselves on it and warn them of such dangers.

As Christian parents, we need to pray for them as they are fighting an oft losing battle as online games are now the mainstream and they will be seen as weirdos if they are not into it too.

Be warned.

Got a free Mitch & Marc watch

Collected my "free" Mitch & Marc watch recently after taking up a bank balance transfer and sticking to it for 6 months, dutifully paying the interests costs and the one time admin fee. The watch was purportedly worth about $500.

I doubt so.

When I went to the gift redemption centre at Peninsula Plaza, I can see that it was a small little company that specialises in gift redemption, not just for Maybank, but for many other companies who uses such gimmicks to lure unsuspecting customers. I am sure they got it at huge discounted outlet prices and that my fees easily paid for it with excess to cover their advertising costs.

Sure it was a nice looking branded watch with leather strap that was a bit big. But don't go for this deal just for this watch. You could have easily got a much better watch at some of the online sites.

Go for it only if you need a balance transfer to tide over your mounting credit card bills. And be sure to pay as soon as your incomes come in.

Like they say, there is no free lunch.

Buying School Textbooks

It was that time of the year again - time to buy school text books and uniforms for my children.

They have been asking me to buy their textbooks but I have been putting it aside till later to ease my financial pains. The bill for one comes up to almost $200, not including time to change a few sets of school uniforms, shoes, socks, and even school bag!

Why am I so reluctant and tend to procrastinate? Wished I had more emotional buffer to absorb these blows that hit me at year end. Not to mention that the insurances are also due soon. No wonder December is a time for bonuses, so that you have some money left over to pay your bills :-)

Well, what needs to be paid has to be paid. Whether you smile to pay or pull a long face and irritate the whole family in the process of paying, it still needs to be paid.

So can I for once pay with a smile, and trust God that it will all still be ok?

2 December 2011

The God who speaks

I have been out of touch with God for a long while. It has indeed been a long time since I open up the Word or hear an audio sermon. Even in the service, what the pastor speaks do not really strike me as useful or personal. 

Yet in the midst of my indifference, God spoke out in a still small inner voice through Jer. 2:13 as I was crossing the road. 

“My people have committed two sins: 
They have forsaken me, 
   the spring of living water, 
and have dug their own cisterns, 
   broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (NIV)

I instantly recognised it as from God as it speaks directly at where I am now in life and at my foolishness. I have forsaken Him and strive for my own salvation at useless things, things that hold no water.

Let me come back to you this day Lord and drink deeply from you. 

Thinking of Earning some extra cash

Lately I was thinking about earning some extra cash. My household bills have risen while pay is not increasing fast enough. Sounds familiar right?

After googling many sites, I have compiled a list of possible ways to make some extra dollars. Taking into consideration of my level of skills, interests and handicaps, my list is as follows:
1. Invest in the stock market - intra day trades, ETFs, CFDs
2. Sell things on the web - eBay
3. Sell services on the web - counsel
4. Earn some advert $ - affiliate schemes
5. Win contests
6. Do paid surveys at globaltestmarket.com
7. Contribute to Staff Suggestion schemes
8. Cook and sell
9. Repair PC for others
10. Run errands for payment
11. Virtual assistant
12. Mystery shoppers
13. Teach at the CC, night classes
14. Grade papers for fee
15. Design and maintain websites
16. Write for blogs
17. Usertesting - test out websites
18. Pay to click sites
19. Read emails and be paid at inboxdollars.com
20. Answer questions at Justanswer.com
21. Suggest domain names at pickydomains.com
22. Give tuition
23. Pet sit, home sit, baby sit
24. Rent out - shares, room, car, pc

While I look into earning money, there is also a need to look into lowering costs. Pay off existing credit card bills and long term loans as quickly as possible is worth more that making that extra one or two dollars.

My early ventures into some of the above routes hit a blank wall. Things like mystery shoppers, paid surveys and advert schemes are super slow in earning money. I have an inkling that they are cashing in on my information data instead.

All these remind me that while I think about them, I must not lose sight of the daily provision of the heavenly Father who is much more sincere in giving and have our real interests at heart.

Hmm.. I was just writing about broken cisterns in my posts...

2 June 2011

Seating and Observing

I was seated at the door of my school canteen waiting for the buses to arrive this morning. The sights of students arriving is a fresh change of environment for me as I will usually be in class waiting for them to turn up.

Many arrived on foot. Some arrived in taxis. Others arrive driven by their parents in all kinds of cars, from the expensive sedans to the simple vans. There was a student who came in a white Ferrari - now who says our students come from poor families? Though they arrived in different transport forms, one thing is common - they are late and they faces say, "So what?" Sad state of affairs here.

One scene touched my heart. A Malay boy alighted from the motorbike and bid his dad goodbye by kissing him on the cheeks - both left and right. It was a touching scene of deep family bonding and love. What a refreshing change of scene in my school context where the majority of the students are at the other end of the spectrum.

This scene reminded me of the Father's love for His son. He drove. He spoke kindly. And He kissed him good day.

Thank God for His lovingkindness for us.

23 May 2011

A Christian Response to GE

The recent national election came and went with much fervour and debate in the press and online world. It is also the first time that many of us voted in our lives - for me it is the 2nd time. When the results were announced, it was a watershed win for the opposition and an awakening for the incumbent party.

While much of it was political talk, what can a believer take away from these historical moments? I share my few precious lessons learnt below.

I had my first up close encounters with the angst and perhaps clouded sense of reality of the voters. So many shocking slurs and attacks were made against the young PAP candidate while the other young opposition candidate got all the good comments and "likes". I observed that in the heat of things, mistakes were magnified and hardly forgiven. In the online FB pages, it is as if waves of negative comments were hurled and it is close to impossible to respond or even fight against them. I wonder if they were thinking rationally at that point? Where were all the "sandwiched" criticisms or constructive gracious comments that we were taught to give?

In times like these, it is a good thing to have a cooling day to reflect and then to vote wisely. For once, I wrestled with who to vote for - the incumbent party who seemed not to have done much for me a resident, or, the opposition party who is new to this area and to Singapore politics.

As a Christian, I have an obligation to the state to vote. I also have a duty to vote wisely for my nation and community good. There on that day fateful day, I did these with the benefit of thinking rationally and not following the impulses of the masses (In these polling campaign, I can sense the force of negativism against the incumbent. In a way its like the forces of darkness (if liken to spiritual warfare) zooming in onto the ruling party).

In the aftermath, the incumbent won again, but they promised to listen more to the people, and followed that up with swift action. In this regard, I'm glad that our heavenly Father is always listening to us. He does not need a general election poor result to wake up.

6 April 2011

Seeking the Will of God

One of the pastors gave a simple acronym to use to discover the Will of God in our life.

W for the Word of God.
I for Inner peace that comes, a restedness and not inner uncertainty.
S for Signs & Wonders - where God supernaturally intervened to tell you that this is the direction.
E for Eldership. What does the elders around you say about this matter.

Each of them, taken in itself, may be corrupted by our own selfish desires. So its best to align all four of these and when they all fall in line, we can be rested that this is God's will for us.

Using the above, I am quite rested that staying on in my current situation is the way to go.

I am recording this WISE acronym here, because after a while I forget. Hence best to write down good stuff and get the Web to freely save it for you - unless the dreaded virus strikes ;-)

18 March 2011

Soul Fatigue sermon video on Godtube

This audio sermon mentioned above served up a good reminder to know that God is mighty. He is not a god who cannot see or cannot feel, but a God who is still mighty, even though we cannot see.

When we failed to see God's hand in the things around us, we will be led into doubt and despair. Soon we may neglect and later on forsake the God who loved us and run on empty and became empty.

Jeremiah 2:13 is a good reminder, "My people have committed two sins:

They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."

The great need for us is to return to the fountain - the spring of living water and to drink deeply. May we know how to and be willing to return to the Father to drink.

16 March 2011

Nuclear leak fears. Markets crashes. More aftershocks.

These are indeed difficult times for us in Asia and especially the Japanese. Everyday, in fact every other hour, we are bombarded with more news of fire in the reactors and radiation leak fears from the news agencies and websites. Fear is everywhere, evident in the SMSes that were sent and floated around - I received one such SMS yesterday about the threat of radioactive plume floating towards Philippines.

In times like these we need faith. There are generally 2 kinds of faith. Charging-on faith and Hanging-on faith.

The first kind, talks about faith to charge ahead, to attempt new things for God. The best example is that of Jonathan and his armour bearer charging into the band of Philistines with only a sword between them, knowing that God is with them.

The second kind of faith is hanging-on faith. This requires us to hang on to the promises of God and trust that they will come to pass even when we don't know how it will ever be possible. A good example is that of Abram at old age where God re-name Him as Abraham and promised him to be a father of nations - when he was still childless.

For Christians living in these troubled days, I encourage us all to hang on in faith. Trust Him that He is good, and He will care for His people. Walk with Him eventhough you do not know why things are happening as they are. For we do not walk by sight but by faith (2 Cor.5:7).

Pray that God will grant us fresh eyes of faith to see and hearts of flesh to care for the hurting around us.

14 March 2011

Where is God in Japan's Tsunami?

For the last few days, we were bombarded by news and videos of the monster tsunami that hit Japan. Shock and jaw dropping horror emotions were roused as we watched the destructive power of the tsunami sweeping everything in its path.

Comments made by the viewers to the uploaded video were mixed. Some good-intentioned Christians called blatantly for all to repent and turn to God. This naturally led to some retaliation by unbelievers who mocked them and replied with sacarsm. Many left a cry to pray for the poor affected people in Japan. Many wondered where was God and how God can have allowed this to happen.

I see it as a time to remind all Christians that God is still in control. Circumstances may suggest havoc and meaningless loss of lives, but we need to trust in the revealed Word of God that He is in Sovereign control and will work things out for the greater good where people will come to know Him as the Lord. Right now we may not see or understand, but when things calm down, we will be able to see better in hindsight. For now, while we cannot see/understand, we need to hold onto the Word of God and trust His heart.

This was elaborated in yesterday's sermon in church in Eygpt's case. Some time ago, there was a bombing in the church in Cairo and lives were lost and many asked why this happened to Christians. But through this bombing, it led to the churches in Cairo coming together to pray, a hitherto impossible event because of differences. Things happened after that. Many took to the streets to protest against the ruling party of Eygpt, another unthinkable event, which finally led to the overthrow of Mubarak's rule. The good thing about the 'uprising' is that the church held its church service on the streets, taking opportunity of the many who were around, and many got to hear the gospel for the first time. We need to remember that His ways are higher than us and we need to trust Him to work out His plans.

Now, it is a time for prayer. Pray for the affected churches to arise and shine forth in a time of searching and loss. There is a EFCJ church right in Sendai that was untouched by the tsunami. Pray that Christians in Japan, numbering only about 1%, will share boldly about their faith and bring many into the Kingdom.

3 March 2011

Facing up to my own Kadesh Barneas Num14.

Heard another powerful sermon today. We are indeed blessed by so many good speakers in CEFC. I've jotted down their points as a record and also added my responses to it. We can listen to a sermon, but what is more important is that it touches us and spurs us to correct our lives and act for His glory. Let my sermon heard be a sermon applied.
2 Fundamental principles in overcoming fear:

A) Minimise the effect of Fear
Fear if not dealt with cripples us and the following are lost - Lost hope

Songs of victory in Ex15 have now been replaced by sobbing. Need to remember that the Lord reigns forever, and is more than capable to deal with my giants in the land.

Lost ground - this wilderness: is God's waiting room for the Israelites, not their destiny. Oft we forget this and failed to realised God's plan for us.

Lost faith - Ride on your leaders' faith (because God has spoken) and ride out the storm together

Lost perspective - they wanted to stone Moses! No fairy tale endings in the Bible, men are sinful.

B) Optimize the power of faith:
Learn from Moses to intercede for the people

Learn from Caleb to follow God fully

Learn from the people's mistakes not to be presumptuous in my faith

Concluding story about the small girl - she can still be calm in the turbulent sea because the captain of the ship is her Father. Similar ending last week - I'm not Moses, but God is still God.

What is(are) my Kadesh Barnea now? Long time future plans. Career changes/stay. Family: schooling decisions/house changes. They are not giant fears yet, but each has the potential to become one if I lose sight of God on the eternal throne.

More needful is perhaps my "this wilderness" experience that dragged me down and caused me to be reluctant to come forward. Have i forgotten my destiny? Have i lost sight that God has still a plan of victory for me? Fear when coupled with frustration is a very potent force. Help me break through that Lord.

What about the old promises in Isa.42:6,7 to me...
6 "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness."

In facing my KB now, help me to hold on to these promises and not let fear and insecurity take over. There is still work out there waiting for me to do. The people may have changed, but God is still God and He is the captain of my ship.

2 March 2011

Of dogs and God. And a distracted father.

The story of the Syrophoenician woman touched me afresh in Mk 7:24-30. While my pastor friends can easily pull off a 3 point sermon outline here: She came and fell at His feet - God hears us; We can answer back to Him - God understands us; We can go back in faith - God answers, what is more important to me is that the passage spoke directly to me.

Why would she wanted to keep trying? She heard about Jesus entry to their town. She immediately came. She fell at His feet. She went against all religious and cultural barriers. She fought for her say. She answered back to Jesus! She was not distracted by the dog comment and continued to seek God.

I too have a little daughter, who have since grown up a little. Do i come to God with the same intensity for her? Is it because I do not know that God can heal, save and help? Is it because I am distracted by my many other things to spend time praying for them?

This day I prayed again for my two daughters that I repent and wanted to be a more loving father. Forgive me Lord for being so caught up in my own little world of work and studies.

Ephphatha! Be opened!

Many questions touched me this morning as I read Mk7:31-37 on the deaf and mute man brought to Jesus for healing. Questions that are asked in an attitude of learning, not public inquisition.

Why did they bring him to Jesus? Was he a pitiful man? a kind man?

Who am I bringing to Jesus? How long did I last bring anyone to Jesus?

Who will bring me to Jesus?

Why did Jesus let out a deep sigh to this man?

Was Jesus happy when He healed this man?

Are my ears closed and tongue impeded too? What are they open to?

When Jesus looked at me, will He let out a deep sigh too?

If Jesus let out that deep sigh at me, how would I feel? what would I do?

Why were the people utterly astonished?

I like questions. Especially difficult questions that cut deep into us. Not to cut and destroy, but to cut and reveal. And in time to come, help us to turn around.

The most painful question for me this morning: When Jesus looked at me, will He let out a deep sigh too? Maybe not at my physical condition, but spiritual.

Ephphatha! Be opened!

Let me who have the mouth and ears, use them for the glory of God.

Feeling Compassion. Feeling Complacent. Feeling Inadequate

Familiar story. Jesus feeding the 4000 in Mark 8. But from this familiar story, God touched me in a deep way this morning.

Words of Jesus, "I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now 3 days and have nothing to eat... they will faint."

Jesus is compassionate. We all know that. He notices. He knows our needs and how frail we are. He knows too how long we have been with Him. He knows that those who are with Him needs food(simple and yet important human touch). He is, in our terms, people-centred.

Many questions came into mind for me as I read the passage.

Lessons from a 46 year old uneducated cleaner

My favourite Sunday Times column is written by Dr Lee Wei Ling. She writes about her life stories in a very personal and human way. And, yes, she is the daughter of LKY.

One story that stayed with me all these while was, the story on Moiri, a 46 year old divorcee, with 2 children to raise up, working in Singapore (Sunday Times, 31 May 2009). She has a very cheerful personality despite the fact that life dealt her a bad hand of cards. The author, in reflection, quotes from Epictetus, a Greek philosopher living in the 1st century:

I must die. But must i die groaning?
I must be imprisoned. But must I whine as well?
I must suffer exile. Can anyone hinder me from going with a smile and a good courage and at peace?
(sigh, how often I groaned, whined and caved in ... my thots)

She goes on to write..It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. Moiri is one who does not have former education, but she knows how to live her life. She is much happier than many who are richer and more educated.

I felt this article spoke to me about my life's position. Stop complaining and becoming a bitter person. Learn to give thanks and move on. Especially when we have Jesus with us.

Why Revival Tarries - No Christian is greater than his prayer life

Good quotes must be kept somewhere, remembered and lived. The church bulletin contained a great quote from Leonard Ravenhill on prayer which I typed out to keep here in this blog for the future. I want to remember to pray.

The church has many organizers,
But few agonizers.
Many who pay, but few who pray;
Many resters, but few wrestlers;
Many who are enterprising;
But few who are interceding.
people who are not praying are playing.

Heard an old Audio Sermon today by Ps Ed.

Following God - the FGO way. Text: Mt 4:18-22. Its good 'cutting-deep-into-you' preaching! His sermon certainly stands out from the rest of the typical western sermons in that webpage.Gained new understanding into 'left nets immediately and followed Him'.

Sermon Outline:
1) Follow God Fully
2) Follow God Gladly

- they left their nets immediately, not so much in terms of just speed, but they left they nets gladly, because it is such a joy to be with Jesus.
- call to a joyous abandoment as we follow Jesus.

3) Follow God Only
- call to abiding, because without God we can do nothing.
- Follow Me - "Me" here is an emphatic pronoun, i.e. me and me only. Not Jesus or, Not Jesus and something else.

Abiding: is knowing the truth and applying the truth. The Word is not just a book of messages, but a place of meeting, where we encounter God and our lives are changed.

When we obey, God will use us and teach us new truths - the call to dance, and then the woman in yellow story. "God knows that your husband has just left you but I will be a husband for you and take care of you".

Divine appointment happens when we obey God. Do i have a divine-appointment testimony to share? is it because I do not follow Jesus fully, gladly and only?

Audio sermons are powerful, because they are God's Word and its real for all time. It speaks to us even years later when we re-listen to it again. Yesterday afternoon, eventhough I heard the illustrations before, it still speak to me and bring a reassurance that He will care for me.

You can listen msg from Perimeter Church.

3 S of Leadership

There are 3 "S"s of Leadership, namely stature, status and substance.
Leadership Stature: (How he carries himself)
· leader’s credibility (how others view him: wow he’s a gifted speaker! ),
· leader’s confidence (how he view himself: wow I’m good!)

Many may see a leader as impressive and gifted, but these are not the sum of a leader.

Leadership Status: (How others see him)
· The leader’s title: e.g. Dr, Rev, ..
· The leader’s office: e.g. Senior Pastor, Chairman of X Committee
· The leader’s credentials: e.g. books written, ministries served in…
The world is impressed by the Leader’s status and stature. But not God, who looks at the heart. We ourselves, if not careful, can walk with false sense of superiority.

Leadership Substance: (How God sees him)
· Authenticity in the leader’s worship
· Broken-ness in the leader’s walk (true humility, understands God’s grace in his life)
· Courage in the leader’s work (stems from faith in God, not driven-ness, restedness)
· There is Depth. Outwardly, not very impressive, but deep below, like an ice-berg. Worldly leaders can be big & impressive on the outside, but weak inside.
  • You can be un-concerned about status & stature when your substance is more than status & stature.
  • The more authentic the leader is, the more broken he is.
  • Key to growing substance is growing in Spiritual Formation.
  • Key in Spiritual formation is being like Christ in the manner of character building.


20 Questions to Deepen Communications

Much conversation is startlingly mundane, especially those between husband and wives. The kids. The church. Work. Perhaps even gossip sometimes.

To deepen communications is to deepen relationships. With spouses. Friends. Church members. The following list offers some suggestions for deeper conversations and better understandings. They may be used between spouses or in your small groups.

1. Tell me about the most influential person in your life.

2. What book(s) influence you the most?

Nothing to Prove. Nothing to Hide. Nothing to Lose.

A personal testimony drafted on 21/3/08

Nothing to Prove.
• Middle child - worked very hard to prove to parents.
• St John Ambulance Corps (CCA), comparison by others affected me.
• Felt very insecure in my growing up years
• When I Prayed to Receive Christ in Pri 3 (9 years old), through my sister, I learnt of Jesus' unconditional acceptance and I learn to feel more secured, no need to strive to prove anything. It is done.
• Jer.31:3, "I have loved you with an everlasting love…" spoke deeply to me.

Nothing to Hide.
• I'm a private person, I don't share, have little friends, and am task oriented.  In my growing up years, many hrs were spent at the video shop watching what is played by the store owners. Felt very withdrawn most of the time.
• In church & BB ministry,I learnt to slowly open up. DISC - S personality.
• Through serving, I became more transparent, more open, more confident.
• God comforts us to comfort others - many hurting people in the world. "Freedom Writers" movie - many have a story to write, but no one listened to them.
• After knowing Jesus, He gave confidence and help me discover myself and to help comfort others.

Nothing to Lose.
• When I was young, I fear death - what will happen to me after death? I felt very lost and fearful.
• After knowing Christ, I know I have eternal life. I am certain of it that if I should die, I will meet my Saviour this very day.
• Jn 3.16 promises eternal life for all who believes. He invites you to that eternal life today.

This world has many people who worked very hard to prove themselves, I don't need to, because Christ has already accepted me. This world has many people who hides things for fear of what others may say/do if they know the truth about them - I don't need to because I know He loves me fully. This world has many who cling onto their degrees, their wealth, their positions - I don't need to, because these all not that important to me. I have found Him who matters more than these - the LORD Jesus.

Praise God.

Ryan Giggs - Lessons for me

I have always been a MUFC fan since my school days, i.e. some decades ago. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, along with Park Ji Sung were my favourites in MUFC. The first 2 for their skills and humility, while Park, for helping to raise the pride of Asians in a competitive league in Europe.

In the Daily Mail article, i read an article on Giggs entitled, "What makes the compelling and evergreen figure of Giggs want to keep running?" I too was impressed that Giggs can play at such a high level for 20 years. Certainly not many can do it. As recounted therein, you need a very strong drive to succeed and ability to keep your body in shape.

What does this hold for me and us? I'm reminded like what Steve Jobs in his famous commencment speech stressed that we need to have that hunger. Without this keen clear goal and drive to continually go for it, we will be lost and sidelined and end up chasing trivial pursuits unworthy of the King.

Interestingly, those who are well off can easily lose their hunger and competitive edge. So keep in a state of hunger and hunger on. Have good friends around you to remind of your goals will be helpful too.

1 March 2011

Legacy of Raja Segran

I do not know much about Raja, my ex-colleague,only some fleeting moments where we crossed paths and once when we happened to seat down in the same table for a drink, with others. But last Sunday's sermon concluding remarks by the speaker on him left a deep mark for me.

The speaker was sharing about Raja's memorial service where Raja's ex-boss talked about his unwillingness to compromise with ethics. The SIA boss suggested to Raja if he is only willing to bend a little, with his education and intellect, he would have gone much further in SIA rather than just some GM based in overseas station.

Stubborn Roots in our Lives

Last year, I was clearing my potted plants outside my home. Many of the rotting plants were thrown away while the earthen pots were savaged for my father-in-law.

In the process of clearing the rotted plants, I faced the unenviable task of de-rooting the thorny plants with old blunt scissors. The soil were dried and hardened. The thorns were every where and waiting to trap me and poke me, which it did.

But herein, in the midst of this back breaking task, I learnt an important lessons.

4 causes of weak inner lives:

1) Primal wounds of the HEART – inner woundedness

2) Cynicism of the MIND – critical & judgmental attitudes

3) Overcrowding of the SOUL – busyness and fatigue

4) Paralysis of the WILL – deep seated unwillingness

The above are taken from CEFC church in Singapore. Its crisp and powerful reminder of the things that will rob us from intimacy with God. If we harbour any of the above, we won't be able to love God.

Personally, I saw the potency of each of these working out its venom in my life and robbing me of a vibrant walk with God and sapping out the vitality in my life. To come back to God, we need to confess our sins and replace them with good habits.

It is as simple and as possible as being changed today. Yet it is also as difficult and will and can stall us for years to come, because it can be a stronghold in our lives.

Nonetheless, with God all things are possible. Today.

Spiritual Disciplines - A lost tradition in this busy modern world
Centuries ago, our lives were less complex, slower and more meaningful. There was more time to be at peace and to slow down to read or watch the sunrise. Now with increased technology at our disposal, we have less time on our hands - paradoxically. Is it then impossible to break away from all these modern break neck speeds and be able to center down with God?

I believe we can, by practicing spiritual disciplines.

Break up your fallow hardened ground

The worship leader in the Sunday Service said this yesterday, "My heart goes out to those who are once faithful but are not walking with the Lord now ..." Those words struck me as I am like that. My heart is a fallow and hardened ground, and un-tended garden overgrown with weeds, unable to receive the grace of God.

But what really struck me is the thought of the model that I'm leaving for my two daughters now. When I was at the height of my ministry service, my children were still young and ignorant. Now when they are aware of what's happening, they see a father struggling to walk with God, often in outbursts and unkind towards the family.

Am I going to leave that negative picture for them? I need to buck up and be the positive role model for them. Lord, lead me towards loving you again. Rain on me your grace and love. Let me walk faithfully with you once again.

It is possible. All things are possible with God. I must believe that and show forth the right example.

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