Month: March, 2016

My Father and Your Father

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A New Beginning

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No regrets in life? I know I cannot say that. My life has more pock marks than the craters on the moon. If I live my life over, I would avoid the incidental mistakes that carry disproportionate consequences. I would not spend energy on things that failed. I just have to admit it. I am not as holy as our Father wants me to be. I am not as effective a person as I want to be. I am not as loving as I ought to be. There is even a time when I did not want to serve as a pastor, and spent years in academic pursuits, but God closed my doors.

I have many regrets in life. But there is one important decision I made which I never regretted. The day I became a follower of Jesus. From that day on, I get new beginnings.

A new name

Some Christians in the early church were struggling with persecution from the authorities. But they were not a blameless church. They were suffering from libertine members in their midst. Some hold on to the teachings of the Nicolaitans who condoned participation in idol feasts and sexual immorality. To this group of struggling believers, the Holy Spirit gave this promise, “To the one who is victorious, I will give … that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17) That new name is a new beginning.

Our Father in heaven is not a keeper of wrongs. Jesus comes with his reward. One of the rewards for the Christians who had to bear the shame of the past mistakes and the smearing of our Adversary, is a new name that Jesus gives, a new free from any association with wrong doing. Our new name will be written on a white stone. That speaks of forgiveness, blamelessness, and purity.

Like them, my sins will be forgiven. It will not be a name that is smeared with accusations from the evil one. And if you have experienced the pain of a name that is justly or unjustly besmeared, you will know the value of the new name written on a white stone. What a wonderful promise that God sees me as fully redeemable regardless of my past!

The only person who knows this name that God gives is the person himself. It is a secret name. This gives us the picture of a name hidden from Satan, a name he cannot pollute because it is hidden from him. It is a secret name between me and God. This name cannot be sullied because no one else knows it. It is how God looks at me when I belong to him.

Our world can be a harsh place. The good we do is rarely recognized, if ever. The wrong we do is amplified. But when we belong to Jesus, he will tell our life story differently. We will each have a new name written on a white stone. Our life story will be about our forgiveness, our sanctity. Satan is the accuser who prosecutes us before God’s justice. But the Holy Spirit of God is our Advocate who tells our life story differently. He will give us a new name. All the wrongs associated with the old name will no longer touch us. Instead, our life will be a name on a white stone.

The name will be hidden, known only to each of us, and between God and you or me. Therein we will enjoy the comfort of our adoption into the family of our heavenly Father. It will be protected from accusations. I have a new life in him. And of course, that is not mine alone. “To the one who is victorious …” The promise is for all of us. To the one who repents of his sin; to the one who is victorious through persecution from the world; to the one who overcomes the spirit of the age of moral failure, we will receive a new name on a white stone, a secret name.

Arise to new life

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

As much as Jesus rose from the dead, so also, all who belong to Jesus will rise to newness of life. Our new life begins when we confess Jesus in prayer and affirm it publicly in baptism. This new life will see its fullness when we are raised from the dead, just as Christ was raised from the dead.

Today, we remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Death could not hold him in the grave because he knew no sin. As the grave had to give Christ up when we belong to him, the grave will also have to give us up.

“The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

Do you have a new name? Hope of a new beginning?

Pastor Peter Eng

Our Father’s Welcome

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I was kicked out of the electoral register because I did not vote (Singapore’s rule). But the electoral commission wrote to me to apply to be included in the register. They want people to vote. They are not trying to exclude people. At the same time, there must be a register that excludes people. Can you imagine a situation when being a person and being present are enough reasons to give a vote? Millions of foreigners can then come into Singapore on polling day and vote! While exclusion is necessary, the real desire is for inclusion. So even when I was expunged, they continued to reach out, asking me to be inside. I submitted a simple declaration that I was overseas (I’m not sure if they checked), and received an immediate reply that I am back on the register.

Jesus tells a story of a wedding banquet (Matthew 22).

2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.”

5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The first batch of guests who reject the invite referred to Jews who reject Jesus. The second batch of guests are Gentiles who respond to the banquet invite. But the climax of the story is the one who comes to the banquet without wedding clothes. This person comes, but he comes on his own terms. He rejects the protocol that requires him to wear wedding clothes.

We don’t know enough of the ancient customs, but it may be like those restaurants that require a jacket for dining, and they provide a loan jacket if you do not have one. If you refuse to wear the jacket that is provided, you will not be allowed to dine in that restaurant. Whatever the custom, it was not burdensome. It is clear the king is not trying to exclude but to include.

Our Father in heaven welcomes us to be part of his family so he can call us “Child,” and we can call him “Father.” When we receive that through baptism, we are included into his family. We become his children. God is clearly welcoming and inclusive. But inclusion has no meaning unless there is an exclusion. Unlike the electoral register that excludes people in prison, the inclusion of God is even greater. It welcomes all. But we need to confess Jesus in baptism.

The Holy Communion is like the Wedding Feast in the story. There are those who will argue they can be part of the banquet because they accept the invite. But that person gets into trouble. It is not because of the king’s rejection that he is cast out. It is because of the person’s rejection to be included through his own refusal to come on God’s terms.

The Word of God is clear. “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sin.”

We eagerly invite all to the Lord’s Table of Holy Communion – through baptism. We have no right to make our own rules and say you can come on your own terms. The king requires wedding clothes. The Holy Communion requires confession in baptism.

We urge each person to receive God’s invite to the banquet (the Holy Communion) through baptism. While the Jews reject him, Jesus prophesies that Gentiles will come to the banquet, but we come with wedding clothes. We become God’s children on his terms. Baptism is a necessary confession of faith, and it is given to us freely.

Pastor Peter Eng

The God Who Reveals

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Healing Through Community

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My own healing comes mainly through prayer and the Word of God. But I will be wrong to stop here or imagine myself strong against all odds. That just isn’t true. I see the hand of God best when he uses people to help me heal. I think my experience is not unique. Let me point out briefly the different ways Abba Father heals me through community.

When I am most disillusioned by people, and when I am dealt the most faithless betrayals, God sends people to stand with me and to bless me. He may send help from people I expect will be there for me; but I also marvel at how he sends people I do not expect – as though Abba Father is reminding me, “Child, I have resources you don’t know and never imagined.”

When I am betrayed, God restores hope in me through community. Abba Father does it through people, so the betrayal will not lead to cynicism or bitterness. He is telling me, “There are good people, don’t become bitter over the faithless ones.”

Almighty Father speaks the word to me through another person. Yes, it may be something I already know. But the same truth I know is different when it comes from the mouth of another. It is not me looking for comfort, it is the Word of God someone ministers to me. And what joy it is when I receive it humbly and personally as from my loving Father.

Some think they do nothing when they sit with me through the moments of despair. But your presence, your commiserating with me, is comfort that I have a friend through the community of faith.

When I am weak and I see the strength you have, it makes me strong. Some bear pain well. Some have unwavering constancy. Some will hope when I dare not. Some will forgive when I cannot imagine how. Some will speak softly when fury would be just. Some show discipline I can only admire from afar. Some will simply not give up. Some give and give and put me to shame. Some serve humbly because their reward is with our Father.

Community humbles me, strengthens me, and heals me. Thank you Father for community.

Pastor Peter Eng

The God Who Is

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A Call to Endurance

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Healing Through Food

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There is more to the subject of healing. Forgiveness is a one-time event. When we receive forgiveness from God, our issues are purged clean, like if we get cancer, and the cancer is successfully removed. The core issue is addressed, but healing is more than the surgery that removes the cancer. Healing takes time. And proactive action.

The idea of food as medicine is well established in Chinese culture. We have traditional claims to healing through certain foods. Regardless of whether we believe in these claims, the reality is that we need good food to heal well. Cancer patients are constantly urged to eat even if they do not feel like doing so. Unless we eat, we will not heal. Even if we are not recovering from healing, staying well requires us to eat well.

Feeding of God’s holy Word is essential for our healing. As much as healthy people need to eat to stay healthy even when they are not recovering from some health crisis, we need the Word of God. It is food. It is also food as medicine.

Have you seen pictures of people who are anorexic? They have convinced themselves the food they see is not good enough. I was in casual conversation with this woman who had constant issues with anorexia, and she kept remarking this is “empty calories”, that is “empty calories.” There is some truth to the charge that many food we see are empty calories, meaning they provide calories without protein, vitamins, or minerals. (For example: sugar, tapioca, poor quality oil). But the criticism of “empty calories” comes from someone who does not even consume calories! Even empty calories provide energy. They just fail to provide beyond energy. Should food that is not the best become an excuse not to eat?

Unfortunately, we have spiritual anorexics who can never hope to heal from the spiritual brokenness or even maintain their spiritual health because they buy in to the criticism of some that this or that Bible version is not the best. Perhaps it is the excuse that this or that preacher is not interesting enough.

Let’s assume for a moment that all these criticisms are true. So what is our response? Do we sneeze at these “empty calories” and neglect our own spiritual feeding? Reading any Bible is better than not reading any. Just like eating any food is better than not eating any food.

To be sure, we strive to give you the best possible spiritual food. Your time at worship is short. And even though we are supposed to feed on God’s Word daily, many people eat only once a week when we come to worship on Sunday. So the preacher tries to give you the best possible spiritual food.

The best spiritual food on Sunday, even if you gorge yourself on it, can scarcely keep you through the week. We need much more calories, even empty calories is better than no calories. But I would like to introduce you to good calories during the week. It is essential for our health and especially vital for our healing.

My personal favorite spiritual food are the Bibles on phone apps. And the ideal is YouVersion of Bible by Life. It allows me to access various versions, I can choose to download many of them if I want to. I can even have different languages including Chinese. I can change the font size to reduce the strain on my eyes. And when I am feeling lazy, I can have the text read to me (in some versions). I can highlight (and undo highlight) and make notes (and delete them) and they will stay with my account. I stopped making notes in my hardcopy Bibles because they wear out and my notes are gone. This phone Bible does not wear out and my notes do not disappear.

I’ll take a version and read through the Bible in that version and then start on another version. If you don’t know which ones to start with, I suggest you do it in this order: NLT, NIV, ESV. This is because the NLT is the easiest to read. The app has many reading plans. Pick any one and have fun going through it. And when you hit a tough spot like Leviticus, you can do one of two things. Go really slow and try to take it all in, or more realistically, go really fast and move on to the most interesting parts.

Our brokenness cannot heal unless we feed on the Word of God. There is no short cut. And when we feed on God’s word, what starts out as discipline soon becomes a delight. We read God’s Word because we need it; and eventually, we read God’s Word because we delight in it.

Pastor Peter Eng

Clinton, Trump and Singapore

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I am thankful to our Almighty Father that Singapore does not face the election crisis in the United States today. Clinton is the frontrunner on the Democrat race, and Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican Party. But both candidates are amazing in how bad they are for the country.

Clinton created a private email server when she was serving as Secretary of State, and that opens the possibility of criminal failure. This is in addition to her total ineptitude when she served as Secretary of State, especially with the Benghazi affair. But she is the best the Democrats have at this point. Bernie Sanders is an extreme socialist and even worse than Clinton. Today, the tech who set up Clinton’s private server is granted immunity in exchange for his testimony. This usually means (1) it is a federal case, not a state case, and (2) a Grand Jury has already been convened to hear the charges and decide if she should be indicted. Won’t it be funny if she were the Democrat choice but found guilty?

The Attorney General of New York is taking a lawsuit against Trump for his “Trump University.” Trump promised the students personal mentorship from his team, on real estate transactions, including sources to fund the deals. This was a scam, and many were hurt by this scam. His defense team tried to use the statute of limitation, but a four-judge panel unanimously rejected this defense. It is too early to say if the AG can prove fraud, but the reality of fraud is not in doubt. He cheated many people by failing to deliver on his promise. It’s hard to think of someone more incompatible to be the President than a scammer. Won’t it be funny if he were the Republican choice but found guilty?

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” Proverbs 14:34.

Singapore has many weaknesses. I am sure there are many valid criticisms against those who possess political power, or those who aspire to political power. Yet, I think you will agree with me that our choices for political leaders is not as dire as a choice between Clinton or Trump.

Christians are citizens who must constantly engage in the demand for truth and righteousness. It is the public demand for decent people in office that will determine the outcome of elections. This public demand for righteousness, or the lack of it, is seen in the candidates during elections. If Christians want Singapore to elect a government that is righteous, then we need to exercise our Christian citizenship consistently, before the likes of Clinton or Trump become front-runners on Singapore’s political landscape.

Pastor Peter Eng