Posts by Peter Eng

Apostle Peter 05: Jesus, My Superhero (Part 2)

Bible Reference: Mark 1:1-20

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Apostle Peter 05: Jesus, My Superhero (Part 1)

Bible Reference: Mark 1:1-20

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Petition & Intercession

Prayer is talking to God — Yes. There is a prayer that is easy going.  It is a conservation, a banter, a chat in good times when we feel no weight or pressure.  It is when we see the majestic mountains, the vast oceans and thank God for his creation.  It is when we learn about the amazing complexity of even a single cell and marvel at his creative goodness.

Then, there is the prayer of desperation when we set aside time to pray to God about our sick child, our own failing health, our financial crisis, some extreme danger we are about to face.  That type of prayer takes spiritual energy.

Let me make an observation here.  Desperation is not prayer, desperation is not faith.  Desperation is no more than desperation.  Prayer is TIME and energy set aside EXCLUSIVELY to seek God. It is making and keeping an appointment with God to talk to him about your problem.  The problem drives you to your knees and turns your face Godward.

Many of us have experienced such committed prayer.  But not many have transposed a similar level of passion of energy when we pray for others.  In most instances, our love is too shallow and too narrow to pray for another person the same way we pray for yourself.

True intercession is the fervent prayer for another individual.  This is why intercession is serious business.  It is emotionally draining, and it takes spiritual energy.  “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16b NLT).

Our passion, our commitment, our expression that we really want this thing, matters with God.  It is like Jacob wrestling for God’s blessings. So better a few intercessory items that engage your entire being that endless lists of items said with no passion.

As a community of people, God has called us to the MINISTRY of intercession.  It is a ministry, it produces spiritual results by trusting in God.  It is not a mere listing of items. 

Let us engage fully in a prayer ministry that is biblical, authentic, relevant and effective.

Malicious Prosecution

by Peter Eng

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The Sadducees

When Jesus stood before the high priests, he suffered malicious prosecution.

57Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

59The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.

60But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.  Finally two came forward 61and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” (Matthew 26, NIV)

Christians tend to believe the words of the prosecutor.  The vast majority of the time, they prosecute criminals and keep the society at peace and call criminals to account for their evil deeds.  Prosecutors have a difficult and sacred duty.  My sense of how prosecutors work in Singapore is that they tend to press charges only for what the person is truly guilty of — at least in their minds, and with the proper integrity of heart.

From time to time, around the world, I have seen prosecutors who are obviously malicious.  They throw all sorts of charges against the defendant and hope that some will stick.  In some instances, they do it because they cannot prove the real crime and can prove a fabricated one.  In other cases, they are politically motivated.  And of course, there are prosecutors who are just mean. They are like the police who abuse their authority, the soldier who pillages the weak, rapes the defenceless, and kills civilians because he can do it and get away with it. 

Most times, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day kept the peace.  But when it came to Jesus, the evil in their heart surfaced.  The Pharisees did not have political power but had social influence, and they were envious and incensed to lose their social influence to Jesus. The Sadducees did not have much social influence, but they had political power, and they did not want the Messiah to come and take away their power.  The Herodians were supporters of the House of Herod and clearly did not want Jesus to rule.

Under the cover of night, the Sadducees (high priests) arrested Jesus, and began their malicious prosecution of Jesus.  This is a grave evil at the highest level.  The people who are entrusted with the power to prosecute have the power to protect the innocent in society.  But if they turn their power to evil purposes, they will stand before the just Judge who will not let their guilt go unpunished.

Prosecutors are imperfect people, like we all are.  But if prosecutors deliberately prosecute the innocent, they should be held accountable.  The name of the Sadducees go down in infamy for their malicious prosecution of Jesus.

Angela Corey

Sanford, FL.  The jury found George Zimmerman “Not Guilty” on all charges.  As I expressed in my blog, it is clear that Zimmerman acted in self-defense in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. I am glad Zimmerman is a free man today.  But there is much travesty of justice in his prosecution alone.  This injustice was done by Democrats and Republicans alike.  But most painfully, the severest antagonists are identified as Christians. 

President Obama gave impetus to what eventually became malicious prosecution when he said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Is it appropriate for a President to identify with Trayvon simply on race alone? Is that worthy of a President who serves the interest of all Americans?

Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev Jesse Jackson are leaders within the African-American population.  They riled the African-American with lies about Trayvon and Zimmerman to advance their careers as politicians. I shall not demean myself by repeating their demagogic statements.

The extreme left-wing NBC has done it again. NBC is (associated with XIN-MSNBC), our source of news in Singapore.  This is how they depicted Zimmerman’s conversation with the 911 dispatcher.

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

The actual conversation was:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black.

NBC deliberately edited out the fact that Zimmerman did not look on Martin racially, but was noting his actions. NBC also omitted the fact that it was the dispatcher who asked for the racial profile, and Zimmerman was responding to the dispatcher. NBC has apologized but the harm is done.  The African-American population were baited, took the bait, and they are now furious with Zimmerman for an issue NBC (among others) created.  If I were African-American, I think I will be upset too!  

Other media falsehood include a picture of Trayvon when he was 12 years old, another in a nice white hoodie.  We know that a person can change dramatically during those years.  While the image of Trayvon should not be the issue, it became one.  It is therefore right that the public should understand what the real Trayvon looked like on the night he was shot.  The judge did not allow unsavory details of Trayvon to be raised in court, and I am assuming she had legal bases for the ban.  Now that the case is over, details have emerged that Trayvon was suspended from school three times (?), was using marijuana, knew a lot about guns, and was certainly not a 17 year old who looked like a 12 year old, going home after buying a bag of skittles.

Trayvon was over 6 feet tall, well muscled, and without a doubt, was raining blows on Zimmerman. He broke Zimmerman’s nose, smashed his head against the concrete pavement, and held Zimmerman in a “ground and pound” punching him repeatedly.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN

There is just a total lack of evidence for anything other than that Zimmerman acted in self-defense. The lies told by the media, Al Sharpton and others created pressure to which the weak caved in, the ambitious seized upon, and the malicious carried out.

On the night of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, police arrested Zimmerman and brought him in for questioning.  They found Zimmerman’s account of self-defense sustainable and did not have probable cause to hold him or to book him. So they released him.

The black politicians like Rev Al Sharpton and other community leaders wanted Zimmerman charged.  The police chief William Lee could not do it because there was no “probable cause.” He was then fired for not charging Zimmerman. Here is his interview with CNN: CLICK

“I had one of the city commissioners come to me on two different occasions and say, ‘All we want is an arrest.’ And I explained to them, ‘Well, you just can’t do that, you have to have probable cause to arrest somebody.’ And it was related to me that they just wanted an arrest, they didn’t care if it got dismissed later. You don’t do that.”

Politicians want to show support for the African-American population by bending to the passion created by NBC and the likes of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, the Black Panthers, etc. The city commissioner threw justice out of the window and insisted that Lee does what is wrong to satisfy his political agenda.  This city commissioner should be held accountable.

The next victim of malice was Norm Wolfinger, the State Prosecutor with the original jurisdiction over the death of Trayvon.  He refused to prosecute Zimmerman because there was inadequate evidence that Zimmerman committed a crime.  He stepped down.  The reason(s) are unclear to me, but it appeared that he did so under pressure.  He also expressed outrage at the lies presented to the Justice Department for federal review as though there were some cover-up in his position.

The Justice Department under Eric Holder decided to pursue the case against Zimmerman.  This action, at the very least, received the tacit support of President Obama who identified with Trayvon.  The Governor of Florida, Rick Scott caved in to pressure and appointed Angela Corey to prosecute Zimmerman.

ERIC HOLDER

The evidence is clear.  Starting with Obama down, the politicians have caved in to racial and political pressure to prosecute Zimmerman when there was no case. They will keep looking until they found someone willing to do the dirty job.  And they found Angela Corey to do the dirty job of prosecuting an innocent man.

This reminds me so much of the malicious prosecution of Jesus.  Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, and Romans, all converged on an innocent man to crucify him because it was expedient for each group that he should die.

While there is culpability all around for the malicious prosecution of Zimmerman, Corey is the most responsible. This is because she deliberately perverted the rules of engagement as prosecutor in trying to get a conviction.  Her role as prosecutor is to uphold justice.  To the extent that justice calls for a conviction she has the duty to prosecute.  If she perverts justice to get a conviction, she has acted in malice.

Angela Corey has a reputation of viciousness in her prosecution. The evils in Corey’s actions began with accepting a case where there are no merits.  She is supposed to be Episcopalian / Anglican.  She has disgraced her faith and shall stand before Christ who suffered malicious prosecution. What she has done to the least of the defenceless people in malice, she has done to Christ.

Let me demonstrate my case against Corey. About a month ago, Information Technology Director Ben Kruidbos revealed that Corey was hiding from the Defense information which they were required to reveal.  Sometime around last Friday, Corey fired him. Corey was wrong in hiding information. She was perverting the course of justice.  Because she had the power to do so, she fired the person who showed she was perverting justice.

During the trial, the prosecution imputed evil motives and misrepresented information to the jury.  Their case was built on speculative accusations and did not have a single shred of evidence. To top off what is a case of malicious prosecution, they changed their charges last minute and the judge allowed the lesser charge of manslaughter to go forward to the jury when the entire case was prosecuted in court and defended as second degree murder. The evidence was so overwhelming that despite the last minute switch, Zimmerman was still found “Not Guilty.”

The prosecution succeeded in keeping the image of the real Trayvon from the court.  If the role of prosecution is to convict, I can see why they do that.  But if the prosecutor’s role is to protect the public and only go after the real criminals, I cannot see why they deliberately perpetrated a false image of Trayvon.

ANGELA COREY

“…  text messages and photographs from Martin’s mobile phone, which show him smoking, discussing drugs and firearms and being “kicked out” from home by his mother, cannot be brought up in opening statements and will only be admitted later with her approval, she [judge Debra S Nelson] ruled.” (By Richard Luscombe, The Guardian. Tuesday, May 28, 2013 15:56 EDT)

Angela Corey’s wrong is so apparent that a Harvard Law Professor Dershowitz openly pointed out Corey ought to be disbarred.  Here is the interview: CLICK

MIKE HUCKABEE: You have said that you thought the prosecutor ought to be disbarred, that’s a pretty serious type of violation to get a person disbarred. It is that serious to you?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Right, it is. She submitted an affidavit that was, if not perjurious, completely misleading. She violated all kinds of rules of the profession, and her conduct bordered on criminal conduct. She, by the way, has a horrible reputation in Florida. She’s known for overcharging, she’s known for being highly political. And in this case, of course she overcharged. Halfway through the trial she realized she wasn’t going to get a second degree murder verdict, so she asked for a compromised verdict, for manslaughter. And then, she went even further and said that she was going to charge him with child abuse and felony murder. That was such a stretch that it goes beyond anything professionally responsible. She was among the most irresponsible prosecutors I’ve seen in 50 years of litigating cases, and believe me, I’ve seen good prosecutors, bad prosecutors, but rarely have I seen one as bad as this prosecutor, [Angela] Corey. (Huckabee, July 14, 2013)

The way of the wicked

In this malicious prosecution of Zimmerman, it is truly sad to note that many of the principal characters are Christians of one stripe or another! What a disgrace to the name of Christ!

Angela Corey is an Episcopalian (on record). The most vociferous inciter of hatred are Rev Al Sharpton (Baptist) and Rev Jesse Jackson (Baptist).  Obama who gives impetus to the current chaos was a long time member of a Black Liberation Theology church. Governor Rick Scott who appointed Corey is a founding member of Naples Community Church.  It is a sad day for America, a sadder day for Christians. Malicious prosecution was the legal instrument that nailed Jesus to the cross.  Even though justice was done in that Zimmerman was found “Not Guilty,” what great evil was done in the mere act of prosecution! So-called Christians tried to do to Zimmerman what was done to crucify Jesus — malicious prosecution — because it was politically expedient to do so.

May the Lord have mercy on these who have acted with such malice. May the Lord bring them to repentance and may they seek the forgiveness of Zimmerman whom they have wronged so gravely. Psalm 1 says there will come a day when the “way of the wicked” will perish. Let us pray that God’s kingdom come, and God’s will be done on earth as in heaven.  Let us pray this dark day will pass, and those called by the name of Christ will promote justice and truth, not lies and malice.


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Intercession

It is quite common for us to hear prayer requests like, “Pray for my boss, my co-worker, my friend’s brother, etc.”  I wonder how many of us really bother to pray for someone we don’t know or have no real passion towards. I can see you praying passionately for someone at your place of work.  But do you pray passionately for someone at someone else’s place of work?

Most of us do not pray for a friend’s friend, but we ask others to pray for our friends.  It is good to pray for an extended circle of people, but we need to watch our hearts and ask what that prayer request means. 

I will pray for your friend whom I don’t know. But prayer is real ministry, real spiritual and emotional energy which I cannot exhaust myself willy-nilly. I will ask if I can minister to your friend more fully. To visit, speak with, meet the family members, and engage more fully so that my prayer can be more meaningful, and when the prayer is answered, the recipient of the blessing will glorify God.

When I agree to take on a prayer request, I am agreeing to serve a person.  It is a serious commitment, and I need to engage more fully with the person for whom I am praying.  As much as some of us treat God as a Santa Claus, they look at pastors as Santa’s Helpers.  That is a role I find hard to fill. 

Prayer is powerful and serious business.  The prayer for the one who needs it, is an exercise to bring someone alongside to prayer the prayer of faith and thereby grow.  It is also a prayer to faith for one who is not in fellowship with God. I may ask in different words, but I would ask the recipient, “When God answers your prayer, what will be your part?”  A prayer request must bring the blessed individual closer to God. Agreeing to a prayer request is not agreeing to pass on a message to Santa.

Our Limited Justice

[Reflections on Shane Todd, George Zimmerman, and the Kingdom of God]

Have you seen a court case or some social injustice, and feel indignant?  Perhaps this is less so in Singapore because the media carefully aligns itself to the official position. So most of us in Singapore will only read what we ought to read, and hear the objections we ought to hear, and come to the conclusion with the official position because others manage our information — less so now with the internet.

Despite how our media manage our information, there is a group of Singaporeans who distrust everything found in the official position, and find a conspiracy under every stone.  They will oppose the ruling party because they are ruling.  If another party is ruling, they will oppose that party.  They are just the perpetual opposition, perpetual objectors; they make cynicism their badge of pride.

Let me point to these two events so we can go through our emotional indignation together.

Not too long ago, Shane Todd, an American scientist who worked in Singapore was found dead, hanging in his bathroom.  The Financial Times began to speculate that he was murdered but it was made to look like suicide, and the Singapore investigators were either incompetent, or worse. The conspiracy theory is that Shane’s work is connected to Huawei, the China company, and this work led to his murder. Shane’s family took up the issue and eventually the US government got involved.  The FBI and other American personnel were given full access to the Singapore investigation.  My initial assessment was that the case of conspiracy was weak.  At the same time the Singapore side was saying that they cannot discuss an ongoing case.  I didn’t have much to go on, but the prima facie case is that it was suicide and not murder, but there is a possibility that the Singapore investigators who have less experience with murder and staged suicide may have missed out something.  So I was pleased to learn the US government is 100% satisfied with their access to information, etc.

The case was reexamined, and the conclusion is that Shane’s death was suicide and the US government is satisfied.  The only dissatisfied parties are Shane’s family and Financial Times. In this case, I believe truth prevails and justice has not suffered any miscarriage — in the legal sense.  But it is unfortunate that FT remains obtuse and insist they have done no wrong.  This only discredits the FT in the long term. I am pleased that the Singapore government did not respond to the FT with defamation suits because if they had done so, it would suggest Singapore has something to hide.  Instead, they allowed any lingering doubt to surface and their position challenged in public.  Truth is not afraid of investigation. In this instance, the Singapore government and the investigators emerge fully exonerated. It is not just the Singapore court decision that upheld suicide but the US government satisfaction that Shane was not murdered and this must persuade even skeptics.

It grieves me to see the netizens condemn Singapore’s handling of the case, which I believe was completely clear headed, as was the US government’s.  The only befuddled people are FT, the two demagogic senators from Shane’s state, and Singapore’s own netizens who adopt a “blame Singapore first” attitude. My indignation was not towards the Singapore system.  In this case, it is admiration.  My indignation is towards FT and certain netizens.  The foolishness of Shane’s family can be ameliorated by their grief. But what excuse can Singapore netizens have to condemn ourselves when we are right?

I think most Singaporeans do not follow the trial of George Zimmerman now approaching its close in a live televised court in Florida.  So please be patient as I outline it for you.  Last year, George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. There is no debate on that.  The question was whether it was self-defense or some level of culpable homicide. Race should not come into play when we are concerned with justice, but it does.  And the sooner we acknowledge it, the better off we will be.  George Zimmerman is hispanic and Trayvon Martin is black.

On the night of the event, Zimmerman, a member of the neighborhood watch noticed a suspicious character, a tall black man in a hoodie in his neighborhood where there had been many break-ins. He called 911 and wanted to follow the man.  They eventually encountered each other and it led to a fist fight.  Martin (black), got the better of Zimmerman (hispanic), smashed his head to the ground, broke his nose, and was sitting on top of Zimmerman pulmetting him with blows.  Zimmerman was armed, and reached for his gun and shot Martin who died in a very short time as the bullet went through his heart.

Zimmerman’s testimony, his call for help, his head injuries, his broken nose, all point to a prima facie case that he was indeed acting in self-defense. The police did not arrest him or charge him.  The state prosecutor also saw self-defense and did not prosecute Zimmerman.  But Obama and the black activists, including those who call themselves Christians, pressed for charges to be brought against Zimmerman.  The police chief who did not press charges was fired. The state attorney who did not press charges against Zimmerman was pressured to remove himself. Another prosecutor was appointed who would charge Zimmerman.  It is clear that there did not appear to be a real case against Zimmerman. People were losing their jobs in the name of justice for a stranger they did not know!  But, we must not be hasty.  There may be things that will come out in court that we the public does not know.

All the evidence has been presented in court and the prosecution and defense are now presenting closing arguments. All the commentators and what I can follow on the case indicate that the charge of second degree homicide will not be able to stand. Knowing this, the prosecution wanted the jury to consider the lesser charge of manslaughter — the judge allowed it.  The prosecutor also wanted to include the charge of third degree homicide based on child abuse (because Martin is 17 years old) — the judge disallowed it.

I have not speculated on Zimmerman’s motive for following Martin, and I have not speculated on Martin’s actions that dark night.  But the evidence is clear.  The grass stains were on Zimmerman’s back and Martin’s knees, Zimmerman had head injuries and a broken nose.  Eyewitness called by the prosecution confirmed Martin was on top beating Zimmerman, after which the shot went off.  There is not even enough evidence for the police to book him or the prosecutor to proceed.  This prosecution was created by the political pressure from black activist groups and Obama himself.  If Zimmerman were to be convicted for anything, it would be a grave injustice and Obama would have been a significant contributor to this injustice.

I am not white, not hispanic, not black, and I don’t have a dog in this fight.  My only interest is for justice.  Even if Zimmerman is acquitted, is justice served? He would remain a free man, but he has legal bills he will never be able to pay off (I am guessing).  When justice is done there is still injustice in the process. And these government servants who perpetrate injustice are not accountable while those who chose to do right were fired or had to step aside.  Would this be justice?

True justice comes when Jesus rules. In the great prophecy about the Messiah to come, Isaiah said, “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:7).

When we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven” we are praying and exercising our hearts to long for the day when justice will prevail on earth.  We are praying for true justice.  We are praying that God in Christ will return to rule the earth and doing so as the all knowing judge, justice will prevail.

There is an imperfect justice even in the best of courts. This is because our laws are imperfect, our knowledge is imperfect, and our motives to pursue a case are often wrong. In the case of Shane Todd, Singapore has to be humble and in the process of time vindicated herself.  In the case of Trayvon Martin, the first victims of wrong prosecution are already fixed: the police chief who refused to book Zimmerman and the original state attorney who refused to prosecute. Obama abused his power with comments unbecoming of a president, and the black activists are the chief proponents of injustice in this case. But these people will never be held accountable.

Lord Jesus, raised up a people in America who can discern right from wrong.  Let them choose their next leaders based on sound ethical principles.  Quash the evil tide of injustice, special interest groups, and those who call ‘good’ ‘evil’ and who call ‘evil’ ‘good.’

Lord God, expand the minds of your people in Singapore who still think that we can isolate ourselves from the shifting tides of this world.  Cause us to pray for our leaders and the leaders of the world, that your kingdom will come to earth, and your will be done here on earth as in heaven. Cause us to reject any delusion that Singapore is heaven on earth, and let us turn our trust to you and not to man.

Peter Eng (11 July 2013)

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The Presence of God

5I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. … 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15)

From time to time, the Holy Spirit of God will move powerfully in the midst of a group of Christians praying, and that presence of God will be undeniable.  But if we do not practice the presence of God in our private prayer, it is unlikely that we will experience the presence of God in corporate prayer.

In fact, Scripture tells us that when the Holy Spirit comes on a heart that is not prepared to receive him as a true child of God, strange things happen to the person who so receives the Holy Spirit.  (1 Sam 19:23-24)

First, we need to seek the presence of God during consecrated time.  That is to say, we need to set aside time to be with God in prayer and experience his presence there through the normal engagement in prayer — starting with thanksgiving, confession, etc.

Experiencing the presence of God in prayer is a wonderful thing.  It makes our faith real.  It establishes a relationship with God, and in that, we truly abide in the vine (i.e. in Christ).  Our prayer takes on a different dimension — it gets answered!

Next, the Christian who has first experienced the prayer presence of God can learn the experience of the perpetual presence of God. This happens when the Holy Spirit of God fills our life that the moments of a day are passed in God’s presence. There is a God-consciousness and a God-communion throughout the day.

Many Christians have not experienced the first and so cannot experience the second. Let us seek the presence of God in prayer and truly grow in our Christian walk.

Praying through Pain

“Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” (Luke 22:40)

Jesus said these words to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane as he got himself ready for his own betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. 

This was a temptation to avoid pain, not a temptation to indulge in sinful pleasure.  The temptation they were about to face was a pain-temptation, not a pleasure-temptation.

Christians today are more alert to pleasure-temptation than we are to pain-temptation. One example of a pain-temptation is suicide. Suicide is an act that says, “I have enough of this pain, I cannot take any more of it, I will end it by ending my life.

Our complacency towards pain- temptation is so humanly typical that we see this in the disciples also.  Despite Jesus’ call for them to pray that they do not give in to the pain-temptation they were about to face, they fell asleep. The pleasure-temptation of sleep was too much for them.

Jesus called them a second time, “‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.’” (Luke 22:46)

We tend to think that we should be delivered from all pain.  That was not the case with Jesus, and not the case with the disciples. Let us ask the Lord for strength not to give in to pain-temptations.

Under the Haze

by Peter Eng

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You can see his concern turn into fear.  Vinny’s face is scarred and hardened after 25 years of hard military service to the emperor.  Battles bring out rage, excitement, passion, not fear.  But this thick pall exceeds the fires of a thousand battles.  The largess of the new emperor Titus on his retirement allows him this beautiful little house at Salernum, overlooking the clear waters of the gulf.  He  moved in only a month ago; he still tingles from his new house, new girlfriend, and new fishing boat.

But the August sky is not looking good.  He first felt the quake and then saw a huge column of smoke in the north, in the direction of Neapolis. There shouldn’t be any problem.  They had the feast of Vulcanalia yesterday, and the prophets of Vulcan, the god of fire and earthquakes had assured them the tremors they have been feeling were only the delighted tossings of a sleeping Vulcan.  They have nothing to do with Mount Vesuvius.

Sallust, his neighbor looks at the black column, more puzzled than fearful.  Sallust has never served in war, and does not recognize the danger.  Or perhaps, it is because he belongs to this new cult that worships a criminal crucified somewhere in the province of Judea. They tend to take things so easily, but are so deeply entrenched in their faith at the same time.  Strange combination.

They sat there on the slope watching in awed silence punctuated only with “Look at that, the smoke is rising!” “Is it coming our way?” “Do you think Vulcan woke up in a bad mood?” “What do you think we should do?”

“Look!” Sallust said, after about half an hour. “The wind is blowing it our way.” “We better get out of here.”

“Yes,” Vinny agreed.  “But where should we go?”

“The smoke is coming from the northwest, so we should flee to the southeast towards Buxentum,” Sallust suggested.

“By the way, Vinny, you haven’t got any transport yet. Why don’t you escape with my family in our wagon.” Sallust offered.

“I was thinking of taking my small fishing boat and hug the coast,” Vinny replied.

Volcano Eruption“You are a landlubber aren’t you?” Sallust countered. “All of us who live by the sea know the sea is the worst place to be when there is an earthquake or tremor. The sea can really churn. This is why we have the saying, ‘When Vulcan comes out to play, Neptune will not be left out.’ You should just come with us.” He said with finality. Vinny agrees, some of that anxiety ease from his face.

“Do you have space for my girlfriend also?” Vinny asked.

“Of course!” Sallust exclaims as he got to his feet.  “We will make space if there isn’t. But we must hurry. You get Flavia, and I will get my family and prepare the wagon.”

Vinny finds Flavia quite beautiful and quite asleep.  “Wake up!” he  cries.  As she rubs sleep from her eyes, he explains to her what is happening. Vinny gets his bag and put in his silver, food, and a change of clothes for Flavia and himself.

Within 30 minutes they are out of the house as Sallust, Livia,their three children and housemaid are loading up their wagon powered by two horses. Vinny and Flavia quickly introduce themselves to Livia whom they have not met and help the family load the supplies. Sallust takes the reins and Vinny joins him in front.  The three women and three children cram together in the back.

Comfort is not foremost on their mind.  The black cloud is coming closer, and it is drizzling ash and pumice.  They need to get out.

The coastal road to Buxentum is slow with wagons and people fleeing the eruption of Vesuvius. At least they have the assurance that what they are doing is probably right.

At twilight, they are only half way to Buxentum, but it is time to set-up camp. The ash is less and there is no more pumice, but the smoky haze around them feels like they are in a ham smokehouse. There is no room for complacency as news arrives from those who escaped Pompeii that the city is no more.  Buried under ash and pumice.

Vinny and Sallust lay on the ground beside the wagon looking blankly into a soupy night sky.  There are no stars, and the moon is no more than a faint fuzzy glow.

“Looks like we dodged this arrow,” Vinny remarked. “Thanks to you,” he added.

“Yes, indeed, we survived this one,” Sallust concurred. “But, you know, one day we will pass from this life.  Have you made plans for that?”

“What? You mean like when we die?” Vinny clarified.

“Yes,” said Sallust.

“I don’t really know. I pray to my Lares and Penates like everybody else.  I hope they will welcome me to where they are, wherever that is. And if I have a chance, I will ask Vulcan why he has to blow his top just when I moved south.” Vinny chuckled good humoredly.

“One day, I will die like anybody else.  But unlike anybody else, I will rise from the dead,” Sallust said matter of factly. “And I will live forever with Iesous1 my Lord and my God.”

“What you say makes no sense to me!” Vinny said. “How can you rise from the dead, and who knows what will happen to our world?”

“I used to think like that, Vinny.  That is until I found Iesous.  Can I tell you what I found?” Sallust asked.

“Sure.”

“The Holy Book of the Jews and the Christians say there will come a time when the earth will be purged with fire, and God will make a new heaven and a new earth. God will judge all of us.  All of us will fail because we don’t deserve such a perfect world which he will create.  But if we belong to his Kingdom, we get to live in his Kingdom in our resurrected body. Do you think you qualify to join God’s holy, sinless Kingdom?”

“You got to be kidding me right?” Vinny remarked.  If I were God, I won’t let me into heaven.  You know I was a soldier. I have killed people in battle, I have raped women, killed children, stolen their valuables, enjoyed the suffering of my enemies on the cross.  How could God ever let me go to heaven?  At best, I join my ancestor Lares.  And I don’t know if I will go to hell or wander this earth as a soul without a body.” Vinny looks resigned.

“You can change your future, you know.  You can stop being on the side of the world and get to God’s side of the story,” Sallust offered.

“What is God like?  What is it to be on his side?” Vinny asked.

“Oh, that one is easy,” Sallust replied. Can you remember the great banquet Emperor Titus hosted to celebrate his coming to power two months ago?”

“Of course!” Vinny exclaimed. “I was there! I had fought under Vespasian, and when my retirement coincided with the emperor coming to power, I got invited to the banquet.  One of these days, I will tell you about this magnificent banquet.”

“For now, can you explain to me why you were invited, and why other people like me were not invited,” Sallust replied.

“As I said, I fought under Vespasian. The house of Flavian has been good to me.  This is why my girlfriend renamed herself Flavia.  I was a soldier under Vespasian.  What would Titus do to honor his father and to reward the soldiers that fought for his father?  He invited us to the banquet of a lifetime!”  Vinny is obviously on a topic he loves.

“Vinny, there is a spiritual war going on since man first walked this earth.  Some call it the battle between good and evil.  But it is not abstract.  Like we can call Rome’s battles ‘struggles between civilization against barbarism.’  The reality is that in every war or struggle there are real persons in the struggle. Civilization and barbarity did not wield swords and spears.  You did.  Your enemies did.  You were fighting for your kingdom and they were fighting for theirs.  You won and they lost.  You were invited to this great banquet in celebration of your victory. Human history will climax when God will defeat the devil in a cosmic battle, after which there will be a great feast.  All who belong to him, his church, will be like a bride to him.  There will be a great celebration and the prophet John said, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9, NLT).”

Sallust continues, “When our human history ends, I will find myself on the right side, and the winning side. Just like you found yourself on the winning side when you fought for Vespasian.”

“You see this smoke, this haze, you smell this foul air?  It is different things to different people.  But to me, it is a wonderful reminder that when God purifies the earth with fire and burns up all that is bad, I will be spared.  Iesous, was crucified by Pontius Pilate, our Roman governor.  But he rose again from the dead three days later and tells us that when we belong to him, build his kingdom, fight our spiritual war with him, he will raise us up from the dead.”

“Do you mean, like our soul going to heaven?” Vinny is sort of getting it.

“Yes, but it is much more.  When we die, our soul goes to God. But we are without our body.  Souls cannot do things the body can do.  God made us body and soul.  At death, body and soul are parted. But at the resurrection, God raised our body and gives it back to us — if we belong to him. It will be an incorruptible body, and we reign with him over all the earth in an everlasting kingdom.  It is called the new heaven and the new earth.

“Wow, how come nobody told me this before!”  Vinny is now sitting up.  “I want to be on God’s side, on the winning side. I can imagine it will be so wonderful, much better than the banquet by the emperor Titus. I will dodge many arrows in life, but one day, there will be an arrow with my name on it.  I want to die knowing I will rise up again.  Is this why I hear you guys worship the Iesous guy who was crucified as a criminal?”

“Yes, indeed!” Sallust replied. “All his disciples lost all hope for a Jewish Kingdom that would overthrow our Roman Kingdom when the Roman governor crucified him.  But the best part is this. Their hope was wrong, and they had to have their hopes dashed. Iesous, whom they also call Christos, rose from the dead, not defeating the Roman Kingdom but the Kingdom of Death.  All who belong to him share in this resurrection! All who belong to him belong to his Kingdom.”

“Wow! Wow! This is mind boggling! It is like when Julius Caesar seems to have lost all hope when fighting the Gauls, and then through sheer brilliance that nobody else could see, he wrested victory from certain defeat.” Vinny said, “I understand now. I need to belong to the right Kingdom, fight for the right imperator, and when human history winds up, I will be resurrected to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Is that it?”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Sallust laughed.

That night, Sallust took a flask of water from their provision, had Vinny kneel down, and as he poured water over Vinny’s head, said, “Vinny, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

That night, AD 79, 25th August, under the foul smoke of Vesuvius, came the sweet fragrance of a man forgiven for his past sins, and redeemed for all eternity into the everlasting Kingdom of God.


A Story by Peter Eng
, as he reflects on the haze under which Singapore suffers, and the haze that hangs over the neighborhood of Mt Vesuvius when it erupted on 24th August 79 Anno Domini.

Footnote: 1Iesous is the Greek/Latin name for Jesus.  The initial “I” of a word is pronounced as “Y” but written as “I.” The sound would be “Yesous.” This is the sound from which the Chinese call Jesus, which is much closer than “Jesus” in English.


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Our Hazy Future

I guess I’m wrong.  I tell people in America that Singapore is a boring place.  We never have earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, or volcanoes.  We have no snow, ice or hail, and the only bad weather we have to deal with is humidity.  We enjoy good boring weather.

I forget that from time to time, we get overwhelmed by the weather changing activities of our neighboring country. Of course, our complaints are “childish”, all we have to do is to give them the money to fight the fires and all will be well, right? If you believe it, I have a piece of swamp land I like to sell you!

As Singaporeans scramble to get face masks, our national leaders scramble to persuade our neighbors to more neighborly behavior.  Singapore is a small country. We are incapable of strong action.  Let’s be realistic about this.  The pledge of our leaders express their good intention rather than actual ability to effect change in the behavior of our much larger neighbor.

The smoke we face is bad, for sure.  I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but I would like to suggest we put things in perspective and see that there is a greater threat than smoke from forest fires.

I am not an alarmist by nature.  I did not rush out to buy gold for security.  I did not think year 2000 would plunge us into chaos. I did not think the Kohoutek comet or the Hale-Bopp comet would end the world. And more recently, I was totally unconvinced that a sequestration of spending by the American government would be a fiscal cliff, and it was not even a bump. But I am concerned about the effects of global warming.

Projections is that the world will be warmer by 1.5 to 5.3 Celsius (or more).  The sea level is expected to rise from a few centimeters to 25 meters (and of course some predict even higher). From what I read, it appears Singapore is prepared for a rise of up to 59 cm.  If the sea rises 25 meters, we will be in big trouble! It is difficult for any nation to build sea walls or raise it’s land to compensate a rise in sea level by 25 meters.

I wish I were more knowledgeable on what to expect.  Would it be a sea level rise of less than 60 cm or 25 meters? If it will be 25 meters, many countries will disappear.  There will be a global refugee problem.  There will be wars fought over land and freshwater.

Again, I am not an alarmist.  I am just very limited in my knowledge, and I would suggest that experts can also be sensationalistic.  For instance, I will assume the global warming will be at the scale that is predicted, that is, up to about 6 degrees Celsius.  One scenario will be the melting ice at the polar caps, water expanding in volume when heated, etc, and the sea level rise by 25 meters. A different scenario is that the currents carrying warm and cold water will cease, and beyond a certain time, the hot temperature will cause the Atlantic heat conveyor (Thermohaline Circulation) to slow or stop, bring about a new ice age, or extreme cold and heat.

The options we have before us are: (1) a fundamentally similar world that is hotter by up to 6 degrees Celsius with a rise of sea level that is less than 60 cm.  (2) The same temperature rise resulting in a sea level rise of 25 meters. (3) A temperature rise leading to a global cooling that follows. (4) A temperature rise that leads to cooler poles and a hotter equator.

Perhaps the only scenario Singapore is incapable of handling is #2, a dramatic rise of the sea level. According to some even scarier estimates, the whole of Singapore will be under water. Will Singapore be rebuilt to survive below sea level?  Will Singapore relocate (like the people of Kiribati who are in the process of relocating)? Will there be global and local conflict over land and freshwater?

Now think of our haze.  There is no denying the haze is highly disruptive.  But our future is truly hazy.  Our current haze will pass.  Let us pray for wisdom to discern the truth from the false assurances or the alarmist scares about our future as a nation in light of global warming.

One persistent question folks ask is why there is so much suffering in the world, and so much evil.  “Why doesn’t God stop the evil people?” While it is not right to place our incendiary neighbors in the category of people who do great evil, the principle is the same.  One important reason why people suffer is the free choice other people exercise that result in suffering.

Some jihadists decided to kill innocent bystanders because they chose to do so.  Their free choice resulted in the suffering of the innocent.  The Japanese invaded many countries in Asia in WW2 and caused widespread death and destruction with untold suffering.  They were exercising their free choice to do evil. A drunk chose to drink and drive and in the process struck and paralyzed a teenager for life.

Much (not all) of our suffering result from our God-given privilege of free choice. This is a right he has given humankind, and does not retract it when it is abused.  God does not retract the free choice of Indonesians because we don’t like the pollution they cause.

Where we stand as Christians is to recognize that we too have the free choice to address the problem. We can choose to equip ourselves better to handle the haze.  I notice the barely effective masks most Singaporeans wear.  Can we not protect ourselves better? I also notice that our air-conditioning does not handle pollution.  We need to consider air purifiers in our homes.

Peter Eng