Blog.

Unstoppable Blessings

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
It is the first worship service @theWell. We have no idea who will show up. And you show up! And you are here today.

Pastor Tan lifted up our hearts in worship to God our Father, and I shared God’s Word with you on the theme “Unstoppable.” We have now worshipped together for 104 Sundays. And these two years have been a season of unstoppable blessings from God.

I am not suggesting the past two years were trouble free. Even now, some of us struggle with personal difficulties. But God has been good to us despite our challenges. We rejoice with the Psalmist,

Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you. (Psalm 91:7)

Our sick have recovered. Our wounded are mended. Our families live securely. Our children are growing up well. Our parents are aging gracefully. Our community is growing. We are growing personally.

When we do wrong or sin, we humble ourselves and return to our loving Father and He continues His blessings. Conversely, if we live in bitterness or anger, God’s blessings will stop.

If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18)

The evil one is at war against us. He brings pain and suffering to snare us. He entices us with sinful indulgences. And sadly, he sometimes succeeds, and he trips us up. We don’t pretend we do not sin. We confess and set things right, and God has not withheld His blessings.

We will not pretend we do not have burdens. By and large, I notice our burdens concern people we love. When it comes to the actual members of our community, we are remarkably blessed. I believe this is not because we are better than others, rather, it is because we are a fledgling community and God grants us special grace. In my many years of ministry, I cannot recall a community as blessed as this.

That is to say, because you are in this ministry that requires special care, you have also become a beneficiary of God’s special care. At least, that is why I believe I have seen such goodness from God. Blessings come not because I am good, but because He is good, this community needs it, and as a member of this community, I share in what God bestows on this community.

My sharing with you two years ago was the Unstoppable Kingdom of God. Not only is God’s Kingdom unstoppable in its growth, God pours out His unstoppable blessings when we engage in kingdom work.

I was hoping that we might have something definitive to share with you about the missional move we were praying about. God in His infinite wisdom appears not to have opened the way for us. And that is fine. As Pastor Tan and I shared with you all, every direction is from the Lord, and every direction is a blessing. He sees pitfalls we do not see and He sees opportunities we do not see. His timing is not only the best timing, it is the only timing we should go with. For now, it looks like we will continue to enjoy the blessing of worshiping in this comfortable place. All praise to God!

At the same time, we look to the Lord to guide us into another kingdom opportunity, another opportunity to make disciples. He knows the best for us, all we have to do is to be sensitive to His leading. Every closed door is a blessing no less than every open door.

I am very thankful to God for our exploration of a missional move because it makes us articulate our mission more clearly: (1) We are willing to explore a move or an outreach, whichever is more viable. (2) We do not reject, but we avoid capital acquisitions so our resources can be more focused on people. (3) If the Lord opens the door for us to have a ministry without having to pay for the place, it would be ideal. (4) God willing, we can find an ideal ministry partner who takes care of the business and the premises and our pastoral staff engage in the core spiritual work.

It is a great blessing to have this focus!

We have every reason to hope for God’s unstoppable blessings in the months ahead because we want to put ourselves always in that need. We want to be poor in spirit that we may be blessed. And every blessing turn back to praise the Lord our God.

Pastor Peter Eng

BREXIT

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
The die is cast. Brexit it will be. The response is swift and there is chaos and confusion. Scotland and Northern Ireland indicate they may choose EU over UK. France may want out. Netherlands may want out. Trading markets drop as the decrease in trade is imminent. Gold shot up. The USD moved 3 cents up against SGD overnight. Singapore has suffered 19 straight months of consumer price decline (May 2016). Brexit can only add to Singapore’s deflationary pressures.

I recall the time when Christians were arguing that when the EU has 10 nations, to correspond to the 10 toes of the image in Daniel 2, the kingdom of the anti-Christ will be established. Where is that argument now? The European Union may fall apart if France leaves. It is unlikely the small nations want to surrender to the only large economy left—Germany.

Brexit affirms the danger of newspaper application to the Bible. It is good that we want the Bible to come alive and apply to our lives. There is a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. Most Christians who interpret every incident as proving that Jesus is coming soon, are motivated by the desire to create urgency so we will get our life in order. The desire is good, but the generation of falsehood detracts from truth, and from the real motivation for us to get our life in order because Jesus is coming.

First, I want to affirm the Bible teaches us:

1. The Good News must first go out to the whole world (Matthew 24:14).
2. The “man of lawlessness” must first appear (2 Thessalonians 2). He will set himself up as though he were God.
3. Conclusion: there is hardly any observable point as to the coming of the Lord apart from the man of lawlessness. I believe the political readings supporting the soon return of Christ are more Christian imagination than biblical interpretation.

Second, I want to point you to a positive view of what we should expect until Jesus comes:

1. God will establish an everlasting kingdom in Jesus Christ. “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.” (Daniel 2:44-45)
2. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
3. God’s kingdom started with Jesus, and will grow stronger. “He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)
4. Conclusion: we should expect the Kingdom of God to advance and be victorious, we are not struggling in a losing battle. Jesus secured our victory.

Response to Brexit

Should Brexit lead to the departure of Scotland and Northern Ireland, we may be witnessing the closing chapter of the British Empire on which the sun did not set. The kingdoms of the world come and go. Our true focus is on the kingdom of God. The everlasting kingdom, the kingdom that works towards God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. It started with Jesus coming to earth and it will end when Jesus returns with the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1-4), when all of creation will be redeemed (Romans 8:22-23).

On the practical front, we can expect Brexit to have negative economic pressures on our livelihood. We can expect deflationary pressures to get worse in Singapore, and we may be wise to take a defensive posture in most areas. That is part-and-parcel of life on earth and it has impact on how we plan our programs, not on the imminent return of Jesus.

Our economic well-being is not related to the well-being of God’s kingdom. The Jewish Christians suffered a much worse loss of status when Jerusalem was destroyed (AD 70). The Jews rejected Jesus’s warning to stop looking for a new messiah, and they turned to Simon Bar Kochba. It resulted in their further destruction and dispersion under Emperor Hadrian (AD 132). National Israel suffered, but spiritual Israel continued to grow and prosper.

We are Spiritual Israel. We are the Kingdom of God. We will grow and fill the earth until all the kingdoms of the world pass away. We will be here after the United Kingdom becomes the Untied Kingdom. We will be here when Singapore no longer exists as a nation. We will be here when the United States also become untied. We will be here when China, India, Russia are all gone. We are God’s forever kingdom. Seek ye first the kingdom of God.

Pastor Peter Eng

Dads and Daughters

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Daughters are precious to dads. Dads love and idealize their daughters, and it is not uncommon to find moms taking a firmer line on their daughters than dads.

I recently came across a scary question about raising daughters that made me think long and hard. That is: “Now that your daughters are grown, how would you raise them differently if you can do over?”

It is scary because it is immediately an admission of short-coming. And as a father, I desperately want to be as perfect as it is humanly possible. I know I cannot be perfect, but I want my imperfections to be so insignificant as to be unnoticeable. But truth be told, I am probably the last person in the family to notice my own short-comings! So any admission on my part would come as no revelation to anyone but me.

And when I start thinking about the question, I know I have more than one point to say about how I could have done better.

I have two daughters and a son. One value I have is to love my children equally, and not play favorites. It is apparent that I relate to my son differently from my daughters simply because his interests are different. But I wish I had related to my two daughters differently. I had noticed their differences, but I treated both of them in more-or-less the same way. I was relating to them as though there is a median between them, when in reality, I would have done much better relating to them as individuals. I allowed one value (equal treatment) to dominate when equal value does not necessarily translate into same treatment in many areas. I suppose seeking a mean or a median between my daughters would have been fine if they are both quite similar. But they are poles apart.

One daughter loves to elaborate and another loves to abbreviate. Just on this alone, I notice my failure to engage them differently. If I could do over, I will spend more them with each daughter, with one, to listen more and encourage towards lucid brevity; and with the other, to solicit more engagement. Whether loquacious or taciturn, I wish I had spent more time listening to them, because both silence and words can hide pain.

It is difficult to apportion airtime when the family is together. But my efforts were somewhat limited to family time and not enough individual time.

I had allowed the fact that they are both daughters to flatten out the other reality that they are very different individuals with quite contrasting aptitude, personality, etc. I was dispensing parenting as a broad-spectrum antibiotic capable of curing all ills rather than giving careful regard to each child’s different need. The result is that what they hold in common would be addressed, but what they hold in distinction would be ignored. And they had significant distinctiveness.

There is a word in current use, which describes my own short-fall. It is the need to be intentional. Intentional parenting for my daughters, one-on-one time for each of them would be what I would do differently.

My two daughter are born 14 months apart from each other. They rarely not-share what could be shared. Even as babies, we put them in the same stroller and people thought they were twins. They have always shared a room, sat beside each other at table, etc.

I do not regret raising them together. It was the only practicable thing to do, and it was fun for them, and for us. But I regret not spending intentional time with each of them. And I don’t have the excuse that I have too many children to be able to spend time with all of them. So, answering the question how I would parent my daughters differently has made me realize I still do not spent enough individual time with each of them. Perhaps it is time my regret should be turned into action.

As a child, I suggest you ought to create intentional time with your parents. You do not need to wait for your parents to create that time. They will be more than happy if you say you want to spend time with them to chat with them. As a parent, I suggest you can do better than I, if you will spend time with each child as an individual. And together, we can encourage each other to listen more than we talk—even in parenting.

Pastor Peter Eng

What Jesus Teaches Us About Focus

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51).

This seemingly obscure line is the watershed in Luke’s Gospel concerning Jesus. There came a time when Jesus set out resolutely towards Jerusalem. From this point in the narrative to his resurrection and ascension, everything is depicted as a journey to Jerusalem.

“… because he was heading for Jerusalem” (9:53)

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way …” (10:38)

“… as he made his way to Jerusalem.” (13:22)

“In any case, I must press on … Jerusalem (13:33)

“Now on his way to Jerusalem …” (17:11)

“We are going up to Jerusalem …” (18:31)

“…because he was near Jerusalem …” (19:11)

“… he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” (19:28)

“As he approached Jerusalem …” (19:41)

Jerusalem will be the epicenter of Jesus’ mission. Luke tells us “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” He will not be distracted. The Jesus before the Jerusalem journey is a little different from the Jesus on the Jerusalem journey. The clarity and focus on Jerusalem does not allow for any distraction.

The distraction of alternate locations

The immediate response to this Jerusalem journey is rejection. He sends disciples ahead to a Samaritan village and the people reject him. Why? “The people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.” (9:53). They would be very happy if Jesus tells them the place of fulfillment is in Samaria. They reject Jesus on account of his destination being Jerusalem, but Jesus remains steadfast.

I am not saying this implying any criticism on you. We had unanimous agreement to move to where we can serve the Lord even better. Our Jerusalem is where we can engage even more in the mission of Jesus our Lord. We are not fixated on one property/location, but we are fixed on the mission that Jesus gave us. We can rightly rejoice in our unanimous agreement on the mission. What I am saying is that we need to be aware of the distraction of alternatives. Once we have settled on a mission, we should focus on it.

The distraction of good

Jesus says to one, “‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ You sure you want to follow me?” Another man says to Jesus he needs to bury his father first before following Jesus, but Jesus says, “Let the dead bury the dead.” Another says, “First let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replies, “No one who puts his hands on the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62).

Any way you want to cut it, Jesus appears unreasonably demanding. He does not make the same type of demands elsewhere, and people try to explain away why he is so demanding, but forget the occasion. Jesus is heading for Jerusalem. It is now or never. Whereas at other times, we read of God’s patience with us, here we see Jesus’s focus on Jerusalem.

We will have the distraction of personal issues. We need to learn from Jesus, that when there is a Jerusalem to be seized, we must set aside many personal concerns that may be legitimate at other times. We see this regularly in life. Sitting down with family and friends for a meal or a drink and a leisurely chat is a wonderful blessing. But that is not the right attention when someone is dying and needs our immediate attention.

There is nothing wrong with having a place to lay your head. There is nothing wrong with burying the dead. There is nothing wrong with saying goodbye to our family. But there is an urgency of Jerusalem in the life of Jesus that will not wait for these good things.

The greatest enemy of great is good. It is the good things that keep us from the great thing. And there can come a time in life when we must reject the good to seize the great. This is a time to deny ourselves the blessings of good to seize the great. The Lord’s work requires haste, and the time has come for us to hasten to obey him.

The distraction of rejection

Another passage that puzzles Christians is when Jesus tells his disciples “…when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you.’” (Luke 10:10-12). This is followed by curses on Chorazin and Bethsaida (Luke 10:13-15). Yet in most other places, we see God’s incredible patience.

Jesus’s instruction to his disciples to reject those who reject him, and his curse on the two towns should be understood in light of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. There is no more time. The time for judgment is at hand. (The Jewish nation will be conquered and Jerusalem will be destroyed in AD 70). Jesus faces rejection in certain towns, but they will not detain him or his disciples. He no longer pauses for them. They need to repent now! Tomorrow is too late.

Jesus calls for disciples up to a point. When that point is reached. There is a final call, but he will not be detained by their rejection. “God is not willing that any should perish” and the return of Jesus is not immediate because he is waiting for the repentance of those who do not yet know Jesus. But there will come a time when he returns and at that time, there is no more waiting.

Brethren, we have heeded God’s call. We have become conscious of the end of our lease here. We have grown while we are here. We see we can obey Jesus even better if we reposition ourselves. Our community in agreement is the amazing work of the Holy Spirit to unite our hearts.

At the same time, we must not be surprised if we face rejection. I am confident even if some reject in their hearts, they will eventually see the blessing. We just need to remind ourselves that a rejection or two, should it come, must not distract us from the opportunity to obey Jesus more fully in his Great Commission to us.

Our Jerusalem

Our Jerusalem is to serve Jesus our Lord even better. To extend our ministry from worship to children, youth, and singles; to extend our reach to the community around us. Our Jerusalem is to do the best with the resources God has provided us. And when we put this mix together, we see the opportunity open up for us in Yishun.

There is a greater blessing waiting for us. We were blessed with Sophia, blessed with our current location, and there is a Jerusalem from which we will receive greater blessing – if we will stay focused and not be distracted.

The time for action is upon us. Action, not distraction. Focus, not fuzziness. Faith, not fear.

Pastor Peter Eng

The Tale of Two Houses

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
David ben Jesse sat before the LORD in the Tent of Meeting (1 Chronicles 17:16). No different from how he sat at the feet of Jesse his father when he was a child. Today, David is a king secure in his reign. But he continues to come to God as a child. A child who knows he is loved. He does not forget the LORD is his Father.

David wants to build a house for the LORD. David looks at his own house made of fine cedar wood. But the ark of the covenant, representing the presence of the LORD, resides in a tent. “If my house can be so nice, isn’t it a disgrace that I have done nothing for the ark of the LORD? It is the LORD’S presence that has brought me thus far. It is high time I build something for the LORD.”

David consults Nathan the prophet. Nathan immediately recognizes this is a good thing. David has taken the initiative to build a temple to house the presence of the Lord. “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.” Nathan replies. But that same night, the Lord tells Nathan he does not want David to build a house for him. Instead, his son Solomon would be the one who builds that house.

This is not a rejection of David. He has shed too much blood and if he were to build the house of the Lord, it will be forever associated with his bloodshed (1 Chronicles 22:8). All life is sacred, even the life of God’s enemies. Here we catch a glimpse of God’s heart even for those who hate God and want to thwart his will.

The Lord then sends Nathan to David with a message. First David must get this understanding of God right. The Lord does not live in a house. His presence on earth, though represented by the ark of the covenant, is not limited by it. Instead his presence is with his people. “I have moved from one tent site to another.” Indeed the Lord says, “I have moved with all the Israelites” through the wilderness from Egypt to this land. (17:5,6). So the first point that David and all Israel must learn is that the Lord is not limited by location. And this lesson will eventually resurface when Israel was sent into exile. The Lord’s presence is no less when the physical house of the Lord is destroyed.

The second thing David learns is God’s goodness to him. “David, you love me and want to give me a house. Do you know how much I have loved you and continues to love you?” That is what God is saying in effect. “You were a shepherd boy when I took you from the fields. You had no prospect of greatness, but I appointed you ruler over my people Israel. You live securely and in prosperity because I have cut off all your enemies. Your name is great now. And my people have a place to live securely and well.” What an amazing God! He blesses David not only with good, but with the blessing of being able to bless others.

But God is not done with his goodness to David. He tells David,

“One day, you will die. You will then have no ability to influence your family in any way.” (David has made a right royal mess of raising his children, but God will bless in spite of the mess.) “One of your sons will be established and he will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.” And, “I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever”(17:11-14).

“You want to build a house for me? I will build a house for you, a house that you have no control over, and a house that will be infinitely greater than any you can imagine.”

David wants to build a house for the Lord—a physical house, a temple. He wants to do it to thank God for his goodness. But God tells David He will build a house for him—a household. David has already built his own physical house. But David has poor parenting skills and his sons have died. The biggest blot in David’s life is his dysfunctional family. God takes that up with David.

David’s son, Solomon, who would build the temple will eventually die like all men. Yet God says to David, “I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever” (17:14). God has just declared his forever kingdom and his forever king who will come from the line of David. It is from David’s line that the Messiah will come. It is from David’s line that God will establish his forever kingdom.

God allows David to assemble material for the building of the temple. David needs that. He needs to do something tangible for the Lord. And David kept within his boundaries.

There are times when God sets a boundary on what we can do for him. But what he does for us is without measure – like David.

Peter, disciple of Jesus asks him quite honestly, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Peter makes sacrifices and wonders what that means to God.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:27-29).

David’s heart, your heart

Last Sunday was amazing. I presented you a vision of what we can do to better fulfill the Great Commission Christ gives us that we go make disciples. Yishun has opened up. Yishun had never crossed my mind. Yet it becomes such a wonderful fit for us when this opportunity opened up. And your response is what amazes me. I had two concerns: (1) we don’t want to lose people in the move; (2) we don’t have the funds.

The Lord answered my concerns through you. I was too afraid to ask who wants to go and who wants to stay, but when Pastor Tan asked that scary question, you all wanted to go. Your decision is clearly without personal gain. You have to travel farther to a place that may not be as nice as our current premises. But your vision is set on serving Jesus with greater effectiveness.

We will note for posterity that no one asked for donations or loans, but you all came forward spontaneously with pledges for interest free loans. And before the day was out, you pledged 20% of what we need. Your pledges came in fast and unsolicited. I wish more people were there to witness the moving of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Do you know of another time when the congregation jumps in with pledges without being ask? I don’t.

You have David’s heart to build a house for the Lord. And in this case, it will happen, God willing. But I want you to see what God says he will do for David. God will give David what David cannot get on his own. God has already given David a house. All of us already have our homes. We want to contribute to God’s house like David wanting to build God’s house. But God tells us what he has for us is far more than we can imagine.

Perhaps David indulges in imagination of what this eternal kingdom will look like, and what this eternal king will be like. He will never imagine that the line of David will be Jesus, and the kingdom will be over lands he has never even heard of.

Imagine what great blessing for all of you who purposed in your heart to build God’s house. David’s generosity can never match the Lord’s goodness. No wonder David sits before his Father as a child truly loved.

Pastor Peter Eng

Why Poor Appetite?

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
One sure sign you are not well is when your appetite is not good. Look at the strong young people who eat a ton and stay fit. They are active, they work hard, and they are healthy. Look at the people in hospitals. Many nibble on their food without appetite. They are not picky eaters, they are just unable to eat. And their loved ones know it. I see people taking great pains to encourage the sick to eat more, eat better. And as they regain their strength, they keep doing the things that help them recover. And with recovery, the appetite improves.

This is also true of our spiritual appetite. If we nibble at the Word of God, we have no desire to read God’s Word, or to pray to him, these are sure signs that we are not in good spiritual health. We may be spiritually alive in Christ, but we may not be in a healthy state.

If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you and you have that unexplainable desire to draw closer to God, you are on the right track. You may feel like the patient in hospital who has just awaken from a coma. You are ready to have the feeding tube removed and ready to eat. But more likely than not, you will only manage a nibble. That’s ok! That’s good. That’s the place to start.

I once contracted gastroenteritis, a viral infection of the digestive system, and I could not keep any fluid in. If I drank, it would come back up or pass right through. I was fast becoming dehydrated. When I went to see the doc, he had no medicine for me. Instead, he asked me to do the simplest thing. I was to take a tablespoon of Gatorade (isotonic sports drink) every 10 minutes. After my body got used to this, I could take more. This simple treatment helped my body receive drink once more, and set me to the path of recovery. Of course, I could not stop at these tablespoons of Gatorade as though that was all there was to my recovery. It was a good start, it was a right start, but it was a start, not the end.

The normal child craves milk. Similarly, the healthy spiritual child wants to drink spiritual milk. “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,” (1 Peter 2:2).
While milk for the infant and nibbling for the sick are good things, we ought also to ask if we should be progressing to solid food. If we do not make the progress, then the milk is no longer a good thing. Some Christians were told, “though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” (Hebrews 5:11-12).

Some of us can only manage a nibble. Some others need to go beyond the nibble. A person who wants to recover from an illness may nibble at this food, but the goal is to become healthy with a matching appetite.

If you are stuck on your spiritual growth, the first thing you need to ask is whether it is due to your limited feeding. If you are not consuming enough spiritual calories, you cannot have great spiritual exertions, spiritual success, or experience spiritual struggle and victory. Spiritual feeding and spiritual growth are directly related. Solid spiritual food is your deep daily reading of God’s word. This will feed your soul even more than the Sunday sermon. This will energize you to exert yourself for God, and grow strong.

There are so many Bible reading programs using so many different Bible versions in our smart phone. We are spoilt for choice! “Bible” or “You Version” Holy Bible(it’s the same thing) has more options than you can use! They have reading programs according to themes, reminders, Christian movies, etc. The danger is you want to check so many out that you don’t use any. So just pick one and start. The icon at right is the “Bible” phone app recommended here.

Of course, use a hard copy Bible or any medium you want. So long as you read the Bible, you are feeding and growing.

Pastor Peter Eng

What’s Your Style?

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Do you notice some people are all praise for everything with nary a negative thing to say about anyone or anything? On the other hand, there are those who seem incapable of seeing any good in life; every season is bad. What’s your style? I guess most of us are not on either end of the spectrum. For the sake of reflecting on our own style, I like to share with you two people I know who are close to the two extreme ends.

I met this lovely older lady who prays beautifully. Her prayer showed connection to God our Father. It showed passion, depth, discernment and a great sensitivity to the needs of people around her. My wife immediately remarked to me that she prays beautifully. Indeed so! Her prayer motivated us to know her better.

We got to know her quite well before she passed on. She is always full of encouragement. It was quite a while after we knew her that she implied her disapproval about certain things. Still, she was always gracious even when she was disappointed. She didn’t have children, and spent a good part of her energy teaching young people, many of whom grew up to be sterling Christians.

The one thing I began to realize after a while is that I needed to discount some things she said to me. She is always over the top with her praises, and I was more than happy to lap them up. But on one occasion, I overheard the same superlatives with just about everyone. OK, I get it, I’m not that special! When everybody is fantastic, maybe I need to discount her words of encouragement.

Without a doubt, she was a wonderful person to talk to. When she neared the end, Lily and I had occasion to minister to her at her bedside. She was in grave discomfort but she was always so happy to see us. Without children or immediate relatives there, the people in church were her family. There is so much of her style that I would like to emulate for she was a gracious woman of God.

I also met another person on the other end of the spectrum. This man has made some good observations, and has the ability to see through some issues that others may not see.

Whatever brilliance he has is always in your face. This man is abrasive. He foists his opinion on others on everything. After a while, it becomes apparent what moves him. God may be in his vocabulary, but God’s not in his heart. He regards himself as the father of discernment on things in the church, when half the time, he has a mixture of truth and error. He will speak up at every public meeting and find something to object to. He will tell you what’s wrong with you, but never says what is right. He is just incapable of seeing the positive. When he wanted to argue, and I choose not to argue with him, he says it’s because I am Chinese and so I avoid conflict. How I wish Chinese people really fight less than other people!

The apostle Peter calls us to “love one another deeply, from the heart.” And the reason is a powerful one. “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable …” (1 Peter 2:22-23). We are to love each other deeply because we are family. We belong to the same forever family. We are of the same seed. And that seed is an imperishable seed.

The Holy Spirit of God puts in us the desire to love another deeply. And there are times when we need to examine our style of relating to others because it affects our ability to love deeply. If we take pride in developing a critical spirit to everything and everyone around us, we will make no friends, build no bridges, encourage no one, and bless nobody.

The one who sees only the negative cannot love and does not have many friends. I think the negative style is quite prevalent in Singapore, though I am pleased to say as a community, we don’t do too badly.

Still, I would like us to consider if our personal style better reflect the deep love to which we are called. And there is no better place for your personal development than the nurturing community here @thewell.

Pastor Peter Eng

Why I Stopped Asking Jesus Into My Life

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
I shouldn’t quibble with words. The fact that the Bible never talks about asking Jesus into our life should not be an issue, and it isn’t. At the same time, words can give the right or the wrong impressions. What impression do you have if I say to you, “I have asked a mentor to come and help me improve.” Or perhaps, “I’ve invited my aged parents to come live with me.” Both of these are good things. But when we substitute Jesus into the mix, we begin to see the problem of inviting Jesus into our life.

The line: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul” is more well-known than the poem where it is found (Invictus), or the poet who wrote it. Like many Christians, I find something attractive about this spirit of self-determination. But that is because there is something dark in me that draws me to this idea.

The poet of Invictus is an avowed atheist and wrote this poem as a middle-finger to fate. He is saying, “By the way, if there is a God, to you too!” How then can this insult to God appeal to me! It appeals to the sin in me. The pride in me.

Yes, God has given us the right to choose. Yes, that makes us the master of our fate, the captain of our soul. Yes, he will not intervene if we choose to sail on rocks that wreck our life. Yes, we are the master of our fate, the captain of our soul.

When Jesus calls his disciples, he didn’t once say, “Include me in your life, invite me in.” Instead he invites them into his life. He is asking if we will give up our life and place it in his hands. Jesus sees Simon and Andrew fishing for a living. “’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:19-20). Jesus didn’t say, “Can I join you as a fishermen? Will you take me in as your business partner?”

Jesus never asked to be invited into anyone’s life. Your life and mine are inferior. Jesus is not an optional extra we include into our life. He is saying, “Put your life in my hands, and I will take you on an adventure you cannot even dream about.”

Jesus is not the support for your vision. Jesus is your vision. Jesus is not the mentor you invite while you are captain of your soul. Jesus is the captain who takes over your ship. It doesn’t matter how much you elevate Jesus, as long as you keep him your servant, and you the master, you have missed the point.

Deeply devout Christians understand the rebellion against God in the poem Invictus. Dorothy Day responds with a poem entitled “Conquered,” which ends with this stanza:

I have no fear though straight the gate:?
He cleared from punishment the scroll.?
Christ is the Master of my fate!?
Christ is the Captain of my soul!

When we surrender our life to Jesus, as did the first disciples, we begin an incredible adventure. We lose our puny vision and redeem our insatiable appetites. When Jesus takes over, we will be like the woman at the well who loses her shame to become the first evangelist on record. We lose that endless thirst like hers and discover that the Holy Spirit of God makes our heart a spring that bubbles out fresh living water.

Tradition calls her Photini. She places her life in the hands of Jesus. Jesus becomes the Captain of her soul. And she becomes the inspiration of all who live in thirst, in need, in shame, in the shadows. Tradition calls her “equal to the Apostles” because she is the first disciple-maker. Her life becomes an adventure.

Every life that is surrendered to Jesus becomes its own epic story of adventure, made possible because even when the last breath is drawn, the veil will part and a new life begins – even more glorious than the last. 

Pastor Peter Eng

Justice for Girls… or Boys

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
There is a chain store in America called “Justice for Girls.” I find the name and idea quite amusing. Feeling somewhat brave, I walk into the store. Well, it is not remarkable. It is a store for tween girls. (For us dinosaurs in Singapore, that means girls between 9-14. Too old for toys and too young for boys. The in-between years.)

I half expect to see female version of stuff that guys would like. (Like a lefty store will sell left-handed versions of right-handed things.) I am taken aback by how girly the things are. They tend to sell things even more girly than regular stores. I guess it is justice for girls because girls want girl things they cannot get at regular stores, suggesting that it is a store that rebalances injustice because girls don’t have it as good as boys.

The store is just another store selling things to girls (justifiable aim), on the premise that girls are deprived of clothes and other things that boys have (highly questionable). I am not so sure girls have been given a raw deal in terms of products made for them. I don’t do a square footage check, but I suspect products for women take up more floor space than products for men. Ironically, it may be more justifiable to have a store called “Justice for Boys.”

The fact that “Justice for Girls” does not sell girl version of boy things is telling. There is no demand for it. Girls want girl-things and boys want boy-things.

In 2009 a professor of psychology at A&M University, Texas, discovered that babies at 3-4 months already have a distinct toy preference. Boys tend to pick trucks and balls, while girls tend towards dolls. This research is followed up and psychologists have discovered even male rhesus monkeys prefer trucks and female rhesus monkeys prefer dolls!

One of my girls had a passing fancy for a flashing gun when she was very little. I am not sure if she like the colors or the gun. I think it is the color because she never showed continued interest in guns after that one incident. My boy is different, he is interested in guns, knives, cars, trucks, and all the typical boy things. I can relate to that.

When I was growing up, a ruler soon becomes a sword, or a modified gun from which I can shoot rubber bands. Paper and rubber bands are quickly reduced to paper bullets and propellant. Green peas become more bullets in a straw. Boys love to weaponize anything at hand.
There was a time when people challenge the conventional wisdom that boys and girls are just different, and they argue that it is upbringing that creates gender preferences. That is now rightly delegated to myth of an era.

God made male and female different. The process God used to make the first man was different from how he made the first woman (Genesis 2:21ff). While the key point of the lesson may be how husband and wife ought to relate to each other, we can establish that God made male and female distinct and different. We have a clue to this difference. Adam was given authority to rule over the animals (seen in the naming of the animals) before Eve was created (Genesis 2:19-20).

The authority to rule immediately turns ugly when mankind falls into sin. Evil did not build up slowly. Cain murdered his brother on a flimsy pretext. From that time, it is clear men are born to fight. Men are more aggressive than women, and battlefields past and present are strewn with the broken bodies of men—not women.

Christian communities almost pretend that God did not ask Israel to fight and win battles. We like to dismiss all these events in the OT as from a different era. Yes, that is true to a point, but it does nothing to explain why men fight – and love to fight.

The entrance of sin into the world clearly had a profound impact on male aggression. But that aggression was there in the first place, even before the fall. That God-created male aggression turned sinful. So what do we do with male aggression? Do we deny the aggression in men and emasculate men? Or should the aggression be directed rather than denied? If men do not fight, who will arise to defend the women and children? Rather than deny male aggression to Christian men, we need to ask where God wants Christian men to direct their aggression.

Pastor Peter Eng

A New Beginning

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
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