The Foolish Ones

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Two men were walking along the road to a village called Emmaus. A good 11 km walk from Jerusalem where they started. They were affected by the recent events that took place in Jerusalem and it was the crucifixion of Jesus and the subsequent disappearance of his body from the tomb. As they were discussing and walking, someone came by and asked them what they were talking about. One of them questioned the stranger that he must be the only one from Jerusalem who does not know what had happened, like in today’s context it would have been viral, all over the news and trending on social media.

When they related the incidents to him, they said Jesus was supposedly great and likely to be the one to redeem Israel but he was condemned to death and was crucified. They added that they were baffled by the latest report (breaking news) that just happened that day, which was the third day. They heard that the body was missing from the tomb and some women who went there witnessed that it was empty and saw visions of angels who told them that Jesus is alive.

Then the man said to the two, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

The above story was taken from Luke 24:13-26 and there are two key points that I am learning from the passage and it involved both the eyes and heart of man.

Reflection

It is so easy to read and see what has happened around us but yet our hearts may not be in tune or true to what we claim to believe. Some might say, `Seeing is believing’ but this story clearly disprove this. Many have seen and experienced first hand all that has happened but many also have chosen not to believe or to remain in a state of unbelief.

The statement made of the two men; “O foolish ones” revealed their thoughts but the cause was “slow of heart to believe”. I pray and hope for my heart to burn and be true to God, and my eyes to see only the glory of God.

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The Guilty Ones

guilty

Three men are on death row and today is the day of their execution. Two of them, Seau and Ican were hard-core criminals with a long history of violent crimes and the law finally caught up with them. They were not partners in crime but knew each other from past imprisonments and their notoriety. The third man on death row was not familiar to them, especially among the inmates as this man was never in prison before. They heard rumours about him as being quite prominent in that town and that he was powerful enough to help and influence many people. They also heard that he might be innocent and was blackmailed by some other powerful people who do not like him.

As they were about to be executed together, they were put in one place and chained side by side. Seau turned to face the third man and said, “Hey mister! What did you do to be here with us?” When he did not respond, Seau was annoyed and said, “I heard you had connections in very high places and helped many people, how come you can’t even help yourself? Such a shame to think that you could have helped us out of here.

Ican then raised his voice at Seau and said, “Why are you doing this to him? What has he done to you? If he is truly innocent, he does not deserve to be here like us! We actually deserve to die for what we had done. We are condemned to die and when we die, we are condemned! Can’t you even see that?”

Seau and Ican were two guilty criminals who were executed as punishment for their crimes. However, they were very different in character or attitude even at the point of death. Seau held himself up in a cocky way to chide and mock another person even though he was guilty as a rat for his crimes and was going to be executed. Ican was shocked at how Seau could still be `playing the fool’ at such a time. He saw how he was deserving of death for his deeds but pondered on what would become of him when he dies. He was both fearful and afraid.

This story was inspired by a passage from the bible as follows:

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:32-43 ESV.

Reflection

I realised that even when we are guilty of our wrong doings, we may still choose not to have the guilt.

Just like Seau who had the pride to speak his mind even to the point of death. It did not matter at all that he had committed those crimes or what would become of him when he dies. He was even capable of chiding others who may be innocent or able to help him.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18 ESV

Ican saw his state and knows he was doomed. He was in distress and at the end of the road. The uncertainty was eating him up. The passage stated that the man who turned to Jesus to ask for help was given eternal hope. The other guy missed it when it was just there for him, and it was free.

I pray for humility and wisdom.

The Golden Calf

Golden Calf

Why a golden calf was chosen to be an object of worship?

That was the `million dollar’ question I asked myself when I read how the Israelites decided to find an object of worship when they could not wait for Moses to come down from the mountain. With the backdrop of how God had used Moses to bring Israel, a nation under slavery out of Egypt, witnessing mind blowing miracles like parting of the Red sea and many more, why would they want to worship another god?

I thought these people were more mind blowing in terms of how ridiculous their decisions were.

Here are the accounts of what happened:

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” – Exodus 32vs1 ESV

Aaron who was Moses’ brother and assistant acceded to the people’s request and asked them to hand over their gold rings (must have been quite a lot):

And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” – Exodus 32vs8 ESV

(What happened after this will be left for another discussion. For now, the focus will be on the golden calf.)

Aaron was the one who fashioned the people’s gold (a precious commodity) into the image of a calf so it looked like he decided on the object at whim and the people accepted whatever that came out from their contribution. The calf could have been inspired by their time in Egypt where their gods had animal-like figures or it was just a harmless creature. However, I think they just wanted something else to worship. Yes, something else.

This habit was found repeatedly over the years in the people of Israel. For example, Jeroboam, one of the kings, decided to make two golden calves to put one in Bethel and the other in Dan within the kingdom so that the people will be distracted from going back to their old allegiance and remain with him (1 Kings 12:26-33). Some other kings also kept this form of idol in their kingdom among other objects of worship:

But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin—that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan. – 2 Kings 10vs29 ESV

Here is further evidenced that the people not only wanted something else, the golden calves have also become a form of distraction from God.

Reflection

The question I ask myself is, “What are the golden calves in my life?”

In other words, what is causing me to look away or be distracted from God?

The people in the biblical era were prone to their own ways and stubbornness but today, we are not spared from such distractions or attractions. The golden calves now comes in greater variety like digital and 3D and whatever that tickles the senses. However, I feel that the greatest distraction of all, especially in recent years will be our Golden Selves.

Wealth

Wealth

Numerous books on getting wealth and riches

Wealth is often associated with riches, in terms of monetary or material possessions which will usually be far more than what an average working adult could obtain. Some would have wealth through an inheritance like people from a royal family or families of business moguls or tycoons. Others, through a windfall from a lottery, winnings of a game or challenge, or being bought over for an app, software or property at an astronomical amount.

Generally, wealth is measured in monetary terms. The term money has been referred to as mammon in the bible and it has been regarded as a god or master. This explains the following verse:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” – Luke 16:13 ESV.

You may find it hard to accept that a clear line has been drawn. The following story may be even harder to accept:

A man went up to Jesus and asked him what he has to do to get eternal life and when Jesus said he has to keep the commandments to enter life. The man then asked which commandment and Jesus listed some from the Ten Commandments and the man said he has obeyed them all and he asked Jesus, “What do I still lack?” Then Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this juncture, the young man went away sad because he had great wealth – Matt 19:16-30.

Why is it that a man so sincere in wanting to have eternal life, could not give up what he has which was temporal, in order to gain what is eternal?

So the verse mentioned earlier stands true in that one cannot serve two masters. It showed that the values of this world is opposite of what God values. For example, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees who loved money:

“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” – Luke 16:15 NIV.

It is not money that is the problem here but the love of it. It is where the heart is, that is the point and answer all the time and all the while.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21 NIV.

Reflection

“I guess it all comes down to where your heart is. It’s where your thoughts and feelings all begin, but if you never give your heart to Jesus, you’ll never really have a part in him.” This was the first stanza of an old song I used to sing in youth meetings and it was an all-time favourite. At that time, I believe I liked it more because it had a pleasant tune and was a nice song to sing along to.

I am happy to find this song on Youtube so you can hear it here as well:

Now that the words had come to me again, I ask myself these questions:

Where is my heart today?

What matters to me as I go about each day and what occupies my thoughts and feelings?

I pray that my heart be true for God and be changed if it is not. Amen.

Of Kings and Chronicles – Asa, king of Judah

This is the second post on Of Kings and Chronicles where the first was about king Abijah of Judah. This is about his son Asa who took over as king of Judah when he died. You can see from the left of the chart (which is the beginning of the era of the divided kingdom), he was the first king positioned in the `Good’ area.

In contrast with his father, Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD (2 Chronicles 14:2 ESV). Abijah had foreign idols and altars but Asa set out to have them removed and destroyed. He even had his mother removed from her position as Queen due to her idolatry.

When Asa was faced with the threat of the Ethiopian army of over a million soldiers going to attack Judah, he called upon God to save them. God heard Asa and routed the Ethiopians and Asa and his men pursued the fleeing Ethiopians slaying every one of them.

Asa also began to reform Judah by making the people follow the laws and commandments of God and his heart was wholly true to God all his days (2 Chronicles 15:17 ESV). God gave Asa rest, peace and prosperity during his reign. Everything sounded hunky-dory for Asa until the thirty-sixth year of his reign. What happened?

There was a threat from Israel, so Asa sought the help of the king of Syria. A messenger of God then asked Asa why he had sought the Syrian king’s help since God had delivered him from a million Ethiopian forces before. Instead of repenting, Asa was enraged and imprisoned the messenger. Three years later, “Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.” (2 Chronicles 16:12 ESV). He died two years later.

I have 3 main questions:

  1. Asa’s heart was wholly true to God but as time passed, he decided to rely on others for help instead of God. God had delivered him from major battles before but why did he seek a foreign king’s help this time?
  2. When he was reprimanded by the messenger of God about his reliance on a foreign king, Asa was enraged and threw the messenger in prison and took out his anger on some people. Given a revelation of where he was going wrong, why did Asa choose to be angry instead of making good of it?
  3. When he was stricken with a severe disease on his feet, why did he turn to his physicians instead of calling upon God for help?

This was the man who called upon God for the battle against a million Ethiopians and witnessed how God gave every one of them into his hand.

This was also the man who brought reforms to the idolatrous nation of Judah by removing all idols and altars of other gods and turned them back to follow God’s law.

What happened to Asa?

I wonder whether it was the period of rest, peace and prosperity, when all the wars and threats were over and reforms have been completed, that Asa began to forget God.

I believe that when we forget God, we become reliant on ourselves, other people or things. In other words, we become independent and self-sufficient. In the context of society today, being independent or self-sufficient is a good thing isn’t it? Especially when it’s all about progress and productivity, we should be self-reliant and self-made. However, in the matter of the soul and creation, who can lift a finger at the birth and death of life or the turning of the earth around the sun?

Reflection

This is where the heart before God has to be in the right place constantly. The moment we shift or look to the left or right, we have misplaced God in our lives. Perhaps that was why these words were repeated many times as part of the laws:

“You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.”- Deuteronomy 5:32-33 ESV.

There is a book `Half Time’ by Bob Buford meant to help people in their mid-life and a few years later, he wrote the book `Finishing Well’. If I have to choose between the two books, I will give Asa the latter as it was really, really so important for him.

We need to endure in order to grow and finish well in our lives and God, through our Lord Jesus has given us much more than we need to do that (way, way more than in the Old Testament times).

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” – Hebrews 2:1-3a ESV.

My prayer

Is that we will “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”- Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV.

Thank you Lord that we can take courage and have full confidence in you because you began a good work in us and “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6 ESV.

Caregivers UNITE!

Anne Frank

I was catching up with three friends whom as a group, have not met for several years. We are all in our fifties and sixties. The three of us are caregivers to our mothers who have survived their husbands for some years already. The oldest in the group was not in this situation as her parents had passed on some years back but she observed that it was common to find the `burden’ falling on single daughters to look after their aged parents. Statistically, 75% in this group are looking after their mothers who are in their late 70s to 80s.

I hope by sharing some of the struggles the caregivers in this group are facing, it will divide the burdens, struggles and challenges that other caregivers face with the hope that it will bring comfort and solace, possibly giving some respite.

Our group’s conversations soon went into how our mothers faced ageing and health issues, struggling to cope with day to day living. Although we laughed at the mind-blowing and mind-boggling situations in caring for our mothers, it was also a deep and constant struggle for us to cope on a daily basis.

One shared how her mother hoarded things in the house and they were items of no use or purpose. These things or items can be considered rubbish and cluttered the house. The house needs to be kept clean and safe so they (mothers) would not stumble over things or go in a frenzy searching for things they had misplaced in the clutter (a common happening nevertheless). Another shared how her mother had faeces on her hand after going to the toilet and when she tried to get her to wash her hands, the mother scolded her for being picky and a clean freak! The one with the oldest mother find it hard to keep her occupied through the day as she would be bored quickly from watching television, to doing jigsaw puzzles and then wants to walk around the house and do something when she was not able to do so unaided. When she tried to help her walk safely, she was chided for trying to be troublesome with her.

Oh what wonderful and lovely mothers we have. No, I am not trying to be sarcastic here. This is how we single daughters cope with mothers having dementia or illnesses that have robbed them of their ability to reason, to think clearly or logically. To look beyond their failings and see the person in them that is still around in whatever ways possible. We often say we do not know whether to laugh or to cry in our struggles. We will also let it out when talking to family or close friends about how ridiculous or tough it has been as it was a form of relief but we struggle not to say too much as it is our mothers that we are talking about. Being daughters, we struggle with whether we have failed or did not do enough as we see them deteriorate, and whether we were wrong to talk about their `unsavoury’ behaviour to others.

One of the hardest illness to cope with as a caregiver, is dementia. To see your loved ones gone into a different time zone and perhaps, dimension. A dimension where human reason and logic do not exist, where confusion and abstract ideas flourish. Another world has been created in their minds and eyes. Some would be filled with suspicion, with darkness and evil forces in their thoughts. Some with utter joy at the sight of flowers, cute pets, cartoons, and balloons, much like children. Some have a combination, depending on their mood swings. And sadly, some will not remember their own flesh and blood right before their eyes, and treat them with disdain or apprehension.

I believe there are many, not just single ladies, who are struggling as caregivers of parents, grandparents, spouse or siblings. It is a very lonely and hard journey. As the person whom they care for are often unable to appreciate them or even worse, curse them and speak ill of them in front of other people. Some may ask to be killed or to let them die as they do not want to suffer. Day in and day out you hear cries such as, “Let me die!”, “Why let me suffer?”, “I am going to die!”, “Why are you so cruel to me?” Furthermore, the people around you (relatives included) may pass remarks and comments that only add to the pressure and pain of caregivers. Many of you suffer in silence.

I would like to let you know, you are not alone, and if you need to talk to someone, drop me an email and we’ll see how we can share/divide our `misery’.

“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”

― C.S. Lewis

Sleepless in Singapore

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The title was inspired by a movie “Sleepless in Seattle” but it’s not about that story as the focus is on my homeland, Singapore.

Many of us are working the daylights out of our lives and end up with less sleep than needed. It doesn’t help that the lights don’t really go out in Singapore as it can be quite bright throughout the night till day breaks. 24-hour supermarkets, eateries and cafes are in abundance and how can a sleep deprived nation get better in life like this?

6, 7 or 8-hour sleep is a luxury for anyone (babies not included) in Singapore. I bet that most working adults, when asked whether they will `binge sleep’ on their day off will respond, “Of course!”. I also believe the motto of most younger adults would be to work hard and play hard.. so that equates to? Long days and long nights = Sleeplessness!

Many Singaporeans go on tour or travel as far and wide as possible. This may be a common phenomena in all developed or developing countries but it could be a cry to get out of this country, to have some kind of rest or respite from the pressure cooker life they have been living. Of course, many dream or desire to seek a bigger, spacious, more scenic or cheaper place to spend, enjoy and relax before they go back to the grind… and some chose not to come back. So this explains why so many Singaporeans travel frequently, young and old.

I am a light sleeper and don’t get to fall asleep easily. People who fall asleep easily and can sleep anywhere at anytime are considered gifted or blessed when compared to my ability to sleep. Also, when it comes to naps, if I do take one, I will not be able to get the full nights sleep for that day. It’s like a timer for the amount of sleep I am allowed per day, so I don’t take naps. However, it’s not that bad as I still get to sleep and empathise with those who have insomnia and that’s another big struggle altogether.

Dreams are not something I recall vividly and more often than not, they were fleeting things that either take the form or shape of happenings during that period of my life. It’s like what matters or affects you may evolve into some kind of dream or nightmare. You wake up feeling uneasy or blurred by the dream but I would brush it off or pray for it not to bother me as I face another day. When I do pray or meditate on God’s word before sleeping, I find that I have better sleep. So I believe it is good to quieten down and do some reflection before sleeping but please don’t go and worry about stuff as that would probably keep you awake.

Some people who lead a more disciplined, orderly life would have planned their schedule and day and this usually help in getting a good night’s rest as the stuff for the next day has been planned. However, those who are anxious or tend to worry might not get to sleep well whether they are organised or not. So it’s not just about getting enough sleep, but the quality of sleep is equally important.

Hear ye O Singaporeans! The lack of sleep is NOT a good thing as it will take it’s toll on your mind, body and soul. It’s not something you can get back in your later years or something you can pay back by `binge sleeping’ on your day off. The body is not engineered that way so don’t try to beat it. Count your blessings and costs, sleep enough and sleep well. Remove your digital devices from your room, including your TV or game remote. It’s really not worth it.

Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye!

[The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream.”]