The Earth is the Lord’s (Earth Day)

22 April. Today is Earth Day. Since 1970, Earth Day has been an annual event celebrated by 1 billion people in more than 193 countries around the world. The participants take part in projects such as picking up litter and planting trees to protect the planet from pollution and deforestation.

But the task of taking care of this earth went back further than 22 April 1970. After creating the universe and the beautiful earth, God our Creator created a man and a woman and entrusted them to care for this world. God placed the man Adam and his wife Eve in the Garden of Eden, and oh, what a beautiful place that was! There were fruits on the trees and flowers of every kind and animals were living peaceably with one another. God gave them this responsibility to work and take care of this alluring garden (Genesis 2:15).

However, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they were banished from this garden. Taking care of the earth became a much harder job. There were now thorns, plants would wither, fruit trees might fall to bear fruits and we had to toil hard for food from the ground. Yet, God is still with us. He speaks to us through His creation. When we observe the nature around us, we see how tiny we are compared to the gushing waterfalls and the grandiose mountain. When we look at our garden: the blooming flowers, the singing birds, the mischievous cats and the loyal pet dogs, we can not help but be amazed at God’s creativity and love when He created all these wonderful creatures.    

In 1901, pastor and poet Maltbie Babcock wrote the hymn, “This Is My Father’s World”, expressing his delight in God’s creation! During his morning walks, he was fascinated by God’s creations: the sky, the seas and all the creatures in them. And he was inspired to write this song.

This is our God’s world. He puts the seasons in order (Job 38:12-13). He controls the weather (Job 38:22-30) and He provides food for the living creatures (Job 38:39-41). He sustains this world, whether it is things visible or invisible to our human eyes.  

Wherever we are, whether we live in a bustling city or a quiet town, each of us can play a part in caring for the environment. This can be our way of thanking God for creating this amazing world for us to live in. Let us protect this earth. We only have one earth. May our children and their children get to enjoy this beautiful world.   

Maundy Thursday: Jesus came to serve and love

Today is Maundy Thursday. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin of Jesus’s words when He gives his disciples a “new commandment” (mandatum novu) to love one another (John 13:34). The last words of someone about to die are very precious and important. Jesus knew that He would be heading towards the Cross very soon. It was His final night with His disciples on earth. He wanted His disciples to carry out this Commandment: to love one another. Love is the hallmark as His disciples.

From this passage, there are 3 things that we as the disciples of Jesus should do:

(1) Serve one another

Half-way during the meal, Jesus got up, took off the outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist, kneeled down before His disciples and washed the feet of His disciples one by one, drying the feet with the towel around his waist.

This was not what a king should be doing. What type of king would serve His servants? It is the servants who are at the king’s commands to serve Him.

What Master would serve his disciples? Washing the feet of the disciples is not one of the things the Master should do. The disciples were shocked. What type of a Master is this?  

Footwashing was something that the lowest of servants would do. The servant would draw the water, wash the feet and dispose of the water. In those days, footwashing was a synonym for slavery. Those who received footwashing were superiors to the servant who washed the feet.

That was what Jesus did. No servant is greater than the Master. Yet, Jesus humbled Himself to show us an example of love and humility.  

Jesus, after taking off his garment, was most probably in a tunic, which was something like an undershirt. This garment was what the servants in those days would wear to serve a meal. Jesus, the Master of His disciples, dressed like a servant as He washed His disciples’ feet.

Paul later wrote to the Philippians that Jesus made Himself nothing by taking the form of a servant. The Prince of Heaven took on the form of a servant.

Paul would later write to the Philippians that Jesus, the Son of God, made himself nothing by taking the very form of a servant.

“Who, being in very nature a God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature b of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had authority above all things, came from Heaven to Earth as a man like us. He stooped down to wash His disciples’ feet to show us how to love.

In our culture today, we do not have foot-washing. What Jesus showed us was not the act of foot-washing itself, but it is about humbling ourselves to serve others. It is about serving others with humility and love. It is His humility and His love that enabled Him to stoop down and take the role of a lowly servant, and washed His disciples feet.

Jesus Christ never came to this earth to boast or to boss us around. He came to serve. He came to love.

What does it mean for us today? How does serving look like? Who can you serve? How can you make a difference in someone’s life, starting with your family? Who can you serve in your family? How can we serve?  

Many of us worry that we can’t do much. But serving does not need to be a grand thing. A tiny act of kindness and goodness will have a ripple effect. Like a pebble thrown into the pond, there is a spreading effect. A tiny act of kindness will spread from one person to another. The effect will impact many others.

May God enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our friends, to love our neighbours and even to love our enemies.

Who can you serve today?

2. Love one another

The acts of Jesus in the upper room must have impacted His Disciples. One of them, John, wrote,

“Beloved, let us love one another. For love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

We love because love comes from God. Those who love have God in their lives.

Jesus gave the Commandment to love one another. He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Love is the hallmark of being the disciples of Jesus.

Jesus introduced the Last Supper to His disciples, teaching them the significance of the bread and the cup. 2000 years later, we celebrate Holy Communion in remembrance of what Jesus did for us. We remember the love of Jesus for us that bring Him to the Cross. Because He loves us, He was willing to head to the Cross, although He was scared too.

When we partake the Holy Communion, let’s be reminded that we share the one loaf of bread and the same cup. Let us not ignore or dismiss any of God’s people. We partake from the same loaf and cup. We are one in the Body of Christ, although we have different backgrounds, occupations and even skin colours, we are all same in the eyes of God. We are not any better because we are all sinners deserving death but we are saved by the mercy of God. 

Jesus came for all of us. He died so that we will know what love is. Jesus loves us and He wants us to love one another.

3. Forgive one another

On that night in the upper room, as Jesus was holding the bread in His hands, He knew what was waiting for Him. He understood that this bread in His hands symbolised His body.

In a few hours’ time, His body would be crushed and broken —crushed for the sins of mankind. The entire weight of the sin of humanity was upon Him. He would be nailed on the Cross.

As Jesus was holding the cup, He would see the glistening red wine which was a symbol of His blood. In a few hours’ time, His body would be bloody from the merciless whipping. His would wear a crown of thorns which pierced His head. His blood was shed for us so that all of us who believe can be free from the snare of sin and death. Jesus shared the Cup with His disciples, reminding them that His blood would be poured out for the forgiveness of sins.

Later that night, Jesus said one of the 12 of them would betray Him. The disciples looked at each other. Who could it be?

Then, Judas, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples betrayed Him and sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

I am sure Jesus did certainly forgive Judas for betraying Him. There were no one so bad that Jesus could not forgive. No one so evil that Jesus did not came to save.

In 1988, a famous novelist was on a tv interview, she said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.” Why? Why was there no one offering her forgiveness? Why is it she has not forgiven herself when she knows that she will receive forgiveness if only she takes a step to embrace the forgiveness of Jesus? May be she has not fully understood that Jesus offers forgiveness to anyone who would come to Him.

Jesus has offered forgiveness to everyone but it is not received by all. Why?

Forgiveness is hard to give but why is it even harder to receive?

How should we Christians tell others of the forgiveness we have in Christ? How should we live our lives as testimonies that we have been freed from our sin and guilt? There should be forgiveness in us because of the forgiveness that Jesus had given to us.

May we be reminded that Jesus came to serve, to love, to forgive. Let us also serve one another, love one another and forgive one another.

Keeping a dog is a commitment

My parents have 2 dogs. They are such loyal friends and companions! Whenever I am home, they would sit by me (while I am typing this, one of them is only 1 foot away from me). After my aunt died, I was sad and I cried. The dog came to me and licked the tears on my cheek. He could not speak, but he brought so much comfort to me.

Dogs are such loyal companions!

Unfortunately, stray dogs and stray puppies are everywhere in my city!

Before getting a dog, please do remember that it is a commitment – – – as long as your dog shall live. No doubt, there are a lot of hard work involved in caring for a pet. But this is not an excuse to abandon the pet dog in the street and let it survive on its own. There are too many people abandoning their dogs when they are unwell or old. Some owners even abandoned their dogs once they are bored with them. 
If you are a dog owner, it is your responsibility to spay your dog so that it will not produce litters after litters of puppies!
If you have been wanting to have a dog, do consider rescuing or adopting a stray dog instead of buying from breeders or pet shops.

Some Friendships May Drift Apart, and it is ok

Today is your birthday. A decade ago, it was such a big deal! We would meet up and celebrate your birthday. After all, you deserved nothing but the best in life! Rewind back to 18 years ago, we were sitting in your parents’ car, and they would drive us to fancy restaurants for meals. On a weekend, we would drive 45 minutes to sea food restaurants by the beach. I felt special because your parents took me instead of your other friends. I did think you enjoy our friendship as much as I did.

Those were the good days.

When I was studying in Singapore, you flew over on the Eve of Lunar New Year to spend the new year together. We had a simple reunion dinner at China Town. I can not recall the dishes we had. Those were the days before camera in the phones were clear and sharp. But what was clear in my mind was that we had a great time. It was such a joy seeing you again, despite the fact I had only moved to Singapore last July. I took you around Singapore and sent you off at the airport with a heavy heart. These memories seemed not so long ago. They were so vivid in my mind.  

2 decades ago, we would often hang out. With our other friends, we would go to the movies and we go bowling. Those were the things the young people did then. Back in those days, we didn’t have a lot of choices for entertainment.  

You brought me to places I hardly go — you opened up my world and told me not to be so naïve. You critiqued my sense of fashion, you thought I could do better. You introduced me to your siblings and I met your friends too.

The memories remain. Today it is your birthday. But I did not send you any Birthday greetings. I had not been doing so for the past few years. The last time I saw you from a distance was when you were fetching your kid from the tuition school. It was just a casual wave to say “hi”. Nor did we exchange text messages after that. 

After my studies in Singapore, I felt we were miles apart. We had different things in life. We did meet up a few times, but there wasn’t any similar topic of interests anymore. You got married to the man you loved, and I pursued my calling as a pastor. Eventually, you got busy with your children. I visited you on the birth of your firstborn, and I did not visit anymore when your other children were born. I was never married. I had a hard time keeping up with their birthdays, although I know their names. How old are they now? We had tight schedules. And our free times do not match each other’s.

It does take effort to pick up from where we left off years ago. In fact, it will need so much effort on our parts to reconnect again. That was why we silently agree to let our friendship die. I don’t text you anymore, you don’t text me anymore. We let each other go. And we have peace with that. 

In some other friendships, we can easily reconnect again and seems nothing has changed, even if we do not stay in touch constantly. But not in our friendship. Even if I do see you today, I will not know what to say. You may not know what to say. It may be just a wave to say “hello” or “goodbye”.

Perhaps it is a part of life. Someone once dear to us can be a stranger.    


The Cake

Sundays are often packed with people and ministry. After the ministry this morning, my companion and I enjoyed a cup of coffee and shared a slice of salted caramel cheesecake. 

I have been living in a complicated tension. On some days, I believed that the cake was evil. It will bring more harm than good to my health, it will destroy the good bacteria in my gut, it will add a few extra pounds on my already chubby body. The cake has to be avoided at all costs, I told myself. Oh, the measures I had taken to guard my mouth from taking a bite of the baked sugary dough!

On some other days, I swung to the other end of the pendulum, believing that the cake is a divine gift—created to pleased the palates of mankind. Today, the cake smells heavenly. Every cell in my body dance to the beat of each bite of the cake. My tongue bathed in the richness of the cheese. My heart sang. My tummy exploded with joy. I was satisfied and happy. Oh, what a great life, I thought to myself.

Nothing is all bad, I realised. Nothing is all good.

Life is not all bad. Life is not all perfect either. 
Life comes with challenges or obstacles but there are good days too. There are days when it is rainy but there are sunny days. Someone said, the rainbow is more beautiful after a rough storm.

People too. No one is all bad. No one is perfect. We have different sides to us. There is not a person who is all bad. There is still some goodness in each person, even the ones we deemed as “hopeless” or “bad”. 

Praise be to God who saw us before we were formed in our mother’s womb (Isaiah 44:24.! He loves us unconditionally just as we are. We can accept Him and come to Him in repentance. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came from Heaven and earth to die for us and His blood cleansed us from sins so that we can have a relationship with God. No one is too bad that He could not love. No one is so good that does not need Him.