Sunday, December 19, 2010


I remember my first Christmas party.

Uncle Tommy, mum’s brother, had brought my siblings and me to his church youth Christmas celebration that morning. “Whoever brings the most kids wins a prize,” he announced as we packed into the bus.

We didn’t win (a huge guy with 15 tiny friends did); but we were happy enough with the games, M&Ms and agar agar.

A lady sitting next to me asked for my name. “You’re 13?” her eyes fluttered excitedly when I told her my age in my softest voice possible. “Join my Bible class! Next week come.”

Next week I didn’t come. In fact I’d completely forgotten about her until two months later when I received her card in the mail on my birthday.

On the outside, it had pink and yellow flowers drenched in glitter; on the inside, she’d written in cursive words: “Hi, how are you? Come back.”

When we were little, my family couldn’t afford birthdays. On the rare occasion when there was extra loose change, mum might boil two eggs for us on birthday mornings.

That year, that sparkling card was all I got. But it made my siblings green with envy and me feeling tall and happy.

More important, it helped me to listen better when a chapel speaker at school shared the Christmas story nine months later. That wasn’t the first time I heard the gospel though it was the only time I paid attention, and eventually received Jesus as my Savior.

Dozens of Christmases have since come and gone.

Having lived in Europe, Africa, India, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Korea, I have observed Christmases in numerous climatic conditions, culture, and hairstyles.

I know the magic of a white Christmas with snow boots, scarves, and a sniffing runny nose; I have also sung “Silent Night” to booming Indian drum-beats, bundled up and bulky in six yards of sari.

But whatever the language or location, smell or sound, I have learned that Christmas should be exactly how it came to me 40 years ago.

Not about frantic gift buying (every year I hunt for, wrap and scotch-tape 37 presents for relatives alone), party dresses, and Christmas menus (one year I baked three turkeys; I hadn’t done turkey since).

But taking the trouble to come out of our comfort zone to go out of our way for others, because Jesus took the trouble to come down to earth and go to the cross for us.

It could mean coaxing that young one to church for the first time; asking for the name of that stranger sitting next to us every Sunday; and hunting down a card with pink and yellow flowers drenched in glitter, and sticking it in the mailbox so that we can tell that someone we haven’t seen for while:

“Hi, how are you? Come back.”

Monday, November 1, 2010

I AM FREE (Reflections from study on Galatians)


From judgement and judgemental spirit
to justification (Gal 2:15, 5:26).
From self and slavery
to sonship and service (Gal 4:7).
From works of the flesh
to walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16).
From fleshly affections and affiliations
to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
From lusts and empty boastings
to love and bearing of one another's load (Gal 5:26 - 6:2).
I am free.
The only life I have left is Christ's life in me (Gal 2:20).
The only burden I carry
is the bondage to love one another (Gal 5:13).

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Second Samuel began with the death of Saul and David, ever the faithful soldier, crying out, "How have the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!" (2 Sam 1:25)
The question I have today is "How, indeed, have the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle?"
Well, for David, "the battle" came when the trained warrior and proven strategist least expected it, as all our waterloos will be.

2 Sam 5: David was God's choice as a teen, but only at 30 years old, he became the people's choice. Didn't know it's so hard to convinse man, huh?
2 Sam 6: after almost a century (or at least 60 years), the ark came home, thanks to David. Applause. Great job.
2 Sam 7: the king in the palace offered to build God a house but God in return made a covenant to build his house forever. Applause again. What an honor.
2 Sam 8-10: seven big battles won over his enemies (well, actually two were walk-overs). Can't beat that record, can we?
2 Sam 11: anti-climax. The mighty fell.

Where? In a "safe" place: his palace.
When? At a "safe" time: "In the spring at the time when kings go out to battle" (2 Sam 11:3).
How? Through one innocent walk and one harmless peep: at a woman having her evening bath.
Term break.

This is when many student teams go out on mission trips.
Personally I have been approached by two teams to pray for them daily: one to Mongolia and one in a remote place in East Asia.
And I do, praying daily, asking God for their protection, for divine appointments, for victory over darkness.
But they are not on their most dangerous grounds. The field isn't where the mighty usually falls.
So how have the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle?
Where they feel safest: maybe in the office, our own living room at home, watching TV, surfing the net, letting their hair down, letting their guards down, downloading.
When they are most comfortable: confiding in a friend who understands, in the presence of someone they could be vulnerable with, perhaps even a stranger.
While no one's watching. While there is a fleeting moment of boredom and escape from reality and responsibility.
While everyone's off to war.

Friday, April 9, 2010

END WELL: reflections from I Samuel

He started well, his name was Samuel.
Chosen by his parents,
Tasked to be God's voice to the people.

He started well, his name was Saul.
Chosen by God Himself,
Tasked to be the first king.

He started well, and he served well.
For his audience was God
And His strength the Lord's approval.
So he wasn't afraid to use harsh words
Even to the king
And make unpopular decisions.
Ah, his name was Samuel.

He started well, and he served with harshness.
For his audience was self glory
And his strength numbers and power.
So he wasn't afraid to employ ruthless measures
Even to his own son
And make stupid decisions.
His name was Saul.

He started well, and he ended well.
Even when the people rejected him
He didn't abandon his commitment.
He remained powerful in influence
For he cared not for position.

He started well, but he ended in shame.
Even after God's rejection
He refused to abandon the throne.
He had not a shred of influence
Even though he clung on to his position.

Be inspired by Samuel, learn from Saul.
One ran the race and stuck to the lanes.
The other stuck to his title, but died in shame.
Start well, why not?
But it's how we end that counts.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I flew 44 hours last week.
Spent seven days in Orlando, Florida, to attend a conference and meetings at headquarters. Highlights:

1. Having the room at Merriot all to myself for three days (room-mate decided to stay somewhere else with friends). Spent wonderful "let's talk" time with the Lord, especially when I was wild awake and home-sick in the wee hours of the morning.

2. What fascinated me at the two-and-a-half-day Synergy Conference: Judy's daughter Michelle, who's like sunshine; Scot McKnight (he inspired me to study and think), Carolyn James (I'll never look at Ruth and Boaz the same), and Judy's final message on the Holy Spirit's power (that's what we must emphasize at every conference).

3. Staying with Hugh and Joanne Roberson: my old friends from Manila GCTC days in 1978. Through them, I finally discovered what keeps people forever young: passion for simple things in life and ministry.

4. Meeting up with the Lechliters (my colleagues from EAO) again. Just imagine: Evelyn (who's ABC) and I talking at the same time very loudly in an Italian restaurant, Jerry injecting dry witty words ever once in a while, and Jennifer, their wonderful daughter, trying hard to not look amused.

5. Attending the WR team meeting where everyone was tuned into Facebook, Thai take-in, and every topic under the sun.

6. Looking out from Judy's office window and listening to her talk about alligators in the lake outside headquarters. Cool.

7. Speaking at the wives' meeting on the last morning. Everyone's been so kind with their feedback on the "One Thing" talk.

8. Laughing and being serious, talking about nothing and everything with Jennifer, my Charlie's Angel, at Park Avenue.

9. Visiting with EAST alumnus Steve Ang Moh Cole and his wonderful colleagues at the prayer center. That was like tiramisu to my banquet at Orlando.

10. Sitting next to Fay - out of all the people in this world - on the long 14-hour flight from New York to Tokyo. She's from China, received Christ in the US, is now a dentist in Orlando, knows and likes Campus Crusade. Her five-year-old was sugar and spice to an otherwise very long and exhausting trip home.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


The only real strength we have to boast about is our weaknesses.
The only real work we should do everyday is rest in Christ.
Our glory is the Cross.
Our lessons come from our pain.
Our treasure is in earthern vessels.

We may botox, make over, and slap on the anti- potions, but the outer man is still decaying.
We may groan and grit, and be pushed and punished, but our tents are only temporal.
Our body is not naked, our approval comes not from man.
Our house is not built by hands, our home is not in this world.

For when we die daily, we truly live.
When we have nothing, we possess all things.
When we separate from the world, we are one with God.

Let us give in our deep poverty for we shall be enriched in everything.
Let us sow abundantly for God will make all grace and all sufficiency abound to us for all liberality.

love the ocean - God made it for Himself

About Me

In the Old Testament in the Bible, there was a man named Jacob who "wrestled with God and man." He wouldn't let God go until God answered his prayers. God admired that and renamed him Israel, "the one who fought or wrestled and prevailed". He fought with man--his inner man--and conquered his own weaknesses. He's my hero. He is what I hope God and man see me to be.