Friday, December 21, 2007

You decide: which is the real letter to ST forum

Quite shocking actually at how much the orginal letter was changed. I need to verify the original contents from the author though.

But just look at how the contents were twisted! I nearly went into convulsions. And to think ST dared to put the writer's name (Agung Santoso Ongko) at the end of it!

Pay rise for top civil servants timely (ST published forum letter)

I READ with great relief the article about ministers and top civil servants getting a 4-21 per cent pay rise next month (ST, Dec 14).

We can now be assured that only the most competent people will serve the country. With the rise in their remuneration, we have secured their steadfast service, as well as their continued fervour and dedication to fight for our cause. It could not be more timely. When inflation is soaring and some Singaporeans 'can barely stay afloat' (The Sunday Times, Dec 2), we need, more than ever, the best possible team of civil servants to lead us through the difficulties.

We cannot afford to lose them to the private sector, and have to retain them at all costs. This is especially so as these senior civil servants have been in the public sector for so long that they are likely to seek fresh experience in the private sector.

With the festive season coming, I hope that they will not forget to share the joy of receiving with the less fortunate. Therefore, I appeal to them to follow Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's lead in giving to the poor and spreading the blessings.

Writer's clarification:
I'm so glad somebody finally smelt a hint of my original intention for this Forum entry. Honestly, I read with GREAT HORROR the published version of my own e-mail on ST Forum 18/12/2007. Whatever was published on the Forum page on 18/12/2007 may be similar to what I had originally written, but the omissions made by the editors have actually changed its intended meaning altogether. I have reproduced below my original article as I had sent it to the ST editors:

I read with great relief the ST article “Ministers, top civil servants to get 4% to 21% pay rise in Jan” published on 13 December 2007. We can now rest doubly assured that only the most competent people will serve the country. With the rise in their remuneration, we have successfully secured their most steadfast service, as well as their continued fervour and dedication in fighting for our cause. Certainly, it cannot be timelier. At this point, when inflation is soaring and some Singaporeans “can barely stay afloat” (The Sunday Times 02 December 2007), we are in dire need, more than ever, for the best possible team of civil servants to lead us through all these difficulties. We cannot afford to lose them to the private sector, and have to fight to retain them at all costs. This is especially so, as these senior civil servants have been dwelling in the public sector for such a long time that they are more likely indeed to seek a fresh experience in the private sector.

With the festive season coming, though, I sincerely hope that they will not forget to share the joy of receiving with the less fortunate in our midst, for the total annual increment that every senior civil servant is set to receive can actually support approximately 1,000 other Singaporeans. Therefore, I appeal to our senior civil servants to follow PM Lee's lead in giving back to the poor and spreading the blessings. What that increase means to you means infinitely more to them.

If it has not become apparent to you by now, I had meant this piece to be satirical. And I admit that I may have failed miserably. I admit that it may be my own incompetent, ambiguous writing that has resulted in the gross misunderstanding. It is indeed possible that my vagueness has led to the editors misreading my intentions and viewing all the hyperboles and superlatives as redundant emphasis on my support for the pay rise. I shall, however, leave it to you readers to decide for yourself.

I hope I have made my position clear, though: that I am strongly opposed to the unwise timing of the ministerial pay rise, and that if it happens anyway, I call for those benefiting from it to share with those among us who live on $290 a month, and are saving every single cent just to continue surviving.

- Agung Santoso Ongko

The pen is mightier than the sword.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Settling nicely into the new house

We've finally moved and had our first sleepover on 16 Dec last Sunday!

It is a challenge to relocate in Aussieland (or move house in Singlish). Nearly everything is DYI! That applies to coordinating the renovation works. Labour cost is so expensive too.

In other words, YOU are the main contractor. We had to coordinate the resources, the quotes, the timings, the task dependencies and the overall schedule. For example, the cabinets installations, followed by the electrical and plumbing works in which only certain people can do the cooker and hood, the oven, the sink... and then the electricity outputs/sockets, the cooker hood outlet, etc.

As a matter of face, I need to be in the construction industry to know what's going on.

One word - SIONG.

Back in Singapore, we just had to pay a fixed price to the main contractor. He will in turn assign and schedule the sub-contractors to install and fix the items up.

As usual, we had a couple of boo-boos. The plumber, who was doing the cooker vent outlet, would not install the hood. The hood is an electrical appliance, he said. So we had to call in the electrician who said he would not install the hood, or it wasn't part of the agreed contract with us. Anyway we needed to cut a hole in the cabinet for the vent outlet before he could connect the electrical wire to the hood. So we called in the kitchen cabinet guy who said it was supposed to be the hood installer's job, or in other words, the plumber's job.

Welcome to Australia, as my colleagues like to say.

*sigh* Anyway, praise God, we had a very good kitchen-cabinet contractor (a Chinese national) who helped us to coordinate. He also assisted with so many additional, nitty-gritty things without charging us. May God bless his soul and prosper him!

This renovation occurred while we were shifting from the old place. So you can imagine the big mess in the house - dusty (due to on-going renovation works), messy (with many boxes, furniture and tools) with half-done painting job (as I fell sick over the weekend and it was too messy to paint).

But thanks be to missus who cleaned and mopped the place up while I was at work. She also helped coordinate with the various parties and ran the administration and finance department like a well-oiled engine. I'd think she can set up her own company. I really thank God for her. Kudos to missus, she rocks big time!

Rachel, in her usual bubbly but sometimes irritating self (especially when you are busy and she keeps asking you about a subject), has been generally helpful in doing her own art and craft work. She had a sleepover at her friend's place the previous night as the place was still messy.

More like she needed someone to play with and kept on bugging me until I relented. Talk about the persistent widow and the judge. For the past few nights, she had been sleeping with us as her room was also messy. While she was at the sleepover, missus and I managed to fix up her bed and put away her clothes and toys into the wardrobe. Last night however, she slept in her own room for the first time (albeit with another SG friend who stayed over). She slept like a log.

Kids are kids. As long as they are having fun, they are unconcerned with anything else around them.

Me? I just pray. And pray. I kept looking toward Jesus while everything was falling apart. I had to remind missus that we made the right decision in buying the place, and doing up the renovations. I had to assure her that everything will be in place and we needed to hold hands as we walk THROUGH the 'valley of the shadow of death'. This was in spite of me wondering when we would ever see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Well, look at where we are now.

9 months and I am a proud owner of a two-storey house. And the land is mine. Not some 99-year lease.

The house is fantastic and spacious. We are enjoying every bit of it and the togetherness we have as a family in cleaning and touching up to make it beautiful. It is also conveniently located near to a huge shopping centre, and the most importantly - waking up to the beautiful mountain view each morning.


Hopefully I can upload the pictures. The internet connection will only be setup next week, 27 Dec and I'll be on company leave from X'mas till New Year.

Thank you, Jesus. You were cursed so that I may be blessed. You had nothing so that I can have everything good from my Father. Apart from You, we can do nothing; in and through You, we have everything.

Wishing you readers a very blessed Christmas and a great week ahead!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Moving to new house this weekend

Still under renovation with the kitchen cabinets not fully installed yet. Also doing up some painting. Hopefully everything is completed by Christmas.

Will take some photos and post them here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Limbo Rap: How low can you go?

This is so bad it's so good, especially with the song 'Tragedy' (see here)... LOL

I have absolutely no idea what MDA is trying to do with this low-grade movie.

I kept asking myself these questions: Why did you do it? What were you trying to prove? Salvage your reputation (if you had any to begin with because I personally think you gave lousy cuts)? Connect with the youths? Lastly, how much did it cost to produce the junk?


Reminds me of another group (who called themselves the p65ers) doing hip-hops during the Chingay Parade and putting up a blogsite. Really, how many of them listen to hip-hop songs. I don't coz I'm not from that era. How many of them actually blog too? I only know of one who actively blogs. But I digress here.

I cringed when I saw those senior management in office suits doing the rap, lip-syncing the lyrics and trying to look hip-hop! They actually sucked.

You tell me I'm paying them (through taxpayers' monies and the questionable Radio & TV licenses) to give me this piece of junk? *groan* And gosh, I felt embarassed to call myself a Singaporean when it was posted on YouTube. Just look at those comments within.

Perhaps they are responding to the Royston Tan's short movie called 'Cut'. You know, both missus and I actually enjoyed the puns and satirical message within THIS movie. It is both funny and classy than this MDArena how-low-can-you-go-junk.

See for yourself if you don't believe me.

Some advice for MDA (GLCs included) and the p65ers:
- You don't need raps and hip-hops to win the people over. If you have the heart, your actions will follow. People have eyes to see.
- Stop trying to be someone you are not. GLCs are huge culprits of trying to follow the Western corporate culture (Who moved my cheese?, Fishy Business, etc). Yeah right... you don't even value, let alone empower your subordinates.
- Get rid of the NUTs syndrome.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Healesville Sanctuary

Told ya we bought the family zoo pass. So more crazy animal pictures for ya!

Healesville Sanctuary (20071014)
Healesville Sanctuary, or the Sir Colin MacKenzie Fauna Park, is a zoo specializing in native Australian animals. It is located at Healesville on the outskirts of Melbourne, Victoria.

The drive was beautiful, over rolling hills and farmlands. Took us about 45mins drive from where we are staying.
(Spoiler! Don't read this part if you are getting married soon)

Don't you agree it always feels longer for any family trips.

As usual, morning preparation rush. Shouting at Rachel to brush her teeth, bathe. Then bringing all the sandwiches, raisin bread, water bottles and milk packet, some sweets (just in case I fall asleep while driving). And the bag of potato chips. Never leave home without it.

I also have a very advanced stereo sound system in my car. You can't get better than that.

Sermon messages in the background which switches to Christian MP3s songs at missus beck and call. Family squabbles music in the foreground: Rachel complaining about the long journey - 'Are we there yet?' syndrome; missus feeling exasperated; me shouting at Rachel to quieten down; muttering while driving and figuring where in the blazes we are; missus did not tell me about the missing turn which ended in shouting matches...

Missus praying in tongues, Rachel pouting, me calling 'Jesus'! ... yeah it was family time! Thank God we got there in one piece.

Ever wonder what God thought about my family. It's like us going to watch the animals in the zoo, and Him watching the 'circus' in Heaven. "Hey, Jesus, come over here. It's the Family Time show. Today's episode is Going to the Healesville Sanctuary! Oh, as you are coming, bring along the bag of chips please!"

There we were waiting to watch the bird show. Rachel decided to take a photo. I must admit she does have a steady hand for her age. I must also commend the Singapore Zoological Gardens. It is indeed world-class. It wasn't that the bird show in Healesville Zoo was lousy but the Singapore Zoo rocked big time!

Caught this when the hawk (I think) took off from the fence!

And check out the size of the eagle beside him. Also the feeding of the falcon (I think). Gosh don't blame me - I wasn't paying attention to what the guy was saying. It was hard taking photos and listening at the same time.
Here are photos of Rachel playing at the playground there.
We stopped by a winery cum restaurant while driving back home. Check out the vineyard in the background and the wide expanse of the clear blue sky.

Doesn't this make you want to visit me?

Melbourne Zoo

Have not been updating my blog. So here are the stuff which I've been wanting to update all of you.
Melbourne Zoo (20070824)

We bought the family zoo pass and off we went to the zoo.

The cute furry creature beside Rachel is a Koala Bear, an Australian native creature. It's not missus.

She has a very low metabolic rate for a mammal and rests motionless for about 19 hours a day, sleeping most of that time. Cute and cuddly as she is, she has scary claws and teeth that are capable of causing considerable injury to humans.

Now the Koala Bear is broadly similar in appearance to the wombats, another native creature. Wait, whom did you think I was talking about? Come to think of it, both missus and the Koala Bear do indeed have similarities. Bwahahah...

More family pictures below.

Sorry wrong one... heh.

You will notice the red line mark above Rachel's chin. She was accidentally scratched by missus. Told ya, beware the the Koala Bear!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A new home for us

It's going to be a long blog. The short summary is thanks be to God, we are now proud owners of a beautiful home. Enjoy the pictures.

The long story:

It was a dream house.

It sat on top of a slope and was in a court - it was at the end of the road, making it very private. Cul-de-sac.

The moment we stepped in from the front porch, we were taken in by the lushful garden and the quaint house structure. There was a vintage convertible car parked in the garage.

Both missus and I like old houses with character. This house itself was 20+ years old but very well-maintained. Inside it was spacious and simple, with bits of antique furniture and settings that made it feel cozy. There was a fireplace in the lounge with a sloping ceiling. I can already imagine myself sitting on the sofa, drinking coffee and listening to my music.

Though it was a double-storey house, it had a split level which made it 3 storeys rather. The split storey had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a toilet, a small study room and a laundry room which opened to the side of the house into a small backyard.

When we climbed the stairs to the top floor, the mountain view greeted us. It had an unblocked view of the Dandedong mountain ranges. We stood there in awe. Both bedrooms (including the master) looked out to the same scenic view. That's how we want to wake up each morning.

(backtrack at least 6 weeks before we started house viewing)
We committed to God for the kind of house we will like to live in:

  • Situated in a court or end of the road (me)

  • On top of a slope (me)

  • Unblocked view of nature, preferably mountains (missus)

  • Nice garden with bench and platform (missus)

  • Old, quaint, character house (missus)

  • Spacious with bits of antique, cozy feeling (both of us)

  • 2-storeys (Rachel)

  • Space to play, large enough for sleepovers (Rachel)
And God being a faithful and awesome Father met our every needs. Just as He had done when we first moved to Australia.

All these came at a certain cost.
Jesus paid every one of it and gave it to us. His promises are 'yes' and 'amen'. Therefore our prayers are always answered.

How and why did you say He paid and gave it to you?
1. You see, when we gave our first bid for the place, we were not the highest bidder. Naturally speaking, most owners usually pick the highest bidder. However this time round, the owners actually asked the agent to give them a background of each of the bidders. We ranked #2 among the 3 highest bidders.

This was a very unlikely situation (as the agent informed us). This was where I believed the favour of God was on our side.

2. While placing our bid, we became close to the agent. She was a very nice lady and a Christian too. Though she never told us the amount the other bidders had placed (she wasn't allowed to do so), she was very favourable to us and kept giving us tips on the amount we should bid us to secure the house.

Being in the property line for >20 years, she had the intuition to know if a house would eventually belong to a particular family. She couldn't help thinking about us whenever the subject of this house was mentioned.

I call it the fragrance of Christ that made us so favoured.

3. The property agent rang us to quote a higher price as the owners were still undecided. Even though we stuck by our initial quote and the owners could have chosen the highest bidder, they did not commit to a decision.

Later on, we realised there was another player with an even higher bid. That meant we fell to #3 position. Yet the owners could not decide.

4. While waiting for the owners' decision on the bids, we won the auction of another house. It was a very nice and huge place. However the auction fell through as the amount was below the reserved price. We got it cheap, alright. The auction house owner hesistated and thus the sale was put off till the next day for further negotiation.

Buying a house is a huge investment. Both missus and I prayed and worshipped the Lord that night. We needed God for a direction - which house to buy?

During the worship, the property agent for the first house rang us. She would help us close the deal if we put in an additional amount. She even quoted the amount we should offer to secure the deal!

Now I know that wasn't very ethical. But if we think again, why would the agent go through so much hassle just to help us secure the house? In fact she told us she couldn't explain why - she just knew she had to help us get the house.

We agreed to the new price and she would come by our place to place a new bid.

Again Jesus is our perfume. Most agents wouldn't have called you to do another bid as they would have to meet up with you again and re-do the documents. That took time. And time meant money for them.

5. We took it as a sign from God that this house belonged to us.

The following day she met us. She even showed us the latest bid, which was 15k more than us! Of course the agreed price we had with her outbid the top bidder. Well, the rest was history and the house was ours that very night.

6. In addition, we had this uncertainty whether the bank would loan us our bid amount. We had not secured the housing loan yet and the new bid had stretched our budget.

Yet when we met the housing loan officer, everything went smoothly and our loan was approved the following day!

So now, we are looking forward to a beautiful home that God has given us. We will be moving in during the first week of December.

It all seems like a fairy tale. I had barely stayed in Australia for 6 months. Yet I am now blessed with a new home.

We never earned or deserved it. We can only bow down and say - "You are awesome, Lord!"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

CPF Changes

Read this article from a man who once contributed to the economy of Singapore. How valid it is, no one knows, being that it is Anonymous. But search our hearts and you'll know its validity.
(taken from LittleSpeck)

You can also read my response in NMP Siew Kum Hongs blog on the CPF Annuity.

I hope everyone who reads this will think carefully again on any policies to be implemented. It's not a simple thing this CPF Annuity. Just as GIC using CPF funds to invest.

CPF changes - An uncle's woes
He writes from the heart how his elusive savings promised for 55 had eluded him even when he was laid up.
Sept 22, 2007
This anonymous blogger posted this letter when commenting on "CPF Lies - The very blackest kind." by Kenneth Tiong (read here)

Anonymous said,
Hi Kenneth,
Quote from ST, 20 Sept 2007:

"To a question by opposition MP Low Thia Khiang (Hougang) on whether the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) uses funds from the CPF funds to invest, Dr Ng said: "The answer is no."

"Later he rose to add: "The relationship is not so simple".

I could not believe my ears and eyes! Far as I’m concerned, it’s a STUPID EVIL (moderated)!

I watched a video of parliament and I saw Hen (Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen) denigrating a nation by mocking his own and other MP's, violating and belittling the intelligence of Singaporeans, insulting uncles like me for being too dumb to handle our finances, saying, "having a fling here, having a fling there".

I cannot believe that an overpaid manpower servant that we pay with our taxes thinks so lowly of his fellow citizens! A case of “kurang ajar” or, in the hokien dialect which is pretty popular in Parliament now, “kiam kah”!

If I remember well, when I started work as a teenager in 1968, I was told by my boss that 25% of my pay will go to CPF. He will contribute 25%. My boss said, “That’s law, don’t worry. Government guarantees you’ll get it all back when you retire at 55”.

On reaching my retirement goal/age of 55, I was shocked that they have moved the goalposts many times since I started work at 1968. My money wasn’t my money anymore.

Yes, there's Special, Medisave & Retirement Account - SMRA - "You can't touch these!" A hip hop/rap song?

To be fair, I received my yearly CPF statements of the changes, but who reads? I did not.

Eight years ago I had a heart attack and ventricular fibrillation. I was jobless for seven years. Lately, I was suspected of having other health challenges and in the past months, I had my share of visiting polyclinics and hospital.

Poor rich! I'm rich enough to have more than $28,000 sitting in my Medisave Account BUT I cannot use it for tests, treatments and medicines in hospitals and polyclinics.

Yes, my bills from Changi General Hospital and Polyclinics had to be paid in cash from my pocket.

Oh, they tell me I can only use it if I spend more by visiting the hospital again for an artery ballooning/stent or a by-pass procedure.

Or maybe another heart attack and ventricular fibrillation caused by the agony and heartache of “My Money Sits in CPF but Cannot Use For Staying Alive!”; “They Use my $$$, Make A Profit, Don’t Pay Back, Then Say I Stupid” & “Not Enough, Want Some More, Force Annuity On My Children!”

Since nobody wants to employ a sick geezer with a heart condition and other challenges, I am fortunate that a kind soul, having faith, love and trust in me, offered me a sum of money to start a little business last year.

I registered a sole proprietorship in ACRA to start the little business. Another heartache - I was informed that I could not register because I owed CPF Medisave which I did not pay when I was self-employed previously.

Unless I pay up, I could not register my little business.

Imagine, I was broke and I still had to top up my Medisave (already loaded with >$28,000) if I wanted a licence to make myself productive again. Simple: No Top Up, No Licence. This is what I know as Uniquely Singapore First World Standard of Whatever!

Another irony: After seven years of joblessness (due to my health challenges) without paying tax, I made good enough to pay tax again for year ending 2006. I've done my part as a citizen, I even did NS in the army from 1969 to 1971.

"Fend for myself"? I have. I pledge myself as part of “a united people regardless of race language or religion to build a democratic society based on justice and equality so as to achieve happiness, prosperity & progress for our nation”.

As a simple heartlander, I’ve done my tiny part. No worries, I may just jump in front of moving MRT before I bother my busy hardworking government with any problem.

Question: What has the Government done for me? Zilch. . . and please don’t do anything. Whenever you do something for the good of the people, you cause me more pain than gain! Eg: PUB increase, 7% GST, Bus fares increase, etc. Just don’t hurt my family further by forcing my children to pay for annuity which is another scam to leech from innocent citizens!

On second thought, you may want to upgrade my HDB flat with a “Go-And-Die-Chute” so that sick and old people like me who have outlived our usefulness to the regime can self-destruct by jumping into it.

Health Minister may like this idea as he wants me to die at home so that I will not be a bother or a burden to his money-making hospitals.

Based on the video, Mintsters just give us plenty of sarcasm and zero empathy. Just Mr. Hen talking cock!

Another wayang, another day’s work to justify obscene million dollar pay! The more they "strengthen the CPF", the worse our lives become.

... Please, denigrate us no more and stop treating Singaporeans like idiots! Let us live with dignity. Just because we are peace loving citizens does not mean that you can walk all over us.

Trying your luck too far may just change a push to a shove. Yes, even peaceful monks can turn into citizen activists. They are at it in Myanmar!

Do what’s honourable - Simply explain the difference in returns of GIC, Temasek and my hard earned CPF. Come clean with transparency!

My problems may have been less if the returns in my CPF had been on par or better than Malaysia’s EPF. Maybe part of the interest that could have been mine has ended up in the purchase of Manchester City Football Club. Am I co-owner now?

Thanks Kenneth for igniting the fire of a sick and tired Singaporean to write something on this disgraceful state of affairs.

Feed me to the Fish

Monday, September 24, 2007

How God planned our 8th wedding anniversary

I know I haven't been updating my blog.

I have been busy with personal life - house hunting in Australia, meeting many new friends who have just migrated, playing a new online game (which I have not touched for the past few days), work and erm, basically having writer's block.

To kick-off, this new entry is about my 'honeymoon' in Australia. Or rather our first wedding anniversary overseas.

So there we were driving towards Melbourne city in the morning. We had just sent Rachel to the kindergarten and would not be picking her up until 3pm that same afternoon.

That left us with about 5 hours of enjoyment. Or so we thought...

I had planned for us to watch the Bourne Ultimatum. However, she wanted to visit the Victorian Market and then take walk around the city. I accommodated to her as she had mentioned numerous times that she seldom come to the city.

Anyway, it was dizzling. We were about 5km away from the city. Yet we were inching our way forward because of the massive highway jam.

After 45 mins of crawling, I had had enough. I blew my top. We were nowhere near the city and still stuck at St Kilda along Princess Highway. I berated her for wanting to visit the city. I shouldn't but I did it anyway. I was frustrated.

C'mon, I work in the city. I do not want to spend my anniversary in the city! I thought I could play the perfect gentleman by accommodating to her needs by visiting the city (by the way a lot of non-city workers seldom come to the city itself).

Well, it backfired. I raised my voice, she retorted. I shouted, she pouted. She started speaking in tongues, I rolled my eyes, calling 'Jesus'.

Right... what a wonderful start to our anniversary - rain, jam, flaring tempers. Romance died - kaput!

So I decided to take a minor detour from Princess Highway. The bad start was enough for us to go back home. The side road took us along the southern bay. No jam, skies were clearing and soon our quarrel was forgotten.

Wow... what a sight! The expense of the skies and seas meeting at the far horizon drew our focus away from each other. No ships dotted the waters. Just pure nature and the cool sea breeze blowing through our windows!

You must be there to enjoy it. Really. Coming from Singapore, a land of crowd and hurried pace, a place of tall skyscrappers, this is totally exhilarating! There must be a God when the sight greeted our eyes, it was just too beautiful. We marvelled at His fingerprints in His creation.

We drove by Brighton (among the most expensive area in Melbourne) and stopped by Sandringham for breakfast. It was a small cafe but the food was fantastic! Both of us felt like tourists in a faraway land.

This place is so quaint! Nice quiet Victorian town with lovely, smiling people. Somewhat like Albany, south of Perth. We could smell the salty breeze, the fresh air and the damp after showers. Everything felt right. We held hands, soaking, basking in the cool seaside atmosphere (chilly when the wind blows though).

As usual, we started looking at the houses for sale. Having spotted a house we liked, we drove to the area which was further south of Sandringham to Beaumaris (see photos here).

Now this place is so captivating! It's a really quiet seaside suburb. We even toyed with the idea of living in that place. It would have cost us at least 0.6mil to buy a small house there! A high price but worth to the last cent, we thought. If you had checked out the photos above, you would have agreed with us too.

And to top it off, we had lunch at a teahouse called Rickett's Point Beachside Cafe.

Imagine the only cafe along the beach overlooking the ocean under the breathtaking clear blue skies.

Simply. Priceless. What more can we ask for? Such a romantic place to have our lunch. Perfect icing to top off our wedding anniversary celebration!

By the time we left the place to pick Rachel, we were fully recharged and in love again. We had to acknowledge that God planned this for us. If it hadn't been for the jam, we wouldn't have discovered this place that we both enjoyed so much.

We had also experienced God's masterhand when He created the earth. Even more so, we were touched by His faithfulness to us all these 8 years of marriage.

Indeed, there had been those times when I wondered how we ended marrying each other. We are so different. Yet the strong, supa-glue that binds us together is not our love for each other.

It is the love from God through His Son - Jesus.

When Jesus is in the centre of our marriage, we can look beyond our faults and we can love each other as He had loved us. Because He heals our broken hearts when expectations of each other fail and soothe our wounds when we hurt each other with our words.

Most of all, He fills us till overflowing with His love. Thus we have the strength and capacity to continue to love each other.

So you see, what initially started as a bad start, God turned it into such a memorable experience for us.

He is indeed the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. He always has the final answer to whatever situation or challenge we have.

To think that my anniversary was on 9/11. Both Missus and I nearly had World War III on our plate.

And what did we give each other for our anniversary? Let's say the night is still young... *grin*

Monday, August 13, 2007

1 John 1:9

1 John 1:9 (NIV)
"9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Most Christians read this verse to be: God is faithful and just to forgive me and He will purify me when I confess my sins to Him.

I used to believe that way. However I realize how weak and helpless I was as a Christian! Each time I have done something wrong, I feel condemned. I need to ask God for forgiveness. Each day I have 1001 sins to confess. Or perhaps even more. Does God keep track of my sins? Or do I have to remember them?

And what happens if I don't confess (maybe I was angry with God that day) or if I had forgotten one sin unintentionally? Will God still forgive me? Or will He say "Nevermind"? But God is not frivolous, isn't He?

Deep inside I know He forgives me. So why do I need to confess? I can never feel worthy enough to receive His love and be in a perfect fellowship with Him because I can never know if I still had that ONE sin unconfessed.

Most Christians understand or were taught that if we confess our sins, God will be faithful and just in accordance with his good character and He will forgive us as He said He will.

Does it mean that when I don't confess, I fall out of fellowship with God? This does not make any sense or make me secure in God at all. Does it mean that Christ's blood is only good and active if we confess our sins? In God's point of view, either Christ has done the perfect work to keep us in fellowship with God, or Christ hasn't.

What about the verse that God will remember our sins no more? Isn't it an insult to remind God of our sins again when He literally said He does not remember them?

If we confess our sins, are we also saying we now have BROKEN fellowship with God? Because acknowledging those sins means we are now in darkness (apart from God). Darkness has no part with God who is Light.

And we are then to seek forgiveness to restore the relationship back and bring us back into the Light? But then, isn't Jesus' blood continously flowing to keep us in the fellowship? I mean, who wants a relationship of this nature? Surely not I.

An example of a husband-and-wife relationship in a marriage covenant. If my wife does wrong, can she be 'downgraded' to my girlfriend? That is not secure to her because I can ditch her anytime. And only when she says sorry that I will bring the relationship back to wife status. Now, who will want to marry me?

Furthermore if we have an everlasting covenant together in marriage, how can we be in unbroken fellowship if I keep 'downgrading' her? The marriage covenant sustains us, reminding me as a husband that my wife is always part of me. And no matter what she does, she is still part of me! And I am faithful in keeping to the covenant of marriage. It does not depend on how good she is (of course I would want her to be a good wife) but in that marriage covenant, I love her as she is.

Likewise, how can we downgrade ourselves each time we sin and we need to confess our sins to God in order to be in fellowship with him again? How can sin be greater than Jesus' blood?

I kept having this niggling feeling that something was either not right with me. Or that my understanding of the Word was not right. I think it's the latter. So I began to read deeply, trying to understand God's love and heart for me. I also read the the preceding and after text of 1 John 1:9 to get the whole picture.

Let's read it slowly (1 John 1:5-10, Amplified).
"5And this is the message [the message of promise] which we have heard from Him and now are reporting to you: God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him at all [no, not in any way].

6[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents].

7But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].

8If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts].

9If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].

10If we say (claim) we have not sinned, we contradict His Word and make Him out to be false and a liar, and His Word is not in us [the divine message of the Gospel is not in our hearts]."

Bham, the truth just hit me! It blew my mind and shed light into my dark room of confusion and dilemma.

Oh how wrong can we be! How little we understand God's great love for us. We have misinterpreted His Words!

With this new knowledge of truth, I am now assured of God's love for me. Let me share what the verses mean:

How can we walk in fellowship with God when there exist sin in our lives? God is Light and Truth. If I walk with Him in the Light, that means I am 'perfect' as He is. This is God's holy standard - either we are of the Light (sinless) or of Darkness (sinful) as the passage tells me. Those of darkness cannot walk with Him.

To be in the Light and having UNBROKEN fellowship with God, I need to be without sin or sinless. Am I? Let the next few verses tell me whether I am a sinner or I have committed sins in my life.

If I say that we are walking in the Light (as perfect as God is) because we have NO sin, we are wrong! The Word says we are lying when we say we do not have sin. Of course we have!

Right from the beginning, Adam sinned and all mankind fell because of his one act of disobedience. The Gospel tells us we are all like sheep and have gone astray... you know the rest.

If we admit that we do have sin and conclude that we are sinners, we are right! But how can we sinners walk in UNBROKEN (keyword) fellowship with God? How can sinners be partakers with a holy and righteous God, let alone be in fellowship with Him?

By confessing our sins? It's like a see-saw fellowship!

This is the part many Christians misinterpret - God's faithfulness. The verse in Amplified says God is faithful in keeping us cleansed so that we may have UNBROKEN fellowship with Him at all times, everyday, every hour, minute and second!

Now isn't this good news? It is to me! Who keeps us cleansed? Who sustains the unbroken fellowship? Yes it is God!

Do you see this even more powerful part? It is not God being faithful to our confessions of sin(s) but it is God being faithful to what Christ has done! It is God being faithful to the ever-cleansing blood of Christ! Wow...

When we sin, God is faithful to the ever-flowing and ever-cleansing properties of the blood of Jesus to keep us walking in the Light with Him. Each time we sin, the blood cleanses. And it continues to cleanse. Thereby keeping the fellowship - UNBROKEN! Hallelujah! Isn't that wonderful?

It's like this drop of black ink (representing sin) falling into this huge, fast-flowing river (representing Christ's blood). It's is more than enough to wash away all of my sins!

If we say we DO NOT sin, we are the real liars, not God. We indeed have committed sins everyday as the Word says.

The Truth
In this new truth, these very verses say that God is the one keeping the fellowship with us UNBROKEN in Christ. How? By the continous cleansing blood of Christ! When God sees the blood, He is faithful to His promise that the shed blood is more than enough to keep us in fellowship with Him.

Now that brings a whole new truth and security. It creates an awesome awareness of God's love for me. He loves me so much that He desires and wants to have fellowship with me - ALL THE TIME. UNBROKEN!

Initially God cannot do so because of the presence of sin in our lives. But now it is made possible by Jesus' blood. It doesn't matter to Him now that I am a sinner or that I have committed and unconfessed sins because each time He looks at me, He does not see sin.

He sees me perfect as He is. Christ's blood is ever-flowing, ever-cleansing! It is cleansing me continuously.

That's why we can have unbroken fellowship with Him! And walk in the Light with Him!

I can rest assured in His love for me. I can rest in Christ complete work at the cross. God has redeemed us and He is faithful to His promise in keeping us redeemed in Christ continuously and eternally! Now, those are some powerful words!

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want;
He makes me lie down..."

Rest, O my soul.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

It hurts when I saw this video

I forced myself to watch it (original link). Initially I thought it was one of those propaganda videos - you know the kind to stir up dissention against the government during National Day.

However towards the end (after 10mins) of the video when the old man by the pavement started singing a song with his guitar, I was totally glued to the screen. I felt helpless and sorry for those folks who once gave their all for the country. This is how the country gave back to them.

See for yourself and make your own conclusions.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Law vs Grace

My wife told me I was wasting my time and money going back to this 'doctor'.

"Why are you so stubborn?" she said curtly. "He cannot help or alleviate your sickness. Go see someone else who can."

"But I want to know what's wrong with me," I replied indignantly.

"You already know what's wrong with you. He gave you a report, didn't he?"

"Yeap!" I showed her the report. "And...?" she asked.

"And what?"

"Where is the prescription to help you?"

But this is precisely what is happening to us as Christians. We try to keep the Law and return to it even though we know the Law cannot help us (see my previous article).

It points us to our weaknesses and our shortcomings that we may never be as perfect and holy as God is. The truth: we are not even close. It's like jumping on this earth, hoping one day we'll jump high enough to reach the moon.

What's worse is that the Law does absolutely nothing to lift a finger to help you! Nor does it tell us how to reach God. Nor does it have the power to save us.

Rather it condemns us all. It tells us we are going to die, sheep waiting to be slaughtered! The more we read the Law, the more we are aware of our sins and the more we draw God's wrath to ourselves.

The Law brings death. It makes us Christians weak. So why do many Chrisitans keep going back to the 'doctor' who cannot heal them? Why do we want to preach and uphold the Law? Surely there is something else?

Remember the parable of the new wine in new wineskin? See Luke 5:36-39.

36He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.' "

Most interpretations agree that this parable refered to Jesus' new teaching which will not fit within the Jewish religion, or within the religious structures of the time. Many Christians have also interpreted it as the start of a new religion separate from Judaism, and from that of John the Baptist.

Let me suggest this interpretation:
The old wine in old wineskin represents the Law and the Law-bidders. The new wine in new wineskin represents Grace and Grace-followers.

Jesus said nobody is foolish enough to mix both (old patch in new garment and old wine in new wineskin will ruin both).

Isn't it true you cannot mix Law and Grace? Think about it.

The Law
The Law demands everyone to follow it to the 'T'. You cannot miss a step nor can you break one without breaking all. And how God blesses you is based on your efforts in fulfilling the Law - "Thou shalt...".

You shall. You shall not. You.

It focuses on YOU - your efforts and your faithfulness to observe all of it to be right with God. It is called self-righteousness - reaching God with your own efforts. And that's what Jesus calls the Pharisees.

Failure to comply means curses, poor harvests (results, outcomes), distance from God, etc and many times early death.

The only way out is someone must die and blood must be shed in order for the sins committed to be covered. That's why the animal sacrifices in the Old Testaments. Someone must pay for the sins committed and usually it is the innocent lamb or dove.

In grace, however, Jesus said He fulfilled the Law. He was the spotless, sinless Lamb who paid the sacrifice for our sins. When he was on the cross, he cried out, "It is finished!"

Jesus has done it all! When he was flogged and whipped, every lash on His back was the stroke of the Law demanding blood. When he hung on the cross, he was a cursed man and He carried all our sins according to the Law. That's why He cried asking God why He had turned his back on him. Jesus was so disfigured and marred by all the world's sins that God had to look away.

And God's anger burned upon Jesus. That's why Jesus, for once in his life, felt the separation from God. He had always called God his Father but for once, he cried Eloi, Eloi (my God, my God) instead!

And Jesus was the Lamb that was slain. There was a divine exchange (more of it later). He took all our ugliness, impurities and in exchange, gave us his beauty and perfection.

So that we might have forgiveness when he was judged; we might have long life when his was short. So that we might have wholeness in mind and body, wheareas he was anguished and stricken, carrying all our diseases and sicknesses (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus died alone and apart from God so that most importantly, we now have acceptance before a holy God as required by the Law.

Did we ever deserve such love and kindness from God who is not only holy yet loving, righteous yet merciful?

Absolutely no! But we got it freely. That's amazing grace! That's unfailing love! Because God so loved us that He gave... His only begotten Son that whomsoever believed in Him shall have eternal life. Well, this is another topic by itself.

Justice and mercy kissed for the first time. The demands of the Law were exacted, God's justice was met and His anger was exhausted. The perfect Lamb was sacrificed. The sinners are freed.

The curtain before the Holy of Holies was torn apart so that Man for the first time may enter freely into God's presence through His Son. Grace gives life wheareas the Law condemns.

Life Through the Spirit (Romans 8)
"1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. "

What powerful verses and statement that draws us to Christ!

Back to the old wine in old wineskin and new wine in new wineskin. We cannot mix Law and Grace.

Either we try to reach God through our efforts in observing the Law and pay the consequences when we fail to meet to the requirements, or we wholly and freely rest in the finished work of Christ - that He has done everything required of the Law.

Which life do we want to live in? A life of worry when you may 'fall out' of God's favour based on your observing the Law, or a life where you know your standing in God is always secure because of the finished work on the cross?

Your efforts vs Christ's finished work.

As Jesus says, no one is foolish to mix the two. No one can follow the Law and yet say he is in grace. You cannot do both at the same time.

I say to you, choose the new wine. That is the power of grace. That is the gospel.

Hope this has bring a new light in where you want to go in your walk with God. Coming up next (hopefully) is 'Christ's death - what does it give me?'

God bless.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Ten Commandments: the before and after

I've realized that many people still think that God is angry with them. Especially when we foul it up or 'sinned'. Or when we had done something that we shouldn't do and the bible clearly states that it's wrong, we deserve what we get.

And we should expect bad things to happened to us. Should we?

Yes, this is the kind of mentality I'm talking about. I'm sure many Christians (and non-Christians) can identify with these few thoughts:
  • "Er, perhaps I've done something that God is displeased with."
  • "I deserve it."
  • "There must be some sins I've accidentally done and have yet to confess and be forgiven."
  • "If I had more faith in God, then this wouldn't have happened."
  • "This is my fault because I was angry with <someone> or I had bad thoughts about so-and-so."
  • "Karma, what you had done comes back to you."
  • "You reap what you had sown."
  • ...etc

The basis is that:

  1. I've sinned
  2. Bad consequences should result. I deserve them.
  3. God (or whomever or circle of life or karma) is right in allowing it to happen

Perhaps in the next few posts I hope, I can banish some of our misconceptions and what the bible says about 'our sins'.

Let's start with the Law (or the Ten Commandments) first. This was in response to Mr Wang's blog but I disgress.

A lot of Christians hold the Law in the highest regards. Even non-Chrisitians and boy, can they quote it better than we Christians do! It is like the pinnacle, the epitome of the bible - THE LAW. Don't play-play.

It is what God demands of a person to be right with Him, to be holy and pure. Failure means bad consequences. And it is righteous and just for God to zap anyone as a result of that sin.

If one didn't die but had misfortunes, it's called mercy. In doing so, God is righteous and merciful.

And that was what happened in the Old Testaments. God's anger and justice were shown through fatal deaths by the thousands, sicknesses, curses, calamities, failures, etc.

Before the Law (or 10 commandments) was given, God gave grace and mercy. It doesn't mean God allowed sin to reign over the land. But there wasn't any 'guide' to let man know what was expected of him to be holy and righteous. There was no 'yardstick' to measure how much 'sin' the people had committed.

People lived with different standards, or had different kinds of moral values. Man has a conscience (or in-built moral values). However this conscience can be seared and numbed through repeated doings and habits till the act becomes 'right'.

Yet God is slow to anger and abounding in love, wanting all to repent and turn back to him. On the other side, His holiness and righteousness demands a punishment.

It's like God was in a fix. He loved the sinner but hated the sin. How could He destroy one without destroying the other? (This is another topic I hope to cover in later posts.)

But what about Sodom and Gormorah? Didn't they live before the Law? God wiped them out, didn't He? So your argument that before the Law, God gave grace to the offenders is moot, right?

God's destruction on Sodom and Gormorah was because the people in those cities were so hardened in their hearts that they no longer hear God anymore. If you read carefully, God didn't want them wiped out.

In fact He waited for them to repent. He allowed Abraham to intercede for them. He was even ready to withhold His hand if there were only 10 righteous men in the whole city (against maybe a ten thousand population?).

Wow, that's a lot of grace and mercy for a city where the word 'sodomy' comes from!

And if only Abraham had counted down to 1 man, God would have spared the 2 cities. That's because Lot, his nephew, was amongst them. But Abraham didn't. Maybe he knew there wasn't much to hope for these 2 cities.

The point is before the Law was given, people didn't drop like flies or die because of God's wrath. He was slow in meting out the justice though His anger burned. Yet He was abounding in love and mercy to give the people to turn back to Him.

There were many instances when God could have zapped people but He didn't. Cain didn't drop dead for the first murder recorded in the bible. He murdered Abel in cold blood (that's why Abel's blood called for vengence, justice).

Well, Adam and Eve didn't die too! Abraham lived in spite of lying twice (mind you). Jacob lied too!

You see, people started to die in great numbers after the Law was given. Such was the power of the Law to give death.

3,000 died (remember this number) when Moses carried the Ten Commandments down Mount Sinai and saw the Israelites worshipping the golden calf. These very same people had previously boasted in their effort that they were able to do whatever God told them.

Wasn't it interesting that before the Law was given, they murmured in front of the Red Sea and didn't die? And even after they complained while in the desert, God still provided for them?

Yet immediately after the Law was given, the very first command - to worship the Lord God and Him only, was broken. It was an end to man's effort in trying to reach God's holiness and righteousness.

And the first murmurings had people dying again. And again thereafter...

This is what Paul wrote in the Romans. Before the Law was given, man lived by God's grace and mercy. However, when the Law was given, it pointed that man was imperfect. The Law itself is perfect and holy according to God's standard. It demands perfection and the keeping of it to be blessed.

Failure to keep it usually results in death, curses, diseases, etc. And these were rightly so as mentioned in the many deaths and misfortunes in the Old Testaments.

The breaking of 1 law = the breaking of 10 laws, ie if one lies, he is also guilty of commiting adultery.

That is God's standard for us! There is no big or small sin in God's eyes.

Alas! Tell me then, who can be righteous and stand before this holy God? Indeed the Word said we all are like sheep gone astray, waiting to be slaughtered.

The Law exposes that no man can boast of his works and efforts to enter the Kingdom. Yet it does not tell man how they can reach God's standard of holiness which is perfect.

It cannot save man but can only point to his weaknesses through Adam's sin.

That's why we need a Saviour. We need someone who identifies with us (must be a man), and must also perfect and sinless to fulfill the Law (divine like God). This someone will stand in the gap for us and also fulfil God's demand of perfection and holiness.

We all know his name - Jesus.

And when He died, His blood called out for grace and mercy (not justice and vengence as Abel's blood cried out). When the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples and Peter preached, 3,000 people were saved! Remember that 3,000 died when the Law was given.

Grace gives life, the Law gives death.

Those who think they can (by their own efforts), He cannot save them. Just like the Pharisees. Only those who say "Lord, I cannot but You can" will be saved. These are evident with those 'sinners', outcasts and tax collectors whom the Pharisess scorned. Those people who know they cannot help themselves.

That's why Jesus says I've come for the sick and lost, not the well and self-righteous.

This is the New Covenent.

...more coming up in the next few days.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mr Wang's blog on Christianity and TAR (part 2)

… continuing from below:

The truth is what you believe actually influences how you perceive things and how well you believe things will work for your favour.

So in a personal capacity in regards to self-belief, Mr Wang is right in saying so. But when it starts to link to Christianity, this good God who loves me works outside my self-belief.

He works in spite of myself and what I think Him to be.

PS. Will love to hear comments about what you think and your belief.

This is the part where I respond to ~[z][x]~ a Christian.

> ~[z][x]~ said...
Very strangely, I am very much more inclined to Mr Wang's understanding than kaffein's, albeit being Christian myself. I apologize to Mr Wang and the other readers, but I would like to have a go, (yet again) at the Prosperity Gospel:

> Kaffein:
Prosperity gospel? Hmmm never heard of it. I have only heard of THE GOSPEL, which means GOOD NEWS. Whether one thinks prosperity is good or not, it's up to each individual.

For me I choose to believe my God will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. That includes material things.

> ~[z][x]~ said...
Kaffein wrote: "I must disagree. Perhaps writing on God, when you don't know Him, seems a bit sweeping."

I don't quite get it, kaffein. What is it about Mr Wang's highlighting of the story of Jonah as an example of the common belief - "God's thoughts might be different from ours, our desires might be different from his" that you are disagreeing with, exactly?

> Kaffein:
Erm, I never remarked about Mr Wang's comments on Jonah. I was saying Mr Wang's perception of how one receives from God is based on how he believed it to be given to him. I just disagreed when he used the Christian faith link to it.

As for Jonah, you know what, God can pick another person to preach to the Ninevites. It wasn't God 'mis-using' his force, power& will to make Jonah follow his plans and purposes. Jonah was a prophet of God. He had made his life to be the God’s mouthpiece or whatever God told him to say. But he chose otherwise.

You know I’d zap Jonah for disobeying me if I’m God and I'll get another prophet to do his job. That’s why we make lousy gods. The God I know gives everyone a free choice to listen to or follow Him. Jonah's case was an example of how God loves even the wicked person and not just the Jews.

You see, God had a distinct plan when He did what He had to do to Jonah. Yet Jonah still had a choice throughout! But there was a deeper meaning why God ‘moved’ to get Jonah to preach to the Ninevites.

Jonah, being a Jew, didn't like the Gentiles. Even worse, he was hoping the message didn’t reach them so they wouldn’t repent and God would have to zap the Ninevites!. God's hand moved and ‘forced’ Jonah was to show Jonah that He loved the Gentiles as much as the Jews.

So did Jonah learn finally? Was he a better prophet after that? Don’t you think Jonah now understands God’s love better?

So to entirely say God distinctly had other plans/ideas for Jonah is true. Yet God gives everyone his free choice. God, who is not limited by space and time, knows Jonah will finally realize and go to the Ninevites to preach. And the Ninevites will repent.

That is the story of Jonah.

In the past, God's thoughts and ways were unknown and a mystery. But Jesus has said, the fullness of God has been revealed through Him. Who God is, Jesus is. So I think this verse about God's thoughts are different from ours is a bit misquoted. If you had known and received Jesus, the Holy Spirit in you will reveal God's purposes in your life. This is a different topic entirely now.

> ~[z][x]~ said...
Kaffein wrote: "And if you think God has a different plan if people ask for materialistic gains, status, etc. I'm quite sure you don't really know Him."

There are MANY poor, faithful Christians living in third-world countries today. Why is it that these Christians never become as rich as say, many from the mega-churches in Singapore? You might think they lack faith. Many of them, however, would realize that they have received a contentment that no materialistic gain can offer. They do pray to get rich, but they might not, and they do not mind because they know God knows what is best for them! And that, I think, is what Christianity is about.

> Kaffein reply:
I never said there aren’t any poor Christians. They could have lived poorly because of the country, social, politic and economic reasons. They are there because they were born there. There are many reasons.

But frankly speaking, do you think they want to be in that situation? Don't say just Christians, even non-Christians will want to leave that country given a choice. I’ve never doubted a Christian’s faith should he wish to leave the 3rd world country.

Yet do you think the norm of selling one's daughters to become prostitutes because the country is in poverty is good? So do you think it is a blessing and glorifying to God to be poor? Yet I don't understand why Christians think poverty is good (IMHO). Prosperity gospel? Nope, just plain common sense.

I’m not interested in any prosperity gospel. I am interested in THE prosperity and provider. His name is Jesus.

There are many members in the body of Christ, living and serving in different locations and at different capacity. Some live in the 3rd world countries, others more affluent countries. Some are called into 3rd world countries to live amongst the people, to reach to them, to be the hands and feet of the body of Christ. Some are called into wealth mgmt, investment (Joseph, Abraham, Solomon, etc) and so through the financial wisdom God had given, the riches are used to bless the orphanages and ministries to help these missionaries. Others are called to be the mouth (eg. pastors, preachers, evangelists), the ears, the eyes, etc.

Let's not limit how Christians should be. If your believe being poor glorifies God, it’s your choice. For me and my house, I choose to want to bless others, be it spiritual or material things.

> ~[z][x]~ said...
Kaffein wrote: If you read the bible, no one who calls upon Him was poor or needy. In fact, they were rather rich: Abraham, King Solomon, David, Joesph, Job, etc.

Was Job a typo? Because Job had like, everything taken away from him. Job's tragic story, his questioning, and his coming back to faith stand as countervailing evidence to your Prosperity-Gospel theology: God DOES NOT need to bless us with material wealth to be GOOD.

> Kaffein reply:
Did you read the whole of Job, ZX? Or did you only liked the part where Job was poor and lost everything?

1. Firstly, Job wished there was someone who could stand in the gap for him. In his time, he didn't have Christ to mediate on behalf of him. Now we have Jesus Christ who is our great High Priest and Mediator. So can Satan stand before God and accuse Christians now and take all blessings from them? That’s was what Job (and David) was hoping to have!

2. Second, did you ever read the end of Job story? Everything that was taken was given back to him, and even much more. So the question is not whether God had blessed Job with material wealth (my bible says he did), but whether Job took it or not. My bible says Job was the richest man alive then.

3. Thirdly, if you read carefully, who was it that blessed Job? It was God. If according to you, Job should give all away. Or did you believe that Job was struck down because he had so many things? If I’m reading the correct bible, it says God was the one who blessed Job and protected him.

4. If going by what you say again about God not needing to bless us materially, that means God shouldn't even bless Job after taking everything away from him, right? My bible tells me God blessed Job even more than what he had at first before Satan took them away! If I follow you, that meant Job should tell God, “No don't give me anymore stuff!”. Erm, that's not what my bible tells me.

5. Lastly, it was Satan who made a bargain with God. He lost. According to the book of law, Satan had not only to pay back what he stole from Job, but much more. So it's always a risk when Satan attacks a Christian.

I'm not sure if you can use Job as a good example because it's a one-off situation. I can see more richness and blessings of many others than the one-off Job in the Old Testaments. Yet in the end, Job was even richer. So somehow your support for Job doesn’t stand.

> ~[z][x]~ said...
Yes, these 'wealth-promising' verses have often been misunderstood. Especially when Christians forget Jesus' reminders in Matthew 6:19 and 6:32-33.

> Kaffein reply:
Look at the context and whole chapter in Matt 6:19. He's talking about the Pharisees who often are showing off their fasting, flaunting their wealth and giving tithes to let everyone see how holy they are. I don’t believe Jesus was calling us hypocrites at all.

The LOVE of money is the root of evil. It is not money itself. A man with $10 can be greedier than a multi-millionaire. The problem isn't about money but our hearts.

The key verse is found in v21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Jesus didn't say you shouldn't be rich, but if you put riches before God, money is your god. I'm quite sure you have misquoted.

Matthew 6:32-33.
"32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Again the key verse you've missed out is your Heavenly Father knows you need them. Them means material things which the pagans run after. Seek first his kingdom and His righteousness: what do these refer to?

Jesus refered the Kingdom to the new covenant God is going to make with the people. Many times, Jesus said: The Kingdom of God is here. His righteousness? Only one qualifies that name and that’s Jesus.

So this verse means seek God through Jesus, and all these things (includes material things) will be added unto you. Because the things he referred to were the very material things that pagans run after.

> ~[z][x]~ said...
Kaffein wrote: If He had already given His best, why shall He withhold other things that He knows you need - financial, health, prosperity, wholeness of mind, etc?

Because He knows that these other "needs" can so very often, distract/blind us from his 'best'? If not, why in the world would Jesus have said "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24)?

> Kaffein reply:
Again you have misunderstood what Jesus said.

Jesus wasn't saying the rich man couldn't enter because he had great wealth. The rich man had great wealth and he did not want to let go of it. That was his god. The rich man also boasted in his works: honouring his parens, not murdering and loving his neighbours as himself. The man was basically proud because he boasted in many things - he thought himself better than others.

So Jesus pointed to him his weakness. That is his love for his great wealth. And the trust in his own efforts to enter the kingdom of God.

Remember Jesus said anyone who wants to follow Him must deny himself and his family? Yet I don't see Christians denying parents or their wives for the matter? Isn't it contradicting the law which says to honor your parents?

Jesus said if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. If your hand causes you to sin, chop it off. Better to enter the kingdom maimed than to be thrown outside.

So why don't we all gouge our eyes and chop our hands? Which of us can safely say we don't have envious, jealous and wandering eyes? Or our hands have never done anything wrong?

What Jesus is saying is no one, by their own efforts can enter the Kindgom of God. That's why we need a saviour.

If I take Jesus' meaning literally, that means I should be poor and maimed and blind. Yet Jesus healed the blind! Why would He do that since the eye caused me to sin and not enter the kingdom? Likewise, God should not bless Job, or David or anyone of us at all? Yet again why am I working? Better if I go to the countryside and be a farmer and grow just enough for me and family.

> ~[z][x]~ said...
Kaffein wrote: And He gives freely to all who call on Him, by grace.

But surely, He showers his grace as well, in many other ways, to those who are not materialistically 'blessed'. Hebrews 13:5 - "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'"

> Kaffein reply:
Ahhh the key word is LOVE OF MONEY. Not don't have money. I can have $10 in my pocket, yet I'm not satisfied. I can be a multi-millionaire, yet I'm not fulfilled. So it’s not the money but the love of it.

> ~[z][x]~ said...
No offense meant, kaffein. It is just that I really disagree with what is being taught in many churches in Singapore today. And you sounded uncannily like them. Would love to hear what you have to say, though. Thanks.

> Kaffein reply:
None taken. To each our own understanding. I just think you have missed out much of what God has in store for you.

You see, if I'm wrong, I'm still saved by grace, be it I’m rich or not. Well, if you are wrong, then you suffer needlessly on this earth.


Mr Wang's blog on Christianity and TAR (part 1)

Well, you can read the comments published in Mr Wang's blog.

I love a healthy debate. At the end of the day, it isn't a matter of right and wrong. Everyone has a choice. :)

This part where I respond to Mr Wang's comments:

Hi Mr Wang & ~[z][x]~
This discussion can get long, ardous and theological. I have no intention to lead this to a heated debate about the Christian faith for I'm certain this is not Mr Wang's intention. I am also not here to convince or convert anyone. To each individual person, whatever you believe is your choice and I respect your decision.

This will be my last reply. If anyone wants to continue, do so at my blog. I’m most happy to discuss further.

Now back to some points I want to highlight.

>Mr Wang wrote:
"In other words, if you deeply believe something (whatever that something may be), then it will appear in your reality. And faith is simply another word for "deep belief".

In other words, if you deeply believe that you are going to receive X because you asked God for it, then yes, X will appear in your reality."

>Kaffein reply:
There is a difference between Christian faith and personal faith.

*** Christian faith NOT equal Deep belief ***

To put it simply, Christian faith is "when I see God's faithfulness through Jesus Christ, God sees my faith". I cannot, therefore God can.

Deep belief doesn't move God's hand. Many of the Pharisees in Jesus time had a deep belief in God and their laws. But God was not moved by their efforts. Nor was He impressed.

So I disagree with trying to put personal belief with the Christian faith. It's totally opposite. The more you trust in yourself, the more God steps back. I'm not sure if many understand this part.

However if you are saying in the capacity in personal belief and motivation, I agree totally. What I belief can somewhat affect how I want the outcom to be. That's one of the basis of positive thinking, motivation.

> Mr Wang Says So said...
Kaffein wrote: "I repeat, always. In other words, my prayers are always answered."

.... sure, I have no difficulties with that. If you have been following my previous posts, you would know that. Thoughts affect reality; and deep thoughts affect reality deeply.

In other words, if you deeply believe something (whatever that something may be), then it will appear in your reality. And faith is simply another word for "deep belief".

In other words, if you deeply believe that you are going to receive X because you asked God for it, then yes, X will appear in your reality.

> Kaffein:
Again if you say this in a personal capacity by my effort or strength and thoughts, whatever a man puts his mind, his hands and believe in it, I'm sure it will come to pass.

However, with the God of the Christian faith, it is quite the opposite. This is what I wish to communicate. The more one trusts in his works and self-beliefs, the more God withdraws. yes you can achieve, but you will have to sustain it. It is those who say I cannot that God says I can. And He will.

As for the Father-earthly parenting, all I'm saying is God is NOT like us. We, earthly parents, can be selfish in our desires and think best for our children. However God is far from it. And God always gives us the free choice to choose our wants and desires (be it selfish or magnanimous).

And yes God has his own personality and ideas. However He does not impose them upon you. The choice is up to you.

... now to reply to ZX's comments.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

More photos but mine will have to wait

If you just wanna see Rachel's photos just before we left for Melbourne, you can visit QQ*Librarian's blog. Both her husband and her are our best friends.

And she misses Rachel... awww.

More pertinent issues at hand. Just read an article on Mr Wang's blog (Christianity and TAR).

I really value and dig his opinions. More often, his advice are eye-opening and they give a different perspective to questions in life (though I prefer his analysis on the current politics).

I didn't comment on Buddhism or other 'forms' of thinking, meditation, etc purely because I am in no position to comment.

But here are my comments revised with a bit of grammatical corrections (I hope he publishes my comments in his blog though):

"I respect your opinions, Mr Wang.

But in terms of Christianity, I kinda disagree with lots of your statements and will like to comment on some of them.

"The other big difficulty is that God, as seen from the Bible, has His own distinct personality, ideas and plans. He doesn't necessarily give you what you want - instead He may have his own very specific plans on what you should be doing and where you should go (think Jonah and the whale)."

I must disagree. Perhaps writing on God, when you don't know Him, seems a bit sweeping. Perhaps it's your POV, so you are entitled to them.

My family and I are Christians first and foremost. Not that I am in a position to speak on behalf of God, I can only write about Him as much as my experiences with Him go. For me and my family concerned (though I cannot say for other Christians), my God always supplies all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.

I repeat, always. In other words, my prayers are always answered.

And if you think God has a different plan if people ask for materialistic gains, status, etc. I'm quite sure you don't really know Him. If you read the bible, no one who calls upon Him was poor or needy. In fact, they were rather rich: Abraham, King Solomon, David, Joesph, Job, etc. He met everyone according to their needs and their desires. But that is another topic which I shall not dwell upon.

Oh one might say, that's >2000 years ago. Look at the Jews today. See how this small tiny race are movers and shakers, impacting the world we live in. How many are well-known scientists, inventors, nobel-prize winners, etc?

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."

It has been misquoted. If you read the context, esp before those verses, what Jesus is saying: God is NOT like this.

You don't need to knock, seek and beg to be let in or for God to listen to you and then supply. Just as a father already knows his child's desires (I'm sure you already knew what your children wanted before they asked), God is even more loving and concerned about our wants and desires than we can ever imagine.

And pray tell me, Mr Wang, why do you want your child to ask of you? Do we need to be formal with our kids that they must ask to receive? Or are we as adults playing hard to get? Or perhaps they must earn it to ask?

Or do we, as earthly parents, freely give even before their asking?

Yes, if we as earthly parents can feel joyful when we are able to provide, how much MORE does our heavenly Father longs to give? Actually had He already not given His best - Jesus His Son?

If He had already given His best, why shall He withhold other things that He knows you need - financial, health, prosperity, wholeness of mind, etc?

Of course, this is one of the basis of Christianity: we cannot because He can. And He gives freely to all who call on Him, by grace.

On a personal note, I long to hear my daughter ask of me. Why? Because I love her and she loves me. And even before she can utter the first words, I have already given it to her.

Cheers, Kaffein"

Well what do you think?

Ok, ok, I'm sorting out my photos and I hope to publish them asap. Some people are already complaining why my updates are so slow.

*sigh* Singaporeans...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

LifeHack? Read on...

I wouldn't classify 'LifeHack' as self-improvement, positive thinking, conventional wisdom or reinvention.

Rather it's a 'geek' approach of making routines more efficient, productive and satisfying…perhaps there is a gem or two we can each apply individually or as a group.
  • Hacking Toward Happiness (Time article by Jeremy Caplan, 21 Jun 2007)

    Beneath the bits and bytes that shape the character of Silicon Valley, there's a booming digital subculture committed to the art of self-improvement, geek style. It's known as life hacking, and it's all about sweating out the best ways to crank through e-mail, sabotage spam, boost productivity and in general be happier... (read more)

LifeHack sites to read more:

Monday, July 02, 2007

Delivered as promised

I know most of you are saying, "Cut the chase and give me the good stuff." Yeah, who cares about Mum and Dad anyway.

So to appease you hungry fans, lots of Rachel photos for you.

On her new Dora the Explorer kickscooter. Vroommm...

At a nearby playground

Family photos time!

Selene & Rachel, Princess Fiona & Shrek the Beautiful

Met up with Naomi (sister-in-law's sister in Melbourne). She brought us to CityLife Church where we are worshipping now.

Rachel with her distant cousins (Bella, Zoe & Skye)

We took a train to the Melbourne with a family whom we befriended in church. Remember I mentioned about Rachel praying to have friends about her age to play with?

Yeah Anthea is one of her playmates. Prayer works... everytime!

Anthea and Rachel along Yarra River
with Melbourne City in the backdrop

A shopping arcade in Melbourne City
Quaint, tudor-court, English-style setting

Selene befriended the mother of one of Rachel's classmate.

Rachel and Nickhil in the 'ark'

There are lots of birthday parties to attend. And they are BIG in Australia (the bigger and more elaborate the party, the more the mums look up to your family)! It's like a subtle 'class' system, in my opinion.

This is Zoe's birthday party. It was very well-coordinated and successful. Drawing on aprons, clay molding and painting, fun outdoor games, blowing bubbles, lots of cakes, cookies, sweets, chicken nuggets, jellies, barbie doll cake, party bags...

It was so much fun that the children all didn't want to go home. They all forgot their parents. Rachel included :)

See all the happy children and working parents

So you see, we have been tremendously blessed. God has indeed met to our needs more than we can ever hope or dream of!

Sure, there are tough and challenging times. Sometimes I do wonder if I've made the right choice. But seeing Rachel having so much fun (she is so adaptable and trusting towards God to provide), I can only look forward to a better future.

He has a plan for me and my family, indeed; plan to prosper us and to give us a hope and a future.

Stay tuned... more pictures coming up.