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News trickled in around the stroke of midnight in Singapore (UTC+8) on Wednesday night (21 Feb). It took a while for it to sink in, and I checked a few credible news sites before reposting, in a faint hope that it could be fake news. It wasn’t. Billy Graham had passed away peacefully in his home at the age of 99. Throughout the night, more and more news feeds poured in, eulogies, well-wishes, tributes, fond memories, most if not all, in great respect and gratitude for one of our modern giants of the faith, the great evangelist.

Thom Rainer wrote a great article of this historic Christian figure as he recollects lessons he learnt whilst visiting him in 2009.

Here’s a summary:

  1. A life pleasing to the Lord is a life of integrity.
  2. Our first ministry is to our family.
  3. Listen to critics, but don’t dwell on them.
  4. Humility is one of the greatest virtues of leaders.
  5. All that really matters is Jesus.

Read the full article here.

His passing also reminded me of another respected American who also has been promoted to glory, also Baptist, also at the age of 99, also a great man of God.

Ps John Willis came to Singapore in 1966 after retiring at age 62 to help pastor our then starting-out young church at Bartley. I remember him fondly from a young age as he would share the gospel story through chalkboard art to the Sunday school children and during sermons. In later years, I remember him sitting by the main door of the church, shaking hands and greeting every single worshipper walking in by name. He married off almost all in our parents’ generation, despite being single. He was like the grandfather of the church family. He used to live on our church premises for almost 30 years, and after he passed in 2004, at age 99, we used to use his room for Bible study and awe at his wall-to-wall library of books (all read) and the simplicity and humility of his living and life.

2 scholarship funds at SBC and Moody were set up in 2004 from his bequeathed will, and in 2010, a book “An American we are grateful for” was launched, a hall at the newly rebuilt Bartley was named after him, and a missions fund was set up in his name as well.

Read more at the SCF book project here.

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

Matthew 25:21 NASB


Managing screen time

Dr Sears posted a great article entitled “8 Ways to Manage Screen Time for Kids and Teens“.

Here’s a summary.

  1. No phones in the car (unless trip goes over 20 min)
  2. Movies & shows are watched on the big screens, not the phone or tablet
  3. Mealtime is a No Phone Zone
  4. Phones go away one hour before bedtime
  5. Grades drop = phone is gone
  6. When phones are ON, we use them to promote family togetherness
  7. Phone safety
  8. Have an occasional unplugged weekend

You can read the full article here.

Sermon slides & discussion questions here.

Journey to the Cross

As the season of Lent approaches (beginning with Ash Wednesday on 14 Feb), it is worth for us to prepare our hearts to reflect on the Lord’s death and resurrection. We have been preaching through the Gospel of Mark, covering events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion – Peter’s confession of the Messiah, Jesus’ transfiguration, and His triumphal entry, to name a few. How do we prepare ourselves as Good Friday and Easter draws near?

Firstly, we are to bear the marks of a disciple – self-denial, cross-bearing and obedience (Mk. 8:34). Often the period of Lent is marked by prayer and fasting. But more than the activities and disciplines, in what way does God want us to take up our cross and follow Him?

Secondly, we are to run the race with endurance, fixing our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2). Luke 9:51 records, “As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Christ set His face towards the cross, determined to fulfill His Father’s will and mission, to die for the sins of the world. What has God called and purposed for you to do, in this season, in your life? Are we fixing our eyes on Him, the author and perfecter of our faith, so that we will not lose heart and grow weary?

Lastly, we are to reflect Christ through our life and witness. Do others see Christ in us, in the way we speak or act, or the way we serve or work? Do we feel compassion for the lost around us and beyond our shores, being convicted and proclaiming that indeed, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)?

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

Beginning of school

I spent the first day of the new year with my son, doing last minute shopping in preparation for him starting primary school the next day. After 2 hours of braving crowds and queues, we settled on his school bag (on sale at an outlet) and school shoes (good ol’ Bata). We slept early after dinner and prayers and woke bright and early the next morning to catch the half-hour train to his new school for the next 6 years. Parents also had a halfday orientation programme whilst the children had theirs in their classrooms.

This first week has been challenging as not only is our son adjusting to school and his new routine, but also the whole family having to adjust e.g. having everyone fed and quiet so that he can sleep early. The babies for some reason knew this, and have been waking up in the middle of the night as they nap earlier. After 5 days, both me and my wife were depleted, exhausted and falling sick. I woke with a splitting migraine on Friday morning and it has not dissipated since, mostly due to lack of sleep (most extreme was 1 night sleeping only 1.5 hours).

Emotionally and mentally, it has been mixed feelings graduating to becoming a primary school parent – a mixture of stress, fatigue, nostalgia, joy and pride. As I send my son to school everyday now, I am immediately transported back some 30+ years ago when my mother would do the same, sending me to school for the 1st 3 years of my primary school life. We used to stay near the old checkpoint, woke up 5am, on the old conductor non-aircon bus by 5.30am for a slow, long 1hr 45min busride through small roads, reaching school nicely at 7.15am. This was before the days of the MRT and newer expressways, and when it rained, an infamous canal would flood and we would be excused for being late for school. Compared to those days in the early ’80s, travelling to school or around Singapore these days are a breeze, despite the occasional breakdowns, train faults, and crowds.

Looking back, those first 3 years were really tough, but it also inculcated deep values of discipline and sacrifice on my part as a young boy. Although we now have a 2nd-hand car, and our son has been used to being fetched around during preschool, it was a conscious choice for me to brave the MRT crowds each morning with him, in the hope that this would start to develop discipline, resilience and self-sacrifice as he matures into a young boy and man. Children seem to be made from different stuff these days, just walking 10 minutes from the aircon train and station to his school, would render frequent complaints of, “I’m tired, I’m sweaty.”

I bumped into an old primary school friend during parent orientation, and after comparing notes, realised we were classmates in P3, and now both our boys were in the same P1 class. Over the past few weeks, I have been meeting and reconnecting with more and more old friends, all having sons now in the school. And to top it all off, one of our teachers, who came in when we were P4, is still teaching in the school up to today, some 30+ years already!

Watching my son walk up the stairs to his class and assembly everyday after reaching school, and hearing him get excited about visiting the library, making new friends, enjoying fun games at PE, learning new things, having his own travel card, library card, buying food at the canteen, makes me beam with pride and thankfulness. Proud that we have such a mature and good young boy, growing up, beginning his schooling journey; thankful to God for watching and nurturing him over the past 6 years, and for the opportunity to study in a good school in a safe and stable environment here in Singapore. Not every child has that privilege or chance, and I pray that our son will cherish and enjoy his schooling days, despite the gradual stresses and pressures.

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22.6

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