Monday, December 26, 2011

Overcome Evil with Good

TITLE: Overcome Evil With Good (The Year in 2011)
SCRIPTURE: Ps 90:9
Written by: Conrade Yap
"All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan." (Ps 90:9)
MAIN POINT: The Year 2011 is associated with a year of protests. Christians need not protest like the world. They can do more than protests. They can witness with good works, with good behaviour, and with hope. Even though the world treats you badly, do all the good anyway.

This week, many people worldwide will be slowing down to prepare for the New Year's Eve bash. As they prepare to ring in the New Year 2012, invariably many will be reflecting on the past year. All around the globe, stories abound about the joys of victory for winners, and the agonies of defeat for the losers. We welcome new births, and say goodbye to loved ones who died. Some find new jobs while others lose theirs. With the continuing slum in the US economy, and the economic uncertainty worldwide, there seems to be more reasons for gloom. In relationships, some have gotten married to their sweethearts, while some have to annul their marriages through divorce or other kinds of agreements for separation. Students busy with their studies while parents busy themselves with bills and making ends meet for their families. The year has been mixed but many will say that there are more bad news than good.

A) Year Review

This morning, I read an article published in Huffington Post about the top stories in Canada for the year 2011. They are numbered as follows:
  1. Stephen Harper's Conservative Party winning the majority vote to govern Canada. (politics)
  2. Riots in Vancouver after the Stanley Cup final game. (sports/culture)
  3. Wildfires in the town of Slave Lake. (environment)
  4. Coverage of the Occupy protest movement (culture)
  5. End of the military mission in Afghanistan (politics)
  6. Corruption Scandal in Quebec (politics)
  7. Hockey Headshots Controversy (sports)
  8. Prince William and Kate's Visit to Canada (politics/leadership)
  9. Decline of the Separatist Movement in Quebec (politics)
  10. The Proposed Keystone LX Pipeline (environment)
Most of them are stories about politics and power, sports and leisure, and some concerns about environment. They reflect the general concerns of the people. Very little is mentioned about spiritual stuff. Although the Occupy protest movement is #4 in the list above, note that there are other similar movements around the world that produces the protests. There is the Arab Spring protest movements that are continuing to bring down long-time governments and rulers.

B) Year of Protests

(Credit: Time Magazine)
The death of a boy who committed suicide in Tunisia sparks the Arab Spring revolution. Bouazizi was a 26-year old boy just minding his own business. For a boy his age, he carried huge responsibilities. His meager income basically supported his family of 8 persons. He sold produce on a cart in the market. Along came a female enforcement officer who not only confiscated all his goods but also made derogatory remarks about his father who had passed away. He tried to complain to the authorities. Instead of being given a just hearing, he was ignored, slapped, and pushed away with a challenge to kill himself instead. Bouazizi in despair set fire to himself. He died on January 4th, 2011.

The Bouazizi suicide is the spark that lits up the Arab Spring movement. As Tunisia falls to public cries for justice, the other autocratic regimes quickly follow suit. Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen all have similar uprisings which led to the deposing of their hardline autocratic leaders.

In the West, there are protests too, albeit over economic disparity. Even after the US government bailed out large US corporations with public money, the economy did not seem to improve. Main street people continues to question Wall street corporate bigwigs. This produces the 99% movement (Occupy movement) where protesters claim to represent the 99% of common folks over the rich guys (1%). Rightly or wrongly, the logic is simple: Corporate greed of the 1% is the cause of the economic problems affecting the 99%. It is no surprise then that Time Magazine this year declares 'The Protester' as the person of the year.


C) Ending the Year with a Moan?

Psalm 90 has been attributed to Moses. Called the 'man of God,' Moses declares that all of life has been held together because of God's mercy and grace. The generations of Israel have been kept in existence because God has been their dwelling place. The creation of the world has been sustained because God is at work. Time is limited but God is not (Ps 90:4). There is the image of powerful men and women of the day become nothing by the night (Ps 90:5). Due to sin, and the continued rebellion of Israel, God has allowed justice and judgment to follow suit. Without God's mercy, man would have ended their years with a moan. The trouble with the world is this. Man's continued rebellion and disobedience will lead to man ending their years with a moan.

(Credit: Biojobblog.com)
The events of the year is less of God's judgment but more of man's failure to come back to God. All over the world, people are more concerned about their own things which lead to widespread corruption, power hungry moods, and a general lack of compassion. Even the protests are symptoms of an underlying discontentment with life. When the economy is good, it is like sweeping the dust of unhappiness under the carpet of good jobs and comfortable materialistic living. When the economy turns nasty, when the carpet of comfort and affluence is removed, the dust of discontentment is revealed once again. Man is sinful, regardless of the state of the economy. Sin produces more sin. It leads to God's wrath. Contrary to what some people think, God is not angry simply because His Law has been broken by sinful people. God is angry because man is setting themselves up for failure right from the start, and chooses to condemn themselves. Man tends to blame everyone else except himself. Playing the blame game, man names all manner of excuses and problems, pointing at everything else except himself. Days of blaming leads to a final puff of moaning.


D) Overcome Evil with Good

Christians should go beyond protesting. They can do more. Christians have a higher mandate to witness regardless of their positions in life. They can overcome evil with good. Mother Teresa is not a high and mighty queen who can command large military ships or powerful armed forces. She is a gentle and humble lady, serving among the poorest of the poor, with whatever she has. Mother Teresa overcomes the evil of poverty by the good acts of mercy. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stands up against the tyrant Hitler during World War II, knowing that his resistance against the Nazi regime can ultimately mean him losing his life. He protested with boldness for God. Bonhoeffer overcomes the evil of Nazi power with the good of Christlike courage. Recently, the CEO of American Airlines chooses to resign in protest against the 'immoral' behaviour of corporate politics when AA declares bankruptcy. In an age where CEOs who failed their companies can still depart with generous severance pay, Gerard Arpey left AA without any golden handshake. The previous CEO of HP, Leo Apotheker takes home nearly US$25 million after leading Hewlett-Packard through one of the worst performances in corporate history. The ex-CEO of Yahoo, Carol Bartz receives about US$10 million after failing to turn Yahoo around. John Chidsey pockets about $20 million after his failure at Burger King.  In an age where leaders are rewarded despite doing a lousy job, Arpey bucks the trend. He has no such financial windfall. He leaves based on an ethical principle, that by declaring bankruptcy, AA is legally free to avoid meeting their obligations. From pensions and medical benefits to negotiations with worker unions, the corporation hides under the legal umbrella of Chapter 11, to walk away from their ethical responsibilities. For Arpey, such acts are immoral. We may agree or disagree with Arpey's manner of resignation. One thing is clear. He lets the desire for doing right, overcome any temptations for doing wrong.

Paul exhorts us: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:21)

We may not be able to control external circumstances, but we can certainly control our inner selves. We can control how we respond to evil. While the rest of the world spins away in their protests and despair about life, Christians can continue to do all the good that they can. They can give thanks rather than complaining. They can do something good regardless of what happens to them. They can trust our dependable God instead of the undependable rulers of this world.

As we prepare to ring in the New Year, let us do soul work to prepare to welcome the coming of the Lord. Do all the good that we can. Say all the good that we can. Be all the best that we can. Hope is simply this: When the world around us calls us to give up, to complain and to drown ourselves in despair, hope tells us to 'Give good works another go!"

Have a Happy New Year 2012!

Thought: "Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway." (Kent M. Keith)


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Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or enquiries.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Standing Up For Jesus

TITLE: STANDING UP FOR JESUS
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 21 Dec 2011
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:74

"He promised to rescue us from our enemies' power so that we could serve Him without fear by being holy and honorable as long as we live." (Luke 1:74, GW)

MAIN POINT: Fear not. Do not be afraid to stand up for your faith, even when society frowns on your worship of Jesus during this festive period. If believers do not stand up for their own faith, how will others take any interest?

Credit: Blackshear Place Baptist Church
It is this time of the year where spiritual and secular battle lines are drawn once again. Santa Claus vs the Son of God; 'Happy Holidays' vs 'Merry Christmas;' or commercialization of the Christ's event vs concentrating on Christ. Last year, I wrote about what Christians ought to do with 'Santa Claus.' I had argued that instead of confronting others about the use of Santa Claus, and become killjoys of people's happy occasions, Christians could use the relatively happy mood to point people to Christ. By our very presence, we can be living reminders of God's grace.

A) Banned from Wearing the Cross

It is no secret that many countries in the West are increasingly secular. Even Europe which has had a long and colourful history of Christian roots have swung to a secularism that tends more toward anti-Christ. In 2006, a British Airways employee by the name of Nadia Eweida was banned from the workplace because she was wearing a small cross around her neck. According to a spokesperson from BA, the official policy is that no religious symbols are allowed to be worn in the workplace. Since the wearing of the cross around Eweida's neck is a religious symbol, it has to be removed every time she goes to work for BA. Eweida refuses to back down, and opts to stay home rather than to compromise on her right to display her affection for Jesus. The main BA contention is that they are not saying Eweida cannot wear her cross. The only condition is that she has to keep it hidden away from customers, colleagues, or anyone in the workplace.

Eweida refuses to comply and accuses her employer of religious discrimination. It is her freedom to practice what she believes in. This sparks one of the biggest uproar in the United Kingdom, as both camps trade angry arguments. While the secularists and the atheists are cheering the BA decision, church leaders in England are not pleased. They protest their public displeasure. The archbishop of Canterbury threatens to boycott the airline and initiate the sale of all of the Church of England's share in the national airline. That will have created havoc to the share price of British Airways. The archbishop, Rowan Williams finds the lack of tolerance of people wearing a cross to work, 'offensive.' The archbishop fearlessly fights for the right of Eweida to practice her faith. Thankfully, BA finally backs down. If they have been allowed to ban the wearing of the crucifix, then BA will have to ban turbans for religious Sikhs, or veils from Muslim women.

B) 'Happy Holidays' or 'Merry Christmas'

This saga repeats itself every year. Somehow, while many countries in Asia do not see it a problem to use 'Christmas' as an open reference to commemorate the birth of Christ, not so in the West. It seems like the West is beginning to banish symbols of Christianity not only on normal days, but on the Christmastide as well! What is happening? Even the humble Christmas tree has been banned from one Ontario courthouse, based on the judge's logic that the courtroom must remain secular. People are replacing Christmas greetings with 'holiday' greetings. Crosses are removed if it offends the secular eye. If that is so, maybe churches in future will not be allowed to ring the church bells if they sound overly religious to the secular ear.

Personally, I do not have a problem with 'Happy holidays.' The problem comes when people tries to shove secular ideals down the throats of religious people. Tolerance must happen both ways. For instance, just because Canada is a secular society does not mean Christians have to toe the line to refrain from verbalizing 'Merry Christmas.' Hey! You are free to say 'Happy Holidays.' Don't tell us that we cannot wish people, 'Merry Christmas.'

Recently, at the commemoration of 400 years of the King James Bible translation, the British Prime Minister boldly calls the UK a 'Christian nation.' Lots of displeasure and bemusement begins to circulate all over the Internet, that David Cameron has lost touch with the fact that modern Britain is more secular than Christian. In his speech at Oxford, he emphasizes the need for Christians to stand up for what they believe, instead of bowing down to pressures by secularists to quieten down their practice of faith. Being a Christian does not mean dumbing down others. It simply means being bold to testify of one's Christian heritage.

"We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so," he told the audience at Christ Church. . . . Let me be clear: I am not in any way saying that to have another faith - or no faith - is somehow wrong. . . .I know and fully respect that many people in this country do not have a religion. And I am also incredibly proud that Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make our country stronger.. . . But what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today." (BBC report, 16 Dec 2011)
Don't be afraid to stand up for Jesus. Those who insist on 'Happy Holidays' should not insist on Christians' right to call the season, Christmas. Christians have rights too. They have rights to worship Jesus the way that they want. If secularists insist upon Christian not to impose faith on them, the reverse is equally true. Secularists cannot insist that Christians stop worshipping or proclaiming their faith. They can do their shopping. Let Christians do their worshipping.

C) Fearless Faith

Zechariah the priest has seen the power of God. After his unbelief, he is struck dumb (Luke 1:20). Once the Word of the Lord has been fulfilled, his mouth opens and he proclaims the powerful works that his son, John the Baptist will be doing for God. Luke 1:67-79 is his prophecy. It is a prophecy of God working in the lives of his people. God rescues the people from their enemies, that they will serve God without fear. The gospel writer mentions two things that demonstrates bold and fearless faith: Be holy, and honorable all their lives. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his wonderful book, the Cost of Discipleship reminds us,
"When God calls a man, he bids him come and die."

This is discipleship at its core: Proclaiming the Name of the Lord boldly. No fear. It is fearless faith. Several years ago, Nathan Chan, a student at the Stanford Graduate School makes this insighful comment about how multiculturalism is actually individualism in disguise.
"If you take multiculturalism to an extreme, it is very individualistic, you have your own bias, and you can think what you want in that box, so long as you don't affect others' boxes. When you say that Christianity is the only truth, you are imposing on someone's box." (quoted in Tim Stafford's article, 'Campus Christian and the New Thought Police' in Christianity Today, 10 Feb 1992, 19)
D) Heroes of the Faith

Only those who have been changed by the gospel will proclaim fearless faith. There is no halfway faith. It is either we believe in Jesus or we do NOT believe in Jesus. The tragedy in many Christians is that they shun away too easily from any debates with people who disagree with them. This is not necessary. Even if we are not able to command a wide range of theological points for debate, each of us has a story to tell. Our testimony. If we fail to tell the story of how Christ has changed our lives, we not only lose the opportunity to share Christ, we fail to live up to our own calling as disciples of Christ. There are other modern heroes that have boldly stood up for their faith. There is the Coptic priest called Zakaria Botros, who is currently heavily protected because of his fervent preaching of the gospel. He has become so influential that some Muslim radicals have promised to pay out $50 million to anyone who assassinates him. Yet, Botros speaks out fearlessly, preferring to fear God rather than man.

There is Charles Colson, the man who is one of the driving forces behind the Manhattan declaration that seeks to stand up for traditional values such as marriage being between a man and a woman, and other fundamentals of faith. He is constantly ridiculed by many, including some Christians for his stand. His conviction to Christ leads him to start many powerful ministries, of which the most well-known is the Prison Fellowship. Then there is Corrie Ten Boom, who boldly demonstrates the love of God through her forgiveness of her most bitter enemies. Apart from these people, there are many unsung heroes of the faith. One of them is the British Airways employee,  Nadia Eweida, who prefers to take a no-pay leave to fight for her right to stand up for her faith even in the workplace.

We do not have to be a Ten Boom, a Colson, or a Botros. All of us can be like Eweida. My fellow readers, do not be afraid to call the name of Jesus, especially during this Christmas and every Christmas season. Jesus after all, is still the reason for the season. Don't be afraid. Be fearless. Stand up for Jesus, ye soldier of the Cross. Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive the King!
Thought: "The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But their strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians - when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.." (Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1977, 85) 



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Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or enquiries.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thoughts on Retirement - (Part 2 of 2)

TITLE: Thoughts on Retirement - (Part 2 of 2)
SCRIPTURE: Joshua 24:1-2
Date: 13 Dec 2011
Written by: Conrade Yap

"Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel and for their heads and their judges and their officers; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.'" (Joshua 24:1-2) 
Last week in Sabbath Walk, I remind readers not to equate retirement with financial definitions. Instead, it is an attitude that we bring to the world. We will soon pass away. The world will also pass away. The Will of God and the Word of God will remain forever. This week, we continue this reflection on retirement, with a focus on passing our spiritual baton of God's work for us. The best way to pass this baton is to live exemplary lives firstly, continually, and finally.

A) Stories in Progress

All of life is basically telling a story. All of our lives is basically the living out of our story. How well we live, is dependent on how much we lean on the Author of our stories. God is in control. If birth is the beginning of our story, death marks the end. Fully aware that his time is almost up, Joshua continues to tell the story of Israel, and how God has been faithful despite Israel lack of faithfulness. In Joshua 1, we see how even as the life of Moses ends, the story of God's redemption of Israel continues through the passing of leadership to Joshua. The times may change. People's focus may change. Even the place of dwelling of the people may change. What makes the story significant is that as far as God's love for His people is concerned, the story remains the same.

As we see the passing of the spiritual baton to Joshua, we read of Joshua's amazing declaration toward the end of the book of Joshua:

". . . as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15b)

B) When We Forget Our Stories

The trouble with many of us is that we have forgotten our own stories. When this happens, two possible distractions come in: Focus on Money, and a Loss of Purpose.

From my interactions with elderly people in my years of ministry, these two reasons are common. Firstly, MONEY. Far too many people, (including myself) have equated retirement with money. The government through the Old Age Security or Pension schemes use money. Insurance companies talk financial terms. Many corporations offer a retirement benefit that almost always have something to do with monetary units. Such overwhelming focus on money matters is a major distraction from true planning for retirement. Everyone worries about money. The old may worry even more. Graham continues:

"Our society places too much emphasis on money, implying that financial achievement is the main measure of a person's true success in life." (Billy Graham, Nearing Home, Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2011, 59)

Great counsel. I think of couples whose life savings have been lost due to financial scandals such as the infamous Madoff Ponzi scheme. One couple laments about their loss, saying that they will never be able to retire. Reason: No money.

One elderly widower I know speaks constantly about money or the lack of it. She asks her children constantly for money, using her old age as the reason. She does not want to die poor. Many of us will be able to share stories of old folks in our midst who are exhibiting similar behaviour.

The question: Is money the solution to a good life of retirement?

KEY: No. The fact is this. For money-minded people, no amount of money is ever enough. For heavenly-minded people, godliness with contentment is great gain.

C)  The Loss of Purpose

The second consequence of forgetting our stories is the loss of purposeful living. A few weeks ago, I wrote on my Facebook profile the following:
Ambition Through the Ages:
Young: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
Teenager: "What do you want to do when you grow up?"
Adult: "What is my calling as I busy myself day and night?"
Old: "What have I done?""
Is this familiar to you?

It is well known that we live in a busy and fast paced society. When times are good, this word 'retirement' is simply an after-thought. When times are bad, we dread even thinking about it. Some people retire at the age of 30 after striking a fortune. Some take retirement benefits when they sense they have passed their prime. Others retire when they are pushing 60. Some people never really retire, blaming it on the economic situation, the state of their finances, or simply an inability to let go of their familiar work routines. One couple, the Friedmans, invested their life savings in an investment fund, lost everything (US$3million) due to the infamous Madoff Ponzi scandal. With their nest-egg gone, they have no choice but to continue working in order to pay their bills and make ends meet.

D) The Life of Teresa Hsu

This grand lady of charity died on Dec 7th, 2011 in Singapore. She was 113, the oldest person in the small island country. Yet, her life emanates power and vitality. Having gone through poverty, she can understand the dire straits of people living in hunger and need. Having experienced her parent's lifestyle of giving and charity, she can learn to share whatever she had. Teresa recalls at time when she was so hungry that she had to chew and swallow grass to satisfy her hunger. She still felt hungry. What was helpful then was to satisfy the thought of her thinking that she was hungry. After that experience, she learned to share whatever she has with others, constantly thinking of people who are less fortunate than others.

Teresa Tsu (1898-2011)
In life, we are so apt to compare ourselves with the rich, the famous, the powerful, and the people high up the echelons of society. Unfortunately, when we are fixated in one direction (looking at the rich), we fail to turn around to see the other direction (looking at the rest who are not as rich). There are always needs around us. This attitude of looking out for those less fortunate drives Teresa's life. She believes in helping people with whatever she has. Some of us think that the only way we can help others is to wait for a $1million to accumulate in our bank account, or to receive something first. The truth is, we can always share. We can always give of what we have. Take a closer look, and chances are, all of us have extras to go around all the time.

Teresa's life does not develop out of a vacuum. She did not have a miraculous vision or splendid announcement from somewhere. Instead, she learns from her mother. There was a time in which someone who has not eaten for 2 days came to them for food. Immediately, her mother took the food from the table and gave it to them saying:

"We ate yesterday. They have not eaten for 2 days. They have more right to the food than we."

This begins Teresa's 'guiding light' all her life in which she is constantly thinking of people less fortunate than her. Wow! What a lady!

E) Concluding Thoughts

This is the way to retire. This is the way to rework our lives. Do not be distracted by financial limitations. Do help with whatever we can. There is always extras. Do not despair for the lack of purposefulness. Learn from people of wisdom. Learn from others who have inspired us. Maybe, as a gift to the world, to our friends and loved ones, live an exemplary life. Leave a path of faithfulness, charity, and conviction in Christ, to guide the ones younger than us. That all who come behind us will find us faithful.

There is no retirement age for the Christian. There is only constant reworking of our abilities, constant reminders of God's grace, and constant passing of the gospel baton to the next generation. Best of all, the way to retire well, is when someone else is able to tell OUR stories, as one that reflects Christlikeness.  Don't forget your own story.

THOUGHT: "How can we know - beyond a shadow of doubt - that there is life after death? The only way would be for someone to die - and then come back to life and tell us what lies beyond the grave. And that's exactly what happened when Jesus Christ rose again from the dead." (Billy Graham, Nearing Home, Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2011, 169)

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Note: If you want to see the life-giving work of Teresa Hsu, click here.


Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or enquiries.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thoughts on Retirement - (Part 1 of 2)

TITLE: THOUGHTS ON RETIREMENT - (Part 1 of 2)
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 9 Dec 2011
TEXT: Joshua 13:1
"When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, “You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over." (Joshua 13:1)
MAIN POINT: Far too many people think of retirement almost entirely in financial terms. Retirement is an attitude, not a state of being.

A) The Retirement Dream


Picture of a retired couple. (Credit: gov.ns.ca)
What is retirement to you? One common dream I have heard is this. According to this person named Johnny, this is how he describes it.
"When I grow old, I will buy myself a nice cottage by the seaside. There will be 8-bedrooms that can accommodate at least three generations in my family. Each Winter, there will be a nice log fireplace to keep our bodies warm. Each Summer, there will be grandchildren running around the house to keep our hearts warm with adoration and love. Every morning, instead of rushing to work, and engaging in office politics, I will walk hand in hand with my wife. After the walk, I will sip my Earl Grey Tea. Following lunch, I will take a nap. Then it'll be time for my second cuppa, and so on. Life will be good. Doing nothing. Nothing at all. The money in our bank should pay for all our needs until death. That's retirement life!"
Or is it?

Such a dream, while not impossible to attain, will often remain a dream. The money may be there. The bungalow may be available. The grandchildren may still come. However, if the heart is not ready, there is no retirement, only confusion, frustration, and a drastic mismatch of expectations about retirement and reality.

B) The Reality of Unreadiness

Billy Graham talks about one such 'successful' couple in their golden years. This couple achieves a lifestyle almost identical to the above dream vacation and lifestyle. The first week was a welcome joy. They freely set their own schedule, and did everything in stride. The second week was filled with more of the same. By the third week, as the novelty started to wear out, all these things started to appear boring. By the fourth week, the beach looked the same. The sunrise and sunset looked identical. The house they lived in looked more dead than alive. By the fifth week, they wondered about life. They pondered whether there is life other than simply walking the beach or napping all day long. The 'retirement dream' that they were living was not as exciting and as meaningful as they had initially thought. Five weeks of reality are more than enough to shake up all of their expectations, accumulated through more than 50 years of hard toil and labor.  It was a classic major mismatch where external reality completely misses internal expectations. This friend of Billy Graham has this to say.

"I thought I was ready for retirement, but I just didn't think it through." (21)

Bummer! Thinking we are ready does not necessarily translate into being ready. Graham makes this insightful observation that is worth our remembering.

"Loneliness, loss of purpose, depression, feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, fear of the future - these and a host of other emotions are common among retirees." (30)

Indeed. Retirement is more of an attitude, instead of a state of being. More importantly, what the world calls 'getting retired' is less of trying to achieve a certain financial independence, but more of attaining a successful transition to a new phase of life that is MORE than monetary terms.

C) Dreaded Transition?

Retirement. This 10-letter word is dreaded by some, anticipated by others, but ignored by many. Canada, like many countries in the West has a pension fund. The purpose of such a fund is to provide some financial relief for people who have retired from the workforce. Each month, eligible Canadians will get some money, depending on various factors. Persons between the ages of 65 to 70 are able to get some monthly allowance until their death. It is meant to facilitate persons transitioning from work to retirement, rather than a way to maintain their standard of living. This particular point is often missed, which is why some seniors become more skeptical about the government handouts. Such people also tend to be sarcastic about the amount, pointing to an inflation rate that is fast overwhelming anything the government gives.

As I glimpse at the half century mark, I marvel at how I am even going to survive in the present. Financially speaking, I am not sure I can even retire comfortably. Some of you may be asking:

"Conrade, you're not even 50 yet. Why are you talking and thinking about retirement?"

My reply is this: "It is never too late to plan for retirement."

This point is made even more obvious as I read the reflections of Billy Graham as he nears 'home.' At 93 years old, he continues to live strong. He maintains a heavenly focus and an energy to finish well. In what is perhaps his most retrospective book so far, he writes:

"All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how to live in the years before I die. I wish they had because I am an old man now, and believe me, it's not easy." (Billy Graham, Nearing Home, Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2011, vii)

If a man like Billy Graham, who has lived such an illustrious life can say that retirement is not easy, what makes us think we can do better? Perhaps, the more 'successful' and more 'recognized' we have been in our corporate worlds, or during our prime years, the more challenging it will be as all of us approach the same destination: Death and Dying.

D) Golden Wisdom

Just yesterday, I happened to be visiting my favourite bookshop. It is one of the last surviving top quality Christian bookstores in North America. The owner is fast approaching 60. He recognizes my face, but not my name. All he remembers is what I do. I have previously assisted him to solve his computer problems. As people age, memory recall becomes a bigger challenge. Yet, when I engage him on some theological chitchat, his knowledge and ability to reason is remarkably sharp. Bless him. Being old is not just the gray hairs on the head. It is the great wisdom in his heart. Something about growing old and memory loss strikes me. Whatever we have exercised regularly will translate into better remembering.

Tiger Woods will probably remember his golf strokes for the rest of his life as he practises and competes with these skills all year round.  Bill Gates will probably remember all the major turning points in his management and founding of one of the largest software companies of the world. Likewise, Billy Graham remembers the Bible fondly and vividly, for he has preached so often, prayed so much, and studied so diligently the Holy Scriptures for so many years. The parts of the human body that we use the most, will be the last thing that we will ever forget, even as we grow old.


Implication: The less we use, the faster we forget. The more we use, the better we remember. As we grow old, this becomes more and more significant.

E) Remembering the More Important Things

Are you ready for retirement? What are the More Important Things in your life? What about relationships? What about the things that we say so often but fail so frequently to do?

Think Relationships. The long forgotten friend of yours that you happen to bump into last week. You promised to call him. Have you called him? You say that your young son is the most important gift to you from God. Have you said a word of appreciation to him? Your own spouse that you have pledged to cherish for better or for worse. Have you said a loving word of appreciation to him/her today? The colleague of yours who happens to be stressed out at work. Is your time with this colleague only restricted to office matters?

Think Spirituality. You say that you believe in the Word of God. You proclaim Christ. Suppose one day you happen to be arrested for your faith, will there be sufficient evidence to convict you that you are a follower of Jesus? Have you manifested the fruit of the Spirit? Are you living out the Beattitudes in the Sermon on the Mount? Are you doing to others what you want others to do to you? Are you praying often enough that you will never forget the prayers for the ones you love? Are you reading the Bible daily enough?

Think Wisdom. Remember Jesus' definition of the wise man from the foolish man? The latter builds his house on sand (material things, like money, etc). The former builds his house on the Rock (Christ, God's Word).

As long as we think of retirement in mere financial terms, the only things we remember are the means we use to attain these financial targets. We will remember how we make our first $1 million dollars, but forget our children's first transition into young adulthood.  We quickly remember to tell others we go to Church every Sunday, but slowly forget about the true meaning of Church beyond such Sunday attendance. We  quickly remember how we sign our first major contract, or strike the biggest business deal, but slowly forget about our first marriage vow with our spouse. We are quick to point out that there are 66 books in the whole Bible, but slow to recall what they actually say. We are quick to state the importance of prayer, but slow to confess how weak our own praying has been.

Getting ready for retirement is a long process. It is never too early or too late to prepare for it. This is because retirement is not a state of being. It is an attitude of the heart. The LORD sees Joshua getting old, and shows a gracious understanding of who Joshua is, and the work that needs to be done. Instead of asking Joshua to conquer the rest of the land that has yet to be conquered, He tells Joshua to plan ahead. He tells Joshua to mark out the land according to His instructions. He tells Joshua to remember to trust the LORD (Joshua 13:6) to make the way, while Joshua makes the plans. Joshua will die, but the Work and Word of the LORD will never die. As we think about retirement, let it not be a resignation to a frail, useless, and meaningless life. Instead, let the LORD rework our perspectives to move to appreciate our relationships (think relationship), to refocus our attention on things above (think spiritual), and to lay the foundation of God (think wisdom) for us and our loved ones.

In the words of one of my favourite Carpenters' classic: "We've only just begun. To live."

Thought: "As the older generation we should be mindful of our responsibility to pray for others. Retirement should not put us on the shelf. We should use this time in our lives to rest from our labors but lift up others who are carrying heavy loads." (Billy Graham, Nearing Home, Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2011, 28)

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