Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fake Religion

SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 7:1-8
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date:January 24th, 2015.
1This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message: “ ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. 3This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!5If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. 8But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless." (Jeremiah 7:1-8)

Key Question: What looks and feels good but is really not good?

This week, I read about the story of a bank in the Eastern part of China that was just opened a year ago with more than 200 customers. Promising 2% interest rates every week, it attracted many small businesses from ZheJiang province to open accounts at this new bank. Called the “Nanjing Mou Village Economic Cooperation Unit,” this bank has a beautifully designed location with fully uniformed bank tellers. There are official letterheads and deposit envelopes with a logo and all. One customer even deposited 200 million RMB with them. But there was one problem. The bank was fake. After one year, no one suspected the problem until one businessman who had deposited $2 million, saw the interest credited to his account and tried to withdraw the money. He couldn’t. He complained. The bank shut down. Police arrested five persons. In total, more than 32 million dollars were swindled out of ordinary people. This is the first time I read about fake financial institution that looks real on the outside but totally fake on the inside. Five people were arrested, but for the 200 customers, many may never recover their hard earned money.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Persevering Saints

SCRIPTURE: Romans 5:1-5
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: January 19th, 2015

"1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (Romans 5:1-5)

Powerful movie of Enduring Perseverance
Go watch it!
Last week, I watched "Unbroken," a powerful movie based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand which describes the life of the WWII hero, Louis Zamperini.  This man survived storms, scorching heat, hunger and thirst for 47 days on the open seas. Captured by the Japanese at the height of WWII, he endured ridicule and shame. He was tortured and humiliated by his cruel captors. His body was physically broken. Emotionally spent, the easiest thing for him was to give in to the demands of his captors or to simply die. No. Zamperini chose life and endured all things. The Japanese leader, Mutsuhiro "Bird" Watanabe, in the prison camp tried to break Zamperini, but failed to crush the spirit of his prisoner. In fact, Watanabe was instead broken from the inside out. All because Zamperini chooses to persevere regardless of the hardship and torture inflicted upon his flesh. It reminds me of Jesus' words, " Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Heart of Prayer

SCRIPTURE:Philippians 4:6-7
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: January 10th, 2015

With lots of good intention, many people would rally their fellow believers to pray whenever they encounter some life challenges. It could be health related. It could be some major project milestone. It could also be travel concerns or some dangerous situations a loved one is in. Those of us in ministry would be familiar with such a request.
  • Please pray for me, for journey mercies.
  • Please pray for my family member who is undergoing some treatment.
  • Please pray for the persecuted Christians in country X.
  • Please pray for my upcoming job interview.
Maybe, prayer is simply an anxiety reliever. After all, didn't we read in Philippians 4:6 which calls us not be be anxious about anything, but to present all of our requests to God? Indeed, in the spirit of neutralizing our anxieties, we can ask people to pray for us. A closer read tells me something else. Philippians 4 can be interpreted as a personal call to the one reading the letter. It is Paul calling the Philippians not to panic, not to let anxieties and worries overwhelm us. Instead, offer it up to the Lord in prayer. For in prayer, we let the Spirit of God still our hearts and minds, to give us the peace of God that we all need for that moment and beyond.

Maybe, prayer has something to do with a hidden hope. A hope that the journey will be safe; that the family member would have good health results; that the persecution of Christians would stop; that the upcoming job interview would be positive; and so on. This hidden hope is simply wanting to see personal desires fulfilled. More importantly, it is an acknowledgment that we can only do so much, that there are many things not within our own control, that we need help with the fulfilling of our  hopes. Who else can we go to when things appear to be spinning out of control?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Serving with Grace and Gratitude


Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: January 2nd, 2015

A Happy New Year 2015 to all my readers and friends.

For the first time since the launch of SabbathWalk, I took a two week recess from my weekly writings. It was not because I didn't have the time or the motivation. Neither was it because of some urgent work to be done. It was simply because I had a longer family vacation, the first real one in years. Since starting pastoral ministry, it has not been easy to take a vacation during the Christmas season. Take last year for example. I had to preach consecutively throughout the Advent. I had to organize various events, coordinate with different people, set forth a theme, and ensure that everyone were able to have a meaningful time of worship during the Christmastide. As for my family, they tagged along sometimes dutifully, but mostly lovingly. Ministry is a strange juggle between family and Church, between private thoughts and public words, between members you know and strangers yet to be known.

The Celebrity Reflection (inaugurated Oct 12th, 2012)
We traveled on the Celebrity Reflection to the Caribbean. For seven days, we walked, played, relaxed, and ate on the magnificent flagship of the cruise company.It was a thing of beauty, an engineering achievement, as well as a floating luxury hotel. With nearly a third of the passengers on board serving the other two-thirds, the large ship can hold a maximum of 3046 people. With a beam 123 feet, a length of 1047 feet, and at least 15 decks, this floating paradise can cruise about 24 knots (about 40 land miles per hour). Being the newest kid on the block, it contained some of the most modern technologies. I was especially impressed by a large stabilizer under the ship which made the ship less susceptible to water turbulence, reducing the level of seasickness among passengers. I could attest to the overall ride being stable and quiet. For the most part, I felt like this was the most stable ship I had ever traveled on. It made me wonder about stabilizers in general.