Dear Singapore


Dear Singapore,

If there is one good thing that has come out of the dreadful Covid-19 situation, it is the almost daily stories of sacrifice that I read or hear about.

While the rest of us quibble about being stuck in the comfort of our own homes, our healthcare workers have been working extra shifts round the clock. And while at work, those on the frontline of the battle with Covid-19 have been wearing full protective suits and N95 masks which can lead to dehydration, nausea and rashes. And because of the danger of their work, so many have taken it upon themselves to self-isolate from their own families during this time.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with them has been the army of government officials led by our ministers. They have labored tirelessly – mostly behind the scenes – to constantly adapt our public policy to the ever-changing situation. It has been relentless.

In recent weeks as the virus has spread to foreign worker dormitories it was again heartening to read lots of stories of sacrifice. Food, masks, money and many other items have been lovingly donated by Singaporeans to help our foreign friends. And hundreds of resident volunteers have stepped up within the dormitories to do cleaning and to distribute food.

And as Singaporeans received the $600 Solidarity Payout from our Government a few weeks ago, members of our church family took it upon themselves to contact our leaders to ask if they can donate that money to others who have lost their jobs during this crisis.

We love stories of sacrifice. Not just in times of crisis but all the time. In fact, if you think about it, many of our favourite movies and novels revolve around sacrifice.

And that is what beats at the heart of Christianity: a sacrifice like ours, and yet on another level altogether. For the Bible tells us that God made you and me to enjoy a loving relationship with Him. Tragically however we spurned that relationship by ignoring God, denying His existence, and living as if we are gods as we make up our own rules of right and wrong.

How does God respond?

With unbelievable sacrifice. God became a man in Jesus Christ to die our death for rejecting him, so that we might be forgiven and reconciled to Him. If it sounds blah, it is only because you have allowed yourself to be numbed to its beauty. For nothing compares to what Christ sacrificed on the Cross for the sake of rebels like you and me.

That is why I am so thankful for all the stories of sacrifice I read about every day. Because they are good and praiseworthy in and of themselves. But also because are like little shafts of light directing my gaze to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

What do you make of Jesus’ sacrifice?

Your fellow Singaporean,
Denesh
6 May 2020

Find out more by watching our Good Friday & Easter services at https://thecrossing.com.sg/the-good-news/.

Photo by Andrea Ang on Unsplash


Dear Singapore,

Outsiders.

We see them everywhere. But we do not actually. They are just faceless nobodies to you and me. We avoid their gaze, we seldom exchange greetings with them, we almost definitely do not know their names.

And yet we are indebted to them more than we realise. After all, they build our homes and our nation’s infrastructure, they clean our housing estates, and they clear our rubbish daily – all usually with a smile!

The massive spike in Coronavirus cases here has put a fresh spotlight on Singapore’s legion of foreign workers. It was heartening to hear our Prime Minister’s assurance that they will be cared for during this crisis just like Singaporeans would. It sets a positive example for how we should all relate to our outsider friends – as one of us. After all, there are partners with us in nation building. And, we have similar roots given that many of us need only go back two to three generations to a grandfather or great grandfather who first came here as a foreign nobody.

But more than that, I am an outsider – even today. And so are you. We all are under God. We are spiritual outsiders because we frankly do not give a damn about God. We live by our own rules, not God’s. We live as if He does not exist or does not matter.

And yet God holds out good news to outsiders like you and I. God’s arms are open wide. We are welcome. If only we will return to Him.

One of the most poignant ways that this welcome to outsiders is displayed is in Jesus’ family tree. Matthew’s biography of Jesus lists 42 men in his family tree. But there is a surprise: five women are also named. And they are all outsiders: they are racially diverse social outcasts like widows, prostitutes, even a girl who had a teenage pregnancy. And yet they are all in the family tree of Jesus, God’s Long-Promised King of this world!

Why?

Because that encapsulates God’s heart for this world. Christianity is not an exclusive club for the in crowd. No, it is an open invitation to everyone, even those who feel like outsiders to God.

Are you an outsider?

Your fellow Singaporean,
Denesh
22 April 2020

Find out more by watching our Good Friday & Easter services at https://thecrossing.com.sg/the-good-news/.

Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa on Unsplash


Dear Singapore,

What is the best and worst thing about being stuck at home for a month?

Relationships.

They are the best thing about being at home in this time because we are with the people who mean the most to us in the world – our family. With the sharp rise in local Covid-19 infections in the last few weeks, it is a huge comfort to know that the people we love most are safe at home with us. And finally we get to spend all that quality time with them that we have been yearning for.

But relationships are also the worst thing about this lockdown. Many of us suffer from strained or broken relationships with our family. And in some instances, there is even abuse. As a result, being locked up at home can be a nightmare In fact, distress calls to abuse hotlines have already risen by some 30% in Singapore compared to a year ago.

Actually even for those of us who enjoy our families, too much time at home can lead to cabin fever. Just thinking back to the last week as a family, we found ourselves losing patience with one another and arguing over even the most trivial things: what games to play, what exercise to do, and what shows to watch on Netflix!

Do you know why relationships matter so much to us? Why they make us sing but also why they sting? Because you and I are made for relationships.

Christianity is unique. In all the world, only Christians address God as “Father”.

Not Master…as if we are slaves.

Not Lord…as if we are subjects.

But Father…because we are God’s beloved children.

Is that not mind-blowing?

The Bible tells us that we are made by God for a relationship with God. An intimate, personal, loving relationship where God and us, we are family. And not just that, God made us to be relationship with one another too. Relationships of support, care, and generosity.

That is why the best and worst thing in our lives – Covid-19 or no Covid-19 – is our relationships. But until and unless we get our first and foremost relationship with God right, no other relationship will ever fully satisfy us.

The Church Father Augustine put it brilliantly: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

Have you ever considered that the Creator God of this universe wants you to enter into an intimate relationship with Him as his child? Why would anyone not want to seize that privilege with both hands?

Your fellow Singaporean,
Denesh
15 April 2020

Find out more by watching our Good Friday & Easter services at https://thecrossing.com.sg/the-good-news/.

Photo by Lily Banse on Unsplash


Dear Singapore,

Over 1.3 million infected worldwide. More than 70,000 dead. Obituaries which used to occupy just one page now fill 10 pages in some local newspapers. The solemn statistics speak for themselves. And yet we can only begin to appreciate their true wretchedness when we realise that behind every number lies countless families whose lives will never be the same again because of the Coronavirus.

How do you feel about death?

In normal times we are experts at dressing up death and pretending we are not afraid. We euphemise death by speaking of loved ones “passing away”. We insist death is “normal”. And we philosophise with bravado that death is just “part and parcel of life”.

But the Coronavirus has called our bluff. The truth is we are all scared to death of death. We are kiasi [1] – all of us. That explains our obsession with the latest news – because we want to know how badly the virus is spreading and where the new clusters are that we should avoid. It explains the plethora of fake news circulating every day – because we are desperate to learn new ways to protect our loved ones from infection. And it is the reason why panic buyers empty supermarket shelves every weekend – because we fear death by starvation as much as we fear death by Covid-19.

Death is terrifying. After all, the Bible says that all of us are destined to die once and then to face judgment (Heb 9:27). One life, one death, one judgment. That is it. How will you fare on that day?

Like me you probably fancy your chances. Because while we might do sinful things, none of us thinks we are that bad. The only problem is that God will not pit us against each other but against Him. And by His perfect standards we all fail – even the best of us. After all, apart from not loving our neighbours as ourselves, we have also not loved or honoured God in our lives.

Where then can we find hope?

Well, in Jesus who died that first Good Friday for sinners like us, and rose from the dead three days later on the first Easter Sunday. I used to think the resurrection of Jesus was a hoax…or just Christian wishful thinking. Because dead people do not come back to life, right?

Well, wrong.

The historical evidence suggests that Jesus did: his tomb was empty, there were over 500 eyewitnesses, his disciples went from being cowardly peasants to courageous preachers who sacrificed their lives to tell the ancient world the good news of his resurrection. In fact, the early believers were so confident that their faith in Jesus would enable them to also conquer the grave that they even mocked death in the Bible, saying:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
(1 Cor 15:54b-55)

Could you say those words in the face of death?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian pastor during the time of Nazi Germany, could. He said: “Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.” [2]

Actually that is what hundreds of millions of Christians the world over believe – even today. Are they right? Or are they completely out of their mind?

What do you think?

Your fellow Singaporean,
Denesh
8 April 2020

[1] Singlish for “scared to die”

[2] Metaxas, E. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2011), 531

Find out more by watching our Good Friday & Easter services at https://thecrossing.com.sg/the-good-news/.

Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash


Dear Singapore,

We love being in control.

And for the most part, it looks like we are. We make study plans, we plot our career path, we map out the future of our kids, we plan our retirement – and things often go according to plan.

More than that as a human race our achievements speak for themselves: Mount Everest – done; the Moon – done; Skyscrapers – done; Cloning – done; Artificial Intelligence – done. It really is quite remarkable! We are self-made men and women who can achieve pretty much everything we set our hearts on. Indeed as the Adidas ad campaign brazenly proclaimed a few years ago: “Impossible is Nothing.”

Except of course it is.

I am a father of three fantastic children who my wife and I absolutely love to bits. But even with such great well-behaved kids, parenting has taught us we are not in control. Like so many parents we struggle to get them to do their homework, put down the mobile phone, and be kind to one another.

And that sense of being out of control is actually more every day in our world than we want to admit. Look at marriages: Our dreams of spending the rest of our life with that special someone so often ends in tears. Look at climate change: We cannot even control our own consumption and the devastating effects it is having on our planet. And of course look at the Coronavirus: The whole world has come to a standstill because of a microscopic virus.

So we love being in control…but we are anything but. If nothing else, the Covid-19 pandemic should infect us all with a healthy dose of humility as a human race.

The Bible calls us out on our pride: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:13-14)

Mist: here one second, gone the next.

Frail.

Fading.

Fleeting.

Have you ever thought of yourself that way? It is not how our world speaks of humanity, is it?

But of course God is not talking down to us to plunge us into depression. No, He is breathing realism into our brash souls so that we will see ourselves for who we really are – creatures who are fearfully and wonderfully made. And so that we will reach out to the one who is really in control – the Creator God of this whole universe and of you and me.

Will you be humble enough to consider Him?

Your fellow Singaporean,
Denesh
2 April 2020

Find out more by watching our Good Friday & Easter services at https://thecrossing.com.sg/the-good-news/.

Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash


Dear Singapore,

It is human to fear. I returned to Singapore from London a week ago and fear was written on every face. Almost everyone on my plane had a mask on. What’s more, 20 students were fully suited in protective gear from head to toe complete with hoods, googles, masks, gloves – even shoe coverings!

What are you fearing at this time?

Apart from the obvious fears related to contracting the Coronavirus, I have heard so many other fears articulated by friends in the last week: fear of job loss and pay cuts, fear of losing our life’s savings as the stock market crashes, fear of isolation and loneliness, fear of being holed up at home in tense family situations, fears about whether we will have enough food and toilet paper, fears about when all this will end!

One of the most famous events recorded in the Bible took place on the Sea of Galilee in the 1st century. Jesus’ disciples were trapped in a boat during a ferocious storm. In desperation they cried out: “Lord…save…perishing!” With a word, Jesus calmed the storm. To which his bewildered disciples asked: “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

Well, Jesus is the sort of man who rules creation because he is her Creator. The claims of the Bible do not get any bigger than that!

Where or who do you turn to in your fears?

At the moment I see people turning to our Government in their fears – and credit where credit is due, they are doing an outstanding job! I also see people turning to hand washing, sanitisers, masks, social distancing, health foods, and (too much) fake news to calm their fears.

Christians turn to Jesus Christ. Not because he is a psychological crutch. Not because we are holier than thou. Not because he is a calming character from an ancient fairy tale. But because Jesus is King, the King over this whole world, and over you and me. What’s more, Jesus dealt the death blow to death itself once and for all through his death and resurrection.

Do you know the hope that is found in Jesus? It is not just for the life to come…but also for this life now.

Your fellow Singaporean,
Denesh
28 March 2020

Find out more by watching our Good Friday & Easter services at https://thecrossing.com.sg/the-good-news/.

Photo by Kelvin Zyteng on Unsplash