Sunday, 29 May 2016

Tale of a delusion: If frogs can fly...

The tale below is inspired by the parable about Felix the Frog whose Internet author is unknown. Here is my version of it. Hope it makes you think.

Once upon a time, there lived a frog trainer. He ran a frog circus. People came from all over the world just to watch his acrobatic amphibians do their thing. They were trained to hop through fire hoops, jump over chasms, and belt out popular choruses. Well, it is not exactly pitch perfect, but the frog chorus always brings the house down.

Business was good in the early years. People were coming in. The trainer was making fast cash. His frogs were performing seven nights a week to packed halls. He worked his frogs to the bones.

But as the novelty faded, the crowd also thinned. After a while, the frogs were performing only to half its capacity. Most of his audience were attracted to the other circus acts down the street. The competition was killing the business. And the trainer was desperate for new acts to lure in the people. He knew he needed to spruce up the show.

Then one day, he got an epiphany. It came to him in a dream while he was vacationing. It came as an audible voice accusing him of performing mediocre circus tricks with the frogs. The voice told him that the frogs could do much more if they just believed more. In fact, the voice convinced him that his frogs could fly. The trainer could not believe what he had heard. Fly?

Before he woke up from his dream, he was specifically warned not to mix mediocre circus tricks with the far superior gravity-defying acts of flying. And he was assured that if he just focused on flying, his audience will return and his business will prosper beyond his wildest imagination.

That day transformed his life completely. He vowed never to allow his frogs to perform ground-hopping stunts ever again. They were made to soar and soar they shall.

The trainer then hurried home to tell the frogs the wonderful news and most of them were excited. Well, a few were at first hesitant but they were nevertheless daring to go. Still, a handful protested: "We are frogs, you idiot! We can't fly! Are you mad?" Undaunted, the trainer paid off the naysayers and he sent them away. The rest of them stayed for the next exciting phrase of their training.

The trainer took them to the highest floor of a building and lined them all up. He then fired the frogs up with a short speech about taking the leap of faith and off they went. One by one, they hopped off the edge with a victory chant - "We can flyyyyyy!"

Alas, one by one, they became gravity's victims. The sight was a rain of frogs like the plague that saw some of them landing on the road where they became road kill. Immediately they ascended to lily-pad heaven.

Yet those who survived wanted more of it. They were determined. They were still believing. They were openly defiant. I guess the only thing they defied that day was common sense.

The next day, the trainer brought them to a mountaintop, checked the wind direction, and fired them up with another leap of faith sermon before watching them dived off the cliff.

Again, gravity had the last laugh. The frogs splattered to the ground and some got their heads crushed against the rocks. They went straight to frog heaven.

This went on for quite a while. Every death-defying dive was met with more unnecessary plunge of death. Strangely, the more frogs jumped to meet their maker, the more delusional the trainer became. He became obsessed with the voice that told him frogs can fly. For every failure, every casualty, he blamed it on everything else - the wind, the diving position and insufficient height for initial launch. He just refused to accept that frogs can’t fly.

Weeks went by, and the trainer was reduced to just five jaded frogs – three of which were limping. Many had suffered their last jump to the end.

Before the five leapt off, they tried to persuade the trainer to return to what they did best, that is, ground hops and hoops jump. Basically, mediocre circus tricks so called. But the trainer refused to mix those lame acts with flying. He was still stubbornly holding on to the belief that flying is the new thing which would revolutionize the industry. It was the big break he had been waiting for all his life. That voice can't be wrong. He had lost too many frogs to turn back.

Disillusioned, the five kamikaze amphibians spread their hind legs, suck in their tummy, and bounced off the parapet. One after another, they flew away. But they had it all planned out. This time the dive was next to a river and they took aim of it. And one by one, they dived into the running river and disappeared for good.

The trainer tried to look for them but they were gone. His last batch of frogs escaped with their life to tell the tale of a delusion that has gone too far, an obsession that refused to come to its senses, and a belief that had costs them too much.

This tale ends with the frog trainer looking up to heaven, wailing in despair, "What have I done wrong?" Suddenly, that same voice from within returned and whispered these words to him, "You need smarter frogs." Cheerz.

Instill a purpose; transform a life.

At 20, Nizam had 12 hours to do the right thing. From 7:30 pm to the next morning 7:20 am, he knocked down a pedestrian, and caused the death of a friend. At every turn, he had a choice to turn the situation around. But each time, he chose otherwise. Here is how the events unfolded for him within that 12-hour period.

It started with a red light. Nizam, driving a company van and being a probationary driver, beat the red light. That was less than 10 hours before his second offence. At 7:30 pm, "he hit 18-year-old Chua Shun Zhi at a crossing outside Bedok Green Primary School." Chua was thrown at a distance and lost consciousness. He needed 10 stitches to his forehead.

That collision and beating the red light should have awakened Nizam up. But he continued to drive his van with a shattered windscreen nevertheless.

Still within the 12-hour timeline, he was asked to repair the van by his office but he ignored it. Again, a choice made most defiantly. Instead, it is reported that "he used it for an all-night outing with friends at Changi Beach." Here's the final tragedy at 5:30 am.

His friends, Ms Norfatin and her younger sister, got into the back of the damaged van for a ride. Ms Norfatin was about to close the van's door when Nizam shot out from a stationary position and made a sharp right turn. This caused Ms Norfatin to be thrown out of the van. Her head hit the ground and his friends asked Nizam to call the ambulance. He scolded them. Another missed opportunity to make the right choice gone unheeded.

Instead Nizam carried her up and put her in the back of the van with a male friend. He then drove to another car park and went off to chat up with a female friend. All this time, he left the unconscious Norfatin with her sister. At 7:20 am, "Ms Norfatin was cold and her fingers were turning blue." She was pronounced dead in hospital at 9:25 am.

All this culminated to Nizam pleading guilty to the charges and was accordingly jailed 13 months.

Lesson? Just one. It's interesting how on the same Home section today, you will also read about teenagers (about Nizam's age) making wholly different choices.

In the article SUDS OF HOPE (insert below), students from NUS college engaged in a project to reconstitute used soap bars from hotels for migrant workers in Singapore. Ms Chang-Koh, the college director, said: "A 400-room hotel produces 3.5 tonnes of soap waste annually. We wanted to create a project that finds a useful way of utilizing this waste that would otherwise be sent to landfills."

Todate, "more than 1,000 migrant workers have benefited from the Soap for hope project."

Then, in the same Home section (see insert), it reports that student Gracia Ong, at 17, "was among 26 participants who sat within an orchestra during a concert." The project started by the Orchestra of the Music Makers was to "allow its audience to appreciate classical music at such close proximity to the performers."

Gracia remarked, "It was an eye-opening experience. I felt my spirits soar with the pulse of the music."

Here, I always wonder, "what makes kids like Nizam so different from kids mentioned in the other articles?" How does one nurture life-affirming values as compared to reckless ones?

At this juncture, some experts will tell you about the four "Fs" of human motivation (or basic instincts for survival). They are Fight, Flight, Food and Reproduction (Sex). Compromising on any one of them and the survival of our species would hang on a knife edge.

But that's for survival, which we have done not only exceedingly well over the thousands of years, we are also currently at the top of the so-called food chain. We have in other words beaten all odds and are now shaping the world to suit our needs and aspirations - for good or bad.

However, asking deeper and further, what makes us more than just about fighting, taking flight, filling our stomach and reproducing like rabbits? Let me offer my two-cents' worth here.

In addition to the 4 "Fs" above, I add these four "Fs" to the mix - Family, Friends, Future and Fulfillment. Family and friends are self-explanatory. They play a part. However, I do not know Nizam's background. So I will move on with "future" and "fulfillment".

I believe that we will not feel that we have stake in our future if we cannot see how we can find fulfillment or meaning in it. Without meaning, we will live our life on a day-to-day basis relying on our baser instincts (that is, the first four "Fs").

Undeniably, we are all meaning-makers. It is in our existential DNA. A child asks tough questions all the time. When confronted with death, they ask more about the "whys" than the "hows". It is the same when divorces, retrenchment, poverty and terminal illness happen. Kids want to know the meaning of it all, the purpose of why they are born. As such, successes and failures are not so much about how-we-do-it, but ultimately it is about why-we-bother in the first place.

So, between teenagers like Nizam and the others in the Suds and the Orchestra projects, each of them tells of a life struggling to find meaning and fulfillment, and a future where all that can be realized.

For the kids in the Suds project, it is about finding meaning in making a difference. For kids in the Orchestra project, it is about finding meaning in appreciating the beauty of life in the arts. And even for Nizam, it is about finding meaning in a future they can have a stake in and be fulfilled in the roles they will be playing as a husband, father, son and citizen.

As such, I believe leading a purpose-driven life makes all the difference and it keeps us all contributing meaningfully to society - a way of giving back.

So, let me end with this quote: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him a lifetime." I guess the same goes with meaning and fulfillment with this tweak: "Tell a kid to behave and he will last a day. Instill in him a sense of purpose and he will last a lifetime, and most likely influence many lifetimes." Cheerz.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

How do you inspire a child?

How do you inspire a child? How do you teach her to see the larger picture? Let me count the ways.
You can take her out for a holiday to see the world. Expose her to the suffering of others so as to learn thankfulness. Read to her the glowing testimonies of heroes, dead or alive. Or encourage her to push herself to the max.
You can consider bringing her to museums, exhibitions and seminars to learn how things are done. Or sit her down and talk to her privately. Perhaps you can remind her with the right Christian musical background that she is created in the image of God. How's that for a spiritual dressing-up?
Here's another can take her out on a camping trip to show her how nature struggles to survive and thrive in a hostile environment. And then sit her down quietly to observe how a spider painstakingly build her web amidst the dastardly winds. Wouldn't that be uplifting?
Suppose you could rally the family up during the weekend to watch Forrest Gump or Schindler's List just to fire up her imagination. Or invite the grandparents over to teach her a thing or two about life. Let them wise folks tell her about what’s life all about from their own unique perspective. How's that for some old-timer's pick-me-up?
Or how about making her sign up for a youth camp so that she could learn people skills? Surely, a little social intermingling wouldn’t hurt right? She can then learn about working in a team, winning and losing as a team, and celebrating within a team. But let's not stop there.
How about allowing her to discover her own gift? That is, let her explore life on her own and leave her to reflect, meditate and self-internalize. Maybe she needs to get self-acquainted and then trust that she will discover her true calling in the process. Nothing beat self-realization to bootstrap the self esteem. For isn't it true that you can't force a camel to drink? But you can feed the camel a handful of salt so that she will thirst after water?
So, after all said, how do you inspire a child then?
By being a tiger mum? Or a liberal parent? Do you then force-feed her with assessment papers and regimentalize her early years? Or do you let her grow at her own pace, discover her own life-path, and support her from behind?
Is our child ours to love or ours to push? Should we make excuses for laziness or whip them up to their fullest academic potential?
Here I wonder, how do our children see us? Do they see us as loving or self-serving? Do they see us as patient or desperate, firm or lost, understanding or demanding understanding, held together or torn apart, persistent or inconsistent, sincere or hypocritical, forgiving or begrudging, hopeful or mournful, fun or serious, sympathetic or driven, and I can go on with this.
My point is that being a parent is not a walk in the park. It is a walk or a journey no doubt, but the "park" part is more trying, and sometimes more exasperating, than it seems.
Most times, we have no resume or prior experiences to boast about (or rely upon). We can brag about how cool we are under work pressure, but when it comes to parenting, nurturing and inspiring our children, we are dealing with a life here and not some work assignment, quota target to meet, or promotion to secure.
There is no deadline to meet for parenthood because your flesh and blood is yours to keep for as long as you breathe (or they live). You see, you can score a promotion by doing a good job at work. You can close a deal by outsmarting the competition. Or you can make a killing in the stock market by a well-timed judgment call. But you nurture a life by building up a relationship, and a relationship is about investing a life to grow a life. It is not a hit-and-run affair - in a manner of speaking. It is a work in progress or work always progressing.
So, coming back full circle, how do you inspire a child, especially your very own?
As a parent with three young kids, I guess I have to do a combination of the things listed above, and to do them consistently. The latter part is always a challenge.
Nevertheless, my love for them has to show, not just in oral profession but in habitual action. And love in action will in time pull us all through – come what may.
Let me leave you with the words of Chesterton as I end:
"The family is older than the State; and this means that agreement is older than coercion...(and love older than laws). The family is primarily supposed to rest upon consent (supported by love)...It is for this reason that the father of a family has never been called "the king of the house" or "the priest of the house," or again, "the pope of the house." His power was not dogmatic or definite enough for that. He was called the "head of the house." The man is the head of the house, while the woman is the heart of the house." Cheerz.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Understanding the Prince.

I have done my math. Altogether, I have written 13 blog-posts with Joseph Prince’s name on it. They are directed at his teachings and why I disagree with them. Mind you, it’s about the teachings and not the person. In fact, to be honest, there is a certain charisma about him when he preaches and I can understand the pull he has on believers.

So, I thought to myself, maybe it’s time to try to understand the man, the preacher, the leader, the mega-church pastor. Maybe, I should start with his calling in the Swiss Alps when he was vacationing with his wife. And from there, I will try my level best to understand where he’s coming from and where he’s going to with his radical grace teachings.

Now, the innocuous start was in 1997 when he was driving while his wife was asleep. Joseph Prince said that he distinctly heard the voice of God saying to him, “Son, you are not preaching grace.” While still driving, he wrote that God dropped this revelation in his heart: “No. Every time you preach grace, you preach it with a mixture of law. You attempt to balance grace with the law like many other preachers, and the moment you balance grace, you neutralize it. You cannot put new wine into old wineskins. You cannot put grace and law together.”

That was the launch-pad of his ministry and the pastoral leverage he needed to go worldwide with his radical grace teaching. Mind you, he received the revelation direct from the mouth of God Himself. It was a game-changer for him. And the results show.

Since then, his Church grew from 2,000 to 15,000 and now, 33,000. Surely, the numbers must mean something right? Then came the miracles, the testimonies, the healings, the freedom and liberation, the business successes and the conversion. This is what Joseph Prince wrote: “In fact, some of the top business people, management executives, entrepreneurs, lawyers, accountants and consultants in my country attend our church…you will hear wonderful and amazing testimonies of how marriages have been restored, how huge debts that had run into the millions have been supernaturally cancelled, how terminal diseases have been miraculously healed and other awesome testimonies that the good news of Jesus brings!”

Of course, I have to add a word or two here. It’s a caveat of reality. I am sure that there are other testimonies that are less triumphalistic than those mentioned above – like anonymous divorces, hidden depression, disappointed departure, unanswered prayers, de-conversion, terminal illnesses and premature deaths. No community of faith is immune from such personal derailment and trials. Life is seldom such a smooth sail. In other words, not all will live a one-dimensional life of untold prosperity and ageless longevity. There are in fact many who have died for their faith, forsaken all for their belief and lived amongst the poor with hope and joy. Aren’t their testimonies equally, if not more, inspiring to the faith?

Strangely, you will never read any of that in Joseph Prince’s books because this is what he has to say about God’s grace: “God’s grace produces faithful husbands, loving wives, and children who honor their parents. God’s grace produces strong marriages and healthy families that are anchored in a local church. Why? Because grace isn’t a teaching, doctrine, or formula. Grace is a person and His name is Jesus!”  

Now, who can ever argue with that? As believers, there is always a buoyancy of spirit whenever that name is echoed in our hearts (however, let’s not forget that God’s grace also produces perseverance, joy and hope in suffering/trials for His glory).

So, if you want to understand Joseph Prince, this is a good start. He is actually incredibly optimistic. The only other megachurch preacher who can match his level of optimism to panglossian exactitude is his American counterpart, Joel Osteen. They are actually two happy peas in the same pod – both flourishing in their own ways. They should in fact be the first face you see when you enter St Peter’s gate of eternal rest.

Somehow, to associate God’s grace with redemptive sufferings, selfless sacrifices and death by standing firm on one’s belief is simply unthinkable for preachers like them. Their world after Calvary is one of victory, successes and endless happiness – where wealth comes in hot on one’s heels.

To be honest, I have nothing against that. What harm does a little hope (well, an understatement I guess for them) bring to the table of an already demented, fallen world?  

But if the early disciples of Jesus are of any indication, I am afraid things might not be as rosy as Prince and Osteen would like them to be. You see, some of the disciples were crucified, beheaded and stoned to death. Peter was crucified with his head downwards. It is recorded that his parting words to his wife who was also led to martyrdom was this, “O thou, remember the Lord!

Andrew himself was tied to the Cross for three days with thick ropes and before his final breath, exclaimed, “Accept me, O Christ Jesus, Whom I saw, Whom I love, and in Whom I am; Accept my spirit in peace in Your Eternal Realm.”

The hardy Paul died for his faith, suffering endlessly prior to his death in a body that was repeatedly beaten, stoned, deprived, starved and tortured. Only John lived to a ripe old age in Ephesus. He will always be remembered by his disciples for repeating these words to everyone he met: “Little children, love one another!” When asked why he kept telling them that, he said, “It is the Lord’s command. And if this alone be done, it is enough.”

My point here is not that I am morbid about the faith. I am also not trying to damper the Spirit here. Wet-blanket I hope I am not. Neither am I trying to be morose nor ominous. If anything, I intend to let a little ray of realism into the hard cobblestone path of our faith’s journey. In other words, I am trying to balance rainbow-like cheeriness with a deft touch of level-grounded-ness. Here is what I mean.

I recall that Joseph Prince once said this with gusto! (exclamation added here for effect): “When you’re smoking, confess that you’re the righteousness of God in Christ. When you’re watching porn, confess that you’re the righteousness of God in Christ. Your addiction cannot be broken with human effort and will power.”

As a Christian, the latter part of that statement is true. But I can’t say that it is all that simple. Really? Confess and that’s that? Of course, there is a whole lot of context to that confession part (for JP once said that if you take the text out of context, you are left with “con”). You will just have to attend his services or read his books to discover it for yourself. If you are interested of course.

However, the common thread that runs through his radical grace prescription for earthly troubles of all shapes and sizes is positive confession. That’s the nutshell in a nutshell. That is, he insists that you just have to confess it right (or believe right) and you will get it right – somehow.

My issue with that is twofold: First, not all remedies to life’s issues are reducible to confession, period. Sometimes, it takes more than that. It may take time, medication, understanding, community, honest sharing, reflection, silent tears, confrontation, painful admission or apology, making amends, personal discipline, and even more time to see the light or resolution. All these are done in faith and hope.

Joseph Prince however tends to take things at face value without delving deeper into the multifarious issues that make up an emotional, spiritual and physical struggle. Some struggles may even last far longer. His solutions therefore appears more formulaic to me than realistic. I guess no leadership bedazzles more than to project the image that you have the answers to most of life’s puzzling dilemmas.

And the second point comes in a question form: What if getting it right is not about fixing it straightaway, but it is about going through it with hope, faith and perseverance? That is, what if it’s about the thorn in one’s flesh that one has to endure for God’s glory like Apostle Paul had to endure his?

I feel that Joseph Prince’s teaching leaves little or no room for that. Or at least, he doesn’t equip his members to embrace trials for purpose of personal growth. His theology on this is sadly lop-sided or deficient. His and Joel Osteen’s methodology is to always smile at the storm instead of confronting it. At times, I feel that preachers like them make promises in God’s name over the pulpit, or in online sermonettes, like a bankrupt would sign off blank cheques to his unwitting investors. On this score, I feel that they could learn a thing or two from this Franciscan benediction:

“May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gifts of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word Who is our Brother and Savior, and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore. Amen.”

Now, I can write other things about Joseph Prince concerning the way he views repentance, the Holy Spirit and asking for big things from God, but I will limit myself to what is most disquieting about his radical grace teachings. There is in fact no better way to understand him than to understand how he views the Law in the light of the dispensation of Grace. I would like to preface here that I think no one is more conflicted than Joseph Prince when it comes to dealing with God’s laws. If you read his books and listen to his sermons, you will know that he has a love-hate relationship with the Law. The tension is clearly palpable and at times, painful to hear. This is what I mean.

You see, when it comes to the Law, Joseph Prince is either the most misunderstood or the most mystifying preacher this side of heaven.

Misunderstood because he has declared both in written words and openly that he is 100% for the Law. This is what he wrote: “Let me say this explicitly so that there is no misunderstanding: I am for the Law, for the purpose for which God gave the law (and you can quote me on this).” (I am doing just that here).

He further wrote that he “has the highest regard for the law. The law is holy, just and good.” He even compared the Law to a mirror with this metaphor: “My friend, if you look in the mirror and see someone ugly, don’t blame the mirror. Don’t get mad and punch the mirror. It’s not the mirror’s fault. The purpose of the mirror is simply to expose your flaws. In the same way, the law is not at fault.”

So, for those opponents of Joseph Prince, enough said? Isn’t he most misunderstood?

I mean, this is the same preacher who said that we should not get angry with the mirror/Law as it is never the fault of the mirror/Law. He did not stop there. He is in fact enlightened enough to write this: “What the devil has done is to keep the law over people’s heads all the time, so that they will constantly feel condemned and guilty. The devil is the master legalist.” He was almost Shakespearean-like when he called the devil a “master legalist”.

Then, his enlightenment went further with this observation: “Now, please understand this: the Ten Commandments are glorious! The problem has never been the Ten Commandments or God’s perfect law. The problem has always been imperfect man’s ability to keep God’s perfect law.” This is in line with Romans 7:7 when Paul said, “So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin…I love God’s law with all my heart.” And in Hebrews 10, after Calvary, God put it all in Paul’s beating heart and wrote it on his vibrant mind.

At this point, I am almost tempted to say this: “To those who think that Joseph Prince is against the Law, well, don’t you think you owe him an apology?” But hold that thought…

Now, here comes the mystifying part about his radical grace message. On the one hand, Joseph Prince clearly embraced the Law wholeheartedly, maintaining its purity from the corruption of man and the devil, and showing complete respect for it, and on the other hand, he condemns it most openly.

Recently, he preached that one perverts the Gospel of Grace if the Law is added to Grace. He even said that there is a double curse on anyone who preaches Law. He said that New Testament curses are possible for preachers of Law or those mixing Law with the Grace message. He even grouped the social media users under this category. This in fact goes back all the way to the Swiss Alps encounter – “You cannot put grace and law together.

I am godsmacked here. Here I am trying to understand him and now he throws me a curve ball. Mm…another Gordian knot to disentangle I guess. I am undaunted nevertheless. I just need to put it into perspective. I just need to break up his above statement into three categories for reflection: Content, Clarity and Chronology.

First, content.

What does Joseph Prince mean by “Law” in the first place? What is it about the Law that would pervert the Gospel of Grace if they are delivered together? I dare to conclude that Joseph Prince was not referring to the man-made traditional laws, that is, the yoke of Moses. These are the Jewish ceremonial, sabbatical, dietary and sacrificial laws regarding circumcision and religious works towards salvation.

His double-curses scripture is actually taken from Galatian and he calls it “Galatianism.” He defines it as “the intermingling of teachings about God which contains a little bit of the law as well as a little bit of grace.” But this is strange because no modern day believer subscribes to these traditional laws of Moses anymore.

I mean, you don’t see anyone responding to the altar call with a goat or sheep behind him to be sacrificed, and for every time the petitioner seeks redemption. Neither does he submit himself to circumcision in order to be saved. Surely, Joseph Prince would have the good sense not to be referring to these antiquated and totally irrelevant laws of old right?

Well, if he is referring to these outmoded laws, then I concede that he has got a point and any modern-day pastor preaching them (as the requisite way to keep one’s salvation after Calvary) is still sadly under the curse of those laws. And I guess there is no fear here.

How about the Ten Commandments then? Is Joseph Prince talking about being double cursed if one mixes the Ten Commandments with Grace? Here, it is tricky. Is he talking about the Ten Commandments standing alone as the way to salvation (or to keep one’s salvation)? I think not. Here’s why from the horses’ own mouth: “When the love of Jesus is in you, you can’t help but fulfill the law. When your heart is overflowing with God’s grace and loving kindness, you will have no desire to commit adultery (Commandment 7) or murder (Commandment 6), bear false witness (Commandment 9), covet (Commandment 10). You will have the power to love your neighbor as yourself.” (underline mine).

This is what is meant by writing the law in one’s heart. Grace and Law thus work together with Grace justifying us in righteousness and the Law sanctifying us in good works, and they are not mutually exclusive,

So, mystery’s solved here. The Law that shouldn’t mix with Grace is NOT the Ten Commandments because – if anything – Grace empowers the believer to fulfill the Ten Commandments. Let’s move on to the next point.

Second, clarity.

Was Joseph Prince trying to use metaphor to illustrate his point? When he said about mixing the Law and the double curses, is he referring to the Old Testament or the Old Covenant as compared to the New Covenant where Christ has fulfilled it all and we are deemed righteous by His one ultimate sacrifice? If that is the case, why not just be more specific? Why not just say that one would be double cursed if he mixes the Old Covenant with Grace (that is, the New Covenant)? Why scapegoat the Law since it is Legalism that needs to be abolished for good?

At this juncture, I’m sure it is not disputed that when Apostle Paul mentioned that we are “dead to the law” or that we are “not under the law”, he was referring to the Old Covenant mindset to salvation. And such a mindset is futile or hopeless because you break one commandment, you break them all.  In any event, didn’t Joseph Prince say that it is the devil who is the master legalist and that the Law is like a mirror – blameless, holy?

So, I think I can safely conclude that Joseph Prince meant the Old Testament and not the Law, which will invite double curses, right? Maybe his Swiss Alps’ encounter requires some back-to-the-future tweaking?

Lastly, chronology.

Thus far, I think I’ve established that Joseph Prince was not referring to the Pharisaical laws since that is a non-starter because no one follows it anyway. Neither is he referring to the Ten Commandments since he had actually endorsed it as the fruits (or growth) of a Grace-empowered life after the altar call. And for purpose of clarity, if he is referring to the Old Covenant as a possible invitation for double curses, then he should have stated it front and center – instead of blaming the perfect laws of God.

As such, I am left with chronology. Is Joseph Prince trying to say that at the time of salvation, we should not mix Law with Grace lest we get double cursed? Isn’t this a rehashing of the Old Covenant? In any event, Joseph Prince has already said that the Law cannot make one godly. That’s a given. But he has also reminded us that the purpose of the Law is so that “the world would have the knowledge of sin, and recognize their need for a Savior.”

So, the Law still performs a role; it informs. It discloses. It points us to the way of redemption. No doubt it doesn’t save; yet it facilitates, it directs. The theologian David P. Fuller once wrote, “Christ is the telos of the Law, not in the sense of being its termination, but as climaxing it as the One who is in a continuum with it.”

So, no doubt the Law could be used in the way the Pharisee had used it in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, it nevertheless serves multiple roles as follows:-

1)   A mirror to reflect to us our sin.

2)   A guide (to Israel) for nation-building and for personal holiness.

3)   An objective standard of right and wrong, a guard to help keep us on the straight and narrow.

4)   A guide to worship.

5)   A reflection to us of the perfection and nature of God.

6)   A means of Grace to keep us in communion with God and point us to the Messiah.

(Daniel Tong in “Law and Grace”).

How about post-altar call then? Does the Law play any part together with Grace? I guess Daniel Tong again answers it most aptly here: “Yes, under the new covenant the Law is now put upon our hearts and written on our minds. Under this new modality, at issue is not the function of or why it is we should keep the Law, but a focus on it being our joy and duty. “Conformity to the Law, and subjection to the Law of God, is part of our holiness. Therefore it can never be said to be a part of our bondage.” That is to say, we can approach the Law in one of two ways, either as an oppressed and unwilling slave or as an obedient and loving child.” We are freed from the one, namely, the subjection of a slave, which was a part of our bondage, but not from the other, namely, the subjection of a son, which is part of our freedom.” Enough said?

Alas, I started this post with Joseph Prince’s Swiss Alps vacation and the voice of God which told him NOT to put Grace and Law together – lest he neutralizes the former. Yet, I ended here still trying to understand how Grace works to the complete exclusion of God’s perfect Laws. I admit that this Swiss Alps encounter is perplexing to me, to say the least.

Honestly, I am none the wiser. I guess I am just thick in the skull. But I suspect the majority of his 30-thousand strong church members had somehow fully understood the radical grace message, and there is hope for mankind after all. Cheerz.

Mother's Day.

What does Mother's day mean to me? We all celebrate it. We all know it's not about a day. It's about a life. It's about how a life had sacrificed for another. It's about how love gave all when we were most vulnerable.

Mother's day therefore celebrates the selfless devotion in the person for what she has given up. It's a time where children are called to give thanks and show gratitude. It's a time for the reaffirmation of bonds and the joining of hearts.

But I believe it should not stop there. We should not leave fathers out of it. I know we have Father's day but my point goes further than that. Here's what I mean.

First, it bears repeating that it's not about a day, but a life. And husbands should never forget that they are indebted to two lives on Mother's day. The first life is the mother who had toiled in their beginning years to bring them up. And the second is the wife who is the mother of their children. Husbands are therefore indebted to both of them on Mother's day. Here is why.

I come from a family of 3 other siblings - a family of 6 altogether that is. I am the youngest. We seldom celebrated Mother's day because my parents' relationship was not exactly the best - to put it very mildly.

My father was not exactly the romantic type. He was in fact as affectionate as watching paint dry. And his idea of a marriage was in this caveman-ish statement: "you cook, me work." I think this is a hainanese thing about their men.

So, I always felt that my mother could be happier, whether on Mother's day or any other day for that matter.

It is said that the desire of a man is the woman. Period. We are that shallow. But the desire of a woman is for the desire of the man. And I believe my mother craved for my father's desire of her in the same way that all wives crave for their husbands'.

That is why Mother's day is about two women in our life. That is, the one who gave us life and the one whom we once promised to give our life to (just as Jesus had given his to the Church).

If I can address my writing now to the husbands, I would like to remind them that their enduring love for their life partner is a blessing on many levels in their life. It cuts three generations and blesses them deeply.

Firstly, our marriage is a priceless gift to our children. It surpasses all the material presents we can give to them on Christmas or any other gazette holiday.

Our love for our wife is an enduring legacy for them. It gives them the resource to love their own future life partner back. It empowers them to love selflessly. Their father's love (for his wife) will always be their inspiration, the golden standard to strive for in their own life.

Secondly, our marriage is also a priceless gift for our wife. It represents the vows we intend to keep. It gives them the security and stability to love our children in a safe and empowering environment.

And on a rueful note, I earnestly believe that Mother's day is not just about the gratitude showered on mothers by their children. It is also a private time for a quiet celebration of the husband's love for his wife, the mother of his children.

Finally, every mother knows how much a blessing it is to be loved unconditionally by her husband. This brings me back to my mother who craved for my father's attention. As such, l believe all mothers-in-law wish the same for her daughters-in-law. They wish for a marriage that is strong and resilient undergirded by selfless love. They wish for their sons and daughters to be happy in marriage and life.

To this end, we husbands play an invaluable role here. Our love for our wife makes the difference and sets the stage for a Mother's day celebration that is meaningful, deeply nurturing and joyful.

So, I wish all mothers (including the mother of our kids) a happy Mother's day. And may we husbands never forget how important our role is to make each day leading to that celebration complete, purposeful and whole. Cheerz.