Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Tom walks past two old men, both slumping on their wheel chairs, staring into space. The familiarity of the place makes him oblivious of those residents languishing in the old run-down centre. He has seen it all, the filth from the bodies and all. Worst were those who died with sores and liquids running down their faces. Sitting down at his office, he gulps down a hotdog, fresh from the oven. Checking his accounts again, he puts on a wide grin. Not bad for this filth factory! He smiles again.

Many years ago, this Home was the pride of the town. To register in, one has to wait for a long time, until everything is stringently checked and in order. Since Mr. Lansing took his business to another country, things began to deteriorate. His late co-worker’s son, Tom Watson runs like a tyrant businessman, careless and completely detached.

Those who are there now have few distant relatives who seldom drop by anymore. They trust the once-popular centre to handle everything, hence, only send in their money.

At Tom sits there about to doze off, a knock on the door jolts him. “Mr. Watson, there is a young man outside who wants to see you. He said something like wanted to be a volunteer,” an old worker opens the door. Tom waves for the old man to leave and ushers the energetic teenager to have a seat. “A volunteer huh? You mean you don’t want to get paid for helping here?” he quickly enquires.

“Yes, Boss! I am here to help, that’s all!” the young man answers politely.

“How can you help and what are the hours? We don’t want half-hearted religious freaks here,” the fat caretaker grunts.

“I will be here in the afternoons. I don’t mind to do anything."

“Very well, then! Can you help out in the kitchen as one worker is sick today?”

Johnny strolls into the kitchen and his eyes widen. It looks more like a garage than a place where health of the old folks are supposed to be taken care of. Vegetables are strewn everywhere, stale and brownish. He opens the old squeaky fridge only to find more almost rotten meat and vegetables. The floor reeks with combined smells of milk and medicine. No wonder he saw the sign just now from the outside, “Do Not Enter”.

Few small drops of tears fall from his eyes as he helps to clean up. “Hey, who are you?” a rugged man roars from behind him.

“I am a volunteer here,” Johnny quickly wipes his face.

“Oh, just don’t get too neat here. We may not know where to find things,” the cook speaks with a sarcastic tone.

Late afternoon…

Hearing laughter from the corridors which is rare, Tom takes a u turn. He peeks to see the teenager having a lively conversation with Uncle Joe, a long time resident in the Home. Knocking on the wooden frame to get Johnny’s attention, he whistles for him.

“I think you shouldn’t speak to the old people here, especially that old man,” Tom orders.

“Why not?” Johnny protests.

“They are quite sketchy of things here and tend to complain a lot. I don’t want them to discourage you,” the caretaker explains.

“As far as I know, they are fine,” the teenager shoots back. “Uncle Joe did complain a little bit but he has accepted his fate,” he adds with compassion for the tough old man. Resignation is the obvious sign for all these residents, just bidding for their time to go.

“I think I made a mistake to let you help here. Anyway, I still feel drowsy from last night’s football on TV,” Tom clears his throat.

“Please Boss! Let me help,” Johnny pleads.

“No. Please get out of here,” the fat man raises his voice. Few old people stare blankly at him. He lowers his voice but still holds steadfastly his decision.

The teenager cries and marches out of the door. He really desires to change things around here and he feels he can contribute substantially.

Next Morning….

Tom puts both of his feet on top of the table and reads the sports page. A knock interrupts his intent gaze. Two burly men in uniform stand in front of him. “Mr. Tom Watson, you are under arrest for abuse and fraud. We need you to follow us to the station for questioning,” one officer speaks with a stony face.

Trembling with fear, he protests. “You guys are crazy. What abuse?” Tom shouts back.

“There are two witnesses who will testify against you,” another officer puts it calmly.

“Who dares to do that, I’ll sue him!” the fat man yells on top of his voice.

“First, Uncle Joe, who have had enough of your antics at this Centre. And he… is my uncle,” the cop speaks angrily. “I didn’t know until someone reported you. He is the second person, Johnny Lansing, the youngest son of Mr. Lansing, the original owner of the Home.”

“You have no proofs,” Tom Watson grunts.

“These photographs from Johnny’s camera say it all,” the cop retorts, holds some clear shots from the Home. “How could you? You have carried away by your own laziness and greed. The whole reputation of the Home which Mr. Lansing and your dad built has been ruined,” he blurts.

As he is led out, a loud cheer can be heard from the residents. Tom sees his workers all already in the patrol cars. Before he enters into one, his eyes lock on the teenager’s. Johnny stands there, feeling a little uncomfortable. Next to him, his father, Mr. Lansing nods sadly at the handcuffed man. He remembers how he used to love him when he was little.

The parable of the Sheep and the Goats is only found in Matthew 25:31-46 and the last one in this Gospel.

Sheep and goats are quite similar in their looks but characteristically different in their behaviour. Goats are natural browsers and agile, they are actually quite independent. Sheep are more grazers, graze close to the soil surface whereas goats like to eat top of plants. One significant difference is that sheep have a stronger flocking instinct and become very agitated if they are separated from the rest of the flock.

When Jesus presents these domestic animals in the story, everyone knows what he is talking about. The Israelites have been using these animals for sacrifice and food for centuries! The goats are independent lots who browse everywhere for food, “touch and go” animals. These represent a part of humanity who is selfish, restless and thinks he’s okay without God. These groups of people listen to Jesus’ words but those teachings often fall on unfertile hearts. They care more for things than relationships.

Sheep eat tender grasses and they do it slowly, making sure everything is gobbled up before advancing. Sheep fear being lost. They desire a loving shepherd to guide them. These people in Jesus’ days are absorbing the words of God like a sponge. They feel good when they hear of a God who takes care of them and will never leave them. If nurture properly, these followers will never turn away from the Shepherd. As their relationship with the Shepherd strengthens, good works naturally flow out of them. They are warm and gentle people and desires relationships more than anything.

As Jesus ends with this final parable, he speaks about His kingship on earth where the kingdom of God would culminate. There will be a final judgment. They will be a separation of sheep and goats. The sheep invariably did something that they did not even realise (Matthew 25:37-40). That automatic natural flow of good deeds is borne out of a steady and close relationship with the Shepherd Jesus! Social gospel is not Jesus' intention here but He emphasises more of obedient servants whose adaptability and willingness speak volumes of their readiness to follow God.

Goats on the other hand, do not care at all. They live like there is no judgment and no repercussions for deeds left undone, needs left unmet when they were capable to fulfil. Eternal punishment reserve for these people is not because they did not do something, rather they refused to do and obey.

For those warm and gentle sheep who follow the Shepherd, the crowned King of all kings has this to say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

Note: The Scriptures are clear that only those who genuinely believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God have eternal life (John 3:16, 5:24; Acts 2:21, 4:12)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I have been reading some heavy stuff lately and truly thank God for this book’s timely interruption. This is like God’s gift for me personally for I simply adore simplicity. Max Lucado has a knack for touching hearts especially putting together those that are fragmented. Short passages from every page form one line of thought – God’s loving hand upon our lives. Each one of us is special and called to be who we are. The best role you play in the divine drama directed by our Master from heaven is you. God will use your story to fit into His story. I have been a fan of Max Lucado since God knows when and every book never seems to disappoint me. This one’s included. I give 4 stars to this book.

This book is generously provided free from Thomas Nelson Publishers for the purpose of this review. Thank you!


Charles sees another piece of 3M sticker on Frank’s desk, ‘Out for the afternoon’. He looks annoyingly at Francis, his colleague; both troubled over their team member’s attitude. What happened? A quick thought emerges in Francis’ mind. He still believes in Frank’s capability as Dr. Bergman, the CEO, did not leave any negative words for him when he entrusted the multi-million Project to the three of them.

A strange illness has since plagued Dr. Bergman and he has gone to the Far East looking for a cure, leaving the whole company to the trio. BakeHeart recently declared a hefty jump in their dividends pay-out since they were public listed. Dr. Bergman’s dedication and masterly skill with people have made him one of the best CEOs in the city. Always cheerful and generous, he was well-liked both by BakeHeart's workers and his clients.

“Can you talk with Frank? I think he has not been concentrating on this latest Hypermarket Project,” Francis pleads with Charles. “Mr. Bergman had put his entire hope on this and any wrong move will have serious consequences,” he adds with a stony face. “I will try. But if he wants out, there is nothing you and I are going to do about it,” Charles snaps.

The Next Day…

Frank whistles his way into the office. “Good morning! Oh, Charles and Francis want to meet you at the latter’s office now,” the secretary speaks sweetly as she passes by.

Yeah! What else? Is the Hypermarket crap again! Frank smiles and offers her a casual thanks.

“You are late again, Bro,” Charles shoots as Frank saunters in.

“Oh..late for what?” he answers annoyingly, like they break his pleasure momentum. Both Francis and Charles know of his partying spirit.

“Late for reporting to us about your meeting with the GM of FOCUS Hypermarket,” Charles interjects angrily.

“Come on, Frank. We need you to settle down. This is serious,” Francis adds.

“ mean I am playing a fool, is that right?” Frank snaps. “Okay. I admit I am a little lax these days but hey, relax, it’s not like that old man is going to return anytime soon,” he continues ranting.

“No, Frank. You got it wrong. He gave us his trust and Charles and I are not going to lose that by being irresponsible,” Francis clarifies with his usual down to earth honesty.

“Okay! Okay! I will make the appointment with Clarkson of FOCUS soon,” Frank retorts, seeing the seriousness of his two colleagues.

“What? What have you been doing all these while? You mean you have not even met with Clarkson!” Charles turns his back to face the wall. Francis shakes his head.

"As the acting CEO in this company, I want you to lay your hands off this Project from now on. You will now handle some small retail projects for BakeHeart,” Charles commands. “I don’t know what has distracted you but with smaller projects, I hope you can manage better,” he offers Frank the best available option.

“Okay, if this is what you want me to do,” Frank accepts his lot. He feels a little embarrassed but at the same time, relieved.

“I believe this is what Dr. Bergman would want you to do. He believes in not overburdening his staff,” Francis reminds him.

A Month Later…

Frank scampers into the Boardroom, unkempt both in his attire and hair. He takes a seat and straightens his tie. Feeling a little uneasy at the surprise meeting, he looks around. Strange! Why so quiet this time, unlike the previous meetings? He senses two hands rest upon his shoulders at the back and as he turns around, his jaws drop. It's the CEO! He wasn't aware all along Mr. Bergman standing there at the corner, getting his usual dose of black coffee. The CEO’s hands this time feel like a huge sack that sags right down his spine.

“Oh..Dr. Bergman. Go…od Morning. I didn’t see you just…,” he rises up to greet him. The CEO just takes a seat, leaving Frank’s hand unshaken.

“Well done, Charles and Francis! I just got a call from FOCUS and they have agreed to all our requirements for the contract. BakeHeart has now doubled in its expansion plan. Thank you!” Bergman speaks excitedly to the applause of all in the meeting.

“Charles and Francis, you both are now officially promoted to First and Second Most Senior Manager of the Company,” he rises to clap softly. Everyone rises to clap except Frank, who slumps in his chair.

“I have received reports of some retail outlets being neglected. And that had caused some losses to the company. It is not so much of monetary losses but the image of BakeHeart. Frank, what have you got to say?” the CEO sits down as all eyes turn towards Frank. The lazy and distracted man stares at Charles and Francis.

“You are fired! All the perks you have taken from this company must be paid back by end of this month or else?” Bergman warns.

“Okay. This wraps out today’s meeting. Oh yes, all of you will be given a trip to Europe for a week as we are going to celebrate like crazy for the unbelievable successful year,” he pats Charles’ back and leaves.

Everyone is so taken aback by the generosity of Dr. Bergman. As everyone leaves the room, Frank puts his hands over his face and cries in deep anguish.

The Parable of the Talents is found in Matthew 25:14-30 and a slight difference in Luke 19:12-27.

Before the man begins his journey, he entrusts money to his servants for the sole purpose of investment. In Matthew, the Bible does not specify where he is going but in Luke, we know he is going to be crowned as king. Both these parables are spoken by Jesus almost at the end of His time on earth. This time, Jesus is concerned about His disciples more than those who oppose Him (Luke 19:14-15, 27).

Together with the parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus desires them not only to enter the kingdom of God but to do well! There is no plan B for Jesus when He leaves the earth, the disciples will be passed the baton.

First of all, the lazy wicked servant deserves his rightful place, in darkness.

In Matthew Parable, we read about the owner who is first of all not a taskmaster (Matthew 25:15). He is actually quite generous in entrusting everything to his servants. A Talent is many years’ wages of an ordinary average worker. This means that the third servant gets a good deal too! The master is not only generous in parting with money, he is generous with praises too (Matthew 25:20-23; Luke 19:16-19). In Matthew’s parable, he praises the two servants with same exact words. This tells us that our Master Jesus will judge us by our faithfulness and not success according to numbers and statistics.

By hiding on the ground such huge sum of money, the lazy servant has not only broken trust but lost the value of it due to depreciation caused by inflation. He is so lazy that going to the money-changers (which is not a desired thing to do for fund managers) is a burden. Perhaps he is so distracted that he is not even aware that he has hidden his master's money. He has forgotten that his master is coming back and he is accountable for everything. Worse, he even accuses his master of being a taskmaster which is not true at all. He is not only lazy but wicked as well.

In contrast, the two servants are good and faithful who deserve rewards from their master.

1. They desire to please their master when he returns.
2. They know their given responsibility until the master returns.
3. They seize every opportunity before their master returns.

There is a fundamental difference between the lazy servant and the two trusted ones. The relationship with their Master. The faithful acts of the two faithful servants stem from a sound relationship with their coming Master. The previous parable about the virgins illustrates the same ingredient missing in the five foolish virgins. Therefore, Jesus uses these stories to drive home a point - your relationship with God somehow determines your obedience to Him.

The kingdom of God is soon climaxing and reaching its shore on earth. Will our Master find all His servants doing their very best for Him? Again, Jesus has no Plan B, we are the only lights in the world today. Are you hiding or are you shining?

Next: Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Ashley feels ecstatic when the results are announced. She has won third place in the essay writing contest in her school thus enabling her to enter the national competition next month. Both of her best friends, Julie and Lisa are first and second respectively.

“Hey! Julie! Congrats for being the champion! You are the best!” Ashley grabs her shoulders. “You did well too, Ash,” Julie grins. Lisa holds her second placed trophy high up as she meets them standing at the foyer and they celebrate noisily.

“You know what, since we are in this together, I suggest we meet to study together. Let’s do this for our school, Ok?” Lisa proffers. Julie agrees wholeheartedly. “If I can find time to study like you girls,” Ashley shrugs. “Yes, you can! All it takes is a little focus,” Lisa retorts.

Ashley has been inconsistent these couple of months in school as she hangs out with some wild school mates. Julie and Lisa have taken time to advice her against spending too much time on outside school activities but to no avail. They know she is a smart girl. And her third prize win proves them right.

Ten days to the Competition…

“I wonder where is Ash?” Julie looks concern. Ashley had joined them for their first meeting and since disappeared from their sight. Maybe she likes doing it alone,” Lisa chips in. She then takes out her phone and calls Ashley. “Yeah,” the faint voice on the other line answers. “Ashley, it’s only ten more days to competition. Will you join us?” Lisa requests. “I am very tired. I’ll call you back,” Ashley replies annoyingly. The line goes dead. “How?” Julie asks. “I think she slept late last night. Anyway, we have to do what is best for us,” Lisa shrugs and takes up a reference book.

Two Days to the Competition…

“Hi! Ashley, you don’t look so good,” Lisa confronts her. “I don’t feel so well. Anyway, do you girls still have those meetings together? I think I need to brush up my skills,” Ashley asks, somewhat desperate. “I don’t think so. We have done everything we need to be prepared for. Moreover, there were so many discussions already covered,” Lisa answers unapologetically. “Oh. Can you and Julie help me? I don’t want to lose this opportunity,” Ashley begs. “I am sorry, Ash. We have some other works we need to finish as well. I want to help but time is not on our side now,” Lisa replies annoyingly. Ashley senses her heart beating a little quicker than usual. She quickly rushes to the library without saying goodbye to her best friend, Lisa.

Competition Day…

Ashley finds that desperation doesn’t help her in this competition. In fact, she knows she does not stand a chance in winning any prize. She has secretly wished she could at least win $2,000 third prize money to help her through college. The three friends decide to meet at the cafeteria for a drink after the submission.

“Wow! I am so excited about the competition! The school has announced a special prize if anyone from here wins the top-three place, apart from the prize money!” Julie exclaims confidently. “What’s that? What’s that?” Lisa yells delightedly. “There is going to be a big party organised for the winners and…and…a full scholarship for any college we choose to go!” Julie jumps up and dances.
As expected, Julie wins the first prize for the National Championship and her friend, Lisa, comes in second. “Let the party begin,” Julie screams. As they celebrate joyously, they see Ashley standing outside the hall. A sad look on her face says it all. She knows that she has missed it, this great opportunity that will not come knocking at her door, again.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins is found in Matthew 25:1-13.

After strong verbal rebukes at the teachers of the law and the Pharisees (Matt. 23), Jesus now turns his attention again to His disciples. He knows his time on earth is nearing the end, begins to tell the disciples the end of the age. The audience must have been enthralled with such details of the future. As with all God's prophets, Jesus will not only deliver information, He offers sound godly advice.

Two words stand out at this hour of His teachings, “Keep Watch!”

Everyone must keep watch during the soon coming of the LORD Jesus Christ again. This time, the LORD is coming with God’s wrath! What troubles the listeners is the uncertainty of the timing of His coming. Therefore, Jesus warns them to take heed of the signs of the times!

In this parable, Jesus adds the phrase, “At that time” (Matt. 25:1). It tells about the soon consummation of the rule of God in His kingdom. There will be two groups of people on the opposite extreme in this story. One group rejoices rapturously, participating in the most marvellous wedding celebration. The other, locked out in darkness, knowing and hearing the celebration but unable to enter. No wonder there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. In fact, Jesus warns of intense suffering for all those who reject the coming of their Master (Matt. 24:51).

The foolish virgins represent one side of humanity who knows the wrath of God is coming but chooses to live carelessly in the world. They know that they haven’t got enough oil for their lamps but still they are asleep like those who have the oil (Matt. 25:3-5).

The virgins are usually friends of the Bride and Groom in wedding ceremonies in ancient Palestine. When the Bridegroom comes to fetch the Bride to go to his parents’ house at night, these chosen girls joyously play the guiding lights for them. And they become participants in the grand wedding. The Bridegroom will be very happy for them, thus inviting them for the grand celebration! Perhaps, rewarding them for their effort, anticipation and passion! The wise virgins create even greater joy in the celebration.

The foolish virgins deserve nothing from him. They were invited to participate but did not keep their part of the bargain. Due to their foolishness, there may not be enough lights for more people to walk to the house of the Groom's parents. Some may even lose their way. When they finally get their oil for their lamps, they are refused into the celebration. Their lack of enthusiasm for the Bridegroom’s coming speaks about their relationship with him. They show disrespect on his big day, a once-in-a-lifetime occasion (Matt. 25:11-12).

The main reason people take for granted the Lord’s Second Coming is not the delay in His coming but their lack of enthusiasm in the Person of Jesus! If the wonderful promises of Jesus and the miraculous signs and wonders He performed still not do the work with these foolish people, nothing will. However, in this parable, Jesus is concerned for all His disciples, in every generation, that they do not fall away.

Whether there is a delay, distraction or deception...
Keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Matt. 24:13).

NOTE: There were debates in regards to the identity of the 10 virgins. Some say they are the tribulations saints at the Second Coming of Christ as the next two parables in Matthew (Rapture would have already taken place by then). My interpretation is that Jesus would want everyone to be prepared, either the rapture of the church or His second Coming. The oil that the foolish virgins should have been carried along can also represent  the Holy Spirit (which is quite consistent in the Bible). If that is so, then the five foolish virgins may represent those who have heard about Christ but unregenerated at the heart. Judging at their same appearance as the five wise virgins, they might even  call themselves Christians. These are the ones Paul wrote, "..having a form of godliness, but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5).

Next: The Parable of the Talents