The Fool’s Bench

jim-elliot_quote

Hi readers! Today marks the 7th month of Fool’s Bench existence! If you still remember, it was on 22nd of September last year that this site was launched. Ever since then, many people have visited and shown a lot of love and encouragement, and today if you’re one of them, I want to thank you for your support.

But today is not about celebrating another month of Fool’s Bench! Today is about going back to its origins. Because today is also the birthday of a woman who a year ago, preached a message that inspired the name of Fool’s Bench. If you’ve been here long enough, you would know that I am talking about my spiritual mother – Pastor Lia.

So as I was thinking over the past few days what I could write about today, I thought there could be nothing more appropriate than to share with all of you my notes that I took down for The Fool’s Bench message more than a year ago; since you know, today’s about Fool’s Bench and Pastor Lia (who preached about The Fool’s Bench). ūüėČ Haha, ready for a #throwback? I present to you, one of the most important messages I’ve ever heard – The Fool’s Bench.

“The Fool’s Bench” by Pastor Lia

The first thing I remember Pastor Lia saying was that if we want to be world-changers, there are 2 questions we need to ask ourselves.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:1-2

Am I a Thermostat or a Thermometer?

Because if we blindly follow everyone else in the world, how can we change it? There is a huge difference between a thermometer and a thermostat – a thermometer measures room temperature, whereas a thermostat controls the room temperature.

Just look up Roger Bannister as an example. He set the temperature, a new standard, a new record. He is a “thermostat”. He changed the “rules” of the mile run forever. But what about us? Are we blending into environments or are we showing others how to live? World-changers are thermostats no matter where they are! They hold on to their convictions despite peer pressure. And in fact under pressure, their convictions are strengthened.

Look up another hero named Samuel in the Bible. He lived in an environment of corruption, but kept himself pure. In a time when God was clouded out by the world, Samuel lived differently. He too was a thermostat.

Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.” – 1 Samuel 3:1

And because he was a thermostat, God noticed Samuel and called him when He wanted to change the world. Just as how Samuel was different from the people around him, we can be the same too.

that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, ‚ÄúHere I am!‚ÄĚ” – 1 Samuel 3:4

Am I Heavenly-minded or Earthly-minded?

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:2

My pastors always say that Christianity is not the removal of the mind, but the renewal of the mind. So we want to lift the thoughts of our minds towards the things of God. And as Christians, we got to ask ourselves what exactly is on God’s heart.

And it can be safe to say, knowing my God for a few years now, that His heart is always for others; especially those who do not yet know Him. So if we want to change the world, we got to start with the people in our world. We got to live for others, not for ourselves. Of course, it isn’t as easy as it seems. Sometimes we might even feel like fools for living for others, reaching out to them and loving them. But that is why we have to be heavenly-minded.

To many people out there, the idea of “living for others” is a foolish one. But to God and to those who are heavenly-minded, it is a beautiful thing. Because money, possessions & success on Earth cannot be kept forever. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in Heaven & Hell or not, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in Jesus or not. One thing is for sure – all of us will one day depart from this world in death and all those things we have accumulated for ourselves in our time on Earth will be left behind.

Now I do not mean that success isn’t important. However, we should have both success and significance in our lives. And this can be done by being the “fools” that people may see us as. But it’s all about perspective. We aren’t just any fool on the street. We are a special kind of fools – fools for Christ. And I truthfully believe up till this day that fools for Christ are amazing. They are willing to make a difference in any way they can and see it worth their efforts – even if it means only one person getting touched.

In closing, Pastor Lia shared with us a story of a certain church in South Barrington, Illinois that has interesting benches in its lobby. Every weekend, there will always be a handful of members from the church sitting there, waiting for their friend, relative or colleague to show up. They have probably earlier in the week invited someone to come join them in church to experience all that they have experienced, which has impacted their lives in a certain way.

Fifteen minutes passes. Half an hour passes. An hour passes. A lot of these people that they are waiting for have said “Yes” to their invitations. But some of them never show up.

Thus, these church members waiting on the benches sometimes end up looking & feeling like fools. But I’m sure if you visit that church the very next weekend, they will be there again at the very same spot on the same bench, waiting. Because they are heavenly-minded and they don’t mind it. They know that what they’re doing can possibly make a difference in a person’s life that money cannot buy, and death cannot take away.

And so after awhile, these lobby benches that these people sit on every weekend became known¬†throughout the church as “The Fool’s Bench”. That is where the name originated from. It’s so inspiring, isn’t it? I want to be able to live like these heroes, who nobody might even know about, but are the real thermostats and heavenly minds that are changing our world for good & for God. I leave you today with one last quote by missionary Jim Elliot that perfectly sums up this entire message into one sentence: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

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5 Burning Questions about One Punch Man

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the entire season of One Punch Man (anime).

Just last week, I finally found time to finish watching the remaining episodes of the first season of One Punch Man. And personally for me, I really enjoyed it. It is rare that you can find stories that are both epic and ridiculously funny at the same time, and One Punch Man has seriously been the perfect combination of both. Even though I wished the season lasted a little longer, I was happy with how it ended. But right after, I also had a few questions that I am looking forward to finding the answers for, hopefully in the next season.

1) Does Saitama have a family?

alone

We all know very vaguely about Saitama’s origins. Of course, I don’t mean his origins as a hero. Because like he always says, he started out doing it as a hobby for fun. What I meant was his origins as a person. At the start of the series, we’ve always seen Saitama living alone in his apartment until Genos moved in to be his disciple. He didn’t seem to have any friends or family. We don’t know how he ended up living there, who his parents are, and if he had any relatives. It will be nice to get some answers for that.

2) What is the REAL source of Saitama’s powers?

power

Up till today, I still do not believe that 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats and a 10KM run every single day is¬†enough to give one man powers of that scale. I mean seriously, to be able to defeat a cosmic being like Lord Boros with little effort and then emerging unscathed… there’s got to be something else that gave Saitama his powers that he isn’t telling anyone about. Hopefully, we will get our answers in the second season.

3) Is Metal Knight who we think he is?

If you remember, at the beginning of the season, we met Genos and heard about his dramatic backstory¬†for the very first time. Before Genos¬†became a cyborg, he was actually living a pretty peaceful life with his family until one day, a deranged cyborg destroyed¬†his entire town, killing his family at the same time. After¬†his rebirth¬†as a cyborg himself, Genos¬†swore to hunt down that evil robot who destroyed his life. Fast forward to the last episode of One Punch Man, we have all the S Class heroes,¬†Saitama and a few others resisting Lord Boros’ invasion.¬†Well, that is, other than Blast and Metal Knight who never showed up during the course of the battle. As the victorious battle against the alien invaders were coming to an end, one of the S class heroes named Drive Knight warns Genos about Metal Knight, claiming that he is his “enemy”.

drive-knight

Seeing that Metal Knight is also a cyborg, and doesn’t show up until the final battle ends, there is reason to doubt his character as a hero. In fact, this isn’t even the first time he shows up and ends up not helping at all. This time, he only appears after the major battle to pick up its remains and build more powerful weapons “for the sake of peace”. Maybe there is some sort of conspiracy going on and Metal Knight turns out to be the cyborg who Genos has always been looking for. Who knows?

4) Does Saitama have a weakness?

weakness

So far, we know that Saitama is virtually indestructible. I mean just watch the show, you’ll know what I mean. He survives anything and everything. Like I said, the most he got out of fighting Lord Boros was dirt on his face. But I don’t know if you actually noticed this: during the course of his fight with Boros, Saitama ended up on the moon. And as he was up there, he couldn’t breath. For a moment there, it looked like he was struggling for air, just like any normal human being would. Could this be the only weakness the One Punch Man has –¬† the need for oxygen? If it is, then we could potentially see enemies taking advantage of this knowledge against our hero!

5) Who is Blast and where was he?

blast

As you all would know, all the heroes in One Punch Man have classes and ranks. Ever wondered who is number 1 among them all? Well, unfortunately we didn’t get to see him yet. We just know his name is Blast and he was absent at the heroes meeting before the final battle and during the fight. What are his powers? How does he look like? Where was he this whole time? Maybe we will find out in season 2.

BONUS: When is the second season going to be confirmed?

LOL. This is probably the most important question. Even though I have mentioned “season 2” multiple times throughout this short post, the fact is it is still in the process of becoming a reality. I guess we can just live first on the original video animations that are going to be released over the next few months. Then hopefully, we will get a confirmation soon and can follow Saitama on his epic adventures again.

p.s. No, I do not follow the manga. Sorry about that. ūüėÜ

A Look Back on Films in 2015

Note to reader: Don’t worry, this is a spoiler-free article.

Hi everyone! So much has happened over the year of 2015, and¬†if there’s one thing I can remember about it, it’s that it was a year full of great movies. In fact, I think it was the year when I’ve watched the most amount movies! That is why before we even get into the films that are going to be released this year, we should take a look back at some of the most memorable films of yesteryear. I have watched the following films and would personally recommend you to do so too if you haven’t. Ladies & gentlemen, here are my personal favorites of 2015.

12) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Starting from #12, we have the epic conclusion to the Hunger Games film series- Mockingjay Part 2. Ironically, I enjoyed this film despite never having seen¬†any of its predecessors. Personally, I liked the whole tone and setting of the film, as well as Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Katniss Everdeen. I also really enjoyed watching the protagonists’ struggle and fight for freedom. How the film ended eventually left me satisfied too. In summary, if you are a fan of dystopian fiction,¬†this movie is for you. But of course,¬†watching the other films or reading the books before this will give you a better experience.

11) Avengers: Age of Ultron

2015 had so many movie sequels and this is definitely one of the most anticipated ones. Being probably¬†the film¬†that kicked off the summer blockbuster season last year, watch as our heroes unite once more to save the world. This movie is packed full¬†of¬†details in every scene, paving¬†the way to¬†upcoming films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So if you are a fan¬†of the MCU like me, you can’t miss this.

10) Jurassic World

Talking about¬†summer blockbusters, how can one forget Jurassic World? I had a really fun time watching this film and felt so nostalgic when I heard the famous score playing again. Much like a lot of people, Jurassic Park was a part of my childhood! Also, the cast all did a great job portraying their characters, especially Chris Pratt as Owen. This man can play a hero anytime.¬†So if you enjoyed Jurassic Park, you got to watch this too. It might just be the perfect “mid-year” film for you, just like it was for me.

9) Kingsman: The Secret Service

If you’re looking to watch a movie¬†full of good old classic action, do yourself a service – watch Kingsman. With so many movies such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E and Spectre,¬†2015 was like a year of spy flicks. This one is my favorite. Set in modern day England, watch as Colin Firth redefines the phrase “gentleman spy”. Filled with¬†awesome fight scenes and cool spy gadgets,¬†this is a film I really enjoyed.¬†But what I¬†especially loved about it was the¬†idea of how a veteran spy saw the potential in a young nobody¬†and trained him to become a heroic somebody. Having a mature rating, I must mention¬†though that this film is not¬†for the faint-hearted/minors (as you can tell from the trailer).

8) Ip Man 3

Next, let’s talk about something more recent. In fact, it’s still playing in cinemas right now. If¬†you’re a martial artist, or just love martial arts films in general, this is the best you can get in 2015;¬†and I’m not even exaggerating. Donnie Yen once again portrays the inspiring character of Ip Man so well and as usual, the display of Wing Chun in this film series is the best. But maybe you’re thinking if you need to watch the first 2 films before this. My answer to you is that it’s not necessary. These films have always been great standalone, though I would still recommend you to watch the other 2 because well, they’re awesome.

7) Ant-Man

It’s Marvel, what can I say? Ant-Man¬†is hands down the best superhero film I’ve watched in¬†2015. It’s probably also the funniest MCU film so far due to all of¬†its well-placed jokes. Introducing a new hero with his own solo movie in a long while, experience heroism in a whole new perspective – literally. Accompanied with amazing visuals, a¬†fresh plot, witty humor and cool action, this movie was the perfect way to end off Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And of course, the fellows at Marvel have once again cast the right man for the job. You’ll be surprised; Paul Rudd can pull off the role of a superhero pretty well.

6) Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

First question I had when I watched this movie – “How does Tom Cruise still look so young?!” Haha jokes aside, this movie holds one of the smartest plot lines I’ve seen in 2015. It may confuse your mind at some points, but it will blow your mind at the end. More than that, I must also applaud Tom Cruise’s bravery to¬†hang¬†by the side of a plane! With crazy stunts, an engaging plot, and a flawless climax, this film will keep you at the edge of your seat.¬†To not enjoy it is almost impossible.

5) Our Times

This film was literally the talk of the town towards the end of last year. Everyone was raving about it. I didn’t understand it of course, until I watched it for myself. Let’s just say, it deserves the #5 spot on my list. If you’re the kind of person that loves to watch movies that pulls at your heartstrings or gives you the “feels”, then this might become your instant favorite. Oh and you will definitely find yourself humming away to its¬†theme song the whole¬†week.

4) Furious 7

Arguably the best Fast & Furious film to date, this is the final film ever¬†starring¬†Paul Walker. More than just being the best tribute to the late actor, this film was also¬†incredibly¬†well-paced and enjoyable at every minute. From start to finish, it is filled with moments that get your adrenaline pumping. There’s just¬†so much action that we’ve never seen before in the ever-evolving franchise¬†and how the film ended was also especially unforgettable.¬†And if you didn’t know, the¬†now famous song¬† “See You Again”¬†was also originally commissioned as part of the film’s soundtrack¬†as a tribute¬†to Paul. Indeed, this¬†was the perfect way to honor the fans and to send off the beloved actor.

3) The Martian

It’s been awhile since I’ve watched a realistic science-fiction film, so I was really hyped up about this one. And when¬†I finally watched it,¬†I was not disappointed at all. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I wrote a mini-review about it back in October. To find out more about why I loved this film, click here.

2) Inside Out

Creative, emotional and surprisingly real – that’s how I would describe¬†Inside Out. A lot of people might say that animated films are for kids,and while it might be true for some of them, it is not so for this one. This film is for all ages. In fact, you would have to be of a certain level of maturity before you can understand many of the metaphors in this¬†movie. No matter how old you are, it can be¬†very relatable. Pixar has done their magic once again¬†so don’t miss it. You’ll be surprised how emotional you can¬†get watching emotions have emotions.

1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Last but not least, my favorite movie¬†of the year. No film¬†has ever felt so fresh and yet so familiar at the same time,¬†and Star Wars did it for me. Without doubt the most anticipated film in years,¬†it lived up to the hype. Honestly, right from the start, it had that magical feeling. Every second of the film will¬†have¬†your eyes locked on to the screen, absorbing everything that is happening. There were so many memorable moments in the film, it is¬†such an experience that we have to¬†thank J.J. Abrams for. And to see¬†the original cast playing their characters once again after 30 years,¬†I was sold from the beginning. So if¬†you haven’t watch the film, what are you waiting for? You might even want to watch it again and again! Just make sure to catch¬†The Original Star Wars Trilogy first or check out¬†my guide for beginners¬†before this so that¬†you can experience this film to the maximum.

And¬†there you have it¬†– my top 12 movies of 2015. Of course, these aren’t all that I have watched for the year, and there are some great films too that I didn’t manage to watch. But like I said, the films above are listed based on my personal liking, so don’t take my words as a pro’s review. And actually, a lot¬†of these films can’t even be compared because they’re so different. I would gladly watch all of them again though. So¬†if you have¬†a backlog of movies you want to watch,¬†you can safely start with these. I hope you enjoyed reading this post, and¬†I’ll see you in the next one.

The Miracle Thief

Hi everyone! Merry Christmas! Before I begin my¬†article for today, I would like to just thank all my readers for your positive responses and support for Fool’s Bench over the past 3 months. I first “announced” and launched this site on 22nd September, 2015. And in case you haven’t noticed, this past Tuesday¬†marked the third month of its¬†existence! Your encouraging comments and shares on social media, especially over the past week, really keeps me going, so I would like to thank you for that.

Today, I will be writing to you my last post for 2015, which is a¬†detailed account of Pastor How‚Äės message over the weekend of 12th & 13th December. I have saved it for now because I believe this message is the best for the¬†holiday season¬†-and the best should always be left for the last. So after this, you will not hear from me again… until 2016! Hahaha don’t worry, I am just taking a break from here to allow for more time with my church, family & friends over Christmas and¬†New Year’s Day. I’ll be back.

But for now, let’s begin, shall we?

Pastor How takes the stage once again and¬†begins his message, a sequel to¬†The Miracle Maker. If¬†you haven’t heard The Miracle Maker before, you can read about it here¬†first.¬†Continuing from where we left off last time, Pastor How does a quick recap about the events in Luke 8:40-56.

There was an influential man named Jairus who came to Jesus Christ in desperation, inviting Him to his house to heal his dying daughter. Christ being who He is, obviously agreed. But as they were on their way to the house, an unnamed woman with a blood issue came forth and touched the corner of the robe that Jesus was wearing. Immediately, she was healed.

Although it was a great miracle that ought to be celebrated, it also inadvertently interrupted and delayed Jesus for awhile. Indirectly, because of this woman’s actions, Jairus’ daughter died before Jesus could reach her. Thankfully, the miracles did not stop there. Jesus assured Jairus and in the end, rose his daughter from the dead, giving this short (but true)¬†story¬†a happy ending.

From this, we know that¬†sometimes God is teaching us to wait. Even if our miracles seem to have been hijacked, we just got to put away all our fears and believe. And as we faithfully¬†do so, the miracles will come to us, and sometimes so suddenly,¬†we don’t expect it. With Jesus Christ our Miracle Maker, miracles do happen. But there’s also another thing that we need to have for that to be¬†true.

34¬†And he said to her, ‚ÄúDaughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.‚ÄĚ‘ – Mark 5:34 (NLT)

What we need to have is what the woman with an issue of blood had – faith. If we want a miracle and want to “steal” one like how this woman did, then we got to have faith. Because miracles only happen to those who put themselves in a realm & atmosphere¬†of faith.

faiths

“A little faith brings us to Heaven, but a great faith brings Heaven to us.”

What Pastor How said was so true. It just takes a little faith to believe in Jesus and have a relationship with Him. Just a little. And the Bible says that when we believe in Christ, we will have abundant life on Earth and everlasting life in Heaven. So in a sense, it just takes a small amount of faith for you and I to go to Heaven.

But on the other hand, you will understand¬†it takes so much more faith to believe for a miracle, especially when our situations seem like they¬†can’t get any worse. Yet again, if we were to really have that much faith, it will bring Heavenly miracles upon us.

You may then ask, how can we get such great faith? Well, to have a great¬†faith like that, we must first start with having a little faith. We can only go from faith to faith and glory to glory! To have a great faith for miracles, we need to first have a little faith in Jesus.¬†So today, if you’re not yet a Christian, I urge¬†you to have that little faith in God. Believe in Christ first and soon, your miracles will come.

27¬†She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe.’ – Mark 5:27 (NLT)

But if¬†you have never really heard about Christ¬†before, begin today! That’s what the woman first had before she got her miracle. She heard about Jesus and came to have knowledge about Him. But hearing isn’t enough. What really matters is our first reaction¬†when¬†hearing¬†about Him. For some, they react with hostility when they hear Jesus’ name. For others, they react with openness, they receive Him gladly. No matter whether you’re a Christian or not, you must have an open heart to Jesus. Because it’s only when we open the doors of our hearts, that¬†we will open the doors to our miracles.

18¬†Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.‚ÄĚ’ – Luke 8:18

The woman with an issue of blood was desperate for a miracle in her life. How about you?¬†Do you need miracles in your life? Be open. It’s not about what we hear, but how we hear it that will determine whether we get our miracles or not. Be open and have a heart of faith, especially if you have been a Christian for a long time!

There are some of us who were¬†even born into Christian families. We have been hearing the name of Jesus our entire lives and sometimes, we can lose the novelty of it and take it for granted. We think that we know everything there is to God; we think that we have “been there, done that”. Today, let’s believe again in the name of Jesus and let faith arise in us. There is power in His name.

’28¬†For she thought to herself, ‚ÄúIf I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.‚ÄĚ’ – Mark 5:28 (NLT)

You know what else is powerful besides the name of Jesus? Our thoughts. Miracles begin with the thoughts that we have. Just look at the woman; she thought to herself in faith the best possible scenario, and it happened for her. We are all movie directors in our own heads, telling ourselves stories all the time. Be it when we are in the midst of waiting for our exam results, army postings, job offers or medical checkups, we are by nature, horror movie directors. We got to change that and have faith!

17¬†So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ – Romans 10:17

How do we get faith? By hearing the Word of God. With the Word of God in our hearts, we will be able to replace the director of horror movies in our brains, with a director of epic fantasy films. And as we do so together with prayer and a belief that breakthroughs are coming, miracles will happen. Fill our thoughts with good things!

30¬†Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, ‚ÄúWho touched my robe?‚ÄĚ’ – Mark 5:30 (NLT)

Pastor How moves on to talk about the next verse in this passage that we’ve been studying. If you read the New Testament enough, you would realize how interesting this scripture¬†is. In every other scripture where Jesus performs a miracle, He is always the One that initiates it. Well that is, except for this one in Mark 5:30.

This time, it wasn’t Jesus who initiated to perform a powerful miracle. It was a person who came to pull out this power from Him! The woman that we’ve been talking about had so much faith that it allowed her to steal a miracle. You see, faith has the power to activate God, to activate His power. It can pull down and pull out the power of God.

So many people were crowding around Jesus that day, yet He was able to tell apart the¬†very different touch that someone had in the crowd. What makes the woman’s touch so different from the rest of the multitude? Her faith. Jesus could feel the touch of faith that came from the woman with an issue of blood.

Today, many people are also “touching” Jesus; many are¬†calling out His name, many are worshiping Him, many are doing His works. But will we have a different “touch” that will catch His attention? Will we have that same touch of faith that will stop Jesus in His tracks, that He would stop and look from Heaven and notice us?

Jesus touched many but only one touched Jesus.

That day, many people came into contact with Jesus, yet only one truly touched Him. Most of the time, we always hope for Jesus to touch our lives and change us. Bur maybe what we need to do first is to touch Jesus. God can always touch us, but we must first touch God.

So in essence, stealing miracles has to do with 3 kinds of faith Рfaith in our hearing, faith in our thinking and faith in our actions. Why? Does faith move God? Not as much as it moves us.

move-to-god

Faith doesn’t move God. Faith moves us to God.

The thing about faith is it isn’t a formula. It definitely isn’t¬†arm-twisting or manipulating God. God is God, we have no control over Him. But who we do have control of is ourselves. By having faith, we actually move ourselves closer to God and into His realm of faith. This is because God’s thoughts and ways are always higher. By having faith, we lift ourselves in our thoughts and ways closer to His, and that’s when the miracles will¬†happen. To get a miracle, we need to move into its¬†very zone where God belongs. He can and He wants to¬†bring a breakthrough in our lives.

But if God is so¬†good and generous in His blessings, why then do we still have to “steal” His miracles at all? Exactly – we don’t need to. Pastor How explains why the woman had to do what she did. Firstly, she thought she was not worthy to receive a miracle. Back in those days, women were unfortunately considered to be of lower status than men, almost seen as¬†second-class citizens. Furthermore, they¬†don’t usually talk to men, much less touch them. Secondly, women with bleeding conditions such as this were considered unclean.

That is why this woman wanted¬†to sneak behind Jesus secretly just to touch Him and hopefully steal a miracle. She did not understand the heart of God. Look, I’m sure if she were to present herself openly in front of Jesus, He would be more than happy to heal her. Why? Because we will never be too dirty or unworthy for Jesus and His love for us.

8¬†But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ – Romans 5:8

In fact, He loved us so much that He died for us. Not when we were perfect (we will never be 100% good), but when we were messed up. The Bible describes Jesus as a physician, who came for the sick and not the righteous.

17¬†When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‚ÄúThose who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.‚ÄĚ‘ – Mark 2:17

What Jesus said was so true, wasn’t it? When do we need a doctor? When we are sick. When do we need Jesus? When we are sinners. I know what some of you may be thinking in your heads today. “I will only go to Jesus after I’m holy.” Just like the woman with an issue of blood, you feel that you’re not holy enough or good enough to become a Christian. But that’s the point isn’t it? It’s exactly because we are not perfect that we need Jesus.

And just like the verse above says, Jesus came and died for us not when we were perfect, but while we were sinners. To say that you’ll only go to Jesus after you’re a better person is as good as saying you’ll only go to the doctor when you’ve recovered from your sickness. All of us needs God. No matter how smart, capable or attractive we are, there is one thing we can’t deny – that we are all sinners deep down on the inside.

But there is a New Hope whose name is Christ that will help clean up the mess in our lives, big or small. He will transform us from the inside out; we must let Him do so. Just as Jesus allows us to touch Him, we must allow Him to touch us.¬†Then yet again, why did Jesus allow the woman to touch and interrupt Him? Why did He allow Himself to be hijacked and delayed? Jairus’ daughter was dying and He knew it.

I personally believe there are 2 reasons for this. The first is simply because Christ is in control. He probably knew¬†that whatever happens to Jairus’ daughter, she will still be healed in the end. But I also believe in a second reason for His attention to the woman with an issue of blood. He was trying to show us something about Himself.

Pastor How uses a few examples to illustrate his point. At the bank, there is a queue for priority/preferred banking and a queue for normal banking. On a plane, there is a business class and an economy class. At the theme park, there is an express queue and a normal queue. From here, you can see that sometimes, certain¬†people¬†get more privileges. The rest of us¬†ordinary kids would love to have that kind of priority too where there is little to no waiting involved. But sometimes, that’s how our world works. When you’re richer, more influential, or more famous, you get these “first class” privileges. But that’s not how God works.

The woman with a blood issue used her worldly understanding to interpret God’s character. She saw herself as a nobody. Jairus on the other hand was a leader of the synagogue (simply put, the¬†Jewish church). He was probably more influential, more rich, more connected, and maybe even more holy. So when the woman saw him approach Jesus, it’s almost like us seeing somebody who’s part of¬†a priority queue. She probably felt like there is no chance for her anymore, that she will never get her miracle ever. But because she was desperate, she decided to steal a miracle instead.

Once again, there’s no need to steal a miracle from Jesus. All we need to do is to ask and we will receive. God does not give priorities to anyone! That’s why He stopped for the woman! Pastor How gives us an analogy:

Now imagine you’re a pastor and one day, you receive a call from the richest billionaire in your country. His daughter is very sick, and he wants you to pay a visit to his mansion, just to say a prayer over her. Obviously, you would be more than happy to oblige. So you head out of your church and start walking towards your car. But as you’re walking, this poor old lady approaches and stops you. She also is experiencing some health problems and knowing that you are a pastor, asks for a prayer over her too. Would you, because you’re on your way to visiting a rich man’s mansion, put her aside and reject her? Exactly.

That is why Jesus stopped. Christ our Lord¬†is not just the¬†God of the rich and powerful, but also the God of the weak and poor. He loves everyone,¬†He died for everyone. What Jesus was trying to show us when He stopped for the woman was that He was not at the beck and call of a rich ruler. He does not give priority to the¬†rich & influential, though He does not despise them either! He went and performed miracles for both the woman and Jairus, didn’t He?

It doesn’t matter today if you’re a socialist, a socialite, or just socially awkward. Christ died for you, rose again, and wants to have a relationship with you.¬†Christianity is not some philosophy or code of moral ethics that only teaches you how to be good or do good. It is a living relationship with Jesus, a supernatural one that also involves having faith in His miracles. This Christmas, you got to start to have a little faith.

4¬†For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world‚ÄĒour¬†faith. 5¬†Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ – 1 John 5:4-5

This world is filled with beautiful things, but also ugly ones. Life will always be full of mountains and valleys. To overcome the¬†world and our problems, we need faith. To get a miracle in our lives, we need faith. But to¬†have faith itself, we need faith first in Jesus Christ. Because this¬†faith in Jesus will activate our faith for miracles. Simply put, the more faith we have, well… the more faith we have!

It’s not rocket science! The more we sleep, the more we want to sleep. The more we eat, the more we want to eat. Something is activated in both cases. For one it’s lethargy, and for the other – appetite. The same goes for giving! The more we give to others, the more we want to do so. Why? Because generosity is activated. This is also one of the reasons why Christians tithe! More than just a sign that we are putting God first in our lives, this giving makes us generous too. Think about it, if we can give 10% of our finances to God, we will definitely be able to give in the same way to our family & friends too!

So that’s why if you need¬†a miracle this Christmas, you got to start with having that little faith in¬†Jesus Christ. CHRIST-mas is about Christ anyways. Today, know that He WANTS to give you a miracle, and you don’t need to steal one. Know that you are never too unholy,¬†too¬†incapable, too unworthy for Him. Know that He loves you no matter what you’ve done, no matter who you are. This Christmas, believe in Him and you will receive your miracle(s).

Haha, if you’re wondering where to spend your Christmas at this year, the best place that I know of is of course¬†Heart of God Church! And just to give you a hint, you will enjoy this weekend¬†even more if you’re a fan of Star Wars.¬†We’re going to have an awesome time in church¬†and many¬†people are going to also share about how their lives were miraculously changed by God in this place. If they can experience their miracles, so can you. Take a step of faith, come to church this weekend, and you will receive the¬†greatest¬†Miracle you will ever have in your life.

See you in church, see you in 2016!

p.s.¬†Pastor Tan Seow How & Pastor Cecilia Chan, more affectionately known as Pastor How & Pastor Lia are the senior pastors of Heart of God Church ‚Äď my spiritual home. If you enjoyed this article, or are interested to find out more about¬†our church, do check out my posts about my experiences in this awesome place.¬†

Christ1TG2015

Star Wars for Beginners

Hi everyone! So today is the day. The day that the Force has awakened once more¬†–¬†in North America that is. Some of you (especially those in Singapore which had an early release) have probably already caught the premiere, are going to watch it tonight¬†or are simply waiting for the weekend to come before doing so. For me, I’ve to wait¬†a tad¬†longer, but I have already gotten my ticket to watch Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens¬†with a huge group of friends next Monday.

And while I noticed that most of them, or rather all of them are very excited for the film, I also noticed that a small group of them know absolutely nothing about Star Wars. Like nothing, literally. I bet they are thinking it’s a movie with a lot of Hollywood¬†celebrities¬†&¬†violence, and involves one of them¬†being woken up forcefully from their¬†sleep. ūüėÜ

So I figured, for the sake of them (and all of you Star Wars newbies), to come up with this sort of¬†beginner’s guide that will let you have a better trip to the cinema and to the¬†galaxy far far away. Prevents a load of awkwardness too when interacting with the pros. Can’t you see? I love you guys. LOL.

But before I begin, I must WARN you that there are SPOILERS ahead for Star Wars Episodes 1-6, which basically means EVERY single Star Wars film so far before The Force Awakens. So if you’re looking to watch the entire Star Wars saga for yourself first before going to see Episode 7, then this post isn’t for you. In fact, I recommend you to do so and watch all 6 episodes for yourself to get the full intergalactic¬†experience. I mean, that’s what I’ve been trying to do¬†over the past week.¬†Haha!

But if you’re like some of my friends, who don’t care about spoilers, but instead needs them and just want a brief introduction and quick background to what has been happening so far in the Star Wars¬†cinematic universe, then this post is for you. I must say however, that many details¬†have been left out, especially those provided by¬†the backstories¬†of¬†Episodes 1-3. I’m not a hardcore fan of Star Wars, but I’m also trying to make it as simple & relevant as possible for the¬†average moviegoer to understand what’s going on when they see The Force Awakens. So most of the information you are about to see are the more essential¬†ones¬†from Episodes 4-6. And of course, my knowledge is limited and¬†I have only had time to re-watch Episodes 4-6 so far! But what you’re about to read SHOULD be sufficient.¬†Let’s begin.

1) The Timeline

The very first thing that I feel needs to be addressed for any Star Wars newbie is its sometimes confusing timeline. And this timeline does not so much refer to the events in the movies but more of the order in which the movies were released. Let me explain.

Here are the Star Wars movies arranged in chronological order. Basically, “what happened first” to “what happened last”.

chronological

It’s pretty simple, the events of Episode 1 happened first, followed by 2, 3, 4, 5 and¬†eventually 6. Easy to understand, right? But here’s the “confusing” part.

The following was how the Episodes were released in cinema over the years, starting from A New Hope in 1977 and ending with Revenge of the Sith in 2005.

release

As you can see, Episodes 4-6 were released before Episodes 1-3. Also, there was a distinct gap of time between the release of Episode 6 and the release of Episode 1. And obviously, there is a change of cast too. This separates the Star Wars saga into 2 parts we all know today as the Original Trilogy and Prequel Trilogy.

Here’s what happened.¬†Back in the day, Star Wars creator George Lucas had no plans on returning to the series¬†after¬†Return of the Jedi, the last film in¬†the Original Trilogy. It’s not only until years later did he gain interest in creating a prequel series due to technological advancements in CGI. This trilogy would eventually tell of the stories of events that happened before the first 3 films.

So actually, the films in the Original Trilogy were re-titled. At first, they were just called Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. But to accommodate the 3 new prequel films into the overall saga, all of them were renamed episodically.

Now do you get why a lot of people are so excited for the new Episode 7? Because it will kick off a new Sequel Trilogy that many people have been waiting for since 30 years ago! It will continue the story from where the Original Trilogy last left off.

So it’s really up to you in which order you would like to watch the films in. For me, I am watching¬†it by order of release, starting with¬†A New Hope and ending with Revenge of the Sith. My reason is pretty simple¬†–¬†the graphics get better that way. LOL. But there are others who also prefer watching it chronologically or even mixing it up here and there!¬†As long as you watch & understand everything, it’s your choice!


 

2) The War

Alright, with the timeline out of the way, it’s time to talk about the more important stuff. Now obviously just by the movie title, you can tell that there is some sort of war going on here. In actual fact, the whole of the Original Trilogy centers around a galactic civil war. The question is – who are the parties involved and what are they fighting for?

There are 2 main sides¬†-the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. As to which side you’re on, I have no say about;¬†but generally, people consider the¬†Empire to be¬†the bad guys and the Rebels to be the good guys that are trying to overthrow them.¬†Let’s talk about the Empire first.

The Galactic Empire

empire
The Emperor, Darth Vader and their Imperial Army.

There are many bad things that you can know about the Empire, but in short, they were basically the galaxy’s main governing body during the events of the Original Trilogy. It was however, never always the case.

republic
The former Galactic Republic.

Before the Empire’s reign, it was the Galactic Republic who ruled the galaxy for thousands of years. They believed in democracy, and managed to keep the worlds in peace with the help of the Jedi Order (we’ll come to this in a minute).

Then came a man who conspired great conflicts in order to supplant himself as the Galactic Emperor. His name was Palpatine and he managed to rise to power, establishing the Empire and at the same time, replacing the Republic. Under the Empire’s rule, the galaxy have since been oppressed by the dictatorship of Emperor Palpatine, who enforced his authority through intimidation and fear.

Notable characters of the Empire include:¬†The Emperor, Darth Vader, and of course our “favorite” Stormtroopers.

The Rebel Alliance

the-alliance
The Rebel Alliance assisted by Princess Leia.

Thankfully, the Empire did not reign forever, and were eventually defeated by the combined efforts of brave individuals in the Rebel Alliance. Also known as the Rebellion, this resistance movement was formed as a direct reaction to the Empire’s tyranny.

Never backing down despite overwhelming odds, the Rebels eventually managed to stand up against the evil Emperor and his army, restoring democracy, but also peace to the galaxy.

Notable allies in the Rebellion include: Princess Leia, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian and Luke Skywalker.


 

3) The Force

force

Let’s talk about the Force now. Even if you have never watched Star Wars before in your entire life, you would have definitely heard the¬†phrase – “May the Force be with you”.¬†And you may be wondering what exactly the Force is. Is it luck? Maybe magic? Or a superpower? Well, not really.

In the world of¬†Star Wars, the Force is an energy field¬†that can be harnessed by an individual. When trained in the Force, a¬†person¬†can¬†achieve superhuman feats, such as jumping a few storeys high, moving objects (& people) with just their will¬†and even “influence the weak-minded” to do as they say. But where is the Force found? Everywhere.

According to Obi-Wan Kenobi (don’t worry you’ll meet him soon), “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”¬†From this, we can tell¬†that the Force¬†exists everywhere in the fictional galaxy. So¬†does that mean everyone in the galaxy has the ability¬†to use its power? Not exactly. There are people who are more sensitive to the Force and people who are not. The people who are not usually doubt its existence until experiencing it for themselves. But for those who are sensitive, they are more inclined to learning its ways and tapping into it.

However, even the Force has 2 sides to it – the Light Side and the Dark Side. Throughout the films, you would realize that there are 2 main groups of people who are Force-sensitive¬†–¬†The Jedi and The Sith. They are archenemies and have a¬†conflict that can¬†be compared to that of the The Empire and Rebel Alliance.¬†But their¬†main differences are not just found in ideology, but in¬†the side of the Force that they have chosen¬†to adopt.

The Jedi are on the Light Side, using the Force for peace, wisdom and protection of others.¬†But The Sith are on the Dark Side, using the Force for destruction, power¬†and personal desires. Let’s talk about these practitioners of the Force¬†a little bit.

The Jedi Order

jedi

Told you I would talk about these guys. These knights of the Old Republic were guardians of peace and justice until the rise of the Galactic Empire, when the evil Emperor enacted the infamous Order 66, that wiped out almost every single one of them. The Jedi practiced the Light Side of the Force, where their source of power comes from calmness in the mind and peace at the heart. They depend solely on the flow of the Force and usually do not kill unless absolutely necessary.

Notable Jedi Knights & Masters include: Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Anakin Skywalker and of course, Luke Skywalker.

The Sith Order

sith

Ancient enemies of the Jedi Order, these sons of darkness utilize the Dark Side of the Force for their personal interests, mainly to gain control of the galaxy over time. Fueled by anger, fear and aggression, The Sith will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even if it meant sacrificing countless lives. One of their signature traits is the ability to use Force lightning in battle.

The Emperor Palpatine for example, was actually a Sith Lord in secret. This is why you would usually notice The Jedi fighting alongside the Republic/Rebels (good guys), and The Sith on the other hand with the Empire (bad guys). The good attracts the good, the bad attracts the bad!

Notable Sith Lords include: Darth Sidious (a.k.a The Emperor), Darth Vader, Count Dooku and Darth Maul.


 

4) The Weapons

Now, it’s time to introduce to you the iconic weapons of the Star Wars universe.

Blasters

blaster
Han Solo firing a Blaster Pistol.

A.K.A the guns: Coming in many different shapes, forms & sizes, these guns are the standard ranged weapons you will find on screen this Christmas. They are also one of the main sources of laser bolts dominating an entire action sequence.

Fighters

TIE-Fighter_25397c64
TIE fighter
X-Wing-Fighter_47c7c342
X-wings

A.K.A the planes: Star Wars is known for its sky/space battles. And in case you get confused as to which planes belong to the Empire, and which to the Alliance, the above are some examples of how they might look like. The TIE fighters belong to the Imperial fleet, while the X-wings belong to the Rebel forces.

Lightsabers

lightsaber
Luke Skywalker wielding a lightsaber for the very first time.

“This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

A.K.A the famous glowing swords: The Lightsaber is the symbol of the Jedi Order and its weapon of choice. They also come in a few finishes. You’ve seen the single-bladed & double-bladed ones, but soon, you’ll see one with a cross guard. These swords can cut through virtually anything except of course, another lightsaber (and this thing called the electrostaff). With years of practice, they can even be used to deflect blaster shots.

Though this iconic weapons are like a symbol of The Jedi,  most of you would know that The Sith uses them too. How can you tell then again, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? Well usually, The Jedi carry blue or green bladed lightsabers while The Sith carry red bladed ones. Usually.


 

5) The Characters

Alright, you must have been waiting for this. I know I have been mentioning many names over this entire post, so let’s revisit some of the main characters in the Original Trilogy. What’s exciting is that some of them are going to make an appearance once more in The Force Awakens as their older selves (they have aged both on & off screen)! Can’t wait to see what they will be up to.

Luke Skywalker

luke

“The Force is strong with this one.”

Raised as a farmboy by his uncle & aunt, Luke Skywalker lived in humble environments and had no idea about his true parentage. All this changed one day when his uncle purchased 2 droids that led him on the greatest adventure of his life. This adventure, though filled with moments of victory and joy, was also littered with pain and struggle. He met friends, such as Leia and Han, but also lost some on the way. The most significant event on this journey undoubtedly would be him finding out that the Sith Lord Darth Vader was his biological father. Nevertheless, all this brought him onto the path to becoming one of the greatest Jedi that ever lived. By the end of the Original Trilogy, he was the last remaining Jedi.

R2-D2 and C-3PO

R2-D2_41dacaa9
R2-D2
C-3PO-See-Threepio_68fe125c
C-3PO

The 2 droids that turned Luke’s life upside down. Both of them have their individual mechanisms and feelings, making them one of the most dynamic duos in the history of cinema. For example, R2 can be very optimistic while C-3PO – very pessimistic. But no matter what, they are the best of friends and have together served their Master Luke pretty well. Both of them will return in The Force Awakens.

Princess Leia

leia

One of the greatest leaders of the Rebellion, Princess Leia was both tough physically in battle and mentally in dire situations. Her resilience in overcoming the Empire made her one of the greatest heroes in the galaxy. But beyond that, she’s also the love interest of Han Solo and the twin sister of Luke Skywalker. A Jedi she may not be, but sensitive she is to the Force. After so many years, she¬†will make an appearance again in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Han Solo

han

Initially just a sarcastic and proud smuggler, Han Solo came to know Luke Skywalker & Obi-Wan Kenobi as they were looking for a starship to travel to the planet Alderaan. He agreed to help them as he would be paid. But eventually he came to believe in the cause for galactic freedom, stayed on and joined the fight against the Empire. His legendary starship – the Millennium Falcon has seen many battles since and played a part in some of the Rebellion’s greatest victories. Han Solo will also be back in The Force Awakens.

millennium
The Millennium Falcon

Chewbacca

chewie

Our favorite hairy friend who is more affectionately known as “Chewie”, is Han’s co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon. A loyal Wookiee friend who would do anything for his comrades, Chewie is big and strong both on the outside and inside. We will see him once again in Episode VII.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

young-kenobi
Young Obi-Wan in the Prequel Trilogy
Obi-Wan-Kenobi_6d775533
Obi-Wan in the Original Trilogy

Probably my favorite Star Wars character of all time, Obi-Wan Kenobi was a wise, noble and powerful Jedi Master. He trained Anakin Skywalker and mentored his son Luke in the ways of the Force. Facing all likeness of the Dark Side throughout his lifetime, he never wavered and emerged victorious numerous times. In his final days, he was a constant voice in Luke’s life, and even after being struck down by Darth Vader on the Death Star, he continued to provide guidance to him as a Living Force spirit.

Yoda

yoda

Probably the wisest, oldest and most Force-attuned Jedi of them all, Grand Master Yoda trained up Jedi Knights and Masters over the course of more than 800 years. He may be small in stature, but his power was greater than most. He oversaw the Jedi Order, instructed Obi-Wan Kenobi at some points and was personally responsible for training Luke Skywalker to becoming the Jedi that he is today. Due to old age, he eventually passed away and became one with the Force in his hut on Dagobah, with Luke by his side. With his last words, ¬†he also informed Luke that “there is another Skywalker.”

Chancellor Palpatine a.k.a The Emperor

chancellor
Chancellor Palpatine
Emperor-Palpatine_7ac4a10e
Palpatine in his true colors as The Emperor

Light only shines the brightest in darkness. For the galaxy, the darkness of The Empire looming over them is caused mainly by this one man РPalpatine. Scheming and evil, he slowly manipulated the political systems to his favor with his position as Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. Eventually, his plans succeeded and he declared himself as The Emperor of his newly formed Galactic Empire. When his true identity of Darth Sidious was revealed, he called for a major purge of the Jedi Order, killing almost every single one of them in an instant. His rule however, was not for eternity. His own apprentice Darth Vader was eventually turned back to the Light Side and killed him, putting an apparent end to The Sith.

Anakin Skywalker a.k.a Darth Vader

Anakin-Skywalker_d3330724
Anakin Skywalker as a young Jedi Knight.
Darth-Vader_6bda9114
Anakin Skywalker years after his fall to the Dark Side.

“You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!”

Also known as The Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker was a boy who was discovered by the Jedi Order and came under the apprenticeship of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Jedi believed that he was the one who would fulfill the prophecy of The Chosen One, which was a Jedi legend that described the coming of a being who would destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force.

The prophecy would come to pass however, in a way The Jedi never expected. In the final days of the Galactic Republic, Anakin fell in love and secretly married Padmé Amidala, an influential figure of those times. She soon became pregnant with twins, and though Skywalker was happy, he began to have visions of his love dying in childbirth. Due to the fear of losing her, and with the influence of Chancellor Palpatine, he was seduced by the Dark Side and eventually gave in to it.

He pledged to serve Palpatine under a new alias – “Darth Vader” and together, they wiped out the entire Jedi Order with the exception of a few individuals. Most shocking of all, he also slaughtered Jedi younglings who¬†stood no chance. This eventually led to a showdown between Anakin Skywalker and his former Master¬†Obi-Wan Kenobi after he had the¬†horrible revelation of Anakin’s deeds.

This would become one of the most intense lightsaber duels in the history of Star Wars, as much as it is heart-wrenching. At the end of the duel, Anakin overestimated his powers and lost his limbs by Obi-Wan’s saber. Obi-Wan Kenobi remorsefully left him to die,¬†until The Emperor came to retrieve him and put him in his life-supporting armor we all recognize today.

6) The Story

return-of-the-jedi
Luke Skywalker watches as the flames of the funeral pyre consume the remains of his father.

So as you can see, the entire Star Wars story centers around the Skywalkers. It tells the story of how one man, due to the fear of losing his loved ones, was driven to the Dark Side. But it also tells the story of this same man, who due to the same love for his family, turned back to the Light Side. As most of you would know, at the end of Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader could not stand watching as his son Luke was slowly being tortured by The Emperor. He was slowly but surely dying.

With whatever was left of his strength, Vader lifted the Emperor and hurled him down a reactor shaft, sustaining damage to his armor at the same time. The redeemed Anakin Skywalker would then reconcile with his son before dying in his arms, putting an end to The Sith and restoring balance to the Force as he was destined to.

Here’s the question of the day. Where¬†does that bring us to right now? At the end of Episode 6, The Empire was heavily crippled and celebrations could be seen across the galaxy. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and all of their surviving friends would also be seen reuniting joyfully before the credits rolled. That was 30 years ago.¬†Nobody expected a sequel after that, so it was a happy ending.

But here we are on the day when Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens¬†is about to be released. I know nothing about it other than the fact that this is a movie set approximately 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi.¬†I love being clueless¬†but many questions are popping up in my head, especially after watching all the trailers! For example, what has happened to Luke Skywalker? Has he trained up a new generation of Jedi as Yoda had instructed him to? Also, wasn’t The Empire and The Sith defeated? Not a 100% apparently. And why is there still an ongoing war between the Rebels (now known as The Resistance) and The Empire (now known as¬†The First Order)? WHY IS THERE A SITH LORD WIELDING A CROSS-GUARD LIGHTSABER?

I can’t wait for all these questions to be answered when I watch the movie on Monday (please don’t spoil it for me). I can’t wait to meet the new characters and find out how they are related to the returning characters! And last but not least, I can’t wait to find out why they all seem to have forgotten about the Force, the Jedi and the Dark Side.¬†I guess after 30 years, all those things have merely become distant memories and myths.

So there you have it. The basics of basics of the Star Wars universe. Like I said, many details in this long episodic story¬†have been left out & summarized. But hopefully with just this post alone, you were able to get a quicker idea of the story, characters, and world of Star Wars so far without being bombarded¬†with extra information. Check out the latest trailer for The Force Awakens if you haven’t. Until I see the film for myself, off¬†I go to the Prequel Trilogy!

All images from: starwars.com

Monthly Recap: November 2015

Hi everyone! Happy December! It’s the start of the last month of the year,¬†so what better time than now to have another monthly¬†recap right? Hahaha. So without further ado, here are all the content released on Fool’s Bench in the month of November.

1) For Fun

RL

MGMW

2) For Laughter

OPM

3) For Creativity

FIAF

4) For Christ

AF

OOFON

TG2015

That’s all for the month of November!¬†Hope you enjoyed reading and I’ll see you again soon in this exciting month.

To My Pastors & Leaders – Thanksgiving 2015

Hi everyone! Happy Thanksgiving!

Now I know what some of you Singaporean readers are thinking. “We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving!” Yeah I know! But I just thought that it’s a great opportunity for me to use this day to share with all of you some people in my life that I am really thankful for. Besides, you guys aren’t the only readers out there right? Haha!

On top of that, Thanksgiving always¬†falls on a Thursday! And in case you haven’t noticed, I post usually on either Tuesdays and/or Thursdays. So without further ado, let me begin to share with all of you some really awesome people in my life. And specifically, just 2 groups of them.

The first group of people that I am really thankful for are my leaders in Heart of God Church. Wise, sharp, inspiring, spiritual, anointed, patient, joyful, kind, encouraging, loving – there’s just too many great words to describe our leaders in church! These people who are full of character never fail to watch out for us in every single area of our lives, be it in our school, work, relationships, emotional health, spiritual health, (or even) physical health! In our valley-lows and our mountain-highs, they are always there to bring strength and affirmation.

Personally, I have quite a few leaders that have sown into my life. But today, I’ll be talking about one of them as a prime example, just to show you why we love our leaders so much. Hmm, let me just call her “Catherine”, since this is a surprise mention and I don’t really know if she’s comfortable with me revealing her identity! And nope, I’m not talking about the Duchess of Cambridge here. LOL.

Anyway if you know me, you would know how passionate I am in creating videos. In fact, I serve in the Videos Ministry in Heart of God Church! And personally, I have huge dreams of serving God in this area in the future. So knowing that, Catherine always encourages me and the “creative bunch” in our Connect Group to never stop dreaming and working towards our dreams!¬†But earlier this year, she decided to go beyond her words to show just how much she believes in us.

One day, Catherine dropped some of us a text and asked us out for a day at the Dreamworks Exhibiton, which ran for a period of time at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. Of course, as an animation enthusiast myself, I immediately agreed! So on the Friday of July 31st, Catherine and us the creative bunch visited the Dreamworks Exhibition.

I was really¬†excited on my way to the ArtScience Museum and really looked forward to what the exhibition had in stored for us that day. I was a little late though because of school. But it didn’t matter! The rest had lunch, bought the tickets and were just at the entrance as I reached. There, our little adventure into a world of imagination began.

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The overarching theme of the exhibition was “From sketch to screen.” It showcased¬†every single stage of the production process for¬†our beloved animated movies such as Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar,¬†Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon. From storyboarding, to modelling, to music composition and to world-building, every stage was equally important. But more than just seeing the importance of every stage, I was just so amazed and inspired by the level of detail that Dreamworks Animation Studios was at. I told myself that in the future, our church will do great productions like this too. Just that for us, we we will be¬†glorifying God!

We truly enjoyed ourselves that day. Every single one of us. We covered every corner of the exhibition, took a lot of pictures and even bought¬†souvenirs for memory’s sake! But it wasn’t until the end that I found out the true purpose of this trip. As we left the museum, I recalled that because I was late initially, I haven’t paid for my ticket to the exhibition. Knowing that Catherine and some of them paid for our tickets first, I approached her to ask her how much it cost.

But to my surprise, she told me that I just needed to return to her a portion of the ticket price. She went on to tell me¬†what she explained previously to the rest while I was on the way. She¬†said that she really believed in my¬†dreams and that as she gave to pay for a portion of my¬†ticket’s cost, it was a sign of her faith in them. She believed that as she sowed¬†into my¬†dreams, one day they will come to pass. As a matter of fact, she paid for a portion of all the tickets of everyone who were there¬†that day. She told us all that as we went for the Dreamworks Exhibition, we must also know that our dreams will work out too in the end. THAT has got to be¬†one of the most inspirational puns I’ve ever heard, haha.

Jokes aside, Catherine’s actions just blew me away, more than any exhibition could. It is one thing to say that you believe in someone, and another to do something and make a little sacrifice to show just how much you mean it. That was what I caught that day, more than all the inspiration and creativity.

Today, I am so thankful for leaders in Heart of God Church like Catherine, who constantly cheers us on¬†to pursue big dreams for God. And she is just ONE of the hundreds of leaders who have made a difference in this place! I’ve witnessed leaders loving their members in so many ways. Some have been a¬†great listening ear in dark times,¬†others¬†have helped people to overcome their addictions,¬†¬†and there’s those that have financially blessed the ones that are in lack. And these aren’t even the tip of the iceberg. So if you’re a leader in Heart of God Church today, or if “Catherine” you are reading this, I just want to say that I appreciate you and love you for who you are.

So that’s the first group of people that I really wanted to talk about! The second group of people that I want to thank on this day are well, two people actually. Every Christian in Heart of God Church would have either seen them¬†or¬†heard them. Some¬†may¬†even know them personally, especially all the leaders above! Haha, it’s¬†obvious who I’m talking about, isn’t it? Of course, it’s our beloved Senior Pastors – Pastor How and Pastor Lia!

pastor-how
Pastor Tan Seow How
pastor-lia
Pastor Cecilia Chan

Pastor Tan Seow How and Pastor Cecilia Chan are not just the founders of Heart of God Church, but our spiritual parents. You will know¬†in awhile, but the reason why all of us can do what we’re doing today, be it in ministry, leadership (as mentioned above), having big dreams for God, or even the simple fact that we have a place to¬†know Jesus and have a relationship with Him is because they first started¬†Heart of God Church. Without them, I wouldn’t even be here writing this to you today! And Catherine, the creative bunch, and all my friends in church would have also not stepped into God’s destiny for them.

That is why today, I want to thank the both of them for first giving their all to build this House. Some of you may not know or realize this, but Heart of God Church has never been built by the brilliance of one man, the wealth of the people or the abilities of a talented bunch. The church started with just 9 youths; our beginnings were humble. But I believe that Heart of God Church has always been built on teamwork, a heart that puts God first and a belief that He will use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. And it all started from our Pastors. The classic stories are the ones we will never forget.

Back in the day, as soon as Pastors felt God calling them to build Heart of God Church, they immediately obeyed. But obviously, this obedience would take some tough choices. For¬†Pastor How, he had to choose between building the church or assisting his father in his business. It’s clear which is the easier path. Along with that, his father even challenged him that if he were to drop his idea of becoming a pastor, he would give him not a quarter of, not a half of, but a full¬†$1 million.

Of course, you know what Pastor How chose to do. But with¬†that in mind, you must also know that it didn’t mean his relationship with his father was compromised. In fact, years later, Pastor How even led his father¬†to Christ!¬†Today, Pastor How has also taken over his father’s business and is both a successful businessman and the¬†pastor of our¬†church.

As for Pastor Lia, it wasn’t easy too. She was working as a journalist¬†and loved her job! Then the call from¬†God came, and it came just as she was going to be promoted and given a bonus. But here’s the thing.¬†Pastor Lia loved¬†her job, but she loved God even more and decided to obey Him immediately, giving up the promotion, the bonus and the job.

At that point in time, their actions must have seemed so foolish and crazy to the people around them. But because they obeyed God and wanted to encounter Him on a deeper level in their lives, we have a Heart of God Church today that is not only impacting all levels of society, but all walks of life. It is also without doubt that that many lives have been changed, and are still being changed by God as a result of Pastor How & Pastor Lia first sacrificing and putting God first in their lives.

But more than that,¬†they also put others¬†before themselves, and are constantly having people on their minds. For example, when they are on vacation, they would always see certain books or clothes or gifts and be reminded of somebody in church! Knowing that this certain thing¬†would bless that person, they would buy that gift and when they are back, love him/her¬†with it. And this isn’t all!

Every year, during Fathers’ Day, Pastor How¬†would write cards and get simple gifts¬†prepared for all the members in our church who do not have a father¬†figure in their lives. Some of them may have lost their fathers at birth or at¬†a¬†young age due to different reasons. Others may have parents who are divorced. And Pastor How would just want to just affirm every single one of them and point them towards their Heavenly Father. In fact, I myself experience¬†this because I am one of them!

And for Pastor Lia, she would do the same too every year for those who do not have a mother figure in their lives. No matter how busy they are, our pastors remember people and love them. They could be preaching 4 services that weekend, but nothing would stop them from being others-centered and caring for the people. Truly, our pastors don’t only preach on stage. They live out the Word of God and genuinely care for, and want to know every single one of us.¬†This is why I said they are our spiritual parents!

Even up till today as the church is starting to grow bigger, they still try to get to know every new person. This is because they believe that even as the church grows bigger in size, it must feel smaller and closer as a family. There was once when a youth in our church bumped into Pastor Lia in the washroom. Not only did Pastor Lia talk to her and find out more about her, but she even took a photo of her, uploaded it onto Instagram and encouraged her through the social medium. She said that she will be a leader of hundreds and change her world. Until today, that youth still remembers that act fondly and is indeed growing and serving in church.

That is just ONE of many things our pastors¬†have personally done for people¬†over the years! Oh and have I mentioned before that they are very hardworking people? They never fail to give their best to God no matter what. One more story. There was once when Pastor How was playing soccer with some of the leaders in our church when all of a sudden, he fell down. It turned out that he actually pulled a ligament in his leg. All the leaders were so worried and immediately helped him to get to the doctor’s.

There, Pastor How got a cast on his leg and had to use crutches to get around until¬†he recovers. But here’s the catch – he was supposed to preach that very weekend. I think¬†all of us would guess¬†that he would have asked¬†Pastor Lia or one of the senior leaders to take his place. But that wasn’t the case. That weekend, with crutches, he went up on stage, took a seat and preached the Word of God with his best. Do you now see why we respect our pastors¬†so much?¬†The reason why the leaders and myself can be who we are today, is because we have great pastors as our role models. We model after them as they model after Christ.

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1

Last but not least, I love my pastors for their simplicity.

“We know the price of everything but the value of nothing.
We know the price of a house but not the value of a home.
We know the price of dinner but not the value of fellowship.
Our children know the price of an iPhone but not the value of communication.”¬†

– Pastor How

In Pastor How’s recent article, My Answer to Prosperity Theology, he talked about how he and Pastor Lia have decided to live simply.¬†For 20 years since their marriage, Pastors have lived in probably the cheapest neighborhood in Woodlands.¬†Pastor How explains why:

“In the early years, that‚Äôs what we could afford.¬† But now we can easily move to a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood.¬† The first reason for choosing to live simply is our personal covenant with God.¬† Inspired by the words of Haggai 1:4, we made a commitment to build God‚Äôs house first, then build our own house. ¬†So perhaps after Heart of God Church moves into our new Home, then I will move my home closer to church.”

“The second reason for choosing to live simply is our decision to give one million dollars to our church‚Äôs Building Fund a few years ago.¬† Pastor Lia received a big insurance payout because of her cancer.¬† Together with profits from my business and all of the insurance money, we took that leap of faith.”

Yes, in case you didn’t know, Pastor How & Pastor Lia did¬†give $1 million to the church in 2012. I was there¬†and I¬†witnessed that significant event. But it’s interesting isn’t it? How God sees our sacrifices and honors them? If you remember,¬†$1 million was exactly what Pastor How gave up¬†back then to start the church. But¬†now, after being faithful to building¬†God’s house for so many years and also¬†with¬†a habit of saving, Pastor How is able¬†to¬†give $1 million to the church together with Pastor Lia.

You see,¬†God never shortchanges us. When we take Him seriously, He will take us seriously.¬†But what I am also really amazed with here are¬†Pastors’s attitude towards blessings. Whenever they are blessed in their lives, instead of keeping everything to themselves, they are always found pouring these¬†blessings back into the church, just like how they poured back $1 million back into Heart of God Church. And they always say this:

“When God blesses you financially, it is not just to raise your standard of living but your standard of giving.”

Yup, so that’s my pastors and leaders for you!¬†Just thought of really taking this day to really appreciate them and give them double honor.

17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. Р1 Timothy 5:17

I also think that having a spirit and heart of thankfulness is really important. People tend to complain a lot when they’re not thankful. But in Christ and in thankfulness, we can be different. I shall end off today’s post with one last verse.

“12¬†Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13¬†bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14¬†But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15¬†And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” – Colossians 3:12-15

Thank you for reading.