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. 😆

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

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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 – Palpatine. 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

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The Miracle Maker

Note: The following is my detailed account of Pastor How‘s message over the weekend of 4th & 5th December. Pastor Tan Seow How & Pastor Cecilia Chan, more affectionately known as Pastor How & Pastor Lia are the senior pastors of Heart of God Church – my spiritual home.

Miracles – we all need them.

Be it in the small or big things, we find ourselves constantly hoping for miracles to happen. That sickness, that result slip, that crush. Haha whatever it is, considered legitimate or not, these “miracles” are a part of our lives. In fact for some, being alive every single day is a miracle by itself. But away with our own concept of miracles. It’s time to know what the Bible says about them.

pastor-how-dec-5-6

Pastor How takes the stage the very weekend he’s back from a short break. And literally the first thing he says blows my mind:

“Church is a place where our family become our friends
and our friends become our family.”

Wow okay, what does that mean? Simple. Today, you may be part of a family and yet not feel any affection for those human beings living under the same household as you. On the other hand, you could have a bunch of friends you love so much, you wish you could live under the same roof and enjoy their company everyday! It’s the same on the flip side.

Maybe you belong to a family that is so closely knitted together like best friends, yet have a bunch of friends that are more like acquaintances. You wouldn’t share with an acquaintance your problems, dreams or secrets, would you? You get the idea.

But seriously, when I mentioned all of the above, it must have clicked with some of you. Because if it did, you know what you need in that relationship you have in mind – a miracle. It could be a relationship with a parent, a child, a sibling or a relationship with a co-worker, a schoolmate, a partner. No matter if it’s a relative or a friend, there is good news.

With Christ, there is a chance of reconciliation for any broken relationship. He is the God of redemption and restoration, the God of miracles – the Miracle Maker. If you need a miracle today, look no further than to Jesus. Don’t look to your left or to your right to the people around you. Worst of all, don’t look down on yourself. Instead, look up to Him and believe, for your miracle is on its way.

In Luke 8:40-56 of the Bible, we can clearly see that Jesus is indeed the Miracle Maker. He performs 2 miracles in these verses alone and I recommend you to refer to it as you read this article. If you’re looking at it right now, have a quick glance at what kind of miracles Jesus did. But more importantly, look at how willing He was to do so.

You would start to realize that Jesus not only can, but wants to give us miracles! It is possible to live in a zone of miracles in our lives. This does not only apply back then in the days when He walked the Earth. It applies today, tomorrow, forever! Why? Because Jesus has always been and will always be the same God that He is. The iPhone can go through multiple changes. The climate can go through multiple changes. Even the church can go through multiple changes. But the character of God stays constant.

‘8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ – Hebrews 13:8

So if you’re reading this today and need a miracle or miracles in any situation, meet the Miracle Maker. Just like how you would go to a baker for bread, a tailor for an outfit, and a jeweler for jewellery, you would need to go to the Miracle Maker for miracles.

Using Luke 8:40-56, Pastor How further explains the process in which miracles are attained. First things first, we got to welcome the Miracle Maker.

40 So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him.’ – Luke 8:40

1) Welcome Jesus

There is something in this verse which the multitudes did that we ought to learn to do every single day. And that is to welcome Jesus. Not just when we need Him or have something to request of Him; but every day, in every area of our lives. Well that is, if you’re already a Christian. If you’re not yet a Christian, you got to first welcome Him into your heart.

Now I know what some of you always think. “I will believe in Jesus after He has given me a miracle.” But it’s obvious in this verse, that’s not how it works. Pastor How gives a few analogies.

Imagine you’re a girl today (assuming you’re not). There is this guy that really likes you and has just confessed his love for you. And you sort of have a mutual feeling for him too. But because there are so many “good choices” out there, you answer him with this, “Okay. I sort of like you too. But I don’t  want to go into a relationship with you yet. Unless… unless of course, you first buy me an expensive diamond ring?”

How do you think the guy would react? I think whatever liking he had to you previously would be destroyed because you’ve just shown yourself to be such a gold digger! You find this ridiculous, you find this funny. Yet this is the message some of you are sending to God. You see, the order is wrong. If you want the gift before the giver, chances are you won’t get your gift because the giver sees no genuineness in your relationship with him.

So in this case for the guy, he would see no point in buying you the diamond ring because that’s what you want, not him! I mean would you buy a gift for someone, knowing that he or she doesn’t really love you but just wants to use you to satisfy their own desires? No!

On the other hand, if you love the guy for who he is and have an awesome relationship with him, the diamond ring(s) will follow! But of course, you don’t get into a relationship with that hidden motive of wanting gifts, but because you genuinely love that person. The same goes for God!

Before we can have the blessings, we must first have the One who blesses. Before we can have miracles in our lives, we must first welcome and meet the Miracle Maker. Matthew 6:33 makes so much sense right now.

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.’ – Matthew 6:33

It is also for this very reason of welcoming Jesus that the atmosphere in our church every weekend is on the high. If you have visited Heart of God Church before, you may think that the members here are crazy. Haha we clap, we cheer and we respond in our services. To some, we may seem over-enthusiastic. But this is how we welcome Jesus. This is our sign to God that we welcome His presence and His spirit to work in every single one of our hearts. Besides, if we can clap for celebrities, motivational speakers and ministers, how much more should we clap for the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Jesus Christ?

2) Wait for the
Miracle Maker

The next thing that we got to learn to do if we want to see miracles in our lives, is to wait. We live in a “microwave generation”, where almost everything needs to be instant. We love instant noodles, instant information and Instagram, haha. But when it comes to God, we got to learn how to wait. And it isn’t just passively waiting for God that I’m talking about here. We need to also actively wait on God. So that anytime he releases a miracle, we are ready for it.

If you’re looking for instant miracles that come at the snap of your fingers, then you aren’t actually hoping for miracles. What you’re really looking for is magic. And get this straight, Jesus Christ is not a magician, but a Miracle Maker. Waiting is just part of the process for certain miracles in your life. And even though sometimes it can get pretty frustrating and unsettling, I have to agree with Pastor How that this waiting makes that miracle much more precious. Actually if you think about it, anything becomes more precious when you got to wait for it before getting it.

Let’s take sex for example. God had created it to be something precious to be saved for marriage. But throughout the generations, the Devil has perverted it. The idea of only having sex after being married is nowadays considered too “old-school” or “traditional” for many people. But if you think about it, don’t you agree that waiting for marriage before sex makes that whole experience more precious? It becomes something that God had meant for it to be – an intimate bond that only 2 people who have made a covenant with each other share. Otherwise, it just becomes casual (sex) as we call it.

Going back to miracles, sometimes we just got to be patient and fervent in prayer for them. In church, we always say that praying is like talking to God. But at this point in his sermon, Pastor How also compares it to texting. Now imagine praying as texting Jesus.

iMessage-Christ
We first send him our request in the form of a message.
iMessage-Christ-1
We then wait and wait. There’s no reply.
iMessage-Christ-1_2
We spam him a little.
iMessage-Christ-2
Nope, still no reply…
iMessage-Christ-3
… until THIS happens.

You know what that bubble means. You get excited don’t you? Because you know the reply is coming; Jesus is typing – the miracle is on its way. Today, we must imagine ourselves looking at our spiritual smartphone, and seeing the text bubble on the spiritual screen. Our miracle is coming!

Though it may take awhile for His reply to come, Him “typing” shows that He has already “Read” our message! In fact, since the moment we sent Him our message, He has already received and seen it. Look at what the Bible says.

12 Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. 13 But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia.’ – Daniel 10:12-13 (NLT)

Since the first day we prayed, He has already heard us! But what’s causing all the delay? Only God knows. Oh I really believe that He knows. And His thoughts are always higher. He knows not just only what we humans know, but everything that we don’t as well. That is why in the delays, I still trust in Him. He will bring forth the miracles in His perfect timing. Besides, delay is not denial.

When it’s in His perfect timing, God will send in that miracle that you need immediately. But this “immediately” only applies for His timing and will, not ours. Pastor How brings us through a few of the verses in Luke 8 once more to illustrate that God is not a God of our “instantly”, but His “immediately”. His thoughts are always higher; His timing always perfect.

Verse 44: “…immediately her flow of blood stopped.
Verse 47: “…she was healed immediately.”
Verse 55: “…she arose immediately.”

So as you can see, sometimes, God’s timing requires us to wait for the miracle that we want. But it’s in this waiting that His “immediately” is produced. Another example about this can be found in the book of Acts. In chapter 1, before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He appeared to His disciples and commanded them to wait for the Holy Spirit to come. That’s cool and all except for the fact that He didn’t give them an exact date or time when this miracle would arrive! They had to wait just like some of us today, not knowing when we would receive our miracles. But guess what? In chapter 2, God fulfilled His promise on the Day of Pentecost.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.‘ – Acts 2:2-4

“Suddenly”. We all love that part. But what many of us forget is that our waiting produces the “suddenly”. Yes it may be tough to wait. But just like in the story of Pentecost above, our waiting will not be in vain. As we keep the faith, there will be a sudden breakthrough. We got to see that our miracle is just around the corner. We have to see that the “bubble” is on the “screen”.

Pastor How then continues with an interesting point that I can’t help but relate to so much. Maybe you can relate to it too. It is that sometimes, we feel like our miracles get hijacked. In the Luke 8 story that we have been referring to so far, there was a man named Jairus who came to Jesus for help. His daughter was at home, dying. In desperation, he came to Jesus to beg for Him to go to his house and perform a healing miracle for his 12 year-old.

And of course, Jesus agreed. But as they were on their way to the house, a woman who had an issue of blood came behind Jesus, touched the corner of His garment and got healed immediately. You know what Singaporeans call this? “Cutting queue”, haha. The woman hijacked Jesus in that moment! And Jesus let her! Now no doubt, she received a great miracle. But due to her actions, Jesus was delayed a little. And because of this delay, as you would read, Jairus’ daughter died even before Jesus could reach her.

I really wonder what was going through Jairus’ head when he received the news. I wonder how he felt. It could be similar to what some of us are thinking & feeling today for our own miracles. Sometimes, we pray longer than other people, yet they get their miracles & breakthroughs before us. Sometimes, we see our friends receive their best news ever, and instantly after, we receive our worst. Jairus watched a miracle happen right in front of him for a woman who was sick. He saw the immense possibility that his daughter could also be healed. Yet straight after, he received the worst news.

“Why isn’t the miracle happening to me? Does Jesus love me less? Were my prayers ineffective?” All these could be the questions flooding Jairus’ mind and even ours. If not, we could easily be offended, both with God and with that person who “cut our queue”. “The woman doesn’t even have as bad of a condition as my daughter. At least she isn’t dying! Does Jesus not know how to prioritize?”

It is natural for us to have all these negative thoughts but it is our responsibility not to let them get to us. Because at the end of the day, God loves us all the same. He just, as mentioned, has His own timing for every single one of us! We will get our turn to receive miracles too. It may get rough, it may get dark, it may get worse. But keep on going because at times, things have to get worse before they get better. Things have to get darker before they get brighter sometimes.

What matters is, can we walk through the darkness? If we are able to, we will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just take Christ’s death as an example. Good Friday wasn’t really good man. It was a day of darkness and despair, especially for the disciples. And so it was for the next 2 days. Until of course, when Easter Sunday came along. The Bible says that Jesus rose again on the third day and defeated even death itself. Now isn’t that the most miraculous & celebrated Sunday in history? Exactly. Our “third day” is also coming. All we have to do is believe.

3) Keep believing
& don’t be afraid

49 While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.” 50 But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.”’
– Luke 8:50

In the scripture above, we see again the very scene where Jairus receives his bad news. His daughter is dead but thankfully, that isn’t the end of the story. Jesus upon hearing the news immediately turns to Jairus and encourages him. Why did He do that? Well the first reason is obviously because He cares for Jairus. But the second reason is that Jesus understood the power of words, be it positive or negative. In this case, negative words that could destroy Jairus from the inside was spoken to him.

Therefore, Jesus decided to counter those negative words with His own. Today, we have to also learn to counter negative words from people and ourselves. And we do so not by positive thinking or some motivational quote and speech, but by the words of Jesus – the Word of God. These words of faith are exactly what we need to counter fear. That is why I always say that the Bible isn’t just a book! Don’t let negativity destroy us. Fight it using the Word of God.

On the other hand, don’t be weird & super spiritual Christians who always deny the facts. If you’re sick, you’re sick. Denying it isn’t an act of faith. Saying “I’m fine” while coughing blood isn’t going to make you any better. Pray but also see the doctor! We must have a balance. And we can do so by differentiating facts and truth. On one hand, we don’t deny the facts, but on the other, we hold on to the truths of God.

Truth is greater than and beyond facts. It is a fact that Jairus’ daughter is dead. No use denying it. But it is also the truth that God will raise her from the dead. We got to subject the facts to the truth, and not the other way around!

52 Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” 53 And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.”‘ – Luke 8:52-54

Now don’t be surprised. When we operate in faith and truth, people with their facts will laugh at us, just like how the people in Jairus’ house ridiculed Jesus. They knew for a fact that the little girl was dead, but they didn’t understand the truth that Jesus is a Healer. We may have people like that in our lives, always mocking us for our faith in miracles. You know what we need to do about them? Just learn from Jesus and “put them all outside”! Outside what, you ask? Outside your inner circle of friends who have influence over you! Because these people would only make your faith leak. And without faith, it is difficult for miracles to happen and for God to move.

That is also the reason why I’m always found in church every single weekend (and actually on the weekdays too). Because it’s there where I find my closest friends who are always speaking faith into my life. In church, there is an environment and atmosphere for miracles to happen. When I am not with them, I spend time in God’s presence and Word. As I’ve said, it’s in His Word that we can counter negativity and fears, and learn to fight our battles.

Today,  are you looking for a miracle in any area of your life? Then welcome & invite Jesus, the Miracle Maker into that zone. And when things get stretched out longer than you expect, don’t doubt Him. Only believe.

If you have never met the Miracle Maker before, well what are you waiting for? Welcome Him into your life and not only would miracles follow, but also love, joy, purpose, freedom and transformation. Last scripture of the day:

’54 But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” 55 Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat.’ – Luke 8:54-55

Notice the Bible says that the girl’s spirit returned to her. Hmm, this means it left when she died. But where did it go during that point of time? See here’s the thing – when we die, it isn’t the end. Our body is only but a temporary container. The true essence of our being is our spirit. The question of the day is, where is our spirits headed after we die? For me, I am 100% sure that even if I am to die right now as I’m writing this, I am meeting my Heavenly Father in Paradise. This is what I call the greatest miracle of all time. But what about you? If you’re not exactly sure where you’re headed when you leave this Earth and body of yours, make sure today. How do you do so? Meet the Miracle Maker, invite Him into your heart and allow Him to to lead you on the greatest adventure of your life.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.’ – Romans 8:28

In the end, all things will work together for good to those who love & trust in God. For Jairus, he could have been upset with Jesus, but he chose to trust in Him. And guess what? His daughter was miraculously revived and his story had a happy ending! Miracles exist and can happen for you too. Even if… you know, sometimes our miracles get “stolen”?

Hey wait a second. If our miracles can get stolen… Does that mean that we can steal miracles too..? That’s exactly what Pastor How is going to preach about this weekend. Haha that’s right, it’s not the end yet. There is a second part to this message. I mean, how can we read about 2 miracles in Luke 8 and just end by only talking about 1 of them, right?

Now, we know more about the Miracle Maker. But on the 12th & 13th of December, we will find out about the Miracle Thief. Time for a switch of roles. If you enjoyed reading my account of this message by Pastor How, you will love hearing the next part for yourself in church. So don’t miss out on it and I will see you there!

miracle-thief-poster

The Movies of Fall/Holiday 2015

Just to Share: I know it’s already a little into Fall season right now in terms of movies, but better late than never right? Haha so without further ado, here are some movies I am personally looking forward to for the remainder of the year!

1. The Martian

Remember me saying previously that I have a thing or two for science-fiction? Yup, that was enough to get me interested in this movie. And of course, it looks really good with an interesting fresh plot. Based on the novel of the same name, we will be brought on a journey to Mars where an astronaut gets stranded on, finding means to survive while his crew mates on Earth struggle to return and rescue him. Seems like the kind of movie that would be engaging from start to finish.

2. Pan

Childhood fantasies will be relived this October when a new origin story is birthed forth on the big screen for Peter Pan. I mean seriously, the last time I watched a Peter Pan film, I was only 7 years-old! And like I said, I would always love a good movie about adventure. But that’s not the only thing that I’m looking forward to in the movie. I’m also looking forward to Hugh Jackman’s performance as Blackbeard, which so far, looks oddly interesting.

3. Goosebumps

Just as we were on the topic of fantasy, here comes another one in the genre, mixed with comedy and fun. Goosebumps totally reminds me of those Scooby-Doo movies that I used to enjoy as a kid! But honestly, I just want to see what this movie has to offer in terms of story too. Also, it’s been some time since I watched a film featuring monsters on the loose (not referring to those scary ones). So if it’s good, why not?

4. Spectre

Let’s change frequencies a little. 2015 has been a year of spy flicks, with the likes of Kingsman, Mission Impossible and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. But one of the most renowned agents, 007 is returning to bring a conclusion to spy films for the year. Well, at least from what I know, there aren’t anymore big ones coming out! And for the most of it, the James Bond films starring Daniel Craig have received great reviews so far, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one turns out. That is, after I’ve finished watching the previous installments first.

5. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Talking about movie franchises that I need to catch up on, it reminds me of The Hunger Games. But having watched none of its previous installments, I’m already hyped up for Mockingjay Part 2 by this trailer haha. Still, there’s no way I am stepping into the cinema without first finding time to watch the first 3 films! Being one of those movies that first kicked off the trend of films based on young adult novels, I’m confident this last installment in the series would give fans an epic conclusion that will not disappoint.

6. The Good Dinosaur

Pixar. The animation studio that has brought us Inside Out, my favorite film of the year so far, is going to bring us into a world where dinosaurs roam the Earth alongside Man. With Inside Out being such a great success both critically and commercially, it makes me both excited and worried for The Good Dinosaur. With 2 movies released in a year, and having the first one being so successful, people are going to have high hopes for the second one. So much so that it may not meet up to their expectations. But for me, I’m going to have faith in Pixar that they’ll deliver once again. Just look at how beautiful the film looks from the trailer!

7. Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie

Probably the last big animation film of the year (that I know of); Blue Sky Studios are bringing the art style of the Peanuts comic strip into the larger canvas of a feature film. I’m always up for a good animation film and so far, the look and the animations of this movie looks really interesting. You can tell it’s not just your usual 3D animations, but with a blend of “hand-drawn style” animations as well. I’m seeing it as the kind of movie I would watch with some of my younger cousins & some popcorn during the holidays. How about you?

8. In the Heart of the Sea

Not the most edifying movie to watch I must say, with the kind of “disaster at sea” that it portrays. But I have a feeling it will be a great movie still in terms of plot, acting and visual effects. I’m especially looking forward to Chris Hemsworth’s performance outside of his role as a superhero in The Avengers. And did you know that this movie is directed by Ron Howard (Apollo 13, Rush)? There’s great potential in this movie turning out to be phenomenal.

9. The Revenant

Academy Award® winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu is back in the director’s seat after his 2014 film Birdman won the Oscar for Best Picture earlier this year. This time, it seems to be yet another Oscar-worthy film. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, The Revenant feels like a really intense and immersive film. According to reports, the making of the film had gone way over-budget and over-schedule because of certain ways the director wanted it to be shot. It seemed bad but I’m also looking forward to seeing the results of his decisions & everyone’s hard work on set. Who knows? Maybe DiCaprio can finally win an Oscar through this.

10. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

You’ve probably guessed this last movie that I’m most looking forward to right now, haven’t you? Hahaha everyone is looking forward to it! The Force is strong, but the hype for this is even stronger. I watched Star Wars as a kid, and I must say that when I watched the trailer above, just hearing the opening music alone brought chills to my spine. The rest of the trailer did what it set out to do – making us want to watch it again & again until the movie comes out. Oh, and it reminded me to go watch all Episodes 1-6 one more time. Soon I’ll be ready! Going to the cinemas this Christmas will feel magical.

Well, it always seems that my lists of “anticipated things” always ends up being a list of 10. But that wraps up all the movies that I’m really hoping to watch this Fall/Holiday. Hopefully I can suck out all the creative juices that they have to offer too. Haha, thanks for reading.

Most Anticipated Video Games in Q4 2015

Just for Fun: I’ve been a casual gamer since I was a kid and although I do not game as much now, they continue to be a source of entertainment for me from time to time!

So with the launch of Destiny: The Taken King just a week ago, I thought it would be really cool & fun to talk about it, as well as some titles that have been released over the past month. But mainly, I’ll be mentioning some upcoming titles that will be released in the last quarter of 2015 that just looks amazing.

Now before I begin, I must mention that I currently game mainly on the PS4 and only occasionally on the PC. So please do not be upset if you don’t see any of your Xbox One exclusives on here! It’s not because I find them bad, but it’s Just Cause (hehe) I literally have no access to them! Also, I would probably only play a selected few of the games mentioned below, leaving most of them foreign to me (I have other priorities in life, LOL). So the list is based on what I currently know, and have good opinions about.

Please do not think I’m trying to replace sites like IGN or Kotaku! This is just me having fun with my own thoughts. So with that, here goes nothing!

(September releases)

1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain


A Hideo Kojima game.

I’ve only been exposed to the Metal Gear series recently through Ground Zeroes and I can’t say I’ve played enough to know it all. But playing Ground Zeroes for that few hours has gotten me hyped up enough to do some reading about the series. And together with watching videos & trailers like the one above, I have to agree this is one massive game and series that continues to deserve and live up to the expectations of its fans. Epic story, open world, brilliant action and tactical freedom, what else can I say? Imagine being the Big Boss once again, crumbling a base slowly while being disguised as a cardboard box the entire time. Wouldn’t you like that?

2. Mad Max


As if the locations in The Phantom Pain wasn’t enough to satisfy your desert battlefield fantasies, Mad Max gives you an entire desert wasteland to play with. Fully open to explore, the world of Mad Max is home to extreme weather conditions, deadly car chases and brutal action & adventure. This is the game that was released on the same day as Metal Gear Solid V, and though I have not watched any of the movies or played this game, I’m sure there are people out there going mad (see what I did there?) thinking as to which game to spend their money on. I mean you can build your “dream car” and “show it off” to people in the desert! If this is the kind of world you like to “live in”, why not?

3. Destiny: The Taken King


One of my sources of entertainment right now.

Personally, I’ve only played the demo for Destiny half a year ago. Well that is, until last week! I’ve been waiting for the best opportunity to get the full experience of Destiny and now, with the release of The Legendary Edition, that opportunity has come. So I’ve played a bit of it here and there over the past week with a buddy of mine and I totally enjoyed it. I think what really is praiseworthy about the game is its multiplayer experience. Compared to many multiplayer games I’ve seen & played, Destiny’s multiplayer is really stable, easy to get into and more fun than playing alone (which obviously is super important). Oh and have I mentioned that I have a thing or two for science-fiction? So what continues to appeal to me is its world & setting. In Destiny, I can literally be a Guardian of the Galaxy!

(Upcoming releases)

4. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection


Xbox has its Master Chief. Playstation has its Nathan Drake.

I’m sure many would agree that Drake is one of the most beloved characters created by the highly favored developers from Naughty Dog. He is almost like a Playstation icon, and with his return in full high-definition glory on October 9th, I’m sure many are excited to experience and find out about his adventures for the very first time. Yup, I belong to the group of people that has never touched a single Uncharted game before. But I’m sure this collection would definitely blow us away and prepare us for the next installment in the series – A Thief’s End.

5. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate


Why is this game on my list? Because I see it as the make-it or break-it installment for the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

Let’s be honest here. A lot of people would feel that the franchise’s previous installment did not meet up to the expectations that it gave people, even though I’m sure that there are good points about it. So because of that, all eyes are watching this one. Some are convinced that it will be a flop too, but I choose to have a little hope and am waiting to see how it actually turns out! Cause honestly, it has a decent setting! Victorian London is seriously beautiful so far, and has managed to catch people’s attention. But will the game play as good as it looks? We will only know for sure when it comes out on October 23rd (for consoles).

6. Fallout 4

Bethesda. The kings of open world role-playing games are back with one of their highly acclaimed franchises – Fallout.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world after the events of a nuclear war, the creators of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim brings you on a journey through dystopian, mysterious, and yet beautiful re-imaginations of New England regions such as Boston. When it comes out on November 10th, fans of open world RPGs as well as post-apocalyptic genres would definitely be drawn to the sheer amount of adventure and environmental storytelling present in the game. And by the way, have you seen how your character’s face can be created by sculpting? Man, I almost fell out of my chair when I first saw it. *ding!*

7. Star Wars: Battlefront

Everybody knows that movie that’s going to be released during Christmas season this year. Everybody’s hyped up for it. But there’s also a game that everyone is hyped up for, which will give them more hype for that hyped up movie. HAHA cut the chase, this year’s Q4 has “Star Wars” labelled all over it. One of the perfect examples of video games based off movies, Star Wars: Battlefront has fans of the franchise going bonkers, and even more so since Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is also just around the corner. Though it can’t be compared to how long it has been since the last movie came out, it has also been some time since the last release of a Star Wars game. With beloved characters making appearances, large-scale battles reminiscent of those in the movies, and epic dogfights in the sky, many fans may end up in a galaxy far, far away when November 17 arrives.

8. Just Cause 3

Did you enjoy The Expendables? Do you love Michael Bay films? Would you like to set the world on fire and chaos in ridiculously creative ways? Then this is the game for you!

Having played Just Cause 2 before in the past, I have to say this is one series that presents action in the craziest way possible. And because of that, this is the kind of game that makes a great stress-reliever. Just watch the video! You can do whatever you want, you see explosions more than your enemies, and you feel invincible. Maybe you would get this game when it comes out on December 1st. Just Cause…

9. Hitman

On December 8th, Agent 47 will return in this really interesting prequel/reboot (no one is exactly sure yet) to the Hitman video game series. It looks totally amazing and the developers of the game are awesome. They removed the idea of additional paid content & DLCs, as well as micro-transactions from the game, explaining their belief of it as a wrong approach. With that, players would just need to pay once and for all for the game when they purchase it, and continue to receive free updates including new missions and locations regularly. The passion & dedication of the developers can be clearly seen not just in their promise to deliver, but also in the gameplay footages released so far. Players can explore huge levels that are like sandboxes and neutralize their targets in so many possible ways, be it quietly or dramatically. Gosh, now I need to check out the movie that was shot in my country.

10. Firewatch (BONUS)

The last game on my list is an indie title that many people including myself, wants to check out right now. Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact release date as of yet, though it’s worth noting the developers are hoping to release it by this year. Which is why it made it to this list!

But seriously, recent indie games have become more and more impressive and Firewatch is definitely one of those highly anticipated ones. I’m totally in love with the art style of the game, its voice acting and the interesting mystery that seems to fuel its story. Definitely watching this one closely for any news.

So that concludes my list of Most Anticipated Video Games in Q4 2015. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it and I’ll see you in the next post! Thank you!