Can A Person Be Baptised Even Though He/She Doesn’t Quite Believe?

Let me begin my saying who this essay is NOT being aimed at. It is not aimed at those of you who are about to get baptised, who on the whole possess a sincere faith in Jesus Christ, but due to immaturity, may still struggle in certain aspects of your faith.

Rather, this essay is aimed at those of you who do not possess a genuine faith in Jesus Christ, but are planning to get baptised due to ulterior motives.

The ulterior motives include the wish to get baptised to impress your believing boyfriend or girlfriend.  Or perhaps you think it is “cool” to be labelled as a Christian (even though you don’t believe in Jesus Christ). Or perhaps your friends or relatives have been nagging you to become a Christian and you wish to get them off your back.

Whatever the reasons, if you do not possess an ounce of faith in Jesus Christ, you must refrain from getting baptised.

Some people may view baptism as nothing more than like an act in a movie, but what they don’t realise is that the act has indeed serious spiritual implications.

In particular, baptism is an emblem of death and burial, as Romans 6:3-4 below (with emphasis mine) explains:

3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Please read that again (and slowly), paying particular attention to the following two words:  death and burial.

Not that I wish to alarm you unnecessarily, but one’s involvement with spiritual emblems do indeed open the doors to consequences in one’s life, be they positive or negative.

For instance, in 1 Corinthians 11,  we find that believers who partook of the Holy Communion (the emblem of the body and blood of Jesus Christ) in an unworthy manner came under God’s judgment (verse 29), and led to their sickness or even death (verse 30).

A real-life example of someone who had perhaps take baptism too lightly was the late Dr Richard Teo.

In a speech in 2011, Dr Teo admitted: “I was baptised 20 years ago, but it was because it was fashionable to be a Christian then. All my friends were becoming Christians then [and] I wanted to be baptised, so that when I filled in a form, I could put there “Christian” – [it] feels good!”

“In truth, I never had a bible; I don’t know what the bible is all about.”

“I went to church for a while; after some time, I got tired.”

Indeed, although Dr Teo had been baptised, and therefore, was in principle supposed to be dead to the world and living a new life in Christ (Romans 6:3-4), perhaps due to the lack of proper guidance in church, Dr Teo found himself, over time, increasingly drawn to the things of the world.

By the time he was in his 30s, Dr Teo achieved almost everything that most Singaporeans can only aspire to — wealth measured in millions of dollars, a thriving business and membership in high society. (Read about his story in my previous blog)

However, his life came crashing down when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

The good thing, though, was that his sickness led him back to God.

Dr Teo would also later come to the understanding that his sickness was God’s way of disciplining him.

Eventually, Dr Teo did not recover from lung cancer and died at the age of 40 years. His inspiring testimony of God’s dealing with him can be watched in the Youtube link below.

That said, baptism is a sacred and serious event in one’s life. It represents the death to one’s former life and the intention to live a new life in Christ (Romans 6:3-4)

Personally, I wish that every person on this planet would find faith in Jesus Christ, repent and be baptised (Acts 2:38). But it would be naive to think that everyone alive would be willing to say ‘no’ to the world and its pleasures, and to give up one’s former life.

The Lord Jesus Christ told those who wanted to follow Him to count the cost to being His disciple (Luke 14:25-34), and this is exactly what those who are planning to get baptised need to be aware that they are getting themsleves into.

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If God is Good, Why Do Some Christians Suffer from Terminal Cancer — The True Testimony of the Late Singaporean Aesthetics Doctor, Dr Richard Teo Keng Seng

God is good. But some might scoff, “If God is good, why do some Christians suffer from terminal cancer?”

There are no easy answers to this question, and if you are a believer who does suffer from terminal cancer, you might take some comfort from the true story of the late Dr Richard Teo Keng Seng.

Dr Teo had everything that most Singaporeans could aspire to by the time he was in his 30s — wealth measured in millions of dollars, a thriving aesthetics practice, and sports cars, including a Ferrari 430.

“I’m a typical product of today’s society,” said Dr Teo in a speech in November 2011.

“From young, I’ve always been under the influence and impression that to be happy is to be successful. And to be successful, is to be wealthy. So I led my life according to this motto.”

Despite being born into a poor family, Dr Teo excelled in his studies and was accepted in medical school.

In medical school, he chose the quick way to big bucks — by switching from opthalmology to aesthetics.

The move paid handsomely for him, and in the first year, his cosmetic surgery clinic ‘was raking in millions’.

Dr Teo’s newly-made wealth opened the door to high-society life. He loved dinning at Michelin-rated restaurants and rubbing shoulders with celebrities.

Dr Teo also loved life in the fast lane and, at the pinnacle of his life, owned sports cars like the Honda S2000, Subaru WRX, Nissan GTR and a Ferrari 430

On how he would spend his weekends, Dr Teo said, “Typically, I’d have car club gatherings. I’d take out my track car and go up to Sepang in Malaysia for car racing. It was my life.”

Dr Teo had no time for God although he had been baptised many years earlier. When his friends experienced a personal revival, they advised Dr Teo to return to church with them, but their advice fell on stony ground.

“In my arrogance, I told them, “You know what? You go tell your pastor to change his sermon to 2pm and I will consider coming to church,” said Dr Teo.

In his arrogance, Dr Teo also uttered the following statement to his friends, “If God really wanted me to come back to church, He will give me a sign.”

It was a statement which he later said he would live to rue, because by the end of 3 weeks, he would — without first being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer — find himself back in church.

Said Dr Teo, “My whole world just turned upside down. I couldn’t accept it. I have a hundred relatives on both sides — my mom’s and my dad’s — and not a single one has cancer. To my mind, I have good genes, I’m not supposed to be having this! Some of my relatives are heavy chain smokers. Why am I having lung cancer? I was in denial.”

Dr Teo also fell into deep depression. He searched for answers. There weren’t any… until he heard an “inner voice”.

Said Dr Teo, “There I was lying on the operating table, staring blankly at the ceiling in a cold, quiet operating theatre. Suddenly, I heard an inner voice; it was not coming from the outside; it was inside. This small inner voice was one that I had never felt before. And it said very specifically: “This has to happen to you, at your prime, because it’s the only way you can understand.””

“I said, “Woah, where did that come from?” You know, when you speak to yourself, you’d say [something like] ‘what time should I leave this place?’ [or] ‘where shall I have dinner after this?’. You’d speak from a first person point of view…whereas the voice that came spoke as a third party. It said, “This has to happen to YOU, at YOUR prime, because this is the only way YOU can understand.” At that time, my emotions just overflowed and I broke down and cried alone there.”

Dr Teo did later understand why the ‘small inner voice’ had told him that this was the ‘only way’ he could be made to understand. Explained Dr Teo, “I was just so full of myself that there was no other way I could have turned back to God.”

God continued speaking to him.

Said Dr Teo, “I was in bed one afternoon, struggling and asking God, “Why? Why do I have to go through this suffering? Why do I have to endure this hardship, this struggle? Why me?”

“As I fell asleep, in my dreamy state, a vision came and said ‘Hebrews 12:7-8’.”

“Now, mind you, at this time, I had not read the bible [and] had no clue what’s Hebrews. I don’t even know how many chapters there are. Totally clueless.”

“But it (the vision) said ‘Hebrews 12:7-8’, very specifically.”

“I didn’t think too much of it [and] continued sleeping. After I woke up, and I said [to myself], “What’s there to lose? I’d check it out.” Danny (Dr Teo’s close friend, who had previously advised him to return to church) had bought me a bible; it’s still quite new… So I flipped to the Old Testament. Hebrews to me sounds like something ancient, so it should be in the Old Testament right? So I flipped through the Old Testament. No Hebrews there. I was so disappointed.”

“Then I said, “Maybe [it’s in the] New Testament; let’s have a look!”. WOW — New Testament; there’s Hebrew’s!! [And turning to] Hebrews 12:7-8, it said, “Endure hardship as discipline as God is treating you as His children.””

“I said, “WAH!! Where did that come from?” I was getting goose pimples all over my body. I said, “This can’t be, right?” I mean, what’s the chance of somebody who has never read the bible to have a vision of a chapter [and] a specific verse that answers my question directly?”

“So at that point, I was sold [and] said [to God], “YOU WIN! YOU WIN!!””

“From that day onwards, I started believing in my God. And the last time I heard that inner voice was [at] the end of April. And that inner voice — same thing, in the afternoon, as I was sleeping. In a dreamy state, I just heard Him say, “Help others in hardship.””

“It was more like a command, rather than a statement. And that’s when I embarked on this journey [of] helping others in hardship.”

Dr Teo obeyed the command up to the day of his death.  He reached out to numerous individuals, including single mothers, insurance agents, medical students, cancer patients and church members.

Mrs Teo, Dr Teo’s wife, told The New Paper, “He wanted to inspire those facing hardships, that life has more to offer than to be filled with hatred and emptiness”.

Dr Teo was adamant in getting his message across even as he lay sick and dying. According to Mrs Teo, a day before her husband died, his laptop was filled with new sets of photos to be shown to his audience. He had also been working on a new speech.

Dr Teo’s inspiring testimony of God’s dealing with him can be watched in the Youtube link below.

Dr Richard Teo

Dr Richard Teo’s story was featured in the 28 October 2012 edition of The New Paper.

Self-made Millionaire at 30; Dead at 40; In the End, His Wordly Success and Wealth Meant Nothing — The True Story of the Late Singaporean Aesthetics Doctor, Dr Richard Teo Keng Seng

Dr Richard Teo Keng Seng had everything that most Singaporeans could aspire to by the time he was in his 30s — wealth measured in millions of dollars, a thriving aesthetics practice, and sports cars, including a Ferrari 430.

“I’m a typical product of today’s society,” said Dr Teo in a speech in November 2011.

“From young, I’ve always been under the influence and impression that to be happy is to be successful. And to be successful, is to be wealthy. So I led my life according to this motto.”

Despite being born into a poor family, Dr Teo excelled in his studies and was accepted in medical school.

In medical school, he chose the quick way to big bucks — by switching from opthalmology to aesthetics.

The move paid handsomely for him, and in the first year, his cosmetic surgery clinic ‘was raking in millions’.

Dr Teo’s newly-made wealth opened the door to high-society life. He loved dinning at Michelin-rated restaurants and rubbing shoulders with celebrities.

Dr Teo also loved life in the fast lane and, at the pinnacle of his life, owned sports cars like the Honda S2000, Subaru WRX, Nissan GTR and a Ferrari 430

On how he would spend his weekends, Dr Teo said, “Typically, I’d have car club gatherings. I’d take out my track car and go up to Sepang in Malaysia for car racing. It was my life.”

Dr Teo’s cars became symbols of his success, but in the end, after he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, they meant nothing to him.

“Chinese new year… I would drive my Ferrari, show off to my relatives, show off to my friends, do my rounds, and then you thought that was true joy?” reflected Dr Teo during a talk to dental students.

“In truth, what you have done is just to elicit envy, jealous and even hatred. In my death bed, I found my joy whatsoever in whatever objects I had — my Ferrari, thinking of the land I was going to buy to build my bungalow, having a successful business.”

It was towards the end of his life that Dr Teo found the meaning of true joy.

“What really brought me joy in the last ten months was interaction with people, my loved ones, friends, people who genuinely care about me, they laugh and cry with me, and they are able to identify the pain and suffering I was going through. That brought joy to me, happiness,” he said, in a speech given to an undergraduate medical class before passing away in October 2012.

Dr Teo’s speech can be watched in the Youtube link below.

Dr Richard Teo

Dr Richard Teo’s story was featured in the 28 October 2012 edition of The New Paper. His story serves as a great warning against wholeheartedly pursuing after wordly wealth.

God Allows Disappointments and Setbacks in the Lives of Christians, But Can More than Adequately and Abundantly Make Up for It (A Personal Experience by a Christian in Singapore)

In a previous blog, I shared my personal experience of how God allowed a major setback in my life to break and mold me.

For those of you who have not read my previous post, here’s a quick summary — it had been my greatest desire, even before joining the university, to be selected for the Honours programme after graduation from the Bachelor’s programme. This dream did not materialise, and the dashing of this dream was especially painful for me, because I had assumed (perhaps wrongly) that as long as I had been faithful in serving Him, I could get what my heart longed for.

But God is Faithful! Although I did not get what I longed for, I got what I needed, and that is, a job upon graduation. Indeed, among my peers who had graduated, I was the fastest to receive a job offer!

Above all, I had correctly discerned God’s promise to me. Through a time of prayer, I discerned God telling me that I would not get into the Honour programme, but that He would take care of my employment needs — and both of these have been fulfilled. I rejoice whenever I am able to correctly discern His intentions and plans for my life, because it assures me that I am His, for He (the Lord Jesus Christ) has Himself declared: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27; KJV)?

It has been some 20 years since I graduated from the university. You know what? I have never over the past 20 years ever lacked a job. Sure, I have changed job, but whenever I changed jobs, it was never without securing a position elsewhere first. I was also once retrenched, but as destiny would have it, an ex-boss, who had earlier left my former company to join another company, would offer some of my colleagues and I a similar position in the new company he was at. Consequently, over the past 20 years, I don’t ever recall being out of work for more than a week. Praise the Lord! He is Faithful.

What has been even more inconceivable and wonderful to me is that the present role I am holding is typically filled by people with academic qualifications much higher than me (PhD or MD).

I remember feeling really humbled the first time I stepped into this role. However, over time, I have grown in the job and am able to perform as competently as my colleagues (of course, along the way, I have upgraded my academic qualifications and taken various courses and training to supplement my knowledge and competency).

But 20 years ago, if anyone had asked me whether I would see myself in this job, I would have honestly said, “Impossible — I barely scrapped through my Bachelor’s degree.

But God chuckles when man declares, “Impossible!

The Lord Jesus Christ himself said it: “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27; NIV)

Dear Friend, have you had a major disappointment or setback?

Be strong and take courage! Set your hope fully on the Lord.

He can more than adequately and abundantly make up for your loss. He is able to do what you can never imagine or conceive; He can make a way:

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)

Why Does God Allows Disappointments and Setbacks in the Lives of Christians? A Personal Experience by a Christian in Singapore

In a previous blog, I shared my personal experience of learning to hear God’s voice.

Soon after attending the two evening lectures by Brother Paul Hawkins from YWAM (Youth With a Mission) on “Hearing God’s Voice“, I decided to put what I had learnt into practice, and would regularly set aside time to pray. Because I would get distracted at home, I would walk to a nearby playground (which was typically free of children after sunset) during the evening to pray for about an hour. I would not have any specific prayer request other than to ask the Lord to speak to my heart and to reveal Himself to a greater measure to me (“Speak, for your servant is listening.”; 1 Samuel 3:10).

It soon came time to take my final university examinations. Throughout my undergraduate years, I had been consistently praying for God to bless me in my studies, and my greatest hope was to do well enough to be selected for an Honours degree programme, after I graduated from my Bachelors degree programme.

Although I was busy with my studies, I was also involved in various Christian activities. In church, I was a Sunday school teacher. The church that I attended held a bible study class before the main service, and I regularly attended that class, and was also rostered to lead a short session of worship before class started.

In the university, I was the class representative for my Biochemistry class. In addition, I was also studying Microbiology, and the ‘seniors’ in the faculty passed on to me the mantle of being the leader for the faculty’s undergraduate Christian fellowship.

I took on all these extracurricular responsibility with stride, ‘trusting’ that as “I served the Lord, the Lord will grant the desires of my heart” (Have you ever heard this cliche spoken to you by people who want to “motivate” you to serve in a ministry?)

So, I took my final university examinations, and everything seemed well (or so I thought).

Days before the results were announced, I would pray every evening at the playground; I would remind the Lord of my desire to be selected for the Honour programme, as well as to remind Him that I had been faithful in serving Him, in spite of my busy university schedule.

However, as the days got nearer to the date, my heart grew increasingly heavy. I increasingly perceived that something was not going to go according to plan (my plan, that is), and although I was uneasy about that feeling, I continued to “trust” God and to “reason” within myself (“Don’t worry, I’m sure that I will make it to the Honours programme; after all, I am a Christian, and most of my other peers, who are also aiming for the programme, are not.”).

Despite my attempts to “reason” with myself, I could not shake away the growing perception that something was wrong, and finally, on the very day before the results were announced, I said to the Lord while at the playground, “Ok, Lord, please give it to me straight. Am I, or am I not, going to be selected for the Honour programme?”

“You will NOT be selected,”came the immediate and unambigious reply within my heart.

I was stunned, but knew it was the Lord.

“What, it can’t be! I have served You…” I protested and started to cry.

“Trust Me,” came the reply.

Trust You? How do I trust You? This had been my deepest dream even before joining university, and now You have crushed it.

“Trust Me. I will provide for you a job,” I sensed the Lord say to me assuringly, and even while I was sobbing uncontrollably in the semi-darkness, I felt a new peace entering my heart to assure me that everything would be ok.

I am by nature punctual, but the next day, I deliberately reached the university about half an hour later than the scheduled time that the results would be announced.

As I was walking towards my faculty, I could see one of my classmates, who was clearly elated that she had been selected into the Honours programme, but as I approached her, her expression changed and she became more sombre.

“The results are out at the noticeboard,” she said. “Eh… I think you might want to have a look at it.”

I don’t have to,’ I thought to myself. ‘God has already told me.‘ But her attempt to avoid being the bearer of bad news, just confirmed to me that my name was not included on the Honour’s list.

Indeed, although I had passed the examination, and thus effectively graduated from the university, my results were bad; not only did I not make it on the Honours list, I did not even graduate with the title of ‘Merit’.

That evening, when I went back to the playground to pray, it felt like I had experienced a passing storm, and was emotionally too tired to do or say anything, except to try to console myself that the Lord had promised that He would take care of my employment needs.

I pause my story to address this important question: “Why does God allows disappointments and setbacks in the lives of Christian?

I believe it is to break them. In his book ‘The Blessings of Brokenness: Why God Allows Us to Go Through Hard Times‘, Charles Stanley explained it perfectly with his analogy of a wild horse:

I love to go out West and roam around in the wilderness. I like to sleep in a tent when it’s cold and to photograph nature or hunt. I enjoy the solitude and beauty of the mountain wilderness areas of our nation. On most of my wilderness trips, I contact an outfitter who assigns me a horse for the trek. Sometimes I’ve had very gentle horses who, with the slightest movement of the reigns, have known exactly what to do. Such a horse obeys instandly. Sometimes merely a spoken word will do.

I’ve ridden other very independent horses! I could pull on the reins, jerk the reins, kick with my stirups, speak sharply, and nothing happened that I wanted to have happen! These horses supposedly had been broken, but as far as I was concerned they were not broken very well. At times, these independent horses have put me into dangerous positions — lunging forward down a hill, balking through narrow passageways. Believe me, I’d much rather have a gentle, well-broken horse anytime, in any situation.

What happens in the breaking of a horse? Contrary to what many people believe, the horse’s spirit isn’t broken. A well-broken horse remains strong, eager, quick-witted, and aware, and he loves to gallop when given free rein. Rather, it is thoe horse’s independence that is broken. The breaking of a horse results in the horse giving instant obedience to its rider.

When a child of God is broken, God does not destroy his or her spirit. We don’t lose our zest for living when we come to Christ. We don’t lose the force of our personality. Rather, we lose our independence. Our will is brought into submission to the will of the Father so that we can give instant obedience to the one whom we call Saviour and Lord.

Now, we can’t insist on having our way. God doesn’t strip us of our free will either before or after our accepting Jesus as Saviour. We can “do our own thing” no matter what God says to us or how he may direct us. But when we act independently, like an unbroken or partially broken horse, we put ourselves into danger. His desire is that we not experience the consequence of our own willful wandering into sin and the dangers of evil.

Brokeness is the condition whereby our will is brought into full submission to his will so that when he speaks, we put up no argument, make no rationalization, offer no excuses, and register no blame, but instead, instantly obey the leading of the Holy Spirit as he guides us. The end result is one of blessing — it is for our good both now and forever.

I started my job hunt a day or two after the examination results were released, and very shortly after, was called for interviews, and was offered a job at a Japanese manufacturing company. Among my peers who had graduated, I was the fastest to receive a job offer. Praise the Lord! He is Faithful and had kept His promise to me.

 

Akiane Kramarik (Child Art Prodigy): Her Story is Believable, But I Have Concerns…

Akiane Kramarik (pronounced AH-KEE-AH-NA) is a child art prodigy, who began drawing at the age of four. Born in Illinois on July 9th, 1994, Akiane was raised up in a poor family with three other siblings. She primarily is a self-taught painter.

At the age of four, Akiane started sharing her visions of heaven with her parents. Because Akiane was home-schooled and did not watch television, and had never been out of their sight, her parents were certain that no one else could have influenced Akiane’s sudden and detailed descriptions of the spiritual realm. Akiane’s mother was Lithuanian, and had been raised as an atheist in Lithuania; Akiane’s father was raised as a Catholic, but did not share in the family beliefs. Akaine’s family never talked about religion, never prayed togehter, and never went to any church.

According to Akiane’s semi-autobiography ‘Akiane: Her Life, Her Art, Her Poetry‘, about the same time as the visions began, Akiane suddenly began showing an intense interest in drawing. She began sketching hundreds of figures and portraits on whatever surfaces she found at hand, including walls, windows, furniture and books. Akiane seemed unusually patient and serious for one so young, totally immersed in her work. Akiane was not a perfectionist in any other area of her life, though; she could leave her room untidy or her hair uncombed, but her portraits always had to be absolutely perfect.

Akiane told Christianity Today that the first time God started speaking to her was when she was three years of age: “He said, ‘You have to do this, and I’ll help you.’ He said, ‘Now you can help people.’ I said, ‘Yes, I will.'” Since that time, Akiane has donated a substantial portion of the money generated from art sales to charity, and when asked why she thinks she received the gift, Akiane said that she believed that she has been blessed by God for one reason and one reason only, and that is to help others.

When Akiane was eight years of age, very early one morning, her mother found her gazing through the window at the sky, and when asked what she was doing, she replied, “I was with God again, and I was told to pray continually. He showed me where He lived, and it was so light. He was whither than the whitest of whites. I was climbing transparent stairs; underneath I saw gushing waterfalls. As I approached my Father in paradise, His body was pure light. What impressed me most were His giantic hands — they were full of maps and events. Then He told me to memorise thousands upon thousands of wisdom words on a scroll that didn’t look like paper, but more like intense light. And in a few seconds I somehow got filled up. He showed me the endless universe, its past and its future, and He told me that from now on, I needed to get up very early and get ready for my mission. I hope one day I’ll be able to paint what I’ve been shown.”

It didn’t seem very long for her to reach her goal, since before she turned 9, Akiane completed her best-known painting, the Prince of Peace, and between the ages of 9 to 12 years, most of Akiane’s drawings seem to have a spiritual theme and a prophetic/visionary quality to them.

Akiane’s boost in popularity came when she was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show at the age of 10, and on CNN, at the age of 12.

There is no doubt over Akiane’s artistic talents, but can her claims of having met God be believed?

I do not see why not, and note that Matthew 5:8 says: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”; I believe that Akiane’s blessing of seeing God was afforded to her due to her childhood innocence.

Akiane’s claim of seeing Jesus Christ is supported by Colton Burpo, the little boy in ‘Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back‘, who purportedly went to heaven at age three, and who on seeing Akiane’s painting the Prince of Peace, declared it to be the only one (among many others that he had seen) that ever captured what Jesus looks like.

Akiane is no longer a prepubescent child, but a lovely 20-years-old young lady, who now resides in Gold Coast, Australia. Has she maintained the same close walk with God, as she did when she was a child, free from all the distractions of growing up? Her art work in recent years seem to suggest that she may have taken a different direction as compared to her prepubescent years. I don’t claim in any way to be an expert in art, but in my eyes, the quality of her recent work remains high (if not higher than when she was a child), and her artistic style seems unchanged, however, I perceive that the inspiration behind her work may have changed somewhat.

Indeed, I was most alarmed by her painting (entitled ‘Enlightenment‘) of a Hindu swami. To add to my concern is the following description that accompanies the painting:

I was always interested in Asian culture, and recently my interest focused on Southeast Asia — India, in particular. My dilemma was that there were virtually no Asian Indians in our local area, and if I had worked only from my imagination, it still would not have been enough, because any authentic culture demands a thorough knowledge of traditions and customs.

Ironically, a few months later a gentleman from England called my gallery to make an appointment with me. When he arrived to our Idaho gallery we were stunned to see a Hindu Swami from top to bottom dressed in his own traditional robes. His intention was only to share an urgent, confidential and spiritual message, then return back home. But after hearing him, we all convinced him to stay with us longer. During five days of his visit he was teaching us about his culture and faith, eventually agreeing to model for me.

This turned out to be a four-month-long painting project, because every detail had to be authentically accurate.

The Enlightenment is not only about the Hindu worship and prayer, but about all of us finding our own way to spiritual enlightenment, peace and contentment…”

I’m sorry to have to disagree, Akiane, and wish that your family had not opened your lives to the influence of this person. I am not saying that this person has no spiritual power, but I would say that the source of his spiritual power differs to the Source (the Lord Jesus Christ), whom you knew as a child. Indeed, the scripture (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; NIV) tells us:

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

17 Therefore,

“Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”

18 And,

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Signs that Accompany Someone Who is About to Die

Because I sometimes help my pastor to lead worship during funeral services, I get to hear more stories concerning pre-death as compared to the average person.

On analysing the stories that I have heard (and from those involving my personal relatives), I surmise that death doesn’t come unexpectedly for most people, and that there are usually a number of signs before an aged loved one breathes his/her final breath.

These are the signs:

  1. Reports/complaints of Supernatural Activities

Before they die, many Christians report seeing or even talking to angels (which they may refer to as good-looking people wearing bright white robes).

Also, elderly Christians with mild dementia may express to their family members that there are “people” (or a car, or some other form of transport) waiting for them, and request their family members to dress them up, or to groom their hair.

On the other hand, at the nursing home where my grandmother was staying, an elderly lady, who was a non-believer and who slept at the bed next to my grandmother, used to complain about (and was fearful of) someone/something that would torment her by poking her with a sharp object from beneath her bed. This elderly woman lucid and not demented or hallucinating — when asked, she could recall many things about her past, including the place she had been living at before staying at the nursing home. In addition, whenever I came to visit my grandmother, I would invariably see her reading the daily newspaper.

I eventually bought a bible for her, hoping that it might bring relief from her torment, but later lost contact with her when she was transferred to another nursing home.

  1. Untypical Behaviour

I had an unmarried uncle who passed away suddenly (of internal bleeding) in his late 50s. He did, however, experience a bout of gastric pain before his passing, but nobody in the family expected that this would be associated with his death, and everyone thought that all he required was some medical attention for the gastric pain.

Because my late uncle did not leave a will, nor any instructions on his funeral in the event of his passing, my mum and aunts were left to make that decision for him. They eventually decided that his funeral would be held at one of the funeral parlours in Sin Min.

After the funeral, one of my aunts was tasked to sort through his personal belongings, which had been left untouched since the day of his death.

My aunt was shocked to find the business card of the funeral parlour in his wallet; the funeral parlour was the very same one that my mum and aunts had chosen for him. Apparently, my late uncle had visited the funeral parlour a few days before his passing, without the knowledge of any family member. There are actually a number of funeral parlours at Sin Min, and it was just too coincidental that my mum and aunts would select the very funeral parlour that my late uncle had visited, in spite of the fact that there never had been any prior family conversations about this.

  1. Spacey Look on His/Her Face

I used to have a male relative whom, whenever I would visit his home in the past, would sit in the living room facing the television set to watch whatever was showing on TV. A few weeks before he passed away, whenever I came to visit him, his face would be glued towards the door (instead of the TV), and he would have this spacey look in his eyes (he was not suffering from dementia before he passed away). His eyes would be fixed towards the door, until he would catch me observing him, and then he would quickly shift his body towards the TV. But shortly after, he would again be staring at the door. I didn’t dare ask him what he was staring at, but I did perceive that his eyes might have been opened to the spiritual realm, because I did notice him a couple of times suddenly shivering for no apparent reason (although the room was not cold), and almost immediately after shivering, he would turn his head elsewhere, as if to avoid something unpleasant (I have the impression that for some people, when their eyes have been opened to other dimension, they are expressedly forbidden not to tell others what they have seen).

  1. Pets Behaving Oddly

Months before an elderly female relative of mine unexpectedly passed away, there was a gathering at her house one evening, during which another relative brought a pet dog along. The dog was roaming around the house, when it suddenly barked loudly and ran towards the living room, where everyone had gathered. The dog appeared to be running away from something, and it did so with so much fear, that after colliding into a half-ajar glass door, it still managed to pick itself up immediately, and continue running at full speed towards the living room (where everyone had gathered). Dashing underneath a sofa chair, it whimpered there for some time before coming out. A silence overcame the room until the dog’s owner finally broke the ice by noting that her dog seldom barked, and that she had never seen it so frightened before. I then walked over to the spot where the dog had been standing before it started barking to investigate. I did not see anything that could have triggered the barking (there wasn’t any intruder, rat, lizard, or insect), but had a distinct impression that the year would not pass without incident.

True enough, the family was bereaved a number of months by the passing of the elderly female relative, and in retrospect, perhaps an angel of death had come to visit that day…

  1. Dreams

One night in October 2010, I had a dream involving 2 coffins. The first coffin that I dreamt of contained a dignified and petite elderly Chinese lady, who was wearing a traditional Chinese dress. This was followed by a second coffin that contained an elderly male relative of mine.

The next morning, I read in the newspapers that the mother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had passed away. I was speechless on reading the news because the physical features of the elderly Chinese lady that I had dreamt of would have matched that of the Prime Minister’s late mother. Although I was disturbed by the dream, I said nothing to anyone because I did not want to draw any rash conclusions.

Nonetheless, the elderly male relative of mine unexpectedly passed away 4 months later. Perhaps God was trying to warn me of his impending death.