Wednesday, 31 December 2008

No secret anymore, I'm unemployed.

Yes, as the title of this post goes, it is no longer a secret. I am unemployed.
It's been three weeks since I suddenly joined the rank of the unemployed by the force of the global economic downturn. My role at work was made redundant, and I was given a sudden and unexpected notice of termination of employment. On the 11th of December, I was given the notice, and that was the last day I worked.

Shock! Confusion! Frustration!
These are the three words that would explain the feelings I had for the past three weeks.
Shock, because it was simply so unexpected and sudden for me.
Confusion, because I was confused as to what I was to do next and wasn't sure what to do with my to-do list which seemed out-of-reach because of the financial uncertainty I was faced with.
Frustration, because of the sheer uncertainty, although, now I come to think of it, certainty is an illusive or even imaginary thing always, except when it is about God's truths.

Now three weeks have passed, the initially upset dust is mostly settled, yet, I still do not have a clear vision of what I will be doing, or need to do. It's as though the dust has set on my pair of glasses, that even though I am not choking on the dust, my sight is no better than before.

For those of you who know me, please pray for me that I may cling to God more strongly than before. I have had this strange sense of hiding from God for a while, especially since I was out of job. I sense some kind of resentment and fear brewing in myself. Please pray for God's healing hand over my pricked heart.
Also, please pray that God will show me a clearer path for me to follow, a picture if you like, that includes my job and/or ministry, study, and even relationships and marriage.

May the grace of God rest on you as well.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

ESV Bible: Translation of Mark 1:38

I'm reading Mark and I quite accidentally discovered a difference between my older ESV bible and the newer ESV Study Bible.
Mark 1:38 in my older ESV:
And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is what I came for." (bold mine)

The same passage in my newer ESV:
And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out." (again, bold mine)

I noticed it because I didn't recognise "I came out" bit that Jesus said. I'm guessing that the change was made because it's a more accurate translation, but I don't seem to have any way of finding it out myself. I don't know Greek, yet!

Compare against these other translations of the same passage if you are interested.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Too many books... I need a reading plan!

Okay, this is not looking good.
I just found out that I have in my possession 73 books that I haven't read yet. Some on my bookshelf, some in boxes (due lack of space on my bookshelf).

Seventy three books!

In the past couple of years, I've been hoarding books, but I think it's about time I stop buying more books, and do some serious reading. I mean, what good is having all those wonderful books if I never read them?

I need a reading plan!

Book Review: Living Sacrifice by Dr. Helen Roseveare

One sentence blurb by Noel Piper (the wife of John Piper whom I find helpful time and again through his writings and sermons), "Each time I read one of her accounts, I want to be like her, I want to know God as she does." undeniably helped in making my decision to purchase this book, Living Sacrifice by Dr. Helen Roseveare. I expected that I would learn a bit about "living sacrifice" by reading this book, and I would benefit from it. No surprise there. But I honestly did not expect the book to be so piercing and relevant. When I started reading the book, I started sensing my heart wrenching. The stories and the message Dr. Roseveare was delivering in the book were more challenging and confronting than I had been faced by any other authors I read recently. Sure, it probably has something to do with my current circumstances and my late discontentment too, but again, I cannot deny it was God's doing that I had read this book just so recently during my attempt at hiding from God because of building resentment toward Him and even some other people.

Dr. Helen Roseveare first draws the reader's attention, in prologue, to the fact that we can never talk about sacrifice before we first consider Jesus' sacrifice, the ultimate, once-for-all, complete, perfect sacrifice. Then through four chapters, drawn from the famous command of Jesus, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30)", she tells us what it is like to love God with all our hearts, souls, mind, and strength, through her own experiences, often her failures and learned lessons. She often tells of seemingly small things she learned to sacrifice for God, and yet, those small things were in fact showing what was in her heart as clearly as when bigger things were at stake, if not clearer, and those stories challenged and pierced me deeply.

In the epilogue, she summarises the lessons she learned and concludes that she had none of her own rights to claim before God, and she could not in clear conscience demand anything from Him.

Rather than me talking more about the book, let me just present you a section from the epilogue, which convicted me greatly. I hope you find it helpful and challenging that leads to transformation of your attitude, world-view, and life. (Excuse the long quote.)

Some today, in an apparent attempt at greater honesty, would substitute the word "obedience" for the word "sacrifice," saying that there is no sacrifice that we can make; and the only way we can show our love is by our obedience.
"He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me" (John 14:21; see also verses 15 and 23).
How much we should lose of challenge by such a change! Obedience tends to be a cold, legal word of calculated action: sacrifice throbs with life and passion. Certainly the one will inevitably involve the other. Sacrifice can only be worked out by obedience, but obedience will need sacrifice to give it fire and momentum.
Today it would appear that we Christians prefer to talk of a measure of commitment, the length to which we are willing to become involved, rather than the depths of God's immeasurable love in which we long to become immersed. There is abroad an atmosphere of careful calculation, "thus far and no further," maintaining certain reasonable limits. The carefree abandonment of love that marks the sacrifices of Paul, of second-century Christians, of nineteenth-century missionaries, seems sadly lacking. Today we weigh up what we can afford to give Him: in those days, they knew that they could not afford to give Him less than all!
Oh, that we Christians today might be set ablaze with love for our Lord andn Master so that we too must give Him all, as did the poor widow, who coming to the treasury "put in tow small copper coins, which amount to a cent" - she of who Jesus said to His disciples: "This poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on" (Mark 12:41-44)
What do I today consider to be my most precious possession? The woman in the home of Lazarus had a long-necked flask of pure ointment, worth a workman's annual wage. To her, it was precious. She broke the flask, and anointed the head of Jesus with the ointment, and the fragrance filled the whole house. She gave what she prized, and He accepted it as a love gift, calling her action a beautiful thing (Mark 14:3-9).
Ointment would not be very precious to me, whatever it cost. But at the present time, when the great stress is on human rights, how many of us have got caught up in the language and attitude of our day, so that our "rights" really are the most precious thing we possess? My right to be heard, to voice my opinion, to be consulted; my right to make my own choices and decisions as to what I'll do and where I'll do it; my right to be myself, and to be considered as a human being. Can there be anything wrong with such attitude?
[...]
(A little break for you to ponder and meditate while you give your eyes a bit of rest away from the screen.


Now, ready for the last paragraph?)

There is nothing wrong with an appreciation of individual human rights, but perhaps God is asking us to be willing to have a different attitude with regard to ourselves.
"'My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isa. 55:8-9)
"I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Rom 12:1)


I recommend Living Sacrifice by Dr. Helen Roseveare to all my brothers and sisters in Christ. You can get it from Koorong or Amazon.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

May God's grace be with you all this Christmas, and this festive season be more meaningful and spiritual than what secular world tries to make it to be. Of course, you cannot apprehend the true meaning of Christmas unless you are a Christian who knows the Lord. So, grace to you and grace be with you.

Please don't try jumping on to a moving train

I might complain about the cityrail more than I should, but this person didn't make it any better.
The doors had shut so he attempted to board the train by jumping between two carriages but fell on to the rail track.
Witnesses immediately notified station staff and the train was stopped, but part of the man's arm had already been severed.

Assuming the news report is accurate, sounds like this man really needs to learn something here.

Please don't try to do everything you see on TV, movies, games, or YouTube. Seriously.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Jesus is different, a.k.a. holy.

I sin. Yet I always want to escape God's wrath by any means possible.
Jesus never sinned. Yet He was willing to bear God's wrath for others.

Thanks and praise to Him who is gracious, loving, and just.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Tiny Book Review: Gang Leader for a Day


Just finished reading this book called, Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh. My tiny book review, no, just a short comment after reading the book (originally posted over at Shelfari).
Not for its literary style, although it is very readable, nor for the fame of the author, although in his field it is very well established, but for the sheer fact that all those things described in the book had happened in real life, the book is worth reading. It informed and reminded me about the reality of the poor around me, even though I live far away from Chicago, in Sydney, Australia. May I never forget or ignore the people who need help.


I think it is a good book to read, and I recommend it especially if you are a Christian.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Should the parents be held responsible for their child's crime?

I'm sorry to talk about this sad and terrible rape/paedophilia incident, so, if you are easily offended, please move on. Also, I am not a parent, so you might think I'm not qualified to comment on this kind of issues at all, but I am certainly a child of my parents, so I think I have at least some say in this.

In South Korea, an 18 year old with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) raped a 7 year old girl in 2006. He now is serving in prison his 10 year sentence. But then, the court also ruled that his parents were liable for his crime as well, not that they were involved in his crime directly, but by not bringing up their child properly.
The court said the boy had grown up watching pornography and had imitated a film he had seen during the attack.
It said his parents could have prevented the crime with appropriate education, but neglected their duty.
[...]
A court statement said: "The parents could have prevented the crime with appropriate education but failed to show enough attention to their child.


At first, I thought it was so bizarre to fine the parents for their son's crime. I still find it very strange. I am not sure if it is ever right to penalise the parents directly for their child's crime, especially the child is reasonably old, say, 16 years old or older. But at the same time, I can't help but agree that the parents should be held responsible or accountable for their child's behaviour to some extent, somehow. Or, if not for the behaviour of the child, then at least for the way they are taught and brought up in that household. No?

On a side note, I gasped when I read that the victim was a 7 year old girl. But I also found myself appalled at the fact that a monetary value was put to the "damage".
The girl's parents were seeking 225m won ($165,000; £111,000) in damages.
I am not so naive to assume that this kind of economic valuation does not happen, in fact, I know full well that these happen all the time. But, it is still quite upsetting to think that it does happen.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Young drivers

Traffic police have taken a swipe at reckless young drivers after arresting one clocked at 237km/h in Sydney's west.
Police allege a 27-year-old driver sped away when officers tried to pull him over on the Hume Highway near Ingleburn about 2am (AEDT) on Sunday.
His licence was confiscated and he's due to appear in Liverpool Local Court on January 15, 2009.
"I'm disappointed that the safe driving message isn't getting through to some young drivers and they are of the mistaken belief that they can drive at high speed without getting caught," Traffic Services Commander, Chief Superintendent John Hartley, said in the statement.

Says the SMH.

So apparently, this 27 year old driver is classified as a "young driver". Plus, this connects with a dangerous and reckless driving by young people. The details are sketchy, but to me, it seems that it was more of a car chase that took place than a simple case of dangerous driving. Isn't it unfair to use this incident as a basis for saying that the safe driving message isn't getting through to some young drivers? Is it a safe driving matter, or is it a matter of running away from the police? Is it a young driver issue, or is it an issue of refusing to cooperate with police?
I'm ok with calling a 27 year old a young person. Why, I'm 29 and I consider myself young. But I think they (whether the SMH or the police) are making a deliberate and unfair connection between this 27 year old case with other younger drivers, as young as teenager drivers. Why? Who knows, to increase the age limit for higher insurance premium? To double up the L-plater hours?

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Jesus is better

I've been using "Jesus is better" as part of my email signature for a while.
It's a reminder for myself than anything else, but here's a series of sermons by Don Carson that talks about Jesus being better than anything or anyone else.

Jesus is indeed better, and you must acknowledge it.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

A bible verse for yesterday

I might be sharing what has happened to me yesterday sometime later, but I the following was the bible verse that kept on ringing in my head yesterday.

What shall I render to the Lord
for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord,

- Psalm 116:12-13


God is good.

Even if you aren't a Charismatic...

Michael Patton describes Charismatic/Cessationist view. I think you should read this whether you are a Charismatic or not, as I see this issue of being a Charismatic or not is becoming a divisive issue among some of us.
A very important points need to be made. (If you don’t get this, don’t ever bother engaging in this conversation.) Whether one is a charismatic or a cessationist, all Christians believe in God’s supernatural intervention. Only a deist would claim that God has a “hand-off” approach to history and our lives. It is not that the cessationist does not believe in healings or miracles, it is that they don’t believe in the gifts of healing, miracles, etc. being given to a certain people. Both charismatics and cessationists (should) pray for God’s supernatural intervention, can believe in stories of healings, and can expect God to direct their lives through some sort of divine guidance. In other words, just because someone prayed for healing and believes it happended, this does not make one a charismatic (properly speaking).

However, there does seem to be a higher level of expectation for divine intervention among charismatics than from cessationists. I am not saying whether this is good or bad. Expectation of the power of God can both motivate a Christian’s life or be a cause for great disillusionment. More on that later.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Gospel remorse

“Legalistic remorse says, ‘I broke God’s rules,’ while real repentance says, ‘I broke God’s heart.’ Legalistic repentance takes sin to Mt. Sinai, gospel repentance to Mt. Calvary. Legalistic repentance is convicted by punishment, gospel repentance becomes convicted by mercy.”
-- Tim Keller, from Church Planting Manuals


I thought I'd simply re-iterate what was on the blog called "Of First Importance" today. Pause and think, pray and thank God.

(HT: Of First Importance)

Thursday, 27 November 2008

A gun I'd like to have

Oh, gosh, I confess that I am childish and nerdy.
I'd just love to get my hands on this thing.
Pity (or perhaps good) that they don't sell it in Australia (and they don't ship it outside the US, I think. Don't inform me if you know otherwise!).

A normal Christian life

An extremely challenging post about your career, no, your job, no, no, really it's about whole of your life as a Christian. And that as a "normal" Christian.

Tony Payne says:
Here's the test: someone who has denied themselves, who has taken up their cross and who wants to serve the gospel of Jesus makes their decisions in this order:

1. What's the best gospel work for me to be involved in?
2. Where do I need to live in order to share in that ministry?
3. What sort of job do I need to fund living in that place in order to do that ministry?

Let me be provocative and say that if you're making your decisions in the reverse order (i.e. 1. Which job? 2. Which house? 3. Which ministry?), then you haven't grasped the radical nature of the normal Christian life.

Read the whole thing, and I found the discussions that followed quite helpful too.

(Updated: Reformatted Tony Payne's quote)

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Sanctification

Just happened to stumble upon two blog posts talking about Christian sanctification.
One from Ray Ortlund over at Christ is deeper still.
Another from Dan Phillips from Pyromaniacs.
Both are short and brief, but offer much to think about.

Sons of Korah

Sons of Korah is a group of Christian musicians from Australia who puts tunes to the Psalms and sings them. I have to be honest and say that initially I was sceptical of their effort because I didn't like the idea of Christian music concerts (and I still don't quite get it). However, after listening to some of their CD's, I must say that they really do it well in singing Psalms. It will be difficult to sing along with them, but it sure will open up the Psalms to you by helping you meditate on the words of Psalms and getting the main message across. If you are like me, you would have found Psalms difficult to understand and meditate on. At times I found them too dramatic for me to relate to, and at other times I simply did not understand the meaning of the psalms. Sons of Korah helped me to overcome these in several Psalms, and Psalm 73 is one of them.

Interestingly, Psalm 73 has been my favourite Psalm for a while (among just a few Psalms that I thought I understood anyways), but it was only recent that, through listening to the Sons of Korah singing Psalm 73, I realised that I liked it for a wrong reason. You see, I liked the Psalm because in its beginning part, the psalmist shows his jealousy over other wicked, yet prospering people and brings his case against God. I really liked that part because I could totally relate to the psalmist. However, in their music, Sons of Korah only sings the later part of the Psalm where the Psalmist praises and claims the truth about God and His reality. I was initially disappointed about it, but as I kept on listening, I started understanding the real message of the Psalm, which is a joyful repentance before and towards God once he encounters God's majestic glory in the santuary.

Here's what Sons of Korah themselves had to say about the Psalm 73:
Psalm 73 represents possibly one of the most important spiritual breakthroughs portrayed in the psalms. The writer has an experience which is similar to that of Job and Habakkuk. If we can understand this movement, if we can grasp the point where the writer arrives by the last section of this psalm (which is the section we have recorded) in contrast to where he begins, then we have understood the essence of biblical spirituality.
...
But the most important thing [the Psalmist] had be senseless and ignorant to was this: He had not realised to any extent of what God had given him. He had expected to see God’s goodness manifest in such shallow materialistic ways and yet such things are incomparable with what he now sees before him. It seems that at this moment, as he waits in the presence of God, he sees what his portion in life really is. It is God.
...

Read the whole thing at their site (once at their site, click on STUDY section to see different Psalms explained), and I recommend you to buy their CD's and listen to them. It'll help you meditate on Psalms.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Protecting the weak and the helpless

... was shot and killed in front of her child by ...

Where do you think that line comes from? Or more pressingly, where and how do you think this happened? In an act of genocide? In a war, perhaps? If not, maybe in America where people own guns, or Europe with strange drug laws?

Sadly, this kind of things probably happen in the places I mentioned above, but it also happened in Australia this year.

By no means it is more terrible because it happened in a country where I live in than somewhere far removed from myself. But it hit me hard and grieved me, perhaps more than other times when I heard about these kind of things, because all seems well and fine in this country, at least around me most of the time.

I must pray for this country and the people who live in it. I must pray especially for the protection of the weak and the helpless. And with prayer, some actions...

Friday, 21 November 2008

As an elder, as a pastor, as a youth leader, as a bible study group leader, as a father, as a mother, as a husband, as a Christian leader...

Andrew Barray shares a snippet of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1662) that has to do with an ordained elder (presbyter). Yet, he says with a small modification, it applies to pretty much any Christian who is in a position of leadership/responsibility of others.

It is forceful as it should be (albeit the language may be a bit old). I thought it worth sharing the whole quote here.
Have always there printed in your remembrance, how great a treasure is committed to your charge. For they are the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood. The Church and Congregation whom you must serve, is his Spouse, and his Body.

And if it shall happen that the same Church, or any Member thereof, do take any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, ye know the greatness of the fault, and also the horrible punishment that will ensue. Wherefore consider with yourselves the end of the Ministry towards the children of God, towards the Spouse and Body of Christ; and see that ye never cease your labour, your care and diligence, until ye have done all that lieth in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among you, either for error in religion, or for viciousness in life.


May I strive harder for God's glory and the benefit of His people. God help me.

(HT: Gordon Cheng)

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Calvinism: keeping the tension in the bible

I've been thinking for a bit lately that the Arminian theology was a result of a rationalised approach to the Scriptures, and that is where it fails to be the most biblical understanding of God and us. Not that we are to give up our reasoning capacity all together, no way, but to give up the tension the bible maintains doesn't give us a better understanding of God, in fact, it does the opposite.

Micheal Patton over at the Parchment and Pen explains how Calvinism is not as rational as Arminianism, and he does it so well. It's worth reading.

A warning for us all from the book of Job

A short, yet excellent reflection on the book of Job from Andrew Barry.
The warning Andrew finds from the book may not be something you'd expected.

Be sure to read it.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Wordled sermon (from Exodus 28:29-30)

Wordled my latest sermon. The bible passage was from Exodus 28:29-30. It was difficult, and I felt unsatisfied with the content as well as how I delievered it, more so than other times.


May God be God in all I do and especially when I feel weak.

Engage your culture

There was an helpful post regarding how we ought to engage the culture over at Resurgence.
I found the fourth point particularly helpful and convicting.
4. Engage culture redemptively. Strive to connect your theological reflections regarding culture to redemption. We can redemptively engage culture in two ways: practically and positionally. To practically redeem, identify what is broken, what is in need of redemption, and take restorative action. Ask yourself questions like "How can I bring the gospel to bear on this issue?" or "How can I restore, forgive, or reconcile in this situation?" For example, if you come to the conviction that abortion is ugly and immoral, think about how you can help those who are suffering from the devastating affects of abortion. Don't just debate others. Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. Learn how to counsel mothers. Don't become self-righteous and inactive; practice your cultural convictions. Live them out redemptively.

Our practice should flow from our position in Christ. Our actions ought to reveal our redeemed identity, not form our identity. Consider the danger of mistaking your newly-formed habits for who you are. For instance, do you think of yourself now as an environmentalist or as a citizen of Zion with an environmental conscience? Do you draw significance from being a "pro-lifer" or from being new creation in Christ Jesus? Ask yourself, "Am I confusing my practice with my position?" or "Am I finding my significance in what I do instead of who I am in Christ?" Guard yourself from subtly allowing cultural convictions to take the place of your identity in Christ. Ground your identity in the gospel and your practice will be more redemptive and more honoring to the Lord.


Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Book Review: I'm ok - you're not

I didn't quite like this book I just finished reading, "I'm ok - you're not" by John Shore.
The book is entertaining enough, the author being a humorist. However, John Shore doesn't seem to encourage a biblical world-view, instead, the author seems to encourage readers to approach people with the human centred world-view.

When the bible is clear on the fact that the world will hate us, Christians, is it too surprising that the unbelievers blame us for our enthusiasm for evangelism? Is it too much of an offence to see non-believers as lost and under the terrible judgement that is to come? Is it that surprising, and must we accuse ourselves, that we engage with the lost with the gospel seeking to seize every opportunity, feeling the great urgency and burden for we have compassion on them?

I can empathise with John in some ways, especially when he says that so many of non-believers have experienced Christians approaching them with no regards to their circumstance, no respect for their dignity, no sensitivity to their problems and struggles. Christians must own that up. We are to engage those unbelievers around us with much respect, for what love is without respect?

But to be pressured so much by what the unbelievers are feeling, and trying to be as natural and smooth as possible in the presentation of the gospel, by not saying a word until they first ask and initiate, for example, I fear that John failed to grasp the hard-cold truth of the offence of the gospel. The gospel is foolishness and stumbling block to a natural man.

I can appreciate John's attempt to reach the lost in a "better" way, that is less offensive and more loving. The point about many Christians approach the unbelievers with an attitude that comes across as condemnation and arrogance is probably mostly valid for many of us. That grieves me too.
But I am strongly against the idea that we ought to simply love them without speaking of the gospel message, until they ask us first. I am strongly against the idea we simply wait till they take the initiatives. I am not saying that we should always, every time we talk to an unbeliever, we must say something about Jesus and present the gospel. What I am saying is that we should be looking to seize every opportunity, if we truly loved them.
I am also strongly against the assumptions John seemed to hold in writing of this book, namely, if we are nicer to people, if we really "love" the unbelievers, they will have a better chance of being interested in the gospel, and even become Christians themselves.
No, when we shut our mouths and be nicer, and show no urgency at all, they may well hear us out and see what we believe, but I don't see how that could be a presentation of the message that convicts sins and calls the dead to repentance. To me, such an idea is abhorrent, for it seems to strip the power of the gospel.

In the end, it is God's doing, as John concurs in the book, that a non-believer is converted. However, we are to learn God's heart and take after it, that is compassionate towards the lost, and work at presenting the gospel, first and foremost by words, AND of course, following up what we preach with our actions, not the other way around.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Reformed Pastor

Wow.
In that way, [Richard Baxter] sought to meet with all 800 families of the parish each year. Significantly, this is not just the families in church on a Sunday, but the families of the whole town.

I was amazed at his diligence and pastoral, evangelistic heart and zeal.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Grace, lust, and legalism

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
- Titus 2:11-14


From this passage, Gordon (and his friend, Mike) links grace with our struggle against lust.

[Update: added the link to Gordon's post. I forgot about that before.]

Will evil prevail?

That was the title of this presentation at TED.

As I mentioned earlier, most, if not all of the great presentations at TED are sadly, godless, humanistic talks.

Still, if you are a Christian, it may be worth watching this presentation as a reminder for the complexity and the urgency of dealing with the evil in this world.
I want to remind you, however, that you shouldn't let this kind of ideas, great and inspiring as they are, to dominate your thinking. Phillip Jensen once said, "you shouldn't interpret the bible with your understanding of the world around you, but you ought to interpret the world through your understanding of the bible." Let the Word of God be the guide, yard-stick, the discernment giving source in your engagement with the world and people.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Zealous for God who is jealous

In discussing jealousy of God and how that makes us to be zealous for God, J. I Packer writes about Phinehas:
When Israel had provoked God to anger by idolatry and prostitution, and Moses had sentenced the offenders to death, and the people were in tears, and a man chose that moment to swagger up with a Midianite party-girl on his arm, and Phinehas, almost beside himself with despair, speared them both, God commended Phinehas as having been 'jealous for his God', 'jealous with my jealousy ... so that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy' (Num. 25:11, 13, RV)
- p. 197, from Knowing God by J. I. Packer

Phinehas, definitely an inspiring figure I find in the bible.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Scripture at church

John MaClean writes:
The last generation has seen an encouraging resurgence of textual-expository preaching and an enthusiasm for small group Bible study. But we’ve lost something as well! We fret that people don’t read their Bible’s, but we don’t read them much when we get together, so people are simply following the example of church!

It gave me something to ponder on this morning.

Read the whole thing at the PTC blog.

God being gracious to all

Again, from the book, Knowing God by J. I. Packer:
God is 'abundant in oodness' - ultro bonus, as Latin-speaking theologians long ago used to put it, spontaneously good, overflowing with generosity. Theologians of the Reformed school use the New Testament word 'grace' (free favour) to cover every act of divine generosity, of whatever kind, and hence distinguish between the 'common grace' of 'creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life', and the 'special grace' manifested in teh economy of salvation - the point of the contrast between 'common' and 'special' being that all benefit from the former, but not all are touched by the latter. The biblical way of putting this distinction would be to say that God is good to all in some ways and to some in all ways.
- p. 184, from Knowing God by J. I. Packer

I don't know how more succinctly express the biblical truth of God's sovereign grace than this. I don't know how some may feel about that last sentence, "...that God is good to all in some ways and to some in all ways", but I found it amazingly comforting.

Monday, 10 November 2008

When God seems to be attributed in the bible with an unworthy description

In discussing the wrath of God, J. I. Packer writes:
To some, for instance, 'wrath' suggests a loss of self-control, an outburst of 'seeing red' which is partly, if not wholly irrational. To others, it suggests the rage of conscious impotence, or wounded pride, or plain bad temper. Surely, it is said, it would be wrong to ascribe to God such attitudes as these?
The reply is: indeed it would, but the Bible does not ask us to do this. There seems to be here a misunderstanding of the 'anthropomorphic' language of Scripture - that is, the biblical habit of describing God's attitudes and affections in terms ordinarily used for talking about human beings. The basis of this habit is the fact that God made us in his own image, so that human persoanlity and character are more like the being of God than anything else we know. But when Scripture speaks of God anthropomorphically, it does not imply that the limitations and imperfections which belong to the persoanl characteristics of us sinful creatures belong also to the corresponding qualities in our holy Creator; rather, it takes for granted that they do not.
- p.169-170, from Knowing God by J. I. Packer

The main point of the chapter was the solemn reality and the meaning of the wrath of God and how we ought to respond to Him accordingly.
But I found the above paragraph particularly helpful. It showed me how to deal with some of the descriptions of God found in the bible. I think it would help you as well as you read and try to figure out what some attributes of God is meant to really mean.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Preaching

I've preached in a church gathering four times so far, and it feels as though it is getting more and more difficult every time.
I am preparing for another sermon next Sunday for the High School Ministry at our church, and I feel so inadequate, not just under-prepared.

I take preaching as a tremendous privilege, yet, it seems I am not quite ready for it.
Lack of courage?
Lack of knowledge?
Lack of integrity/self-discipline?

Pray for me this week, as I will continue preparing for the delivery of the sermon.

Friday, 7 November 2008

What am I doing......



(HT: Dave Miers)

Self-control and eating

A good, honest words from Jean at "in all honesty" about self-control and eating.
Self-control in eating has always been an issue for me. I'm naturally a perfectionist, and I like to be in control, but my body takes revenge on my mind, so I'm also impulsive: I find it easy to spend too much, read too much, and eat too much.

I've put on some extra weight recently, and I think it does have something to do with my self-control (or rather, lack of it).

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Congrats, Obama! Now, get your act together.

Barack Obama has been elected as the next president of the USA.
Congrats, Obama!

He is a black American (although his mum was actually a white woman).
While slightly nervous about how some racial extremists (both white and black) in the US and around the world would react, it is very exciting to see a black man taking the leadership of the USA.

On the other hand, however, he has a very bad record in relation to abortion laws.
He is one strong proponent of Pro-choice.
I hope he will realise what a great atrocity it is to support abortion with his political authority, and change his position on the issue of abortion.

Monday, 3 November 2008

James Fong Update - 03-Nov-2008

James Fong and his family have returned from their trip from NZ. As usual, while he was in NZ, he scared off three men out of a hot spring by simply invoking the name of God, and on another occasion, talked to an Irish Catholic priest about the assurance of salvation which comes from Christ alone.

Read the whole thing, and say hello if you know him.

Mysterious God

God is mysterious. Of course He is to us, mere creatures!
But if a Christian friend told me that, I will probably pause and ask a few questions to clarify what he meant. I'm cautious and a little nervous when I say it or hear it.

Tony Payne explains this with an example by starting with the following paragraphs:
It's important to say that God is a mystery, as I suggested in my last post, but I can understand why many evangelicals might be a bit nervous about saying it. I'm a bit nervous myself.

The problem lies not in the truth of the assertion, which I think is unarguable, but in the use to which it is put. You see, if we accept that we may know certain things about God clearly and truly, and also that other things about God remain uncertain or a mystery (because they are not revealed to us), the obvious question becomes, “Well, which things do we know truly, and which things uncertainly or not at all?” And what if there is only an extremely small number of things we know truly and a great many things that we should be agnostic about?

I found it very succinct and helpful.

Go over there and read it.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Reformation Day

Just before today is over, let me share a quote from Martin Luther, one of the leading figures, if not THE figure of the 16th century reformation.
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved. To be steady on all fronts besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
- Martin Luther

I like that manly voice of Luther.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The pattern for Christian living

[...] there's always something that has to be left behind if you're going to embrace God's vocation for you. One rather portentous but nonetheless very profound way of expressing this is to say the Christian life according to the New Testament is to be lived according to the baptismal pattern, which means that experiences of renunciation even to death (or what feels like death) constantly precede experiences of resurrection in which you're made rich again. But the resurrection doesn't come until after the death. And it's round the circle of that pattern for each of us over and over again: death followed by resurrection is the recurring sequence. This is part of the Lord's discipline for our personal living, just as it's part of the pattern of the Lord's work in the church and in the world.
- p.170, Never Beyond Hope by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom


I just finished reading this book, Never Beyond Hope. I didn't do the study guides, though. It's probably worth going through this book again sometime in the future, perhaps with some other people. Then, I may do the study guide at the end of each chapter.

You can get this book at Koorong or from Amazon.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

True evangelism and why we need evangelism within our churches now

Another video.
This one is a bit long, just over one hour, but it is worth listening to.


God forbid I stop preaching the gospel, so help me God.

(HT: Reformation Theology)

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Where the hell is Matt?

I've watched this video before, and I really liked it since the first time I watched it. I watch it when my heart feels cold or sad time to time.

Watch the video.


Every time I watch it, it makes me look forward to the day when, from every nation and tongue, we will all together sing and dance with complete joy and happiness. Not celebrating humanity as in this video, but celebrating Christ.
Oh, how I long for that Day.

What do you feel from watching this video?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Monday, 20 October 2008

What I'm up to

While it is highly unlikely that anyone would be wondering why I am not updating this space, I thought I should leave a short note here, so to counter any anxious waitings from anyone.

For the next few weeks, my postings here will be sporatic, due to, but not limited to,
1) Sermon preparation: it's going to take up most of my after-work time, or at least it should be. Oh, and please pray for me.
2) Reading: I have been laying-off some books that I should've read a while ago. They include Getting the Gospel Right, The Religious Affections, Never Beyond Hope, etc.
3) Finish watching the dvd, Battling Unbelief. This is excellent. I highly recommend this to everyone.

and some more.

I hope to be able to blog again sometime soon.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Book Review: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

The author, Tim Challies, is a popular Christian blogger. He is gifted in writing, and his theology is well-informed and reformed. He tackles the topic of spiritual discernment systematically, and I found it helpful. It also shows that his wide reading, which helps the content of the book interesting and engaging.

Strangely enough, however, the last chapter, where the author delves into very practical steps of spiritual discernment, was the biggest dissappointment. I wouldn't say that I didn't learn anything from that chapter, I think there were some helpful things to learn from his steps/list to discernment. But having a list of steps, in a particular order, felt too rigid and pragmatic for me to digest. Tim Challies himself acknowledges that the steps will come more naturally as you grow in discernment, and the order will not be always kept the same. I think it is to be taken as a helpful starting point as you learn to discipline your own way of thinking, but not as a rule to be followed all the time. I think that's what the author intended anyway.

All in all, it was an easy to read, helpful, and persuasive book, in which a Christian brother calls for spiritual discernment with love and conviction. I would recommend this book to young and mature Christians.

[You can buy this book from Koorong or Amazon among many places.]

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

A Grief Observed: the supremacy of God in grief

Ok, one more quote from the book, A Grief Observed
The notes have been about myself, and about H., and about God. In that order. The order and the proportions exactly what they ought not to have been. And I see that I have nowhere fallen into that mode of thinking about either which we call praising them. Yet that would have been best for me. Praise is the mode of love which always has some element of joy in it. Praise in due order; of Him as the giver, of her as the gift. Don't we in praise somehow enjoy what we praise, however far we are from it? I must do more of this. I have lost the fruition I once had of H. And I am far, far away in the valley of my unlikeness, from the fruition which, if His mercies are infinite, I may some time have of God. But by praising I can still, in some degree, enjoy her, and already, in some degree, enjoy Him. Better than nothing.
- p. 62-63 A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis


I am hearing the hallmark of Christians, namely, other-centredness. And even more so I smell Piper in this text of Lewis in saying that we enjoy what we praise. Interesting.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

A Grief Observed: grief feels like suspense

I think I am beginning to understand why grief feels like suspense. It comes from the frustration of so many impulses that had become habitual. Thought after thought, feeling after feeling, action after action, had H. for their object. Now their target is gone. I keep on through habit fitting an arrow to the string, then I remember and have to lay the bow down. So many roads lead thought to H. I set out on one of them. But not there's an impassable frontierpost across it. So many roads once; now so many culs de sac.
- p. 47 A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

Monday, 13 October 2008

Faith or gratitude

I just watched the fourth session of Battling Unbelief. It may be a little hard to understand at the beginning, but it is an absolute gold. Buy it or borrow it. Watch it, learn from it, and repent and trust in God's never-ending grace.

What did I learn?

Simply put, faith and gratitude, both are indispensible in the life of a Christian. However, it is faith, not gratitude that produces good works. (Watch the dvd to understand the full meaning of this sentence!)

I have spoken out of ignorance just a few days ago, that we do good works as Christians because we are thankful to God, in a conversation with a muslim work colleague. Given the context of the whole conversation, that was not a completely wrong answer I believe, but Oh, how I regret that moment, and I wish I had made a better, more accurate, more convincing answer to him.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

29 years

God, in His mysterious grace, saw fit to bring this sinner into the world 29 years ago today, rather than not suffering my offences against Him from the start. 29 years of stumbling and offending God, while being carried by His grace, safely and sound all along. 29 years of mixed motives and impure desires. 29 years of God overcoming my resistance.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
- Psalm 73:23-24


Thank you God, empty handed, in filthy rags, I come to You. Receive me, wash me, and clothe me.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

A Grief Observed: love and idolatry

C. S. Lewis says:
"I must think more about H. and less about myself.
Yes, that sounds very well. But there's a snag. I am thinking about her nearly always. Thinking of the H. facts - real words, looks, laughs, and actions of hers. But it is my own mind that selects and groups them. Already, less than a month after her death, I can feel the slow, insidious beginning of a process that will make the H. I think of into a more and more imaginary woman. Founded on facts, no doubt. I shall put in nothing fictitious (or I hope I shan't). But won't the composition inevitably become more and more my own? The reality is no longer there to check me, to pull me up short, as the real H. so often did, so unexpectedly, by being so thoroughly herself and not me."
- p. 18 C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed


Again,
"Images of the Holy easily become holy images - sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are 'offended' by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not. But the same thing happens in our private prayers.
All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness. That is, in her foursquare and independent reality. And this, not any image or memory, is what we are to love still, after she is dead. [...] Not my idea of God, but God. Not my idea of H., but H. Yes, and also not my idea of my neighbour, but my neighbour."
- p 66-67 C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed


Lewis shows something very insightful about idolatry and love. If you are to love someone you must love her as she really is, not someone whom you wish to love. If you are to love God, you must love God as He really is, not a god you wish to love. In the case of loving another human being, if you fail to see, know, and love her as she really is, you are only going to judge her against your imagining of her, and you will only deeply hurt her. When it is a case for God, it becomes idolatry. And God will not tolerate that for long.

This is another reason why we must keep reading the Bible, which is God's own revelation to us, not human imagination or wishful thinking about God.

Lewis says,
I need Christ, not something that resembles Him. I want H., not something that is like her.
- p 65 C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed


We must acknowledge and love God as He truly is. And we must acknowledge and love other people as they truly are.

(Oh, and as a trailing thought, given that we must acknowledge and love God as He truly is, and we must do the same for other people, do you see why God is more satisfying than anything or anyone else in the whole universe and beyond? Just take some time to ponder on that.)

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Communication by words

BBC reports that Ammon Shea from New York likes reading dictionaries. Yes, dictionaries. His interest may surprise you, but what he says about communication and words is gold.

"I'm not against big words per se or fancy or obscure words, obviously I love them, but I'm opposed to using them for their own sake," [Mr. Shae] says.
"If words are to form a communication, you use them as a tool to communicate to people and it's pointless to intentionally use a word that no-one else knows."


Christians who want to bring the gospel to others should remember that whomever you are speaking to. If you are talking to a friend at work, why don't you try using languages they use to present the biblical truths and the gospel to them, instead of the religious, church-like terms that are so foreign to them, or have become too much of a cliche to them that the meanings are lost to them? Hard? If you know the gospel really well, you will soon get better and become much more effective in presenting the gospel. If you don't know the gospel well, if you vaguely know it, or if you only memorised it in point forms, you won't do well in this, but at least you will discover that you don't know the gospel well. You can work on that. If you know the gospel well, you will do fine after a few times of practice, I think, to that particular person with his particular language and cultural background.

A question spinning off from this is, what does it mean to know the gospel well?
I'll leave it for you to think about it for now, but I'll post about it sometime soon.

A word I hate: cute

[English is not my first language, nor is the Australian culture my native one, so this post is to be taken with a grain of salt.]

How do people use the word, cute?

I don't see an inherently bad meaning within the word, but when I hear the word used around me, it's often used inappropriately I think. I think when people use the word, cute, to describe someone, it carries a sense of superiority over the person you are describing, and I find that disturbing. I mean, for example, why would you describe an elderly couple walking along together, crossing the arms, or holding hands, cute? No, no, you don't say that! That's not cute. You don't say that's cute. You say that is beautiful! When you see a long-lasting relationship like that, you ought to say beautiful, not cute. Or, why would you describe a young boy trying to grow up and acting adult-ish and say, cute? Cute? That's so feminising and condescending to be attributed at a man, however young (or old) he is! Now I come to think of it, it is often the girls who use the word, cute, to describe people, and girls, as far as know, don't really like to be called cute. They know there are better words they want for themselves like pretty, beautiful, attractive, lovely, enchanting, sweet, etc, but not cute! Sure, guys use the word cute too, and there are times when it is used without any subtle or the almost-subconscious attitude of superiority, but it is rare.

I think the word, cute, is often used by women who want to be in a higher, or more authoritative position than men. How often do we hear on TV where women describe a man cute when they find him attractive and have a lustful desire for him? And those women are often very dominating in their character and in their relationships. Some may think I am drawing a conclusion too quickly too harshly, but I really think this common and disrespectful use of the word, cute, is a reflection of the society which is deeply affected by feminism, and full of manlike women and full of feminised men.

It could be just me, but think about it when you hear or say the word, cute, the next time.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Tangled mind

It feels a little harder to write these days. There are a few topics that I want to write about, but before it gets past a paragraph, thoughts get jumbled up in my head. I keep on deleting the last sentence I wrote, and then re-write in a slightly different way. Then I move around the sentences and become totally unhappy about how the ideas are laid out and expanded in the paragraph (or not). Even writing this short paragraph was a struggle.

Clear mind, I ask, God, to wonder at your marvellous works. May my mind be at peace, despite the things and people trying to stir up my old dirt.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Book Review: A Grief Observed

I was hearing some alarm bells ringing when I first started reading the book, A Grief Observed. The foreword and introduction to this short book sounded as if C. S. Lewis gave up his belief in God through his time of grief. Even as I was reading the first chapter of the four, I was feeling uneasy when Lewis seemed to give up his hope of heaven, and makes much out of death. But I believe Lewis was simply being honest, honest about how he felt. As the book progressed, this seemingly un-Christian confession was elaborated and in the last chapter of the book, his faith and hope in God was restored, or rather, more at the front of his confession, since I do not think Lewis had lost his faith at any point in the earlier chapters.

Regarding the real content of the book, or what I learned through it, I don't know how to put it. I am not sure if I learned a great deal about grief, since this book is a very personal memoir than a book that was intended to teach you about grief and how to deal with it. And I cannot say that I enjoyed the book either, for there in the book, I found a soul, a Christian brother, agonising over his wife's death. I will not say it was a bad book, or not worth while reading, I just find it hard to describe the book and my experience of reading it, because the book is utterly honest.

I think it would be helpful for anyone who wants to minister to others, and all Christians ought to do so. Although I said this book isn't intended to teach you about grief, hearing from such an articulate and honest Christian brother how he felt as he went through a dark and painful time surely helps when one of your friends is in a similar situation. Or even for yourself as well.
Additionally, while he does not develop his ideas fully in this book, his insights about other issues in Christian living in general also seep through. I will post up some quotes from the book which I think show such insights in coming days.

Now, although I said this book would be helpful for any Christian, it is not a must, nor is suitable for everyone in all different stages in their Christian walk. So, while I would recommend this book to Christians, I think you will want to take time in reading it, and ask God for wisdom how you take in what is in this book.

Friday, 3 October 2008

James Fong Update - 3-Oct-2008

James Fong's heart condition continues to improve, although his heart is still very weak compared to an average person.
Read about how he has been walking with God in recent days and pray for him.

[Update 13-oct-2008: a typo fixed, thanks, Sharon.]

The Religious Affections - 7: the twelve unreliable signs - a summary

So, I've finished the Part II of the book, The Religious Affections.
As much as I would like to give you more comprehensive details about all these, I think my attempt will only diminish the insight Edwards had in writing. So I encourage you to read the book yourself. It isn't as hard as you might expect.

That said, I'll put the twelve unreliable signs found in the Part II of the book in my own words, in hope that it will give you an introductory insight into these matters.
First thing first though, you will have to read the book to understand what Edwards means by "the religious affections", but let me simply use a different, common phrase, "Love for God" to keep it simple. This phrase, "Love for God" carries so much misunderstandings these days and I suspect for many of us that it conjures up only an incomplete picture. I hope you will meditate deeply on what that "Love for God" really means biblically. Perhaps I will post up what I have found so far some time, but at this point, let me simply say that this love for God must be both emotion and actions. Some neglect one or the other and distorts the meaning of love, keep guard against such teachings.

So, these are unreliable signs, that is to say, that we cannot draw any conclusions about a person's spiritual state, whether he is truly saved, or not, whether their new-found zeal and hope, joy, or any other good qualities are in fact rooted in true grace from God.
1) The fact that a person has a very strong love for God is no reliable sign.
2) The fact that the love for God is making great physical effects on the person is no reliable sign.
3) The fact that the person can articulate their experience of love for God precisely and with zeal is no reliable sign.
4) The fact that we didn't try to and/or make ourselves to love God is no reliable sign.
5) The fact that these love for God is accompanied by the bible passages popping up in your head is no reliable sign.
6) The fact that the person seems to show love for others is no reliable sign.
7) The fact that love for God shows up in many different ways is no reliable sign.
8) The fact that there was a specific sequence of emotions that came to the person which ended up in joy is no reliable sign.
9) The fact that a person gives much time with much zeal in church/ministry activities is no reliable sign.
10) That the person loves to sing His praises and worship God is no reliable sign.
11) That the person is very confident and sure of his love for God and of his salvation is no reliable sign.
12) That the person has an amazing or heart-warming testimony is no reliable sign.

I hope this list got you interested in what Edwards is saying in his book. Oh, and I hope you are not under a wrong impression that all these signs mean your love for God is not genuine. The items on this list are UNRELIABLE signs, which means that if your love for God is genuine and true, you might have these signs/symptoms. It is just that we cannot draw any conclusions from these signs whether your love for God is true or not.

Ok, guys, you would do well to follow this up.

Mark Driscoll is writing a book about porns and masturbation, "Porn Again Christian." The first chapter just became available, you can read it here.
From the book:
And, we must refuse to speak in sanitized clinical euphemisms like calling adulteries “affairs,” fornication “dating,” and perverts “partners” because God uses frank words for deplorable sin so we will feel its sickness without anesthesia.


NOTE: Mark is writing this book specifically for guys only, and as it may contain some materials that may stumble sisters, he recommends that sisters to refrain from reading this book.

[Update: Steve let me know that this book is specifically targeted for guys, and asked that, unless in a special circumstance, only brothers to read this book. I've updated this post accordingly. - 3-Oct-2008 3:15 PM]

Back from the camp

Came back from the High School Ministry camp yesterday. As it is often the case in my experience, it was tiring, yet good time spent together.

Thank you Dave for preaching God and His gospel with such accuracy and love.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Church Camp

I'll be away on a church camp till Thursday.
It's been very busy preparing for it, and also with work commitment lately, hence, sparse posts.
I hope to get back to it from this coming weekend.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
-- Psalm 73:23-24


By Him, into glory. O, joy! All credit and gratitude to Him!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

God still speaks, even if you don't understand the ancient culture

Gordon says:
A current pet peeve of mine is people who want to insist that we be culturally savvy in our understanding of our own culture and the culture of the Bible, and that this needs to happen before we can really get the message from the text. It seems to me a subtle attempt to deaden and dull the immediacy of God's living word.


I haven't looked at the issue of cultural understanding of the biblical times and our time in this way, and I think it's worth pondering about.

Book (p)review: A Grief Observed

I'm reading "A Grief Observed" by C. S. Lewis.
It's a short book, only 76 pages in total and that with generous spacing on each page.
Because I haven't got much time for reading lately, I chose this book, so I can get through it without too much delay.
I'll probably give a longer review on the book sometime later, but all I can say, or need to say about the book at the moment is that in this book, C. S. Lewis is brutally honest. He articulates his wandering thoughts and grieving love for his wife in very much detail, that I am discovering a Lewis that I never knew before.

You can get this book from Amazon.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The most spectacular sin and God's sovereign grace

I haven't been listening to John Piper's sermons for a while, but when I listened to his sermon yesterday, it was very refreshing and greatly encouraging.
I thank God for him and his ministries.
Here's the sermon I listened to yesterday.
I recommend it.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Reality Check: Hell, the eternal torment

Many people don't like hearing about hell. Few people talk about hell nowadays.
But let's do some reality check here.

As with any time when you consider the reality, what you want to think or want to believe is not what is important. The truth matters, the reality matters.

So, if indeed as some suppose, hell does not exist, or the biblical description of hell is not real, or put another way, the people who reject Jesus does not end up in hell, then sure, why would you have to live for Jesus?
But, if hell is real, and all who reject Jesus will be condemned to hell, and there will be eternal punishment for them, then you ought to come and reconcile with Jesus. You may not have thought about this issue much before, or ignored it purposely for a while, but I challenge you to think about it, before it's too late. If hell is indeed real, then it doesn't matter what you think, you will end up there unless you turn, put your trust in Jesus and follow Him.

What really matters is the reality of hell. Whether you think you will end up there (or not) isn't much of an issue, what really matters is whether you will end up there or not. What you think, or wish to believe has no significance in the face of reality. Reality matters.

So, do you believe in hell? Don't you think this issue is significant enough for you to pause what you were doing and investigate further into what the Bible says?

James Fong Update - 17-Sep-2008

James has recovered a lot, although he is still very sick compared to someone with a normal, healthy heart.
Let's continue to pray for him and his family as they seek God's guidance in how they should serve Him and what capacity.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Rest


I am not over-worked, or overly tired.
Physically anyways.
Yet, I have been struggling to find joy.
For some reason, the joy I had a couple of weeks ago totally disappeared.
My heart is restless, I am easily agitated, annoyed, and frustrated.

I'm fighting for joy.
Joy that comes from beholding my risen, victorious, glorious Lord.
I'm battling for peace.
Peace that springs from knowing the good God who is sovereign over all things.
I am finding it difficult to keep myself focused and be at rest.
My vision is so clouded that I lose the sight of the hope that is laid in heaven.

Remember me in your prayers.

(image credit: Simon Koopmann)

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Religious Affections - ?: Apologies

I was reading The Religious Affections with Tim Challies and other blogging friends few weeks ago, but I have not been able to get back to that book for a month.
Although I don't think there were many people who were following my comments and thoughts on the book, I still see some clicks on my previous posts on The Religious Affections, probably due to the fame of Tim Challies' blog. For those people who might have been expecting my comments on the book, I offer my apologies. I failed to keep my words.
I hope to pick up the book again from this week, and continue on at my own pace.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Reality Check: Jesus, the Eternal King

Think for a moment.
If indeed Jesus is the eternal victorious King of the universe as the Bible tells us, then there's really only one of the two choices for all of us.
Either you surrender to Him and live under His rule happily, OR you rebel against Him and be crushed by Him.
There's no middle ground.
You are either in His Kingdom, or Satan's Kingdom.
You are either His joyful servant, or His miserable enemy.
Ultimately, as a friend of mine wisely pointed out, there's only one way to live, and the other way is to die.

Now, there would be plenty of people who don't think this is a serious issue they need to face, because they do not believe Jesus is King.
Here's the problem for those of you in this camp. Whether you believe Jesus is the King or not, does not affect the reality of Him being the King (or not). What really matters is whether Jesus really is the King or not.
To say that whatever you believe is the reality for you is as foolish as saying that Gandhi didn't exist in history because I don't believe that He existed.
So, what you want to do, or rather, need to, is to investigate thoroughly whether this Man who claimed to be God was telling the truth.

Listen to Keller's talk if you find God too hard to believe.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The Reason for God: Tim Keller's talk at Google

I can't say I've heard many apologetic talks before, but among those few talks and debates I've heard so far, this is the best.
This video is a little long, just over one hour, so get yourself a drink and get into the mood for intelligent, serious, yet fun (that is, not boring) mental engagement.
It's my pleasure to introduce Tim Keller, who is the pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and the author of The Reason for God.
Watch his talk at Google.

You can get his book, the Reason for God at Koorong or Amazon.
(HT: The Resurgence)

About joy

Here's a great, spot-on post about Christian joy from Jean in all honesty.
One that I recently realised and continue to learn about Christian joy was on the list, no. 3.
3. True joy is joy in God and his glory.
When I was a teenager, my Christian friend and I used to compare our "experiences" of God when we prayed. Until one day I realised it wasn't an experience of joy I was seeking: it was God himself. In one sense, we don't seek joy at all. We seek Jesus, and in him we find our highest joy, for he is the desire and delight of all believers. We gladly become nothing, that he may be all in all.


Be sure to read the whole thing. It'll do good to your soul.

Friday, 5 September 2008

No fan-fair

There are some preachers, theologians, pastors whom I appreciate very much for their faithful and effective ministry. There are some that I love very dearly.
But I am against making too much deal out of them for two reasons.
One is because I fear to rob God of His glory by making much fuss about His servants.
The other is because I love those faithful Gospel ministers and I do not want them to be brought down, even be destroyed by my idolisation of them.

Read this post by Carl Trueman and be careful how you love your favourite preacher.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Mark Driscoll talks about us

Gordon helpfully posted the summary notes of Mark's talk.
Three things that caught my eyes:

1) One generation preaches, next generation assumes, third generation denies.
4 horsemen of the evangelical apocalypse = Jim Packer, John Stott, Billy Graham, Francis Schaeffer. They preached the message of the gospel with great effect.
Next generation after these men assumes this and has its basic message not the gospel (which is assumed) but rather “you can have your best life now.”
Now, there is a whole generation who deny. Sin, Jesus, hell, preaching, penal substitionary atonement. They are only doing contextualization.
We should be Seeker-sensible, not seeker-sensitive. Our doctrine is not flexible, our methods are. You need to explain what you are talking about, and assume nothing.

I think I'm in a complete agreement with him here. We must preach the gospel all the time, never assume that the hearers heard the gospel message enough and need to move on to some other topic. We need sermons that touch on various topics, but they must connect the topics to the gospel and the hearers brought back to and grounded firmly on the gospel.

2) Point 18. Movements have become institutions and museums. A movement is where God does what he always does, only more so. Greater sense of urgency. Puritans. Methodists. Charismatics. Not all movements are good. Every movement has its strengths and weaknesses. Young people are the key. I’m an old guy, but around here I’m a young guy. The puritans were roundly criticized for just being children. Jonathon Edwards, 19 years old. D.L. Moody was 21. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was 19. Billy Graham was 19. Statistically it takes 25 years or more to build a megachurch. If you don’t even give the leader the keys until he’s 40, he’ll run out of gas before he gets there.

I think we really need to think differently about our youth. Young men and women can be mature and strong in the Lord. We often dismiss even the possibility of them being so and enforce their immaturity.

3) It is suicide for a single man to plant a church. In the US, I can’t remember a single case where they haven’t fornicated and gotten fired. Single people, like Jesus and Paul, should be in high-risk of death ministry.

Funny, yet, I think it's probably wise to listen to his opinion here.

God and His Son

Question:
Is it legitimate for Christians to say, "God asked His Son to die for us?"

God sent His Son to die for sins of the world, His Son obeyed, voluntarily.
But it feels a bit iffy to say God "asked" Jesus.
What do you think?

Gospel Connection: Worship

What is worship?
A friend of mine posed this question some time ago in a cell group meeting.
It was hard for me to define what worship was. I could think of many different ways to worship but I couldn't finish the sentence, "Worship is..."
I think it was the same with most of us who were there. Many of us knew worship descriptively, that is, we knew when we were worshipping. We know we are worshipping when we live under God's rule in Christ, we know we are worshipping when we sing songs to Him out of the joy He gives us, we know we are worshipping when we praying an honest prayer of adoration that He only deserves, and so on.

After that night of cell meeting, I thought about the nature of worship a bit more and especially in connection with the gospel. Here are two of my findings.

1) One must know and believe the gospel before he can worship God.
Why? Because without knowing Jesus and belonging to Him, one can never worship God in a way that God will accept. All that come from ourselves when we are not yet Christians are nothing but a filthy and stinking garbage heap, offensive to God. In addition, even if we could offer a pure worthip to God, we wouldn't have offered to Him, until we were awakened by the Spirit of God, who enables us to see the glory of Christ.
Hence, unless one hears and comes to know Jesus, and throws himself to the Judge who can forgive him, and indeed be transformed to love Him from the heart, he can never worship God.

2) Conversely, the fact that one can worship God is the gospel.
Men and women are created in image of God, created to be in fellowship with the Triune God. And our joy and pleasure were to flow out from beholding the beauty, majesty, and glory of the Creator who so amazingly befriends us. Worshipping God is the fulfillment of the highest human aspiration which completes our deepest yearning for joy. Yet, since Adam sinned and since we all sin, we cannot and will not worship this God, nor He will accept our pseudo-worship, for He is holy. This is bad news for us. None of us were to experience the greatest joy that we were made for.
But, God, rich in mercy, gave Himself to us in His Son, Jesus Christ, so we may worship Him again. That is the good news. If you sang a song to God out of overflowing joy of seeing Jesus in faith, if you offered up service to our Servant King out of sheer thankfulness, if any of these were accepted by God today, it was only by God's grace, only through Jesus. This is the good news, Evangel, gospel for us.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Gospel Connection: Intro

I am going to think through some issues or topics in view of and in connection with the Gospel. This series will be called "Gospel Connection". I hope this exercise will not only help myself to seriously think about why we do what we do, and why some theological issues are more divisive yet right to be so, and some are not worth dividing over. I also hope that this will engage, help, and encourage the readers to think critically about some of the important issues in a gospel centred way.

I also hope that as I consider various topics in this way, you and I will be able to sharpen our focus on the gospel rather than focusing on other issues more than the gospel itself, as it seems to happen with some around me.
As an effort to keep ourselves grounded, centred around, and focused at the gospel, I will also post the gospel message time to time, using various methods.

First up, here's one, concise, yet accurate gospel message, straight from the Book.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
- 1 Cor 15:3-4 (ESV)


One warning and one disclaimer.
Warning: In this series, I hope to express my thoughts and convictions in a most honest way as this online space allows, which may expose you to controversial topics and/or make you uncomfortable.
Disclaimer: In many of the posts in this series, I may not explain the topic I am considering very well, or have the arguments concrete enough. It will be mostly because I don't intend to write essays about them in this space, but also often because I am yet to learn more about the topic. I will be learning more about them as I write, I hope, but what I write will at least be set on my heart with strong enough conviction.

May God guide all of us.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Suffering and prayer

Even though I already shared this post using Google Reader's shared items a few days ago, this powerful testimony of a Christ-follower is worth mentioning multiple times.
One that especially caught my attention is this:
That’s fourteen years of communication with God. Fourteen years of pleading with Him to work. Fourteen years of Him saying no. Fourteen years of Him increasing and His creatures decreasing.

My God gave my earthly father disability and cancer when I was too young to remember, and my God finally took him when I was 13 years old. While I do not claim to be a worst sufferer of God's rough hand, let my testimony of God from the whole experience be known that God is just, righteous, merciful, gracious, and above all, love.
May God, who alone is righteous, receive all glory for all things.

Bitterness

There will be moments in the life of a Christian when he will feel a great anguish and hurt and pain. There will be times when you will cry out the words of Psalms and feel as though you are suffering worse than Job.

But if you are constantly filled with bitterness against God, it means you do not know God. It means you do not know what gospel means. You do not know what grace means. You have not seen what has happened on that wretched cross. You have not tasted and seen that the LORD is good.

May you humble yourself before the Righteous God and may He fill your heart with His grace.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Gospel at work

I have been purposely putting my bible on my desk for the past 5 weeks, right next to my team leader who is a Muslim.
He is a devout Muslim, goes to pray at lunch time, and just before he goes home, and he does not eat pork or anything that has been contaminated by pork meat/fat. It has been my desire to engage him in gospel talk since I started working at this new job.

This morning, he looked at my bible, opened it, and flipped through some pages. Then, he asked me if I knew what the differences were between Islam and Christianity. He seemed to have his own answers, and without waiting for me to give him my answers, he asked me if I read Koran. I said, no, I've seen it, but not read it. He asked me if I wanted to read it. I said, yes, because I didn't want to turn down his religious initiative so that when I approach him with the gospel, he will at least accept my initiative and hear the gospel. The rest would be God's. Then my team leader looked through my eyes, and took out a book and handed to me. It was a Koran. Yes, that holy book of Islam. A fresh new legit copy of it, albeit in English.

He said, "have a read" with a grin on his face. He seemed happy.
I told him, "oooh.. it's gonna take a while, but.. are you giving this to me? Is this for me?"
He said, "yeah, I just keep a few copies of it, 'cause sometimes people want to read it, and I just give them out."
So I said, "oh, thanks. it's gonna take a while but I'll read it. Have you read through it (Koran) all?"
He said, "yes."
Then I said, "would you read the Bible?"
He said, "yeah"
So I told him that I'll get him a copy of the Bible, and asked, "so what are the differences between Islam and Christianity?"
He said, "nah, actually, there aren't that many differences."
This was when I thought was THE MOMENT to tell him the greatest truth in the universe that Jesus is God which makes Christianity distinct from Islam (and any other religion for that matter).
But before I could continue, he said, "hmm. but we'll talk about it sometime later."

I am yet to learn how to better engage people in workplace with the gospel (it's been only 5 weeks since I started working in a real secular environment), but I pray that my weak personality or stiff tongue will not come as a hindrance to people hearing the gospel, but God may overcome and show Himself regardless of my weaknesses.

I'll be getting a Bible for him sometime soon, but please pray for me and more so for these people working next to me today.

Pray for persecuted Christians

I was struck by the sheer reality of persecution towards Christians once again.
As I was installing and configuring a free Bible software today, I was shown this screen.

In case it is hard to read, the warning says:
Warning: If you live in a persecuted country and do not wish to risk detection you should NOT use the remote installation feature!

Then, there was a prayer request for a recent development in India, and a news about Somali Christians.

Take a moment to pray for persecuted Christians all over the world.

Against abortion: the best explanation I heard so far



(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Glories of Calvary

A follow up on my previous post on Songs for the Cross Centered Life, I'd like to share a couple of lines from a song in the album.
From the song, The Glories of Calvary:
Lord, You're calling me to come and behold the wondrous cross.
To explore the depths of grace that came to me at such a cost.
Where Your boundless love conquered my boundless sin,
and mercy's arms were opened wide.

May God open your eyes so that you may see the glory of the cross.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Nice Pic: Eastern Timberwolf

A nice photo of a great work of art by God.


[The original image is taken by Christian Mehlf├╝hrer, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons and was resized by myself.]