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


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

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


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.