Saturday, 31 January 2009

The same message as Jesus

Over at the "Of First Importance" blog, Tim Keller's quoted:
If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.

It is a helpful suggestion, but I think it's important to guard ourselves against trying to be people-pleasers at the same time. The fact that our preaching is not drawing the type of people Jesus drew to Himself may be used as an indicator that we may need to review what kind of message we are preaching. However, it mustn't drive us to plan out our outreach only to those particular type of people. It is also important to note that simply because we draw the same type of people that Jesus drew to Himself, does not necessarily authenticate our message to be consistent with Jesus's teaching. People gather and come for all sorts of reasons, so our measuring stick must be the bible itself, not the effect of our preaching or ministry that we can visibly see.


It has been a long time coming.
I finally enrolled at a bible college (or a seminary as it is known in some other parts of the world).
Which college? It's SMBC.
Starting as a part-timer for now, hopefully I will be studying full-time in near future.
Pray for me that I may be faithful in and through my studies.

Scoring own goals

Some of us heard about the advertisement campaign the atheists ran over in the UK recently. They say:
Some Christians among us found it annoying, some found it silly. And some of us considered it as an opportunity.

Here's one critique about it that I found very insightful. It's slightly long, but do read the whole thing! I'm waiting for the part 2.

(HT: Gordon Cheng)

Friday, 30 January 2009

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #4

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

A classic Edwards. The construct of the sentence is a bit complicated, but he is basically committing himself to do and be everything only to the glory of God.
Questions for myself (feel free to apply these to yourselves too).
Will I ever say a word that does not constitutes towards the glory of God?
Will I ever participate in a work that does not serve the glory of God?

(Source: A Puritan Mind)

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ

In my previous post, I reviewed the book, Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ. In it, I said:
I would even recommend this book to non-Christians since the book in fact has an evangelistic edge to it (it even includes a section at the end specifically aimed at a non-Christian).

However, I realised the one I read was a different edition to what is most commonly available nowadays. My copy looks more like the following:

It's published by IVP, and the newer edition is from Crossway. The newer edition does not have the evangelistic message section at the back, and its closing chapter was in fact the preface in the IVP edition. I may have to think twice about the evangelistic value of the newer edition, and may not use it as an evangelistic tool.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Tiny book review: Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ

I'm actually doing a small group study using a material with the same title, Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ. Reading this book was not a difficult task, but I do feel that I have rushed it a little. It might have been better if I read it slower, like reading Knowing God, but I wanted to push through reading the book even though I have not finished with the small group study yet. Perhaps that cost me. I don't think I benefited from this book as much as I hoped. Strangely, the words and sentences in this book came to me without the usual persuasive and convicting force like when I hear John Piper preaching. In the small group study material, a DVD comes with it, and when I hear Piper preaching and teaching in it, I was greatly helped and encouraged. But not this book.
Having said that, I would still recommend this book for new Christians since it handles various aspects and qualities of Jesus that makes Him glorious. I would also recommend it to seasoned Christians for it is good to be reminded of these things about our Lord. I would even recommend this book to non-Christians since the book in fact has an evangelistic edge to it (it even includes a section at the end specifically aimed at a non-Christian).

You can get this book from Koorong or Amazon.

(3 down, 21 to go.)

Saturday, 24 January 2009

A note to self: act upon your convictions

I believe I have spent enough time waiting for conviction from God.
From now on, I shall ask God for three things: Strength, Courage, and Wisdom.
I pray God would strengthen me, put in my heart courage and make me wise so that I will act upon the conviction He has given me.

Pray for me that I will now live my convictions.

Unbearable heat

It's been really hot for the past few days, but today's weather is truly, well, hot.
The thermometer in my room says it's 39.1°C.

Thankfully, I am downstairs where we have an air-conditioner. It's just unbearable to stay in my room up there. A candle in my room is bent because of the heat, and no, it was never exposed to the direct sun-light.

This fiery weather reminded me of hell, where it will be incomparably hotter and truly unbearable.
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. -- Matt 18:9 (ESV)

I really need to take that verse to heart. Sanctify me, my Lord, my Redeemer.

Friday, 23 January 2009

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #3

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

This, contrary to the first impression, isn't a simple reinforcement of the rest of the resolutions. This resolution shows that even this great pastor/theologian at times experienced spiritual dry seasons. He knew it too well that he could feel down or be indifferent to these resolutions. But he also knew that such season is temporary and when he comes back to his senses again, he would repent of all that he could remember. This repentance bit is critical. So many of us these days seem to either neglect that we still have responsibilities and must repent of anything that is sub-standard of God, excusing ourselves by saying these dry seasons are only normal to any Christian life or he is simply experiencing depression that he cannot do anything about and should not feel obliged to apologise for it.
I will be first to affirm that this feeling of spiritual low or even depression is normal. Everyone goes through multiple times of spiritual dry seasons. Many go through depression in their life time, albeit the severity may differ. However, when we come to our sense again, ie. when, by God's grace, we are once again reminded of Him and His great purpose, we ought to repent of the time that we spent in indifference to Him and His great call. God deserves our all, and whatever hindered us from giving all of ourselves is sin or results of sins, and we must repent.

A wonderful thing about this is that as you repent, you will again realise that it is not you who first turned yourself, but it is God's grace that turned you so you may now repent, hence, Edwards also says, "when I come to myself again", not "I will come to myself again."

(Source: A Puritan Mind)

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Reading plan 2009: 2 down 22 to go, oh, and I'm back from Canberra

I am back.
I might put up some photos later, but for now, I would simply say that my friends over in Canberra were very good and generous to me. If you are reading this, thank you again!

I also finished reading Knowing God on my way back to Sydney on a bus. Finally! It took me some ridiculous 2 (or even more) years.

Check out my review/recommendation (also posted up at Shelfari).

Tiny Book Review: Knowing God by J. I. Packer

I've forgotten how long I have been reading this book. I think I first picked up this book at least 3 years ago, and started reading it no less than 2 years ago. So I took a very long time reading it. I would read a chapter or two in a couple of days, then I would leave it for weeks or months before I picked it up again to read another chapter or two. Now, Phillip Jensen once encouraged his audience to read this book but warned us that this book is particularly packed with deep thoughts that if you read it in one sitting, you would have proved that you are completely illiterate. Yes, it is a heavy reading, and it's a kind of book that you would read a chapter and ponder on it to digest what you just read. But, 2 or 3 years? I think it's a bit ridiculous. In fact, when I picked it up again last month, I flicked to the first chapter, and the ideas presented to me there was so fresh it was strange to me. What I'm trying to say with all this is that, you wouldn't need to spend that much time in reading this book, it's not THAT heavy or difficult. So take your time reading this book, but don't take too long like I did. At the same time, if you did read this book a while ago, I would suggest that you will benefit from reading it again. You might be able to move through the book a bit faster than the first time, but I'm pretty sure that after a couple of chapters, you will want to ponder on again and pray that your world-view, your value-system will be re-defined by what you've just learned (or re-learned). That's a good thing.

I thoroughly recommend this book to any Christian who wishes to know God more deeply than before.

You can get this book from Koorong or Amazon.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Away I go again

I was away for 5 days last week at the Next Generation Conference. I will be away from home again, visiting my friends in Canberra for three days. I should be able to blog among few other online activities, but hopefully, I will spend a bit more time offline, reading, reflecting, resting, and talking (to friends and God).

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Reading plan 2009: 1 down 23 to go

Just wanted to mention that I've finished reading According to Plan. It was the first book on my reading list. Honestly, I didn't enjoy reading it as much as I thought I would, but it still is a very important book to read if you want to read the Bible well.

Quote from According to Plan

The following quote may not reflect the main theme of the book, but it is an important one for those of us who believe in the gospel of Jesus.

The main message of the Bible about Jesus Christ can easily become mixed with all sorts of things that are related to it. We see this in the way people define or preach the gospel. But it is important to keep the gospel itself clearly distinct from our response to it or from the result of it in our lives and in the world. If our proper response to the gospel message is faith, then we should not make faith part of the gospel itself. It would be absurd to call people to have faith in faith! While the new birth bears a close relationship to faith in Christ, it is a mistake to speak of the new birth as if it were itself the gospel. Faith in the new birth as such will not save us.
It is, therefore, important to understand both what the gospel is, so that we include what must be believed, and what the gospel is not, so that we don't require people to believe more than is necessary for salvation.
-- p. 81, According to Plan by Greame Goldsworthy

Now, if you are curious about what Graeme Goldsworthy, the author, will say about the gospel, and see whether he really got it right or not, I invite you to actually read this important book.

You can get it from Koorong or Amazon.

I'm back!

I've returned from the Next Generation Conference 2009.

I'm tired, but I can't express how much I am encouraged and strengthened by the conference in my faith.
If you have not attended it, or know someone who are involved in a youth ministry or children's ministry who does not know about this excellent training course/conference, do check out their website. I highly recommend it.

Friday, 16 January 2009

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #2

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

This resolution is basically a reinforcement to the first resolution. I didn't know what contrivance meant; its meaning is similar to invention.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Next Generation 09 (formerly known as KYLC)

Back in year 2005, John Woodhouse, the Moore College principle, said in his last talk of that year's KYLC (Katoomba Youth Leadership Conference), "I am tempted to say that this is the most important thing happening in Sydney right now" (please let me know if I'm misquoting him here, I'm serving this from my memory alone) referring to the KYLC.

In Sydney (roughly speaking, Katoomba is a town in Blue Mountains which is right outside Sydney for those unfamiliar with our area), there are many Christian conferences run each year. Of course they target different group of people with different emphasis or goals. But I think KYLC is one of the most important conferences we have yearly because of two reasons.
1) The conference not only offers a series (actually two, one from the NT, the other form the OT) of biblical preaching, it also aims to train the participants to learn the proper way of understanding the bible, eg. looking at a text in its context, applying biblical theology, etc.
2) The conference targets the younger or next generation in that they aim to train the leaders of younger people in the bible and sound doctrine so that we may pass on the gospel to the next generation faithfully.

It runs for 5 days, and most of the participants are aged 18 - 30, but mostly in their early 20's. While the majority of their peers would soak themselves in the worldly pleasures and be lost in the world's deception, these young people are being taught in the truth.

This conference will be running for this week and the next, so please pray that God's truth will penetrate the participants mind and hearts that these young people will be faithful agents of God as they return from the conference.

Oh, and I will be attending it for the second time (which means I'll be doing the strand 2) this week with nine other youth leaders from our church. I won't be taking my laptop, so I will return to blogging at the end of this week.

Friday, 9 January 2009

God's way: Jim Elliot

A short video about Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed 53 years ago on 8th of January:

He's probably best known by his famous quote:
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

God's way often seems to be so different, even counter to the way we often think or hope to go. But as for me, may His way always triumph in me and my life, so He may be glorified in any way He sees fit.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #1

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad's of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

There are actually three resolutions bunched together here it seems. But that's how it's presented in my source. Hmm...

When I first came across Jonathan Edwards' resolutions, I had difficulty understanding this resolution. I couldn't understand how Jonathan Edwards could pursue his own good, profit and pleasure and God's glory at the same time. I thought pursuing God's glory meant that it necessarily required my own good, profit and pleasure had to go.
But now I think I understand it a little bit better. Previously, I thought pursuing my own good could only be a selfish thing, which now I understand that it may not always be a selfish thing, and it really depends on how you define and understand "good". A godly discipline for himself is certainly good for him, but also is in line with God's glory. Additionally, as I grew as a Christian, it became apparent that the pursuit of God's glory and of my own good, profit and pleasure aren't two separate pursuits, but really an inseparately interlinked one. It is because my heart starts to rejoice over God's glory, that God's glory is in fact my greatest pleasure. It is because God's glory is the most precious thing in the universe that I starts to pursue that anything that extends, or displays His glory becomes my profit. And it is out of total abandonment of myself unto God that I define God's glory as my own good.

Oh, not that I have obtained all this, but I desire to be more God-centred, love Him more, serve Him with all my being.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. -- Philippians 3:12

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: A Warning

Nope, I'm not starting with the first one quite yet, but I'd like to point out this blog post over at Between Two Worlds. Read it first.

It's a good reminder. The gospel shows us who we truly are, yet its goal isn't so much about making us continue pondering about ourselves. Rather, it draws our attention from ourselves, or anything else for that matter, to God Himself.

So if all these wonderful resolutions of Jonathan Edwards are making you wonder more about yourself than God, then I suggest you simply skip my series all together. God forbid that I will distract people from beholding God even by one of the best Christian resources.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Just another day of your fellow pilgrim

I was particularly unhappy with the way I dealt with people today. I was edgy, constantly annoyed, and words from my mouth weren't gracious at all. Not many would have noticed, I suspect, but some might have. Even if no one had noticed, God knows what went through my mind and my attitude. I was easily irritated, I dealt unfairly to some, and I didn't love those around me at all.
Today's sermon was in fact about the marks of true Christians; love must be genuine and show itself. I failed at it miserably, why, I even used that message in some of the conversations I had in an attempt to make others feel bad about themselves in hope that they would apologise to me!
A sucky day, really. While I am somewhat annoyed at some of the things or people still, and I feel bad. And all this, I sense, is trying to drag me down into a dark night. Satan is accusing me again.

But I cry and appeal to my King, who is the Judge, to pronounce "not-guilty". I bring my sinful day before Him who judges justly and ask Him to forgive me. Oh, and I know He does, for Jesus' sacrifice was sufficient to cover my day. So I tell myself, "oh, rejoice, my soul, for the King has forgiven me, Christ has paid my debt. Rejoice!"

Friday, 2 January 2009

My ambitious reading plan for year 2009

I've come up with a reading plan. I made groups of books (usually three) so that each group will have one heavy or long reading, one medium, and one light or short reading. That's all my estimation hence you may disagree on how they are categorised. I just needed a way to organise them according to my interest and ability. So, without any further introduction, here you are.

Group 1)
According to Plan
Knowing God
Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ
Group 2)
Religious Affections
The Doctrines of Grace
True Blue?
Group 3)
Desiring God
Everything you want to know about Jesus
가난한…/애통하는 자는 복이 있나니
Group 4)
Goldsworthy Trilogy: Gospel and Kingdom
Respectable Sins
The Supremacy of Christ in a Post-modern World
Group 5)
Church History in Plain Language
Life At Its Best: The Quest
Living The Cross Centered Life
Group 6)
Know the Truth
링컨/울어야 산다
Group 7)
The Reason for God
What's so amazing about grace?
Elders in Congregational Life
Group 8)
Sophie's World
When I don't desire God

I think it's a fairly well-thoughtout plan that I can come up with. I tried to make these groups as balanced as possible. I considered the authors and tried not to have one particular author bunched up in one group. I also tried to have at least one "pastoral" book that will minister to myself in each group. I included a couple of secular books. I made sure I included different topics in the reading plan, eg. Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, biographies, philosophy, General Christian living, etc.
Yet, my feelings are somewhat mixed. On the one hand, I fear that these are too great number of books that I am forcing myself to read. When I read English books, I'm not so fast, and most of these books are in English. I wonder if I should reduce the number of books to read so I aim at a more reasonably achievable goal. But on the other hand, I see that even if I succeed in reading all these books, I still have so many books unread in my possession, and there are many others that I wish to read. I really have been overestimating my reading capacity for the past couple of years it seems.

I have been reading the first four books for a while already (and that's the only reason why 'Knowing God' by J.I. Packer is classed as a Medium reading. Otherwise, it's definitely a Heavy reading), so they shouldn't be too hard to finish off.

I have a few more books that I put into this kind of grouping system that aren't listed above. If I succeed in reading all of above, I will continue on with that, perhaps with some modifications it.

Watch me how I progress!

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: Introduction

I will be reading one or two of the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards each week from now on, and post it here, and comment on them whenever I find necessary. I plan to have this series running throughout the year and finish all his 70 resolutions by the end of this year. Hope you find this series helpful as much as I find them so.

My source will be from this website called A Puritan Mind. You can also go to the for the same document.

Being a Christian, of course, Jonathan Edwards naturally acknowledges that he is not able to do anything without God's help, and here is the preamble to his resolutions.

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake.

Three brief comments regarding this.
First, he asks God to enable him by grace to keep these resolutions. We would do well to remember this always too, that God must work in us in order for us to produce anything good.
Secondly, he acknowledges that his mind and will, even his conscious decision towards God and his great understanding is not necessarily always going to be consistent with God's will, hence he adds the condition that God would enable him to keep these resolutions as long as they are consistent with God's will. I hope we will not fall into humanistic arrogance of assuming that our best will always be consistent with God's will.
Thirdly, he asks for God's grace to keep the resolutions for Christ's sake. Here is an evidence of Edwards' Christ-centredness. Because of Jesus, and for Jesus, he is asking God's help. It would be foolish to ask God for anything, even for those seemingly good and godly petitions, for any reason, except for Jesus' sake.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of the year. Here are my new year's resolutions.

1) Believe always that Christ's atoning sacrifice covers ALL my sins FOREVER.
2) Believe always that I am and will be given sufficient grace to make godly choices and live sacrificially.
3) Pray everyday even if it's a 5 minute kneel-down beside my bed.
4) Do not buy more books for myself for this year, unless it is absolutely required, eg. Textbooks.
5) Read at least 24 books this year.
6) Get a Driver's License.

More than anything else, number 1 above is THE number one for me, and this will extend beyond year 2009.

Some may say, "no resolution about reading the bible?" It's because I have much bigger problem with prayer than my bible reading.
Another might say, "Only 5 minutes for daily prayer?" It only goes to show how big my problem is, and the emphasis is on "daily", not on "5 minutes".

I will post about my, perhaps-too-ambitious reading plan soon.

Now, what's your new year's resolution?