Sunday, December 31, 2006

Have a Great 2007!

To all my faithful blog readers,

I preached a year end sermon on the Parable of the Sower. Anchoring on the need to let the word of God grow in our lives, I list a couple of potential distractions that may choke the growth of the word. It is based on Thomas Oden's perceptive insights on the three basic human problems: Guilt, Anxiety and Boredom.

That when we look back through the year, we should not be bogged down with guilt, like asking all sorts of IF ONLY _______ questions, about things we should/should not have done, and feeling regretful about doing/not doing it. Neither should we be fearful of the coming year, even though some have said 2007 may be more uncertain than any other years. Looking forward may result in anxiety of asking WHAT IF_______ questions. With regards to the present conditions of our lives, some may start to be skeptical and become bored with life. They may also start to ask SO WHAT____ kind of questions, which can affect the growth of the word. A skeptical heart does not nourish faith.

Instead, we can give thanks for the past year, to recognize that God understands us, and will forgive us our weaknesses, as we forgive those who sin against us. God is also pressing ahead of us, to prepare the path for us. So let us not be bogged down by IF ONLY, or WHAT IF possibilities. Look back the year and give thanks. Look forward the next year and put on hope. As for boredom, we need to persevere in faithfulness, which is the best cure for boredom. Serve people rather than only surfing the internet. People who are regularly serving others, rarely complain about boredom. It is those who are too preoccupied with self, that always complain bored.

"Behold, the sower went out to sow." May the soil of our lives be ever ready to let the word of God grow in our hearts and lives.

Have a great and wonderful year ahead.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mother Nature as Newsmaker of the Year

A popular Vancouver free tabloid has hailed Mother Nature as newsmaker of the year. That sums up the unsuspected weather that residents in Vancouver have gone through this year. We've had long days of sunshine, long days of rain, strong winds/storms and followed by the snow.

The long days of hot weather is untypical of Vancouver weather this Summer. The heavy downpour in November/December led to a "boil water" advisory for more than 2 million residents due to the water turbidity problem. The snow led to havoc in the roads and inconvenience. The storms hit Vancouver extremely hard, resulting in power outages for a quarter million customers. I have not remembered any scary and stormy night ever, since arriving in Vancouver in 2004. The winds hit 158kmph and caused extensive damage to one of the most valuable icons of Vancouver, Stanley Park, where more than 3000 trees were destroyed, and nearly half the park is still closed to the public as of today.

This year is indeed exceptional. Nobody really knows why but in some ways it is a demonstration of how fragile our world is. It might also be God's reminder to secularized Vancouver that all our lives are to no avail if it is not based on firm foundations. The physical demonstration can terrify so many people. Imagine what will happen when the ultimate spiritual and universal judgment comes on all creation, one day. That day will come. We must be prepared.

Matt. 7:27 “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Cinderella Man

There are few films that can bring a tear to the eye. "Cinderella Man" is one such tear-jerker. It is a story of James J. Braddock (played by Russell Crowe), a true story of a former heavyweight champion in the 1930s, who fights for a living to feed his family, and maintains integrity in everything he does. Life was hard and he was seen as an inspirational icon to many people at that time who were living in the midst of the Great Depression. As his family depended on his boxing earnings, he continues to fight even though his hand was badly injured. His high-flying lifestyle came to an abrupt halt after his boxing license was revoked due to him competing even though he is physically unfit. Losing that in the midst of the Great Depression is certainly a bad thing. Soon the family had no money to even pay for food and the utility bills. He humbled himself and applied for financial relief. He had to queue up for a daily opportunity to work at the docks for a minimal salary, and works despite his injury.

Tear-Jerker #1
When his wife (played by Renee Zellweger) cried before him to beg him not to fight, yet at the same time worrying about the daily financial needs.

Tear-Jerker #2
When he humbled himself and entered the rich man's club and begged for money to pay back four months of unpaid utility bills so as to bring back light and heating at home.

Tear-Jerker #3
When his wife realised that Braddock at his climactic comeback fight, was fighting not only for his family but for the hope of the entire nation, personifying the importance and reality of a second-chance.

Tear-Jerker #4
Braddock paying back every cent to the relief agency, when he had earned some money from one of his fights along his comeback. When asked why he returned the relief money, he replied:
"I believe we live in a great country. A country that is great enough to help a man financially when he is in trouble. But lately I have had some good fortune and I'm back in the black. And I just thought I should return it."

Tear-Jerker #5
When Braddock's wife entered a church to pray, and said to the priest that she came to pray for her husband. Then in a very touching manner, the priest said to her, "So did they", and pointed her to a church sanctuary full of people praying for her husband. That is the power of hope, that draws people together.

This movie is a wonderful inspiration of courage, family love and integrity. A great man must be one who is not only bold and courageous but humble and with integrity. Personally, I feel this movie is a reminder of the importance of inspiration, especially in the midst of depression. Our human nature naturally draws us towards a state of loneliness and we need to be able to adequately address that and not to allow our feelings of loneliness to degenerate to depression. Braddock's willingness to be humble despite the ridiculous taunting by his ultimate opponent, Max Baer, is something we can all learn from. When Braddock's wife Mae, splashed a glass of champagne on Max Baer after Baer's nasty taunting on Braddock's family, Max said "Now he's got his wife doing his fighting for him.", in an apparent jab at Braddock. Braddock calmly replied: "Yeah, Ain't she something?" reveals a man who is humble and controlled, not wanting to be easily antagonized. We need to learn to grow such a heart. True strength is not fighting back with fists. It is fighting back with a heart.

The climax of the show is Braddock's amazing comeback. It is one thing to be fighting only for family. It becomes another, when one fights symbolically for the hope of the whole nation.


On Busyness

I came across this acronym on the word BUSY (Being Under Satan's Yoke) at this web site.

It sounds a little shocking, that becoming busy can be a symptom of being trapped by the evil one. That reminds me of my previous busy lifestyle, where if one is busy, people will accept that it is 'good'. I remember a brief opening chat with an ex-collegue.

Ex-colleague: Hi, how are you?
Me: Oh. Very busy.
Ex-colleage: Good. Very good. Busy is good.
Busy is good? I guess, seen from the perspective of not idling away our precious time, it is good. From the perspective of the company who hired me, a minute put into productive work means a minute well spent. In that manner, it is good. Yet there is a certain sense that being busy is not good. Below are some examples:

- So busy till one has no time to build relationships, to keep in touch with friends
- So busy that one do not bother thinking through why things has to be done that way
- So busy that one prefers to cast away creative process (which needs time), in favour of some cheaply drawn up old idea plagiarised from someone else;
- So busy that every person becomes a means to an end;
- So busy that one has no time for family and kids.

"Being Under Satan's Yoke" acronymn may sound ominously dark, but when we understand that anything can be taken as Satan's deception, our unhealthy state of busyness can be a dangerous thing. One way busyness is a problem is when it is driven by a sense of boredom. Boredom is a human problem, that sprang out in part to the restlessness character in man. Augustine is well aware of that and wrote in his classic Confessions saying that:
"Everlasting God, in whom we live and move and have our being: You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You." (Augustine I.1)

As we come to the end of another year, let us look back at the past with thanksgiving, and check our motives for our busyness and boredom. Both busyness and boredom are symptoms of a deeper human problem, our hearts are restless because they have not rested in God.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Grown-Up Christmas List


This song is nice and brings some heartfelt hope for humanity. My favourite this Christmas. For Christmas, it is a nice reflection on what it means to be human. The original singer is Amy Grant, who released the song sometime in 1992. These days, there are many others with their own versions, but I think the best male rendition of the song is Michael Buble.

For me, my grownup Christmas list will be:

"That all of us, will be able to know and discover who we are, without needing to pretend to be somebody else. Only then, we can help others to discover their uniqueness, so that there will be more people who are not afraid to show their true selves to one another, in a spirit of loving God and loving one's neighbours."

Sometimes, instead of buying Christmas gifts for people who do not need them, it is nice to ponder and decide to donate the money instead to help those who DO.

The key to relationships (and world peace) is written in Jesus's words:

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

Have a Blessed Christmas.


History of the Religions of the Word (in a flash)

Here is a fascinating overview of the history of the religions of the world, in flash format. Check it out here. It is designed with a chronological order. It seems to be a rough guide, but interpretations of the spread of the different religions should be seen as perception rather than actual, as different religious groups do co-exist in any one place.

Thank again to Julio for the tip.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sunday School Curriculum

"The church exists ultimately for the sake of the glory of the Triune God." (Stanley Grenz, Created for Community, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 217)

Sunday School curriculum is an important tool in Church education, especially for children. Many teachers rely on them for a systematic Church teaching programme. One such curriculum is Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God. Wagner and Halliday observed two groups who use it. Of the first, he said that many who have used Experiencing God came out with a greater understanding of what it means to experience God. On the other hand, there was another group that went through the complete curriculum and did not find it satisfactory. Wagner and Halliday commented:

"The first group focused on God and asked him to produce the desired results through the curriculum, while the second group focused on the curriculum and expected it to produce the desired results." (E Glenn Wagner & Steve Halliday. The Church You've Always Wanted Zondervan, 2002, 167)

Simply put, for one group, the focus is on God, and the other the focus is on self. One expects from God, while the other expects 'magic' from the curriculum. While one is open to experiencing God in God's way and timing, the other expects some self-fulfilment in their own time and place. Whenever there are mismatched expectations, there will be frustration. On what basis do we choose Sunday School curriculum? I believe that the gospel of Mark has a lot to teach us.

"And he was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in his teaching," (Mark 4:2)

Jesus taught in parables. Parables are stories, narrative messages that many people can relate to. He spoke to large crowds, meaning different mix of people of various age. I believe that any Sunday School curriculum must incorporate the art of story telling as well. Better still, every story ought to be a personal story of struggle or victory. A living story is better than an dead text. A personal event is better than an impersonal event. Sunday School teachers should not be too quick to blame the curriculum. The best curriculum that operates under a bad philosophy will fare worse than a mediocre curriculum under a good philosophy. God is over all curriculums and cannot be 'boxed in'. Maybe, curriculum ought NOT to be placed as a 'barrier' between teachers and students. How about putting the curriculum next to the teacher/student, allowing constant interaction, and using the curriculum as a guide? We need to choose a curriculum as one of the means to reflect or urge our push and longing for God.

Just as the church exists for the glory of God, we ought to use (or NOT to use) the curriculum for the glory of God. That is why a prayerful heart and a discerning mind will be the best senses for the Sunday School class each time they met. Such an attitude will transcend curriculum by many miles, to the point that curriculum or not, we still desire to seek and love God.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Aftermath of Major Storm in Vancouver

Last night's storm hit Vancouver hard. At winds above 100km per hour, trees and power lines were felled. Many suffered power outages, and many traffic lights were either not working or were mangled up. When I stopped at a red light today, there was a metal arrow sign hanging treacherously above my car, dangling only on a single metal strap which can break anytime.

Just yesterday afternoon, my kids were excitedly telling us that a major storm will be hitting Vancouver in the late evening. Some schools announced that they will be closed on Friday.

With the winds howling, I woke up at 3AM as the winds not only rattled the windows in our apartment, but blew lots of stuff outside along the roads. I was even wondering when tree branches will start flying in the air and damage cars and windows. I checked my kids and they were sound asleep. I was thinking about the homeless and the people out in the streets, and hoped that they will be able to find some shelter. My heart also goes out to those mending power lines and repairing the basic utilities for affected residents.

I learn that storms can be a terrifying event. As I drove along King Edward Road, I saw many tree casualties. On the radio, Lions Gate Bridge was closed. So was Stanley Park. When they say it is a serious storm, it is a serious storm. While many suffered loss of power, we were relatively more fortunate. We only lost our Internet connection.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bye Bye Christmas Tree Part II

So the protests are fast and furious.

The Canadian Muslim Congress has branded the Toronto judge's decision as "stupidity", and urged the return of the Christmas tree. They say correctly that "political correctness" instead of the Christmas tree should be banned. Ontario residents are peeved. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty describes the ban as unfortunate. News radio AM1130 shows a 93-94% of listeners (as of 3PM today) disagreeing with the judge's decision to ban the Christmas tree.

Back in 2002, there was a similar incident when people wanting not to offend non-Christians decided to call the Christmas Tree a "Holiday Tree" instead, leading to the mayor, a Jewish to order that the Christmas Tree should forever be named a "Christmas Tree."

Then-mayor Mel Lastman, who is Jewish, ordered staff to call it a Christmas tree. He then introduced a bylaw that prohibits the tree from being given any other name. (link)

It takes a Jew to protect the name of a Christmas tree. There is a better way to embrace multiculturalism. Instead of "negative actions", described by banning and disallowing the different expressions of culture, multicultural acceptance is is best exemplified by a "positive affirmation" by celebrating and recognizing that there are different periods during the year that is special to the individual groups. Like Veterans Day, Independence Day, Chinese New Year, different festivals of different religious groups, and of course Christmas. Those who understand the message and meaning of Christmas, will fully welcome the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of giving and sharing, of family ties and loving, of joy, peace and goodwill to all people. However, those who ban any symbols of Christmas, will miss out on the meaning and love of Christmas. What a pity if that were to happen.

Bye Bye Christmas Tree?

What's happening to Canadian society?

A Toronto judge has ordered the removal of a Christmas tree from the lobby of a provincial courthouse because it is a "Christian symbol" that it "alienates people of other creeds and traditions." This decision is not a unique one. One was also removed in a Seattle airport when a local rabbi "asked to have an 8-foot menorah displayed" next to the Christmas tree (see picture).

Has secularisation and the desire to please people of other religions gone to the other extreme? In the first place, a Christmas tree is no closer to the Christian faith, than an Easter bunny to a rock on the moon. Secondly, even if it is true that a Christmas tree is a Christian symbol, it is only put up during the Christmas season. Who would put up a Christmas tree in the middle of a temple of another religion, or during the hot summer months where Christmas is not celebrated? Thirdly, by deciding not to offend the religions of the other faiths, have the court considered the act as offensive to the Christian people, when the judge base the decisions on "Christian symbols"? I find it absurd even to think that it is ok to offend Christians while it is not ok to offend non-Christians. Double standards.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Movie: Akeelah and the Bee (great movie)

"Akeelah and the Bee" is an exceptionally heartwarming film. My kids were all thoroughly enthralled by it. It is about an 11 year old girl who has an exceptional talent for remembering and spelling all kinds of words. Her talent was discovered early in school and soon, the film depicts her journey towards to finals in the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition. While there is rivalry and competitiveness in the film, what is most powerful in the film is the humanness that is inside all of us. While we all wanted to win, we badly want to love as well.

The quotation below marked the beginning of Akeelah's journey towards getting into the championshops of the Spelling Bee.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
" (**)

The conclusion of the movie is touching and shows us a lot about competition and its potential to bring out the worse in people. People say competition is good in terms of getting the best quality work done. However, it can often become bad when competitors backstab one another in order to stay ahead. The movie very carefully teaches us, that competitiveness can bring out the best in people, if one learns to see that winning or losing is not everything. Love and appreciating one another for who they are matters more.

While some people tend to treat "Being the Best" as the one and only person, Akeelah and her archrival Dylan became not only great sparring partners but cheered each other on to do their best, without hoping to win on the basis of the opponent's weakness but on their own strengths. We need such an attitude in this world of cutthroat competitive environment in almost everything. Competition becomes bad, when people seek to win at all costs, even at the expense of another person. If competition can bring out not only the technical best of each person, but the best humanity, where competitors cheer one another on to do their respective best, winning on the basis of merit rather than opponent's mistakes, it will make winning so much more meaningful. Moreover, friendships can be forged even at a competitive level.

Go watch the movie and be inspired.


** Marianne Williamson, Return to Love (Peter McLaughlin: Harper Collins, 1992), 191-192.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


One of Simone Weil's insight drives home an important point in education.

School children and students who love God should never say: 'For my part I like mathematics' ; 'I like French'; 'I like Greek.' They should learn to like all these subjects, because all of them develop that faculty of attention which, directed towards God, is the very substance of prayer.

Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder (ADHD) is a problem that is affecting a lot of modern school going children. Interestingly, a recent research shows that ADHD is NOT caused by frequent TV watching, caffeine, high sugar, or poor school results. In fact, what is true is that nobody really knows what causes it. Some say genetics, others say environment and so on. I am no psychologist, but I do observe that all people do get into some form of minor depression after 1.5 to 2 hours of watching TV or playing computer games. That TV and modern electronic devices are changing a person's capacity to pay attention must not be ignored. No evidence to prove a direct link does not mean there is no link.

Elia, J., Ambrosini, P.J., & Rapoport, J.L.(1999). Treatment of Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. The New England Journal of Medicine. 340,(10), 780-788.

Based on the empirical findings, it would seem that the genetic component is more probable at this stage of research. While the scientific and medical community continues to research in the areas of attention deficit, we must not forget that faith is not to be overlooked. If we ask our Father for bread, would He give us a stone? Likewise, if we ask for faith, God will give.

Prayer is a time in which we are able to pay attention to God. Lay hold of attentiveness, for I sense that many of us has a spiritual form of ADHD, with so many different types of distractions.How many times have we in our state of anxiety, panicked over missed deadlines or despair over work undone and in the process, tried to tie up our loose ends on human strength? How often have we allowed our frantic selves to look at all channels other than God? Chances are, we tried to do God's work in our own strength that leads to burn out. Pray often, for in prayer, we not only draw on the greatest power but we also develop that spiritual attentiveness, so essential to discernment and spiritual wisdom from above.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

25 Reading Strategies from Dr Bob

My faithful readers,

This is a very helpful "How to Read" blog. I wish I had this earlier. I enjoy especially Strategy #22, the part about reading a boring book.

Thanks to Julio's blog.

p/s: This is my first post using Google Beta. Cool features.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Regent Paper Writing Template (cool download)

I have prepared a template adapted from the "Guide to Paper Format for All Courses" I received in Fall 2006. It has been formatted accordingly based on Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.. Use it as my service to you Regent Students.

Here is the link.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"Death be not Proud" - John Donne

I chose the film "Wit" as part of my theological interaction paper. Directed by Mike Nichols, the main character Dr Vivian Bearing was powerfully portrayed by Emma Thompson. When I borrowed the tape, the librarian reminded me to have a box of Kleenex tissues on hand as the film is a weeper.

Dr Bearing was a Professor in the arts, a top authority in 17th Century poetry, espcially John Donne. Hard, demanding and uncompromising, she gained herself a famous reputation. Right from the beginning of the film, she was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic Ovarian cancer, and the rest of the film was about her struggles and observations of how she was treated as the medical professionals began her chemotherapy treatment.

One of the oft quoted poems was the one below by John Donne. She learnt it from her former professor, she recited and taught it in class, and eventually in her dying moments continued to recite it by heart. The verse numbers are included for ease of reference. At her death, the film played back her recitation of the poem, defying death's hold on her, that once she dies, death indeed shall be no more.
1 Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
2 Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
3 For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
4 Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
5 From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
6 Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
7 And soonest our best men with thee do go,
8 Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
9 Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
10 And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
11 And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
12 And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
13 One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
14 And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

The film is a scathing rebuke on the medical research community, and people who put research above human compassion, treating Dr Bearing like a mere research subject. The film ended wonderfully, with Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Rabbit. Strange that at the dying moments, Dr Bearing did not want to be read John Donne's famous poem, but a simple children's story. The director puts a brilliant contrast with Medical research vs Literary Arts, Research-Focus vs Human Compassion, and high-style poems vs children's story.

My heart was moved.


Friday, December 01, 2006

"Familiarity Breeds Contempt" - origins?

This is going to be a nightmarish weekend for me. have to rush out 2 major papers plus 1 smaller one. I cannot recall where I read it. The following is something which is brewing in my mind. It tells the origin of the saying: "Familarity breeds contempt" which I thought has a nice logical flow. Here is what I can piece together the ideas gleaned.

"Familiarity breeds unfamiliarity.
Unfamiliarity breeds ignorance.
Ignorance breeds Avoidance
Avoidance breeds Contempt."

That's how we get Familiarity breeds Contempt!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cold ...... very cold indeed..

First it was the rain. Then comes nice pleasant snow. Then comes the nice sunlight that cast a pretty natural spotlight on the pretty snowcovered buildings and cars. However the scene is deceptive. The temperature is below -6 degrees celsius. Windchill is expected to drive the temperatures to below -20 degrees! RESULT: Freezing cold. My fingers, my toes and my hands were really frozen. My gloves do not seem to help at all. Commentators on the radio at News1130 AM, continues to advise motorists to avoid using hot water to melt the snow to their car keyholes, as it will re-freeze pretty quickly. We are thankful that our car is not parked out in the open to collect snow and ice!

I guess the rest of Canada is laughing at those of us in Vancouver. Some even made a welcoming statement that Vancouver is finally a Canadian city. For a city that has prided itself as being the warmest city in the whole of Canada, this Winter is going to break records in terms of cold and snow. Wednesday is coming. So will snow.

I have finished NT Wright's voluminous 700+ book: "Jesus and the Victory of God". Borrowed another 7 books to write a paper on Jesus and the parables. At the same time, I need to engage theologically with a film of which I have chosen "Gospel of John." While the outside looks like a giant ice-cube, inside the warm apartment, I am frantically trying to write my papers. One down. Four more to go.

Sigh. I've got a night class. Despite the cold, I need to go. If only I can have a remote camera, then I can do remote monitoring and studying. But no way. The class discussions are super! Better go.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Windchill -10C

Snow continues to fall. Traveling on the roads tonight will be dangerous as the snow freezes into ice.

Staying home

It is a snowstorm. UBC Vancouver is closed because of the campus wide power outage. Regent College and VST is closed. Most post-secondary schools are closed. We have to reason with our kids that even if we can successfully maneuver our car to their school, we have to think about the return trip. Despite their pleas, we decided to stay home.

Seems like almost the entire city is on a standstill. Without power and long delays with all kinds of transportation, it is much safer to stay home. Moreover, the current civil services are already maxed out. Firstly, we avoid becoming another statistic in the accident prone snowy conditions. Secondly, we can enjoy the nice and clean fluffy snow falling all over. Seems like God is giving us a nice early Christmas snowfall. More news available at the links below:

1) "Schools, roads closed after snowfall"
2) "Snow causes flight delays"
3) "Pile-ups, emergencies plague snow-struck B.C."
4) "Say it ain't snow! B.C. blanketed"
5) "Lights are off"
6) "News AM 1130 Storm Watch"


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Snowfall in Vancouver (Pictures)

Christmas is only 30 days away. But snow comes early.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Vancouver braces for snowstorm

As flurries come down the UBC Campus, it is nice to think of Christmas as it is exactly 30 days from now. Looking out of my apartment, cars and roads are filled with nice fluffy snow. Pretty sight indeed. Makes me want to stay home and have a nice cup of Hot Chocolate. Well, my Sabbath rest has begun. We watched TV as a family. "Miss Congeniality" is a good and hearty movie to watch. It is great to have a rest day even though I have 4 more papers to submit by early December.

Friday, November 24, 2006

They forgave because Christ forgives

Someone sent me a touching article. It is one piece of news not usually reported by the major news agencies. I searched Google News and hardly any of the major news feeds reported on this. On Oct 29,2005, some Muslim men brutally beheaded three young girls attending attending a Christian school in Indonesia. Here is an excerpt from CBN News
Difficult as it is, Yarni's father and the parents of Alfita and Teressia have released forgiveness to the murderers of their daughters. They believe that it is God who will judge them.

Markus Sambuwe, the father of one of the girls, remarked," I am really angry, but the Holy Spirit touched my heart and changed me. I forgive them just as Jesus has forgiven my sins."

Several suspects have been arrested in the Christian school girl beheadings, but just a week after those brutal murders, two other Christian girls were shot by snipers.

While tensions remain high here, so far, Christians are remaining true to their faith. They are responding in a spirit of forgiveness and restraint, by turning the other cheek.

The road to peace and goodwill is never an eye for an eye. It is forgiveness. The parents were seen crying as they forgave the murderers. It is gut-wrenching and it reminds me how those who forgave no longer feels imprisoned by hatred or vengeance. Instead, they are liberated to love. The murders are utterly cruel and disgusting. The forgiveness is deeply moving.

May such acts accelerate a sense of forgiveness as well for others practicing their religions. Without forgiveness from all, there can never be peace.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Water Turbidity in Vancouver

On Thursday, our children came back excitedly with a 'water advisory' which says tap water should not be used for drinking, brushing teeth, washing fruits and vegetables. In fact all water should be boiled for at least 1 min before it is safe for drinking. So I dutifully boiled 2 pots of water and allowed them to cool before I refill the water containers. I avoid using my filter as it could mean clogging the filter bags really fast. This water turbidity (cloudy water), is due to the recent spate of heavy rains which caused sediments to flow into the Seymour and Capilano reserviours. Not only are there sediments, disinfectants like chlorine has been increased as well. Tempers were sorely tested as many rushed to stock up on bottled water.

This is the largest boil-water advisory in the history of British Columbia and even Canada! On Thursday, many coffee shops would only serve bottled beverages. Starbucks had to turn away many customers who needed the caffeine fix. I heard one of the supermarket assistant talking to her colleague about not having her cuppa that day. Water though plentiful, if not properly cleansed, is still no good. I remember that Thursday morning, I actually had a wonderful cup of Dark Roast at The Well at Dunbar.

Irony indeed. We use water so mindlessly at times that water is a commodity taken for granted. Canada is reputed to possess the world's largest quantity of freshwater. This is Day 3 of the water turbidity problem. I miss drinking my fresh water from the tap.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Incomplete understanding of sin

I am reading Philip Yancey's "The Jesus I Never Knew" and came across this interesting quote from Flannery O'Connor. The ones in italics was extracted by Yancey. I have underlined those which has gotten me thinking.

"Glibness is the great danger in answering people's questions about religion. I won't answer yours because you can answer them as well yourself but I will give you, for what it's worth, my own perspective on them. All your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to me to come from an incomplete understanding of' sin. This will perhaps surprise you because you are very conscious of' the sins of Catholics: however what you seem actually to demand is that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here now, that the Holy Ghost be translated at once into all flesh. The Holy Spirit very rarely shows Himself on the surface of anything. You are asking that man return at once to the state God created him in, you are leaving out the terrible radical human pride that causes death. Christ was crucified on earth and the Church is crucified in time. and the Church is crucified by all of us, by her members most particularly because she is a Church of sinners. Christ never said that the Church would be operated in a sinless or intelligent way, but that it would not teach error. This does not mean that each and every priest won't teach error but that the whole Church speaking through the Pope will not teach error in matters of faith. The Church is founded on Peter who denied Christ three times and couldn't walk on the water by himself. You are expecting his successors to walk on the water. All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful. Priests resist it as well as others. To have the Church be what you want it to be would require the continuous miraculous meddling of God in human affairs, whereas it is our dignity that we are allowed more or less to get on with those graces that come through faith and the sacraments and which work through our human nature. God has chosen to operate in this manner. We can't understand this but we can't reject it without rejecting life."

Quote from Flannery O'Connor (in a letter to Cecil Dawkins) - Letters of Flannery O'Conner, p307.

An incomplete understanding of sin leads to disillusionment with Church and the Christian faith in general. O'Connor is simply right on, in pointing out the impatience of the human being with regards to sin. Cynical people expects church people to be perfect, or close to their perceived views of perfect saints. This is not to say that the church should not be perfect, or find excuses for their weaknesses. This is for all of us to understand that criticising one another is like sawing off the SAME branch of hope we are standing on. Are we behaving childishly in expecting God to meddle in our world all the time? Are we regularly on a complaining mode, dissatisfied with nearly everything we see? Are we waiting for something better, even when we ourselves are able to take initiatives to DO SOMETHING BETTER NOW?

I have heard time and again the following:
- "The Church comprises people who are hypocrites" {I will reply saying all human beings are hypocrites in one way or another.}
- "If the Church themselves are sinning, what hope is there for the world?" {My reply will be, the Church is a place where sinners are able to look together to God in the name of Christ. It is a place where all depend on the mercy of God. Any attack on the church is essentially an attack on the one Christ has died for. Our faith is built with Christ as the cornerstone, not on the behaviour of the people inside.}

The antidote for people's cynicism about the church is grace. If Christ had not shown grace and mercy, all of us would have perished and live on this earth without much hope. True, the church is not perfect. All continue to live under grace. If we reject this grace, our lives will become inherently graceless and bitter. Being able to give and receive grace is one of the best human expressions in life. In fact, grace is the essence of true living. O'Connor puts it very well. We cannot reject grace without rejecting life itself. Live in grace and learn to live graceFULLY.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Fastest Messaging in the world and How kids spent their time.

What do you make of this?

“The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the more ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human”

This is the message that was keyed in on a cellphone in a world record breaking 41.52 seconds by a Singapore student. Read it here. To give you an idea how fast it is, a comparative typist on a normal computer keyboard typed the text more than 40 seconds! I am not surprised that an Asian (even a Singaporean teen) has taken the prize. There are many in the country who can live without lunch or dinner, but they cannot live without their cellphones. The time they spent there is unimaginable. They text it in the morning, in the classroom, during meal times, in the cinemas, in the bus, and some even do it in the car, with one hand on the wheel and the other on the cellphone! Fastest messenger in the world? Of course. The next question is: So What?
- How is the quality of life improved? (maybe it is the publicity and fame generated)
- How is this going to help in life's complicated web of human relationships? (not much, except that it might plunge more kids into trying for a faster record instead)

It would have been nice to read on the headlines, "Student from Singapore, has found a cure for Aids." or "Student from Singapore has the world's fastest response to the Disaster-Aid programme." or some other humanitarian matters.

Recently I have been thinking about how kids in Asia spend their time, other than studies, tuition and homework. One significant time-killing monster is electronic gadgets. I will put computer games in this category as well, together with video gaming, electronic players and various sensual eye-tingling sensation. The world of cyberspace has become a place more preferred than the natural world of forests, gardens, beaches, oceans and mountains. Exchanging the natural with things not so natural. Tools of work productivity are fast becoming platforms of leisure and relaxation. I remember as a kid I used to crave for video games at the public arcades. At that time, distance and money were prime considerations on how often and how long I stay there. Once my pocket money is used up, the only place to go is home.

Compare that with kids who spent their whole time at home, playing unlimited computer games, all for the price of an Internet connection! They are at home all the time but their minds are out of this world, into cyberspace. Virtual reality has been a much touted phenomena. The problem is when it starts to falsify our relationships in the real world, or even worse, when one cannot tell the difference between what is virtual and what is real. A desire for fastest messaging in the world. Will it breed more impatience? A rising hunger for latest and newer gadgets? Will it lead to more temporal relationships in favour of the next most beautiful gal or hunkiest guy? Will there be an ironic situation eventually when machines become more humanlike while people become more machinelike?

If I were to extrapolate from our modern infatuation with electronic gadgets, that is a real possibility.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Quote - Elie Wiesel

In today's Systematic Theology class, we talked about suffering. The text chosen was 2 Cor 1. On topics like this, I cannot help think about Elie Wiesel, the man many gave credit for coining the word 'Holocaust'.

"I would say, favour the question, always question. Do not accept answers as definitive. Answers change. Questions don't. Always question those who are certain of what they are saying. Always favour the person who is tolerant enough to understand that there are no absolute answers, but there are absolute questions. " - Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize for Peace, 1996

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thoughts on Ted Haggard - Pt 2

The past week has been brutal to the North American evangelical scene. CNN published an eye-catching Top 10 scandals. Latest is that James Dobson quit the counseling team, citing lack of time. As I think about it, those who bask in the limelight of fame will have to wrestle the same with the liabilities of shame. This article by Gordon MacDonald is a thoughtful attempt to reconcile feelings of hurt and disappointment into one that is healing and hopeful. He reminds us that the one who is more hurt is not necessarily Ted Haggard but his wife and children. Thanks to Joy's blog for highlighting this.

This is the time for the Church to learn what grace means. The best thing the Church at New Life and others should do now, is to pray. It is important to remember that in the light of such sad events, God is hurt most of all. The media and various critics may continue to pile hot coals on the heads of the fallen. We need to remember that God does not necessarily do that. God has already directed his entire anger & punishment upon Jesus on the Cross at Calvary. When Jesus said "It is Finished", all the wages of man's sin, has been paid in full. That is why He is able to continue to show mercy and grace, for the people that Christ has died for. For God is love.

Κύριε ἐλέησον, Χριστὲ ἐλέησον.
Kyrie eleison; Christe eleison.

(Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy)


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thoughts on the Evangelical Scandals

The latest news on the scandal of Ted Haggard appear to have the evangelical world on the retreat. The media is having a hey-day publicizing it. I did a search today on Google News and came up with 1851 news references with highlights like: "Ted Haggard Admits Steamy Gay Massage & Meth Purchase", "Root of All Evil", and Scandals etc. Clearly, there seem to be sarcastic criticisms associated with it. Anyone calling themselves 'evangelical' will at some point entertain thoughts of dissociating with anything 'Ted Haggard' or National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). A press release has been made by the NAE here. It shows regret and ask for grace from the public.

Criticisms are fast and furious. Even fellow bloggers has blogged about it. One talked about hypocrisy 101. Another good commentary gives a thoughtful analysis. Not many talked about grace and forgiveness. Not many suspend judgment pending further information. The majority remained silent.

Indeed, we need to be gracious on the one hand, and yet be vigilant against any form of moral laxity. It is tempting to retreat to safe territory when the leader is hurt. It is easy to say "I have no part in that, so leave me alone." We need to take things into perspective. Remember the gospel writers writing about the disciples deserting Jesus when Jesus was arrested. Peter denied Christ 3 times. The disciples flee in all directions. Are we appalled? Are we shocked? Are we crying out hypocrisy? True, Ted Haggard is no Jesus. He is plain human, even though he is a famous leader. Point is, if Jesus can be deserted and scandalized even when he is sinless, why should we be shocked when an imperfect believer is scandalized? At least Ted Haggard did the right thing, to resign and to relinquish all of his influential posts, pending investigation.

Keep our eyes on Jesus, not on any famous leader. Keep our faith in Jesus, not in the integrity of any human institution. Keep our hearts on the cross, to nail our pride, shame and imperfections. The evangelical world may be shaken, but we need to recheck our faith placement whether it is on people or on Christ. Things of the world will almost certainly fail us, including Christian establishments. Our God will never fail us. We do not have all the facts yet. We do not know what is the exact circumstances leading to the events. We should not be too quick to judge anything.

Let him who have no sin, cast the first stone. (John 8:7)


Friday, November 03, 2006

Idea of "Ketuanan Melayu"

Those who want to understand a little more about the underlying political forces in Malaysia will recognize a strong racial thread in it. Here is link to an article that talks about the concept of Ketuanan Melayu in Malaysia. In essence, the Malay race is the ruler over all non-Malays in the country, without exception. Understanding this is important, as Malaysian democracy is defined within Ketuanan Melayu.

This may be taboo to those more used to Western democracy. When we remember George Orwell's "Animal Farm" story, the idea of all are equal, but some are more equal than others, will explain Malaysia's brand of democracy.

Pray for the country of Malaysia, whether such a policy can truly bring peace to a society with potentially high racial tensions. More so, as any racial tensions in Malaysia will spill over to Singapore as well.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Remembering those days as a Job-Seeker.

This past week, I have been meeting people who are looking for a job. The first person happens to be a fresh graduate. He has lots of enthusiasm and exuberates that youthfulness that cannot wait to get into the workforce. He has been waiting for interviews and I notice that that enthusiasm takes a gradual dip as the weeks go by. He has been waiting for about 1 month.

A second person have just left a previous employment. Waiting is hard, I gather. Trying to find a right job, that satisfies both employer and candidate is something increasingly difficult. There are jobs available but only to the right person with the right skills and experience.

A third person asks about the job situation in Vancouver, to which I replied: "It depends." True. The kind of job available depends on what kind of job, what kind of person, skills and experience. Above all, it depends on the timing. It is sad to be working on one lousy job when the 'right' one comes along later. Some people said that 'Luck' is when preparation meets opportunity.

Perhaps I can say my personal trivia. I landed my 1st job based heavily from my educational qualifications and the good job market in 1989. I moved on to my 2nd job in 1994, after having fulfilled my personal equity equation of "Learn 1 year + Contribute 1 year" system. Fresh graduates normally has to go through a period of learning and training. Even 'On-The-Job' training is considered a learning period, though I know of some employers who exploit this. My second job, I relied heavily on both education and experience. This time, the jobs are better, as my relevant experience enabled me to get a senior position. I moved to my 3rd job in 2000, with a mixture of education+experience+connections. From then onwards, all my job moves were dependent on connections+experience. Education is no longer that important as far as job hunt is concerned.

Why am I sharing all this? I feel that a lot of fresh graduates tend to be initially very idealistic in terms of their job experience. As the waiting period increases, this ideal falls sharply to "Any job will do." Consequently, it influences their career perspectives. On one extreme, ideals will make one very 'picky'. On the other, willingness to do anything makes one looks 'desparate'. Discernment is extremely important. I never liked looking for a job. Even those who are gainfully employed are also 'job-seeker' themselves as I have encountered many individuals who are simply wanting to get out when the first opportunity presents itself. What kind of work ethic is that? I do not know. It may be ideal to get a job that satisfies BOTH employer and employee. In a broken world, ideals like this soon become ordeals. We need to be transformed in our job seeking behaviour. We need to keep praying until we receive our bricks of job exposure, on order to build the chapel of God's kingdom in our circles of influence. Purposeful living must coincide with faithful loving.

Times has changed since the 80s and 90s. There are going to be more part-timers rather than full-timers, more contract positions rather than permanent places. Job security is a thing of the past. People need to learn to work based on short term goals rather than long term commitments. Not surprisingly, many will want to start their own businesses rather than work for others. If you are a job seeker, the following may help.

1) Education: Stay Updated on education and market research. Learn continuously.

2) Experience: Be faithful in your current job position. Your supervisor/colleagues may be your best point of reference eventually, at some point of your life.

3) Connections: Network with people in the industry. With the Internet, this is even more possible on a global scale.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Forgiveness = "Becoming Human"

While stopping at a Salvation Army Thrift Store today, to prepare for my kids school Halloween special, I picked up a book which I have always wanted to buy. That for a dollar! (imagine what goodies we can get if we know where to look!) It is a book by Jean Vanier about the importance of connecting humanness with spirituality. Both are meant to be together and inseparable, though we might at times for the sake of understanding, study them separately. Essentially, the main point in the book is:

"we cannot grow spiritually if we ignore our humanness, just as we cannot become fully human if we ignore spirituality."

Spirituality is in vogue nowadays. Religion is out while spirituality is in. The main problem is that if people separates the sacred from the secular, they will eventually separate spirituality from humanness. The chapter that struck me most is LONELINESS where Vanier goes on to detail 7 aspects of love that can transform the hearts of those who are profoundly lonely. These 7 are: to reveal, to understand, to communicate, to celebrate, to empower, to be in communion and finally to forgive.

Interestingly, this morning's sermon is about forgiveness. Drawing from 3 separate passages from the New Testament (sinful women, ungrateful servant & Lord's prayer), the preacher encourages us to live a life of forgiveness. Being a preacher myself, I have one ear listening to the sermon while my other ear devising ways to deliver my own sermon version using the same passages. These two entry points does not usually works, but that happened today. Anyway, Vanier puts this seventh factor as the most crucial of them all in addressing one's loneliness. My pastor said it. Vanier said it, so now it is my turn.

My sermon on forgiveness will be something like this. "As I think about it, we are not perfect creatures. We all make mistakes in relationships. Hence, we are always prone to allowing our brokenness to cause the breaking of other relationships. This cannot be helped. Since we cannot build perfect relationships, the next best thing we can do is to learn to mend whatever relationships we have broken. Forgiveness is the superglue of relationships. Far too often, we apply forgiveness to others like a Post-It pad to achieve that momentary 'feel-good' factor. Let us be the superglue of relationships that mends over time. True authentic forgiveness is not merely saying things like [I am sorry], or [I forgive you] or [I am wrong]. It goes beyond the verbal output. It goes beyond the mental willingness to apologize. It goes beyond the sentimentality attached to it. True forgiveness hurts. This hurt is both ways. Authentic forgiveness is after saying sorry to the other party, when the other party subsequently become hurt in another situation, we too become hurt. That is true communion. When the body of Christ is fully mended and attached one to another, when one member hurts, the others hurt as well. In a broken home, or a broken community, if there is no pain, it might be there are cold hearts. Nerves already damaged. More likely, there has been no true forgiveness. "



Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Crazy October but . . .

Next week is Reading week. Know what that means?

For some it is catchup week, while others, it meant a break from studies and go for a trip one has always wanted to make. Yet the name is fairly deceiving. Reading Week eh?

Next week, I hope to be able to read what is on God's mind. I have been more conscious of the Lord this year, perhaps I know my Regent sojourn will soon come to an end. Nevertheless, there are papers to write. I handed in one for the Conversion/Transformation class I had, and one more is due this Thursday for the Systematic Theology C.

Yet in the busyness, the cold weather, the wet Vancouver rains, I cannot resist noticing the beautiful blue sky, forming a backdrop behind trees of golden yellow/orange leaves as I walked to Regent. It is pure therapeutic. It is a pity to miss the nature in the midst of busyness. I was glad I did not miss the clear sky and everything blue. Makes me delight in the Lord.


Friday, October 13, 2006


This is a new online Bible study tool that is most helpful. For those of us who do not yet have a Bible software, don't fret. If you are on the Internet, here is one facility that will help your study even better. The NEXT Bible.

Although the default verse search brings you to the NET Bible edition, with one click on the hyperlinked verse number, you can have on one screen 10 other English translation, and 2 other languages like Greek or Hebrew that is transliterated for your convenience. Moreover, it is free for anyone to quote. That is electronic convenience at its best! Enjoy it here.

Note that NET bible is the New English Translation, while NeXtBible is name of the Bible study tool.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Warwick Business School

The latest MBA rankings from the Economist's acclaimed Which MBA? is out. It ranks the top 100 Universities offering MBA, through a ranking methodology. After all these years, we all know that these rankings are heavily marketed by the various Universities, as the MBA market is a very lucrative one. While we may question its actual effectiveness, the general rule is that the higher the rank, the more the attraction for good students. European MBAs may not dominate the top 10, but they sure dominate the higher level of earnings, as well as the diversity of recruiters as European MBAs are generally older and more experienced in the business world, compared to the younger US MBA graduates.

Warwick Business School remains at the upper half. Consistent indeed. It makes me feel good.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Singapore: Wireless Broadband enabled Islandwide

It's about time. After a spate of bad news (haze) and negative publicity (IMF protests) about the island,this is one piece of good news. An added incentive to return home soon.


1) "Singapore one nation under WiFi"
2) "Free wireless net access at public areas"
3) ChannelnewsAsia: Channelnewsasia
4) Today online: "Singapore, one giant hotspot"
5) Infoword Netherlands: "Previewing Singapore's free Wi-Fi service"

Seems like the freebies are back in town. Perhaps competition has played its hand, as neighbouring JB in Malaysia, is also gearing up for a citywide wireless initiative. Based on historical data, Singapore has a better track record for things on schedule.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Os Guinness's "Unspeakable"

The quotations at the front page of the book sets the tone for the book, which is on the presence of evil in the world.

1) "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke, 1729-1797)

2) "In Germany, they came first for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was nobody left to speak up." (Pastor Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984)

3) "The world is too dangerous to live in - not because of people who do evil, but because of people who sit and let it happen." (Albert Einstein, 1879-1955)

4) "Let us not forget that violence does not and cannot flourish by itself; it is inevitably intertwined with lying. Between them there is the closest, the most profound and natural bond: nothing screens violence except lies, and the only way lies can hold out is by violence. Whoever has once announced violence as his method must inevitably choose lies as his principle. The simple act of an ordinary courageous man is not to take part, not to support lies! Let the lie come into the world, even dominate the world, but not through me." (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 1918-)

In these quotes, the first three portrays a need to actively stand up against the evils and injustice in this world. The last quote by Solzhenitsyn, I would term "Passive act of good" in terms of not allowing oneself to be the channel of evil. As Christians, we need to be BOTH active and passive agents of goodness. We are created for good works. (Eph 2:10)

I agree with Guinness that the presence of overwhelming evil should not silence us, nor should it render us powerless that we do nothing. We should instead actively find ways to firstly recognize its reality, engage our emotional anger, and pray for opportunities to do something about it, no matter how small. Guinness is right to accuse Christians of moving to the 'faith clutch' too quickly without using our mental faculties to engage the explanation of evils like terrorism or Sep 11. The way of the mind, when dealing with evil must eventually point us to faith in God. His last paragraph is worth quoting.

Our challenge today is not to resort to faith as a clutch because reason has stumbled, but rather to acknowledge that reason, in its long, arduous search, has come up short and that where it has stopped it has pointed beyond itself to answers that only faith can fulfill. In the face of the horror of the unspeakable, only such faith can provide the best truths to come to terms with evil, the highest courage to resist evil, the deepest love to care for those caught in its toils, and the profoundest hope of the prospect of a world beyond evil, beyond hatred, beyond oppression, and even beyond tears.

Painful it is. Even greater pain is inflicted when those who are able to do something about it, don't.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Haze/Smog in South-East Asia

I remember the bad haze a couple of years ago, choking the cities of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, blamed on forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia. Since then, it has become an annual haze gathering and for the past few years, Singapore has been pretty much spared as the winds have blown most of the smog the other way. This year, since early October, the bad haze seems to be back with a vengence. Just today, the pollution index (PSI) hits a high of 130, smack in the unhealthy range. According to the Singapore media,
SINGAPORE (AP) -- Singapore's air quality deteriorated to its worst level this year on Saturday as acrid haze from brush fires in Indonesia filled the sky, the National Environment Agency said.

The Pollutants Standards Index hit 130 at 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) Saturday, the first time this year it has measured above 100, the agency said.

The agency defines an index reading of below 50 as good, a reading of 51-100 as moderate, and anything above 100 as unhealthy.

When I look at the clear blue skies and cool atmosphere in Vancouver, it feels like heaven. When I think of the haze nor in Singapore, I pray with a nod of understanding as I have breathed much of haze before a couple of years ago. One needs to have experienced something in order to be able to pray with better understanding.

The PSI reached an alarming 150 this morning when I checked. Check the PSI online.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Top 50 books in Evangelical World

Bonhoeffer, Piper, Noll, Dobson, Stott, Yancey, CS Lewis, Schaeffer are all there. Our very own JI Packer's Knowing God is at #5. Several Regent professors past and present were in the voting committee. Click here to go to the ChristianityToday web article.

Reaction from Far Eastern Economic Review

Having been banned from circulating in Singapore, this is a 'no-holds barred' response from the paper. Read it here.

Most certainly there will be a rebuttal from the Singapore government very soon.... Stay tuned..

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Take a break - some light-hearted moment

The long weekend has arrived, with Monday (9 Oct 06) a Canadian thanksgiving day. Here is a list of funnies I came across in a magazine.

#9 - Bertha Belch, a missionary from Indonesia, will be speaking tonight at Calvary Church. Come tonight and hear Bertha Belch all the way from Indonesia.

#8 - Eight new choir robes are needed due to the addition of several new members, and the deterioration of some older ones.

#7 - Scouts are saving aluminium cans, bottles, and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

#6 - The 8th graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

#5 - t the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What is hell?". Come early and listen to our choir practice.

#4 - Don't let worry kill you off - let the church help.

#3 - The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.

#2 - The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.

#1 - The sermon this morning: "Jesus walks on the water?" The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Words of Comfort

With exhaustion seeping into my bones, and tiredness round my eyes, I seek comfort in rest. Often guilty with feelings of self-inadequacy, the words below is an exposition of a welcoming arms of grace to a tired, weary and sinful self.

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning If I lack'd anything.

A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them:
let my shame Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

—George Herbert, 1593-1633

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Controversy at Calvin Theological Seminary

I happened to see a table by a representative from Calvin Theological Seminary last week, to publicise their programs, especially their doctoral programs since Regent does not offer doctoral degrees. Incidentally, I came across this recent controversy, which is still going on in the South. According to a Grand Rapids Press, Dr Ruth Tucker, a prominent professor at Calvin Theological Seminary has charged a sexual discrimination at her institution's administration. According to the Grand Rapids Press article,

"I was being held to a different standard than my male colleagues," Tucker, 61, said. "I do not believe that, had I been an insider and a man, that this ever would have happened to me."

In a lengthy, hard-hitting account on her Web site, Tucker, who taught missions and church history, calls her experience a "nightmare" and accuses administrators of covering up her appeals of a demotion three years ago.

"I hope that by telling my story no one else will ever have to endure such a painful ordeal as I have and that positive changes will come to the school," Tucker writes at

Though unwilling to go into details, seminary officials deny Tucker was discriminated against at the seminary founded in 1876.

"I believe that Professor Tucker as our first woman faculty member was really important to Calvin Theological Seminary, and we continue to be intent on using the gifts of women," said the Rev. Cornelius Plantinga Jr., president of the 300-student seminary.

The head of the seminary board said a committee thoroughly investigated Tucker's allegations, and trustees had hoped to promote her.

"I feel she was treated properly, especially by giving her accusations full review," said board President Sidney Jansma Jr.

Dr Ruth Tucker apparently felt the GR article above did not fully represent her view, hence she made her blogsite public.

Apparently, the CTS administration chose to remain silent. Lacking information, I suspend my judgment on such matters and prefer to pray for all parties concerned at this point. Let me know if you have further information on this.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Regent Can be Fun.

Who says Regent students cannot be fun? For those who missed this at the Warmbeach Retreat 2006, here is a nice clip.


Thoughts on Augustine Confessions

"People are moved to wonder by mountain peaks, by vast waves of the sea, by broad waterfalls on rivers, by the all-embracing extent of the ocean, by the revolutions of the stars. But in themselves they are uninterested." (Augustine Confessions, X.viii.15)

But my God, Who created the highest mountains, the deepest seas, the broadest waterfalls, the widest oceans, the amazing stars, and yet so intensely interested in the humble human race, including me. Such manifestations of love lifts me up when felt in the heart.


Church a Self-Satisfaction Enterprise?

People know how to claim to come to Church to worship God. Many say they live by faith, and that nothing is more important than knowing God's Word.

What about churches that has the situation of having Marriage Enrichment classes that are full, while those dealing with inner city projects, missionary focus and prayer meetings are in danger of being scrapped due to lack of interest!

A famous preacher even confessed that contrary to popular saying, adult Bible studies are not well attended, resulting in it being terminated in favour of other more 'popular' sessions like marriage, seminars on time and stress management, Da Vinci code and various things related to self fulfilment.

What kind of a Church are we dealing with? Maybe we can start calling them Community Centers instead. It seems to me that there are people who are itching all over but are being rubbed on the wrong side! Or people wanting to satisfy a deep internal felt need, but under the guise of an externally presentable platform of 'going to church.' Best of both worlds situation? Nope. That is the worst of both worlds.

In the first case, it is worse because self-fulfilling is never possible. They will always thirst. (John 4:13).

In the second, the Christian faith is either all or none, never half and a half. how can one put his hand in the plow and look back? (Luke 9:62)


Thursday, September 28, 2006

FEER Banned in Singapore (again!)

Another publication has been banned in Singapore. This time it is the Dow Jones publication, FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW. I remember my literature school teacher in Primary (Elementary) School who lavished praise on its reporting. Those days, banning of any publications is largely unheard of. According to the Asia1 report,

Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) can no longer be sold or distributed in Singapore from today, as the government has revoked the permit given to the Hong Kong-based monthly magazine.

This follows the failure by the publisher of FEER to comply with the conditions imposed under the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (NPPA), said the Ministry for Information, Communications and the Arts (Mica).

The government announced on Aug 3 that FEER was deemed an "offshore newspaper" and it must comply with the requirements before it could be circulated in Singapore.

This means it must appoint a representative here on behalf of the publisher and submit a security deposit of $200,000. FEER was given up to Sept 11 to meet the requirements.

That is for failing to appoint a legal representative as well as to put up a huge deposit in order to get a license for circulation in the country. What this means is that in the event the FEER puts up any 'irresponsible' articles, they can be sued for libel in the country, which can inflict large financial damages. Currently, Singapore is restricted to banning them, and not able to sue them for more money outside Singapore courts.

Should a press be completely free? Is it qualified for self-censorship? Is Singapore fair in their approach to muzzle the press this way?

1) Asia1
2) Bloomberg
3) Channelnewsasia

For me, I think it is only fair to play by the rules according to the rules of the country. For anyone who wants to criticise the Singapore government, remember that arsons are people who set fire deliberately and expect others to put out the fire. Though I may not fully agree with the methods used by the government, I understand where they are coming from.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Etcetera This Week (26-30 Sep 06)

This is Week 3 of Fall Term 2006, and the Regent student newsletter "Etcetera" carries with it an interesting article entitled: "Out of Lebanon". Written by a fellow student, it is a first hand perspective of the war in Lebanon few weeks ago between Israel and the Hezbollah. It is a condensed version but, the main gist of it is that the war there has been grossly misrepresented by the American mass media. The one in the Etcetera is a condensed version from the actual. Read the full version here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Movie: "Entertaining Angels"

A memorable quip:

"Do you know what is the problem with the world? Those who act, don't think, and those who think don't act!" (Peter Maurin, played by Martin Sheen)

This movie is about Dorothy Day, a courageous woman, determined to help the poor started the Catholic Worker movement. A person who experienced personal failures in relationships, she learnt that work done for a community must always be done by a community, never an individual crusade.

The beginning was noisy. The middle was depressing. The end was touching.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Seagull & The Rat (Lesson on fearing Fear)

There is an amazing assortment of living creatures on the UBC campus. Up in the skies there are seagulls, crows and an occasional eagle. Flat on the land, there are dogs, raccoons, squirrels and some rats. Normally the animals live in harmony with one another, at least during the moments when I venture outdoors. This morning, I heard a scuffle behind the bushes. I thought it was simply 2 birds fighting over scraps of food. I cycled nearer and saw a seagull trying to catch a rat. The rat was trying to break free from the talons of the seagull. The seagull was apparently hungry and tried to grasp the rat, about the size of an outstretched adult palm. Hearing my bicycle, the seagull suddenly let go of the rat. I guess while on the one hand it was hungry, on the other hand, it feared any danger to itself from the noise coming from my bicycle. It decided in favour of its own safety, and the rat sprinted off gladly to the safety of a large bush.

What a shame to give in to fear, and losing one's breakfast, I thought. A greater shame is when the fear is actually from me who is simply passing by, having no intention of hurting either seagull or rat. Far from it, I was even hoping for the seagull's success, as it will reduce the campus rat menace by 1. Alas, that was not to be.

Isn't it a pity when we paralyze ourselves due to fear that is self-imposed?
One can think of not wanting to try skiing for fear of breaking one's legs.
Or to keep quiet during class for fear of being ridiculed for asking 'silly' questions.
Or to play it safe by sticking to conservative paths, fearing the uncertainty in risk-taking.

In the first case, fear results in missing out the fun of skiing. In the second, fear causes a lost opportunity to clarify doubts and even close the learning opportunities. Finally, the lack of risk means no new breakthroughs. The seagull lost its breakfast because of its fear of perceived danger to itself. For us, fearing fear may exact a higher cost.

Sometimes the way to overcome fear is to experience more of life. This can only be done when we live not simply our own lives. More so, this is better learned in living together in a community of people in our lives. Within a community of people, one can keep in check the unhealthy fear. The community reflects back the reality in ways which individual persons cannot do so on their own.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Eccl 4:9-12)


Friday, September 22, 2006

Mothering with Love

Is love a many splendoured thing? Or simply something that we slap over amidst controversies or difficult discussion? Found this reflection from Patrick McNamara on Augustine pretty intriquing.

"Love is in labour with some, becomes weak with others; strives to edify some, dreads to be a cause of offense to others; stoops to some, before others stands with head erect; is gentle to some and stern to others; an enemy to none, a mother to all."

What caught my eye was 'mother to all.' Love is not a romanticised image of boy+girl=love. Neither is it a heart+arrow connotation of Cupid. Love must be tough says James Dobson. The Apostle Paul's widely quoted verse 1 Cor 13:13 says: "And now remains these three, faith, hope, love. But the greatest of these is love."

Mother. Love. Tough. Greatest. The image of a mother is one of the closest ever to defining love. All of us came into this world out of our mother's womb, often with tremendous pains that no words can ever describe. Babies feed from the mother's breast and establishes a relationship that none of us can verbalize. The love from a mother in caring and nursing a growing child is something few men can ever dared to boast of.

The words "To mother someone" has become denigrated in our society. It is used derogatively to dispel any attempts whether direct or indirect to encrouch on a person's independence. "Are you trying to mother me?" is something that is equal to "Hey, back off! Don't start telling me what to do. I know how to live my own life."

We must recover the sense of mothering in the sense that we offer another person a listening ear that is non-judgmental, but with an attitude of gentle guidance. It is like saying: "Go on, I am here if you need me." It is like a nearby boat accompanying, encouraging and being on standby for a lone swimmer attempting to swim across a 100 mile channel. It is like saying to a friend, "Press on. I am cheering for you!"

Mothering is not a bad word. It is one of the most beautiful images in life.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

An interesting Blog Opinion

Came across this blog from a Singaporean who have lived in Canada. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Regent Re-loaded

"How many courses are you taking?"
- Oh. Just 5, not counting the Audio.

"How many of those are you auditing?"
- None. I am doing all for credit.

"You're what! How could you do that?"
- I don't know. Pray for me.

That ended that conversation.

When I am busy, it is easy to simply breeze through people and rush from one reading to the next. Of all my classes, the most challenging this term is Systematic Theology C, where each week I have to read and summarise one primary source document. This week is supposed to be St Basil's treatise on the Holy Spirit. Next week is Calvin's Institutes. The following week is a Dominum et vivificantem....

This is only the second week, and I am feeling sunken already. Pray for me.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Peace quotes

"An eye for an eye will make the whole world go blind." (Gandhi)

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." (Mother Teresa)

"Why is it so easy for us to be willing to pick up arms and risk our lives, and so difficult to put down those same weapons and still risk our lives - in the cause of life?" (Ramzi Kysia, a young Muslim-American peace activist)

Friday, September 15, 2006

'Leaving Church' in order to find God? (Paradox)

"By fleeing the church to seek refuge in the world, I had reversed the usual paradigm, and I had to learn my way around the new one. For half my life, the axis of my world had run through the altar of a church. I spend most of my time in church, with church people, engaging in the work of the church. My view of reality grew from that center. I looked at life through the windows of the church, using the language I had learned there not only to describe what I saw but also to make sense of it. My context was so tightly focused that even my junk mail was Christian."
(From: "Leaving Church" by Barbara Brown Taylor Harper San Francisco, 2006, 168)

Barbara Brown Taylor is one of my favourite writers. She writes with a literary style that is deceptively simple, but deeply personal. Her book is a personal memoir of faith, in which she first sought to find God through the Church. Immersing herself in dedication and utmost service to the clergy profession, she reaches the point of burnt-out, in danger of not only losing her faith, but of her personhood as well. Soon she discovers that the only way for her to salvage her faith is to leave the church she was in.

We need to learn from people like her (not necessarily to physically leave the church). Do not wait to be burnt-out before we realise that 'serving God' is not the only thing in the world. The call to serve God must never be divorced from the need to be fully human. Thou shalt keep the Sabbath, holy as to the Lord. If God so needed to rest one day a week, dare not we? Read the book.


Damage Control (Singapore and IMF/WB mtgs)

So Singapore finally relents after extensive pressure. 22 of the banned 27 activists will finally be allowed to enter the country.

1) "Singapore, rebuked, lifts ban (IHT)"
2) "Singapore relents ban over activists (FT)"
3) "Singapore Allows some activists to meet (Hindu Times)"
4) "22 out of 26 now able to enter (CNA)"

Somehow, the damage to Singapore's reputation has already been done. At least, this latest relent by the Singapore authorities has limited the damage. Unfortunately, when I did a comparison on Google news search, the number of news articles about this latest turnaround is 377 compared to a high of 1300 about Singapore's refusal to allow the protestors to enter. Singapore has given the International media the unfortunate chance to parade the country in a negative way.

Hopefully, the media in general will be responsible to treat the whole issue as a learning process for a young country. There is hope. The Singapore leadership is open. The concern now is who are they being open to? Without the personal intervention of the IMF President and World Bank top officials, without the pressure of the International Media, without the threat of boycott by well known International Civil action groups, will this latest relent ever happen?

Power, wealth, and reputation rules the day.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Willfulness vs Willingness

I appreciate this piece of caution against the overdependence on the will.

"I can will knowledge, but not wisdom;
Going to bed, but not sleeping;
Meekness but not humility;
Scrupulousity but not virtue;
Self-assertion or bravado, but not courage;
Lust, but not love;
Commiseration, but not sympathy;
Congratulations, but not admiration;
Religiosity but not faith."
(Leslie Farber in The ways of the will: Selected Essays)

Why am I touched by this? That is partially because I have seen many (including myself) who have struggled the emotional ups and downs of doing good works, based on sheer will and self-determination. Will itself can be extremely effective. Upper management places a high premium on strong will. Even Christians in ministry sometimes pride themselves in being strong-willed to serve in all kinds of situations. I listen with concern when people say they "enjoy what they are doing." I asked inside my head, "What happens when you DON'T enjoy what you are doing?"

There are 2 kinds of will. A self-will or simply being willing. The difference is subtle. One former depends on self, like a gripped fist of determination. The latter is like an open palm, humble , gentle and waits to be led to a place unknown. For Christians, we too are constantly led to unknown places in our pilgrimage of life. The big difference, is we are led by a known God. My point is, we must never plan our lives based solely on what we enjoy or not enjoy doing, and then trust our Self-Will to fuel the whole journey. Did Christ ENJOY being led to the Cross? No. For Him, it is obedience.


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