Friday, December 28, 2007

New Year Reflections- end 2007

I was thinking about what is the best way to reflect on 2007 as the year comes to a close. Nothing beats forgiveness, and this story (available widely on the Internet) embodies this in an excellent way. Should we end the year with unresolved relationships or should we make a proactive effort to heal the wounds?

For me, it is a year to reconcile how I should be a better father, a more loving husband and a deeper pilgrimage in the Lord. Forgiveness is a multi-dimensional practice. Asking for forgiveness as well as forgiving those who have hurt us. Like the Spiderman 3 movie where our superhero battles helplessly with Sandman. After repeated futile attempts to subdue Sandman, in the final confrontation, three words made Sandman go away forever. "I forgive you." More powerful than any military weapons. More effective than any brilliant strategies. More potent than any Spiderman tactics. Here lies the good news. These three words are not copyrighted by Spiderman or anyone else. It is free for anyone to use. The only condition is, you must mean it.

The Devil and the Duck

There was a little boy visiting his grandparents on their farm. He was given a slingshot to play without in the woods. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit the target. Getting a little discouraged, he headed back for dinner.

As he was walking back he saw Grandma's pet duck. Just out of impulse, he let the slingshot fly, hit the duck square in the head, and killed it. He was shocked and grieved. In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the wood pile, only to see his sister watching! Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.

After lunch the next day Grandma said, "Sally, let's wash the dishes." But Sally said, "Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen." Then she whispered to him, "Remember the duck?" So Johnny did the dishes.

Later that day, Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing and Grand! ma said, "I'm sorry but I need Sally to help make supper." Sally just smiled and said," Well that's all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help." She whispered again, "Remember the duck?"

So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed to help.

After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally's he finally couldn't stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed the duck. Grandma knelt down, gave him a hug, and said, "Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing. But because I love you, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you."

Thought for the day and every day thereafter: Whatever is in your past, whatever you have done -- and the devil keeps throwing it up in your face (lying, debt, fear, hatred , anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, etc.) whatever it is, you need to know that God was standing at the window and He saw the whole thing, He has seen your whole life. He wants you to know that He loves you and that you are forgiven. He's just wondering how long you will let the devil make a slave of you.

The great thing about God is that when you ask for forgiveness, He not only forgives you, but He forgets -
It is by God's Grace and Mercy that we are saved.

Go ahead and make the difference in someone's life today.
Share this with a friend and always remember ...
God is at the window!............

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Another Temptation

Saw this new book (published date Nov 2007) at the Regent Bookstore today. I am sorely tempted but I have to restrain myself. Not sure how long I can resist this...........

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The High Cost of Low Pricing

- "Lowest Price Guaranteed."
- "Buy Low"
- "Cheapest in Town"

Banners like these attract large segments of society, even the rich. Who does not want to pay less for more stuff. Who does not window shop for the best bargains available? Indeed, we are often quick to latch onto any good offers. Unfortunately, many first world consumers do not look beyond the price tag. They simply do not question much on why the price for the product can be so low in the first place. How can a product be so cheap? So dirt-cheap? With inflation rising every year, how is it then possible that prices are able to come down? Can it be simply explained through a supply-demand equation?

Vincent Gallagher brings to our attention that there is more than meets the eye. Calling the true cost of low price as due to the violence from globalization, he points out that:

"Low prices that benefit first-world consumers often put the poor at even greater risk. As transnational corporations continually try to increase profits by reducing costs, laborers in Latin America, Asia, Africa, or here in the US, work long hours but are still poor, hungry and subject to abuse." (Vincent Gallagher, True Cost of Low Prices)

In the film "Manufactured Landscapes", the cost of low price is brought home in a big way when the various scenes were flashed. Lowly paid workers do their jobs in conditions that are extremely dangerous. No visors were used when welding. No safety belts when painting at high altitudes. No footwear when working in grimy toxic environments. The list goes on. I ask, what if the first world manufacturers were to insist that their third world business partners adopt safety practices acceptable to first world standards? To the big public-listed producers, will they be prepared to endure the wrath of shareholders, when the costs of production goes up? For the middle-man, the distributors of products, are they prepared to help share the additional cost of safety requirements, or would they rather pass the costs down to consumers? For the consumer, are they prepared to pay more than 3 times what they are paying now? Even if Producer A decides to sanction safety rules, will other producers B and C take advantage of Producer A's ethically right moves? It is much too tempting for another competitor to fill the gap. If A decides to charge consumers higher due to ethically correct moves, will B's decision to continue ethically wrong practices be rewarded when customers flock to buy B's products in the name of lower costs? Through consumer behaviour, producers are financially rewarded for ethical poverty! After all, many consumers buy on price alone. Globalization in this sense puts the powerful in control, at the expense of the poor and weak.

Consumers have become hypnotized by lower prices, that they will go all out to buy anything based on price alone. "Low pricing" is like drugs. It is addictive. That is why when we see a supposedly cheap product, we must have eyes that see beyond the price tag. If a product cost $50 and is sold for $5, then $45 must have been absorbed somewhere else. Who do we expect to absorb? The rich or the poor? Gallagher witnessed first hand the following cases:

  • workers lose fingers and hands when protective shields are taken off machines to increase productivity.
  • Buildings can be constructed more quickly if fall protection is not implemented.
  • Food processing equipment can be cleaned more quickly if it is not shut down and the power locked out. If kept running without protective guards, it can be easily sprayed and cleaned, even though cleaners risk having their hands chopped off
  • Hundreds of deaths due to asbestos inhalation leading to ling disease because companies save on safety masks
(Vincent A Gallagher, The True Cost of Low Prices, Orbis Books, 2006, p2-3)

Gallagher tells a compelling story shared by Hasidic rabbi Levi Yitshal from Ukraine. It is so powerful that I will quote verbatim.
The rabbit visited the owner of a tavern. Two peasants were at a table. They were drinking with reckless abandon with arms around each other saying how much they loved each other. Ivan said to Peter: "Peter, tell me what hurts me?" Weary-eyed Peter looked at Ivan: "How do I know what hurts you?" Ivan's answer was swift: "If you don't know what hurts me, how can you say you love me?"
[Donald H Dunson, No Room at the Table: Earth's Most Vulnerable Children (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2003, 25]

Indeed, we need to love God and neighbour through merciful and thoughtful spending or not spending. Whenever we buy a low price product, ask who is actually paying the actual costs. Are we buying cheap at the expense of the poor? Have we noticed that low price for the consumer does not mean low price for all?

Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek.
Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor.

Should I not punish them for this?" declares the LORD.
"Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?
(Jeremiah 5:17-19)

Example: The Walmart Story documentary. An indicting film about one of the world's largest corporations that build its success on one factor - low prices. Why? Because consumers asked for it.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Taking 'Multi-tasking' to task

When IBM introduced the first Personal Computer (PC) back in 1981, it was a single-tasking machine. It came with a single sided floppy disk drive, a single expansion board, a single hard-disk drive and of course a single Central Processing Unit. More than 25 years later, the personal computer has become a multi-tasking system, having motherboard with multiple functions. Having more than one hard-drive, dual core CPU, multiple slots for different expansion cards of different types. Some even have dual video monitors in order to 'enhance productivity'.

In 25 years, we have migrated from a simple single tasked machine to a mammoth multi-tasking capable computer both hardware and software. In the hardware zone, more devices can plug and play. In the software arena, more applications can be opened within the same operating system. With the age of virtualization, we can have more than one operating system running simultaneously in one machine! Here is the logic. If machines can be made to be multi-tasking, and if humans made these devices, then obviously, human beings can be made to multi-tasked, right?

Beware of the 'Multi-Tasking' Worldview

Not really. While it is true that people nowadays can do a lot of things within the same amount of time, it does not necessarily mean greater efficacy or productivity. Does three average jobs make up for one piece of excellent work? Which statement best describes our modern living?

(A) "Jack of All Trades, Master of One"
(B) "Jack of All Trades, Master of None"?

I suspect most people find themselves more in the B-group. Here is my hypothesis. The common desire to live a 'balanced life' stem from that desire to master a lot of things at any one time, multi-tasking not only our work/jobs but our whole life. This creeps into our social domain where people try to balance their relationships in terms of scheduling time with friends and family. The danger is that if we are not careful, while we may be seen to do a lot of things, we may actually be accomplishing very minimal. Like the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, it will take an innocent little child to tell it as it is. Doing a lot of things does not equal to accomplishing a lot of things. Activities can always be ranked or prioritized. When we lose that ability to set such criteria, we know that we have diminished our capacity to discern what is really important for ourselves. When that happens, our family, our social relationships will become entangled in a web of busyness. We get trapped in a small area of sticky silk, not knowing that our rhythms and vigorous movements of external activities are actively attracting the hungry spider, ready to eat away our humanity!

Heather Menzies, an adjunct professor at Carleton University wrote a book called “No Time” which addresses the challenges of modern life on the individual, on institutions and on society. “Nobody seems to have time anymore,” she bemoans. In a fast-track lifestyle where everyone tries to accomplish many things at one go, individuals get stressed, overworked with chronic fatigue and ultimately feeling trashed. Institutions become more artificial, and even health care organizations become an institution where the ‘talk’ is louder than the ‘walk.’ Bring together stressed individuals and institutions deserting authenticity, we have a potent formula for an attention-deficit society. Civilization gets redefined as a place where every man cares only for himself. “If I care for you, who cares for me?” becomes a common justification for nonchalance. Our churches are not easily spared. The enthronement of multi-tasking capability to a symbol of admiration is fast replacing the faithful single minded focus to do one thing well at any given time.

David Harvey in his book, The Condition of Postmodernity
“Time-space compression always exacts its toll on our capacity to grapple with the realities unfolding around us.”
When we cut down time for others and space for ourselves, obviously something will need to go: our humanness. David Altheide, in An Ecology of Communication, argues that:

“An increasing array of life is processed rather than lived, recorded rather than remembered and tracked rather than understood.”
This observation aptly captures the kind of life we encounter daily. We can do so many things but never really get to rest in the house we have, to smell the flowers we grow, to give to the poor a portion of the money we earn, or to hug the children we love. We become the human do-ing instead of human be-ing. In the light of individual stress and having no time for people, isn’t it natural that we feel uncared for, and feeling de-humanized?

We are not meant to live multi-tasking lives without them exacting a personal price or a social cost from ourselves. Nothing is ever free. Everything has a price tag to it. Even salvation is not free. It has been paid for at an outrageous high price by Someone. If we blindly succumb to the everyday pressures without pausing to think, to reflect and to contemplate the Spirit of God speaking to us, we will toil through life, having eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear, and hearts that will not understand.

What Then Shall we Do?

How can we get out of it all? Is there a solution to our predicament? I think there is no substitute for taking time and making space. Right from the book of Genesis, God has already placed the antidote for all of humanity. This is called the Sabbath rest: the seventh day that the Lord made holy. If Christians are to practice their Sabbath rest regularly, obeying Sabbatical principles diligently, there will be healthier individuals, more wholesome Church and ultimately a more powerful witness for Christ. Take time to relax with loved ones and to care for one another on the Sabbath day. Make the space not only in our calendars for loved ones. Carve our enough room in our hearts to let God speak to us in the serenity of the early morning hours.

Practice the Sabbath regularly and recover the original plan of God’s creation. I am willing to bet that if people in society observe diligently the Sabbatical rest principle, there will not only be lesser psychologically related issues, stress of any sort will be healthily manageable. Multi-tasking should be rightly placed in its own proper contexts. It should not define what we should do. Instead of multi-tasking everything unless otherwise, the more humane choice is wherever possible, do NOT multi-task. How does a child feel when the parent says he is listening to him, while at the same time, he fiddles frantically with an SMS on his mobile phone, his eyes aimed in front of two computer screens, and with his iPod's headphones plugged into his ears, as he munches away his chicken rice?

As Abraham Heschel wonderfully puts it.
“The Sabbath is last in creation, but first in intention.”
This creates a paradigm shift which should clue us in, toward a better understanding of the meaning of existence.

Key to Effective Youth Ministry

Encourage young people to speak respectfully, to think carefully, to listen diligently, and to realize that after all that is said and done, what they have shared or not shared matters.

Half-Way Faith?

Matt. 14:22 ¶ Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.
Matt. 14:23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.
Matt. 14:24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.
Matt. 14:25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.
Matt. 14:26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.
Matt. 14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Matt. 14:28 ¶ Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
Matt. 14:29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Matt. 14:30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Matt. 14:31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Matt. 14:32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.
Matt. 14:33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

Whenever I read this passage, I often jump to the part where Peter starts to sink, drawing conclusion that because he kept his eyes off Jesus, he went down the waters. I re-read the passage again today and realised that Peter is not one who does not have faith. He is not a negative example of what Christians should not do. Rather, he is simply a reflection of ourselves who often live our faith half-way. But there is more....

I will start with some observations of the text, how this incident of Peter reflects who we are in our Christian walk. First, the word "Immediately" appears three times and each time it has got to do with Jesus's actions. The adverb eutheos, was used to describe Jesus's deeds. The first comes in the form of a command to the disciples to get inside the boat. Upon doing that, he went on to shoo the crowds home. The second time 'immediately' was used is in v27, where Jesus comes with words of comfort at his appearance. He knew that the disciples were afraid, and his immediate reaction was to comfort them. Comfort them he did, not just in the speed of delivery but also in the same commanding tone, similar to the 'immediate' and 'making them enter the boat' manner. The third time the word immediately was used is in v31. In this third instance, Jesus stretched out his hand quickly to hold on to Peter before he sank any further. Such immediacy is encouraging. Three adverbs. Three aorist verbs. Three times the Lord took immediate steps to the welfare of his disciples. The first time, the Lord forces them to go away from the crowds, an indication of a need to rest. The second time, the Lord comforts them with his very presence, by appearing with them, without the crowds with him. The third time, the Lord saves Peter from drowning. It is like Jesus saying to us,
- I will make you to lie down besides still waters and to rest.
- I will comfort you when you are afraid
- I will save you when you are in despair and in trouble.

In all of these instances, Jesus took the initiative. Isn't that comforting that it is the Lord who initiates rest for his disciples, comfort when they are in trouble, and saving them when they are in deep waters. This is a vivid allusion to the prophetic words,
Is. 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.

It is easy to laugh at Peter and say that he asked for it. After all, he was the one who insisted on walking on water like Jesus. The Master graciously acceded to his request but it was Peter himself in his moment of showmanship who fumbled for lack of faith. O how much the Lord long to give you the chance to live out our faith to the full? How greatly he yearned to have us walk to him in faith in spite of the risk of waters flowing all over us? He makes us rest so that we can see moments and opportunities to express our faith. He gave us comfort in the exercise of such faith. He even stayed by our side to hold us up when we falter in our Christian walk.

For the busy Christian servant, Jesus speaks to us, that there is a time to serve, and also a time to get away from the crowd or ministry. Look at how Jesus himself went off to shoo the crowds away, despite the many needs. Jesus took time to make sure that his servants are able to rest far away from the demanding needs of ministry. We need people to pull servants of the Lord away from ministry regularly so that they can pray and re-calibrate their spiritual bearings.

For the aspirant who wants to be like Jesus, to do what Jesus does, God allows such people to do so according to their measure of faith. Jesus said 'come' (v29) to the waters. He did not say no, for he knew that such practice of faith will encourage his people. Servants of the Lord need to be encouraged as they live out the faith.

For the dejected, who felt that they are sinking into the waters of despair, Jesus holds out his hand and any reprimand is done gently. It is amazing that in the light of all the strong aorist verbs used by Jesus in the passage, the verb "Jesus said" when Peter was in doubt was a gentler verb. This is very gratifying to know that when Jesus corrects his enthusiastic disciples, he does it in a way befitting of a caring and loving father.

Christian ministry is tough and often energy sapping. That is why we need to be made to go away and rest, frequently. The Christian walk is exciting and we are also frequently shown that it is possible to do what Jesus did, walk the way he walked. Simply the opportunity to do so, ought to excite any believer. Finally, Christian work can be discouraging, and many servants have sank into the waters of despair. Jesus is immediately holding out his hand to encourage us, all the time.

In the light of this devotion, is this passage merely a teaching not to practice 'half-way faith?' I think it may carry some references to it, but to see it will be to miss the point. We have a human tendency to work and overwork ourselves to the point of burn-out and exhaustion. That is why we need to be forced to rest. We have a tendency to want to live out an active faith. That is why Jesus presents us with ways to do so. There is no lack of opportunities. We have a propensity to be easily swayed by bad news and negative circumstances that we become discouraged in ministry. In all of these, Peter's reactions reflect the humanness we all possess. The main point I feel is the presence of a loving God who takes care of us before we fall, who comfort us and hold us up even when we falter.

And he does so in a special way, in the best possible timing: "Immediately", or ASAP God's style.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Followup to "The Golden Compass" Part 2

This is a followup to my earlier response. There is an interesting article on Christianity Today entitled: "The Chronicles of Atheism." It is one of the best articles written to engage thoughtfully the underlying themes of the book/movie. One of the most important point is in the confusing nature of the daemons in a child. This quote should illustrate what I mean.
One of the trilogy's main narrative devices is the "daemon." In The Golden Compass's universe, every human being is accompanied by an animal that reflects that person's soul. The daemons of young children constantly change shape, from one animal to another, because the children have not yet settled into their adult personalities.
Listen to the ensuing conversation in the clip below and put yourself in the position of the child. Two adults with different opinions. Two authority figures. Imagine them fighting their adult battles in the mind of a little child. Should the child believe a poise, cool attractive lady? Or an old bearded man? Who will the child trust? Will the child use this to generalize the need to be suspicious of all kinds of authority? Watch the clip here.

Personally, I liken stuff like this to planting the seeds of distrust of institutions, and undercut respect for the elderly. Movies like this are going to be more common. I think the atheistic background and intent of the writer of the book is easy to spot. However, what's more sinister are the subtle methods used to erode traditional values. If you are bringing your child to watch the movie, be sure to discuss it with them.

As far as Philip Pullman and those who try to market this kind of movie to kids, I have to say this: "Go pick someone your own size and leave young innocent kids alone." Perhaps we should get the authorities to change the movie from NR (Not Rated) to R (Restricted).

Welcome to the new Millennium and how the enemy has redrawn the battle lines.

Some links to other articles:
1) Breakpoint Ministries
2) Christianity Today Blog
3) CT Article
4) First Things


Snow in Vancouver (Day 2)

Snow is heavy today. We avoided traveling too far out, except to a
nearby Church. Sometimes, it is not how careful we drive, but how
careless others drive. Accidents do happen in the most unexpected
situations. There was a Toyota Prius that crashed along University Blvd
today. The front was totally snashed up against a tree. It had a
California license plate. Poor lady. We spent the day eating hot-food
followed by more ski-dooing. The kids loved it. Good clean fun.
Short Video clip of the falling snow

Two hearts. Nice
Outside University Chapel

Regent College in Winter

Let it snow . Let it snow. Let it snow....

Nice to have a cuppa on a cold snowy day

This is mini-'Whistler' free at University Village

View from Staples

Snowman. Sorry, no carrot.

See my kids doing their ski-dooing.
Aaron trying out his super duper ski-boarding.

See how Clarissa fare


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Early Snow in Vancouver

December 1st opens with nice flurries that greet us early in the morning. Pretty sight. By noon, the snow has accumulated about 3-5 inches. Still pretty and I was told that it was dry snow, which is excellent for skiing. Well, that activity is not cheap. So we do the poor man's activity: Simply enjoy the sight and all, and make an occasional snowball, big and small.

West 10th @ Sasamat

West 10th @ Sasamat Pt 2

Scraping Snow off the car

Kids playing with the snow

At St Andrews Residence

Monday, November 26, 2007

Reformation in the Anglican Church?

On November 23rd, the "Anglican Network in Canada" was announced. It will be separated from the Anglican Church of Canada which many members are intending to dissociate from. This was covered by the National Post, AFP, Canadian Christianity and many others. Dr JI Packer gave a presentation at the launch. The reasons for such a move is quite similar to the 2002 situation where Dr Packer, together with many put a stake in the ground to halt any move towards liberalism in the Anglican Church. One of the hottest and most contentious issue has to do with blessings of gay couples in the Church. In the National Post article, the spokesperson said something very stunning:

"The homosexual issue is just the tip of the iceberg," said Cheryl Chang, a board member of the Anglican Network.

"It is what's under the water that is more critical to us. The liberals see the Bible as a book that can be changed and interpreted, and conservatives see it as unchangeable through generations. And those are simply irreconcilable views."
Two prominent bishops have realigned themselves with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, which oversees most South American Anglicans.

The Anglican Church hit back at this splinter group accusing them of schism, and at the same time threatening to keep existing property and assets from anyone who leaves the Communion. They also accused the South Americans for cross-continental interference into Canadian religious jurisdiction. The Anglican Network defended themselves as follows:
We are not leaving anything. It's actually the Anglican Church of Canada that is leaving Anglicanism. On that basis, should parishes choose to join new structure under the Southern Cone, we will not see that as a leaving, but as a staying, and we intend to defend that position.
Incidentally, last Sunday's message in the church I attend, happens to use the same argument with respect to the South American act of 'interference.' Essentially the argument is something like, Why is the Anglican leadership concerned with trying to keep 600 years of Anglicanism together when they have failed be faithful to the gospel that is 2000 years old! (sic)

I think he is right. What good is salt if it is not salty anymore? If the gospel can be easily whittled down according to all kinds of interpretations and misinterpretations, and selected on the basis of unity, is that really 'good news?' No, it sounds more like good playdol.

I choose to have no part in that. The gospel alone has the power to change lives. Should we shape (twist) the gospel in order to cater to people's perceived needs? OR Should we bring the people to the Word, and let the Word shines through?

Here is a metaphor. Natural foods are definitely better than processed substance. Processed stuff may have a longer shelf life due to artificial preservatives. It may even taste better upfront. In the long run, it is deadly.

I love my Anglican brothers and sisters in Christ, and I have no doubts that there are faithful people to the gospel within the Anglican Church now, no matter how liberal it may be. Whatever the disputes or disagreements, I pray that love be manifested throughout. Sometimes the most loving way to love is to be brutally honest with one another. This is what is happening now. Or is it too little too late?

1) Why I Walked (Dr JI Packer)
2) More articles by Dr Packer.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dr JI Packer in the News

Our dear professor, Dr JI Packer is standing up for purity in the Anglican Church. I respect him for affirming principles he believes in deeply. Challenge him anytime, and the Word of God will flow out and educate many of us.

Links: Province Article today


Buy Nothing Day is Today!

Traditionally, this is done after the US thanksgiving. As the movement grows, it has attracted interest from outside North America. While November 23rd is the North American BND, November 24th is the International version. Started by Ted Dave, an artist from British Columbia, this year, it has attracted Christians who try to put on a 'Christian-equivalent' with names like Church of Stop Shopping, "Four Horsemen of the Shopocalypse", and "What Would Jesus Buy?". Recalling how some Christians try to be 'relevant' and my own reflections on what relevance should mean, I feel a little sad, that while the intent is to spread the kingdom of God, the way it is being done is certainly bizarre, even embarrassing. BND is started by environmentalists to combat the rising consumerism in the rich West and the wealthy societies worldwide. It is a day that people can take time to reflect. Things like this should not be a problem for people who have learned to fast from time to time. I wonder what will be more reflective of Jesus? Will Jesus practice a life of "Buy Nothing" or "Sell Everything"? From my reading of Scripture, Jesus will definitely practice the latter.


1) Buy Nothing Day website
2) CBC Report
3) "What Would Jesus Buy?" CNN Report.
4) Reactions to the 'Jesus twist' to BND.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Useful Movie Evaluation Links

Here is a collection of links that evaluate movies from a Christian perspective. It is listed here for convenience, and does not necessarily mean I agree with all of their content. Note that they are all USA based. Interesting.....

  1. Childcare Action Project Movie Ministry
    Based in Texas, USA, this looks like a small independent group, concerned for movies that can impact children. Quite a number of interesting perspectives.
  2. Christian Answers Net
    A ministry of Eden Communications, based in Arizona USA.
  3. Christianity Today
    A popular evangelical ministry based in Illinois, USA.
  4. Crosswalk Ministries
    A for-profit organization, that belongs to a wider network called that is based in Richmond, Virginia, USA. Looks rather huge.
  5. GospelCom
    Member of the Gospel Communications International, famous for its ever popular Bible Gateway search engine, "Biblegateway", based in Muskegon, Michigan USA.
  6. Hollywood Jesus
    Aims to provide a spiritual point of view regarding modern pop culture. A member of the alliance.
  7. Movie Guide
    Founded by Dr Ted Baehr, the ministry aims toward "redeeming the values of the entertainment industry according to biblical principles." Based in Atlanta, Georgia USA.
  8. Plugged In
    A Ministry of Focus on the Family, founded by Dr James Dobson, based in

What if this is your church?

As a quick follow-up to my previous posting, this is an example of the tricky nature of wanting to be relevant. A church has invited young people to play Halo video game in their church. What will you do if this is your church?


Should a Church Try to Be Relevant?

Yesterday at church, someone brought up with the idea of Relevance. I have been hearing this word for a long time. I suppose it is because many churches are frustrated with the lack of growth, both numerically and spiritually. Megachurches and growing churches are taking up all the headlines. In America, "Willow Creek Community Church" and "Saddleback" are two of the most well known churches, precisely because it is attracting lots of attention in its growth. In Korea, Cho Yongi's name is household fame. In Singapore, City Harvest Church and New Creation Church are receiving rave reviews and headlines, both positive as well as negative.

There are many proponents to the idea of making the church relevant to the world. Some see this as a missional enterprise. Some churches like Focal Point believes that church should not be boring in the first place. Churches like Growthtrac wants to make their programmes attractive in the name of relevance. The Emergent Church movement is one major player in the relevancy enterprise. What is the Emergent Church movement? From my initial readings, they seek to engage the contemporary cultures, especially the younger generation in terms of first getting them into a conversation. According to Christianity Today, there are five defining streams. The writer, Scot McKnight, creatively puts it in alliteration form: Prophetic, Postmodern, Praxis-Oriented, Post-Evangelical and Political. There is a helpful definition from that article.
Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses nine practices. Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities. [Eddie Gibbs & Ryan Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Baker Academic, 2005)]
Brian McLaren is often named the unofficial leader of the Emergent church movement (ECM). Some critics have pretty harsh comments for him. Another popular speaker is Leonard Sweet, who recently released a very catchy book by the title: "The Gospel According to Starbucks." Simply reading the title will make any bored soul sit up.

Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, two very respectable evangelical scholars has this to say:
"The task of the church is not to make the church relevant to the world, but to make the world relevant to the church."
There is even a "Relevant Magazine" that comprises people who "want to break stereotypes, challenge status-quo and enact change through the media." Another evangelical scholar, DA Carson, has strong words against the Emergent Church. He says that the presupposition of the ECM's thinking is too 'reductionistic and wooden.' (Da Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church, p59). Carson's enthusiasm or over-enthusiasm in trying to support his viewpoints even peeved my school professor when he lumped my professor with the ECM. From Carson's preface, it seems that the book is a book of generalizations. Apparently, Carson might have overdone this. While Carson made pretty good arguments against the ECM, his arguments loses much scholastic potency due to such generalizations.

Opponents to the 'relevance' doctrine see the problem in terms of consumerism. There are places which are strongly against the idea of a purpose-driven church and points out concerns about it being a church-growth movement. Others take a poke at the emergent church movement, by suggesting two ways to be relevant. I think this is more fine-tuning the relevance idea, rather than a direct criticism.

I have no problems with the intent of the ECM, which is to reach out and touch lives for God. Neither have I any problems with the desire to identify with the surrounding culture and to revitalize the church. What is my concern is the danger in diluting the gospel. Any attempts to be relevant risk some kind of compromise and oversimplification of the gospel message. Jesus does not mince his words when he teaches his disciples to sell and give away everything they have and then follow him. Paul urges the church not to be conformed to this world. Eugene Peterson's rendition of Rom 12:2 makes it very clear:
Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. (MSG)
Firstly, when we want to engage culture, we need to engage it from the basis of Scripture teaching. Remember that we are not of the world. We are in the world. As long as we are in the world, we need to wear the armour of God before venturing forth. Otherwise, we are exposed to all kinds of worldly influence that will eventually destroy us, and the people we are trying to reach.

Secondly, we must take note of place. The idea of place is something we cannot do away lightly with. Can we teach the Bible in the pub or the discotech? Can we try to preach Christ in a busy shopping mall? Even churches find it hard to teach the Bible through the pulpit and resort to spiritual retreats or annual camps away from the city! Jesus often retreated to the mountains and the wilderness to pray and be with God.

Thirdly, we must take notice of individual persons rather than generalizing how people looks like. Mass appeal programs do not necessarily meet the needs of every individual. If ECM becomes like a mass evangelism enterprise, it will not go far.

Fourthly, the notion of relevance needs to be constantly examined. We do not become relevant for relevance sake. Instead, we grow to be like Christ, and in the process we become like light set on the hill, that shines its brightness to the world around us. We do not need to sugar-coat the gospel to attract people. The gospel alone has the power to change people. Moreover, a lousy program that is run by loving and devoted people reaches deeper than a wonderful program operated by people merely going through the motions, and distancing themselves from the people they are trying to reach.

Fifthly, we need to see that the battle is often internal. Taking Paul's letter to the Ephesians, we must beware of spiritual warfare. Os Guiness in his wonderful book "Dining with the Devil" warns us that the problem about megachurches in the shopping mall, is not the church inside the shopping mall. It is the 'shopping mall' that is inside the church that is troubling. This reminds me that while it is easy for Israel to leave Egypt physically, it is harder for Israel to remove 'Egypt' inside them out of their lives. Look at how often they complain to Moses, after the Lord has delivered them from slavery!

Sixthly, becoming culturally relevant must never be done at the expense of biblical reverence. If Jesus does not mince his words, and Paul is prepared to stand for Christ even risking martyrdom, why should we as his disciples mince ours?

Seventhly, we must constantly 're-invent' our methods and structures not according to changing cultural norms, but according to what the Holy Spirit is teaching us. There might be formulas that work for certain churches but not for others. We must discern carefully all the time, wearing TRI-FOCAL lenses, to check whether the prompting, the message or the idea is from God, from the devil or from our fleshly desires.

In a nutshell, the need to be relevant can be one style of outreach. It must never become the only or the main way to do it. The chief way is always prayer with Scripture and obedience to its teachings. The best 'culturally relevant' enterprise for me lies in the following. Jesus said.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35, NIV)
Practicing this transcends all kind of relevancy equations, all kinds of megachurch mania and all kinds of statistical concerns. It transcends time zone. Love is a language that the world understands. We need not worry so much about becoming relevant, when we are able to show love and concern for one another in the church. If church members are prepared to go all out to help one another in all kinds of ways possible, it will attract the world to the church, like bees to honey. People will then be enticed to taste and truly see for themselves that the Lord is good. Indeed, for those of us who have such a privilege, we can say without blinking an eye that the Lord is truly good.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jolt Quote XVI

"The world has grown too small to forgive us any big mistakes." (Ronald Wright)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"The Moral Compass" vs "The Golden Compass"

I have been getting several emails about this "Golden Compass" movie, due to be released soon. Initially, I was unwilling to add any more to its already huge publicity stint. However, the growing interest makes it quite necessary for me to say something about it. In summary, while I have my reservations about the movie/book, I think Christians must play fair when critiquing anything.

The most popular posting AGAINST the movie is this. Snopes is often used to check against hoax messages on the internet. This time, it looks like people are using them as a warning label against the Golden Compass movie. The Catholic League condemns the movie outright. They are unhappy that the movie targets the Catholic Church institution directly, and that the movie is an insidious invitation for unsuspecting minds (especially children) to read Pullman's other books. If the "Golden Compass" is considered mild, the other books are worse, so says the Catholic League. They also argue that the timing of the release of the movie is an affront against Christian values, since it coincide with the coming Christmas season. The logic is this: Children will be confused that the coming of Christ gets meshed up with the 'killing of God'. Can children able to link the two together? Even adults can sometimes be confused. How much more our kids?

Some groups feel that it is blown out of proportion. There are those who see the movie as an opportunity to talk about the pros and cons of atheism. The National Catholic Register has this to say. There are also scholars who while normally moderate, tilt towards asking people to "avoid the movie like a plague."

There are plenty of arguments for and against the banning of the movie. For me, it is certainly not safe for people (not only children) who are biblically illiterate to read and draw conclusions just by reading the book. It will be like eating bad pizza and concluding that all kinds of pizza are equally bad. For those who have biblical grounding already, this book serves as an opportunity to engage the cultural mindset of this age. For those of us who fall into neither of this camp, and would like good family read-together, may I suggest that the reader read "The Moral Compass" instead. Perhaps all parties in dispute ought to read BOTH books!

My plea to Christians will be this. If you want to criticize a movie/book, do so credibly, and not simply quoting a source and assume its accusations are gospel truth. The Snopes warning seems to be bordering on the sensational.

If there is one reason to avoid watching any movie, it will be this. Children needs books like "The Moral Compass" by William J Bennett, more than the "Golden Compass". The former encourages children to develop family virtues like courage, friendship, love, trust and goodness. The latter on the other hand seems to put into children the ability to criticize what they see, to be suspicious and ultimately cynical of life and society. Do our children need to learn how to criticize others? If we groom a new generation on the basis of questioning authority for the sake of questioning, how do we cultivate healthy respect for one another? Even though the book/movie tells a story for the sake of entertainment, does that justify slaughtering the character of people and institutions? A book written for children, no matter how entertaining, needs to have their own moral bearings. Writing an entertainment book without any consideration of a child's moral development is downright unethical. If the Golden Compass is such a book, I will agree with Ben Witherington that it should be absolutely avoided. I have yet to read the book from cover to cover, so I cannot make any conviction to ban or to recommend it absolutely. Having said that, some fundamentals still hold.

For Christians, read the Bible daily and pray. That is the best way to wear and train ourselves to use the armour of God. No earthly book can ever pierce this armour. In conclusion, if our kids have not learned how to waddle in the swimming pool of the bible, why throw them to the deep waters of secular beliefs? They may drown.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another Fairplay Video

As a follow-up to my earlier sportsmanship post, here is another amazing example from the Netherlands. Following a sporting stoppage gesture from the opponents, Ajax was supposed to return ball possession to team RKC Waalwijk. However, the return kick resulted in a goal! The restitution was eventually made when Ajax allowed a free goal in exchange to even things out. Amusing to see the confusion on the players' faces.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Variant of "Interview with God"

I have came across several versions of Interview with God. Most are variants of the original. Others cater more to the wider public where 'God' is used instead. The one below contains essentially the same kind of message, that life is more than simply swinging from one objective to another. There is more to life. Enjoy the video below.

Friday, November 09, 2007

In Remembrance

November 11th, 2007 is Remembrance Day in Canada. It is observed annually in Australia, the UK and Canada plus several other Commonwealth nations, to remember the war heroes in WWI. Always observed on at 11AM. Why the poppy? It was said that poppy flowers were visibly seen growing over the graves of the war veterans.

Today, I wore a poppy flower on my shirt. This year, there is another person special in my heart to remember. My grandmother passed away on the 29th Oct 2007 at the age of 87. She has strong survival instincts. I wrote a eulogy to honour her.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Links Regent Students Ought to Know

Here are some of the links that Regent students in Vancouver ought to know.

  1. Etcetera Online
  2. (This is an online newsletter available every week in Fall and Winter terms)

  3. LendList Online
  4. (Setup by a Regent student, this site promotes sharing one's possessions)

  5. Bookstore Online
  6. (Main Regent Bookstore website)

  7. Regent Radio / (itunes ver)
  8. (Lots of good audio to listen or buy. Some are free for you to download.)

  9. Regent College website
  10. (Regent College Public site)

  11. Paper Template Online
  12. (My own paper template!)

  13. Rivendell Retreat Center Click
  14. (Favourite Retreat place and very affordable too.)

  15. Libraries on Campus [Regent / VST / St Marks / UBC / VPL]
  16. (Books galore)

  17. Regent Students Intranet website
  18. (Regent students access only)

  19. Transit Link website
  20. (helps one to plan time for commuting by bus/subway)

  21. Regent Alumni Blogs website
  22. (There is life after Regent)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


We have heard many cases of bad behaviour or lousy sportsmanship. However, it does take a few instances of good sporting behaviour to bring pride to the human spirit in fair play. Here are two examples that warms the heart.

(1) Leicester City vs Nottingham Forest (Carling Cup Tie)
Leicester City (18 Sep 2007) sportingly allowed Nottingham Forest a free goal in appreciation for their willingness to abandon the previous game (Forest were leading 1-0) so that they can attend to a Leicester player who suffered a heart failure. Technically, Forest do not need to abandon the previous game. Moreover, in a replay, the score will be reset to 0-0. Hence in appreciation to Forest's willingness, Leicester granted them a free goal, informing them only 20 minutes before the game! Read more about it here and here.

(2) West Ham vs Everton (Premier League)
Paolo Di Canio (Dec 2000), upon seeing the opponent's goalkeeper down and injured, decided to catch the ball with his hands despite a golden scoring opportunity to level his team. He received a fair-play award for his sporting gesture.

Cheers to good sportsmanship.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Life Lessons (Randy Pausch)

The lessons are familiar but it takes a dying person to drive it home. This Carnegie Mellon University lecture by Dr Randy Pausch, who is dying of pancreatic cancer, is about encouraging people to pursue their childhood dreams. It is not clear whether he believes in God but his lecture is peppered with good thoughts and advice. I suppose the current craze and interest generated due to this lecture speaks a lot about our own dreams and purposes in life. Here are the links:
  1. Full CMU lecture here (1 hr 25 mins)
  2. On the Oprah show (abt 10 mins)
  3. Transcript of lecture (english) / (chinese) [for those of you who prefers to read]
  4. Randy Pausch's website


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Free online Christian books

Here is a good link for free Christian books online. There are many excellent books from contemporary authors like AW Tozer, EM Bounds, Watchman Nee, Andrew Murray, Charles Finney, John Piper etc. There are also classics written by John Bunyan, Madame Guyon, Brother Lawrence....


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rungs of Spirituality - John Cassian

The fear of the Lord: leads to
compunction of heart: leads to
renunciation of all that is the soul's own: leads to
humility: leads to
mortification of the will: leads to
driving out the vices: leads to
flowering of virtue: leads to
purity of heart: leads to
perfect charity.
(end of Book IV, Institutes)
(Owen Chadwick, John Cassian, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968, p93)

I managed to capture this visually here.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Entering the Silence

The monastic church is the Church of the wilderness, the woman who has fled into the desert from the dragon that seeks to devour the infant Word. She is the Church who, by her silence, nourishes and protects the seed of the Gospel that is sown by the Apostles in the hearts of the faithful. She is the Church who, by her prayer, gains strength for the Apostles themselves, so often harassed by the monster. The Monastic Church is the one who flees to a special place prepared for her by God in the wilderness, and hides her face in the Mystery of the divine silence, and prays while the great battle is being fought between earth and heaven.

Her flight is not an evasion. If the monk were able to understand what goes on inside him, he would be able to say how well he knows that the battle is being fought in his own heart."

(Thomas Merton, The Silent Life, London: Burns & Oates, 1956, p11-12)

When I read this today, I was blown away by the spiritual awareness of Merton in terms of spiritual warfare. If we are constantly too busy with other things, making ends meet, rushing from place to place to get things done, skipping meals to get more things done, avoiding meeting with people in order to stay 'ahead' in life, life gets reduced to a series of hitting and missing temporal targets. It is ironical that the human being despite knowing that the earthly life is temporal, yet he often lives as if they are his permanent concerns! Do we need to become blind like Fanny Crosby before we can start writing hymns of faith? Do we need to become a quadriplegic like Joni Eareckson Tada before we can share words of hope? Do we have to see someone crucified for us before we can start to love that person? Whatever we have, whatever abilities we possess, there is a reason for them. We should not just talk about our gift. We ought to use them by sharing them. How can we discern what to do with our gifts if we have not entered into the silence of hearing God? Are we attracted only by the earthquakes of the world? Storms of everyday struggles or winds of change that affects our material lifestyles? If we are, then we will miss the gentle whisper of God. Elijah was able to hear God in the silence. Let's take a leaf from his example.

The gospel is not easily spread just by simply talking down to people. In fact, talking should be second. The first is described in the following quote attributed to St Francis of Assisi.

"Go and preach the gospel to the world, and if absolutely necessary, use words,"

A great spiritual discipline is to follow the desert fathers' advice: "When praying, if absolutely necessary, use words." Now, about the word 'monastic.' If is common for people to simply brush it aside and say that it is a word reserved only for people who are in monasteries or those who have said goodbye to the outside world. If we read carefully Jesus's directive to his disciples to give up all and follow him, we will understand that all believers of the gospel, are called to be monks, in the sense that we do all we can to love God and neighbour.


Plane Crash in Richmond

Yesterday at a church potluck gathering, someone frantically reported that a small Cessna plane had crashed into an apartment building close to the popular Richmond Public Market. The entire plane went inside the building and cannot be seen from the outside. I understand everyone was evacuated and the pilot was dead. A friend from Regent lives just next to the building. If not for the building in front of hers, the plane would have hit her place. We do not live in Richmond, but we do go to Richmond, so this crash hits close. It is a reminder that life is so fragile. Hopefully, this is another incident that will rattle people's spiritual awareness that life is not simply seeking after materialism or making ends meet. There must be something greater.


Other Links
- Globe and Mail
- Canadian Press
- More pictures can be found at this flickr site.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kids' Prayers

Children, aren't they cute?


Dear GOD,
In school they told us what You do. Who does it when You are on vacation? -Jane

Dear GOD,
Are you really invisible or is that just a trick? Lucy

Dear GOD,
Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident? - Norma

Dear GOD,
Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why don't You just keep the ones You have now? -Jane

Dear GOD,
Who draws the lines around the countries? -Nan

Dear GOD,
I went to this wedding and they kissed right in church. Is that okay? -Neil

Dear GOD,
What does it mean You are a Jealous God? I thought You had everything. -Jane

Dear GOD,
Did you really mean "do unto others as they do unto you"? Because if you did, then I'm going to fix my brother. -Darla

Dear GOD,
Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy. -Joyce

Dear GOD,
It rained for our whole vacation and is my father mad! He said some things about You that people are not supposed to say, but I hope You will not hurt him anyway. Your friend (But I am not going to tell you who I am)

Dear GOD,
Why is Sunday school on Sunday? I thought it was supposed to be our day of rest. -Tom L.

Dear GOD,
Please send me a pony. I never asked for anything before, You can look it up. -Bruce

Dear GOD,
If we come back as something - please don't let me be Jennifer Horton because I hate her. -Denise

Dear GOD,
If You give me a genie lamp like Aladin, I will give you anything you want, except my money or my chess set. -Raphael

Dear GOD,
My brother is a rat. You should give him a tail. Ha ha. - Danny

Dear GOD,
Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. -Larry

Dear GOD,
I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. -Sam

Dear GOD,
You don't have to worry about me. I always look both ways. -Dean

Dear GOD,
I think the stapler is one of your greatest inventions. -RuthM.

Dear GOD,
I think about You sometimes even when I'm not praying. -Elliott

Dear GOD,
I bet it is very hard for You to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it. -Nan

Dear GOD,
Of all the people who work for You I like Noah and David the best. -Rob

Dear GOD,
My brother told me about being born but it doesn't sound right.They're just kidding, aren't they? -Marsha

Dear GOD,
If You watch me in church Sunday, I'll show You my new shoes. Mickey D.

Dear GOD,
I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible.Love, Chris

Dear GOD,
We read Thomas Edison made light. But in Sunday school they said You did it. So I bet he stoled your idea. Sincerely, Donna

Dear GOD:
The bad people laughed at Noah - "You made an ark on dry land you fool." But he was smart, he stuck with You. That's what I would do. -Eddie

Dear GOD,
I do not think anybody could be a better GOD. Well, I just want You to know but I am not just saying that because You are GOD already. -Charles

Dear GOD,
I didn't think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was cool! -DJ

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The word "Interesting"

After hearing a particular argument or a comment, sometimes hearers will reply casually as 'interesting.' The use of this word 'interesting' is fascinating. Either that comment is truly interesting or it is a useful word for maintaining a cordial relationship.

This way, the relationship is kept at a politically correct level, taking a non-committal position that neither agree nor disagree. No engagement energy needs to be dispensed. One can simply walk away from the conversation not accepting the comment and still maintain the conversational friendship. Sometimes, it could also mean that one simply does not have the time and interest to follow up on the topic. Like the proverbial saying, 'Leave sleeping dogs alone' lest they wake and bite you.

Perhaps the hearer is mindful that he/she might not have fully understood the reasons behind the comment. In this mood, the speaker 'possibly' could have a valid point, but that needs to be verified in another way.

This is what makes the word so powerful. It is like a sword that can cut both ways. It can mean I disagree with your completely, but I do not want to confront you directly, yet. Once my arguments are ready, I will confront you at another time. At this point, I show no commitment on my part to agree, but my posture may still be interpreted as open or even agreement.

Fillers are words or phrases used to avoid that silent moment. It is also a way to communicate to the other person that the message has been received.

I think this word is a good word for taking a non-committal position. I am not sure if it is helpful in the long run. As one of my professors once taught, if there is any word that is not clear, or can potentially confuse, try not to use it. Does that apply here? I think it is a challenge for educators to continue to teach people to use words that more accurately reflect their feelings and thoughts. That is a valid point in relationship building. Language forms one of the most critical bricks in constructing a house of relationships. Like a shining light, we need to help bring clarity into this world. Instead of 'interesting', if one intends to disagree without offending, the phrase 'i am not sure' is better. Loving one's neighbour means loving confrontation or positive affirmation. Otherwise it can become vague, unedifying and downright confusing. Is there a middle path? There always will be, but the truth is that at some point in our lives, we have to choose. Perennial fence sitters may claim to make no enemies. However, they seldom make good lasting friendships.


What is your Pastor's Preaching Style?

Poll as of 16 Oct 2007

It is heartening that expository preaching is still among the top styles. I think the church is in greater need for expository than topical. Pray for good bible expositors worldwide. You can add in your church's statistic at the ChristianityToday site here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Queen of the Sky - A380

This A380 is a beauty. Come 28 Oct 2007, Singapore Airlines will be the first in the world to fly this plane, hailed as the largest passenger plane in the world. In market analysis, this is usually seen as a great opportunity for airlines to promote their brand by being the first to market. No doubt SQ will be taking the chance to go big on publicity. Singapore, small in size but big in visibility. Be prepared to see news flashes of the event worldwide. The interior is also attractive. Just see the pictures, taken from Singapore Airlines.

Just like the train cabins

A place to lie down flat. I like this.

A Mirror to see whether one can slow down aging by flying luxuriously

This is lovely. Very romantic setting.

Then there are the business class seats.

This is really comfortable.

I like the lighting

Book lovers will love this posture

See the large LCD screens?

Now for the rest of us.

After seeing the luxurious cabins, these look very rudimentary.

There is a big difference between first class private suites and the economy seats. Point is, if you want the goodies, be prepared to pay.

- Singapore Airlines A380 website
- Airbus website
- Singapore Airlines website
- AsiaOne website
- Today's New York Times article

Friday, October 12, 2007

Jolt Quote XV

"You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It's hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape - especially if you've got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you're dinner's burnt. Maybe you haven't got a job. So who am I to say, "Believe, have faith," in the face of life's realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me." If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race." (Eric Liddell from the movie Chariots of Fire)

I like the notion of faith compared to running a race. Run with an aim to win.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Striking for a Principle? (how long....)

Since late July, public services in Vancouver has been halted. The strike is entering its 85th day. Libraries are closed, senior daycare and childcare centers remain shut, garbage collection are stopped and many parks, building maintenance etc are not available. In other words, when the union and the city management are at loggerheads, the people suffer. Interestingly, both the union and the management are part of the people too, so they too will be affected in some way. As a parent, I find this article from the Vancouver Sun, illuminating and make a lot of sense. it is one thing to fight for a principle. It is yet another to fight all the way while the public is affected negatively as a result. The strike has gone on for too long. It is time to look longer term and ask ourselves what kind of principles we want our kids to learn.

Common sense, maturity missing among some of the union leadership
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, October 11, 2007
You can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need. -- Jagger/Richards
Children learn early on that they can't have everything they ask for. By the time they reach kindergarten, the concepts of limits, trade-offs and compromise are well entrenched.

These principles are reinforced in adulthood when common sense comes with maturity. They are fundamental to social order, to family relationships and to employment contract negotiations.

Vancouver's inside city workers, members of CUPE Local 15, recognized that labour negotiations require give and take and voted 73 per cent in favour of accepting the terms of a contract proposed by mediator Brian Foley, which include a 17.5-per-cent wage hike over five years, a $1,000 signing bonus and amendments to provisions covering contracting out, harassment, whistleblowing and job reclassification.

CUPE Local 15 president Paul Faoro, who recommended his members approve the proposed deal, clearly understood those fundamental principles. He said the collective agreement "had been bettered," and that his members can go to work knowing it is the best deal they can get "under the circumstances."

No, the union didn't achieve everything it might have hoped for but it has improved the terms of employment for its members. That's its job. The settlement matches those of public servants in similar occupations in neighbouring municipalities. It's one they can live with until the next round of negotiations.

But the leadership of CUPE Local 1004, representing outside workers, and CUPE Local 391, representing library workers, told their members to reject Foley's recommendations. Library workers did so overwhelmingly -- 78.1 per cent voted against it -- even though nearly half would benefit from a job classification upgrade on top of the regular wage increase. "They'd would have had a wishy-washy committee that went nowhere," Foley said of the union's demands. "I gave them pay equity."

Most outside workers defied their union leaders, who had urged rejection of the proposals, and voted 58 per cent in favour. It's a rare event when the rank and file fails to heed the advice of its local executive. Nevertheless, the members' clearly stated intention to accept the deal, end the strike and return to work will be denied because of a union bylaw that requires a two-thirds majority to ratify a contract.

Foley said he had "poured his heart and soul" into finding a solution to the strike. But Dave Van Dyke, a Local 1004 bargaining committee representative, disparaged his efforts. "Foley's sold us down the river," he said.

Since a majority of outside workers don't share that opinion, Local 1004 leaders might want to tone down the rhetoric if they plan on being re-elected. Besides, CUPE locals agreed to have Foley mediate their contract dispute with the city. To suggest he was partisan and did not act in good faith is untrue and an insult that warrants an apology.

Like children who want it all now, some union leaders are demanding benefits and restrictive contract language (particularly as it relates to disciplinary measures and caps on deferred vacation) beyond what Foley has proposed. They are also beyond what the city is prepared to pay. Even so-called non-monetary issues carry a cost, whether they're sick leave, vacation entitlements, extended health insurance or contracting out. Such measures make it more expensive to run the city.

City finances are not infinite. Municipal funding comes from taxpayers -- indirectly from the province and directly through property taxes and fees. Vancouver residents already face a property tax hike of eight per cent and aren't likely to welcome further increases to pay for richer wages and benefits for city workers than they receive for their own labours.

Foley's proposals meet the test of a good compromise -- they don't make everyone happy, but set reasonable terms that provide all at least some of what they need.
© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Aiming High in Christ

There is no leaf that is not in Your care. There is no cry that was not heard by You before it was uttered. There is no water in the shales that was not hidden there by Your wisdom. There is no concealed spring that was not concealed by You. There is no glen for a lone house that was not planned by You for a lone house. There is no man for that acre of woods that was not made by You for that acre of woods.
But there is a great comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question. Eternity is in the present. Eternity is in the palm of the hand. Eternity is a seed of fire whose sudden roots break barriers that keep my heart from being an abyss.
(Thomas Merton, Entering the Silence (Harper San Francisco), p487)

I am constantly fascinated by Thomas Merton, whose understanding of happiness is in relation to God. In fact, he claims that "The only unhappiness is not to love God." That makes his spiritual walk most authentic, very Christian. Today I was reflecting upon the meaning of life and the spiritual journeys that a Christian take. I chanced upon this segment (above quote) from Merton about solitude and silence. Reading it makes me realize that solitude is not a matter of being alone by oneself. It is an enjoyment solely with God, a meeting with God that we do not want to end. It is like a first date with someone we like, in which we never want it to end. A moment of divine presence with Christ which we want to remain forever. Silence is seen as a form of dialogue with God. The constantly asking, persistently seeking and regularly finding is a measure of our spiritual health. Forget about those types of spiritual disciplines, which aim more at self-gratification, or mere obligatory fulfillment of a set of do's and don'ts. It may be ok to start off our spiritual search via obligation, but we cannot always remain there.

Consider a self-professed Christian who has never evidenced their desire to grow. Spirituality to them may simply mean going to church faithfully every Sunday, or just saying their graces before meals. If Christ is in all, and through all, should not our pursuit of Christ be 7 days a week, 24 hours a day? My personal view is that whatever we want to aim in life, let's aim high. If we want to live a good and perfect life, aim high towards Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

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