Monday, April 30, 2007

Pastors Conference 2007 @ Regent College

This is the picture of this year's pastors conference. Theme is "The Old, Old Story in a New, New Era: Evangelism for Today and Tomorrow"

The sermon yesterday talked about noticing, and this is a picture all of us in Church were asked to observe and notice. Interesting picture, that whatever observations we have, reflects a lot of who we are and our behaviour. Dr Leonard Sweet will be one of the speakers. Going to be special.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Rest in Peace - Dr Robert Webber (1933-2007)

Dr Robert Webber (1933-2007) (picture taken from AEFCall) passed away on Friday, 27 April 2007 after a 8-month fight against Pancreatic cancer. I first heard him at Regent College's Pastors' Conference in 2005. I remember him as a passionate speaker. That year's conference was certainly one of the best conferences I have attended at Regent. The whole theme of worship was woven very powerfully by each and every person, and I can still remember the tears of worship by many pastors. So many adult pastors cried in gratitude to God.

One of his memorable teachings was to learn to seek God not as an object but as subject. For that to happen, time is needed to build depth. I have been blest by his books and ministry. May his soul rest in God and may his family rejoice that he has indeed gone to a better place. In the meantime, it is appropriate to weep and to grieve as we will miss very much a dear brother in Christ.

Other Links
  1. Ancient Evangelical Future Call
  2. Ancient Future Worship
  3. Northern Seminary
  4. Regent College Pastors' Conference 2005
  5. Interview with Christianity Today: "Together in the Jesus Story"

Friday, April 27, 2007

Canucks Tie the Series

Canucks won the second game tonight beating the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in OT, tying the best-of-seven series 1-1, in a strange see-saw performance, classic hockey's version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It's tough to be a faithful fan, joyous in victory, but utterly embarrassed in defeat. For now, all Canucks fans will savour the moment. Yippee!
Playoffs are about mind over matter. If you don’t mind then it doesn’t matter, because excuses won’t cut it.

“That’s the easy way out,” said Canucks centre Brendan Morrison. “We could sit here and say we’re missing two of our better D-men [Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa]. But to be honest with you, I haven’t heard that from one guy — not even a mention of it — even with the lineup we’re dressing now.

“We believe we can win.”
(Vancouver Province, April 26th, 2007)

Very true. A tough mind. That's what is necessary to get the edge.

Other Links:
1) Official Canucks web site
2) Canucks Central
3) Canucks Hockey

A "Perfect Match" or a "Perfect Maths"?

Is there such a thing as a perfect match? Is it helpful to look for a life-partner, a soulmate in terms of how compatible they are?

I have heard of all kinds of statements that reflect silliness and the lack of appreciation for the other person. Things like "Engineers and Accountants make the best match", or having the horoscopic method of matching people born under different stars and months. The facts prove otherwise. Engineers and accountants who marry each other are not immune to divorce. There are both good and bad marriages in any imaginable combinations.

Others will seem to refer to special interests and 'compatible personalities.' I think this is one of the biggest tragedies in human relationships, to look for people just like shopping for groceries, buying a car or checking out a house to purchase. Truth is, people are not commodities to be matched. Neither are they easily digitized into binary bits to form a fit with the next best binary set of numbers. To do so will not only embarass one's intelligence, but dehumanize the other person. People behave differently at different times. Whatever data obtained is usually the best snapshot of the other person. The truth is, the other person is constantly rolling away millions of images of himself or herself. To try to judge a person by one camera photoshot out of possibly billions is like trying to predict the weather accurately all the time.

Still, the technological society refuses to let up their foray into human relationships. In my first year as a undergraduate, there is a computer program called CUPID operated by Computer Science faculty, and it was opened to all of the students enrolled in that university. It was a novelty at that time, and a lot of eager-beaver friends of mine, put not only their own information but also the requested features of their mate-to-be. I put mine in, with information that combines some general and some particular pieces of information. I never hear any response ever since.

Several months later, I met a friend who happened to be one of the computer programmers of that CUPID project. When I asked him about that, he said to me that he too did not get a perfect match. Instead, he did his own matching by picking and choosing from the large database that he has! Goodness me, I thought to myself. How sickening, that information can be abused in such a manner!

I think such 'perfect match' and 'compatability tests' are a waste of time. Not only do they ridicule the nature of the human person, they give people false hopes. Rather than saying "Could this be the person I should marry?", we in turn should not consider this as a primary question. It should at best be the secondary question. The primary question, for the sake of oneself and the prospective partner, is to ask the question: "Who am I?" and to answer that question well before even seeking to ask about other people. The trouble with the world nowadays is people spend more time talking about other people rather than ever knowing themselves. Is it because people are afraid to find out the terrible truths about their own selves. Is it because people generally do not have good enough self esteem? Is it also due to a wrongful thinking about being too proud or self-centeredness?

This is a paradox of human living. By focusing on other people and not ourselves is not necessarily other-centeredness. Rather, it is the WRONG focus on other people that makes the whole thing selfishness and self-centered. Consider a boy constantly say to the girl that she does not understand him, aiming an accusation at the other person, when he in the first place has not taken the trouble to listen to the girl.

The better question is actually not to focus on compatibility and not to think in terms of a perfect match. Sometimes, people say there is no such thing as a perfect match, but harbours a secret belief that there is! Rather, learn to ask questions like,
  • "How can this particular relationship with the opposite sex help bring both of us closer to a loving relationship with God?"
  • "How best can we together live out the principles of the kingdom of God?"
  • "Am I prepared not to look for the 'perfect partner' but to concentrate on becoming the BEST partner first, and let God decide on who to bring into my life?"
  • "Is our desire to get married, matched by an equal willingness to be single, as we seek to obey God in this season?"

It is a tough period of life to ponder on questions on marriage and singlehood. I have gone through that struggle and can empathize with many who are in that situation now. This morning's devotional passage for me has a lot to say about our primary perspective of life. This is not an 'escapist mechanism' but a proactive seeking after God, and trusting in God's providence for all.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me." (John 15:4)

The biggest help we can do to ourselves, is to be connected to the vine, and to look to help others be connected to this lifegiving vine. Do not worry too much about dropped branches on the ground, those that refuses even to be willing to be grafted back to the vine. Remain in the vine, and in the abiding process, perhaps, in our faithfulness, God's spirit will gently blow a neighbouring branch and bind the two twigs together. Like a strong healthy tree, it takes time to grow. Lots of time yet not our time but God's time.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ajax13 online Office Suite

Online Office suites are getting more and more popular. Not only are features becoming richer in depth, offerings are getting broader. Take for example the latest Ajax13 suite of applications. They have virtually all the Office compatible suites (except database). Check it out here. However, it is said to work best in Mozilla Firefox. I tried it with Camino and it works fine as well.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Jolt Quote VI

"When I was first struggling with the permanent (but not eternal!) crippling of my left leg, many well-intentioned people kept asking if my foot was better, even though I had already deliberately told them that the bones had healed crookedly. Their frequent questions made me feel not acceptable because I was not making progress. The situation made me aware that many who already suffer from chronic illness or worsening handicaps suffer even more from the comments of those who want an instant fix. Instead, let us find ways in our Christian communities to encourage those with physical challenges to discover in their limitations extra opportunities for learning about the sufficiency of God's grace and the power of Christ's tabernacling." (Marva Dawn, Joy In Our Weakness, p120)

This is an indictment on our technological society mindset, where people can easily become frustrated and discouraged when things are not 'solved'.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Game 7 - Seventh Heaven

Pictures speak a thousand words.

Whole of Vancouver came alive. Car horns, shouts of joy, flags waving and many smiling faces and of course empty wallets due to the celebrative mood. Mmmm. Even my wife and kids watched the game last night. More curiosity than anything, as every goal produced a neighbourhood orchestrated bellow.

Go Canucks Go!


Friday, April 20, 2007

One More Win Needed......

Yes the Canucks failed to clinch against the Dallas Stars last night. Many Vancouverites were disappointed. There was an eerie silence all around GM Place when Brenden Morrow slotted in a Powerplay overtime goal. The commentator said that "Sometimes silence speaks the loudest voice." Naturally the players all looked dejected.

However, the veteran play-offs guys are more retrospective. Brian Smolinksi mentioned in an aftergame interview last night: "You've got to learn how to lose in order to learn how to win." [sic] Interesting comment, that one needs to learn to move on and persevere. As long as there is still a chance, go for it. That is the spirit. Vancouver still leads the best of seven series 3-2. Go Canucks Go!

Interesting that such philosophical comments come after a defeat. Such moving words are seldom visible in a victory.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Jolt Quote V

"The purpose of theology is doxology." (JI Packer)

I am thankful for Dr Packer's wise words. This is so necessary as many theological institutions seem more intent on impartings skills to students instead of values and spiritual & character formation. Spiritual maturity is not defined in terms of knowledge and skills but the awareness that in spite of the knowledge and the skills, one is still humble to kneel in our brokenness and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. All praise be to God!

This is in essence the pursuit of truth. As we pursue God in the theological realm, we are reminded that theology, science and all forms of learning, if it is rightfully gained, must lead us to the ultimate goal ==> THANKSGIVING TO GOD.

"The pursuit of truth will set you free — even if you never catch up with it."
— Clarence Darrow, American lawyer (1857-1938)

We will seek and know the truth, and the truth shall set us free.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hide in the Lord

One of the first effects of sin is the tendency to hide. Adam and Eve hid from God after their act of disobeying God. Little children cover their mouth quickly in moments of lying. Office workers when trying to hide their misdeeds tell untruths so that they will not be found out. People committing crimes try to cover their tracks and go into hiding. All of these are results of sins committed directly. The other effect is the reaction to the sins, to run away from facing the trauma, the truth of ugliness. Such a hiding effect is brought out succinctly by Mark Galli in the latest ChristianityToday article Peace in a world of Massacre. In his article, he talks about hiding in all aspects of our lives, and especially during this traumatic time after the Virginia Tech massacre.

Galli suggests that "If hiding from fear is the universal human condition, then stepping out into the place of fear is at the heart of Christ's call on us." That is good advice. The way to address our human condition is to recognize that hiding is very much a part of our fallen nature. We cannot self-prescribe ourselves hiding alternatives. The only way to remain human is to be reconciled with God and with one another in God. This world is a dangerous place to live, and the killings tell us again that man is man's worst enemy. My heart goes out to those in mourning and weeping. In this moment of solidarity with them as a member of humanity, I'll pray for and with them. That we will all embrace our human weaknesses by being open with one another. Rather than letting our fears push us to an eternal game of 'hide-and-seek', perhaps we need to enter into many moments of "reveal-and-find" and to help one another build authentic and real relationships.

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. (Ps 32:7)


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Here Today . . . . Gone Tomorrow.....

This picture of the pink-white cherry blossom tree (TOP) was taken a week before the end of March 2007. The flowers are in full bloom. The flowers came out so fast sprouting like released springs in all its magnificence. Less than a month later........ .

This photo (BOTTOM) of the same cherry blossom trees were taken in the middle of April 2007. Note that many of the original flowers have dropped off, and the remaining ones are either dropping or have turned yellow. It reminds me of one passage in the book of Isaiah.
"The grass withers, the flowers fades, But the word of our God stands forever. (Isa 40:8)"

The speed at which the cherry blossoms bloom and go, is a dramatic authentication of the prophetic word, and a classic natural demonstration of how temporal life is. Here today, and before we know it, they are gone tomorrow. There are many other things that possess such ephemeral qualities. A banana out in the open that turns brown quickly. A cup of hot coffee after 30 minutes. Biscuits becoming soft outside of the air-tight containers. "Hit while the iron is hot" is a popular English idiom to remind us to make full use of the opportunities available to us at any given time. Once we lose it, it may never return. Another idiom is "A bird in hand is better than two in a bush", telling us to choose to treasure what we have in the present, rather than foolishly waiting for results that is less probably fulfilled. This reminds me of Paul's exhortation to the Ephesians to walk wisely in terms of "to make the most out of every opportunity for the days are evil." (Eph 5:16)

We exercise wisdom when we invest our time and resources in accordance to the opportunities available to us. We live fruitful lives when we give the $1 that we have now to the poor, rather than waiting for one million dollars that we do not have before we start giving. We say a kind word to a friend as often as we can, for we do not know when the time will come, where we will never see that friend ever again. We ought to be diligent to love one another as Christ loved us, in the simple coincidences in life, rather than to say constantly "hey, let's stay in touch' and never really bother to follow that up. We should pray immediately, or as soon as possible, when we say "I'll pray for you" for it is not fair to give a promise and subsequently failing to keep it. Life is mostly short-lived. One of the biggest regrets anyone can ever have, is to realize that what he/she had promised, he/she did not fulfill, especially when one knew that ample opportunities were there before.

Recognize the SPECS of life. A Scripture to obey. A Promise to fulfill. An Encouragement to give. Courage to forgive. Strength to love. Follow these SPECS of life. Take care of them, polish and clean them regularly. Finally, wear them and allow these SPECS to help us see and appreciate the momentary things (especially relationships), so that we can touch them with something more permanent: the living Word that flows out of our daily lives.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Spring Flowers

These pictures are taken at West Vancouver, including the lovely UBC campus.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Out of nowhere......

These three tulips came from nowhere and is blossoming right in our balcony. It makes my wife happy. It makes me happy. Everybody's happy.

Spring is here all the way at our doorstep.

"Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land." (Song of Solomon 2:12)

p/s: Tips for husbands: When your wife is happy, then you can go watch hockey, soccer and all those man-stuff...... I'm going to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs, while the tulips are hot!

Saturday, April 07, 2007


“Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but he is risen. Remember how he spoke to you while he was still in Galilee,…” (Luke 24:5b-6)

It is heartrending. Jesus gives up his last breath. Darkness falls on the land and the temple curtain tears into two. Later, they witness the body being laid in the tomb. They return with spices and perfume to embalm the body. Everything is over, the signs and wonders, the wise teachings and knowledge, the passion of the Rabbi. Life goes on. Some went back fishing, others went back to their normal livelihood, working, observing the law and maintaining the customary expectations of society. The women were the first to find out. What they found was not what they expected. Sobbing with tears, they ask: ‘Where is my lord?’ The question is very telling. So is the reply. “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?” Jesus came to seek the (spiritually) dead in order to give life to them. In contrast, the people went to seek the living among the dead, thinking Jesus is dead like everyone else.

The picture on the top-left contains 16 arbitrary shades of various colours. Each shade represents a phase in the life of a busy urban person. We begin from the bottom left and move diagonally towards the top-right. Note that there is only one tiny corner that is pure white. Think about all the colours as follows: Educational pursuits (homework, primary, secondary, pre-university, university, post-graduate, upgrading classes, training courses, Sunday school); Career pursuits (promotion, salary, long hours); Social life (charity meetings, giving of time to church, caregiving for people, meeting with friends); activities galore..

Observe how the shades are efficiently pasted one after the other without any white space in between. Is this a representation of our splendid ability to piece our own lives together, like time management experts who try to corner the clock, or ‘yin-yang’ balancing specialists in our different aspects of our lives between family-church-work-friends etc? We are highly efficient in everything we do. We know how to consume all available spaces in our lives with ‘constructive’ activities. Even spiritual disciplines can be turned into activities that need to be done in order to become more ‘spiritual’. The demarcation line between our identity and our activity has become so blurred until the saying: “I do, so I am” is more reflective than “I am.” We become insecure when we are NOT doing things. Is that a reason why people pray less, and over-perform “faith without works is dead”?

It is because of that constant focus on the need to “do things”, that we become spiritually shaded. It is the overwhelming sense of insecurity that keeps us plowing away in toil, to look for meaning in life among the activities, that at times seem ’dead’. What does it mean to be secure in Christ? It is in right believing. Faith in the risen Christ is the truth that will set us free. Many live in a society that is afraid of empty space, like the women who panicked when they saw an empty tomb. We can comb through life oblivious to God speaking to us, like the two men on the road to Emmaus, who were unaware that it was Jesus who was explaining the Scriptures to them the whole time. We can live like doubting Thomases, that unless we feel Jesus’s wounds, we will not believe. Are we guilty of looking for the living Saviour in our activities, which will one day mean nothing to people? I look at the obituary page and see a photo, and the name of the deceased. Past accomplishments were absent. Instead there are names of loved ones, the family members and a Bible verse. Where are the PhDs or tertiary degrees? What happened to the career highlights? Where are the achievements? But sorry. There is not enough space in the obituary page, even on the tombstone for all those. Isn’t it sad, when there is insufficient space when one is living and also when one is dead? Have we given ourselves space to live meaningfully when we are alive? Have we provided enough space for others to remember us, for the glory of God? What if they too are excessively busy, like we are? What if they too, are looking for the living one among the dead? No time to think, no time to relax, no time to do what we have always wanted to realize. Simply not enough time. (Will there ever be enough?)

  • We need to give ourselves space to be ourselves.
  • We need to give one another enough space to relax and contemplate whether the things that we do, is a veiled attempt to look for the ‘living’ among the ‘dead’ activities.
  • We need to give space for one another to make and space to recover, when a mistake is made. (Living a life that is fearful of making mistakes is tragic.)
  • We need to give ourselves space to be the person God has created us to be.
  • We need to give ourselves space to remember that Christ has risen.
  • We need to give one another space, to look for God in the risen Christ.

Brothers and sisters, let us give one another space to live, to ask, to knock, to find Christ not in the security of busy activities but in the eternal Rock, our living Christ, who has died, is risen and will surely come again. Whatever ‘white space’, that we currently have in our lives, make that space sacred, and may God shine his rainbow of hope to brighten your future.

In Jesus we hope, my space for Him!

Kian Seng (Resurrection Sunday, 8 April 2007)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Preparing for Maundy Thursday

Reflections on Holy Week – As we observe Maundy Thursday
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:23-24)

We often talk about abundant life, and living victoriously as Christians. Some English Bible translations translates the beatitudes beginning with "Happy are those...." We talk about the future of our children in terms of: "I just want them to be happy." We live in a society that feeds on the insatiable need for achieving happiness and prosperity. Some Christians link prosperity with Christianity too! I was thinking about the rising cost of health care, the increasing paranoia over security, the popularity of health clubs and the constant search for pain relievers. I wonder what do they all have in common? Healthcare is there to prevent illness from getting worse. Security is to prevent one from danger. Going to Exercise/Health clubs help prevent one from getting sick easily. Pain relievers provide a temporal respite from hurting. Healthcare, security, sports clubs and pain medicines camouflage an inner fear and anxiety of one common theme: Death and Dying.

Jesus spoke to his disciples about his hour having come. The Son of Man will be glorified, but first he has to die. Strangely, the subsequent verses talk about death and dying. What is happening here? How do we reconcile ‘glorifying’ and ‘dying’? How can a dead body be glorified? It simply does not make much sense. Moreover, in John 12, Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead. Nothing seems to be able to stop Jesus then, not even death. Why not now? Jesus is definitely on a roll. John recorded seven miraculous signs. Witnesses saw even more. Yet the Son of Man must die. It is not easy on Jesus, for in verse 27, his heart remains troubled, yet he is clear of God’s will for him. He has to die.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross describes our worsening modern conditions for dying. From her experience with many dying people, dying in modern times has become “more lonely, mechanical and dehumanized.” According to the latest CIA World Fact book, Mortality rates in first world countries rank among the lowest, yet the fear of dying ranks among the highest, assuming we measure that against healthcare spending world-wide. One report even mentions that the highest 5% of the first world spends about 4000% MORE than the poorest countries. Isn’t that ironic? Kübler-Ross’s observations strike a chord in me. Many people face loneliness in this life all the way to their dying stages. It is heartbreaking to see a chronically ill person die alone, without loved ones by his/her side. When a person is diagnosed with a serious illness and gets rushed into the emergency room, he/she migrates from a familiar environment into a cold intensive care room, accompanied by high-tech machines and tubes. Hospitals have sophisticated procedures that mechanize the prolonging of life. So much so, that sometimes, after the initial shock and wide attention, chronic illness becomes sustained by machines, with professional medical staff on rotation in a hospital environment that can get very impersonal. Isn't that lonely, mechanical and dehumanizing?

Jesus had no chronic illness, but he lived among people with chronic spiritual sickness. Quietly he endures loneliness when his disciples all forsook him, even Peter. He suffers the unjust mechanical court proceedings, without a Senior counsel or lawyer to argue his defense. He experiences the dehumanizing treatment from the Jews, the nasty taunts of the Roman soldiers, and is wronged through the utterly unfair trials ever to be conducted in the history of mankind. Why? He knew he had to die. No hospitals. No high-tech medical equipment. A perfectly healthy person, yet he receives the sentence to die, through no fault of his own. Simply to carry his cross all the way, step by step to Golgatha. Why? Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, there will not be any fruits. Yet when it dies, it will bring forth much fruit, and life eternal. Obedience to the Father, means obedience even though it means death.

Jesus knew he has to die, so that God will be glorified.
Jesus must die. That we may live.
Jesus died, promising us eternal life.
The hour has come, that the Son of Man will be glorified. But first, he has to die.

Reflect on his death. Do not show our “fear of death” by fast-forwarding ourselves to Easter Sunday. The resurrection day will surely come. Easter has no meaning without the dying.


Monday, April 02, 2007

How to Handle Conflicts? [Part 1]

One of the definite issues of life is the existence of conflicts. In any environment, it is not a question of whether there will be a conflict or not. It is a question of WHEN it will occur. So, even though we will all want to live peaceably with one another, staying at a distance, inevitably, there will be a time where we will encounter conflicts. Even the friendliest and respected person will have to tackle this dreaded issue of conflict at some point in time. If we are bound to encounter conflicts, wouldn't it be wise to invest some time to learn about conflict management, and the different ways to resolve them?

Schrock-Shenk & Ressler lists 3 components to any conflict: Problems, People, and Process. The problems are the 'what' of a conflict. People are the 'who' while the process is the 'how' decisions are made and problems addressed. It is the 'process' that is the most frequent source of contention.

"One of the keys to transforming conflict is to develop a process that gives a voice to all of the persons involved." (Schrock-Shenk & Ressler)

Easier said that done, one may say. Even devout Christians can become embroiled in the disagreements. Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, who were friends at one time, broke ranks over a theological disagreement. John Wesley and George Whitefield, once good friends, also disagreed and went their own ways, Wesley taking becoming more Arminian, while Whitefield remained a staunch Calvinist. In churches, disagreements led to major splits, like how the Pentecostal/Charismatic affected mainline denominations in the recent decades.

Conflict is like a hot potato that everyone wants to get rid of. Truth is, getting rid of one today, does not guarantee immunity-conflict tomorrow. Better to prepare for conflict resolution skills as part of our peacemaking inventory. Below is a table that I find helping as a first phase of conflict resolution.

First key to conflict resolution is to IDENTIFY the characteristics of constructive and destructive conflicts. The table below is extracted from Joyce Hocker and William Wilmot's Interpersonal Conflict, 4th ed (Madison, Wis: William C, Brown Communication, 1978), 32-38.

To be continued.....

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Jolt Quote IV

"Peace is not bought at the price of truth; it is only valid when it is being held by the truth." (James M. Houston)

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