Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
- WATER: Drink lots of It.
- FREQUENCY: Take care to drink water more frequently
- LOTION: Put some UV lotion to avoid sun-burn
- SHOWER: Take a nice cold shower. If you have access to a swimming pool, use it.
- LIBRARY: Go to the Library.
- OFFICE: Stay in the air-conditioned office
- ICE-CREAM: Have a nice cone. I prefer the Popsicle.
- SLOW DOWN: This helps moderate heat from inside our bodies
- PRAY: Ask the LORD for a cool relief at periodic times of the day.
- MALL: Go to a shopping mall. Enjoy the cool atmosphere.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Backup. Backup. Backup.
- Credits and Link to "Simple Thoughts"
Monday, July 13, 2009
- Why single these examples out?
I remember a time when I was working as a network and systems administrator. At that time, no news is truly good news. People read their emails without any hiccup. Their printers work fine and IT operations seem like a breeze. Of course, a lot of efforts have been put in to ensure that systems remain in tip-top conditions. All it takes, is an unexpected outage, and the phones will start to ring. The 'villain' becomes the systems guy. In other words, when nothing happens, nobody notice. When something happens, everybody sits up and take notice. For Galli to bring out 3 prominent figures above, why not highlight 3 other non-prominent people who ARE making a positive change in the world? An opportunity missed to present a balanced picture?
- A Representative Pool?
Can people like Prejean, the Gosselins and Sanford form a true picture of the evangelical community? I believe that even non-Christians are clever enough not to generalize. While these three popular personalities 'could' have been role models, the truth is, none of them, even if they did not fall, can ever claim to be role models. Anyone who claims to be one ought to shudder and try to avoid the limelight. Rick Warren is one such person who attempts the live low-profile life, despite his fame and popularity. He hardly grant interviews and prefers to concentrate on ministry rather than TV. A true role model must be quiet and keeps a low profile.
- Scandal of Idolatrous Human Perception
The real 'scandal' is actually idolatrous perception. Firstly, one can unfairly project expectations on public figures. The human person is never perfect. If the press and media decides at the onset to tarnish a public figure, they can always find a way. One way is to continually pressurize a public person like a stress-test, to see when and how they fall. This reminds me of "Schadenfreude" which is a German word to describe people's fascination into "bad things that happen to other people." (see my article here)
Secondly, what about 'role models' that turn into idols themselves? Isn't that more dangerous? For instance, it will be sad that Mother Teresa become so idolized that people worships her rather than the God she worships. If role models turn into idols, such models become more dangerous than an amalgamation of Prejean-Gosselin-Sanford combined!
- Galli's Audience
I believe that Galli may be writing to a specific target audience, who need to make some sense of the current state of American evangelicalism. As people who strive to live an honest and exemplary Christian life, their efforts to be a positive witness to non-believers may have been hindered by questions surrounding: "What about the other Christians?" In other words, Galli's article is for a specific group of people, not Christians in general.
Role models may be important, but they do not fully represent Christians overall. Who knows, in our efforts to make 'role models' out of anyone, not only will we unconsciously make them out to be idols-for-Christ, we may even cause them to stumble in the process, through prolonged exposure to high expectations.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
If you have suggestions on how to spice up blogs, let me know. I'll appreciate it.
Title: The Deeper Journey
Author: Robert Mulholland, Jr
Published: IVP, 2006 (168pp)
Reviewed: 9 July 2009 (Conrade Yap)
GIST OF THE BOOK
There is more to the Christian life, apart from being active in a faith community or practicing a set of spiritual disciplines. Biblically, the goal is to be like Jesus. The way toward it is via union with God in love, expressed through thought, word and deed. The vehicle to channel it is to firstly expose our false selves that gravitate toward godless idols, to guide one’s soul toward a deeper journey, that increasingly unveils our true inclination toward God himself.
WHAT ARE THE FALSE IDOLS
Mulholland points out two things to be aware of: false self and false religious self. Victims of ‘false self’ manifest themselves with characteristics like ‘fearful, protective, possessive, manipulative, destructive, self-promoting, indulgent, distinction-making’ which in turn shapes our ‘perspectives, attitudes and behaviour’ (44). These things are so deeply ingrained that it can be difficult to detect in the first place. The second thing, false religious self is more difficult. ‘False religious self’ thinks that as long as one is religious, one’s relationship with God automatically flow from it. Not only does this second kind of self exhibit similar characteristics of the first self, it puts God inside our worldly box of self-interests.
- Fear: By fearing emptiness inside our poor boxes that we try to put God inside it.
- Protection: we try to defend our pet ideas about God, thus we gravitate toward people of our own kind, and resist alternative views.
- Possessiveness: Like Ananias and Sapphira, we want to belong to a community, but do not want to part with our stuff;
- Manipulation: We use our religious status to position ourselves for our own advantage;
- Destructive: we clone ourselves according to other religious false selves.
- Self-Promotion: Largely a facade to get the world to notice us;
- Indulgence: We indulge ourselves through religious practices that affirm our idols.
- Distinctions: Making too much hype about our own uniqueness and special qualities
Key to spiritual formation is the recognition that such things hold one back from true union with God.
TO HIDE IN CHRIST
One can choose to follow Christ through false selves, or to let Christ take care of us as we hide ourselves in Christ. Mulholland provides a helpful illustration. If we clasp our hands together, it is a picture of hiding in Christ. If we insist on hanging on to our false selves, it is like taking our right hand away and stretching it away to the right side. The key is to resist that and to come back to a clasped hands stance: Hiding in Christ. Our false selves will gravitate toward the world. Our true selves will spring toward Christ. Thus, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. This new conversion represents a growing desire to be with Christ above all the world has to offer. Nourishing this desire is the work of spiritual formation.
PRINCIPLES OF THE DEEPER LIFE
Mulholland carefully avoids the word ‘practice’ so as not to confuse with spiritual disciplines.
1) Personal Intimacy with God
This is learning to be attentive to our inner life with God. via Detachment and Centering. In detachment, we learn to free ourselves from ourselves. We pray: “Lord, free me from care of myself.” Upon detachment, we can find ourselves in a vacuum. The next step is critical, that we focus on God, rather than opening ourselves up to other false gods.
- From Detachment → Centering
- In moving toward God, we are free to love others unconditionally.
- We fight against manipulative behavior and seek to serve others for the best of all.
- We resist our abusiveness, by seeking to show compassion and kindness around us.
- We still our restless souls so as to find rest in God.
“We are torn loose from earthly attachments and ambitions – contemptus mundi. And we are quickened to a divine but painful concern for the world – amor mundi. He plucks the world out of our hearts, where we and He together carry it on infinitely tender love.” (Thomas Kelly)
2) Public intimacy via the Lord’s Prayer and the Daily Office
In the Lord’s Prayer, we incarnate ‘Our Father in Heaven’ by corporate awareness that God belongs to a corporate body, not just for us. ‘Father’ shows the relationship that holds the Christian life. ‘Heaven’ represents where our journey is heading to, that it is not the eternal riches that matter, but the presence of God in heaven that fulfills. When we pray, ‘hallowed be your name,’ we affirm that we are not mere spectators but active participants to let God’s name be known to all.
The Daily Office is a regular routine or ritual a Christian can do to center on God each day. Some suggestions are:
- Make time to center: like singing a song: “Great is thy faithfulness”
- Desire God as primary reality of our life: “You’re beautiful God. Make me more like you, O Lord.”
- Probe ourselves. “Free us from ourselves.”
- Abandon ourselves to God. “May God alone be our only contentment.”
- Spend time reading the Word.
- Spend time in silent prayer.
There are good points from this book, with regards to staying away from our false selves by being first aware of them. I agree with most of his teachings. It all sounds reasonable up to a certain point. I have some questions:
- Where is the sacrifice component? Can we retain our possessions and yet seek to center on Christ?
- What about spiritual directors? Spirituality is not a Do-It-Yourself activity. Mulholland writes the book in a pretty much DIY mode, even though in his part about the Lord's prayer, he did mention the corporate component.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Many of us are giants when getting people to read the Bible and to pray, but are midgets when it comes to equipping people to share the faith. This article encourages us to think baby-steps as far as outreach is concerned. This helps one overcome fears and at the same time equips one for learning how to reach people for Christ, without feeling lost.
Heralded as the 'Outreach Resource of the Year Winner 2007,' Bill Hybels, in his book, “Just Walk across the room” (IVP Press, 2006) shows a troubling chart about Christians and their Christian lives. It lays out the length of time one walks with Christ (x-axis) and the number of non-church people they have (y-axis).
Two things bother me regarding this chart. Firstly, the trend each year moves consistently downward, ie, lesser contact with non-Christians and non-church people. The cynical will interpret this as the longer one attends church; the shorter one attends to the world. The skeptic points an accusing finger to villanize the church as a self-serving, self-centering and self-focusing institution. The pessimist wonders how long it will take before the current church to decline to the point of non-relevance. If Hybels is correct, then Christians must do something to arrest this decline. Secondly, the sharpest decline happens between year 1 and 2. If a young believer is likened to a hot piece of coal, did the church play the role of a big block of ice that has a dramatically cooling effect? This made me wonder if the church environment is one with doors that open only one way? Do church people go into a family church and never get interested in the world outside? No. It need not be that way. I shall make some initial observations of some past historical outreach efforts and the way forward for modern day evangelism.
Problems When we 'Sub-contract' Outreach
Since the great evangelistic crusades and rallies in the 80s, there is no equivalent evangelistic outreach in the modern era that has the same kind of magnitude. There were mighty altar calls plus a flurry of activities surrounding follow-up of people who came to the faith. Any gains were soon to be negated when follow-up efforts fail to retain interest. I see this as one of the errors surrounding sub-contracting outreach efforts.
- Churches and Christian organizations subcontract evangelism via rallies by Billy Graham, Luis Palau and many others;
- Campus ministries subcontract outreach to famous names like Josh McDowell and John Stott;
- Some communities subcontract outreach via special shows like magic shows, circus, entertainment events to entice non-Christians to come, before hitting them with an evangelistic sermon.
To this day, churches continue to sub-contract the ministry of evangelism and mission via:
- Evangelism & Mission Committees;
- Pastors, Preachers and Full-time staff members both paid and unpaid;
- Leaders and prominent church members;
- Theological students.. . .
Let us assume that a hardworking pastor has shared the gospel with Mr Non-Christian, who later becomes Mr New-Believer. As the pastor is the only familiar face in the church, Mr New-Believer will naturally feel more comfortable speaking to the pastor. Suppose no one else in the church tries to befriend and followup on Mr New-Believer, what are the chances that this new believer drops out of church eventually? We all know the church demands on Mr Pastor? Thus, even if sub-contracting works at the recruitment level, it will not likely survive beyond the follow-up level. We need a better alternative to sub-contracting. This better way, suggested by Hybels is to encourage every church member to learn to 'walk across the room.'
First Steps: Walking Across the Room
Hybels is optimistic about reaching out to people for Christ. He calls for a new era in personal evangelism, which requires people to step out of their ‘Circle of Comfort.’ This is what I call one’s comfort zone. There are four ideas from Hybels’s book that is worth exploring.
#1 – Knowing Our Own Style
A helpful way Hybels propose is to evangelize according to one’s sense of natural behaviour. He lists 6 evangelistic styles for us to consider:
- Confrontational (like Peter): those who shoot from the lip, and people who are convicted to speak their passion openly and frankly can amaze people with their conviction and firmness. Such an approach appeals to people whose words speak louder than actions.
- Intellectual (like Paul): Some of us will enjoy engaging others in an intellectual debate or discussion with skeptics and seekers.
- Interpersonal (like Jesus): Non-assuming individuals work best, and this approach will appeal to a lot of people wanting to build relationships, yet are careful not to commit to any institution.
- Invitational (like the woman at the well): Sharing one’s stories of discoveries like a friend telling another some piece of good news.
- Serving (like Mother Teresa): where one believes that actions speak louder than words.
- Testimonial (like Lee Strobel): Using testimonies and stories of one’s personal spiritual journey and transformation.
Whichever style it is, every Christian ought to learn their own unique style, Once this is done, Hybels recommend a 3D model for new-era evangelism.
a) Develop Friendships
b) Discover Stories
c) Discern Next Steps
The 3D model has a progressive structure in which one first make friends, then discover common goals and commitments before embarking upon future projects or programs together in the journey of faith.
#3 – Knowing Our 3 Irreducible Ingredients
Hybels ends his 221 pages book with 3 “irreducible ingredients.”
a) God loves you;
b) Christ chose to pay for you;
c) The choice is now yours.
I like these 3 ingredients for its sheer simplicity. In sharing the good news, this truth must be crystal clear. No ‘buts’ or uncertainties whether God only cares for the good and pretty, but also for the bad and ugly. The second irreducible truth indicates that the prime mover is God in Christ. The third truth gives the person the knowledge that nobody can force him or her to make any choice. It is an invitation to faith. “Just walk Across the Room” is essentially an invitation for Christians to learn to walk out of their comfort zone, in order to become friendly with our neighbours. Opportunities always exist for us to share God’s love. The biggest challenge is not whether we can penetrate the deepest jungles in the world outside. The hardest barrier lies deeply embedded in the human psyche that abhors change.
#4 – Challenging our own Inner Barriers
Just consider the following questions. Who do we gravitate more toward?
• People who are nice OR those difficult to love?
• People who are successful OR struggling?
• People who are easy to get along OR those hard to speak with?
• People who are like yourself OR people who are most unlike us?
• People who are rich and wealthy OR those poor and needy?
The main goal I suggest we aim is: “It doesn’t matter.” Our love needs to grow to encompass both the lovely and the unlovely. Didn't Christ teach us that if we only care for those who love us, what good is it, as even the pagans know how to do that? Just as Christ loved all, we imitate Christ by loving all. This should be our first steps. Venture out of fear. Spring outside of our comfort zone. Each time we do so, we are telling God that we trust not our own securities, but upon God alone.
These four ideas should provide some encouragement to help us unravel any knots behind our evangelistic lethargy. In summary, remember that many of us are still working out our first steps. Do not worry about the second step. Let them worry about it themselves. Concentrate on making sure we walk our steps properly. Next, probe our own personal styles and get feedback. Use them as part of our natural ability to engage. Develop a progressive relational paradigm that aims to develop friendships, discover stories and discern next steps personally and with others. Know the truths about God being the One who initiates godly love. Finally, challenge our personal prejudices and unwillingness to change. Dare to pray to be open not only to lovely people, but also those seemingly difficult to love.
Managers can delegate tasks to subordinates. Leaders can order followers to act on tasks. However, evangelism and outreach efforts cannot be delegated or ordered. Evangelism is essentially an act of grace, expressed through words of grace, lived out by a recipient of grace, freely given by the Author of grace.
"Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." (Francis of Assisi)
Monday, July 06, 2009
Saturday, July 04, 2009
- Written with the Christian in mind, Townsend seeks to remind them to return to their roots of faith exhibited by outward care for socially needy, the poor, the marginalized among us.
- Her message is consistent that regardless of our different religious affiliations, our call to love God and neighbor remains the same;
- An inward ‘spiritual awakening’ is needed for outward transformation
- God’s Church is a ‘welcoming one’ and not a ‘rejecting one.’ (34)
- Catholics need to be reminded of their tradition and rich history of social justice and affirmative actions;
- Protestants need to practice greater inclusivity, to learn from the ways of Martin Luther King Jr (civil rights advocate); Rick Warren (PEACE movement); Puritans (pay attention to needy); Jonathan Edwards (equality for all; and preaching hope of heaven);
- Being a ‘Christian nation’ essentially means having BOTH charitable ‘hearts’ as well as ‘hands’, not simply ‘voting Republican.’
- The title can mislead. Her main message is not for the Church to disengage from politics totally, but to re-engage in a more constructive manner.
- Her claims of politicians putting sexuality and reproduction at the forefront seem to let the press off the hook (26-27).
- Her concluding chapter contains many good ideas. However, there is a sense that many of those point to ‘charitable heads,’ without a proportional treatment of how to cultivate ‘charitable hearts.’
- Her accusation of the Catholic Church’s patriarchal mindset appears one-sided.
- Only toward the end did she admit that the primary audience she had was Christians. Perhaps, this should be mentioned earlier in the book.
In conclusion, I believe the book augers well to irritate comfortable hearts of Christians living a life of plenty, of power and of possessions. The only way to appreciate the charitable actions mentioned in her final chapter is for each reader to first experience a ‘spiritual awakening’ of their own. That, can only be done by the Holy Spirit, which is why I appreciate her ending the book with a prayer. Kudos to Townsend for a great first book of hers!
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Author: Mark Driscoll
This book from Driscoll is a refreshing call back to the biblical principles for fatherhood. Without question, it is a tough book that does not mince words. Fatherhood is loaded with solemn responsibilities. Amid a lax modern liberal environment we live in, where anything goes and people are free to choose according to what their feelings dictate, Driscoll's book is a welcome effort to counter laissez-faire attitudes pertaining to family living.
MAIN POINT: The key to godly fatherhood is simply a grace of God. The first thing we must note is that a man can be a good father if he learns first to be a good Christian. To be a good Christian he must realize that God is his Father, as Jesus taught us to pray. (5)
Learning on how to be a good father is contingent on how we relate to God our eternal Father. The essential truth is that children (representing the next generation) are to follow up on the father's faith. Their identity as father and son is tied closely to faith in God. Remember how the Old Testament refers to 'son of' and the way they describe their faith with regards to God. Teach children to worship God as the father worships God.
- Fathers are to be living examples to their children;
- The fathers' fear of the Lord presents security for the children;
Chapter 2 - Fruitful Vine
In "The Fruitful Vine," fathers are asked to be fruitful and that includes the shaping of their children's lives. It is not merely playing the numbers game where one thinks the-more-the-merrier. There is a qualitative aspect that needs to be addressed. Before a father can earnestly equip their sons to get married, they must first train them in living responsibly and purposefully. Too often, people goes into the courtship routine, even in the midst of a spiritual vacuum in their youthful hearts. Without values and principles to live by, any relationships engaged will not enjoy the kind of security a spiritual stronghold provides. Pursuing a godly woman does not simply mean having a good time. It means godly living together, and that any relationship ought to strengthen and preserve both persons' path to godliness. Proverbs are full of tips for young men and women to learn from. As an example, parents who disagree ought to show their children how they get reconciled with each other.
Chapter 3 - Cultivating Kids
Surprise surprise. Cultivating the respect of parents does not come automatically to children. Parents should not be shy to teach this fifth commandment to their kids.
"Practically, this means that everything in the life of the child is ultimately the responsibility of the father." (22)This is a tall order, and runs much against the cultural laxity on the parents. Parents must take charge. It is not the school's role. It is not the responsibility of the TV/Internet. It is neither the responsibility of society to teach our children. Parents are.
"And no matter which educational option you choose for your children, you and your wife must be their primary influence and instructors." (23)Chapter 4 - The Masculine Duty to Provide
Providing for the needs of the family is a high calling for the man of the family. This is not restricted to monetary needs. This includes spending money wisely and how the man provides security and how he cultivates relationships within the family. Spiritual, financial and social needs are part of the umbrella of providence.
Chapter 5 - Instruction Followed by Correction
A helpful advice is that the father ought to do his quiet time in the open, so that his children can see and become curious about his spiritual well-being. Do it often enough and the children will learn by seeing and copying. Any teaching and discipline cannot be delegated. Each parent (especially the father) has to take charge.
Chapter 6 - Protecting from Sin and Folly
This chapter is about the father as protector of the children. Preserving their purity, repenting from sins, praying for them, and imparting wisdom to them are core tasks of the father. Temptations toward promiscuity must be addressed right from the start.
Chapter 7 - Countering Culture
Finally, the tasks at hand for the parents are daunting. Against the tsunami of a highly sexed society, the modern culture needs to be countered.
"People love sex, but they don't love marriage; they love sex, but they don't love children. This is because they don't love God." (39)Things are further confused when the three crucial matters of children, marriage and sex are all separated and talked about as if they are three non-related issues. The fact is that they are all highly related. Parents are to take up the prophetic role to speak forth for God into the lives of their children. This may seem to be a scary call, but as fathers and mothers, we are priests for the family. The conclusion is worth quoting in full:
"More than bigger governments, bigger schools, more free school lunches, more child therapists, more child medications, more daycares, more prisons, and more birth control, we need more godly men who raise their sons to be godly men who raise their sons to be godly men who raise their sons to be godly men." (42)MY THOUGHTS
The teachings in the book are biblical and easy to understand. However, obeying it is more difficult. This is because far too many of us are already like frogs swimming in the warm waters of post-modern definition of freedom and licentiousness. The more repelled we are to the teachings, the more we ought to realize how much the world has influenced our thinking. It is quote counter-cultural and I applaud Mark Driscoll for releasing this gem to the public freely. The main thing is that in order to benefit the most from it, we must be prepared to change our lifestyle. If we have delegated our responsibilities away to others, it is time to take it back. If mothers are prepared to give up their second career so as to become a stay-home mum, fathers ought to give up their extra-curricular activities in order to be available to be a father for their children.
For some of us, it will be really hard, and that calls for steep sacrifices. While it is important to provide for our family economically, we need to realize that just like there are many different vitamins and minerals, a balanced nutrition works best. We cannot feed our families only Vitamin M (money!) all the time and expect all the other vitamins to automatically appear. It does not work that way. So fathers, do not complain like the invalid man at the pool of Bethsaida, always complaining that he cannot walk because others always get to the healing waters first (John 5).
Take up your mat of responsibility and walk the call of fatherhood.