Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book: "Outlive Your Life" (Max Lucado)

Title: Outlive Your Life (You were made to make a difference)
Author: Max Lucado
Published: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2010.

Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference
This is one of the most inspiring books ever written by Lucado. With a livid narrative, a pulsating story-telling tempo and a style that is so uniquely Lucado, this book pumps you up without dumbing anyone down. Wading through the biblical book of Acts, Lucado gently guides readers to believe that they are created to make a difference. It is a call to step out of our respective shells and let our authentic selves be used by God to make a difference.

Right from the start, stories captivate the reader's attention. Except for the first and last chapter, the rest of the 15 chapters begin with a short Scripture passage from Acts. Every chapter ends with a prayer that applies the main message in the chapter.

The discussion guide and ideas for action is a welcome supplementary help for this highly readable book. In fact, the book doubles up as a small group study guide as well. For me personally, this book provides inspiration for Christians who may have felt their faith have jaded over the years. It is a refreshing jab of life. Although this book can be read quickly, it is more beneficial if readers can take their time to reflect and see how each chapter be used as a personal life application.

My Comments
I like how Lucado weaves the main message with stories, his trademark. The most humorous chapter is chapter 4, "Don't Forget the Bread." The most inspiring is chapter 12, "Blast a Few Walls." The most paradigm-shifting is chapter 14, "Stable the High Horse." The final two chapters dovetail wonderfully into becoming Christlike as a firm witness. This is so important as we do not outlive our lives on the basis of self-effort. It has to be inspired by Christ alone. I am glad Lucado stresses this. The chapter that I was encouraged to read is Chapter 10, "Stand Up for the Have Nots." It is a powerful chapter that urges readers to get out of their comfort zone. I think this is a highly necessary chapter in an age of comfort.

If there is a critique, the book reads more like a paraphrase and the unsuspecting young Christian may even think that Jesus really had a Facebook account! (p130) Lucado marries Scriptures with contemporary culture so much that those who are less Bible-literate may mistakenly assume Lucado's modern analogy as fact. This is one biggest reason and advice I have for Christians reading Lucado's writings. Make sure you read your Bibles, and make sure Lucado's re-telling measure up.

In summary, this is a perk-me-up book that should encourage any reader desiring to live more for God.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, IncAvailable September 2010 at your favourite bookseller. 


My "Outlive Your Life" Story Moment
I am encouraged to write my own story of how God has used my small life to make a big difference. Looking back, as an active blogger, I remember writing a blog article about a fellow believer who is ministering in an earthquake hit country recently. At that time, most public attention happens to be on the big guys, the huge NGOs and the national aid agencies. Unfortunately, the big organizations needed time to get their responses organized. Yet the need is immediate, and the missionary is already in place to assist the quake victims with minimal red-tape! I decided to step in to see if my small blog can make a difference. However, there are two doubts. Firstly, who would bother to pay attention to small guys, and unknown missionaries in the world? Secondly, what can a small writer like me do in one tiny corner of the Internet world? 

God has his other plans. After that blog post, I receive emails that people wanted to contribute to the fund of this missionary. I have never gotten such requests before and it is gratifying that my blog can be a bridge for donations. Though I do not get a cent out of it, it is gratifying enough to know that small blogs can make a big difference.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Anne Rice Quits Christianity

One of the most talked about news within religious circles is the public announcement of Anne Rice's decision to quit Christianity. On the website of this popular author, she writes:
Popular author Anne Rice; Source: AP
"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten ...years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else. " (From; 07/28/10)
For a society that enshrines the separation of Church and State, the exclusion of religion from the school classrooms, and the general policy in many businesses that are more secular than religious, there is still that keen sense of public interest in the private beliefs of famous people. Anne Rice is one of them.

If one reads her confessions on the website carefully, it is easy to see that she is not exactly quitting the Christian faith but the institutionalized religion associated with Christianity. Note she says she remains 'committed to Christ.' What she is actually quitting is her Roman Catholic links. She continues:
"I quit Christianity in the name of Christ on this page so that I could tell my readers I was not complicit in the things that organized religion does." (08/08/10)
I read this sadly because Rice talks in a way that reflects a frustration on her experience of the churches she encounter. Unfortunately, Rice's decision summarily dismisses ALL churches. Are all churches the same kind of 'anti-science' that she is quitting? I remember Dr Bruce Waltke who remains in the Church despite being ostracised due to his position on the creation issue. Apparently, I think Rice's decision has been misunderstood, and even her own position is unclear. That is why she posts clarifications after clarifications about her momentous leap of 'unfaith.' In fact, after her sensational 2005 return to the Roman Catholic faith, she dramatically leaves. It makes me wonder what kind of a faith she harbors. It is one thing to privately and quietly resign her Catholic faith. It is another to publicly announce her decision for everybody to know. Naturally, one will start to suspect whether such antics is linked to helping her sell more of her books, wares and heighten the levels of publicity? After all, controversies can be very profitable.

Some Reactions
Richard Mouw, the President of Fuller Theological Seminary laments her decision and links that to the rising movement of people that claims to be 'yes-to-Christ but no-to-the-organized-church.' Mouw prefers to use this opportunity to call evangelicals to tackle this 'challenge' bravely and to make necessary adjustments to correct their wrongs. Mouw blogs his views here.

Mark Driscoll, founding pastor of the highly popular Mars Hill Church in Seattle, provides a pastoral response here. He questions whether it is possible in the first place to separate 'Christ' from 'Christianity' and 'spiritual' without being 'religious.' He then answers with a measured 'yes and no.' Driscoll predicts Rice will eventually return to Christianity, and surrounds her quitting decision as a way to carve out space for her to grieve. For those unaware, her daughter died of leukemia in 1972, her good friend died of AIDS in 1994 and her husband died in 2002. Even her son is a gay rights activist which the Roman Catholic faith frowns on.

My Comments
All of us embrace religion with our personal baggages. Some more, others less, but all have some kind of expectations that we bring with us. A little differential in expectations is tolerable. Once the differences exceed a certain level, the parties break ranks. Some stayed on to fight their 'principles' as a matter of 'principle.' Others take the pacifist approach to let things be while they practice their faith more privately than ever. Some others cannot take it anymore and leaves. Anne Rice does the latter.

I do not know Anne Rice. Neither have I read her books though I have browsed some of her books before. Her decision seems to me more like a publicity gimmick. It reminds me of Barbara Brown Taylor, a former Episcopal priest who writes about her 'leaving church' in order to keep her faith sane. There is a strikingly familiar thread right here. Rice leaves Christianity but remains committed to Christ. Taylor leaves Church but remains committed to the Christian faith. This is yet another 'spiritual not religious' version that is widely practiced in North America these days.

Let me make 3 quick comments. Firstly, the Church is not perfect. That said, do not let our expectations be one of perfection. Secondly, when cornered, people will tend to take the path of quitting angrily. I think this decision by Rice is something like that. Thirdly, people are not perfect. The Church comprises the people of God. The people of God needs the constant assurance of care and love, understanding and tolerance, hope and faith. If we claim to be followers of Christ, can we simply enjoy the fruits without accepting the call to labour via seeding, watering, pruning, tending and the associated responsibilities that come with planting? In other words, a relationship is the whole deal, not just the choicest parts. Take a look at the LORD's Prayer on human relationships.
"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matthew 6:12, NAS)

Ever wonder why Jesus enshrines this particular command for his disciples?
"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)
In other words, if we claim to follow Christ, make sure we obey Christ's command.
"I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note - torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one." (Henry Ward Beecher)


Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Hip-Style Christianity Is Not Preferred

The Wall Street Journal published an insightful article on religion on Aug 13th, 2010. In the article entitled: "The Perils of Wannabe-Cool Christianity," Brett McCracken begins by comparing the BP oil-well leak in the gulf of Mexico with the leak of young people from evangelical churches. He claims that the young people leaves 'never to return.' The writer is the author of the book, "Hipster Christianity: Where Church and Cool Collide."

Essentially, McCracken argues that while Churches are right to be concerned about the exodus of young people from may churches, they are wrong in trying to use 'hip' and 'cool' stuff to draw them in. He questions the popular person approach, which is use of modern sitcom and popular television personalities. He criticizes the technological approach where churches seem to attract people on the basis of them adopting the greatest and the latest technologies in the ministries. He hits out at sensationalism style church ministry. He is annoyed at the use of 'sex' as a cover. Finally, he tells the reader what is the biblical approach:
"If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it's easy or trendy or popular. It's because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It's because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It's not because we want more of the same." (Brett McCracken)

I like the way Dr David Wells of Gordon-Conwell is quoted:

"The born-again, marketing church has calculated that unless it makes deep, serious cultural adaptations, it will go out of business, especially with the younger generations. What it has not considered carefully enough is that it may well be putting itself out of business with God.

"And the further irony," he adds, "is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them."
I agree very much with Wells and McCracken. This book is indeed a needed jab for many of us concerned about serving God in biblical ways. We need to be Christlike. If Christ alone is not attractive, nothing else will be permanently attractive. If we become too much like the world, then the people outside the Church will ask: "Why should I come to Church? After all, I can get all the hip and cool things that the world offers. What's the difference?"

The difference must always be Christ. Anything else is a lousy alternative.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Testimony of Afshin Javid (pastor of Vancouver Christian Fellowship)

** UPDATE: 6 Jan 2012 **
Due to a recent turn of events surrounding Afshin Javid's personal life last year, readers are advised that Afshin is no longer a pastor at VCF. You can follow the details at the comments column down below. This particular blog posting may possibly be removed at a future date depending on the availability of further information.



This is another powerful testimony of a man who came to Jesus. It was first published in and all credits go there. Afshin Javid is currently a pastor of Vancouver Christian Fellowship in North Vancouver.


An Iranian Muslim encounters the living Word
By Afshin Javid

Afshin Javid in Iran, age 14
I WAS BORN into a Shiite Muslim family in Iran. At age 12, I began to fulfill my duties toward Allah: praying, fasting and reading his book every day, doing all I could to make him happy. In my teens, I joined the Hezbollah militant group; three years later, I had to leave Iran.
At age 17, I was in Malaysia; I was arrested for possession of 30 illegal passports, and imprisoned. My Sunni Muslim captors asked me to teach the Koran, and to lead the mosque in the prison.

In the Koran, it is believed that there are good and bad jinns, or genies ­ and that it is not taboo to use their powers. I had gained powers from these spiritual forces; and one day, while I was reading the Koran in my jail cell, a dark spirit appeared that was more powerful than I could handle. I tried sending it away or fighting it, but I had no strength.

I read the scriptures and called the Shahada, the statement of faith, but nothing helped. I cried out: "God, would you help me?" ­ and I heard a voice saying, "Bring the name of Jesus." I felt like I was drowning; without thinking, I said "Jesus, if you are true, help me!" Before I finished, everything was back to normal.

That was not the point of my conversion ­ rather, the point of my confusion. I wondered: why would Jesus Christ help me, when I believed in Muhammad? That question ate at me, until I couldn't stand it anymore.

I knew the problem could not lay with me, because I believed Islam so deeply that I was willing to kill for it. I prayed and fasted for two weeks, and asked the same question again and again. I said to God: "I want to know if there is one way to you, or many different ways. I want to know the way you have called me to."

After two weeks without an answer, I was upset and decided God didn't exist ­ and if he did, he couldn't hold me responsible at the Day of Judgment, because I had asked about him and he didn't respond. I told him that, from then on, I would follow my own desires. It felt as if I'd drawn a line for God on the ground.

It was then that the cell was filled with his presence. Simultaneously, I felt all the weight of my sins ­ and how I deserved to die. I cried out: "Forgive me!" I repeated that again and again, until I felt a touch on my shoulder ­ and a voice said, "I forgive you." At that very moment I felt forgiven; and the burden of my sins was lifted off my shoulders.

In Islam, we are never sure of our forgiveness in the present; we must wait until the Day of Judgment to know if we have been forgiven. I asked: "Who are you, that you forgive me ­ and I feel forgiven at this very moment?" He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life."

I asked, "What does that mean? What is your name?" He said, "I am Jesus Christ, the living God"; and the moment he spoke those words, I fell on the floor as though I had no bones in my body. Tears flew from my eyes. All my emotions ran through me at once ­ I had lost total control.

I was sad and happy; I was angry, yet joyful. Sad because I had been away from the house I belonged to; joyful to know where I belonged ­ to have the knowledge of truth. I was angry that they had lied to me, and I had wasted so many years trying to please a god you can never be sure of.

I cried at his feet. Two hours passed, until he said "Afshin, look up." I saw images of people from all over the world; I could see their sins, and was overwhelmed. I said, "Lord, I live amongst all these sinners." And he said, "Afshin, how easily did I forgive you?" I said "Very easy, Lord." He replied, "I can forgive them as easily ­ but who is going to tell them?"

Go tell them

I said, "Me, Lord ­ I will go, I will tell them." He said, "Go, tell them; I'll be with you." I ran from the cell, while the Lord stood there.

I told some of the other prisoners how I had become a Christian. But it didn't go as I'd hoped; Malaysia was still a Muslim country. Some accused me of having gone mad; some called me an infidel. But the Lord's presence protected me.

I told people stories of how Jesus had done many miracles; but after awhile, I asked myself: "How do you know these stories are true?" I decided that, if I told stories for the glory of God, it didn't matter if they weren't true.

But then I felt rebuked. I felt him say, "I am the God of all truth; I don't need lies to be glorified." I said, "I don't know where these stories come from, I just tell them as they come to mind. Would you send me a Bible? I will read that, and I will tell it according to the stories that are written."

The next day, a fellow prisoner approached me, looking at me in a strange way. I knew he was a convicted murderer ­ and I stood ready to fight, filled with anger. He looked me straight in the eyes, and said: "This is for you, this is what you asked for," and handed me a book. Nothing was written on the cover, but I knew what it was.

The wrong Bible

I snatched the Bible from his hand, ran to my cell and held it close. I cried, kissed the book and said, "Thank you God, you're so great. I prayed, and you gave me what I prayed for." I thought, "This God is so almighty, he's so prompt to answer the prayers of his people."
When I opened the book, I realized that God had made a mistake ­ he had sent me the wrong Bible! It was written in a language I couldn't read. I said "God, thank you for sending me this Bible, but I cannot read this." I felt him say, "Read it." I said, "You know I cannot."

I was prompted in my heart: "Read." And I said, "I cannot. I'll wait, and tomorrow you'll have someone send me a Farsi one." He said, "Read this book now."

I knew I had to show God I couldn't read it, to get him to provide me with the Farsi Bible. So I ran my eyes over the words, expecting God to notice that I understood none of them; but then I found myself actually reading ­ and understanding every word!

I found someone who could read and understand the words, and told him what I thought it said. He asked how I understood English. I replied, "Is that the language that I understand?" So, now I could read and understand English; yet when I tried to read an English newspaper, I couldn't. I picked up the Bible again ­ and I could read and understand.

How was that possible? The Lord said to me: "You asked to read the Bible, not the newspaper." I was amazed; for when I read the Bible, every story I had told about Jesus Christ was there ­ in the exact same details.

The living Word

As written in the Revelation, the whole world will pass away ­ but not one word of this Book will perish. Muslims were told that the Bible had been altered, and I'd never considered how foolish it is to believe a human could change the words of the living God. The Lord had proven to me that was his living Word.

People say how great it is that I have seen the Lord; but I respond with Jesus' words: "Blessed are you who have not seen, and yet believe." I am a man of little faith. God in his mercy and grace chose me according to his will, to show himself to me for his purposes. I am the least of all, the chief of all sinners ­ and for that reason, God has chosen me to bear one message: that he is able to forgive all sinners as he has forgiven me. As Christians, we must realize the weight of responsibility of this message that is upon our shoulders.

The Lord Jesus said: "You are the light of the world, you are the salt of the earth." I ask myself always: "If I am the light and people are not coming from out of darkness to the light, how bright is my light? If I am the salt of the earth and the whole earth is rotting away, how salty am I? Am I good to be trampled upon, or preserved?

I ask the Lord for help and say, "No more am I satisfied with a mediocre Christian life. I want to see your kingdom come, your will be done. I want to see your name be hallowed in the life of many, and to witness for you according to your purposes."

May God's grace, mercy and love guard your heart. May his word burn like fire within your bones, so that you would not be able to keep quiet. May today be the day that you make a new covenant with the Lord, and say: "Have me all, have me all."

Afshin Javid is a pastor at Vancouver Christian Fellowship.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Small Group Dynamics (3 Tips)

TITLE: Three Tips on Small Group Dynamics
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 14 Aug 2010

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31b-32)

Sometimes, we take our communities we are in for granted when we pretend we are strong by being nice. We presume we are communicating when we are speaking more than listening. We push for compliance more than attempting to understand one another.

What are good communities made up of?  It is a community that allows truth to be known and freely shared.

1) From Courtesy to Honesty
I remember one of my small group meetings with a group of students training to be pastors. Since our first meeting, we have conscientiously sought to be careful with what we say to each other. The reason is because we do not want to step on one another's tail unnecessarily. After all, we do not have to make enemies out of each other. Besides, it is easier to say positive things to people, rather than to be involved in another tussle over who is more correct than the other. Thus we tip toe gently over each another by careful sharing and reserve our deepest thoughts to ourselves. It is common to see individual people preferring to keep quiet and when in doubt, say the politest things possible. One of the members got increasingly frustrated and at our 6th meeting together, he blurts out:
“The trouble with our group is that we are still trying to be nice. Too nice in fact.”
Bummer! That spurred several of us to start talking the real stuff rather than sitting around the fence and flanking one another. I learned that day that it is one thing to be nice, yet another to be honest. Being nice means that we only say the pleasant things that are easy to mention, rather than the truth which can become ugly at times.

Learning Point: Being honest helps all of us to approach the whole truth better. Like the game of Scrabble. If we only put out all our nice vowels, there will come a time when we will be stuck with high-score letters that cannot form any word at all. Playing only the nice cards leaves us saddled with the rest of the hand, dissatisfied with half-baked solutions and worse, half-truths.

2) From Readiness to Speak to Quick to Listen

I remember one group I was in where meetings range from periods of silence, to times of heated discussions. The latter usually happens when convictions and passions are stoked.

In one particular group, there was once an elderly gentleman who becomes so vocal and insistent on his views that he fails to listen to what the rest of us are saying. When this man was openly stating his views, his convictions, many of us will either stay silent or fiddle with our other digital gadgets while waiting for him to finish his rambling. Outside the meeting, the other members will start to comment about him being condescending on the rest of us. This man has a lot of good things to say, but he fails to be sensitive to the majority. Everyone has a chance to speak, but not everyone should be forced to accept holier-than-thou preachiness. The way to counter any temptation toward condescending behaviors is through the biblical wisdom in James:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19)

Learning Point: Speaking and listening frequently works in opposite directions. If we are too quick to shoot words off our hip, people will be slow to listen. Our words will rattle off people's ears like water on turtle shells. We become slow to listen especially when we become more self-focused than focusing on others. In other words, the attitude of quick to listen and slow to speak is a classic reminder that we must learn to see and speak from the point of view of OTHERS instead of self. Truth can be heard clearer and louder when we learn to listen to one another more than speaking at one another.

3) From Struggling to Agree → Seeking to Understand
A typical situation in many groups is the desire for consensus. In many cultures, the consensus approach is a long process, compared to the majority vote method, which is faster. Unfortunately, the voting approach results in a winner-versus-loser mentality. Though it helps the group arrives at a result quickly, it can work against the group in terms of unity. Moreover, putting things to a vote can give outsiders the impression that the meeting has resolved some important issues where everyone in the group agrees. What if the winning margin is a mere 0.001%?

There is another problem. When things are put to a vote, what do we do with the equally valid points raised by the dissenters? Personally, I think truth does not discriminate between the majority or the minority. The psychologist, Irving Janis in 1972 puts forth a term called ‘Groupthink.’ This term is used for groups that try to reach a consensus via the path of minimum resistance, even at the expense of truth. An example of Groupthink happened at the infamous Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Even though some engineers at that time knew about the faulty parts within the spacecraft that ought to halt the launch, they went ahead anyway so as to conform to group expectations throughout NASA. The result is fatal.

Forcing one another to conform to group expectations may have short-term agreement but it has long-term implications. There is a better way. This is the way of understanding. In a clever play of words, the famous poet Helen Keller writes on the importance of right understanding:

"I do not want the peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace." (Helen Keller)

Learning Point: Sometimes, we struggle to agree and force one another toward compliance that we smother truths. We cannot straitjacket truth into ready made containers or uniforms. Truth have to be revealed as they are. When we seek more to understand rather than to be understood, we will be surprised how much peace they can bring.

These three quick tips are essentials to ensuring that we all tell the truths, and the truths shall set us free from falsehood, from pretension and from our tendencies to hide. Let us seek truth by being HONEST and not hide under the bushes of niceness and fake courtesy. During meetings, let us be ready to LISTEN to one another. There is no compulsion for us to have to say something. Sometimes, in the silence, we begin to hear ourselves clearer. When somebody speaks, quickly move our ear to listen. Finally, the way toward greater truth revelation lies in our willingness to UNDERSTAND one another more than forcing compliance. In a mode of understanding we allow all views to be heard and appreciated. In a mode of compliance, we force only one particular point of view.  In summary, for good communications among groups, make sure that truth are revealed via:
  • Honesty more than mere courtesy;
  • Listening to more than speaking at;
  • Seek to Understand rather than pushing for Agreement
Let the truth be revealed honestly, listened to earnestly, and understood carefully. These three tips should help groups go a long way to discern truth from among us when we gather.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Money over Morals - Bizzare lawsuit Against HP

Hewlett-Packard is in the news again, but for the wrong reasons. Back in 2005, Carly Fiorina, the then-CEO of the technology giant was unceremoniously dumped, due to differences in policy making. Enters Mark Hurd, the non-nonsense goal-getter operations guru who prefers a low-key low-profile management style. Thankfully, the company turns around strongly. The way Hurd manages to integrate EDS into the company appears less problematic compared to the tumultuous HP-Compaq merger under Fiorina. Unfortunately, Hurd ends up leaving the company too under dire circumstances. The media says that Hurd was asked to leave. HP is now looking for a new CEO. Today I read about a lawsuit filed against the HP Board of Directors for causing a US9 billion drop in market capitalization. I ask, "Is this real?" Is this a "Money more important than morals" mentality at play?

Frankly, I am embarrassed by this lawsuit. The speed in which Hurd has resigned is in itself credible.
  • Hurd admits to wrongdoing, and sees no more moral authority to lead. Isn't that good leadership?
  • The Board of Directors has been fair to Hurd by giving him the severance package due. In fact, they have been gracious to downgrade the accusations to a breach in Standards of Business Conduct, rather than sexual harassment which is criminal. For this, I think the BOD has done an excellent balancing act. This to me is professionalism, given the circumstances. There is no point for HP to prosecute Hurd any more, as long as the former CEO learns his mistake.
The HP Shareholder who sues the BOD causes me to question: "Is money more important than morals?" Don't get me wrong. I am not speaking on a platform of moral superiority. I am talking about doing the right thing, under the circumstances. Is the right thing according to the shareholder (Brockton Contributory Retirement System) in terms of money? Are they saying that HP BOD is wrong to quickly ask for the resignation of Hurd? Is it more significant for this shareholder to wait for the right time according to money dynamics? If instead, the HP BOD waits and does not take immediate action, would they not be sending a wrong message instead?

The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company (Collins Business Essentials)As an ex-employee of HP, I still look highly on the top management there. From Bill Hewlett to David Packard; John Young to Lew Platt, and to some extent Carly Fiorina, HP has always been blessed with strong leadership with credible leaders. By and large, I think they have generally been fair. While making money is important, the venerable HP Way is still one of the best standards in the industry. I think back fondly to the days where the HP Way was meticulously practiced. Unfortunately, I can testify that after Lew Platt, the HP Way was never really the same. This is why many ex-colleagues of mine have said that after the departure and deaths of the two founders, Dave and Bill, the HP Way has been diminishing throughout the company. Some even say that it is forever gone.

This latest episode encourages me because of the prompt action of the BOD to sack Hurd. It is leadership at its best. Decisive. Firm. Considerate of most, if not all parties. At the highest level, moral credibility is a non-negotiable. Do not let money matters cloud out any judgment on moral authority. Better to suffer short-term than to let the problem rot and decay long term. Concentrate on not only what works but the kind of workers the company has. I quote what Hurd himself said:

“It would be difficult for me to continue as an effective leader at HP and I believe this is the only decision the board and I could make at this time,” Hurd, 53, said in a statement. “I want to stress that this in no way reflects on the operating performance or financial integrity of HP.” (Businessweek)
Kudos HP. May you get a good leader soon.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Game of Hope

This video is an inspiring one. In November 2008, Faith Christian High School let their football cheering mechanism bring hope not just to the home team but the visiting team as well. It teaches us that when we can all make a difference by cheering for both the home as well as the visiting team. This is because when we cheer, we become agents of hope. Check out the video here.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Testimony: Malaysia's Francis Yeoh

This testimony is published earlier in the Asian Beacon.  Thanks to a friend who shared this with me. It can also be read here. While I am not exactly keen on Christians trying to muscle their way into high profile commercial presence, I believe that God does at times use His people to influence the world according to their gifts and talents. Read this testimony and be encouraged.


Compelled by God’s Love

Asian Beacon, Feb-Mar 2010

Starhill Gallery in Kuala Lumpur prides itself as the centre of luxury retailing-home to prestigious (and pricey) brands such as Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Jaeger La-Coultre, Armani and Van Cleef & Arpels, just to name a few.

So it may surprise you, as you browse through the exclusive offerings in this posh mall, to come across a Christian bookstore. Glad Sounds Bookstore opened its 12th outlet on the Explore Floor of Starhill Gallery last December, selling its books, Bibles, CDs and DVDs on very prime real estate.

This sounds unusual because we're so used to Christian bookstores tucked away in obscure comers of shopping centres. Such was the experience of one Malaysian businessman, who decided to do something about that.

"When I want to go to a bookshop in Singapore, I go to Suntec City," says Tan Sri Francis Yeoh.

"The Christian bookshop there is very popular. But it's next to a toilet, and it always puzzles me how the Christians are always relegated to spaces right at the wrong ends-the smelly ends. Can't they afford a prime space in any shopping centre?"

He lamented the price of progress. When, several years ago, a church had to move from Wall Street, the newspaper headlines screamed, "Even God cannot afford Wall Street."

This burdened Yeoh, 56, so much that he earmarked valuable retail space in his shopping mall for the express purpose of opening a Christian bookstore and searched for the right people to run it. After two months of meetings and prayer, Starhill Gallery welcomed Glad Sounds as its newest tenant.

"It's truly a miracle in God's wonderful plan," Yeoh tells Asian Beacon in an exclusive interview.

"This is a mighty big event. Glad Sounds is now in Starhill with all the Louis Vuittons of this earth. And why not?"

The Morning Star and Calvary's Hill

Why not? Well, one might ask, "Why would something as seemingly trivial as a Christian bookstore be high on the priority list for a tycoon who heads a RM33 billion business empire?" It doesn't make much business sense, but then again, Tan Sri Francis Yeoh is not your typical businessman.

Besides his tremendous corporate success and passion for arts, culture and the finer things in life, the other much-touted fact about Yeoh- one that probably sets him apart-is his unapologetic, unwavering faith in God.

It's hard not to find him mentioning God when he is being interviewed, be it by The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Recently, Yeoh unabashedly declared in The Star, "Without my Lord, I am nothing!" and "My personal goal is always to walk in the footsteps of God."

Yeoh is renowned for his contrarian investment approach, embarking on buying sprees while others are shying away. In the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis, he swooped down on 98 acres of Bukit Bintang prime real estate, including Starhill, Lot 10 and JW Marriott, for a song, and transformed it into a luxury and lifestyle destination. Unknown to many, Yeoh had dedicated the entire stretch to God when he took stewardship of those properties a decade ago. "People often forget the meaning behind Starhill," he says. "Jesus is the Morning Star, and the hill is the Hill of Calvary."

Thus, it seems very apt for a Christian bookstore, promoting God's word, to be sited in Starhill Gallery. Yeoh had also allocated space on the same floor for Shalom Cafe, which complements the bookstore and allows book lovers to lounge in.

Yeoh, an avid reader, opines that many Christians are not well read and that reading is a way of loving the Lord with our mind. He is frustrated that the devil seems to know more Scripture than most Christians. Through Glad Sounds' literature ministry, believers can arm themselves with the sword, God's Word.

"God's love is not quacky," says Yeoh, who recommends books by CS Lewis and Lee Strobel.

The latter wrote The Case for a Creator. “A well-read Christian would be able to intelligently defend the truth. It's a big mistake for Christians to cop-out!"

The Turning Point

The YTL Group bears the initials of Yeoh's father, Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, who had set up a small construction company in 1955. Big brother Yeoh and his six siblings grew up at construction sites and started supervising projects in their teenage years. The family business was badly hit during the 1970s oil crisis. Yeoh, then 16, wanted to drop out of school to help his father but the offer was declined.

Much burdened, Yeoh wandered around Kuala Lumpur and stumbled into the Kuala Lumpur Baptist Church, located along Cangkat Bukit Bintang.

"On that Friday, I vowed that I would dedicate my life to the God who could help me, whichever that was," says Yeoh. The pastor, to whom he had poured out his woes, comforted him by telling him that his problem would be gone by Monday. "True enough, my problem miraculously vanished on Monday! I believe Jesus directed me towards Him and found me worthy to be His servant."

Yeoh went on to study engineering in the UK and returned to take the helm of the company at age 24, growing it into the conglomerate it is today.

Jesus Will Pay the Bill

The YTL Group grabbed international attention in 2002 when it beat a consortium of major contenders in the bid for the UK utility company, Wessex Water.

To celebrate the company's first major foray into the international energy industry, Yeoh decided to throw a free concert in 2003 in Bath, England. He invited his good friend Luciano Pavarotti to sing. The tenor's only available date was August 7; unfortunately, August was also the wettest month, and there were concerns that the open-air concert would be a wash-out. Yeoh, however, believed that the Lord would not rain on His own parade; he decided to up the ante by getting Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras to team up as "The Three Tenors" at a cost of 1 million pounds per singer.

The Yeoh 'Cabinet', comprising Yeoh's father and siblings, baulked at the expense and the need for three tenors. Finally, Yeoh said, "Don't worry, Jesus will pay the bill."

As it turned out, August 2003 was the hottest and driest month in Bath's history!

The concert was a success. On top of that, the heat drove residents to use extra water, and

Wessex's profits shot up by 3 million pounds-the exact cost of the concert! "My faith was proven right. Jesus did pay the bill," Yeoh recounts.

From Royalty to Fishermen

Yeoh, who has rubbed shoulders with prime ministers, royalty and other high-profile VIPs, doesn't hesitate to share his faith with them. "Jesus Christ is the coolest God; we need to articulate God's love to everyone!" he says. He doesn't delve into theology as he believes the key to reach hard hearts is to share God's love. "Melt the stone with God's love."

Yeoh recalls his burden, many years ago, for the fishermen in Pangkor Island. His staff had shared the Good News with them but with little success.

Subsequently, God told Yeoh to speak to them directly. In obedience, he befriended the fishermen, speaking in his own Hokkien dialect; soon they were won over by his love for them. "There were also wonderful testimonies from Ah Longs and gangsters," Yeoh adds.

"The Methodist Church in Pangkor started 20 years ago with only 5 "persons" – the pastor and his wife, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit," Yeoh quips. "But today, it has a 300-strong congregation. God's business is to multiply!"

Having fulfilled his desire to open a Christian bookstore, what other plans does Yeoh have up his sleeves? " I don't want to talk about my future plans," says Yeoh. "I'm just a 'midwife'."

Well, it'll definitely be interesting to see what more God can do through such a willing instrument.

Glad Sounds Bookstore and Shalom Cafe are located at Lot F25 6- F42, Explore Floor, Starhill Gallery, 181 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Great Book - "Living Gently in a Violent World"

TITLE: Living Gently in a Violent World - (the prophetic witness of weakness)
AUTHOR: Stanley Hauerwas & Jean Vanier
PUBLISHED: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2008.

Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness (Resources for Reconciliation)I like this book. It is a collection of articles that reflects a contrast of styles and substance. The title suggests a ‘gentle lifestyle’ against a backdrop of a violent environment. The authors are also contrasted, with Hauerwas as an academic who sees ideas and ‘enemies’ to be defeated, while Vanier is a practioner (founder of L’Arche) who sees hearts that need healing. Yet, both men are fighting on the same side: one on theological and philosophical realm, while the other on the human healing aspect. If there is one word to describe the book, it is the word ‘reconciliation.’

Two men of contrasting styles are reconciled in a common goal to bring a ‘prophetic witness of witness.’ They write two strong articles each arguing for the need for the Church to be different from the world. 

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Fearless Relationships

TITLE: Fearless Relationships - simple rules for lifelong contentment
AUTHOR: Karen Casey
PUBLISHED: MN: Hazelden, 2003.

Fearless Relationships: Simple Rules for Lifelong ContentmentSimply put, this book is about building up relationships that is free from fear. Author Karen Casey became interested in the area of relationships after getting out of addiction herself. Her background gave her a keen insight and interest into what hinders and what helps any relationship. Combining her wisdom in 33 short chapters, Casey believes that the key to healing the world is via the healing of personal relationships. Each chapter ends with a series of practical steps to achieve the particular rule of relationships. Called 'touch points,' it gives the reader an opportunity to immediately practice the chapter's lessons.

Below are the 'rules' for developing fearless relationships.

The 33 Rules
  1. Seek to understand every situation from a fresh perspective;
  2. Be kind no matter what;
  3. Listen, Then comment if necessary;
  4. Pray for understanding of others;
  5. Every person we meet is a learning partner;
  6. Our lessons will be repeated until we learn them;
  7. Every argument is about fear;
  8. Struggles are opportunities in disguise;
  9. Every resolution is a loving act;
  10. Make every response gentle;
  11. We must heal the issues that derail us;
  12. Be humble and honest;
  13. Avoid judging others;
  14. Begin each day by asking, what can I bring to my relationships?
  15. Start your day with God;
  16. Choose once again
  17. Always ask, would I rather be peaceful or right?
  18. Chance plays no part in our lives
  19. Every encounter expresses love or fear
  20. When in conflict, seek a shift in perspective
  21. Interpretations determine feelings
  22. Every encounter is holy
  23. No relationship is accidental
  24. To surrender is to know peace
  25. Love may fail but courtesy may prevail
  26. In isolation, the Spirit dies
  27. Forgiveness is the key to happiness
  28. Honor your relationships every day in tiny ways
  29. Detach with love
  30. Wherever two are gathered, a Third is present
  31. Relationships are why we are here
  32. Don't try to change the other person
  33. Do no harm.
My Comments
This book is a typical easy-to-read self-help book on interpersonal relationships. The tips are simple and easily understood. It is highly practical with lots of suggestions on how to make relationships work. Unfortunately, the theological underpinnings appear rather new age and incorporates different spiritual sources. Not all of them are biblical based, though some like #30 reflects a New Testament teaching of Jesus' presence in the midst of 2-3 people. I believe Casey's book is closer to Marianne Williamson's kind of spirituality where both are highly influenced by the self-study spiritualist book on inner peace: Course on Miracles.

Some other rules like#25 goes against conventional wisdom about love being the greatest, choosing instead the path of peace (99). Now, I am not against courtesy. I am simply uncomfortable with the overriding aim of courtesy over love to the point to even suggest that 'courtesy' is the greatest. Sometimes, truth-telling has to be done in spite of the lack of courtesy. Take for example, Rosa Parks' refusal to stand against the discrimination of blacks in the bus. Is that courtesy, or simply refusal to conform to the unjust systems of that day? Of course, one can argue that disagreement can be done courteously. Perhaps, patience and gentleness appeals better for me personally.

The biggest problem I have with the book is about the source of 'fearless relationships.' On one hand, it appears humanistic. On the other hand, it appears like the author is encouraging readers to depend on a hidden unnamed spiritual source, which could be anyone or anything. To subject oneself to such can be tricky, and unhealthy. For the Christian believer, if you read this book, always base your 'rules' on biblical teachings. These 'rules' can help you trigger ideas on building good relationships, but it should never be read alone.


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