Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Leaving Church for Something Inferior?

TITLE: Leaving Church for Something Inferior?
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 27 Oct 2010

Throughout history, movements appear to follow a peculiar 5-stage trend. First, it begins with an uphill struggle for survival among the convicted minority. Second, once a certain critical mass is formed, it becomes a steady climb to reach a state of stability. Third, after the victory parade and the champagnes are shared around, complacency steps in. After all the battles have been fought, people lay down their combative arms and fall into a state of passivity. Why rock the boat? Why create another reason to fight? Live and let live. Fourth, with complacency comes a sense of boredom. Those who cared criticize. Those who don't care, leave. Insecure leaders see criticisms as a form of non-compliance. New battle lines are now drawn INSIDE the once victorious movement. Finally, while trying to maintain the status quo, soon the movement tapers downwards and shrinks in numbers. In some cases, members quit and leave the movement in droves.

Last week, I hear of another Church in the neighborhood that is planning to shut its doors for good. It belongs to a mainline denomination, albeit a shrinking one. The congregation comprises mostly the elderly folks. The young are non-existent. The past structures are there, maintained by a present congregation that is fast aging, moving toward a future that is increasingly non-existent.

On October 17th, 2010, LA Times published an article that gives another angle why people are leaving Churches in droves. It points to religion that dabbles with politics as the key reason for shrinking churches. It says that 'rapidly increasing numbers of young people are rejecting it (religion).' Preferring to choose no-religion as their defacto status, young people are not only not believing, but are finding all kinds of reasons to support their default non-religious affiliation. While the article "Walking Away From Church" hones in on the mixing of religion into political arena as the reason why the young feels turned off, I think the problem is more serious. Politics is not the main reason. It is spiritual apathy fed by religious superficiality.

A) Spiritual Apathy
Why are the young less accepting of religious matters? Why are there more old people than young in many traditional Churches nowadays? Even Churches that try to stay 'relevant' to the young are not getting lots of results. The reason is I believe is 'prosperity.' Francis Chan, in his book Crazy Love, talks about the chief cause of lukewarm Christianity. He identifies 'prosperity' as the main culprit. This reminds me of Jesus' warning to the rich man.

And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." (Matt 19:23-24, ESV)

Twice, Jesus mentions the man as 'rich.' This is so consistent with human nature. Remember the LORD's warning to Israel, 'lest you forget?'

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Deut 6:10-12, ESV)

Spiritual apathy begins with forgetfulness. When people are full, the temptation to look away from the LORD is the greatest. Material satisfaction can dangerously water down or numb our sense of spiritual hunger.

B) Religious Superficiality
This is a big one. In the previous section, when people are filled with riches, and are full, they are tempted to look elsewhere for other forms of satisfaction. Here, the opportunity to fill people with solid foundational grounding is missed when we swim only in the baby pool of religious superficiality. We fail to equip the people to swim in deeper waters. Even though people have a propensity to resist change, leaders need to make earnest attempts to exhort the people toward solid teaching and learning to move beyond their comfort zone. This calls for sacrifice. This calls for diligence. This calls for prayer.

We need to embark upon developing a culture of discipleship. We need to establish role models at all levels. We need to plant strategic persons throughout the Church to be catalysts of change. We need to be prepared to make sacrifices on our comfort levels.

C) Secularism on the Rise?
It seems to me that secularism as an alternative to religion is a poor one. More likely, people who leave Churches and embracing secularism are not simply leaving for the sake of leaving. They are disgusted with the established religious institutions. This is what drives them to choose secularism, and not secularism per se.

The reason why I think secularism is a poor one is because it does not offer much hope for the future. It provides little comfort for pain and suffering in this world. It has no person that is in the same league as Jesus Christ. It has a very short history, and mainly exists as an anti-thesis to religion. Simply put, take away religion, and you would have removed mainstream secularism, often defined as a NO-RELIGION. In other words, its identity still depends on the word 'religion.' I think it is only a matter of time, once secularism runs out of gas, people will be looking for another alternative. Any alternative that does not culminate in the rest of God, will ultimately be futile. The wise man in Ecclesiastes has discovered it the hard way. Learn from him.

So why are people leaving Churches? Putnam and Campbell identified political interference by religious circles. I think that it itself is just scratching the surface. Spiritual apathy and religious superficiality are the hidden huge icebergs below that can sink not only the Titanic but the entire movement.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Leadership Is An Attitude

Yesterday, we had an interesting discussion about leadership in the Church. Together we tackled the issue of leadership, and the apparent lack of leaders we see in many places, not just internally. The sermon during the morning was on 1 Tim 3:1-16, an excellent passage about spiritual leadership. The discussion was lively, with a general feeling that we need more rather than a lack of leaders.

A) What the Sermon Touched On
The pastor addressed 3 main groups of people, those who are currently leaders, those who are potential leaders, and those who are being led.

For existing leaders, the exhortation is to take one's responsibility seriously, and to treat it as a serious matter rather than a hobby. This is such an important reminder. I remember times when people treats 'volunteer' positions with less urgency than 'paid' work. That is a total misconception about spiritual leadership. Monetary compensation should not even figure in such areas. If we are to apply Paul's instructions in this case, about not 'lovers of money,' such people should be removed from their leadership.

For potential leaders, the pastor urged a serious consideration of willingness to step up when called. As far as we are concerned, all of us are potential leaders, albeit in different ways. For a start, we are leaders at home. We hold leadership areas even in project management at work. We maintain a leadership stance when serving the community by giving feedback, directions and recommendations to the public at large. For Paul, the role of leadership (as overseer) is a noble task. This simply means it is a good and worthy cause.

For the rest of us, do not be too quick to disqualify ourselves from leadership. A major role we can play is to pray for our leaders regularly. Hold our leaders accountable by being willing to question policies that are not in line with biblical principles. Do not simply be dumb sheep misled by false teachers. Be discerning.

B) Leadership as an Attitude
I propose that we learn to see leadership not as a position or some spiritual ribbon to be won and worn upon our lapels. Leadership is most importantly an attitude. Ask anybody if they fit the bill according to 1 Tim 3? Chances are, modesty takes over. Heads dip. Eyes look elsewhere. People start to be embarrassed even to raise their hands. No one wants to be accused of pride or boastfulness. Should a method will not work in leader recruitment.

What about leadership as an attitude of willingness? Are we willing to be considered to be an overseer? Are we willing to desire a noble task? Are we willing to be faithful and to be man of one wife, or wife of one husband? Are we willing to be temperate? Are we willing to be self-controlled? Are we willing to be respectable? Are we willing to show hospitality? Are we willing to learn to teach? Are we willing to strongly resist drunkenness, violence and the love of money? Are we determined to manage our own family well? Simply put, are we willing to obey the call to leadership, and to prepare to be called? If we are willing to any of them, we become a leader in the making. This is the biggest application of this passage of scripture.

C) Leadership is Not Open-Shelf Shopping
Leaders are seldom found but groomed. They are not caught from the sky but taught from among us. Very seldom can we get someone outside and expect them to fit in our existing culture. Churches who have done that will readily testify to the difficulty in getting the right person for the task. Before we venture outside, look inside. Before we assume an open-shelf shopping mentality on the leadership market outside,  remember that there is no such thing as a born leader. There are more leaders in the making than leaders already made. The simple reason is that every context and situation is different. Leaders who have been successful in one area may not necessarily be equally successful in another.

Leaders are made and those who are willing to learn are one of the best leaders in the making. Someone once said:
"It is not the aptitude or the altitude but the attitude that will make a difference."
This is perhaps the single biggest application for 1 Tim 3:16. We may aspire for leadership (altitude). We may lead with skills and talents we have (aptitude). Those alone are never enough. We need an attitude of 'setting our hearts' on desiring God, to serve God faithfully in whatever contexts we live in. Leaders lead by example in firstly leading their own selves. How can anyone who cannot manage his own life lead others? Only with a right attitude can one not only lead himself, he can also lead others toward God.

Seek Christ wholly. Help others seek Christ solely. Until we can all live out our seeking, by becoming Christlike in all our ways. Leadership as an attitude is to lead by a lifestyle of glorifying God in all we do. This is attitude and requirement for spiritual leadership.

Leadership is an attitude.


Friday, October 15, 2010

My Kindle 3 Review

TITLE: My Kindle 3 Review
Reviewed by Conrade Yap
Date: 15 Oct 2010

Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Wi-Fi, 6" Display, Graphite - Latest GenerationI received my Kindle 3earlier this month. It came in a 7.5” length x 9.5” breadth x 2.5” depth box. The packaging is simple with a small USB connector charger, a folded 8-page quick start booklet and a Kindle. I ordered the basic Wifi-only model.

I am impressed with the size of the Kindle. Weighing at only 8.5 oz (about 240g), and only a third of an inch, the Kindle is a pleasure to hold. The page left and right buttons are conveniently located on both sides of the handheld device. Due to its lightweight, it is easy on the hands and makes a wonderful bedtime reading device. The best part of the Kindle is the extremely comfortable text reading contrast on the screen. It is not as glaring or as heavy as the Apple iPAD. It weighs like an average paperback. Under bright sunlight, the Kindle works like a charm, and reads even better than a normal paper book.

I enjoy reading my Bible on the Kindle. Some of them like HCSB, GOD’s WORD, are free. Others like the KJV, the NASB, and the NET Bible are quite reasonably priced. This is the single biggest reason why I bought the Kindle. The ease of referencing Bibles, commentaries, even the orignal Greek and Hebrew texts.

  • Light and easy to carry;
  • Text quality is superb; The e-Ink technology is by far the most impressive;
  • Easy to download ebooks; Though Amazon markets it under a minute, most of the time it is within 20 seconds;
  • The buttons are nice to press, though it can be a little too tiny for those with thick fingers;
  • There is a convenient MP3 player and a slot for listening via headphones;
  • The text-to-speech function is a nice thing to have;
  • Its battery life is superb (up to a month);
  • Wifi functionality is a nice-to-have, better than the earlier versions.
  • The PDF functionality is great.
  • eBooks can typically be downloaded up to 6 separate devices. Thus, even if we lose the Kindle, we can always re-download the purchased books back onto our replacement devices or on free Kindle applications on the PC/Mac/iPad.

  • Its range of books on the Kindle Store is still smaller compared to its closest competitor, the Nook (Barnes and Noble);
  • The WiFi functionality while nice to have is too slow. I tried using GMAIL and have problems navigating the cursor to logout;
  • The page flips like it is blinking. I would have preferred the flipping to resemble more like leafing action rather than a black/white blinking effect.
  • After having it for 2 weeks, the first time the Kindle appears to crash is when the screen turns up ‘blank’ and then asks me to re-download my purchased books from Amazon Store. Thankfully I had WiFi at that time, otherwise I would have been caught offguard when I could not retrieve any of my ebooks.
  • No light. Thus no reading in dimmer environments.
  • At US$139 per Kindle, losing the device can be painful. People may not steal a book, but they can quickly spirit away the little e-Reader when one is not looking.
  • No numerical keys on the keypad. Thus typing numbers takes a few more clicks.

My Verdict
Given that the strengths outweigh the weaknesses, I would say that the Kindle 3 surpasses my expectations. I will expect that the next level of improvements ought to be the quality of the ebooks, that they be made easier to browse and to navigate, especially Bibles. Somehow, the Kindle seems to fits readers of fiction rather than non-fiction. Anyway, with the introduction of this new generation of Kindle, I believe that the eBook industry is poised to grow astronomically.  Yet, the traditional book is still something I prefer, despite the advances of the eReaders. Perhaps having both is the way to go.

By the way, if you do decide to buy a Kindle, do buy it by clicking here or on the links on this website. That way, I get about 4% credit for me to buy more books.  It costs nothing extra for you, but it helps me out. Thanks in advance.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Review: "YHWH"

TITLE: YHWH (The Flood, the Fish and the Giant - ancient stories retold)
AUTHOR: G. P. Taylor & Paula K. Parker
Published: London: Authentic Media, 2010.
Reviewed by: Conrade Yap

YHWH The Flood, the Fish and the Giant: Ancient Mysteries RetoldA) WHO SAYS OLD STORIES CANNOT BE REFRESHING?
This book is a refreshing re-telling of the biblical stories in the Old Testament. From the creation story at the Garden of Eden, to the amazing experience of Isaiah the prophet, Taylor and Parker masterfully crafts modern story-telling skills with vivid imaginations that could instill attentive listening for jaded ears. In twenty short chapters, the authors capture the essence of the story by heightening the effects through conversations, and makes the scene comes alive with props and scenes that reflect a modern Hollywood drama.

In fact, the book can be used directly as a Sunday School play. With very little editing, the fast movement in the story line can bring a fresh understanding to these ancient stories, retold from a contemporary mindset. I am impressed by the way the authors communicated their belief in timeless principles by drawing a lot of meaning for our time-based culture. One example is the chapter on Noah's Ark and the Great Flood. Faith being the timeless principle, Noah explains his decision to his children as follows:

"The ways of the Creator are not our ways. Our minds cannot understand. In faith I take all that is said as the truth and in that I put my trust." (25)

One thing that modern readers of ancient Scriptures struggle with is the effect of how the Israelites of old feels when they hear the spoken words. Thus, sometimes we tend to read Scriptures without feeling the actual effect. The authors of the book fills in this gap with a livid imagery, to reinforce the scary effect of the size of the descendents of Anak. A few times, there were statements of how scary these Canaanites are.

"... these giants eat children who do not do their work." (150)

With repetition and clever play of emotional effects, Taylor and Parker makes the biblical stories virtually come alive. Below are what I feel are the strengths of the book:

  • It gives a very fresh look at the biblical stories without seriously compromising on the original content;
  • It keeps people awake from otherwise a very monotonous reading;
  • It communicates strongly the emotional impact of the narratives;
  • It makes the stories fun to listen to;
  • The stories are very suitable for ready-made plays in Sunday School performance, Church Camp Fun nights, acting out the biblical scene, as well as communicating biblical truths clearly.
  • It is a powerful preacher's and teacher's tool for giving a wide repertoire of telling the stories.
  • It communicates without becoming 'preachy.'
Here are some cautions to take note of.
  • There are some parts which are not recorded in the Bible, but added in to increase/decrease impact.
  • Certain names and characters are invented.
  • Some of the conversations made are entirely fictional. 
  • If we were to read the book by itself, we may even be mistake to think that the Bible contains all these material. 
In order to maximize benefit from reading the book, and to minimize wrong perceptions, I will strongly encourage readers to read the book with the Bible next to it. The authors give us a helpful text note at the end of the book (p306) to tell readers where the stories are taken from. If you read the Bible together with this book, not only will your reading be richer, you will feel motivated to read more of the Bible, and perhaps, do your own retelling in your own unique manner. I strongly recommend this book to preachers, teachers, Sunday School classes, Bible teachers and those who work a lot with youths and children.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Authentic Media and Graf-Martin Communications, IncAvailable now at your favourite bookseller." 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Women in the Church - Part 3 of 3

Title: Women in the Church - Part 3 of 3
A Three Part Series on women in leadership and women ministering in the Church
Text: 1 Timothy 2:11-15
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 13 Oct 2010

Yesterday, I dealt with the questions: "Can Women Teach in the Church?" and whether there is an unfair hierarchical structure going on. Today, I deal with the final two questions.

PROBLEM #4 – Women Committing a Greater Sin? (v14)
And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” (1 Tim 2:14)

CONCERNS: This is perhaps the most difficult verse to understand. By drawing in the fact that Eve fell first, does that mean Eve has committed a greater sin?

CONTEXT: One way to look at it is that God is fair. Much is given. Much is expected. While it is true that Eve sinned first, Adam is no better. The punishment for both Adam and Eve is the same: Exile from the Garden of Eden. This verse has to be read in terms of the ‘domineering’ manner which is the culprit. Yet, there is also seriousness in punishment. Look at the different ways Adam and Even are punished (Gen 3:16-19).  In the light of the 1st Century culture, ‘men’ should have known better. It is like a CEO of a company who ought to have known better what corporate governance is. When there are problems with the running of the company, can he blame his subordinate and run away from responsibility? If the company fails, can he simply push the blame to his accountant, or his junior staff? No. He is ultimately accountable. A good leader will take responsibility not only for good results, but bad ones too.

CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION: Paul is stating a known fact to his hearers at that time. He is saying that man and woman are different in their current state because of what happened at the Garden of Eden. No where is there a pronouncement of who sinned more. Both sinned and both genders have to pay the price. It is the ‘order’ that Paul is hinting at. Again, this coincides with the role of discernment, that even if women say or teach certain things, men are responsible to discern and to make a responsible judgment. The LORD gave Adam the specific commandment NOT to eat the forbidden fruit. Adam is supposed to teach his wife, and to act upon this injunction actively. He is ultimately responsible. The fact that Eve has yielded to temptation first, and Adam falls next shows us that Adam has not only failed in teaching Eve, he himself is weak.

In other words, there is a certain order of things to observe. Whoever is given the charge and responsibility, God expects this order to be maintained, and practiced. Given that there are so many false teachers and heresy at that time, Paul needs to go back to first principle, that is the Garden of Eden and the order of things. He is concerned about a ‘rerun’ of the Garden of Eden scenario happening in the Ephesus Church. Look at the following table. There is a parallel that Paul is trying to warn Timothy about.

CONCLUSION: Both Adam and Eve have sinned. Greater or not, sins are not to be trifled with. A lesser sin does not meet the mark of a holy life. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That said, this passage alone does not conclusively prove that women has committed a greater sin. Rather, Paul is simply trying to warn all the readers, and to remind Timothy about how easy it is for Adam to fall into sin. Make sure that the teachers there are responsibly teaching the right doctrines in the first place. They must not shirk their responsibilities by letting uneducated and heretic teachers on the loose.

PROBLEM #5 – Women Saved Through Childbearing? (v15)

But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” (1 Tim 2:15)

CONCERNS: What has childbearing got to do with salvation? What then about men? Are men saved?

CONTEXT: Paul is again trying to anchor the church in Ephesus on the crucial roles each member of the Church has to perform. Men are to learn and be faithful to true teachings. They are to be careful of heretical and false teachings. Women who are largely uneducated need to be reminded of their roles in society at that time. By referring to the part about being saved, according the notes from the NET Bible, there are 3 possible interpretations, all of which can be readily dismissed.

  1. Christian women can only be saved through bearing children. (if this is so, what about those who are barren? What about men who do not have a womb? Does that mean men will not be saved?)
  2. Christian women can be protected through fertility rites. (If that is so, can a woman be her own saviour? This goes against the doctrine of salvation by faith by grace alone.)
  3. Women will be saved when Jesus is born via a woman.  (If this is so, why is women singled out? What about the men?)
Thus the most logical explanation is that during that time, the Church of Ephesus are influenced by the worship of Artemis, a fertility god. The cultic teachings then perpetrate a form of learning to save oneself by bearing children. Thus the interpretation of the part about ‘through childbearing’ has to be linked back to the part about ‘faith, love and holiness with propriety.’ Women are not saved per se due to childbearing. They are saved by faith in Jesus, and the term 'childbearing' is a general call for them to recognize their own unique roles as women.

CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION: Paul refers again back to the specific role of men and women in the Church. Women are not inferior to men. They are different. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. ‘Through childbearing’ is a reference back to the unique role that women has in society. Children can only come from women. If all the women in the world stop conceiving, the world will die a natural death.

CONCLUSION: Paul is warning the women in the Church not to believe the erroneous teaching of Artemis, that one can save oneself by bearing children. Salvation is only in Jesus through faith in Christ.

This concludes the series on women in the Church.

If you are keen to pursue the topic of women in the Church, it is helpful to look at the two opposing perspectives.

a) The Complementarian View (

b) The Egalitarian View (


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Women in the Church - Part 2 of 3

Title: Women in the Church - Part 2 of 3
A Three Part Series on women in leadership and women ministering in the Church
Text: 1 Timothy 2:11-15
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 12 Oct 2010

Yesterday, I introduce the first problem with regards to women in the Church, whether women should shut up when in the Church. Today, I deal with two more questions.

PROBLEM #2 – Can Women Teach in the Church? (v12)
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

CONCERN: Why is Paul discriminating against women here? Isn’t it true that women play such a huge role in society nowadays, especially in the area of teaching and education.

CONTEXT: Again, remember that the women in general in society are uneducated. It is not a question of capability, but one of a culture during that time. Go to some of the poorer societies in the world, in Asia, Eastern Europe or Africa, and you can still find that most of the privileges and leadership still belong to men. Note that the translation can also be as follows:

In my opinion it is right for a woman not to be a teacher, or to have rule over a man, but to be quiet.” (1 Tim 2:12, BBE)

This highlights at least two things. Firstly, the ruling is not “God says” but “Paul says.” It is based on what is the best instruction pertaining to that situation. Paul is applying what he deems best at that time. Secondly, the emphasis is ‘domineering’ manner whose attitude is similar to parents not exasperating their children, or wives not pulling their husbands’ ears to force compliance, or an army commander ordering his troops to do hundreds of sit-ups.

CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION: In our modern day and age, women in the Church have been such a big blessing to all kinds of Christian ministry. Go to any Church. Enter any Christian fellowship. More likely than not, you will see a faithful band of women servants, people who are passionately helping to strengthen rather than weaken the Church. I cannot imagine a Church that excludes women from Christian service. I remember teaching in Sunday School. The number of women outnumbers the men by a factor of at least 5 to 1. In some Churches, there are Sunday School classes packed with women teachers without even a single male in sight. I believe women ought to be allowed to teach in the Church. However, in line with the spirit of Scripture, they are not to teach in a ‘domineering way’ that seems to say: “Me Tarzanie, You Jim.” That will be injecting a form of Amazonian woman culture as superiors and lords over men. In truth, no one except Jesus can lord over us. On earth, men and women are expected to treat one another with mutual respect, and loving correction when needed. Abusive behaviour from any sexes is prohibited.

Personally, I believe that having more teachers willing to contribute their gifts and talents is a good ‘problem’ to start with.  It is simply ridiculous to stop anyone from teaching simply because of gender. Perhaps, the presence of female teachers in our society has less to do with women per se but a veiled reproach on men who fail to step up when they are able to. In other words, men ought not to blame women when men themselves shirk away from their responsibilities. It is like Deborah, who became an unwilling leader of Israel when men like Barak shrugs away their responsibility.

Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

Very well,” Deborah said, “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, (Judges 4:8-9)

CONCLUSION: I have no problems with women teaching in religious settings. In fact, the Church will be blessed to have more good teachers, regardless of gender. I have encountered many excellent women teachers and preachers. We have a lot to gain and to learn from them. Not allowing them to speak and exercise their gifts simply because of gender is not only unfair. It is downright silly. That said, there is still a place for male leadership. If the situation arises, where the women in ministry start to boss men around. When they devalue the worth of men, and treat them disrespectfully. When they run the Church in such a domineering manner, that dissolves all gender differences and lead to a confusion of gender roles, I think the line has been crossed.

PROBLEM #3 – "An Unfair Hierarchy?" (v13)
For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” (1 Tim 2:13)

CONCERN: Is it a problem when God chooses to make man first, and woman second? Does that mean that man has a ‘higher’ level of importance than women?

CONTEXT: When Paul raises the example of Adam and Eve, he is going back to the creation account that reflects a certain order of things. Paul is walking a tightrope in providing some teaching in the Church as well as order in an increasingly chaotic situation. With the threat of false teachings as a background, Paul needs to assert an authoritative voice, since the New Testament are not available to them at that time. Tough times require tough control, which is what Paul is doing. Moreover, it becomes necessary that Paul puts down his feet to stamp out heretic noises and all kinds of confusion going on then. We in the 21st Century need to be careful not to assume that readers at that time have all the Bible materials like we have now.

CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION: Make a distinction between ‘role’ and ‘importance.’ The verse about Adam and Eve is not saying that Eve is of ‘lesser importance.’ Instead, it is reminding us of our specific roles according to our backgrounds, our calling, our giftings, our situation and our contexts. When we serve the Lord, it is not the position of our hierarchy that matters. Rather it is the posture of our hearts. Do not interpret this verse in terms of bloodline of importance. View it in terms of the roles that we play. We are equal in importance but differ in roles we play.

CONCLUSION: Being formed second does not necessarily means lower importance. Paul is talking more about specific ‘roles’ rather than hierarchical superiority.

Look out for Part Three tomorrow, where I deal with verses 14-15.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Women in the Church - Part I of 3

Title: Women in the Church - Part 1 of 3
A Three Part Series on women in leadership and women ministering in the Church
Text: 1 Timothy 2:11-15
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 11 Oct 2010

Is Paul an MCP?” (male chauvinist pig)? I ask a question regarding the controversial passage to a group of men and women. Some quietly defends Paul, but a vocal few fiercely criticize Paul. After all, in our modern world of women’s lib, and open lifestyle of equality and freedom, how many of us can really expect women to be silent? Moreover, some men have been known to say stupid and insensitive things. Ask any wife and they will readily admit their husbands are far from perfect. Open up the papers and look at some public gaffes uttered by some male politicians. Look at 2 of the quotes from the ex-President of the US.

  • "I’m honoured to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein"
  • "I remember meeting a mother of a child who was abducted by the North Koreans right here in the Oval Office"

Humour aside, there is a more serious concern about 1 Timothy. These words of Paul are recorded in the Bible. They are held with high regard and reverence by Christians the world over. If men and women are equally imperfect, why is Paul the Apostle, writing such words that appears so distasteful to our 21st Century ears? More critically, by having these letters canonized as Holy Scripture, isn’t that an unfair advantage ceremoniously awarded to the male gender? Does this contradict the Bible as the credible Word of God? Is the Bible still relevant for our modern world?

Let me start by recognizing that this passage is tough to interpret. Reading the texts makes me uncomfortable. Without any knowledge or background, the injunctions against women are indeed offensive to modern ears. This will be a 3-part series on “Women in the Church.” I shall deal with the passages from 1 Tim 2:11-15, going through a verse at a time. At each verse, I will identify some major concerns, highlight the contexts, suggest some contemporary applications and my conclusion. In the spirit of learning and open discussion, I want to keep this commentary as welcoming as possible. You are welcome to put in your views by using the comment facility in this blog. In Part One, I will deal with the question “Should Women Remain Silent in Church?

In Part Two, I will discuss two other questions; “Can Women Teach in the Church?” and whether Paul is proposing “An Unfair Hierarchy?

In Part Three, I will deal with the questions: “Women Committing a Greater Sin?” and “Women Saved Through Childbearing?” Part One will be published on Monday, 11th October, 2010. Part Two on Tuesday, 12th October 2010, and Part Three on Wednesday, 13th October 2010.

A) PROBLEM #1 – Should Women Remain Silent in Church? (v11)

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.”
CONCERN: Why must such a sanction be only for women? Isn’t Paul a sexist? Why must Paul discriminate among men and women? What is the thing about submission? Since Paul is a male, certainly it is easy for him to hem down on women. Can he put himself in the shoes of women?

Looking at it, it is certainly quite an impossible thing to assert in the Church of today. That said, let us look at the context.

CONTEXT: Remember that the problem faced by the Church in Ephesus is a unique one at that time. False teachings and the rampant number of false teachers are Paul’s immediate concerns. Paul is not specifically talking about an absolute gag on women of all ages through time. He is talking about a specific action designed for a specific challenge during the 1st Century. During that time, most women were uneducated. They do not have the privilege to go to school and be educated, unlike the men. Moreover, the culture tends to prefer the men to be the leaders and teachers of religious places. Having said that, the responsibilities placed on men are significantly more serious than those placed on women.

Note that Paul is referring to an inner attitude of ‘submissiveness,’ rather than a command for women to bow down and submit to men. What about interpreting the verse to be ‘submissive to God,’ rather than to be overly gender sensitive. That said, what Paul is saying to the women does not necessarily mean the men are excluded. All are supposed to submit to God. We need also to be aware that at that time, readers will understand Paul’s words as referring to the whole Church, not just any particular gender. In other words, the words of Paul are to be assumed applicable to all, but certain genders when mentioned, need to pay particular attention when called. It is like saying, all of us need to obey God, but for certain people they need to pay attention in a more specific way appropriate to their situation. It is not meant to be permanent, but necessary due to the havoc the false teachers are creating.

Women nowadays are generally not expected to shut their mouths even in religious situation. They have every right to speak or to stay silent. Whatever they do, it needs to be in line with right teaching and maintaining unity in the Church. As much as women are allowed to teach, men should also be exhorted to step up. The Church belongs Christ. It comprises of both men and women. With better education, and respectable behaviour, women can play a positive and larger role in the Church. Yet, Church discipline goes beyond all genders. If there is a time to keep quiet, stay silent. If it is time to talk, speak up. Do whatever possible to maintain a level of order or discipline within the Church. If the situation at Ephesus are the recur in any of our Churches now, where  gullible people are used by false teachers to spread heresy, leaders of the Church have to step in to rein in the peace disrupters.

Look out for Part Two tomorrow, where I deal with verses 12-13.


Saturday, October 09, 2010

"God In America"

Starting this Monday (11th Oct 2010) through Wednesday (13th Oct 2010), PBS will be showing a 6-hour long documentary on the state of religion, its history, its development in America and its future. One of the remarkable observations made by the producers is that Americans claim to be a religious lot, but seemingly ignorant of it as well. Ironical? Entitled "God In America," the series will be shown over 3 evenings, each episode lasting 2 hours.

Try to catch this, if you are interested in religion not only in America, but how it is shaping North America.


Friday, October 08, 2010

"Making Marriage a High Priority I"

This is a wonderful video about how Kirk Cameron and his wife Chelsea, shared about their struggles in their marriage and how they managed to make it work. The key is in making marriage a high priority. If you do not know who Kirk Cameron is, remember the movie "Fireproof?" The video is courtesy of Focus on the Family. It lasts 30 mins.


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Changing the Family Landscape

The headlines boast: "Canadian Families are no longer bound by tradition." Referring to a survey done by the Vanier Institute of the Family, it reveals the growing trend of common-law partners over and above the traditional man-woman-marriage-children family unit. In other words, there are more singles, divorcees, and same-sex partnership over the traditional man-woman-marriage based families. The full report "Families Count" can be downloaded here. Here are some worrying statistics:
  • 'Married with children families' now number around 39% (2006) compared with 55% (1981);
  • 40% of marriages end in divorce;
  • More than 50% of first marriages are common law ones, meaning including people who live together but unmarried, homosexual unions and other non-traditional unions; (Credit to one of my blog readers who pointed out this error, that there are many types of common-law unions, not just homosexual ones. Thanks Rosie.)
  • Traditional 'Man-Woman' marriages are seeing a marked increase in older grooms (average 30.5 years) and older brides (28.5 years). This means lesser children as the older a woman, the more risky to have more children.
  • Rising poverty
  • Busy professionals mean lower volunteer hours from this group. (community groups suffer as they lack the volunteer contributions from this particular segment)
A) Three Views: Not A Simple Solution
First, for those of us brought up on strict tradition, we are tempted to complain about the younger generation losing sight of the importance of tradition. Some will even suspect that there is a parallel between individualism and the new definition of what family is. As society becomes more individualistic and self-focused, there will be a trend to re-define a family based on self-needs, and self-fulfillment. In other words, the preferred kind of family will be based on what a person can get out of it, instead of what the person can give himself to.

Second, for non-tradition adherents, like younger modern folks, tradition is indeed an option rather than a given. One face of that is of a culture of convenience or an avoidance of inconvenience.
  • Why get married when there is such a high rate of divorce?
  • With marriage increasingly broadened to include homosexuals, there is no need for children.
  • Why should marriage be restricted to only heterosexual marriages?
  • Bringing up children is too stressful and expensive. Why not have just one child, or no children?
I like to suggest a third viewpoint. I believe there is more than meets the eye. I wish things were that simple, that people are throwing away tradition merely in favour of something more modern and hippier. Or that people are getting more individualistic and self-focused. Although there are certain truths in the earlier two views, we need not pit them against each other. There is a bigger concern, that of the system that traps both, if not a lot of people. Let me explain.

B) The Third View
A closer look at the Family Report tells us something more worrying.
  • Time and money continues to be major issues for many Canadians;
  • The growing rich-poor divide is making poorer families unable to cope with more children;
  • For people who do not have a reasonable amount of education, they cannot get better jobs to help pay their bills and have a better quality of life;
  • For those who are educated, work stresses and time demands reduce their energies to build up their families. 
  • Costs of education have gone up, making it even harder for families to send their children to higher educational institutions;
  • With an aging population, and lower birth rate, as far as the national budget is concerned, the long term future is pessimistic.
  • Higher cost of living is also making it hard for traditional families;
My point is, before we point a gun at the tendency of individualistic concerns, we are perhaps underestimating the real problem. If we simply blame it on the loss of tradition, we are overestimating, even overstating the positive influence of tradition. Things are not as simple because family problems need both old thoughts about tradition as well as new ways to bring meaning into modern society.

C) Understanding Family Needs
Let us be mindful that society and the system we are in have big problems in the first place. It is like trying to fix our leaky water supply by pouring in good water faster than the amount leaking out. In other words, if the hole is not fixed, the only way to ensure adequate water supply is to make sure that fresh water input exceeds the amount consumed and the amount leaking out. This is precisely the predicament modern families faced, as demonstrated by the Vanier foundation report.

Let me suggest 5 steps how we can benefit from this new re-definition of family, that traditional man-woman marriages are overtaken by common-law unions.

1) We are Family: The first thing to be mindful of is that we are all members of a traditional family. Trace it. Research it. We will eventually link back to a family with a male-female-marriage-children traditional family. Do not treat this lightly. Do not exclude ourselves. Lose our connection and we lose a big chunk of our own identity.

2) Our Role: We have a role to play, even though the specifics have changed. The statistics reflect the changing landscape of how family looks like. Regardless of the definitions or the re-definitions, we must remember that we have a role to play in society. Do not let definitions deter any of us from playing our role responsibly. We may argue but let not disagreements discourage us from playing a positive role.

3) Relationships are Still Important: No man is an island. No matter how different we are, we need to be humble to admit we need one another. This said, do not underestimate the negative impact of individualism.

4) Fight the Common Enemy First: Poverty and Injustice are color-blind, family-blind and can impact any society. Diseases and unhealthy lifestyles drain the economy. Do not sink all of our energies trying to attack alternative views. There are more important battles to fight. Perhaps this is an opportunity to join forces to work together to fight the common enemies.

5) Get Your Own House in Order: Whatever 'family' bucket you are in, you are expected to get your own house in order. What good will there be if you boast of your right to have your kind of family, but do not practice what you claim to be? If you feel your brand of family values are beneficial, then prove it. Show us. Demonstrate them through good works. Whether you are tradition-based or liberal-common-law-based, remember certain family values are universal, like love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control etc.

Let us not be distracted by the family report. People have needs no matter what kind of family they are in. Let us aim to be channels of blessings to help fight the common enemies, to help one another be the best people we are called to be. Perhaps this is too ideal an expectation. Perhaps this is nearly impossible, given the deep divide between the various groups. Let us work toward building bridges rather than barriers. For all we know, the bigger the platform of understanding, the better we can work together for the good of all.

Let our families count well.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Book Review: "9 Steps to Work Less and Do More"

TITLE: 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More
AUTHOR: Stever Robbins
PUBLISHED: NY: St Martin's Press, 2010

Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More (Quick & Dirty Tips)This is a surprise find. It is an organizing gem. I had initially thought that how can anyone better the phenomenal success of "Getting Things Done" by time management guru, David Allen. Stever Robbins new book comes close, and in some areas better than Allen's version. Here's why this Get-It-Done-Guy blows me away.

What the Book is About?
The premise of the book is that it is POSSIBLE to get more things done in less time. Using 9 steps to help one use their time and limited resources better, Robbins provides 9 extremely practical and helpful tips. They are:
  1. Live on Purpose;
  2. Stop Procrastinating;
  3. Conquer Technology;
  4. Beat Distractions to Cultivate Focus;
  5. Stay Organized;
  6. Stop Wasting Time;
  7. Optimize;
  8. Build Stronger Relationships;
  9. Leverage.
Robbins makes a helpful summary at the end of each chapter, after giving lots of constructive advice in each chapter. There is a gradual movement from self-management to working with other people. The process of improvement builds up on the earlier steps, which is why learning the steps are best done chronologically, though the busy reader can jump in and out of the chapters depending on the needs. In a nutshell, the author is simply trying to convey the message that more things can be done, when we organize our own lives in the first place.

My Comments
I find the book highly readable and practical. The wit and humor in it makes the mundane process of organizing and getting our work done in a more fun manner. I could not help underlining many pages which speak to me at first read. I love the part about technology and aspect of focusing. I am a writer, and the examples he uses are so relevant and applicable, like breaking down writing into 3 different tasks: creating, editing and formatting. (No wonder I get all kinds of writers' block as I tend to mix these tasks up!) I can feel the energy and the excitement of the author oozing through the pages of the book. The other aspect about organizing forces me to make difficult decisions about keeping and throwing staff away. How easy it is to accumulate staff, and difficult to simply get rid of them.

There are two criticisms I have. Firstly, it is the long unwieldy title. It makes recommending the book a mouthful. In fact, the book should be retitled into something like "Streamlining Your Life," or "Quickly Done," or "Get More Done Fast." Keep the title as the subtitle instead. The second critique is a little more philosophical. Personally, I feel that using 'working less' as a catch-all for productivity is incomplete. I prefer working 'well' for there are certain things in life that cannot be reduced quantitatively. For example, how can we 'work less' on matters pertaining to someone who is ill. Can we rush his/her recovery? Often, it is more appropriate to work well rather than to work less. Moreover, when work becomes enjoyable, will we be wanting to work 'less?' This book is so practical that the suggestions can be immediately applied to most of our situations.

These two critiques aside, this book ought to be on the bookshelves of anyone who calls themselves busy, disorganized or addicted to things like technology. It could very well be a life saver! My conclusion: If you struggling to manage your own time and activities, of organizing the things in your life, and if you have only enough time to read one book, pick this book up. Invest in it. You will not regret it.

I am glad to review this book. Be warned. This book is not for bedtime reading. It makes you want to get up and simply get things done.


"Book has been provided courtesy of St Martin's Press, Inc. Available now at your favourite bookseller.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Money Politics in EPL Soccer

These headlines make me sick.

I like watching soccer, in particular, the English Premier League. It is the arguably most popular soccer league in the world, if not the richest. One look at the cable bills of many households around the world will reveal the ridiculous amount soccer fans shell out to watch live telecasts of the English soccer league. Despite the often touted quality of the game, one cannot help bur feel disgusted by the news of huge financial losses by the big clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. Manchester City has recently joined the ranks of the big clubs and has just announced a phenomenal 121 million pounds loss. Thanks to its free spending power of the rich owners. Manchester United and Liverpool are also owned by foreign owners but borrowed heavily from banks to finance the clubs. 

What makes me sick is because of the way big money is spent, and yet the clubs report such a big loss. It really cause me to question if this is money well spent or easily squandered on poor management or lousy financial planning. Some may accuse the clubs of spending too much on hyped up soccer players. Looking at the amount of advertising, sponsorship and TV broadcast money income, one would have thought that football clubs in the Premier League will have it good. Unfortunately, it is not. They continue to sadden the football public with bad news after next regarding their financial books. High wages and mismanagement will be two of the biggest hurdles about the viability of the football clubs.

I fear that money politics are killing the game. It may be the single biggest reason why football will no longer be tarnished, and no longer be the most beautiful game on earth.


Friday, October 01, 2010

October is Clergy Appreciation Month

You see them each Sunday. For some, you hear them preach regularly. You seek them out on special occasions like marriage or funerals. Sometimes you look for their help for counseling sessions. Most of the time, they are expected to be there when you need them. What about appreciating what they have been doing? What about a month allocated to show them that you appreciate their services in the Church or parachurch setting?

The month of October is specially set aside for such a purpose. You can read more about Clergy Appreciation Month here and here. The history of 'clergy appreciation month' can be read here. Depending on the availability and the convenience of Church members and friends, affirmation, prayer and various kinds of support can be done at any time. If you have thought about your own pastors and wanted to encourage them, but not sure when is the right time, how about doing something for them this October? Remember, you do not need to give them material stuff. A word of encouragement to them goes much farther. Between dollars and the word of encouragement, the latter is far more priceless. I am sure you can do that.

Now, I am not advocating CAM simply because I am a pastor. I believe that servants of God ought to be honoured in a special way too. In fact, you may even help them do a better job in serving God.

"The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." (1 Tim 5:17)

So if your church has elders and pastors, or teaching staff or leaders in the ministry of preaching or teaching, Clergy Appreciation Month is for you to show your gratitude for their ministry. May the Lord bless you richly as God uses you to bless your leader. Below are 8 ways to show your appreciation to your leaders. [Credit to PromiseOfGod ministry.]

  1. Cut the criticism;
  2. Pray Regularly;
  3. Express Appreciation in Writing;
  4. Use your skills to bless;
  5. Squelch Gossip;
  6. Offer to meet a need;
  7. Be Openly Responsive;
  8. Throw Away Your Measuring Stick.

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