Friday, January 28, 2011

End of "BC Christian News"

Today, I picked up a copy of "BC Christian News" outside a public library. Its front page reads: "This is the last issue of BC Christian News." I was stumped. What happened? Since its inception in October 1982, the publication has been a major connecting point among the Christian community in BC. It publishes a newspaper each month. I remember seeing stacks of the newspaper each time I walk out the atrium of Regent-College, at some public libraries and also at churches I visit. It contains news about Christianity in the province as well as outside. There are helpful articles, commentaries on public life, updates on events, and many activities of interest to the Christian public. It allows many schools, agencies, and Christian organizations to publicize their programs, as well as job listings. Corporations as well as individuals can advertise their services. Alas, the 'all-good-things-must-come-to-an-end' bug has finally bitten the newspaper. There will be one less publication in a sprawling number of free tabloids in Vancouver. Sadly, it is also the most prominent Christian-based one.

Why is BCCN shutting down?

Does it reflect a growing lack of readership in BC? Or is it due to financial problems? Based on the editorial, it suggests that finance is the main factor.

A New Chapter
The Board and the management has said that it will be a new chapter. Firstly, the Christian Info Society would 'get out of the business of producing publications.' Secondly, it will consolidate into a ministry of 'fostering communication and community in the church.' Thirdly, it will relaunch the existing Options magazine as 'Converge.' (I thought they are getting out of publications business?) Fourthly, they will work on a Leadership initiative as well as more online content at

I think it is a good move to consolidate resources. Sad though I may be, it is a sign of changing times. BCCN is not the only print publisher to stop printing newspapers. Other major newspapers are also cutting back in their paper formats. Even books in print are being cannibalized by ebooks. The rise of the Kindle, iPad and other e-readers reveals a growing need for electronic materials. People are reading more online. With Canada having a high level of web-users, it makes sense to concentrate on online offerings, which are not only faster to publish, but cheaper to distribute.

Having said that, not everyone is comfortable to an online environment. For example, take a coffee discussion. With a printed newspaper in front, we can discuss with our friends with eyes on the same piece of paper. We can underline, draw, or write our comments on it. The same cannot be easily done if it is electronic. Who wants to wait for a computer to boot up? Can we use a crayon to smudge our laptop screens? Even the iPad screen does not stay still if we try to underline a sentence on the screen.

Bye bye BCCN. Welcome to a new world of online news. You can read the BCCN online here. [oops! It seems like paper version is not uploaded on the website yet. So much for speed.]


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Missions Fest 2011 (Jan 28-30, 2011)

Each year, many Christian organizations, schools, and mission agencies come together for a major conference cum exhibition. The purpose is to raise awareness of the need for Churches and Christians from all over, about the calling to be missional. The theme for this year is "What Does the Lord Require of You?"

Image From:

Vancouver Convention Centre (VCC),
999 Canada Place, Vancouver BC Canada

January 28th - 30th, 2011.

  • Friday (9am - 10pm)
  • Saturday (9am - 10pm)
  • Sunday (9am - 5pm)

What Is It About?
Download the program magazine here. General admission is free, but some of the other programs are not. Check the schedule here.

What Are the Programs?
Lots. There are:

  1. Conferences / Talks (speakers)
  2. Movies / Mission Films (link)
  3. Exhibition Booths (link)
  4. Places to Sign Up for Missions (link)

and many more....

Here is the promotion video.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Review - "Chasing Elephants" (Brent Crowe)

TITLE: CHASING ELEPHANTS - wrestling with the gray areas of life
AUTHOR: Brent Crowe
PUBLISHED: NavPress, 2010.

Chasing Elephants: Wrestling with the Gray Areas of LifeI am so glad I read this book. This book may be light, but its contents are weighty. After turning the last page, my first word is "WOW!" Three things impress me about the book. Firstly, it clearly lays out the author's understanding of true freedom, grace in Christ, and the need to move beyond the 'why'  of belief to the 'how to believe.'   Secondly, it boldly tackles important contemporary issues that many Christians tend to shy away from, using 16 HOW-TO-BELIEVE templates. Thirdly, it pushes believers to be more Christ-focused, to see all things, boundaries, freedom, law, and cultural constraints as pointers to know Christ and to make Christ known.

At first, my temptation is to rush through the five contemporary issues of homosexuality, cyber world, social drinking, entertainment and humanitarian efforts. I am glad I restrained myself, to stuck to the author's game plan. The first five foundational chapters are core to understanding how contemporary issues need to be tackled. The book is wonderfully quotable, and is packed with wise quips on Christian living and social responsibility. Toward the end, after the last elephant has been tackled, I cannot help but feel that there is another elephant that the author is subtly trying to hint to Christian readers, and the Church at large. This may very well be the biggest elephant of all: PROCRASTINATION about Christ's mission to the world.

"For all of us, freedom in Christ is the door of opportunity to doing something significant for the kingdom." (160)

Indeed, many of us like to talk about grace. Yet, the essence of true grace demands more from us. One is only truly free, when one serves all joyfully out of pure gratitude to God s grace in Christ. I am so glad to have read this book, and strongly recommend this to any Christian desiring to grow in Christ.


5 stars of 5.

I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. 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 Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book - "Knowing Christ Today" (Dallas Willard)

Title: Knowing Christ Today - Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge
Author: Dallas Willard
Published: NY: HarperCollins, 2009.

Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual KnowledgeBelief, Commitment and Profession must be based on true knowledge, and not the reverse. This compelling book by the renowned author, Dallas Willard tries to reinstate the need of spiritual knowledge in the Church and the world today. In a world torn with multiple worldviews and pluralistic philosophies based on hearsay, feelings, and self-driven idolatry, Willard argues for a return to taking spiritual knowledge seriously. The need is grave, as illustrated by his observation below:
"To illustrate, the current guide to reality and what is good in the United States, if not the Western world as a whole, is sensuality or feeling. The worldview answers people now live by are provided by feelings. Desire, not reality and not what is good, rules our world. That is even true for the most part within religion. Most of what Americans do in their religion now is done at the behest of feelings. They judge Christian activities and their own religious condition according to their feelings. The quest for pleasure takes over the house of God. What is good or what is true is no longer the guide." (199)
About the Book
Willard begins the book by lamenting the poor perception of knowledge in our modern world. Even serious and thoughtful Christians are confused about what to do with a world that has elevated 'sincere opinion, emotion, blind commitment, or behavior traditional for their social group.' Knowledge has been given a pejorative name via a dismissive phrase: "Mere head knowledge."

No! says Dr Willard. He argues passionately:

"God has room for people with very little sense, but He wants everyone to use what sense they have." (11)

In Chapter 1 "Can Faith Ever Be Knowledge?," Willard argues that faith and knowledge must go hand in hand. Neither is supposed to usurp each other's importance. In Chapter 2, he outlines the sinister worldviews that threaten to destroy mankind through lack of knowledge. He uses four key questions to probe the need for knowledge.

  1. What is reality?
  2. Who is well-off or blessed?
  3. Who is a truly good person?
  4. How does one become a truly good person?
All the worldviews are inadequate, save in Christ. All of the above questions can only be rooted in the words of Christ. A philosopher himself, the author points out the weaknesses or secularism, spiritual nirvana, deism, agnosticism, skepticism, and other man-made philosophies, lumping them under the umbrella of idolatry.Modernism and science is also not spared, as they are worldviews that are largely unsupported.
"No science is omnicompetent, nor, very likely, is any chance 'scientifically minded' person. But given the present confusions in the world of intellect, this seems to be a point easily missed. Actually, what we see here are the influences of an unsupported worldview." (60)
Chapters 4-7 represent the author's core arguments why Christ represents true spiritual knowledge. He ends the book with a clarion call for pastors, teachers and leaders of the Church to rise up to the challenge to be counted as leading the charge for greater spiritual knowledge. For knowledge in Christ can be trusted.

My Comments
Like what the author admitted, this book is certainly not a devotional. It takes mental effort to probe, to question, and to rationalize the arguments. Sometimes I wish that Willard can write in a simpler manner so that more laypersons can benefit from his insights. Those who succeed in understanding what Willard is trying to say, would be like someone reaching the summit of a challenging mountain. It is a mountain-top exhilarating experience. It inspires. It challenges. It provokes. It encourages. Above all, it brings the reader back to first principles of faith: Knowledge.

Without knowledge, not only the Church,  but the world at large will perish. Christian disciples must not see the Church as their primary area of influence. I agree that the domain must be larger. The Church must be more inclusive in terms of its magnitude of discipleship. Like Willard, true discipleship is in discipling the world, not just the church.

My favourite chapter is the last "Pastors as Teachers of the Nations", not because I am a pastor. I think the Church needs the message of this book. We should not shun away from teaching the truths of the gospel, amid accusations of 'mere head knowledge' or 'over-intellectualizing' the faith. We need to be patient with each other. Let the strong or the more intellectual, bear with the weak or less brainy. Through simple explanations, through diligent study, and through consistent desire to teach one another, the Church will be the biggest blessing the world has ever encountered. Dare we dream and implement that into reality?

With this book, Dallas Willard join the ranks of Mark Noll's "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind," on the call toward intelligent and engaging need to be mindful about our faith.

4.5 stars out of 5.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book: "The Alchemy of Loss"

Title: The Alchemy of Loss - a young widow's transformation
Author: Abigail Carter
Published: Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2008, (290pp).

The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow's TransformationIn times of loss, magical things can happen. Using the word 'alchemy' to describe her recovery from grief, Abigail Carter details her journey of pain when she lost her husband Arron to the September 11 attacks at the World Trade Center. The author describes alchemy as 'an ancient science and form of spiritualism that combines chemistry, metallurgy, physics, and medicine' where alchemists seek to turn lead into gold. Three stages are evident in her transformation.

Firstly, there is a 'blackening' process. Like lead being stripped of its original properties, she finds her deepest fears coming true, as she loses her husband to the terrible Sep 11 terrorism. A young mother, she was about to realize that she will soon become a young widow too, after hearing the last words from her husband, trapped in the WTC. The phone call started it. Television images showed it. Official papers confirmed it. Losing Arron immediately blackens whatever future she ever had.

Secondly, there is a 'whitening' phase. She begins to be more conscious about life outside her own family. She starts to seek work.

"Since Arron's death, I had begun to be aware of other, more public 9/11 widows and was surprised at the fervour with which they threw themselves into causes in support of surviving family members..." (71)

Yet, there is no smooth sailing of emotions. The ups and downs continue to occur in this second stage. Questions beginning with 'why' continue to haunt her. While anger sometimes can sweep away the sorrow, it comes back with a vengeance during occasions like Christmas.  Whatever recovery gains she made during the Fall was lost in 'earthbound grief' at Christmas. Yet, there are upsides in this whitening phase. She notices how the grief has transformed her extended family too, where even her parents have grown closer together.

The third phase is 'reddening,' the final phase of her transformation. The author relates her own life as one that has risen from the ashes of loss, becoming 'gold, pure and awakened.' Workwise, she moved to Seattle. She found new love. Most importantly, she found a new acceptance of her state. One poem moved her.

"Time is too slow for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grive,
Too short for those who rejoice,
Bt for those who love, 
Time is not.' (Henry Van Dyke)

My Comments
A first-time author, Carter has done very well to share her journey to recovery. This book offers an important contribution to help people trying to recover from tragedies like September 11. It does not mince words or emotions. She tells it like it is, and readers will be riveted to her story. Her use of the alchemy process to describe her transformation is brilliant. Those suffering from loss can be comforted simply by knowing that they are not alone.

As a Christian reader, I find that she has painted a grossly negative picture of the Church. She allocates a whole chapter (the word 'Hallelujah' used rather cynically) to describe her experience with a Church, and how the Anglican Church she has contacted, failed her. I am not sure of the reasons why her pleas for help were ignored. Safe to say, she did not probe deeper. If on the other hand, she is a regular church-goer, will she have been ignored? After all, there is no perfect church. I have encountered many church situations where people are immensely comforted within a Church community setting. There are also disappointments. Her situation is most unfortunate, but it will be wise to suspend judgment until more background can be uncovered. Having said that, it is a good reminder for churches to be sensitive and to be ready to reach out to the needs of others during times like 911.

Overall, the book is essentially a life of a person struggling with loss. Her version of spirituality is rather New Age, or unorthodox. For example, she talks about her husband's 'fate' as if it is something independent of God. She talks about 'nirvana,' a Buddhist concept. She uses terms like 'spiritual serpent' to denote a negative side of spirituality. Her ideas of spirituality is thus a mixed bag of what she has heard and learnt. There is no central focus except an attempt to recover from loss.

Perhaps it is rhetoric. I appreciate her first two phases of 'blackening' and 'whitening' processes. However, when it comes to the 'reddening' part, I find it while hopeful still lacking in terms of spiritual foundations. In fact, her hope is based on something more experiential, in particular, her own experience.  That said, it is not transferable. (Contrast: A Christian's hope is in Christ.) Readers in this sense can only see from the outside and applaud from the outside. (Contrast: A Christian can share in the suffering of Christ, and be resurrected in Christ). Thus, for this reason, readers will see a serious limitation to how much their own suffering can be helped by Carter's.  While I do not share her ideas of on spirituality, or the church, I must say her honest feelings give readers a better insight into how non-Christians suffer and recover. Perhaps, Christians can become more sensitive and understanding to them. After all, suffering does not discriminate between religious affiliations.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Book: "Fierce Goodbye"

Book: Fierce Goodbye - Living in the shadow of suicide
Authors: G Lloyd Carr and Gwendolyn C Carr
Published: Waterloo, ON: Herald Press 2004 (2nd ed.)
Reviewed by: Conrade Yap
Fierce Goodbye: Living in the Shadow of Suicide

The authors update this book, previously published in 1990 under the title "After the Storm." This time, this book is relaunched together with a DVD. It tells of the days. months and years of grieving and dealing with the suicide of their daughter Katie. The Carrs combines the poetic creativity of Gwendolyn and the theological training of Lloyd.

A) About the Book
Written in three parts, the book is about how one can deal with the issues and realities surrounding suicide. Written from a Christian perspective, the authors take issue with the traditional views on suicide, in particular the Roman Catholic pronouncement of suicide being a sin, and proposes an alternative AND biblical way to approach the matter of suicide.

Part 1 of the book deals with the emotional turmoil after getting the terrible phone call about Katie taking her own life. Part 2 deals with the biblical basis and the traditional approaches toward suicide taken by the church in general. Part 3 contains the updates about how the couple is coping with the loss.

B) My Comments
I find the book a very honest and intentional attempt to do two things. Firstly, the Carrs desire to bring back some dignity to their daughter's death, in the light of grief that is not helped by the harsh tradition and perceptions on suicide. Nobody sets out to want to kill themselves in the first place. Using biblical texts and a re-look at the famous Church fathers such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and the martyrs of the Church, they highlight the reasons behind the Roman Catholic view on suicide being a sin. Simply put, due to the early glorification of martyrdom being the ultimate witness for Christ, the Church in the early centuries want to prevent foolish seeking of dying per se. In other words, there is a difference between one who dies for Christ, versus one who dies for the 'glory' of being a martyr. They then put forth a compelling biblical case that suicide is not necessarily a sin, as there are examples in the Bible, where one practically went to their deaths. Samson committed suicide. In a way, while it is not technically a suicide, Jesus walked intently toward his death, knowing that he will be killed. This brings to mind our common usage of "This is plain suicide!" for instances where we place ourselves at great risk.

Secondly, the Carrs introduce three fresh observations on the biblical description of the suicide cases.

  • suicides that follow humiliation after a war defeat is seen as a 'death with honour.' (example of Abimelech and Samson)
  • Biblical writers treat suicide cases merely as another 'death' where the dead person is given the normal rites of burial;
  • Not a single biblical text point to suicide actually being a sin. In other words, there was no condemnation for the WAY the people died.
The single most helpful thing I learn from this book is that suicide is not an unforgivable sin. The Church traditional interpretation of suicide as a sin is largely based on Augustine's  understanding of "Thou Shalt Not Kill" commandment. Too many people have lived under the fear and condemnation of suicide as an 'unforgivable'' sin. This is wrong. Should we limit God's grace to this life only?

Having said this, I must say that there is a certain reservation I have regarding this book. The main thing is that the authors have integrated their grief so much into the theological search, that I begin to wonder if there is any emotional bias in their interpretation. While the book is strongly based on biblical texts, there is also a danger of people trying to justify suicide as 'acceptable.'

A discerning reader will understand where the Carrs are coming from. I commend this book and urge those who are grieving, or seeking some guidance about theological thinking behind tragic suicides to include this book in their personal grief library. Strongly recommended for pastors, teachers and caregivers.


Saturday, January 01, 2011

Smile! A Happy New Year with the Lord's Prayer

This video of children saying the LORD's Prayer is guaranteed to make you chuckle and smile. Say cheese..

Have a fun year walking with the LORD.



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