Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Biblical Meditation

I found this table of biblical meditation quite helpful.

1. Have Unconfessed sin1. Be washed in Jesus's Blood
2. Have a pre-conceived attitude 2. Have a teachable attitude
3. Be independent by saying "I CAN . . " 3. Pray: "Lord, show me."
4. Read quickly 4. Slow down, ponder, muse
5. Rely on reason and analysis only 5. Combine anointed reason, flowing pictures, music and speech
6. Read without specific purpose 6. Read with focused purpose, like knowing God more deeply
7. Take credit for insights 7. Glorify God for insights.
(Adapted from Mark & Patti Virkler, Prayers that Heal the Heart, Bridge-Logos, 2001, p273)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"I'll Pray for You?"

TITLE: I’ll Pray for You
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 25 May 2011
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:9-11)
One of the things that I normally do is to ask some of my parish members, “How can I pray for you?” Usually, the requests are quite forthcoming.
  • Please pray for my children.
  • Pray for my health, my job and my coming project.
  • Please remember my sick mother in prayer
  • Please pray that my dad will recover quickly
  • Please pray that I will be able to manage my time better.
  • And so on….
A short time ago, I receive a strange reply. This person seems reserved and unwilling to share any requests. He is struggling with what it means to pray. He does not understand why there is a need to pray. Most of all, he is not sure why anyone should pray after encountering unanswered prayers previously. That moment, I realize that prayer is still something that is not easily understood. I have learned that prayer is not about asking for things. It is about a person. It is about relationship. It is about intimacy. This friend of mine has apparently some way to go about understanding prayer.

In this article, I like to deal with some thoughts about some misconceptions of prayer. We learn how NOT to pray, and to suggest how then we can pray.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Are you Chinese?"

TITLE: "Are you Chinese?"
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 25 May 2011

I was asked the above question over the past week. The first was by an immigrant from England. As we talked, he asked in a suspicious way: "Are you Chinese?" I said 'No. I am not from China. I'm Malaysian." He then goes on to rattle about how miserly the Chinese people are, and how many promised something, but failed to deliver as promised. A few days later, I met a Polish speaking man in Vancouver. He asked me the same question.

"Are you Chinese? Chinese people come with bags of cash!" He said to me.

Again, I said no. I was born in Malaysia, lived in Singapore, and have only visited China on short business trips. I am definitely not some kind of 'chinese' people in Vancouver who goes around buying up expensive properties, or giving substandard quality kind of work. In fact, my family has been renting ever since we moved to Vancouver in 2004. From student housing, to community apartments, to rented townhouses, we are like any ordinary worker in Vancouver, with humble wages. For that, I am grateful for the opportunity I have to be able to work in my part time capacity as a pastor. 

The Negative Perceptions
Here are the common complaints that I have been hearing from time to time. It is because I look like a Chinese, that people suspect my ethnicity. When they hear me speak, they will know I am not from China for I do not speak Mandarin like the mainland Chinese, or Cantonese like the HK Chinese. I speak English. I think English. I write English. Alarmingly, I find an increasing number of people having a negative perceptions of Chinese people.

Firstly, the CASH perception. The Chinese are the ones with 'loads of cash,' like the words of my Polish acquaintance. I have also heard stories of Chinese from Hong Kong coming to Vancouver and making an immediate purchase of 5-6 pieces of real estate, in CASH! With stories like these, it is not surprising that the man in the street has the jealous perception about rich Chinese people.

Secondly, the CHEAP perception. Due to the difficulty among immigrants in getting jobs, the way to get contracts and jobs is to undercut the market price. There are many Chinese immigrants with great skills but lack the connections necessary for daily business. For many, their competitive advantage is a powerful use of price. In cost conscious Vancouver, people frequently go for the cheapest and the lowest price. For the lowest price, you can get any service. Like plumbing, moving, electrical work, landscaping, or any work that needs to be done in your residential address. Thus we have unlicensed electricians, plumbers, contractors galore, all  competing on the basis of lowest price. Often, such people over-promise but under-deliver. 

Thirdly, there is the COMMUNICATIONS perception. Some Chinese immigrants fail to speak English properly. This leads not only to communication problems, but unfortunate misunderstanding too. I remember a frustrated white man driving a SUV shouting at the top of his voice, to ask the Chinese to go back to their country, if they do not speak English at all. 

Fourthly, there is the CLIQUE perception. There are many Chinese immigrants who spend most of the time with people of their own ethnicity. Failure to mix with the race of Canada gives a bad negative perception, that they are not interested in integrating themselves with Canadian life at large. For example, anyone who visits Richmond, or walk into the Aberdeen shopping complex will almost certainly think that it is a mini-Hong Kong. 

Building a Bridge of Understanding

For all the negative perceptions above, I think it is even more important to build bridges of understanding. Though I am not from Hong Kong or China, I feel it is important to help English speaking Canadians, and Mandarin or Cantonese speaking Chinese to understand one another. For a start, I like to address the four negative perceptions above and suggest some ways to go about building bridges.

On CASH, try to understand that as new immigrants, many Chinese do not have Canadian work experience or qualifications. They need a roof over their heads, and a place to start their new life. For many, the cash that they have represent life savings and hard work over the years. For them to fly half way across the world into a foreign land is a huge risk in itself. While there are some Chinese who are 'filthy' rich, many are living off their life savings. 

Suggestion for New Immigrants: Don't flaunt your cash. Remember that your property purchases are not an end in itself. It jacks up property prices all over the city, and makes them out of reach for many locals. Just be sensitive.

On CHEAP, also understand that many new immigrants from China desperately need jobs. Locals need to accept them as they are, and also make it a point not to offer contracts based on the lowest price. In fact, by giving them contracts based on their low price, you are unwittingly encouraging them.

Suggestion for New Immigrants: Follow the local culture and licensing requirements. If you undercut and give an artificial low price, you will eventually be undercut by others. Better to work based on FAIR-PRICE rather than low price. Know the laws and the safety rules.

On COMMUNICATIONS, give new immigrants the time to learn English. Be more patient with them. For those who are struggling, encourage them. Maybe, local Canadians can help them along, and don the 'Canadian' quality that I find likable: Be Nice.

Suggestion for New Immigrants: Make an effort to speak. Make an effort to attend classes. Your effort helps.

On CLIQUE, it is understandable that new immigrants find comfort and encouragement among their own people. This is only natural. Why not have events that have both English and Chinese together? Have people from all ethnicities come together to have fun each year. I feel the current NHL Stanley Cup run is an excellent opportunity for everybody to come together. The marketing message: "We are All Canucks!" is a powerful opportunity to do just that.

Suggestion for New Immigrants: Remember that Vancouver, and Canada is larger than your small enclave.

It will take a while for bridges of understanding to be built. I hope this blog article can help contribute a small part toward it.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Regent College's Live Streaming

Yesterday on 18th May, 2011, Regent College made available one of its ever popular Summer school public lectures via Internet streaming. It was the first time a public event has been simultaneously conducted, enabling those who could not be there physically, to listen in, to view, and to interact with almost the entire lecture session. I say 'almost' because Internet audiences can only interact with the speaker if and only if the technical staff there pass the messages. There is no opportunity to interact directly before, during, and after the lecture, as the streaming only goes online the moment the lecture begins, and the moment it ends.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Four Critical Moods in Preaching

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 18 May 2011
"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Tim 4:2)
[This article is first published on SabbathWalk]

I love to preach. Having gone through theological training, and being schooled by some of the best preachers in the world, I still feel frequently inadequate. The irony is that when I feel confident, and when I think I have preached well, there seem to be very little effect on the people. On the other hand, when I feel weak, and inadequate after my preaching, strangely, lives are touched. Preaching can be a humbling experience. I have a world-class professor as my mentor. He has been voted one of the top 12 best preachers in North America. Sitting through his class is an experience in itself.

I write the following to remind myself about the FOUR critical moods needed before, during, and after preaching. If you are a preacher, or one who may be called upon from time to time to preach the gospel, feel free to listen in.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Book Review: "Max on Life"

TITLE: MAX ON LIFE - answers and insights to your most important questions
AUTHOR: Max Lucado
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2011, (260 pages)

Max On Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important QuestionsThis is a book of wisdom given via short snippets in a style that is truly Lucado. The question and answer format makes this book highly readable. With gentle and calming answers to some of the most difficult questions of life, Max comes across like a wise man, a friend, a pastor, and a dear brother in Christ. His words are convicted but not controlling. His insights are served with a dose of imaginative prose that proves again why Lucado is one of the evangelical world's favourite writers.

Lucado uses alliteration to express 7 kinds of questions. Under HOPE, he addresses issues surrounding faith in God, salvation, purpose, and grace. Under HURT, he deals with the tough issues of pain, suffering, and different conflicts people face. Under HELP, Lucado gives his take about Church, Christian disciplines, and Christian practices like prayer. Under HIM/HER, he deals with relationships, sex, adultery, romance, marriage, divorce and others. Under HOME, he tackles the tough issues surrounding parenting. Under HAVES/HAVE-NOTs, he talks about work matters, financial stuff, and dealing with the modern pressures of work life. Under HEARAFTER, he writes about the future, aging and the afterlife.

What I like about this book is the pastoral tone throughout. Lucado manifests understanding of the layperson. He is not easily swayed by worldliness in the world, and encourages readers to hang on to hope in God. At the same time, Lucado is never shallow theologically. While the writings display a high degree of readability, it does not mean Lucado is uninformed about theological doctrines and scholarship. Some scholars may mistakenly assume that Lucado's writings are geared more to the popular audience in mind. I beg to differ. Truth and wisdom can be dispensed in both easy-to-read snippets, as well as heavy and bulky theological compendiums. This book may look like snippets, but then, isn't our life filled with snippets too?

Ratings: 4 stars of 5.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson".

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Tribute to Paul Yap (1950-2011)

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 11 May 2011

Through my Regent College years, my family have hosted many people, especially those who come from our hometown. One of our most memorable persons was Paul. In August 2005, a good friend introduced Paul to us, saying that he was going to be the Businessman-in-Residence for three months at Regent-College. At that time, we were living in a spanking new hostel called Somerville House. Paul would soon move into the hostel into a unit directly above us. Each evening, he would join us for a nice family meal, to share about his day, and his learning. I treated him like a fellow ‘Yap.’ He treated us like family. While our common surnames provided some level of brotherhood, none held as strongly as our common faith in Christ.

Paul is a man of faith. He has a heart for the faithful servants of God. He has a burden for the spiritual health of men and women of faith. He is very upfront with his own views and is not ashamed to give pointed comments about areas he does not agree with. Such is his level of conviction. Pointed but firm. Argumentative but not domineering. Opinionated and often persuasive. With an intelligent mind, he possesses an equally compassionate heart.

A) Canadian Chronicles

Paul comes to Regent-College with an intention to grow strong in his faith. He shares his journey through a daily email called “Canadian Chronicles.” Each day without fail, Paul will write down his daily activities, coupled with spiritual insights gleaned from professors, the Regent experience, as well as his observations of the surroundings.

He has a penchant for details. He fuses his own learning with the observations of the learned. He identifies with the teachers he hear, without sacrificing his personal convictions on any topic. One example is how he sees the lack of contextualization committed by some of the Professors in the cross cultural context.

He is humble to acknowledge that some of the things he heard are a bit too philosophical and difficult to understand. What he lacks in theological sophistication, he compensates with practical applications. He injects present pragmatism without sacrificing the future ideals of the Christian life. He is one person who literally runs the race with gusto. I remember him telling me that he knows all the trails of the huge University of British Columbia (UBC) compound, more than the residents in the UBC Endowment Lands!

Paul always says that his chronicles are nothing too fantastic. They are simply his personal reflections of life. That is so true of a humble person. In one of his earlier jottings, he mentioned his purchase of a pair of jeans to replace the one he had torn during a hike. Though he could easily afford a brand new pair of jeans, he would learn to live like a poor student. During our student days, we would try to save money by buying second hand goods, even clothing. Paul adopted our lifestyle without hesitation. He found simple joy when he managed to buy two almost brand new jeans for a steal. Two for $5 Canadian. Whatever joy he had was quickly dissipated when he saw the long queues and the seeming inefficiency of the cashiers on duty. He struggled between two different cultures: the fast-efficient system in Singapore vs the relatively slow and laid back lifestyle in Canada. He wrote:

Being still Singaporean, I fumed and fretted and thought of ways to improve the situation and save time. Then I thought to myself that this was Canada, blend with the life. Also I should learn patience and think love.” (13 Sep 2005)
Paul loves the lectures of Dr J I Packer. He sings praises of this venerable professor so much that sometimes I think he idolized him. He has an open mind to learn. He is never closed with regards to new ideas. One example of his willingness to learn is captured by his gradual acceptance of what true learning is all about. As an eager student, he is so wowed by the lectures at Regent-College that he wanted to write down everything, verbatim. It does not take long for Paul to realize that is impossible. He then does the next sensible thing: to move from a ‘copy-first’ position to a ‘listen-first’ posture.
After an initial moment of panic I convinced myself that I was not here to prove anything but to enjoy the experience, focus on ideas and get the point.” (13 Sep 2005)
Paul picked up this truth in less than 3 months, what many people could not even comprehend in more than 30 years.

B) Food

Paul loves food. While he is prepared for a burgers and fries diet, he is happily surprised to be able to enjoy Asian delicacies with my family throughout his stay in Vancouver. I enjoy those moments where he will rub his tummy gently with glee, and at the same time remind my children: “There is always room for dessert.” After dinner, our kids will readily chime back: “Good night. Don’t let the bed-bugs bite.

Once, Paul made a special effort to cook a dish for us. It was a special braised chicken casserole. Our family enjoyed it so much that we coined the dish: “Uncle Paul’s Chicken.” It remained one of my family’s favourite dishes to this day. What made that dish even more special was the love he put in. In Paul’s wonderful words:

When you care enough for the people you cook a little extra goes into it. That is why, in general, home cooked meals taste better than restaurant food, even in the best ones. I wonder if the extra quality of love actually gives an added extra in the meal that even the best restaurants cannot provide.” (17 Sep 2005)

In one statement, he demonstrates his love both ways: To his family back in Singapore, and to us, his adopted family.

I remember a time when a pastor friend of mine got his house broken into. It was close to midnight. I called him to see if he is interested to accompany us. He agreed without hesitation. It almost seems like he perfectly understood what it meant to be a victim of burglary. With such willingness to help, and the giant heart he has for people and friends, there is no surprise to see his huge networks of friendships.

C) Books

If food is his first crave, books come in a close second. Over our conversations, he will enthusiastically talk about the different authors and books he has come across. His favourite place is the Regent bookstore. I think, during the three months when he is at Regent, he is easily the bookstore’s top customer. Even on the very last day, I continue to tempt him by inviting him to go to the Midnight Madness Sale. I remember how unsuccessfully he resisted, and willingly gave in to the temptation of buying more books. He purchased so much that he exceeded his flight baggage allowance. Like a child who can only take one lollipop out of many, he left some of the books with me. That last evening at the Regent bookstore remains one of the highlights of Paul’s life. I can imagine him like a little child refusing to leave the playground, only that the toys are books, books and more books.

D) Family

Paul is clearly a family man. He lets his children grow up and learn the hard ropes of life. His two children remains the pride of his life. He talks frequently about them. He adores both Jeremy and Janice. Irene figures prominently in Paul's conversations too. He is in a nutshell, a family man.

Paul is also an extremely humble servant. When I visited him and Irene back in 2010, he volunteered to drive us around, to pick us up from where we are, and to serve us in any way possible. One memorable occasion was the invitation he extended to us, to join his family Sunday dinner. Knowing the popularity of the family favourite desserts made by Irene, Paul will carefully reserve a few just for my wife, my youngest daughter and I. True enough, the rest of the family gobbled up the dessert in no time. Paul protected the reserved desserts like an eagle over its precious young.

Reflecting on the fun atmosphere, and the courtesy extended to one another, I thought to myself: “Now, this is family.”

Walking with Paul along one of the most peaceful and serene places in busy Singapore. Paul is excited about everything nature
Paul is never one who harps on sentimentality. Yet, he is gentle and exhibits a high degree of perception about life. One of this is the way he chooses to end any chapter in his life. In his concluding chronicles at Regent-College, this is what he wrote:

“I dislike long goodbyes. So I’ll end here, a good place as any to end. I still have some last minute packing to do. I look forward to meeting you soon and renewing our ties again. God bless you all." 

In this spirit, Paul, on the 4th of May 2011, he ran for God, and God took him. While we on earth has lost a brother in Christ, heaven rejoices to welcome a faithful man of God, back to the loving bosom of his Heavenly Father, graced by our Lord Jesus Christ, with fellowship in the Holy Spirit. Goodbye Paul. You have fought the good fight. You have ran the race. You have kept the faith. May we honour you by our faithfulness in the Lord.

Bye Paul.

We will all miss you now, but we know we will see you again one day.

Conrade, Mary and all at home.

In Remembrance: Paul Yap (1950-2011)

It was at Regent-College that I first got to know Paul.

Paul enjoys not just food, but good company too.

Enjoying a birthday event at our Somerville House. Paul lives above our unit.  (14 Nov 2005)

Gathering with friends from Singapore (20 Nov 2005)

We invited Paul to a Regent College Retreat back in 2005. He accepted and joined us.

This is our last meal as a family with Brother Paul at White Spot Restaurant @ Richmond. We helped him check in at the airport before proceeding to a sumptuous meal. Paul always liked food. (26 Nov 2005).
We'll miss you. Rest in peace. We will see you again when we all meet Jesus one day.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Regent College Pastors Conference 2011 (Day 1)

I miss Regent College. I miss the academically engaging environment. I miss the people. I miss the library. There are so many things I miss that endears me to try to keep in touch with that beautiful place through other means. I have been a part of the Pastors Conference throughout my student years there. I have hosted, volunteered, served, and learned many things from many different people. This year, the theme is on leadership, one of my favourite topics. Here is my way of keeping in touch, even when I am not physically there. Thanks to Twitter and a Regent student who has kindly summarized his learning on Day 1 here. Below are some of my favourite Twitter quips from yesterday.

Here are the tweets from 4th May 2011. Thanks to all who have shared.
  • "...I needed to be human, to function with integrity, and function in a way that honors God and who he's created me to be." #rcpc2011
  • "So much of my life I lived a leadership role of obsessing over codes of conduct. I began to see that in God's presence," 1/2
  •   "Leadership is all about God, not me. Novel concept."
  • Leaders & Rom 8.23: all creation groans awaiting redemption, and we ourselves. Including Christians. Including leaders. .
  • "ritual is more powerful than teaching" Gordon Smith on sacrament and table
  • "So much of my life I lived a leadership role of obsessing over codes of conduct. I began to see that in God's presence, I needed to be human, to function with integrity, and function in a way that honors God and who he's created me to be."
  • Lots here about focusing more on being & receiving, less on doing & controlling, as key to healthy & holy leadership.

Thanks to all who have twittered. Looking forward to more.


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