Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review - "Sabbath Time" (Tilden Edwards)

AUTHOR: Tilden Edwards
PUBLISHER: Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1992.

Sabbath Time: Understanding and Practice for Contemporary Christians
This book essentially argues for a recovery of a rhythm of Sabbath awareness, to enhance both contemplation (rest) and action (through ministry). It is an intentional living out of  labor and love, of rest and work; and of achieving and escaping. Written in 5 parts, Edwards guides the reader through the historical contexts of Sabbath keeping (Part I); contemporary struggles with understanding of the Sabbath (Part II); Practical aspects of Sabbath Keeping (Part III); extending Sabbath keeping beyond the weekly observances into a life-style rhythm (Part IV); and concluding with a short exhortation toward linking living and loving (Part V).

Edwards prefaces the book by lamenting:
"The Christian sabbath, as a practice of receptive time that both balances and permeates our active time, has not had comprehensive, serious attention in mainstream Christian thought and practice for a long time. It has suffered from an image of legalism, repression, and quietism, together with a general neglect of its history and potential as a foundational spiritual discipline of the Christian life." (8)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Touching Audition on American Idol 2011

This piece on Chris Medina's audition is touching.

I think he sings well. Most significantly, it is the story of the love of him and his fiancee Julianna that wins hearts. It takes a man to love so openly and self-sacrificially. Unfortunately, the fairy tale beginning ended abruptly as Chris didn't make the final 24. This video is also touching, albeit for quite different reasons.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Re-Post: "Consequences of an Online World"

This article is reposted from my other weekly blog, SabbathWalk.


TITLE: Consequences of an Online World
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 23 Feb 2011
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

MAIN POINT: In a 24x7, always on technological environment, there is a temptation of making technology the new god of the modern age. Slow down. Stop. Look up. Do not turn technology into the modern ‘golden calf.’

Power outages can cause major disruptions in any city. Network outages can hamper work and affect both internal and external communications. Several years ago, when I was a software engineer with a large American firm, there occurred a systems outage. Computers cannot connect to the network. The clocks failed to synchronize. Emptying office cubicles, office staff packed the cafeteria and surrounding coffee shops. The day continued on, and none of my colleagues were complaining. That was 20 years ago.

On April 19th, 2007, the major Canadian telecommunications provider, Blackberry suffered a major systems outage. Eight million Blackberry clients were forced offline. As the systems came down, tempers flared up. The scene was ugly. In October 2010, the popular social networking website also experienced an outage, forcing millions of users to stop updating their own lives online. Unlike 20 years ago, any kind of technology outage is increasingly unbearable. In an ‘always-on’ culture, online companies’ future and reputation are at the mercy of the reliability of the systems network.

In an Always-On culture, people get jitters just to know that their iPhones or Blackberries are not working. They become frantic when Facebook or Twitter sites are down. I know some who can only pace back and forth aimlessly when their electronic gadgets fail to work. Tools used to be a supplement, an option for man to work with. With technology, tools are no longer just an option. The roles have been reversed. The one who created the machine, can no longer live without it. Technology has reversed the paradigm. It is no longer machines that need man to make it function, but man that needs machines in order to function. The maker cannot live without his toys.

In an insightful look at online environments and mobile lifestyles, and how they influence people, Naomi Baron lists three consequences of ‘being always on.’ They are personal; ethical; cognitive; and social.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: "If God, Why Evil?" (Norman Geisler)

TITLE: If God, Why Evil? (a new way to think about the question)
AUTHOR: Norman L Geisler
PUBLISHER: Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2010.

If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the QuestionThis is a very clearly presented book set out to defend the theistic perspective of God, evil and the nature of suffering. It uses simple language that can be readily understood by the layperson. It will be helpful especially those without much training in philosophy or theology. Using step by step 'handrails' to guide the reader through the arguments and counter-arguments, one can easily navigate through the flow of arguments. In ten chapters, Geisler deals with the different views of evil, the nature, origin, persistence, purpose, miracles, and many of the common difficult challenges facing people who are genuinely concerned about evil and suffering in this world. Each chapter contains brief examples for quick appreciation.

The last three appendices comprise of materials that cover animal deaths, proving the existence of God, and a book critique of The Shack. They do not seem to fit into the overall flow of the book. Yet, they are somewhat relevant to the topic of suffering. They are helpful chapters, but I feel are not necessary toward the overall thesis of the book. What surprises me is the way Geisler squeezed into the appendices a sharp critique of Paul Young's The Shack.

My Comments
What is amazing about this book is that it treats the topic sensitively and clearly, without sacrificing the breadth of coverage. My main critique is that Geisler fails to include more of the alternative arguments from the standpoint of the questioner. For example, in arguing the Best Possible World theory, what about the arguments against this? At times, I feel like Geisler is over-enthusiastic to present his side of the story, that he understates the 'other point of view.' I believe Geisler is right on many fronts. Yet, I get the feeling that this book will appeal more to the converted, rather than one that will convince the unbeliever. Having said that, I believe God is perfectly capable of defending Himself. I prefer to see this book as a readable  introductory resource for new students in the field of theodicy.

So what is exactly 'new' in this book's re-thinking of the question of evil? If there is anything particularly new, it will be the manner in which the author lays out the problem, identifies the flaws in the premises, and to modify the way the question needs to be re-stated. Nevertheless, this book is a valuable resource to introduce the dilemma of evil and suffering, to lay out the Christian position, and as God enables, to encourage those going through difficult periods of their lives. This book is an excellent choice for teaching an appreciation-level layman class on apologetics and suffering.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Live out your dream - never too late

I generally dislike commercials. However, this is an exception. The producer of this commercial manages to integrate a meaningful message which can speak into the hearts of those in their final stages of life. I came across this commercial this week (courtesy of Grace@Work).

Two years ago, I reflected on the need to live out our dreams. In my article, "Dream and Discover," I suggested the need to focus more on relationships rather than work. This video commercial reminds me again, that our dreams are best lived out purposefully, when we are living for someone close to our heart.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did do. So throw away the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Dream. Discover." (Mark Twain)
For Christians, living passionately for Christ is the greatest privilege we can ever exercise.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The New NIV Bible (2011 edition)

The NIV 2011
To be launched on March 2011, this is the latest addition to the bludgeoning collection of New International Version (NIV) Bibles. It is meant to replaced the much maligned TNIV, which has been much criticized, chief of all being the changing of the original texts to be more 'gender-neutral.'  From what I know, the history of the NIV is roughly as follows:

  • 1973 - New Testament released;  
  • 1978 - The full NIV text containing both the OT and NT released;
  • 1984 - second revision;
  • 1996 - NIV readers version; (NIrV for early readers)
  • 2002 - Today's New International Version (TNIV)
  • 2010 - Latest version to be released in print (Mar 1, 2011)
As a service to my readers, here are a few ways you can read the NIV (c) 2010 version. 

1) ONLINE SOURCES (with Internet connection)
  • BibleGateway - Choose "NIV, 2010" (online since Nov 1st, 2010)
  • Biblica website - (link)
  • Youversion website - (link)
2) OFFLINE RESOURCES (after download and install)
  • Kindle - New International Version; (ebook)
  • Free download of NIV ("youversion" up to Mar 1st, 2011; only for Apple iPad, iPods, iPhones and Androids)
    downloading is a little tricky. first you'll need to download a YOUVERSION Bible app from the Apple app store on your device. After downloading the app, search for the Bible version WITHIN the app. If you see a green icon, click that one in order to download.
  • FREE New Testament NIV MP3 downloads (iTunes)
  • FREE Old Testament NIV MP3 downloads (iTunes)
  • For printed copies, you can buy it at all major bookstores from March 1st, 2011.
  • Who translated the NIV (c) 2010 edition? (link)
    Hey, there's a few professors from Regent-College. Woo Hoo!

  • All Things NIV (link)
  • News updates on the new NIV (link)

I make more comments once I get hold of a printed copy.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book: "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" (Donald Miller)

TITLE: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
AUTHOR: Donald Miller
PUBLISHER: Thomas-Nelson, 2010.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better StoryThe accolades and positive blurbs on the inside flaps of the book, look like movie trailers enticing any reader to read it. I am not disappointed. Packed with snippets of the author's supposedly 'boring' life, this book is a story of how the author re-writes his life by 'story-ing' it. The book begins with a bleak overview of the downturn in the author's personal life, and ends with a remarkable glimmer of hope. Using many story-writing tips and movie making insights (learned from his friends Ben and Steve), Miller finds himself encouraged, as he 'edits' his life.

I love the way he puts what he learned into practice. As a result, Miller manages to create a living story of his past. The pages are filled with honesty, themselves illuminated with sparkling thoughts about the most mundane things in life. Readers will be encouraged, even charged up to write their own stories. This book is not exactly a memoir. It looks more like Miller teaching himself that life is not a matter of positive or negative moments. It is about going through it with a hope that at the end, real meaning will be discovered, with God shining His torch to light the way. I find myself motivated to write my own story. More significantly, the underlying message is that we can live a meaningful life. We just need to learn to story our lives, with help from others, and God.

If there is any critique I have, it will be the classification of 'Spirituality' that tends to throw the prospective buyer off. It is more a memoir, quite close to what Anne Lamott's writings do.  This is more evident toward the end of Miller's book. The chapters while sequenced in a purposeful manner, contains lots of events, thoughts, and emotions that do not seem to fall appropriately under the stated category.  Thus it makes one suspect if the events, like square pegs have been squeezed into round holes. It does make me curious as to how 'real' the history is.

Overall, this book is certainly a good book for prospective writers to read. It should be one of the key primers for anyone desiring to tell stories, especially good stories.


Here's a link to one of Don Miller video promotionals on the book (Mar 7th, 2011)

What story are you telling? from Rhetorik Creative on Vimeo.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review - "The Purpose of Passion"

TITLE: The Purpose of Passion - Dante's Epic Vision of Romantic Love
AUTHORS: Kurt Bruner & Jim Ware
PUBLISHED: Carol Stream, IL: Saltriver-Tyndale House, 2010.

The Purpose of Passion: Dante's Epic Vision of Romantic LoveIn a world flooded with superficial proclamations of love, where societies intoxicate themselves with fantasies of self-centered romance, this book is a necessary corrective. Journeying through Dante's famous The Divine Comedy, the authors builds a strong case for the need to recover the true meaning of passion and love. With the pursuit of love and passion as the main goal, Bruner and Ware guides the reader through the three stages of the odyssey of love, namely Hell (Inferno), Purgatory, and Paradise. Spirituality and biblical themes are brilliantly integrated with Dante's metaphor of love's journey. While the world sees romantic love as 'self-satisfaction,' Dante's vision reveals true love as 'self-sacrifice.' The world's vision of love tries to be effective but is largely 'defective.' God's vision of love is pro-active and progressive. This books brings both together in one compelling purpose of passion, through a journey powered by love.

The Three-Stage Journey of Love
Bruner and Ware begins with how true love gets warped. They point out that the Italian word 'amore' suggests 'potentiality' rather than an eventuality. In other words, love is more a journey rather than a destination. This is why true romantic love cultivates and not manipulate. Our destination is God, not love. Love is the process.

The authors use Dante's vision of a beautiful woman Beatrice to lead him through the journey. Beatrice is his spiritual guide, who helps him to realize how repulsive self-love is, and how attractive and liberating true love is. In the first stage, Dante is given a taste of the evils of self-love. He goes through seven circles of false love (Limbo, Self-Indulgence, Gluttons, Misers/Spendthrifts, Wrathful, Heretics, Eternal Violence). All these are perversions of love, which mars the world.

The second stage (purgatory) is essentially purging all of theses false loves, painful but necessary in order to prepare for the third stage. The final stage is the pursuit of true love (paradise), again with Beatrice as his spiritual guide. The central message of the book is this:
"Genuine love is something of which we can never have too much. As long as it is pure, as long as its trajectory remains straight and true, love must eventually lead us aright. If it is clean, wholesome, appropriate, and selfless, then a passion for something or someone other than ourselves inevitably carries about it a certain aura of holiness." (129)

My Comments
I am blown away by this book for its sheer depth of insight and the clear application in real life. Like Beatrice guiding Dante's journey through the ups and downs of love, the authors guide the reader through clear markers making this book not only a delight to read but a pleasure to follow. Each chapter begins with a quote from Dante's epic literature, and ends with a reflection. Each part starts with a brief explanation of Dante's contexts, and concludes with a personal challenge to 'get personal.' I appreciate the clear biblical linkages and the weaving of Dante's medieval message with contemporary applications. With skill and formidable understanding of Dante's theology and philosophy, this book gives the modern reader a great compass to carry with regards to the understanding of true romance and authentic love. There are so many things to learn from, with lessons for the married and the unmarried; loved and the unloved. Push aside those romantic novels out there in the market that focuses more on self-satisfaction and self-gratification. Do not read any other love or romance books until you have read this book. If you find this book hard to read and understand, re-read it. It is worth it.

Ratings: 5 stars of 5.


Disclosure: To comply with regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes only. I am not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are freely mine.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

On Emergency Workers - Real Emergency or Abuse of Privilege?

The sirens scream. The loud hailer roar. The pressing of the horn signals the coming of an emergency team. The ambulance has it. The police patrol car has it. The gigantic fire engine has it. All it takes is the sounding of the emergency call, and the whole world has to literally stop. It is about saving lives. It is about public acknowledgment that these emergency workers have more important tasks to be done.

As a driver, I will obediently slow down, and stop my care at a safe spot. After all, the emergency vehicles can come in any direction, and travel in any open roads. For the sake of the ambulances, the general public and the people requesting for an emergency rescue, the emergency workers have the right of way. Literally always. The law demands it.

1) Blocking Road Arteries
This morning, I heard the sound of a fire-engine and an ambulance at my neighbourhood. This is not surprising as there is a fire station not too far away from where I live. I learned that a neighbour of mine has an emergency. Unfortunately, the only way in and out of my townhouse complex is a narrow one-and-half lane. The fire-engine occupies the left lane. The ambulance sits arrogantly on the right lane, completely blocking off all traffic in and out of the townhouse complex. After all, if there is an emergency, everyone needs to wait. Right? What I observe is even more worrying. 
  • The emergency workers do not seem to care about others in the neighbourhood;
  • They have their own sense of priority, without considering other people may have their legitimate priorities too.
  • Of the 5-6 guys I saw, most of the time, only 2 were actively working while the rest are standing around.
2) Inconsiderate Behaviour?
A few of my neighbours also waited. One honked in frustration as she had a medical appointment. Another backed his car to his own parking lot, probably late for work. Yet, another utility company decided to park somewhere else. I waited in my car, firstly to see how my neighbour is doing, and secondly to see how fast the workers are responding. I watched my clock. 20 minutes. It took 20 minutes to get the sick person onto the stretcher. One of my frustrated elderly neighbours gave up driving, and decided to take the bus. Another neighbour also told me that it is much better to just walk. She seemed to know that there is no point talking with these workers. Emergency workers there behaved in a world of their own.

I thought to myself: "If the whole world is waiting for the emergency workers to do their job, shouldn't you at least be fast and responsive to the sick person? ok, You want to block the road. Consider if you are also blocking other legitimate emergencies?"

Isn't it too much to expect emergency workers to at least work at an emergency pace? If it was my grandmother who is in an emergency, 20 minutes is far too long. Way too long. I told that to one of the workers, and he simply shrugged off my comment about their slow pace. I admit that I am annoyed when they deliberately shut off all access roads. Yet, the bigger worry is not travel inconvenience, but the BEHAVIOUR of these emergency workers. 

3) Real Emergency or Abuse of Power?
There is a fine line between public service and abuse of power. I hope that all emergency workers will realize that. I am not impressed this morning. Even if I can wait 20 minutes in the car to wait for the ambulance, the paramedics, and the fire engines to move, I am not sure if all emergency patients can. What if by blocking everybody else with their vehicles on the basis of their own emergency case, they have unwittingly blocked another emergency in the neighbourhood?

Lest I be mistaken, I am all in support of emergency workers. I think they do society a great service. However, when it comes to inefficiency and a lack of urgency in their roles, that is troubling. Even more disturbing will be any abuse of power in the name of an emergency. I really hope the authorities will be on a constant check against such abuse. Otherwise, the general public in Vancouver, tax payors, and concerned citizens will be the ones who are being abused.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Review: "Have a Little Faith" (Mitch Albom)

TITLE: Have A Little Faith
AUTHOR: Mitch Albom
PUBLISHED: Thorndike Press, 2009.

Have a Little Faith: A True StoryTwo men. Two stories. One common theme. Albom continues this genre of speaking meaning into living and dying. While the title of the book suggests it being a religious book, it is more of a reflection, or a writing of eulogies for two friends the author know personally. If you have read his previous bestseller, "Tuesdays with Morrie," you will probably be familiar with the style of interview-cum-retelling of the lives of individuals. If there is a difference between Albom's previous book and this, it will be in terms of how one anticipates dying. In Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom spends each Tuesday talking with a Professor dying from ALS. In Have a Little Faith,  Albom talks about two men of faith, who despite coming from different backgrounds, ends up in a similar line of ministry of help. Both have asked Albom to meet with them on a regular basis, and eventually to write their eulogies.

Albom cleverly keeps the pace of the book vivid, by alternating story snippets of the two men. One is a Jewish rabbi (known as Reb) while the other is a Protestant pastor (known as Henry). It is a gentle retelling of how these men practiced faith, after going through the storms of life. There are three things that I learn from the reading of this book.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Book: Sabbath and Jubilee (Richard H Lowery)

TITLE: Sabbath and Jubilee
AUTHOR: Richard H Lowery
PUBLISHED: St Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2000.

Sabbath and Jubilee (Understanding Biblical Themes)This book is part of a series entitled: "Understanding biblical themes." In a nutshell, this book is about the biblical intent of the Jewish Sabbath and Jubilee that occurs all over the Old and New Testament. With conviction and exegetical skill, Lowery weaves in a three-tiered purpose behind the Sabbath and Jubilee. Firstly, the Sabbath and Jubilee is meant to sustain a healthy household or family unit. Secondly, the practice of the Sabbath and Jubilee has positive implications for both the environment as well as the economy. Thirdly, it inculcates in the humankind the need to share, and spread wealth globally.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Update for Regent-College online Resources

Regent-College has updated its online offerings. I offer it here as a service for Regent alums and anybody interested in Regent-College.

  1. The ETCETERA (link)
    - a student newsletter issue weekly during regular school terms. Includes the GREENSHEET that gives tips for students on a tight budget.
  2. CRUX online (link)
    - this issue Fall 2010 is free online.
  3. Regent-College Miscellaneous (link)
    - contains brochures, and publishing materials
  4. Regent Pulpit Swap (link)

  5. Alums only (link)

  6. Twitter @ Regent (link)

  7. Facebook @ Regent (link)

  8. Regent-College official website (link)

  9. Regent-College Library (link)

  10. Regent Bookstore (link)

  11. Regent Audio (link)

  12. Regent Radio (link)

    the following links are submitted by Sharon of Regent-College Alumni Office. Thanks Sharon!

  13. Regent Cosmos (link)

  14. Regent Marketplace (link)

  15. Regent Linkedin contact (link)

  16. Youtube video on Regent (link)

  17. Summer School 2011 (new!) [Thanks Rosie for this!)

Note: This link page will grow and get updated as new information is available.


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