Friday, March 29, 2013

The "Good" in Good Friday

What's so good about Good Friday? Below are two articles. The first is from Dr John Stackhouse Jr, published in the Globe and Mail here. It reflects on the notion of sacrifice, blood symbolism, and evil that highlight the seriousness of sin, and in the process highlight the need for the cross of Christ.

The second is my meditation from my Sabbath Walk blog, published today. It provides three reflections on the cross of Christ. Here is an excerpt from the article. Read the full article here.

Let me offer three thoughts for Good Friday. Firstly, it is a Friday, just before the day of the Jewish Sabbath.   It is a remarkable look back at the creation week, where God rested after all the work have been done in the past six days. Just like the seventh day completes the entire work of creation, Good Friday completes the task of Jesus, as we remember Jesus emphatically saying in John 19:30 that, "It is finished." All the work, and all the ministry, culminates in this one historical event, the Cross of Christ. It is the Cross of Christ that finishes the necessary work of saving the world from sin. At the cross, Jesus paid it all. At the cross, Jesus carried all the burdens of the world. At the cross, Jesus offered forgiveness for the world, for all the wrongs the world had committed in thought, word, or deed. For it is on Good Friday, Jesus rested completely, for his work on earth has been done.

Secondly, the old rugged cross represents the centrality of the gospel of Christ.When we celebrate something, we need to ask ourselves what are we celebrating from? As we think about Resurrection Sunday, we ask ourselves what is Christ rising from? When we think about victory, we need to remind ourselves what we are winning from? Without Good Friday, there is no meaning in Easter Sunday. The late John Stott has written passionately about the three central things accomplished at the cross, namely, to save sinners, to reveal God, and to conquer evil. In one sweep, all three things are accomplished to perfection and to God's complete satisfaction. Stott also notes that the Acts of the Apostles are less about the resurrection of Christ, but more on the centrality of the cross of Christ. From Peter to John, Stephen to Paul, it is the cross that gives the early disciples the power and the reason to live. For if the cross is the existential reason for our work and ministry as Christians, the resurrection builds upon this as our faith and hope for the future.

Thirdly, Good Friday is the culmination of the horizontal and vertical relationships of mankind and creation. The Cross is a visual symbol of a vertical reconciliation with God. It is also a horizontal reconciliation with fellow people. At the cross, Christ embodies the essence of love, and the greatest commandment of God. Stott says that "the cross enforces three truths - about ourselves, about God and about Jesus Christ." These three truths essentially nail down the reality of man, the divinity of God, and the humility of Jesus. The Cross represents so many things that it can be easily misunderstood. That is why I think it is an apt summary of what reconciliation is all about. Only through the cross, we can be saved from our sins. Only through the cross, God is revealed through the greatest act of love. Only through the cross we get to overcome evil. Only through the cross, we understand the significance of the Resurrection.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Midweek Meditation: Betrayal

Why is betrayal so heartbreaking? It is simply this. There is no such thing as an enemy who betrays us. In fact, enemies will try to destroy us openly or covertly if necessary. Only those who are close to us can betray us. That is why when Judas sold Jesus out, it is a type of betrayal that cuts straight to the heart. That is what I call a "direct betrayal." That is not all. When the rest of the disciples and Peter walk away from Jesus in his hour of need, that is an "indirect" betrayal. This Holy Week, remember too that with every sin we commit, with every refusal to confess our wrongs, we are betraying our calling as disciples to be holy, for God is holy.  

The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples

As Jesus takes his last supper with his disciples, surely he knows who will betray him directly, and who will forsake him. Imagine the mood as he eats and drinks with his disciples. It takes great love and patience to bear with these imperfect people. It takes obedience and utter willingness to bore the cross for the sake of following the Perfect God fully.


Monday, March 25, 2013

BookPastor >> "The Sacred Search" (Gary Thomas)

Gary Thomas has written several books and articles on marriage matters. This new book is for singles, and those preparing for marriage. The review below was first published on Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: The Sacred Search: What If It's Not about Who You Marry, But Why?
AUTHOR: Gary Thomas
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2013, (256 pages).

This book is an exposition of Matthew 6:33 with regards to the 'why' of marriage that is more important than the 'who we marry.' In other words, before we get married, we need to ask the question of why do we want to marry in the first place. Many people are discouraged just to see how the statistics are skewing divorces and unhappy marriages more as a norm rather than an exception. It has even deterred people from seeking out getting married. Others are too concerned about who they should marry. For some, marriage is a cross, while for others, marriage is a test of faith. While it is true that there are pains and heartaches in marriages, Thomas wants to point out that there is hope. Rather than to marry and then regret the decision, the key task in this book is to search from the perspective of seeking God's Kingdom and God's Righteousness first, and to trust God to provide for our marital answers. The search begins with the ones who claim that their marriage situation is more an exception rather than a rule. In other words, God is faithful in everything except when it comes to their own marriage future or a happy marriage. The problem with this culture is that far too many people see happiness as the first priority in marriage. That largely explains the falling out of love and the failing marriages among many. Being in love just is not enough. Finding a 'right' partner is also insufficient. Mere romantic attraction as a reason to get married is also foolish.  The problem is that romantic love is "involuntary," hard to "control," and temporary. In order to start well, we need a spiritual redemption ourselves. Regulate both sexual passions, physical and psychological attractions with spiritual clarity toward wisdom and vulnerability. Thomas then speaks to both gender. First, he addresses the women, and challenges them to be more concerned for their boyfriends or husbands' spiritual conditions, especially godliness. In fact, godliness must be a higher priority than emotional connections or romantic skills. For the guys, avoid succumbing to gorgeous looks or sexual chemistry as a primary criterion. Find a wife who is seeking God's kingdom first! If both husband and wife are placing God's Kingdom first, they will get the answer to the "why" that helps them find the 'who."   Thomas makes some interesting observations, like why many girlfriends who are ready to defend their boyfriends before marriage, are more likely to complain and be critical of their husbands after marriage! For guys, the best chance at sexual fulfillment is not the appearance or act but a woman of virtue, who models Christlikeness and noble character. Thomas urges readers to look for "soul mates" rather than mere "sole mates." Rather than looking for one particular person to "complete us," seek to be the most complete biblical wife or husband that the Bible teaches. Far too many people are taking "short cuts" by using the idea of God's will to speedily get to their ideal wife or husband, when what is needed is the hard work of spiritual discernment, testing, and searching themselves whether they are seeking God's Kingdom and Righteousness first and foremost. There is also the danger of putting our marriage search into some kind of a "marriage lottery." Only in wisdom can we learn to discern the sacred search and the reason why we should or should not marry. 

Gary Thomas is no stranger to all things marriage. Known for his bestselling "sacred" titles, like Sacred Path, Sacred Marriage, and Sacred Parenting, Thomas extends his list to include the search for a marriage partner for singles and those contemplating marriage. Despite the many marriage related books and articles Thomas has written, there is still many glittering insights of his wisdom on marriage. Coupled with his ability to weave together ideas with words, stories with persons, and spiritual wisdom with biblical insights, Thomas has again provided readers with a guide on how to think properly on marriage, especially for singles and those yet to be married. A good beginning may not be absolutely essential in any good marriage, but it sure helps. What I appreciate is the way spirituality is discussed with the basic spiritual disciplines of believers. Like the heart that motivates the actions, the spiritual inspiration ignites the desire to make a marriage work. For me, his biggest gem in this book is a reminder to us that people are not things. We can find things like finding a phone to purchase, an idea to implement, a car to own, or a school to attend. Not people. Spouses are not people that we find in order to become perfect matches for us. Instead, a spouse is someone that we make, that we groom, that we encourage to become more like Christ, to seek God's Kingdom and God's Righteousness first. Do not marry because someone has all the aesthetic qualities or exceptional abilities, for they will slow down one day, or their skills will diminish. Neither should we marry someone simply because we show mercy or feel pity for that person, for soon we have to grapple with feeling pity for ourselves. Asking who we should marry is the secondary question. The primary question is "why" do we want to marry, which is a question that is intimately tied to Matthew 6:33. This is the sacred search.

Kudos to Gary Thomas again for an excellent book for singles and for those considering marriage. Pastors, counsellors, teachers, leaders, and even married couples will benefit greatly from reading this book.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by David C. Cook Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Palm Sunday - Mar 24th, 2013

Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey
(Picture Credit:
This Sunday is March 24th, 2013. It is also Palm Sunday. We remember the day Jesus re-entered Jerusalem. We remember the high hopes of the people of Israel welcoming Jesus into their midst. Jesus surprised everyone by riding on a donkey instead of a horse; traveling with ordinary disciples instead of with high-ranking officials; willingly readying himself for a week of suffering instead of a week of celebrating. The people celebrated not knowing what will happen. Jesus began his final week knowing exactly what is going to happen. For Jesus had only one focus: Obeying God and to fulfill God's will.

Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)

Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week, which includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and ends at Resurrection Sunday, also known as Easter. Let us echo with joy, the shouts of the people.

Let us also with solemn remembrance, recognize the great love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Midweek Meditation: "Impracticality of Prayer"

One of the most common scenes of prayer is the "shopping-list" prayer. We ask for this or we ask for that. We beg for these and we plead for those. Prayer meetings are often those that appear to try to meet the needs of fellow people. These are called "survival prayers," prayers that basically treat all of our requests as "our daily bread." Jacques Ellul makes this observation on how our manner of praying has been influenced by a culture of doing and practicality.

"It is in vain that this realistic society is skeptical. It is entirely given over to doing, and to efficiency. The problem now is that we find ourselves a part of this competition of doing, for prayer has long been understood as a means of obtaining results. Doubtless that tendency has its roots in the Bible. Prayer is presented to us as having power over everything which God has power, over demons, over sickness, over other people, over nature. It is a way of acting upon God, and over everything through him. It is power. Remember the episode of the withered fig tree. With that beginning, by reduction, rationalizing and individualizing, we have come up with a power of prayer. We no longer seek through prayer a conformity of our will with God's will, which makes our speech true, hence efficacious. We seek, rather, to achieve direct results, without bothering about the truth or the special will of God, or with our own obedience." (Jacques Ellul, Prayer and the Modern Man, New York, NY: Seabury Press, 1979, p76-77)

How then shall we pray? We pray with an eye on God's will and less on our will. We pray with a desire to see God's kingdom come, not our kingdom come. We pray to seek God first, and the fulfilment of our desires, a distant second. That's what prayer is about.


Monday, March 18, 2013

BookPastor >> "The Great Evangelical Recession" (John S. Dickerson)

This book highlights 6 factors that speak of the impending "evangelical recession" in North America. Ignore this book at one's own peril. The review was first published on January 8th, 2013 at Panorama of a Book Saint here.


TITLE: Great Evangelical Recession, The: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church...and How to Prepare
AUTHOR: John S. Dickerson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013, (256 pages).

The Evangelical Movement in America is not progressing well. In fact, there is a coming Great Evangelical Recession, so says John S. Dickerson. Listing six major factors that many Churches are suffering from, Dickerson paints a grim picture of the struggling Church. It is a Church that is struggling with both internal and external challenges. It is a movement whose strategies are one generation behind. It is a greater problem when leaders continue to remain in denial of what is happening.

In a work that borrows heavily from the Great Recession in the 30s, Dickerson gives us a spiritual version of this and applies it to the Evangelical movement. Borrowing many ideas from the physical effects of the crash, the key idea in the book is that a wise man will see the dangers ahead and make plans to deal with it. Using the next 15 years as a foreseeable future, Dickerson pointedly highlights six factors that can derail the evangelical mainstream.

  1. Inflated: Are we guilty of overestimating the size and the assets of our evangelical churches? Are we complacent about its finances, the number of church goers, and bloated structures? Are churches that are growing doing so at the expense of other churches? Are we losing our influence?
  2. Bankrupt: Our budgets are falling rapidly. The danger is that churches may use fund-raising tactics from the previous generation and apply it wholesale to the new generation. Seemingly invincible institutions from the past are now struggling, like Crystal Cathedral, D James Kennedy's Center for Redeeming America, and seminaries are losing ground. This is aggravated by dichotomous worldviews that divide the Church into paid vs unpaid staff; secular vs sacred calling; pastoral vs laypersons; sending vs goers; and so on. What is most troubling is that for the younger generation, not only are there lesser people who are giving, their giving is also lesser than the previous generation.
  3. Hated: The evangelical world and its proponents are increasingly despised. People are flocking to other religions more and to traditional churches less. Evangelicals are viewed less favourably than before. Often, people are more willing to criticize the Church. The culture is increasingly more intolerant of anyone speaking out against homosexuality and loose sexuality. 
  4. Dividing: The Church is not as united as thought. There is a battle line drawn to distinguish the political right and the left. Gregory Boyd, pastor of one MegaChurch saw his Church dwindle by 1000 members after he preached against Republican politics, despite his personal declaration of loyalty to America. What is worrying is that this example is just a precursor to something worse for the rest of evangelicalism. Instead, there is a growing segment of social justice proponents, against the pool that are staunchly political right. The problem is that this two different emphases are splitting the Church, despite merits on both sides.
  5. Bleeding: Like the leaves of an old tree, evangelicalism is losing its limbs and branches in alarming proportions. Two factors are accelerating this bleeding. One is external, the growing persecution by the world outside, and the other is internal, the growing discontent and unhappiness from within. There is the lost generation who refuses to follow their parents' tradition. There are the disillusioned singles or divorced. There is the problem of disciple-making that is out of step with the changing culture around. 
  6. Sputtering: Like an old car, the engines of the church are deteriorating. The Church has failed to measure up well to the important measure of Church health: Making NEW disciples. While evangelicalism is shrinking, secularism is soaring.
What is most troubling is that the leaders of evangelical churches are oblivious to the culture that is growing increasingly antagonistic to whatever the evangelical front puts up. Technologies are gaining prominence. Old regimes around the world are loosing their footholds. Change is becoming more rapid and its effects are more pervasive. Just like the Great Recession has cost many people their stocks, their pensions, their jobs, and their homes, the Spiritual Recession may cost us our resources, our financial situation, our membership base, and our churches. Worse, leaders who shrug, ignore, laugh at, or adopt some kind of a denial, are not only doing themselves a disfavour, they are risking the future of the Church. The key advice is this: Ignore these warnings at our own peril. Radical changes need to be made if we are to learn and adapt well for the next 15 years and beyond.

Thankfully, there is hope in six recovery propositions.

  1. Re-Valuing: Timely action is critical. Be humble and recognize the symptoms of the problem. Be nimble, be prayerful, and to revalue ourselves on the basis of being available for the work of the Holy Spirit in a new era. 
  2. Solvent: Learning from the fossil fuel crisis, ministries need alternative fuels. Four practical alternatives are offered. First, a hybrid kind of ministry that comprises both paid and unpaid volunteers. Second, be extremely conservative when incurring debt. Third, prepare people to give well, and to teach on giving. Four, to teach the Church on what it means to surrender and to live a life of abandonment for God.
  3. Good: In a culture hostile to Christianity, how then do we conduct ourselves? Instead of waiting passively for things to happen, we are to intentionally and proactively reach out to the needy. Moreover, many prominent and proming students at top Universities are growing anti-Christian and ever ready to dismiss any Christian claims that are contradictory to their deeply held beliefs. The example of Christopher Yuan, whose very position of maintaining traditional marriage, immediately unleashes all kinds of accusations of him being antigay, a bigot, and an intolerant individual. The point is that Christians are not to be easily discouraged by the overwhelming opposition. Instead, respond to all manner of evil with good and good works.
  4. Uniting: Unity is always in Christ, in worship of the King, and in proclaiming the Gospel. Strong, courageous leaders are needed to lead the way, to focus on the core essentials of faith, to be united in the common foundation of Scripture, and to be gracious when it comes to things peripheral to the faith. The more diverse we are, the greater the call for unity.
  5. Healing: This part is revealing. In churches where young people are leaving in droves, church leaders often try to mitigate the outflow by putting out attractive programs and putting up with some of the young people's preferences and desires. Such reactions are only limited steps. What is needed is far more, that churches must instill in themselves a culture of making disciples. Shepherding, discipling, and relating, all of these are part and parcel of what it means to disciple one another. Authentic, relational discipleship is key to healing. We cannot disciple our children until we disciple their parents. We cannot disciple their parents until we disciple their leaders. Leaders cannot be discipled unless we are disciples ourselves. This means individual discipling efforts. Public discipleship stems from private spirituality with God, both both informs each other.  Spiritual leaders are called to do three things. Love God. Love God's Word. Love God's people.
  6. Re-Igniting: This is about evangelism and to reignite the fervour that has first brought the previous generation to Christ. Adopting the "Long Tail" strategy, churches need to move away from a one-hit wonder to a multiple touch strategy. A whopping 79% of new people in Church are there because a friend has first invited them. Attractive programs or fanfare comprise the rest. 

My Thoughts

Most of us have heard of the Great Recession in the 30s. While some will see economic recession as times of opportunities, there are also others who suffer from emotional setbacks such as depression, despair, and discouragement.  Ronald Reagan has famously said that if our neighbours lose their jobs, it is a recession, and if we lose ours, it is a depression. This book is written more as a wake-up call rather than a doomsday prediction. Using examples from the world's economic and business front, Dickerson highlights how the most successful businesses and the most powerful figures in society, can succumb to the elements of recession, especially when they are ill-prepared for them. Sometimes, our present successes can blind us from factors that lead to future failures. At the same time, we may be overly busy with our short term present commitments that we fail to pay sufficient attention to critical matters for the longer term.

For the evangelical world, it needs to either evolve and adapt to change, or dissolve and sees its influence declines. Yet, for all the language it uses, this book is not a depressing book, but a wake-up call to the church sleepy in its status-quo. Hope comes when one recognizes the six potholes and then makes plans to do something about them.

Another interesting observations that Dickerson makes is that "distance often brings perspective." Indeed, for all our good intentions, and our good works, when we become too short-sighted, exchanging the importance of the long-term commitments for short-term conveniences. It requires us to take a step back, to reflect, and to put perspective back to what we are doing, asking ourselves the why and the purpose of the what. I admit that I feel a little discouraged at the first part of the book, with the doomsday scenario at nearly every page I turn. Fortunately, after the storm, there are rays of hope as the six factors for recovery come afresh with glimpses of a turn for the better. The author has hit all the right notes and played the right chords. What is needed now is for the spiritual orchestra to wake up from its slumber, and to practice the music score of discipleship and Gospel centeredness. As the Church becomes more open to change, and the young becomes more receptive of the Church, and when discipleship becomes a way of life, may we see instead a new Great Evangelical Awakening.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Baler Books and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Knowing the Chinese Family Tree

Those of us who live in the West, or tend to use generic names, this video reminds us about how the Chinese give each family relation a specific name or title. Come to think of it, even though in some way it is complicated, it gives the family an added gist of affirmation for who they are and where they are in the family. Just knowing the name automatically identifies us where we are. For example, in English, when we use the word "brother," how do we know whether it is an elder brother, younger brother, an in-law, or a brother of another family member? This is where the Chinese family tree shines with pride. Watch the video below.

Here is the Cantonese version.

Complicated? Not really. If we do not know where we are in the family, that's even more complicated.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Midweek Meditation: "Jesus Today"

For this week, take the time to be refreshed and renewed in the promises of God. Here are snippets from Sarah Young's book, "Jesus Today." Let the music and the words of Scripture point your attention away from self-centered troubles, toward a Christ-centered disposition.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Creativity and Time

I came across this video clip today that demonstrates the link between creativity and time. Granted that we live in a fast-paced world, often, we demand results according to what we want, and in the process miss out on the beauty of play, of creativity, and of enjoying the process of putting our imagination to work. The trouble is, we have become way too impatient to allow the free flow of ideas. We are too stingy with time, especially when it comes to demanding quick results from others. Look at the video here and let it be a reminder that if we want creativity, give it time. If we just want mere monotonous offerings, go ahead and let time be the pressure cooker. Perhaps, one reason why many people hate getting up for work each morning is because they are constantly being rushed and pushed beyond what they are naturally capable of. The good things in life are like gardening. We give time for seeding, for watering, for tending the ground, and for patterns of sunshine and rain. We cannot force growth. Neither can we pressure it. We can only wait, take care, and trust that one day, it will blossom into its natural beauty.


Monday, March 11, 2013

BookPastor >> "Show Me How to Share Christ in the Workplace" (R. Larry Moyers)

Is there a way to share Christ when in the office? Should we not mix religion and office work? This book brings some creative ideas on how to share Christ sensitively and appropriately in the workplace. This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on December 11th, 2012.
TITLE: Show Me How to Share Christ in the Workplace (Show Me How Series)
AUTHOR: R. Larry Moyer
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2012, (192 pages).

Your presence in your workplace is not just a job, it's a ministry! So says the author of this book. Workplace ministry has been quite a popular topic in evangelical circles for quite a while already. Many seminaries are providing courses to equip students and ministry workers on how to actively live out our faith in the workplace. After all, if a person is only in Church once a Sunday, and at work for most of the other days of the week, the workplace is certainly a major opportunity for influencing others for God. Churches hold regular talks about the importance of evangelism and mission not just in social circles or in Christian events, but right inside our secular domains of work and business. In our increasingly secular West, and sometimes hostile anti-religious environment, the challenge is two-fold. First, how do we get past the initial hostility. Second, even if we can get the opposition forces to lower their resistances, what then do we do with the opportunity to share Christ? Step by step, R. Larry Moyer, a gifted evangelist and founder of EvanTell ministries does not simply tell us what to do. He shows readers the way to do it. With clear steps and concrete ideas, he declares that the workplace is the ministry, and the everyday worker who calls himself a Christian is to see that place as his full-time ministry and a calling to be the witness there. The whole book is based on seven systematic purposes for learning. For practice, it can be mixed and matched.

The first stage is Prayer. We pray for opportunities to share. We pray for boldness to speak. We pray for success, safety, and salvation. Before we can really talk to people about God, we need to talk to God about the people. We can discover the doors of opportunity. In regular prayer groups and Bible studies, one can create a consistent presence. Of course, any of these activities require an active application for approval by authorities. Even if one cannot hold the prayer meeting in the workplace, there is no law that bars one from holding a small gathering in a place elsewhere, like public park, etc.

The second stage is Lifestyle in the workplace, and in how we live. Through our behaviour and lifestyle, we are demonstrating Christlikeness to others around us. Be competent. Be consistently ethical. Be self-controlled.

The third stage is in our Speaking. If our speech be seasoned with grace, and flavoured with saltiness, we can win hearts and gain opportunities to share Christ.

The fourth stage is in knowing some basic truths of the Christian faith. What is truth? What is sin? Here, there is a need to be clear about our own faith, as well as knowing how to ask questions and to respond to the questions others may pose.

The fifth stage is Testimony time, where one needs to be prepared with one's life story of conversion. Three major areas often trigger interest. People like to hear about one's spiritual perspectives of family, job, and our own backgrounds. We move from the secular to the spiritual; from the spiritual to the gospel; from the gospel to the presentation of the Person of Christ. One effective method is the bad news/good news approach to enable people to understand the difference between the two.

The sixth stage is to use Public Speaking Opportunities. Learning to communicate well and clear is crucial.  Moyer gives some really good speaking tips here. Tips like learning to base our sharing on one big idea, to learn to speak and not preach, to be brief, to be clear, and to know when to stop. Practice is key.

Finally, Moyer shares some resources to equip readers on where to go from here. Learning is an ongoing process. From books to seminars, from speaking to learning from experience, there is a lot of ground we can cover when we take our own initiative.

My Thoughts

With a book like this, no one can give any excuse about not knowing what to do about workplace ministry. The steps are all clearly laid out and are easy to follow. The stages mentioned in the book are there for a guide, and not meant to be legalistically adhered to. After all, every workplace is different. Every individual has different gifts. Every opportunity presents itself quite differently each time. That is why being prayerful is one of the biggest ways we can equip ourselves with God as our Wise Guide. R. Larry Moyer has given the Christian community a great tool to use. He summarizes each chapter well by reminding readers the key points mentioned. Moyer himself is a good communicator. Many books are heavy in the theological aspects of workplace ministry. Others are too fluffy in terms of how best to share the gospel. Some others have many ideas but are not sharp enough to hit a big point home. This book is a good balance. It gives us the biblical basis for sharing, prepares us to equip ourselves first in God's strength and wisdom. Then it shows us how. The next step is obedience. If readers want to maximize the learning from this book, one needs to put the steps straightaway into practice. If the book can get you praying right away, it is already worth the price of the book.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Kregel Publications without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Children Learn What They Live

This is a nice reminder of how children can be easily influenced.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

(Dorothy Law Nolte)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Midweek Meditation: "Mark 4:38"

One of the key Greek teachers that I have learned from is from Dr Bill Mounce, whose texbook on learning biblical Greek has been used in many seminaries. During my Greek classes, there will be a short application of a Greek passage, where the nuances of the language are highlighted, making our commonly used English translations less accurate when we have the original text at hand. Remember again that every translation in itself is an interpretation. This week, Mounce shared on Mark 4:38 which reads differently among various translations.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" (Mark 4:38, NIV)
But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38, ESV)
Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, "Teacher, don't you care that we're going to drown?" (Mark 4:38, NLT)
These translations raise a problem. Are the disciples already drowning, or are they simply worrying about drowning? The NIV basically inserts the word 'if' that suggests a possibility of drowning. It looks analytical. The ESV is a better translation but falls short of the drama of drowning. The NLT also does not escalate the actual fear as well as the original Greek. Mounce observes that there is a blatant absence of the Greek word εἰ (“if ”) in the original text.

 Mounce writes:

That makes sense, until you start looking at the Greek and the other translations. Word for word, the disciples say, “Teacher (διδάσκαλε), is it not a concern to yo (οὐ μέλει σοι) that we are perishing (ὅτι ἀπολλύμεθα;)? It is the present tense ἀπολλύμεθα and the absence of εἰ (“if”) that caught my eye. (link)

The word "perishing" is in the present continuous, which means the disciples were actually in the process of drowning, highlighting the urgency of their cries to Jesus. This is a significant with regards to those of us struggling through life. It tells us that Jesus is smack at the center with us, in the midst of our struggles through this life. We are not alone. For God is with us, not in terms of a distant promise, but a near reality. God can be trusted.


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Touching Story of Appreciation

This story is widely available on the Internet. I am not sure of the original source, since it has been posted so many times on social media. Let me know if you have the author's name, and I will add credit accordingly. This story touches on how a prospective candidate was hired, not on the basis of his achievements or qualifications, but on the basis of something much more personal and simple.


One young man went to apply for a managerial position in a big company. He passed the initial interview, and now would meet the director for the final interview.

The director discovered from his CV that the youth's academic achievements were excellent. He asked, "Did you obtain any scholarships in school?" the youth answered "no".

" Was it your father who paid for your school fees?"

"My father passed away when I was one year old, it was my mother who paid for my school fees.” he replied.

" Where did your mother work?"

"My mother worked as clothes cleaner.”

The director requested the youth to show his hands. The youth showed a pair of hands that were smooth and perfect.

" Have you ever helped your mother wash the clothes before?"

"Never, my mother always wanted me to study and read more books. Besides, my mother can wash clothes faster than me."

The director said, "I have a request. When you go home today, go and clean your mother's hands, and then see me tomorrow morning.

The youth felt that his chance of landing the job was high. When he went back home, he asked his mother to let him clean her hands. His mother felt strange, happy but with mixed feelings, she showed her hands to her son.

The youth cleaned his mother's hands slowly. His tear fell as he did that. It was the first time he noticed that his mother's hands were so wrinkled, and there were so many bruises in her hands. Some bruises were so painful that his mother winced when he touched it.

This was the first time the youth realized that it was this pair of hands that washed the clothes everyday to enable him to pay the school fees. The bruises in the mother's hands were the price that the mother had to pay for his education, his school activities and his future.

After cleaning his mother hands, the youth quietly washed all the remaining clothes for his mother.
That night, mother and son talked for a very long time.

Next morning, the youth went to the director's office. The Director noticed the tears in the youth's eyes, when he asked: "Can you tell me what have you done and learned yesterday in your house?"

The youth answered," I cleaned my mother's hand, and also finished cleaning all the remaining clothes'
“I know now what appreciation is. Without my mother, I would not be who I am today. By helping my mother, only now do I realize how difficult and tough it is to get something done on your own. And I have come to appreciate the importance and value of helping one’s family.

The director said, "This is what I am looking for in a manager. I want to recruit a person who can appreciate the help of others, a person who knows the sufferings of others to get things done, and a person who would not put money as his only goal in life.”

“You are hired.”

This young person worked very hard, and received the respect of his subordinates. Every employee worked diligently and worked as a team. The company's performance improved tremendously.

A child, who has been protected and habitually given whatever he wanted, would develop an "entitlement mentality" and would always put himself first. He would be ignorant of his parent's efforts. When he starts work, he assumes that every person must listen to him, and when he becomes a manager, he would never know the sufferings of his employees and would always blame others. For this kind of people, who may be good academically, they may be successful for a while, but eventually they would not feel a sense of achievement. They will grumble and be full of hatred and fight for more. If we are this kind of protective parents, are we really showing love or are we destroying our children instead?

You can let your child live in a big house, eat a good meal, learn piano, watch on a big screen TV. But when you are cutting grass, please let them experience it. After a meal, let them wash their plates and bowls together with their brothers and sisters. It is not because you do not have money to hire a maid, but it is because you want to love them in a right way. You want them to understand, no matter how rich their parents are, one day their hair will grow gray, same as the mother of that young person. The most important thing is your child learns how to appreciate the effort and experience the difficulty and learns the ability to work with others to get things done.



Monday, March 04, 2013

BookPastor >> "Everyday Greatness" (Stephen R. Covey)

TITLE:  Everyday Greatness: Inspiration for a Meaningful Life
AUTHOR: Stephen R. Covey, with articles compiled by David K. Hatch
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 2009, (464 pages).

Three everyday choices help us make our day and shape our lives. Firstly, there is the choice to act rather than to be acted upon. Secondly, it is the choice to be purposeful in what we do rather than to be tossed and turned by the waves of activities. Thirdly, it is the choice for contending for principles. This book attempts to accomplish all three and that readers will learn to do the same. While the commentary and some insights are from the late Covey, the compilation of stories and quips are done by Hatch, a consultant in leadership and organizational matters. In the style of the Seven Habits that Covey has introduced to the world, 'Everyday Greatness' is about the Seven Choices that individuals can make in order to be inspired toward everyday greatness. The choice to:
  1. Search for meaning through giving via contribution, through sharing in charity, and through paying attention.
  2. Take charge by taking responsibility, be courageous, and to be disciplined
  3. Change oneself from the inside out, through integrity, humility, and gratitude
  4. Create the dream through vision, innovation, and quality work
  5. Work as a team, through respect, empathy, and unity.
  6. Overcome adversity by learning adaptability, magnanimity, and perseverance
  7. Blending the pieces of balance, simplicity, and renewal.
The stories are compelling. The ideas are challenging. The many different kinds of stories of different lengths ensure that at least one or two can touch most readers. Even the short quips and quotes from various people can cause one to pause and to reflect on life and the choices we can make. We are what we choose. That is the mantra throughout the book. I find myself coming back to this book time and again in my writing and my speaking. It is inspiring and thought-provoking, challenging and yet non-assuming. It brings out the best of people and is a powerful resource to help move the uninspired to being inspired, the motivated to motivate others, and the desire to be the best that one can be.  Some of Covey's insights show us again how powerful they are.

  • "We may feel we have nothing to contribute. But the lessons of history are full of examples of the power that can come from the daily choices of a solitary individual." (20)
  • "Core to the principle of charity is the principle of sacrifice. Sacrifice involves giving up something of personal value in exchange for something that is of benefit to others......" (30)
  • "Charity is more than giving money to the poor. It is the giving of our hearts, time, talents, and energies to lighten the lives of others, rich or poor." (37)
  • "Of course the highest form of giving attention is to accept and love a person for who they are." (57)
  • "When problems arise, the easy route is to play the blame game or make excuses. But the most successful people avoid scapegoating, choosing instead to accept responsibility when the responsibility is theirs to own." (77)
  • "Happiness in life comes from the inside. It does us little good to sit back and wait for it to come from outside sources." (78)
  • "The largest opponent to courage is fear - fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of others. Successful people acknowledge fears, but work to conquer them." (98)
  • "Integrity includes consistency and an unwavering adherence to values and beliefs." (136)
  • "Though humility is not a tangible commodity, we know it when we see it and feel it when we hear it." (158)
  • "Vision helps us see the possibilities of tomorrow within the realities of today, and motivates us to do what needs to be done." (196)
  • "Creative people make the pursuit of knowledge a priority. They study the important questions of life, and compile a reservoir of knowledge for instant access." (216)
  • "Exploration is at the root of innovation. Serendipity is the unintended consequences, the happy surprises, or the synergistic blossoms that occasionally arise from exploration." (219)
  • "When we treat people with respect, we help them gain confidence and reveal inner potential that otherwise might go untapped." (261)
  • "Adversity often brings out the true spirit and character within people and leads them to make the noblest of choices." (322)
  • Busy Signals: "Life travels at a pace so fast that too many people end up bypassing that which matters most." (383)
  • Simplicity: "To get the most out of our life we may need to get some things out of our life." (402)
  • "Keeping life simple requires letting go of old baggage and things that are of no lasting value." (403)
  • "People who want to enjoy life over the long term must learn to tame their schedules and pace themselves." (423)
  • "Often nature and life's little detours bring fresh air and a renewal of energy in ways no other activity can." (426)
The book concludes with six suggestions.
  1. Begin with yourself
  2. Start Broad, then Focus
  3. Establish specific, realistic targets
  4. Start small, but get started
  5. Share with others
  6. Be patient

I find this book exceptional not only because of the touching stories and moving quotes. The commentary by Covey itself is worth the price of the book. The way I will use this book is to read slowly and reflectively. There is no reason to try to finish the book from cover to cover. Savour it when you need to. Read it when you have to. Buy it not just because you need it or may need it, but because you like to bless another person.


Saturday, March 02, 2013

"The Bible" Miniseries on TV

Here is the publicity newsletter I received this morning. It begins March 3rd, 2013 and the last episode on Easter Sunday March 31st. Tune in to HISTORY channel.

For two hours every Sunday night for five weeks, from March 3rd through Easter Sunday on March 31st, The History Channel will be airing the epic Bible miniseries produced by Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Voice, The Apprentice) and Roma Downey (Touched By An Angel). Imagine what will happen when 1 million Christians invite their friends, family and neighbors over to watch the Bible come to life like never before? You can make a difference in the lives of your friends, family, community and our country by sharing the story of Jesus and the redemptive message of the Bible in this powerful way! (
Here are some links to more resources.

You can see an episode guide in my previous blog article here.

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Summons

This is one of my favourite hymns. The melody is a Scottish traditional Kelvingrove, with words by John Bell and Graham Maule. It is a popular song used within the Iona Community. You can download the music score here.


  1. Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
    Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
    Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
    Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

  2. Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
    Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
    Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
    Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

  3. Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
    Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
    Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
    and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

  4. Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
    Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
    Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
    through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

  5. Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
    Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
    In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
    Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

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