Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Midweek Meditation: Corporation vs Family

How do we run the Church? George Ritzer in the McDonaldization of the Church talks about four aspects of how the Church has become like the fast food chain. Efficiency; Calculability; Predictability; and Control. Daniel J. Bennett compares the differences between a corporation and a family as follows (emphases mine).

  • A corporation sacrifices an individual for the common good.
    A family sacrifices for the good of the individual. 

  • Membership in a corporation is voluntary and temporary.
    Membership in a family is mandatory and permanent.

  • Relationships in a corporation are based upon mutual benefit.
    Relationships within a family are based upon sacrificial love.
  • The leader of a corporation is a CEO.
    The leader of a family is a shepherd.  

(Daniel J. Bennett, A Passion for the Fatherless, Kregel Publications, 2014, p150)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lo-Hei (Christian version)

As the Chinese New Year of the Goat progresses, I know many Chinese people are continuing the tradition of Lo-Hei, especially in the countries of Singapore and Malaysia. Almost everyday, over a gathering of a meal, people would happily come together to mix a dish with raw fish, vegetables, crackers, and other colourful flavours. Traditionally, there is a purpose behind each ingredient. Experienced servers and waiters would know what that mean. For Christians, here is a version which may come useful. I got it from a friend and thought it can be useful for anyone of you interested.


Red envelope which contains pepper

"Praise the Lord, for peppering us with His loving grace and truth." (John 1:17)

Green envelope which contains five-spice powder

"Praise the Lord, for accepting our labour as a fragrant offering to His plan." (Romans 12:1)


"Praise the Lord, for the grace of God to be fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)


"Praise the Lord, for anointing us with the oil of joy." (Psalm 45:7)

Plum Sauce

"Praise the Lord, for the sweetness of His Word... sweeter than honey to my mouth." (Psalm 119:103)


"Praise the Lord, for the street of pure gold that you have prepared for us to live in eternity." (Revelations 21:21)

Blessing Verses as we toss the raw fish -yu sheng
May our loved ones come to the saving knowledge of Christ
May God grant us unity as a body of Christ
May the Lord's favour go before and with us
May there be peace and harmony in our families
May God keep our marriages strong
May the Lord lift up His countenance on us
May the Lord grant us victory each day
May God send revival to our land
May there be a powerful outpouring of His spirit on our nation
May the Lord's hand be with us
May the Lord bless us each day in our coming in and going out
May God protect us and keep us safe under His wings
The Lord's provision is more than enough
May we continue to grow in faith
May God grant us wisdom and understanding
May we grow deeper in love with Jesus
May we fear God always
May the Lord bless us with opportunities and boldness to share the gospel!

Blessed Lunar New Year !


Monday, February 23, 2015

BookPastor >> "Alone Together" (Sherry Turkle)

TITLE: Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other
AUTHOR: Sherry Turkle
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Basic Books, 2011, (360 pages).

This book underlines Sherry Turkle's concern about how the tools we use are shaping us. In trying to understand the way young people think, the author over several weeks organized pizza parties in the Boston area so that she could tell stories of how people were living in the virtual world. She witnesses a changing understanding of identity. She explores the consequences of a totally networked life and the evolution of robotics. So over 15 years, Turkle notices first hand how technology has shaped, shaken, and seduced the nature of relationships among friends, family, parents, children, lovers, and so on. We can be free to work anywhere but we can also be lonely everywhere. She asserts that machines are no longer about their capabilities but about our vulnerabilities. Texting is preferred to talking. Multitasking has become the norm. People are connected but loneliness continues unabated. Machines can do many things for us, but for Turkle, the straw came when a Scientific American reporter was so convicted that the day would come where a machine will become a man's best friend. As she describes the reasons why people expect more from technology and less from each other, she maintains a quest not only to ask why but also to propose a path forward.

Written in two parts, Part One talks about the growing "Robotic Movement" which is increasing more solitude and also creating new intimacies with machines. From young, children were given toys that seem to project a cuddly and personal object, like Furby that seems to have feelings. The Tamagotchi appears like a real thing that we need to clothe, feed, and take care of. Virtual pets take a lot of time to maintain. There are also discomforting toys like female dolls that seem to verbalize reactions like a real woman, especially when it deals with sexual matters. Some people use electronic toys to live with their self-centeredness. Parents let their children return each day to an empty house where the babysitter is often the television, computer games, or the Internet. Responding to people who insist that friendship is possible with robots, Turkle argues that such a tactic demeans the true meaning of friendship. No matter how much programming we can do, there is no replacing conscience, ethics, and the fundamental communion among people.

Part Two deals with the networked environment which solves the problem of bringing people closer but also creates a new situation. People are constantly connected and always busy. In an always-on world, what do we do when we have free time? We will probably be checking our emails, texting, or doing something on the Internet. We can be connected but we can be absent at the same time. Put the phone on the ear and we have already isolated ourselves from the people around us physically. The way programs like "Second Life" enables people to live in a fantasy world totally separated from the world. Turkle notes the following "New State of the Self," how technology has changed us:
  • People's attention seems somewhere when they are connected in front of us
  • People can be connected to many others on the Internet, that they are infusing face to face meetings with interruptions from cyberspace
  • People are increasingly using multitasking as the way of life to do many things; that relationships can easily turn into an item on a To-Do list
People are growing up tethered as their lives are more and more public knowledge. The search for identity gets confused as people are "forced" to post personal details just because it is the norm. What is true on social media? Is the avatar used an appropriate representation of self? Apologies on Facebook do not count for much because real confessions need to be in person. There is the anxiety over strangers making comments on our walls and the threat of breaches of privacy.

Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT. She has been warning us of the negative consequences of technology but does so in a manner that does not discredit the advantages of technology. In fact, she uses it extensively too. What is important is to recognize that Internet relationships are not necessary the "ties that bind." Rather, they tend to be "ties that preoccupy." We need to ask what Kevin Kelly has been asking: "What Technology Wants?" Chances are, technology is going to get what it wants. Technology is still developing, and Turkle thinks it is still the early days. The mood to adopt is "cautiously optimistic." She reminds us once again that at our best, our thoughts about technology should not be about what technology can or cannot do, but about thinking of things that TRULY MATTER. Relationships. How technology is changing that, we must constantly ask and adapt.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

One Facebook Post (A Positive Experience)

This is a heartwarming story that tugs at the heart. It shows how one Facebook post can change a young kid's life. It began with a mother feeling devastated a her autistic son who invited his classmates for his birthday party but none showed up. She poured out her grievances on Facebook and before long, the town took notice. Watch this clip and be inspired. This is one use of social media that truly brought about a positive feeling about humanity.


Friday, February 20, 2015

The Problem with Reading Screens Before Bedtime

Here is a warning. If you are regularly checking your emails and reading on digital screens before bedtime, remember that it is important for sleep. I enclose three links for your reading pleasure, hopefully not within 1 hour before bedtime.

Link 1 - "Reading On A Screen Before Bed Might Be Killing You" (Huffington Post)

Link 2 - "We’re All Doomed: Using Your Smartphone Before Bed Can Cause Cellphone ‘Hangover’" (Time)

Link 3 - "This is what happens to your brain and body when you check your phone before bed" (Business Insider)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Midweek Meditation: EHC Principle 6 of 6

In Peter Scazzero's "The Emotionally Healthy Church," the sixth principle to cultivate emotional health is to learn to "Make Incarnation Your Model For Loving Well." It means learning to follow three dynamics of incarnation: entering another's world, holding on to yourself without losing yourself, hanging between the two worlds.

"Prior to his death, Roman Catholic priest Henri Nouwen articulated, I believe, the struggle for many of us who are responsible to lead and serve in God's church. One voice says to succeed and achieve. He taught at Notre Dame, Harvard, and Yale. He averaged writing more than a book a year. His speaking schedule and ministry constantly threatened to suffocate his suffering life. The other voice was God's, telling him he was unconditionally loved. He had nothing to prove. This voice told him the goal of ministry was to recognize the Lord's voice, his face, and his touch in every person he met. Only in the last ten years of his life, he said, did he truly listen to that second voice. With that ever-increasing demands on our busy lives, it is very difficult to hear that second voice." (Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church, Zondervan, 2003, p177)

"Jesus listened; He was present, never in a rush or distracted.
" (p181)

#5 - MAKE INCARNATION YOUR MODEL FOR LOVING WELL (1-Very / 2-Sometimes / 3-Not Sure / 4-Never)
  1. I can regularly enter the lives of another person's world to connect with how they feel. (  )
  2. People say that I am a responsive listener. (  )
  3. I have a healthy sense of self and am in touch with my feelings. (  )
  4. I can form deep relationships with people from all walks of life. (  )
  5. I rarely judge others and often play the role of peacemaker. (  )
  6. People know me as one who can suffer with those who suffer and rejoice with those who rejoice. (  )
  7. I accept myself the way I am. (  )
Note that the lower your score, the better you are able to relate with others, self, and God.


Monday, February 16, 2015

BookPastor >> "Flickering Pixels" (Shane Hipps)

TITLE: Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith
AUTHOR: Shane Hipps
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009, (210 pages).

Christianity is fundamentally a communication event, so says Shane Hipps, lead pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church. In writing this book, the author shares about how Marshall McLuhan's work on media affecting our brains ended up influencing him on the way technology works. More crucially, with this renewed insight, he is now a champion in helping people to be users of technology, and not to be used by technology.  He reminds readers that they need to keep both eyes open rather than letting one of our eyes be replaced by technology. This is especially when wisdom and discernment are concerned. He believes that BOTH the message and the method of transmission are important. Tools are not necessarily neutral because the medium changes according to the message and vice versa. Even screens themselves are part of the message. For technology can take on a life of its own and the rest of us users with it, just like the Matrix movie where the mirror that becomes a window to another world becomes another world by itself. The many different communications devices and mediums have created what Hipps call a "Global Village." He uses the mirror very effectively to show us that mirrors or tools are mere extensions of ourselves. We cannot like Narcissus who becomes infatuated with self-love. Unlike most interpreters who see the story as excessive self-love, McLuhan points out that the issue was the lack of recognizing the self.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Midweek Meditation: EHC Principal 5 of 6

In Peter Scazzero's "The Emotionally Healthy Church," the fifth principle to cultivate emotional health is to learn to embrace grieving and loss. It means learning to be compassionate, to grow through pain and mature through suffering.

"Forgiveness is not a quick process. I do not believe it is possible to truly forgive another person from the heart until we allow ourselves to feel the pain of what was lost. People who say it is simply an act of the will do not understand grieving." (Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church, Zondervan, 2003, p157)

"Many of us have taken on our culture's pain-denying view of grieving. Perhaps the most popular way in our culture of not paying attention to our losses and pain is by medicating ourselves through an addiction. People use work, TV, drugs, alcohol, shopping or food binges, busyness, sexual escapades, unhealthy relational attachments, even serving others at church incessantly - anything to medicate the pain of life.
" (p161)

#5 - EMBRACE GRIEVING AND LOSS (1-Very / 2-Sometimes / 3-Not Sure / 4-Never)
  1. I readily admit my losses and disappointments. (  )
  2. I usually reflect on what's wrong rather than pretend nothing is wrong. (  )
  3. I take my time to grieve, just like David and Jesus. (  )
  4. People in pain willingly come to me to share of their pain. (  )
  5. I am able to cry and experience depression or sadness, explore the reasons behind it, and allow God to work through me. (  )
  6. I regularly refrain from giving quick answers or solutions. (  )
  7. I accept death and suffering as a part of life rather than questioning why all the time. (  )
Note that the lower your score, the better you are able to honestly deal with grief and loss.


Monday, February 09, 2015

BookPastor >> "The Evangelism Study Bible"

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: The Evangelism Study Bible
AUTHOR/EDITOR: Larry Moyers, the EvanTell Ministry, and translators of the NKJV
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2014, (1564 pages).

Christians are bearers of the gospel. Called to bring the good news to the ends of the earth, they need to be equipped to make disciples of all nations. Through the Holy Spirit, the Early Church was able to proclaim the message of salvation to both Jews and Gentiles despite the persecutions and oppositions that beset them. The commission that is given to them is the same for us now. What do we share? How do we reach out? What does the Bible say about evangelism? How can one remain connected to the Vine and stretch out to the outermost parts of society? This Evangelism Study Bible seeks to stand in the gap, to equip believers with the necessary tools as well as to anchor them on the Word of God proper.

Based on the New King James version, Larry Moyers and his EvanTell ministry have put together more than 2600 study notes, tips, reflections,  devotional material, plus practical tools to help believers with the often challenging art of evangelism. There articles that accompany 62 books of the Bible. The four that were left out are Obadiah, Zephaniah, Philemon, and the third letter of John. Still, there are more than enough devotional materials to go around to provide a "starting torque" in conversational and practical evangelism. The scope of the study materials is wide-ranging. It covers broad spreads of theological thought. There are teachings about the doctrines of sin and man (harmatiology).  Other doctrines include Christology, soteriology, pneumatology, eschatology, ecclesiology, and many more. There are apologetics type of questions to deal with the common objections such as violence in Old Testament; why people see God as cruel; dealing with opposition; dealing with roadblocks like people trying to hinder the gospel; and many more. The material is prepared in such a way that there is a wide outreach not only to people in Church but those not attending any Church; Both Christians as well as non-Christians needed to be reached. The advice is crisp and concise. Instructions are laid out in point form. In fact, many of the study aids can become devotional material as well. Readers are reminded that evangelism is not simply an activity externally driven. It requires inner transformation too. After all, reached people will reach people. People trying to share Christ must first experience Christ for themselves.

Reading through the Bible, this Evangelism Study Bible looks like a well-thumbed copy of Moyers's personal study Bible. The notes are inspired from the Bible passages and the publisher has kindly placed them side by side, or close to the passage concerned. There are many attempts to bridge Old Testament contexts with modern understanding. The Book of Leviticus, with its many rituals and laws, is seen with the eyes of purity. The application: learning to set high standards of purity for us. There is an article about marriage to accompany the Song of Songs.We learn about leadership in Nehemiah, fear of God in Proverbs, learning from the prophets on how they witness to their people, and how the early disciples use the Old Testament prophecies to spread the good news. In the New Testament chapters, we notice the increasing involvement of the Church in evangelism. That is good theology.

I enjoyed the evangelistic stimulation not just mentally but also practically. Most of all, it gives a "can-do" perspective especially for those who feels inadequate or fearful of sharing the gospel. Even if the articles do not inspire people, just reading the Word of God alone would. This is one study bible that I am not only excited about, but ready to endorse it wholeheartedly. For the kingdom of God.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Kregel Academic in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Midweek Meditation: EHC Principle 4 of 6

In Peter Scazzero's "The Emotionally Healthy Church," the fourth principle to cultivate emotional health is to receive the gift of limits. It means being realistic about one's humanness and limitations.

"Emotionally healthy people understand the limits God has given them. They joyfully receive the one, two, seven, or ten talents God has so graciously distributed. As a result, they are not frenzied and covetous, trying to live a life God never intended. They are marked by contentment and joy." (Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church, Zondervan, 2003, p132)

"No two lives are the same. We often compare our lives with the lives of others, trying to decide whether we are better or worse off, but such comparisons do not help us much. We have to live our life, not someone else's. We have to hold our own cup. We have to dare to say: 'This is my life, the life that is given to me, and it is this life that I have to live, as well as I can. My life is unique. Nobody else will ever live it. I have my own history, my own family, my own body, my own character, my own friends, my own way of thinking, speaking, and acting - yes, I have my own life to live. No one else has the same challenge. I am alone, because I am unique. Many people can help me live my life, but after all is said and done, I have to make my own life choices about how to live.
" (Henri Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup?, Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria, 1996, p28)

#4 - RECEIVE THE GIFT OF LIMITS (1-Very / 2-Sometimes / 3-Not Sure / 4-Never)
  1. I don't usually try to do everything on my own or bite off more than I can manage. (  )
  2. Can you easily say NO to others? (  )
  3. You recognize whether you will be a help/hindrance. (  )
  4. Do you know when to help and when you are unable to help? (  )
  5. You have a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses. (  )
  6. People say that you are good at balancing family, work, and other responsibilities. (  )
  7. You regularly avoid false modesty. (  )
Note that the lower your score, the better you are able to honestly deal with your own brokenness and weakness, and not be afraid to admit you are very human.


Monday, February 02, 2015

BookPastor >> "Naming the Silences" (Stanley Hauerwas)

I know the Christmas season is fast approaching. While many shopped till they drop, and celebrate from dusk to dawn, I am very aware many others suffer in silence. This is especially for those who are missing loved ones either passed away, separated, or missing.

This review was first published at "A Book Pastor Recommends" on May 9th, 2011. It is a powerful reflection on God, medicine and the problem of suffering.


TITLE: NAMING THE SILENCES - God, Medicine, and the Problem of Suffering
AUTHOR Stanley Hauerwas
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1990, (154 pages).

While many books talk about pain, suffering, evil, and the existence of God, Hauerwas takes a different tack. While most people seem fixated on questions such as: "When or Why Bad Things Happen to Good People?" Hauerwas questions the question. He points out the faulty thinking behind the question surrounding pain and suffering. That is why the author makes no attempt to try to explain away evil and suffering. The book is a way to question this question in such a way to show that theodicy and the problem of suffering is not to be explained but named.

According to Hauerwas, while he recognizes that there is a legitimate need for sufferers, and people in pain to find an explanation for life's pressing questions, he is more interested to tackle the 'question' behind the question, made famous by Harold Kushner.

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