Monday, July 06, 2015

Jesus was here!

I was doing my devotional this morning when I read this: "We have the finished work of Christ on the cross more than 2,000 years ago."1

My next thought really surprised me.

"Jesus was here!"

Wait, what was that?

Of course I know Jesus was here. I've known that all my life. And so why this sudden revelation that Jesus was here?

As I take time now to reflect on it, I feel that it is the prompting of the Spirit to me to the reality of God in my life.

I've studied Scripture. I've meditated on his Word. I've worked on obeying him and living my life according to his will. And now it is being impressed on me that God is real, in history, in time, in space, not just in thought and belief, if I can use the word.

This may not seem much to you. And yet, right here, right now, the realization that Jesus became man and lived among men, walked on this earth, breathed the air, amazes me. I don't know how else to put it.

God was here. In person. Wow.

1 'Isaiah: God Saves Sinners' by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., R.Kent Hughes, General Editor

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Eternal Praise: will never stop singing forever and ever

I love to sing and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to learn and grow in my singing through my serving in church. And when I sing, these two people will at times come to mind.

One, is our Grace Notes conductor, Joanna Lau. I've known her for about 13 years. It was she through whom I then understood what previous instructors were trying to tell me. I never understood what "singing from the diaphragm" meant until Joanna.

The other person is my late brother in the Lord, Tuck Meng. I feel sad whenever I think of him. For reasons I still do not know, he took his own life. But he is the one person with whom I learned and took up the interest in singing harmony in a group when we were in the youth group back then. After all these years, I have now learned to sing harmony by ear. (I thought again about him today and wondered if I can pray for him. Can I pray for the dead?)

Chris Abner preached in church this morning on 1 Cor 1:1-17, and he spoke about being unified as a people of God and serving in the church with the gifts God has given us as we prepare ourselves when we will meet him face to face. In light of the new heaven and new earth, I suddenly thought what a delight it will be then when I can be a part of the grand choir! And yes, like in the book of Revelation, I am sure this choir will surely never stop singing and singing and singing.

Amen, blessings and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.
~ Revelation 7:12


Saturday, July 04, 2015

Gallup Theme: Input

I watched this Gallup Theme Thursday video today on theme Input, and absolutely love it. It's like he is describing most of what I do and what I feel about the subject. It's about reading, books, ebooks, e-readers, language, tech and apps and more. All those put together is so me!

Note: I must add here that sadly, Curt Liesveld has gone home to be with the Lord on 16 May 2015. He was my Gallup trainer last year and I have enjoyed tremendously the sessions I had with him. Here is his obituary. Rest in peace, Curt.


Friday, July 03, 2015

He Loved Me by Tom Fettke

In my sharing in the meme KC Bob sent me, I said I love to sing and he said, "Someday I would love to hear you sing Pearlie. Maybe a shared YouTube clip?" I was about to say no, I don't any online when the choral group uploaded the duet I did with Lee Mei over the weekend in Penang. So KB, just because you asked for it -- here you go ツ


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Classic Christianity by Thomas Oden

I had a good lunch with a good friend and we talked about a lot of things. Work, people and theology. I was sharing with him some of the stuff I was reading, and he commented that he needs to build good knowledge in the Word with the birth and upbringing of his young son. But he felt that the foundational and biblical education in churches are found to be wanting. Based on his experience, he felt that most of what was taught and practiced are not biblical, but anecdotal and based on the people's own interpretation.

I could not disagree more with him because I have seen that happening as well. But I still insisted that he needs to find a way to get himself grounded in the basics of the Christian faith, both in systematic and biblical theology.

When I got home, and upon completing Wright's book that have kept me reading for far too long, I began browsing through Thomas Oden's Classic Christianity. I started reading the preface, and felt this is the exact thing that he needs.

Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology
by Thomas C. Oden

This volume is a combination of originally three books: The Living God, The Word of Life and Life in the Spirit, and with that, this single volume is more than 900 pages long in print.

But it took Oden three decades getting these volumes together. He aimed to "set forth key constructive arguments of two millennia of ecumenical Christian thinking—that God is, who God is, and what that means for us today."

He sought to "seek an internally consistent statement of classical Christian thinking about God so as to provide a reliable foundation for baptism, the life of prayer, scripture studies, and for the living of Christian life."

This is an excellent study of systematic theology at its best bringing together a consensus of Christian thought, interpretation and beliefs.
The method of consensus hinges on the fact of wide consent (consentio, “to be of one mind, to agree,” from con-, “with,” and sentire, “feel” or “sense”). Who gives consent in this consensus? The whole church, the cloud of witnesses. How is this consent defined? In correspondence with ancient ecumenical consent as found textually in the ecumenical councils.

Each doctrine has a lengthy history of controversy. That history is the subject of historical theology, but that differs from the method of a compendium of classic Christianity, which assumes that it is useful to set forth classic Christian thinking cohesively without becoming disrupted or preoccupied with each successive stage of development through which each teaching has passed in various contexts, traditions, symbol systems, and periods.

This compendium is the first in many years to view systematic theology as a classic treasury of scriptural and widely received patristic texts that point toward this distinctive work of the Spirit: These texts all share a common classic premise that it is the same Spirit who inspired the canonical text who is actively creating the unity and cohesion of the whole doctrinal effort amid changing historical circumstances. This cohesion is not the product of the work of modern scholars, but of the work of the Spirit throughout twenty centuries of intensive, critical scriptural exegesis.

This volume is the first in recent decades to attempt to present a text-based consensus of early Christian thought that embraces the whole range of issues of systematic theology. It presents a consensual argument that appeals to authoritative texts shared by Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, classic liberal, evangelical, and charismatic believers. Most comparable attempts address only one or two of these audiences.

900 over pages, thirty years of work, and two millennia-old worth of classic consensual ecumenical teaching. What an important book to read.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Five Things About Pearlie

KC Bob tagged me for a creative blogger award. And I thank him for his kind words to me as "a long time friend, thoughtful blogger and devoted follower of Christ."

I decide not to tag anyone since I don't have many who are actively commenting here anymore. Only Bob and Susan and a couple of others who come by once in awhile.

So here are my five facts:
1. I like to think and write and have been doing that with this blog since 2006.
2. I like to read...a lot.
3. I collect a lot of things, and facts, and articles, anything I find might be useful.
4. I sing everyday. In the car. In the shower. I sing to myself sometimes, like in taking to myself.
5. I am a night person, delaying sleep not wanting the day to end so soon.


Monday, June 29, 2015

I took the day off to think

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.
~ Henry Ford

Our opinions become fixed at the point where we stop thinking.
~ Ernest Renan

Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.
~ Thomas Szasz

The mind ought sometimes to be diverted that it may return to better thinking.
~ Phaedrus

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

If I look confused it is because I am thinking.
~ Samuel Goldwyn

The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.
~ David Ogilvy

Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.
~ Plato


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Grace Notes in Penang, Day 2

Grace Notes was also lined up to sing in Trinity Methodist Church's morning services, 9 and 11 am. We did quite alright this round compared to the recent couple of times in Ipoh and Shah Alam. All in the grace of God, in our worship and service to him, as well as sharing our talents with the people of God.

The speaker for the services was Rev Dr T Jeyakumar and he spoke from Deut 6:1-25 on "Ministry to the Younger Ones", using the example of John Wesley and the Scripture passage in Deuteronomy.

The message is one that should be driven home in every church on these two main points:

1. The duty and responsibility of teaching and training children in the Lord belongs primarily to the parents, not the church. And more than that, it is through us loving God, experiencing God, studying the Word of God, writing the Word, displaying the Word and speaking the Word at all times at home and out (v.4-9). Parents are to model a Christ-filled life to the children.

2. One of the most important ministries in the church is Christian education of youth and children. Rev Jeyakumar used a Socrates quote to make the point: "Why do you turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth, and yet, take so little care of your own children, to whom one day you must relinquish all." We work tirelessly every day for the children, but we ignore them in the process. In the church context, we spend so much resources and time to build big beautiful churches but forget the building and training of our young ones who will soon take on the work in the church. The example he gave was very poignant--William Carey's original Baptist church in Leicester City in England is now a Hindu temple. Ironically, Carey was the first Baptist missionary in India.

And also a warning to us parents. Why spend so much time building wealth for our children and leave their care to the hands of others, and when we relinquish what we have to them, will they be living their lives in the ways of the Lord? Will they be people of the Kingdom of God?

With that, I decided to purchase a copy of Rev Jeyakumar's book, even though it will be so challenging to stick to reading from print, but I will try nonetheless.

A Family-Friendly Church: Home and Church Joining Hands
by T Jeyakumar


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Grace Notes in Penang, Day 1

We are in Penang and singing for the Trinity Methodist Church's Worship and Music Ministry Appreciation Night 2015. It is a good thing to acknowledge the sacrifice and service of fellow brethren in the offering of our time and talents to God.

But God has done so much for us, what are these little things that we bring to him? It's only by his grace that we can come before him, to serve and to worship him.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Back to The Economist after 15 years

I started to read The Economist rather inadvertently, when I graduated in 1991 with a degree in economics, not realizing that it's more on public affairs rather than economics, which is a good thing because I have gained much in my general knowledge and my command of the English language by subscribing and reading the magazine, usually cover to cover, for at least 10 years if not more

I can't remember how much I paid for it then - most probably in the range of RM180-200 per year. When the rate went up and up and up, I decided to stop my subscription. It was getting too expensive.

I have been wanting to resubscribe but with the annual subscription priced at RM600 and more, it is not justifiable to do so.

But now, one and a half decade down the line, the price of the digital version is almost similar to its print edition back then. And I thought why not.

So I just renewed my subscription, the digital edition, for just RM300 a year, so much less than the print at RM650 and print + digital at RM780.

But much have changed since then - the world at large, the media industry, the medium itself, the reading pattern. What more, I have obviously changed at well. I know a bit more, I understand things a bit more and I have access to more information. The reading experience will definitely be different and I certainly look forward to it.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Proof that you should get a life

I am a night person but I also wake up very early every week day to attend to my chores and duties before I arrive at work.

As such, I am totally drained out by mid of Thursday every week.

The Economist published an article in 2013, "Get a Life" and said:
BERTRAND RUSSELL, the British philosopher, was not a fan of work. In his 1932 essay, “In Praise of Idleness”, he reckoned that if society were better managed the average person would only need to work four hours a day. Such a small working day would “entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life.” The rest of the day could be devoted to the pursuit of science, painting and writing.

Russell thought that technological advancement could free people from toil. John Maynard Keynes mooted a similar idea in a 1930 essay, "Economic possibilities for our grandchildren", in which he reckoned people might need work no more than 15 hours per week by 2030. But over 80 years after these speculations people seem to be working harder than ever. The Financial Times reports today that Workaholics Anonymous groups are taking off. Over the summer Bank of America faced intense criticism after a Stakhanovite intern died.

Ah...a 4-day week, 15-hour I wish.

Interesting, they updated it with another article complete with reference to an actual research from Stanford: "Proof That You Should Get a Life". It basically concluded that the more you work the less productive you are.

Here's the graph they published:

Source: The Economist

And here's another interesting article from HBR: "Manage Your Energy Not Your Time."


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

He Loved Me by Tom Fettke

I will be singing this in a duet with a fellow member of Grace Notes soon. The message of the song is that God has loved us by Jesus's death and resurrection. Nothing will ever separate is from the love of God.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Clocks are a must for some

I found an excellent way to recognize if a person is a J or a P. Ok, I'm taking about the 16 types here, with the more structured people (J) compared to the more free flow people (P). I was trying to type someone when she spoke about how she refuse to even count the number of clocks she has in her house. She is a J for sure. I, being a P, used to only have one in the house! I have two now since my son insisted on having one in his room.

I don't even wear a watch. Well, it does not mean I don't see the time. I my phone and PC mainly. But generally, I'm not too really hung up on time.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Gifts are given to be given

I learnt a useful lesson today from Kansas Bob: gifts are given to be given.

I never really thought of it that way. I know God has given gifts to each of us and I know it's for the edification of the body of Christ. But if you put it in simple clear English that you are given gifts to be given away, it certainly makes an aha moment for me.

And with that, I read Matt 25:29 with even better understanding: "For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." (ESV)

The NLT version interprets it quite well in that same line of thought: "To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away."

Thanks Kansas Bob for the wonderful insight!


Sunday, June 21, 2015

What a waste of time

My son recommended me this new iOS game yesterday.

Fallout Shelter by Bethesda

I tried it out and found that it is an interesting mash-up between Sims and Tiny Tower, two games of which I have enjoyed very much - and so...I'm stuck with it now, playing hours on end to expand the vault and to make sure the dwellers are happy, working, growing and contented.

The little simple (and useless) things that keeps me busy and occupied. But I think I've wasted too much time on it.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

What should be optimised in a church?

I caught up with an old friend today who is now working in church and we discussed about the difference between working in a church and in the corporate world. I only had a few months of it to talk about, and even that, not from a church perspective but from a para-church organisation, which I worked in for a couple of months many, many, many years ago. I believe she has now been working in the church for almost half a year if not more.

She found it hard to adapt to the difference. She raised a very interesting question - what is she suppose to optimise on while working in a church?

In a regular company, she will optimise on efficiency, lowering costs and increasing profits. That was clear to her when she was working in one but now in church, she admits being pretty confused. She asked then, what would be the basis of making decisions?

I suppose it's effectiveness and not efficiency which needs to be optimised by staff in a church settling? But no, I think it's both, towards meeting the intention of the Gospel of Christ to reach all peoples and all nations.

I blogged about Henry Mintzberg's book, The Structuring of Organisations, two weeks ago, which I did get a copy and started reading it. He was talking about limiting the number of operators any one manager can supervise, or span of control, when he actually quoted Exodus 18:21-24! I'm not joking, he actually had the entire four verses in print in that organisational book of his. In those verses, Moses's father-in-law advised him to form a hierarchical organisation of leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty and ten. So biblically, efficiency is also there, I bet not only in Exodus but in many more other passages. But not for profit but for salvation in the kingdom of God.

For a pastor, I think it's quite clear cut. His duties are to care and teach. He will be optimising the people's theological and spiritual life. And if that is the case, the work of the church staff will be to enable the pastor to do so.

I know...I've said it too simplistically. So what do you think?


Friday, June 19, 2015

Logos Free Book of the Month

I have been using Logos products for many years now, since back then when I was studying theology in the seminary. I have those books and more in digital form in my devices now, which is sweet. And recently in the past year or so, Logos has begun to give out a free book a month, and in the last few months, the free books are coupled with another at only USD 0.99. I have been diligently downloading them and getting the 99 cents deal every month.

I received a very interesting email today form Logos about their Free Book of the Month. It is an appeal for us to help them spread the offer, which is what I am doing now. The books from are the good scholarly kind, and if you are interested in lighter editions, check out Vyrso which is also under Logos. They offer up to three free books a month! (But if you click the above Vyrso link, there should be a whole long list of free books.)

I now understand why Logos is offering free books.

Here was what they emailed me, "Our primary goal is to equip the church and one of the ways we do that is by giving away a free book each month. When I’m picking out our free books, I envision a pastor using them to prepare a sermon; a small-group leader using one of our commentaries to help teach his or her small group; or an everyday Christian reading for personal devotions. This is what inspires me to do what I do. And I think you can help me get more free books into people’s hands."

That is brilliant, as not everyone can afford and have access to these books.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Think with reasonable thinking

I continued with NT Wright's After You Believe for my devotion reading this morning and it was about the renewal of the mind, in Romans 12:1-2.

I like to think. Well, it is the number two theme in my Gallup StrengthsFinder report. And so I learnt a lot from this short portion of his thoughts on the topic, and I like what he said, interpreting Paul: "what matters is thinking...Don’t overthink what you ought to think, but think with reasonable thinking."

There other interesting quotes from my reading are as follows:
When Paul talks about the “mind,” he is not ranking Christians in terms of what we would call their intellectual or “academic” ability. Some Christians have that sort of mind. Plenty of others don’t.

"The way the world is" is a powerful, insidious force, and it takes all the energy of new creation, not least of faith and hope, to remind oneself that the age to come really is already here, with all its new possibilities and prospects.

The antidote to the power of the present age, then, is to have the mind renewed so that one can think clearly about the way of life which is pleasing to God, which is in accordance with God’s will, good and acceptable and (here it is again) “perfect,” teleios, complete.

Abraham is the beginning of the truly human person. He is the one who, in faith which Paul sees as the true antecedent of Christian faith, allows his thinking and believing to be determined, not by the way the world is, and not by the way his own body is, but by the promises and actions of God.

For Paul, the mind is central to Christian character: virtue is the result of thought and choice.

I believe, is that talk about the freedom of the Spirit, about the grace which sweeps us off our feet and heals and transforms our lives, has been taken over surreptitiously by a kind of low-grade romanticism, colluding with an anti-intellectual streak in our culture, generating the assumption that the more spiritual you are, the less you need to think...I cannot stress too strongly that this is a mistake. The more genuinely spiritual you are, according to Romans 12 and Philippians 1, the more clearly and accurately and carefully you will think, particularly about what the completed goal of your Christian journey will be and hence what steps you should be taking, what habits you should be acquiring, as part of the journey toward that goal, right now.