Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Our Worship Pretense

I read Isaiah 1:10-20 today and it was most striking. I'm not sure if people still talk about worship wars, but God is not so concerned about the way we worship but who and why we worship.

Ortlund says, "For our worship to be saved, it isn’t a matter of fine-tuning our outward performances. It’s a matter of repentance."

Now that I read these verses in Isaiah, I read it in new light and understanding, I read it in reference to myself and I read it against my pretense in worship.

Initially I still think about the old way of worship by the Israelites, which I obviously don't do. But now, I can relate it to the sins I commit when I come to worship God every Sunday.

"What offends God is hollowed-out worship." (Ortlund)

Listen to the Word of God through his prophet, first in ESV which is more (dynamically) literal, then NLT which is a bit more paraphrased and finally The Message which is most paraphrased.

Isaiah 1:10-20 ESV
Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
"What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
"When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations- I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.
"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Isaiah 1:10-20 NLT
Listen to the LORD, you leaders of “Sodom.” Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.”
“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the LORD.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting— they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings.
I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.
Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the LORD, have spoken!”

Isaiah 1:10-20 MSG
“Listen to my Message, you Sodom-schooled leaders. Receive God’s revelation, you Gomorrah-schooled people. “Why this frenzy of sacrifices?” GOD’S asking. “Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of burnt sacrifices, rams and plump grain-fed calves? Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of blood from bulls, lambs, and goats? When you come before me, whoever gave you the idea of acting like this, Running here and there, doing this and that— all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?
“Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.
“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.” This is GOD ’s Message: “If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white. If they’re red like crimson, they’ll be like wool. If you’ll willingly obey, you’ll feast like kings. But if you’re willful and stubborn, you’ll die like dogs.” That’s right. GOD says so.

"Richard Lovelace reminds us that the grace of God is the only power that can free us from our hypocrisies". (Ortlund)


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My dependence on my iPhone

Right now, amongst all the things that I own, my iPhone is one of the most important. In a list my husband sent me last week about life these days, it scares me that this actually rings quite true for me: leaving the house without your mobile phone, which you didn't even have the first 20 or 30 years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it.

I used a management diary to manage my work and appointments until around year 2000 when I got my Palm V. I do have a Filofax now, which I am still using as a journal. I still do like the act of writing though it's quite dangerous not being able to keep it under lock and key, but the switch from the "manual" Filofax to the digital kind has practically changed how we manage our lives.

TEDBlog posted this recently - 25+ apps to make your everyday life easier.

Here are my most-used apps. What are yours? (The default ones like phone, message, mail , alarm, calendar not included)

Week Agenda - I see my whole week's events in one screen
Momento - my digital journal
Marvin - my faithful ebook reader, it's the best!
ABBYY BCR - a business card reader, my digital calling card box
Merriam-Webster Dictionary - I've replaced with this, it's more complete
Pocket - my digital folder of all online articles that catch my attention, all in all my personal magazine
BlogPress - I don't use my PC any longer when at home and so this is how I do my daily blogging
ESV Study + - the digital ESV Study Bible, comes with audio
Goodreads - my book list and database
Appsgonefree - I check this everyday for free apps and many times I got really good ones, some of them in this very list
uPackingList - I use this everyday as I pack for morning gym, I can be very disorganized
Highs & Lows - keeps me mindful of my day
Waze - I use this everyday to ensure I don't get stuck in traffic unnecessarily
Askt - gets me to think about something important everyday
Logos Bible - where all my digital references and commentaries are (some IVP editions, the full series of WBC, TOTC and TNTC)
1Password - the best password manager around, with iOS 8, I can now use the fingerprint security function in Safari
Spotify - free music, what more can I say
VoiceReader - reads my PDF files, especially when I'm in the gym.
Speaky (not shown) - reads what's in my Pocket, especially when I'm driving
Wikipanion - the best Wikipedia reader
Chime - chimes on the hour every hour to remind me of the time, since I am so disorganized
Dropbox - how could a smartphone exist without this
LinkedIn - helps me keeps in touch professionally
AppShopper - gives me apps deals everyday and it notifies me whenever any apps in my wishlist becomes free
OneDrive - DropBox is more connected with the other apps but OneDrive has the largest cloud space for me

I'm an app junkie. I try very hard to only keep apps that I actually use - not!


Monday, September 29, 2014

Isaiah, God Saves Sinners (Preaching the Word Series)

Isaiah - God Saves Sinners
by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.

As I have blogged before, I found the Preaching the Word series by Kent Hughes very useful as devotional materials for me, and I thought I'd do Isaiah now.

I've finished the edition on Proverbs and do not think I can continue with Exodus.

So, Isaiah it shall be.

Isaiah is an important book in the bible and for me it is the least understood. Ortlund quotes and Ortlund says:
"God spoke eloquently through Isaiah. If you have any interest in the Bible at all, Isaiah will reward a close reading. It is “the most theologically significant book in the Old Testament.” “Of all the books in the Old Testament, Isaiah is perhaps the richest.” “From ancient times Isaiah has been considered the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.” The scholars who know what they are talking about prize Isaiah. What Bach’s first biographer said about his music applies to Isaiah’s prophecy:

[Bach’s music] is not merely agreeable, like other composers’, but transports us to the regions of the ideal. It does not arrest our attention momentarily but grips us the stronger the oftener we listen to it so that, after a thousand hearings, its treasures are still unexhausted and yield fresh beauties to excite our wonder.

Isaiah deserves better than to be a “classic” — a famous book nobody reads anymore. His prophecy isn’t always easy to understand. But every day all around the world people take on challenges, from climbing the Matterhorn to learning Japanese to launching a new business. If God has spoken to us through Isaiah, let’s explore this literary Matterhorn. Let’s enjoy the view from the very top, and even the effort of getting there. Let’s reach out for new understandings."

I am certainly looking forward to reading it and learning from Isaiah, admitting I'm nothing but a sinner and being convicted of my dire need for God and God alone.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lazy Sunday

I used to play Shrooms Solitaire on my PC back in those days when I actually used to sit at a desk at home to play computer games.

There is now a similar iPhone version call Jolly Jam, which is something like Shrooms Solitaire but with a much more advanced interface and gameplay.

Well, it is (again) a lazy Sunday for me today and all I did was play games and catch up on YouTube vids.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Such a disappointment

Today was one of those times, thankfully it's rare, that I had expected something but got absolutely nothing.

I had paid and signed up for a talk on a subject but the speaker talked about something entirely different. And I feel like I've been had.

It was supposed to be a talk on adolescents and self-esteem, but the speaker spent the whole time getting us on our own self-awareness, about strengths and weaknesses, and MBTI - not that I don't already know, being a former trainer on types and now a certified coach on strengths and performance.

The thing is I signed up for a session on adolescents, not self-awareness.

What would you do? Well, I didn't do anything. Not yet. But I plan to write in to at least comment about it.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: Proverbs, Wisdom that Works

Proverbs, Wisdom that Works, Preaching the Word
by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.

This is a very good commentary to read on Proverbs. When I first bought this book, I didn't think to check how the author would manage a preaching commentary on a book with proverbs scattered across the book.

Ortlund did a marvelous job by handling it by topics, only that he was not able to cover them all.

The topics are:
1   Why the Book of Proverbs Matters
2   Let’s Begin (1:1–7)
3   Violence !(1:8–19)
4   A Storm Is Coming (1:20–33)
5   How We Can Grow (2:1–22)
6   The Wisdom That Helps Us (3:1–8)
7   Wisdom at the Extremes of Life (3:9–12)
8   Why Wisdom Matters, What Wisdom Creates (3:13–35)
9   The Only Path into Life (4:1–27)
10   Bitter Honey and Sweet Water (5:1–23)
11   Responsibility, Opportunity, Unity (6:1–19)
12   Why Our Sexuality Matters to God (6:20—7:27)
13   The Worldview of Wisdom (8:1–36)
14   It’s Decision Time (9:1–18)
15   The Tongue (18:21)
16   Humility (22:4)
17   Family (22:6)
18   Emotions (15:30)
19   Friendship (18:24)
20   Money (10:22)
21   Life and Death (12:28)

One of the most important thing about this book is how he centers the message on the Gospel of Christ. Ortlund says, "It leads us to Christ. If you look for him here, you will find him."

For now, Chapter 19 on friendship is extremely relevant and timely for me. This is one I will revisit very soon.

And here are some great quotes from the book:
Life is a journey, and the end of it all is not just a place but also a condition.

Through the book of Proverbs, God coaches us in the wisdom we need throughout the long and complicated path of our everyday lives.

We need wisdom to fill in the blanks moment by moment, and God gives us his wisdom in the book of Proverbs.

However we are suffering, our real business is with Christ. He is saying to us here in his Word, “Come to me. Deal with me. I am able to restore you out of your past failings and defend you for the future. Hurl yourself at me in all your need. I will give myself to you in all my grace. My wisdom will enter your heart in ways you’ve never known before.”

Wherever you turn in the Bible, remind yourself, “God has a blessing for me here.” Never dismiss a single verse. Even if you don’t understand it, you can still say, “I don’t understand this yet, but I will not despise it. I will not dismiss it as irrelevant or archaic. This book is Jesus speaking to me, every word of it.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: Remarkable Creatures

Remarkable Creatures
by Tracy Chevalier

Having already read two of Tracy Chevalier's books and loving them, I was looking forward to read this one, and I was not disappointed.

I did not realise however that the book is based on a real person, Mary Anning, as I have not heard of her before. I only found out when I read more than 80% of the book. Now I'm glad I have read of her, albeit historical fiction.

Mary Anning was indeed an amazing person, for a woman in the 19th century. According to Wikipedia, "Mary Anning (21 May 1799 – 9 March 1847) was a British fossil collector, dealer, and palaeontologist who became known around the world for important finds she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis in Dorset, a county in Southwest England on the coast of the English Channel, where she lived. Her work contributed to fundamental changes that occurred during her lifetime in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth."

Chevalier painted her as a simple but inquisitive girl who became an ambitious woman in her entrepreneurship and contribution to the world of prehistoric science when women were then considered as "spare part"!

On the part when a Lord Henley was chided for putting his name as the discoverer of a complete fossil specimen instead of Anning's as it was she who found it, he said:
“Mary Anning is a worker. She found the crocodile on my land-Church Cliffs are part of my property, you know. Do you think these men-” he nodded at the men shifting mud “-do they own what is on this land simply because they dig it up? Of course not! It belongs to me. Besides which, Mary Anning is a female. She is a spare part. I have to represent her, as indeed I do many Lyme residents who cannot represent themselves.”
It is indeed frustrating to read how women were regarded back in those days and I am thankful we are who we are today and regarded as equals.

The book presents the narrative with the relationship of two women, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, who was also obsessed with fossils. It tells of their unexpected friendship and relationship that grew in spite of their differences all because they were both drawn to the allure of finding skeletons and remains of remarkable creatures.

Chevalier's portrayal of Mary Anning is quite uncanny though for me because her voice really reminds me of a friend that I have. They sound so alike that I got chills reading the Mary chapters (the book has alternate chapters between Mary and Elizabeth being the first person). And on top of that, (spoiler alert) the part where they fought and had a major fall out also reminds me of my fall out with the same person, although of course it is not exactly the same. It's just quite eerie.

I now look forward to getting and reading her other books: Falling Angels, The Lady and the Unicorn, Burning Bright, and her latest The Last Runaway.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A really old photo

It's wonderful when my friends post old pictures because I can now at least have a digital copy of them.

But the irony is I now think I look kinda good when I thought I look ugly back then.

So in a sense, I shouldn't say I look ugly now because 20 years down the line, if I'm still around, I'd probably say the same thing.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Back to the gym

I've been "pontenging" the gym for almost two weeks and it felt so great to be back on the bike!

Note: "ponteng" is "playing truant" in Malay (the participle -ing is my informal English use of the word)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Beginning with this Scripture

The sermon this morning was by a pastor from Melbourne, Rev Dale Stephenson, who spoke about the apostle Philip in the book of Acts.

The lesson I learnt was from Acts 8 where Philip was led by the Spirit to "go over and join this chariot." (v. 29) He found the Ethiopian eunuch in the chariot who invited him in and read to Philip a passage in Isaiah about the Jesus.

He asked Philip, "about whom does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" Then Philip spoke and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

"Beginning with this Scripture": God leads us to work where He is already working.

Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel. He will not disappoint.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Askt - another journaling app

I am currently using a couple of journaling apps and I just happened to find another interesting one call Askt.

I use Momento to write my journal. It also include my daily blog post in it as well to give quite a nice round up of my days. It has become a must-have app for me since I write as a therapy to manage my emotions and thoughts.

Surprisingly, I am still using Highs and Lows, as I document my highest and lowest point of my every day. I find doing that help bring meaning to every one of my days as I live them. It also helps me realise that some days are kind of wasted but on the other hand these mundane days are also days that give me a sense of peace and thanksgiving to God who is always so gracious and faithful.

Askt is quite intriguing. It gives you one question every day and gives you space to type out your answers. And as you come back to the same question in the next year and answer it, you will see how you may have changed.

I am just on day two with Askt today and I look forward to the next few days' questions. I do think it will actually my interest as long as the other two journaling apps.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Word Lens

Something really funny and interesting happened in CG today. Someone brought a box of cherry jaffa cakes which they bought during their trip to Austria to share with us.

One of us took out his Android phone, took a picture of the ingredient list in German, highlighted the words by swiping the lines with his finger for the translation to English to appear in a text window. He then jokingly said, "iPhones can't beat this!"

And I obviously took the challenge and said, "Of course we can!" (Notice I used "we", as if me and my iPhone are one...err, sorry hubby dear...but you know what I mean.)

I know I have my Word Lens app stashed away somewhere in my iPhone and there it was in my Travel folder.

It uses the phone's camera and translate the words in real time. They were all so mesmerised but the few who just came back from Austria so wished I have told them earlier before they went because they were practically typing every word into their iPhone to be translated!

Anyway we soon discovered the app is available in Android as well.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

What else to read?

Now that I have finished reading my "must-read" book list - not difficult since there only two titles in it - what will be my next read?

I am now finding it tough to get book recommendations. I use now but I must say, it still can't compare with the days when I scour the book stores for interesting books. It somehow felt better in the real bookstores. However, on the other hand it is so much easier to just pop into a site than into a store.

But maybe it is time I take a look at the pile of books and ebooks I have bought but not read.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Couch Potato: Guilty

I have been taking leave from work - basically just to utilize my annual leave but I spent time at home. It's good except that there is nothing much to do except be a couch potato.

This is bad. Can't wait to get back to the office and gym in the morning.

Photo source:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tsunami, Caught On Camera

I watched the movie, The Impossible, again.

And this time I checked the YouTube for some related videos and found this documentary, made about 5 years after the disaster - Tsunami Caught On Camera.

It's a documentary made up from footages and live videos taken by the victims themselves.

It was a very moving piece and those scenes will certainly never be forgotten for a long, long time. And this year will be its tenth year anniversary.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Movies: over and over again

I am the kind that watches movies or even some TV shows again and again and again. Do you?

My husband and my son don't. They find it a waste of time. But I find it comforting but of course it has to be movies I like.

I am even the kind who can forget how the movie goes even though I've watched it before. And for those I remember, I watch it from different angles, notice things I have not noticed before and I pay more attention to the dialogues.

I do waste a lot of time now, don't I?


Saturday, September 13, 2014

An Education Plan

I attended a seminar in church today on "What to do after Form 5/O Levels?", which was very much an eye-opener for me.

Back in my school days 20 over years ago, there wasn't much of a plan. My parents didn't do any research. It basically just boiled down to whatever appears as the the next step, just take it.

As such, I did not realize there is much to do with regards to my son's education plan. But now I know and there is much for me to do - to perform some research, to talk and help my son discover what his interests are and what options he has for a career.

There is much to do and I'm glad I know that now and I'm glad I'm given a good head start with what was shared during the seminar and I'm glad it is not too late, but it is time to start.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Led by the Spirit

We complete one bible study chapter in one sitting in CG today, which is something that has not happened before! So everyone was quite amused and glad. We are moving quite slowly but steadily in our bible study, and so it was a good experience to complete one lesson in one sitting.

The take home from the lesson for me was this: the phrase "led by God" and "led by the Spirit", whilst it usually means God leading me to make a decision has a more holistic meaning in Scripture.

Being "led by the Spirit" means living a Christian life. It means putting to death the desires of the flesh, living in Christ, being sons of God, being heirs and co-heirs with Christ and suffering with Christ in order to be glorified with him. (Rom 8:13-17)

That is what it means to be led by the Spirit, not so much being led to say something, or take this job, or marry this person. I'm not saying it is not, it's just that these are a smaller part of a whole.

Let us be led by the Spirit everyday of our lives.

Oh yes, one more thing. As it always happen, I have friends who asked me why they have landed themselves in problems and bad situations when they felt they had been led by God into it in the first place. Well, it will be interesting to note that the phrase "led by God" and "led by the Spirit" almost always refers to both the leading of Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness and leading of Jesus into the wilderness. So don't be surprised if you have been led into the wilderness too.