Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Healing Our Violence

Just came back from attending NECF National Pastors-Leaders Consultation on Nation Building, held at Vistana hotel, Kuala Lumpur. This is a one-day consultation.

For me, this means a 4 hours drive to Kuala Lumpur and another 4 hours drive back home. I drove to KL last night. I do not mind the long drive because this is the only protracted time I have to listen to some recorded talks without interruption.

This trip, I was able to listen to a 7 hours (6 CDs) retreat talk by Father Thomas Keating OCSO and Father Richard Rohr OFM on Healing our Violence through the Journey of Centering Prayer.

Franciscan priest Father Richard Rohr is the founding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Cistercian priest Father Thomas Keating was the former abbot of St. Benedict Monastery and after his retirement founded Contemplative Outreach.

The talks are
(1) Awakening to Friendship with God (Thomas Keating)
(2) Connecting with being (Richard Rohr)
(3) Centering prayer (Keating)
(4) Who are you? (Rohr)
(5) Evil and True Self I (Rohr)
(6) Evil and True Self II (Rohr)
(7) Divine Therapy (Keating)
(8) A Christian response to Evil (Rohr)
(9) Who is God? (Keating)
(10) Steps to Maturity (Rohr)

These series of talk are excellent as two international renowned spiritual guides explore our inner and outer spiritual journeys. They pulled no punches as they challenge us to face the evil around us and the demons within us, as we open ourselves to the divine therapy of God.

Highly recommended.

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Monday, July 30, 2007


Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto is an intense period piece about the last days of the Mayan civilization. It is a simple story. A Central American Indian named Jaguar Paw and his whole tribe was captured by Mayan slavers. Jaguar Paw managed to hide his wife and young son just before the attack. The male of his tribe were taken to the Mayan temple to be the ritual human sacrifice. Jaguar Paw escaped and made his way back home pursued by the slavers. He managed to kill most of them.

While the storyline line is simple, the actions were intense, and we are exposed to the brutality of the slavers who seize innocent villagers, the decadent Mayan society, and the cultic ritual of a religion that demands hundreds of human sacrifices.

Gibson tried to recreate the Mayan civilization in this movie. In fact too much effort were put to recreate the Mayan civilization that it came across as a National Geographic documentary on steroids. However, his story telling is very visual. The natives spoke in their own language so we follow the dialogue by subtitles.

One of the mysteries of the Mayan is why a civilization that flourished around A.D. 250-900 collapsed suddenly and then vanished without a trace. Theories are rampant with diseases, famine, overpopulation, wars, and aliens. Yet, to date, no one can come out with an acceptable cause.

Mel Gibson, in the movie, tried to reveal why the Mayan civilization collapse-smallpox, famine, crop failure. By the time the Spanish Conquistadors conquered the Mayan in early 16th century, the civilization was reduced to isolated village which practice the human sacrifice rituals.

Not a great movie for children.

Some information about the Mayan
Mayan Civilization

Other reviews of the movie:

Rotten Tomatoes

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Robots in Hollywood

In the wake of the runaway success of The Transformers movie, here are some interesting links

80 years of Robots in Hollywood from Time.com

Battle Field Robots National Geographic

The Robot Revolution Time Cover Story, Dec 8, 1980

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Love Above All

We have had an enjoyable evening yesterday watching Mount Carmel BP Church.'s Love Above All: The story of Jim and Elizabeth Elliot. What is impressive is that this musical is written by members of the church, based on the journals of Jim Elliot. Script was written by Chai Chir Tiang, music by Shirley Yeo and lyrics by Rev. Dr. David Wong (former senior pastor but now with Haggai Institute.

The story of the musical starts with the graduation of Jim and his four friends, climaxed in their martyrdom, and Elizabeth continuing the work to bring the Auca Indians in Ecuador to know the Lord. It will be performing in the Cultural Centre of the National Singapore University for three nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).

I am very impressed with the professionalism with which the whole project was handled, and by the presentation of the musical itself. The musics, singers and dance choreography was superb. I am impressed because I have been exposed to too many mediocre productions by Christians.

Somehow there is the impression that as long as you do the best, it is good enough for the Lord and for other Christians. Yet, the same people will raise to higher levels in their 'secular' jobs.

Christians, on the other hand, are more accepting of mediocrity from other Christians. They justified it by the principle of love. I wonder if it is truly love to accept mediocrity when you know it could have been done better!

My kudos to Mount Carmel BP Church and Pastor Dr Daniel Chua for showing me that Christians can stage musicals with a professionalism and expertise equivalent to the best of others.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
Jim Elliot

Soli Deo Gloria

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Carmelite Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative prayer is one school of prayer in which the Holy Spirit is continually teaching me because I am such a poor student. I am always in awe of the masters of contemplative prayer. Others call them Christian mystics. I do regard Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Therese of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Titus Brandma, and Edith Stein as masters of contemplative prayer.

Man, can they pray! Then I discovered that they all belong to the Carmelite Order which led me to explore Carmelite spirituality and Carmelite contemplative prayers. Thus it is with pleasure that I acquired and read Carmelite Prayer: A Tradition for the 21st Century, Keith J. Egan (Ed). (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2003).

This book is a collection of essays exploring Carmelite contemplative prayer. Especially interesting is the chapter by Ernest E. Larkin which compares the differences and similarities between Carmelite contemplative prayer, centering prayer (Thomas Keating), and Christian meditation (John Main).

The origins of the Carmelite Order were laid when lay hermits gather together near the fountains of Elijah on Mount Carmel. According to the Formula of Life, these hermits were to “meditate day and night on the law of the Lord unless engaged in some just undertaking.”

Carmelite contemplative prayer is
-centered on the Word of God especially the psalms
-look to Christ as their teacher of prayer and their allegiance to Him
-aware that the Holy Spirit is the principle guide in the spiritual life
-prayer of the whole Christ, the body of Christ, the church
-celebrated in liturgy and just living
-orientated to a contemplative stance before God, waiting for God to do God’s work so that one may be transformed into union with God in love

“Carmelite prayer is all about letting God create within one a magnanimous loving heart” (p.21)


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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Manga Bible

John the Baptist

Jesus clearing the Temple

and of course, Paul of Tarsus

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

They Like Jesus But Not The Church

Dan Kimball (2007), They Like Jesus But Not The Church: Insights from Emerging Generations (Grand rapids, MI: Zondervan)

With a provocative title like that, Dan Kimball, pastor at Vintage Faith Church In Santa Cruz, California, went on to describe the feelings of those persons he has interviewed in the ‘emerging generations.’

What emerging generations think about the church

1. the church is an organized religion with a political agenda
2. the church is judgmental and negative
3. the church is dominated by males and oppresses females
4. the church is homophobic
5. the church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong
6. the church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally

What they wish the church were like

1. I wish the church were not just a sermon or a lecture but a discussion
2. I wish the church would respect my intelligence
3. I wish the church weren’t about the church building
4. I wish the church were less programmed and allowed time to think and pray
5. I wish the church were a loving place
6. I wished the church cared for the poor and for the environment
7. I wish the church taught more about Jesus

I felt a deep sadness when I finished reading the book. What were said are so true of our churches, even here in Asia.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Gitanjali: Songs Offerings (63)

Thou has made me known to friends whom I knew not.
Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own.
Thou hast brought the distant near and
made a brother of the stranger.

I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave
my unaccustomed shelter; I forget that there abides
the old in the new and that there also thou abidest.

Through birth and death, in this world or in others,
wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same,
the one companion of my endless life
who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar.

When one knows thee, then alien there is none,
then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer
that I may never lose the bliss of the touch
of the one in the play of the many.

Rabindranath Tagore

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

40-Days Prayer and Fast Malaysia 2007

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The Habit of Familiarity

It is said that when the Great Library of Alexandria was burned down, only one book survived. It was a very ordinary book, not like those who were burnt which had leather binding and gold lettering. This was plain simple paperback, dog eared, and yellowed by age. When found among the ashes, it was thought to have no value. It was sold for 10 cents to a poor man who barely knows how to read.

This plain and common book however was probably the most valuable book in the world. In the last section of the book were a few sentences that pointed to a source of the secret of immortality or eternal life. This source is a tiny pebble, that if ingested will give the person eternal life!

The writing declared that this precious pebble was lying somewhere along the beaches of Desaru, facing the South China Sea in the southern tip of the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. This pebble was lying among thousands of pebbles that were exactly like it, except in one aspect- whereas all other pebbles were cold to the touch in the morning; this one will feel warm, almost as if it were alive.

The man rejoices at his good luck. He sold everything he had, borrowed a large sum of money that will last him for at least a year, booked a room at Desaru Pulai Resort Hotel, and began his search for this priceless pebble. He worked out a search grid and did his search systematically.

This is how he did it. Every morning, he will go to the assigned search area. He would lift a pebble. If it was cold to the touch, he would not throw it back on the shore because if he did that, he might be examining the same stone over and over again. Instead, he will throw the stone into the South China Sea. So each day for hours he would continue in this routine: pick up a pebble; if it feels cold, throw it into the sea; lift another… and so on, endlessly.

He spent a week, a month, a year and finally years on this quest for eternal life. His savings ran out and he borrowed more money. He got a special discount from Desaru Pulai Resort Hotel for being a long staying customer. On and on his search went: lift a pebble, hold it, feel it, if cold, throw it into the sea, lift another. Hour after hour, week after week, day after day….still no pebble of immortality. One evening, he picked up a pebble and it was warm to his touch – but through sheer force of habit, he threw it into the South China Sea!

How many of us, through sheer force of habit, accidentally throw away our precious pebbles of eternal life? I am referring to the Holy Scripture where by continual exposure to it daily, weekly, monthly… we became so familiar with it that all the precious words of wisdom and knowledge contained within it that can give us eternal life became as common as the pebbles on the beaches of Desaru. Hearing the Word of God read from the Old and New Testament during Sunday worship has become so familiar, so routine, that we are no longer hearing but waiting for it to be over so that we can get on with our service. Hearing the Word of God preached from the pulpit whether as a sermon or a homily is another familiar routine. We listen for the jokes, the mistakes the preacher makes, and think of dinner or whatever our next meal will be like. We understand what the preacher is saying yet the pebble feels cold to the touch. Some of us even listen to other sermons and talks on our MP3 players. Yet it has become so familiar that often, we miss a warm pebble because we are so used to throwing away cold pebbles.

This also applies to our daily devotion or quiet time; time we have decided to set aside to spend with God. Yet after a time, this has become a familiar routine habit. We begin to find that it is harder and harder to notice warm pebbles because there are so many cold pebbles. Could it be that we have been throwing away the warm pebbles?

Let me suggest a way to avoid throwing away warm pebbles accidentally. The way is to ask ourselves three questions

(1) When is the most important time?
(2) Who is the most important person?
(3) What is the most important thing to do?

(Pause now and write down the answers to these three questions)

The answers to these three questions are in the Bible. Yet how often have we missed them because of our familiarity with it. The most important time is now. Though the Bible has a strong emphasis on the continuity with the past and a strong eschatological component (the future), its emphasis has always been living in the present. What is important is our encounter with the living Christ in this present moment of our life. Now is important.

The answer to the second question is Jesus Christ. He is the most important person because he is the author and perfector of our faith. Because we use the word Jesus Christ so often, it has become such a ‘common’ word that we do not attach much emotional or relevance to it. Ending our prayers “in Jesus’ name” has now become a formula. In becoming so familiar with name Jesus, we often forget that He is the most important person in our life.

The most important thing to do is to love. The Bible is a love story - between God and His people. Jesus came to show God’s love for us. Paul teaches us how to love one another in community. Yet, we have become so familiar with reading about love that we do not get out of our seat and love. Do we love our spouses, our children, our families, our church, our community, our co-workers, and our country? How have we shown it today? Love is in the doing, not in the talking.


help us to remember the answers to these three questions; the most important time is now, the most important person is Jesus Christ and the most important thing to do is to love. Help us to appreciate and hold on to these precious moments when we experience a personal encounter with You and not throw it away by our habit of familiarity.



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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Potty about Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and last book in J. K. Rowling's best-selling series, hit the headlines in Malaysian papers on July 21. No, it is not about the launch of the book but about how the megamarkets, Tesco and Carrefour is selling the books 'magically' at RM69.90 while the megabookstores, MPH, Popular, Harris, and Times was about to sell them at RM109.90. The four megabookstores decided not to sell the books.

Bibliobibuli, Malaysian's own premier literary blogger calls it, "This is the biggest local bookshop crisis ever, I think, and brings to a head issues that have been bubbling under for a long time." Raman, independent bookseller thinks it is poetic justice that the megabookstores which have been squeezing the independent booksellers are now crying "unfair pricing."

An interesting comment on how Rowlings got published.

Now for some comments from

As with the last six volumes and five films, there will be hand wringing and discussion not just over the quality, but whether it encourages witchcraft or Christian values. Since 1999, Christianity Today and its sister publications have been discussing the content of the books, along with questions of whether—and more importantly how—the books should be read by children and parents."

For and Against Potter

Why We Like Harry Potter

The series is a 'Book of Virtues' with a preadolescent funny bone. A Christianity Today editorial posted 1/10/2000

Matters of Opinion: The Perils of Harry Potter

Literary device or not, witchcraft is real—and dangerous. By Jacqui Komschlies posted 10/26/2000

Opinion Roundup: Positive About Potter

Despite what you've heard, Christian leaders like the children's books. By Ted Olsen posted 12/13/1999

Books & Culture Corner: Saint Frodo and the Potter Demon

The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series spring from the same source. By Michael G. Maudlin posted 02/18/2002

Weblog: Frodo Good, Harry Bad

Harry Potter has magic. Lord of the Rings has magic. Harry Potter has wizards, dark evil, and an unlikely hero who overcomes obstacles with friendship and courage. So does Lord of the Rings. Yet reactions from conservative Christian critics have not been so similar.

By Todd Hertz posted 12/28/2001

Parents Push for Wizard-free Reading

Bestsellers now under fire in some Classrooms.posted 1/10/2000

Let Harry Potter Conjure Up 'Gospel Magic,' Says Christian Magician

Andrew Thompson and others agree that some Christians have a false understanding of what Harry Potter is about. By Cedric Pulford in London posted 12/18/2001

Potter's Field

Harry doesn't always make money magically appear. By Ted Olsen posted 11/15/2001

Somewhat Wild About Harry

It's well nigh impossible to hate the warm-hearted Harry Potter. A review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. By Douglas LeBlanc posted 12/28/2001

Virtue on a Broomstick

The Harry Potter books, and the controversy surrounding them, bode well for the culture. A review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. By Michael G. Maudlin posted 9/7/2000

Books about the Books

Harry Beasts

The animal symbols in Potterdom are powerful pointers to Christian reality.An excerpt from John Granger's Looking for God in Harry Potter posted 07/15/2005

The Dick Staub Interview: Connie Neal

The author of The Gospel According to Harry Potter talks about leading a friend to Christ through the wizard hero. posted 11/18/2002

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a dark, grim, serious film, with little of the joy or whimsy that animated the first four movies. Review by Peter T. Chattaway posted 07/10/2007

The Sacrificial Boy Wizard

Harry Potter, reviled by many Christians, might actually be something of a Christ figure, as each of his adventures takes him through a life, death and resurrection. by John Granger posted 07/10/2007

Mad About Harry

Our readers seem to be absolutely mad about Harry Potter—both ways. They love him, or they hate him. by Mark Moring posted 11/22/2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Things get more emotional, and more intense, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Review by Peter T. Chattaway posted 11/17/2005

Redeeming Harry Potter

The initial Christian outcry against the boy wizard seems to be dying down. Maybe that's because more and more of us are discovering multiple redemptive themes in the series. by Russ Breimeier posted 11/15/2005

Has the Pope Condemned Harry Potter?

Cardinal Ratzinger's letters raise questions about whether the Vatican has a "position" on Potter. by Jeffrey Overstreet posted 07/18/2005

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The Prisoner of Azkaban is perhaps the most emotionally complex of the Harry Potter stories to date. Review by Peter T. Chattaway posted 04/23/2004

Film Forum: Christians Critics Split on Second Harry Potter

Harry Potter's return in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Re-ignites debate among religious press reviewers.by Jeffrey Overstreet posted 11/21/2002

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Christianity Today Movies did not review this film, but here's what other critics are saying …compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet posted 10/31/2002

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Is the big-screen Harry Potter as delightful as the one in the book? And should you be worried about his witchcraft? Critics and viewers respond. Review by Jeffrey Overstreet posted 11/21/2001

Film Forum: Wary About Harry

Is the big-screen Harry Potter as delightful as the one in the book? And should you be worried about his witchcraft? Critics and viewers respond to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.By Jeffrey Overstreet posted 11/21/2001

I Like Harry Potter

I was wondering about the Harry Potter movies. If I don't practice what is in the movies, is it OK to watch them just as entertainment?by Mark Matlock Campus Life, June/July 2003

Surrounded by Sorcery

10 ways to protect kids in an occult-filled popular culture by Connie Neal Today's Christian, September/October 2001

How to Handle Harry

Millions of Harry Potter books are dog-eared. Video games and fan Web sites abound. Kids are wearing the clothing and carrying around the merchandise. So how do we handle Harry Potter with our kids and their friends?

by Connie Neal Today's Christian Woman, Nov/Dec 2001


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The Plot to Save Socrates

Paul Levinson (2006), The Plot to Save Socrates, (New York: Tor Books)

I love time travel stories. My favorite time travel Star Trek: The Next Generation story is “Time’s Arrow” Part 1 and 2 where Data’s head was found in a 19th century San Francisco excavation and the away team from enterprise have to travel back in time to discover why. In the process, they met up with Mark Twain.

Time travel story is a wonderful marix of paradoxes with which good authors can play fanciful games with historical figures and events. I grew up on a diet of time travel stories from Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Greg Bear, Ben Bova, and Gregory Benford. Those interested can join the Time Travel Institute.

Thus when I discovered Paul Levinson’s book at Kinokuriya bookstore in Singapore, I snap it up at once. Not only is it a time travel story, but it involves the Greeks and Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Alcibiades, Antisthenes, and inventor Heron of Alexandria. I have always been fascinated by the question on how Greek philosophy would have developed if Socrates had not been executed by drinking hemlock by the Athenians. Would it have taken a totally different direction?

Will democracy has taken a different direction? (Socrates was condemned by the 500 members of the Athenian assembly for corrupting the minds of their young. Socrates called this fledging democracy “mob rule” and wanted to use his death to show the inadequacy of democracy. His student, Plato speaks of philosopher kings rather than democracy).

Will Christianity be different if Socrates had lived longer? Greek philosophy influence on the development of Christian thinking through Origen, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas cannot be denied.

The novel started by the discovery of a fragment of an ancient dialogue of Socrates where he was offered a chance to escape through time and leaving behind a clone of himself by the future time traveler so that it seems that Socrates would have been executed. In his story, Levinson did not deal much with science. His mode of travel are chairs that are programmed to a certain time period and are located in London, New York, and Athens. He did not make the effort to explain the physics of time travel, paradoxes, the butterfly effect, and effect of two self in the same moment of time. This makes his story not too believable.

There is also the large number of characters time traveling which make it confusing, especially if Roman mercenaries from another time period were brought in. In the end, it turned out that Socrates was dying of brain cancer anyway and cannot be saved even with medicine from the future.

It would have been great novel if Levinson has been clearer in his plotting. It is also a mystery novel because we are guessing throughout the novel, who is actually the time traveler who set the whole plot to save Socrates. However, I was swamped with details about ancient Greece, philosophers, and also their incredible ability to travel around Londonium, Athens, and even to the Americas.

This novel however offers an interesting idea, that Socrates is actually dying from brain tumor and that is why he accepted the Athenian death penalty. History recorded that he had to wait for 30 days for the hemlock to arrive and he refused an escape offer by his disciple, Crito. If he did not have the brain tumor would he have escape? Levinson notes that “I.F. Stones argues that Socrates may also have wanted his death penalty carried out as a way of permanently shaming the democracy he hated. In any case, that was certainly the result: the death of Socrates by prescribed hemlock in 399BC redounds as one of the worst cases in history of a dissident destroyed by government, all the worst because that government was the world’s first known democracy.” (p.270). This implies that Socrates have an inkling on his own importance in Greek philosophy.

If I have an opportunity to travel back in time to meet some historical person, I would like to meet Jesus of Nazareth.

What about you?

If you have an opportunity to travel back in time, who do you want to meet?


Friday, July 20, 2007

Influencers of Spiritual Formation (6)

Influencers of Spiritual Formation (6)

Globalisation and Glocalisation

The effects of globalization and glocalisation a powerful effect on the Malaysian church. Malaysia, as one of the economic Tigers is deeply involved in world trade. The technological advances in telecommunications and the Internet have created a smaller interconnected world. Malaysia is a member of the World Trade Organisation which means open borders for trade and professional services. Whether we like it or not, Malaysia is involved in the globalisation process. While there is no agreed definition of globalisation[1], globalisation is often understood to have the following characteristics: increasing speed in communication, the interconnected world become smaller, the blurring of national borders, reciprocity, manageable risk, and presence of trust (Beyon and Dunkerley 2000, 5-6).

The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir advises, “The challenge for Asia is not how to manage the present concept of globalisation but to make it work and to benefit from it. The challenge for Asia is to influence the thinking on globalisation, to reshape it, to reduce the chances of it going awry and in the process destroying economies and countries.” (Mohamad 2002, 16). The Malaysian church is should also take this advice to heart. The church should take up the challenges of globalisation and reshape it for the Kingdom of God.

There are many challenges of globalisation that provides the context that influences the societal corporate spiritual formation. This is the null curriculum of globalisation. Michael Warren, professor of religious education in the department of Theology at St. John’s University in Jamaica mentions three: “culture in the formation of perception, language in the formation of thought and hegemony in the formation of consciousness.” (Warren 1987). This highlights the insidious influence of globalisation. In this discussion, I shall limit it to two: McDonaldisation and Disneyisation.

Mark Chan, resident theologian for Eagles Communications, Singapore comments, “A Mcdonaldized ethos is marked by the dictates of efficiency, calculability, predictability and control does not value individuality, creativity, deliberation or attention to details. It is speed, proficiency, and the attainment of objectified goals that count.” (Chan 2002, 120). The characteristics of McDonaldization is derived from the working of the fast food chain; efficiency means simplified products, calculability means quantifiable products and services, predictability means standardisation of product and services, and control means replacement of human by technology.

McDonaldisation has arrived on our shores and even in our churches. In the name of efficiency, we have begun to simplify our sermons and church services. Some people call it “dumbing down”(Dawn 1995). Important facts are delivered in short sound bites. We have begun to play the number games in marking church attendance and giving. That is calculability. Predictability means standardising our church programs so that it is easily reproducible and by control, we look towards technology to solve our church problems. That’s why imported packaged education program produced by a megachurch in the United States is so attractive because it has been McDonaldised.

Disneyisation is the worldwide control of the arts, entertainment, media so that a particular worldview, values and filtered knowledge are disseminated. It exports escapism, American culture, products, and a delusion that happiness can be bought. Disneyisation has united the world into one culture that regards human beings as consumers. Christians are taught to be consumers of church services and other spiritual things rather than to be involved as participants. Through the media, arts, movies, and music, we are exposed to a delusion of a worldly worldview. The consumer worldview worship Mammon as god.

There is some similarity in Mark Chan’s disneyization and Tom Sine’s McWorld. Tom Sine notes that “McWorld is driven by aspirations and values of modernity and is aggressively at work creating a one-world consumer culture in which shopping mall is replacing the church as the centre of religious devotion, and all of life is reduced to a commodity.” (Sine 1999, 52). Both Chan and Sine discern that consumerism will be a major influence on Christians in the 21st century.

John Carpenter, former lecturer at Singapore Bible College thinks that Chinese Christians will be at greater risk,

Confucianism has a “legalistic” wing that provides strong virtues than can help Asian societies economically progress just as Calvinism helped parts of Western society progress. Unfortunately, it also has a soft, humanistic wing that assumes “man is the measure of all things.” One wing encourages capitalism. The other wing will, by emphasizing the goodness of human nature, encourage consumerism. If Christians in Asia are going to confront consumerism, they will have to uproot all such tendencies to human-centered religion and ideology.” (Carpenter 2002,109).

Edmund Chan, a pastor in Singapore sums up the challenge of globalisation to the church into three crises; that of identity, of truth, and of authority (Chan 2002). In this globalised interconnected world, it is easy to lose our self identity and take on the identity of the world culture. In consumerism and pragmatism, it is not what is true but what work counts. Hence, there is a tendency to redefine the biblical teaching in terms of efficiency and functionality. In the increasing tendency towards individualism and self-development, there is loss of the understanding of authority, both within and without the church.

Spiritual formation should focus on helping Asian Christians to uproot the materialistic and pragmatic nature of their culture and society.


Beyon, J. and D. Dunkerley, Eds. (2000). Globalization-The Reader. London, The Athlone Press.
Carpenter, J. B. (2002). Costly Discipleship in an Age of Consumerism. Truth to Proclaim: The Gospel in Church & Society. S. Chan. Singapore, Trinity Theological College: 95-114.
Chan, E. (2002). Globalisation and the Church- A Response. The Challenge and Impact of Globalisation: Towards a Biblical Response. T. S. Chee and A. Wong. Singapore, Graduates' Christian Fellowship: 54-59.
Dawn, M. J. (1995). Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Friedman, T. (2005). The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalized World in the 21st Century. London, The Penguin Group.
L.Y.Chan, M. (2002). The Cross Between the Golden Arches and Mickey Mouse: Discipleship in an Age of McDonaldization and Disneyization. Truth to Proclaim: The Gospel in Church & Society. S. Chan. Singapore, Trinity Theological College: 115-136.
Lim, H. M. (2002). Globalisation and the Economy- A System Response. The Challenge and Impact of Globalisation-Toward a Biblical Response. S. C. Tong and A. Wong. Singapore, Graduates' Christian Fellowship: 128-163.
Mohamad, M. (2002). Globalisation and the Real Realities. Kuala Lumpur, Pelanduk Publications (M) Sdn Bhd.
Sine, T. (1999). Mustard Seed versus McWorld: Reinventing Life and Faith for the Future. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books.
Tong, S. C. and A. Wong, Eds. (2002). The Challenge and Impact of Globalisation-Towards a Biblical Response. Singapore, Graduates' Christian Fellowship.
Warren, M. (1987). "Religious Formation in the Context of Social Formation." Religious Education 82(4 Fall): 515-528.


[1] Thomas Friedman noted that globalization occurs in three eras: globalization 1.0 (1492-1800) is when the world shrunk from large to medium and is due to countries expanding their empires, globalization 2.0 (1800-2000) when the world shrunk from medium to small due to the influence of multinational companies and we are now in globalization 3.0 where individuals anywhere in the world is empowered and that the world is now “flat”. Friedman, T. (2005). The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalized World in the 21st Century. London, The Penguin Group. p. 9-11. A “flattened” world that empower individual should be a boon to world evangelism. However, not all contributors who are Christians who contributed to, Tong, S. C. and A. Wong, Eds. (2002). The Challenge and Impact of Globalisation-Towards a Biblical Response. Singapore, Graduates' Christian Fellowship. , response with a positive attitude.

However Lim Hua Min’s comment is telling. Lim is a financial consultant. He writes, “It may be best to view the world in a developmental process in an ascending spiral like a spring. History unfolds this development spiral with its multitude of technology inventions which in turn affect the way society is organized. Ideas are created in response to societal needs. We move from an Agricultural Age to an Industrial Age and now to an Information Age.” Lim, H. M. (2002). Globalisation and the Economy- A System Response. The Challenge and Impact of Globalisation-Toward a Biblical Response. S. C. Tong and A. Wong. Singapore, Graduates' Christian Fellowship: 128-163. p.161 This should be an appropriate response as each age or era offers its opportunity for service in the expansion of the kingdom of God.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Horatio Hornblower

When I was a young lad, which was about a million years ago, my favourite sea adventures were the adventures of Horatio Hornblower, the hero of C.S. Forester’s series of the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.

Horatio joined the Royal Navy at the onset of the Napoleonic Wars and rose quickly through the ranks from midshipman to Admiral in a series of books. Each book detailed an adventure at a different setting: English Channel, West Indies, coast of Africa and of Spain. There are enough happenings to satisfy a boy’s sense of adventures: sea battles, mutiny, plague, fire, love, and fighting on land.

C.S. Forester (1899-1966) wrote 11 Hornblowers novels and he died writing Hornblower during the Crisis which was published posthumously. His other works include The African Queen, The Barbary Pirates, The General, The Good Shepherd, The Gun, The Last Nine Days of the "Bismarck," and Rifleman Dodd.

Back Bay's editions of the Hornblower novels are numbered according to the chronology of Hornblower's life and career, not according to the sequence in which they were written. The series is comprised of the following titles:

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
Lieutenant Hornblower
Hornblower and the Hotspur
Hornblower During the Crisis
Hornblower and the Atropos
Beat to Quarters
Ship of the Line
Flying Colours
Commodore Hornblower
Lord Hornblower
Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies

The series is rivaled only by Aubrey–Maturin series of seafaring novels by Patrick O'Brian and the Richard Sharpe series of land warfare by Bernard Cornwell.

So it was with great joy that I discovered and bought the collected edition of Horatio Hornblower movies. There were altogether 8 made-for-television movies filmed between 1998-2003. Watching it took 13 hours 20 minutes! It brought back good memories even though the later movies did not follow the novels accurately. Naval battles; where ships of the line sail alongside each other and let loose with their 105 cannons! What more could a man wants.

Except maybe the collected hardcover novels of C.S.Forester about Hornblower so that I can reread the adventures again!

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Church of Starbucks

Sweet, Leonard (2007), The Gospel According to Starbucks: Living a Grande Passion, Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press).

Leonard Sweet is the E. Stanley Jones professor of evangelism at Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey. In this book, he attempts to exegete culture by using the medieval methods of literal, allegorical, tropological, and analogical. To do that, he uses the example of Starbucks, the twentieth century success story and compares it to the failure of the contemporary church.

Starbucks, by the marvels of modern branding, marketing and giving people the illusion of what they needs, makes people willing to pay top dollars for a simple cup of coffee. Why are people willing to pay so much?

Sweet answers, “They pay so they can enjoy the Starbucks experience. The value comes with the experience that surrounds the cup of coffee. Starbucks lovers connect with the warmth of friends as they enjoy the warmth of their favourite drink.” (p.4)

Starbucks attains this success by giving people the Starbuck experience. Sweet postulates that the church can be revived by giving her members a similar experience, which he terms E.P.I.C. spirituality. EPIC is the acronyms for


Starbucks offers EPIC in the experience of drinking coffee in the ambience of a Starbuck outlet, participatory in the choosing of the variety of offerings, image-rich branding of Starbucks especially the coffee cup, and connection as friends meet over coffee and connect in a community.

The EPIC church will be the "irresistible experience" of God rather than the knowledge of Him, get “fully immersed in what God is doing,” using images as “God speaks in more than just words,” and reconstructing “life’s four bad connection: our broken relationship with God, others, self, and creation.”

The EPIC church is about experiences, and feelings. However I wonder if by using Starbucks as an example for comparison, Sweet is not bringing the church to the level of Starbucks. Starbucks is a phenomenon success because it caters to the culture of the age. Is Sweet suggesting that the church should also caters to the culture of this age? This is the culture which values experiences, existential existence, secular individualism, and materialism.

Sweet writes,

Rational faith-the form of Christianity that relies on argument, logic, and apologetics to defend its rightness-has failed miserably in meeting people where they live. Intellectual arguments over doctrine and theology are fine for divinity school, but they lose impact at the level of daily life experience. Starbucks knows that people lives for engagement, connection, symbols, and meaningful experiences. (p.5)

Because rational faith seems to have failed, there is no reason to throw out the baby with the bath water. What Starbucks offers is a superficial experience. It disappears as soon as we finish our cuppa and leaves the store. Church offers a real experience, one that transcends culture. Engagement, connection, symbols, and meaning experiences can only be lasting if it is grounded in the revelation of God. And that is rational faith. Without rational faith, it will become a free for all religiosity.

Sweet is right to point out the church has fossiled in some of her activities. However, we must be careful that to differentiate that the church is not Starbucks. Church is not a place where people who are severely addicted to caffeine go for their ‘pick me up.’ Church is a place where people who are severely addicted to Jesus Christ go to become a community of faith.

Jehovah Java!

P.S. I like Coffee Beans better!

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Religious Liberty in Malaysia


presented by

The Religious Liberty Commission
National Evangelical Christian Fellowship
(NECF) Malaysia

June 2007

read report here

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After Eden

cartoons from After Eden


It's Hard to be Like Jesus

Today's Christian, May/June 2005

It's Hard to Be Like Jesus

Why would anyone choose to follow a God who promises more hardship, not less?
By Philip Yancey

In my visits to churches overseas, one difference from North American Christians stands out sharply: their view of hardship and suffering. We who live in an age of unprecedented comfort seem obsessed with the problem of pain. Skeptics mention it as a major roadblock to faith, and believers struggle to come to terms with it. Prayer meetings in the U.S. often focus on illnesses and requests for healing. Not so elsewhere.

I asked a man who visits unregistered house churches in China whether Christians there pray for a change in harsh government policies. After thinking for a moment, he replied that not once had he heard a Chinese Christian pray for relief.

"They assume they'll face opposition," he said. "They can't imagine anything else." He then gave some examples. One pastor had served a term of 27 years at hard labor for holding unauthorized church meetings. When he emerged from prison and returned to church, he thanked the congregation for praying. Assigned a dangerous prison job, he had managed to couple together 1 million railroad cars without an injury. "God answered your prayers for my safety!" he proudly announced. Another imprisoned pastor heard that his wife was going blind. Desperate to rejoin her, he informed the warden that he was renouncing his faith. He was released, but soon felt so guilty that he turned himself in again to the police. He spent the next 30 years in prison.

read more

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Cod and God: A Fishy Story

The Journal of the Royal College of Physicians Of Edinburgh, June 2007 published a biographical article on missionary Dr. Wilfred Glenfell- Cod And God: Dr Wilfred Grenfell in Newfoundland

Under a veneer of effortless amateurism, he was competitive beyond his capabilities, energetic to the point of mania, egocentric and immature. In spite of all this –maybe because of it – he transformed life for thousands of people and for generations to come. Impossible to work with, his personal charm, charisma and enthusiasm brought people flocking to work with him. He was the antithesis of a team player yet spent his life in the service of others.

There was room for only one project in his life but that one received his absolute and undivided attention. He had a relaxed attitude to religion, despising the sectarianism which he saw as divisive and destructive. At the same time, he compared himself to Jesus Christ ,a
fisher of men who worked among the poor and dispossessed. He was a physician, surgeon, magistrate, explorer, missionary, lecturer and writer. More than all these things, he was a social reformer – some might say a revolutionary, an agent for profound change who delighted in taking the old order, established for 400 years, turning it upside down and giving it a good shake. He provided far more than just medical care or education. He gave back to the disenfranchised control of their own lives, empowering them to make a better future
for themselves.


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Sunday, July 15, 2007

E.P.I.C. Preaching

Read an interesting sermon by Leonard Sweet on wikiletics on E.P.I.C. Preaching.


The word "epic" carries a double meaning of both timeless and timely. The gospel is both. But even more, EPIC is my acronym for preaching that sounds the death-knell for pulpitcentric Christianity and rings the doorbell for preaching that is:



image-rich, and


In the once-dominant culture of the printing press, preaching was uniformly accepted as pulpit presentations that were rational, representative, word-based, and individualistic. However, that pulp-and-ink approach is rapidly losing whatever effectiveness it had. For postmodern culture, EPIC preaching leaves the pulpit behind while taking with it the contributions of modernity to the preaching enterprise. EPIC preaching is less a repudiation than an expansion of modernity: rationality expanded to embrace experience, performance expanded to embrace participation, exegesis of the Word expanded to embrace exegesis of the image, and the joining of the "me" and the "we" that's the essence of connectivity. EPIC preaching is a communal experience of the Word created by participation in an image-rich narrative or sequence of stories...

My favorite way of EPIC preaching? I don't always get to do it (and don't make an issue if I can't), but when I'm invited to preach somewhere one of my first questions is: "Do you have a live Web-feed?" If the answer is "yes," I then ask the second question: "Can you find me a dancing partner?"

In this type of EPICtivity, I stand in the middle of the congregation, with my Bible open to a text that is also featured on one of the two screens up front. Together the congregation and I exegete the leading image(s) of the text. The second screen, however, is totally under the creative promptings of my dancing partner. Preferably, this is a person who's grown up on Google, and not the word search function. While the people and I are more and more immersing ourselves in the Word, my dancing partner is Googling the Web for images that are tossed up by our interactions. And these images are flashed up on that second screen as contributions to and animations of our conversation. The energy that flows from these multilayered connections can only be described as "divine."

read more

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Idiot

SOMEONE CALLS YOU AN IDIOT. Then you start thinking, "How can they call me an idiot? They've got no right to call me an idiot! How rude to call me an idiot! I'll get them back for calling me an idiot." And you suddenly realize that you have just let them call you an idiot another four times.

Every time you remember what they said, you allow them to call you an idiot again. Therein lies the problem.

If someone calls you an idiot and you immediately let go, then it doesn't bother you. There is the solution.

Why allow other people to control your happiness?

Ajahn Brahm has a degree in theoretical physics. Disillusioned, he went to the jungles of Thailand and studied under the highly esteemed meditation master Ajahn Chah. A monk for over thirty years, Ajahn Brahm is a revered spiritual guide and abbot of the largest Buddhist monasteries in the southern hemisphere.

I have also enjoyed his speeches and his writings. Though we differ in some fundamental truths, I find that there is much he can teach me to be a better Christian.

sel deo gloria

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Die Hard 4.0

Review of Die Hard 4.0
Gore, Mayhem and Destruction

Die Hard 4.0 is the most fun of the four Die Hard movies. Bruce Willis acting as John Mclane of NYPD is more relaxed and more into his role as a “someone has to do it” hero. His failed marriage and estranged daughter are some attempt at character development from the last three movies. However the appeal of the Die Hard movies is not the violence or the shooting but of a man, who is a well trained police officer, are able to endure incredible amount of punishment and injuries, has unbelievable luck, and plain too stubborn to give up. The visual effects are great and John managed to demolish buildings, cars, SUVs, a semi trailer truck, road flyovers, and even a fighter aircraft! This is in addition to shooting lots and lots of bullets.

The plot was a master criminal who was out to create maximum chaos by crippling the US computer systems by what hackers call a fire-sale. Destroy or disrupt the computer systems of traffic, utilities, financial, and military and you would have created a fire-sale. Total chaos and you can take what you want.

I know it is difficult to justify but I find watching the mayhem of Die Hard movies very therapeutic for me. After a hard day at the hospital, dealing with stressed out parents and sick children, and ministry related work at church, I find watching total destruction very relaxing. I guess some people de-stress by exercising, gardening, or listening to music. Me, give me gore, mayhem, and total destruction.

Does that sound strange coming from a doctor and follower of Christ?
What others are saying
Christianity Today Moves.com
Past the Popcorn
Rotten Tomatoes
Ben Witherington


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Social Trinitarianism, What's That?

Harden's posting about Radical Trinitarianism on his blog Inhabitatio Dei is worth reading. I love his latest, Radical Trinitarianism: Who's Afraid of the Social Trinity?

Social trinitarians have taken note of this and have sought, as much as possible to understand the reality of the Trinity on the basis of continuity between divine and human personhood and divine and human relationally. Thinkers like Jürgen Moltmann, Leonardo Boff, Catherine Mowry LaCugna, Miroslav Volf and others have found in the Trinity the perfect model for understanding human personhood and the proper shape of human social and political relationships. Colin Gunton (a somewhat ambigiously social trinitarian) even goes so far as to state that when we call the Triune hypostases and humans ‘persons’ the term functions univocally. For many social trinitarians human persons, though obviously not divine, are clearly created in the image of the Triune shape of personality...

To sum up in a different way, the methodological and theological problems of social trinitarianism seem to be avoidable, not simply through an assertion of divine transcendence or divine unity abstractly conceived, but rather in relocating the discussion of the relationship between divine and human personhood. The proper locus for such a discussion is in the self-revelation of God in the incarnate Christ. The reality that is disclosed therein is not, per se that human persons “image” divine persons in some innate sense, but rather that human persons realize their personhood in and through the communion between divinity and humanity actualized in the incarnate Son. The realism of divine-human communion in Christ establishes that divine and human personhood exist in actualized state of noncompetitive symphony in which the infinite difference between Creator and creature is enfolded within the musical intervals of the Triune life. God’s being as Trinity is so infinitely complex that the difference between God and humanity is in fact taken into God and is thus transposed into a new key. No longer is the discontinuity between divinity and humanity an inhibition to ontic and ontological communion, rather in Christ, the very difference between Creator and creation becomes the occasion for that communion.

It is in light of this incarnational and covenantal theology of humanity’s incorporation into the Triune life that we are able to rightly speak of how human persons come to bear the likeness of the Triune communion. By being transformed through the Spirit into the likeness of the Son through union with him, we are brought into the relationship of the Son and Father. As such, our relations with one another acquire, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the character of Christ’s relationship to us, for, given the assumptio carnis, we always and only encounter one another through the mediation of Christ. Likewise our relationship with God acquires the character Christ’s own relationship to the Father, for that is the very relationship into which we are incorporated through the Spirit, now calling out “abba Father” as Christ’s sisters and brothers(Rom. 8:15). Thus, we are able to affirm Christ’s prayer that we may be one as he and the Father are one (Jn. 17:33), not because of a theology of generic continuity between divine and human personhood, but because of the gracious act of God in Christ whereby our very difference from God is transposed into the occasion for our communion with him and one another...

read whole posting

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Laugh with the Lord

My friend and dear brother in Christ, Paul Juby just sent me his new book, "hot off the press" from Norfolk, United Kingdom.

It is a collection of his cartoons. His cartoons reflects his personality-full of joy and sharp wit! Thanks Paul for the autographed copy. It will have an honoured place on my bookshelves.

Paul Juby came to Malaysia to work when he was twenty years old. Within a few months he was brought to Christ by teenage members of the Penang Methodist Youth Fellowship. Within a few more months he formed a Boys' Brigade Company at the church. Soon afterwards he was sacked by his firm for mixing with Asians and refusing to join an all-European Club.

Paul then found employment as a rubber planter and eventually managed the largest rubber processing
company in the

He continued to help extend The Boys' Brigade and has seen it grow from 30 members to over 7000 and expanded to the neighbouring countries.

Retired to England, Paul founded a BB Old Boys Association named The Federation of Stedfast Associations, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland of which he is the National Chairman. He is also the Honorary Vice-president of the Boys' Brigade in Malaysia.

In his mid seventies, Paul is still very active. Every three years he leads a sponsored climb of Mount Kinabalu (14,500 feet) to raise fund for BB Asia. He has been called "Robokop" by the boys and girls because he has two artificial hips.

Paul loves preaching because it gives him an excuse 'to point a finger at "pew sitters"'!

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Women and Men in White

Another interesting medical note from my friend, Punna

The doctor's white coat—an historical perspective

The white coat has served as the pre-eminent symbol of physicians for over 100 years. Prior to the late 19th century doctors wore not white but black garb.

How did the white coat come to represent physicians in the first place?

The word candor is derived from the Latin candidus which means white. In fact, the foundation of all professional societies is candor or truth.
Physicians dressed themselves in black until the late 19th century. Black attire is considered formal (e.g., today's tuxedo). Consequently until about 1900, physicians wore black for their patient interactions since medical encounters are serious and formal matters.

A scene from Jefferson Medical College's amphitheater in Philadelphia showing Dr. Samuel Gross and his assistants— all dressed in black formal attire—performing a leg operation on a young man.
It was Joseph Lister's contribution that truly moved medicine from home remedies and quackery to the realm of bioscience. For the first time, reproducible results helped researchers better understand how to prevent bacterial contamination.

This progression was documented in Eakins' 1889 "The Agnew Clinic" D. Hayes Agnew MD, can be seen in a white smock, with assistants also wearing white, suggesting that a new sense of cleanliness pervaded the environment.

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, when medicine became scientific, the "whiteness" or "pureness" of medicine became reflected in the garb of physicians and nurses . Up until that time nuns in their black habits functioned as nurses, largely in almshouses. To this day nurses in England are called sisters, because of their religious origins.

In the 20th century, the white coat continued as the symbol of medical authority and respect. Probably the greatest development of medical science in the 20th century was the advent of antibiotics toward the end of World War II—the completion of Lord Lister's dream that bacteria could be successfully overcome. For the first time pneumonia, appendicitis, an infected blister or a toothache no longer condemned one to death.

A depiction of a physician in a white coat is indeed the symbol of medicine, eclipsing even the stethoscope.

Many patients view the white coat as a "cloak of compassion" and a symbol of the caring and hope they expect to receive from their physicians . Medical students see their education and role as future physicians as aspiring to be worthy of the white coat. The white coat symbolizes the standard of professionalism, caring and emblem of the trust they must earn from patients. It gives them a standard against which they must measure their every act of care to the patients who trust them.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Joyful Exiles

"Today I meet Christians who despair over the absence of reality in their faith because it was communicated to them cognitively and never allowed to develop emotionally."

"It is the height of surrealism to make a profitable career of the cross of Christ … Even the world knows the difference between a sacrificial life and a self-centered one."

"We start Christian service thinking that our natural interests and abilities can combine with God's grace to achieve a noble cause. Then God begins to prune our lives, and we are ready to run away. But in the end the humble see God's love in the smallest of things, whereas the proud don't recognize the hand of God in the greatest of events."

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Bill Hybers on Preaching

I have great respect for Bill Hybers both as a preacher and a communicator. Here is where he talks about his preaching.

The Accompanying Presence
His voice is still small, but you'll preach better if you hear first from the Holy Spirit.
An Interview with Bill Hybels

Pastors talk about preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit. Bill Hybels, who preaches to about 20,000 people most weekends, says he senses the Lord's presence when he's in the pulpit, but even more so in the study (or on the boat) when he's preparing the message. Do you recall a time when you felt you preached in the power of the Spirit?

Bill Hybels: For me, being moved by the Holy Spirit in preaching is often more dramatic when I'm preparing a sermon than when I'm in the pulpit delivering it.
When I'm in the flow of the Spirit, I have an awareness of the Spirit saying, "You're doing it just right, Bill."

I can think of a time recently when I was anchored out on a boat and I had been praying and studying a text, and the ideas began to flow. I grabbed pen and paper, and I wrote as fast as my hand would allow me to write for probably an hour and a half.

In one setting I put an entire message together, got down on my knees on the deck of the boat, and said, The greatest miracle of this sermon has already taken place. This was a gift I didn't deserve—the spiritual gift of preaching and teaching deposited in my life—and the Holy Spirit energized that gift that afternoon. That it worked as mysteriously and supernaturally as it did still overwhelms me.

What suggests to you that you are preaching in the power of the Spirit?

Thoughts come into my mind that I know were deposited there by a power other than my own. Sometimes I'll be reading a text, and I'll be prompted by the Holy Spirit: Hang with this text, Bill. Read it again. Read it slower. And while I'm ruminating on it, reading and rereading it, it's like something comes off the page or drops from heaven and intersects in my mind. A thought comes that I quickly try to put on paper, and then that leads to a next thought and a next.

When additional thoughts begin to flow, I know that's not just the work of the flesh. I'm not that good. That's a supernatural thing.

One way to know you have the preaching and teaching gift is that this supernatural dynamic occurs, and you learn how to go with the flow. You learn how to prepare your heart for that flow to occur and to capture it when it does.

What have you had to unlearn about preaching and the power of the Spirit?

A lot of men and women can read a text, formulate a few thoughts, and speak sort of off the top of their heads, but in 30 years I've never been able to do that. Certainly I've had to unlearn the idea that preparation is always going to be easy, as though you're going to sit down and God's going to appear and it's always going to flow and be mysterious.

Like your experience on the boat.

Yes. Probably the reason that came to mind as vividly as it did is because of how unusual that is. Usually I have to invest a lot more in research and preparation of my spirit. I make progress in 30-minute increments. My administrative assistant would assure you that my study sounds more like a dentist's office than some great artistic revelation happening.

This is a factory not the symphony center.

Most certainly. My average weekly preparation is taxing and requires more discipline than I thought was going to be required when I started many decades ago. Once you get accustomed to that, you settle into the routine. That becomes the norm, and you thank God like crazy when it goes easier or flows more dynamically than that.

Regarding the Holy Spirit, do the terms presence or manifest presence describe what you experience when you preach?

I refer to an accompanying presence. When I'm in the flow of the Spirit as best I can yield myself to be so, it's as though I have an awareness of the accompanying presence of the Spirit saying, You're doing it just right, Bill. You're saying it just the way I gave it to you. You're being true to yourself, true to the Word, true to my promptings. Just keep going. Way to go.
And when I feel that, it's like time stands still, and you go, This is a great thing to be doing right now.

Of course, there are other times when, for whatever reasons, I don't feel that accompanying presence as strongly. I've laid awake nights wondering about that. It's greatly appreciated when it's there.

Would you describe that sense of God's accompanying presence as rare, or frequent?

I would say it's frequent. Again, if you're living a yielded life, and if you have the preaching and teaching gift, and you're yielding that to God on a continual basis, that's one of the signs that you're in the right place doing the right thing for the right reasons.

If you're doing something in the kingdom, and you rarely feel that, that's a red flag. Something needs to be looked at. Are you using the right gift? Are you using it in the right way? For the right reasons? At the right time? In the right context? If I didn't feel it consistently, that would be quite troubling to me.

Scripture portrays two sides to our experience of the Spirit. Ephesians says, "Be filled with the Spirit" and "Pray in the Spirit," suggesting there are things we can do that put us in a place where God's Spirit can be manifest in us. Then again, Jesus says, "The wind blows wherever it pleases." Which is your experience?

Every great communicator I know could tell you how they "get in the zone." Michael Jordan had a strict regimen before every big game to get himself in a prepared state to do his best.
I've been fascinated by this. When I'm with other speakers, I ask them, "What do you do to get in the preparation zone? How do you pray? When do you prepare? Do you prepare in the same place? Do you listen to music? How do you prepare yourself just before you deliver your message?" Great communicators can say precisely how they up the probability that the Spirit will be strong in their life.

Having done all of that, then, the wind blows where it will. Sometimes it blows stronger than others. I can only do the part that depends on me. I can fast and pray and kneel before God and invite others to pray with me.

Sometimes the messages get lifted to fifteen thousand feet. Sometimes they get lifted to twenty thousand, sometimes to twenty-five thousand. Why there are those altitude differences, I don't know.

What have you learned from Scripture about preaching in the power of the Spirit?

It has a lot to do with courage. Look at the great messages delivered in Scripture. Joshua stands before the people and says, "Choose this day what you're going to do. Here's what I'm going to do." Peter stands up in and says, "Here's what you did to the One who was sent from God."
Preaching involves an inordinate amount of courage. You have to be willing to take heat and backlash if you're going to say the words God gave you to say in the spirit he gave you to deliver it.

In my own experience, the messages that turned certain corners at Willow and the messages that were greatly used in conference settings were ones that I walked toward the lectern with knees knocking, thinking, There is no way I'm going to be able to say these words to these people.

God says, Here we go, and you say them.

You feel alone in the moment, and you have to die to audience response, realizing they are probably not going to carry your picture in their wallet anymore. But you know, This is precisely what God wants me to say. That's a refining, character-building, intensely spiritual process.

Paul speaks in about the power of Christ resting on him when he was weak. How have you experienced that?

Some of the best preaching I've done came out of times when I was desperately needy.

One message I've probably given five hundred times around the world came to me in the slums outside of Soweto in South Africa when I was supposed to speak to several thousand illiterate people about the nature of the Church of Jesus Christ. I realized this was an impossible task. How could I communicate such theology to people who have probably never seen what I'm trying to describe?

I woke up at four o'clock in the morning and prayed, "God, I'm going to stay humbly in this kneeling position until you give me a way to talk about your church in a fashion that these folks can understand." I put together a unique message in which I brought people up on the stage and posed them in certain stances to give listeners pictures of the church. When I delivered the message that day, I knew I had that Accompanying Presence.

People got it. It changed their understanding of what a church could be. That message came out of a desperate situation where unless God had moved, I was done for.

Bill Hybels is pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois.

Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal

more here

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Buying Preaching

Paid to Preach?

Recently, I tried something different in our worship service. Instead of preaching at the end, I did it first, with music, the offering, and Scripture reading afterward. As I stood behind the pulpit,
I could see people getting ready for the offering, until they realized I was starting my message.

Caitlyn, a first grader in the congregation, was perplexed by this change of routine, and whispered frantically to her mom, "Doesn't he know we haven't paid him to talk yet?"

—Gordon Wood, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin, "Kids of the Kingdom," Christian Reader (July/August 2000)

from Preaching Today.com

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The Centre

I imagine that I walk into a desert place.
I spend some time exploring the surroundings,
then settle down to contemplate my life.

I see how frequently I rush outside myself
-to people, occupations, places, things-
in search of strength and peace and meaning,
forgetting the source for all
is here within my heart.
It is here that I must search.

Each person carries thoughts
that have the power to bring instant peace.
I search for mine.

I also search for the thoughts
that help me face life's challenges
with fortitude and courage.

What are the thoughts that make me warm and gentle,
that exorcise the hate and anger in my heart?

What thoughts put meaning in my life?
produce contentment?
give me joy?
propel me into service?

Before I leave the desert
I recall the existence of another source within
that does not need the aids of thoughts
to give me all I need.

I make an indirect attempt to reach it
by imagining a cave within my heart
suffused with light.
The light invades my body as I enter.
I can feel its rays create and energize
and warm and heal.

So I sit within the cave in silent adoration
as the light seeps in through every pore.

"Hello, I have been waiting here for you a long time,"Jesus said as he glazed into my eyes. His gaze was long and loving, and I felt my soul was transparent.

"I have waited here while you were running everywhere to look for strength, and for comfort and for peace," He said.

"My heart was breaking too," He said with tears in His eyes, " as yours were. I feel your pain, your hurt, and your anger."

"I also watched as you try to make yourself feel better," He added sadly, " by drinking yourself into a stupor, by ceaseless watching of movies and televisions, by lustful sexual encounters, by self-talk and drugged abuse of your body for momentarily pleasure."

"These escapes did not last long enough, did it?" He asked looking into my eye,"When it is over, you still end up with yourself and your problems."

"You want to talk about it?" He asked sincerely.

"Yes, " I said in a broken voice, "Yes, I do. Forgive me, Father for I have sinned..."


I thank you for this reminder that wherever we go you are there with us. Father, we ask for your forgiveness that we look for strength, and comfort, and encouragement everywhere except from You, the endless source of strength, comfort and encouragement. Lord, we are here now. Please give us strength, comfort and encouragement for another day. Please lead us back to this cave often to meet you.


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