Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Christian Story in One Minute

God made, Adam sinned
Eden lost, world ruined
World flooded, Noah saved
Rainbow signed, promise made
Abraham called, child pledged
Isaac born, Sarah laughed
Hebrew saved, Moses fled
Egypt plagued, God led
Land conquered, Saul crowned
Goliath slain, David reigned
People lapsed, prophet warned
Nation crushed, temple burned
Daniel prayed, lions starved
Esther dared, people saved
People left, Babylon defeated
Some returned, walls erected
Jesus born, John pointed
People hailed God's anointed
Jesus taught, people saved
Jesus healed, dead raised
Death died, Jesus rose
Spirit came, good news
Word spread, Church grow
Christ returns, all new

This poem is from an interesting book by Margaret Cooling and is written by her. The book is Creating a Learning Church: Improving teaching and learning in the local church (Oxford: Bible Reading Fellowship,2005). I strongly recommend this book to those who are involved in the ministry of teaching in the local church which means everyone. Cooling gave the principles of learning and gave lots of useful ideas and examples on teaching that facilitate learning. Worth buying the book and referring to it again and again. Simple to read too.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Everyone Needs a Plan

Danny Yap, Everyone Needs a Plan: Making It to the Million Dollar Round Table and Beyond (Johor Bahru, Malaysia: Springfield Consultancy Sdn Bhd, 2004)

Selling insurance as in any sales job is a difficult and tough business. Danny Yap, who started with insurance and is now a financial consultant shares his experience and work habits that made him a member of the Million Dollar Round Table since 1999. As is common in many such ‘self-help’ books, there are numerous anecdotes and encouraging stories.

First, what stand out from other ‘self-help’ books are that Danny’s Christian principles as he structures his life, his work and priorities. I am impressed by the priority given to his family, both in his work habits and his sales strategy. This is especially impressive as most insurance agents would sacrifice family times to make more sales.

Second, Danny emphases a disciplined work life and a work strategy. This is important as most insurance agents have control of their time. It can be both a blessing and a curse. Hence the need of at least some structure in their lives.

Finally, what stands out from the book is Danny’s love of learning and the drive to improve himself. Hence there are advices to read books and attend seminars. While again this is common with most ‘self help’ books, Danny’s emphasis is for learning to improve oneself rather than that elusive ‘technique’ that would make that extra sale or ‘gimmick’ that will net a more ‘valuable’ client.

I find the book interesting because it offers deeper insight into the vocation and motivations of insurance agents. As a medical doctor, I have met a large number of insurance agents in my time. Those encounters concerning my patients often leave me feeling disappointed with issues of personal integrity and truthfulness. Other encounters make me angry as a ‘designated target’. This book helps me to see from the viewpoint of an insurance agent.

Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life

Barnable Conrad and Monte Schulz (eds.) Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life (Cincinatti,OH: F&W Publications, Inc: 2002)

This is an interesting book for book lovers, writers and fans of the Peanuts comic strips. Liberally interspersed with comic strips of the writing adventures of Snoopy are comments about the writing life from more than 30 authors which include Ray Bradbury, Clive Cussler, Sue Grafton, Elmore Leonard and Ed McBain. This was an enjoyable read especially for an aspiring writer like me who loves books and writing. Writing is often a lonely adventure and it is exciting to find fellow adventurers along the way. It is like seeking an Asian face in a European country (or it used to be before the colonisation of Europe by Asian).

I have enjoyed the Snoopy’s varied responses when he received numerous rejection letters for his manuscripts from numerous editors. That is one of the most heart-breaking moments of a writer’s life. And most if not all writers have had this heart breaking moments. Jack Canfield author of Chicken Soup for the Soul gave the following statistics in this book:

  • Louis L’Amour, successful author of more than one hundred western novels with more than two hundred million copies in print, received 350 rejections before he made his first sale.

  • Dr. Seuss’s first children book, And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected by 27 publishers. The twenty-eighth publisher, Vanguard Press, sold six million copies of the book. All of Seuss’s children’s books went on to sell a total of more than one hundred million copies.

  • Margaret Mitchell’s classic, Gone With the Wind was turned down by more than twenty-five publishers.

  • Mary Higgins Clark was rejected forty times before selling her first story. More than thirty million copies of her books are now in print.

  • Jack London received six hundred rejection slips before he sold his first story.

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul was turned down by thirty-three publishers in New York and another ninety at the American booksellers Association convention in Anaheim, California. It was finally picked up by Health Communications, Inc. Since then the original book has sold more than eight million copies and the series, more than fifty three millions copies.

    Encouraging statistics as we sit before our computers and begin writing. Like Snoopy, we all started out with “It was a dark and stormy night”

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why I am a Christian

“Uncle, why are you a Christian?” asked the 5 years old daughter of an old friend a few weeks ago when she was brought to my clinic for one of her booster shot. I have thought often about the answer to that innocent question since then. I could not remember how I have answered her. She must have been satisfied because she continued to admire a “Hello Kitty” sticker I have given her. The question stuck in my mind. I could not forget it. It was one of these questions that demand an answer. Yes, why am I a Christian? What is Christianity to me?

I guess I could start at Genesis and explained about the Original Sin of Adam and Eve that caused the break in fellowship with God. Or I could discuss the Pauline theology of penal-substitution of Christ’s death on the cross. Another approach I could take is to look at the covenant theology of God. Yes, I could start with these. However, these will explain who a Christian is but not why I am a Christian. And what being a Christian means to me.

I am a Christian because I am in a living relationship with God. I have not seen God but I have a pretty good idea of who He is by the portrait of Jesus Christ as given in the Gospels. However, it is not just an idea of God I have but a relationship. God is as real to me as my wife. My relationship with God is as real as my relationship with my wife. Sometimes it boggles my mind to think that the Almighty God who created the heavens and earth knows about me, is interested in my daily life and has a living relationship with me. He even calls me son. We talk together. In my prayers and solitude, I can sense His presence. I hear what He tells me through the Bible, other people, circumstances, dreams, visions and mostly through a still small voice in my soul. I know I often disappoint Him and grieve Him. Yet, I also know of His unfailing love for me. In this living relationship, He wants me to be me. He accept me totally, faults and all.

I am a Christian because it makes me feel wonderfully more alive. I do not mean that those who are not Christians are not alive. What I meant was being a Christian makes me more alive because my life has a purpose. I am here because I was meant to be here. I was not here by accident. I am not here because I am working out my karma. Neither am I here because my mother married my father and they wanted to have a child. I am here because there is a greater purpose. I am here because I have a role to play in this greater purpose. This role is part of a greater plan. This greater plan is a plan for good. This plan is God’s plan and is for all of eternity. God conceived of this plan and thus of me even before the creation of this universe. I have a role in God’s greater plan. This means that everything I do here on earth, every single moment is significant in God’s plan. No moment is wasted. Thus having a purpose makes me feel more alive. There is a reason for my being alive. I have observed that some of the saddest people are those who do not have a purpose for their lives. In some ways, they are not living, just existing.

I am a Christian because through me, God gives life to others. I know that I am not a perfect instrument. I have so many flaws and am so self-centred. Yet I have been in numerous occasions when God used me to help others; sometimes to give spiritual insight through my conversation, teaching and writings; sometimes to extend physical help through my medical work and community projects; at other times to bring others into a living relationship with Him. I am often amazed myself. Did I really do that? That’s so unlike me. Being a Christian is life-giving to oneself, others and creation.

So next time someone asks me why I am a Christian, I shall answer that I am a Christian because it makes me more alive in a living and life-giving relationship with God. Hmm. Okay. Next time if another 5 years old ask me why I am a Christian, I shall answer, “Jesus loves me this I know…”

Soli Deo Gloria


Monday, June 19, 2006

The Caffeine Driven Life

Wake up every morning, mind in a mush,
already late, running in a rush.
Brain not engaged, still not in gear,
wait, coffee, o coffee, I need thee here.

I need the fix, I need the kick,
a cuppa of java will do the trick,
To get through the day I need the buzz,
hot coffee, iced coffee, no need to fuss.

Too much work, too little time,
another cuppa coffee and all will be fine.
Need energy, lift up mood to euphorise the day,
coffee will energise, colourise and brighten the way.

Clock out time, day is done, night is coming
energy draining, euphoric mood darkening.
Going home, coffee glow from cheek slowly fading,
caffeine level in blood stream slowly falling.

Such is life, with hustle and noise, our busy condition,
a life truly driven by the world’s only legal addiction.
Filled the cups with espresso, latte, mochas and macchiato
available only in Starbucks, Coffee Bean and alfresco.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Requeim for A Friend

A good friend and brother in Christ died on 11 June. It was a sudden death. Within a few hours he deteriorated and expired. He died from severe intracranial haemorrage. There was nothing the doctors could do. My friend was at the peak of his career and was the principal of large secondary school in Johor Bahru. He left behind a wife and three young sons.

I was to conduct his funeral service. What am I to say? What can I say to the grieving widow? What shall I say to the sons who has lost a father? What will I say to his friends, colleagues and students? Somehow, the stock phrases we use in funeral services seem meaningless; "God loves him so much that He wants him with Him now"; "God said his job on earth is completed"; "He did not suffer"; "It is part of God's plans" or "This is how God wants it." How will this sound to a woman who has just lost her husband? How will this sound to a son who has just lost his father?

In the end, when I gave the sermon, I talked about my friend. I talked about how he loved his wife, how he was so proud of his children, how he loved his work (all those students he has guided and helped) and how he love his God.

The widow asked me 'Why?" I answered, "I don't know"

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

High Ground or Lowland Swamp?

"In the varied topography of professional practice, there is a high, hard ground overlooking a swamp. On the high ground, manageable problems lend themselves to solution though the application of research-based theory and technique. In the swampy lowland, messy, confusing problems defy technical solution. The irony of this situation is that the problem of the high ground tend to be relatively unimportant to individuals or society at large, however great their technical interest may be, while in the swamp lie the problems of greatest human concern. The practitioner must choose. Shall he remain on the high ground where he can solve relatively unimportant problems according to prevailing standards of rigor, or shall he descend to the swamp of important problems and nonrigorous inquiry?"

Donald Schon
Educating the Reflective Practitioner (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987)


Is there such thing as Generational Sin?

Generational sins is an interesting topic. It is interesting because there is no consensus that it exist at all. If it does not exist, then many of the prayers and work done on some Christians may be in vain or even be harmful. If it exist and was denied, then some Christians who could be helped would not receive the help needed. They will remain in bondage to generational sins or curse. The key verse in any discussion on generational sin is Exodus 20:5.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

How to Deal with Disappoinment in Your Life

Life is hard. Life is not fair. Anybody who has lived a few years will agree with these two maxims. The Teacher is Ecclesiastes was very perceptive when he wrote,

I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
(Eccl. 9:11)(NIV)

No matter how well prepared we are or how connected we are, we cannot get everything the way we want it to be. And when things do not happen the way we want it to, disappointment happens. Disappointment is so much a part of life that I would venture to say that life is mostly disappointments punctured with occasional episodes when things did actually happen the way we wanted it to be. Disappointment is one of the means of grace in which God helps us to learn to trust Him and to produce faith.

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Friday, June 02, 2006



Dark is the recesses of my mind,
blackness envelope my thoughts,
blocking out the light.
Cobwebs covered rooms of memories,
days and nights long dead and gone.

Black is the heart that beat in my chest,
marking and beating time to my dying.
A heart that had shriveled from indifference,
divorcing love from its central place.

Cold is the wind that buffers my body,
muscles shiver and quiver without warmth.
Body long neglected now falling apart,
euthanasia by monthly installments.

Gloom is the spirit and soul,
of a man who once stroll forth as a king.
A soul that is as fragmented as the spirit,
imprisoned in a dungeon of flesh.

Dark... that light?