Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Voice (NT)

Just something I would like to recommend to you all out there. I bought this bible a few months back "the Voice (New Testament)" and found out that I really like this particular bible a lot. Not that the other translations are bad just that this bible t has a fresh approach to it.

Some of the features...

1. It has this new screenplay format that is just wonderful. Sort of like reading lines off a script for a play. See for yourself:

2. It has some short commentary boxes which are helpful. There are some neat facts or background details coupled with some devotional thought on a passage which I found helpful while reading a particular book (gospel, epistle).

3. It's a new translation. Not one that is literal but it's a sort of a "retelling" as ascribed by a reviewer of the bible on Amazon. (Brian Baute's gives a balanced review of "the Voice").

Anyway If you are considering to get a new translation of the bible which is readable (well this particular one is only in New Testament at the moment) the I would recommend "the Voice" as an ideal choice. As of now, I'm currently reading through Romans. It's good to have another addition to my bulky collection of bible translation. ;).

Check out the official website of the Voice as well, and download a sample: The Gospel of John in PDF!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Orthodox Heretic

Modern day parables told by Pete Rollins author of "
How (not) to Speak of God" and "Fidelity of Betrayal". He has a knack for putting up intriguing titles for books. In his upcoming book, "Orthodox Heretic" he has written a book comprised of modern day parables which were developed to communicate the ideas from his two previous ones. Here are some video segments of Pete reading some excerpts for us. Take a look and listen, you might learn something. And if possible, join me in waiting for the release of the book which is scheduled in April 2009. This would make a wonderful addition to you book shelf and your mind and thoughts.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Great Expectation

Do you have moments when you post something on your blog and you have a notion of 'great expectation' that you did some justice to the subject you are posting? Like you wish that a flood of responses would just flow in as you 'expectantly' visit or log into your blog. Sometimes I get preoccupied with that sort of notion. It does sound pathetic but even in cyberspace our humanistic desire to be known and significant is translated in the tools of communication. Even as I type these letters and construct these words into sentences that have meaning, at the back of my head, I wonder how many people would read, will I provoke their thoughts, will they gain insight from the ideas I posted, will people agree with them, will i give encouragement, will i ignite controversy...? But the underlining fact of these question are really...I want to be known and I want to be significant. I guess we will always have these notions even when we least expect them.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Matthew's Begats (geneology in song)

Reading (singing) genealogy that doesn't bore us...in this case it pulls us and draws us to memorize the words because the melody has a certain pull.

Monday, December 22, 2008

'Prophet' Gandhi

Gandhi- “You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilizations to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of good literature.

I was browsing through the net and found this little comment by Gandhi from this excellent blog . How is it that someone who is not a Christian knows the real value of the very scriptures that we (allegedly) believe in? We on the other hand treat our living scriptures as irrelevant as well as a boring piece of document.

I like the quote by Gandhi, which is haunting and disturbing in a good way. I hope the quote grips the very being of your 'soul' and nudges you towards the bible today, not just to read but to understand and apply at the same time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Article at the Ooze

I just got my article posted on the Ooze website which you can see here. I posted it before on my blog here, but it looks great on a well known website. If you haven't read it on my blog do read it on the Ooze! I would probably try out writing other articles in the near future.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Habitual Bliss

I just received some books that I bought via the mail. Shopping for books are a drag here in Miri because of the selections. It really is disappointing really. That is not a good sign for my wallet because as you know money obviously don't grow on trees. Anyway let me show you the books I received through the mail:

Got these from Kinokuniya, a bookstore in KL. The good thing about them is you can order books via the net which is convenient, but the only hassle is their shipping fee (RM 40 bucks!!) and the price of some of their books...but I'm not complaining because the books are good and they arrive a day or two after you ordered them which is pretty fast! Well I have to bear with the prices until i get a job that helps me with this (joking but in a serious tone). Check out the store if you are in Malaysia that is.

About the books...I'm recently in a mode wanting to study Jewish culture so hence the first book. And Genesis has been a fasination and a struggle to understand so the second book will help on that part (it was also recomended by Scot McKnight so that adds a lot of credibility in the book). The third book is another area of interest for me mainly because I have a fascination in New Testament studies (historical Jesus, gospel reliability, gnostic gospels..) and Nicholas Perrin is a very engaging writer. Though a scholar, his books are reader friendly. I liked "Lost in Transmission" so much that I had to read his other book which was available in Malaysia (just over the sea in Semenanjung Malaysia sigh...).

Here's another book that I bought here in Miri in Popular. A helpful book on Leadership by Seth Godin. It's not a Christian book but we as Christians can and must learn from others as well. The book is called "Tribes: We need you to Lead us". This book doesn't have a table of contents. But for those who are familiar with the blog sphere, the format of the book is constructed in a way like short posts, so you will not be intimidated by it. And it's not that thick either.

Well, I'm still waiting for another two books to arrive. More theological in nature and I just love that. I hope you check out these books.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Some articles on Sermons

Thought I would alert your attention to some cool articles on the importance of sermons here. Enjoy and think through.

Wild Goose Chase

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. Some sort of hard reflection on the situation that I am in. The issue has stretched me in more ways that I can imagine and at time made me feel like a person being stuck in a hole.

Right now I am reaping the benefits of addressing difficult issues, not nudging them with threats of murder, but with a simple and personal e-mail. It all had to do with discrimination and how the smaller and insignificant workers were neglected. They were the ones who worked the hardest and deserved their share of respect.

"We don't consider both of you as full-time workers" was the juncture that fumed me. How could they when these two workers were were in fact working full-time in the church, which the only difference was they handled administration duties. It made no sense to me. I guess it was because the financial situation of the church will be effected by the issue at hand. But that does not seem to be the fact.

The headquarters had already issued a bill of amendment stating that churches were to increase the pay of all full-time workers because of the economic situation. I applaud them for this because they have the pastor's and other worker's financial interest at hand.

So based on those 'facts' I wrote a personal e-mail addressing the issue of why our administration staffs were not considered full-time workers and therefore not eligible for the increment that was amended beforehand.

Sure it was 'harsh' (please note that there were no swear words involved) in some ways but I was just frustrated and it all seemed unfair to say the least. But it was a personal e-mail and directed to just one person. There was no intention to spread this to a host of people. Everything was done in secrecy, between me and the receiver at that point that is.

A week after I sent the email the recipient replied back with a "thank you for your letter" intention. I marked that as a relief because we can't find those types of leaders anymore, those that value criticism but are willing to listen. But where childish antics are concerned I soon found out that the letter that was given in private was being reprinted and being addressed out of the context that it was intended to be.

Right now I don't have the power to change people's mind about how the look at me. This post is just to salvage some peace of mind and the things that I have been struggling through. I know that the church has let me down in more ways than one but I am still for the church and Jesus' message need not be deterred for that matter.

I am not really happy with how the leaders have dealt with the issue. Right now I am not part of that church at the moment but I do have very fond memories of how they have helped me in my growth as a Christian. It does seem different now and I feel the turn of events have been a catalyst in altering a new path in new things.

Let me end it with this verse

1Jn 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Political Tactics rubbing off to the Ekklesia

There was a buzz created in the arrest of Malaysia blogger Raja Petra because of allegations that he blogged some posts 'against' the government. This cause a stir in the Malaysian social scene and raised some eyebrows at how the government are handling things. I won't comment here on which position I am in on this because of the sensitive issue pertaining to it but obviously, you might already know where I stand on this ;).

Well the funny thing is I have met with this type of allegation on taking legal action against me due to the nature of my blog. I don't know whether it is based on the x-rated material that i blog about (Which is none, obviously). Well it serves as a reminder that it does seem funny that this sort of allegation is can be found in the ekklesia! Imagine legal action. I am still mulling over this and it all seems funny and like sort of a big joke.

It does seem like political leaders do rub off their influece even until they are being translated to the ekklesia.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Choosing Books

This post might not be helpful to most but I hope some might benefit from it. Somewhere along the my budding love for books I have developed some tips on determining what to books to buy. I run a tight budget so my kind of tips was developed in that particular context. So then, how do i determine what to buy?

1. I mostly follow along on what a trusted author says about certain books. That helps immensely because for starters they give the best recommendations that are 99% or almost always dependable. You can either find these recommendations at the back of the book, through reviews (via the net) or get them from trusted sources (friends, teachers...)

2. The subject matter is important. Does the book deals with issues or topics that interests you? This is important because you will not be able to finish a book you are not interested in. Or worse, its money flushed down the drain.

3. The table of content. When i search book on the net, i usually (always) look out for the table of content in a book. It gives a brief description on the subject matter of the book. If the table of contents don't spark an interest then it is wise not to pursue it.

4. I look at the bibliography or books the author quotes of mentions. I find this helpful because you kind of 'get' a rough idea on where the author builds on his ideas.

5. Buy books based on the author you trust. Trusted authors are different from favorite one in my dictionary. Trusted authors can be those authors you have never read before but who are deemed highly by most people.

6. Buy books according to your budget. After weighing all the above you have to know how much you can spend! I'm not good here and i do wish that I have an unlimited source of 'green stuff ' , well i wish i had them. But we have to work on our budget, this is important and vital.

I guess that's what goes through my mind when determining books to but. I guess this only works with particular kinds of book (Christian literature, nature). I hope this helps.

John 3:16

Every Christian should know this verse (found on the title above) and also every Christian, young and old is well grounded in this beloved line in the Bible. But as we sometimes get so well accustomed with somethings that they become familiar and at time distorted, this is how we sometimes (or almost always treat this particular line).

John 3:16 reads

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (NIV)

On this particular reading I would like us to focus our attention on a particular word from the verse (the one in bold); world. It is most often taught that the particular word actually points its direction implying humans, and not the world in its literal sense.

This idea is brought to the picture because v.16b explains the word 'world' more clearly in that it means humans due to the fact that 'whoever believes' and 'shall not perish...have eternal life' points directly to people. It seems obvious that the benefactors of 'salvation' are people and that God's saving grace falls to them. With that the reading of the verse would go like this:

"For God so loved the world (humans/people) that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

With this let me pose a critique to this particular reading of the text. I find it highly probable that we read John 3:16 in this manner because it is our theology that believes Jesus was sent by the Father, as a gift for humanity to die on their behalf so that they can receive God's salvation and ultimately the gift of eternal life. Basically we read and form theology into the verse or this particular verse.

This is good and valid according to theology, but not good in terms of how we appreciate the biblical narrative and theology based on the whole bible. Thus what we have constructed over time is the belief that God just cares for people and that the world is some sort of secondary object that He doesn't simply brushes aside. It sorts of shrinks our theology and giving us a malnutrition version of God's plan.

So with that, how then can we bring a more holistic/nourished approach of theology based on John 3:16 that is faithful to the biblical message?

Let me come with a proposal that I would deem faithful to a more holistic view of the mission of God and theology for understanding John 3:16.

We begin with Genesis. God said after creating his master piece (everything for that matter), Ge 1:31 "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good...". Reading the creation account in Genesis shows a God who was clearly pleased with what he created, and this encompasses Him just pleased with creating people.

But as we know humans were on a different pedestal then his other creations. Humans were created in God's image, His reflectors.

Ge 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

According to this humans were to be God's representative as it shows here it was humans that brought stability to the condition on the earth. As the story goes God's image bearers were deceived by the serpent (Satan) and things went down hill from there. But God didn't leave his creation to fend for themselves. The bible depicts a God who is constantly working to redeem back the world. The way he did this was through a man by the name of Abraham and through him a nation was born, Israel, who were known as the people of God. Israel represented God as bearing his name and his ways. Basically Israel was an alternative kind of society or nation. But Israel failed and were brought in captivity but were brought back to the land again only to be ruled again by a succession of powers of which we have Rome as the last to rule over them. Please note that I am just giving an overview here.

It is amidst this story which we place John 3:16. The other half of the story as we cram John 3:16 is Jesus dying on the cross and resurrected after that. This is where i believe where we have to wedge our theology and the grand biblical narrative.

God cares for the world and in his love for the world he gave his son. Jesus is the one who God sends to reconcile the world to himself. It is only fitting that God do the saving work starting with human beings because in Genesis it was the image bearer who was to account for adulterating their rights to satan. So it is only 'logical' that God pursue his redemptive plan through saving his image bearers. A good description of this can be found in the passage below:

Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Col 1:16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
Col 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
Col 1:19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
Col 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Another helpful passage is found in Romans:

Ro 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Ro 8:19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
Ro 8:20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it,in hope
Ro 8:21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Ro 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Ro 8:23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

In view of the above we can conclude that in John 3:16 the meaning and understanding behind the word 'world' must not be narrowed to just human beings. God sent Jesus to and for the world. And God's plan in sending Jesus was to redeem back his image bearers and from then on the redemption on the world. I hope when we read John 3:16 we will have a more bigger picture in mind than just Jesus saving just human beings alone. There is a bigger picture at hand.

…We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God

Just something to widen our horizon on Christianity...

I have been doing a lot of thinking concerning this and i think this is something that we Christians should discuss and also 'debate' (with the intention of gaining a wider perspective). The issue at hand is "proper Christian look". Does this really count? Or is it something we have made up.

Let me start by mentioning a story in Acts or better this story written in the book;

Ac 15:1-21


Let me explain some of the background concerning what such a council saw it important to meet and discuss. Let it come to our knowledge that the first followers of Jesus were his own people, the Jews. After all, Jesus was and is himself a Jew. Now for starters Jews were the chosen ones, the people of God, who had the covenant and the laws that came from God. God played a vital role and part in their society. We could say that they were a nation under The True God, under YHWH.

This eventually made them not so much of what God intended. A negative result occurred actually. They became proud and very 'anti-other nations' (part of it is because how they were treated by invading nations, although it was disobedience that paved way for that).

But something happened that changed the perspective of the first Jewish Christians. Let's see. It was through Peter that God brought new realizations in a more 'in your face manner'. By that i mean, earlier although Jesus said the disciples would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, they didn't get it. Notice the response Peter gave to God on account of that vision? Well God said to Peter "take, kill and eat!" and for your information, these were the very animals that they were not to eat following the Law.

I think peter must have though, thinking through his Jewish custom and upbringing, "heck, NO way am i eating those animals!" Well that was what he thought in a sense. But God pronounced those things clean and the rest is history, Cornelius, a gentile and not a red blooded Jew, not known to do Jewish customs or following it, became a follower of Jesus.

This was surely a revelation! But some Jews opposed Peter and said "Why did you break Jewish customs by going into a Gentile's house!!? How dare you defile yourself!!" You see, they didn't understand the whole story until Peter explained to them.

It wasn't Peter alone who caused controversy; Paul and Barnabas were even more controversial. Gentiles were invited in the fold. Being followers of Jesus. Some Jews were outraged! They were thinking that these gentiles can't be full and true Christians unless they abide Jewish customs! Well that's where the council came to discuss the matter about how the gentiles are to be incorporated.


Looking into this particular thing there is one important thing that we have to ask ourselves. Are we repeating what the early Jewish Christians were doing? Making it difficult for people to come to Christ.

I think sometimes I feel like we are telling people to repent, but behind that repentance is something totally different. I think more and more we are telling people not just to repent on the important or vital things but on minor stuff. Sometimes I envision that it is asking people to repent of what to wear, what to eat, where to go, what to drink. It's really weird. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we can just brush aside on how we drink alcohol, or that we should wear really revealing clothes. That's not what I mean.

But what i mean is, we Christians in this present moment, must, like the believers who were discussing how to incorporate the gentiles being Christians, find among ourselves something like the conclusion made by James;

Ac 15:19
"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

Looking at the culture then they had their issues. It doesn't mean that we have to follow word by word what is said here but to go with the spirit of what was being said and intended.

I hope this sheds light on something. Hopefully, when we tell people to repent and follow Christ, we must know what we mean by that and not make new believers carry unnecessary weight.

The Holy Bible, New International Version, Pradis CD-ROM:Ac 15:19, Book Version: 5.1.1

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do/Can we have a take on 'Secular Songs'?

"The fact is that secular music speaks to people--seekers, unchurched, and churched alike ... because many secular songs articulate universal human needs. The reason so many songs are written about love is because it's a universal desire, and one that the Bible affirms when it tells us that God's very nature is love. A secular song in church is so attractive, then, because every attendee is likely to be familiar with it and comfortable listening to its truth ... Most people expect a teacher to use non-biblical stories to illustrate a biblical truth ... At Saddleback [we use] secular songs as illustrations pointing people to biblical truth."

I hope you take this post with an open mind before 'lashing' out :). I'm not one who is for the term 'secular' and 'sacred' or to put them plainly the 'things of God' and the 'things of the world' but for the sake of wedging an understanding I will let these terms stick.

The excerpt above talks about incorporating 'secular songs' as a means of communicating a particular message to people in the worship service. I don't know how this pastor's church does it but regardless the 'secular song' is used as a tool for communicating an area of relevance (down to earth understanding) and then marrying it to the message of Christianity. The song becomes a point of reference or illustration if you will.

Some people might be ready to 'tear their robes' (in the tradition of the Pharisees when Jesus answered their question following the night he was betrayed) and call this heresy. Please, it would do more good if you stay clothed :).

On some levels I agree with what this pastor is saying; that, "many secular songs articulate universal human needs." as well as they appeal with a wider crowd. So to use these songs to point to our message is the same as using a 'secular illustration' we either get from a magazine, the newspaper, the television or wherever we get our illustrations. With this said I don't want to be misquoted that I am condoning every 'secular song'. Please use your head and exert wisdom when you do choose songs for the use of conveying a message.

What do you think about 'secular songs'? Can Christians make any use of them?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mentoring Has taken a New Turn

I have always wondered of what the possibility would be if older leaders can learn anything from younger leaders or just young people. I know that this concept is not supposedly natural but some will attest to it. Older people can learn from younger people. Sure this is a given. But to actually rephrase the sentence 'older people can learn from younger people' to 'the younger mentoring the older' is truly unorthodox in nature. The idea or the possibility of the idea seem absurd. I don't think it is though, not for the fact that I am a young person, which I am in some ways young. I see this unorthodox form of mentoring can do a lot of good, especially for the church.

Well not that I have coined the idea but its concept was already working in my mind until someone spelled it out. This style of mentoring is called 'Reverse Mentoring' which is actually a book written by Earl Creps. He has a website too which you can go to here. I haven't read the book but I think it would be a good read, namely because the title really gets to me (in a good way). He also has an excerpt form the book introduction on his website here.

I'll leave you with this quote that I like from the excerpt:

Reverse mentoring assumes a completely opposite perspective on learning. While acknowledging the proven value of the older-to-younger approach (teaching down), it provides the vital complement of a younger-to-older method (teaching up). Reversing the traditional dynamics feels unnatural to some, especially older leaders like the Baby Boomers who now make up almost half of the American workforce and 60 percent of senior pastors and who have been waiting most of a lifetime to take charge. However, the rate of change in our culture puts younger people in touch with things for which their elders sometimes lack even the vocabulary, suggesting the need to go beyond intergenerational tolerance to reconciliation that leads to a new collaboration.

The young teaching the old represents only an example of reverse mentoring. The key to the relationship is not who is greater or lesser, but the unlikeliness of the learning connection. The reversal is as much one of expectations as of position or age. Every culture subsists in part by having boundaries that define it, but these boundaries also serve as barriers that cut people off from each other, making a teaching relationship unlikely. Reverse mentoring (RM) is cross-cultural in that it actually uses the unlikely possibility of a relationship to benefit both parties through mutual learning through honesty and humility.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The DAy that Changed Everything

When tributes are due, today is that sort of day. I would like to remember a friend, who passed away is an accident on the 5th of December 2005. He was one of the youths in the church that I attended during that time. He was a budding musician and was getting good at it even outplaying me. I have good memories before the incident and one of them was when I got to talk to him on the day before he passed on. Talking about his passion for music and about a christian biography book he read. I even gave a recommendation of another book he might be interested in when we get back from our youth trip. These were good memories and I miss him.

Reflecting upon how things have progressed after that, everything changed. Sometimes I wish 'if only I could have...'. I think you never will be able to remove that sorrow or the memories. They will always stay there. What we can do is cope with the situation. We move on, for that is the only way to it. Not to neglect the sorrow or sadness or memories but to move on with where faith leads.

But that aside, I still have this question lurking every time I transport myself back to that day...what if...if only.

Here's to you Aaron.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Guitars and Dreams

The Coolest Guitar ever...

Played by none other than...

This guitar is on my wish list and it looks like it will stay that way. But today I am pleading to readers of my blog to send in money to me...haha. I wish it was that easy eh. Well I got the cheaper model...

...still as cool but still can't beat the original American model!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Coming to the End of the Year

I guess October was the month that i posted the most, period, compared to the other months. November's posts have gone back to their usual volume. There are reasons for that but I will not mention them for the time being. I guess all would be revealed in my biography when I do get enough reliability points or I become what Malcolm Gladwell calls 'outliers'.

Anyway, reflecting on this year, I would say they never go easy. I guess the reality that we have to cope with is there is no such thing as a smooth year. What I mean is crammed in a year are situations that cannot be tamed, we cannot dictate events that come our way. The only dictation that we 'have' is how we respond to the ups and downs in a year.

I also find that growing older does not make a person mature. Maturity comes with how one lives life and respond to situations and people. Our response will either dent or further our maturity. Don't think for once that all older people are more mature in a sense that they have wisdom to deal with situations in life. Some do, but some just appear mature because of age. There is a saying that goes 'age doesn't make you a man'.

This year has been tough and unpredictable. I have situations that I still don't understand. They all seem like just a bad dream that I can just wake up and everything turns to normal. But I soon realize when reality kicks in, it was all just plain reality. Just some sad turn of events also; my cuz's passing has been hard to swallow. Sometime he just pops in my mind. There was a time whenever he got back from working offshore, he would drive over to my aunt's place (which is situated right next to my house) and you could just hear the engine on his sports car roar like crazy. I miss those moments. Wish everything was back to normal.

I would like to announce that I just put up another blog. Do check it out: StreetWiseScholar. Not that I anticipate a flood of followers, but I figure posting on this stuff would sharpen my mind as well as help me help 'readers' understand what needs to be understood about biblical as well as theological issues. I haven't started yet but I will be sure to post something by this week.

As for this present blog, I will strictly use it as a blog of opinions and stuff that I interest me: church, leadership, ministry, theological issues and other random stuff. which will focus more on theology and all things biblical. The purpose of the blog: introducing people to biblical and theological scholarship

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Youth and Theology

"The seminar I taught was why I believe we need to teach youth about some of the tougher theological issues while they are still in high school. So when the graduate, they perhaps won't be caught off guard when they go to college and not know how to respond to varying viewpoints that they will discover and be challenged with."

I was surfing around reading blogs and the post by Dan Kimball is one worth reading and reflecting on. I really resonated with what he wrote and the thing about teaching youths tougher theological issues. This is important and vital, I believe because of the challenges that youth will face while leaving for college or university.

One of the things that has been bothering me on youths and their faith is that, almost always there would be defused interest in all things spiritual after the transition of secondary school. I am speaking generally here and I know this is not true for some youths but there is a disturbing reality to this and it has become my concern.

Scot McKnight also posted on the dwindling numbers of those in their 20's attending church services on this particular post you can find here. I think what Dan wrote and what Scot wrote has connections although it might be one of the reasons (a small piece of the pie) that those in their 20s are not attending church.

Because of this I would like to just echo Dan's thought provoking post; we should teach more on the important stuff to our youths, and there can be no apologies. It is true that at their age level, some of them, things spiritual are considered boring isuues but it should not be an excuse for us to shy away from them.

I found this response from Tony on the comment I made from Dan's blog post to be very helpful in how we are to integrate a more theological focus in what we teach our youths. I value this person's response. I hope we can chnage the way we do youth, mainly in what we teach them.


I think you have to start somewhere with your kids, and diving deep into theology all at once is not the answer. Think about it this way, you have 6 years or more with some of these kids, and the truth is you have to start slow and basic in theology and build from there. I believe we need to make sure our core group of kids "get it" first and then start to build on some of the theological issues Dan was talking about. In other words, if you just keep it loud and light 90% of the time and then try to hit them with the theology stuff 10% of the time, they will not buy it...but if you always make theology an important part of your student ministry, even if it is more involved in Small groups than your main service...you will see how much easier it is to reach them even when your talking theology and not about the stuff they "want to hear". Besides what good is telling them what they want to hear when they leave the church and their faith as soon as things in their life don’t go the way their youth pastor told them it would! I think what Dan is saying also is we need to recognize that when they leave our youth rooms and move into college or living on their own, have we prepared them enough for the challenges and questions life will certainly bring them…maybe we as a church need to anticipate some of these challenges and questions and address them now rather than wait until they are faced with them and doubt has moved them to unbelief; or worse yet distrust because their leaders in the faith just were not honest enough with them when they were 12-18.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christianity practicing PlayStation Ethichs

"Christianity in contrast to many other religions believes in the concept of grace. That is the radical idea that no one is beyond the love of God. That you can be a mafia hitman and if you commit your life to Christ your sins will be forgiven. This is the Christian idea of salvation. But I am noticing that this idea is getting a slightly bit skewed. Many have failed to realise that whilst grace allows us to be free from sin, grace does not give us a free pass from consequences."

I have been musing on this even before reading this blog post by Mark Sayers on this particular post which i found interesting and helpful. I am somewhat disturbed with the mindset that believes a mere confession would be enough to defuse wrongdoing or sin. I have been looking for a definition for this a was wondering if it existed until today! It is termed "PlayStation ethics". PlayStation ethics is the belief that when something has been done (always the bad) an easy way to fix the problem is a simple push of the reset button, and bam! we start all over again clean.

Mark Sayers goes on to explain that "Thus it is no wonder that many struggle to understand that whilst grace covers a multitude of sins, it does not press the reset button on the consequences of our choices." I agree with him. We should not think that whatever we have done wrong in this life a simple confession would erase everything. While God promises to wipe the slate clean, it is not without consequences. Take David for example. After he committed a series of sins and later confronted by Nathan, he confesses his sins. God forgives him but the consequences were not removed. We could understand this thus by saying while God forgives unconditionally, the rules on this earth is different. We suffer the consequences of our sins or wrongs. It is like being relieved that our parents still love us after we wrecked the car but still having to go through the punishment of being grounded, that sort of feeling.

I think it is important that we make ourselves clear of this. Otherwise we might treat our way of life carelessly. Thinking that if we just confess we defuse our wrongs. This is irresponsible to say the least.

God forgives us unconditionally but our wrongdoings will always require a price to pay

Blameless...clearing some air

I would just like to clear some understanding on what the word 'blameless' means(reflection on a biblical perspective). I'm doing this because I don't really agree wholly to the meaning of the word given during a sermon that I heard. I think the definition given to the meaning of 'blameless' spells out something else as you shall see.

This is what was said (not word for word but I think I have enough of the main details of what was said):

Earlier though it was explained that people are not perfect and we make mistakes. So how does being blameless work for people like us, though Christians but have weaknesses? The answer to this is: Blameless- a person going to the library doing what people do in the library (study, read books). After doing that the person packs his stuff and goes back home. Unbeknown to the person, he/she accidentally packed a library book that was not borrowed with his/her other stuff. Being honest, this person goes back and admits his/her faults to the librarian on the mistake that was done. This thus frees the person from accusation, and thus the meaning of being blameless.

My understanding of treating blamelessness in the manner explained above is simply implying that if we have done something wrong the 'easy' way out is just a simple confession. And in doing so we defuse any accusation that might come our way. I don't think this is a faithful definition of being blameless.

Being blameless in this perspective is more like
a person knowingly shutting the doors of accusation, by confessing what she/he had done. Knowingly because the person knows the wrong/mistake/sin that he or she had done. And when he/she realizes this, if the person is an honest person, the person goes into confession. In doing so 'defuses' accusations because he/she had taken the step to confess.

I must say that this is not being blameless. This is simply being
honest. Being blameless and honest are two different things. There was a statement that I heard from a speaker once. He gave a definition of integrity and honesty. Integrity he said was- doing what you say. Honesty is- saying what you do. From the illustration that was given in the sermon on being 'blameless' it sounds more like being honest. What then is the meaning of someone being 'blameless'?

Like the statement on integrity that I mentioned above 'saying what you do', being blameless falls into that category. Being a blameless person has a lot to do with how a person lives. A good depiction of a person being blameless is the story of Daniel which you can read in Daniel 6:1-28.

Daniel 6:3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Daniel was a normal man just like us. He was neither a pastor or someone 'serving' in a religious institution. He was rather someone in the secular world, working as an administrator to the king, he was in fact named among the top three men under the king. But what distinguished him amongst the others was that there was 'no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.' We can say that he was constantly living in this manner. He did not require an avenue where he had to cover his bases to diffuse accusations to be blameless. Being blameless was indeed his lifestyle.

But as we all know, in this story people had to create something to entrap Daniel. Of all things, they used his devotion to his God as a means of accusation. But Daniel was vindicated because God was on his side, and in the end it was made evident that Daniel was indeed blameless.

To me, the depiction of being blameless in the sermon does not hit the mark. I just wanted to clarify that I don't really think it shows what being 'blameless' means. Let me render then that, being blameless, a person who is blameless is simply to live your life in integrity. A finer picture of showing what being blameless is from Daniel. I guess we should try to find stories in the same reign.

In the end, being a blameless man/ woman is not just about telling the truth. It is about living your life so well that there is simply no way for people to conjure up a trustworthy accusation. Just think about Jesus' life.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Prayer...another dimention to it

There is an interesting post on prayer written by Scot McKnight. I have to say that this may not be so familiar to the denomination that I come from which ravels in personal composed prayers. Not that this is wrong or anything. Personal composed prayers or prayers we simply 'come up with' at a given time are good and we also should have these types of prayer, because it is justifiable that if one has a relationship with God, then there are bound to be times where we just speak words that just come out of our mouths. We read a lot of examples of this in the bible.

But then again I think the christian circles in my part of the sphere have emphasized this to a scale that it implies that it is only praying in this manner is what real prayer is. Well this is the implication that I always get, and I just recently (a few weeks ago) heard a certain pastor (not one in Miri for that matter, and totally not all pastors but a certain pastor) simply state that we are not to recite the Lord's Prayer because it is not real prayer but something that was created. He said (in my own words) that real prayers are supposed to be said out from the heart of the person rather then reading out prayers. Well lets just say that I don't really agree with him on this.

Ever since my walk with Jesus, prayer has been a struggle for me. Not that prayer is something that I don't believe in, but I guess it takes time to adjust to it. I guess there are too many access baggage in our understanding of prayer that its meaning has been muffled and it's beauty disfigured.

Reading Scot's post on prayer give me hope in prayer because we can use prayers in the bible as aids for us to pray. There is also a dimension of prayer that follows a rhythm, things like ancient prayer hours. To me these are new concepts but only because we have been ignorant about them. I think our church would benefit much if we would venture in this direction. This could be an answer to the constant question asked by new believers, "How do i pray?". I am totally supportive of this direction an am interested in finding out about it to 'salvage' my prayer life.

Do you agree? Do you struggle with prayer? What are some methods or patterns that have helped your prayer life? Do you know of any other ways to help people the how's of prayer?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Waking up to the Matrix...

I don't know if this is a prevalent thing or not but, have you ever entered the church premises and felt, an aura that people are not connecting to you? Not that I am criticizing any church for that matter, but what i would like to address is the fact that Sunday, and the service thing has become more a religious ritual to me. Not that I don't like listening to sermons, singing songs during worship and all that, but what i feel lacking during that particular time is connecting with God and one another.

I want to address because when I was in my final year in bible school, I was struggling with the issue of 'going to church' because it is simply just going to a service, to sit down most of the time, occasionally stand, occasionally open our mouths and speak, we listen or look like listening, and at the end we pray in between of the things and we would go and have refreshments. This is the typical scenario that we go through. To me at that time it was just a cycle. Just a note, when mention all these things please don't label me someone who is just hooked on feeling and exiting praise and worship songs. I am more of the person who wants to think and read 'boring theological' books
so please stop the stereotyping.

I think and believe when we have reached this stage of thinking, rather than interpreting or understanding it as a problem period, I would rather contend the transition of thinking as a progress forward. Dissatisfaction like this does not necessarily mean we are on the brink of loosing our faith. I believe it more like out growing our preconceived cocoon. I see it as a healthy period and applaud it heartily.

Why? This seems unimaginable and rather contradictory.

Let me explain as clearly and simply as i can. When one is going through this period he/she is like a person being approached by Morpheus, giving us the decision of knowing reality or still stay in the comfort zone of things going on in its random circle. It simply unlocks the possibility of fresh expressions of the Christian faith coupled with the desire to understand ancient practices and the biblical narrative. It opens an avenue of asking tough questions with a general contention of friendly debate on opinions. It also is a healthy transition for fresh reflections of how the church should actually be-her mission, existence and direction. It is also a welcome period for people to know Jesus for who he is.

Just a note for the leaders during this period of time, build conversations and relationships during this period. Do more listening that just giving advise. Don't be fast to down play their ideas, but rather work around their ideas and frustrations, seek to understand them.

I believe that when we work things out in this manner we would be able to build on the transition of change in a more progressive way, and it would also minimize frictions and bad arguments.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tolerating the wrong Way

There is something really weird happening that I am noticing on a progressive basis lately. Weird neither explains the happening to its real extent, I think a better word would be disturbing. Another word that I would like to use is controversial, and no, I'm not talking about the profane nature of words. It's more like a word that makes the sensitive heart gnash their teeth, clinch their fists and scheme their schemes. Let me just lay it on the line...'leader(s)'.

If i were to bring in another word like 'church' and combine it with the word above (leader) it would conjure up explosions of all sorts. But regardless I would use them both for this post and combine them both with the title above 'Tolerating the wrong Way'.

Tolerating the wrong way comes when people become dualistic Christians. Why?

People leave reason behind and say that in the province of faith, reason should be left behind the church building premises door.

People contend that God can do the impossible. This is true. But we must not create the avenue or situation where God should act. God is no genie in the lamp ready to do our every bidding.

People contend that submission is to keep quiet and follow without questioning. Leaders in the church are anointed and should therefore not to be questioned. Because of this contention, people just follow without proper reasoning even though the leader is leading the community to an edge of the cliff.

People in church basically just open their ears and shut their brains out, the only thing to do is to take in everything because the leader is anointed and has a proven tract record. Did Peter, James and John have proven tract records? Did Jesus choose people on that basis, or did he choose ordinary people with no tract record whatsoever to start with. Let me put in a more in your face tone; Jesus chose the scum and made them wise and shamed the wise and really showed that they were actually the real scum.

Basically I mention people because we (me included) sometimes act like unthinking people when we enter the church building premises. I say this because we are in denial of things that are going around, things that should not be tolerated. This denial leads to spiritualizing acts that are detestable and somehow sanctifying them with God's name by explaining their nature in spiritual language. Sometimes we do this too much until we become a tolerant people, who does not know right from wrong.

My contention is, we should be responsible members of the church; a responsible community. We lose the responsibility when we tolerate the wrong way; some leader is leading us to the cliff, we cannot question him where he leading us because he is the anointed and in authority. We should ask hard questions, often controversial because we care about the direction of the church. We should not keep quiet. If we do we become irresponsible followers of Jesus because we are allowing the wolves to tear the church apart. Listen...hopefully, you will.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back to the Blogging board...

I'm finally back to the blogging board after some time off. I was teaching at a camp for a few days and that was fun. Got to polish my Bahasa Malaysia, which is not that good if one were to judge. But the main thing was meeting people and getting to know them, I guess in camps that is what is important (not that I am down grading the teaching or ministering parts but I am simply saying that it is important for us to connect with people).

I was talking on three topics and I think i would post them on my blog, well maybe something like a summary of the topics that I talked on. The three topics were Music and the content of Worship, BGR, and Leadership. I think I will post them when I am finished polishing them.

Anyway, the start of next month will be a new era in my life so right now things are somewhat messy in my mind. Sorting out issues, setting my sails, transitioning and a whole lot of thinking to do. Believe me this is not a place where I would like to be but as decisions have been made and signatures have been signed the only possible direction to go is ahead, regardless.

There are things that I have learned along the way and they seem confusing and somewhat hurting but non the less experiences that would be part of me, ingrained in me. There are still a lot of things that i do not understand but one thing is for sure, we learn along the way.

I'm learning that;

1. We have to be careful that what we are speaking 'against' is not towards the person, but just the ideas of the person. If we are not careful we will walk the line of bitterness and hate. Know what you are speaking out about, don't attack the person.

2. Be careful when we use the phrase 'this is what God is saying, direction, vision, thoughts...etc'. Sometimes our ideas get intermingled with them. This is to avoid us from saying later that 'it was not God's idea after all' and with that made God to be some sort of a liar, or worse lose our own credibility.

3. Try to find out what does it mean to really follow Jesus and being a Christian. We confuse them too much with just appearance, status, wealth and being disengaged with the world (being dualistic). When you have found out what it really means to follow Jesus asses yourself then whether you really want to follow him. To me this a serious consideration.

4. Never speak out or ask questions or brand new ideas if you don't want to seek change. Change is hard to go by if people are unwilling to act on it. Change will also be opposed by higher powers. So those vying for change have to be ready to suffer their 'personality being assassinated'. Know the consequences and if after you have known what is at stake take action with wisdom.

5. Transitioning will never happen if we are lazy, make excuses, don't make somber assessments of our actions and ideas, take no responsibility, make no effort to change your weaknesses, and cannot get along with people.

6. Leaders must know when to act up. Christianity is not always being kind and soft and show a flowery sense of 'unity'. When there is something to be dealt with one must rise and deal with it. Otherwise the leadership is in jeopardy.

7. Always maintain your relationship with God, regardless.

8. Questions or opinions does not make anyone the enemy. They make us reflect on ourselves and others whether we are hearing God or is it just us.

The list could go on but these are just some of the things that I can think about at this time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Who Will Hear

My plea goes on unheard when fickle men pass their drinks,
They mend their schemes and wander as the sun sets,
To whom should I give my voice
When all that hear are walls and towers
lifeless toils of the mighty...

Ears and eyes they know
when the left hand tries to hide its way
In plain sight they make their move
their thoughts loud they rise like open voices
But all that hear are walls and towers
lifeless toils of the mighty...

Our toils are cast into the common purse
for use together to toil for his kingdom
But once they fall on the feet of the gravel
Like water they evaporate, and toil is no more to be heard
But all that hear are walls and towers
lifeless toils of the mighty...

Those who stand and hunger for the way
their mouths get muffled their eyes are made blind
They cut them like a knife cuts through meat
Yet they smile and laugh when people cry out in pain
But all that hear are walls and towers
lifeless toils of the mighty...

Who will wake the masses and cure their blind eyes to see
Who will wake the masses and cure their deaf ears to hear
Who will wake the masses and cure their stone heart to feel
Who will wake the masses and cure their minds to see the truth
But all that hear are walls and towers
lifeless toils of the mighty...

Who will hear?

Friday, October 31, 2008

The picture...

I was talking to my sister yesterday and we were talking about the monkey picture that I put on my blog. I was asking her what do you think it represents? And so I want to ask you, 'do you have any idea of what it represents?' I would like to hear from you. hahaha

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Where would the Road Now Lead?

I'm reading a very thick book at the moment; "Jesus and the Victory of God" by N.T. Wright and it is simply a massive book! I am now at page 301. It is a 700+ page book which simply is gigantic compared to my usual standards of reading. I have been reading this book like for ages and there are some things that doesn't make sense, because I don't think this sort of book matches the reading level that I am at. That shows how far behind i am. But the struggle will be worth it.

Anyway, reaching the 300 page mark there was something that caught my attention:

"The summons to following Jesus, going beyond the challenge to be loyal to his cause in one's own setting, thus focused itself more and more narrowly. Some were summoned to abandon all to follow Jesus; within that, some were called into a special and deeply symbolic inner group; within that again, some had a further symbolic, as well as humanly supportive, function. All of this prompts the further question: what would such followers have thought they were signing on for? And what impression would the average Galilean onlookers have received from this wandering prophet gathering followers whose loyalty went so deep as t override normally binding obligations."

It makes me kind of think, when one follows this Jesus guy, people like you and me do we really count the risks involved following him? Some might think that following Jesus is following a road that is always peaceful, always wanting to resolve conflict by just brushing it aside or with as much non-retaliation (by this I mean verbal) at all.

Looking at the story of Jesus in the Gospels, Jesus' call and challenge were really demanding and required the utmost devotion that one is required to conjure. That is why this question is somewhat disturbing in a sense taken from the excerpt above of Wright's book;

"what would such followers have thought they were signing on for?"

Reading the Gospels and the NT for that matter this question disturbs me to the core. Do I know what I am signing up for when I make the profession that I want to be identified with Jesus of the Bible?

Following Jesus as seen in the bible is enlisting yourself in a movement. But for much of the teachings we get, we are taught that following Jesus means conforming to institutionalized religion, and because of that there is a stagnant force manipulating the urgency of this movement-following Jesus.

I'm just perceiving that the times have tamed the movement so much that Christianity has become wimpy, soft and cuddly in my part of the culture. Christianity has become a tower, and it actually mimics the depiction of Babel.

Who will free us from this destructive form of false following Jesus movement to what the movement really is in its truest form? I hope we wake up from our drunken stupor, and put some sense in what following Jesus really is.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Join in the Conversation.. Jesus Creed

I would like us to join in the conversation on Rachel's blog on a book that she is reading "Jesus Creed " by Scot McKnight. She doing a daily post chapter by chapter. What we have now is on Chapter 4. I would be great if we all can chip in this conversation, not for the sake of just commenting but as we build on conversation. I think, as we pry out the ideas from our minds into comments, we will broaden the mind of others and we also will learn from others as well.

I also want to alert us to the conversation because I would like to introduce us to books that can broaden our Christian understanding. This is one of the particular books that has deepen my Christian understanding, and I am believing it will do so for you too.

So, lets hop in on the band wagon and join in on the conversation!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Church...A Complicated thing

Talking about church is somewhat a complicated thing, because in some areas certain issues raise sensitive responses. So it seems at the moment it is better to talk about the catholic (I mean universal) church as a whole (that means regardless of context and particular situations)but that would not do justice to clarity, so where clarity applies let me simply revert back to church in my local context. Anyway let me revert your attention to an important article below. (I have provided links to the particular websites for your benefit so please click away)

I was reading a brilliant article by Ed Stetzer oddly titled "You Can't Love Jesus and Hate His Wife" . The article can be found just by simply clicking on the link that i provided above. Basically just to explain about Ed's article, he is writing on the trend that is prevalent in the western world that I would term as church bashing. The tone of the article simply sounds like the author has gotten tired of all the negativity that comes from Christians attacking the church. I believe the attack that he is talking about here is simply the growing disregard of the present generation towards church which simply turns to abandonment or disolusionment of the whole idea of church.

Stetzer, reverts us back to how scripture supports the 'concept' of church, in the words of Jesus, the writings of Paul and the NT's mention of her (church). The church is God's idea and not our own construction. I think some part of the disabandonment of church is simply how church is done today. This can be one of the issues, but I must add that it is not the only issue.
Stetzer has 4 suggestions in how the church can be a better bride. But i will not list them here. I will let your curiosity plunge into the article for yourselves. I like this statement made by Stetzer:

"And, let me say here, I have some concerns about how some churches operate - but I have tried to focus on how to help and not how to destroy."

Let me leave with you some thoughts:

1. The idea of church is God's not ours. We did'nt make it up.
2. Any concern that we have must simply be on how the church operates.
3. How can we help the church attain to it's divine focus?
4. How can we help and not destroy God's bride?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Books... Maybe a series of posts on what I have read

I am thinking on doing a series of posts on books that have revolutionized my thinking to greater heights and I hope that they probe interest in whoever is reading to expand their knowledge altogether.

Books are what I consider my treasure (apart from my PRS Tremonti SE guitar) at the moment because I am a freak for knowledge and thought expansion, whatever that means. I wonder how these writers come up with these brilliant ideas and let alone compile them into books! Phew. If there is a possibility later I would love to see me writing a book in the future.

Well reading and all that has cause me to be more open to opinions and other peoples ideas. I can say that I will be interested more in people who disagrees with my ideas and is willing to talk or write about it. I find that where we live in people get sensitive when they hear your point of views. But I am learning that these incidents will always be there.

I guess at the moment I see disagreements as a way to build on clarity because not everyone will know where you come up with an idea. It is good to lend a listening ear to disagreements. We do well to listen then just ranting out how we don't agree with a person. And if the conversation or written comments don't come to an agreement, then we should leave them there. How can we impose our ideas on people? What more if people are not willing to listen.

So for me books has saved my sanity with my culture here. Of always being afraid of popping up with the ideas that I have thought of. I guess there is a the generation that is afraid of questionings and there is a generation ripe for that sort of thing.

Anyway I am looking forward to post on the books that have challenged my mind to think.

Hopeful Theo

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OIL TOWN, SWK, Malaysia
I'm a student of Theology (currently and will always be one). I'm a student of culture and a student of music as well. I guess you could say life is a never ending journey of learning. Because of that we never stop being students. Just a little something about this blog: Deconstructing The Monkey is all about being a safe space for emerging conversations