Friday, January 31, 2014

Getting Started as a Writer
If you want to be a writer,
you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.
(Stephen King, On Writing. Sell your iPhone and buy this book!)

I once read and record about novelist Sinclair Lewis was supposed to deliver an hour-long lecture to a group of college students who planned to be writers. Lewis opened his talk with a question: “How many of you really intend to be writers?”

All hands went up. “In that case,” said Lewis, “my advice to you is to go home and write.”
With that, he left.

People often asked me how to write. My answer is the same as Sinclair Lewis “go home and write” or simply put – start to write. True that getting started is the hard part of writing. You may stare at your notebook or computer monitor for hours and the right words doesn’t seem to come out. But just like learning to ride a bicycle, at first it was so hard and impossible to do: falling, bleeding, crying and standing up again. Then after awhile (added with encouragements and determinations) you begin to mastered balancing, handling and paddling. Lo and behold, you ride a bicycle! You get the firsts of everything and take time to learn a skill but once you mastered it (or know just how to do it) the rest come out easily.

What to write? You can start to write from what you see, smell, hear and feel. Hendry David Thoreau suggests, “The forcible writer stand boldly behind his words with his experience. He does not make books out of books, but he has been there in person.” Now, get a pen or keyboard and start to write! J

Remember this rule of writing:
Never try to impress people with the profundity of your thought
or by obscurity of your language.
Whatever has been thoroughly thought through can be stated simply.” (Unknown)
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stand like a Horse

Let nothing come between you and God;
let God come between you and everything.”

Stand like a horse,” my secondary school teacher told me. I don’t know exactly what she meant by that. Maybe because I’m a skinny and weak kid I assumed she told me to be strong. Horse is not just strong but as I think about it now horse also represents stability, stamina, obedience and immoveable spirit. I’m not a feng shui guru, but in the matter of principle and spirituality, ‘Stand like a horse’ for me, mean stand for a conviction. (Do you know that horse can sleep standing up? Even while sleeping a horse can still standing up.)

It is important that people know what you stand for. It is equally important that they know what you won’t stand for. I read about Martin Luther the Reformer, in his loneliness, on his way to the Diet of Worms to appear before King Charles V and the Roman Prelate and all the princes assembled around, said,

My cause shall be commended to the Lord for He lives and reigns who preserved the three children in the furnace of the Babylonian king. If He is unwilling to preserve me, my life is a small thing compared with Christ. Expect anything of me except flight or recantation. I will not flee, much less recant. So may the Lord Jesus strengthen me.”

Martin Luther did not say, “So may the Lord Jesus deliver me.” He did not say, “So may the Lord Jesus make it easy for me.” He actually concluded his response with the words, “Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God.”

Here I stand” what a conviction! Conviction is more than just a belief; it is a commitment to a belief. What you think, say, and do shows the level of your conviction. Convictions prepare you to effectively live a life of faith and to defend your faith when necessary. Keep your convictions sharp, and your life will be a great story of faith in God. In your conviction – stand like a horse!

Happy Chinese New Year 2014
May the Year of the Horse reminds you of your faith in Christ
Stand firm! Stand like a Horse!
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mun Kitak Brani Ngakuk, Nya Sanggup Menerima Kitak

Mun kita ngakuk dosa kita ngan Nya, maka Tuhan setia ngan adil
sampei Nya mengampuni semua dosa kita,
ngan menyucikan kita ari semua nok jaik
(1 Yohanes 1:9, terjemah dirik ku pun tok)

Mun kita sik mok ngakuk dosa kita, maka kita agik idup dalam kehidupan lamak kita. Mun kita brani ngakuk ia boleh melepaskan kita ari ikatan dosa ngan membuka jalan untuk menerima kemaafan. Kita pun dapat juak ngubah banyak perkara jadi benar agik.

Tok kamek mok madah ngan kitak: nang benar kitak perlu blajar ari kesilapan, tapi kitak sik perlu idup dalam kesilapan ya. Mun kitak ngakuk kesilapan kitak, kitak nunjuk bahawa kitak tok sedia mok berubah. Kitak idup dalam kasih kurnia Tuhan. Apabila kitak sedia mok ngakuk dosa kitak, Tuhan juak sedia mok mengampuni dosa kitak.

Kitak mungkin mikir nok dosa kitak tok terlalu banyak atau sikpat dikira gik – iboh kedak ya – Tuhan sik ngira samada kitak layak atau sik. Ia sik bergantung ngan brapa besar atau banyak ney kitak pun dosa, tapi pengampunan Tuhan tok bergantung ngan brapa besar kasih Tuhan ya. Baca ngan nangga jak kasih Tuhan ya sampei Anak-Nya, Yesus Kristus, pun sanggup mati di kayu salib bagi semua dosa kitak ngan kamek. Nya nanggung semua hukum dosa kita supaya kita benar di depan Tuhan ngan ada hubungan peribadi ngan Nya. Tok kasih Tuhan!

Mun kitak memerlukan pengampunan, Tuhan sedia mok mengampunkan kitak. Kitak cuma perlu mintak ngan nama Yesus Kristus ngan kerendahan ati. Alkitab madah: “Mun kita ngakuk dosa kita ngan Nya, maka Tuhan setia ngan adil sampei Nya mengampuni semua dosa kita, ngan menyucikan kita ari semua nok jaik.”

Mun lepas tok kitak dah mintak ampun ngan dah diampuni Tuhan – terus jak maju ke depan. Iboh nangga nok yang lepas ya. Iboh membenarkan kehidupan dolok menghantui kitak. Nok lepas ya berat gilak mun mok dibawak pergi bersama. Lepas jak kehidupan nok lamak ya. Kinek tok kitak ada kehidupan yang baru. Dosa diampuni. Kehidupan berubah. Masa depan bersama ngan Tuhan terjamin. Biar Roh Kudus Tuhan terus ngembak kitak mengenali Tuhan Yesus lebih dekat gik. Amin.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ways to Be more Humble


Humility is something that is gained and practiced as we grow in wisdom and grace. Bible Dictionary defines humility as: “a prominent Christian grace. It is a state of mind well pleasing to God; it preserves the soul in tranquility and makes us patient under trials.” One of the most famous quotes on humility in the Bible is of Jesus Himself:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8)

Be humble, because Christ is humble

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Every Moment is a 'Now' for God

C.S. Lewis or Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century and a man of faith and influential writer of his day. If you think you have heard his name somewhere, if you’re not so familiar with him, can you recalled watching The Chronicles of Narnia movies? Yes, he is the writer of the original novels. He is famous with his logic and imaginative writing and storytelling. Superb!

At first it was hard for me to understand what he was thinking as I read his books, but over the years as I familiarize with his style and thought-flow, I start to value his insights (though I reluctantly disagree and don’t get it sometime). For example, he was able to make sense the difficulties between God’s Time-line and ours’ in regard to the ‘now’ and ‘tomorrow’ actions. He wrote in his book Mere Christianity:

Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow. But if He knows I am going to do so-and-so, how can I be free to do otherwise? Well, here once again, the difficulty comes from thinking that God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only difference being that He can see ahead and we cannot.

Well, if that were true, if God foresaw our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to do them. But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call ‘tomorrow’ is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call ‘today’. All the days are ‘Now’ for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them, because, though you have lost yesterday, He has not. He does not ‘foresee’ you doing things tomorrow; He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him.

You never supposed that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow’s action in just the same way – because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have done it: but the moment at which you have done it is already ‘Now’ for Him.”

If you end with a ‘wow!’ or you try to read it all over again and say ‘I understand it better now’, then C.S. Lewis’s books is for you. Go and get any of his books at your nearest bookstore. I suggest you try Mere Christianity. Happy reading – and be converted in your mind and heart. I pray that his books may lead you to THE BOOK J
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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Agama Kristian ialah Bukan suatu Rekaan Manusia

Lukisan oleh Michelangelo
Selain daripada sangat rumit, kenyataan atau realiti, pada pengalaman saya, juga sangat tidak mudah untuk difahami. Ianya tidak disusun dengan kemas, tidak ketara, tidak seperti apa yang kita anggapkan. Sebagai contoh, sebelum kamu berkenalan dengan rakan-rakan baru dari bangsa atau negara yang berbeza dengan kamu semasa di universiti, kamu menyangka bahawa semua orang di Malaysia hanya berbangsa Melayu, Cina dan India. Tetapi selepas kamu dewasa, kamu mendapati bahawa banyak lagi bangsa lain di Malaysia ini; Iban, Bidayuh, Kadazan, orang Asli, Kenyah dan sebagainya.

Kemudian, apabila kamu menyangka bahawa kamu sudah hampir tahu kebanyakkan bangsa di Malaysia ini, kamu terkejut apabila mendapati, sebagai contoh, bahawa bangsa Bidayuh mempunyai banyak pecahan etnik seperti Selakau, Lara, Jagoi, Singai, Biatah, Bukar, Sadong dan sebagainya. Namun apa yang lebih mengejutkan lagi ialah kamu seterusnya mendapati bahawa setiap orang walaupun sama bangsa dan etnik, mereka tidak mempunyai ciri-ciri, sikap dan perwatakan yang sama. Ini semua ialah sesuatu yang tidak mudah untuk difahami dan sampai matipun kamu tidak mungkin dapat menyiasat segalanya. Inilah kenyataan yang harus kita hadapi.

Kenyataan, sebenarnya, ialah sesuatu yang tidak mudah untuk kita sangkakan. Inilah salah satu sebab kenapa saya percaya dan menjadi orang Kristian. Kristian ialah agama (‘agama’ dalam pengertian kebanyakkan orang) yang tidak mudah untuk kita sangkakan. Jika ia menyatakan SEMUA perkara – di dunia dan di akhirat – dengan begitu tepat dan jelas sekali seperti apa yang kita anggapkan, maka, kita harus mengesyaki bahawa ia ialah suatu rekaan manusia semata-mata.

Agama Kristian yang sebenar tidak langsung begitu! Ada beberapa perkara dan bahagian yang tidak mudah untuk disangkakan dan ia bukan rekaan manusia – tetapi Tuhan sendiri. Tuhan yang Benar tidak mudah untuk kita sangkakan. Mesti ada misteri (seperti tritunggal Tuhan) dan perkara yang tidak boleh dijelaskan untuk ia dipanggil sebagai kenyataan. Saya harap kamu mengerti apa yang saya cuba jelaskan di sini.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jesus, the Ransom. I, the Ransomed

Jesus’ ministry on earth was very short, approximately 3 years. It was packed with wonderful teaching and miracles, but all the time Jesus knew that he was going to die, a fact that I still amaze while reading the gospels! He didn’t hide this fact from his disciples. Several times Jesus told them that he was going to suffer at the hands of the Jewish leaders and be put to death.

[The] Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31, NIV. See also Mark 9:31; 10:32-34).

Jesus, the Savior. I, the Sinner
This is out of my mind, I said to myself, I can’t imagine what Jesus felt and thought knowing that he was going to die soon. (By the way, how would you handle it?). But strangely as his prediction of his own death was, he made it plain that his death would not be pointless. It would achieve something even more wonderful than his teaching and miracles. Jesus told his disciples that he would “give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Ransom” is not so familiar word for me, “to redeem” is. But the word “ransom” is richer in its meaning. Here it means two things: First, kidnappers demand a ransom to release the people they’ve captured, and all of us humans have been captured by the power of sin. Jesus told his disciples that he would pay the ransom which would release humans from the captivity of sin. Jesus would pay it by giving up His life, by the shedding of His blood on the cross.

The other meaning is that, because of sins, all of us humans have to be punished by the holy God. God who is holy can’t stand to see any sin – even a dot of sin – hated it and will cast sinners to hell out of His holy presence (Check: How holy is your God?). This punishment can be thought of as a fine – the fine of death. Jesus told his disciples that he would pay the ransom – the fine – which would release us sinners from the punishment of God. Jesus would pay it by giving up His life, by the shedding of His blood on the cross.

Jesus taught that He would suffer and die.
His death would achieve something greater than His teaching and miracles
He gave up his life “as a ransom for many” by the shedding of His blood on the cross
To free us from the power of sin and the punishment of the holy God
This is how much Jesus has done for you – what is your respond to this truth?
To all of this wonderful work of salvation, I say, “Hallelujah!”
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Road to Forgiveness... First, Recognize Your Part in the Hurt

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.
Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others
(Colossians 3:13, NLT).

It is rare for a broken relationship ever to be 100% the fault of one party. This we must remember and understand. This is an important, very important way in which divine forgiveness differs from human forgiveness. In divine forgiveness, God doesn’t need to ask for forgiveness from us. God, the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, has done nothing wrong. He is not to blame for even the smallest part of the hurt. We need to ask forgiveness from Him. For every sin that we committed, even toward one another, is against Him (P.s: Do you want to know this God? Come and see Jesus).

However, in human forgiveness, when hurts are felt or damage is done or a relationship is broken, both parties have usually contributed to the fault – even if one of them is more to blame than the other. Everytime when a broken relationship occurs, you and I are probably partly to blame (if not most of it!).

When my relationship with other broke up and I don’t realize my immediate faults against him or her, I will take time to pause, think and pray about it. Almost always God will instantly show me my part in the hurt. I further asking myself in what way I was to blame for the cause of the damage. This process requires me to humble myself and be sensitive with God’s still small voice. Admittedly, it’s hard and not in my sinful nature to do so, but Jesus’ forgiveness Spirit is with me. Jesus enables me to ask for forgiveness and to forgive other.

Sometimes we’re unable to forgive the other person because we can’t face up to our partial responsibility for the hurt. It’s easier to blame the other person and seek sympathy from friends and family than to recognize our own role in the breakdown. We need to face up our part in the hurt. We need to recognize our own fault. We need to seek forgiveness and forgive others. Forgiveness is effective and relationships are healed when we can face up to our part in the mess… however small it may be.

Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others”
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Monday, January 20, 2014

The Truth Will Set You Free

Many people today don’t believe that they are captive to sin, that they are in the power or grip of sin. They might admit that sometimes they do wrong, and that they have a few bad habits which they cannot break. ‘I’m not perfect, I sometime do wrong, but I’m a good person, ya know?’; ‘It’s not a sin, it’s only bad habits. Think positive please’; anything but sin. They don’t like the idea of being a slave of sin (even this title is offensive to them).

Ya know what? That’s nothing new. People in Jesus’ day didn’t like the idea and that sort of talks either. They objected strongly when Jesus said that they could be set free by His word, by the truth. They said: “We… have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (John 8:33, NIV). But Jesus replied: “[Everyone] who sins is a slave to sin… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (v.8:34-36).

Another gospel writer told a parable by Jesus in Luke 18:9-14 which illustrates this. Two men went to the Temple to pray. One of them, a Pharisee, was proud of being better, more religious than the people around him. The other one, a tax collector, “beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”’ Jesus explained later that the tax collector, the one who asked for God’s mercy and confessed himself a sinner, went home justified and forgiven – but the proud self-deceived Pharisee did not. The first knew that he was a slave to sin; the second was deceived about his real spiritual state.

People who believe that they are free from sin will not feel any need to ask for forgiveness. However, those who know that they are sinners and turn to the merciful God will not be disappointed – their sins will be forgiven. Jesus is the answer to our offensive sins against God. “You will know the truth [Jesus Himself], and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

It’s hard to admit that we’re slaves to sin.
But only the one who “know the truth” and
admits he’s a slave to sin is forgiven.
What is your respond after reading this?
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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sunday Reflection on the Reason Luke 23:32-43 was Written

Paint by Kendall Beachey
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him [Jesus] to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left” (Luke 23:32, NIV).

Jesus was crucified between the two criminals. Right at the end of His earthly life He was still among sinners, the people He had come to save. Jesus was always like that. He hangs out in fellowship with the poor, the rich, the religious leaders, the shepherds, the fishermen, the tax collectors, the soldiers, the Jews and gentiles, children – all kinds of people – but especially, the sinners. Even now, He hangs out on the cross with criminals.

One of them asked Jesus to remember him when he came into His kingdom. He said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v.42). Like Zacchaeus and the others ‘unclean’ people in previous chapters, this criminal turned to Jesus in his hour of need.

He, I think, wasn’t sure precisely what he was asking – he needs help that’s all. He didn’t use theological language or jargons. He didn’t use prayer formulas. He didn’t take his guitar and begin to praise and worship. He has no time to think positive, doing yoga or use a set form of words. He simply knew that Jesus could help him. Right on the spot.

And one verse away, the forgiving God-incarnate, Jesus, dying on the cross, promised that the ex-criminal would be with him in paradise, that very day. “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (v.43).

There were no conditions. This is not a cheap-grace-without-repentance teaching. The moment he called upon Jesus for help, he already changed his mind (repentance); knowing his need for savoir in his own sinfulness and receiving God’s grace and forgiveness. Jesus received the criminal as he was, and Jesus promised him more that he asked for (‘remember me’), more than he hoped for (‘today you will be with me’), and far more than he expected (‘be with me in paradise’).

Do you know what the implication of knowing
and understand this truth for you today?
It can happen to you too! Now!
It’s no different for anyone of us today.
Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation
(2 Corinthians 6:2).
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Saturday Reflection on Why Jesus Prayed Luke 23:34

'The Raising of the Cross' by Peter Paul Rubens
For Christ died for sins once and for all,
a good man on behalf of sinners,
in order to lead you to God” (1 Peter 3:18, GNB).

For me, the greatest example of forgiveness is seen on the cross. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising, as Jesus went to the cross deliberately, for the purpose of, to earn our forgiveness by paying our ransom with His precious blood.

Jesus had been arrested, tried, mocked, tortured and flogged. As a man he had been so weakened by the beatings that He was unable to carry His own cross. Finally, the Roman soldiers crucified Him by nailing Him naked to the wooden cross. On the cross, Jesus’ first words were: “Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, GNB). Why?

I can’t imagine, in His humanity, at the moment of the greatest possible physical, emotional and spiritual pressure, Jesus the Son of God showed what He is like, what God is like: forgiveness through and through. The soldiers were hurting the Son of Man, Jesus – yes – but it was God Himself who was greatly hurt by their sin-led actions. I think the religious teachers and the soldiers knew (consciously, if you prefer to use that word) what they were doing, but Jesus knew that deep down they did not know why they were doing it – sin.

Often I do wrong on purpose, and then few moments later, I wonder why I ever did it. We all had been through that kind of situations. The truth is we can’t help sinning because we are sinners by nature. No matter how strong-willed we are, how much religious and self-discipline we have become, how well trained we are (in NLP!, if you know that modern psychology term) – we are all sinners by nature. That was why Jesus’ prayed on the cross for the people around him.  And that is why it always remains true and needed for us today for Jesus, the sinless one, to pray and plea for us: “Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing.”

And, do you know my friends, because of the sinless blood of Jesus on the cross, the Father does forgive us. If you are moved to embrace God’s Son for the forgiveness of your sin, pray to God in words like these (as your guidance):

Dear God, I’m convinced that Jesus suffered and died for my sins.
I gratefully trust in Him now as my Lord and Savior –
and the only way I’ll ever receive your forgiveness
and your promise of eternal life. Amen.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

J.I. Packer on Trials and Troubles of Life

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
(Psalms 46:1, ESV)

A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted.” (Warren Wiersbe)

In his classic and I highly recommended book Knowing God, J.I. Packer writes: “We should not, therefore, be too taken back when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Why, simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and is dealing with us accordingly…

It is often the case, as all the saints know, that fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy the greatest, when the cross is heaviest.”

Packer then suggests two ways of handling the trails of life when we cannot, for the moment, see God’s purpose in them. “First, by taking them as from God, and asking ourselves what reactions to them, and in them, the gospel of God requires of us; second, by seeking God’s face specifically about them. If we do these two things, we shall never find ourselves wholly in the dark as to God’s purpose in troubles.
[Quote from: J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), Page 86-87]

I hear your soul whispers, ‘Easy for you to say...
I reply, ‘No, it’s definitely not an easy task.
God asked us not for an easy life but a faithful life, trust Him
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
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