Friday, August 31, 2018

Timothy, Workout in the Gym is Okay Lah, but a Godly Life is Fuyooh! (1 Timothy 4:7-9)

"Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives' tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it."
(1 Timothy 4:7-9, NLT)

There are some things that we as Christians shouldn't waste our time with. "Godless ideas and old wives' tales" mentioned here – or as Eugene Peterson paraphrased it, "Silly stories that get dressed up as religion" – are some of them. This reminder is similar to what Paul wrote earlier: "[Don't waste your] time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees." Why? Because "these things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don't help people live a life of faith in God" (1 Timothy 1:4). Once a fellow Christian told me about the world's government's‘ secret' to cover up the ‘fact' that the earth is flat! Then, a few days ago two of my friends talked with each other about The Illuminati and Freemasonry for hours. And have you received an SMS or WhatsApp text that says something like this, "[Religious message] Forward this to 10 people and good things will happen to you"? All of these are silly and unprofitable conversations!

"Instead," reminds Paul to Timothy and every Christian who read this, "train yourself to be godly" or "exercise yourself toward godliness" (NKJV). The Greek word for "exercise" here is gumnazo, from which we get the English word gymnasium. This is the place nowadays where people go for exercise and to get the body muscles in tone (although I prefer outdoor exercise. The world is my gym!). Paul continues to say that "physical training is good…" It is good! In my opinion, most Christian workers such as pastors and preachers today are often guilty of neglecting their physical health. Of course, there are those who, on the other hand, may overindulge in exercise until it also becomes a waste of time! What we need is discipline, balance, and moderation. If our bodies belong to God (read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20), then we are responsible to keep them in good shape and make the best use of them. A healthy body will produce a healthy mind; a healthy mind produces a healthy spirit.

Now, as important as bodily exercise is, there is something vastly more important. "…But training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and the life to come." The reason "exercise" toward godliness is so much more profitable than physical exercise is that the results are so much more lasting. Bodily exercise is profitable only for a short time or is of little extent when compared to spiritual exercise. Bodily exercise has a life-time value but spiritual exercise has an eternal value! Godliness not only will (surely) affects our lives here and now on earth but we shall reap the result of it in the rewards of eternity. H. A. Ironside notes, "No one will live a truly pious life who neglects the means which God has given to us for this purpose. We have the Word of God; we need to study our Bibles. And we need to take much time for prayer. Then we must be faithful in testifying to those who are unsaved. To honor God in these things is to be exercised unto godliness." To be godly is to be God-like; to be God-like is to be like Christ. This you must "exercise" daily!

Paul concludes his encouragement by emphasizing its trustworthiness and it should be received and considered by Timothy – by us - seriously. "This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it." What Paul had just said is very important and either Timothy (or you) received it or not, it IS true and worth accepting. It is like Jesus when He said, "Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand." Amen.

You may exercise at least three times a week,
or at least you know that it is important for your health.
But do you exercise spiritually regularly?
Do you see it as more important?

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Timothy, Be Continuously Nourished in God's Word (1 Timothy 4:6)

"If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed"
(1 Timothy 4:6, NLT)

All commentary that I read agree that the phrase "if you explain these things to the brothers" is a mild term. Modern King James Version (MKJV) puts it this way, "Having suggested these things to the brothers…” and New King James Version (NKJV) says, "If you instruct the brethren in these things…" Explain, suggest, instruct. I wonder, why Paul did not write to Timothy to ‘command' these things to the brothers? I think, since Timothy was quite a young man, it probably not good for him to exercise authority by giving orders to the believers at Ephesus. He might be resented and rejected by them. Paul counseled a suggestion rather than a command. Paul already does the hard part, Timothy only needs to explain it to them. Paul warned them, Timothy only need to deliver the warning. Paul wrote the letter, Timothy only needs to read it to them. What Paul wants Timothy to explain? Read the previous article or read 1 Timothy 4:1-5:

"The Spirit makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars. These liars have lied so well and for so long that they've lost their capacity for truth. They will tell you not to get married. They'll tell you not to eat this or that food – perfectly good food God created to be eaten heartily and with thanksgiving by Christians! Everything God created is good, and to be received with thanks. Nothing is to be sneered at and thrown out. God's Word and our prayers make every item in creation holy"
The Message).

If Timothy explains this, he would be "a worthy servant of Christ Jesus." Paul wanted Timothy to warn the Ephesian-Christians of false teachings and apostasy, and to faithfully teach sound doctrine. H. A. Ironside commented, "The minister of Christ is responsible to bring these things to bear upon the hearts and conscious of the people of God so that He may be honored and they may be preserved from the unholy teachings which Satan uses to lead many astray." But you see, the best defense is a good offense. The best antidote to false teaching and apostasy is to know and preach the truth of God. We "know the truth"! (see 1 Timothy 4:3) Even so, as Paul tells Timothy, we must be continuously "nourished" in the truth, namely, God's Word or "the message of faith and the good teaching." Actually, the verb here means "constantly nourishing up." Just as we need daily food to keep us going physically, so it is, as God's people, we need daily spiritual food if we are to remain strong and grow spiritually. Why people are easily "turn away from the true faith" and "follow deceptive spirits and teachings" (1 Timothy 4:1)? Because they have become weak spiritually and failed to continuously nourish in God's Word.

Maybe that's why Paul in his second letter to Timothy reminded him to "work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). If Timothy is faithful in his responsibility to warn others about "these things" (4:6), he will continue on the right path because this is the one which he "has followed" up to now. Great teacher and Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, said this to ministers like Timothy (no excuse, to us too!): "Even ministers themselves have to need to be growing and increasing in the knowledge of Christ and his doctrine: they must be nourished up in the words of faith" [and] "the best way for ministers to grow in knowledge and faith is to put the brethren in remembrance; while we teach others, we teach ourselves." I'm encouraged!

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Book Review: Sit, Walk, Stand (1957) by Watchman Nee

Sit, Walk, Stand (1957) by Watchman Nee
 Compiled and Edited by Angus I. Kinnear

Nee To-sheng or Watchman Nee (1903-1972) is remembered for his leadership of an indigenous church movement in China, as well as for his books especially The Normal Christian Life, which continue to enrich Christians throughout the world. Beginning in the 1930s, Nee helped establish local churches in China that were independent of foreign missionary organizations and were used to bring many into the Kingdom of God. From these roots sprang many of the house churches that continued to meet after Western missionaries were forced to leave the country during the Cultural Revolution. Arrested in 1952 and found guilty of a large number of false charges, Watchman Nee was imprisoned until his death in 1972. Sit, Walk, Stand was compiled from the spoken ministry of Nee at Foochow during "the spacious days of the evangelistic witness in China just prior to the Japanese war, when the author and his fellow Christians enjoyed a liberty in the service of God that is rare today,” writes Kinnear.

In this small book or rather, in his sermon talks, Nee "expresses [the believers'] triumphant assurance in the finished work of Christ." To show this, Nee summed up the epistle of Ephesians ("the highest spiritual truths concerning the Christian life") into two parts, and three sections as follow:

A) Doctrinal (Chapter 1 to 3)
1. SIT: Our Position in Christ (1:1-3:21)
B) Practical (Chapter 4 to 6)
2. WALK: Our Life in the World (4:1-6:9)
3. STAND: Our Attitude to the Enemy (6:10-24)

In the first section of the letter to the Ephesians, Nee notes the word "sit" (2:6), which is the secret of a true Christian experience. God has made us sit with Christ in the heavenly places and every Christian must begin his or her spiritual life from that place of rest. "Christianity does not begin with walking," writes Nee, "it begins with sitting." He continues, "Most Christians make the mistake of trying to walk in order to be able to sit, but that is a reversal of the true order… Christianity is a queer business! If at the outset we try to do anything, we miss everything. For Christianity begins not with a big DO, but with a big DONE." We are invited at the very outset to sit down and enjoy what God had done for us; not to set out to try and attain it for ourselves. We must start with "sit" and not "walk" or "stand." Walking implies effort, whereas God says that we are saved, not by works, but "by grace… through faith" (Ephesians 2:8).

In the second section, Nee select the word "walk" (4:1) as expressive of our life in the world, which is its subject. We are challenged to display in our Christian walk conduct that is in keeping with our high calling. Nee rightly observes that "too many of us are caught acting as Christians. The life of many Christians today is largely a pretense." So what we should do? He says, "Our life is the life of Christ, mediated in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit himself, and the law of that life is spontaneous. The moment we see that fact we shall end our struggling and cast away our pretense. Nothing is as hurtful to the life of a Christian as acting; nothing so blessed as when our outward efforts cease and our attitudes become natural – when our words, our prayers, our very life, all become a spontaneous and unforced expression of the life within." Though Christian life begins with sitting, sitting is always followed by walking. We found our strength in sitting down, then we must begin to walk. Sitting is our position, while walking is our practice.

And finally in the third section, Nee emphasizes the key to our attitude towards the enemy contained in the one word "stand" (6:11), expressive of our place of triumph at the end. Yes, Christian experience begins with sitting and leads to walking, but it does not end there. Every Christian must also learn to stand. "Each one of us must be prepared for the conflict," encouraged Nee. "We must know how to sit with Christ in heavenly places and we must know how to walk worthy of him down here, but we must also know how to stand before the foe." Who is our archenemy? It is Satan and his fallen angels! Ephesians 6 is Paul's plea for us to stand against them. But we stand not by our own might and determination, we stand "merely on the ground which the Lord Jesus has gained for us." Nee confidence that when our eyes are really opened to see Christ as our victorious Lord, we can stand firm. No doubt!

I breathe "amen" as I finished reading this book; I gave praises to God for these refreshing words; I repositioned myself to sit near to Him. I'm reading Ephesians again in the new light! Dear friends, the Christian life really consists of sitting with Christ, walking by Christ, and standing in Christ. Watchman Nee concludes this precious book this way: "We begin our spiritual life by resting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus. That rest is the source of our strength for a consistent and unfaltering walk in the world. And at the end of a grueling warfare with the hosts of darkness, we are found standing with Him at last in triumphant possession of the field." Unto Him… be the glory… forever. Amen.


More on Watchman Nee:

1) Secrets of Watchman Nee: His Life, His Teachings, His Influence (2005) by Dana Roberts (click HERE:

2) Watchman Nee: Man of Suffering (1998) by Bob Laurent (click HERE:

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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Timothy, Some Will Turn Away from the True Faith a.k.a. Apostate (1 Timothy 4:1-5)

"Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth. Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer"
(1 Timothy 4:1-5, NLT)

The New Testament warns and church history demonstrates that holding the truth and maintaining the purity of the Gospel is not easy. As H.A. Ironside, Bible teacher, once commented: "Men would accept antichrist instead of the Christ of God." This is true then as it is today. The apostle Paul now instructs Timothy – now instructs us – to be on guard of what is ahead. Paul begins by writing that "Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly…" (“expressly" or "explicitly"). They have been warned! The Holy Spirit has made it clear that in "the last times" (this term is different from the "last days" or "last hour") – during Paul's times – "some will turn away from the true faith" or apostate. This is sad. You and I know those who have been departed from the true faith in Jesus Christ either by choice, force, desperation, marriage, and lack of Christian witness on our part. But there is more…

The influence of evil spirits. "They will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons." These evil spirits are ever active in seeking to turn many away from the faith "that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people" (Jude 3). It is interesting that whenever someone departs from the faith, he will give heed to deceptive or seductive spirits and the doctrine of demons. This shows the real source of false doctrine. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12 that "we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but… against evil spirits in the heavenly places." The Devil (and his evil spirits) "is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44) and is actively engaged in combating the faith of Christ. Behind Islam, one of the main religions that act against Christianity, for example, is not men of intellect or ‘holy' religious leaders, but the Devil who "always hated the truth" (John 8:44). We are not at war with the Muslims ("we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood") but with the Devil and his armies. This is not a Christian vs. Islam, this is Truth vs. Lie! Focus on the real enemies!

First, the departure from the truth. Then, the Deceiver deceives them to follow false doctrines and in turn, they deceived others. By doing this they being deceived themselves. And so it makes sense that "these people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead." They reached the place where conscience no longer responded to the voice of God. Paul told Timothy earlier that Christ-followers must "live with a clear conscience" (1 Timothy 3:9). Have you ever meet someone who has known the truth, witnessed God's miracle and healing power performed in the name of Jesus, and saw much evidence of Christ's Lordship and divinity in the Scripture and still don't believe? Don't be surprised because "their consciences are dead"! Due to inner spiritual emptiness, they turn to outer laws. "It is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods," they said. Nowadays, nuns, monks, and priests had to take a vow not to marry, is this what Paul was referring to here? Not eating certain foods on certain days, is this not the teaching of demons too? Beware!

Nothing that God has created is to be rejected as being evil. Marriage is good (see Hebrews 13:4) and nothing God made for food is to be rejected (see Matthew 15:11). You may throw something away because you don't like it, but not because it is evil. These things used for food are "made acceptable by the word of God and prayer" in a sense that they are recognized by Christ's followers as being "made holy" or "sanctified" for our good by God. Of course, this comes through proper instruction from His Word and from our receiving them from His hand through prayer. Jesus set the example in this when He returned thanks before feeding the multitude and on other occasions.

Kevin Pier, a fellow blogger in, ends his article on 1 Timothy 4:1-6 this way, I quote: “There is a lot of gift-wrapped garbage in these days. We need to be on our guard that false teaching does not take place in God’s church. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you need to take care that you have not been led astray and deceived by those who are teaching things contrary to the Word of God. You need to be sure you aren’t hypocritical in your own life. The only way we can stand firm is to be students of God’s Word.” And then he ends with this question, “Are you a student of God’s Word?

The same Holy Spirit (4:1) that warns us about these things is also able to keep us faithful.
Ask and pray for guidance and strength from Him.
He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth” (John 14:17). Amen.

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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (2013) by Maria Konnikova, Book Review

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (2013) by Maria Konnikova

Let me help you to grasp Konnikova’s big idea in a very simple way. I try. Here it goes... Maria said that there are two types of brains that we let control our thinking. There is a ‘Watson Brain’ (who is Holmes’ sidekick) and there is a ‘Holmes Brain.’ Now, when we fall under rule of our Watson Brain, we usually think very emotionally, and we rely on correlation (or association) instead of causation (or connection). When we think something relates to something else we automatically think that one causes the other, we are under the control of Watson Brain. Under Watson Brain, we also fall victim to biases and fallacies. And Watson Brain is also fast. It runs on stuff like fight-or-flight. Because it depends so much on emotion, Watson Brain is also very subjective and greatly influence by feelings.

On the other hand, someone who think like Sherlock Holmes is very logical and precise. They find causation. They find out which thing causes the other thing instead of just standard correlation. Holmes Brain also very deductive. One reason many people don’t think like Holmes, says Maria, is because it is more cognitively costly (more brain power requires). It literally takes more energy to think like this. Holmes Brain is also very objective. In summary, Watson Brain are too dependence on emotions, correlation-thinking, influenced by many biases and fallacies, and very subjective; Holmes Brain is tending to be more logical, causation-thinking, deductive analyse, cognitively costly and often objective. “You too can think like Sherlock Holmes,” writes Maria, “you just have to train your brain.” You can train your brain through deliberate thinking and mindfulness. This come with time and practice.

Let me explain three important things that Maria mentions in this book. #1 Biases and fallacies. A bias is a conclusion or automatic thought that our brain has. Most of the time it’s even the stuff that we are unaware of, so you must try to avoid it. And then there is a fallacy, a flaw in logical thinking (I recommend you read The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli if you want to know more about our everyday biases/fallacies); #2 Mindfulness. What is it? In short, mindfulness is keeping your attention focus on what you’re doing right now and on your environments. Maria mentions that mind’s natural tendency is to wonder (or “mind-wonder”). She said that it takes (extra) energy to not let your mind wonder. You must use your focus and will-power to stay mindful. When it come to making deduction, mindfulness is very important; and #3 Always Learning. Sherlock Holmes might appear ignorance of Copernican heliocentrism, but his reply to Watson is actually the key: “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.” You choose what you put in your brain. So, chose wisely. Always stimulate your brain, always learning. Maria says it is easier to stay mindful if you do something interesting (for you), and so Holmes loves to play violin and smoking tobacco. In this way, he stimulates his brain, process information in a peaceful way, able to think in ‘a distant’, and is ready to learn new things again.

So (this might be too simple for a great thought-full book, sorry Konnikova), here are how to think like Sherlock:

1) Don’t let your mind fall victim to biases and fallacies.
2) Try to be as mindful as you can & pay close attention to what you’re doing and the environment that you’re in.
3) Never stop learning. Life can be more interesting if you’re always learning.

In this book, Maria unpacked the mental strategies that lead to clearer thinking and deeper insights. She draws on 21st century neuroscience and psychology to “illuminate Holmes’ most fascinating cases.” She writes at length on scientific method of the mind, the brain attic, the art of observation, imagination, deduction and the important of self-knowledge. There are more that she said in the book that I didn’t put my summary above (Again, sorry Konnikova). For me, this book is not easy to read (I didn’t read this book thru like most of my other books. I paused for about 3 months) but since my fascinated for Sherlock Holmes, frictional character created by Author Conan Doyle, is greater than the task of finishing this book, I finally did it. I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and some parts of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow before and I found these books are almost similar with ‘Mastermind’ (or ‘Mastermind’ is actually similar with these other books). Some readers fairly commented that this book would be much better if she used a real character instead of frictional character. I agree and disagree. I refuse to comment further. So, if you don’t know either you want to buy or just read summary of this book, I suggest you watch Maria Konnikova’s talks first on YouTube and book reviews online.


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Friday, August 17, 2018

Gender Revolution:The Shifting Landscape of Gender by National Geographic, Jan 18 (Review)

Gender Revolution: The Shifting Landscape of Gender
by National Geographic: January 2017

Malaysia's news headline this month: "Malaysia gov't slammed over removal of LGBT portraits" (New Straits Times Online, 9 Aug 2018); "Negri Sembilan state government denounces LGBT" (New Straits Times Online, 12 Aug 2018); "No compromise on LGBT, says Pahang mufti" (Free Malaysia Today, 13 Aug 2018); "Fuziah: Don't drive LGBT group away from Islam" (Free Malaysia Today, 14 Aug 2018); "Putrajaya denies doctor in LGBT controversy transferred" (Free Malaysia Today, 15 Aug 2018); "Transgenders report death threat, hate comments to police" (Free Malaysia, 17 Aug 2018). Pahang mufti Abdul Rahman Osman reported saying: "This group is cursed by God and those who support the wrongdoings are equally sinning… why we want to accept and be with them?" Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Fuziah Salleh, on the other hand, responded this way, "In our religion [Islam], what is haram is haram and there is no compromise about that… [But] if we alienate the group, which has been done before, how are they supposed to live in dignity?" Actually, how do we should response about LGBT in Malaysia?

One sentence, first response: Seek First to Understand. Pahang mufti also reported saying, "We have to oppose them… not endeavor to understand them instead." He and other religious extremists (both in Islam, Christianity, and other religions) are going too far by being devoured-ignorers. They break Stephen R. Covey's 5th habit, "Seek first to understand then be understood." I like how Fuziah Salleh respond. She firmly said, I requote: "In our religion [Islam], what is haram is haram and there is no compromise about that…" But then she added the 5th habit of highly effective people's response: "[but don't] alienate the group as this would only drive them further away from Islam." That's the way we should response! As Christ followers we should hold to Biblical standards – God's Word – no compromise! But at the same time display Christ's love for all humanity by seeking first to understand. Love seeks to understand. Araso?

So, in order for me to understand the LGBT issues, and to better response when ask, and to even withhold my judgment, I need to do my own research. You may ask, "What is LGBT?" LGBT or LGBTQ is an acronym used to refer to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and/or questioning individuals and communities. Simply put, a lesbian is a homosexual woman; a gay (in this context) is a homosexual man; a bisexual is someone who is sexually attracted to both men and women; a transgender is "a person whose gender identity does not match the biological sex they were assigned at birth"; and a queer is "someone whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders." To add more to your confusion, National Geographic introduces a few other terms such as agender, androgynous, cisgender, gender binary, gender dysphoria, genderfluid, nonbinary, etc.

National Geographic is one of my favorite magazines (first in line is BBC Earth) and in this special issue, they explore the shifting landscape of gender in science, in social systems, and in civilizations throughout history. Normally I would only read sections that I'm interested in, but for this issue, I read from cover to cover. No doubt there are few things that I don't agree with and I wish Nat Geo's columnists can be a little bit more unbiased and it would be good if they also allow anti-LGBTQ writer-supporters to have they say in the magazine. Maybe a page would be fine (well, that probably a far-fetched wish! Like asking TV3 to broadcast church worship service live every Sunday morning). Nevertheless, Nat Geo covered this issue quite well and it has great sub-topics such as:

- A Portrait of Gender Today (with an LGBTQ-full group photograph)
- Helping Families Talk about Gender
- Girls, Boys, and Gendered Toys
- Colour Code
- One Part He, One Part She
- I Am Nine Years Old: Children Across the World Tell Us How Gender Affects their Lives
- Rethinking Gender
- Identity, Sex, and Expression
- Making a Man: How Does a 21st-Century Boy Reach Manhood?
- Many Paths to Manhood
- Parental Leave on Dad's Terms
- American Girl: How Do You Grow Up In an Era of Body Shaming and Anonymous Bullying
 - It's Hard to Be Female: the Statistics
- The Dangerous Lives of Girls
- Painful Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
- Our Evolving Sense of Self
- and many more.                                                      

This is just the beginning of my deeper study on LGBTQ. I've watched videos and documentaries, listened to sermons/talks, and subscribed to LGBT podcasts and Christian (and religious) debates. I don't know where this quest will lead me to… but for sure, before you respond to any issues today – be wise. Seek first to understand dan jangan cepat melatah.


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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Power of Habit (2012) by Charles Duhigg, Book Review

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (2012)
by Charles Duhigg

This book will take readers to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. If you're interested in this subject, you'll never be disappointed. You need to understand habit because as William James, philosopher and psychologist, once said, “99% of human activity is done out of mere habit.”

The reason it’s such a good book, in my opinion, is because it uses research to explain how habits are formed and changed and the way the author arrange his materials into an interesting and fun reading. Everyone knows someone who was out of shape, or was a smoker, or a hard drinker, and then in what appeared as if almost overnight, changed themselves in a short period of time. How did they do that? They formed new habits and changed old ones, that’s how! Do something enough and it becomes a habit - good or bad. This is explained in the book by research on memory loss. For example, the research found that patients suffering from memory loss could not show someone where the kitchen is when asked, but once they got hungry they would get up and go to the kitchen automatically. This is made possible by the Habit Loop of Cue, Routine, and Reward. The Cue (hungry) makes the brain find the Routine (go to the kitchen) as it anticipates the Reward (food - eat - full). A classic example is a stress and smoking. The cue is stress, the routine is smoking, the reward is the feeling the cigarette brings.

What's most interesting is how the book described changing a habit. Let’s face it, we all have habits we want to change. To accomplish this we need to keep the cue and reward, but only change the routine. I’ll use an example from my own life to illustrate. I used to be a smoker, and to make it worse I smoke whenever I feel boring. My instant respond whenever I have nothing to do was to smoke (or drink alcohol) because that was how I formed the habit during my teenage years. Back then I used a similar guidance from this book to change that habit. I kept the cue and reward, but I changed the routine by reading books instead of smoking cigarettes. Now I'm an avid reader and an ex-smoker. This logic flows into much larger problem sets such as organizations and communities. Focus on changing one thing - the keystone habit from which a cascade of other habits will form. The author illustrates this example by discussing how the company Alcoa was transformed by the keystone habit of a singular focus on safety (and other examples too).

The book flows really well and uses research throughout to substantiate the concepts presented. Jim Collin puts it this way, "Charles Duhigg's thesis is powerful in its elegant simplicity: confront the root drivers of our behavior, accept them as intractable, and then channel those same cravings into productive patterns. His core insight is sharp, provocative and useful." Couldn't agree more!
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Play the Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be (2017) by Mark Batterson, Book Review

Play the Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be (2017)
by Mark Batterson

Before I read it, when I first saw the title of this book, it reminds me of many Bible verses such as 2 Samuel 10:12 where Joab told Abishai, “Be of good courage and let us play the men for our people…”; 1 Kings 2:2 when David encouraged Solomon to “be strong and act like a man…”; and 1 Corinthians 16:13 as Paul reminded the Christian men at Corinth to “be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men…” It also reminds me of the Church fathers such as Polycarp when he was about to be executed a voice from heaven said to him, “Be strong, Polycarp. Play the man.” When Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer were also persecuted for their faith, Cranmer said to Ridley for the last time, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man.” Play the man, act like a man, being a man. I’m so pumped up by the title of this book that I bought it without first browsing it through. To buy the book (and desire to read it), I thought, is already a manly act!

Play the man. Somewhere along the way, our culture – even our churches – has lost its definition of manhood, leaving generations of men and men-to-be confused about their roles, responsibilities, relationships, and the reason God made us men. “The white noise of cultural confusion coupled with the deafening silence of the church has left us insecure and unsure of our manhood,” observes Mark Batterson. “So we settle for something far less than what God originally intended.” It’s in this much-needed message that Batterson declares his mantra for manhood, one that we all men must aspire to act: Play the man!When you play the man,” he writes, “you are lighting a candle for the next generation – a candle that shall never be put out.” Oh, where are men of God today?

Batterson from the beginning mention that Jesus Christ is the archetype of manhood (or manliness), “He is the Lamb of God and the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He is a gentle Jesus, meek and mild. But meek isn’t weak, and Jesus definitely had a wild side! He was tough as nails, seven-inch nails that pierced His hands and feet. But He was also man enough to cry.” He continues, “Jesus is an enigma, the Enigma, and that is because He was fully God, fully man. Yes, He is the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Son of God. But for 33 years, Jesus played the man… Like us, He had to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. And He had to discover His destiny, His identity, and His masculinity. Of course, after discovering it, He defined it.” Once that is established, Batterson then lists down Seven (7) Virtues of Manhood where he creatively unveiled it one by one through Biblical, personal and historical perspectives and stories. What I like about Mark is that he writes with such scholarly-passionate, humorously-serious, practically-doable, and theologically-clear. Right after I finished reading this book, I prayed:

Lord, by Your grace, I want to play the man!

This 200 pages book is divided into 2 parts and 10 chapters:

Part 1 Play the Man: The Seven Virtues

1 Tough as Nails: Virtue #1 Tough Love
2 A Gentleman and a Scholar: Virtue #2 Childlike Wander
3 Unbroken: Virtue #3 Will Power
4 The Three-Headed Dragon: Virtue #4 Raw Passion
5 Sockdolager: Virtue #5 True Grit
6 Born for the Storm: Virtue #6 Clear Vision
7 Call of Duty: Virtue #7 Moral Courage

Part 2 Make the Man: The Rite of Passage

8 No Man’s Land
9 The Discipleship Covenant
10 The Rite of Passage

I wish every man to read this book or at least this kind of book on manhood – books that are written by men for men. But that in itself is very challenging. Why? Because most men didn’t like to read books… Maybe the first virtue should be #1 Teachable or Learner.


Other books on Manhood that I’ve review and recommend:

#1 Finishing Strong: Going the Distance for Your Family (1995) by Steve Farrar (

#2 Tender Warrior: God's Intention For a Man (1993) by Stu Weber (

#3 Tough and Tender: What Every Woman Wants In a Man (1981) by Joyce Landorf (

#4 Healing the Masculine Soul: How God Restores Men to Real Manhood (1988, 2003) by Gordon Dalbey (

#5 Book Review: Wild at Heart, Discovering the Secret of A Man's Soul (2001) by John Eldredge (

#6 The Hidden Value of a Man: The Incredible Impact of a Man on His Family (1992) by Gary Smalley and John Trent (
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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

John C. Maxwell on Leadership #26 A Leader's Power Is the Ability to Empower Others

How do you spot a leader? According to Robert Townsend, they come in all sizes, ages, shapes, and conditions. Some are poor administrators, while some are not overly bright. There is a clue: since some people are mediocre, the true leader can be recognized because somehow his people consistently demonstrate superior performances.

A leader is great, not because of his or her power, but because of his or her ability to empower others. Success without a successor is a failure. A worker’s main responsibility is developing others to do the work. Loyalty to the leader reaches its highest peak when the follower has personally grown through the mentorship of the leader. Why? You win people’s hearts by helping them grow personally.

Years ago, one of the key players on my staff was Sheryl Fleisher. When she first joined the team, she was not a people person. Today she successfully develops others. There is a bond of loyalty that Sheryl has given to my leadership, and we both know the reason. My time invested with her brought a positive change. She will never forget what I have done for her. Interestingly, her time invested in the lives of others greatly helped me. I will never forget what she has done for me either.

The core of leaders who surround you should all be people you have personally touched or helped to develop in some way. When that happens, love and loyalty will be exhibited by those closest to you and by those who are touched by your key leaders.

Are people going to the next level because of your investment in them?

[Taken from Developing the Leader Within You (2012) by John C. Maxwell. Published by Thomas Nelson Inc.]

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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Jesus' Leadership #29 He Believed In His Disciples (from Unstable 'Reed' to Immovable 'Rock')

Jesus looked at a promising young man and said, "You are blessed, Simon son of John… Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church, and all the power of hell will not conquer it…" (Read Matthew 16:16-19, NLT). Simon meant "Reed" (as in a plant that sways when any force pushes it) while Peter meant "stone" or "rock" (Jesus is "the Rock", Peter is a small rock, stone). Surely Jesus must have seen something special in Peter because his record shows that he was rather a reckless guy – hardly the kind of person you would declare to be a leader or pioneer of everything you were doing.

Peter was presumptuous when he trying to keep Jesus from going to Jerusalem because he was afraid, denying even knowing Jesus when He was captured by the Romans soldiers (this was his ultimate failure), and cutting off the Romans guard's ear with a sword after Jesus had preached love and forgiveness to him for about 3 years!

I think Jesus had to believe in His disciples and He was committed to change them. Their backgrounds were not glorious and they did not grasp what He was saying most of the time. They were constantly arguing over who is the greatest among them and they (once) dozed off and forgot Him when He needed them the most. Yet, these were the people He chose to be His apostles not just disciples and He believes the best in each of them – even when there was evidence to the contrary! He continues to give them great-Kingdom responsibilities and ultimately they were able to do it by His power and grace (except, Judas Iscariot).

It was because of His inner knowledge that allowed Jesus to give His disciples authority. He freely shared with them His longings, His Divine purpose, and even His humanity. If He did not believe in them, He would not have called them brothers [and sisters]. He would not have taken them whenever He goes and tells them about the things of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. You see, people tend to rise to the occasion when they have someone who truly believes in them. Perhaps we just need someone to show us who we really are inside. Perhaps that is what we are all so desperately searching for – someone who believes in us and to acknowledge the potential that we each sense about ourselves but are hesitant to show.

Peter went on to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the formerly shunned Gentiles (see Acts 11:1-18). No other preacher or prophet (although Jonah preached to the Gentiles, he didn't bring Good News) had been called to go to the "unclean" Gentiles before with such Good News. According to church history, Peter eventually was crucified for his good work of preaching Christ and the Cross. In deference to Jesus, his Lord, it is said that he asked to be crucified upside down. This request came from a man whom everyone but Jesus called "Reed." Peter no more easily sway in his faith like a reed, his faith was firm and immovable like a rock!

To have someone we admire believe in us can help set our God-given greatness free. It certainly worked for Peter. Jesus believed in him and all of His disciples.

How can you show those who work with you that you believe in them?

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FREE BOOKS OF THE MONTH: Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer

Why is the mind important? Because one small detail in the Greatest Commandment is often neglected. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Love God not only with your heart and soul but with your mind too – "all your mind." With all your mind includes the right brain and the left brain.

There are many important verses on the Christian Mind, but one particular verse that holds dear to me is from Proverbs 23:7, "For as he thinks in his heart, so [is] he." Here you can see the crucial link between the mind and the heart. Your heart can influence your mind, but the other way round is also true: your mind can influence your heart. Since only God can change our hearts (see Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 15:5), the best way for us to change our lives is to change our own minds. How? By God's grace and human's will. God is in the process of "renewing [our] mind" (Romans 12:2) – that's grace because only God can make it happen. But the Scripture also instructs us to "set your mind to be right-minded" or "to think soberly" (Romans 12:3) – that's done by our will. Although the context of Romans 12:2-3 is on living sacrifice and humility, it can be applied to our lives too. If you're struggling with wrong, unholy, negative thinking, it's important for you to come to grips with the fact that your life won't change until your thinking does. And this is not beyond your will to change it. God gives us grace, are you willing to believe and apply it?

The Bible presents a lot of detailed instruction on what kinds of things we should think about. For example, in Philippians 4:8, Paul wrote: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things" or "…think on these things." Think about things that build you up, not tear you down. One of the best way for us to think God-ward thinking is to meditate on the Word of God. The more time we spend thinking about the Word, the more power and ability we will have to walk in it. The more we read and listen to the Word, the more revelation we will receive to understand it. "In the flesh," explain Joyce Meyer, "we are lazy and want to receive from God without any effort on our own part, but that's not the way it works. You will only get out of the Word what you are willing to put into it." She continues, "I encourage you to make a decision to meditate on God's Word every day because every moment you spend absorbing it, the more virtue and knowledge you will receive from God."

Two important books that I would like to recommend for young people on the topic of the mind: #1 As a Man Thinketh by James Allan; and #2 Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer [read my review on The Battlefield of the Mind: Devotional. Click on the title]. For me, these are basic, essential books. In Battlefield of the Mind (cool book title, right?), Joyce shows how we can deal with negative things such as worry, doubt, confusion, depression, anger and feelings of condemnation by changing our minds. She shares her own trials, tragedies, and victories from marriage, family, and ministry that led her to wondrous, life-transforming truth – and reveals her thoughts and feelings every step of the way. Her stories filled with God-exaltation and Word-based instructions make this book authentic and in my opinion – one of her all-time best books. Don't let critics and Bible-Sherlock-Holmes stop you from reading books by Joyce Meyer, especially this one (Well, if you read Joyce's books more than the Bible itself, then you're making her idol. That's idolatrous). Like many preachers and authors, we all have our disagreements on some points.

I admire Joyce's boldness, faith, perseverance, courage, thick-skin, and truth-telling. With all the negative critics, accusations, false-findings and labeling on the internet and YouTube about her, she keeps her faith in Christ and continues to preach God's Word – even more, and better! Thus, Battlefield of the Mind is not just a collection of words and advice, but it's her own testimonies and how she fought the battle of the mind with "the sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17). Christ and His Word is that powerful to change our heart and mind!

This month (of August), I would like to giveaway TWO (2) FREE BOOKS entitle Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind (2002) by Joyce Meyer. All you have to do:

1) Write a comment (below) on this blog post:
"I want to read Battlefield of the Mind because........"

2) Share an article (from this blog) on your social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.

3) Send to me your home (or recent) address for me to post the book. You may do it through my FB Messenger or if you know me personally, through WhatsApp or SMS.

[P.s: This offer is available to my readers in Malaysia ONLY. And if you already received my free books before, you can only request again after 3 months. Btw, why don't promote this to your friends?]


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Friday, August 3, 2018

Men Who Finished Strong: Joshua and Caleb, Part 4

"The Lord now said to Moses, ‘Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelves ancestral tribes.'"
(Numbers 13:1-2, NLT)

God is ready to hand over the keys to the Promised Land to the newly liberated nation of Israel. Under the leadership of Moses, He has brought them out of Egypt with the gold and riches of Egypt in the possession. And now they are ready to enter the rich and prosperous land that will be their new home.

God specifically instructs Moses to pick out twelve men, one from each tribe. But He is even more specific than that. He tells them to pick twelve "leaders." And that's what Moses did. He picked men from each tribe who have already proven themselves as leaders – Israel's best and brightest. They weren't rookies; they were experienced generals. These were the men with proven track records and vision for the future. Let's put it this way: Moses wasn't going to pick wannabees or has-beens to go check out the land. For a mission like that you don't sent second-hands – you send in your specialists. Your main men. Twelve of them to be specific… and out of those 12, only 2 finished strong.

Israel waited for 40 years to enter the land because 10 guys who had seen God open the Red Sea for them and their families, and then close it on Pharaoh's army… 10 guys who had seen God work time and time again on their behalf – freaked out because the land contained some very powerful tribes and fortified cities. In other words, the 10 had a greater fear of man than they did of God. And this was after all the mind-boggling miracles God had performed before their very eyes! It was E. Stanley Jones who said, "Fear is the sand in the machinery of life." And it brought these 10 leaders to a staggering halt.

These 10 leaders had a great start. They just couldn't finish. And they delayed Israel's realization of the Promised Land for 40 years. A whole generation perished in the sands of the Sinai desert because these men got sand in their machinery. These were names of the twelve spies: the 10 leaders who couldn't finish strong; Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel; and only 2 leaders who finished strong; Joshua and Caleb. Of the original twelve, ten detailed. Only Joshua and Caleb had taken the time to develop their moral and spiritual character so that they had the faith and endurance to trust in God when the chips were down. Parents still name their boys Joshua and Caleb today, don't they? But I don't know any parents who want to name their son Palti or Shammua. Those names have been forgotten.

There must have been some very good reasons why these 10 men were chosen to spy out the Promised Land. At least there were some good external reasons. The problem is, no one but God can look into a man's heart. Well, you can bet that each of these 10 men-leaders, if they were around today, would be at church faithfully every Sunday morning and/or Sunday night. He'd be there for Wednesday Bible Study night and Thursday Men's Fellowship. He'd show up on Tuesday for worship practice and teach Sunday school. He would be a tither and serve on the board. Externally, all of these men looked like dynamite! But when push came to shove, only 2 out of 12 had what it took to be real men of God. And the difference was all on the inside – the continuous relationship with the Living God.

You see, it's endurance that separates the men from the boys. It's endurance that determines whether or not a man will finish strong. And endurance is the fruit of godly character. The Christian life isn't a hundred meters run. It's a marathon. It's a long race, and long races don't require speed. They require grit, determination, faith-endurance, and finishing power. As Scripture says, "Therefore since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."

In Christian life, it's not how you start that matters.
It's how you finish.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Men Who Finished Strong: Jack MacArthur, Part 3

Preaching several years ago in Scotland, John MacArthur Jr. was approached by a man after the service. “Is your father named Jack MacArthur?” the man asked. MacArthur said yes.

Your father came to Ireland over thirty years ago with two other men to hold a revival in Belfast and in other parts of the country. I went to hear your father speak, and at that meeting, I received Jesus Christ and dedicated my life to the ministry. I am a pastor because the Lord used your father to minister to me. Would you tell him that when you see him?

MacArthur indicated that he would, and then the man asked another question. “Where is your father now?” MacArthur told him that his father was preaching and pastoring. The man then asked, “Is he still faithful to the Word?” “Yes, he still faithful and still standing.” “What happened to the other two men who were ministering with your father?” MacArthur replied, “I’m sorry to report that one has denied the faith and the other died an alcoholic.”

There it is again. Three relatively young men, completely committed to Christ, make their way to Ireland to preach the gospel. They see God do great things. But thirty years later when the dust had settled, only one out of the three was still standing.

In the Christian life, it’s not how you start that matters.
It’s how you finish.

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Book Review: Turning Adversity Into Opportunity (2014) by Kouzes and Posner

Turning Adversity Into Opportunity (2014) by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

I've read one of their books before, A Leader's Legacy (CLICK the title) and I like their writings especially on leadership. This one is a small book with a big message, filled with wisdom, great short advice, and essential points. If you wonder how to turn adversity into an opportunity or how to face challenges as a leader – read this book. Leadership has always been essential in getting through tough times. Turbulent. Disruptive. Chaotic. Unexpected. Unpredictable. Changing. These words describe circumstances that demand leadership. Today, many organizations and businesses will experience crisis and challenges that either will break or make them stronger. While these moments are difficult, they also provide the opportunity for great leadership. "Challenge is the defining context for leadership," writes Kouzes and Posner. "That's the consistent pattern we've discovered from our research over the past three decades… Challenge, it turns out, is the crucible for greatness."

Exemplary leaders turn adversity into opportunity. They continue, "There are no shortages of these opportunities, and they demand leadership. It's not a choice; it's a requirement. If communities and organizations are not just going to survive but also to prosper, leaders must rise to the occasion." Most of the leaders that they interviewed said that their greatest moments arise out of the most difficult periods of their careers. In this book, both authors reveal how leaders at any level can transform difficult circumstances into opportunities for growth and success. They offer six (6) actionable strategies that we must incorporate into our leadership practices (for each strategy, the authors include questions for reflection), namely:

Strategy #1 Broaden the Context. It's crucial to view what's happening from the perspective of history. After all, leaders in the past have faced challenges and overcome them. So ask yourself how you can help people understand what's happening in the broader environment, and how you can help people understand you are not worse off than others in the past. "Putting things into perspective is vital to transforming adversity into opportunity."

Strategy #2 Defy the Verdict. People need the truth – an honest explanation of the situation. "But defining reality and accepting it as your personal fate are two different things. Just because things are not going the way you predicted doesn't mean that you are doomed to a life of gloom and doom," they note. They point to former Saturday Review Editor Norman Cousins' finding that some cancer patients responded with a fierce determination to overcome the disease. They didn't deny the diagnosis but did refuse to accept the verdict usually associated with it. Those patients lived significantly longer than their oncologists expected.

Strategy #3 Commit to What's Important. If you generate a list of the historical leaders you admire, they probably were individuals of strong principles who were clear about what was important to them and consequential in life. The authors' research found that clarity about personal values has a significant impact on employees' feelings about their work. "People cannot fully commit unless what they are being asked to commit to fits with their own beliefs," they write. So help people to understand why what you're doing matters and why they should feel passionate about it.

Strategy #4 Take Charge of Change. The personal best moments the leaders outlined were exciting and inspiring but also filled with stressors. That requires psychological "hardiness," the ability to bounce back. Three attitudes boost such hardiness: Commitment to being involved in the situation; the desire to control your life and influence the situation; and the willingness to confront the challenge rather than playing it safe.

Strategy #5 Engage Others. We feel healthier in trying times when we gain support from others. Indeed, the authors note that having one supportive stable relationship is an important condition for "transcending" adversity. So consider how to connect with others affected by the challenge, using the situation to fortify your relationships and build partnerships – creating a sense that you are all in this together.

Strategy #6 Show You Care. Human beings need to be appreciated, so no matter how busy you are grappling with the challenge, make sure you are providing sufficient encouragement to others. That requires face-to-face communication. "Being with people in person is even more critical for leaders with long-distance and global teams. Although it may seem counterintuitive, in difficult times it is important to maintain travel budgets (even possibly increase them) rather than cutting back," they warn.

"Let's get excited about the adversities. Yes, that's right – excited. They are not brick walls. They are turning points," they concluded. "Wherever you find yourself in your organization, community, and family, there are opportunities for leadership. Leadership is not a position or place. It is an attitude and a set of practices that are accessible to anyone." Put these strategies into practice and you can – the authors assured us – turn adversity into opportunity. Yes, you can do it!

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