Sunday, September 30, 2018

If Your Gift Is Writing (or Whatever Your Gifts Are), Do It to Honor God and to Benefit Others (Read 1 Kings 3:1-15)

So far, King Solomon had carefully lived by God's Wonderful Law and He gave him success. Solomon asked God for wisdom, and with it, God gave him economic prosperity and fame. "[Give] to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil…," (1 Kings 3:9, NKJV) asked Solomon. God was pleased with Solomon's prayer, He replied, "Because of you have asked this thing… for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked…" (1 Kings 3:11-13). Solomon asked for wisdom to lead God's people; God gave him the wisdom to serve others. In short, God had given you gifts, talents, and potentials so that we can use it to do His will. When we do, everyone else benefits.

"I recently flew to St. Louis on a commercial airline," recalled Max Lucado in his book Cure for the Common Life (2005), "The attendant was so grumpy I thought she'd lemons for breakfast. She made her instructions clear: sit down, buckle up, and shut up! I dared not request anything lest she pushes the eject button. Perhaps I caught her on a wrong day, or maybe she caught herself in the wrong career.

Two weeks later I took another flight. This attendant had been imported from heaven. She introduced herself to each passenger, had us greet each other, and then sang a song over the intercom! I had to ask her, ‘Do you like your work?' ‘I love it!' she beamed. ‘For years I taught elementary school and relished each day. But then they promoted me. I went from a class of kids to an office of papers. Miserable! I resigned, took some months to study myself, found this opportunity, and snagged it. Now I can't wait to come to work!'…

"You can do something no one else can do in a fashion no one else can do it. Exploring and extracting your uniqueness excites you, honors God, and expands His Kingdom. So ‘make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that' (Galatians 6:4, The Message). Discover and deploy your knacks," concluded Max. If you were given Solomon's opportunity to ask for anything, what would you choose? Would your requests benefit others if God granted them?

In your prayer, as you about to finished reading this blog post,
Ask God for your heart's desire (I always wanted to inspire others).
Trust in God's generosity to you (He gave me the wisdom to write).

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Friday, September 28, 2018

The Demon Crown (2018) by James ‘Rollins' Czajkowski, Book Review

The Demon Crown: A Sigma Force Novel (2018)
by James ‘Rollins' Czajkowski

I don't read novels that much. But when it comes to James Rollins – I can't resist it! He is a master novelist who can mix history (facts and myths), science (fiction and nonfiction), contemporary issues and adventure (and romance) all in one book. I like how the New York Times Book Review says about Rollins: "He is what you might end up with if you tossed Michael Crichton and Dan Brown into a particle accelerator together." Brilliant! Imagine, Crichton's Jurassic Park + Brown's Da Vinci Code = Rollins' Demon Crown. Reading this 577-pages novel was breath-taking and intellectually-satisfying experience. I didn't realize this morning that I flipped the last page at about 1.30am – and I haven't eaten yet!

What The Demon Crown is all about? Off the coast of Brazil, a team of scientists discovers a horror like no other, an island where all life has been eradicated, consumed and possessed by a species beyond imagination (and most fascinating!). Before they can report their discovery, a mysterious agency attacks the group, killing them all, save one, an entomologist, an expert on venomous creatures, Professor Ken Matsui from Cornell University. Strangest of all, this inexplicable threat traces back to a terrifying secret buried a century ago beneath the National Mall: a cache of bones preserved in amber. The artifact was hidden away by a cabal of scientists—led by Alexander Graham Bell—to protect humankind. But they dared not destroy it, for the object also holds an astonishing promise for the future: the very secret of life after death.

Yet, nothing stays buried forever. An ancient horror—dormant in the marrow of those preserved bones—is free once more, nursed and developed into a weapon of incalculable strength and malignancy, ready to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world. A biological weapon! A pre-historic species of Hymenoptera discovered in the amber. "The Odokuro have been released," said Prof Ken Matsui, "Named after a Japanese demon – gashadokuro. Trust me, it's a most fitting name. I've been studying the species for the past 2 months. Its life cycle is beyond anything imaginable." Like the myth of Phoenix, it rises back to life from ashes… the Lazarus effect. To stop its spread, Commander Grayson Pierce of Sigma Force and the team must survive a direct attack on the island of Maui. They must decipher this deadly mystery and traces back the origin of it to the founding of the Smithsonian Institution. To be exact, they need to uncover who is James Smithson, a British Chemist, and why he founded the Smithsonian even though he never set foot in America.

With each new discovery, the menace they hunt is changing, growing, spreading—adapting and surviving every attempt to stop it from reconquering a world it once ruled. And each transformation makes it stronger… and smarter. Horror! "This novel," explained Rollins, "serves as a cautionary reminder that we are not living in the Age of Man, but rather—as has been true for over 400 million years—we are living in the Age of Insects. In fact, it is now hypothesized that insects contributed—if not led—to the extinction of the dinosaurs. How? You'll have to read the book for the shocking answer. But of course, this then begs the question concerning the insects' latest competitors for the earth's dwindling natural resources: Could we be their next target?" Must read!

[Ps: The last time I read Rollins' books is his collaboration with Rebecca Cantrell on the trilogy of The Order of Sanguines Series. To read CLICK HERE]

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Success In Life Doesn't Start With... (Read 1 Kings 2:1-9)

Books such as 1 & 2 Kings never have been my favorite ones. But somehow, these are the books that taught me a lot about life. In 1 Kings 2:1-9, King David gave final instructions to Solomon that would ensure success. David exhorted Solomon to obey God, follow Him, to be kind to his supporters and – to kill his enemies (this last instruction require a Bible study). About obedience to God, David said, "Observe the requirements of the LORD your God and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go…" (1 Kings 2:3). God once said the same thing to Solomon in 1 Kings 3:14 after God granted him wisdom. God reminded him again in 1 Kings 6:12 in the midst of building the Temple. Solomon even rehearsed it in his own prayer in 1 Kings 8:25. Finally, God repeated it again in 1 Kings 9:4, "…obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations…" In essence, God said to Solomon: If you want success in life, put Me first!

Max Lucado in his amazing book, It's Not About Me (2004), writes: "Self-promotion. Self-preservation. Self-centeredness. It's all about me! They all told us it was, didn't they? Weren't we urged to look out for number one? Find our place in the sun? Make a name for ourselves? We thought self-celebration would make us happy… But what chaos this philosophy creates. What if a symphony orchestra followed such an approach? Can you imagine an orchestra with an ‘It's all about me' outlook? Each artist clamoring for self-expression. Tubas blasting nonstop. Percussionists pounding to get attention. The cellist shoving the flutist out of the center-stage chair. The trumpeter standing atop the conductor's stool tooting his horn. Sheet music disregarded. Conductor ignored. What do you have but an endless tune-up session!

"Harmony? Hardly. Happiness? Are the musicians happy to be in the group? Not at all. Who enjoys contributing to a cacophony? You don't. We don't. We were not made to live this way. But aren't we guilty of doing just that? No wonder our homes are so noisy, businesses so stress-filled, the government so cutthroat, and harmony so rare. If you think it's all about you, and I think it's all about me, we have no hope for a melody. We've chased so many skinny rabbits that we've missed the fat one: the God-centred life."

If you want success in life, then all your activities must reflect God's will. Today, make God the center of your life. Ask God to show you what successful living means for you. Then, rest easy in God's peace and His plans. God first. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

John C. Maxwell on Leadership #30 You Don't Need a Title to Lead

If I had to identify the number one misconception people have about leadership, it would be the belief that leadership comes simply from having a position or title. But nothing could be further from the truth. You don’t need to possess a position at the top of your group, department, division, or organization in order to lead. If you think you do, then you have bought into the position myth.

A place at the top will not automatically make anyone a leader. The Law of Influence in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership states it clearly: “The true measure of leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”

Because I [John] have led volunteer organizations most of my life, I have watched many people become tied up by the position myth. When people who buy into this myth are identified as potential leaders and put on a team, they are very uncomfortable if they have not been given some kind of title or position that labels them as leaders in the eyes of other team members. Instead of working to build relationships with others on the team and to gain influence naturally, they wait for the positional leader to invest them with authority and give them a title. After a while, they become more and more unhappy, until they finally decide to try another team, another leader, or another organization. People who follow this pattern don’t understand how effective leadership develops.

[Taken from The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization (2011) by John C. Maxwell. Published by HarperCollins Leadership]

If People Need a Title to Lead,
Don’t Expect Them to Soar like Eagles.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

We Can Be Successful in Public Life and a Failure in Private (Read 1 Kings 1:1-53)

When David’s life and reign drew to a close, his sons competed for his throne. David appointed Solomon as the heir. But one observation that we all need to know from 2 Samuel to 1 Kings: David served well as a king, but he often failed as a parent. We can be successful in our public life and a failure in private. Our family should be our first ministry priority.

Max Lucado, from his book Facing Your Giants (2006), writes: “Incest. Deceit. One daughter raped. One son dead. Another with blood on his hands. A palace of turmoil. Again it was time for David to step up. Display his Goliath-killing courage, Saul-pardoning mercy, Brook-Besor leadership. David’s family needed to see the best of David. But they saw none of David. He didn’t intervene or respond. He wept. But wept in solitude.

Absalom interpreted the silence as anger and fled Jerusalem to hide in his grandfather’s house. David made no attempt to see his son. For three years they lived in two separate cities. Absalom returned to Jerusalem, but David still refused to see him. Absalom married and had four children. ‘Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, but did not see the king’s face’ (2 Samuel 14:28).

Such shunning could not have been easy. Jerusalem was a small town. Avoiding Absalom demanded daily plotting and spying. But David succeeded in neglecting his son. More accurately, he neglected all his children. A passage from later in his life exposes his parenting philosophy. One of his sons, Adonijah, staged a coup. He assembled chariots and horsemen and personal bodyguards to take the throne. Did David object? Are you kidding? ‘His father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, ‘Why have you done do?’ (1 Kings 1:6)... When it came to his family, David blew it.”

If you are a parent, take time with each child today: listen, talk, and care. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). As a son or daughter, plan to spend time with your parents. Be concerned for their needs. Be eager to pray for family needs.


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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (2006) by Robert B. Cialdini, Book Review

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (2006) by Robert B. Cialdini

This is interesting, Cialdini writes, "What I'm talking about is pre-suasion, directing their minds to the moment before they experience the content. There's this interesting study. A guy goes to a shopping mall in France. And he tries to get women's phone numbers as they pass various shops so he could call for a date. But in neither of those cases was he very successful. He only got a number 13% of the time. But there was one kind of shop that doubled his success rate when women were passing it, a flower shop. Why? Because flowers put women in the mindset of romance." Wow! I love to learn psychology and the human mind. When I listened to Les Brown, my favorite motivational speaker, he had a list of books he recommended. Top 10 on his list was this book, which was a really fascinating and enlightening read. It reminds me why being a skeptic and a cynic sometimes are so valuable and necessary – particularly in today's world.

In my observation, today the word "persuasion," especially in the Christian circles, have a very negative connotation. Sometimes we (wrongly) equate it with "deception" or "intimidation" – but not so. There are principles of persuasion that are both moral and ethical (In Acts 28:23, it is written that Paul "explained and testified about the Kingdom of God and tried to persuade [others] about Jesus from the Scripture." This is not a Christian book, but what I'm trying to say is that there is such a thing as ethical persuasion). In this book, Robert Cialdini, a well-known expert in the field of influence and persuasion, outline 6 Ethical Principles that are helpful not just for sales people but for anyone who wants to become a skilled persuader:

#1 RECIPROCITY. "In many social situations, we pay back what we received from others." When you offer something first, people will feel a sense of indebtedness, which will make them more likely to comply with your subsequent requests. We're deeply wired to be reciprocal. There are three factors that will make this principle more effective: 1) Offer something first – allow them to feel indebted to you; 2) Offer something exclusive – allow them to feel special; 3) Personalize the offer – make sure they know it's from you.

#2 COMMITMENT & CONSISTENCY. "We tend to stick with whatever we've already chosen." We are bombarded with hundreds of choices to make every single day. For convenience, we simply make a single decision and then stick to it for all subsequently related choices. Cialdini suggests three ways to leverage off this principle in sales setting: 1) Ask your customers to start from small actions – so they'll have to stick to it; 2) Encourage public commitments – they'll be less likely to back out; and 3) Reward your customers for investing time and effort in your brand.

#3 SOCIAL PROOF. "We tend to have more trust in things that are popular or endorsed by people that we trust." For examples, we tend to trust more on experts – approval from credible experts in the relevant field; or celebrities – approval or endorsements from celebrities (paid or unpaid); or users – approval from current/past users (ratings, reviews and testimonials); or ‘wisdom of crowds' – approval from large groups of other people; or peers – approval from friends and people you know, etc.

#4 LIKING. "We are more likely to comply with requests made by people we like." That can range from our closest friends to complete strangers that we are attracted to. This explains why we trust word-of-mouth recommendations from our peers, as well as stuff endorsed by our favorite artists. In marketing line, the Liking principle work like these: 1) Physical attractiveness – make your website well-designed, function and suit what you're selling; 2) Similarity – behave like a friend, not a brand. Show them that you can relate to, and understand them; 3) Compliments – have a voice; use social media platforms not to broadcast, but hold intimate conversations and form relationships with your customers; 4) Contact and Cooperation – fight for the same causes as your customers. Nothing builds rapport and closeness like good old-fashioned teamwork; and 5) Conditioning and Association – associate your brands with the same values that you want to communicate and possess.

#5 AUTHORITY. "We follow people who look like they know what they're doing." This holds especially true in fields where we aren't experts. Most headlines utilize this principle by including phrases like "Scientists say", "Experts say" or "Research shows". You can give off the air of authority if you pay attention of these factors: 1) Titles – positions of power/experience; 2) Clothes – superficial cues that signal authority; and 3) Trappings – accessories/indirect cues that accompany authoritative roles

#6 SCARCITY. "We are always drawn to things that are exclusive and hard to come by." We assume that things that are difficult to obtain are usually better than those that are easily available. We link availability to quality. You can learn to trigger your customers' sense of urgency with these methods: 1) Limited-number – item is in short supply and won't be available once it runs out; 2) Limited-time – item is only available during that time period; 3) One-of-a-kind special offers – sometimes utilize one or both of the above techniques. Also from one-off events (e.g. collaborations, anniversaries); and 4) Utilising competitions – our inclination to want things more because other people also want them is often utilized in auctions or bids.

There are lots of good, interesting and memorable examples that Cialdini used to clarify and apply each of the principles in our daily lives. Every principle is so basic that you may not realize that you’re using it all this while or were being used to you. If you're in the marketing business, definitely you have to buy this book. If you're interested in how people think and make decisions – persuading and influencing others – read this book. If you're a leader, this is a book that you must own. Why? Because Robert says, "If leadership, at its most basic, consists of getting things done through others, then persuasion is one of the leader's essential tools."


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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

John C. Maxwell on Leadership #29 Put People In Their (Right) Place

Moving someone from a job they have to the right job can be life-changing. One executive I [John] interviewed said he moved a person on his staff to four different places in the organization, trying to find the right fit. Because he’d placed her wrong so many times, he was almost ready to give up on her. But he knew she had great potential, and she was right for the organization. Finally, after he found the right job for her, she was a star!

Because this executive knows how important it is to have every person working in the right job, he asks his staff once a year, “If you could be doing anything, what would it be?” From their answers, he gets clues about any people who may have been miscast in their roles.

Trying to get the right person in the right job can take a lot of time and energy. Let’s face it. Isn’t it easier for a leader to just put people where it is most convenient and get on with the work? Once again, this is an area where leaders’ desire for action works against them. Fight against your natural tendency to make a decision and move on. Don’t be afraid to move people around if they’re not shining the way you think they could.

[Taken from The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization (2011) by John C. Maxwell. Published by HarperCollins Leadership]

Look for Clues that Someone on Your Team Could Be Better Placed.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

John C. Maxwell on Leadership #28 People Do What People See

According to noted medical missionary Albert Schweitzer, “Example is not the main thing in influencing people… it is the only thing.” Part of creating an appealing climate to grow potential leaders is modeling leadership. People emulate what they see modeled. Positive model – positive response. Negative model – negative response. What leaders do, potential leaders around them do. What they value, their people value. The leaders’ goals become their goals. Leaders set the tone. As Lee Iacocca suggests, “The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” A leader cannot demand of others what he does not demand of himself.

As you and I grow and improve as leaders, so will those we lead. We need to remember that when people follow us, they can only go as far as we go. If our growth stops, our ability to lead will stop along with it. Neither personality nor methodology can substitute for personal growth. We cannot model what we do not possess. Begin learning and growing today, and watch those around you begin to grow. As a leader, I am primary a follower of great principles and other great leaders.

[Taken from Developing the Leaders Around You: How to Help Others Reach Their Full Potential (2005) by John C. Maxwell. Published by Thomas Nelson Inc.]

Ask No More of Others than You Are Asking of Yourself.

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

John C. Maxwell on Leadership #27 A Leader Is An Enlarger

Team members always love and admire a player who is able to help them go to another level, someone who enlarges them and empowers them to be successful. Players who enlarge their teammates have several things in common:

#1 Enlargers Values their Teammates: Your teammates can tell whether you believe in them. People’s performances usually reflect the expectations of those they respect.

#2 Enlargers Value What their Teammates Value: Players who enlarge others listen to discover what their teammates talk about and watch to see what they spend their money on. That kind of knowledge, along with a desire to relate to their fellow players, creates a strong connection.

#3 Enlargers Add Value to their Teammates: Adding value is really the essence of enlarging others. It’s finding ways to help others improve their abilities and attitudes. An enlarger looks for the gifts, talents, and uniqueness in other people, and then helps them to increase those abilities.

#4 Enlargers Make Themselves More Valuable: Enlargers work to make themselves better, not only because it benefits them personally, but also because it helps them to help others. If you want to increase the ability of a teammate, make yourself better.

How do your teammates see you? Are you an enlarger? Do you make them better than they are alone through your inspiration and contribution? Do you know what your teammates value? Do you capitalize on those things by adding value to them in those areas?

[Taken from The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player: Becoming the Kind of Person Every Team Wants (2007) by John C. Maxwell. Published by Thomas Nelson Inc.]

Becoming a better leader starts with enlarging others regardless of whether
or not you have a position, authority, or a title.

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Timothy, Don't Let Anyone Think Less of You! (1 Timothy 4:12, No Inferiority Complex Please)

"Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity"
(1 Timothy 4:12, NLT)

"[Don't] let anyone put you down because you're young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity."
(The Message)

Today I preached the Word of God on manhood at the church. Although I've preached many times before to the youth and students, I never failed to feel nervous as if I'm going to do it the first time. Today particularly, I feel an extra boost of nervousness. I'm nervous not because I'm not prepared or because I fear the crowd, but because I'm going to preach on manhood to men who are older than me that were in the church just now. Nervous is good because it leads me to rely on God and be prayerful; fear is not because fear assumes that the Message is yours and not God's. So what did I do? I preached to myself this verse, God's assurance: "Richard, don't let anyone think less of you because you are young!" I repeated it many times and prayed to God with all my heart until God's Word become a reality to me. When the nervousness and the fear were gone, I preached the Word of God as it is – challenged the men (including the fathers), warned them, and plead for their needs for God to become their Father. I was bold and straight to the point! After I'm done, I became nervous again but with a sigh of relief. An older man came to me afterward and asked, "Can you come again next month?"

Timothy was a young man. Perhaps by this time, he may have been about 40 years old. A man of 40 was comparatively young compared with the Apostle Paul who perhaps at this time was close to 70. Kenneth S. Wuest, a Bible teacher, points out that "many of the elders at Ephesus may have been older than Timothy." Look at it this way: 40 years-old is considered old for an athlete (Lee Chong Wei, now 36, thought that he should be retired), young for minister (Syed Saddiq Syed, Youth and Sport Minister, turn 26 on 6th December 2018), and very young for Prime Minister (Mahathir Mohamad, now 93, the oldest PM in the history of Malaysia. The real Optimus Prime!).

When Paul told Timothy to "don't let anyone put you down because you're young," what he meant was: Do not develop an inferiority complex because you are younger than some of those to whom you minister. Do not be concerned if they do not understand that God has called you to this leadership position as pastor or teacher or preacher. Do not worry if they seek to ignore you because of your comparative immaturity. "Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity." A young man (my age is near to Timothy's) may be very immature in some respects (I admit), but if he is characterized by these things: careful as to his words, particular as to his behavior, manifesting the love of God, a man of faith and is careful as to purity of life – he will earn the respect and recognition from others, even the older ones. In short, Paul said to us to first "teach believers with your life." If these characters are in you, the people "will realize that though a young man there is something about him that marks him out as a man of God, and not one who is careless in his walk and slack in his service, or who are seeking an easy-going life as a professional cleric," said H.A. Ironside.

Don't let anyone think less of you and put you down because you are young.
Be an example to all believers and teach them with your life (too).

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Jesus' Leadership #30 Lead Based on Holiness or Strictness? Equality or Hierarchies?

In Exodus 20:7, God said, "You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name." God only said do not misuse or do not take in vain His name. But the ancient Hebrews in the Old Testament take another level by prohibited the people to even utter the name of God. To me, this is an example of how the religious people distancing the people from God. In the Old Testament God is loving and graceful but at the same time, He is just and righteous. When the people only look at one side of God, He was portrayed as being strict. But actually, God is holy, not strict! Book after book shows that God is holy, so pure that He could not even look at evil, much less tolerate it. But the way the religious people and the entire of the religious system separated people into "worthy" and "unworthy" or "pure" and "impure.” It was right at first (God is holy) but over time it becomes distorted (God is strict, they assumed).

Then came Jesus, the Son of God. When He arrived on the historical scene called the New Testament period, most people by religious standard were considered to be unworthy or impure - some because of their deeds, some because of what they do for a living, some because of their race (for example, Gentiles). In other words, only a precious few were ‘pure' enough even to approach God. In the midst of all these, Jesus declared Himself to be one with the God of the Old Testament when He said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58, refer to the "I am what I am" in Exodus 3:14). Or if it was not clear enough, Jesus said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). This Jesus, sinless One (see 1 Peter 2:22) or the Holy One – if you read the Gospel stories – are the One who mingled with prostitutes, thieves, and tax collectors. You can imagine how this upset the religious hierarchy. Not only was their made-up God's identity, but their identity (and power base) being threatened.

Jesus, the Son of God, God's image in the human form, treated everyone as equals, unlike the religious leaders of His time. Although He remains holy, He doesn't strict Himself with ‘unworthy' and ‘impure' people. He called fishermen and prostitutes His brothers and sisters. He not only accepted these ‘less-than-pure' individuals, He radiated so much love and mercy for them that people – especially the poor and sinners – swarmed to Him. Even though people might be uncomfortable to be with Him, He nonetheless attracted them to Himself. In His presence, people sense His holiness but strangely it doesn't expel them (only the sinners who think that they are righteous do!). Jesus is holy, not strict! Strictness will produce hierarchies and borders; holiness measures everyone as equal – no hierarchies, no borders. Equally sinful, equally forgiven! "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female," the Scripture says, "For you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

In your leadership – Christ-like leadership – show respect to people and accept them for who they are. Be holy (see 1 Peter 1:16) in term of lifestyle, discipline, and behaviors. But not strict in term of showing respect and accepting others as equal. In the light of this acceptance, people wanted to be better, try harder and do the good and right thing freely. They would want to be under your leadership. Not because they have to, but because they want to. Jesus' respect empowered others. Jesus treated others equally, do you?

Is your leadership style based on holiness or strictness?
Equality or hierarchies?

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Book Review - Walking the Bible: A Journey Through the Five Books of Moses (2001) by Bruce Feiler

Walking the Bible: A Journey By Land Through the Five Books of Moses (2001)
by Bruce Feiler

This is not a theological book, not by a theologian or Christian pastor, not a textbook for seminary students. This is an adventure by a seeker, a quest for truth (or the remaining of the truths), a personal pilgrim that may or may not lead to the divine. This is not a spiritual quest… at first.

"In the Middle East," writes Feiler, an award-winning journalist, and writer, "I realized, the Bible is not some abstraction, nor some book gathering dust. It's a living, breathing entity unencumbered by the sterilization of time. If anything, it's an ongoing narrative: stories that begin in the sand, get entrenched in stone, pass down through families, and play themselves out in the lives of residents and visitors who traverse its lines nearly 5,000 years after they were first etched into memory. That was the Bible I wanted to know, and almost immediately I realized that the only way to find it was to walk along those lines myself. I would take this ancient book, the embodiment of old-fashioned knowledge, and approach it with contemporary methods of learning – traveling, talking, experiencing. In other words, I would enter the Bible as if it were any other world and seek to become a part of it. Once inside, I would walk in its footsteps, live in its canyons, meet its characters, and ask its questions in an effort to understand why its stories had become so timeless and, despite years of neglect, once again so vitally important to me."

From there, Bruce Feiler writes this 435-pages book with immersion journalism and a style that makes it flow without bogging the reader down in minutia. It is easy and fun to read (for me). It was like reading a novel but with real characters, real places and historical events. I hope potential readers will not be turned off to this book from its title. It is not written from a religious perspective but from a (fairly) objective perspective. Even though Feiler himself is Jewish and grew up in a Jewish household, he didn't attach himself to the Jewish Bible.  When visiting Jerusalem, he was shocked by being able to see the physical locations where so many stories from the Bible take place. That experience inspired him to take the journey through the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Together with Avner Goren, his guide, Feiler travels through Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and other lands of the Near East. They visit as many confirmed biblical locations as possible and some suspected sites. Along the way, they will read aloud the passages of the Bible applicable to that place. Slowly, Feiler's faith grows stronger and comes to find an appreciation for the biblical places. Feiler's talent for detail and imagery made this book worth reading (although I wish he can trim down the volume). I felt like I was in the desert on a camel with him. I could see myself walking deeper and deeper into the pyramids of Egypt especially (wow!). His description of Petra almost convinced me to see it for myself before I die. The characters of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses are told in the most interesting way. And throughout the book, my faith in the Old Testament is ever increasing. Even though that wasn't his intention at first, I thank God the Father for this book because it rekindles my trust in His Word. By the way, I also enjoy the science, archaeology, history, and traditions behind this book. Reading a book about the Bible without religious lingos is very helpful and refreshing for me.

One of the biggest questions that Feiler explores is this: "If these places existed, does that make the Bible true? If they didn't exist, does that mean the Bible is lies?" The analogy used is from "an archaeologist I met in Jerusalem who said to me, ‘You know, Americans seem to think if you can prove that two screws existed, you prove the entire machine existed.'" It's black or white, no grey in between. Feiler feels this pull of (false) reasoning a few times through his journey. At the end of the day, something in the Bible can be proven, something is not, said Feiler. Not everything will or can be proven with science! For this, I respect Feiler for leaving some questions open, without answers. Maybe that's why I like this book – its honesty and integrity. I don't agree with everything that Feiler writes. That's okay. A good book (I said it over and over again before) will make you think, challenge your beliefs or assumptions, and spark your imagination. This book has done all three! Superb!

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Sunday, September 2, 2018

Timothy, Work Hard Even at the Point of Suffering - It Is Worth it (1 Timothy 4:10-11)

"This is why we work hard and continue to struggle [or to suffer], for our hope is in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people and particularly of all believers. Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them"
(1 Timothy 4:10-11, NLT)

Every bit of suffering Paul the Apostle experienced and all the agony he went through for the sake of "the glorious Good News entrusted to [him] by our blessed God" (1 Timothy 1:11) was worth it because his trust was in the living God who "is the Saviour of all people and particularly of all believers" – and that God is worth trusting and will never let us down. Therefore, "work hard" on yourself and for the Lord! "Thrown ourselves into this venture so totally," said Eugene Peterson, "We're banking on the living God." If you work hard to warn others about apostasy and false teachings (read 1 Timothy 4:1-6) and work hard to "train yourself to be godly" (1 Timothy 4:7), you'll suffer but it will be worth it! Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12 that "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" but it will be worth it! Why? Because if you warn others about their wicked schemes, you'll be hate; and if you be godly in the world where sins are praised, you'll be persecuted. Take heart! Our hope is in the living God, not the imaginary one! It is worth it!

Now, let us come to one of the most controversial verse in the Scripture, "the Saviour of all people." Does Paul teach universalism, that all men will eventually be saved? I say NO because how then could He be the special or particular Saviour "of all believers"? Paul once addressed the Athenians saying that "in [God] we live and move and exist" (Acts 17:28). This text tells me that even the very life and breath of unbelievers who may blaspheme God is a gift from God. Even now God is "saving" them from going to hell and giving them physical life and opportunity to be saved. In a way, God is the Saviour of all people. During Paul's time, the emperor of Rome was called "the Saviour of the world" by reason of the fact that he was the preserver of mankind by his ‘benevolent' reign. Then how much more is our God "the Saviour of all people" in the sense that everything good and gracious comes from His hand, even life itself. However, God is the Saviour "particularly of all believers" in Christ. I like how Life Application Bible Study interpret this verse: "Christ is the Saviour of all, but His salvation becomes effective only for those who trust Him." Amen and hallelujah!

The importance of what Paul has just been said is emphasized by him when he admonishes Timothy to "teach these things and insist that everyone learn them."  Albert Barnes commentary on 1 Timothy 4:11 notes: "It follows from this, that a minister of the gospel is solemnly bound to teach that there is a sense in which God is the Saviour of all people. He is just as much bound to teach this, as he is that only those will be saved who believe. It is a glorious truth - and it is a thing for which a man should unceasingly give thanks to God that he may go and proclaim that He has provided salvation for all, and is willing that all should come and live." Do it Timothys – it is worth it!

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