Thursday, October 29, 2009

A to Z of regular blessings - the letter "I"



This is an incredible blessing from God. Of course I should add that we need "sanctified imagination". I first heard this term mentioned by my church's former pastor in one of his sermons on the book of Revelation. The term has stuck and has struck a chord in me ... though I must say that my definition of "sanctified imagination" may probably be wider than his. :-)

Basically by this term I generally mean "imagination within the boundaries of a Christian worldview". So is comic book based science fiction and fantasy within this boundary? Hehehe. Perhaps that's an interesting topic for another time.

I can't imagine what my life would be like without imagination (lousy play with words but .... my blog! hahahaha!). Imagination sure does make my life more interesting.

Examples of imagination spicing up my life? Well, cooking is one. Experimenting with food flavours and styles and recipes. There's working on a magic routine.... Then there's communicating truth.... which brings me to a side topic .... more and more I wonder whether truth based fiction may often be actually more insightful and relevant than real life stories....


What is there to say about this? Such a great "invention". It's not just regular blessing but often a daily blessing - great resource and communication tool

Intuition / instinct

This is hard to describe and I know there are times when it is clearly the Holy Spirit intervening. But there are times when it can be all a big blur. For example, it's in situations like when I have to make a a "split second" decision and I instinctively go for one, But then I go away wondering if I made the right choice / decision and later in hindsight I find that I did! Whew! Blessing!!!

It's sometime I sometimes think about. Can intuition / instinct be developed or is it just something we are born with?

In some aspects of Life I suspect we can hone our intuition in a certain direction. Especially in more clear cut spiritual matters, the greater my pool of knowledge and experience (personal or vicarious) the easier it is to sense what to do. Then of course there's the issue of walking with God and one's prayer life.

OK, just one letter (or should it be called alphabet in this context?) today as I have other things to do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

RM 3K poverty line for urban poor

Hmmm... Interesting! I am so glad to be in NZ. This report is too close for comfort (but in Malaysia I had 2 children, and had no mortgage ...)

To any Malaysian church leaders of urban churches who might be reading this, I hope that this report finds you doing what is fair in regards to how you pay your pastors / full time workers.

1 Corinthians 9:9-11
9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned?
10 Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.
11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?

RM3,000 is poverty line for the urban poor


PETALING JAYA: The Government has decided to set RM3,000 as the poverty line for the urban poor based on feedback from people living in major urban areas such as Kuala Lumpur.

This is according to Federal Territories Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin whose ministry is to be renamed Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Ministry, in efforts to improve the lives of the urban poor.

“If you have three children and your household income is RM3,000 or below, you’re almost at the poverty line,” he said, adding that many lower income families had more than four children and still needed to pay for their cars, houses and other mortgage payments.

For the rest of the story ... click here!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Money and Mission (William Willimon) and ramblings

I like this article by William Willimon's (from his e-list).

It gives me a lot of encouragement in the light of our church moving closer to confirming our building project. Encouragement despite the fact that members are not only "not rich" but quite a number are on limited fixed income and some are even poor and struggling financially.

Encouragement because even a non Christian community worker from the local council is excited and enthusiastic about our very modest proposed building project because she shares our church leadership's vision of having an extra building to provide better (which is actually pretty basic) facilities for community work.

Encouragement because more and more members are excited about reaching our community for Christ and being a blessing to those in need. Encouragement because I have seen how generous and sacrificial church members can be in responses to doing their part in meeting practical needs for Christ's sake. I think back of past incidents like when NZ Tear Fund's head came to see me to personally convey his thanks for the amount we raised for Burma (Cyclone Nagis) last last year. I did not think it was that big an amount but I discovered it was because he knew of our church size and situation. It helped give me a better perspective of sacrificial giving. In Malaysia in a typical urban middle class church, there would be easily a dozen multi-millionaires. And popping in a couple of thousand ringgit for a special offering is peanuts. Not so here among us.

But at the same time "fear and trepidation" as while no one questions the reasons for wanting to put up a new sanctuary (especially since the building committee have done such a great job of trimming the budget to the bare minimum no frills building) there is as the article says the two top factors in giving is one's belief in the mission, regard for staff leadership. In a way it should not be so hard as it basically means that I just need to focus on doing my job well. But that again is pretty daunting!

What is daunting is that belief in our mission can falter when the going gets tough. I do not see a problem with members supporting it on paper but it MAY be a different thing all together to get down to the hard and sometimes "unpleasant" work. A lot will depend on how we as church leaders (and myself as the pastor) lead by example. "brrrr ..." I think I am doing as best a job as I can and I get lots of affirmation (thank God) but there is also the realization that I have limited leadership and administrative skills (in terms of ... the modern gifted CEO type pastor) which is often needed in this modern world.

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 is however reassuring!!
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I am glad number three on the list has never been a problem (fiscal responsibility). Our church leadership has been in my opinion exemplary in handling and accounting for expenditure. Okay, enough rambling,. Hope you enjoy the article below.

Money and Mission

In many ways, this summer has revealed this to be the worst of times and the best of times for raising money for the work of Christ’s church. Historically, churches feel the effects of a financial recession about a year after the recession’s beginning. We are certainly finding that to be true. Our Conference receipts both for mission and for clergy benefits have taken a dramatic drop. We could receive the lowest percentage of apportionments this year in the last decade. Anticipating a shortfall of many hundreds of thousands of dollars, we have made some painful cuts in our Conference staff and budget. (Sadly, few of our congregations have had to cut their budgets as much as the Conference has been forced to cut its budget -- a commentary on the trend of some of our churches to keep more money within the confines of their own congregation.)

On the other hand, this was the summer that our churches raised over $400,000 within a couple of months to save Sumatanga. This was an unprecedented outpouring of support for our beloved institution. I have not seen such generosity since our response to Katrina. On top of that Matt Lacey tells me that this summer saw a marked increase in short term mission teams being sent from our churches to places of need all around the world.

I’m sure that there are many lessons to be learned about stewardship in this worst of times, best of times. In order to learn as much as I could, I read J. Cliff Christopher’s Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship (Abingdon Press, 2008). Christopher chides church leaders like me who sound the alarm and plead for more money for ministry:

The church is the only nonprofit I know of that seems to believe that the more you cry that you are sinking, the more people will give to you. The exact opposite is true. No nonprofit I know of would ever send out a donor letter stating that they are running a horrible deficit and they just want the donors to help balance the budget. They know that such a letter actually discourages giving rather than motivates it. A nonprofit board will deal with budget matters in a board meeting but never publicize such to its donor base. The church goes out of its way to do just that.

In the nonprofit world, two institutions continue to outperform most of the others. The Salvation Army continues to get more donations each year than any social service agency or group. Harvard University leads all universities in endowment-giving year after year. Do they send out a message that they are dying on the vine and must have one more contribution to stay afloat? No, they say, “We took your money last year and we did great things with it. If you will give us more, we will do more great things.” And people give and give to them. People want results and these institutions give positive results!

Above all, Christopher stresses that “money follows mission.” He asked a group of pastors why people give:

They started blurting out, "taxes, guilt, involvement…" No one was even close. Finally, a lady who had been sitting quietly in the back raised her hand and said, "Number one is a belief in the mission. Number two is a regard for staff leadership, and number three is fiscal responsibility." She was right. I was stunned. I asked her where she was a pastor and she sheepishly said, "I am not a pastor, but my pastor told me about this seminar and thought I might learn something. I am the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity."

The one absolutely most important factor in why people give is mission:

People want to make the world a better place to live. They want to believe that they can truly make a difference for the better. There is embedded in us, it seems, a desire to finish out our work on this earth with a sense that we amounted to something. To sum it up, people want to be a part of something that changes lives.

The best way to raise money for your church is simply to DO YOUR JOB! I get frustrated reading newsletters of church after church that tell me how the men's group is going to have a breakfast on Saturday and the women are going to have a bazaar next Thursday and the youth will have a dance next Friday after the ball game. Then, over in the corner, usually separated by a bold line so that it stands out, I see financial statistics, which usually indicate that a certain amount was needed and a lesser amount was received, with a quote underneath, "God loves a cheerful giver."

When I see that I want to say, "What have I got to be cheerful about?" Did you show me one life story in this newsletter about how the church has been making our world better? Is there one life-changing story in the entire document? Do you really just exist so that men can have breakfast, women a bazaar, and youth can dance? What is it exactly that you want me to support?

I have noted, in our churches, that apportionment giving seems to be a barometer of the spiritual health of a congregation and of the congregation’s confidence in their pastor’s vision. Christopher confirms this:

What I have learned after working with over two hundred churches is that the person leading the flock makes a lot of difference in whether today's donors contribute as completely as they can. When they see a pastor who has a great vision and shows excellent skills in leadership, they will invest in that pastor's vision and trust in his or her skills to make the hopes of the donor come true.

How is your church doing in its stewardship fidelity? Log into the Conference Website and check out your church’s current giving patterns under our “Church Stats” page. Let us all see the current financial crisis as a time to reconsider our commitments, to focus on the main mission of the church, and to enable all our people, through their giving, to be part of Christ’s mission.

Will Willimon

Thursday, October 22, 2009

MIKE'S GIRLFRIEND (Lighter side)

I found this so funny ...


After directory assistance gave me my boyfriend's new telephone number, I dialed him -- and got a woman.

"Is Mike there?" I asked.

"He's in the shower," she responded.

"Please tell him his girlfriend called," I said and hung up.

When he didn't return the call, I dialed again. This time a man answered. "This is Mike," he said.

"You're not my boyfriend!" I exclaimed.

"I know," he replied. "That's what I've been trying to tell my wife for the past half-hour."

A to Z list of regular blessings (part 3)

I have finished this Sunday's sermon ... and I will not look at it again till Saturday night! :-)


GIFTS (Spiritual). This is a blessing that comes with the gift of eternal life and is experienced daily. I cannot help but be in awe every time I see the gifts at work - both in my life and in the lives of others (but especially in my life as I am often pretty aware that something out of the ordinary is happening).

For example, I led a Bible study the other night and as we wrestled with a tough question, I gave an illustration (through a testimony- story) and it was a holy moment for me to see some "eyes light up" with comprehension and appreciation (and an audio exclamation as well!). God's gift to me at work again! This was not an illustration that I had prepared (I had others I had prepared as I suspected the question would come up!) I do not think I am exaggerating or over spiritualizing. I have listened to my own sermons and I find some of my speaking "idiosyncrasies irritating! :-) I also know many have a problem with my accent etc so the ability to cross these communication barriers (and more) to impart spiritual truth has to via the Spirit giving His gifts.

I also sometimes sit back and reflect in awe how no matter how we may struggle as a local church (with so many leaders, up and coming leaders and active serving members having had to move on), other people just seem to step up (of course with lots of prayer and encouragement too!) and then as they take steps of faith to serve, they seem to have the right spiritual gifts for the necessary situations.

GMAIL/ GOOGLE. I have been using gmail almost from the time it was first launched. I still remember that it was in the beta testing stage and Sivin sent me an invitation to join (in those days an invitation was so precious :-). Very quickly, gmail replaced even my local accounts (also I never liked hotmail). What I find interesting is I recently discovered that I could not remember how to set up outlook express! I find gmail as a web based e-mail so convenient. I also like google. It must be almost 10 years (if not it does seem at least 10 years) since I used any other search engine. And since I have already done "B", might as well throw in blogger since they are part of the same company. I like it very much :-)

GARDENING. I still have a black thumb and I do not spend much time gardening. My "gardening" is mostly working on my vegetable plants. BUT it is becoming something of a blessing to see my plants and trees grow (at least some). Puttering about in the garden a couple of hours a week has been good for me. Plucked my first (only one was ripe!) strawberry and ate it. It was GOOD! I think it is helping me appreciate the general blessings of nature.


HOUSE / HOME. What a blessing it is to own a house. I will ignore the fact that technically the bank owns our house till the mortgage is paid off :-) I still have not gotten over the wonderful feeling of gratitude in my heart that God has blessed us so much in just 18 months of being in NZ that we dared to consider buying a house.

HEALTH. Of late it has become more apparent that my physical body is getting older :-) But despite a growing list of ailments like headaches (sometimes migraine), joint stiffness and sometimes pain, high cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome, acid in the stomach, eye problems, dust and pollen allergies bad back ... I am actually VERY HEALTHY!

Even when I am "sick" I am generally able to go about as usual (albeit at a reduced energy level). Compared to so many who suffer so many more serious illnesses or disabilities, I am indeed very blessed!

HARMONICA. I kinda suck at it but it is a nice occasional distraction. And it does have that nice "blues" sound that helps express certain moods. Music has a special way of expressing the mood of my soul and the harmonica is not too hard to play (BTW I can't read notes) especially for basic hymns. Of course I only play it for myself and not in public :-) It's even easier to carry around compared to my ukulele (which I will blog about under "U"). Only drawback its that it can be "loud" LOL

Okay got to go. Other things to do ...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Scott McKnight's Top Ten Books on Leadership (out of Ur)

Taken from Out of Ur ... I love this line from his opening paragraph ... :-)

So, I offer to you a list of my top ten books for leaders, and none of the titles of these books have the word “leader” or “leadership” in it.

I think some of his choice of books are "out of my league" ... at least hopefully for my current stage in life. I am comforted that I at least have read some of the books on his list. :-)

p/s Am celebrating by blogging a bit because I got a lot of work done this morning!! :-)

October 20, 2009

Scot McKnight's Top 10 Leadership Books

The best books for leaders you won't find at your next ministry conference.

What makes a leader? Ideas. Courage. Contact with great thinkers. What makes a Christian leader? Great ideas, courage, and contact with great thinkers shaped by the gospel. So, I offer to you a list of my top ten books for leaders, and none of the titles of these books have the word “leader” or “leadership” in it. Some of these are overtly Christian classics; others are not. These books have the ability to swell the chest, flood the mind, and reshape how we see the world around us – and a gospel-reshaping of these great works can inspire a leader to new levels.

From the classical world, though one could choose all sorts of great works, I recommend a soaking in Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, to see how the great philosopher constructed a set of ethics that shaped the Western world. Homer told the story of Odysseus and Virgil in The Aeneid. Homer’s story came into the Roman world and gave to all of us the power of a journey into ideas and ideals, sanctifying place and history. Dante took Homer and Virgil to the next level in his Divine Comedy, and if you follow him all the way down into the inferno, up through purgatory and then climb into the swirling glorious presence of God you will find new dimensions to life’s journey.

Click HERE for the rest of the article.

A to Z regular blessings (part two)

Okay, here's part 2. And yes it is going to take a LONG time to finish. But I am in no hurry and it's a nice exercise for me. Of course I have to stretch my imagination a bit to make things fit but it's no big deal. It's a nice platform to leap into blogging.


Delicious Dishes. Oh yeah! While we eat pretty simply for most meals, every now and then I try to take over cooking a meal or two so I get to eat something deliciously different that is way within the budget. It's really a nice break to do some
cooking and experimenting and it is a joy when a dish turns out well and is appreciated.

I am still experimenting with my roast pork (not Chinese style "siew yok") and the whole family thinks it is mouth watering delicious. On Sunday for a lunch "business" meeting I did my Hokkien Mee for a new crowd. Was not easy as I had to do four batches on Saturday and then put them in the fridge as Sunday is so busy. Four batches due to the larger group and because I have to use my small electric wok (or the heat will be too low). Even my Indian friend loved it ("chee yau char" included) :-) It gives me an added sense of accomplishment when there are requests to "tar pau":-)

I have also been trying to figure out how to make thosai. Right now the best I can do within my time frame is to "cheat" by using a Dokhla" mix. I managed to figure out how to make simple coconut chutney and I am very happy with the taste and texture . Mmmmm... dro

DIY friends. Such a blessing especially in a DIY culture and knowing that I really am not gifted in this area. I have saved so much money and time because I am blessed with DIY friends who come offer and help me fix or put up simple (and difficult) things that I am unable to do. Back in Malaysia too, my "god-brother" would come around and do these things for my us.

Deodorant. This may sound strange but I think there is some truth in the many deodorant ads. Knowing you don't smell bad does help with one's confidence. LOL. I th
ink deodorant is one under appreciated invention. I find it hard to imagine my starting the day without a nice shower that ends with an application of my roll on deodorant :-)


Electricity. This is to me an under appreciated blessing. It amazes me how many things I have that need electricity to run. In a strange way, it is a positive thing that electricity costs so much. Helps me not take it for granted!!

Elders (and Deacons). For someone who works for the church, it is an i
ncredible blessing for me to serve with a group of elders and deacons that are not just godly but have become my friends. They treat me with respect and with fairness. They pray for me
regularly. They give me valuable feedback (and criticism when needed). All this not only makes my ministry enjoyable, but it energizes me especially when the going gets tough. And believe me ... ministry can be tough! Thanks be to God for my church elders and deacons.

Education. I count it a blessing that despite financial constraints and in some respects a lack of academic ability, I have managed to "earn" one diploma (in Business Admin)
and three degrees (ministry and theology). But more than that, I am able to continue with my "informal education" (non traditional?) due to the blessings of books, short courses as well as the wealth of knowledge via the internet. Amazing .... this internet ... continued education via youtube, p
odcasts. blogs, articles, e-mail lists etc. Education is indeed a blessing!!


Family. (Both in the traditional sense and in the biblical sense). A great wife, two wonderful boys. a supportive mum, some amazing uncles and aunts, brothers, nephews and nieces. Wow. And then of course the extended church family that can be found all over the globe. What is special is when family are also friends. Especially since arriving in NZ, family and friends have been here for us in so many ways! This is in turn makes me even more thankful for family and friends back in Malaysia . Nuff said :-)

Feijoas. I love the taste of Feijoas. My favourite fruit. Since it is only available in March -June, Feijoas as a blessing might technically not be seen as a regular blessing BUT .... ev
eryday when I walk through my front door, I see my two Feijoa trees in my garden! It' s been a year now and the tree looks as if it hasn't grown at all! It's still tiny :-( But I ca
n see new buds springing forth so I know that the tree is still alive. I am told I must be patient as it takes a long time to grow (at least 3 years) but once it does, I will get my fruit. My trees are teaching me patience. LOL

More another time ...

addendum: I just realised I only did two for F: So here' my third..

FISH. Meaning my four gold fish / guppies fish in my tiny tank. They have lived for over 2 years which is amazing especially since I did not expect them to live so long. I originally
bought them primarily for a magic trick! In Malaysia despite all the additives to keep the water healthy etc, my previous attempts in keeping fish have resulted in death within 3 months! So over 2 years is pretty amazing! Dr. Haiwan says it has to be the clean water her

Why are these fish a blessing to me? I like to watch them swimming and I like the gentle sound of the gentle splashing of water (from the pump). Very relaxing... and here's ano
ther reason from One BIG FAMILY comic strip I did not think of before which I think is funny but valid (with imagination of course!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Called out of slavery to be a community (Pastor's Notes)

Just posted up my latest Pastor's Notes. Click here.

Prostitution behind the veil (video links)

Am super busy this week. A few additional tasks to take care of. But need to quickly post this up.

Here's a link that is worth viewing. Warning: It is a sad documentary.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A to Z list of regular blessings (part one of many instalments to come)

Every6 now and then I come across one of those "A to Z lists" (tag someone stuff) where you have an A to Z list on something about yourself etc. Thought it would be a nice distraction to make my own - an A to Z list of regular blessings in my life. God doesn't count as He is the one behind all the blessings :-)

It's a regular exercise of mine to "count my blessings, naming them one by one" as the old hymn reminds us but I thought it would be a fun thing to do A to Z style and so over the weekend as I went about my regular day, I worked on this list in my mind .... and here's my list and my reasons why... (Oh, three each as it is hard to pick just one!!)


1. ANDREW (my eldest son). He's growing up so fast and well in the LORD! I'm very proud of him and grateful to God for giving him to me.

2. AIR (as in fresh air). While Auckland is probably the most polluted region of NZ, the air is still so fresh compared to the Klang Valley. It's actually a joy to stand outside my house and take a deep breath! As someone who has a sensitive nose, this is a blessing I must remember to thank God frequently if not daily lest I take it for granted.

3. AFFIRMATION. Never realized how much affirmation could mean to me until I moved here. I do not think a week has passed by without someone catching me by surprise with some form of affirmation. Not the expected niceties but something simple and genuine ... whether in word, an e-mail or sms, in writing or in a gesture of appreciation. Affirmation rocks! And this is something I need to keep passing on. (And I keep thinking of the classic Art Buchawald story of "love and the (NY?) Cabbie").


1. BIBLE. So many versions, and such easy access whether printed copies, electronic Bibles, or study Bibles. There are still millions in the world that would so love to have just one copy of their own and I have so many...

2. BOOKS. I may have given away maybe half of my books but my collection is increasing again. So many books to read and so much knowledge and inspiration to glean. I need to spend more time reading not just "collecting" to read at another day. I thought and prayed the other day for Gospel Translations (a ministry an old school mate of mine help start) and the main reason is to share resources ... Many pastors do no have access to any good Christian books in their native language!". And so many of us have an abundance of good books!

3. BED. I spend lot of time in my bed! :-). Especially when the weather is colder, it is so mice to curl up in bed!I not only sleep in my bed, I read in bed, I watch TV in bed, I sometimes surf the net and e-mail etc in bed (though I am not blogging this in bed). Yesterday I met with my short term mission team members to plan for our 2010 mission trip and I talked about being prepared to sleep on the hard concrete floors and it reminded me again of what a great blessing having a nice is! :-)


1. CAR (we have two!). I am still amazed about being able to afford to own and maintain two cars. Having a car is not just useful but is "essential" for me. I am amazed at how often I use my car. Driving to work, visitation, hospital trips, shopping, taking the children to and from their appointments. And I have minimal mechanical worries even if our cars are both 12 going on 13 years old ... yay Toyota!:-) Affordable cars are a real regular blessing!

2. COMMUNITY (i.e the people living around the church and a little beyond. I will cover the local church community under another heading.). Strange blessing in a way. It's not that I am close friends with all those who live around the church. It is not easy getting to know and win the trust of a diverse group of neighbours. Some are still unresponsive but it is a blessing in the sense that this community is a group that helps me focus and measure the "progress" of our church's ministry. Each time I see a little progress, it excites me. Having the local council community worker visit our church a couple of Sundays ago was a big blessing to me. Having some of the children come back for games on Thursday nights for a 2nd year is another blessing. And lately, having some neighbours stop and wave or chat with me when they see me is another blessing. The list goes on....

3. COMICS. Ah, it is a regular blessing to be able to reserve online then pick up and enjoy a good com book is so nice. The local library system is great and the librarians don't give me funny looks when they see me regularly coming to pick up and check out comic books. :-) For the uninitiated, the PC term for the comics I read is "graphic novels".Comics both fuel my imagination and helps me to relax!

Hmmm... only up to C...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A sermon preparation dilemma

I have a sermon preparation dilemma.... and I was wondering, "Is it just me or do other preachers have a similar struggle?

It's simply this: I can never seem to finish or be satisfied with my sermon preparation!!

Take this coming Sunday's sermon as a very typical example. After many months of long term preparation (fellow preachers will know what I mean), I started writing / typing out my sermon early last week and after a number of drafts, I finished my sermon and printed it out. Oh joy! It felt good to be ahead of schedule (at least in the sermon department) especially since there is so many other things to do and other sermons and Bible studies to prepare and other ministry matters crying out for attention!

But early this week as I reviewed my sermon (a good habit I think or is it?) to prepare my power point outline, I felt the need to do a major revision (trimming down the length among other things). So I spent most of Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning it last whittling down the contents but also adding in new material, then taking out etc. "Finally satisfied", I saved the ppt and reprinted the sermon and placed it into my preaching folder.

But this morning as I copied the ppt into my thumb drive (to transfer it tonight into the church PC for projection), I had to review the outline again! And the next thing I know, I am reworking the sermon yet again for 3 more hours! "God, is there something wrong with me?!?" (And may I add that I use the term "God" in the last sentence in a reverent way!)

Now I am afraid to read my sermon again until Sunday morning lest I get distracted and rework the sermon yet again! And I have noticed too from past experience that even when I read my sermon manuscript on Sunday mornings, I will end up jotting down all kinds of last minute notations and revision notes on it before I go up to preach.
And yeah, I have this habit of going through my sermon manuscript on Saturday nights before I sleep and ... yup, same thing happens ...

And of course even when I am preaching, I will at at least one stage in my sermon change something at the last minute (almost in mid speech!). Why is this?!?

Any comments and insights?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On the lighter side ...

Determine Your Ministry Age (CTi article)

Determine your ministry age? Interesting and helpful article from Christianity Today. No matter what "age" I am, it is still very helpful to understand the different perspectives of what issues are important for each "generation".

Determine Your Ministry Age
Do your assumptions about leadership reflect the values of your generation?
Jimmy Long

Monday, October 12, 2009

In recent years we have entered into lengthy discussions about how worship, spiritual formation, and evangelism are transitioning in the church. However, the most crucial area of transition, leadership, has received minimal attention. For more than 35 years, I have been overseeing the ministry of young InterVarsity staff and college student leaders. In that time I have seen a significant swing in how these young leaders view leadership. The emerging generation of leaders desires a context that fosters community, trust, journey, vision, and empowerment.

If we are going to transition the church to the next generation, both existing and emerging leaders will need to understand and appreciate each other's values. This quiz, developed in conjunction with the editors of Leadership, is a helpful start.

This tool is intended to foster dialogue between older and younger leaders about their divergent views and contribute to greater understanding between the generations. No test can fully reveal the nuances that exist within an entire generation, and you may agree with more than one answer for a question. Mark the answer that best fits your approach to leadership.

A. The predominant role of the senior pastor should be to

  1. Facilitate a team of diversely gifted peers
  2. Manage and set the vision for the organization
  3. Preach and care for the congregation

B. Evangelism happens best in

  1. Coffee shops where relationships are fostered
  2. Worship services where relevant teaching is encountered
  3. Special events where gifted evangelists proclaim the gospel

C. Leaders foster spiritual growth best by

  1. Training others in personal spiritual disciplines
  2. Creating programs that address specific life issues
  3. Teaching correct doctrine and biblical knowledge

D. I would be likely to adopt a new ministry practice if it was

  1. Spiritually transformative for the community
  2. Proven to be measurably/quantitatively effective
  3. Shown to be more doctrinally sound

E. My greatest fear for the 21st century church is that it will lose its

  1. Authenticity
  2. Effectiveness
  3. Purity

F. The church's leadership exists primarily to

  1. Empower the people
  2. Lead the people
  3. Protect the people
For the rest of it, click HERE

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Still wonderful (Pastor's Notes)

Just posted up my latest Pastor's Notes.

This Eric Clapton song has nothing to do with the Pastor's notes devotion. It's just a random song that came to my mind because of the title of my devotion :-)

Its late in the evening
Shes wondering what clothes to wear
She puts on her make up
And brushes her long blonde hair
And then she asks me
Do I look alright
And I say yes, you look wonderful tonight

We go a party
And everyone turns to see
This beautiful lady
Thats walking around with me
And then she asks me
Do you feel alright
And I say yes, I feel wonderful tonight

I feel wonderful
Because I see the love light in your eyes
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just dont realize
How much I love you

Its time to go home now
And Ive got an aching head
So I give her the car keys
She helps me to bed
And then I tell her
As I turn out the light
I say my darling, you were wonderful tonight
Oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mid Oct 09 excting catch up ramblings

Have not really been blogging for a while as I have been busy. Of course some of you might comment "What's new!?" :-) But it has not necessarily been a negative "busy".

On church building project ...

Our church building committee made their presentation on Sunday and I think most if not all of us are excited about the progress and the possibility we may see our building come to fruition in a year's time! Our building committee has been simply incredible in terms of their commitment and hard work and they way they have managed to reduce the cost of the building project.

Still, it is going to stretch us to the limit if we go for it but at least it looks possible. Faith is needed especially in the light of our high commitment to missions, having to pay my salary (LOL!), having an youth pastor intern next year (one of our member's will be taking a a year off to study at a Bible cum ministry training institute), and our expanding community outreach. All these means we will have more expenses even without a building project! And we do not have any millionaires or big businessmen to fall back on! :-)

What was especially exciting and to me a great encouragement was that the Local council PIC of the "well being" of our community chose yesterday to finally drop by to visit our church. I have been getting to know her quite well and we have met a few times (Personal meetings as well as council organized meetings). I did not realise she had come (as she came in half way through the sermon but just in time to listen to the building presentation). It was good for her to meet some our church members, and see first hand the kind of church we are and how we are seeking to help our community. She was very supportive and has even offered to help promote some of our community outreach events. For her to come and visit on her day off (she is not a Christian) was indeed an encouragement to me and to have her commend us for wanting to stay in the community especially since 3/4 of our members do not live in this community.

On the local community...

Our community is very neglected compared to the other communities in many ways that surprised me. I found this out from a community meeting I attended. Our church building (add on) will go a long way in being a centre to bless our community.

On Mission trip ...

Been working too on our short term mission trip to Cambodia. This will mean extra work and preparation and more so as I will be going with a whole new team except for one person who was with me last year. Some of you know the kind of "expectations" I have for STM's I lead time I expect members to put into preparation :-). Very exciting.

On community games ... and other activities

With the start of Thursday night games, I have one less free night. But it is good to see some of the neighbours back and hopefully a few newer neighbours will join us.
Really praying for a good build up to our annual Dec BBQ (we had a great crowd last year and when I recently spoke to some of our neighbours, they mentioned fond memories of the occasion. One neighbour is even keen to "perform an item" :-) And this year we are adding in carolling ...

Carolling ...

Am excited about this as are many people. Restarting carolling in church. Have got a good team put together and next comes the hard part, meeting, practicing and deciding what to do and where to go. Obvious venues with be homes and our Christmas Service would be a great time and place to give presentations. I am hoping that we will be able to do some door to door to selected neighbours!! And there is a great opportunity to make friends with a new retirement village (not in our community but pretty near). Carolling would be a great way to start making the connection. The manager seemed keen about it when I met her a couple of months ago. Hmmm...

On Bible studies ...

It is great too that another Home group (Care group) has decided to use the Bible study materials I am promoting. This means though I need to block out time to prepare them. But I enjoy preparing the studies and it is exciting as people are learning to do inductive style Bible study! Three out of five groups now are using the materials and enjoying them!

On Magic ...

The one thing I am behind is my "magic show" preparation for the Light Party. Getting tougher to find the time and energy to focus on basic practice ... not to mention working on a routine. Only a couple more weeks. A bit of pressure there. But it has now become a regular feature that can help draw in the children in the community.

On preaching...

Starting this coming Sunday, I have 7 sermons to prepare and preach (i.e. for October till December). A bit daunting but at least I have finished preparing this Sunday's sermon :-) and I have done the basic work for at least 3 of the other sermons. It will be a good gauge to see whether I can take on a heavier preaching load for 2010. I have been trying to be consistent with my preparation of my weekly "Pastor's Notes" to help me gauge whether I can keep being "fresh" over a long period of time.


Baptism service planned for end of November. Exciting but it does mean organizing classes so that's another extra thing on my "to do list"

On mentoring ...

I am glad for the mentoring sessions I had in Malaysia. First with Soo Inn and Sivin, and later with Colin and Joe Jim. Learned much from each of them. All of them blessed me so much.And here in NZ, time spent with my church's former pastor and one of our former deacons has also taught me much. Both are much older people with years of experience and wisdom. This will help me so much with my more "formalised" mentoring times with a young leader in my church, and for next year also with our youth pastor intern. It still kind of "scares" me but I think it is vital for strong spiritual growth (both the people I want to help and for myself too).

Vegetable plot ...

Yup, I am actually planting some vegetables - setting aside a few hours a week to work on a small plot in my backyard plus some potted plants to plant some vegetables!! So far, my carrots are doing well. Still tiny but clearly coming out. My strawberry plant (just one plant) now has a couple of strawberries that are now half red!! My chilly plants - some of the seedlings are sprouting (hopefully as it grows I won't discover that they are actually weeds! LOL)
My "serai" plant is actually doing okay. Not large enough to use but it's not dying :-)
My chives are actually coming out okay. Small amounts but it is clearly chives. My tomato plant is doing great. Very healthy. I have two more given by Sunday School a few weeks ago to plant and they seem okay only but in all fairness to me, they will need some time to grow.
My beans - no sign of any life :-( But hopefully in a week or so?) And yesterday I planted french bean seeds.


Looks really challenging. Will of course blog more on that later on but would appreciate prayers for wisdom. One thing I hope to do is to take a course on Maori history and culture. It's a formal one year course (NZQA approved) with exams, field trips, assignments etc. The good part is that it is done via self study packs with a tutor you can call on. But it is supposed to need 10 to 15 hours of study time a week. Will I be able to find the time even though I think I should be able to do it with less time?

Okay time for brunch ....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Revamped Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

If youth can "mainly" be reached this way, I wonder what changes will "have to" occur in how Sunday worship services are conducted.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

BGEA Today - A Ministry Grows Young

By Erik Orgen, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Special to ASSIST News Service

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (ANS) -- Billy Graham Crusades: we can all picture them in our minds. Large stadiums filled with people singing Just As I Am, streaming forward at the evangelist's heartfelt appeal to place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior.

More than 315 million people around the world witnessed this in person. Countless millions more were moved by it through the electric glow of their living room television sets, first in black-and-white and then in color.

For years, one could say that Billy Graham Crusades WERE the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The massive events were well-known by Christians and non-believers alike.

Today, Billy Graham is 90 years old and, though ministering on a personal level and writing a book, he is no longer holding Crusades. One might be tempted to think the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is in decline and that its days of ministering to the lost are over. Hardly!

Rather, this ministry, which is set to celebrate its 60th year in 2010, is actually growing younger - much younger. Recognizing the importance of impacting youth and teens, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has implemented a trio of unique approaches specifically designed to reach young people with the Gospel, equip them to reach their friends, and disciple them to maturity in Christ.

Take Billy Graham Crusades, for example. That age-old strategy of "going where the people are" - from canvas tents to Yankee Stadium - has been uniquely refined to appeal to teenagers who, studies show, run a very real risk of never knowing hope in Christ if they don't develop a relationship with Him by their 18th birthday. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has placed an emphasis on reaching the souls of teenagers as they face pressures and temptations that many who used to attend Billy Graham Crusades could never have imagined.

The result of this paradigm shift is Rock the River, a multi-city tour up the Mississippi River with one-day music festivals. Using rock and hip-hop bands to speak the language of today's young people, along with challenging messages of purpose, hope and eternity from Franklin Graham, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reached out to a whole new generation with the Gospel, including many who have never heard the name of Jesus.

"This is a new strategy, to be sure," said Jeff Anderson, director of North American Crusades for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "But it's the same message that has been proclaimed by this ministry since day one. The music, venue style and format are much different, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ never changes."

Bands that participated in Rock the River, which began on July 18 in Baton Rouge, had stops in St. Louis and Quad Cities, and then concluded on August 16 in St. Paul, include Flyleaf, Kirk Franklin, Superchick, DecembeRadio, Hawk Nelson and Lecrae.

Flyleaf is played on rock and alternative radio stations. Though their music isn't primarily played on contemporary Christian radio, the band is made up of Christian musicians who are excited to have the opportunity to be a part of evangelism. One teenager from the Quad Cities area wrote to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, "I'm extremely glad that Flyleaf is coming to the QC because that band has single-handedly made the concert interesting enough for my non-Christian friend to come."

Said Anderson, "While it's important for Christian youth to have uplifting entertainment, our goal with this was not to create a fun event for church kids. Our whole goal was to reach out to kids who have never heard the Gospel before, and - with much prayer - we tried hard to create an event to which Christian kids could easily invite and bring their unchurched friends."

The Rock the River strategy paid off, as nearly 113,000 people - mostly young people - attended the four Rock the River events. More than 2,300 made commitments to Christ through the outreach, and the ministry is now looking at cities to replicate the effort in 2010.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association isn't giving up on the traditional Crusade model either. On the heels of a summer full of reaching youth in America, Franklin Graham and his team traveled to Bogotá, Colombia to hold a four day Festival there. Approximately 157,000 people attended the Festival, with more than 11,500 people responding to the invitation. An incredible 75 percent of those who came forward were age 25 or under.

At the same time that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is reaching out to unsaved teens through Rock the River and evangelistic Festivals, its Dare to Be a Daniel program is helping young Christians deepen their faith and preparing them to share Jesus with their friends.

The program - inspired by the biblical story of Daniel - features a Web site (, literature teaching Christian principles and Bible verses, and an interactive CD-ROM that includes music, videos, practical tips and the entire Bible. Dare to Be a Daniel is available as an individual Bible study or a 13-week curriculum for Sunday school classes and youth groups. A five-session resource will also soon be available.

Since the program launched in 2006, more than 13,000 young people (approximately eleven per day) have successfully completed the course and are now making an impact by sharing their faith.

"These are good Christian kids," said Chad Miller, director of Dare to Be a Daniel. "They are active in youth group, love Jesus and are passionate about their beliefs, but maybe they don't know exactly what to say if given the opportunity to share their faith with their friends. Dare to Be a Daniel equips them to do that."

After completing the Dare to Be a Daniel program, Allee Keener, a teenager from Albany, N.Y., decided to hold a party for all of her friends and use it as an opportunity to witness to them. "My relationship with God is the biggest thing in my life, and knowing how amazing it is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ - I really want my friends to experience the same thing," said Keener.

"Kids today are dealing with so much," said Miller. "The messages and temptations they're being constantly bombarded with would have been unheard of even 10 years ago: drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, cutting, suicide. There's a whole generation that is longing for hope and truth, and Dare to Be a Daniel is equipping young Christians to offer new life in very difficult times."

On top of Rock the River and Dare to Be a Daniel, there is yet another shift in strategy from a long-standing ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. In late July, for the first time in the 40-year history of the Billy Graham Schools of Evangelism, an additional day was added to the multi-day training for pastors to focus intensely on youth ministry, with a bevy of seminars designed to assist today's church leaders with reaching the next generation.

Kathy Maas, managing director of North American Schools of Evangelism for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, summed up the importance of training pastors on how to reach out to young people. "Often pastors have told us, 'We want to reach out to the teens in our neighborhood, but we don't know how. It's like they speak a different language,'" said Maas. "We saw a real need to give local pastors the necessary tools and ideas to make an impact."

While this was the first time the Billy Graham Schools of Evangelism used this tactic, it will not be the last. "It was a very powerful time, and we plan to include youth-focused training during more Schools of Evangelism in the future. Our young people are too important to us. We can't ignore the need."

As the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association prepares for its 60th anniversary, they are ever mindful that tactics shift, but the Gospel is unchanging, and they are moving forward with a great sense of urgency to reach a lost generation with that redemptive message.

Is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reaching its swan song? "No way," said Jeff Anderson, through a broad grin. "We're just getting started!"


Erik Ogren is Sr. Public Relations Specialst for the Billy Graham Association in Minneapolis, MN.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tsunami yet again!

This has been a really scary month with so many "natural disasters". A church member is missing a sister and her children in Samoa ...

Now just in ... God have mercy!

Tsunami warning after 7.8 quake off Vanuatu

BREAKING11:43AM Thursday Oct 08, 2009
The figure 1 shows where the latest earthquake struck. Map / Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre

The figure 1 shows where the latest earthquake struck. Map / Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre

Are you in the area?
Send us information, photos and video

New Zealanders are being warned to stay off beaches and out of boats after a tsunami warning was triggered by a large earthquake off Vanuatu.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has issued a warning for Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck off Vanuatu.

New Zealand, Samoa and Australia are among places on tsunami watch.

The centre says it is not known whether a tsunami has been generated but an earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive wave that can strike coastlines near the epicentre within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours.

An advisory is being sent to all responding agencies, including Fire, Police, Coastguard, local authorities and others to put them on standby.

The Ministry of Civil Defence has advised of the potential tsunami threat to New Zealand. The public is advised to not be on beaches or in boats near the coast.

The quake struck 294km northwest of the Vanuatu island of Santo and 596km northwest of the capital of Port Vila at a depth of 35km.

There were no immediate reports of injury or damage from officials in Vanuatu, a collection of nearly 200 islands.

The latest warning comes just two weeks after a quake of magnitude 8.3 rocked the South Pacific near Samoa, sparking tsunami waves that killed at least 180 people and devastated coastal villages in Samoa, American Samoa and in northern Tonga.

Tsunami warning is in effect for:
Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Kiribati, Kosrae, Wallis-Futuna, Howland-Baker

At tsunami watch is in effect for:
Various countries including New Zealand, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Australia