Three weeks ago, I was deeply shocked and stunned by what was going through my mind. At first, I thought I was engaged in a harmless past time. I was sitting in a crowded train carriage and to pass away the tedious minutes, I began to label/classify my fellow passengers. Of course, they could not read my thoughts. I did not vocalize my thinking. My impressions became labels: “Attractive” “Ugly” “Fat” “Sad” “Anxious” “Depressed” “High-spirited” “Too Talkative”. I then overheard two workmen conversing in Polish. I identified them as builders. Verdict: “Foreigners taking away British jobs” Seated further away was a Muslim woman wearing her hijab. My imagination went wild. “Why doesn’t she dress like women in the West? She’s in London, not the Middle East Is she linked with some extremist Muslim group?” Suddenly I stopped. Was it a whisper from the Holy Spirit? “What lenses are you wearing, Wee Hian? Is that how a man of God sees people?” I was convicted over my labelling game.
A week later, I was in the New Forest. My wife and I were staying in our grandson’s room. I picked up a book that he was reading. It had an arresting title Repenting of Religion. I started to read (rather, dip) into this paperback and I was hooked. The author Gregory Boyd related his experience in a shopping mall. Sipping his ice-cold coke, he was indulging in the game of labelling the shoppers who passed his table. He too was deeply troubled by his judgmental spirit. He sought to probe its source. He swiftly traced it to the opening chapters of Genesis concentrating on the motif of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first earthlings were warned not to eat of its fruit. They could freely enjoy eating fruit from all the other trees. Why did Eve eat of the forbidden fruit from this tree, and later gave it to Adam? The tempter’s words were wrapped in a never-to-be missed opportunity: to be all-wise, with limitless knowledge. They could be like God the omniscient one. After-all, what’s wrong with acquiring good knowledge and being wise? Surely, the Creator God wanted them to discern and make correct moral choices. But a closer study of the biblical text, indicates that they wanted to assume God’s role as the supreme judge over good and evil.
Since the fall, you and I have inherited this judgemental spirit. Once a noted evangelical leader was interviewed by a reporter of a secular press. She asked him what he regarded as the greatest sin of “Bible believing” or evangelical Christians. His immediate reply was “We are notorious for creating straw-men, often imaginary opponents; we set them up and then we misquote, revile and tear them down.” I thought of my past - my eloquence in slanging Christians who hold a theologically liberal position and condemning Roman Catholics for their extra-biblical doctrines. I wanted my hearers to recognize me as one who upholds doctrinal purity. Unconsciously, I had elevated myself as a judge and gloried in my additional role as prosecutor!
I shudder to think of our perspective and attitude towards pre-believers (non-Christians) We are welcoming and kind to those who appear to be earnest seekers. We are attracted to clean-cut students from middle-class families. So much like us. If they come to Christ what a great task force, we’ll have for the Kingdom. Now weigh the negative stance and even the crass comments we express towards those addicted to alcohol, drugs and to music that turn us off. We avoid folks struggling with their gender identity; we look down on those who utter swear words and embrace a hedonistic life-style. Surely, they do not appear as likely candidates for salvation and church membership?
When we recruit leaders, we prefer to select those who think and behave like us. Unconsciously, we fall into the trap of selecting “yes” men and women. As members watch our words and behavior and if we are always judgemental, they will inevitably become like us. We re-produce disciples as we are, not what we like to be. It’s not surprising that cliques are formed and easily recognisable in our fellowships. Inward-looking communities do not attract those from outside. That’s why many churches do not grow.
I repent, and I move away from all the values and judgemental ways that I have inherited as a result of eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I turn to the Lord of life and I desire to eat fruit from the Tree of Life. I pray, “Lord, change my lenses. Enable me to see people with your eyes. Lord, they depicted you as the friend of outcasts (tax collectors) and sinners. You declared you came not to judge but to rescue fallen human beings. You did not condemn the Samaritan woman at the well for her infidelity. You offered her the water of life. When proud men wagged their fingers at the woman caught in the act of adultery, you did not use the law to punish and stone her. You set her free and urged her not to cling to sin. You recruited Simon the zealot, the freedom fighter, a man of violence to be one of your Twelve. You included a hated tax collector – Levi to be on that team. Two opposites! Your presence and acceptance, not your finger-pointing and exposure of Zaccheus’ corrupt ways made him a child of God and to make restitution for his unjust gains. When you as the Risen Lord met Peter by the lake-side, you could have imputed guilt on him for his betrayal and false boasts. But you didn’t. You spoke the language of love – loving you and loving others. Lord, give me your eyes of grace and heart of love.”
Our fundamental sin is that we place our selves in the position of God and divide the world between what we judge to be good or evil. And this judgment is the thing that keeps us from doing the central thing God created and saved us to do, namely, love likes he loves. p.17
In this fallen way of life, people and things have worth to the extent that they fill us. Instead of ascribing unsurpassable worth to others because the Creator does, we ascribe limited worth to people depending on our judgment of them. Do these people love me? Do they please me? Do they benefit me? Do they affirm me? Do they agree with my opinions? We are the ones who declare that someone or something is good or evil, for we set ourselves up as the center around which everything is measured.” For man is in the state of disunion” says Bonhoeffer, “good consists in passing judgment, and the ultimate criterion is man himself. Knowing good and evil, man is essentially the judge.” p.71
In Matthew 7, Jesus is doing nothing less than contrasting two mutually exclusive ways of living. We either live in love, or we live in judgment…If we stand in judgement and do not forgive, we ourselves will be judged and not be forgiven (Mt.6;14,15) If we do not show mercy, we will not be given mercy (Js.2:13) If we condemn others, we will stand condemned (Lk.6:37) p.111
Love and judgment represent two antithetical ways of living. We either live out of union with God, and thus with our fellow brothers and sisters, or we live out of ourselves as center, in separation from our brothers and sisters. We live either by God’s righteousness or our own. Which way we live ultimately comes down to this decision: Shall we eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or not? Shall we let God be judge, or shall we try to be judge? In short, shall we let God be God and honour the boundary he set between us, or shall we try to stand in the place of God? p.112
Adam and Eve’s story is not just a “once upon a time” story. It is also the story of every human being. The beginning of all sin – the origin of all that is unloving – it is a judgment about God. We embrace a picture of God that is less loving, less beautiful, less full of life, less gracious, and less glorious than the true God really is. From this everything that attaches to sin, everything that characterizes life “in Adam” (1 Cor.15:22) and “life in the flesh” (Rom.7:5;8:4-8) follows. When our picture of God is distorted, we can no longer trust God to be the source of our life. It is impossible to trust God if we don’t believe God is love. p.127
from Repenting of Religion by Gregory A. Boyd
Emanation of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil?
This year GOOGLE celebrates its 20th birthday. Its motto was “Don’t be evil”. Millions worldwide regard it as the fount of knowledge and consult it daily.
Google remains a remarkable organization that has made astonishing leaps forward in technology in just 20 years. They employ dedicated and talented people, they push the boundaries of innovation, they constantly ask “Why not?”
Google now influences every home in the land. It is present on almost every laptop, phone ad increasingly, our home appliances, making them somewhat omnipresent. Their stated mission is to store all the world’s knowledge, which starts to sound like omniscience. And if we consider in today’s personal information economy, knowledge is power, we could add omnipotence to our list. Such words are reserved for the other Big G. (emphasis mine)
Does this make them an idol? Well, of course nobody worships Google, but you don’t need to. Isn’t an idol simply the authority we turn to most often, the central one we depend on to answer all our questions? In our daily decisions, great and small, I wonder if we genuinely seek God’s input on matters as much as we do on Google’s?
Chris Goswami The Gospel According to Google Article in Premier Christianity September 2018
On my birthday in July, my son Steve gave me a copy of Samuel Chand’s BIGGER, FASTER LEADERSHIP.
“Sam has been a great friend and counsellor. He shares many of your observations and insights on Church growth and leadership formation”.
I glanced at the subtitle “Lessons from the Builders of the Panama Canal”. Instantly I told myself, “I’ve been there in the mid-80s. Yes, it was an engineering marvel, shortening the trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the narrow isthmus. That Canal was built more than 100 years ago. “How can anyone glean effective and dynamic leadership based on one visit and reading up the history of this massive lock?” He repeats his over-arching principle on the cover and at the end of each chapter. “The size and speed of an organisation are controlled by the systems and structures”. But as they say, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
As I began to dip into its content, I found myself nodding and actively interacting with Chand’s penetrating analysis on leadership, systems and structures. But more important, his practical solutions. Out came my marker pen, and I began to highlight key sentences and paragraphs.
Chand observes that numerous companies and churches go through a life cycle. They begin as a dynamic movement, gather momentum and grow. Soon they operate as institutions and become part of the establishment. Then for a period of time, they stagnate or plateau. When there is no renewal, they decline. Some close down while others feebly limp on. Here is his cycle.
1.The entrepreneurial (discovery) phase is the exciting beginning, when every dream seems possible.
2.The emerging (growth) phase is when the vision begins to take definite shape, leaders are empowered, and the organization sees real progress.
3.The established (maintenance) phase is a time when leaders take a deep breath, enjoy their success, and watch their systems function well. But this phase is also dangerous because it can lead to complacency.
4.The erosion (survival) phase is evident when the organization shows signs of decline, and the earlier vision seems unreachable.
5.The enterprising (reinvention) phase is the result of a deeper grasp of the need, a renewed vision, fresh enthusiasm, and new strategies to meet the need. Giving an existing organization as fresh charge of vision and energy is difficult, but it’s essential for future flourishing.
Most congregations I know are either stagnating or declining. Pastors will give me myriad reasons why this is occurring and usually they release a long blame list – spiritual climate, materialism, rapid changes, difficult and demanding people, young people finding the church irrelevant, lack of spiritual leaders etc.
Chand uses the construction of the Panama Canal to illustrate down to earth lessons on effective and poor leadership.
The French who had successfully built the Suez Canal in mid 19th century could not replicate their feat in Panama. Instead of hot desert air, their engineers and workers encountered tropical mud and heavy downpour. Equipment rusted. Thousands of workers died because of malaria and yellow fever. Chand challenges us to spot mosquitoes in our companies and churches and ways of eradicating these. His chapters on handling conflicts, exploiting creative tensions and tapping the rich veins of diversity make scintillating reading.
Chand’s approach is unique; his principles are applicable to the CEO of a company or the lead pastor of a church. I was deeply stirred how the Americans under President Roosevelt and Secretary Taft tackled initial setbacks caused by inclement weather, difficult terrain and mosquitoes. They engaged the best doctor to fumigate and destroy these pests. They appointed and empowered General Washington Goethals in 1907 to complete the building of the Canal. Finally, in 1914 ships could dock and sail through the canal.
To whet your appetite, I have selected priceless nuggets of leadership truths for you to process and share with your fellow leaders.
Better still, why not purchase the book and discuss key leadership strategy and tactics with your team?
“Mosquitoes are bad attitudes, and carriers are those who are infected by these attitudes and spread them.
• Passive-aggressive behavior
• Unresolved conflict and resentment
• Gossip and secret alliances
• Lack of accountability
• Being a know-it-all
• Insisting “It’s you fault not mine”
• Jealousy and envying others.” p.93
Q: What in your culture is breeding ground for mosquitoes? p.99
For two weeks and on a daily basis, I’ve been watching World Cup football on TV. As I write, this prestigious competition watched by millions globally, is entering into the final stage. I plan to watch the finals on 15 July (the recorded version) in California, the day I am preaching at our son’s church.
I jotted these observations as I watched the games with their gigantic cast of players, managers, fans in newly constructed Russian stadia. And I listened in to the comments of erstwhile football pundits and interviews with players and coaches.
This was evident in every match. As the cameras zoomed in on the spectators, most of them proudly don the jerseys of their teams and waving their national flags and banners. When a goal was scored, two contrasting emotions surfaced. Fans of the wining teams, jumped with joy, hugged one another and applauded the goal scorers with thunderous claps and shouts. Wild euphoria. Supporters of the losing sides groaned with dismay and deep sadness was written on their faces. Tears were even shed. Tragedy struck!
Supporters on the terraces and the unseen hosts of fans in their homes inevitably identified with the triumph or the defeat of their teams. They were in a strange but real way, by living out the fortunes or misfortunes of their footballing heroes. The players “highs” and “lows” are vicariously absorbed by fans and supporters.
I begin to think of the dynamism of congregations.
Why do some grow, and others decline? Do church goers also possess a vicarious spirit towards those who head their churches?
Growing churches are characterised by a “winning vision” embodied in the pastoral and leadership team. They gain the respect and enthusiastic support of their backers.
They are eager to participate in the life, ministry and activities of their church. Declining churches give weak excuses for poor preaching. “You’ve come to church to worship and meet God, not to hear great preaching.”
Small churches justify their existences with “God honours faithfulness rather than success.
Our church is a family; we are small, and we know everyone. Why get lost in an impersonal mega church?”
Believers prefer to back a church where the leaders work with the Spirit to extend the frontiers of the Kingdom and in doing so are themselves propelled for growth.
They have a game plan.
This may be adapted but the players stick to it.
There is effective co-ordination between attack and defence. Mid fielders play a key role. A team may have a super-star but unless he is well-supported by the rest, his contribution is limited. Lionel Messi experienced this in playing for Argentina.
The super star cannot be relied upon as the match winner; an effective synergy needs to pervade the entire team. During the game great shots and passes are acknowledged. When a player commits a mistake, the rest of team do not fall on him like a ton of bricks.
They encourage him to rise up and play his best. In brief, a great team plays for each other and working together to win the match.
I wonder how many churches have clear Vision statements which are consistently implemented.
Do leaders thankfully report growth? And honestly review both strengths and weaknesses?
Are the different spiritual gifts and talents of members identified and wisely exercised?
What spirit characterizes our corporate life – encouragement and love? Or judgmentalism and negative carping?
Without doubt, the elimination of Germany in the Group round was the major shock of the tournament so far. They were the defending champions having win the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. I read with incredulity that five out six champions crashed out of the Cup in the first or qualifying round. Why?
Historically, Germany had won the Cup on three occasions and appeared in the most semi-final stages. They’ve been boasting of a massive squad of footballing talents. Why did they finish last in their group behind Sweden, Mexico and South Korea?
The post-match analysis has been revealing. The first factor is complacency.
In 2018, they had won only one friendly game and that was to lowly Saudi Arabia. They could only draw against six strong national teams and they lost their last match to Austria. J Loew, the manager shrugged off criticisms by insisting that he was experimenting so that he could pick his best side. Pundits concurred.
The results told a different story.
The second was his reliance on senior members whose form left much to be desired. Past experiences did not deliver. Then there was little evidence of a winning game-plan; they were in fact trailing in their games.
Playing catch-up is a dangerous strategy when circumstances work against you. For me, the chief factor for Germany’s demise as a super-team, was internal bickering and division. This was leaked to the media by one of their stars.
Wounds were not healed. The body language throughout the games did not indicate unity nor did it demonstrate a winning mentality.
The downfall of the German team sent shock waves worldwide. How are the mighty fallen!
Like many, I had expected them to advance way beyond the group stage. As I reflected on their poor performance, the doors of my memory vault swung open. I began to re-call great churches, Christian agencies, anointed pastors that fell.
I began to realise that numerical growth and success do not guarantee security.
Before every fall, there are warning signs.
The alarm bells ring but we do not listen. We regard glorious past achievements as invincible structures. We forget that termites can enter to destroy the wood work!
Unresolved inter personal issues often wreak havoc. We tend to excuse internal bickering’s as quirks, human imperfections that occur and treat these as passing phases. Sadly, they do not automatically disappear. Then we pay too much attention to resolving ongoing tensions, we can easily neglect our major task of making disciples.
Some churches have well-established and gifted pastors. Under their leadership, they flourish. They, however, are immune to constructive criticisms and reviews.
They will state, “I am called by God. He’s invested me with authority.
I only answer to God authority” They may preach eloquently, fervently attacking sin from the pulpit but because they are not accountable to a godly core of friends, the fell prey to their own lust and pride. When they fall their congregations suffer massive setbacks.
1 Cor.10: 12 issues a clear warning to giants and champions “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall.”
This tournament surprised with outstanding players from “minnow” nations from Asia and Africa.
They competed with the best teams from Europe and Latin America.
I spotted several of these stars and noted they play in the major leagues in Europe e.g. Bundesliga, Serie A, Primera Liga and the Premier league.
Playing week in and out with top players have established them as rising stars.
from Yuval Noah Harari.
His two books Sapiens and Homo Deus have sold 12 million copies. His next book, 21 Lessons for 21st Century will be launched on 30 August 2018.
HOMO DEUS: In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 died due to human violence… In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide and 1.5 million died of diabetes.
SAPIENS: As far as we can tell from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some cosmic divine plan, and if Planet earth were to blow up tomorrow morning, the universe would probably keep going about its business as usual.
HOMO DEUS: Terrorists are like a fly that tries to destroy a china shop. The fly is so weak that it cannot even budge a simple teacup. So it finds a bull, gets inside it its ear and starts buzzing. The bull goes wild with fear and anger and destroys the china shop. This is what happened in the Middle East in the past decade. Islamic fundamentalists could never have toppled Saddam Hussein by themselves.
HOMO DEUS: No remaining human job will ever be safe from the threat of future automaton.
21 LESSONS for 21st CENTURY: Once AI (Artificial Intelligence) makes better decisions than us about careers and perhaps even relationships, our concept of humanity and of life, will have to change.
.....Leadership is about taking responsibility not making excuses.
.....In football the worse things are excuses.
.....Excuses mean you cannot grow or move forward.
.....People with integrity do what they say they are going to do. Others have excuses.
.....A man can fail many times, but he is not a failure until he begins to blame someone else.
.....It is wise to direct your anger towards problems, not to people, to focus your energies on answers – not on excuses.
.....Excuses are the nails to build a house of failure.
.....True ignorance is not the lack of knowledge but the refusal to acquire it.
MORE QUOTES: Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you.
.....Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
.....I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.
“In a New York Times article, Stanford professor Robert Sutton commented, “One nasty person can bring down a whole group. That can happen because the group members devote more energy to dealing with the bad apple and less energy to the task at hand. Moreover, anger and hostility are contagious, so the whole group can become infected.”1)Source: Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth
.....What you do for yourself lies with you when you leave this world. What you do for others live forever.
.....Leadership is the lifting of a man’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a man’s performance to a higher
.....standard, the building of a man’s personality beyond its limitations.
I fervently believe that God will open doors for King Ling and me to share his Word, his grace and love with many. In the process, we learn unforgettable lessons both from Him and from the people we meet. Our recent five-week trip to Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore undergirded this conviction.
We re-learned the truth of Isaiah 55:8 - his ways and his thoughts are different and far superior to ours. At our first meeting in Hong Kong, I was to share and minister to a group of senior citizens. They were eager to learn how God heals; they had seen the miracle of his grace in the life of a lady with cancer that we prayed for a year ago.
When I released the word that God was going to heal someone with a prolonged splitting headache, I had expected a frail grandmother to step up for prayer.
Instead to my surprise a grandmother pushed her 12-year-old grandson towards me, “He’s the one; he’s been suffering from severe headaches for over two weeks”.
She had “smuggled “ him into the meeting for old folks; she had audacious faith that something miraculous would happen.
The Lord instantly healed him.
At another seminar, I had stressed divine healing as a process.
On our part we are to exercise faith in Him and cultivate godly habits and these will facilitate healing. I did invite all present to touch with their hands parts of their bodies that needed his healing touch.
Afterwards, a few raised their hands to indicate that the Lord had healed them because they could freely move their arms, knees or shoulders. Three days later, I received an e-mail.
MLS, a lady in her fifties wrote: “Pastor Chua, God has used you to heal my lower back pain. For three years, I’ve been to several specialists, underwent numerous scans and they could not diagnose the cause. Through your session, I’m now healed.”
God has his ways and timings. He may heal instantly or through a process. It’s not up to us to assume or dictate his ways.
Before this trip, I had felt that the Lord would use me to minister to folks with cancer. I have been heartened by the recovery rate of several people that I had prayed for. I rejoice to hear the testimony of a brave cancer survivor, “It doesn’t matter whether I die of cancer or any other illness. We all have to die. I’m going to die victorious; I’m not going to die miserable.” I was eager to impart this over-comer's attitude to others.
Unknown to me, when I was in Singapore, on 19 May, INSPIRED, a Cancer sufferers and survivors fellowship was holding its monthly meeting in a condominium.
I knew the founders and I even persuaded them to let me share at their gathering. (I rarely invited myself to a meeting!)We sensed his presence. I taught them the over-comers’ habits, prayed for several. I have no way of knowing whether some were healed but was very thankful that many adopted an over comer's stance.
I know of no better way to fight cancer than the “more than conquerors” (Rom.8:37) approach. It was of course awesome to see God's hand in healing and salvation
For me, the highlight of this historic journey must be the privilege of witnessing the outcome of the Malaysian elections on 9 May.
Prior to that momentous day, we have joined many Malaysian Christians praying for a change of government.
For 61 years, the BN party had been ruling the nation. Corrupt practices where votes were rigged or bought were well-known.
The Malay partner was not averse to play the racial card when it suited them… What struck me, was the huge number of Christians engaging in private and corporate prayer. Social media transmitted up-to-date prayer news. It was heart-warming to observe Christians expressing such love for their nation when they prayed to God for a change of government.
They did not only intercede but many volunteered as polling scrutineers and joined the crowds in ensuring the ballot boxes were not tampered. I must add that many Malays (nearly all Muslims) were working and pursuing the same goal. Some of their leaders sacrificially gave time, money and energy to roll a people revolution.
I’m positive that God use different means to topple the ruling alliance party.
A close friend, a former member of our church in London was telling me about the Malay candidate who represented the Opposition coalition in his constituency. When the votes were being collected and counted, he thought he stood little chance of winning that seat.
The BN candidate was a seasoned MP. So he turned to my friend and a team of Christians, “Please pray for me and all the PH candidates. I know you Christians know how to connect with God. Pray for a miracle to take place.”
He was voted in and PH the opposition coalition formed a new government.
This was a remarkable answer to prayers and the commitment of the people clamouring for change. I was thankful that another dear friend, a committed Christian, had always stood by Anwar Ibrahim a victim of political “frame up”. He is the Prime Minister elect; his wife, Wan Azizah became the first Woman Deputy Prime Minister. As their confidante and counsellor, I believe he has much to contribute towards the well-being of Malaysia. I was delighted to see Christians exercising their roles as salt and light not only in the “religious” sphere but in the national and political arena.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.
The Bible is easy to understand, but we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend that we are unable to understand it, because we know it well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to live accordingly.
A fire broke out back stage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclamation was even greater! I think that’s how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.
..... Before you act, listen.
...........Before you re-act, think.
...........Before you spend, earn.
...........Before you criticise, wait.
...........Before you pray, forgive.
...........Before you quit, try.............
From Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) British philosopher
....People too easily settle into a life achieving uninspired goals set by others....
From Steve Jobs (1955-2011) founder, Apple.
...Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life...
From Martin Luther (1483-1546) Reformer
...When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountain of evil, a power that is able to make a way out when there is no other way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. In the midst of danger, I have felt an intense calm and known resources of strength, that only God could give. In many instances I have felt the power of God turning the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope....
From Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961) first Secretary-General of United Nations
...In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action. Writing in the Foreword to Dag Hammarskjold’s Markings, the poet W H Auden wisely noted that the mot difficult task is “to unite in one life the via activa (way of action) and the via contemplavia (way of contemplation)”...
Looking again at Scribes and Pharisees
I recently heard a gripping sermon where the preacher described “scribes and Pharisees” as cautious and concerned people, not as demons. We meet many of their contemporaries in our churches today. Some are looked up as pillars of the church, custodians of the faith etc. They are regarded as upright, respected stalwarts of the community. Thinking of my own spiritual journey, I used to keep company with them. I made sure that those who exercise leadership cross their “t” and dot their “i” correctly O how we love to take theological or moral swipes as those who do not sing from the same hymn sheet as us or march out of step with our version of the Lord’s army. And we frown at those who do not do things according to our tradition.
Different perspectives on church growth
When I became more open to the Spirit and allowed him to re-mould my mind-set and values, grace rather than a rigid law governed the way I made my decisions and related to people. It reminds me of the words of a radical Christian friend who said, “Christianity is not about drawing within fixed lines but expressing our faith with a riot of colours.”
My encounters with modern scribes and Pharisees surprisingly lie in the issue of church growth. When I assumed full time responsibilities of Emmanuel Church in 1991 in London, my passionate goal was to grow and multiply our congregation. I longed for it to be international, reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of London. I still recalled an elder coming to me and urging me not to beat the international drum. I was astounded when he brazenly released what he called “hard words”. “If we have more folks coming from the black community, think of how Chinese parents will feel if blacks were to marry our daughters. Do we want to produce a hybrid church?” He was well intentioned. I didn’t see demonic horns sprouting out of his head. His racial prejudice, however, could have easily destroyed the dream of establishing an international faith community. Thankfully he left our church a few months later and our congregation did become international.
How the Church Grows
When we hit 200 adult members mark and with an enlarged property of our own, we chose to grow along the lines of cell groups. We aimed at growing numerically and qualitatively. Cells were not groups that gathered to sing, study the scriptures and to enjoy warm fellowship. They incorporated evangelism and discipleship; each cell adopted the goal of multiplying itself within 15 to 18 months. We were growing. You would have thought that we were all thrilled. But I was receiving complaints from the scribal quarter. “We use to spend at least an hour in group Bible study. What a challenge it was to interpret the passage and getting firm grip of biblical truth. In our new cell agenda, we are only given 40 minutes to study the scriptures.” They were not warming up to the priority of praying for pre-Christians and seeking to win our pre-Christian friends to the Lord. All they wanted was to have their warm fellowship grouping. Then there was a verbal tussle with another church leader. I remembered him accosting me. “I don’t like the cell framework. When we were a church of 150 nearly everyone was invited to a church wedding. We were one close family. Now only cell members plus a few others are invited. Such a pity.” Church growth from conversions and reaching out became a threat for him. He preferred operating in a cosy family-size set up. That was his comfort zone and newcomers made him uncomfortable.
Why one Local Church did not Grow
Close to our church in Westminster is a local Baptist church. The minister had been pastoring there for 50 years. One day, he invited me over a chat. He had just celebrated his 90th birthday. We had been in our new church premises for nearly a year. This old saint grabbed my hand and began to sob, much to my embarrassment. “I don’t get it. Do you think it’s fair? I’ve been serving here in this church for five decades and my church attendance is dwindling. We are fortunate if we get 30 folks to our morning service and 20 to the evening. You have just moved into our ‘parish’ and your church, I learn, is growing by leaps and bounds. See the organ behind you? I turned round. He continued. “We’ve been singing hymns faithfully accompanied by that organ. No guitars. No drums. Besides, I have unswervingly preached from the King James Bible and never shied away from a gospel appeal. And yet our numbers are declining.”
I thought he might ask me why our congregation was growing. But he didn’t. He simply wanted to air his frustrations. After a while, he composed himself. “Thanks for listening. I suppose the bottom line is faithfulness. In the parable of the talents, the master commended two of his servants for their faithfulness, not their success.” I was going to challenge him by pointing out that the Lord commended them for their faithfulness because they were successful. They had invested wisely, worked hard and were therefore commended. I bit my tongue. I felt rather sad for this old pastor. He wasn’t a winner; he was not willing to learn and adapt to effective ways of pastoring.
Both Faithfulness and Success Commended
Reflecting on my life and ministry, I’m so glad that the Lord wired winning and success together with faithfulness in me. I’m a firm believer in Romans 8:37, where the apostle Paul assures us that “we are more than conquerors through Christ”. He himself reminded the Christians in Corinth that his goal was to run, fight and win. (1 Cor.9: 24-27)
Winning does not mean that we have terrific physique nor does it mean that we pray and do nothing else. Stephen Hawking the renowned astro-physicist, given only two years to live in 1964 when was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, did not cave in to his physical limitations. He did not subscribe to the victim complex. In his wheelchair, he continued to write, research and lecture and his book “A Brief History of Time” sold over 10 million copies. What I admire most about him was his ability to inspire and influence countless students to be captivated by the wonder of the cosmos. Many mourned his passing last month; his body is now interred among other famous men and women in Westminster Abbey.
On 4 April this year, millions remembered a great champion – Martin Luther King Jr. He was tragically assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee 50 years ago. Why is his death commemorated? He was a man who courageously fought inbred racism not with the weapons of hatred and violence but with truth and love.
Timely Quotes from Stephen Hawking
I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these “how” or “why” questions. Occasionally I find an answer.
Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.
Look up at the stars and not at your feet.
We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special.
The rate of progress is so rapid that what one learns at school or university is always a bit out of date. Only a few people can keep up with the rapidly advancing frontier of knowledge, and they have to devote their whole time to it and specialize in a small area. The rest of the population has little idea of the advances that are being made or the excitement they are generating.
Stirring Quotes from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
I still believe that standing up for the truth is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end (purpose) of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.
Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.
I have decided to stick to love….Hatred is too great a burden to bear.
When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, when our nights become darker than a thousand midnight's, let us remember that there is a creative force in the universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil – a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.
In the midst of outer dangers, I have felt an inner calm and know the resources of strength that only God could give. In many instances I have felt the power of God turning the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope.
Winners with Alastair Campbell
Alastair Campbell is well known as the man who helped Tony Blair to launch New Labour and to win three terms as Prime Minister of the UK. He is much sought out speaker and strategy “guru” He spent years interviewing winners in politics, business, fashion and sports. In his book, Winners, he summarises winning traits.
Winners think big and bold. They are ambitious.
Winners have a plan and where possible stick to it.
Winners pay attention to details, knowing that it is in the constant iteration of planning that that winning objectives can best be met.
Winners never give up. They embrace pressures and setbacks,
Winners turn disappointments into progress. They learn from their mistakes.
Winners always want to improve; the desire to improve leads to innovation.
Winners focus on the next win, not on the last one.
Winners know that the physical and the mental are always connected.
Winners have the will to win; this not the same as wanting to win.
Winners care about their reputation and building it never stops.
Winners hate talents being wasted.
Winners hate losing.
Winners win, because they have to.
Campbell noted the winning secrets of Haile Gebrselassie, world champion long distance runner from Ethiopia:
- Use your background
- Use your talent.
- Love doing what you do.
- Have role models.
- Have a good team around you .
- Always maintain discipline.
- stick to a schedule
- Prepare properly
- Focus on your next win
- See the broader significance of winning.
• The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinion and content with your knowledge.
• The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticisms without resentment.
• Cultivate habits that you are willing should master you.
• We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.
• We first make our habits, then our habits make us.
was called home to the Lord on 21 February. He was 99 years of age; his death was announced globally. The Queen, past US Presidents and scores of eminent men and women paid personal tributes to this man of God. He had preached to over 200 million people in sports fields. huge indoor arenas; his powerful proclamation of the Gospel was relayed to an even greater audience through TV, films, radio, books and the internet. Without doubt, Billy Graham was acknowledged as the best known communicator of the Gospel. On a personal level, he became a trusted confidante to numerous statesmen.
I had the joy and privilege of meeting him on more than a dozen occasions. Our first encounter was in December 1972 at Lausanne, Switzerland. I remembered entering the hotel lift with him. He and 30 other leaders had earlier heard me giving a 15 minute devotion to the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelisation. I introduced myself to him. With a broad smile he said, “I know who you are - the new General Secretary of IFES; your predecessor was a friend of mine. Thank you for expounding Ephesians 6:18 so succinctly. I made full notes of your message on prayer. And I will preach it one day using your “all’s” – all-prayer, all-times and all-saints.” His words took my breath and left me breathless. Billy Graham knew how to encourage younger leaders.
Six months later, we were in Atlanta, Georgia. After lunch, we walked and chatted together for several minutes. Richard Nixon’s Watergate trial was broadcast live on TV. Billy believed the President’s critics and accusers were wrong and his friend Nixon would be exonerated. A year later, I heard him confessed openly before several thousand people, how wrong he was and the danger for Christ’s ambassadors to be partisan in politics. For me, this is the mark of greatness – the willingness to admit mistakes or misjudgments. My respect for him grew.
Billy used to give the closing message at the triennial IVCF Urbana Missionary Convention in 1970s and 1980s. We were both on the “speakers team”. Each convention lasted four days, He attended every daily planning meeting, He always listened attentively and he enthusiastically backed up every useful contribution. He never threw his weight around. His presence lit these “planning” sessions.
Through his Evangelistic Association, Billy released millions of dollars for conferences that forwarded world evangelisation. I was personally involved in three of these. Generous funds were also channelled to many holistic ventures. I am impressed not only by his generosity but by his personal integrity. He did not follow the lifestyles of some TV evangelists who amassed personal fortunes for themselves. He lived on a salary comparable to what senior pastors would earn in USA. In an obituary published by a secular British newspaper, the contributor noted that Billy’s finances were audited by others.
Some papers have referred to Billy’s handsome looks and attractive personality. As he often travelled alone to speak at rallies and conferences, he could be vulnerable to temptations of the flesh. Once, during an Urbana conference, Billy asked me to leave a contact address for him in his hotel letter box. Since his room was a floor above mine, I thought it was safer to send my hand-written note and push it under his room door. Within seconds, I felt a heavy hand on my back. I was petrified. Then I looked up and saw the familiar face of one of his close aides – Grady Wilson. He smiled and said, “Please don’t do that again, my brother. I could have crushed your bones! I weigh well over 200 pounds.” Billy believed in being accountable and transparent, and he wisely had a team of trusted men around him. This is an illustration of the great care Billy Graham took by making his bedroom out of bounds for everyone. It is well known that tabloids are known to get prostitutes in celebrities room and photograph them to compromise them. I learnt from this never to stay in a hotel room alone.
Billy is now in glory.
I had recorded in a notebook, his adaptation of another famous evangelist
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE CROSS
David Ogilvy, founder of the Advertising Agency Ogilvy & Mather made the above point clear to his office heads by sending each a Russian nesting doll with progressively smaller figures inside.
He left a message in the smallest doll with these words:
“If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of Dwarves. But each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, O & M will become a company of giants.”
Denis Waitley Priorities
FOUR QUOTES FROM OGDEN NASH
(1902-1971) noted writer, poet and humourist
To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup.
Whenever you are wrong, admit it,
Whenever you are right, shut up!
You are only young once,
but you can stay immature indefinitely.
Do you think my mind is maturing late?
Or simply rotted early.
O money, money, money,
I’m not necessary one of those who think thee holy.
But I often stop to wonder how thou canst go out so fast
When thou comest in so slowly.
BUFFETT’S THREE KEY QUESTIONS
Warren Buffett is recognised as the world’s greatest business investor. I was intrigued to read the process he follows when he considers investing in a company. His investments are sizable and for the long-term. He begins by studying the history, mission statement and financial records of the prospective company. He reads and reflects on past performances. If all these appear promising, Warren Buffett personally visits the main office to talk to the President, Vice President and the CEO of the company. With his eagle eye, he observes how these top men speak and relate to their staff. He sniffs out the ambience in the operational hub. Before he makes his decision for his company Berkshire-Hathaway to invest its millions, he asks three questions.
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DO I LIKE THEM?
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DO I TRUST THEM?
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DO I RESPECT THEM?
IF THERE IS A SINGLE "NO" TO ANY OF THE THREE QUESTIONS, Buffett refuses to invest a single cent in that corporation.
I’ve met pastors and chief executives of Christian agencies who often lament that they do not have many “A” Team people that can make vital contributions to the growth of their churches and operations. They fervently pray to the Lord to send gifted and committed men and women. Pious wishes. But their prayers don’t seem to be answered.
I have been in churches and organisations where men and women of high calibre – both spiritually and professionally see God enthusiastically involved ministries with exponential growth. Before they commit themselves to support these with their time, talent and resources, they raise the three questions that Warren Buffett asks. I once asked a godly entrepreneur as to why he backed his church wholeheartedly through his service as an elder of the congregation. His reply was simple and direct. “I buy into the vision of the Pastor and his associates. I’m impressed by their transparency, integrity and humility. They are honoured by the Lord and the members in the church.”
If you exercise leadership as pastor, director or manager how would you measure up to Buffett’s questions. Am I sincerely liked/loved by my team and constituency? Do they see me as Mr/Ms Credibility? Do others honour and respect me - my character, words and actions?
As a leader, I’m fully aware of my imperfections and limitations. My co-workers and my constituency see me as one who attempts to walk my talk, to deliver what I promise. When I fail, I apologise and ask them to pray for me so that I will grow into the leader that God wants me to be. I’ve made mistakes recruiting staff that did not share the DNA of our church. One was unwittingly instrumental in driving several key members away by his charming turned toxic personality. If only I had applied Buffett’s questions before their recruitment. Ponder through Buffett’s three key questions and seek to develop a culture of love, trust and honour.
THE SMALL B!G by Steve Martin
I borrowed this paperback from my local library and wished I had my own copy so that I can underline and capture its rich and practical insights. Written by three behavioural psychologists, I found it extremely useful for motivating people and providing them with incentives to switch from bad habits, mediocrity and boredom to passionately adopting life-changing values.
The title THE SMALL B!G speaks of how little changes and shifts can result in enormous differences and outcome. There are 52 short chapters and to whet your appetite, I shall share some of the chapter headings.
What SMALL BIG can persuade people to pay their taxes on time
What SMALL BIG can persuade people to go against the crowd
What SMALL steps can lead to BIG leaps when building relationships, partnerships and team work
What SMALL BIG can reduce people’s tendency to procrastinate (and yours too!)
What SMALL BIG can help you to lead more productive meetings
What SMALL BIG can encourage more creative thinking
What surprisingly simple SMALL BIG can get you the help you need
How might a SMALL touch lead to a BIG increase in value
Please note that these are not gimmicks; they are based on extensive research.
Sample Like tax collectors in a lot of countries, officials in Britain’s, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) had a problem. Too many of her citizens were not submitting their tax returns and paying what they owed on time.
For years HMRC posted letters and communication targeted at late payers. These were focussed on consequences…if they failed to respond and pay on time, they will face interest charges, late fees and legal actions. For some these traditional approaches work well but for many others they do not. In 2009, HMRC consulted the authors for an alternative approach informed by persuasion science. All it involved was one small change: a single sentence added to their standard letter.
So, what exactly was this small change? We simply (and truthfully) informed the recipients of the large number of citizens who actually pay their taxes on time.
(In 2008 HMRC collected 290 million out of a possible 510 million pounds – a clearance rate of 57%. In 2009, HMRC collected 560 million out of 650 million debt – a clearance rate of 86%)
But why should so many thousands of people feel compelled to mail in their checks on the basis of a small change to the letter? The answer lies in the fundamental principle of human behaviour that scientists call social proof – the evidence of the crowd. It means that people’s behaviour is largely shaped by the behaviours of those around them, especially those with whom they strongly identify. (pp9,10.)
Two products were on display.
One lot of customers were invited to touch them.
The other to view but they were not to handle them.
The lot that touched purchased significantly more of the products. Sellers tend to fix a higher price for objects they personally touch.
What about online shopping?
Successful adverts invite customer to imagine that they could touch see and feel the objects they are thinking of purchasing.
At a seminar, participants will read materials in a bag or file that someone has personally given them.
Again, the personal touch. ( pp 243-246)
CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
Sean Covey listed what he called the Six Metastasizing Victimism Cancers:
Select a portion of scripture, then use the following stages:
Take time and slowly read the passage more than once. Pay attention to a verse, a word or phrase that jumps out at you.
Keep focusing on the verse, word or phrase that grabs your attention. Try not to analyse it but as the Lord what he wants to say through it.
Offer your responses to God in prayer. Let his Spirit guide and empower you. Journaling i.e. writing down your thoughts can be immensely helpful.
Be still by relaxing in his presence. Let his Word permeate your whole being.” Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”
How to Engage with Memory Loss and Build Community
Dementia can be a dark place and it raises many dark questions. When people forget who they are, where is God in it all?
This booklet explores how memory cafés can help churches to support and bring joy to an increasingly isolated group. It proclaims loudly that God loves people of all faiths and none—all equally precious in his eyes—and wants everyone to thrive as part of a community.
Steve Morris, Vicar of St Cuthbert Rev. Church. Wembley UK is also an avid reader of NOTES & QUOTES
NEW YEAR provides an excellent break for spiritual stock-taking and life audit. Today I addressed these questions to myself. I’m deliberately using a ten-year time span to measure progress or failure.
Compared to what I was, what I had and what I did,
1. Have I grown more Christ-like in my character? Have I enjoyed His company daily?
2. Have I clearly marked my priorities and to what extent have I fulfilled these?
3. In what ways have I grown in my understanding of His Word and His ways?
4. Has my preaching and conducting training workshops impacted and transformed lives?
5. What fruit have I seen in the lives of those I mentored?
6. Have I achieved “up turns” and breakthrough with those I find challenging to relate and work with?
7. What dreams have I fulfilled especially in the fields of writing and net-working?
8. What miracles and mighty works have I seen and experienced in my ministry? Conversions?
9. Identify issues that I’ve been wrestling with Him. What were my losses/gains?
10. Have I been a kinder husband/father/grandfather?
11. Have I pro-actively blessed those who are close to me and to prebelievers?
I listed specific names, events and numbers to the above questions.
Why not try to answer them yourself?
I noted that since stepping down as Sr Pastor in November 2008, the overwhelming administrative responsibilities were considerably lessened, and this gave more time to reflect, to study the Word, write and editing (Notes and Quotes = measurable feat!) I wrote my wife’s life story and two booklets. I learnt to make time for my wife and all our three sons and their families. I’m deeply humbled by the visible transformation of folks I led to Christ and those I mentor and encourage. During the past nine years, at least 10 couples I specifically prayed for were blessed with children. God loves to amaze and surprise us! I’m grateful that He is opening doors for me to share and impart gifts to individuals, families and local churches.
NEW PRESIDENT OF ANC SOUTH AFRICA
At the beginning December 2017, I found myself praying fervently for Cyril Ramaphosa to be elected as the new President of the ANC in South Africa. He is regarded as the candidate who will attempt to stamp out corruption in his country. I remember meeting Cyril in 1976 when he was a student leader and a fugitive of the apartheid government. Cyril had benefited from the courses conducted by one of my senior colleague’s Dr Hans Burki. Values such as justice, integrity, love for God and His Word, working alongside people were instilled into Cyril and other black South African Christian students. Cyril was duly elected. Hopefully, he will the next President of South Africa. And I am so grateful to God that he has blessed the Gospel seed planted 40+ years ago .
God has no IPhone, but I talk to Him. He has no Face Book and He’s still my Friend. He does not have Twitter but I still follow Him.
As long as you are green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee;
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.
Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.
Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above;
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.
BE WARNED! ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race….
It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate.
Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded.
THOSE WHOM GOD HONOUR
God couldn’t care less about protocol. If He did, Jesus would have chosen the Pharisees as His disciples. But that isn’t who Jesus honoured. Jesus honoured the prostitute who gate-crashed a party in the home of a Pharisee in order to anoint His feet. Jesus honoured the tax collector who climbed up a tree in his three-piece suit just to catch a glimpse of Him. Jesus honoured the four friends who cut in line and cut a hole in someone’s ceiling to help their friend. In His parable, Jesus honoured the woman who drove a judge crazy because she wouldn’t stop knocking.
The common denominator in each of these stories is holy desperation, People took desperate measures to get close to God and He honoured them for it. Nothing has changed. God is still honouring spiritual desperadoes who crash parties and climb trees. God is still honouring those who defy protocol with their bold prayers. He is still honouring those who pray with audacity and tenacity. And the persistent widow is selected as the gold standard when it comes to praying hard. Her unrelenting persistence was the only difference between justice and injustice.
JORDAN RIVER AT FLOOD TIDE
At flood tide, the Jordan River was about a mile wide. That was all that separated the Israelites from their four-hundred-year-old promise. Their dream was a stone throw away. Bu what if the priests hadn’t step into the river? What if they had waited for God to part the Jordan River? They may well have spent the rest of their lives on the eastern banks of the River Jordan. And that’s where many of us spend our lives. We’re so close to a dream, so close to the promise, so close to the miracle, but we aren’t willing to get our feel wet.
Many people never see God part the Jordan River in their lives because their feet are firmly placed on dry ground. We’re waiting for God to make a move while God is waiting for us to make a move. We say to God, “Why don’t you part this river?” And God says to us, “Why don’t you get your feet wet?” But if you make a move, you’ll see God move. He can move heaven and earth.
Peter is the patron saint of wet feet. He may have failed the persistence test by falling asleep in Gethsemane, but he passed the we-feet test by getting out of the boat in the middle of the sea of Galilee when Jesus uttered one of the craziest commands of scripture, “Come.” …..
The key to getting out of the boat is to hear the voice of God. If you’re getting out of the boat in the middle of the lake and in the middle of the night, you better make sure that Jesus said, “Come.” But if Jesus says “Come,” you’d better not stay in the boat. Ibid pp. 118, 119.
Chua Wee Hian was the General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in 1972. He is also the founding pastor of Emmanuel Church, Westminister, London. God has used him to equip and empower many leaders for His kingdom. His is a noted international Bible expositor and author and travels to different countries to inspire future generations.
By Chua Wee Hian November 2017
2017 marks a special personal mile stone. I celebrate 60 years of preaching. On my bookshelves are 42 notebooks, 27 filofax files with handwritten sermon notes. And in my filing cabinet, hard copies ad USB sticks of expositions preached from 2005 to the present. A quick mental note informs me that I have preached to around 500 different audiences in 70 nations.
Recently as I reflected my life and ministry, I realize that I’m most alive and passionate is when I’m expounding the scriptures. In preparing my messages, I find myself captured and captivated by the grandeur and grace of God. I am arrested by His timeless Word and I use every ounce of energy to communicate it with clarity and zeal to my hearers.
PASSING IT ON
Recently, I started a Preaching Fellowship (under the aegis of our church) for budding preachers from three London churches. We shall meet monthly and I shall seek to share with them the riches of His Word and my experience in expounding them. I recall that my journey into preaching began in 1957, with hearing and watching two giant preachers – John Stott and Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
For three years, I listened with rapt attention and marvelled at their content – always biblical, clear, fresh and relevant. When I preached in a parish church in Manchester way back in February 1958, I “borrowed” and adapted two of John Stott’s sermons. I still remember the Vice Principal of my Theological College reminding us that all things are ours (1 Cor. 3:21) and his wise comments that no young preacher can preach original sermons!
My road to preaching was reinforced by the wise counsel of my Principal, Dr E F Kevan who openly shared that his vision for all called to proclaim His Word would be both preachers and scholars. He stressed the need to diligently study the scriptures, to use the finest of tools to interpret the sacred text and to rely on the Holy Spirit and the wise counsel of godly men to apply its eternal truth to everyday life.
Looking back, I’m so thankful to God for the priceless opportunities of listening to gifted expositors. Equally, I’m so grateful for the numerous opportunities I was given to preach in local churches. That is why I’m wary to conducting preaching workshops when pastors do not provide opportunities for novice preachers.
No one can become a “great preacher” overnight. I still smile to myself when I purchased a book in 1957 with the title “Teach Yourself Preaching”. It was well written by the renowned Scottish preacher - James S.Stewart. But in no way can one learn preaching from a manual.
PREACHING IN PARA-CHURCH MINISTRIES
In January 1963 I returned from England, to work amongst students in Singapore and Malaya (Malaysia today) most of my talks were topical. In the local churches, my sermons tended to be textual ones. There is a grave danger in para-church ministries – we can repeat our sermons and our minds are not stretched to dig deeper in the scriptures. Dr Oliver Barclay who was for many years General Secretary of the UCCF once confided, “When we have staff with the makings of top class expositors, I would urge them to leave us after five years of service and head straight for pastoral ministry.” He named a few men who were household names, famed for their preaching. They were once his staff members. I thought Oliver was crazy releasing these high calibre workers and communicators.
When I returned to London in 1972 to assume my posting as General Secretary of IFES, Oliver’s provocative words came back to haunt me. There I was undertaking a global responsibility; the national student movements would most likely be inviting me to preach on specific themes when I visited them.
LINKING THE BIBLE TO THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD
From 1973 onwards, I found myself drawing closer to John Stott because I was involving him in some IFES projects and he in turn, invited me to serve on committees relating to new ministries that he had founded. Spending time with him and accompanying him on several trips convinced me that I must shift to expository preaching. I knew immediately this was a huge challenge. Thankfully, I returned to my former local church in London, and there I was able to preach between 15 to 20 sermons per year. I concentrated on Bible expositions. God’s voice was sounding forth from his word. It was no longer exegesis sharing spiritual truths using selected Bible texts to grace my messages. It was sound exegesis linking the world of the Bible to the contemporary world.
Years later, my forte as a Bible expositor was recognised and I was invited to preach at well know conventions in the UK, North America and larger churches in East Asia. But this development paled in significance, when I saw lives transformed by the word and the Spirit. Disciples were growing; leaders were equipped and motivated to extend the frontiers of his kingdom. Some are currently teaching others in Africa, Asia and Latin America to be expositors.
In a few weeks’ time, I shall be conducting workshops on hermeneutics (interpreting scripture) and homiletics (preaching) to a school for church planters. Together with the Preaching Fellowship, the vision of men and women heralding and teaching the Word fills me with joy and excitement.
What Is Preaching: "Logic on fire! Eloquent reason! Preaching is the theology coming through a man who is on fire….What is the chief end of preaching? It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence." MLJ
Never Separate Them: "The Holy Spirit” and “The word of God”. We must never separate them or we go astray. Some people put their emphasis only on the word. These are the intellectuals. ‘Ah’ they say, ‘Nothing matters but the word.’ They spend their time reading, studying and they become authorities on theology and doctrine. As a result they become proud of their own great knowledge, and they may get the admiration of others who join in with them but this is nothing but a little mutual admiration society.
Nobody is converted, Nobody is convicted. Heads packed with understanding – useless. Word only."MLJ
A Dull Preacher: "How can a man be dull when he is handling such (sc.biblical) themes? I will say that a dull preacher is a contradiction in terms; if he is dull he is not a preacher. He may stand in the pulpit and talk, but he is certainly not a preacher. With the grand theme and message of the Bible, dullness is impossible."MLJ
True Preaching: "All true Christian preaching should be expository… The expositor opens what seems to be closed, makes plain what is confusing, unravels what is knotted, and unfolds what is tightly packed." JS
A Bridge: "Just as a bridge makes it possible for traffic to flow from one side of a river or ravine to another, so our preaching must make it possible for God’s revealed truth to flow out of the Scriptures and into the lives of men and women today. Both ends of our bridges must be firmly rooted if we are to be able to show that Christianity is still relevant today" JS
A New Generation: "We should be praying that God will raise up a new generation of Christian communicators who are determined to bridge the chasm; who struggle to relate God’s unchanging Word to our ever- changing world; who refuse to sacrifice truth to relevance or relevance to truth; but who resolve instead in equal measure to be faithful to Scripture and pertinent to today." JS
"IT IS NOT": Preaching is not a cooking show! When people are hungry, they don’t want the recipe, they want a meal.
"EFFECTIVE PREACHER": To be effective, the preacher’s message must alarm, arouse, challenge; it must be God’s present voice to a particular people.
"A HALF HOUR": To preach for more than half hour, a man should be an angel himself or have angels for hearers.
"CHURCH PEOPLE NEED SAVING": The problem is, many of the people in need of saving are in churches, and at least part of what they need saving from is the idea that God sees the world the same way they do.
PREACHING and TEACHING
"THE DIFFERENCE": The most helpful illustration of this comes from John Piper. He pictures a herald riding into town, shouting from high atop his horse, “Hear ye! Hear ye! The Emperor has declared an amnesty to all slaves!” That, Piper says, is preaching: proclaiming good news, announcing something that has happened, that completely changes the situation of the listeners. But he then imagines people approaching the herald with questions.
What does amnesty mean?
When does this announcement take effect?
Does that mean I can leave my slave master now?
Will compensation be paid to masters?
And so on. At that point, Piper says, you have to start teaching: explaining the implications of the news, helping people with concepts and ideas they don’t understand, and telling people what they need to do in response, given their various situations.
In other words, the difference between preaching and teaching is not shouting versus whispering, or illuminating versus bamboozling, or revealing versus informing. In a nutshell, it’s the difference between heralding and explaining. Andrew Wilson
ALONE and SILENT: Each of us needs an opportunity to be alone and silent, or even, indeed, to find space in the day or in the week, just to reflect and to listen to the voice of God that speaks deep within us. . . . In fact, our search for God is only our response to his search for us. He knocks at our door, but for many people, their lives are too preoccupied for them to be able to hear. Cardinal Basil Hume
In the Bible, Sabbath rest means to cease regularly from and to enjoy the results of your work. It provides balance: “Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:9–10). Although Sabbath rest receives a much smaller amount of time than work, it is a necessary counterbalance so that the rest of your work can be good and beneficial.
Thus Sabbath is about more than external rest of the body; it is about inner rest of the soul. We need rest from the anxiety and strain of our overwork, which is really an attempt to justify ourselves—to gain the money or the status or the reputation we think we have to have. Avoiding overwork requires deep rest in Christ’s finished work for your salvation (Hebrews 4:1–10). Only then will you be able to “walk away” regularly from your vocational work and rest.
Sabbath is the key to getting this balance, and Jesus identifies himself as the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27– 28)—the Lord of Rest! Jesus urges us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29). One of the great blessings of the gospel is that he gives you rest that no one else will. Tim Keller
Notes & Quotes Oct.2017
As I reflect on the lives and ministries of those that God has greatly used one common thread can be detected. We have family and friends who love, affirm and encourage us. Their kindness expressed in words and actions uplift us and spur us to do greater things for God and his kingdom.
From time to time I leaf through a note book, in which I have recorded the names of over 300 people who have impacted my life and ministry. Over half of these beloved saints are now with the Lord. Without their love, friendship, wise counsel and encouragement, I will not be the man I am today. I constantly thank God for using them to deposit seeds of spiritual hunger, bold faith, transparency, authentic relationships which have borne fruit over the years. I am of course aware of my imperfections. The signs over my life today are “Under divine construction” and “God is still not finished with me yet.” I am profoundly grateful that God in His wisdom and providence uses human agents to richly bless me. I have emulated their faith, their preaching and experience the awesome presence of the Lord in private and collective prayer. Team- building and the exercise of spiritual gifts are invaluable assets that I have picked up from them. Their influence has been considerable.
When I was embarking on my international ministry in 1967, a wise mentor gave me two adages. “If you hang out with ducks you are going to quack but if you hang out with eagles you are going to fly.” “If you want to fly with eagles stop swimming with the ducks.”
Epictetus the ancient philosopher said it brilliantly. “The key is to keep company with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”
I have sought to be in the company of such people and they have brought out the best in me. But I have to admit that I have sometimes allowed negative and critical people to set up stalls in life. I recall an incident where one IFES Executive member, gave me a dressing down for not doing my homework as their chief executive. In my eagerness to persuade them to appoint a staff who became unexpectedly available to us, I did not have time to circulate a paper with his CV and a detailed job description and proper budgetary costs. Having a civil servant background, this person expected me to punctiliously observe the protocol of circulating well-documented briefs ahead of time. I was not against it but sometimes in life, one has to deal spontaneously with the unexpected. What upset me, was his tone and his pontification on the virtues of good management. My own focus was on leadership: doing the right thing whereas in management one does things right.
I was shocked and ashamed with what happened a month after that incident. This time I was a Council member of my local church. The pastor was a godly man but weak in administration. I took him to task and criticised him for his shoddy preparation in chairing the committee meeting. I had humiliated him publicly and I was appalled by my attitude. I had imbibed the spirit of my IFES Executive committee member. Bad influences can be contagious!
Years later when I was senior pastor, I noted that the most difficult members that I had to relate to, were those who carried unresolved anger against their parents, teachers or bosses. Their rudeness, critical and judgemental words stemmed from past hurts. So I appeared to them as an authority figure and someone to hit out. Any opinion expressed that challenged their defensive value-system would be met with stinging attacks. Each time I left them, I sensed a dark cloud hanging like a shroud hanging over me. I had to call on the Lord to send the wind of his Spirit to clear deadly and negative air around me.
I have endeavoured to choose friends who radiate faith, hope and love. Their company affirms and encourages me and provides me with greater motivation to exercise a godly ministry. They are the God sent eagles who welcome me to soar with them and to cherish their friendship.
Above all, we need to seek the Lord’s company. I’m always reminded of Ps.16:11 “In your presence is fulness of joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has aptly observed, “Joy is the infallible sign of the Lord’s presence.” Let’s be contagious joy spreaders influencing others to draw closer to Him and motivating others to be the best for Him.
By Chua Wee Hian
THE VALUE OF FEEDBACK
Recently, I have been noting an interesting trend. Enterprises that are successful and flourishing pro-actively solicit customers’ feedback. A week after our cruise to Alaska, Holland America invited me to rate their services. After the annual servicing of our boiler and other equipment, our utilities company requested my honest appraisal of their engineer’s performance. When I used the toilets at two airports, I was surprised to see machines “blinking” with emojis of smiling, frowning or neutral faces. Whichever emoji I pressed would indicate my satisfaction or otherwise with the state of their facilities. Each press sent my mind flashing to the words of an American pastor in Hong Kong, “You can tell the health of your church by the state of its toilets.” And he was frequently obsessed by the cleanliness of his church’s rest-rooms!
John Wooden (1910-2010), legendary basketball coach used to comment “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
Sadly, I have spoken to pastors and leaders who are averse to feedback. “Only trouble makers write nasty remarks” “Criticisms lock you in the cell of utter despair” “How dare you evaluate God’s work. It’s carnal to assess spiritual work”. This sentiment was demonstrated when I, on a visit to India, received an earful of angry words when I gently suggested to a Christian executive that he reviewed his financial operations and the way his magazine publicised their ministry. He declared that any human review would demean him as God’s agent and ultimately, an attack on God. Looking back at my own re-actions to criticisms, I regretted the times when I was over-defensive, giving excuses for my shortcomings. I am thankful for the occasions when God gave me the grace to humbly listen and then to work at change and improvement.
Someone who was deeply concerned for the health and growth of his congregation, asked me what I would do today if I were the lead pastor. I would talk to six or seven church members asking what they what they like about my church or my sermons and how I/we can do better. I would include a couple of newcomers and my entire staff team. I read of a well-known corporation that welcomes and rewards practical suggestions and constructive criticism from its employees. Online and senior managers study, discuss and act on ones that will enable the company to improve its marketing and production and create a better working atmosphere and relationships within the firm. Are you secure enough to entertain feedback's?
On October 31 2017, Protestant churches will be celebrating 500 years of Reformation. What an opportunity to remind our congregations what the Reformers proclaimed and wrote that resulted in this earth-shaking revolution. They were not proponents of a new theology but they re-discovered the heart of the Gospel – God’s grace displayed in his saving acts in Christ received through faith. On what grounds and by what authority? According to the Scriptures.
In the past two weeks, I have re-told the history of the Reformation and the lasting legacy that the Reformers have deposited in the Five Solas:
- SOLA SCRIPTURA (Scripture alone)
- SOLA GRATIA (Grace alone)
- SOLA FIDE (Faith alone)
- SOLUS CHRISTUS (Christ alone)
- SOLI DEO GLORIA (Glory alone to God)
Never forget: we are heirs of the Reformation. We need to know what we believe and why both historically and today. I pray constantly that the Protestant Church and the Roman Catholic Church subject themselves to the reforming power of the written Word.
Faith take what grace offers
No one can understand the message of Scripture who does not know the meaning of grace. The God of the Bible is ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Pet.5:10). Grace is love, but love of a special sort. It is a love which stoops and sacrifices and serves, love which is kind to the unkind, and generous to the ungrateful and undeserving. Grace is God’s unmerited free love and favour, loving the unlovable, seeking the fugitive, rescuing the hopeless, and lifting the beggar from the dunghill to make him sit among princes. (Psalm 113:7-8)
John Stott Understanding the Bible p.127
Grace is the ‘free and unmerited favour of God’. It is Paul’s word to describe the loving, underserved initiative of God I giving Christ to die, raising him from the dead and revealing him to sinners. His whole message became ‘the word of his grace’ (Acts 14:3) and ‘the good news of the grace of God’ (Acts 20;24) ‘The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men.’ (Titus 2:11). It is supremely manifested in the provision and offer of salvation. Salvation includes the past, the present and the future. It describes God’s liberation of man from all the ravages of sin in the conscience, the mind, the heart, the will and the body; in his relation to God, the world and to himself. It comprises the believer’s justification (his acceptance before God), sanctification (his growth in holiness) edification (his life in the church) and glorification (his perfection in eternal glory) Or more simply, it makes him a son and a saint, a brother and an heir. Such is the grace of God received by faith. The only function of faith is to respond to grace. Faith takes what grace offers.
John Stott Men With A Message p.57
Justification is a gift of God’s sheer grace, not a reward for any merit or works of ours. For God’s grace is his spontaneous generosity, his free and unmerited favour, his gracious kindness to the underserving. Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming, God giving. John Stott Messenger and God : Studies in Romans 1-5 p.69
If we come to Christ and put our trust in him, a marvellous but mysterious exchange takes place. He takes away our sins, and clothes us with his righteousness instead. In consequence, we stand before God, ‘not trusting in our righteousness, but in God’s manifold grace and great mercies’, not in the tattered rags of our own morality but in the spotless robe of righteousness of Christ. And God accepts us not because we are righteous but because the righteous Christ dies for our sins and was raised from death.
John Stott Christian Basics p.19
We must never think of salvation as a kind of transaction between God and us in which he contributes grace and we contribute faith. For we were dead and had to be quickened before we can believe. No, Christ’s apostles clearly teach that saving faith is God’s gracious gift.
John Stott The Message of Ephesians p.83
GRACE & GUILT
Preoccupation with self is always a major component of unhealthy guilt and recrimination. It stirs our emotions, churning in self-destructive ways, closes us in upon the mighty citadel of self, leads to depression and despair and preempts the presence of a compassionate God. The language of unhealthy guilt is harsh, It is demanding, abusing, criticizing, rejecting, accusing, blaming, condemning, reproaching and scolding. Christians are shocked and horrified when they have failed
Yes, we feel guilt over our sins, but healthy guilt is one which acknowledges the wrong done and feels remorse, but then is free to embrace the forgiveness that has been offered. Healthy guilt focuses on the realization that all has been forgiven, the wrong has been redeemed. As John R. Claypool wrote: “We all have shadows and skeletons in our background. But listen, there is something bigger in this world than we are and that something bigger is full of grace and mercy, patience and ingenuity. The moment the focus of your life shifts from your badness to his goodness and the question becomes not ‘What have I done’ but ‘What can he do?’ release from remorse can happen; miracle of miracles, you can forgive yourself you are accepted, and begin to start building up the very places you tore down. There is grace to help n every time of trouble. The grace is the secret of being able to forgive ourselves. Trust it.”
Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel pp114/5.
NEW EVERY MORNING
When God’s love is taken for granted, we paint Him into a corner and rob Him of the opportunity to love us in a NEW and SURPRISING way, and faith begins to shrivel and shrink. When I become so spiritually advanced that Abba is old hat, then the Father has been had, Jesus had been tamed, the Spirit has been corralled, and the Pentecostal fire has been extinguished. Evangelical faith is the antithesis of Luke-warmness. It always means a profound dissatisfaction with our present state.
In faith, there is a movement and a development. Each day something is new. To be Christian faith has to be new, that is, alive and growing. It cannot be static, finished, settled. When Scripture, prayer, worship, ministry become routine, they are dead. When I conclude I can cope with the awesome love of God, I have headed to the shallows to avoid the deeps. I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a tea-cup than I can comprehend the wild and uncontainable love of God.
Ibid pp .161/2.
I passed them right and left today: homeless vagabonds who are strangers to themselves. Then as I passed a storefront I caught a glimpse of myself, and realized I am one too. I have an address, but I am not at home. I am a man in flight afraid to turn around lest I run into myself.
So I’m clinging to your words this evening: “You have a home…I am your home…claim Me as your home.. you will find it to be the intimate place where I have found My home. It is right where you are… in your inner being…in your heart.” I don’t want to be afraid any longer.
Brennan Manning Dear Abba Morning and Evening Prayer
Prayer is not just a formula of words or a series of desires springing up in the heart – it is the orientation of the whole body, mind and spirit to God in silence, attention and adoration. Prayer is the turning of our entire self to God in conversation.
Dissatisfaction and failure, far from being a psychological disaster is the fuel that guides leaders to change and renewal. Great innovators always develop their insights not from an appraisal of how good everything is but from what is going wrong.
ATM was a response to the problem of getting hold of cash before and after opening hours. The inventor John Shepherd-Baron created ATM whilst lying in a bath one night worrying, because he had forgotten to go to the bank.
The collapsible buggy was a solution to the impracticality of unwieldy prams. Owen Malcolm saw his daughter struggling with her pram when carrying his grand- daughter and fitting her in.
Masking tape was invented because of the failure of adhesive tapes that would rip off paint when removed from cars and walls.
James Dyson invented his dual cylinder vacuum cleaner because he was frustrated with existing models as they kept losing suction power and letting out a high pitch scream when full.
M. Syed, Journalist.
By Chua Wee Hian
REST and READ
After our cruise, King Ling and I spent two weeks in Claremont, California. I was thankful to have uninterrupted time reading and praying. I re-read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and once again was challenged afresh that a few people at a given time and a given context can bring change and growth to a community and even a city. He wrote of the key contribution of individual connectors, mavens and salespersons who can effectively tip the scales in setting new trends, changing values or starting an epidemic. Can we be on the lookout and encourage connectors, mavens and salespersons to start a movement for significant growth and revolution?
I was also reading Mark Batterson’s seminal books on prayer. God has used him not only to write so brilliantly on prayer, but in his church in Washington DC, he has seen Him answering prayers beyond his wildest dreams (Eph.3:20) Mark has a marvellous ability to challenge us to circle problems and dreams. It’s a pleasure to share quotes both from Mark Batterson and Malcolm Gladwell. Both authors have had books on the New York Times bestsellers list.
The tipping point is the magic moment when an idea, trend or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like wildfire.
If you want to bring a fundamental change to peoples’ belief and behaviour, you need to create a community around them, where those with new beliefs can be practised, expressed and nurtured.
“In the end, Tipping Points are a reaffirmation of the potential for change and the power of intelligent action. Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push—in just the right place—it can be tipped.”
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Connectors are social glue: they spread it.
Mavens are data banks. They provide the message.
Salespeople make change happen through persuasion.
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Hard work is only a prison sentence if you lack motivation.
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Achievement is talent plus preparations.
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One of the biggest misconceptions about prayer is that it means outlining our agenda to God as a divine do-list.
The true purpose of prayer is to get into God’s presence so He can outline His agenda for us.
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If you pray to God regularly, irregular things will happen to you on a regular basis.
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God is always preparing and positioning us for divine appointments.
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If you seek answers you won’t find them but if you seek God, the answers will find you.
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It is my experience, it’s much easier to act like a Christian then it is to react as one. Anyone can put on an act. But your reactions reveal what is really in your heart.
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God is the Composer – your life is His musical score.
God is the Artist – your life is in His canvas.
God is the Architect – your life is His blueprint.
God is the Writer – you are His book.
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If you aren’t hungry for God, you are full of yourself.
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Faith is rewiring the human brain. We are literally upgrading our minds by downloading the mind of Christ.
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You can have faith or you can have control but you can’t have both.
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Whatever you don’t turn into PRAISE will turn into PRIDE.
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Over the years I’ve grown more comfortable with making people uncomfortable because that is when growth can happen.
You need a little conflict. You need a little tension. And that is part of my calling. A little tough love goes a long way.
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The Chuas share generational blessings from three generations
Forage for Understanding! Don’t forget one word! Don’t deviate an inch! ... Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom! Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding! Proverbs 4 The Message (MSG)
The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. John 6:63
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you. Roman. 8:11
We have just returned from four weeks of fruitful ministry in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. It’s been amazing and humbling to witness the Lord unleashing His love and power through the exposition of His Word. Many welcomed Jesus into their lives; believers were energised afresh by His Spirit. We watched with wonder and awe at His mighty working in different lives.
Two verses - John 6:33 and Romans 8:11- governed my preaching and sharing. The Lord Jesus declared that his words were spirit and life. It’s so easy for preachers to use clever and select words to impress our hearers. His words empowered by the Spirit gave life. And when we proclaim His Word, we should be expecting to witness its transforming impact.
In Romans 8:11, Paul reminds us that the Indwelling Spirit is the life-giver. If He is resident, we can speak life to our mortal bodies. This includes healing words to our limbs and organs that are attacked by alien viruses or nagging pain.
On our recent trip, three events demonstrated the reality of the life-giving words and work of the Holy Spirit.
In Hong Kong, King Ling and I were having lunch with D, a well- known surgeon. Three years ago, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and given weeks to live. Her sister begged me to bring God’s healing to him. I gave him something far better than immediate healing. I led him to Christ; he was given new life and hope! In his name and with his strength, I encouraged D. to fight his cancerous cells. He is very much alive today and enjoying fullness of life (John 10:10)
On Sunday 25 May, M. & J. an Indian couple brought their six month old baby son B. for special blessing at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore In March 2016, M. sought me out after I had preached a holy week homily. She sensed that God had anointed me to bring life to her and to her husband by giving them a child. I prayed and spoke life to her womb. Nine months later, God gave her a lovely son and it was an immense privilege to bless J. and his parents.
Two weeks later, a couple rushed towards me after I had preached at SIB, KL. They were proudly holding J. their 11 month old son. His mother W. was in the worship team when she heard me sharing how we spoke cleansing and life to a hedge- fund manager from China. The latter had suffered three miscarriages. Unknown to me, W. had a similar history. In faith, she identified with the woman from China and believed that God could repeat the miracle. Again, I spoke life to her and into her womb. The Lord marvellous answered prayer. How amazing that we can partner the Spirit and be His agents in bringing life and joy to others.
Finally, it was a unique experience to minister together with our oldest son Andrew and his son, Ben at the St Andrews’ Family Conference (5-8 June) We preached, interacted and shared together demonstrating the wonder of generational blessing. I shall never forget the final evening. With King Ling joining us, we saw many overwhelmed by the Spirit as we blessed and prayed for each one that came forward to receive His touch and love.
It’s a rewarding experience to re-read books that impacted us. It’s like meeting old friends again. I viewed the sentences that I had underlined in Ian Leslie’s CURIOUS. Here are some gems for you to treasure and share.
It turns out that when most people get their hands on a computer, rather than pursue their curiosity what they want to do is to play Angry Birds. ‘Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education… is miniscule compared to their use for pure entertainment’ said Vicky Rideout. ‘Instead of closing the achievement gap, they’re widening the time-wasting gap.’ p.130
In his compelling book How Children Succeed Paul Tough argued that we have over-estimated the extent to which successful learning depended on intelligence, and under-estimated the importance of non-cognitive traits – put simply, character. He focuses on the motivation to learn, in particular the trait of persistence. Citing Angela Duckworth, Tough shows the achievement of children – and adults – is dependent on their level of “grit” – a combination of self-control, focus and an ability to recover well from failure or disappointment. A test of a student’s willingness to persist in a boring task is a much better predictor of achievement than a test of intelligence. The most successful students aren’t the cleverest; they are the ones who don’t give up. p.188
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ARE YOU A THINKERER?
Thinkerer = think + tinker.
Thinkering describes a social, collaborative way of working. I’m using it to name a style of cognitive investigation that mixes the concrete and abstract, toggling between the details and the big picture, zooming out to see the wood and back again to examine the bark on the tree. Peter Theil, co-founder of PayPal in a lecture at Stanford University remarked: A fundamental challenge –in business as in life- is to integrate the micro with the macro such that all things make sense. Humanities majors may well learn a great deal about the world. But they don’t really learn career skills through their studies. Engineering majors, conversely, learn in great technical detail. But they might not learn, why, how or where they should apply their skills in the workforce. The best students, thinkers and workers will integrate these questions into a cohesive narrative.
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MORE QUOTES to reflect
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Thomas L. Friedman: The World is Flat, A Brief History of 21 century
Chua Wee Hian was the General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in 1972. He is also the founding pastor of Emmanuel Church, Westminster, London. God has used him to equip and empower many leaders for His kingdom. His is a noted international Bible expositor and author and travels to different countries to inspire future generations. He and his wife King Ling have three sons who together with their wives and children are fully committed to sharing God’s Word and love in the market place and local church.
Inter-generational Preaching Sharing by Grandpa, Son, Grandson.
PREACHERS tend to look back at their “first” – first sermon, first time speaking in country X, in a hotel, under canvas, open air, in a sports arena. I shall always remember preaching barefooted in Japan; giving my first exposition in a second language (Chinese!) and having my message interpreted the first time into German. I’m having another “first” in four weeks’ time – preaching together with our oldest son Andrew and his son, Ben.
St Andrews Cathedral Singapore has invited us to speak on Living a Legacy at their conference. Andrew and Ben will respond and interact with my sermon and I, with Andrew’s. Inter-generational preaching. This will be an exciting first for all three of us and for our dear friends from the cathedral.
Messages will include legacy in family identity, wise use of words and time, work and vocation. I’m concluding the series with the legacy of overcoming (fears, anxieties, failures) So in this combined issue, I’m re-producing quotes on legacy, failures, setbacks and success.
Pass it down the generations
I’ve spent the past weeks working through generational blessings. The Lord God revealed himself to Moses as the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” the tri-generational God (Ex.6:3)
He added his other name/title – GOD ALMIGHTY.
Hebrew EL SHADDAI expresses His sufficiency, resources and power. Isaac blessed Jacob using this name (Gen.28:3) When Jacob eventually returned to Canaan, he was eager for his descendants to acknowledge the Lord as EL SHADDAI (Gen. 35) I was deeply struck that the Psalmist addresses the Lord as “The Almighty, the God of Jacob”. (Ps. 46:7,11) Generational blessing underscores the need for every generation to know Him as El Shaddai.
Legacy is defined in terms of character, values and faith. In faithfully exercising faith in an all-sufficient God, treasuring his values and reflecting his character, we shall have priceless legacy to share with those and near to us.
“Thank you” as two powerful words. I emphasise another set of two words “I’m sorry.” These have lasting impact if we add “Please forgive me”. All our three sons are actively following and serving the Lord today. An important factor in their commitment and devotion to the Lord was when they watched us – their Mum and Dad apologising to each other and we in turn asking them to forgive us when we hurt or misunderstood them. This was not easy for Chinese parents like us. They recognised that we live under Christ’s lordship and values. Hence, we did not hide our weaknesses and vulnerability from them. The legacy we’ll leave for them lies not in our estate and financial assets but in their godly character and values undergirded by faith in Him.
Chua Wee Hian was the General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in 1972. He is also the founding pastor of Emmanuel Church, Westminister, London. God has used him to equip and empower many leaders for His kingdom. His is a noted international Bible expositor and author and travels to different countries to inspire future generations. He and his wife King Ling have three sons who together with their wives and children are fully committed to sharing God’s Word and love in the market place and local church.
We are posting not only his quotes but his commentary and thoughts on different issues.
Thank You. When spoken or written, it spells joy and appreciation It holds a double blessing; it blesses both the giver and the receiver. According to Paul, Spirit-filled believers are thankful people (Eph.5:18,20;1Thes.5:18)
Yet “thank you” is often missing in our vocabulary. Why do we find it difficult to express thanks especially to others?
Some years ago, we were supporting a close relative through Bible College. Each quarter, we remitted 20% of our salaries to him. For almost two years, we did not receive a single word of thanks from him. I decided to write him asking why he did not thank us for out gifts.
Back came his answer. “If I were to thank you both, you will not receive the Lord thanks and blessings”. A hyper-spiritual answer!
Thankfully, he changed his response when he read how Paul constantly thanked his readers and supporters for their financial backing.(Phil.1:3;4:10-14)
When I was serving as General Secretary of IFES, I made “thank you” letters a priority. And I often added a personal hand-written note to express my personal appreciation. Sometimes I enquired about their well-being. Many continued to be generous supporters. Later, when I was the lead pastor of my church, I would acknowledge gifts with a “thank you” note.
Then some well-meaning Council members thought it was not a good idea for the pastor to know how much members have contributed. They suggested quarterly receipts. I acceded to their proposal. Surprisingly, our church income dropped by nearly 20%! Personal expression of gratitude goes a long way.
A few weeks ago, I was preaching on God’s view on money. I decided to hold a Q & A session.. A worship leader asked whether volunteers who took on a regular role of service in church should be financially remunerated. Brought up in the noble tradition of generous and unpaid lay volunteers, I was taken aback.
Instead of answering her question, I asked her why she raised it?
Her answer went somewhat like this. “We have to work hard ensuring that are in church on time and carefully rehearsing our songs. We are taken for granted. No one thanks or affirms us. It’s only once a year when thanks is expressed at the AGM to all who work hard through the year.” She therefore thought a financial remuneration will be a tangible form of acknowledgement. In vibrant congregations, I noted how pastors and elders would verbally thank helpers both up front and in private.
Whenever I preach, I have made it my practice to thank the worship and PA teams for their commitment and contribution. By saying “thank you” we promote team spirit and goodwill.
I am fully aware in some cultures e.g. Chinese- there is a subtle kind of reasoning. If you thank someone who is close to you or a regular at work/church, you put yourself under an obligation. If your boss praises you, he should give you a raise! Financially it may not be prudent for him to voice his commendation.
Some find find it awkward to thank parents or children verbally. Of course we treasure them, we appreciate their love and contributions. But we store our gratitude in our hearts. When my Mother was dying, I remembered thanking her for teaching me to pray, to write legibly and to enjoy reading. She was touched. I wished that I had expressed my thanks much earlier and more frequently. I have seen young preachers shedding a tear or two when I genuinely thanked them for the sermon. “Thank you” from seniors, can light up the day for many. Let’s be generous with our “thank you”. CWH
THANKFULNESS & GRATITUDE
It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.
HUMAN BEING OR HUMAN DOING?
GRACE FOR THE DAY
PATH of METANOIA = REPENTANCE
MORE QUOTES to REFLECT and RELEASE
COMMITMENTS - FOUR TYPES
Chua Wee Hian has been contributing “Quotes “ to our website for more than two years. We have known him since Malaysia days 50 years ago since he was the General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in 1972. He is also the founding pastor of Emmanuel Church, Westminster, London. God has used him to equip and empower many leaders for His kingdom. His is a noted international Bible expositor and author and travels to different countries to inspire future generations. He and his wife King Ling have three sons who together with their wives and children are fully committed to sharing God’s Word and love in the market place and local church.
Starting from 2017 we are posting not only his quotes but his commentary and thoughts on different issues.
2017... BIBLICAL (NOT RACIAL/CULTURAL/RELIGIOUS) RESPONSE
The first 40 days of Trump’s presidency have stirred fierce controversy on divisive issues. It is so easy for us Christians to side him on his immigration and travel bans against people he believed are a threat to the security and well being of USA. Already anti-Muslim rhetoric with its equally angry response and anti-semitism attacks have reared their ugly heads and voices.
What should be our biblical (not racial/cultural/religious) response?
If these were to persist, we are heading for a period of violence.
It is therefore, refreshing to read the writings of Lord Dr Jonathan Sacks. former Chief Rabbi, UK. I was held spell bound by his book Not in God’s Name.
For all who minister in a multi-religious nation, this is a must read book. To whet your appetite, I have included a few quotes from this volume and from some of his other titles. CWH
In 2015 & 2016, Jackie Pullinger invited me to speak twice in Hong Kong – once at a large rally and the other in her church housed in a warehouse. On each occasion, she would look me in the eye and with a smile asked, “Are you preaching in Hebrew or in Greek?”
It sounded like a crazy question as the majority of hearers were Cantonese speaking. But she had a point. Knowing that I have been educated in the West and speaking mainly to “Western-oriented” audiences, my approach would be Greek. I might spout learned propositional truths. That would lose me my audience. My reply was “Mainly Hebrew with a little Greek.” Audiences in Africa, Asia and Latin America respond better to stories. Stories abound in the narratives of the Old Testament and the Gospels
My first reaction (which I kept to myself) was “What! Have you forgotten those great theological truths I expounded in your student Fellowship?”
After many years of preaching, I rejoice when folks refer to me as a “story teller”.
That tells me that truth is getting into their hearts.
I have therefore included quotes from Tell to Win by Peter Guber, former CEO of Sony and Columbia films. For him and for us, stories forge a cutting age in the message we seek to broadcast.
Think about the great leaders.
Think about Nelson Mandela.
Think about all the people we know are very successful in business, religion, politics.
What are they?
They tell powerful stories. They move people to action by aiming at their heart.
When Nelson Mandela met with leading business men and decision makers in California to invite them to invest in the new South Africa, he did not quote statistics or gave economic prognosis, he told a story and that moved these powerful Americans to support him.
Here’s his story :
Happy New Year!
Many years ago. I was impacted by reading the "confession" of President Eisenhower. Looking back at his two four year terms of presidency, he mentioned that he had two trays in his Oval office. One was marked URGENT and the other IMPORTANT. He rued and lamented that he spent over 90% of his time attending to the Urgent and a minute amount of time and energy to the truly important.
Last June I picked up The 5 Choices - the Path that lead to Extraordinary Productivity. Based on the writings of Stephen and Franklin Covey with their invaluable Time Matrix, this book will stir us to focus on priorities and actions that ultimately will make a big difference in serving the Lord and ministering to people that He has entrusted to us. I am re-producing their Four Quadrants for you to explore and implement. This fits in well with our entering into a New Year as we seek to heed the Apostle Paul's call to live wisely making the most of every opportunity (Eph.5:16,16) Older readers are more familiar with the KJV phrase "redeeming your time".
I've included a few quotes on Money since I shall be preaching on this topic at the end of the month. The quote on the Crusader's sword at baptism sent shivers in my spine!
Chua Wee Hian
The FOUR QUADRANTS: Read, Mark. Learn and Fervently Apply!
THE 5 CHOICES THE PATH TO EXTRAORDINARY PRODUCTIVITY .
Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill & Leena Rinne (Simon Schuster)
Websites : The Time Matrix - Stephen Covey or Franklin Covey.
TIME: Certainly wise people know that time is a precious commodity. All of us have the same amount of time at our disposal, with sixty minutes to every hour, and twenty four hours in every day. None of us can stretch time. But wise people use it to the fullest advantage. They know that time is passing…. So they seize each fleeting opportunity whilst it is still there. For once it has passed, even the wisest person cannot recover it. Somebody once advertised as follows “LOST yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward offered for they are gone forever.”
“In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 of them died due to human violence (war killed 120,000 people, and crime killed another 500,000). In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide, and 1.5 million died of diabetes.23 Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder.”
Man is in the process of becoming homo consumer, a total consumer. He has a new religious vision in which heaven is just a big warehouse where everyone buy something new every day, indeed, whenever he can buy anything he wants and even a little more than his neighbour.
NOT MY MONEY!
When the Crusades were being fought, the crusaders employed mercenaries to fight on their behalf. Because it was a religious war, the crusaders insisted that the mercenaries be baptised before fighting. As they were being baptised, the mercenaries would hold their swords out of the water to symbolise the one thing in their life that Jesus had no control. They had the freedom to use their swords in any way that they wished. Today many people handle their money in a similar fashion, though they may not be as obvious about it. They hold their wallet or purse “out of the water,” in effect saying, “God, you can be Lord of my entire life except in my money. I am perfectly capable of handling myself.”
We have so much debt in our nation that the average person has been described as someone driving on a debt-financed road, in a bank-financed car, powered by credit-card financed fuel, going to purchase furniture on an installment plan to put in his mortgage-financed home.
TRY THIS EXPERIMENT
Hold the most valuable currency note in your non-dominant hand. Gaze at it and ask:
What is the purpose of money? What is the point of money for you?
How important is money? What influence does money have on your values/work/lifestyle/decision-making?
What is more important than money? Is money No.1 in your life?
Money will buy:
A bed but not sleep;
Books but not brains;
Food but not an appetite;
A house but not a home;
Medicine but not health;
Amusement but not happiness;
A gold cross but not a Saviour.
Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t really need, to impress people they don’t like.
No one would have remembered the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions. He had money as well.
Try not to become a man of success, but rather, a man of value.
QI (QUITE INTERESTING) – a BBC talk show where panelists submit interesting facts.
One in ten Europeans was conceived on an IKEA bed.
In 14thCentury England, babies were baptised in cider.
In Kygyzstan, 75% brides are kidnapped by their husbands.
Mouse potato – someone who spends a lot of time at a computer
In 2001 edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia, the compilers counted
33,830 different Christian denominations.
Human beings and elephants are the only creatures with chins.
Bees know when it’s going to rain, so they put in extra work the day before.
Orangutans warn off predators by making kissing noises.
4,000 MacDonald hamburgers are eaten every minute.
Each cow produces meat for those 4,000.
Chua Wee Hian has just produced a DVD set of 4 discs "Leaving a Lasting Legacy" based on his rich experiences of being a husband, father, grandfather, bible expositor, author, pastor, mentor, etc. He shares how we can instil character traits, talents, skills and faith in the next generation even while we live. Please see details of "Leaving a Lasting Legacy" in this issue.
Is your conversion relational or impersonal?
I was reading a rather penetrating and personal interview between Father Richard Rohr (well known Franciscan monk and author) and Jonathan Langley in the April 2016 issue Premier CHRISTIANITY. I was deeply shaken by Rohr’s candid analysis and comments.
The process of conversion is very much like a process of unlearning. Jesus was always unlearning his Jewish compatriots from their bad Judaism. A lot of people aren’t ready for the real thing. They prefer the low level religion – I call it ‘transactional religion’, where it’s a sort of vending machine: ‘You do this, God does this…’ It’s not really relational. A good Trinitarian theology, good Christology makes the world relational. That’s why I like it.
It’s so surprising. The very people who can shout so loudly about ‘a personal relationship with Jesus Christ’ are often so impersonal. The right language is so often the best disguise for wrong identity. You just use the right language and you can remain in your very isolated, self-centred person and think that you are like Jesus because you use the Jesus words….. You watch this movie where an evangelical preacher is preaching about a personal relationship with Jesus, and then, he yells at you afterwards. He doesn’t even make eye contact with you. It’s all just a business. It’s thinking that just executing the right verbal transaction puts me ‘in the club’. Well it doesn’t, I’m afraid. If you were really living in relationship with Jesus, you would become like Jesus.
‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’ Isa.29:13; Mk.7:6) and this indictment by Old Testament prophets and Jesus is uncomfortably applicable to us and to our churches today. Too much of our worship is ritual without reality, form without power, fun without fear, religion without God. John Stott
In the history of mankind, although this is a shameful thing to confess, religion and morality have been more often divorced than married. John Stott
Mystical experience without moral commitment is false faith. John Stott
We gather as God’s people to worship Him. Worship can become the show. It may just be the celebration of a few gifted people whilst others watch. This is a form of religious consumerism. Dave Browning
Raising Children in a Digital Age
Changes in family life
A significant change is in family life: we have fewer marriages and more divorce, separation, and cohabitation. More children are born outside marriage, they stay at home longer, and we get married and have children later in life. Vodafone’s recent research highlights how family life is both more privatized (as parents focus on their children rather than a wider society) and yet also open to much wider influences through the constant presence of technology.
In the past, society tended to see children as inherently naughty, requiring discipline, whereas now they are perceived as inherently good, with an innocence that can be corrupted and requires protection….. the market has developed a new classification for children: the teenager” in the 1950s, and more recently, the “tweenager”, “middle youth”, “kidult” and “adultescent”, changing the way we perceive children and their needs.
Children are increasingly given access to a global world through mass media, they are increasingly being controlled, regulated and surveyed. Despite, valuing their spontaneity and imagination, , as parents we increasingly control and organise their lives, and feel pressured to give them a “good” childhood with opportunities for success as an adult while protecting them from physical and social risks. Some children, however, will return to empty homes where computers and mobile devices offer a range of communities for them to participate in while family members are absent.
A survey of 25 EU countries found by the London School of Economics in 2011, found that children were most afraid of cyber bullying and insults online, visual pornography, meeting with strangers and seeing something violent.
Raising Children in A Digital Age Bex Lewis pp25, 26
Choices to increase your productivity
1. Act on the Important. Don’t React to the Urgent.
2. Go for the extraordinary. Don’t Settle for the Ordinary.
3. Schedule the Big Rocks. Don’t sort Gravel.
4. Rule your Technology. Don’t let it Rule You.
5. Fuel Your Fire. Don’t Burn Out.
The 5 Choices – Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill & Lena Rinne
Brief Quotes to Treasure
• Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.
• Losers live in the past. Winners learn from their past and enjoying working in the present towards the future. Denis Waitley
• We are products of our past but we don’t have to be its prisoners.
• Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset, Eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise. Thomas Watson Puritan writer
• Aim at heaven, you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither. C S Lewis
Did You Know?
When the Moors invaded and conquered Spain, the crowds used to shout “Allah! Allah! Allah!” to express their admiration for exceptionally talented dancers. Later when the Moors were driven out by the Christians, they changed their chants to “Ole! Ole! Ole!”
Indonesia classifies itself as a Muslim nation. Yet the following Christian festivals – Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Monday, Ascension Day are designated public holidays.
TED – Ideas worth spreading.
My grandson Ben, introduced me to TED in mid-February and since then I have been googling this fascinating channel weekly. Each talk average 18 minutes and gets millions of hits. Why not spend 36 to 40 minutes a week listening to a vast array of contemporary topics and themes. I made notes on an excellent talk Connected but Alone by Sherry Turkle.
In 1996, she wrote a bestseller Sex, Lies and Avatars in which she propounded that the world of virtual reality will help us to lives better lives. 16 years later, she vehemently disagreed. She warned,
When we text, there is no eye contact with people; we do not give full attention to others around us.
“Tweets and texts cannot teach us to know each other; we compromise reality of self-reflection. We rather text than talk.”
Many believe that no one listens to us except through Face Book entries and Twitter tweets. We spend time with machines and transform them into sociable robots. Today lonely elderly have robots that would listen to their complaints. A widow would communicate to the “robot baby seal” in her lap top and pour out her grief to it. The robot simply puts on a show as it knows nothing about life, death or grief. Technology appeals to us when we are most vulnerable. So we turn to technology to feel more comfortable. Turkle concludes that we should not allow wire connections to shape us and our values. We should return to “I share, therefore I am.” She strongly advocates solitude because when we are alone we can reflect; we don’t have to hanker after constant connections.
RESPONDING to DISSATISFACTION & FAILURE
Matthew Syed, a distinguished English journalist and former Olympic Table tennis player offered rich insights in an article published recently by the Daily Mail.
During your life-time you will produce enough saliva to fill two swimming pools. Saliva is very important. If your saliva cannot dissolve something, you cannot taste it.
The strongest muscle in your body is your tongue and the hardest bone is the jawbone.
It is estimated that the human body has 60,000 miles of blood vessels.
Your feet have 52 bones accounting for one quarter of all the bones in your body.
It takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 muscles to frown.
The first face sees “busy as an experience”: multitasking, racing and cramming that leave us feeling overloaded and overwhelmed. The second face is “busy as a success strategy”: we think by being busier and getting more done we will succeed in our career. The third face is “busy as an approach to happiness”: we become busy in an attempt to become happier in our lives
|Busy as an experience|
|We feel harried and overwhelmed for much of our waking moments. So what strategy do we employ to address this? For most of us, it is time management. We believe that if we could manage our time more effectively, we’d be more in control of our lives and more effective. However, in a world of infinite demand, the more we manage our time, the more we can cram into our days. The focus on managing our time has three effects. We get more efficient and so we do more things, and so we get busier. Our attention narrows and so we lose the perspective needed to make good choices and as we get better at juggling more, our attention gets scattered and diffuse, meaning we don’t appreciate anything. If we want to achieve calmer, more effective and happier lives, time management is not the answer.|
|Busy as a Success Strategy|
|For the whole of human history we've been living in a world of scarcity. When there is too little, we strive for more. Whether food, stuff or information, we try to get as much as we can. The basic principle of agriculture, manufacturing and even office life has been the more the better. So we play the “More” game. We assume that personal productivity is what will deliver success. However, in a world of too much, the last thing we need is more of anything. When everyone is so overwhelmed, the biggest scarcity is attention. In order to succeed, you have to cut through the noise and be noticed. In focusing on doing more things and being more productive the big stuff – which requires thinking and creativity – gets squeezed out. We have become drudges, too busy to lift our heads and to do the things that will make an impact and differentiate us. We don’t need to be more productive, we need to do less, better.|
|Busy as an Approach to Happiness|
|We lead our lives with conventional assumptions: that more money, more status, and more popularity are good things. So we prioritize accordingly, putting our values, our relationships and our health on hold while we strive to make our lives better through acquisition. But this is really a dumb idea. First, research has shown that achieving these goals will have little impact on our well-being. Second, the things we sacrifice – relationships, meaning and health – are the only things that can make us truly happy. Third, people who focus on external values – money, stuff and status – are less happy, less healthy than people who focus on the things that busyness kills: relationships, personal growth or contributions to your community. ibid pp xxi, xxii|
The Church is meant to be a community of empowerment, where wounds can be healed and souls are free to flourish.
We don’t turn up to Church, because we are scrubbed-up, perfect beings; we are a gathering of broken people seeking to become whole – but seeking wholeness together rather than alone. We are a mishmash of believers, doubters, dissenters and malcontents, each of us grappling our way towards the mystery that is God.
The church is a place of refuge and hope, a place of prayer and laughter, a place of dreams and fresh imagining, a place of birth and re-birth, a place of welcome and acceptance, a place of weddings and funerals, a place where proud mums and dads bring their tiny people to offer them to God, a place of parties, a place of bread and wine shared by all, a place of affirmation and new beginnings, a place of friendship, support and healing.
Dave Tomlinson How to be a bad Christian…and a better human being pp.170,171
Creating new pathways in the mind is bit like making a new path in some woods: you keep walking that way, as if there were a path, and before long a new path appears. Developing spiritual or contemplative practices helps. I like the word ‘practices’. It reminds me that life’s greatest skills require constant rehearsals. We make mistakes. We screw up. We forget or get distracted. Then we start again. We become good at what we practise. Ibid p.94
You can never be too old to set another goal, to dream a new dream.
Put first things first and we get second things thrown in; put second things first and we lose both first and second things.
Every new beginning comes from other beginning’s end.
The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour whatever he does and whoever he is. For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s word await another voice And to make an end is to make a beginning.
Resolution One: I will live for God
Resolution Two: If no one does, I still will.
What does it mean to be Spiritual?
Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamour for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise.
Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world ... That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God's new world, which he has thrown open before us.
“Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God's new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.” N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
The other side of religion
"Religion can make people mean, angry, gloomy, critical, judgemental and neurotic. Religion can also become an abuser of Christians.
I have seen so many people hurt by religion that sometimes I think it would be better to be a pagan. Worst of all, religion can keep you from God. It can become the substitute ~ and not a very good one ~ for a relationship with God Himself.
Something about institutional Christianity (as necessary as it is) will kill your freedom if you aren't careful.
Whenever a new Christian comes into the church I wince a bit, because I'm afraid that they will get the 'religion disease', that the 'church virus' will kill off the joy and freedom Jesus purchased on the cross to give them." Steve Brown
Quotes: read, review, reflect and release
Learning to listen
One of the most important habits of a creative thinker is to be a good listener.
Stand guard at the ear-gateway to your mind, heart, and spirit.
• Listen to the good.
Tune your ears to love, hope and courage. Tune out gossip and resentment.
• Listen to the beautiful.
Listen to the music of the masters.
Listen to the symphony of nature--the hum of the wind in the treetops, bird songs, thundering surf. . .
• Listen critically.
Mentally challenge assertions, ideas, and philosophies. Seek the truth with an open mind.
• Listen with patience.
Do not hurry the other person. Show them the courtesy of listening to what they have to say, no matter how much you may disagree. You may learn something.
• Listen with your heart.
Practice empathy. Put yourself in the other person's shoes.
• Listen for growth.
Be an inquisitive listener. Ask questions. Everyone has something to say which will help you to grow.
• Listen creatively.
Listen for ideas or the germs of ideas.
Listen for hints or clues that may spark creative projects.
• Listen to yourself.
Listen to your deepest yearnings, your highest aspirations, your noblest impulses.
Listen to the better person within you.
• Listen with depth.
Be still and listen.
Listen with the ear of intuition to the inspiration of the Infinite."
by Wilfred Petersen
What I don’t want when I ask you to listen...
• When I ask you to listen, and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I have asked.
• When I ask you to listen and you start telling me why I shouldn't feel the way I do, you are invalidating my feelings.
• When I ask you to listen and you start trying to solve my problems, I feel underestimated and disempowered.
• When I ask you to listen and you start telling me what I need to do, I feel offended, pressured and controlled.
• When I ask you to listen, it does not mean I am helpless. I may be faltering, depressed or discouraged, but I am not helpless.
• When I ask you to listen and you do things that I can and need to do for myself, you hurt my self-esteem.
But when you accept the way I feel, then I don't need to spend time and energy trying to defend myself or convince you, and I can focus on figuring out why I feel the way I feel and what to do about it. And when I do that, I don't need advice, just support, trust and encouragement.
Please remember that what you think are irrational feelings always makes sense if you take the time to listen and understand me.
Right Listening,2)ISBN 0976889838, 9780976889830 by Mark Brady
“Contributed by Chua Wee Hian”
read | review | reflect | release
All you need to do to learn to pray is to pray.
AGE is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
I am young at heart and slightly older in other places.
Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does and what happens to him.
Have you watched the world’s top tennis players fighting it out on the courts?
Did you observe the small group of trainers watching intensely identifying with every stroke of their star players?
Each individual has four to five coaches and they don't come cheap; they travel the same circuit and are housed in five star hotels and receive high fees.
Why doesn't Novak Djokovich, Roger Federer, Andrew Murray or Serena Williams just have one coach/agent each?
That would save expenses.
We Christian leaders especially senior pastors or heads of Christian agencies, think of ourselves as super coaches equipping and training our leaders and members.
Do we have more than one person coaching us?
I could have done with an admin coach, a relationship mentor.
We may not be able to afford professional trainers but we could ask God to lead us to godly and capable ones who are prepared to invest their time, energy and skills in us.
Think, pray and take action.
Noah St. John in his bestselling book:
The Secret Code of Success3)http://www.amazon.com/The-Secret-Code-Success-Happiness/dp/0061715743
observes that it is not possible for one person to become a great and successful leader all by himself.
He quotes J. Krishnamurti
(p.75) He goes on to add,
Loving mirrors are people who unreservedly commit themselves to support us so that we can become both faithful and successful leaders.
Approaching your Loving Mirrors or those who profit from being mentored. Tell them of important they are and how much you value their input in your life and work.
1. What do you get out of me being in your life?
2. What have you gained from our relationship? Please be specific.
3. What would be missing if I weren't in your life?
4. What do you see as my strengths?
5. What can I do differently to improve our relationship?
6. If there were one word or phrase you'd use to describe our relationship, what should it be?
7. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate our relationship?
Noah St John p. 99
Jack Canfield popular co-author of Chicken Soup for My Soul series.
Jack Canfield (born August 19, 1944 is an American author and motivational speaker. He is the co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, which has more than 250 titles and 500 million copies in print in over 40 languages. In 2005 Canfield co-authored The Success Principles.4)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Canfield
George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion was brilliantly morphed into the West End and Broadway Play My Fair Lady.
Every time I read the heroine’s poignant musing, I am deeply stirred.
(Act 5 Line 143) Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Maya Angelou5)https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Maya_Angelou [4 April 1928 – 28 May 2014], born Marguerite Ann Johnson, was an African-American poet, memoirist, actress, director, and civil rights activist.
When we were children we used to think that when we were grown up, we would no longer be vulnerable.
On 15 July 2015, photos were posted on social media6)https://www.facebook.com/pages/End-Times-Disciples-Ministries/351175848381100 showing ‘Prophet’ Penuel Mngun7) Prophet Penuel Mnguni, the leader of the End Times Disciples Ministries in Pretoria, South Africa dropping live snakes into the mouths of his congregants.
He boldly declared, ”Those with small faith eat only vegetables but those with great faith eat almost everything.” During the service this self- proclaimed man of God commanded a snake to change into a chocolate and it obeyed. People ate and enjoyed it!
According to the Nigerian website Naira Brains the ‘Prophet’ Mngun meets in Soshangune, Pretoria, S.Africa and he was arrested and appeared in court on 19 July charged with animal cruelty. 8)http://www.christiantoday.com/article/pastor.who.fed.his.congregation.live.snakes.to.face.court/59546.htm AND http://nehandaradio.com/2015/07/14/prophet-orders-congregation-to-eat-live-snake-tells-them-it-will-taste-like-chocolate/ Mngun defended his action.
Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree
Globalization is not a trend or a fad. It is the international systems that replaced the Cold War system. It has its own rules, logic, pressures, and incentives that will, and do, affect everyone's country, and everyone's company, and everyone's community, either directly or indirectly.
That's what globalization is.
This is where we are.
This is where we are going.
This is how we are going to get there.
Leaders enable the Team/Company/Church to achieve the vision.
The word “coach” is derived from the Hungarian kochsi a type of large wagon to transport passengers. The metaphorical extension of this word in English is a person who transports people from the state of ignorance to one of knowledge.
The use of the word to mean “trainer” or teacher surfaced around 1830 at Oxford University to signify a tutor who “carried” a student through an exam.
The legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said,
Over the years, many leaders have told me that receiving very direct and honest feedback has been a crucial part of their transformation……
Fathers as coach and mentors - for Father’s Day
. This was a lamentation of a missing father in his life.
The Weaker Sex
I highly recommend you read the essay Man Adrift in the current issue of this magazine as it will affect the way we minister to men and families. A sample quote: “Plastic women” adapt deftly to economic and social change, and “cardboard men who fail to adapt are left crumpled.
Losing a job can affect a man’s libido. If they have always been strong and suddenly feel helpless, that can cause sexual problem. Some men feel emasculated if their partner out-earns them.
- Steve Jobs
In the (sc.African) bush, Chief Shillingi talked about his life. It was a bloodbath all the way through: attacking other tribes, getting attacked by elephants and terrorising the wildlife. Four years of drought had killed most of the wildlife and his tribe faced starvation. So they decided the only way to survive was to move from killing animals to farming tourists: they had to look after the wild animals so that the tourists can shoot them, with their cameras. As changes in corporate strategy go, that is about as radical as they come.
Most organisations fail because they cannot change fast enough… The larger and more successful a company becomes, the harder it is to change. Successful firms become prisoners of their own success: they develop a business model that works, and if they are sensible, they will keep on refining and improving it.
As with firms, so with leaders. The more successful a leader becomes, the more set in their ways they become….These leaders succeed as long as the world does not change too much. If the word changes, they suddenly look very exposed. These leaders are easy: they are focussed on one way of working. Their leadership style has changed very little as their taste in films or music: they will hark back to the good old days. If you go down this route, be sure to find the context that fits your style and hope it will last until your retire.
The Romans governed their Empire successfully because they had something more powerful than communications, technology and sophisticated accounting packages. They had trust. The main players in the Empire grew up together and were educated together. They had common values and a common outlook. The same formula has been true of all old empires from the Ottomans to the British. They were ruled by a narrow elite which were able to trust each other… The world of hyper-information has become the world of hyper- control. We now know more about each individual and each operation than the greatest dictators and control freaks of the past could ever have dreamed about. What we gain in control. We lose in terms of individual initiative, trust and accountability…..
National Nervous Breakdown?
In a single lifetime we have seen the introduction of computers, the Internet, iPads, mobile phones…..CDs, DVDs, Play stations, jet engines, nuclear weapons, heart transplants, ATMs and literally thousands of other devices that we have taken for granted. Some have greatly benefited humanity, others have not. But most unsettling of all the changes that have affected our lives are the changes in our culture and values. Family breakdown has been the most devastating change doing untold harm to the lives of millions of children, adolescents and young adults. Pornography is probably the second most pernicious change and third is immigration with its unsettling effect upon the culture of the nation.
Just as the human body cannot absorb too many massive changes in a short period of time, so a nation cannot absorb too many great changes in a single generation without serious disturbances to the national psyche. This is what is happening in Britain where the impact of massive change has affected the foundations of the nation, our values and beliefs.
There are many indications today that the social chaos and catastrophe will hit us in the near future. The outlook for 2015 is bleak.
Is there anything that can be done? Certainly! The most effective cure for our social ills would be the restoration of our belief system. This means recovering our faith in God. We are an orphan generation. We long for the security that only a trust in God can provide, that can give us hope for the future.
God is looking for a prophetic people who can declare his word for our times. It can be done in a single generation. But has the present remnant Christian minority got the motivation and the vision to save the nation?
Dr.Clifford Hill MA BD PhD , Winter 2014, Issachar Ministries UK.
Porn, and the way it is shaping our individual and collective cultural mindset, has moved on dramatically.
Sexually explicit material is no longer on the fringes of our culture; it’s in the mainstream……..
When poorly written Fifty Shades of Grey was distributed as a paperback in 2012, pre-existing shame barriers simply disappeared.
People were happy to discuss how much they enjoyed the sexually explicit book.
They were proud to sit and read a copy on the train.
Without any announcement the boundaries of acceptability had shifted.
Some surveys have shown that 65% Christian men and 15% Christian women visit on line porn sites regularly.
How could we respond with self-awareness, intelligence and compassion.
Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (IVP) by Dr William Struthers. He is a neuroscientist and theologian.
MAN “made in the image of God” and a “fallen sinner”
What a chimera then is man! What a novelty! What a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth; depository of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error; the pride and the refuse of the universe. Pascal Pensees No.434
Man was born free and everywhere he is in chains. Rousseau Du Contrat Social ch.1
The natural man’s affections are wretchedly misplaced; he is a spiritual monster. His heart is, where his feet should be, fixed on the earth; his heels are lifted up against heaven, which his heart should be set on (Acts 9:5). His face is towards hell, his back towards heaven, and therefore God calls him to turn. He loves what he should hate and hates what he should love; joys in what he ought to mourn for, and mourns for what he should rejoice I; glories in his shame and is ashamed of his glory, abhors what he should desire, and desires what he should abhor. Thomas Boston (Puritan Divine)
Man wants to be on the level with God, and in so doing become independent of Him… sin is the desire for the autonomy of man; therefore sin in the last resort is the denial of God and self-deification; it is getting rid of the Lord God, and the proclamation of self-sovereignty. Emil Brunner Dogmatics II pp.92,93
When you ungod God, you are unmanning man. Thomas Manton (Puritan Divine)
According to research, the five most difficult statements for modern man to make:
- I don’t know
- I was wrong
- I need help
- I’m afraid
- I’m sorry
A woman was in the car with her husband and he the driver took a wrong turn. She tried to be tactful. “Dear, I think perhaps you know a better way, a route they haven’t put on the maps as yet.”
He replied gruffly, “I know where I’m going.” 10 or 12 miles later he was not nearer the intended destination. He yelled in disgust, “These dumb maps. The men must have changed the road signs.” His wife suggested he stop at the gas station to seek assistance. “Why should I? I can figure this out.”
How do you measure success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the affection of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child,
A redeemed social condition or a job well done;
To know one other life has lived because you lived ___
A young intern asked his boss with a great record in running companies.
“What’s the secret of your success?”
“Good decisions.” he answered.
“How do learn to make good decisions?”
“You get that by experience.”
“How do you gain experience?”
“By making bad decisions.”
The Latin root for success means to go on well. Success is a journey, not a destination.
Many people relate to success as something to celebrate at the end of their days when they finally get there. Life is not about getting there; it is about being here. You cannot stop the waves but you can learn to surf. Success isn't about fighting or containing the wave. It isn't about being in control. It is being wise. Robert Holden
Success is letting go of fear. It is seeing through fear. Carl Whittaker
The key to success is to go from one failure to the next without any loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill.
When storm clouds gather, the eagles get excited. The eagle uses the storm wind to lift itself higher, to lift it above the clouds. This gives it the opportunity to glide and rest its wings. Isaiah 40:31. When we wait on the Lord, we can use the storm clouds of life to lift us to greater heights. Achievers relish challenge and use them profitably.
Eagles have great vision. They are able to focus five kilometer away from their prey.
Eagles do not eat rotting meat.
Eagles love storms. They use their air currents to ascend and their wings to guide and soar.
Eagles test before they trust.
Eagles prepare for changes. Before eggs are laid, both the male and female identify a high place on the cliff or mountain far from predators. Males make nest with soft grass and thorns lining the final layer with their own feathers. Females lay eggs and protect them whilst their males hunt. To get the eaglets out of the cosy and secure nest, the female removes the soft layers and when the young experienced the prickly thorns they are more likely to jump. The male is there to catch them and encourage them to fly.
Talks to someone he cannot see
Expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another
Admits he is empty so that he can be full
Admits he is wrong, so that he can be right
Goes down in order to get up
Is strongest when he is weakest
Is richest when he is poorest
Dies so that he can live
Gives away so that he can keep
Sees the invisible, hears the inaudible
Until fairly recently Japan has the second largest economy in the world. It has little natural resources and is plagued with earthquakes. For Japan, her people are the resources. Therefore distinctive values need to be ingrained in her people starting young.
1: Japanese children together with their teachers clean their schools every day for 15 minutes.
2: Children brush their teeth after a meal at school.
3: Students take 30 minutes to finish their meals to ensure good digestion.
4: At buffet restaurants in Japan, people will only eat as much as they need. There’s no wastage of food.
5: The use of mobile phones is prohibited in public transportation, restaurants.
6: In spite of being one of the richest nations, Japanese do not have servants.
Lots of good dreams never come true because we say, “I’ll start someday” rather than “I start right now.” Now is the magic of success. Tomorrow, next week, later, sometime, someday often than not are synonyms for that failure word, never.
A dream in your heart without a plan in your head will never be a reality Pat Mesiti
Hold on to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow. Langston Hughes
When it comes to spotting faults in others, everybody seems to have 20-20 vision
We usually see things not as they are, but as we are.
Try not to become a man of success but rather, a man of value. Albert Einstein
Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% is how you respond to it.
It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that count.
Adlai Stevenson, US Presidential candidate.
Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”
Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy moments. Scientists cannot invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted I the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.
Denis Waitley, motivational writer.
A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.
Robert Frost, poet
It’s not how old you are but how you are old. Marie Dressler
|The Road Ahead|
|For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await her voice. And to make an end is to make a new beginning. T.S. Elliot (1888-1965)||An optimist stays till midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. Bill Vaughan||Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it. African Proverb|
|By the street of by-and-by, one arrives at the house of never. Miguel de Cervantes (1524-1616)||I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are more hills to climb. I have taken a moment to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibility, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended. Nelson Mandela (1918 -2013)||I have learnt that everyone wants to live on tops of mountains but all the happiness and growth occur while you're climbing. Andy Rooney, journalist|
Albert Einstein had just been voted “man of the 20th century”.
He was travelling by train from Princeton and he could not find his ticket. The conductor said, “It’s all right. We know who you are. Sit back and relax.” Einstein nodded appreciatively.
The conductor moved on to the next carriage and as he looked back, he saw the great physicist on his knees looking underneath his seat for the missing ticket.
So he returned and said, “Look we know who you are and there’s no problem. You don't need to buy another ticket.”
“Young man, I know who I am but I don't know where I am going!”
Jan. 3-9 2015 issue of The Economist.
It vividly outlines what the market place and labour market will look like in a matter of months. It focuses on the on-demand economy where entrepreneurs bring together computer power with freelance workers to supply goods and services. With a credit card and the specialist company app, you can have the services of medical consultants, legal experts at your door within two or three hours. You can order chauffeur or cleaners services and even get someone to stock up your fridge.
Freelancers can undercut big law firms and over-centralised corporations. It can help students and professionals to supplement their incomes; young mothers can combine bringing up children and part-time jobs; skilled semi-retirees can return to part-time paid tasks.
The well-researched articles on pp. 5 and 13-16 are too long to summarise! You need to read this if you want to be on the cutting edge of job-creation and visionary management.
Every person is an agent of change.
Passive agents let things happen.
Negative agents stop things happening.
Affirmative agents enable things to happen. Lyle Schaller
Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided, urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way, sought us and saved us, pardoned and provided: Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.
Lord for ourselves; in living power remake us - self on the cross and Christ upon the throne, past put behind us, for the future take us: Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone. Timothy Dudley-Smith
We have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward; they are called dreams.
A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become familiar with the unfamiliar. Denis Waitley
Losers live in the past. Winners learn from the past and enjoy working in the present towards the future. Denis Waitley, motivational speaker & author
Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset. Eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise. Thomas Watson, puritan pastor & writer (1620-1686)
Aim at heaven, you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither. C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Source: Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth|
|2.||↑||ISBN 0976889838, 9780976889830|
|7.||↑||Prophet Penuel Mnguni, the leader of the End Times Disciples Ministries in Pretoria, South Africa|
|8.||↑||http://www.christiantoday.com/article/pastor.who.fed.his.congregation.live.snakes.to.face.court/59546.htm AND http://nehandaradio.com/2015/07/14/prophet-orders-congregation-to-eat-live-snake-tells-them-it-will-taste-like-chocolate/|