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Showing posts from January, 2013

Desert Power!

Two great quotes from a recent book I have just finished on the lives of the “desert fathers” of Egypt  : “…The desert was a place of death, testing, repentance, and spiritual warfare. It was not a place of escape as much as a place of countercultural engagement. It was not a retreat but the frontlines of spiritual warfare. It is a place where the victory of Christ over sin, death, and the devil was proclaimed, fought, and won. Under the power of the risen Lord, it is where the heart was purified, the passions conquered, sin destroyed, and humanity renewed….” “…Ironically, the greatest of these humble monks wielded enormous power in the ancient world. Their reputation for humility and holiness inspired crowds of pilgrims to flock to remote regions of the desert. The poor and needy, as well as emperors, generals, and politicians, would travel long distances by foot or donkey just to see the face of one of these elders or obtain a word of wisdom and healing….” The first quote reminds u…

Problem of Riches

Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theatre,  then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all in common—this is what the rich do. They seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of pre-emption. - St Basil the Great (Source: On Social Justice)

When to Correct Others

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I came across the Beevers Grid in my recent reading of Practising Affirmation by Sam Crabtree, during his discussion of the question, "when is an issue important enough to correct?" It is usually that case that I often find myself in situations where correction is needed. I imagine we all do. For me working as an economist, correcting others is actually an active part of the job. As a writer, I also find myself engaging in debates on national issues where again I usually have to offer an opinion. In church, as part of the leadership, "correction" is one of the tasks of church leadership. They say timing and judgement is everything. And when it comes to correction, I just never know when it is the right time or situation to correct someone. Sometimes, I correct merely to  magnify my own ego. Other times people have found it is useful and productive. It was therefore a great joy to come across the Beever's Grid. A surprisingly straightforward framework of when t…

Freedom from Performance

"Every writer experiences this. At some point in your journey, you find yourself writing for the approval of others, not for pure love of the craft. You’re no longer satisfied with your passion, and there’s nothing you can do about it. All these royalty checks, all this blog traffic — you’re stuck...Stop writing for accolades, and start writing for passion....When you stop writing for readers’ affections, your work will affect more people...." From You Are A Writer by Jeff Goins. This is one of the most helpful thoughts I read over Christmas. It reinvigorated my approach to writing and other things I enjoy doing! It so easy to do things with an eye on the audience. It is natural to want to be commended. For people to admire us. We all long to be commended, but what Jeff Goins shows is that when the search for accolades becomes our preoccupation, we stop being effective. Not only is our work no longer being done for the right reasons, the fire that burns within us for creati…

Wealth as Stewardship

It befits those who possess sound judgment to recognize that they have received wealth as a stewardship, and not for their own enjoyment; thus, when they are parted from it, they rejoice as those who relinquish what is not really theirs, instead of becoming downcast like those who are stripped of their own - St Basil the Great (Source: On Social Justice)

Thinking Critically

Four helpful questions that may be helpful in thinking critically on national issues, especially economic / political issues:

1. What does that mean?

2. How will it be implemented or enforced?

3. Is it voluntary or mandatory?

4. Who is going to pay for it; and, can we even afford it?

I have found that asking these questions on any issue has helped me zone in on where I may be missing key information. At the minimum, one perhaps should not support any policy without carefully thinking through the above questions.The biggest danger in formulating a coherent and sound position is information. Finding answers to the above allows to properly interrogate the issue and bring in other sets of information that helps us reach a fuller picture.

Christianese

Many people maintain their front by speaking Christianese. They have a huge, screaming fight with their spouse, yell at their kids, flip off another driver — all on the way to church! But once they pull into the parking lot, they get their game face on. They walk in smiling and shaking hands. “I’m blessed! How are you? Glory, hallelujah, brother! Isn’t God so good? This is the day the Lord has made! Amen?” Another common name for this behaviour is hypocrisy. - Craig Groeschel (Source:   Weird)

The Fellowship of the Unashamed

I am a part of the fellowship of the Unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit Power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognised, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.
My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.…

Humour in Acts

Usually when I read the Bible I come across passages that makes me laugh. There's a lot of humour in scripture it turns out. This one is quite funny :

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour. (Acts 16:16-18 ESV)

As always, the humour lies in the irony. In this case, the girl was correct. More funny is that it annoyed Paul - for the right reason of course. But one can't help but laugh!

Economics and Stewardship

Nine big ideas from economics that can help you live as a good steward every day :
1. For everything you do, there is something you are choosing to leave undone. Attending one church means you cannot attend another one at the same time. Giving your money to the poor in one nation means that you will not be giving it to the poor in another. There are lots of good things we could be doing, but we cannot accomplish them all simultaneously. Choose carefully, and choose prayerfully.
2. The anticipated social benefit of any policy proposal must be seriously weighed against every likely social opportunity cost. Where either positive or negative externalities arise, carefully designed and implemented public policy has the potential to nudge suboptimal market outcomes toward more socially preferred ones. However, policy action should be undertaken only in instances where the anticipated social benefit exceeds the possible social opportunity cost. Careful and wise stewardship of our resources …

The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives

Sydney Finkelstein, the Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College on Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives.

Habit #1: They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environment.

Habit #2: They identify so completely with the company that there is no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests

Habit #3: They think they have all the answers

Habit #4: They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them

Habit #5: They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image

Habit #6: They underestimate obstacles

Habit #7: They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past

I believe these habits can be found in many executives. But they should be a warning to anyone in any leadership capacity - whether in a small local shop or sitting on a church board. More detail on each can be found Forbes.

God Centred Singing

Each generation must sing to God with the best music of its generation. For David, it was the tambourine. For us today, it is the carefully crafted sounds of hiphop drumbeats, the sound of the Kalindula drums, and many other such instruments. Here is what Asaph says : Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. (Psalms 81:1, 2 ESV) I posit that there are five features that must accompany God centred singing:
1. It must be aloud (1) – he says it twice “aloud” and “shout”. That is both declaratory and resounding! No timidness in singing! Its pathetic singing the word of God with your hands in your pocket when people shout at football games!
2. It must be joyful  (1) – it says shout for joy. Not the glumness that we see in churches. It flows from a deeper joy in Christ that is fully expressed in worship. It is not dullness we see! It is overflowing!
3. It is a song (2) – that means it is a crafte…

40 Lessons on Great Preaching

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Eric Mckiddie put together  - 40 Lessons I’ve Learned About Preaching After My 400th Sermon. The lessons are so amazing that I have duplicated them below because I want to keep coming back to them.


1. Progress. You don’t have everything about preaching figured out after 400 sermons. You’re just getting started. This short video does a great job of summing up what is going on in your first few hundred trips to the pulpit.

2. Feedback. Your best sermons are ones you get feedback on before you preach them. Let someone you trust go to town on your outline in the middle of the week.

3. Sin. You don’t have a sermon until you know what sin you’re preaching against. Until then, it’s either a lecture, or a devotional.

4.Pray, pray, pray.

5. Illustrations. The four keys to getting good at sermon illustrations are: 1) knowing where to find them, 2) knowing where to keep them, 3) knowing how to write them, and 4) lots of practice.

6. Yikes! Make sure your fly is up before you get up to the pulpit.

7.Man…

Discipline of Simplicity

10 practical ways of living out the discipline of simplicity :

1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry
5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them
6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation
7. Look with a healthy scepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes
8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech.
9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others
10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God

Adapted from Richard Foster's classic book 'Celebration of Discipline'.

The Kingdom of God

O world invisible, we view thee, O world intangible, we touch thee, O world unknowable, we know thee, Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
Does the fish soar to find the ocean, The eagle plunge to find the air— That we ask of the stars in motion If they have rumour of thee there?
Not where the wheeling systems darken, And our benumbed conceiving soars!- The drift of pinions, would we hearken, Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.
The angels keep their ancient places;— Turn but a stone, and start a wing! ‘Tis ye, ‘tis your estrang├Ęd faces, That miss the many-splendoured thing.
But (when so sad thou canst not sadder) Cry;—and upon thy so sore loss Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.
Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter, Cry,—clinging Heaven by the hems; And lo, Christ walking on the water Not of Gennesareth, but Thames!
- Francis Thompson (1859 - 1907)
Francis Thompson was an English poet. After attending college, he mov…

Benefit of Helplessness

As long as you can carry your burdens alone, you don't need a burden bearer. As long as your situation brings you no grief, you will receive no comfort. And as long as you can take him or leave him, you might as well leave him, because he won't be taken half-heartedly. But when you mourn, when you get to the point of sorrow for your sins, when you admit that you have no other option but to cast all your cares on him, and when there is truly no other name that you can call, then cast all your cares on him, for he is waiting in the midst of the storm. - Max Lucado (Source: The Applause of Heaven)

Hearing the Shepherd

During the Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s the Israeli army decided to punish a village near Bethlehem for not paying its taxes (which, the village claimed, simply financed their occupation). The officer in command rounded up all of the village animals and placed them in a large barbed-wire pen. Later in the week a woman approached him and begged him to release her flock, arguing that since her husband was dead, the animals were her only source of livelihood. He pointed to the pen with hundreds of animals and quipped that it was impossible because he could not find her animals. She asked that if she could in fact separate them herself, would he be willing to let her take them? He agreed. A soldier opened the gate and the woman’s son produced a small reed flute. He played a simple tune again and again—and soon, sheep heads began popping up across the pen. The young boy continued his music and walked home followed by his flock of twenty-five sheep. The boy knew his sheep — and h…