Beauty and the Beast, Reading and Bribery

 

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

I always enjoy Michael Han’s blogposts. He writes with a poise, passion and persuasiveness that is refreshing. His perspectives are interesting, stimulating and enlightening. His piece about his personal reflections on his family outing to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and the gay moment is so gracious, spot-on and disarming. Some of the things he mentioned:

  • There were many other unwholesome moments beside the gay moment
  • What his 6-, 11-, and 14 year old kids thought of the movie
  • That the story is about the power of love to bridge divides and to transform
  • That the story reminded him of the prodigal son story

Michael ended his post poignantly with a personal confession:

And as for me, as a father, a husband and a Christian, I too am accountable to my family, marriage and God. In my own fallen nature, I will stand for what is right, true and honourable. Parenthood is always a fraught road with many twists, turns, and bends. Sometimes, I take the road less travelled. At other times, I lapse into the broad road. Still at other times, I confront a crossroad struggling with my own demons.

But I do not see bringing my kids to watch the movie a detour or derailment in this journey of mutual growth with them because my family’s takeaway after the movie is not that it promotes a certain value incongruent with ours. On the contrary, it is a movie that teaches my kids some important lessons as I have written above. And the most relevant lesson of all is this: there is always a place for love in all relationships to bridge the gap, and this love transforms hearts by going beyond our differences, not reminding us of how different we are from them.

Insightful blogpost. You will enjoy reading his post on Beauty and the Beast.

READING EFFICIENTLY

Dr Alex Tang writes about an interesting idea about how reading is about getting to the main message of the writer, which he says is about 20% of the book. And if we can get to the central message and savour it, that is what reading is all about. He shares how he reads by listening to an audio book or a video at a higher speed for fiction or at a lower speed for difficult matters.

“Actually, the art of reading is not the speed but getting the main thesis or message of the book whatever the format. I will estimate that 80% of any book is padding and the gem is in the 20% if we can find it. The 20% contains the heart of the whole book. It does not matter at whatever speed we read, only that we discover this gem at the heart of the book. If we then slow down to savour, reflect, and assimilate, then we would have read that book well.”

I have started a through the Bible in a year listening program under the YouVersion Bible apps. It’s quite refreshing and I have already gone through Job and Leviticus, two challenging books in the Old Testament. I am not complaining. Maybe its the season I am in.

 Do you see yourself trying his efficient method of reading or do you feel that the joys and beauty of reading good literature may somehow be lost in all that efficiency? Read his post on “Reading at x1.5 Speed” .

BRIBERY

I love this piece on bribery by Methodist pastor Rev Sng Chong Hui. It is so succinct that it conveys everything needed to the common internet surfer who will allow you 2 minutes of his attention most times. Most people do not have time to read a research paper with statistics and survey results. There is a place for that too. But most people need to know that bribery is not merely a matter of corruption of two individuals or groups but something so insidious it will proliferate and one day erode society’s foundations. It is certainly outrageous when Presidents and Prime Ministers and judges and policemen and bankers take bribes and lie through their teeth. But even the seemingly harmless small bribe can spread gradually and pollute the whole of society over time. Read his post on the Bane of Bribery.

 

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Lent: Prayer of the Inward Journey

The inward journey is like caving: a guide is a must.

A relevant prayer for Lent season. You can call it the soul searching prayer. Or better still I would call it the prayer of inward journey.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts, And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  (Psalm 139:23,24 ESV)

This is a well known and beloved Psalm. In verses 1-6, shows us that God knows all; and verses 7-12 tells us God is everywhere; and 13-18 tells us God is our loving and wise Creator. In verses 19-22 the Psalmist prays against those who rise up against such a wonderful God. He hates them and prays for them to experience the worst! Then suddenly in verse23,24 his tone changes and he prays that famous prayer, Search me O God…. Its like he is praying, Lord I don’t want to be like these guys who rise up and fight against Your love and power. See if there is even a tiny bit of them in me, for I want to be rid of that and be changed by your power. Instead please lead me to the everlasting path instead of the path that leads to grief.

This is indeed a prayer we all need to use when we feel disturbed, upset or hurt. When we lost our peace and feel out of sorts and in disequilibrium, we can seek God’s help in understanding what He wants to show us about ourselves and Himself.

Its a prayer that sends me inwards to look at my heart, my thoughts, and even “any grievous way” in me. The Hebrew for “grievous” denotes forced labour, or the fruit of sorrow, bondage and misery it brings. This inward journey can be daunting and intimidating.

That’s why it has to be a guided tour. The Psalmist invites God to be his guide on this inward journey. I wouldn’t go on this journey alone. It is fraught with the dangers of discouragement, self-hatred and condemnation. However with this God who loves me, has forgiven me, and dealt forever with all my sins past present and future, I have no fear, only assurance and peace that this journey will heal and help me, not harm me.

Lastly, its a blessed journey because there are many blessings. One blessing is increased self-knowledge. Another blessing is knowing which areas of weakness Satan will seek to tempt me. I can watch and pray at those particular weak areas in my defence.

 

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Overcoming Cell Weariness With The Triad

We do get weary of being part of a cell group. Have we ever felt “reluctant to see or experience any more of something”,  like a  “cell group” experience? How do we revive our zest? By calling the triad to help. What triad? Faith, Hope and Love. Heard of them? Yes, this triad is not uncommon in the letters of Paul to different churches. They are the fundamental elements that keep the believer in Christ steadily on the kingdom path. I would add, steadily on the cell journey too. Here are just a few verses as examples:

So now  faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.(1Cor 13:13 EV)

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our god and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1Thess 1:2-3 ESV)

So how does a believer or leader who is weary of being a part of the cell group recover his or her zest?

Ask three questions that are derived from Paul’s triad. Let the triad help you recover your missing zest!

FAITH

Do you believe you can make a difference by your being a part of the cell group? You have to believe that your uniqueness as a person made in the image of God and redeemed by the blood of God is destined to make some unique difference in the cell community and beyond it. Your background and history, your knowledge and skills, your example, your stories and spiritual gifts, heck, even your mere presence itself will make a difference!

HOPE

Are you  willing to wait patiently for God to bring improvements and life-changes in yourself and others in His time? Cell groups are never perfect because they have imperfect people participating. There will be let-downs, frustration, conflicts, misunderstandings and despair over the hypocrisy and inconsistency and obstinacy of fellow cell members. Do you have your hope pinned in God’s prayer answering and life transforming powers?

LOVE

Do your really love God’s family? Not the large congregation on Sunday, which is easy to say you love; but the shoulder to shoulder, face to face tyre hits the road kind of love that sees the dirt, and smell the dung, and feels the drain of real people who are works in progress. God’s love has been shed in your hearts and it wants to overflow from you and inundate a community thirsting not for Coke but for for incarnational love: the kind that listens, accepts, serves, reproves, encourages and journeys with the cell group to spiritual maturity.

Take these questions before the Lord in prayer. Tell Him exactly how you feel about where you are in each of the elements in the triad. Wait for Him to listen or just to receive life by being in there “with him” – a kind of spiritual osmosis. Do this in an extended time of unhurried prayer, perhaps over two hours or over a half a day of turning your heart to God.

You will gradually regain a sense of purpose, a renewed hope, and a fresh simple love.

 

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