Tuesday, 20 November 2012

WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD


We often think of car care as giving it a regular wash, filling up the tank and servicing. The state of our car tyres often ranks low in our priority list.

One fine day, we may discover that there is uneven wear on the front tyres. Or one of the tyres has gone flat. Then we have no choice but to act.

When there are cuts at the tyre side wall or the tyres have become bald (leading to bursting of the tyres while travelling), accidents may occur, resulting in serious injuries or even death.

That’s why we should learn about tyre care and maintenance which, among other things, include rotating the tyres every 10,000 kilometre, doing a visual inspection of our tyres regularly and changing worn or defective tyres before it is too late.

We should not try to save money by getting cheap used tyres or retreaded tyres. For tyres – and the brakes – are those parts of the car which really count when it comes to saving lives, especially during high speed travel.

It’s no point having a shiny, sleek, super sports car shod with cheap or defective tyres. What really matters is where the rubber meets the road.

We often fail to appreciate what is most crucial and important – not only in the area of road safety but also with regards to our worldview or philosophy in life.

A man may take pride in his wisdom, knowledge, fame, power, achievements and wealth. But all these things are temporal; they are only good for a season. Though he may have an impressive list of choice freehold real estate, he needs to be reminded that he himself is “leasehold. One day, his “lease” on earth will be withdrawn by his Creator.

"People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1: 24-25).

Man cannot abide in his pomp. He is like the beasts which perish:

For all can see that the wise die,
    that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
    leaving their wealth to others.
Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
    their dwellings for endless generations,
    though they had named lands after themselves.
Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
    and people praise you when you prosper—
they will join those who have gone before them,
    who will never again see the light of life.
People who have wealth but lack understanding
    are like the beasts that perish.
(Psalm 49: 10-11, 18-20).

Have we given thought to the question as to where we will be spending eternity after we pass away? The philosopher and scientist, Blaise Pascal, wrote: “The immortality of the soul is a matter which is of so great consequence to us and which touches us so profoundly that we must have lost all feeling to be indifferent about it.”

If we’re believers, are we ready to give an account to God concerning how we have lived our lives on earth? “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Relatively speaking, life on earth is only a “fraction of a second” compared to the period we will spend in eternity. Thinking about eternity forces us to reassess our values and goals in life. In the final analysis, are the things that we pursue and cherish in life worth our time and effort?

Jesus told the story of a rich man who pulled down his barns and built bigger ones, thinking that a bigger storehouse will comfortably provide for him the rest of his life. Now I can eat drink and be merry, he told himself. He was sadly mistaken when the Grim Reaper suddenly knocked on his door.

King Solomon had great wisdom and knowledge. He experienced all the pleasures a man could ever desire. And he had all the fame, power and trappings of success a man could ever wish. 

But, in his philosophical discourse on life, he concluded:
“Fear God and keep his commandments,
   for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil”
(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

At the end of life’s journey, what counts is not how much of the world’s toys we have accumulated but how rich we are towards God.

In the final analysis, eternal things matter the most.

Have we realigned our priorities to focus on that which really matters – where the rubber meets the road? 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

STABILITY AMID UNCERTAINTY

When circumstances are precarious, when times are turbulent, we can look to God, our source of strength. He makes us as surefooted as a mountain goat, able to tread upon the heights.




The global economy has been trying to shrug off the effects of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe which has hit hard countries like Greece and Spain. Even mighty Germany isn’t spared; it is feeling the chill winds of recession blowing across the continent.

Some African nations are facing disease, famine, political and economic turmoil besides internal conflict between various clans and warlords, and between insurgents and government forces.

Meanwhile, employees no longer can rely on a single company for lifetime job security. Rapidly changing business environment, downsizing, mergers and acquisitions, technology and innovation often mean that employees today will have to constantly upgrade themselves – learn new skills and unlearn as well – to stay relevant and marketable. The stability of a cushy job is passé; they may have to move around to find jobs in the same – or even another – sector.  

The stability of the family unit is being threatened as escalating cost of living often drives families to seek double income. Couples who work hard to put food on the table and provide for their children’s needs not only face workplace stress but may be separated from their spouses and children – relocation may be needed in order to earn more –  adding pressure to the home front.

                                                                            
Amid this bleak scenario, what strength and comfort does the Bible offer?

He is your constant source of stability;
he abundantly provides safety and great wisdom;
he gives all this to those who fear him.

He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

From these different renditions of Isaiah 33:6, we note the God is our stability in these tumultuous times. And the key to unlock this stability is a healthy fear of the Lord.


                                                                   
This reminds me of the story of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7:24-27:
Anyone who hears and obeys these teachings of mine is like a wise person who built a house on solid rock. Rain poured down, rivers flooded, and winds beat against that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on solid rock.

Anyone who hears my teachings and doesn’t obey them is like a foolish person who built a house on sand. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the winds blew and beat against that house. Finally, it fell with a crash.

God is our strength. He makes us as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights (Habakkuk 3:19).

When circumstances are precarious, when times are turbulent, we can look to God.

When we learn to fear God, He provides us stability in times of uncertainty. We need not fear when hard times descend upon us.

“They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

RELATED POSTS

HOW SHALL WE LIVE IN THESE TURBULENT TIMES? 
The earth is like a spaceship hurtling into outer space at breakneck speed towards the day when Christ returns. How then shall we live? 
http://bit.ly/1ibjCx0

SPIRITUAL DARKNESS AND LIGHT
On one hand, man’s evil and ominous portents increase. On the other hand, God’s glory is being revealed more and more.
http://bit.ly/1NCupNH
                                                         ---------------------------------------------

JESUS, LOVER OF MY SOUL
Jesus, Lover of My Soul
Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Jesus, I will never let you go
You’ve taken me from the miry clay
You've set my feet upon the Rock, and now I know
I love you, I need you,
Though my world may fall, I’ll never let you go
My Saviour, my closest friend,
I will worship you until the very end.

BE STILL, GOD IS IN CONTROL
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way   
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,  
though its waters roar and foam   
and the mountains quake with their surging.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
Be still, and know that I am God.
(Psalm 46:1-3, 10)     



Saturday, 17 November 2012

BRIEF BUT IMPACTFUL LIVES


The impact of a life is not necessarily related to the number of years a person has clocked on this earth. Its quality – how a life is lived – often matters much more.

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843) was one of the greatest Scottish preachers. Though he lived only up to the age of 30, he made tremendous impact through his preaching and writings.

Of course, the greatest impact was made by Jesus who ministered for only three years in his early 30’s.

James Allan Francis spoke of the impact made by Jesus’ life:
Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He had nothing to do with this world except the naked power of His divine manhood. While still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying—and that was his coat. When he was dead He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life.

Since we can never predict how long we are going to live, we had better live intentionally and circumspectly: Be clear in our minds as to what is God’s purpose for our lives. We often think that being spiritually-minded means not having to plan. But having faith does not mean we do not plan.

For more on Plans and Purposes:


Life’s unpredictability and transience should lead us all the more to make the best of our lives while we still have the opportunity.

“Teach us to realise the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:15-18).

Life is short and the times are evil. Wisdom dictates that we make every day of our life on earth count for eternity.

RELATED POST:
THE POWER OF VISION:

Friday, 16 November 2012

SECRET GARDEN



Believers who care about cultivating a deeper inner life in Christ should have a “secret garden” experience.

I don’t mean they should take up gardening as a hobby in a secluded corner. Or tend their garden only at night.

No, I’m not encouraging them to be fans of the musical group, “Secret Garden” – though if they were to listen a few times, they probably would be hooked like me. Whenever I need to slow down the hectic pace in my life, I would listen to their unique brand of soft, relaxing music.

What “secret garden”, then, is this?

A “secret garden” reminds me of the struggles Jesus, the God-man, faced when He travailed in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His crucifixion at Calvary.

As God He knew what awaited Him. But as a man, he was fearful of the prospect of a slow, agonising death at the cross and, more so, being forsaken by God when all the sins of the world were heaped on Him. He wanted to know whether such suffering could be avoided.  Besides going to Calvary, did God have any other alternative plans for Him (Jesus)?

Nevertheless, Jesus was willing to set aside His own desires – if death was the only way by which sinful men can be forgiven of their sins and be reconciled to God. Once Jesus was convinced God would have it no other way, He would drink the cup of sorrow down to the dregs.

Jesus prayed that, if it were possible, the cross might pass from him: “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36).

In a sense, it was a secret encounter: No human being knew about His travailing in prayer in the garden. Those disciples who were supposed to give Him moral support were fast asleep. Only God and the angels knew about the passion He was experiencing.

The essence of the “secret garden” experience is solitude – which was always part and parcel of Jesus’ life even in his busy schedule of preaching, healing and deliverance. 

The sea of humanity constantly thronged around Him with their needs and petitions. But He always made sure He had his personal retreat to connect with God the Father.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).

We all need to have a “secret garden” experience, especially when we are at the crossroads in life. For example, should we stay on in the marketplace or go into ministry? Or when a significant relationship issue crops up: Is this person going to be my life partner and soul mate?

Jesus rebuked Peter because the latter was fast asleep: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). Peter did not keep Him company in prayer when He greatly needed support.  

And that brings us to the next point – our vulnerability. Even supposedly strong believers and leaders can fall. So a “secret garden” experience is essential.

If Jesus, who is divine, needs to set aside time to “recharge” and “reconnect” with God the Father, how much more we believers who are frail and weak.

It’s no coincidence then that Peter, who was spiritually weak through lack of prayer, did all the wrong things when Jesus was arrested: he was rash by cutting off the ear of a member of the party who came for Jesus; even worse, he denied his Lord three times.

Similarly, Paul issued a warning: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). We certainly need to wait on God to renew our strength (Isaiah 40:31).

Believers need to have a “secret garden” experience at least for two important reasons:

  •         When it’s crucial for them to know God’s will at the crossroads of life.
  •      Whenever they need spiritual refreshment and rejuvenation.

But building a strong “inner man” takes time, effort and plenty of patience – the same qualities a gardener would need if he really wants to create a masterpiece which all can appreciate.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

WHO AM I?




In WHO AM I? , a 1998 movie, Jackie Chan wakes up in an African village after an accident only to discover he has no idea who he is.

When asked for his name by the natives, he responds by asking himself, "Who Am I?" So the natives called him by this strange name, "Who Am I?"

In our quiet moments, even without post-traumatic amnesia as in Chan’s case, we may be asking ourselves this same question, "Who Am I?"

This is not only a question asked by the traumatised or spiritually lost. It is also a most significant question we need to pose to ourselves.

First, this question leads us in a quest to better understand the meaning of life. When we ask ourselves, "Who Am I?" we are indirectly asking ourselves these questions: Am I a product of the creation by God? Or am I a product of chance or evolution? Why did I come into this world?  Besides survival, is there a deeper reason – raison d'etre – why I should brave the traffic almost every day to go to work? If life is so transient, why do we need to live in a responsible manner? Why not eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die?

Second, this question is relevant to believers – those who have resolved to some extent those metaphysical questions above – because it helps them understand their calling. In this regard, we will not make much headway unless we acknowledge that God’s wisdom is the best and far superior to our wisdom:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

For God’s destiny for our lives had already been determined even while we were in our mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5).

He is not only willing but able to lead and guide us if we trust in Him:
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you” (Psalm 32:8-9).

Before Peter received his calling to serve God, he first needed a supernatural revelation that Jesus is God (Matthew 16: 13-19):

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock * I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Only an intimate relationship with God grants us a supernatural revelation of His reality. Thereupon God is able to speak to us, revealing His calling for our lives.

Before we get an answer for the question "Who am I?", we need to know who Jesus is. This means we must be able to answer with conviction the question posed by Jesus: “Who do you say I am?”

We know God’s calling primarily through revelation and not so much from our own incessant “inner chatter” or other people’s opinion – though the latter may give some helpful pointers.

RELATED POST:
IDENTITY CRISIS

Footnote:
*  What is this rock?
It is the confession of faith by believers, not a person.
The true Rock and foundation of the Church is Christ Himself.
The Church rests upon this Rock by her confession of faith. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

IS LIFE A RACE?


Yes, there is a race where you compete against nobody and one where you compete with others. And the rewards of winning are so different, depending on which race we choose to participate.




                                                                                 




The spiritual race we enroll ourselves into when we become Christians is one in which we compete against no one. However, we have many mentors and friends encouraging and cheering us on so that we finish well. That’s the advantage of having a community of believers working for our benefit.

However, there is another race – the rat race – into which many in the world get sucked. Its participants compete against one another to see who has more trinkets and toys, things which spell comfort, prestige and status. And believers are not spared as their mindset often gets shaped by the world’s values.

Let’s now consider the first type of race more closely.

Paul likens the believer’s life to a race. To be more specific, he depicts our spiritual race to be more like a marathon, rather than a sprint. As such, he disciplines himself so that he can finish well:

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27).

In Hebrews 12:1-3, the believer’s life is once again likened to a race:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Here we are told to lay aside any weights, hindrances and sins and focus on Jesus who is our perfect example. And if we are tempted to give up midway in the race, we should consider Jesus who had to endure so much suffering before He could attain victory.

What about the other type of race?

Those who put God aside in their lives to join the rat race will be sadly disappointed at the end of life’s journey. They will realise then that their life-long entrenched philosophy – he who dies with the most toys wins” – is absolute folly.

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4).

Like the rich man who broke down his barns to build bigger barns (Luke 12:16-21), they will have to face God’s judgment:
“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Let’s finish by reflecting on the life of Moses:

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).

Moses could have remained as the prince of Egypt with all the attendant riches and pleasures befitting his high office. But he chose to be identified with the poor and oppressed believers. Later, he led them out of Egypt, hearkening to the call of an invisible God.

 Which race will we choose to run in? Will we go for the one with enduring or transient rewards?


RELATED POSTS:

FINISHING WELL

GETTING OFF THE FAST TRACK

Thursday, 8 November 2012

WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY

Now that Barack Obama is re-elected as President of the United States, he has matchless executive power. In fact, being the leader of the world’s greatest superpower, he is the world leader with the greatest power.

Uncle Ben told Spider-Man: "With great power comes great responsibility." And the masked crusader hung on to it. It was to become his mantra and motto in life.

He was careful to use the extraordinary powers he possessed to help the weak and defenseless – not to intimidate or bully others.

                                                                     
How we handle great power reflects our character. "Nearly all men can stand the test of adversity, but if you really want to test a man's character, give him power."  -- Abraham Lincoln.

Like wealth, power is the one of the ultimate tests of a person’s character. When a person gains power over others – whether it is in a society or fraternity, government or politics or even the hallowed corridors of the church – the tendency is to force others to do his bidding even when it is against their will.

Lord Acton, the British historian, was right when he said: “All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Such is the behaviour of kings and dictators who force all to bow down to them, exterminate all who go against them, pick whoever they want for their sensual pleasure and trample on the rights of the weak and poor.

Believers too have been endowed with great power. It’s the power to change lives for the better.

And we need to handle well the power entrusted to us – with maturity and a sense of responsibility.

Some are given special anointing to do miraculous works, heal and deliver others from sicknesses and bondages; others are gifted evangelists who can share the Good News to multitudes and reap a bountiful “harvest”.

While some have been given the capacity to transform lives through speech (preaching and teaching), others have been endowed with the power to change lives through the pen. The latter may not be so dramatic but, by mindset transformation, it brings about lasting change.

As Francis Bacon said: “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.”

“My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” (Psalm 45:1).

So let us not underestimate the power of the pen. Under God’s anointing, it becomes a powerful instrument to change lives. It is the Holy Spirit who inspires the writer to put down his thoughts. And the reader becomes enlightened, and even gets convicted, by the same Holy Spirit. When that happens, great power is being unleashed as is evident from the following verse:

We pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Good News Translation.

Come to think of it, from another angle, the statement "With great power comes great responsibility" has other ramifications: When we substitute the word ‘power’ with one or more of the following words – gifts, talents, wealth, resources.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48).

Sometimes we wish for more power, gifts, talents and resources.

But we might probably change our minds when we realise it’s an option that’s not so rosy after all.

It would mean we need greater and greater responsibility on our part as we handle the “power” and utilise the gifts, talents and resources entrusted to us.

"With great power comes great responsibility.”


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

CHALLENGING BUT WORTHWHILE



What are some of the issues and challenges facing Christian publications, such as Asian Beacon, in Malaysia?

ASIAN BEACON (AB) is the most well-established interdenominational Christian magazine in Malaysia with a history dating back to 1969.

It is one of the few Christian magazines with an official publication permit issued by the government of Malaysia and Singapore. This enables it to reach out to the masses in West Malaysia – its primary audience – as well as across the South China Sea (East Malaysia) and across the causeway (Singapore). Many of the magazines produced by large churches and Christian NGO’s do not have this official permit as they are meant for internal circulation; hence they reach fewer people. 

First, the issue of moving from print to digital platform as mobile technologies (laptops, smartphones, tablets, e-readers) impact more and more lives, especially the young. If so, is digital going to exist side-by-side with print or will it be standalone? In future, Asian Beacon has plans to go digital while retaining its traditional hard copy. It is currently available through subscription, distributors in church as well as secular and Christian bookstores throughout the nation.

Second, as our schools produce students who are more conversant in the national language, and we are demographically a relatively young population, will the language currently used (English) be suitable in future as the medium of communication? We have to ask ourselves, “Will youths be able to grasp the truths, values and testimonies shared in the magazine, given the deteriorating standard of English among the young in our nation?”

Third, the challenge of finding and developing human capital. How are we going to pass the baton to the emerging generation? How do we train and encourage budding talents so that there will always be competent people to write articles and run the magazine? How do we nurture in them passion and a sense of calling for a strategic media ministry such as AB?  How do we instill in them a love for writing, editing and communication?  

Fourth, the issue of target audience. From a recent survey, it was found that most AB readers belong to the above 40 age group. What will happen to its readership if these regular supporters grow old and pass away? Furthermore, some have objected that its target audience is far too inclusive – that AB is trying to be all things to so many different age groups; the young, aged and all those in between. Should AB focus on a particular age segment?

Fifth, the challenge of finding sufficient funds, which has always been the bugbear of a media ministry such as AB. At present, sales, subscription, advertisements and donor support barely cover the operating costs of running and distributing the magazine. 

Once the magazine goes digital, the costs will definitely increase as staff will be needed to look into the content and the technical aspects of the new medium. Staff will also be needed to engage with readers on social media. But hopefully, sales of advertising space on the digital platform will help to offset, to some extent, the increased overheads.

Sixth, the possibility of sharing of human capital and funding through networking with various Christian publications. This is just a moot point: If the leaders of a few major churches can come together, put aside their denominational leanings and see how they can play a role in promoting a national media ministry such as AB, then some of the challenges that AB faces might be resolved. The churches will also benefit a lot. This move will conserve resources and minimise duplication of work.

Printing a magazine is not cheap. Yet there are many in-house publications by major churches in the country. Each church which networks with AB will be given a prominent place in the magazine. Thus testimonies and teaching material can be shared not only within the church but far and wide throughout the nation. If the church has video clips or Podcasts, these can also be made widely available.

Major church events and seminars with international speakers will get wider exposure. At the editorial planning stage, articles with themes related to the seminar/event can be arranged. Churches purchase magazines in bulk for distribution to participants of the seminar/event. In return, the church gets greater publicity for its seminar/event. The cost of the magazines can be factored into the cost of the seminar materials. So there is synergy; a win-win situation.

For a start, major Klang Valley churches can experiment with this idea. If successful, it can be extended nationwide. Churches are free to retain their own print or digital magazine. But they can also go solely digital (to save printing costs) and join hands with AB on print and digital. By networking and sharing resources, a national youth magazine (digital version) promoting Christian values is a possibility (please refer to fourth point).

A national Christian magazine should rope in the talents and resources of all stakeholders, including Christians from the media industry. Their creative input is invaluable even if they cannot be directly involved in the magazine.

All the foregoing mentioned in the sixth point are mere suggestions. No doubt it is a major rethink. We have to ask ourselves, Which is our “branding”: Christ or our denomination

Saturday, 3 November 2012

LOOKING AHEAD

When we consider that our car rear view mirror is much smaller than the windshield, we are reminded of the fact that the future is more important than the past


                                                                       
If we allow the mistakes, sins and regrets of the past to hold us back – and we brood over them – we will not make any progress.

The greatest apostle who ever lived, Paul, has this to say:

“I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done” (Philippians 3:12-14).

When we run in race, we look ahead and not backwards. We envision that moment of exhilaration when we cross the finishing line. That goal is what keeps us moving forward:
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and finisher (perfecter) of faith” (Hebrews 12: 2).

                                                                  
With ageing, our minds and bodies are no longer as nimble and sprightly as they were before. While these changes may cause us to feel despondent, we must come to terms with reality – that ageing is an inevitable part of life. No doubt, the ravages of time will eventually leave their imprint on our faces: wrinkling, sagging, crow’s feet and frown lines.

But we cannot afford to moan or mope over any opportunity which has passed us by. The past is over. We have to make the best of our lives in the presentAnd look forward to brighter things ahead.


                                                                       
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18). 

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

God can restore to us all our past losses:
“Then I will make up to you for the years
That the swarming locust has eaten,
The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust,
My great army which I sent among you” (Joel 2:25).

                                                                 
In a poignant beach scene in John chapter 21, the resurrected Christ served fish and bread to Peter and then confronted him. The disciple who once denied Jesus three times was challenged to serve God anew. 

His identity changed from fisherman to evangelist. His impetuousness gave way to stability and maturity. He was to be the rock of the early church. 

Here we see a God of amazing grace who discounts our past sins, restores and reinstates us when we repent.