One hundred pianos and one tuning fork

The sermon today was preached from the Gospel of John chapter 17, the pastoral prayer of Jesus and in the midst of preaching, AW Tozer was quoted. 

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”   ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

I never saw unity from this perspective before. I have had many rounds of church theme with the subject of unity and I just realised now that I've only seen it from the perspective of our own effort in making it work together. But it will only work if each of us strived to be attuned to Jesus, and only then will we be attuned to one another. And with the right intentions too. 

I've experienced ugly and horrid breakups in relationships in church before, and they were not nice scenes. Appalling in fact, the hatred, the self-centeredness. If only they had just looked to Jesus and Jesus alone. 


Malaysia's Wasted Decade 2004-2014, The Toxic Triad of Abdullah, Najib and UMNO Leadership by M. Bakri Musa

I finished reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel today. It was an excellent read. I was impressed by how much she had progressed while in Netherlands, learning Dutch and especially her obtaining a degree in Political Science from Leiden University. She did not write in detail about what she studied but it has definitely piqued my interest. 

With that, I began searching for my next read and looked for political based books that I can learn from. I found several in Amazon that sound very interesting but I also realized that it might not be as beneficial if I did not know enough about Malaysian politics. I then tried to search for books that would give me a good analysis of the political world in Malaysia. There were very few titles available in that category in Amazon and I only found this one interesting. 

Malaysia's Wasted Decade 2004-2014, The Toxic Triad of Abdullah, Najib and UMNO Leadership
by M. Bakri Musa

There wasn't any Kindle version available and so I would have to get the print copy. I called Kinokuniya and confirmed that they do have a copy in stock and I requested that they reserve it for me.

When I arrived at KLCC and while I was getting onto the escalator at the carpark, I bumped into Lim Kit Siang! Here I am finally trying to understand more about Malaysian politics and going to the bookstore to get such a book, to bump into a Malaysian politician. 

What are the odds.

I walked into Kinokuniya and headed to the Political Science section and found those very Kindle titles I added into my Amazon Wishlist. I browsed awhile and there he was again, at the Political Science aisle. Where else would he be? I thought I might as well go say hi and shook his hand. He was very pleasant and nice.

Finally, I am reading a print book. I haven't done that in years and I am finding it difficult mainly because the print is too small for my eyes. As for the book, it isn't very much of a systematic analysis of the issues. It is a collection of the writer's articles over the years from 2004 to 2014, hence the title, though each of the article does provide some analysis that I hope will consolidate in the end to an overall conclusion of the matter. I hope I will nevertheless still learn something from it. 


La Bohème by Kuala Lumpur City Opera

My friend, Wee Yin and I attended an opera performance this evening: La Bohème by the Kuala Lumpur City Opera. 

I went for two reasons. My good friend Ee-Tan is in the chorus and I wanted to support her. The other reason is I have not been to an opera before and thought it was time I go see one. 

It was very good. The tenor Yap Jin Hin who played Rodolfo is  an excellent singer, as well as Fang-Hao who played Marcello. Excellent voices. 

The only one thing I did think whilst in the midst of watching was that it is indeed a little weird to see Chinese people singing in Italian and playing Italian roles. 

We got very good seats in the middle of the auditorium. 

The only not so good thing was that the screen where the English subtitles were displayed was at the top of the hall. We had to look up and down way too often. I'd either lose the understanding of what they were singing or lose concentration of what they were doing. 

At the start of Act 3.

During Act 3. 

Wee Yin and I agreed that the next opera we should watch is a Chinese opera. 


A book I couldn't put down

Infidel, My Life
by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I got to know about Ayaan Hirsi Ali when I watched a debate in YouTube and I've been impressed with her every since. I found that she wrote several books and I got a copy of Infidel, My Life to read. 

I started reading and I could not put it down. 

She wrote about growing up in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya. She was blessed to be born in a well-known family line but her young life was harsh and hard. She was arranged to be married to a man she haven't met before and in her travel to her new home, she escaped to Netherlands and sought for asylum. She gained citizenship, graduated in political science and began working in the Dutch parliament. However, she soon had to be placed under high security because her partner in producing a movie was murdered as a result. She now lives in America. 

The book received much praise. I found these accolades from Wikipedia:

The launch of the book in the Netherlands was considered a success, with the initial print run selling out in two days. A review in de Volkskrant concluded that "anyone who discovers Hirsi Ali's tumultuous history can only sympathise with her". The German edition of the book, Mein Leben, meine Freiheit ("My Life, My Freedom"), debuted in the top 20 of the bestseller list of Der Spiegel

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum, writing in The Washington Post, said "Infidel is a unique book, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a unique writer, and both deserve to go far." A review in The New York Times described the book as a "brave, inspiring and beautifully written memoir".  In an interview, Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria described it as "an amazing book by an amazing person".


In my wishlist: A Kindle Reader

I keep thinking about whether I should get a Kindle Reader for myself. I told myself no, since I am already using my iPhone and iPad to read but I am still tempted to get one. I was trying to read in a very bright place a few days ago and it was difficult and I felt even stronger I should get one. 

But I'm still undecided. I have enough gadgets already and shouldn't get another one. I read most at night anyway and using my iPad with night mode works very well for me. The Kindle Paperwhite with front light is a bit too pricey and I don't read that often in the day time.

You see that I'm trying hard to dissuade myself. Anyway, Amazon does not ship the product to Malaysia...for now.


Humility and humiliation

I was chatting with my colleague and happened to use "humility" and "humiliation" in one sentence, and I wondered if they were related. 

I checked the etymology of the words and found it here:
humiliation (n.)
late 14c., from Old French humiliacion (14c.) or directly from Late Latin humiliationem (nominative humiliatio) "humbling, humiliation," noun of action from past participle stem of humiliare "to humble," from humilis"humble" (see humble (adj.)).
humility (n.) 
early 14c., "quality of being humble," from Old French umelite "humility, modesty, sweetness" (Modern French humilité), from Latin humilitatem(nominative humilitas) "lowness, small stature; insignificance; baseness, littleness of mind," in Church Latin "meekness," from humilis "humble" (see humble (adj.)). In the Mercian hymns, Latin humilitatem is glossed by Old English eaðmodnisse

They seem to be related somehow, but currently one is used positively and one negatively. Was humiliation used positively back then, as in to humble oneself?


The Problem of Pain

I had wanted to blog about the sermon I heard yesterday but I was still mulling about it. It's on John 16:16-33, where Jesus was speaking to his twelve disciples before he prayed the pastoral prayer in chapter 17. 

The gist of the sermon was that the greatest of things come through pain and suffering. Jesus's usage of the childbirth metaphor (16:21) points exactly to the fact that we will suffer and there will be anguish and pain. There will groaning and moaning. This is all part and parcel of life. 

But there is a purpose to the pain. It is temporary though it might feel like eternity and we will feel that we are stuck. But when the baby is born, the anguish will be turned to joy, immense and lasting joy.

The basis of this joy is the very presence of the resurrected Jesus. The deep abiding assurance through his death and ressurrection. 

I love how the pastor put it but I was also wondering about pain. It is a necessity for us as his children, at least here on earth, that we suffer and bear the pain through him, so that we will be comforted through Christ, for he had suffered for us, for our comfort (2 Cor 1:3-5). It is through pain that we recognize who we are in Christ, sinners who need his redemption and salvation. 

But we don't look forward to pain. We want to avoid it. We prefer not to feel pain and suffering. We do not want to be stuck. And as much as we do expect life to be painful sometimes, we don't actively look for it, to flagellate ourselves with it. How then? Should we work hard to avoid it or should we welcome it gladly?

This reminded me of a book I read more than thirteen years ago - The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis. I thought it was a good time for me to reread it and I started looking for its e-version. I found it in The Complete CS Lewis Signature Classics

The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics
by C.S. Lewis

The collection holds seven of Lewis's classic: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Surprised by Joy, The Four Loves, The Problem of Pain, The Great Divorce and Miracles. (The three other volumes are not included namely A Grief Observed, God in the Dock and The Abolition Man.)

The beauty of it was that it costs only $18.50. Its digital list price was $66.57! I bought it in no time. 

And I've started reading The Problem of Pain. I felt like I'm meeting an old friend, I have not read his books in a long time. Lewis's writing is just amazing. He writes profoundly but yet his words and phrases flows along flawlessly. 

I am not sure if his book will answer my question about pain, but I'm nevertheless looking forward to relearning what I've read so long ago and so long forgotten.  


My eyes are getting old

I came back from church after having a good time chatting with some people. The subject of creationism and evolution came up in our conversation, which reminded me that I have yet to continue in the book that I have started to read more than a month ago.

So I got down to it the moment I got home. And I was in a good frame of mind to read it and managed to read more than half the book.

But the problem was that after reading for about five hours straight, my eyes got so tired I could only focus if I squinted. I should stop reading I know for the sake of my eyes but when you are on a roll, it's difficult to stop. 

I can't read small print in books anymore and so I'm on the iPad with an enlarged font size. But I'm not sure if the backlight is affecting my eyes, so maybe it would be better if I got myself a Kindle reader. Would it help?

I've been trying to convince myself that I don't need it. It's not cheap. 


An excellent read: The Book Thief

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

I have finished reading The Book Thief and I absolutely loved it. I have not read such a good book in a long time.

The book is about living amidst dying. It's about the suffering and the joys of life. It's really a book about the paradox of life, as told by death. 

And I like the way Markus Zusak write, the way he brings life into words. Read these and you'll know what I mean. Such beauty in words. 

Eventually, Liesel Meminger walked gingerly inside. Hans Hubermann had her by one hand. Her small suitcase had her by the other.

Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness. 

"My heart is so tired," the girl had said. 

The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both

In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer - proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water.

I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I ever simply estimate it.

The words were on their way, and when they arrived, she would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.


Prayer for a difficult friend

We sometimes come across our fellow brothers and sisters with whom we are not sure how to deal with. In the end, it is still with love and acceptance, forgiveness and understanding. May God have mercy on us.


I may be blind to my own role in this relationships. Help me see the truth about myself. Apply the healing power of Your Word to my heart and mind. Deliver me from any stronghold that causes me to harm people with my words and actions. Save me from self-destructive patterns.

I struggle in my relationship with this person. I need You to give me wisdom on how to love her well. You are my shield and defender. Show me how, when and where to erect boundaries in our relationship. I believe You are my healer and I trust You to guard my heart and mind.

I need Your specific directions on how to interact with her.

I want to love her with a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

Help me to love her courageously. Fill me with Your truth and compel me to fearlessly tell the truth with love. Let Your perfect love cast out all of my fears related to our relationship.

I surrender to You what I think our relationship should be. Please transform it so that it honors You.

In Jesus, I pray. Amen


Adapted from Bible Study Tools

How to speak so that people want to listen

I talk quite a bit sometimes about singing and the fact how useful it would be to learn and train ourselves to sing better so others will hear us better.  I just came across this TED Talk, not about singing, but about speaking, almost in the same way I'd talk about singing, and I find it brilliant. 

The thing is I find there are some people who speak and you'd listen. Why? I think Julian Treasure here has the answer. 

First and foremost, it starts from within. Who you really are on the inside counts a whole lot. It applies when you are singing, in meaning it from your heart what you sing. And it counts a lot when you speak. Because since I'm hearing you out, who are you as you really are on the inside?


The Book Thief: I finally got it

In searching for a good book to read, I have finally found it in Markus Zusak's The Book Thief

The Book Thief 
by Markus Zusak 

I have always wanted to read it but after trying to start on it several times, it never caught on me. I read the first few pages and I keep getting lost. I was quite irritated by it. I have been told and I have seen it everywhere that it is an amazing book. I even refuse to watch the movie wanting to read the book first. 

I tried it again two days ago and I got the same experience but I stuck on it this time.

I finally understood it. 

And it was brilliant. 

I even went back and read it again from the beginning and I tell you, it is a spectacular start and premise for a story. 

I have not finished reading it yet, and I am relishing in it. I plan to slowly savour it, the reading and the story. 


Malaysians read very little, and it is a fact

I was preparing some training material on how to think creatively when I realised that from my experience in engaging with people here, I could surmise that Malaysians read very little.

I tried to look for some statistics, and I was right.

Although Malaysia has among the highest literacy rate in South East Asia, out of 85% of Malaysians who read regularly, 77% of them prefer newspapers, 3% read magazines, 3% read books and 1.6% read comics.1

Three percent?!

First, let me qualify myself. When I say read, I mean books. I suppose there are those who argue that reading articles, newspaper, magazines still count as reading. Maybe, but it cannot be compared to reading books, where your mind works in articulating the thoughts of a non-fiction author or imagining in the mind of a fiction author. It is different. Online articles, newspaper and magazines more or less gives you the information, the data. They are important and useful, but they cannot be compared to reading a book.

So, I do not know the year of the report, but if we were to assume the same three percent now, at the current population of about 30 million, only 180,000 Malaysian read books!

I also found this chart on World Culture Score for Reading that is quite interesting.2

People in India read the most, at 10.7 hours a week, followed by Thailand 9.4 hours a week and China 8 hours a week. Amazingly, these top 3 are from Asia. There is no data in the chart for Malaysia. Click here for the other percentages. (Note: I do not have access to the full report, and as such I do not know what reading does this refer to.)

The Star just did an online survey on the reading habits of Malaysians.3 They have not presented the results yet, and I wonder if there would be much of a change to it.

The pertinent question then is this: what are we losing out from this lack of reading?

I think a whole lot. What do you think?

Go grab a book and read it. You will be very much enriched. I promise.

And by the way, I found this article absolutely brilliant and downright witty. Take a look: When You Start To Read More, These 10 Things Will Happen.


1 Malaysian Bar
2 Charts Bin
3 The Star

What joy it is to read

I have certainly slowed down a lot on reading this year. I thought I had wanted to spend time on other areas of my life but now that we are about to move into the fourth quarter of the year, I wished I had set my mind on reading instead.

Why you may ask?

It is because I really missed reading.

What joy it is to find a book with a story you hope you will live in for a few days. What joy it is to find gems of truth forming in the pages that you are reading. What joy it is when you suddenly understand differently or learnt something completely unbeknownst to you. What joy it is when the characters find the very resolution you know they would and should. What joy it is when you can't wait to turn to the next page to find out what happens next. What joy it is when you read the last word of the book and breathe a sigh of contentment, and yet with sadness lay it down.

But like everyone else, I have only so much time. So I need to manage it well and lay aside what is not important, and read.

What I need to do now though is to find a good book.


How I am not $33,000 richer

It was reported that, first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that contain a typo error may be worth more than $33,000. 

The error lies in the repetition of "1 wand" on page 53 in the list of other equipment Harry should have. 

I knew my copy would not be the one since I bought it in Bangkok and hardly would be a first edition, but I went and checked it anyway. 


Nope, I'm not $33,000 richer. 

But I did wonder, would I have sold it if it were? If I did, I would no longer have a complete set and how I got the complete set is an interesting story in itself. 

But yes, I would. 


I left my iPhone behind, twice!

I do not know what's wrong with me today. I left my iPhone behind not once, but twice! But I got it back! First in the restaurant and the second time in the washroom. I am so, so thankful. 

Was my mind too occupied? Was there a change in my habits? What there a change in my routines?

I think my mind was too occupied. I admit I was so busy thinking today it is a wonder my brain did not explode. 

I can feel a headache coming. Oh! Where is my phone?


Our persecuted brothers and sisters

I have been reading a book on Christians who are persecuted around the world, I am N by The Voice of Martyrs, and it breaks my heart to hear their stories. It opened my eyes as to the need for much prayer and support for them. It puts it all into perspective for me when I find myself in situations where there's hatred. It is nothing in comparison to what these people are suffering and yet they persevere in joy and in thankfulness. 

For more information, check out The Voice of Martyrs in


Understanding Molinism/Middle Knowledge, God's Foreknowledge and Predestination

Salvation and Sovereignty, A Molinist Approach
by Kenneth Keathley

I bought another book! I read the introduction in the preview section and I wanted to read more. Kenneth Keathley grew up within the Reformed tradition but found himself struggling with Calvinism. He sought to bring it all into both being consistent and biblical through Molinism. But before I do read it though, I need to get the basics in place.

My good friend Noel told me that Molinism is an effective alternative to a Calvinistic understanding of divine foreknowledge. But I need to know the difference between Arminianism, which is what I hold, and Molinism or middle knowledge.

I found this article by Roger Olson which was helpful: Are Arminian Theology and Middle Knowledge Compatible? Olson did not give an affirmative yes to this. He said middle knowledge is "knowledge whereby God knows not only what will happen but would happen...once one believes that God uses middle knowledge to render certain that every creature does what they do by creating them and placing them in circumstances where he knows they will “freely” do something, then determinism is at the door if not in the living room and that is inconsistent with Arminianism’s basic impulses. It makes God the author of sin and evil even if only inadvertently.

Now I am re-reading the chapter on the myth of "Arminians Do Not Believe in Predestination" in Olson's Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities, and here is what I found important:

"Predestination is a biblical concept that classical Arminians accept, though they interpret it differently than Calvinists. Predestination is God's sovereign decree to elect believers in Jesus Christ, and it includes God's foreknowledge of those believers' faith."

"God foreknows every person's ultimate and final decision regarding Jesus Christ, and on that basis God predestines people to salvation or damnation."

"The first and most important point is that (Arminius) conceived predestination as primarily the predestination of Jesus Christ to be Savior of sinners."

"God chose Christ as the Redeemer for that group of people who repent and believe, and chose all who repent and believe in Christ as the elect."

"God sees from all eternity who will and will not accept his atoning work. God does not coerce the acceptance of his offer. The Atonement is available for all, but not received by all."

"Arminians claim they are justified in embracing both exhaustive and infallible divine foreknowledge and libertarian free will because both are necessary for a sound biblical worldview. And, not all philosophers believe they are necessarily logically incompatible."

I need to read much more on this to have better understanding or shall I resign to the fact that I will only know when I come to the new heaven and new earth?


I now shop in bed

 The Big Book of Christian Apologetics: An A to Z Guide
by Norman L. Geisler

I could not sleep last night and ended up buying a book. But it's a good deal. I bought the $26.99 book for only $2.99 in Kindle version except now I found out that the price even got further reduced to $1.99.