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by the attic library

Reviewed by: John Woon, Family Connect 1 Small Group

This is a compilation of Bishop Robert M Solomon’s series of weekly devotional reflections providing Bible-based thought-provoking insights for spiritual maturity. In this book, Bishop Solomon addresses real issues facing the individual Christian, the church, and the nation in an easy readable way.

What are some of the issues addressed by Bishop Solomon in this book?

One issue is on prayer. Bishop Solomon wrote that living in an environment that majors on using people rather than relating with them and loving them, it is easy for Christians to enter into prayer in the same mode. They need to hear that ultimately our life is not about us; it is about God. We need to build our lives around prayer and not the other way round. Are we going after the blessings of our prayer or the one who blesses us as we pray?

Another issue is on idols. God is against idolatry because it misrepresents reality and worse, it robs us from truly experiencing God. Sometimes, the idol is not something foreign to God but rather something that is supposed to legitimately represent or remind us of God. The religion of the Pharisees is a good example. The problem with the Pharisees was that they were the worshippers of shadows. They had taken the Old Testament laws, which were meant to lead them to the divine lawgiver and made these laws an end in themselves. They had created a complex system of Pharisaic laws and had missed the point altogether. They had clung to the old testament forms of religion or rather their own distorted forms of them. They embraced the shadow so much that when the one who caused the shadow to be formed appeared on the scene, they failed to recognize Him and Worship Him. Are there any idols in our lives that we should remove in order to approach God effectively?

Another issue is on sin. If there is one thing God hates, it is sin. He takes it very seriously because it goes against all that God is. It separates people from God and from one another. It is a deadly condition with extremely serious consequences. One has to look at the cross of Jesus Christ to see how deadly sin is. It is for our sin that Christ died on the cross (1 Cor 15:3). Every time we look at the cross, we must be reminded how deadly sin is. If you recognize that sin has to do with both doing the wrong thing as well as not doing the right thing, then you can appreciate why holiness has to do with both personal piety (being good) as well as social involvement (doing good). Living out the Scripture and holiness are the hallmarks of true revival. Are we embracing these elements of revival in our lives?

Let the insights within this book be like a feast to the Soul to nourish our spirit.

Reviewed by: John Woon, Family Connect 1 Small Group

As God’s chosen instrument for bringing the gospel to the gentiles, Paul suffered much for the gospel — just as the Lord has indicated when He called and appointed him (Acts 9:15-16). At one point in his first missionary journey, he was stoned by a violent mob in the city of Lystra; dragged outside the city and left there for dead (Acts 14:19-20). But the disciples in that city gathered around his body probably praying and committing him to God. What happened next was amazing, displaying God’s miraculous power and Paul’s resolute desire to serve Christ. The text says, “he got up and went back into the city.” Here was a man in whose heart the fire of God could not be put out. In 2 Timothy, Paul spent his remaining days before his execution writing to his protégé, emphasizing key truths and urging him to remain faithful to the end. With Timothy, we are challenged to emulate Paul, even as he emulated Christ.

There will be terrible times in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1). Remember, the going would be tough. This is particularly poignant because Paul was writing from a dark Roman dungeon, awaiting death at the hands of Nero, who was persecuting Christians for he blamed them for a great fire that had destroyed a large part of Rome. Paul was personally and painfully experiencing the “terrible times of the end days”. He was not painting a picture but a present reality that would continue into the future.

Paul ended his life on a great note of poignant triumph. His circumstances were not good in the eyes of the world, but Paul followed a different drum beat. Even as a prisoner, he saw the purpose of God and sought to be useful to the Lord. His passion to proclaim Christ and to make Him known was not chained or defeated by adversity, prison, or an impending death sentence. Paul succeeded the lonely end of his life, he was blessed with the sure presence of Christ even as he anticipated the glory of being welcomed into the presence of the King when he died.

Paul looked at his chains and knew that he would finally be unchained from his life on earth – to be present with the Lord. His time on earth was drawing to a close. He turned his thoughts on leaving a final message to Timothy and other brothers and sisters whom he had come to know and love. Paul’s final message to Timothy is just as relevant to readers today who wants to finish their spiritual journey well – to be faithful to the end.

In this book, Robert M Solomon challenges readers to think about the direction and destiny of our own lives. How would we like the end of our lives to be? How would it be for you and for me? May the strategies expounded by the author in this book help in our spiritual walk as we strive to be faithful to the end.

Reviewed by: John Woon, Family Connect 1 Small Group

Life is complex. Problems suddenly appear. Questions arise. Doubts abound. And faith is sorely challenged. How do we develop a robust faith that will meet the unexpected challenges of life? Edmund Chan elaborates on this profound topic in his book ‘Growing Deep in Faith’.

Faith looks up to God and, seeing Him for who He is, rises above the trials and different changes in life. When we lose sight of God, there is a spiritual vacuum. Ultimately, it is all about God and true faith comes from life changing encounters with God. It is about faith in God and not faith in faith.

To deepen our faith amid life challenges, Edmund Chan poses some useful questions to us:

  • Do we focus on ourselves or on God?
  • Do we focus on status quo or moving forward?
  • Do we focus on maintenance mode or mission mode?
  • Do we focus on problem or the potential?

Without God as our master, we will remain trapped in our own preoccupations with the searing demands of life. We will end up living by compulsion rather than by calling. We will end up running after emptiness and becoming empty as described in Jeremiah 2:15. Don’t auto-pilot your life.

Do not rely on your strength; rather, rely on your faith to sail through the storms of life. Strength comes from looking at yourself and your meager resources. Faith comes from looking at God and His abundant resources. So cling on to your faith that God is faithful. The question is will we persevere in faith in the faithfulness of God?

Sometimes our faith is shaken and we become weary. When that happens, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is more important?
  • Who is in control?
  • Who knows?

If you believe that God knows, don’t worry. If you believe that God cares, don’t worry. If you believe that God provides, don’t worry. If you believe that God is in control, don’t worry. Cultivate the God-centered faith that overcomes weariness.

Lastly, to grow in your faith, deepen your spiritual discipline by:

  • Adopting a kingdom mindset
  • Fasting for spiritual vitality
  • Reading the Bible, listening to God, and doing God’s will.

Reviewed by: John Woon, Family Connect 1 Small Group

The common goals of a Board of Management include efficiently fulfilling the stated mission through visioning, growth strategies, inspiring change, and proper accountability. But is there any difference between a Business Board and a Church Board? Fundamentally, aren’t they the same?

For example, ‘Measuring the Vital Indicators’ can be applied to both Business Boards and Church Boards. In the church setting, it is useful to measure indicators such as attendance growth in the last 5 years, percentage of congregation with excellent financial health, number of regular attendees etc. And another example: both Business Boards and Church Boards can benefit from diversity in the Board. In the church setting, God has endowed each in His church with a variety of gifts to strengthen the board, and a good board will have a balance of gifts and skills where some exercise the gift of service, some the gift of problem identification and recommendation, others the gift of decision making, yet others the gift of administration. Is there really no difference between Business Boards and Church Boards?

To frame the issue, Peter Lim uses the ‘Bolman and Deal’ model of organizational development where four perspectives are analyzed – value (or cultural), structure (or organizational), authority (or power), and interpersonal (or relational). We will take a preview on the Value frame.

The Value frame deals with the fundamental issue of control vs delegation.

For example, the Business Board usually seeks to enhance stability and reduce risk by relying on the tried and true and hence the reluctance of yielding control to others. And this often leaves little room for faith in a God who can work through others who bring along different approaches. Yet the Hebrew author teaches us that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). In short, without “faith” we can seldom release control and truly serve through sharing of powers.

Another example: The Business Board values outcomes that are metrics-based and project-based. However, the kingdom of God cannot be measured easily by metrics. In the center of the kingdom are people who are growing – people who exhibit the fullness and the fruit of the spirit. It is a kingdom full of growing disciples who love God wholeheartedly and serve their neighbors fully. We should not replace a Christ-like servant-spirit with numerical measures and statistical results onto a yet-to-mature community and as a result, stifle partnership.

For other insights on how to run a Church Board effectively, Peter Lim’s book on “Focused Boards” is highly recommended.

Reviewed by: John Woon, Family Connect 1 Small Group

What is leadership? What are the critical ingredients of leadership effectiveness? What is the model of authentic servant leadership?

This collection of essays first printed in 2011 is timeless. It provides sound advice for those who wish to hone their leadership skill from a Biblical perspective.

In the book, it is mentioned that a good leader knows the needs of his followers and therefore leads them where they want to go.

A great leader on the other hand knows the needs of his followers that they don’t even see yet; and therefore leads them where they need to be.

“There are many people who can talk about leadership, theorize about leadership, and debate over leadership, but few people are doing and living leadership”
~ Tony Evans

This definition can be applied to both secular leadership as well as Christian leadership. The key difference lies in the motive. The secular leader is self-serving whereas the spiritual leader is self-sacrificing. Servant leadership is the model for a spiritual leader.

At the heart of servant leadership is the willingness to give up our intrinsic ‘rights’ (1 Corinthians 9:5-15) while emphasizing on our ‘responsibility’ and owing up when things go awry. The best servant leaders are those who are obedient to God, love all, serve as many as possible and train a few.

The effective Biblical Leader begins with a sense of destiny, with a burden and vision; is passionate about God-given responsibility; and has prayer as number one priority. The effective Biblical Leader begins with leading oneself before leading others. The effective Biblical Leader focuses on teamwork and has the courage to make necessary changes.

The effective Biblical Leader designs movement, momentum, and motion. But caution not to let momentum slip into mindless motion because auto motion can lead to complacency and quench the movement spirit.

To gleam more insights on Christian leadership, this is a go-to book.

Reviewed by: John Woon, Family Connect 1 Small Group

The Book of Daniel conveys a serious and relevant message for adults living in the harsh realities of the ancient Babylon world and the world today. Rev Gordon Wong helps the readers apply the lessons of Daniel to the contemporary challenges of today.

In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes towards heaven and his sanity was restored and he praised the Most High. At the same time, Nebuchadnezzar’s honor and splendor were returned to him for the glory of his kingdom and he was restored to his throne and became even greater than before.  Nebuchadnezzar praised, exalted and glorified the King of heaven. The testimony in Daniel 4 of the Nebuchadnezzar who destroyed Jerusalem would have stunned Jewish readers: Nebuchadnezzar, the worst of sinners fully deserving of full hatred, can yet be changed and transformed by the grace of God. Is there a Nebuchadnezzar in our life? Will we rejoice for him or will we reject him if he is indeed transformed by the grace of God?

In Daniel 7, the picture of the four beasts represents four terrible kings oppressing God’s holy people and trying to ‘change the set times and the laws’; and God’s people would be delivered to the beast’s hands ‘for a time, times and half a time’. But then, Daniel 7 also offers hope from God; not a hope for quick answer but hope that will help believers face their beasts over prolonged periods and ultimately overcome it. Are we prepared to face the beasts in our life? Are we able to be patient and stay faithful to the end?

In this highly readable book, Rev Gordon Wong expounds the scripture eloquently and offers multiple points of views to interpret the message of Daniel; and regardless of which point of view the reader takes, the same spiritual message will inspire us to be courageous to trust God in all circumstances and be faithful to the end.

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