Friday, October 24, 2014

Being gracious to each other

We had our first bible study on TULIP in CG today, beginning with Total Depravity of which I manage to correct some common misunderstanding about Arminianism, particularly the one where they equate it with Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism, and to state that Classical Arminians do not believe in self-salvation. And we do believe in Total Depravity, God's Sovereignty and grace but differently from Calvinists.

I am not a person who like to argue or debate but I have made it a point to read about both sides, and my next read will be Michael Horton's For Calvinism.

I only wish I am given the same respect as I believe I am giving. I like what this Calvinist say in Calvinists Sometimes Make the Worst Calvinists.

And of course I can say the same about Arminians, that Arminians sometimes make the worst Arminians.

We all need to be gracious to one another, as long as we both hold on to the Gospel of the cross of Christ.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mariah Carey - The Elusive Chanteuse

I was invited by a friend to Mariah Carey's concert today at Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur.

I was quite excited since this would be my first ever concert, but it was quite miserable. Oh, not Mariah, she gave quite a cool show but it was raining the whole two hours we were seated there.

It didn't matter we had VVIP second row tickets, the rain though not heavy was relentlessly pouring down on us. Though we were all clad in raincoats, they were thin and sticky; it was miserably chilly, damp and wet.

Mariah's show was alright. OK, I'm not a fan but it was still cool being able to go to a concert of a world-class performer. She does have a good voice and she does nice faultless perfect pitch rolls.

But I was just not in awe, like I was back in 2007 when I attended an awesome concert by The Trinity College Choir.

Or maybe it was just the rain.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Binging

I thought I have stopped book binging but here I go again, buying books just because I like having them. But I still think these are great buys as they make excellent reference, and both electronic mobile versions too. Excellent!

New International Version Archaeological Study Bible

Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts


Monday, October 20, 2014

等 Wait by Danny Chan

I don't know many Chinese songs. At most, just two or three Cantonese songs and a couple of Mandarin ones.

But this by far, is my all-time favourite: the late Danny Chan's 等 or Wait.

I didn't quite understand fully what's being sung, but when I checked it out, it turned out to the saddest song ever.

But doesn't it sound wonderful.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Total Depravity vs Total Inability

We attended church service yesterday evening and spent the day today resting and relaxing at home--it is different and I am not used to it.

Anyway, yesterday's sermon was on Total Depravity. As an Arminian, I could agree with most that was preached, especially on the parts where we as human are total depraved, there is nothing good in us. But when pastor referred Total Depravity to Total Inability, I will have to disagree.

As much as we are in ourselves unable to receive the gift of life, God enables and persuades us to receive him through his prevenient grace. Calvinist will accuse us of work righteousness, but where is works in the decision of receiving of a gift? The glory still resides with the giver, not the receiver.

I was conversing with a Calvinist to find out his stand and find that in general, the Calvinists I know usually do not really know who we are as Arminians, in the classical sense, they do not know what we stand for, and they do not read or find out what we actually believe in. Most of what they say of us are wrong most of the time. Which is sad. I feel that they should at least find out exactly what we believe before "attacking" us, the worst in labeling us Semi-Pelagians, which we are not.

I have read this article written by Roger E. Olson some time ago:
Don't Hate Me Because I'm Arminian
My Reformed friends sometimes treat me like the enemy, but actually we need each other.

Again I reiterate, we need to dialogue. We need to first study and read reliable sources of what we each are, sit down and discuss, not fight or argue or accuse.

There isn't a more comprehensive volume on Classical Arminianism than Roger E. Olson's Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities.

I challenge you to read it--for Arminians or if you suspect you are one, you will get a deeper understanding of what you already know and correct some views as well. For Calvinists, you will at least know what we actually believe in.

Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities
by Roger E. Olson

The 10 myths that Olson interacts with are:

1. Arminian Theology is the Opposite of Calvinist/Reformed Theology.
In reality, Jacob Arminius and most of his faithful followers fall into the broad understanding of the Reformed tradition; the common ground between Arminianism and Calvinism is significant.

2. A Hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism is Possible.
In reality, in spite of common ground, Calvinism and Arminianism are incommensurable systems of Christian theology; on issues crucial to both there is no stable middle ground between them.

3. Arminianism is not an Orthodox Evangelical Option.
In reality, Classical Arminian theology heartily affirms the fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy and promotes the hallmarks of evangelical Protestant faith; it is neither Arian
nor liberal.

4. The Heart of Arminianism is Belief in Free Will.
In reality, the true heart of Arminian theology is God's loving and just character; the formal principle of Arminianism is the universal will of God for salvation.

5. Arminian Theology denies the Sovereignty of God.
In reality, Classical Arminianism interprets God's sovereignty and providence differently than Calvinism without in any way denying them; God is in charge of everything without controlling everything.

6. Arminiansism is a Human-Centered Theology.
In reality, an optimistic anthropology is alien to true Arminianism, which is thoroughly God-centered. Arminian theology confesses human depravity, including bondage of the will.

7. Arminianism is not a theology of Grace.
In reality, the material principle of classical Arminian thought is prevenient grace. All of salvation is wholly and entirely of God's grace.

8. Arminians do not believe in Predestination.
In reality, 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 inJesus Christ, and it includes God's foreknowledge
of those believers' faith.

9. Arminian theology denies justification by Grace alone through faith alone.
In reality, Classical Arminian theology is a Reformation theology. It embraces divine imputation of righteousness by God's grace through faith alone and preserves the distinction between justification and sanctification.

10. All Arminians believe in the governmental theory of the atonement.
In reality, there is no one Arminian doctrine of Christ's atonement. Many Arminians accept the penal substitution theory enthusiastically, but others prefer the governmental theory.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Restoran Kin Kin Chilli Pan Mee

My son is a picky eater. He does not like Chinese food that much other than a few exceptions. So when he pestered me to go for Chilli Pan Mee, I went along and brought him to Restoran Kin Kin, the originator I believe of this absolutely delicious Chinese noodle dish.

The originator of the Chili Pan Mee.

The uncle who manages the restaurants. His other two sons are now overseeing two other branches.

What's missing here is the dried chili paste. Mixed it all up and it will look like a plate of spaghetti.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Vietnamese Egg Coffee

I finally tried to make Vietnamese Egg Coffee and it wasn't half bad! I'm quite happy with the results. I made it during CG supper time today and it was quite well received.

This was how it turned out. The only thing I was not happy with was that I was not able to get the egg beaten well enough. It was not as frothy as I would like it.

This was my first Egg Coffee in Pho Co Cafe, Hanoi in year 2012. It was good, but the arduous climb up the stairs to the roof--at certain spots even rickety, dark and dank--kind of took the fun out of it.

Then I made my way to Giang Cafe, Hanoi. This was a much better experience and the coffee was much better.

I sure wish I were back in Hanoi to taste the authentic Giang Cafe Egg Coffee, but what I had made myself in CG this evening was good enough.

I shall certainly try it again.

Here's the recipe if you would like to give it a try. I've adapted it from Legal Nomads.

Vietnamese Egg Coffee
(Cà Phê Trứng)

1 egg
3 teaspoons of Vietnamese coffee powder or brewed Vietnamese coffee
2 teaspoons of sweetened condensed milk
Boiling water

1. Brew a small cup of Vietnamese coffee.
2. Crack an egg and discard the whites. Put the yolk and the sweetened condensed milk in a small, deep bowl and whisk vigorously until you end up with a frothy, fluffy mixture.
3. Add a tablespoon of the brewed coffee and whisk it in.
4. In a clear coffee cup, pour in your brewed coffee, then add the fluffy egg mixture on top.
5. Pour hot boiling water in a small bowl and place the cup of coffee in it. This will keep your cuppa piping hot as you enjoy it sip by sip.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Classic Christianity by Thomas C. Oden

A Systematic Theology, Classic Christianity
by Thomas C. Oden

In my preparation to equip myself with systematic theology, Noel recommended me this book that I just purchased.

I need to read sections pertaining to "Sin", "Election and Reprobation", "The Atonement", "Regeneration" and "The Perseverance of the Saints" (Chapter 24, 32, 27, 34 and 40 respectively in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology). I have not checked them all yet, but I could not find any sections relating to "Original Sin" in Oden's Classic Christianity. He has a section on "Sin and Evil in the Light of Providence". That must be it.

I have a feeling I will find it difficult to find the rest as well.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Forsaken

The peace which others seek they find;
The heaviest storms not longest last;
Heaven grants even to the guiltiest mind
An amnesty for what is past;
When will my sentence be reversed?
I only pray to know the worst;
And wish as if my heart would burst.

O weary struggle! silent years
Tell seemingly no doubtful tale;
And yet they leave it short, and fears
And hopes are strong and will prevail.
My calmest faith escapes not pain;
And, feeling that the hope is vain,
I think that he will come again.

by William Wordsworth


Monday, October 13, 2014

Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy

When I was reading my devotional on Isaiah 8 today, verse 12 particularly caught my attention:

11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.

This is because I hear a lot of comments and opinions around me, and I am reminded to be critical and be conscious to what I hear, and not to agree so readily. In general, I think am quite steadfast and seasoned in my thinking and response, but nevertheless I still feel I must listen to these words of the prophet.

His usage of the word "conspiracy" made an impression in me. I am usually readily available to listen to disagreements and comments, but here is a warning to not call conspiracy all that others call conspiracy. Do not be caught up with the thoughts of the world, but be filled with the Spirit and be reminded of the Word of God and be open to the prompting of the Spirit.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Creeds in Churches

The sermon this morning was pretty interesting - it has to do with the Christian creeds, and the material that was handed out was printed with The Apostles' Creed, which is unusual for a Baptist church.*

From what I know, Baptists are a non-creedal denomination. And this is what I read from Wikipedia:
Many evangelical Protestants...reject creeds as definitive statements of faith, even while agreeing with some creeds' substance. The Baptists have been non-creedal "in that they have not sought to establish binding authoritative confessions of faith on one another". While many Baptists are not opposed to the ancient creeds, they regard them as "not so final that they cannot be revised and re-expressed. At best, creeds have a penultimacy about them and, of themselves, could never be the basis of Christian fellowship". Moreover, Baptist "confessions of faith" have often had a clause such as this from the First London (Particular) Baptist Confession (Revised edition, 1646): Also we confess that we now know but in part and that are ignorant of many things which we desire to and seek to know: and if any shall do us that friendly part to show us from the Word of God that we see not, we shall have cause to be thankful to God and to them.
Pastor Marvin did mention that as much as creeds are not used in our services, it does contain the barest minimum of doctrine and statement of faith of a Christian, and to that I agree.

I felt really nostalgic reciting The Apostles' Creed, as prompted by Pastor in midst of his sermon, though it did not have the "right feel" because we read it, rather than chant as it is done in services that commonly have readings. But it was still good.

* Note: I am a Methodist currently attending a Baptist Church ;)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

PBC's Inaugural Saturday Service

Pantai Baptist Church had its first Saturday service today at 5pm.

I was serving in the worship team and it was a wonderful time of worship. The sanctuary was almost full. Some people may have just came to support the inaugural Saturday service but I certainly hope there will be almost as full in the following weeks.

I used to be quite conservative and felt that church services should always be held on a Sunday. I felt that we should not treat church as a convenience but to offer every Sunday in specific service to God.

But I have since changed my mind. I still say that it should not be a convenience, because the fact that we come together as a church to worship God is a command, and we who love him obey him willingly. But now I see that there are some of us who may not be able to attend service at all due to them having to work on Sundays and there are those who are always busy attending to their ministry in church on Sundays.

Either that or I am just becoming more flexible.


Friday, October 10, 2014

CG Late Nights

Our CG members are mostly night owls. We used to start quite late because a few of us are always late but recently we decided start on time regardless. But even that, we still stretch the meeting till very late.

Like what happened this evening, we started on time even though there just the few of us. And after CG, during supper, we have so much fun connecting and chatting, that we overdid it. We were chatting and chatting and chatting, and by the time I got home, it was already 1:30 in the morning.

But I had a good time.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

I'm not condemned but redeemed

I feel that I have been too hard on myself. I made a boo-boo today and as much as I readily admitted the mistake myself, I was quite angry at myself.

I also happened to learn about Transactional Analysis in the afternoon and I soon realized that I have used all my three ego states because of that event: first the Parent when I complained about the person whom I felt wronged me, then the Adult when I tried to find out from him what exactly happened and how to avoid it in the future, then I took the state of a Child when he responded to me as a Parent because I decided to walk away since I refuse to argue and carry on the never-ending conversation and finally I went back to the Adult state when I reported the event to the leader informing him about my mistake and seek for what the next step should be . I'm glad I closed with the Parent state and I was able to resolve the matter and have a good night sleep.

Indeed, I'm also reminded of Paul in Romans 8:1-6, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I find myself usually condemning myself whenever I do wrong or make a mistake. I am indeed my own worst enemy.

I'm in Christ and I live by his grace and mercy. I am redeemed and I am his child. Yes, in my weakness, I will still make mistakes but I am not condemned but redeemed.


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The world is filled with His glory

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees, takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Aurora Leigh”


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

We are rancid stinking grapes

The LORD spoke through the prophet Isaiah in 5:1-2 (ESV):
Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
Ortlund explains this perfectly, ""In the prophet’s imaginative scenario, a man is cultivating a vineyard with every appropriate provision. He has a right to expect a good crop. But what comes of his efforts? “Wild grapes,” Isaiah says. Actually, the Hebrew word suggests stinking grapes. They are not merely wild, they are rancid."

Have you ever tasted rancid stinking food? Imagine God will even spit us out of his mouth when we are found lukewarm (Rev 3:15-16), what more that we are rancid and stinking.

From now on, whenever I think I am so great, so above it all, I will come back to these verses and remind myself without my King and Saviour Jesus's love, grace, justification, redemption and sanctification work on me, I am in reality all these: abhorrent, abominable, appalling, awful, disgusting, distasteful, dreadful, evil, foul, gross, hideous, horrendous, horrible, horrid, loathsome, nasty, nauseating, obnoxious, obscene, odious, offensive, repellent, repugnant, repulsive, revolting, scandalous, shocking, sickening, ugly.

In contrast, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23).

Source: 'Isaiah: God Saves Sinners' by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., R.Kent Hughes, General Editor

Monday, October 06, 2014

Oh! To be safely home

Safely Home
by Ron DiCianni

I cannot yet describe what and how I feel after reading Randy Alcorn's Safely Home. But this I know, I have not done much for the Lord. In the Chinese context, what I've done and what I am is not even a dot compared to what He has done for me, which is immensely huge as is his love and grace for all of us.

Worse than that, I am sinful and unworthy of Him.

This book has caused me to evaluate myself in a different way than ever before, and this one sentence from the book surmise it for now: "His “Christian life” had been like every other part of his life. It had always been about Ben Fielding," in that "it had always been about Pearlie Ng." And for that, Lord Jesus, I ask for your forgiveness.

If you have not read this book before, I encourage you to read it. It may just open your eyes a bit more, if not a lot more, to what and how we see life from where we are, and what awaits us when we are truly home, for those who will be home to meet the Lion and King Jesus face to face, when we finally leave the Shadowlands.

To God be the glory, He reigns forever and ever, and every knee shall now and every tongue confess that He is Lord.


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

Safely Home
by Randy Alcorn

I was looking for a good book to read over this long weekend, and I am so glad I have finally started on Randy Alcorn's novel, Safely Home, which won the Gold Medallion Book Award for evangelical literature.

I was a bit reluctant to read it as I was a bit disappointed with his book Heaven. That book started well, but as I trudged along, I found it very repetitive, thus making it hard to follow after awhile, as my mind keep shutting off reading the same phrases again and again and again.

But I am really looking to a good reading time with Safely Home, although I am sure I will end up sobbing and weeping buckets. I am already in tears when I was in Chapter 2!

Safely Home takes place in present-day China, and follows the story of two Harvard roommates, one American and one Chinese, who reunite decades after they graduate.

Alcorn wrote the novel based on actual events of the persecution of Christians in China, which is indeed very real and happening as we speak. He said, "While many things in this book have actually happened in one way or another, I have made up the story. Still, I have attempted to keep it authentic and true to life in as many details as possible. Nearly all my characters are fictitious. Some are composites of several real people."

The account is apparently so real that "a missionary...recently wrote: “Safely Home was very, very accurate.” She knows a Chinese woman who couldn’t read the book because it reminded her of close friends suffering persecution."

I was reading Chapter 2 where Li Quan was muttering "Is this the day I die?" while bundling up his eight-year-old son one Sunday at 2 in the morning onto the front of his bicycle, and he with his wife maneuvered the uneven path in the dark on their bicycles in order to get to a secret church to worship God and His Son, Jesus. They gathered quietly in the small house church in candlelight, reading a bible his mother had copied by hand for eight years, singing worship songs as softly as they can, and praying for strength in midst of suffering and pain.

When I was reading that chapter, I had to stop and ask for forgiveness for all my gripes and complaints in church most Sunday mornings: gripes about having no parking space for our car, air-conditioning too cold, songs I can't sing, announcements too draggy, too much sharing and sometimes sermons a bit too boring.

I feel embarrassed and ashamed. Who am I to grumble? Who am I to criticize? If not for the grace and mercy of my ever-faithful and forgiving God, I know I would have been struck down like Ananias and Sapphira, dead.

O God, I thank you for the privilege to come to you to worship you as freely as I can every Sunday. I ask you to forgive me of my foolishness and my self-centeredness. I pray for your people who risk their very lives every day, even at this very moment, as they profess and live their faith in you without fear. May these honorable saints be so strengthened and upheld by your holy presence, your comforting words and promptings, your saving grace and loving kindness. You are our sovereign God, whose mercy and love is unfailing. Jesus, you are Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.