Friday, March 31, 2006

Crucifixion - The power of Jesus' sacrifice can seem all the more real when you realize the actual physical pain He went through during crucifixion. This interview with a medical doctor details what Jesus would have experienced up to the time of His death on the cross.

Click on image to view (size: 56MB).

source: The International Mission Board & the North American Mission Board,


Thursday, March 30, 2006

"Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord."
~ Lam 3:40

The spouse who fondly loves her absent husband longs for his return; a long protracted separation from her lord is a semi-death to her spirit: and so with souls who love the Saviour much, they must see his face, they cannot bear that he should be away upon the mountains of Bether, and no more hold communion with them. A reproaching glance, an uplifted finger will be grievous to loving children, who fear to offend their tender father, and are only happy in his smile. Beloved, it was so once with you. A text of Scripture, a threatening, a touch of the rod of affliction, and you went to your Father's feet, crying, "Show me wherefore thou contendest with me?" Is it so now? Are you content to follow Jesus afar off? Can you contemplate suspended communion with Christ without alarm? Can you bear to have your Beloved walking contrary to you, because you walk contrary to him? Have your sins separated between you and your God, and is your heart at rest? O let me affectionately warn you, for it is a grievous thing when we can live contentedly without the present enjoyment of the Saviour's face. Let us labour to feel what an evil thing this is-little love to our own dying Saviour, little joy in our precious Jesus, little fellowship with the Beloved! Hold a true Lent in your souls, while you sorrow over your hardness of heart. Do not stop at sorrow! Remember where you first received salvation. Go at once to the cross. There, and there only, can you get your spirit quickened. No matter how hard, how insensible, how dead we may have become, let us go again in all the rags and poverty, and defilement of our natural condition. Let us clasp that cross, let us look into those languid eyes, let us bathe in that fountain filled with blood-this will bring back to us our first love; this will restore the simplicity of our faith, and the tenderness of our heart.

~ Charles Spurgeon


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

We are doing an old cantata piece for this Easter: Behold, Your King by John W. Peterson.

What I find interesting about this is how easy it is to sing the "Crucify him!" section: it is almost like a chant. I wonder about the crowd back then when Jesus was presented to them by Pilate.

"What shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?"

"Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!"

I wonder if it was as easy.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify Thy Holy Name; Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer, 1695)

A prayer for holiness and the perfect love of God; regularly used by John Wesley in his personal devotions and public ministry.


Picture by Emily Fletcher

Monday, March 27, 2006

During my devotion this morning, I gave myself 2 sets of homework. One, to find out basically what justification is all about and two, what about the concept of free grace and free justification. Ironically, it was during our usual morning conversation to school that my son brought up the subject of free things, which I had responded: is there ever anything free?

Justification, as I have pondered on 3 weeks ago, is a legal concept where a sinner is being justified or declared righteous when stand before God.

The debate on justification, that has been going on since long, is this: are we justified by faith alone (Rom 3:24) or are we justified by faith as well as in some capacity works (Jas 2:24).

I believe Jenkins provides a possible answer in his journal, "Faith and Works in Paul and James", where he asserts the view that, "Paul and James had different purposes and were using the same terms (particularly dikaiow , "to justify") with different connotations. Paul's concern was the sinner's basis for justification with God (i.e. the basis for his legal standing with God), while James's concern was to refute antinomianism by showing that one's true conversion will be "justified" objectively by works. Paul was writing of a forensic declaration of righteousness that a sinner achieves only through faith, and James was writing of a universal demonstration of righteousness that is accomplished by works. James sought to show that a person who possesses faith in Christ will be justified (i.e. vindicated as a true Christian) by his or her works, and that a mere claim to a profession of faith that is not vindicated or evidenced by works is not characteristic of genuine conversion."

Justification is therefore not free. While Paul firmly states that we are justified by faith, he continues in his affirmation that since we are dead to sin, we must be alive in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit (Rom 6-8).


C.Ryan Jenkins, "Faith and Works in Paul and James," Bibliotheca sacra 159 (2002): 64
Picture by Bonnie. J

Sunday, March 26, 2006

1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going." ... 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
~John 14:1-4, 27


Picture by Dez Pain

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I had quite a busy day today but on the whole I am quite pleased with it.

The day started with my vocal training; followed by breakfast and lunch at the same time in the same restaurant on the insistence of my son who is unhappy he missed breakfast because we woke up late; a visit to the International Book Fair where I spent a bundle of cold hard cash on books, books and books; rushed to church for band practice for tomorrow's worship service; attended our church pastor's 65th birthday celebration; and now at home trying to figure out html to get this blog looking the way I want it to look.

Anyway, I will be sharing with the congregation tomorrow, this spectacular but poignant song by Sandi Patti, Via Dolorosa or The Way of Suffering: for worship in the 1st service and for anthem in the 2nd. This is one song that bring tears to my eyes.

Via Dolorosa by Sandi Patti

Down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem that day
The soldiers tried to clear the narrow street
But the crowds pressed in to see
The man condemned to die on Calvary
He was bleeding from the beating
There were stripes upon his back
And he wore the crown of thorns upon his head
And he bore with every step
The scorn of those who cried out for his death

Down the Via Dolorosa called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King
But he chose to walk that road out of his love for you and me
Down the Via Dolorosa all the way to Calvary

The blood that would cleanse the souls of all men
Made its way through the heart of Jerusalem

Down the Via Dolorosa called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King
But he chose to walk that road out of his love for you and me
Down the Via Dolorosa all the way to Calvary


Picture by Brendan Gogarty

Friday, March 24, 2006

Today is the 24th day of Lent. I spent my morning devotion reading and studying Rom 3:21-26, which according to Cranfield, is the centre and heart of almost the entire book of Romans.

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

This is the heart of the gospel. It is not only the crucifixion of Christ, for the cross by itself would have been no saving act of God; but the crucifixion together with the resurrection and exaltation of the crucified.

This is the event of history.

I find that we have mostly focused so much on the cross, we have not thought much about the crucifixion. Could it be that we spent the 40 days of Lent pondering and meditating on the cross but only one day in Easter celebrating the risen Christ?

But Eastertide is longer than Lent, stretching from Easter until before Pentecost, which falls this year on June 4th.

So let us therefore be reminded that we are called to celebrate the love of God in his redeeming act of the cross, the resurrection and the exaltation of Christ.

We usually do not forget to celebrate Easter, so let us not forget Eastertide - to celebrate his resurrection and life with every moment, with every breath.

Picture by Dominic Morel

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of life, our ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
Throughout heaven's eternal days.

On the Mount of Crucifixion
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God's mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And heaven's peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

~ William Rees


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I kept seeing Imelda Marcos on TV lately; in some trailers to what I suppose would be to a documentary or something. I could not remember her statement word for word, but what she said caught my attention.

I did a search and it was a quote that quite many a site have picked up. The most interesting entry I found is in The Wit and Wisdom of Imelda Marcos (

"God is love. I have loved. Therefore, I will go to heaven." - to Pope Paul VI, who responded, "Oh, how wonderful, how childlike."
Pope John Paul is certainly right - not so much for the wonderful part - but definitely right on with the childlike comment.

What drew my attention to it was what we had been discussing over the last exegesis class on the book of Romans. Some of the issues brought up had me thinking about this topic of justification.

I have not really spend much time thinking about justification before. I had taken it firmly on the assurance of Rom 3:21-26. I can't really say that for sure now until I take a further look into it, especially on the few issues that were brought up during the Romans class.

In the meantime however, I will still stand by it that I am justified by faith.

But what then can I make of Imelda Marcos?

Picture by Luc Sesselle

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I was driving home today when I happen to tail a car with 2 bumper stickers that read:

God does not beget.
And he is not begotten.

They killed him not.
Nor crucified him.

The first having to do with the monogenes controversy and the second the very case for Christ.

Monogenes needs to be explained. For many years it was thought to have been derived from two Greek terms: mono (only) and gennao (beget or bear). Linguistic study in the twentieth century however, has shown that the second half of the word is not closely related to the verb gennao but rather to the term genos (class or kind). Thus the word means rather the "one-of-a-kind" Son or the unique Son, as opposed to adopted sons as we are. The word is also used in Heb 11:17, where Isaac is called Abraham's monogenes. Isaac is definitely not Abraham's only son but certainly his "unique" son, as there is none other like him.

Thus the NIV translates John 3:16, "he gave his one and only Son".

Therefore, there is no denying that God does not beget, nor is he begotten, in the very sense of the word. He is however, the only one and unique Son of God.

The second bumper sticker on the other hand, refutes the atoning death of Christ. Christ was killed and he was crucified. But, he also resurrected. Forty days after, he ascended into the heavenlies, witnessed by over 500 witnesses. He now sits at the right hand of the Father; with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (Heb 12:1-3, 1 Pet 3:21-23).

So, to the owner of the car I'll have to say: alright, I will agree on the first, though not on the spirit of it; but on the second, it is the very tenet of the Christian faith. You'll have to do better than just a statement to refute it. God is not mocked (Gal 6:7).


Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Leicester: IVP, 1994.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I had a very interesting discussion with a friend today. We spoke at length basically about 2 things.

One, how some preacher scholars who for some reasons prefer to read and teach the Old Testament without much reference to the New Testament. I liken them to those who'd rather have a picture of an unfinished painting to a picture of a finished one.

But then again, I am not saying that we can't read the OT on its own. We can, but ultimately the NT fulfills the OT. Having said that however, the NT too, should not be read in isolation. It must be read and taught in relation to the OT.

The bible as it is stands as one: it must be read as one.

Two, how some scholars see the need to refer to the Western way and the Eastern way of logic and reasoning. Are logic and reasoning geographical?

Picture by Filipe Frade

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Further to my thoughts yesterday on the necessary death of Christ on cross, this analogy should provide us a clearer understanding.

Say you are walking along a river. You saw a person struggling in the water. You get prepared to jump in to save him. You know you can swim, you know you can save the person and you kow you can get back to dryland without any difficulties. All you need to do is to save the drowning person. And once you are in, you grab the poor fella. He stops struggling and allows you to bring him towards the river bank.

Now, does he question the fact that you know how to swim? Does he question the fact that you will get back up on the dry bank with or without him? I think not. On the contrary, he is only glad you know that you can, glad that you came along, jumped in and saved him.

In the same way, we are dying in our sins. We need to be redeemed. Only Christ can be that offering of sacrifice for our sins because he is the only one not "drowning in the river" as we all are. He "jumped" in, became man and died for us; both knowing full well that he will be raised from the dead and that with his resurrection, we too will be raised with him to eternal life. (Eph 2:6)

Should it then matter to us that he knows he will die and will be raised again? Should we discount his act of love on that basis? By no means! On the contrary, just like the man who is confident that he is able to save the drowning soul, it is the very fact that he can which makes the difference, hence someone is saved from drowning.

In the same way, the very fact that Jesus knows that he will die and then will be raised, is the very thing to ensure our redemption and eternal life.

Picture by Tom Denham

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Now, going back to Morris's The Cross for Christ, which I am still reading for Lent purposes, one thought sort of crossed my mind a couple of days ago which I meant to explore in more depth when I get the chance.

It is something that one of my schooldays friend commented many years ago when I brought her to church. She said that she is not so touched by Christ death on the cross because he knows he is going to die and he knows he is going to resurrect. Therefore, in his dying, there is really nothing special.

Morris's commented in his book that Jesus' atoning death is very different from the other deaths people die. He refers to several passages that link Jesus' death with evil.

Passages include:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."
Gal 3:13

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Cor 5:21

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrong.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
Hab 1:13

So in a sense, what Morris is trying to point out is that: Jesus died a very necessary death, as an atonement and propitiation for our sins. Therefore the fact that he knows he is dying and that he knows he will be resurrected is not an issue here. The issue is that we need the atoning sacrifice in order to live and Christ made that sacrifice for us.

Picture by Ian Britton (c)

Friday, March 17, 2006

"Be perfect, therefore, for your heavenly Father is perfect." Matt 5:48 (NIV)

It seems like I have a knack for getting myself into much debated passages or verses in the bible. It looks like I have landed myself into another one in my search for "perfection" (pun not intended!).

According to Friesen, "believers through the centuries have debated about what Jesus meant by this command for perfection. Devoted Christians have always recognised the need to be obedient to their Lord's commands. But there has been much disagreement on how to interpret these words. Some believers claim to have reached this required state of perfection while other, equally devout, Christians have declared that it is impossible."

As far as Matt 5:48 is concerned, the key to the verse would be the word, oủv, the Greek word for therefore. What comes before this are the beatitudes (v.1-12), being salt of the earth and light of the world (v.13-16), Jesus coming to fulfil the law (v.17-20), anger being equivalent to murder (v.21-22), reconciliation as a requirement before offering of gifts at the altar (v.23-26), a simple look at a woman and divorce being equivalent to commiting adultery (v.27-32), a commandment not to swear (v.33-37), to give more than is required (v.38-42) and loving your enemies (v.43-47).

We are called to practise all these and as a result to be perfect because our heavenly Father is perfect.

In relation to what is on my mind as far as perfection is concerned, I am reminded that the world's desire for perfection is really so different from the perfection commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ. While the world seek for beauty and satisfaction, even self-satisfaction, our God seeks for a heart that is pure and clean, one that is concerned about obeying him in our walk of life, in reconciliation, in word and deed that is honourable and even in loving our enemies.

Indeed, how far apart the perfection that the world chases after and the perfection that God seeks in us. May it be that we are after the right one.


Picture by Griszka Niewiadomski

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I did a search on "perfection" from available journals and came up with several interesting ones, of which I will read up in the next couple of days. As for now, what I need is a cup a coffee.

Gerald L. Borchert, "Matthew 5:48 – Perfection and the Sermon," Review & Expositor 89 (1992): 265-9.

Robert Friesen, "Christian Perfection," Direction 13/3 (1984): 25-32.

Anthony A. Hoekema, "Perfection of Christ in Hebrews," Calvin Theological Journal 9 (1974): 31-7.

Philip S. Watson, "Wesley and Luther on Christian Perfection," Ecumenical Review 15 (1963): 291-302.

J Terence Forestell, "Christian Perfection and Gnosis in Philippians 3:7-16," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 18 (1956): 123-36.


Picture by Kjetil Valen

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Perfection, one word that keep creeping into my thoughts lately.

What is perfection? Why is human so proned towards it? Why must everything be perfect?

Picture by I M Birchall

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Never So Much

I've never had so much to do
Never had in quite awhile
But O Lord, I know I can rest in You
In peace, in love and in all sublime

Copyright © 2006 Pearlie Ng
Picture by Kim McDonald

Monday, March 13, 2006

Good Company

An evening spent
In good company
Time with a friend
And a sip of tea

At first I could not see him when
He wasn't wearing his needed lens
What more his barber-ical error
I wouldn't have found him if not for his suspender

We then spoke on seemingly weighty stuff
Like justification, it is certainly tough
And oh! you see, before we're done
We need to explain sanctification, when it has begun

We pondered on the difficult parable
The Lucan one to understand, I'm hardly able
And the confusing dialogues are hard to cope
Those we find written in the book of Job

It was an evening spent

In good company
Time with a friend
And a sip of tea

Copyright © 2006 Pearlie Ng

Picture by Eddy Schoell

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Life is futile. I sound very ecclesiastical, don't I?

It is just that I was continuing in the reading of Morris's Cross of Jesus, its chapter on the cross being the answer to futility, that I did spend some time mulling over it.

God has created us in his image. He has created man and woman. He has pronounced them good.

But, the good has chosen to be bad.

Any ordinary person however, will not choose to say it so blatantly in that way. Nevertheless, in simple words, we choose to be so; by evidence that it takes so much more to do good than to do bad. What more, in this broken world, good always turn bad. Food spoils, air gets polluted, a clean house gets dirty, a fresh schoolgoing boy in the morning gets dishevelled by noon, an organised office becomes a mess in no time.

So, let's be ecclesiastical about it. Life is futile.

Isn't it then an urgent need for us to submit and cast our weaknesses to God, especially in this season of Lent: to ask for his forgiveness of our pride, selfishness, apathy, foolishness, deceit, wanton and greed? We need to admit that whatever that we do or offer to him carries no weight if it is not done in Christ.

But then again, as sinners, there is no denial that it is hard to please God or to do anything in him. In life, there lies frustrations in all we do.

What did Jesus mean when he said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."? (
Matt 11:28-30)

If it is so easy and light, why are we finding it so hard to spend enough time with the Lord in prayer, in the learning of his word, in giving to the poor, in visiting the sick, in caring for the needy, in spreading his word.

It is a paradox. "Matchless paradox, even among the paradoxically couched maxims in which our Lord delights! That rest which the soul experiences when once safe under Christ’s wing makes all yokes easy, all burdens light." (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown)

Those who believe in the Lord are justified by faith. They who believe in the Lord strive with their might, will and strength to work out their salvation* in fear and trembling (
Phil 2:12).

Yet we tend to feel that we are just not doing enough. Why?

Sin still find its way into us - pride, selfishness, self-centeredness, hatred, apathy, envy, jealousy, greed; making it so hard to please the Lord.

We are created beings who bear the image of God; we will find no rest until we meet perfectness in him.

O God, help us.

Picture from

* Work out your own salvation - Go on, walking by the same rule, and minding the same thing, till your salvation be completed: till, filled with love to God and man, ye walk unblamably in all his testimonies, having your fruit unto holiness, and your end everlasting life. (Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible.)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I have been trying to figure out how to present the word pictures of the cross in the adult fellowship meeting. These words are big and difficult ones: being redemption, reconciliation, propitiation. By God's gracious leading, I was led to explore an idea, which turned out to be almost priceless!

I checked out the Chinese characters for those words and used to find out the semantics of each part of the characters. My find was astounding to say the least.

Here was what I had discovered.

In explaining that we have all sinned and fall short of God's glory, its Chinese character 罪 has a net 网 covering evil 非. We fool ourselves if we think we are without sin.

I introduced the group to sacrifices and sin offerings of the Old Testament - in order to pay for the wrongs that the Israelites have done, they were instructed to offer unblemished lambs to be slaughtered in their place. They are also required to place their right hand on the animal while it is being slaughtered to signify their responsibility for the death of the animal in their place. The lamb is to take their place in response to their wrongs before God. The Chinese character for sacrifice 祭 consists of flesh 肉 offered by the right hand 又 to show 示, in this context remorse and grief. Notice the usage of the pictograph of the right hand in comparison to the placing of the right hand of the sinner onto the animal's head. To use the character for Christ, he was God made flesh 肉 offered by God's own hands 又 to show 示 us the way to the Lord.

Redemption stresses that in order to get something back, a price has to be paid. Its Chinese character 贖 consist of the character for valuables 貝. Christ is the precious one that was given in order to redeem us from our slavery to sin. The price was paid by his blood.

In order for reconciliation to happen, something has to be removed. Its Chinese character 解 is profoundly intriguing. It is made up of a knife to cut 刀 the horns 角 of an ox 牛. Until and unless our horns or sins are cut away and removed, we can never be reconciled to God. Only Christ made that possible by being our sacrifice, who justifies us to be free of sin.

After preparing the above word pictures of the chosen 3 concepts, I thought I'd check out the cross. And it turned out to be one of the most amazing find.

The Chinese characters for the cross are 十 字 架. The character ten 十 in Chinese signifies completeness, an ideograph indicating the four directions and the centre. The character 字 consist of a child 子. The character 架 consists of a tree 木 and it means a frame that stands upright.

Mark this - the Chinese pictorial language of the cross is: a complete perfect child on the tree. Christ, who is the perfect being and Son of God was hung on a tree as a sacrifice for us in order that we are saved from the bondage of sin which is death (
Deut 21:22).

One more interesting word-picture. The character for removal 免, here in our context the removal of sin, is the Chinese character of a rabbit 兔 that escaped, signified by a missing dot. By Christ's sacrificial act on the cross, we have escaped death by the removal of sins in our lives.

And just a minute ago, I decided to look up the Chinese character for blood 血. And you know what I found? Simply astounding.

The Chinese character for blood 血 consist of a serving vessel 皿 containing sacrificial blood, signified by the mark on top.

What more can I say!

Picture by Andreas Thies

Friday, March 10, 2006

The way the cross saves

Would you have thought that there has never been an agreement on the way the cross saves us? Morris says that this could be due to the more pressing issues in the early centuries of the church's existence. Discussion on the soteriological aspect of the cross was considered minimal in comparison to the immense energy lavished on other questions in Christian doctrine, vis a vis the Trinity, the nature of the Godhead, the creeds of Christendom.

As a result the church has never had an accepted understanding of the way the cross affects atonement.

Morris however, presents 3 views of atonement: The Bearing of Penalty, A Demonstration of Love and, Victory. These are not mutually exclusive, though some have held that the whole truth is contained in one of them. There is in fact truth in all three and we cannot abandon any of them.


Picture from

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I had totally forgotten about the adult fellowship session I have to take this Saturday evening!

I had been toying with a few possibilities on what to do but with nothing really concrete in mind. With not much time left, I have to decide quickly and work on preparing for it.

I finally decided on the cross. There are three reasons why I chose the cross.

Firstly, for the obvious reason of Lent, there is no other we should focus on. Secondly, it has been constantly filling my mind by evidence of recent blogs and finally, it raises the most profound of questions. My son summed it up for me just awhile ago when we somehow or rather was having a conversation along the same line. He said, the simplest of questions has the longest of answers! You'd think he an eighty year-old instead of eight!

Think about it. Life's deceivingly simplest questions seek the most profound of answers. In a glance, you might find no qualms in providing a quick answer to questions like, "Why did Jesus die?" "To save me from my sins, of course!"

Yes, but does he have to die?*

We take many things for granted, including the things we know or thought we knew. I used to guard myself against doubts. I feared that if I doubted, I question God and I question my faith; making myself a poor Christian, unworthy of him because I don't trust him 100%. I also had the fear that if I question my faith, I might lose it. I was afraid that I might find it not what I think it is; that it is all but a collection of myths; and that I have been gullible enough to have believed.

These fears are valid but unfounded. Because a life not searched is a life not lived - a faith not discovered is a faith not worth having.

We need to be bold in our search for life in Christ. Confront doubts and tackle seemingly dangerous questions. Our faith will be richer having gone through that fire and test. Regardless of our disposition, he is still the Living Water and the Bread of Life.

You will only find death in Christ on the cross; but with the cross comes resurrection and life. He who believes in him will live, even though he dies. Whoever lives and believes in him will never die (John 11:24-26).


* n.b. Just in case the rethoric in the question is missed, the answer is: yes, he has to die.
Picture by Meredith B.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Now, to come back to the topic of the cross of Jesus, Morris introduces some great picture words that the New Testament writers used to bring out what the death of Christ has done. Our loss however, stands in the fact that we may miss their exact significance because we do not share their thought world. I will be almost quoting Morris in the following:

We no longer have this process now and therefore it is easy for us to miss what the New Testament writers meant when they used the term. It originally refers to prisoners of war, where a ransom price is paid for them to be set free. The word then came to be used for the release of slaves by a payment of a price. Sinners are slaves to sins (John 8:34) and under a sentence of death (Rom 6:23). The cross is a payment of the price that brings us liberty. Our salvation is at a cost and now we are free.

It means the turning away of anger, usually by the offering of a gift. Whether we like it or not, the bible is very clear that God's wrath is exercised towards all evil (Ps 7:11; Col 3:6) - as sinners, we face a dismal future. Through Christ's death, God's wrath was turned away or propitiated, and we are freed from a dreadful fate.

This is a homely word that gives a picture of making up after a quarrel. Reconciliation is brought about by the removal of the cause of the quarrel. The hostility between God and sinners (Rom 5:10) the root cause, sin, was put away by the death of Christ, making the way clear for reconciliation.

This word means a lot to the first century Jews. They saw themselves and themselves only as the covenantal people of God. Unfortunately, they persistently broke the covenant by their sin. Jesus spoke of his blood as inaugurating the new covenant (Luke 22:20). This implies that the church was the true covenant people of God.

This is a legal concept. Its meaning is in the instruction that in the settlement of legal disputes the judges are to "justify" those in the right and "condemn" the wicked (Deut 25:1). Paul makes extensive use of this imagery. He sees sinners as facing condemnation when we stand before God. But he also sees God as taking action in the person of his Son whereby all legal claims on those sinners who are in Christ are fully met by his death. There is no further claim. They go free.

This represents a term that had a universal appeal in the first century but obviously not to us anymore. We now exist in a religious system that finds no place for animal sacrifice. But real people stood by their altars in solemn awe before the religious ritual that saw animal slaughtered in their stead and watched as the offering went up in the fires of the altars to the gods they worshipped. For the Christians such sacrifices could never put away sins (Heb 10:4), but they form a vivid picture of what Jesus did when he offered himself as a sacrifice (Eph 5:2).

These vivid word pictures show that the first Christians saw the cross as many-sided. We therefore must not to view the cross from one standpoint only.

The human predicament is complex, but while it is so, God has in a correspondingly complex way dealt with that predicament in the most glorious saving act of the cross.


Leon Morris, The Cross of Christ, (Grand Rapids: Eerdsmann, 1988): 5-8
Picture by Robert Aichinger

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I had a pretty long day today but fascinating nonetheless. The beginning of the day was filled with stress of one kind and the closing of the day with stress of an entirely different nature. It is almost paradoxical - the first of the body, sarx; the second of the spiritual, pneuma.

The first is reminiscent of the frailty of humankind, the glutton for power and standing in society and yet with a tinge of desire for justice; although whether it is justice for the purpose of justice alone or justice for the purpose of self-gratification remains a question.

The second however, is something quite weighty and complex for me to grasp at this point of time. It is the realisation that as far as biblical hermeneutics is concerned, can one really, truly and genuinely interpret God's word? With the stalwarts of the Christian faith holding onto clearly contradicting positions on various issues - including the concept of hell and eternal damnation, salvation and the possibility of it being universal and, annihilation being the cessation or shall I even say damnation of hell itself - make one ask the question: "to what end?"

I am reminded of a book entitled To What End Exegesis: Essays Textual, Exegetical, and Theological by Gordon D. Fee: definitely a book I am now tempted to get.

Seriously, this is the question I now ask - "to what end exegesis?"


Picture by Scouts Caslu

Monday, March 06, 2006

Being the Lent season, I should be spending time with the Lord in prayer and reminiscence of the cross, rather than on the dishonest manager and his master.

I was reading Leon Morris's The Cross of Jesus before I was interjected by the mind-boggling Lucan parable. I would have to read it again from the beginning as I have already lost track of it -- which is something I seem to be doing quite often in recent days, losing track of my reading, that is.

Comparing to John Stott's The Cross of Christ, Morris's The Cross of Jesus is by far a much thinner book but nonetheless an excellent one. While Stott attempts to lay out what the cross is, what it represents, what it achieved and what it means by living under it, Morris presents the cross as an answer to futility, ignorance, loneliness, sickness & death and, selfishness.

Firstly, Morris asks the question Why the Cross?

The cross is very central to Christianity and it is even evident in the language that we use: "the crucial point is ... "; "the crux of the matter is ... " As Morris points out, "we are saying in effect 'just as the cross is central to Christianity, so is this point central to my argument' ".

The big question for Christians is "How does the death of Jesus save us?"


Picture by Sam Hummel

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Having seen that it is possible to apply the theory of agency and usury to the parable, one still have to ask if it is so important to establish the manager's innocence in his subsequent act. This is because the master can very well commend him for his craftiness though not his dishonesty; like a villain admiring another villain.

What follows from the Luke 16:1-8a parable are the Luke 16:8b-13 lessons. Verse 8b-9 is where the dishonest manager's prudence is taken as a model for Christians. This is not easy to apply because of the act of dishonesty attached to it.

Verse 8b is pretty much a general statement which points out that the children of this world are wiser than the children of light as they are more adept and prudent in taking care of their business compared to the Christians. They use more skills, make more plans and contrive more ways to provide for themselves compared to the Christians who often do not do enough in their business of promoting the gospel.

Verse 9 however is a challenge. Jesus starts with a kago humin lego, "and I say to you": a direct and emphatic commentary of Jesus on the parable. And he calls one to "make friends with wealth of unrighteousness"! Could mamona tes adikias, "mammons of unrighteousness", mean the wealth of worldliness as opposed to the wealth of righteousness, the goodness that comes from God? And could it mean that Jesus is calling Christians to make good use of the wealth we have obtained in this unrighteous world prudently to take care of God business, i.e. to bring friends or people into his kingdom? And so that when we die, they will be part of the kingdom of God to receive us into the heavenlies?


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Saturday, March 04, 2006

One can basically raise 4 questions from this parable:

1. In what way was the manager dishonest?
This happens to be fundamental to the meaning of the whole parable. We weren't told how the manager squandered the master's wealth. However, he was already been called a "dishonest manager". His subsequent conduct however strangely and only resulted in praise from his master. It therefore begs the question: was his subsequent action really dishonest and corrupt?

2. What is the Palestinian economic situation reflected in the parable?
Derrett has suggested that among the practices in the Near Eastern countries are agency and usury. Therefore it would be possible that the manager acted as an agent for the master. In this case, any criminal act on the part of the manager will have no bearing of accountability on the master. He could therefore been practising various dishonest acts to gain profit for himself: for example, renting and lending out his master's land and goods for usury without his master's knowledge. Now that he is in the risk of being dismissed, he summoned the debtors to forgo his own profits to get in the good books of society lest he needs favours from them after losing his job.

3. Why does the master approve of the manager's actions?
The master would not have known of the manager's usurious transactions. He would most probably release them himself if they would later come to light. The manager's craftiness and prudence in releasing the debts, which as not the master's, to win favour in his impending dismissal -- earned his master's praise.

4. What is the point of comparison in the parable?
The conclusion of the parable is clear in v.8a: the master approved of that dishonest manager cause he had acted prudently. He has used his own wealth to insure his future in the face of crisis.

Fitzmyer's contribution to the understanding of the parable brings up some interesting points. However, this will serve only as a harbinger of more to discover because scholars and critics have seen to differ in their interpretation of the parable.


Fitzmyer, Joseph A. "The Story of the Dishonest Manager (Lk 16:1-13)." Theological Studies (1964): 23-42.
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Friday, March 03, 2006

I guess I spoke too soon. I did a search on some journals and found a long list of them attributed to this Lucan passage. One of them commented that: "Almost every article or book section devoted to the so-called parable of the Unjust Steward begins by noting that it is the most difficult of the parables". It continued, "This parable has spawned a wide variety of interpretations, although none has produced anything resembling a scholarly consensus." (Landry & May, 2000)

Looks like I have a lot of reading and studying of the passage to do.

I shall be devoting the next few days of blogs to this.


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Thursday, March 02, 2006

I read one of the most difficult passages during my devotion this morning: Luke 16:1-9.

It has baffled me last year when I read it off Carson's For the Love of God Vol.1 and it baffled me again this morning; so much so that my breakfast devotion did not last very long.

Now that I am home, out came Walter Kaiser's Hard Sayings of the Bible. I had spent quite a bit getting this huge tome for myself last Christmas but so far I hadn't really got much out of it. And I couldn't make anything out of its Luke 19:9 entry.

But now that I am re-reading the passage, I realised that I may have made a mistake. I had read it in isolation of its adjoining verses. Reading on into v.10-12 clears the air a little.

I am being reminded time and again to read the bible in context and in its entirety.


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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It will inaugurate our preparation to observe the Lord's passion and resurrection.

Today begins the Lent season. It is a call to deeper involvement and deeper faith in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have often felt wanting. I always feel I am never the person I want to be. I know I often strive for perfection. The world we live in however, is far from being perfect; and yet I strive to be. Why? Only because we are initially made to be perfect; then became marred by sin.

Non-Christians may never understand our preoccupation with the concept of sin. But what I think is that the same goes for ourselves as Christians. John Stott has lamented that we underestimate the gravity of sin, our sin: the fact that we have chosen to be separated from God. I sometimes think that I am ok, that I am close to God; but on a deeper level, I sense that I am no where near God in the thoughts I think, in the words I say and in the things I do.

Therefore, this Lent: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin (or a sin offering) for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:20b-21)

I need to begin to learn and understand the weight of sin; and know what it means to be reconciled to God. We all do. And when we are reconciled to him in the last day, perfection then will we see.

Today is Ash Wednesday: today begins the Lent season.


Picture from