Friday, June 30, 2006

A logical construction

I have been lazying for too long. I forced myself to sit down and really seriously start constructing my Romans 6 paper and I think I am back in business! It is however, far from finished.

What I have accomplished though is that I have worked out a logical structure to the paper. I felt that even though Romans 1-5 have been very well done by my fellow classmates, we all tend to get lost in all the theological discussions, debates and Greek grammar, so much so that either we could not finish the intended passage or we run really very late.

I am going to do it differently, even though I cannot be sure it will work. But at least I have a logical sequence to it.

My paper will be constructed as follows:

- Introduction
- The scope
- The context of the passage
- Romans 6:1-14 parsed, diagrammed and interpreted
- Paul’s argument
- Greek exegesis of key expressions
.......died to sin
.......baptised in Christ and into death
.......buried with him with him
- If should not sin, what then?
- Conclusion

I hope it makes sense to others the way it makes sense to me!

The paper also requires us to diagram the passage. I had problems doing that with this passage. Problems in trying to break down the verses and problems in not diagramming it too much or too little; but where to draw the line (pun intended!).

Again, I hope this makes sense (click to enlarge):

Picture by Valerio Lo Bello

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Musical Blessings

I took vocal lessons since March this year and I am so blessed to have an excellent vocal trainer to help and train me in singing. Joanna is a delight to be with, a real blessing and joy to me and all around her.

I have learnt so much from her. The most important is this: since I started serving in the music ministry in church, be it in the choir or the worship team, some 20 years ago, I was always told to sing with my diaphragm. The problem is nobody could tell me how! Most would show me by belting out a song. Yes, I hear them. But no, I don't see how. Not until a couple of years ago, when Joanna explained it. Aaahh ... I see ...

I also learnt why I can't seem to sing sometimes. I now realise that each of us have these, I am not sure what to call it technically, notes between our low and high singing range. I just sound awful singing G and A just above the middle-C. Solution? Practice and more practice.

And finally I found and confirmed my genre of songs: classical. I love the sound of songs like Pie Jesu, Panis Angelicus. Not many people appreciate classical though and I need to strengthen the other genre of songs, particularly the praise and worship kind, since these will be the songs which I need to lead the congregation in worship.

So, why am I posting this?

For one, I am spending most of my available time including devotion time preparing for my Romans 6 paper due this Tuesday, and I have posted quite a bit of it already here. So, I really don't have much else to post in relations to my devotion. (With this, my next few postings would most probably be just ramblings!)

Two, I am simply grateful for His blessings, His goodness, His providence, His love, and the fact that He created music, that He inhabits in the praises of His people (Ps 22:3).

I will therefore "praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being." ~ Ps 146:2

The LORD is my strength and my song,
....and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him, father's God, and I will exalt him.
~ Exo 15:2

Picture by Nik Frey

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pictures in Psalm 23

What I think about the word pictures:

one who provides
one who cares and loves
one who owns us, who bought us with a price

Green pastures
cool and refreshing rest
vast feeding ground of the Word of God
beauty and peace (Dugalug)

Still waters
the deep and quiet working of the Spirit

Valley of shadow of death
the lowest point of our lives, seven to the point of near death
that point in life when you need someone to save you. In comic books, it is the point where it looks like the villian was going to win (Dugalug)

His rod and staff
his sovereignty
his care
his power
his leading

A prepared table
Passover (Dugalug)

Overflowing cup
goodness upon goodness, blessings upon blessings

And Julia sent me this link, a very good read on the Psalm.

Picture by Dominic Morel

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pictures in Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

I shared this psalm in a song with our church 2nd service on Sunday. Psalm 23 is the most famous of all psalms. I remember in a class on Preaching the Psalms conducted by DA Carson several years ago, where he mentioned that famous passages in the bible are among the most difficult to preach. I agree with him. When lessons or passages in the bible become so much quoted, we gloss over them without much thought. (Another of such is Romans 8:28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.)

Psalm 23 is a beautiful and rich metaphorical metrical hymn. It would certainly be a shame if we treat the pictures hurriedly, not dealing with them properly as we should. I usually read it almost literally, picturing myself in green pastures, beside still waters, having his rod and his staff with me in times of trouble, but the psalm can and should be more than that.

David was himself a shepherd in his early days. When he wrote this psalm, he would have remembered the care he extended to his flock and imagined God doing the same. I think it would be a good idea to do this together. What do you see in these picture words?

  • Shepherd
  • Green pastures
  • Still waters
  • Valley of shadow of death
  • His rod and staff
  • A prepared table
  • An overflowing cup

  • Maeghan
    Picture by Cerys Robinson

    Monday, June 26, 2006

    Wait on the Lord, renew your strength

    Psalm 6
    To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.
    1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.
    2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
    3 My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD--how long?
    4 Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
    5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?
    6 I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.
    7 My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.
    8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
    9 The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer.
    10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

    This morning, I felt most tired and weary; like there is nothing much to look forward to. I think it is due to:
    1. My hormones acting up
    2. Nothing much of a challenge is happening at work lately
    3. I am plain tired; I did not get enough rest

    It is during times like these that I always desire a change in my life, and the only thing I keep thinking of is to change my line of work. It would be a drastic change, which is why I am still waiting on God. When I was in my early teens, there was this altar call for those who desire to serve God full time and in my emotionally charged days then, I responded. I have a friend who at one time several years ago, kept reminding me of that vow insisting that whatever vows I made to God, it cannot be revoked. I was quite turned off by her. I know the Scripture verses she was refering to but I am not entirely convinced of that vow being non-revocable, one made when I was still raw and fresh.

    Having said that however, I do have a desire to serve him full time but I am certain that when I do that, it is not because of a non-revocable vow I have to fulfill but a wholesome desire to want to do so; out of love more than out of duty.

    I have been waiting on God for many years. I have tried several times to just do what I thought is the right thing but it did not work out. So since then, I decided not to force it but to take the opportunity to grow first in His Word while growing in relationship with him, however long it will take; 2 years, 10 years, 20 years. There is still so much to learn and so much to do. And I trust that he will in his perfect timing lead me to what I should do and where I should be.

    Just that, sometimes the waiting gets wearisome. O that I will continue to be patient, to wait on the Lord and trust him. I am nevertheless encouraged, through a window of hope which he showed me several days ago. I trust that my God is omnipotent. Nothing is impossible for him.

    Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
    ~ Isa 40:30-31

    Picture by Robin Parker

    Sunday, June 25, 2006

    Man shall not live by bread alone

    We have a guest speaker today; who is none other than our very own homegrown theologian. He is undergoing his Masters in Systematic Theology in Singapore. Back for the holidays, we are privilege to have him speak to us this morning.

    He shared with us his thoughts on Luke 4:4, "Man shall not live by bread alone." Humanity has quite a lot of to do with food; by food is the first commandment that God gave to mankind , by food Adam and Eve fell into sin, by food offerings are given to God, by food we are called to remember our Lord.

    But man shall not live by food alone. We may have all we need but if we do not have God in our lives, we have nothing. We may be the best law-abiding person on earth but if we do not heed the word of God, we do not live aright.

    Our lives can only be complete in our creator.

    Picture by Pontus Edenberg

    Saturday, June 24, 2006

    My problem with pride

    I have not been worship leading for 3 months. This is a record. I have not been so out of action for so long. So I offered my uncle to fill in for him, which he gladly accepted. He has this mindset that he is always too old to lead in worship, which I, with much prayer, have convinced him otherwise and he has been leading in worship for several months now.

    We had our practice today and I felt it was a good practice. Firstly, we had good fun, we enjoyed ourselves. Secondly, the songs were good in their own rights and we worshipped in our own ways, even though it is practice time. And thirdly, I felt I did better this time, after several vocal lessons which I started in March.

    Now, this is where the problem is. I am ashamed, very ashamed, to admit this but since the very beginning, when I started worship leading about 20 years ago (yes, it was that long!) I always thought I sang well. I tried to stop thinking that and truth be told , many a times I got reminded of myself that I am not as good as I thought I was.

    And I still think that. Compared to the others in church and compared to the other amazing voices I have heard, I am nothing in comparison. I know that for a fact. But yet at times when I sing, I have this fight within myself to stop thinking how good I sound. I felt really embarrassed about it but felt I had to post it anyway as I am accountable to my action, my words and my thoughts.

    Pride is one of the most basic of deadly sin. (I think greed is the other one. And from these 2, the other sins emerge.)

    Pro 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

    Pro 29:23 One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

    Isa 2:11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

    Oba 1:3 The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, "Who will bring me down to the ground?"

    Mar 7:21-23 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

    1Jo 2:16 For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.

    I desire to be humble before God, knowing that I am nothing before him. O Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

    Picture by Kat Callard

    Note to my fellow blogger friends: do check my Musings blog, an update to the piano post.

    Friday, June 23, 2006

    Better is sorrow than laughter

    In times of sorrow, I used to compel myself to read the happy psalms. Not anymore when I realise that I have to be honest with God with my cries; I am not to disguise it with forced laughter.

    Contrary to what the world in general believe, Solomon says in Ecc 7:3-4, “Better is sorrow than laughter: for with a sad countenance it is well with the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, and the heart of fools in the house of mirth.”

    Is sorrow a good thing? Isn’t it a given that everyone desires to be happy?

    When one is sorrowful, he is reduced to the very raw form of his soul. When one is sorrowful, he realises his own weakness and reaches out for help. When one is sorrowful, he feels the hurts of the others and reaches out to help.

    Sorrow is evident in the book of Lamentations. Jeremiah’s words cut to the soul. But it is only in heart of sorrow, in the heart of Lamentations, that these words in 3:1-26 are real. A happy soul knows no better.

    But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
    The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
    ....his mercies never come to an end;
    they are new every morning;
    ....great is your faithfulness.
    "The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
    ...."therefore I will hope in him."
    The LORD is good to those who wait for him, the soul who seeks him.
    It is good that one should wait quietly
    ....for the salvation of the LORD.

    ~ Lam 3:21-26

    In that light, sorrow is a good thing but then, given a choice, I still prefer to be happy.

    Picture by Luc Sesselle

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    A window of hope

    I have recently prayed and bravely asked for something. I am rarely bold in asking for things from the Lord but I decided if it is something I really need, I can honestly ask him. He will give according to his will. So I asked and I waited in hope and anticipation.

    Amazingly, I saw glimpses of that hope yesterday. It is not a concrete answer to my prayer per se but it is certainly a window to what God can really achieve if he chooses to. My faith in him is strengthened, my hope in him is fortified.

    He may give or he may not give, it does not matter. What I am certain is that he has me in his hands and his purpose will be fulfilled, regardless. God is good.

    Picture by Dark Water

    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    A hope that is a certainty

    Romans 5:5
    and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

    During the Romans class, one of us was trying to figure out the connection between the 2 sections in Rom 5:5. It is only today that I realised the magnificence of it, “hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured our into our hearts”.

    Much of the hope we experience in our life isn’t much hope, in that it may disappoint us. I hope it won’t rain today and it would be soon raining cats and dogs, I hope to close this sale and next we receive news that our competitor is in celebrations. Hope, it’s nothing but hope.

    However, the hope we have in Christ is altogether different. I do wonder if there are different Greek or Hebrew words that carry the distinction of hope that is just hopeful or hope that is a certainty. Or would it be that the English word hope is not sufficient to carry the full meaning of this hope in Christ?

    Because of the love of God that he so graciously, lovingly and abundantly poured into our hearts through the Spirit, we are reconciled to him in spirit and will reconcile to him on that glorious day in eternity. Now, that is a certainty and that is a hope, as we strive to live our lives in him, in joy but also in fear and in trembling.

    Picture by Clodia Porteous

    Tuesday, June 20, 2006

    Reconciliation consequence of Justification?

    We had our class on Romans 5 today (and with that it only leaves me 2 weeks to complete my paper on Romans 6!). I was utterly confused for most of the time mainly because I did not do enough homework on the chapter and mostly because I am not Greek-y enough to understand much that was discussed. I have a feeling my session next round will be the most un-Greek-able session so far.

    What I got from class was the discussion on Rom 5:3-4. The debate of Rom 5:1 though got us nowhere.

    Romans 5:3-4
    3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

    Paul posited that the reason why we rejoice in our suffering (v.3) is because of the love of God (v.5) and this love of God is what Christ has d0ne for us on the cross (v.6-10). In the midst of all this, the suffering that we encounter also builds us: into endurance, into character and into hope. We already have that hope in Christ. It is through the suffering, endurance and character that our hope in Christ is strengthened.

    On Rom 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, ” the presenter offered 3 options in meaning:

    1. Peace, i.e. reconciliation with God is a consequence of justification
    2. Justification and reconciliation are simply 2 metaphors saying the same thing
    3. Justification involves reconciliation

    I felt that much of what was discussed on this matter was really theological hair-splitting but I thought it would clear my head a bit by putting it down in words here.

    The debate was initiated when the presenter felt that option no.1 an no.2 was untenable. His reasons being:

    1. When Christ died on the cross, God in effect has both justified and reconciled with us at the same time and therefore there is no sequential time that would have taken place, hence God could not have justified us and then reconciled with us. It is therefore not a consequence.
    2. Justification and reconciliation could not be 2 metaphors merely just to explain one thing because b0th justification and reconciliation are 2 different things that God has done for us. (I will have to revisit a couple of my posts on this as I do remember saying that they are 2 metaphors of the same thing.)
    3. Justification is given us involving at the same time a reconciliation with God.

    I could agree on no.2, for the fact that we cannot have one without the other, as we can if we regard them as 2 metaphors or 2 picture words.

    But on no.1 and no.3, I am not so sure because v.1 says it quite clearly, “Therefore, since we have been justified, we have peace.” In other words, “because we have been justified, we are reconciled”. And if we look into the word used in trying to explain the relationship between these 2, “involves” it also carry the meaning of “consequence”.

    And most importantly, does it matter, as in the most important question in any argument – so what?

    Verse 1 clearly states it, even if it should happen at the same time, I felt that time is not the issue here but that it happened – we are justified and we are reconciled. To drive home the point I asked the question: can justification come after reconciliation? The rest of the class was with a loud “no”. Alright, why not? It is because we need to be made righteous first with God before we can be reconciled. Which clearly shows us that, no.1 is indeed tenable.

    My conclusion of the Romans 5 discussion is this: the word of God can be so amazing that we can read it as simple or study it as deep as according to our needs and purposes. But I think somewhere in the middle would be a good position. As the adage would go – everything in moderation.

    I know I am already in hot soup, having not spent time on Romans 6 lately – with my “hiatus” lasting for longer that I had planned it to. I will be eating, drinking and sleeping Romans 6 from now on until Jul 4th. God help me.

    Picture by Dana H

    Monday, June 19, 2006

    Lies at the altar?

    My computer was attacked by viruses last night. My sweet husband spent the entire night trying to rectify it for me. He managed to get rid of most of it except for this particular one which is so elusive that it kept over-riding the anti-virus software. As a result, I spent night in front of the TV while he was working on it and almost the whole day today computer-less, while the IT Department in my office tackle the elusive one.

    What I happen to catch on TV while the viral war was at hand, was Oprah. I am not an Oprah fan but I do not mind checking out once in awhile what’s currently in on the American’s platter of life/thought Oprah-style.

    The issue on last night’s show was marriage. It featured Lance Armstrong’s ex-wife who felt that being a wife eroded her lifestyle and own identity. It featured a writer-psychiatrist who wrote a book entitled Lies at the Altar. It featured 2 women who are about to get married doubting if they should be getting married. I suppose I watched the show (I missed the beginning and did not bother to watch the ending) with quite a frown.

    I agree with the fact that communication is crucial to a marriage, before and after. I agree with being open and working at knowing more of each other but to put it in the way that Oprah has, I am not comfortable.

    Oprah commented that she did not get married because she is not willing to give up herself for another man. She portrays an almost incredulous look at the idea of women who do. And yet she confirms that she is not against marriage. Go figure.

    I thought it quite sad. Granted, marriage is not easy. It takes a lot of out men and women alike. But it is the very model that God has chosen to depict his relationship with us. Paul in Ephesians uses the analogy of the husband-wife relationship to describe the relationship between Christ and the church, though he also doubles up the passage as a household code.

    Eph 5:22-33 (ESV)
    Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
    For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
    Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
    Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
    that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
    so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
    In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
    For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
    "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
    This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
    However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

    I recognise that this biblical passage attracts a lot of attention, negative and positive. But reflecting on what Oprah is professing, my question is aren’t we all in submission at one time to another to someone, somebody or something? It is how we submit that matters. We are in submission to our country, to the laws that govern us, to our people around us in a “social-code”, to the organisation we work for that happens to take the majority of ur time. Wouldn’t these shape us an demand change in us to comply with their demands. So is the same in a marriage.

    Maybe I read her wrong, I hope I did. I just did not like the way that it was presented. Lies at the altar?

    Picture by Mike Goodwin

    Sunday, June 18, 2006

    I'm home!

    I am so glad to be home. I really missed home.

    This morning, I am also so glad I am again in the midst of family in church. Fellowshipping with friends who are like-minded in Christ was what I missed too. Having spent more than 4 days with at least 17 solid hours each, together with those who are not makes it more so. I am sure it is not by chance that I was reading and meditating on Psalm 84 while I was there.

    Better is one day in your courts
    ....than a thousand elsewhere; ~ Psalm 84:10a

    I'm both home and home.


    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    The longest day with the shortest psalm

    It's midnight now and I have been up since 7am … working (at least the teams are, and I had to wait for the completion of the deliverables). Having no time to reflect on much other than case studies, discussions and more discussions, I thought it would be neat to reflect on the shortest of the psalms.

    Psalm 117 (NIV)
    1 Praise the LORD, all you nations;
    .....extol him, all you peoples.
    2 For great is his love toward us,
    .....and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
    .....Praise the LORD.

    Some thoughts:

    In God's worship it is not always necessary to be long; few words sometimes say what is sufficient, as this short Psalm giveth us to understand. - David Dickson.

    This Psalm, the shortest portion of the Book of God, is quoted, and given much value to, in Rom. 15. And upon this it has been profitably observed, “It is a small portion of Scripture, and as such we might easily overlook it. But not so the Holy Ghost. He gleans up this precious little testimony which speaks of grace to the Gentiles, and presses it on our attention.” - From Bellett's Short Meditations on the Psalms, chiefly in their Prophetic character, 1871.

    A very short Psalm if you regard the words, but of very great compass and most excellent if you thoughtfully consider the meaning. There are here five principal points of doctrine.
    First, the calling of the Gentiles, the Apostle being the interpreter, Rom 15:11; but in vain might the Prophet invite the Gentiles to praise Jehovah, unless they were to be gathered into the unity of the faith together with the children of Abraham.
    Second, The summary of the Gospel, namely, the manifestation of grace and truth, the Holy Spirit being the interpreter, Joh 1:17.
    Third, The end of so great a blessing, namely, the worship of God in spirit and in truth, as we know that the kingdom of the Messiah is spiritual.
    Fourth, the employment of the subjects of the great King is to praise and glorify Jehovah.
    Lastly, the privilege of these servants: that, as to the Jews, so also to the Gentiles, who know and serve God the Saviour, eternal life and blessedness are brought, assured in this life, and prepared in heaven. - Mollerus.

    Picture by Rodolfo Clix

    Friday, June 16, 2006

    Salvation a reciprocation?

    During our training session yesterday, I was to deliver a 2-hour lecture on Influencing in Action. It was quite a tough one for me to prepare. My life, by God’s grace, has been evolving mainly around my faith and belief, my God and my Saviour that to talk about influence in a secular way was a challenge. Thankfully, I did manage it quite well, though I felt it wasn’t that great.

    What got me into thinking though was this particular moment when I was talking about the 6 principles and the 8 styles of influence. The other trainer-facilitator (who is also one of my bosses), who keep butting in much to my chagrin, gave an example in each of the instances. He mentioned briefly about God and reciprocation: “if you do this, you will go to heaven and if you don’t, you’ll go to hell.”

    What struck me was this: I am not a Calvinist and I don’t know enough Arminianism to really label myself an Arminian. And I do believe in predestination though maybe not in the Calvinist way. But when he said those words, I began to appreciate the Calvinist standpoint – that God elects, nothing we do can bring us salvation. It is only by his grace.

    But our choosing to believe in God does seem to be something that we do and that by doing so, we have salvation; which is something I suppose the Calvinists would definitely challenge.

    This is the first time I think about the relevance of the election concept in a non-Christian environment. Is it wrong to say “if you do this, you will go to heaven and if you don’t, you’ll go to hell.” If the answer is no, then how different are we from the other beliefs and what about justification by faith and not works? If the answer is yes, then how does election play a role? What would be the non-Christians’ reaction if we tell them that it is God that chooses them, not they who choose God. “If he chose you, good and if he does not, that’s too bad.”

    I know I will never resolve this issue of predestination. It has been discussed at length in Codepoke’s blog. I feel unequipped to give it more than a mention anyway. And I am not sure if I really need to, resolve it, that is.

    Picture by Dez Pain

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    Personalising Psalm 84

    I like Charles Spurgeon’s words on this psalm. He said “this sacred ode is one of the choicest of the collection; it has a mild radiance about it, entitling it to be called The Pearl of Psalms. If the 23rd be the most popular, the 103rd the most joyful, the 119th the most deeply experimental, the 51st the most plaintive, this is one of the most sweet of the Psalms of Peace.”

    I find myself in the lovely and peaceful highlands, a land of simple: the perfect place for retreat and refreshing in the Lord. But I miss the fellowship of the Lord my God (not to mention home as well), having to spend countless hours on work, which is why this psalm speaks so much to me right now.

    Here I attempt to personalise the psalm as an act of worship and adoration to God, my Lord and my all. O God, hear the words of my heart, which yearns for you now.

    How lovely your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
    How lovely the work of your hands, the mountains where you dwell, O Lord my God.

    My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
    O how I long to be with you that my heart yearns in agony to be in your presence; my heart and my body wants to shout for joy because of you.

    Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
    Just like the birds which have a home, the birds will have their rest; so will I long to find home and to be at rest in your courts, O Lord, my King and my God.

    Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah.
    Blessed will I be when I dwell in you, in praise, in adoration, in awe.

    Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
    Blessed will I be when I depend on you, with my heart attuned to your ways.

    As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
    Even as I am in misery, I will make it a place of refreshing and joy; your presence covers my gloom with hope.

    They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
    I will move on from strength to strength, I will appear before you in your presence, in your house.

    O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
    O Lord my God and King, hear the words of my prayer.

    Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!
    You are my shield, my protection; I pray you will look on my face.

    For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
    A day with you is better than any day anywhere. I’d rather take on the lowest of the lowest in your house than to be in the presence of those who hate you.

    For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
    O God, you are my sun, you are my shield; you will give favour, you will give honour, for you will not withhold any good things from me if I walk aright in your ways.

    O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
    O Lord, O God, O King, blessed will I be when I trust in you!


    Picture by Julia Tan

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    A Hard and Grueling Day

    The day has been grueling today, I have been up on my feet since 8.30am till now, 7.30pm. I suppose I will knock off the moment I hit the bed tonight (though I know I will still spend some time with myself, particularly in prayer and meditating on His word, something that very rare in these few days of work until I am back home on Saturday evening).

    Psalm 84 appealed to me when I ran through the psalms trying to find something that will give me some comfort in my lack of devotion and personal time. I will not have anymore time to post much today, nor comment too for that matter.

    And since I will be meditating on this psalm before I sleep tonight, I’d most probably post a brief one on the same psalm.

    Psalm 84
    To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

    1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
    2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
    3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
    4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah.
    5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
    6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
    7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
    8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
    9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!
    10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
    11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
    12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

    Picture by Kathie Alvarado

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    The Holiness and Love of God

    I will be preaching in July, officially for the first time and I have been reading up on the holiness of God. The only book I have that touches on the topic is DA Carson’s The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, one of my all-time favourite book. But also one I have yet to understand completely, though this would be my third read.

    Why would the doctrine of the love of God be judged difficult? Carson has several reasons:

    1.When informed Christian talk about the love of God, they mean something very different from what is meant in the surrounding culture and neither side may perceive that that is the case.

    2. The love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable. It is abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God.

    3. The impact of contemporary sentimentalized versions of love causes the widespread inability to think through the fundamental questions that alone enable us to maintain a doctrine of God in biblical proportion and balance.

    4. It is sometimes portrayed within Christian circles as much easier and more obvious than really is, and that is achieved by overlooking some of the distinctions the Bible itself introduces when it depicts the love of God.

    posting from Cameron Highlands

    Picture shows the view taken from our training room.

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    Off to Cameron Highlands

    It has been an exceptionally busy day at work today with no time to come up with anything to post - I was up working till midnight. I will be off to another highlands tomorrow but this time for work - assisting in facilitating a training session, which will last till Saturday. And that will be five whole days ... I am going to certainly miss my son to bits and so if you do remember me in prayer, do pray that I will not have time to miss home, which I think will be hard.

    I was preparing the training session on the topic of influence. One of the discussion session involves an example of a person of great influence. I do have a hard time figuring out who to talk about because to me there is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ! But I will have to settle for a mere mortal.

    Grace and peace to you in my "silence". I will still be "posting" offline and I hope to be able to update my blog upon my return. I hope I can take some pictures too as I have just upgraded my phone camera with a 512MB memory card.


    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    Our hope is in Christ

    I taught the Sunday School kids this morning telling them the Paul's conversion story. In the midst of the storytelling, I myself became so amazed at how a Christian-hater who went all out to persecute Christians would make such a pronounced turn in his belief. The Damascus experience must be so real to Paul because one just don't change like that. It must be so real that Paul was so convicted that he became willing to even risk his life to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.

    Acts 9:1-9 (NIV)
    1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

    5"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.

    "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. 6"Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

    7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

    One would wonder what went through his mind during these 3 days. God must have a purpose as to why he must go blind. He could have gone blind because he has seen the Lord (v.17, 27) but in blindness, God's purposes may be fulfilled as he was forced to be still and consider all that has happened. He could have been remembering the Scriptures and realising how Jesus is the fulfilment of the law. Whatever it is, he is a changed man, whom God has amazingly used to spread the gospel to Samaria and the ends of the earth.

    God works in amazing ways, beyond our understanding and imagination. If we have been praying for someone to believe in the Lord, and yet feel that it all seem almost impossible, think again, think Paul. Think how God has transformed Paul from a persecutor into an apostle.

    Acts 9:10-22 (NIV)
    10In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision,

    "Yes, Lord," he answered.

    11The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."

    13"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."

    15But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

    17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

    Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" 22Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.

    Picture by Maciek Pelc

    Saturday, June 10, 2006

    A brief look at Romans 5

    We will be having our class on Romans 5 soon. To take an initial brief look into it, Barnes gives quite a succinct introduction to the chapter:

    Romans 5 has been considered one of the most difficult portions of the New Testaments, especially Rom 5:12-21. This chapter deals with the results or the benefits of the doctrine of justification by faith, which he has fully established in the previous chapters:

    1. People are under the condemnation of sin
    2. This extended alike to Jews and Gentiles
    3. There is no way of escape but by the doctrine of pardon, not by personal merit , but by grace
    4. This plan was made fully known by the gospel of Christ
    5. This is no new doctrine, but was substantially the same how Abraham and David had been accepted by God

    After having stated and vindicated the doctrine, he follows it up with the demonstration, its bearing and practical influence. In v.1-5, he shows the fruits of justification. He then follows with the fountain and foundation of justification in the death of Jesus Christ from v.6-21.

    Picture by Mike Berg

    Friday, June 09, 2006


    Reading this: "the way we learn to think is by reading good thinkers and letting their thoughts form our thoughts" in Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers brought me some comfort.

    Only because I have been reading quite a bit and when I try to put my thoughts down, I'd end up quoting them instead. I do hope that in time to come, what I have learnt from these great men and women of God will be so concretized in my thoughts, word and deeds that articulating it myself would be second nature, God willing.

    Originality is nothing by judicious imitation.
    The most original writers borrowed one from another.

    Picture by Tom Swillen

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    The Modern Mind and Intepretation

    I am reading Christopher A. Hall's Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers. Chapter 2, The Modern Mind and Intepretation is most interesting.

    It was commented that "modern theologians have been tempted by their own hubris to think they can achieve more than is reasonably or humbly possible". We are to beware of spiritually ill theologians who produces sick theology.

    I have heard several times some comments about how one theologian or teacher was being influenced by some trends of teaching. One example of which was with regards to this group of people who thought and taught that the Old Testament is and should be read in isolation of the New Testament. They are not refuting the NT, only that messages from the OT can stand on its own. I have a lecturer of whom I felt fall into this category. When I first encountered him, I was not aware of it but soon, I realised and began to question some points in his lectures and teachings.

    But my concern is more this: who's to know, that in time to come, would there be people questioning the theology thought and strand I on the other hand is taking?

    Picture by Kjell-Einar Pettersen

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    Remembering Jonathan in prayer

    I have spent most of my available posting time updating posts of the past 3 days that I have no energy to post anymore. But what I want to do is to take the opportunity to dedicate this session to a friend's nephew, Jonathan. We have been praying for him for several months now, after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

    We have received messages from our friend during our camp a couple of days ago that Jonathan has been going in and out of consciousness. He is in a very critical stage. The last I heard, he will be transfered back home as there is nothing else that can be done medically.

    My friend had asked me which other psalm could she read to him, other than Psalm 23. I suggested Psalm 91.

    With this, I dedicated this psalm again to him. I pray that God will have mercy on him, God will be with him and save him.

    Psalm 91 (NIV)

    1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    .......will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

    2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, God, in whom I trust."

    3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
    .......and from the deadly pestilence.

    4 He will cover you with his feathers,
    .......and under his wings you will find refuge;
    .......his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

    5 You will not fear the terror of night,
    .......nor the arrow that flies by day,

    6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    .......nor the plague that destroys at midday.

    7 A thousand may fall at your side,
    .......ten thousand at your right hand,
    .......but it will not come near you.

    8 You will only observe with your eyes
    .......and see the punishment of the wicked.

    9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
    .......even the LORD, who is my refuge-

    10 then no harm will befall you, disaster will come near your tent.

    11 For he will command his angels concerning you guard you in all your ways;

    12 they will lift you up in their hands, that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

    13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; will trample the great lion and the serpent.

    14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
    .......I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

    15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
    .......I will be with him in trouble,
    .......I will deliver him and honor him.

    16 With long life will I satisfy him
    .......and show him my salvation."

    Picture by Chris Potter

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    Family Camp 2006 Day 3

    The speaker spent the final talk on the camp's theme: Blessed Family, the church as a community.

    Scripture Lesson: Acts 2:41-47 (NIV)
    41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

    A Lesson of Reminder from Martin Luther (1483-1546)
    The night before Luther had to face the court to defend his stand on justification by faith, he was so fearful. It was during this night that he wrote one of the most spectacular hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. The next day, with full courage, three strong words rang in the midst of the members of the court, "Here I stand!"

    Lesson: May we too stand firm in the Lord, trusting only in his own righteousness. There should only be reformation, not revolution; we must stay with the church (sola fide). We must take the Bible seriously (sola scriptura). We must arise and shine, being alive in his saving grace (sola gratia). And pastors must defrost lay people making them a priesthood in service to the Lord (sola sacerdos).

    The Acrostic Theme
    F - fervent in prayer
    A - adore our God
    M- minister with care
    I - intercede for one another
    L - love God and our neighbours
    Y- yield to God

    1. Fervent in Prayer
    1 Thess 5:16-18 (NIV): Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

    How can we pray continually? Unceasingly? We need to remember to pray at all times; be it times of sadness, or joy, anger or calm. Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy.

    2. Adore our God
    We need to be physically fit to worship God. I am reminded to cut back on late Saturday nights to be fully fit the next to go to God in worship. There is a need to discipline ourselves to be prepared mentally and emotionally to come to the Lord in worship and adoration.

    "For to worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God."
    ~William Temple

    3. Minister with Care
    Why do we need to minister? Because we all need to grow. We need to build each other up towards maturity. We are also reminded that this ministry of care also include the caring of our pastors, in encouragement and support.

    4. Intercede for One Another
    I am being introduced to yet another finger-related prayer model:

    The thumb, pointing the mid of palm - reminds us to pray for the people and things that are most dear to heart, those that we are most concerned of at the moment
    The index finger, used to point others on - reminds us to pray for people who lead and teach: our superiors, teachers, lecturers, pastors
    The middle finger, being the "tallest" of the five - reminds us to pray for the very important leaders, e.g. leaders of countries
    The fourth finger, the weakest one - reminds us to pray for the weak, the needy
    The little finger, the smallest - we still need to pray for ourselves, but the least and the last, but still a need

    5. Love God and Our Neigbours
    When we truly love God, we will end up also loving more of one another. The speaker quoted 2 references:

    The Dessert Father Dorotheos of Gaza, a 6th century monk: Suppose we were to take a compass and insert the point and draw the outline of a circle. The centre point is the same distance from any point on the circumference. Now concentrate your minds on what is to be said! Let us suppose that this circle is the world and that God himself is the centre; the straight lines drawn from the circumference to the centre are the lives of men. To the degree that the saints enter into the things of the spirit, they desire to come near to God; and in proportion to their progress in the things of the spirit, they do in fact come close to God and to their neighbor. The closer they are to God, the closer they become to one another; and the closer they are to one another, the closer they become to God. Now consider in the same context the question of separation; for when they stand away from God and turn to external things, it is clear that the more they recede and become distant from God, the more they become distant from one another. See! This is the very nature of love. The more we are turned away from and do not love God, the greater the distance that separates us from our neighbor. If we were to love God more, we should be closer to God, and through love of him we should be more united in love to our neighbor; and the more we are united to our neighbor the more we are united to God. May God make us worthy to listen to what is fitting for us and do it. For in the measure that we pay attention and take care to carry out what we hear, God will always enlighten us and make us understand his will.

    The Iona Holy Communion: The people in the Iona community in the north of Scotland practices a feeding of bread to each other as a follow-up of the taking of bread and wine from the Lord during Holy Communion. It is an awesome practice of love and giving that will bring one another closer to each other with the act of feeding each other. (I could not however, find any link in the internet concerning this and therefore have no further information on this.)

    6. Yield to God
    How do we give to God, to yield to him? How do we store treasures in heaven? Unless we can offer ourselves, our time, our wealth, our all to God, we are only but lip service. We need to show that we are not living for ourselves only.

    Closing: Mother Teresa's Do it Anyway*
    The speaker chose to close the session with something that has now become something very close to my heart:

    People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
    Forgive them anyway.

    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
    Be kind anyway.

    If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
    Succeed anyway.

    If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
    Be honest and sincere anyway.

    What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
    Create anyway.

    If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
    Be happy anyway.

    The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
    Do good anyway.

    Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
    Give your best anyway.

    In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
    It was never between you and them anyway.

    These words really touched me as it encourages me to do good anyway regardless of the situation, how unbecoming it may seem. I am going to do it anyway, since it is not between them and I, no, but it is, God and I.

    "Well done! Good and faithful servant."
    How I hope and anticipate to hear these words, though in apprehension will I face my God in the last day.

    updated on 7th June 2006

    * The verses below reportedly were written on the wall of Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta, and are widely attributed to her. Some sources say that the words below were written on the wall in Mother Teresa's own room. In any case, their association with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity has made them popular worldwide, expressing as they do, the spirit in which they lived their lives. They seem to be based on a composition originally by Kent Keith, but much of the second half has been re-written in a more spiritual way. See here.

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Family Camp 2006 Day 2

    We just had our church family camp and I have not been posting for several days. These posts are pre-dated with some interesting stuff I have learnt at camp.

    Theme: Blessed Family
    Sub Theme: Experiencing the Faith and Expanding God’s Kingdom

    Some highlights:

    The Passover Meal and the Last Supper
    When the Israelites have their annual Passover Meal to commemorate the saving act of God, they would toast each other with red wine with a total number of 4 toasts. The last toast is “that we will meet next year in Jerusalem” upon the hope that the Messiah would have came and all Jews would return to Jerusalem for the realisation of the Kingdom of God. In contrast, during the Last Supper, Jesus said something similar but with a significant difference:

    Matthew 26:29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

    Lesson: In Christ we have the hope, we have life, in which we look forward to that day we partake in the meal anew with him in heaven. How we all should look forward to it!

    The Endings of the 4 Gospels
    Morna Hooker, a British theologian and New Testament scholar has written several books including Beginnings: Keys that open the gospels (1997) and Endings: Invitations to discipleship (2003). The speaker introduced us to her Endings book and led us to the lessons we can learn from the endings of the 4 gospels. In brief:

    Matthew and Mark: The 2 Mary’s went to the tomb bringing spices and myrrh but the stone was moved, Jesus is not to be found. But they met an angel who told them to go and tell the disciples that Jesus has risen, He is not here. In fear, the women went knowing that no one will believe them being women, who were not seen to be reliable witnesses at that time but they obeyed.

    Luke: The road back to Emmaus passage reminds us that our lives in Christ is not a disappointing one but one full of hope. Even when things seem bleak, He is alive. The mention of breaking of bread, where the 2 disciples suddenly realised who they are with, reminds us that even though bread and wine is common fare but they are with profound meaning.

    John: The ending of John should start from chapter 20 right up to 21. Here we see the disciples including doubting Thomas who is representative of all of us – many times, we fear, we doubt. But we can have his peace and his comfort which only a living God can give us. And with Peter, who denied Jesus 3 times by this time, have become the disappointed Peter who would be deeply disappointed with himself. But Jesus strengthened and reaffirmed him by giving him the opportunity to turn his 3 denials into 3 commitments of love.

    Lesson: Our faith and belief is not only in our mind but in our lives – we are to live it out. The end of the gospels comes the Great Commission. After experiencing the faith, we are to spread the faith.

    John Wesley’s Example
    Through his 5 contributions/traditions in his mission work:

    1. Dynamics to Preach: he is one of the preachers who started “open air” preaching, taking preaching out of the church into the common places, as long as there are people, there will be preaching. He is known to have preached in the mines as well as standing on top of his father’s grave.

    2. Small Groups: he is not the first person to start small groups but one of them who strongly practiced it up to the point that if a person is not a member of a small group, he is not a member of the church. Within these small groups many things are possible where in a large church it is not: encouragement, reminders, closeness.

    3. Social Righteousness: the fervency of faith needs to be brought to the society. Piety involves caring for the needy. We need to live a holy life in this secular world. (Wesley in his last and final letter before he passed on is a letter written to William Wilberforce (1791) encouraging him to be steadfast in getting slavery abolished, which is finally realised not only in the UK but also in America.)

    4. Hymns: John and Charles Wesley make a very good team. John was an excellent preacher and Charles was an excellent poet. Charles converts John’s messages into hymns, when sung will allow the people to put them into memory and as a result their faith became strengthened. In addition, when sung to one another, they are also being reminded of the faith. Interestingly, John Wesley even have his 5 singing rules, check it out here.

    5. Dynamic Spirituality: Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”

    Which type of Christian are you?
    1. The life buoy: Throw it to me when I am in distress … otherwise keep it hanging there.
    2. The diet: I will do it … tomorrow.
    3. The pillow: I do need it but if I don’t have it, I’ll still be okay.
    4. The clock: I am steady and normal, ticking as expected as I go.
    5. The remote: Keep changing the channel until I get what I want.
    6. The thermometer: I go up and down according to my surroundings
    7. The thermostat: I am set by my master and I will be what I am to be, regardless of what goes on around me.

    The Emphasis of the 4 Gospels
    What differentiates the gospels? In Mark, Jesus is seen in vocalising his teachings and displaying his acts including healing, driving out of demons and in doing so proving that he is the Messiah as stated in the Old Testament. Matthew is similar to Mark but grouped messages together. In Luke is where there are many stories told, some of which are not found in the other 3 gospels, e,g, the parable of the prodigal son. Luke has set down what Jesus has done chronologically. And as far as John is concerned, its profound introduction is enough to place it as one of the most unique books in the bible.

    Each of the gospel has a different emphasis. What are they? Hooker brings out the emphasis by looking at the endings of the gospels.

    Mark has 16 chapters. In the middle of the book, in chapter 8, we can see there a turning point in the story of Jesus. Jesus and the disciples had gone to Caesarea Philippi, a place well-known for idolatry. It is here that Jesus asked his disciples “who do you think I am” after they have been following him for 2 years. Peter answered him, “you are the Christ”. And from then on, Jesus began to clearly tell them about his going to Jerusalem and dying for them.

    If you take a look at the last chapter of Mark in your bible, there should be a note stating that more reliable manuscripts do not have verse 9 to 20. Some commentators suggested that the gospel does do well without these verses, which means that there is no problem with the gospel ending in v.8, Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

    How so? Mark was written in a time of persecution. It was suggested that it could be a tactical way for the writer to impress upon the readers that you can never not go and tell about Christ.

    Emphasis: How can you not tell?

    Matthew is very systematically grouped. There is this passage where Matthew grouped 5 what-Jesus-did-and-what-he-said. The 6th time however, Matthew told of what Jesus did – he died on the cross. And following, Jesus did not say much but that believers must obey all that he has commanded.

    The emphasis in the whole book of Matthew is discipleship. Take a look at Matthew 28:19:

    Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

    In the English translation, the strongest verb seems to be “Go!” But in Greek, go is a particple while make disciples is an imperative. As such it should read something like: Going therefore, make disciples of all nations.

    Emphasis: Make disciples!

    John has recorded this of Jesus, that he has said, “how I preached, you preach also. As the Father have sent me, so I have sent you.”

    There are 2 Greek words used for miracles, dunamis and simeon. The second word is used here in John, as signs to who Jesus really is – the Son of God. For example, the first miracle of turning water into wine. The water being turn into wine gives a very clear message that the cleansing that they have been practicing is not enough. Wine, in the OT represent the coming of the Messiah, which also Jesus symbolically used it representing his blood. Signifying that only through Jesus that one can be saved.

    I am quite awed at how the speaker puts the emphasis of John.

    Emphasis: We need to be the word, and the word must become flesh.

    The gospel of Luke can be taken in 2 parts – part 2 being the book of Acts. The emphasis is clearly the breakthrough of the gospel of Christ beyond geographical borders, cultures, races.

    Emphasis: We must preach the good news, we must have a vision, a breakthrough.

    Some Fraser's Hill and camp pictures

    Top: the evening sky - notice the unique light effects. Too bad I couldn't quite capture it with my phone camera.

    A close up of the light effects

    The skies and hills in Fraser's Hill on a foggy evening (or was that my "foggy" camera? lol)

    Another view from our apartment unit

    Silverpark Resort apartments

    A downward view from the balcony

    Some campers getting ready to take group pictures in the main hall

    Here we are - a small portion of our church music and worship team who attended the camp. I am on the far right :)

    My son and I

    updated on 7th June 2006

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Family Camp 2006 Day 1

    I will not be able to post in my blogs while I am away at Silverpark Resort in Fraser's Hill for our church family camp, starting from today until Tuesday. I will update it when I return. To stay true to my blog's name, I suppose.

    There were about a hundred of us driving up to the hills after church service. Most of us reached our destination in at about 3pm but the rooms were not ready yet. The journey up was quite difficult for some and therefore the night's talk was postponed to the next morning.

    I led the ice-breaking session and it was pure fun! Here's what we did:
    1. Dai Fung Chui (literally big wind blow)
    2. The Sweet Forbiddance
    3. The Animal Groupie
    4. Line up!

    If you want to know how they work, check it out here.

    updated on 7th June 2006

    Saturday, June 03, 2006

    Psalm 118

    Taking a brief look at this psalm, it is one amazing psalm. More than the fact that many of our modern choruses uses words from Ps 118:

    1. It is quoted by Jesus applying it to himself

    Ps 118:22-23 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this,and it is marvelous in our eyes.

    Matt 21:42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: " 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?

    2. The same verse is quoted by Paul as well.

    Acts 4:11 He is "the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone".

    3. Used by the people when Jesus was entering Jerusalem.

    Ps 118: 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.From the house of the LORD we bless you.

    Matt 21:9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!"

    4. The first and last sentence in the psalm is also in Ezra

    Ps 118:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is goodhis love endures forever.
    Ps 118:29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;his love endures forever.

    Ezra 3:11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD : "He is good; his love to Israel endures forever." And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

    Some interesting references to it

    This is the last of those Psalms which form the great Hallel, which the Jews sang at the end of the passover. - Adam Clarke.

    The whole Psalm has a peculiar formation. It resembles the Maschal Psalms, for each verse has of itself its completed sense, its own scent and hue; one thought is joined to another as branch to branch and flower to flower. - Franz Delitzsch.

    This is my Psalm, my chosen Psalm. I love them all; I love all holy Scripture, which is my consolation and my life. But this Psalm is nearest my heart, and I have a peculiar right to call it mine. It has saved me from many a pressing danger, from which nor emperor, nor kings, nor sages, nor saints, could have saved me. It is my friend; dearer to me than all the honours and power of the earth ... But it may be objected, that this Psalm is common to all; no one has a right to call it his own. Yes; but Christ is also common to all, and yet Christ is mine. I am not jealous of my property; I would divide it with the whole world.... And would to God that all men would claim the Psalm as especially theirs! It would be the most touching quarrel, the most agreeable to God - a quarrel of union and perfect charity. - Luther. From his Dedication of his Translation of Psalm 118, to the Abbot Frederick of Nuremberg.

    "For he is good." The praise of God could not be expressed in fewer words than these, "For he is good." I see not what can be more solemn than this brevity, since goodness is so peculiarly the quality of God, that the Son of God himself when addressed by some one as "Good Master," by one, namely, who beholding his flesh, and comprehending not the fulness of his divine nature, considered him as man only, replied, "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God." And what is this but to say, If thou wishest to call me good, recognize me as God? - Augustine.

    "It is better," etc. Literally, "Good is it to trust in Jehovah more than to confide in man." This is the Hebrew form of comparison, and is equivalent to what is stated in our version. "It is better," etc. It is better,
    (1) because man is weak, - but God is Almighty;
    (2) because man is selfish, - but God is benevolent;
    (3) because man is often faithless and deceitful, - God never;
    (4) because there are emergencies, as death, in which man cannot aid us, however faithful, kind, and friendly he may be, - but there are no circumstances in this life, and none in death, where God cannot assist us; and
    (5) because the ability of man to help us pertains at best only to the present life, - the power of God will be commensurate with eternity. - Albert Barnes.

    "They compassed me about like bees."
    As wasps, provoked by children in their play,
    Pour from their mansions by the broad highway,
    In swarms the guiltless traveller engage,
    Whet all their stings, and call forth all their rage,
    All rise in arms, and with a general cry,
    Assert their waxen domes, and buzzing progeny;
    Thus from the tents the fervent legion swarms,
    So loud their clamours, and so keen their arms.
    - Homer.

    "Is become the head stone of the corner."
    Higher yet and ever higher,
    .....passeth he those ranks above,
    Where the seraphs are enkindled,
    .....with the flame of endless love
    Passeth them,
    .....for not e'en seraphs ever loved so well as he
    Who hath borne for his beloved,
    .....stripes, and thorns, and shameful tree;
    Ever further, ever onward,
    .....where no angel's foot may tread,
    Where the four-and-twenty elders
    .....prostrate fall in mystic dread:
    Where the four strange living creatures
    .....sing their hymn before the throne.
    The Despised One and rejected passeth, his might alone;
    Passeth through the dazzling rainbow,
    .....till upon the Father's fight
    He is seated, his Co-equal,
    .....God of God, and Light of Light.
    - R. F. Littledale.

    Picture by Bill Davenport

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    This is the day that the Lord has made ...

    For reasons unbeknownst to me, I was feeling moody the whole of this week. I know I had no reasons to, and I just can't seem to will myself to rejoice like I could before. But for whatever it's worth, I had a really good day today, and I thank the Lord.

    I enjoyed my work at the office somehow and decided to take my lunch break with my parents and the kids, my son and my niece. It was a delight to see the sparkle in the kids' eyes, without a care in the world. The simplest of things delight them, and that is just the beauty of it.

    I managed to get off work on time, without having to stay back and went shopping! So with my mom and the kids, it was a luxury that is long due for me.

    What a wonderful day and I thank the Lord for his blessings of a great family.

    To close the day I meditate again on Psalm 118, a beautiful psalm, a real antidote for stress.

    Psalm 118 (New International Version)

    1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good
    his love endures forever.

    2 Let Israel say:
    "His love endures forever."

    3 Let the house of Aaron say:
    "His love endures forever."

    4 Let those who fear the LORD say:
    "His love endures forever."

    5 In my anguish I cried to the LORD,
    and he answered by setting me free.

    6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can man do to me?

    7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper.
    I will look in triumph on my enemies.

    8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in man.

    9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in princes.

    10 All the nations surrounded me,
    but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.

    11 They surrounded me on every side,
    but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.

    12 They swarmed around me like bees,
    but they died out as quickly as burning thorns;
    in the name of the LORD I cut them off.

    13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
    but the LORD helped me.

    14 The LORD is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.

    15 Shouts of joy and victory
    resound in the tents of the righteous:
    "The LORD's right hand has done mighty things!

    16 The LORD's right hand is lifted high;
    the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!"

    17 I will not die but live,
    and will proclaim what the LORD has done.

    18 The LORD has chastened me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.

    19 Open for me the gates of righteousness;
    I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.

    20 This is the gate of the LORD
    through which the righteous may enter.

    21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

    22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the capstone;

    23 the LORD has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.

    24 This is the day the LORD has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

    25 O LORD, save us;
    O LORD, grant us success.

    26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
    From the house of the LORD we bless you.

    27 The LORD is God,
    and he has made his light shine upon us.
    With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up to the horns of the altar.

    28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.

    29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

    Picture by Richard S

    Thursday, June 01, 2006


    I have decided to take several days of Romans. My son is having his school holidays now and I am taking the opportunity to spend more time with him, hence no Romans for the time being.

    Moreover, we will be going for our church family camp this coming Sunday to Tuesday. And we will be at Silverpark, Fraser's Hill. I am really looking forward to it - but with hope that I will not be "working" other than the opening ice-breaking session I have promised to take up. I really look forward to being Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus and just listen and enjoy the fellowship of the Lord.

    I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
    ....I would fly away and be at rest-
    I would flee far away
    ....and stay in the desert; Selah
    I would hurry to my place of shelter,
    ....far from the tempest and storm."
    Psalm 55:6-8