Thursday, August 31, 2006

My light and my salvation

Psalm 121:1-2
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
...From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
...who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 27
Of David.
1The LORD is my light and my salvation;
...whom shall I fear?
...The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
...of whom shall I be afraid?
2When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, adversaries and foes, is they who stumble and fall.
3Though an army encamp against me, heart shall not fear;
...though war arise against me,
...yet I will be confident.
4One thing have I asked of the LORD,
...that will I seek after:
...that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
5For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
...he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
...he will lift me high upon a rock.
6And now my head shall be lifted up
...above my enemies all around me,
...and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
...I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
7Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; gracious to me and answer me!
8You have said, "Seek my face."
...My heart says to you,
..."Your face, LORD, do I seek."
9Hide not your face from me.
...Turn not your servant away in anger,
...O you who have been my help.
...Cast me not off; forsake me not,
...O God of my salvation!
10For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
...but the LORD will take me in.
11Teach me your way, O LORD,
...and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
12Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
...for false witnesses have risen against me,
...and they breathe out violence.
13I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD the land of the living!
14Wait for the LORD; strong,
...and let your heart take courage;
...wait for the LORD!

Picture by Justin Phelan

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How Long, O Lord?

Noel has reminded me of another DA Carson's book, How Long, O Lord? in our search of answers in the light of our earthly sufferings.

I often find myself reading too many books at one go and here I am at it again! Therefore, I only scanned it to have a good look through, for a later read. But this one section reminded me of a passage which I have been hanging onto several years ago: Heb 12:5-12.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees.

The book has these chapters:

Part 1 Thinking about Suffering and Evil
1. First Steps
2. False Steps

Part 2 Parts of the Puzzle: Biblical Themes for Suffering People
3. The Price of Sin
4. Social Evils, Poverty, War, Natural Disasters
5. The Suffering People of God
6. Curses and Holy Wars -- and Hell
7. Illness, Death, Bereavement
8. From the Vantage of the End
9. Job: Mystery and Faith
10. The Suffering God

Part 3 Glimpses of the Whole Puzzle: Evil and Suffering in the World of a Good and Sovereign God
11. The Mystery of Providence
12. The Comfort of Providence: Learning to Trust
13. Some Pastoral Reflections

Andrew Murray's Humility isn't too thick (though it is deep and would command a good, long read) and I look forward to read Carson in his How Long, O Lord?


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Phil 4:5 επιεικες

Where NIV and most other translations used the word gentleness in Phil 4:5, the Greek word in use here is επιεικες.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (NIV)

Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. (NLT)

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. (NASB)

Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is coming soon]. (Amplified)

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; (ESV)

From the tools available in e-Sword:

The word επιεικες is of very extensive signification; it means the same as επιεικεια, mildness, patience, yieldingness, gentleness, clemency, moderation, unwillingness to litigate or contend; but moderation is expressive enough as a general term. “Moderation,” says Dr. Macknight, “means meekness under provocation, readiness to forgive injuries, equity in the management of business, candour in judging of the characters and actions of others, sweetness of disposition, and the entire government of the passions.” ~ Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

That is, let it be such that others may see it. This does not mean that they were to make an ostentatious display of it, but that it should be such a characteristic of their lives that it would be constantly visible to others. The word “moderation” - επιεικες, epieikes - refers to restraint on the passions, general soberness of living, being free from all excesses. The word properly means that which is fit or suitable, and then propriety, gentleness, mildness - They were to indulge in no excess of passion, or dress, or eating, or drinking. They were to govern their appetites, restrain their temper, and to be examples of what was proper for people in view of the expectation that the Lord would soon appear. ~ Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Let your gentleness - Yieldingness, sweetness of temper, the result of joy in the Lord. Be known - By your whole behaviour. To all men - Good and bad, gentle and froward. Those of the roughest tempers are good natured to some, from natural sympathy and various motives; a Christian, to all. The Lord - The judge, the rewarder, the avenger. Is at hand - Standeth at the door. ~ John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible

The Vulgate Latin reads, "your modesty". The Syriac and Arabic versions, "your meekness", or "humility"; graces which accompany moderation, and are very necessary to it, but not that itself. The Ethiopic version renders it, "your authority", which by no means agrees; for moderation lies not in exerting authority and power to the uttermost, at least with rigour, but in showing clemency and lenity; not dealing with men according to the severity of laws and strict justice, but according to equity, and with mildness and gentleness; giving up strict and proper right, receding from what is a man's due, and not rigidly insisting on it; putting up with affronts and injuries, and bearing them with patience; and interpreting things in the best sense, and putting the best constructions on words and actions they will bear; and in using inferiors and equals with all humanity, kindness, and respect: and this is what is here intended, which the apostle would have made "known"; exercised and practised publicly, that it might be seen and known of all, and God might be glorified, by whose name they were called, though their agreeable conversation among men; see Mat 5:16; and he would not only have this known unto, but exercised towards "all men"; not only to believers, the members of the church, by ruling with gentleness, by bearing the infirmities of the weak, and by forgiving offences; but also to unbelievers, to the men of the world, by not avenging themselves, but giving way to wrath; by patient suffering for well doing, without making any returns of ill, either by words or deeds: this is the moderation here meant, and not moderation in eating and drinking, and in apparel, and in the love and use of, and care for the things of this world; though such moderation highly becomes professors of religion; and much less moderation in religion, or towards the false teachers, thinking and speaking well of them; and interpreting their notions in the best sense, hoping they may mean otherwise than they say, and therefore should treat their persons with great respect, and their principles with tenderness; but this can never be thought to be the apostle's sense, after he had himself given them such names and characters, as in Phi 3:2; and besides, though we may, and many times ought, as men and Christians, to give way, and yield up what is our right and due, for the sake of peace, yet we cannot, nor ought to give up anything, that of right belongs to God and Christ, in matters of doctrine or worship; nor in the least abate of our zeal for the same, or give way to false teachers in any respect, nor for any time: moreover, moderation in religion is nothing else but lukewarmness and indifference, than which nothing is more detestable, or abhorred by Christ. The argument or reason enforcing moderation in the above sense of it follows, the Lord is at hand. ~ John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Moderation — from a Greek root, “to yield,” whence yieldingness [Trench]; or from a root, “it is fitting,” whence “reasonableness of dealing” [Alford], that considerateness for others, not urging one’s own rights to the uttermost, but waiving a part, and thereby rectifying the injustices of justice. The archetype of this grace is God, who presses not the strictness of His law against us as we deserve (Psa 130:3, Psa 130:4); though having exacted the fullest payment for us from our Divine Surety. There are included in “moderation,” candor and kindliness. Joy in the Lord raises us above rigorism towards others (Phi 4:5), and carefulness (Phi 4:6) as to one’s own affairs. Sadness produces morose harshness towards others, and a troublesome spirit in ourselves. ~ A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown

Gill has a good explanation of it, though he did mention that “humility” doesn’t quite cut it. I see “humility” may be too narrow a word to describe what Paul wants to say here – Show others that in all you do, you are gentle, considerate, meek, forbearing and reasonable.

Picture by Justyna Furmanczyk

Monday, August 28, 2006

Joy and Gentleness

I am at the moment reading DA Carson’s Basics for Believer, which one of my friends has commented that it really isn’t so basic after all. However, the reason I think why Carson chose that title is because the crux of the Epistle of Philippians is the basics that all Christian believers must have.

They are:
1. Phil 1:1-26 Put the gospel first in all you do
2. Phil 1:27- 2:18 Adopt Jesus’ death as a test of your outlook
3. Phil 2:19-3:21 Emulate worthy Christian leaders
4. Phil 4:1-23 Never give up the Christian walk

I started reading on the 4th basic this morning and it was really refreshing. It has helped me readjust my thoughts, which has gone quite awry lately.

Here’s a summary of the sections I felt were personally helpful to me.

Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice!” (4:4). Paul has already introduced this theme from the first chapter (I will always pray with joy …). Paul has been a prime example of this virtue when he had first preached the gospel among the Philippians. According to Acts 16, he and Silas were arrested and thrown into prison. Beaten, bruised, their feet in stocks, they displayed not a whiff of self pity (emphasis mine). Far from it, they began instead a midnight chorus of praise.

Now he finds himself in prison again. And what does he say? “Hang in there, brothers and sisters, as I am trying to hang on myself?” (I can almost hear myself say that!) Not a chance! “Rejoice in the Lord. I will say it again: Rejoice!

The kingdom of God may be entered through suffering (Acts 14:22), but it is characterized by joy: Paul insists that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking”, that is, of obeying rules and observing kosher food laws, “but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men” (Rom 14:17-18).

Moreover, it is not the style of rejoicing that matters but the ground. The ultimate ground of our rejoicing can never be our circumstances for if it were then a change would render us miserable. Our delight must be in the Lord himself, which will enable us to live with joy above our circumstances.

Phil 4:5 is quite interesting, a verse I have not fully worked out yet, having no access to the bible tools I have at home. It is an imperative, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Carson explains the word gentleness to mean a kind of willed, self-effacing kindness, i.e. precluding the desire to be known, to deny oneself and be humble. I cannot yet see the connection between gentleness and humility. But it was something I need to be reminded on. I am hastened to do all things in the shadow of the cross. I do know that I excel in some things I do but I need to be “gentle” about it (still figuring this gentle thing out) and to do all things in the shadow of the cross.

Source: DA Carson, Basics for Believers, Leicester: IVP (2004): 105-109

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fear not, for I am with you

10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
.... do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
.... I will strengthen you and help you;
.... I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
13 For I am the LORD, your God,
.... who takes hold of your right hand
.... and says to you, Do not fear;
.... I will help you.
14 Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob,
.... O little Israel,
.... for I myself will help you," declares the LORD,
.... your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
~ Isaiah 41:10, 13-14

Picture by Carsten Güth

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Bread of Life

The Sunday School visited a bread factory today. We came back with many, many loaves of bread. But the most important lesson to remember is that Jesus is the only Bread of Life, for if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. (John 6:25-59)

On the way to the bakery

On arrival

Into the factory! I just noticed the "No Entry" sign!

The shopfloor, the aroma just ooohh ... mmmm ...

I couldn't get a clearer picture of this Helimatic Cooler, a multi-layered spiral, which cools every single load of freshly baked bread for 70 minutes

The observation hallway

The sweet pretty faces!


Friday, August 25, 2006

Arminianism, my thoughts

I really do not know where to start on this big subject that has occupied much debate space over the last centuries. The few questions that Codepoke brought up stumped me as well, though if given a good thought over it, they can be answered. But that "good thought" may take a long, long time!

According to the tenets of Arminianism, if humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation, then how is salvation possible if God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus? How can someone take that step of faith if they are naturally unable to make any effort towards it? But if someone can do that, then it would be a salvation by works, will it not? But have I not already established that faith is not works? Do I find myself chasing my own tail with all these questions?

And as Codepoke has raised, if in human’s fallen state, the free will towards good is wounded and weakened, imprisoned and destroyed, how then can man have free will to respond or resist? But if man do not have the free will to respond and resist, why the calling to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near?

Picture by Kym Parry

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Arminianism, Take 3

Arminianism, like any major belief system, is frequently misunderstood by critics and would-be supporters. Among the common misconceptions:

Arminianism supports works-based salvation: To the Arminians, salvation is “by faith alone” and “by faith first to last”. This misconception is often directed to the Arminian possibility of apostasy, which critics maintain that it requires continual good works to achieve final salvation. To the Arminians, however, both initial salvation and eternal security are “by faith alone”, hence “by faith first to last”. Belief through faith is the condition for entrance into the Kingdom of God; unbelief is the condition for exit from the Kingdom of God - not a lack of good works.

Arminianism denies original sin and total depravity: No system of Arminianism founded on Arminius or Wesley denies original sin or total depravity. Both Arminius and Wesley strongly affirmed that man's basic condition is one in which he cannot be righteous, understand God, or seek God.

Arminianism denies Jesus' substitutionary payment for sins: Both Arminius and Wesley believed in the necessity and sufficiency of Christ's atonement through substitution. Arminius held that God's justice was satisfied individually while Hugo Grotius and many of Wesley's followers taught that it was satisfied governmentally.

Comparison to Calvinism

Ever since Arminius and his followers revolted against Calvinism in the early 17th century, soteriology has been largely divided between Calvinism and Arminianism. On the conservative side of Calvinism is Hyper-Calvinism and on the liberal side of Arminianism is Pelagianism, but the overwhelming majority of Protestant, evangelical pastors and theologians hold to one of these two systems or somewhere in between.

Total depravity: Arminians affirm with Calvinists the doctrine of total depravity. The differences come in the understanding of how God remedies this depravity.

Substitutionary effect of atonement: Arminians also affirm with Calvinists the substitutionary effect of Christ's atonement and that this effect is limited only to the elect. Classical Arminians would agree with Calvinists that this substitution was penal satisfaction for all of the elect, while most Wesleyan Arminians would maintain that the substitution was governmental in nature.

Nature of election: Arminians hold that election to eternal salvation has the condition of faith attached. The Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election states that salvation cannot be earned and therefore has no human conditions, and so faith is not a condition of salvation but the divinely apportioned means to it.

Nature of grace: Arminians believe that through God's grace, he restores free will concerning salvation to all humanity, and each individual, therefore, is able either to accept the Gospel call through faith or resist it through unbelief. Calvinists hold that God's grace to enable salvation is given only to the elect and irresistibly leads to salvation.

Extent of the atonement: Arminians hold to a universal drawing and universal extent of atonement instead of the Calvinist doctrine that the drawing and atonement is limited in extent to the elect only. Both sides (with a few exceptions among Calvinists) believe the invitation of the gospel is universal and must be presented to everyone without any distinction.

Perseverance in faith: Arminians believe that future salvation and eternal life is secured in Christ and protected from all external forces but is conditional on remaining in Christ and can be lost through apostasy. Traditional Calvinists believe in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, which says that because God chose some unto salvation and actually paid for their particular sins, he keeps them from apostasy and that those who do apostasize were never truly regenerated (that is, born again). Non-traditional Calvinists and other evangelicals advocate the similar but different doctrine of eternal security that teaches if a person was once saved, his or her salvation can never be in jeopardy, even if the person completely apostasizes.

Comparison to Pelagianism

Pelagius was a British monk and opponent of Augustine of Hippo and Jerome in the early 5th Century AD. He preached justification through faith alone, but also believed salvation was finished through good works and moral uprightness. Furthermore, Pelagius completely denied the double predestination and irresistible grace affirmed by Augustine. Several of his students - notably Caelestius - went further than their teacher and rejected justification by faith. Through the influence of Augustine and Jerome, the teachings of Pelagius and Caelestius were rejected by the Papacy as heretical. Historically Pelagianism has come to represent any system that denies original sin, holds that by nature humans are capable of good, and maintains morality and works are part of the equation that yields salvation. Semi-Pelagianism is a variation on the original more akin to Pelagius' own thought - that justification is through faith, but that Adam's original sin was merely a bad example, humans can naturally seek God, and salvation is completed through works. Both systems reject a Calvinist understanding of predestination.

Many critics of Arminianism, both historically and currently, claim that Arminianism condones, accepts, or even explicitly supports Pelagianism of either variety. Arminius referred to Pelagianism as "the grand falsehood" and stated that he "must confess that I detest, from my heart, the consequences [of that theology]." David Pawson, a British pastor/theologian, decries this association as "libelous" when attributed to Arminius' or Wesley's doctrine. Indeed most Arminians reject all accusations of Pelagianism; nonetheless, partially due to Calvinist opponents, the two terms remain intertwined in popular usage.

Both systems reject doctrines of Calvinistic predestination and irresistible grace. Both systems accept the Biblical importance of works, morality, and striving to become more holy.

Arminianism maintains original sin, total depravity, substitutionary atonement, and salvation through faith alone. Arminianism maintains that works and holiness, while important, have no determining effect on salvation at any point in the process.

Picture of John Calvin from

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Arminianism, Take 2

I must mention again that the main source of the information here is, I have yet to come across good books that would provide me with the information I need.

Theology: Classical Arminianism
(a.k.a. Reformed Arminianism or Reformation Arminianism)

Depravity is total: In human’s fallen state, the free will towards good is wounded and weakened, imprisoned and destroyed. Unless assisted by Divine grace, it has no powers.

Atonement is intended for all: Jesus’ death on the cross is for all people – the whole of human race has the opportunity for salvation through faith.

Jesus' death satisfies God's justice: The penalty for sins is paid through Jesus’ work on the cross, making the atonement for all, which must be effected through faith. The only possible way for justification is God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

Grace is resistible: The offer of salvation through grace does not act irresistibly in a purely cause-effect deterministic method but in an influence-respond fashion that can be both freely accepted and freely denied.

Man has free will to respond or resist: Free will is limited by God's sovereignty, but God in His sovereignty allows all men the choice to accept the Gospel of Jesus through faith, while simultaneously allowing all men to resist.

Election is conditional: God regards no one in Christ unless they are engrafted in him by faith. The majority Arminian view is that election is individual and based on God's foreknowledge of faith, but some Arminians reject the concept of individual election entirely, preferring to understand the doctrine in corporate terms.

God predestines the elect to a glorious future: Predestination is not the predetermination of who will believe, but rather the predetermination of the believer's future inheritance. The elect are therefore predestined to sonship through adoption, glorification, and eternal life.

Eternal security is also conditional: All believers have full assurance of salvation with the condition that they remain in Christ. Salvation is conditioned on faith, therefore perseverance is also conditioned. Apostasy is only committed through a deliberate, willful rejection of Jesus and renouncement of belief.

The Five Articles of Remonstrance
From the above, Arminius' followers formulated the Five Articles of Remonstrance in 1610 (it is obvious that these five articles resulted in the Calvinist’s 5 TULIP points):
1. Conditional election
2. Unlimited atonement
3. Total depravity
4. Total depravity and resistible grace
5. Possibility of apostasy

Theology: Wesleyan Arminianism
John Wesley was the most influential advocate of Arminian soteriology. He agreed with most of what Arminius himself taught maintaining strong doctrines of original sin, total depravity, conditional election, prevenient grace, unlimited atonement and possible apostasy. He however, departs on 3 issues:

Atonement: Wesley’s teaching on atonement is a hybrid of penal substitution and governmental theory of Hugo Grotius. He does not place the substitutionary element within a legal framework but seeks to bring into proper relation the justice between God’s love for people and God’s hatred of sin. It is not the satisfaction of a legal demand for justice so much as it is an act of mediated reconciliation.

Possibility of apostasy: Wesley fully accepted the Arminian view that genuine Christians could apostasize and lose their salvation. He sees two primary pathways that could result in a permanent fall from grace: unconfessed sin and the actual expression of apostasy. Wesley however, maintains that such apostasy was not final. When talking about those who have made "shipwreck" of their faith (1 Tim 1:19), Wesley claims that "not one, or a hundred only, but I am persuaded, several thousands ... innumerable are the instances ... of those who had fallen but now stand upright."

Christian perfection: According to Wesley's teaching, Christians could reach perfection in this life, with "purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God" and "the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked." It is "loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves". Wesley was clear that Christian perfection did not imply perfection of bodily health or an infallibility of judgment. It also does not mean we no longer violate the will of God, for involuntary transgressions remain. Perfected Christians remain subject to temptation, and have continued need to pray for forgiveness and holiness. It is not an absolute perfection but a perfection in love. Furthermore, Wesley did not teach a salvation by perfection, but rather says that, "Even perfect holiness is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ."

This post is becoming longer than I expected. With that, I will tackle its comparison with Calvinism and Pelagianism tomorrow. So far, I am only presenting the information as-is without much of what I think of it. I can't say I agree with it all though I would agree with most of it. I'll see if I am up to analysing it when I am done with the information.

Picture of John Wesley from

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Arminianism, Take 1

Being a Methodist, I am naturally an Arminian but truth be told, I do not know so much about what it is other than the fact that it is an “archrival” of Calvinism especially in the subject of predestination. Over the long weekend, I downloaded Wikipedia’s entry on Arminianism and found out some information about it. Here is a summary of what I read and found out from

In short, Arminianism is a school of soteriological thought or in other words, thoughts on the study of salvation, in Protestant Christian theology.

It originated from the Dutch pastor and theologian Jacobus Arminius in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. His teacher was a hand-picked successor of Calvin, whose teachings Arminius rejected. His teacher’s theology of making God the author of sin was rejected and in return, he proposed that the election of God was of believers, making it conditional on faith. Arminius died before a national synod could occur when his views were challenged by the Dutch Calvinists. Due to some political maneuverings, Arminian magistrates were removed from office and Arminianism labeled a heresy. The five points of Calvinism was a result of its respond to Arminianism. Arminians across Holland were removed from office, imprisoned, persecuted, banished and sworn to silence. It was only until 12 years have passed that they were finally granted protection as a religion. But animosity between Arminians and Calvinists continued.

John Wesley
John Wesley was a champion of Arminius' teachings, defending his soteriology in a periodical titled The Arminian and writing articles such as Predestination Calmly Considered. He defended Arminius against charges of semi-Pelagianism, holding strongly to beliefs in original sin and total depravity. At the same time, Wesley attacked the determinism that he claimed characterised unconditional election and maintained a belief in the ability to lose salvation. Wesley also clarified the doctrine of prevenient grace and preached the ability of Christians to attain to perfection.

Current landscape
Arminianism is mainly advocated by the Anglicans, Methodists, Free Will Baptists, General Baptists, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals and Charismatics. Calvinist on the other hand are advocated by the Reformed Churches including the Particular Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists. The current scholarly support for Arminianism is wide and varied. One particular thrust is a return to the teachings of Arminius.

While Arminianism is most accurately used to define those who affirm the original beliefs of Jacobus Arminius himself, the term can also be understood as an umbrella for a larger grouping of ideas including those of Hugo Grotius, John Wesley, Clark Pinnock, and others. Arminian theology usually falls into one of two groups — Classical Arminianism, drawn from the teaching of Jacobus Arminius — and Wesleyan Arminian, drawing primarily from Wesley. Both groups overlap substantially. Critics include Pelagianism but supporters from both primary perspectives would deny this vehemently.

Arminianism holds to the following tenets:
• Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation
• Salvation is possible by grace alone
• Works of human effort are not cause or contribution to salvation
• God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus
• Jesus' atonement was potentially for all people
• God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe
• Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith

I will touch on its theology and comparison with other views tomorrow, God willing.

Picture from Andover-Harvard Theological Library.
The portrait of Arminius is from the Library's Dutch portrait collection which came to the Library as part of the library of Jan Pieter de Bie(1871-1959).

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ultimate faith in action

Our church celebrated its 39th anniversary today and we had the District Superintendent as our guest speaker. His message was entitled Faith-Works on a passage from the book of James. What impressed me was his mention of Abraham's faith in the Lord when he was tested to offer his son in sacrifice, an act which still bewilder me as a mom. But what matters is, God is faithful and when things around us looks impossible, He is the only answer.

Something the speaker said also caused me to think. He said, "God would only test the faithful." I am not yet fully convinced though I think it may just be true.

Picture by Jonathan Liedtke

Saturday, August 19, 2006

My Pumpkin, Calvin

Pumpkin by Calvin Tan

My son attended art lessons for several months when he was younger. I stopped the art classes when I started him on piano lessons. He is still drawing stick men! He drew this pumpkin and I thought it quite good.

Calvin: Of course I still draw stick men! And I have 2 versions of stick men.
(Yup, he speaks techy!)

And he told me last night what he thinks a romantic meal is: eat a little and then drink a little and then eat a little again. It is NOT eat everything and then drink everything at one go. I thought it was hilarious!


Friday, August 18, 2006

Thank God it's Friday!

The weekend is finally here and that is such a relief. There is much in store for the weekend.

For one, the Choral Group, which I am almost partly involved in if not fully since I am allowed to attend rehearsals half-time, will be presenting a song on Sunday as a celebration of our church's anniversary. We will be singing Let There Be Praise.

And two, Calvin will be having his one week break from school and we will be heading off to the cool mountains of Genting Highlands on Monday. I took Monday off so I could join my parents, my brother and the kids, I think I need a break.

Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy ountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.
~Psalm 48:1-2

Picture by Mark Miller

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I will be found by you

Jeremiah 29:11-14a
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD,
... plans for wholeness and not for evil,
... to give you a future and a hope.
12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me,
... and I will hear you.
13 You will seek me and find me.
... When you seek me with all your heart,
14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD.

I remembered someone, though I can't remember who, commented that we cannot use Jer 29:11-14 to freely apply it to our lives especially in confirming what we think God would have planned for us or as an answer our prayers. Not freely apply it, I would agree but the word of God still stands that He does know the plans He has for us, plans for good and not for disaster to give us a future and a hope in Him. When we call upon him and pray to him, He will hear, He will listen. When we seek Him, we will find Him, when do it with all our heart. Such is our God, how wonderful and awesome is He.

Picture by Alice Wycklendt

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Psalm 143

I turned to Psalm 143 for my morning devotion and was touched by it. I closed it with Psalm 121, which affirms my trust and faith in my LORD. He hears and he is actively present in my life.

Psalm 143
A Psalm of David.

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy!
....In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
2 Enter not into judgment with your servant,
....for no one living is righteous before you.
3 For the enemy has pursued my soul;
....he has crushed my life to the ground;
....he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
4 Therefore my spirit faints within me; heart within me is appalled.
5 I remember the days of old;
....I meditate on all that you have done;
....I ponder the work of your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to you; soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

7 Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails!
....Hide not your face from me,
....lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.
....Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
9 Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!
....I have fled to you for refuge!
10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God!
....Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
11 For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life!
....In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
....and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.

Picture by Dawn Allynn

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More on Imprecatory Psalms

I need to do more on what I have started yesterday on Imprecatory Psalms. Stating what they are and what they may imply isn't enough. I have yet to go into what it means for us.

While working it out yesterday, this statement came to mind: God hates the sin but loves the sinner. I remember reading somewhere that this, though very much used and quoted, is an evangelical cliché that must be rejected. As my recent biblical "flair" would have it (the fact that whatever I needed lately seems to just come without much of a searching), I found it in reading Carson's Basics for Believer.

    God hates the sin but loves the sinner. The second part may be true but this antithesis is fundamentally mistaken, and is clearly refuted by Scripture. Fourteen times in the first fifty psalms alone, the texts insist that God 'hates' sinners, 'abhors' those who tell lies, and so forth.

    But the glorious truth about God is that although he is angry with us, in his very character he is a God of love. Despite his anger as he perceives our anarchy, anger that is a necessary function of his holiness, God is a loving God, and so he provides a means of forgiving sins that will leave the integrity of his glory unsullied.
Hence, the cross.

So in these imprecatory psalms, the psalmist is dealing with the abhorrence of God with the wicked, plain and simple. God will deal with the wicked in his own way. He gave us his Son as a propitiation of our sins. To us who receives him, we are expiated and for those who do not turn away from their wicked ways, they would have God judgement upon them. And Calvin reminded me yesterday evening of Jonah's account - that of the worm and the plant - which shows us the grace and mercy of God to forgive those who repent before him.

One more thought: about loving our enemies. I feel that loving our enemies is one tough thing to do. Because first of all, we need to do one fundamental thing - understand what it means exactly to love an enemy. I have read Carson's Love in the Hard Places (yup, him again!) some time ago, which is a tough read. Can't really remember much of it off hand, but what I learnt is that loving an enemy isn't as simple as it sounds. To love an enemy may be at the expense of the innocent. How can we reconcile that?

Looks like I will need to hit the books again on this one.

Picture of an eucalyptus bark by Cris Watk

Monday, August 14, 2006

Psalm 139

I am beginning to think I am becoming a person who reads the bible on-the-fly, i.e. whatever that comes along. But I do not want to think that it is entirely true though. I want to believe that the Holy Spirit has led to me the right places and the right chapters and the right verses. Because he has done it again.

The peace that only Jesus can give has placed a joy in my heart. On wanting to read a psalm, I went to the praise psalms found at the end (I had thought they were the Hallel psalms but I was wrong, Hallel Psalms are from 113-118). I scrolled up the numbers 150, 149, 148 … (I was reading it from my mobile phone – Oh, the convenience of technology!) and somehow or rather clicked on 139.

And there I have it again, a psalm that speaks my heart.

Psalm 139
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
....and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
....behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
....and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
....Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
....If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
....and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
....and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,
....and the light about me be night,"
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
....the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts; knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
....Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
....when I was being made in secret,
....intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; your book were written, every one of them,
....the days that were formed for me,
....when as yet there were none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
....How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
....I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
....O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
....your enemies take your name in vain!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
....And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
....I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
....Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
....and lead me in the way everlasting!

The psalm truly does speak my heart, I can’t say more. But just some notes on 2 sections:

1. I was reading the New King James Version and v.11 says: If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me. Comparing it with the other versions:

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"

If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,"

I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—

If I say, Surely the darkness shall overwhelm me,
And the light about me shall be night;

It looks like the NKJV is very different from the rest, almost the opposite if I may say. The KJV has the same. I was quite moved by NKJV on my first read. It made me to ponder that even when the darkness covers me, but because God is with me, even the night shall be light. It certainly reminds me of the “valley of death … his rod and his staff” of Psalm 23.

But after checking out the other versions, it seems the opposite, with the quotation marks at different places: even when darkness covers me and the light become darkness to me. But response to the statement is carried in v.12: even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. The message is the same, when we are with God, even the night will be as day.

Verse 18b is a wow: I awake, and I am still with you, which is such a reassurance that Jesus is Emmanuel.

2. Verse 19-22 are verses that may not sit right with a lot of people.

19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
....O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
....your enemies take your name in vain!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
....And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
....I count them my enemies.

Why would the psalmist go about like this with the wicked while Jesus on the other would be teaching his disciples to love their enemies?

What I have and what I remember about Imprecatory Psalms from an Expository Preaching Seminar held back in 2004 on the topic of Preaching from Selected Psalms, lectured by DA Carson, these psalms may have various implications. Carson said that these imprecatory psalms have a great deal of theology within.

i. They are impersonal prayers of judgment, to a God who is holy, godly and just. They are directed to no one in particular, only to show that God is holy and those who are wicked will be judged. E.g. Ps 1:5-6 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

ii. They are a call of measure for measure. This is justice in a narrower sense. Judgment will certainly be meted out by a just God. E.g. Ps 137:8-9 O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!

iii. They carry a language of outrage. They are not asking for any literal penalty. E.g. Jer 20:14 Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed!

iv. They are bound up with God’s vindication, that God must be vindicated. This can be seen here in Psalm 139.

v. They present God’s love and God’s hate antithetically, i.e. His perfection of wrath and His perfection of love. God is whole and perfect. On reading and understanding these psalms, we cannot reduce them to our own frailty in the handling of emotions.

Picture by Kristin Smith

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Taking off some hats

I was washing my huge pile of laundry yesterday and realised it was quite therapeutic for me. (Washing is good, ironing is a no-no!) I took the same time to pray and re-evaluate my life; and I have made some decisions.

I am just wearing too many hats and I think I am nearing burnout. I need more time for more important things in life and some things, though not less important, have to take the back seat for the time being.

But I have decided, for now at least, this blog will stay. Only and only because it is an extension of my daily spiritual ponderings and thoughts, and my quiet time with my Lord. I would therefore seek my blogger friends' forgiveness if I do not check out their blogs as often as I should. I would still be checking them out, (I think once a Blogger, always a Blogger?) but just not so often - I think that is already apparent by now.

The other hat I am planning to take off is the Sunday School teacher hat. I have been wanting to do that for a long time but I still have a heart for the little ones. I will put it back on when I am more settled and ready to go back into it, God willing. There are several more others hats that will be off, but all in God's good timing.

(Thanks to Jewel and Codepoke) I take Hab 3:19 to heart today: GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places.

Picture by Chancaca

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Yet will I Rejoice in the LORD

Habakkuk 3:17-18
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Grace and Peace

I was reminded today what Paul's mention of "grace and peace" is and what they are in connection to each other - that grace is the love of God through the blood of Christ that is given us; to us who do not deserve it at all, and the peace is as a result of that grace, we are no longer condemned. It caused me to think about John 14:27 in a new light. I have never seen it this way before that when Jesus talks about the peace that He gives: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid," He is talking about His peace that is in relation with His death on the cross. That to me, is enlightening. I have been looking for peace in the past week and this is the peace that He offers, the peace that is through His blood, the peace that we are no longer condemned. It is more than a feeling, it is an act.

And as life would have it, in just the past one week, between me and my husband, there were in total 7 deaths of those we know or in some ways, family friends; including Jonathan, who passed away 2 nights ago. It really reminds me again that we live in a temporary world, and so whatever problems I encounter is nothing in contrast to that fact. That our lives are so minuscule in comparison to eternity - we are but a whiff of smoke.

I therefore, draw upon the peace that only Jesus can give; that through His life-giving blood, I have peace, whether I feel it or not. I can trust in Him and rely on Him. He will be my Strength and my Song.

Picture by Matthew Bowden

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Illogical Feelings

The day did not go on well, not that I expect it to. I know I shouldn't feel horrible but I do. On rare occassions like this, the feeling just creeps on me, even if I find no logical reasons to feel so dreadful. No logical reasons at all, but who's to say that feelings are logical?

I searched the Psalms for some comfort and I automatically went to Psalm 23. I read on to 24 and then 25, and this is where it speaks my heart.

Psalm 25
Of David.

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
...let me not be put to shame;
...let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
...they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
...teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
...for you are the God of my salvation;
...for you I wait all the day long.
Remember your mercy, O LORD,
...and your steadfast love,
...for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
...according to your steadfast love remember me,
...for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!
Good and upright is the LORD;
...therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
...and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
...for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
For your name's sake, O LORD,
...pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who is the man who fears the LORD?
...Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
His soul shall abide in well-being,
...and his offspring shall inherit the land.
The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
...and he makes known to them his covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
...for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
...for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
...bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
...and forgive all my sins.
Consider how many are my foes,
...and with what violent hatred they hate me.
Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
...Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
...for I wait for you.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

Picture by Luc Sesselle
(Luc Sesselle has a fantastic collection of photos. He is my favourite photographer! Visit him at

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

So near yet so far

I brought work home to do again today but I don't seem to have the gung-ho I had yesterday. I am so tired.

I will meditate on my favourite psalm:

Psalm 121
A Song of Ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
....From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
....who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
....he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
....will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
....the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
....nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
....he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in
....from this time forth and forevermore.

Picture by Ted Cabanes

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Not a Good Day

I am getting there, I am getting there. These 2 bible verses accompanied me throughout the day, even though I only had time to recite them several times in the morning:

1. Prov 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

2. John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

And now I totally understand how King Saul must have felt when he was so disturbed and called for David to play him some music and most probably some singing as well. I have been working non-stop, yes non-stop, from 8am to 8pm and the only time I was not on the verge of panicking was when I was listening to some music - a collection of Christian choral music. When the CD finished playing, I had not thought about looping it, I would only notice it when I sense this feeling of dread creeping in again. Oh dear, I have not felt like this before and it is not even a matter of life and death. I don't quite understand what is happening to me.

But talking about life and death, my friend's cousin was a victim of a snatch thief. She was using a secluded stairway when she was mugged, pushed, fell and suffered a blow on her head. She passed away yesterday. My prayers are with her family, to hold to God and be strengthened again.

Picture by Amir Darafsheh

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Thousand Words #3

I have so much of work to do I am drowning. With a very tight deadline to meet, there is this really uneasy feeling in me which is on the verge of panicking. God help me.

Picture by Andrea Jaccarino

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Genesis 24:1-57

Our pastor spoke today on the topic "To Set and Reach Your Goals" using Genesis 24:1-57 as basis for the lesson that "Eliazar’s search for a wife for Isaac illustrates the ten steps of successful goal setting". The ten steps are:

1. Determine your position
2. Define your purpose
3. Discover a promise
4. Describe the profit
5. Desire in prayer
6. Diagnose the problems
7. Design a Plan
8. Discipline your personality
9. Deposit the price
10. Depend on people

The pastor's current 2-month theme at the moment is "Super Successful Living". I can't say I am in line with his exegetical methods but he drew from the passage the verses that mention "success" or "successful" and came up with the 10 steps.

What other ways can one draw lessons from the passage? Here could be some possibilities:

1. Eliazar's obedience and oath of faithful service. Put your hand under my thigh (v.2) reflects the custom of the times where it represents a token of his subjection to Abraham as a servant, and of his readiness, willingness, and fidelity to execute any commands he receives.
We too should emulate the readiness and willingness of Eliazar in obedience and service.

2. Abraham's faithfulness and allegiance to God. You will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites ... see to it that you do not take my son back there (v.3-5). This portion of Scriptures reminds me of Psalm 1, Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers. Canaanites are said to be idolaters and very wicked people and Abraham made Eliazar swear that he will not bring home any Canaanites. While it would serve the Lord when we spend time helping the needy and troubled but to dwell in the midst of wickedness and partaking in it is unacceptable to God.

3. Eliazar's daring prayer. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, 'Please let down your jar that I may drink,' and who shall say, 'Drink, and I will water your camels'--let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master." (v.14) I would say that Eliazar's prayer is really very bold and daring. His asking is so precise that any failure would send him back with nothing. But to put that into practice in our lives, how bold can we be in our prayers? Or would we pray in such a way that will force an answer for ourselves as we would like to have it? "I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor." (v.24) Even though Eliazar's prayer was answered, he also had it confirmed.

4. Eliazar's worship. The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD. (v.26) When Eliazar has received what he had prayed for, he never forget to worship God. A good reminder to us.

Picture by Johanna Ljungblom

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Luke 21:29-36

And he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

This passage reminds us exactly what Paul said in Phil 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." We live but in a temporary state in this world. The many things that we accumulate will come to nothing if it does not bring about worship to God and goodness to people around us.


Friday, August 04, 2006

He's happy again!

My son wasn't happy at all that he fell asleep last night and missed coming to pick me up from the train station (I took the KLIA Express train from the airport back to the city for easy pickup). In fact, he was very, very unhappy, very angry in fact. But he is back to his jovial self now, as he always is.

I found this very intriguing proverb:
The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy (14:10)

I think I know but I didn't quite understand why he was so angry but I suppose like the proverb go, only we ourselves would truly know our own bitterness and joy. Though we should be glad that Jesus knows.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bangkok Day 5

This being the final day of training, I was quite drained already though I have to admit I did learn quite a bit of things that will be useful for work. Would be wonderful if they were theological too but I can't have it all now, can I?

Nevertheless, it's home sweet home.

posted on 4-Aug-2006
picture shows the overhead steel structure in the KL Sentral train station

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bangkok Day 4

The days were packed. After training today, we went to our Bangkok office to check our email and then to a organised dinner in the famous Blue Elephant restaurant. The food is good but I have to say I am not a true blue Thai food fan.

posted on 4-Aug-2006
picture from

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bangkok Day 3

The picture is not clear but it reflects my day. I have been suffering from gastritis since Saturday morning and even though I have been faithfully taking my medication, the irregular and delayed meals have taken a toll on me (Bangkok is 1 hour behind Kuala Lumpur). For instance, we were asked to assemble for dinner at 8pm Bangkok time, and by the time we got to the place planned, it was already 9pm, which is 10pm for me. By then I was starving.

I went to see the doctor today in BNH Hospital. I took a cab back and the journey which I think is only about 3-4 kilometers took 1/2 an hour! I have no more complaints about traffic in KL.

Anyway, I have not been very "spiritual" in these postings. I am disappointed myself but I only have that much energy and I miss home so much.

posted on 4-Aug-2006
p/s I have since recovered from the gastritis