Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The motivation of true worship

The worship workshop will take place tomorrow evening and thankfully, I am already tying up loose ends in my preparation of materials and slides.

Daniel I. Block’s article on the “The Joy of Worship: The Mosaic Invitation of the Presence of God (Deut 12:1-14),” has been most helpful. One of his points really impressed upon me about the God that we worship, though I did find that he was not very clear in his delivery sometimes.
    The pagans’ motivation of worship is for physical prosperity and numerous progeny. In contrast, Deuteronomy 12 provides an exciting series of reasons why future generations should be motivated to worship Yahweh. Whereas Moses had repeatedly grounded Israel’s ethical conduct in God’s past actions of deliverance, covenant, revelation and providential care (Deut 4), here he highlighted the Lord’s future actions on the nation’s behalf as the grounds for worship:
    1. He would give them the land promised to their ancestors (vv. 1, 10)
    2. He would bless the Israelites in all their economic activities (v. 7)
    3. He would give them rest (v. 9)
    4. He would give Israel the land of Canaan as a special grant (v. 9)
    5. He would provide security for them (v. 10)

    By reminding the Israelites of these gracious actions Moses illustrated the fundamentals character of true worship: reverential human acts of submission and homage before the divine Sovereign, in response to His gracious revelation of Himself in accord with His will. Worship involves a glorious celebration of privilege and relationship, rather than fright and manipulation.

When I first read that, I could not see the difference between the two. But it soon became clear to me the difference. That is, when we worship, it is not worship in expectant of something in return but the worship of the Almighty God who has already promised many good things to the faithful.

Picture by Martin Walls

Monday, October 30, 2006

Psalm 62

To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun.
A Psalm of David.

1 For God alone my soul waits in silence;
.... from him comes my salvation.
2 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;
.... I shall not be greatly shaken.
3 How long will all of you attack a man to batter him,
.... like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
.... They take pleasure in falsehood.
.... They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.
.... Selah.
5 For God alone, O my soul,
.... wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;
.... I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;
.... my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
.... pour out your heart before him;
.... God is a refuge for us.
.... Selah.
9 Those of low estate are but a breath;
.... those of high estate are a delusion;
.... in the balances they go up;
.... they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery;
.... if riches increase, set not your heart on them.
11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this:
.... that power belongs to God,
12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
.... For you will render to a man according to his work.

Picture by Hannah Boettcher

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Draw me close to you

Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again
To hear You say that I’m Your friend

You are my desire
No one else will do
’Cause nothing else could take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace
Help me find the way
Bring me back to You

You’re all I want
You’re all I’ve ever needed
You’re all I want
Help me know You are near

Copyright © 1994 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing.

Picture by M Nota

Friday, October 27, 2006

When you go over

Moses in Deuteronomy 12 gave charge to the Israelites laws and statutes relating to the worship of God. When I read Deut 12:8-12, it impressed on me as a message to us as Christians, awaiting the day when we will be in heaven with God.

So while we are here, 8 "You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, 9 for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the LORD your God is giving you. 10 But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, 11 then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD. 12 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you."

You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today
Looking into v.8, I do wonder why the change of personal pronoun: You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today. And what were they doing?

everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes
This I suppose hold true at whatever age we are in, everyone doing whatever they feel is right. The latest news about the courts in NJ amending laws to allow gay marriage is a good example.

But when you go over ... he gives you rest from all your enemies around
We get final rest and protection from God, from problems, from persecution, even from our ownself.

to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you
The place where God is will be full of worship: the four and twenty elders shall fall down before him that sitteth on the throne, and shall worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and shall cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power: for thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created. (Rev 4:10-11)

And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters
Oh! How we long to be finally in His presence, rejoicing, all of us. But while we wait for that Last Day, we strive hard to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).

Picture by Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Our worship team were invited to give a short training session in another church and I have been working on a rough framework to begin work with.

1. What is worship?
Worship is the act of paying divine honour to God; an act of or feeling of adoration or loving or admiring devotion or submissive respect; to perform religious service to; to reverence with supreme respect and admiration. (The New Elizabethan Reference Dictionary)

2. Worship Flows from Theology, Worship Shapes Theology
Worship is significantly bound up with the religious beliefs of the believer but the converse is equally true: one’s worship shapes one’s theology.

3. A Biblical look at Worship
a. Deut 12:1-14
- who is the object of true worship?
- who are the subjects of true worship?
- where is the place of true worship?
- what is the motivation of true worship?
- what are the characteristics of true worship?

b. Romans 1:18-25
- the attitude of false worship
- the doctrine of false worship
- the practice of false worship
- the attitude of true worship
- the doctrine of true worship
- the practice of true worship
- the result of true worship

Picture by Jesse Schutt

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lebuh Armenian!

When we arrived in Penang on Sunday, we went looking for the best Char Kuey Teow (Fried Rice Noodles) in the world and got lost. But we found Armenian Street! Today, before we head back to KL, I made my husband drive back so I could take a picture. He kept asking me, "Why?" And I keep saying, "Because it absolutely bloggable!" No, we did not find Calvinist Street. Don't think there is one.

You may want to check this out - Street Names of Penang. I am myself amused that there is a Downing Street and a Drury Lane.

We took the ferry back to mainland this time, on Calvin's insistent really. It was fun and the beauty of it was that, of all places to meet, we met our church friends on this very ferry we took!

The Pulau Rimau.

The drive back was thankfully unevently. We thank our most gracious God for keeping us safe throughout the trip, and we thank Him for a great trip.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

He's contented

After a good outdoor day out yesterday ending with a nice time at the pool and the beach, we brought Calvin for movies, popcorn and fries today. Such a contented look, eh? The movie was Open Season. He really enjoyed it. I am just okay with it - not so much of a wow. To me, The Incredibles is by far still the best for an animated movie.

We also dropped by the supermarket to pick up a couple of small buckets and a shovel - there will be castle-building later on.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Penang Hill

The Penang Bridge

We arrived in Penang yesterday at about 3.00pm. We consider that not too bad for a 5-hour drive from KL, considering the heavy traffic due to the holiday season. The journey was smooth-flowing other than a 1-hour traffic jam. The jam happened because the police had stopped drivers using the emergency lane as a "fast lane", and the jam caused the drivers to take the emergency lane - a vicious cycle it is.

We took a trip to Penang Hill today. A place I have not been in more than 30 years!

The only way to get to Penang Hill is through this cable train. I am not sure when the tracks were laid, but the trains, at least the one that we were in, were constructed in 1977. Tickets are cheap - at only RM4.00 return. Penang Hill is about 701m above the sea level. Train departure is every 15 minutes. There are 4 trains and the journey takes 30 minutes. Transit takes place at the Middle Station. It reminded me of Middle Earth!

Here is the train track up to Middle Station, halfway up to the hill, obviously. Squint and you will notice a kidney shaped tracks - that's 15 minutes uphill, where the 2 trains on the bottom half of the tracks will intersect.

The year is 1922. So I guess these are all built in the 1920s.

We arrived! Bukit is Malay for Hill and Bendera means Flag.

Houses in Malaysia of the early 1900s all look really cool.

I wonder why?

Let's get back already.


Sunday, October 22, 2006


I have attended The Exegesis of Ephesians module almost one and a half years ago and finally, I got my results (my lecturer had taken some time with grading the papers due to his own thesis paper deadline) - I got an A! I am thoroughly elated - after so long, I was sure I barely just made it.

There were 2 papers and 3 take-home but close-book exam questions.

1. The first assignment was a free choice of any 3 to 8 verses from Ephesians. I was quite bold in choosing Eph 1:4-6, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." The lecturer had warned me not to delve too much on the argument of predestination.

These were his exact word: ... be careful not to be caught up with the predestination issue in your paper. You need to first bear in mind Paul's thrust of argument, not the legacy that the Reformation has left us, however important this may be.

Therefore, in my paper, I have asserted that:

    Paul’s purposes in Eph 1:4-6 are:
    · To exhort the Jews to receive Gentiles as part of the Church within the family of Christ;
    · To bring encouragement to the Gentiles that they are part of the family in Christ; and
    · To reveal to them God’s ultimate plan and his mystery that the gospel of Christ is open to all who put their faith in Christ and who believe in him.

    Results: Overall good paper ...
    Grade: A
2. The second assignment was a requirement for us to give a 4-5 page write up on any metaphor found in Ephesians, with a section on practical application. I had chosen the metaphor of The Body of Christ (mentioned 8 times in Ephesians). I have thoroughly enjoyed working this out and have really benefited a lot from it.

I would like to share here my practical application section, which I felt have a very important message:

    In practical application, the “Body of Christ” metaphor brings home indeed the message that our belief lays concretely on the actual bodily relationship with Christ. It must be iron-casted into our belief as members of the Church that the Church is nothing without Christ. But the reality might be far from so.

    Do our churches not struggle to maintain the centrality of worship, prayer and service? Don’t prayers lack the sense of urgency for the kingdom of God? Isn’t worship only but a top-ten chart? Doesn’t service come short of only a dull offering of what is leftover from the other demands of our lives? We may find ourselves in a dreary state of affairs.

    Such spiritual poverty calls for an urgent re-evaluation of our existence as a Church. We are the body of Christ, a historical reality by Christ’s presence and work in the world, inseparably knitted to him who poured himself out for the Church. We need to again realise that in congregating as a community of believers, we are not merely a human institution. Our worship, prayers, and acts of reverence and service are not carried out toward an ideology or mere principles and dogma but offered to a Person, who is Christ.

    We must again let the Head lead the body; to be connected to Christ in all things that we do. In our fellowship with one another, we need to constantly remind ourselves and teach each other that we are congregating to a Supreme Being. The Church as the body of Christ exists bodily under the call of Christ. It is our duty as members of His Body to speak the truth in love, to grow in all things to Him who is the Head; producing the growth of the body to the edifying of itself in love.

    Remember, the body is dead without the head, the Church is dead without Christ.

    Results: Good! You have captured the essence of the metaphor
    Grade: A
3. The take-home and close-book exam was quite scary. We were given the questions right after the final class, and we were given 6 months to prepare for them. We were required to arrange for ourselves a 3-hour uninterrupted session to answer all the questions without any reference to anything other than an unmarked bible. So you will be correct if you think the questions will be tough, and tough they are!

    i. “The canonical Ephesians comprises several letter fragments attributed to the Pauline school that are subsequently compiled by an editor. As such it does not reflect a coherent flow of argument and lacks a discernable occasion and unified purpose of the letter.” Do you agree with this statement? Include in your discussion the textual dispute “in Ephesus” in Eph 1:3.
    Grade: A

    ii. Answer the following:
    a. Paul begins Ephesians with a berakah-formula instead of the usual thanksgiving-formula (Ephesians 1:3). Is there any significance with this unusual departure?
    b. It has been established that the epistolary thanksgiving section (Eph 1:3-14) usually contains themes that are further developed in the body of the epistle. How is this true of Ephesians?
    c. What are some of the spiritual blessings elaborated by Paul in the epistolary thanksgiving section (1:3-14)?
    Results: Good!
    Grade: A

    iii. Answer the following:
    a. What is the function of the Household Code (Eph 5:22-6:9) within Paul’s overall argument in Ephesians?
    b. What are some possible ways you could apply the Household Code in our present context?
    Results: Good
    Grade: A
Soli deo gloria.

Picture by Yi-Chen Lin

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Island of the Betel Nut

We are going to have the next few days off - today being Deepavali and Hari Raya Aidil Fitri will be this coming Tuesday. As such, we will be heading off to Penang a.k.a Pulau Pinang (Island of the Betel Nut) for a vacation tomorrow. We usually stay home during the festival holidays to avoid the traffic congestion due to the exodus of people back to their hometowns but this time we thought it would be fun to go for a holiday and get into the crowd. And Penang will definitely be congested.

So I suppose there will no blogging for these few days until I am back on Wednesday. I am really looking forward for a long due family vacation!


Friday, October 20, 2006

It is well with my soul

I am sure most of us are already familiar with the sad story behind the lovely hymn, It is Well with My Soul, written by Horatio Spafford. I was preparing for an upcoming training on worship when I come across it again and it brought tears to my eyes. I told myself, how dare I complain. O Lord, have mercy on us.

Horatio Spafford was a lawyer born in 1828 who had a close relationship with D.L. Moody. Tragedy after tragedy struck him so gravely that it is a wonder how he would have survived it all. The only person who would really understand him could very well be Job himself. Spafford’s only son died, and the Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out his real estate holdings, which he invested heavily upon. Wanting to go for a vacation with his wife and four daughters, he sent them by ship to Great Britain to join D.L. Moody. Spafford was delayed due to last minute business arrangements and as he was making preparations to join his family, he received a cable from his wife that read, “Saved alone.” On November 22, 1873, the English vessel his wife and daughters were on, the Lochearn, was struck and sank in twelve minutes.

Anguished and heartbroken, he immediately left by ship to join his wife. There, in the midst of his sorrow, he wrote the hymn with these most unforgettable words.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Picture from http://www.gracelivingstonhill.com/spafford.htm (The hymn, written in Horatio's own hand, is still on display in Israel.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Psalm 40 I waited, I waited ... My God, do not tarry!

I had posted Psalm 40 a week ago. I used it again as a prayer during my devotion this morning. It is such a beautiful psalm. Terrien in his commentary divided the psalm into 2 parts: Part One (v.1-12) with 5 strophes and Part Two (v.13-18) with 3 strophes.

(This post is dedicated to Noel who gave me Terrien's commentary on the psalms as an early Christmas gift. Thank you Noel, God bless you!)

Part One Strophe 1
I waited, I waited for the Lord;
...He inclined toward me, and he heard my cry.
He draw me from the pit of roaring waters,
...From the mire of mud,
And he set me standing, my feet on a rock,
...With my steps secure.

He placed in my mouth a new song,
...A hymn of praise for our God!

This strophe deals with praise and thanksgiving, rather than lament but the background of the entire psalm is dire indeed. I particularly like Terrien's interpretation of the first verse: "I waited, I waited for the Lord." The psalmist has been in a pit and in mud - literal or symbolical. There are some times in our lives that we would be in such a state - dumped deep into a hole and enmired in mud we can't get out off. And when we are pulled out of such a situation and set on firm rock, standing, how glorious we would feel, that we will burst out in song of praise to our God who came and inclined towards us to save us.

Part One Strophe 2
Many will see and fear;
...They will have confidence in the Lord.
Happy is the strong man
...Who has placed his confidence in the Lord,
And has not turned to the arrogant ones,
...Glutted with lies!

The Hebrew religion back then communicated itself chiefly by word and silence through oracular revelation - through patriachal and Mosaic theophanies and the sermons of the great prophets. It is therefore a visual process - "many will see and fear." Our lives is a witness of God's goodness to the others around us. We should always remember that and present ourselves with the glory of God shown in our faces for we bear his light. Many a days I trod along with a gloomy spirit about me which is really not a good thing to do, for Paul says "Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say, rejoice!" (Phi 4:4) for we have placed our confidence in the Lord and not upon lies of mere men.

Part One Strophe 3
Thou thyself has multiplied, O Lord
...My God, thy marvels,
And thy grand designs in our favour!
...None may be compared to thee!
I wish to reveal and to recite them;
...They are too numerous to count.

As the psalmist goes along, he becomes more intimate in his expression of gratitude to "my God" for all the things God has done "in our favour". Just how many times have we forgotten to offer him thanksgivings for all that he has done for us? How many times have we remained in our murmurings and complaints when his blessings are really "too numerous to count"? Forgive us O God, and teach us to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thess 5:18).

Part One Strophe 4
Thou desirest neither sacrifice nor offering;
...Thou hast opened my ears.
...Thou demandest neither holocaust nor expiatory gift.
Then I said, Behold I come!
...In the scroll of a book [it is] written of me,
"To do thy good pleasure, my God, I delight!
...For thy law is in the midst of my inner being."

For the psalmist who lived in times where his life evolves around rituals and sacrifices, these lines are revolutionary. These gifts and sacrifices are neither God-required or God-desired. He said at once, "Behold, I come!" - doesn't it reminds us of Isaiah's "Here I am, send me!" (Isa 6:8) or even better, Paul's appeal "to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom 12:1).

Part One Strophe 5
I shall announce righteousness in the great assembly
...Behold, I shall not keep my lips shut;
...Lord, thou surely knowest!
I did not conceal thy justice in my heart;
...Thy truth and thy salvation I have proclaimed;
I have covered up thy goodness and thy fidelity
...Before the great assembly.

Lord, surely thou wilt not withhild thy compassion from me!
...Thy goodness and fidelity will protect me always.

A fitting conclusion to Part One - we must be committed to speak about the righteousness and goodness of God wherever we are.

Part Two Strophe 1
Disasters have surrounded me;
...They are without number.
My faults have overtaken me;
...I cannot even see [thee].
They are more numerous than the hairs of my head,
...And my courage is abandoning me.

Part Two starts with a new cry of distress, with the psalmist insisting that "numberless" disasters have befallen him, just as he had previously celebrated the "numberless" marvels God had accomplished for his people. In the traditional form of lament, he accuses himself of his own fault and in a hyperbolic style, he now faces the dark prospect of despair: "My courage is abandoning me." This impresses upon me one thing: problems will always beset us. It brings one back to the lament and God's love of v.1: "I waited, I waited for the Lord; He inclined toward me, and he heard my cry." It certainly keeps us on our toes - my good pastor once said, "the devil won't be bothered with someone dead to Christ." Having to face problems after problems just show that we are very much alive in Christ.

Part Two Strophe 2
Be pleased to deliver me Lord!
...Hasten to succor me, Lord!
Let them altogether be ashamed and confused,
...Those who seek my life to snatch it!
Let them fall backward and be dishonoured,
...Those who desire my ruin!

Not only sinfulness but also the hostility of advesaries: this is the second feature of the conventional forms of lament.

Part Two Strophe 3
Let them be ravaged on account of their shame,
...Those who say, Ah! Ah!
But let all those who seek thee
...Be thrilled and rejoice in thee!
Let them say ceaselessly, May the Lord be magnified!
...Those who love thy salvation!

I am poor and humble;
...Let my Lord take thought of me!
Thou art my help and my liberator;
...My God, do not tarry!

Condemnation and sneering - "Ah! Ah!" - will still besiege us but praising and rejoicing should never stop. The psalmist concludes with an ultimate confession of poverty and humility with an urgent plea of deliverance: "My God, do not tarry!" Our hope and our help entirely rest on our God. Oh God, indeed do not tarry as we wait and wait and wait - you will ultimately incline towards us. We believe, help our unbelief! (Mar 9:24)

Picture by Amir Darafsheh

Samuel Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary (Eerdmans Critical Commentary), (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003): 335-41

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding

I have spent quite a lot of time today updating my book list. I must build the habit of updating it as I purchase them. I have finally completed it and I am quite glad to say that most of them are accounted for except several of which I will need to find out who has taken them.

I had once read a very interesting article about books in www.msnbc.com (too bad I can't find the article now). It talks about how we often find good books, pay good money for them but ended having them sitting on the shelves unread (I have too many of such!). But in time to come, these books will surely find you and find you they will. This I have experienced many times over, which feeds on my habit of buying more of them everytime I go to the bookstore.

Anyway, I used to call my book list my list of Faith Seeking Understanding.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

God's working ground

I had a very good discussion with a friend this afternoon about how God moves and works in our lives. We may wish for clear and verbal directions from God – “do this”, “do that”, “go here”, “go there” – but to most of us, that does not quite happen. This reminded me of Abraham. When God called him to move out of Haran, though He was verbal, He was not too clear in His instructions either. He gave just enough information: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you,” (Exo 12:1).

We may not hear God as directly as Abraham did, but if we look back into our lives, chances are that we do see that He has been working out good things for us, that we had not seen then. Things which at that time seem bad and situations we find ourselves in which we had rather not, turned out to be stepping stones to things that are better.

The good that we find ourselves in now is the fruit of our obedience to Christ and the bad we are in right now is the plowing and readying of the soil for something good. God is working in us, He wants to work in us and we must allow him to, however dismal we are at the moment.

But what we are working out ultimately and what we are letting God work in us ultimately is our salvation, and that we must work out in fear and in trembling (Phil 2:12).

Picture by H. Dreyer

Monday, October 16, 2006

Extend a hand to the lonely

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him--a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
~ The Qoheleth (Ecc 4:9-12, ESV)

Little do men perceive what solitude is, and how far it extendeth. For a crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.
~ Sir Francis Bacon

Picture by Laura Kennedy

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Love, Knowledge, Prayer

Phil 1:9-11 (NIV)
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

We have a guest speaker today from Seremban Chinese Methodist Church. He spoke on Love, Knowledge and Prayer from the Phil 1:9-11 text. Some interesting points:

- There is certainly space in our lives to grow. There is definitely space in our lives to increase in substance.
- In the passage, Paul is not really praying for love only but that the Philippians would have the ability to discern what is best for them. We not only go for what is right but what is best. Being human, we do not go for the right or the best naturally, we have to purposefully work for it.
- It is also not enough to just love but it has to grow more and more in knowledge and depth of insight; this knowledge refers to the knowledge and insight of the Word of God.
- If love is limited, not pure and not according to the knowledge and discernment that comes from God, it is not complete and would cause problems.
- We should not only choose the faith but seek to know the God behind the faith. We should not only choose to do what is right but seek to do what pleases God. We are not only to discern between right and wrong but to live a godly and full life in Christ.
- We must always ask ourselves what is behind every choice that we make.
- In short, our love must abound, knowledge must guide and prayer must be our foundation.

Picture by Ijsendoorn

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Been cleaning today

Been spending the day cleaning and as a result I have bags and bags of stuff to throw away. I marvel at the way things gets collected through the years. There are bound to be things that I tend to keep even though I know I do not need them.

Picture by Liton Ali

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Holy Spirit in the Holy Scripture

Hans Hübner presented in his 1989 article, “The Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture” in The Ecumenical Review, an interesting look at the most significant aspects of biblical pneumatology. He studied the Holy Spirit from different parts of the New Testament with their relevant reference to the Old Testament: Luke 4:16 with Isaiah 61:1, Acts 2:16 with Joel 2 and Romans 8 with possible parallels in Ezekiel.

Luke 4:16ff – pneumatology and Christology

Luke 4:16-21 (ESV)
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Luke in his gospel states emphatically that in speaking of the Messiah, one must first speak of the Holy Spirit. In Luke, the Holy Spirit is tied to Christ. Where Christ is, what He says, what he does, there is the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ existence according to Luke is a pneumatic existence.

Acts 2:16ff – pneumatology, ecclesiology and eschatology

Acts 2:16-21 (ESV)
But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: "'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'

Luke in this second volume, Acts, presents the Spirit endowed church. The “epoch of the church” is that of the Holy Spirit as the chief protagonist in the church, especially in the church’s missionary activity. The church, guided by the Holy Spirit, must primarily preach the Word. The Spirit opens up the universal perspective for the church: where the Spirit is at work, the church thinks on a worldwide basis.

Romans 8 – existence in the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:9-17 (ESV)
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8 is the most important chapter of the epistle for Paul’s pneumatology, where he talks about the existence of those who are justified as being in the sphere of the influence of the Spirit. When God does something with us as human beings, he does it through the Spirit, who is the strength and power of God in the sphere of history. The doctrine of the Spirit in Romans 8 is wholly integrated in the Pauline doctrine of justification; for Paul the doctrine of justification is the horizon of the doctrine of the Spirit, but the doctrine of the Spirit of the focus for the doctrine of justification.

Picture by Eugene Rudyy

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I'll sing a new song!

Psalm 40
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
...he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
...out of the mud and mire;
...he set my feet on a rock
...and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
...a hymn of praise to our God.
...Many will see and fear
...and put their trust in the LORD.

4 Blessed is the man
...who makes the LORD his trust,
...who does not look to the proud,
...to those who turn aside to false gods.

5 Many, O LORD my God,
...are the wonders you have done.
...The things you planned for us
...no one can recount to you;
...were I to speak and tell of them,
...they would be too many to declare.

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
...but my ears you have pierced;
...burnt offerings and sin offerings
...you did not require.

7 Then I said, "Here I am, I have come—
...it is written about me in the scroll.

8 I desire to do your will, O my God;
...your law is within my heart."

9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly;
...I do not seal my lips,
...as you know, O LORD.

10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
...I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.
...I do not conceal your love and your truth
...from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
...may your love and your truth always protect me.

12 For troubles without number surround me;
...my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
...They are more than the hairs of my head,
...and my heart fails within me.

13 Be pleased, O LORD, to save me;
...O LORD, come quickly to help me.

14 May all who seek to take my life
...be put to shame and confusion;
...may all who desire my ruin
...be turned back in disgrace.

15 May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!"
...be appalled at their own shame.

16 But may all who seek you
...rejoice and be glad in you;
...may those who love your salvation always say,
..."The LORD be exalted!"

17 Yet I am poor and needy;
...may the Lord think of me.
...You are my help and my deliverer;
...O my God, do not delay.

Picture by Bjorn Gronn

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Role of the Holy Spirit in Hermeneutics

Following my post yesterday, Julia and I were discussing about the work of the Holy Spirit in helping us to understand the Word of God. I happen to have a journal article by Roy B. Zuck which is quite good in addressing the issue, because I think that as much as the Holy Spirit is active in revealing to us the Word of God, many issues do arise.

Zuck in his "The Role of the Holy Spirit in Hermenuetics" (Bibliotheca sacra 141 Ap-Je 1984, p 120-130) highlights amongst others these issues:

  • If true learning comes by the Spirit’s inner working, does this mean that one’s understanding of Scripture is ultimately a subjective matter
  • If a person senses the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart, does he automatically know the correct view of a Bible verse?
  • If the Spirit interprets the Word privately to individual believers, how can one determine the correct view among several conflicting interpretations?
  • If two people profess to be taught by the Spirit and yet hold differing views on some scriptural passage or issue, which view is valid?
The questions Zuck was trying to answer in this article are how does the Holy Spirit “guide and direct” believers in their involvement in the interpretive process and what does that guidance mean? He suggests 14 propositions which I have summarised here:

  1. The Spirit’s ministry in Bible interpretation does not mean He gives new revelation
  2. The role of the Spirit in interpreting the Bible does not mean that one’s interpretations are infallible
  3. The work of the Spirit in interpretation does not mean that He gives some interpreters a mental acuity for seeing truths under the surface that are not evident to any other dedicated Bible students
  4. The role of the Holy Spirit in Bible interpretation means that the unregenerate do not welcome and apply God’s truth, though they are able to comprehend many of its statements cognitively
  5. The Spirit’s role in hermeneutics does not mean that only Bible scholars can understand the Bible
  6. The Holy Spirit’s role in interpreting Scripture requires spiritual devotion on the part of the interpreter
  7. The Holy Spirit in interpretation means that lack of spiritual preparedness hinders accurate interpretation
  8. The role of the Spirit in interpretation is no substitute for diligent study
  9. The Spirit’s work in biblical interpretation does not rule out the use of study helps such as commentaries and Bible dictionaries
  10. The ministry of the Holy Spirit in Bible interpretation does not mean interpreters can ignore common sense and logic
  11. The place of the Holy Spirit in interpreting the Bible means that He does not normally give sudden intuitive flashes of insight into the meaning of Scripture
  12. The Spirit’s ministry in interpreting the Bible is included in but not identical with illumination
  13. The role of the Spirit in scriptural interpretation does not mean that all parts of the Bible are equally clear in meaning
  14. The Spirit’s work in interpretation does not result in believers having a comprehensive and completely accurate understanding of the entire Scriptures
Picture by Linda B

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Acts Assignment 2

I have started to gear up for my Acts Assignment 2. I have these 3 questions to choose from.

  1. What were the issues facing the Council of Jerusalem and how were they resolved?
  2. What do we learn about Paul’s missionary strategy and the message from the second half of Acts?
  3. Discuss the role of the Holy Spirit in Acts.
During class several weeks ago, I had wanted to do the 2nd one but now I think I am quite decided on the 3rd. With only 2,000 words, it will be a challenge to present the points while being thrifty with words. I do not have any good books on the Holy Spirit but I have managed to obtain quite a few relevant journal articles that will be of great help. The recommended book on the Holy Spirit, which the lecturer refers to as the book on the Holy Spirit is really too expensive to be purchased. Max Turner's Power from on High: The Spirit in Israel's Restoration and Witness in Luke-Acts costs US$79.96 in Amazon.com. Very pricey for a paperback, eh?

Some interesting articles that will be good to dig in:

Arrington, French L. The indwelling, baptism, and infilling with the Holy Spirit : a differentiation of terms.
Bruce, Frederick Fyvie. Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles.
Coffey, David M. A proper mission of the Holy Spirit.
Fee, Gordon D. Baptism in the Holy Spirit : the issue of separability and subsequence.
Hocken, Peter. The meaning and purpose of "baptism in the Spirit"
Hübner, Hans. The Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture.
Jackson, Don. Luke and Paul : a theology of one spirit from two perspectives.
McLean, Mark D. Toward a pentecostal hermeneutic.
O'Neill, J C. The Connection Between Baptism and the Gift of the Spirit in Acts.
Pyne, Robert A. The role of the Holy Spirit in conversion.
Smalley, Stephen S. Spirit, kingdom and prayer in Luke-Acts.
Stronstad, Roger. The influence of the Old Testament on the charismatic theology of St Luke.
Suggit, John N. "The Holy Spirit and we resolved . . ." (Acts 15:28)
Turner, Max. Interpreting the Samaritans of Acts 8: the Waterloo of Pentecostal soteriology and pneumatology?
Turner, Max. The spirit and the power of Jesus' miracles in the Lucan conception.
Turner, Max. The work of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts. Wall, Robert W. "Purity and Power" According to The Acts of the Apostles.

Picture by Flaviu Lupoian

Monday, October 09, 2006

Hebrews 2:1-4, Therefore …

Hebrews 2:1-4 (ESV)
1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,
3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,
4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The message in Hebrews 2 is so clear – we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away from it, for how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

Now, what would the author mean by “paying closer attention”?
It certainly would mean to:
• Read God’s word more frequently – as often as we can
• Meditate on it closely – think about it, mull over it, remember it
• Have it close to our heart – so close that it is the first thing we’d come to in the matters of the heart
• Memorise it – as difficult as it may sound, put them into memory for use of the Holy Spirit
• And finally, we must let it regulate our words and base our actions according to them

Picture by Christine Scholes

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hebrews 1:4, Much superior to angels

I was wondering why the author in the book of Hebrews compared Jesus to the angels. According to Vincent, "the informal and abrupt introduction of this topic goes to show that the writer was addressing Jewish Christians, who were familiar with the prominent part ascribed to angels in the O.T. economy, especially in the giving of the law. "Clarke said that it is "another argument in favor of the Divinity of our Lord".

Jesus is clearly superior over man, as lived out in his life with the disciples, his resurrection and ascension. In comparing Him to the angels, the author is affirming His divinity, that not only is He superior to man but also to angels because He is God.

Picture by Liam Odowd

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Trinitarian God

Hebrews 1:5-8 (NKJV)
5 For to which of the angels did He ever say:
... “ You are My Son,
... Today I have begotten You”?
And again:
... “ I will be to Him a Father,
... And He shall be to Me a Son”?
6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:
... “ Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
7 And of the angels He says:
... “ Who makes His angels spirits
... And His ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But to the Son He says:
... “ Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
... A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
... 9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
... Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
... With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

I was so marvelled with Heb 1:8, But to the Son He says: “ Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. Inadvertently, it is God who addressed God. It will be odd to address oneself and He is clearly speaking to Jesus. So isn't it amazing that He is calling Jesus, God, affirming the divinity of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

One thing though I need to find out: why did the author argue about the Lordship of Jesus over the angels? Why did he compare Jesus with the angels?

Picture by Simon McConico

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Free Hugs

I had wanted to blog further on Hebrews but Jewels posted this great video on Tuesday and I gotta post it too: click here for a video that might bring tears to your eyes.

Meanwhile, I have not been checking out my blogger friends and it is time I do: Doug's Weapons of Mass Deduction, Julia's Kingdom Jewels, Codepoke's The Familyhood Church, The Milly Times and Danny Kaye's Nothing Important to Us.

I will continue with Hebrews tomorrow, God willing.

Picture by Matin Dadfar

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hebrew 1:1-3, Wow!

Doesn’t it happen to you that God’s word is new every time you read it? His Word is indeed living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, bone and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intention of heart (Heb 4:12).

Since I was so touched by Romans 8 and Hebrews 4:14-16, I began reading Hebrews. And just reading the first 3 verses blew me away!

Hebrews 1:1-3
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Here is what I find so wow. Jesus is:
• Appointed heir of all things (I therefore have no worries)
• Through Whom the worlds are made (worlds, not just our world)
• The brightness of God’s glory (just that, brightness of glory … wow)
• The express image of God (we can see God now!)
• Upholds all things by get this – the word of God’s power (I cannot even to comprehend what it means, the word of power … wow!)
• He had by Himself purged our sins (by Himself – we can only go to God through Him and Him alone)
• Sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (we serve a King)

Picture by Rodolfo Clix

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A slap in the face from Romans 8

I have not been Greeking at all lately and have fallen back profusely on my Romans class. I had wanted to forgo class this evening after it has been put on hold for almost 2 months, if not more. I had to literally force myself to go for class today. I am so very thankful that I did.

I am in a juncture of life where I keep telling myself, "I know" but yet it didn't help me feel better. (If you have been following my daily posts, you might have noticed that I have been brooding a lot lately.) I am again humbled because just an hour ago, you can say that I got a slap in the face: I don't know a lot of things.

It was an awakening for me, and I would like to put down in words what I have just learnt.

Romans 8:1-4 (ESV)
1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

A lot of time was spent just on the first 3 verses of Romans 8. The most important to me was the discussion on "in the likeness of sinful flesh". What does it mean by it and why did Paul go the roundabout way with words and not stick to just "in flesh" as used by John in the gospel? In our discussion, questions began to arise: does Jesus have the tendency to sin? If not, then why was he tempted, as it would not serve any purpose for tempting him? We all agree that Jesus is sinless, without sin, but can He sin, only that He chose not to?

Our conclusion after much discussion and not without a few words and warning from our lecturer can be summarised as follows:

Jesus is without sin, not only that He did not sin but more comprehensively, He is without sin

Histrorically, the church sustains that Jesus cannot sin; not as in the ontological sense but in the moral sense. He is holy and He just cannot sin, it is against His nature.

Having said that however, He came into our sinful world which is in the fallen state, hence Paul's usage of "in the likeness of sinful flesh". In short, we can say that Jesus is without sin in a sinful world. He suffers the infirmities that we do but is without sin. It is important to note that Jesus is a divine person with a human nature rather than human person with a divine nature.

That however, did not take away the pain of temptation. The force of sin is suffering. In being tempted, He is not pulled into the proclivity to sin but into the pain of doing what is right. For example, a good man whose nature does not allow him to lie may be tempted to in order to safe his dying son. Being a good man, he, though tempted, could not lie even for the sake of saving his son and as a result, suffers. Sinful people would have it easier (at least in the present time). So in that sense, we too suffer because we imitate Christ in not giving in to sin. As such, the message in Hebrews 4:14-16 rings so true, "14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

And all these points to 8:2, "For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death," which in turn confirms 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

How beautiful the Word of God,
Much sweeter than honey from the honey comb.
And how perfect the Word of God,
It revives the soul, driving a needy soul home.
Thank you, Abba Father.

Picture by Benjamin Earwicker

Monday, October 02, 2006

1 Thessalonians

I found myself seeking for encouragement mainly in the Old Testament, particularly the Psalms, and so I thought I'd try the New Testament. My thoughts went to 1 Thessalonians by virtue of 5:16-18, "Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus" (NLT). I ended up reading the entire letter, which isn't too long really, and was much encouraged by it.

Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians approximately in 51AD, one of the earliest letters he wrote. He wrote it to strengthen the Thessalonian Christians in their faith and give them the assurance of Christ's return.

We know that God loves you, dear brothers and sisters, and that he chose you to be his own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what was said was true ... so you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you.
~ 1 Thess 1:4-6

Picture by Dirk Herrmann

Sunday, October 01, 2006

He heals the brokenhearted

Psalm 147

1Praise the LORD!
...For it is good to sing praises to our God;
...for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
...he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3He heals the brokenhearted
...and binds up their wounds.
4He determines the number of the stars;
...he gives to all of them their names.
5Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
...his understanding is beyond measure.
6The LORD lifts up the humble;
...he casts the wicked to the ground.

7Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
...make melody to our God on the lyre!
8He covers the heavens with clouds;
...he prepares rain for the earth;
...he makes grass grow on the hills.
9He gives to the beasts their food,
...and to the young ravens that cry.
10His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
...nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
...in those who hope in his steadfast love.

12Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
...Praise your God, O Zion!
13For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
...he blesses your children within you.
14He makes peace in your borders;
...he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15He sends out his command to the earth;
...his word runs swiftly.
16He gives snow like wool;
...he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
17He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
...who can stand before his cold?
18He sends out his word, and melts them;
...he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19He declares his word to Jacob,
...his statutes and rules to Israel.
20He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
...they do not know his rules.
...Praise the LORD!

Picture by Paul Joseph