Wednesday, February 28, 2007

So tiring

It is a very tiring week. Managing all the procedures and tests, the doctor visits and all. But I thank God that all is going on well and Calvin is getting better. I also get some time at night to work on my assignment on the Holy Spirit since I do not get a very comfortable sleeping place and as a result I can't sleep too well. But then, I am so tired anyway, I am resting and sleeping quite well, surprisingly. The doctor has indicated that we will be discharged tomorrow. Yippee!


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It will be longer than I thought it will be

I managed to catch hold of the doctor today. I missed her yesterday while SH stayed with Calvin as I went home to pack some things. We went to the hospital straight from the clinic yesterday and had nothing on us. The doctor told us that most probably Calvin will have to stay on until Thursday or Friday until his nasal congestion is all cleared. Meanwhile, he is getting used to the poking and jabbing. He had a rough night yesterday demanding to go home but now he is getting along quite willingly, though it may change again tonight.

I will not have much time to attend to your blogs and comments, but I am thinking of you. God bless and keep y'all.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Got admitted

We went to the doctor's again today and we were advised to get Calvin admitted to get further tests and further observation. It has been a long day and we were finally admitted at 4 in the evening. I hope it will only be a short stay.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Still down

Calvin is still sick and we did not get to go to church today. It's staying-home-and-rest-day for all three of us.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Poor thing

Our sweetie-pie fell sick 2 days ago and he is still quite sick. He has been complaining about a headache and tummyache. He is having quite a high fever too. We have brought him to visit the doctor two times already. We hope he will be well soon.


p/s Oh! I forgot, today is the 7th day of the Chinese New Year - it's People's Day, i.e. everybody's birthday. Happy Birthday everyone!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Psalm 86: For great is your steadfast love

Psalm 86 (ESV)
A Prayer of David.

1 Incline your ear, O LORD,
.....and answer me,
.....for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am godly; your servant, who trusts in you-- are my God.
3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,
.....for to you do I cry all the day.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant,
.....for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
.....abounding in steadfast love all who call upon you.
6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
.....listen to my plea for grace.
7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
.....for you answer me.
8 There is none like you among the gods,
.....O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
9 All the nations you have made shall come
.....and worship before you, O Lord,
.....and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things; alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
.....that I may walk in your truth;
.....unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God,
.....with my whole heart,
.....and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; have delivered my soul
.....from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
.....a band of ruthless men seek my life,
.....and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord,
.....are a God merciful and gracious,
.....slow to anger
.....and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
.....give your strength to your servant,
.....and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
.....that those who hate me may see
.....and be put to shame because you, LORD,
.....have helped me and comforted me.

Picture by Kendrick Shackleford

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Role of the Holy Spirit in Acts

I am back to working on my Holy Spirit paper and feeling panicky. I have 3 weeks to complete it and the more I work on it, the more I feel inadequate to do it. Looking back to my previous post on this topic, it already took a different turn, mainly because the assignment has to discuss the role of the Holy Spirit in Acts.

I am thinking I need to talk about its role being the Spirit of prophecy with Peter appealing to the prophet Joel in Acts 2. The question that arises is: does Acts only has to do with Joel and not the other OT prophets, particularly Ezekiel? How about then its role in salvation and sanctification?

What about baptism and its related issues of conversion-initiation and donum superadditum?

I think I am okay with working out its role as the Spirit of prophecy but I cannot see how baptism can be a role he played in Acts. Does the Spirit has a function to play in baptism? The debate and argument centers on when the filling of the Holy Spirit takes place - during conversion or during baptism. So do I need to include it in my paper as his role?

Picture by Kenn Kiser

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Calvin turns 9 today. Being the 3rd day of Chinese New Year, a no school day and everyone out of town, it is going to be a quiet birthday with just his daddy and mommy.

So, it is a Calvin-day and he gets to do and go where he wants to go.

We were at the mall, he wanted to go to Ikea for meatballs. We also went to the bookstore, he got a book of magic tricks, and the art supplies store to get some stuff he wanted: paints and PVA glue. For his birthday dinner, he discovered escargot not long ago and so we brought him to a restaurant promising as much escargot as he wants.

Happy Birthday Calvin!


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chinese New Year: Day 1

It is the first day of the Chinese New Year: Gong Xi Fa Cai!

We are celebrating Chinese New Year for 15 days. We went to church this morning, after which it was visiting time, an important thing to do during the New Year. For a start, we were back at SH's parents house to greet and wish them in this new year of the boar. We then went to a friend's home and also to my uncle's. It wasn’t much but we had a great time. We did not get too many hong bau today and I didn’t give out too many either. Well, there are 14 days more to do that.

Calvin has his 2 best friends staying over for the first time tonight. He is both happy and excited. I was called up to his room to straigthen things out between the three of them like five to six times. It was alright, because it was fun for SH and I too to have 2 more kids! I asked Calvin if having brothers and sisters would be a good thing. His reply? "It is and it is not."

This morning's sermon was taken from Philippians 2:5-18.

Phil 2:5-18 (ESV)
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning,
15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

The preacher divided the passage into 3 interesting portions (starting from v.1):

1. v.1-4: A plea to be united
2. v.5-11: The perfect plan that is found only in Christ
3. v.12-18: The process to be more Christ-like

He gave some interesting comments on one of my favourite and much quoted verse (too much sometimes!): Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (v.12).

According to him, 3 things the verse is not:

1. It is not working in order to be saved. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8).

2. It is not a working out of an inward salvation, or in other words, to get that spark in our spiritual life.

3. It is not to work to stay saved.

He said to work out our salvation is to live out our salvation that we have in, by and through Christ. Christ will complete it and carry it to completion. There is nothing we can add on to our being saved but to submit wholly to God.

My thought is that for us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling means that we are not to take salvation for granted. We cannot just have it and do nothing about it. We must and should live it out. (And I suppose we could write a whole book and more about how to live it out.)

Picture showing Calvin's hong bau for the day

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Reunion dinner

It was such a quiet day today, and we practically rotted at home! But even though we had nothing to do, the day still went by just as fast and before we knew it, it was time to go to my in-laws home for our annual reunion dinner.

After dinner, Calvin spent time at the computer with his cousins and I found out to my delight that we can blog using SH's new cellphone. I tried it and ended up created a new blog unique to the cellphone. So now SH has started blogging, but I wonder how long he will be at it before it becomes a "been there, done that" thing to him! Check his photo blog here.

Picture by Emel Isitan

Friday, February 16, 2007

Honour your father and your mother

It is going to be the Chinese New Year on Sunday, and following its tradition, we must return home to our parents on New Year’s Eve for a reunion dinner. We will be going for a reunion dinner on Saturday with SH’s parents but this evening, we are going to have an “unofficial” one with my parents.

The event has been small and quiet ever since the demise of my grandmother. Those were the times when all her sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren will gather together for a meal. She would cook a wonderful meal and the kids (including me!) would have a gala time with fire crackers and fire works.

We are now segregated into our own family units. We have all grown up and things became, well, boring as compared to the kind of fun we had. Nevertheless, I look forward to a time of sharing a meal together.

I found these verses which holds profound meaning in honouring and respecting our parents. God bless them. Save my own family, they are the most important people in my life. I hadn't understood their love until I have a kid of my own. I love them with my life.

Exo 20:12
"Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Lev 19:3
Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.

Pro 23:22, 25
Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old … your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.

Mat 15:4
For God commanded, 'Honour your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.'

Picture by Rachel Ward

Thursday, February 15, 2007

His eyes are on the righteous

1 Peter 3:9-20
9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called,that you may obtain a blessing.
10 For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,
15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;
16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience,so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,
20 because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

Picture by Greg Olsen

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The season of lurve ...

It makes quite a difference working (temporarily) in KLCC during Valentine's Day: the stores are packed with people looking for the perfect Valentines gift, gifts shop with never seen before long queues and girls selling flowers at every turn, at every corner, and at exorbitant prices.

We are too practical for Valentine's Day. I spent dinner with my parents and my son. SH and I will be going out for supper soon - not too romantic though, but I don't mind. We are just going to have what SH calls romantic porridge (or as some call it congee) in some night stalls about 3 minutes drive away.

Happy Valentine's Day! Wishing you all the mushiest love ever!

Picture by Mike Goodwin (one of my favouritest picture from Thanks Mike!)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I got my molar extracted. I weighed all factors and decided that rather than having it go through a root canal and crowning, I decided to just remove it. Having one less tooth is not a big problem though now I am reading that I might lose some of my memory and may risk losing other teeth due to drifting.

I slept through the whole afternoon today. It must be the antibiotics because it is so unlike me. So, nothing much done today.

Picture by Joel Marie Kubassek

Monday, February 12, 2007

Romans 12:1-15:13

In relation to the previous 11 chapters

1. The first 11 chapters already made it clear that the life, which according to 1:17, For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith," is the destiny of the man who is righteous by faith, is a life of obedience to God.

2. From chapter 3 to 6, it is clearly laid out that how can those whom God has mercifully decided to see as having died to sin go on living in it contently?

3. And as long as we remain in the flesh, we remain in a real sense the slave of sin - For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin (7:14) - but God has give us a righteous status in Christ and we are thus bound in his conscience to God's holy law.

4. In chapter 8, the necessity of obedience is set forth in terms of the gift of the Spirit. To be in Christ is to be indwelt by His Spirit, the Holy Spirit. One cannot have Christ without also having His Spirit - 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 (8:9 ).

5. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit enables us to cry "Abba, Father" - 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!" (8:15) - and to call the true, holy God 'Father' with full sincerity and seriousness, one needs to obey God's law. This is indeed the whole of Christian obedience. For to address God by the name of Father sincerely and with full seriousness involves seeking wholeheartedly to be and think and speak and do what is well pleasing to Him, and at the same time to avoid all that is displeasing to Him.

6. The obedience required of Christians is not just an obedience in principle but an obedience of thought and attitude, of word and deed, wrought in the concrete situations of life.

7. Exhortation to this kind of obedience is therefore necessary and it is such exhortation that we find in Romans 12:1-15:13.

The sub-themes

12:1-2 Appeal for total consecration
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (12:1)

12:3-8 Humility and service in the body of Christ
So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (1:5)

12:9-21 The marks of a true Christian
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (12:21)

13:1-7 Submission to the authorities
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (13:1)

13:8-10 Fulfilling the law through love
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (13:8)

13:11-14 Living as children of light
The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (13:12)

14:1-12 Do not pass judgement on one another
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. (14:5)

14:13-23 Do not cause another to stumble
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (14:13)

15:1-13 The example of Christ
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus. (15:5)


C.E.B. Cranfield, Romans 9-16, International Critical Commentary, (Great Britain: Cromwell, 2004): 592-4
Tokunboh Adeyemo (Gen. Ed.), Africa Bible Commentary, (China: WordAlive, 2006): 1368-74

Sunday, February 11, 2007

How Beautiful are the Feet

Today's sermon is based on Romans 10:12-15, focussing on the topic of mission.

Romans 10:12-15 (NASB)
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." 14How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!"

Verse 13 comes from Joel 2:32 and v.15 from Isaiah 52:7.

Joel 2:32
"And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Will be delivered;
For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
There will be those who escape,
As the LORD has said,
Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

Isaiah 52:7
How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

What strikes me are these few questions (which if I am not mistaken are imperatives) in reverse logic found in v.14-15:

1. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
2. How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
3. And how will they hear without a preacher?
4. How will they preach unless they are sent?

Someone needs to be sent. Those sent need to preach. So that those who hear will believe and call upon the name of Jesus.

1. How can one be sent? What is meant by being sent? Who is sent?
One is sent when he is commissioned by God. After the resurrection, when Jesus was addressing the eleven, he said, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" (Mar 16:15). The pertinent question that faces us is this: are you a disciple of Christ. If you are, you are sent: go therefore into all the world and proclaim his good news.

2. How can the one sent preach?
Preaching is the act of exhorting, prophesying, reproving, teaching, proclaiming; discoursing, inculcating the Scriptures. The word needs to be explained, sadly something that is very rarely done in the pulpit these days, and I am certain it does not limit just to the pulpit alone. John Gill (1690-1771) put it very clearly as follows: They who preach ought to preach concerning the person of Christ, his offices, grace, righteousness, blood, sacrifice and satisfaction, otherwise men may hear the preacher, and not hear Christ.

Finally, what does it mean by "how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news"?

According to Clarke, "feet are variously used in Scripture, and sometimes have respect to things internal and spiritual. For as the life of man and the practice of piety are compared to walking, (Psa 1:1), so his feet may signify the principles on which he acts, and the dispositions of his mind. (Ecc 5:1): Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God. Agreeably to this, the feet of the messengers in Isaiah and of the apostles in this verse, may signify the validity of their mission - the authority upon which they acted, and any character or qualifications with which they were invested."


I have been procrastinating for too long. I must start on my Romans 12-16 paper tomorrow, albeit a brief one since I do have vocal lessons and choral practice tomorrow, but start I must!

Picture by Dani Simmonds

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ouch ...

I have been having a toothache for a couple of days. I visited the dentist this afternoon, became poorer, given another appointment, that will lead to more appointments, which will make me even poorer. Ouch.

Picture by Bianca de Blok

Friday, February 09, 2007

Been feeling lazy lately

Pro 6:6-11 (ESV)
6 Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
8 she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.

Picture by Mooncross

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The poor in spirit

Halfway down the week in my recent change of routine, this painting, The Poor Poet by Carl Spitzweg (1839) appeals to me. A distressed poet has apparently found refuge in a miserable attic, where he can get away from everyday life and its pain, the material shortages, to be an Idealist and indulge the psychical aspects of life.

Matthew 5:2-12
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 "Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
5 "Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
7 "Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall receive mercy.
8 "Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
9 "Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called sons of God.
10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven,
for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

To be poor in the spirit is to be humble, to acknowledge that we are sinners with no righteousness of our own. It is to be willing to be saved only by the grace and mercy of God; to be willing to where God places us, to bear what he lays on us, to go where he bids us. We face doom when we think we are rich in spirit, when we are proud, when we think we know it all. To be poor in spirit is to listen to God and to our brethren, to offer ourselves for use to God and to our brethren for the benefit of the body of Christ.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Interpretation of Parables

As I delved further into Pentecost's The Parables of Jesus, there are many things I never knew. I found these principles or reading and interpreting parables important.

(1) The parables concerned "the kingdom of heaven"
It is important to note that a great body of Christ's teaching through parables concerns itself with the kingdom of heaven. Many of the Lord's parables begin with these words: the kingdom of heaven is like ... indicating further that the theocratic kingdom programme is primarily in view in the parables. More often than not, we erroneously applied the parables directly to the church (as though they were primarily applicable to the church). We must remember that the parables were spoken to reveal truth concerning the broader theocratic kingdom programme.

(2) Observe the immediate context
This is one good lesson for me as I almost always read the parables in isolation and apply them in the current context. Parables were never spoken in a vacuum. In each instance that Christ spoke a parable, He was explaining some question or problem that His hearers were facing. Each parable thus was designed to solve a problem or to answer a question. Examples:
- the parable of the persistent friend in respond to "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1, 5-7)
- the parable of the rich man and Lazarus was spoken because the Pharisees "loved money ... and were sneering at Jesus." (Luke 11:14)
We must therefore search the immediate context to discover the problem or question. If the answer does not suit the question or problem, we have either misunderstood the question or misinterpreted the parable.

(3) Determine the point at issue
We must sift out what is germane from the mass of details in the parable. For example, in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), the emphasis is not on the character of the judge but rather on the persistence of the widow. If undue attention is given to the character of the judge, then the parable will be misinterpreted.

(4) Study the item or matter
Since a parable transfers truth from the known to the unknown realm, the interpreter must study the item or the matter in the parable to which the allusion is made and from which truth is to be transfered. For example:
- what is the process of sowing seeds in the parable of the sower
- what is the process of wine making in the Lord's time in the parable of the new wine
- what is the function of a gate to understand what Christ meant when he said, "I am the gate" (John 10:7)

Picture by Craig Jewell

Monday, February 05, 2007

What is: A Parable

I will be using the train for the coming several months going to work in our client's office and morning devotion will be a challenge. The train this morning was packed to the brim and I had no chance to a seat. I needed 40 winks but got none; I wanted a read but can't.

But I managed to do a little reading on the way back: The Parables of Jesus by J. Dwight Pentecost.

According to Pentecost, "the parables of Jesus have long challenged expositors and stimulated preachers, for in their simple form the deepest truths have been revealed. But the very simplicity has been a deceptive snare to the interpreter." And I like this: "They are the means by which abstract ideas are communicated. By transfering ideas from the known realm to the unknown realm, truth in learned in the unknown realm by what is known in the known realm." In the swaying train, I had to read this twice to comprehend it!

In the New Testament, the word "parable" is used of many different figures of speech:

(1) Simile - a stated likeness
The use of "like" or "as" identifies a figure as a simile. Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves ~ Matt 10:16

(2) Metaphor - an implied likeness
So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep ~ John 10:7

(3) Similitude - a common knowledge
In this figure, transference in made from common knowledge, based on what is generally done rather than on what a certain individual actually did. He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened." ~ Mat 13:33. A person familiar with bread-making can learn truth through these words.

(4) Story - specific
It transfers truth involving a specific incident and calls attention to what one person did. And he said, "There was a man who had two sons ~ Luke 15:11.

The parables of Jesus intrigue me and some totally perplex me. I am reading two books right now, but I am looking forward to digging in deeper into this one.

Picture by Bianca de Blok

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Jesus said, Come to me ...

Matt 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Today's sermon is an invitation to God's call to come to him. The call is made to those who labour and are heavy laden, the former an active, the latter a passive participle, covering both the active and passive sides of human misery. We are all called to come to him. What I find enthralling is the reason for going to God - it is for rest but in the form of taking up the yoke. Now isn't that a paradox?

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) shed some light:

Take my yoke - This is a figure taken from the use of oxen, and hence signifying to labor for one, or in the service of anyone. The "yoke" is used in the Bible as an emblem:

(1) of bondage or slavery, Lev 26:13; Deu 28:38.
(2) of afflictions or crosses, Lam 3:27.
(3) of the punishment of sin, Lam 1:14,
(4) of the commandments of God.
(5) of legal ceremonies, Act 15:10; Gal 5:1.

It refers here to the religion of the Redeemer; and the idea is, that they should embrace his system of religion and obey him. All virtue and all religion imply "restraint" - the restraint of our bad passions and inclinations - and subjection to laws; and the Saviour here means to say that the restraints and laws of his religion are mild, and gentle, and easy. Let anyone compare them with the burdensome and expensive ceremonies of the Jews (see Act 15:10), or with the religious rites of the pagan everywhere, or with the requirements of the Popish system, and he will see how true it is that Jesus’ yoke is easy. And let his laws and requirements be compared with the laws which sin imposes on its votaries - the laws of fashion, and honor, and sensuality - and he will feel that religion is "freedom," Joh 8:36. "He is a freeman whom the truth makes free, and all are slaves besides." It is "easier" to be a Christian than a sinner; and of all the yokes ever imposed on people, that of the Redeemer is the lightest.

But the more important question is how is it easier? How is the burden light? The call to discipleship is something that is very serious.

Matt 16:24
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Matt 8:19-22
And a scribe came up and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."
And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."
And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."

RT France in his commentary to Matthew (Tyndale NT Commentaries, p.200-1) refers the yoke to the yoke of Jesus and Jesus himself who gives rest in opposed to the yoke of wisdom or the law. The rest that Jesus offers is not a release from all obligations; Matt 5:20 shows that his demands are greater.

Matt 5:20
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

But because of who he is, being gentle and lowly in heart, his demands are such that to respond to them is rest or relief, being an equally good translation.

Jesus' yoke is easy (chrestos usually means good, kind) not because it makes lighter demands, but because it represents entering into a disciple-relationship (learn from me) with one who is gentle and lowly in heart.

Isa 42:1-3
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

Isa 53:1-2
Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

Zec 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Matt 21:4-5
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
"Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden."

Being gentle and lowly in heart is also the character that Jesus expects and creates in his disciples as seen in the Beatitudes (Matt 5). This attractive side aspect of Jesus is a vital counterbalance to the sterner side of Jesus.

Matt 7:13-14
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

To emphasize either to the exclusion of the other it to miss the real Jesus.

Now, that's the paradox: an easy yoke, a light burden; still a yoke, still a burden, but easy and light.

Picture by Kalyana Sundaram

Friday, February 02, 2007

Do we care?

God said, "it is not good for man to be alone." We are social creatures and how ever hard we try, it is just not pleasant or comfortable, nor agreeable to our nature to be alone. We are made in the image of God. God is the Holy Community of Three and God is one God. We are made to be the body of Christ to uphold and encourage one another. We may not admit it at times but we need each other, and oh how we need each other.

However, sometimes we are set in a system and we are expected to operate like clockwork. If it works don't fix it. But just like any gear or mechanism in any system, if there is no servicing, no oiling, no maintenance check, no tuning, it will breakdown - sometimes even to the point of no return.

Just take the example of something almost all of us own or use - our cars. At the point of purchase, we expect it to be reliable and we know we can depend on it to run as long as we give it enough fuel. We wash it, we tend to it, we bring it for frequent service and maintenance checks. We listen to it, we give it a good look once in awhile. We handle with care, we know how far it can go and how much we can push. We give it our time, we put in our effort and we give it good tender loving care. We do that because we expect it run and we want it to work without stalling on us at anytime in our course of life.

We do that with our cars but how miserably we fail with the people around us.

We expect them to run like clockwork. We expect them to be where we expect them to be. As long as they are laughing, as long as they are smiling or even just being there, we think they are doing great, we think they are doing fine.

But do we listen, do we care, do we love?

We know full well that if we do not bring in our cars for frequent wash, for its schedule maintenance service, if we do not listen to it to see if it needs some care and some fixing up, and the most obvious of all, if we do not pay good attention to the fuel indicator, it will give up on us and just stop working one day.

Similarly, if we do not bring our family members, our friends, our churchmates, our neighbour, our colleagues or anyone in our community for frequent conversation, if we do not listen to their hearts, if we do not pay good attention to their needs, they will give up on us. But that is where the similarity ends. If our cars don't work anymore, great - we discard them and get a new one. God help us when we lose the people we love and the people we care so much about.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Politics 101

Some of us sparked off a very interesting conversation about politics in Codepoke's blog.

Politics is the incredibly complex art of learning what everyone's needs are, and figuring out a way to meet them all - including your own. The Two Great Laws of Politics: (1) Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and (2) Love your neighbor as yourself.
~ Kevin Knox (aka Codepoke)

Check it out here.

Picture by Hortongrou