Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Holey life

I mentioned before that we build here what we need to bring to heaven. In other words, if we do not grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control before we reach heaven, we will really feel out of place when we get there.

I kind of had a taste of that recently when I was in STM, spending 4 days and 3 nights there attending classes. When I was packing at home, I decided not to bring my sandals. I didn't want to bring too many things, which turned out to be a silly thing to do, since I had the space and a pair of sandals isn't going to be that much of a problem. I did not bring it and after settling down in my room, I really felt uneasy and missing something very basic. I managed to borrow a pair but it didn't make me feel any better because it didn't quite fit.

I thought about how I would feel if I hadn't had loved, if I hadn't been graceful, if I hadn't shown kindness and went to heaven. Of course whether or not I would have ended up in heaven if I have not loved in the first place is one big question in itself. But say I got there but with as little as I can bring, how would life be? How would eternal life be? Maybe it would really be like hell.

Picture by Rodolfo Clix

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Roman 16:1

I am to do a word study on diakonos found in Romans 16:1 for one of my Bible Interpretation assignments. Is it suppose to mean servant or a deaconess? What implications would there be if taken one or the other?

Romans 16:1
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Scratch me

It has been slow week as far as this blog is concerned. Calvin is having his 2-week break and we have been reading and yakking and checking the net together.

He wanted to learn programming and I found this website for him: Scratch and he is here. Do check it out! He made simple projects and uploaded one, I am looking forward for more!


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost Sunday

It is Pentecost Sunday today and the speaker chose Romans 8:1-17 to speak on "Living an Abundant Life in the Spirit". I'd say that it is truly a formidable thing to do, i.e. to preach a sermon on 17 verses from Romans. But the speaker did just that.

He spoke on the need to live a Spirit-filled life:
1. Live a life of truth and of righteousness (v.1-4)
2. The spiritual reality is that there is always a spiritual tension in our lives as Christians (v.5-11)
3. The spiritual command for us is to meditate on God's words, to practice the Word, to give the Word the first place and to obey (v.12-17)

Picture by Manu M

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Thousand Words #28

Been very busy and cluttered lately. Need some breathing space and order.

Picture by Erebus Design

Friday, May 25, 2007

A nice drive

I didn't do much today but take a nice drive south to Port Dickson to take a look at the hotel where we will be holding a training session next month.

On the way back I tried to get to STM in Seremban but I couldn't find my way there. I will still have to wait until tomorrow to get my order of BibleWorks 7.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

BibleWorks 7

Whoopee! BibleWorks 7 has arrived! Well, it has technically arrived at STM today and now I need to get my hands on my order and most probably it won't be till Saturday. But it is still a whoopee!

(click on image for BW link)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Some good links

What I didn't do yesterday, I will do today: post interesting sites I visited while looking for materials for my assignments.

The Text This Week
Welcome to a virtual study desk for students, teachers and preachers. Click on a date to find direct links to a wide variety of contemporary and historical resourcesfor study & liturgy for each lectionary week and pericope, or check out the Scripture Index to locate links to study resources relating to specific passages.Artwork indexed by Biblical theme can be foundin the Art Concordance. And check out the Movie Concordance for lists of movies indexed by spiritual theme.

Bible Studies (translated)
Welcome to the first Russian academic resource for bibleistike. The main objective of the project is to develop bibleistiki in Russian on the Internet. Here you will find articles on archaeology, tekstologii, sociology and other subjects that are directly related to the history of Judaism and Christianity. We do not represent the interests of any religious denomination or denominations. Materials for the site selected entirely from the point of view of their academic value. This does not mean that they are only for spetsialistov-religiovedov, but we are not responsible for your perception of online materials. Remember, they may have an impact on your beliefs.

James Darlack's Blogs:
Old in the New
This blog houses resources and research on early Jewish and Christian literature - particularly how this literature appropriated "Scripture." Formerly this blog was known as "James the Just." Though now called "Old in the New," the blog will still host resources for studying the Epistle of James, James the Just, and other related topics.
The BibleWorks Blog
Check this blog regularly for new user-created BibleWorks files. This blog is not officially affiliated with BibleWorks, but is maintained by BibleWorks enthusiasts.

Biblica 88
> BSW Journal, Studies of biblical theology
> Project. The electronic version of established biblical journals
................. Biblica, Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome
................. Filología Neotestamentaria, University of Córdoba
> Multi-Library Search (MLS): a search engine for bibliographic research, including the biblical articles online database (OBAL)
> Scriptural Index of biblical commentaries on the WEB

εν εφέσω: Thoughts and Meditations
On Life, Theology, Books, and Scripture …


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Friends: Run 1

I have been around today looking for materials for my assignments, around in the internet that is and found some very interesting sites. But before I go about listing those out, I would like to do what Rich used to do when he was active in his blog: what's going on in blogs we know and love.

Firstly, those I dearly miss and hope to see again soon:

DugALug's Weapons of Mass Deduction
Doug is still on sabbatical. We have not heard from him for awhile now and it is in my prayers that he and his family stay well and good.

Rich's Realms of Possibility
I only knew Rich for a short while but I have enjoyed his blog and banter nonetheless. Hope he decides to come back.

Now for the alive and active blogs:

Jewel's Kingdom Jewels
I have known Julia for more than one year and that is a long time by internet standards. She has become a dear friend, of whom I certainly hope I meet in person one day. Currently in her blog, she has been very active taking and posting photographs, including her Friday flashbacks. One of my latest favourite post is Julia and Maria's a visit to the St. John Chrysostom Russian Orthodox Church, and of course her posts on the family's "professional" sport, running.

Codepoke's The Familyhood Church
Kevin is well-known for his 30-page posts, as he refers them to, which is mainly ... good stuff. He stopped blogging for awhile and I am very glad he is back. Check out his posts on miracles, against brokenness, and his Crazy-8s. I never got round to trying out the Musical DNA though - it required too many downloads and installations for me - must be interesting.

Milly's The Milly Times
For a good dose of Millyism, go check out Mill-gurl. She's excellent with words and deep in thought. I love her latest on love and I-believe. I already forewarned her I will quote her and here it is. Milly says: I believe that God loves that we love His word and smiles when we dig so hard that we fail to see what’s in front of us. I believe He wants to say “Right there silly”

Missy's Texas Chilly
Missy is one refreshing blogger and friend. I still remember very well her post about bull-riding, which is a real cool analogy about Christian living. And she listen to really cool music. And oh yes, to set the record straight, she was nowhere near Golden Corral.

Karen's TSSO! for The Sword's Still Out
I only know one artist, and that is Karen. She paints ceilings, murals, prayer boxes, and more. Beautiful work ... need I say more!

Penless Thought's Penless Writer
I can't remember how I knew Susan. She is one of the warmest, friendliest and most wholesome blogger I know, and she certainly has a rather big following, with comments running well above 20 most of the time. The first thing I would want to do when I meet her is to hug her! Her current wise-word is to dance anyway.

Randi & Family's Randi's Rambling
I have met Randi not too long ago and she has moved house recently and has not really got back into blogging. I hope to see her back soon. My prayers are with her to get adjusted to her new home and new place. She is missing her mom and grandmother.

SK's Sherman on the Mount
I have not been to Sherman's blog for quite awhile now and there is much to catch up. Check out his aristocratic title, which I posted too in my musings.

Calvin's The Calvin Calvin Blog
And last but not least, my son's blog with a new look, though he does not have much time to post lately. He is currently having his school exams. ... Wait a minute, I just realised that he is actively blogging after all: in his new My Club Penguin Blog.

I know I started by saying that I will list out some interesting sites I visited today but I think this will do for today.

And I must say this: I think there some frequent lurkers to this blog and I would like to invite you to contribute and share your thoughts as well by commenting. Would love to hear you out as well. God bless you!


Monday, May 21, 2007

I, a Methodist

I got this link from Karen and surprisingly it did label me a Methodist, which I am, born and bred. I wanted to say that it is not important what I am, as long as I abide in Christ and Christ abide in me. That is true, but looking at the list, I begin to feel that it is important to me. Important not in the sense that being a Methodist is the best or is the most correct, because I respect the others for who they are. It is important because it represents what I believe and what I stand for, how I think and how I behave - O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavily by John Wesley and the Methodists.

89% Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
68% Reformed Evangelical
68% Fundamentalist
61% Emergent/Postmodern
57% Neo orthodox
46% Charismatic/Pentecostal
39% Classical Liberal
29% Roman Catholic
25% Modern Liberal

What's your theological worldview?
created with


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Interpreting the NT: Day 6

This morning's sermon was from 1 Samuel 17:1-49: one of the longest reading in a long time. The passage was on David and Goliath and it is an excellent narrative. The preacher spoke about not despising the little things in life, not despising ourselves and not despising the people around us. A much needed reminder especially in these times where it is a norm to be proud and a requirement to flaunt our know-how.

But I do have some interesting questions which I may go look for answer, especially if they are significant:

1. Why would David pick up five stones when one is enough?
2. Was David real when he bragged about his conquest with a lion and a bear?
3. What brought David into picking a fight with Goliath? What went through his mind when he taunted the giant? Was it a planned move or was it by instinct?

We then continued with the last session on our Interpreting the NT module. But sadly, we could not complete our study of Mark, which is a shame. But it is expected since we do not have that much time and there is just too much to handle within only two weekends.

We only completed until chapter 10, with the Cycles of Passion Predictions, Misunderstandings and Teachings of Jesus from 8:22-10:51.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Interpreting the NT: Day 5

We also started on looking into the parables of Jesus yesterday which we continued on today. Parables are truly intriguing and what Kar Yong said is interesting: the fact that it is one genre of the bible that is the most misunderstood, mainly because we are not familiar in the milieu, and the cultural and historical setting of the narratives. A look at the Parable of the Prodigal Son will clearly demonstrate this.

What is the normal lesson we draw from the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son? All along I have taken it to be a lesson for us to acknowledge the saving grace of the Lord, that whoever we are and whatever we have done, as long as we repent and confess our sins, God like the father in the parable would accept and receive us back because of his love. What if I tell you that this is not the main lesson of the parables? Let me explain.

Even though, all the above is truth, God do love us like the father in the parable, he will receive us when we repent and return to him but that is not the main thrust of the parable.

What is most important before interpreting a parable is to look at its context and setting: what happened before the parable was told and what happened after? Jesus did not tell a parable for the sake of just telling a story to entertain. There is always a reason and a purpose for a parable and we need to find out why Jesus told the parable.

The parable of the lost things are found in Luke 15.

It all started with Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners, those most despised by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. They muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them". For this reason, Jesus began to tell them the parables.

There were 100 sheep, one got lost, found, there were rejoicing.
There were 10 coins, one was lost, found, there were rejoicing.

The Pharisees would be nodding their heads I suppose, because anyone would rejoice when they found precious things that they have lost.

Then Jesus continued with the story and gave it a twist.

He said, there was a man with two sons. The younger one demanded for his share of property. Now, it is unusual for a son to ask for his share of inheritance while his father is still alive. This would cause the hearers' ears to perk up already.

Jesus continued, so he did, the father divided the property. Wait a minute ... where is the elder brother. Here we fail to recognise the responsibility of the elder brother. It is his duty to mediate between his brother and his father, to stop his brother from such wrongdoings but this elder brother is keeping quiet.

The story continues and we are very familiar with this section of the parable - he went and squandered his money, used it all up, lost his friends, worked in the lowliest of lowly jobs and decided to go home and ask for forgiveness. So he did.

The father was the one who came out, ran to him, clothe him and received him. This sound normal to us but not to the hearers of that time. This is the job of the elder brother, not the father. The elder brother should be the one who must bring the errant younger brother, clothe him and present him to his father and if all is well, throw him a welcome home party.

The elder brother here is no where to be seen. But when he appears, he was angry and the father had to beg him to attend the party. Jesus ended by saying, "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."

This is a slap in the face of the Pharisees, who would rejoice when they find lost things but not when a sinner has repented.

Putting it together:
There were 100 sheep, one got lost, found, there were rejoicing.
There were 10 coins, one was lost, found, there were rejoicing.
There was one elder son, one younger son was lost, the younger was found, the elder was angry.

I would never look at parables the same way again. Here are some guidelines:

1) They possess a realism that cannot be mistaken – we must always go back to the context, background and setting of the parable, which indeed may be alien to us
2) They are not necessarily realistic
3) They contain elements of shock, conflict and suspense. Look for the so-called punch line, the slap in the face
4) They elicit thought
5) They require a reversal of thinking
6) They contain one major point – there may be many lessons we can draw out but usually there is just one major focus
7) They demand interpretation
8) They require a response


Friday, May 18, 2007

Interpreting the NT: Day 4

The focus of this evening's study on the book of Mark was on Mark 3, particularly the miracles and exorcism performed by Jesus. The miracle acts performed point to Jesus as the Messiah.

We spent some time talking about scholars in the enlightenment period who have come to question the authencity of these miraculous accounts, whether or not they are stories made up by the evangelists to exalt Jesus. Hence, the quest for the historical Jesus. I am not sure of your take on this but as far as I am concerned, supernatural events do take place and the Jesus I believe is the historical Jesus: what is recorded in the Gospels is the real Jesus, and the narratives are true accounts of what Jesus did. Yes, he healed the sick, drove out demons, calmed the storm, walked on water, fed the 5000, fed the 4000 and raised the dead.

The miraculous signs are linked to coming kingdom, to whom the Messiah is, and they point to power of God. It is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and they authenticate who Jesus is.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Psalm 119

I tried to read Psalm 119 this morning. As expected I couldn't finish reading all 176 verses before stopping somewhere to meditate and be amazed.

5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast obeying your decrees!

Just reading and studying God's word is nothing. Obeying it is what counts. On the other hand, how can one obey without reading and studying it?

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
....By living according to your word.

Start while you are young, when your life is storming and your heart is forming. But it is never too late to do it.

25 I am laid low in the dust;
....preserve my life according to your word.

This gave me a picture of our lives collecting dust of we don't read and keep God's Word.

My prayer:

h He
33 Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees;
....then I will keep them to the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
....and obey it with all my heart.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
....for there I find delight.
36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
....and not toward selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
....preserve my life according to your word.
38 Fulfill your promise to your servant, that you may be feared.
39 Take away the disgrace I dread,
....for your laws are good.
40 How I long for your precepts!
....Preserve my life in your righteousness.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Calvin and Daniel

Calvin asked me yesterday if I knew that Satan's name was Lucifer, his teacher told him he said. I remember reading somewhere that it was not so and we ended up reading Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology together - way to go for a 9-year old!

My suspicion was confirmed. The KJV somehow translated "star of the morning" in Isa 14:12-15 as Lucifer and the name stuck, and it is only mentioned in the KJV all but once.

Isa 14:12-15 (NASB)
12"How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
13"But you said in your heart,
'I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
14'I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.'
15"Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit.

Anyway, in the midst of reading Grudem, there was a passage quoted from Daniel 2 about King Nebudchanezzer not remembering his dream and now for 2 nights, Calvin was glued to the book of Daniel. He was fascinated with the narratives of the furnace, and the dream, and the statue. I believe he had heard of them during Sunday School lessons when he was younger, but nothing beats reading it for yourself.

Such is the beauty of the bible. It speaks to us in its different forms - narratives, poetry, history, proverbs, songs, letters. It speaks to us no matter who we are or how old we are, wherever we are. God knows us well and what would work for us.

Picture by Nikolaj Bourguignon

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The idiot box

Our satellite TV offered some new channels recently, but not without an increase in rates. One of the channes is E! and I have proven that it is literally bad for us. Most of those I have asked about the channel gave me the same feedback. The moment we land ourselves in that channel, we are stuck: the eyes to the screen and our butts to the seat. My colleague's mom calls it her "happy hour".

I find it bad because at least I would learn something watching Discovery Channel. Goodness knows how will it benefit me to know that the three richest women in entertainment are Oprah Winfrey, JK Rowling and Martha Stewart, in that order.

I made myself switch the TV off and spent the evening reading with Calvin, which was undeniably time better spent.

Picture by Danilo Vitoriano

Monday, May 14, 2007

In the stillness

In the stillness of my soul
I seek Your face
In the quiet of the night
I am in a daze

In You Lord, do I hope
My Lord, my God, You will certainly answer

Where are You, Lord
Can I be found
Where are You, Lord
My fears abound

Copyright © 2007 Pearlie Ng
Picture by Theresa Szabo

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Interpreting the NT: Day 3

We continued with Mark in the afternoon after our own respective church services. In our sermon today, we were reminded very strongly about the way we think, say and do. We were reminded that everything we do comes from our heart. It strikes me because I think I may have been focussing a lot on the mind lately and not so much on the heart. I wonder if God's commandment to love him with all our heart, our soul and our mind has progressive hierarchical steps to it, i.e. to first love him with our heart, then only our soul and finally with our mind. I am not sure, but what I am sure is I am to love him with my whole life, denoted by "my heart, and my soul, and my mind" - the preposition "and" is used for each of the subsequent two nouns. But have I been putting less stress on heart and more on mind? What about my soul? How do I love with my soul? I need to mull about it ... soon.

Back to Mark. We did our study until 1:18 yesterday and we continued until Mark 2 and a bit of 3 today. After which, we have only 2 hours this coming Friday, 8 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday to complete the study. Are we able? I do have my doubts. And even if we did, we would have just skimmed it through.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday, being one who is unendingly fascinated by chiasms, when Kar Yong showed us this possible geographical chiastic structure, I was obviously attracted to it:

The Geographical Movement of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark

............Galilee, East Side of Sea of Galilee
..........................Caesarea, Philippi (FOCUS?) 8:27-38
............Galilee to Judea

As it is with most chiasms, the focus of it is usually at the center. How does 8:27-38 read?

Mark 8:2-38 (ESV)
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?"
28 And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets."
29 And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ."
30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
34 And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?
37 For what can a man give in return for his life?
38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Is this the central theme of Mark? I am not sure. I have been using the chiastic structure too often in my papers: Introduction to OT, OT Hermeneutics and Homiletics and even Romans. So I better not push it this time!

This afternoon we spent time on the 5 conflict stories found in 2:1 to 3:6. I will concentrate here on the first conflict story 2:1-12.

Mark 2:1-12 (ESV)
1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.
3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."
6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,
7 "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts?
9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'?
10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--he said to the paralytic--
11 "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home."
12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"

Kar Yong divided us into 4 groups of people. I was in the hardworking "friends" group, 1 person was the paralytic man, several became the crowd and the remainder, the oh-so-holy scribes. We were asked very interesting questions.

KY: Friends, what were you thinking after lowering your friend from the roof?
F: Jesus, heal!
KY: Paralytic, what were you expecting Jesus to do?
P: I have nothing to lose. If I get healed, wow!
KY: Crowd, what went through your minds when all these were happening?
C: Oh! my house! ... Such a disturbance! All these racketing! Don't you see we are trying to listen here? ... Hmm... what would Jesus do now? ... He must heal this guy.
KY: O honourable Scribes, what are you thinking?
S: Hmm ... let's see.

Most of the people were expecting Jesus to heal, as he has been doing so far, some have seen and others have heard. But what Jesus did next was just too stunning for words.

My son, your sins are forgiven.”

F: Huh?
P: What?
C: Huh?
S: Ho ho! We are gonna have a field day!

Why did Jesus say that? To me, it boils down to this - 2:9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'?

Everytime I read this verse, I always come away incredulous. Which is easier to say? What does he mean?

But after some discussion in class, I think I am beginning to understand it. Kar Yong brought out the fact that the purpose Jesus said, "My son, your sins are forgiven" is to declare to the people that he is indeed the Son of God, who has the authority to forgive sins.

Therefore, Jesus is chiding the scribes:

"How shall I say it so that it is easier for you to believe that I am the Son of God? It is easier if I were to say 'your sins will be forgiven' or will it be easier for you to believe if I were to say 'rise, pick up your bed and go home'? Fine, if it is easier this way, then I shall say it."

Then Jesus turned to the paralytic, and said exactly that, "rise, pick up your bed and go home!" So, which is easier?

We then spent the rest of the time discussing a few questions arising from 3:1-6, of which one was this: How can we keep the Sabbath special for God without making the same mistakes as the Pharisees? This is a very personal question to me because strictly speaking, I had no Sabbath rest. I spent almost every day of the week working: Monday to Friday at work, Saturday and Sunday for church. And that has been going on for far too long, too many years to count, which caused my recent burnout. I pray that at this time of my so-called sabbatical, I do take time to rest and enjoy the presence of God in my life. To God be the glory.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Interpreting the NT: Day 2

I don't have to say it but it was a long day. This picture seriously depicted what I felt like at the end of it all!

There was a lot to cover, which we did but we barely grazed the overview of the gospel of Mark and then to only reached Mark 1:18 in our study by the end of the day.

I have not done any book study on Mark before. Here are several distinct characteristics of the gospel that I find interesting.
  • Mark uses very limited vocabulary. If you compare Mark with Luke and Matthew, the Greek in Mark is easier to understand. It very often uses words like "and", "again" and "immediately".
  • The grammar in Mark is very interesting. It uses what is referred to as "historical present", a tense that is lost in our translation because it would have been grammatically “corrected” into past tense. Mark uses the present tense in the narrative accounts that happened in the past, and this helps gives a very dramatic effect to the accounts. It is a very effective form of communication, vivid with very powerful descriptions of events.*
  • It contains very interesting descriptive details not found in the other gospels. It may not necessary give the narratives a good flow in reading but it certainly makes it very colourful. For example, in Mark 2, the passage about Jesus healing a paralytic man has many interesting details, and Mark can even border on being verbose about it. Therefore, the narrator could have be an eye witness, i.e. Peter, whom Mark must have obtain the account from, must have been an eye witness. Scriptures in those times were read aloud - you can therefore imagine the impact of such a dramatic account of Jesus' life and ministry among the people.
  • It also has many emotional details in his description. For instance, in Mark 1:40-41, Jesus was moved with pity or even anger, according to certain manuscript.
  • One of the major theme in Mark is discipleship. The authority of Jesus is also very strongly seen in the gospel.
  • Mark is not written chronologically but has a thematic flow in his writing.
  • Mark paints in quite a negative sense the people who followed Jesus.
  • The evangelist uses a sandwich technique in writing. For example, the account of Jairus who approached Jesus to heal his daughter sandwiches another incident in the center, i.e. the healing of the unclean woman who only wanted to touch Jesus to be healed. What is Mark trying to tell us about Jairus by using the woman's account?
  • Even though Mark is a narrative, it is a highly structure piece of work.
  • Vincent Taylor (1900s) through form criticism has segregated from Mark (1) pronouncement stories, (2) miracle stories, (3) stories about Jesus, (4) Markan construction, (5) summay statements, and (6) sayings and parables.
Picture by Gözde Otman

*Note: I don't know but I sometimes write in the "historical present" sense myself, especially when I write about biblical passages, because I see it as living and active. For example, I would write "Paul says that ..." rather than "Paul said that ..." because Paul is still saying whatever he is saying to me right now. I got faulted on that in one of my OT papers not long ago, which I am not very happy about, but I don't think I will want to change the way I write.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Interpreting the NT: Day 1

I started my class on Interpreting the NT this evening, with about 2 hours of lecture, again by Dr Lim Kar Yong. I signed up for this class on the condition that I push myself to complete the assignments on Christian Theology 1. I finished the reflection paper and almost finished the theological one, so I am good and was looking forward to this new module.

The evening was spent mainly on an introduction to the module. It is a study on the book of Mark. So we covered briefly on the synopsis problem, a brief overview of the 4 gospels and a brief introduction to Mark.

More tomorrow as I need to go to bed now, so that I can wake up early for class at 9am. This time, classes are not held in STM, Seremban but in Petaling Jaya, about 1/2 hour's drive for me. I therefore, do not have the luxury to wake up just in time and walk over for class.

So more tomorrow.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

A computerish day

It so happen we have 6 computers in the house today. Can't think about life without them. We are planning to go on a vacation to Singapore next month and Calvin actually asked if he can bring a notebook computer.

"Ah! No PC for how many days?"

Picture by
Selva Morales

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I spent most of my free time today on my paper on Origen, a truly remarkable church father.

Basically, the outline of the paper is as follows:

1. A Brief History
2. Origen’s Major Writings
3. Origen’s Theological Contributions
3.1. From His Methods of Exegesis
3.2. From His Reading of Scriptures
3.3. From His Work
3.4. On Doctrine
    Origen of Alexandria is said to be the most significant biblical scholar in the first three centuries of Christian history. Other early Christian thinkers who have reflected seriously on Scriptures could not match up to the extent of his work which includes biblical commentaries, formulation of a developed theory of hermeneutics, and extensive work on the text of the bible.(McKim) Karlfried Froehlich describes him as “one of the great minds and probably the most influential theologian of the early Christian era” and Joseph Trigg refers to him as “the most influential Christian interpreter of the Bible,” whose “extent work comprise by far the largest body of work by a single author to survive from the first three centuries of the Christian church.” (Hall)
I should be able to complete it before the week is over if I can put in some hours every morning and night. But I do have until July 22 to hand this in and a rigorous believer in maximising of resources – in other words being “kiasu” – I will certainly hold on to the paper until the very end!


Monday, May 07, 2007

What is: Dispensationalism

I tried to read up regarding dispensationalism in Wikipedia but I am still struggling with it. What is it and what are its implications to the Christian faith?

It is a form of premillennialism and it teaches biblical history as a number of successive economies or administration. These are called dispensations, each emphasising the discontinuity of the OT covenants God made with His various people.

To understand its implications, we need to look at supersessionism. It teaches that the Christian Church has been established for the salvation of "the Jews first, and also to the Gentiles", and that there is one people of God joined in unity through Jesus Christ. And since the Jews have largely refuse to accept Jesus as the Messiah, Christians have become the "New Jews".

In contrast, dispensationalism teaches that the Christian Church is a "parenthesis" in God's dealings with the Jews, that God's continued favour of the Jews will be revealed after the Church Dispensation/Age, when Jews will be restored to their land and will accept Jesus as their Messiah.

The following individuals have been associated with dispensationalism:

  • Sir Robert Anderson (1841–1918), "Anglicanized Irishman of Scottish extraction", 1863 entered the Irish Bar; Assistant Commissioner of Metropolitan Police in Scotland Yard; lay preacher and defender of the Faith; saw difference between Israel and the Church; authored 19 books on the Bible.
  • Charles F. Baker (1905–1994), author (A Dispensational Theology), and founder of Grace Bible College, Grace Movement pioneer.
  • James H. Brookes (1830–1897), minister, writer, and theologian. Cyrus I. Scofield was one of his students.
  • John Hagee pastor Cornerstone Church , writer, and theologian. Founder of John Hagee Today tv and radio program.
  • Clarence Larkin (1850–1924), author of many pamphlets and books around 1918 containing extensive graphical dispensational charts with commentary[3]
  • Jack Chick (b. 1924), controversial fundamentalist cartoonist and founder of Chick Publications.
  • John Nelson Darby (1800–1882), British preacher, Plymouth Brethren co-founder, and considered by many as the "father of dispensationalism."
  • Arnold Fruchtenbaum (b. 1943), writer and theologian
  • Mark Hitchcock, pastor and author[4]
  • Thomas Ice, writer
  • Harry A. Ironside (1876–1951), pastor of The Moody Church, Chicago, and author of more than 60 books.
  • Tim LaHaye (b. 1926), minister, author of the "Left Behind" novel series, and speaker.
  • Hal Lindsey (b. 1929), evangelist and author of "The Late Great Planet Earth" and other books advocating a dispensationalist and fundamentalist understanding of Christianity.
  • J. Dwight Pentecost (b. 1915), writer and theologian
  • Charles Caldwell Ryrie (b. 1925), Christian writer and theologian. Better known for his "Ryrie Study Bible", which is known to teach dispensationalism.
  • Cyrus I. Scofield (1843–1921), minister, scholar, and theologian. Better known for his influential Scofield Reference Bible (published in 1909) that popularized dispensationalism.
  • Miles J. Stanford (1914–1999), Christian author and Pauline dispensationalist.
    Charles Stevens, founder of Piedmont Baptist College.
  • Henry C. Thiessen, author of Lectures in Systematic Theology and taught at Dallas Theological Seminary.
  • Jack Van Impe (b. 1930), televangelist known for interpreting current events in light of a dispensationalist approach to biblical prophecy.
  • John F. Walvoord (1910–2002), longtime president of Dallas Theological Seminary and leading proponent of dispensationalism in the late 20th century.
  • Kenneth Wuest (1893–1962), New Testament Greek (Κοινή) scholar.
I notice some very familiar names: Anderson, Chick, Darby, LaHaye, Pentecost, Scofield and Walvoord. I use some of their materials quite often. I suppose it is alright to do so; I only need to be mindful where they are coming from.

Ben Witherington has a very good article on Supercessionism, Dispensationalism, and the Present Middle East Crisis-- A Christian Stand in his blog.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

River of life

Truth be told, I am quite daunted by prophetic books. But if I can choose which I am more attracted to, it could be Ezekiel. Rev Christopher Rao spoke from Ezekiel 47:1-12 today and I thought it would be exciting to learn from this passage. SH too was looking forward as he noted that this will be our first time listening to a sermon from Ezekiel.

The book of Ezekiel is about the judgement of God on Israel, which was deep in sin and idolatry. The first 23 chapters contain testimonies from God against Israel in general, and against Jerusalem in particular. Then it was the surrounding nations who are judged. In the beginning of chapter 33, the prophet resumes to subject of Israel, announcing their restoration as well as their judgement. Finally from chapter 40 to the end, the prophet describes the temple and the division of land.

Ezekiel 47:1-12 is about the temple with water flowing out from its threshold bringing life to wherever it flows. It is a very engaging passage:

Ezekiel 47:1-12 (ESV)
1 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.
2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.
3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.
4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep.
5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.
6 And he said to me, "Son of man, have you seen this?" Then he led me back to the bank of the river.
7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other.
8 And he said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh.
9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.
10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.
11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt.
12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing."

The reason why life would grow is not because of what we do or who we are. It is because of the river that flows from the temple of God. Life begins from God. The encounter of the presence of God in his temple is critical for us to have life flow into us and to the others around us.

This reminded me of what Paul said in 1 Cor 6:19-20: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. The "body" that Paul refers to here is the body of Christ, the church and not our individual bodies, as we would usually refer to. We, the church of Christ, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit must flow within making us grow in God. The Spirit will also flow to those outside the body, to draw them into the body.

However, there may be still areas in our lives that need healing. Like the metaphor Ezekiel used: the salty water becoming fresh at the outflow of the Spirit. We need to be transformed to be what God wants us to be: his children, his imitators, living out the Spirit in our lives and bearing fruits for him, bring his healing to the others as well.

This reminds me of the other way the "salt" metaphor is being used in Mat 5:13: You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. It will be interesting to try to integrate the 2 usages. I will try to do that one day.

There are therefore 3 things to do in order for the river to flow in our church, into our lives and into the lives of others around us:

1. Prayer: we must give ourselves into the discipline of prayer so that doors can be opened for God to work in us. When we pray, we are opening up our lives for God to move in us.

2. Holiness: we must devote ourselves to holy living. When our lives are sanctified, we make room for the Spirit to work in us.

3. Unity: we are one body, one church. God himself is a community of three but one. In the same way, we exist in one community, we must live as one body of Christ, loving and uplifting one another.

Life will only come through the work of the Spirit. So, pray, live a holy life and live in unity.

Picture by Grozlykos

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Lazy day


Picture by Daniel Deak Bardos


As I have updated Susan, after lazying for the day, I have to make up by spending the night working on the theological papers and that I did. It is almost 2am now (and after this update I had better get to bed or I'll never get up in time for church tomorrow).

Those are the books I have been using, mainly for my paper on Origen. I have completed my reflection paper on the church and I hope to finish the Origen one in the next week before I start my new module

One more thing I must talk about is the latest happening around the house. We sometimes have stray cats straying into our house, especially when I accidently left a window open. But lately, it has been very, very frequent. It was unusual.

Last week, I tried to shoo this cat out of the kitchen but she refused to move. I gave up and went to bed. Two nights ago, on Thursday night, I went upstairs for a moment while the front door was ajar, mindful that she might come in again. She did and again I shooed her out and this time, I succeeded though she was just as reluctant. I then made sure I had all the doors and windows closed. Friday went by catless.

This afternoon, I heard more meowing. Not cats ... kittens. Alarm bells went off in my head. Oh no! There are kittens in our store room and they have been in there without its mom since Thursday night. I quickly went about searching for them.

They were small and helpless, weak and hungry. There were three and one looked dead. Oh no. I quickly got some milk in a dish. I am not a pet person and I think it didn't quite help. I took the 2 active ones and place them in a cardboard box. I brought them to the kitchen. I gave them more milk and they began to move around so much, they got milk all over them. I tried cleaning them and drying them with kitchen towels. I then decided to leave them in the box at the front door in case the mommy cat is around and could claim them.

I think it was the daddy cat that came. But there were only 2. One died. We didn't know. We are so sorry.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Origen by Joseph W. Trigg

I have just signed up for Interpretation of the New Testament module today which will happen in the next 2 weekends. In order not to have more assignments piling on top of assignments, I have been working harder on my theological paper on Origen.

It was then when I found out about this book: Origen by Joseph W. Trigg. I took a look at it in Google Books and it's a good one. I don't think the local stores here have it and I won't have enough time getting it from Amazon. I tried and found 7 owners. I sent them an email each and so far Micah has replied. Thanks Micah!

I am looking forward to discovering just how powerful the internet can be in connecting us across several thousand miles. Now, how can I borrow a book across the internet?


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Getting somewhere after all

Those who know me well will conclude without second thoughts that I am a super blur cat*. I am used to myself going frantic because I would have double booked myself, and it has been countless times that I left my mobile phone at home. One day last month, I actually left behind my entire handbag, to the chagrin of SH who had to bring it to me.

So, it would be a normal thing for me to have thought that I have until 22nd this month to complete my CT1 paper. I was panicking only to realise that I have until July 22 to submit my paper, which happens to my birthday too.

Now I can breathe easier.

I have not been taking stock of where I am as far as my Masters programme is concerned. I just signed up for modules that interest me. Not until have I laid it all out did that I realise I am getting somewhere after all.

To complete my Masters in Christian Studies, which by the way is on a part-time basis via a Theological Education by Extension (TEE) programme by Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM), I need to complete 24 credits on core subjects and 36 credits on electives. I started in August 2003, which gives me 3 more years to complete. I should have completed 15 credits core and 21 credits elective (if I got the credits details right) by the end of 2007 if all goes well.

It hadn't bothered me before what module I have or have not done. I still am not. Only that I am happy that I have been given the opportunity to learn whatever I can about my God in a way that I would not have if not for the TEE programme. I appreciate the time and effort taken by the programme director and staff, and lecturers to help equip us lay-people to love and serve the Lord better. God bless them.

Picture by Joe Rooster

*note: a blur cat is a local slang referring to people who are too absent-minded for words.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The nerve of him

I just told Calvin isn't it a wonder that I have been posting every day for a year and a month. He said, "No, you didn't. You only posted for every day."

Ah well, maybe he can be a lawyer one day. At one time, he wanted to be seven things when he grows up: a scientist, an architect, a journalist, a writer, an engineer, an inventor and a bowling ball.

Anyway, it is both Workers' Day and Vesak Day today. As such, we have today and tomorrow off as public holiday. I am taking time to get my hands into my 2 Christian Theology 1 paper and my preparation for my training on Thursday and Friday.

I have completed one CT1 paper though it is quite badly written, I need to spend some time reconstructing some sentences. I finally picked the question on the purpose of God's plan and how it should be reflected in my faith community. I have actually started work on the question on worship and the transcendence and immanence of God but halfway through, I don't see it going anywhere. So, I decided to abandon and switch.

Then Kar Yong had to tell me about a sale in Evangel and even though I know I should not have gone, I did. So, here's my haul:

The IVP Bible Background Commentary,
Old and New Testament
I used the NT one in the STM library and took note of it hoping to get a copy from the store. Therefore, I was delighted to have gotten both OT and NT at 17% off.

Studying the Historical Jesus by Darrell L. Bock
I know I should spend my time on Origen for my CT1 theological essay paper but I thought if I can convince myself to try the historical Jesus question somehow.

Now my Eyes have seen You by Robert S. Fyall
This will be good for my recent interest in the book of Job. I just don't know when will I have time to get to it though with the many modules upcoming from STM.

Picture by Dennis Elema