Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Jesus, I Love Thee

My Jesus, I love thee, I know Thou art mine.
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

I'll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath.
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I'll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright.
I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

Words: Will­iam R. Fea­ther­ston, 1864, when he was 16.
Music: Gordon, Adon­iram J. Gor­don, 1876.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Grace Notes

Grace Notes will be singing in Penang in less than two weeks time and I am getting pretty excited and jittery as well. There are lots of songs to memorise and work out - for me especially on the timing, which I am very poor at keeping and counting.

I have built a website for Grace Notes. Check us out here.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Bach, Bach, Bach and err... Bach

I was taking a rest from all the hard word by scouring the web. I was searching for something on J.S. Bach and found this. Thought it was priceless! Then it dawned upon me that I only have 3 weeks to complete 1 assignment and 3 tests on the Gospel of Mark. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I really thought I had 2 months. I wish I could replicate myself into 4 like this Bach guy. Oh bother!

Anyway, as I listen to more of him, it gets better and better. It is amazing how he could keep the same timing and pitch. Precious!

Here's more.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

One sows and another reaps

Pastor Chris’ sermon today is as he termed it himself, simple – crucial nonetheless. From John 4, he spoke on how Jesus had crossed all barriers when he talked to the Samaritan woman about eternal life. He broke through cultural barriers, gender issues, social blockages and religious differences, and come through to show and speak to her the truth.

“One sows and another reaps” (John 4:37) – Jesus prepares us for the job by reminding us that we should not be discouraged when the people whom we tell about Jesus brush us off or even shove us aside, the seed is sown. And that we should not be surprised or shocked when they come to believe when we haven’t even begun, for it has ripen.

Our job is only to speak and show his goodness and grace.

I looked at John 4 and found it quite an amazing chapter. It does look like a sandwich technique. where the center portion emphasises the message: that the good news has to be told to anyone, at anytime, at any place.

(a) 4:1-26 Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
Jesus was tired and sat by a well in a town in Samaria in the hot afternoon when a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Don't forget that before he came to speak to the Samaritan woman, John recorded in chapter 3 that he was speaking to Nicodemus, an absolute antipole to the Samaritan woman. One at the eminence of orthodox Judaism and the other utter worthlessness in the eyes of the Jews. It doesn't matter - eternal life is for all who wants it. The woman could have waited until sundown to draw water but she needed to avoid other women, and came in the afternoon anyway. She was a sexual sinner, she has much to hide, but she found Jesus. Jesus first asked her for water, which she found so unusual as Jews would never drink from Samaritan's vessels. Jesus told her about living water, and in the course of conversation revealed to her that he is the Messiah.

(b) 4:27-38 Jesus and the disciples
The disciples returned with food and asked Jesus to eat. He naturally begun talking about his food being doing the will of the Father and to accomplish his work. Jesus' satisfaction is the will of God - the cross: mission and devotion. Then he tells his disciples that it is their work to reap.

(a) 4:39-42 The Samaritan woman and her people
The woman who has much to hide, who did not want to be out in the open, testified and spread the word of Christ. The people believed, went to look for Jesus and invited him to stay. Jesus stayed for two days and many more believed.

To me, it is rather amazing that the woman who is not a respectable person even in her own circle talks about Christ and the people believed her. It is not her work, it is the Spirit's. It still comes back to the same thing: it is not about me, not about you, not about us, but Christ. We are but vessels and in whatever shape we are, God still uses us, like how Christ is willing to use the vessel of the Samaritan woman.

And our job is only to speak and show his goodness and grace. He will do the rest. It does not matter if we are scorned or pushed aside, the seed is sown. We need not be surprised if we reap because God has done the work through others. And never ever be proud if they believe, because it is not about us. It is Christ.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

All done and submitted

I have just emailed out all 4 Biblical Interpretation assignments out a moment ago and as I click the SEND button, I cringed. I suppose I am just too much of a perfectionist for my own good. I keep reviewing them until I tell myself to stop. Enough is enough. There are better things to do!

Picture by Martin Walls

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Time Uninterrupted

I finally had uninterrupted time to look into my final paper on James 4:4. I only had it about 70% done previously, before I put it aside because I just could not piece it together. I thought I need to step away and later look at it afresh. It was a good decision as I believe I would have pulled out all my hair if I had not.

I am looking at James 4:4 not only as the climax of the letter, but also as one way to draw out a structure in James. Many scholars have been struggling with James' structure though some developments are seen lately to observe it as a somehow structured letter in its own right.

I am glad that I have finally completed all the four Biblical Interpretation papers, and I have learnt quite a bit. The challenge now of course, is to live out what I have learnt.

But one thing that striked me was what Carson has talked about yesterday. He was questioning the practice of keeping academic study cold and academic and devotion time spiritual and pious, hence a bifurcation of the two, I shall call them, disciplines. I can identify with that because I was feeling kind of guilty that since I am spending all the spare time I have on my so-called "academic endeavours", I realise I did not have much time left for "pious and spiritual devotion". So what I did was to make my studies, assignments, research and reading both "academic" and "pious and spiritual". I do try to pray over it, worship with it and adore God in all the greatness I see the more I learn about him. I thank Carson for putting my doubts to rest. I am allowed to do that. In a lot things that he said we have no right to do as preachers, I am happy to know I have the right to do this. But I must be careful to keep on doing it: praying and worshipping, adoring him in all that I do.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Exegetical Preaching Seminar Day 2

Carson spoke on (1) Preaching and Biblical Theology and (2) Preaching and Systematic Theology yesterday. For today he did (3) Preaching and Historical Theology and (4) Preaching and Pastoral Theology.

That is a lot to take in and I feel a bit overwhelmed by it all that I am not yet able to make a summary with my thoughts here in the blog, which I would normally have done. But do it I must, at least to concretize my thoughts, through rethinking and revising.

Soon, I'll do it soon.

Oh, by the way ... I am pleased to say that I ONLY bought one book during the seminar, and got it autographed too.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

All geared up

I woke up at 3am this morning, and try as I might I can't get back to sleep, which is unlike me - sign of old age catching up. Meanwhile, I am all geared up to attend Carson's 2-day seminar on expository preaching today.


Monday, October 22, 2007


I have had several people asking me about what I study when they find out that I am a student, albeit part-time, in Seminari Theoloji Malaysia, which we affectionately call STM. So I thought it would be useful to talk about it here.

For starters, STM was founded on January 6th, 1979 with the aim to train pastors and church workers in the local context. In 1984, it was accredited with the Association of Theological Education in South East Asia (ATESEA) to grant degrees in Bachelor of Theology, Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Divinity. Ten years later in 1994, it was accepted as a participating school of the South East Asia Graduate School of Theology (SEAGST), recognising the degrees granted by the seminary to be internationally accepted.

TEE Programme
Somewhere down the line (I think a little less than 10 years ago), STM realised that there is a need to provide avenues for the lay people who wanted to take a more serious study in theology but who cannot avail to it on a full time basis. With that, STM began their Theological Education by Extension (TEE) programme. It is offered in three languages: English, Chinese and Tamil. Courses are held in a modular format leading to Certificate of Christian Ministry, Graduate Diploma of Christian Ministry, Certificate of Christian Studies, Graduate Diploma of Christian Studies and the Master of Christian Studies.

TEE Classes
Classes are held in the STM Campus, situated in Seremban; Trinity Methodist Church, Kuching; PJEFC, Petaling Jaya and Malaysian Care, Kuala Lumpur. If held in Seremban, each 3-credit module will take 4 days and if held in the other centers, it will take 2 weekends of Friday night, Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Assignments will be given out during the classes and students have 6 months counting from the last day of class to complete and submit them for grading.

TEE Modules
STM arranges the modules annually according to both the needs and the availability of lecturers. The modules offered include:

  • The Introduction of Old Testament
  • The Interpretation of Old Testament
  • The Introduction of New Testament
  • The Interpretation of New Testament
  • Biblical Interpretation
  • Christian Theology I and II
  • Pastoral Leadership and Ministry

  • Electives
  • Christian Spirituality
  • Major Religions in Malaysia
  • Christian Ethics
  • Strategic Development & Implementation of a Youth Ministry
  • Youth Practicum
  • Old Testament Hermeneutics and Homiletics
  • Study on the Gospel of John
  • Study on the Acts of the Apostles
  • Exegesis of Ephesians
  • Elementary Greek I and II
  • More ...

  • My story and thoughts on TEE
    I am speaking from the vantage point of someone who has been learning about God and the bible since I started to speak, read and write. There were Sunday School classes, bible studies and youth camps that I went to almost all my life. Those provided the foundation of my belief in God and in Jesus Christ.

    But my life, in spiritual terms, suffered a set-back when I entered adulthood. I was quite lost for about 10 years, though I was still quite active in church. I went along in life in more or less apathy as far as my life in God is concerned. Yes, I still held on to the tenets of the faith but in praxis, I merely shrugged when I happened to think about them.

    Then slowly I began to come back. The Holy Spirit I am sure was at work, and he slowly but surely drew me back into reviewing and questioning my thoughts and view about life. Later, I got to know Noel, who has since became to me a teacher and a mentor. It all started when he bought me Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. It became for me a catalyst to search as much as my intellect and capabilities can hold about God and his word. I became very impressed with the book and the scholars whom Strobel has interviewed and featured in it. I made it a quest to seek out the authors and read them for myself.

    The first book I read after Strobel's was JP Moreland's Scaling the Secular City. I must say that I bought it and read it because it was the first book of the scholars that I could find in the store! If I were to go back in time, most probably I would not have done it. Not because it was not good. It was because I could not imagine right now, how I could have managed to read that amazing but complex book. I guess maybe my mind was simpler then. And with that, I began my mission of "faith seeking understanding". I vowed that I will read at least one book a month so I can learn as much as I can about this God whom I believe. I wanted to understand what I believe and not believe. I needed to question my faith so I can strengthen it. That quest lasted for about 2 years and 20 over books. It all stopped when I began TEE.

    Of course I did not stop reading. What I stopped was the quest of a-book-a-month. It was because when I started TEE in August 2003, it was hard work or at least I make it so. I discovered that I am a person that can be very single-minded when I choose to. When I am passionate about something, I go all the way, I take the extra mile. And TEE was that for me.

    A lot of people when they talk to me about TEE, they talk about having to study again and at the age that they are now, they do not think they'd be able. What I tell them then that it is really very different. Having being through so much school and college, we have gone through the mill and know what it is like. But I felt that when we come down to seriously study God and his word, it takes a completely different perspective altogether. We are no longer studying to earn an A (although I still am! Those of you really know me well enough will agree.), we are no longer doing it because we have to, we are no longer doing assignments just to fill credit hours. We are doing it because we love our Lord and we want to know more about who he is, what he is saying to us and what we are to do with our lives. Yes, we can still do that without having to go to seminary, but if you really want to seriously do it, only the seminary will provide you the avenues of serious study, and worse if the church is not providing it. Same goes for if you seriously want to learn baking for example, you'd go to a baking school. Some years ago, I wanted to do it, baking, but decided to do it on my own. I had just met my cousin sister several months ago. I discovered she indeed went to a baking school and we started to compare notes. I can really tell what a world of difference we both were, what she knows and can do and what I don't know and can't do, but that's another story.

    You can tell that I am very passionate about this and as such I may be wrong to say that this is for everyone, but if it can enhance our service for God, deepen our knowledge of God and strengthen our love for God, what then is stopping us? If we think we have already too many things to do, so does the person next to us and so do I. (Sometimes we do think we have it worse than the others, don't we? I do that sometimes.) What I am saying is something like TEE is a very good opportunity for us lay-people. Sure, we can say that we just can't give it all up and study theology full-time but now that TEE is available, isn't it the next best thing?


    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    Power of the Gospel

    God do have a way with us. Just as I was revisiting my thoughts on evangelism, both in this blog and with some friends, asking questions and challenging my own views on it, today's sermon does help me put a few things back into place.

    Our invited speaker, Mr Steven Lau spoke from Romans 1:16 about the Power of the Gospel, the Preaching of the Gospel and the Pain of Life: that God can convict and save anyone who comes to him, we need to do the spreading and even in our own pain and struggles, God's word will be preached and shared.

    He recounted the sinking of the Titanic of how the radioman got sidetracked from his job. Amidst all the messages of first class passengers he felt the had to send, he ignored messages that alerted them of icebergs in their path. And when help was needed, one other radioman in another ship was sleeping and did not know about the distress call. As a church, let us not be found sidetracking and be so involved in activities that do not include unbelievers. And never ever let us be found sleeping. Though we have so much pain in our lives, we can still show the love and grace of God, when we allow him to work in our lives. Even a bird in a cage sings.

    Picture by Murray Fisher

    Saturday, October 20, 2007


    I can really be a birdbrain at times. I completely forgotten I have these books to use for my diakonos paper and I let them sit in the shelves quietly and unassumingly.

    In all my reading so far though, we do not have very much information about women in ministry in the New Testament times. And the lesser one knows, the more he needs to write to justify his points. Doing it in four pages is almost an impossible task.

    Craig Keener, Paul, Women and Wives: Marriage and Women's Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Peabody:Hendrickson, 1992)

    John Piper and Wayne Grudem (eds.), Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991)

    James R. Beck and Craig L. Blomberg, Two Views on Women in Ministry, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001)

    These and the few journal articles I need to read more thoroughly, I have a lot to read and think now.


    Update: I have spent the entire day on this diakonos paper, reworking the whole thing as I was not satisfied with my work before. I had to practically re-do the whole paper! But at least now, I am more happy about it.

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    Over the Rainbow

    It has been a very tiring week spent burying my head in MS Excel sheets with 6000 lines and 700 columns, full of figures and formulas and a 50-page report. My colleagues also had the problem with me writing in the historical present! It was a long week, and I am glad the project is almost over.

    Meanwhile, other than Paul Potts's One Chance, I have also been mesmerised with the other CD I purchased over the weekend: Celtic Woman, A New Journey. I especially love this accapella version of Over the Rainbow.


    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    Papers and reports

    I have been very busy wrapping up a project, where I discovered and realised one thing about myself - I get equally engrossed when I need to work on a paper, be it for work or for study. I eat, drink and sleep it. Like last night, if I did not force myself to go to bed because I need to wake up at 6am this morning to get Calvin to school, I would have worked on the client's report till at least 4am. I turned in at 1.30am instead, and quite unhappy about it: my mind was active, I was thinking and I was productive, and I had to go to bed.

    Early this morning, before I started work, I went back to my Biblical Interpretation papers, planning to finalise all 4 within the week in time for their submission on the 28th of this month. Re-reading the first paper, "Do a word study on diakonos in Romans 16:1 - is Phoebe a servant or a deacon?", I sort of panicked, and I still am. While working on that paper back then, I was convinced of my arguments. But now that I looked at it again, I am not!

    I don't know what to think now.


    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    One chance

    I have not been aware of Paul Potts until I was told about him very recently that he was absolutely spectacular. He was a contestant in Britain's Got Talent, another reality show with Simon Cowell's name to it and he mesmerised them with this audition, singing Nessun Dorma. I love to watch the judges' expressions. And while watching this, I was almost in tears. What an amazing talent.

    He sang Time to Say Goodbye in the semi-finals. And I have fallen in love with the song.

    This is Paul Potts in the finals, singing the full version of Nessun Dorma - he won.

    He aptly named his CD One Chance, with this being his one chance in life and won.


    Monday, October 15, 2007

    Sitting on the shelf?

    We have the day off today being the Hari Raya Puasa. I did not do much with my notebook computer screen not working. I had this book sitting in the shelves for about a year. I looked at it and thought I'd just leaf through the first few pages to see if it is any good. The last time I did this, it caused me the purchase of the entire Harry Potter series, in hardback. I had the hardback version of the Order of Phoenix sitting on the shelf for almost 2 years, since I last bought it for S$7.95 from Borders Singapore. I got so hooked into it that I went hunting for the previous 4 books in hardback. Obviously I could not find them and settled for the paperback version. I finished all 4 books back-to-back in just 2 weeks. I finally got the hardback version of the first 4 tomes in Kinokuniya Bangkok. Talk about madness.

    This time, the book was Frank McCourt's Teacher Man (2006). I thought I would just read a few pages. I ended up finishing the entire book in one sitting. And it was a good read.

    This is McCourt's third book. He recounted his life as a high school teacher. It is almost reminiscent of the usual high school movies, but McCourt is a good writer, with his wit and humour.

    He taught high school English in New York for 30 years, and most of the time he considered himself a fraud. He found himself telling more stories, his stories to be precise, than teaching. He was popular among his students in the later years, with students cramped in the lecture hall up to the window sills, though he did not quite decide whether it was the knowledge he imparted or the ease it was in passing his class.

    I spent a good 5 hours with this excellent and delightful story of a teacher man. However trivial it was, it was still time well spent. And I learnt some new words - condign and usufruct!


    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Dreaming dreams, seeing visions

    Pastor Chris's sermon today was fiery but gentle. He taught and exhorted us through the words of Joel in 2:28-29. For one, SH commented that he has never heard any sermons preached from Joel before.

    Pastor said that we need to dream - not to close our eyes and imagine what we want and where we hope to be down the line - but to dream God's vision, what he wants. I suppose we are so contented with the past and the present we stop dreaming.

    Dreaming is a dangerous thing - it bring disappointments, confusion and disbelief, so much so that we have decided to just stop dreaming and accept the present reality. Just take the Methodists as an example. Pastor told us that we have been around for 120 years. I am assuming he meant 120 years in Malaysia. On the whole, we actually have been around for 250 years. Much have been done and many people have been reached by the "travelling ministers" but at present we are too contented with the achievements, we are apathetic. Right now, we are good at just existing.

    We need to be in the society we live in. We need to be an impact but we are far behind.

    In Joel 2:28-29, the prophet was speaking to the Israelites who were living in sin and disobedience. Their hearts were hardened and they were chiefly concerned about their own lives. Joel said that God will pour out his Spirit and when he does, "your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions." God's vision should be and will be ours - it is our right.

    But what happened to that kind of dreaming?

    When God works in our midst, there is always a sense of excitement, healing is experienced in midst of pain, joy abundant in the presence of suffering and goodness evident in the thick of depravity. That is only because God's presence in our lives. But is he?

    What does dreaming involve? Only trust or faith, and only the cross. Faith is "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1) and the cross is "if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Mk 8:34, Lk 9:23).

    Trust and obey ... there is no other way.

    Pastor's sermon reached me in two ways:

    (1) I need to begin to dream again like I did before. Maybe I have grown older - I suppose the older we get, the more practical we are. We'd rather be seen as realists than idealists. I used to dream when I was young - the world was like a playground - there was so much to explore, to feel, to climb, to be challenged, to achieve, and I had the energy. Now 20 years down the line, the playground has morphed into a backyard - there is so much to do, to repair, to desensitise, to pull-down, to avoid, and my energy is sapping the more I look at it. This should not be - I should dream again, and feel the excitement that is from the Lord. And what more with the years of pain as the result of going through fire after fire, with the years of learning and seeking his word, the dreaming should take on a more profound and powerful sense. I don't know ... I suppose I am dreaming of dreaming?

    (2) And on the other end, I am very glad that after 5 long years, I am now listening to sermons that convict and exhort, not just motivate and encourage. I remember the days when I look forward to Sundays for the sermons, but after awhile it became quite a snag and I think I lost the knack of listening. I remember one year during a graduation event in STM, where Bishop Rev Hwa Yung was speaking, I subconsciously forgot to listen. Midway through, I had to snap back, scolded myself and make effort to hear the sermon, which in fact was a good one. So you see, we have not heard any sermons preached from Joel before because there weren't many biblical sermon that we can fall on anyway.


    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    Making the switch

    You do see I am trying to make a switch from the Classic Blogger to the new one but having problems.


    Update: I am finally happy ... took me many hours, but I got it done and it was quite fun as well.

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    Spiritually dead?

    During bible study today, there was a mention of the "spiritually dead"? I am not too sure about this. I would accept it if I use it on myself but I am just not comfortable tagging anyone else "spiritually dead". Who are we to judge and who are we say that so and so is spiritually dead?

    If we take a look at Ephesians 2:1, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins", it gives an indication of us being dead in sin, and some refer this as being spiritually dead. I am quite sure that "spiritually dead" is not used in the bible. And the context of the verse is quite interesting. The Greek word for "you", υμας, is an accusative but there is no verb to control it. It is possible that και υμας (and you) is related to the few verses before: Paul implies that what God did for Jesus, He did also for the Christian readers of the epistle. This does not give us the space to call others spiritually dead, only our ownselves as we come before God in repentance.

    In that sense, I see evangelism as living a life as a community, sharing our lives with others regardless of what they are - dead or not dead. It is a giving of ourselves to one another, and that by living out Christ in us, our lives can rub off on others that they too will come to see and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then our duty is to live a life of Christ - in our thoughts, speech and deeds.

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think that evangelism is making friends so that we can share the Gospel with them, as it is with certain teachings, training sessions, books and guides. It is making friends because we have the love of God; they are not the object, but the subject. There is no framework, formula or step-by-step-guide to do that. It is a real living out of our lives with the people around us. It is imitating Christ in all aspects of our lives, being his follower so that others may see and follow him too. Yes, we can talk about Christ but what we do speak louder than what we say.


    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Bookamania # x + 1

    Yeah ... I went to Sufes again! And this time I had to tell Noel about it, since he chided me for not telling him the last time I went to Canaanland. He couldn't help it but to want to come along and so I went to pick him up from his office in the university. Well ... I still got scolding for making him spend: there is no winning, I will get scolding both ways.

    I spent quite a bit too - but very pleased with what I found.

    Continuity and Discontinuity, edited by John S. Feinberg, (Illinois: Crossway, 1998)
    Noel picked this one up. I sat down and browsed through it and decided I needed one too. I was convinced after reading the back cover: Evangelicals agree that the Bible is God's inerrant word. But we sometimes differ on how to relate the messages of the Old and New Testaments. Without a basic understanding of this crucial matter, it is difficult to know how to use the Testaments to formulate either doctrine or practice. For example, was Israel the OT Church - are OT promises to God's national people fulfilled in the church today? Or, is Mosaic Law binding on believers now - are twentieth century Christians to obey the Ten Commandments, including sabbath observations? In this book, thirteen noted evangelical theologians discuss, fairly but clearly, the continuity/discontinuity debate in regard to six basic categories: theological systems, hermeneutics, salvation, the Law of God, the people of God, and kingdom promises. Covering much more that the differences between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, this work of distinguished evangelical scholarship will fuel much profitable study and discussion. (Pastor Chris, if you are reading this, I had wanted to get you a copy too but they only had two and we picked up one each. I shall get Daniel to get another one!)

    Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society by Anthony J. Saldarini (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001)
    This should be an interesting read. I am currently working on an assignment and several test questions based on the Gospel of Mark and this should provide some good background information and understanding.

    Studying the Synoptic Gospels, by Robert H. Stein (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001)
    While browsing through all the books in the upper storey of Sufes, I decided I must get one on the Synoptic Gospels since I have not really delved into the topic. I was about to purchase Two Gospels from One by Matthew C. Williams but changed my mind and got Stein's instead, since I first need to study it more generally before going into the synoptic problem of Matthean and Markan priority in detail.

    Again ... so many books, so little time. But no doubt about it, I am a very happy bibliomaniac today!


    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    Words of our mouth, meditations of our hearts

    Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
    and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:21)


    Do we bring comfort and healing to each other,
    even if it is not beneficial to ourselves?
    There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
    ~ Proverbs 12:18

    Why do you use perverted and foul language?
    Does it make you look better in the eyes of the world?
    The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
    but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
    ~ Proverbs 10:31

    Why do we talk down on others?
    Do we think we are any better?
    Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
    but a man of understanding remains silent.
    ~ Proverbs 11:12.

    Do we perform verbal diarrhea?
    Do we talk and talk and talk to no sense?
    When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
    but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

    ~ Proverbs 10:19
    The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
    but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
    ~ Proverbs 15:2
    Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
    when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
    ~ Proverbs 17:28

    Why are we harsh in our words?
    What are the motives of our rebuking?
    A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
    but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
    ~ Proverbs 15:4
    With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
    and a soft tongue will break a bone.
    ~ Proverbs 25:15

    Why do we shout and snap at one another?
    Where is Christ in what we say and do?
    The north wind brings forth rain,
    and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
    ~ Proverbs 25:23


    Let the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
    ~ Psalm 19:14


    Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    Monday, October 08, 2007

    DA Carson in KL

    I have finally decided and signed up for the Expository Preaching Seminar 2007 organised by the Kuala Lumpur Christian Conference, to be held on 23 and 24 October. This year’s event will be graced by one of my favourite authors, DA Carson. I attended his last seminar in 2004 when he talked about preaching the Psalms. This time the topic is Theology and Expository Preaching:

    Sometimes we prepare to preach by studying the biblical text without asking
    ourselves challenging questions about how several related disciplines ought to
    shape our sermon preparation and preaching.

    In this seminar, we shall wrestle with how preaching properly interfaces
    with systematic theology, biblical theology, historical theology and pastoral

    I know I have only preached but once, but this is too interesting a subject to pass up.

    But I have to give this a miss. I can't possibly go for 3 nights of conference during school nights, though by then Calvin would have already completed his exams. So, maybe, just maybe.


    Sunday, October 07, 2007

    Taking ownership with God

    Today's sermon by Peter Desmond Wee was from Acts 9:1-6 on Taking Ownership with God. The call is to be serious with our relationship with God and to heed his calling and commandments.

    He also talked about altar calls and it reminded me that this is something I need to think about. What exactly are altar calls? What is its history and practice in the church? Are there any references to it in the bible? I don't think so and so how did it come about? What is its validity? What does it accomplish? Real change or a series of guilty conscience in action?


    Saturday, October 06, 2007

    World War Won

    My son has several favourite authors and Dave Pilkey is one of them. Lately, he has been demanding that I read bedtime stories to him every night, which I have been gladly doing.

    This time, he wanted me to read Dave Pilkey's World War Won found here. Pilkey's talent in artwork and humour was apparent since childhood. In high school though, he was insulted and teased by his teachers. But soon enough, a professor in the university he attended noticed his scribblings in a notebook and encouraged him to illustrate children's book. Pilkey entered his first book, World War Won, in a national competition for student authors and won in his age category. The award included the book's publishing in 1987.

    The book is no longer in print. Pilkey purchased all of the rights to this book in 2002, and made it available as a free website exclusive.

    It is a very good read.


    Friday, October 05, 2007

    Discipleship and obedience

    We studied on the topic of obedience for bible study this evening. The passage given was John 17:6-7. Pastor Chris led the study.

    John 17:6-7 (NASB)
    6"I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7"Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You;

    The main lesson of the evening from the verses is this: we may have with us a group of people or the church to disciple and teach, but like Jesus, we must always remember first and foremost that they belong to the Father, not to us. They are not ours, it is not "our" church. They may very well be the helpless sheep that we need to care and guide, just that they are not ours, and it's not about us. All is of God.

    Pastor Chris then said something I need to think about. He said that we are not responsible for someone's obedience, i.e. whether or not the person obeys is through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. So if you have done your best for the person, and yet he refuses to be obedient, don't take it on yourself. But my question is are we not responsible for the destiny of our brethren? I know what he is at - it is not about us but about God. But yet, I am not thoroughly convinced that we are not at all accountable for the lives of our fellow brethren. It is true that we cannot blame ourselves if one brother decided not to live a godly life however hard we encourage him, but we then just say it is not our fault? Is that all?

    A brother then asked a very interesting question. He wanted to know our opinion what we think God will ask us when we see him in heaven. I have not thought of that before - and so I started asking myself: what do I think God will ask me when I finally, by God's grace, meet him. The thing is, I couldn't think of any! Whatever the question that came up, is dead-on relevant now. So my respond to him was this: I do not want God to ask me anything when I finally see him, I want him to ask me now! If I wait until I meet him, it might be too late. I want to be the one to ask the questions when I see him and the questions will be endless, but I will have the eternity to do it ;)


    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    We are here to praise you

    We are here to praise you,
    To lift our hearts and sing;
    We are here to give you,
    The best that we can bring;
    And it is our love,
    Rising from our hearts;
    Everything within us cries,
    "Abba, Father";
    Help us now to give you,
    Pleasure and delight;
    Heart and mind and will that say,
    "I love you, Lord".
    ~ by Graham Kendrick

    I had a hectic day at work today but the evening was fill with many songs, literally. I had my music lesson, choral practice and choir practice all on the same evening. And I wasn't really prepared to join the church choir, but there were only 2 poor sopranos there and they had to sing an A-flat! I thought I should help and I sang till my chest hurts. They, or we rather, are preparing for Easter 2008, singing this piece call "The Seven Last Words." I have yet to explore it since I just got the scores right before practice.

    It is so wonderful to sing to the Lord.

    Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.
    ~ Isaiah 52:9

    Picture by John Jarvis

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    Encountering the Manuscripts

    I have started to read Comfort’s Encountering the Manuscripts. It is very informative and interesting for me since I am quite illiterate in this area. But the author confuses me so. He was defining “publication” in his introduction and began talking about ancient poets and philosophers. Then he mentions Jesus and calls him, “the mystical poet and prophet”. But as I read along, he talks about Christ and his resurrection as the “proof positive that Jesus is who he said he was”. (p.2)

    So, what is the author? A believer or is he just a scholar? Can you tell by just reading him? And is it important what he is?

    Whether it is important or not, I am reading the book quite critically anyway. It is because I am completely new to this subject. And there are a lot of things I am quite ignorant of. So when he makes certain claims, I would literally mark his words, planning to re-visit it later.

    Here are a few of things (to start with, since I have only read 15 pages of the 354) he said which I am going to think about and double check on:

    1. The autographs (and/or archetypes) would have shorter endings than what we see in manuscripts (p.8)
    2. The book of Mark could not possibly end with the preposition gar. In his words: “Who would end a sentence, much less an entire Gospel, with that word?” (p.9)
    3. Some writers seem to have let their writings be published without thorough editing. He felt that Paul would have had dictation left uncorrected and he gave the example of Eph 3:18. (p.6)

    I think (1) would be quite possible though with me, it is the other way round. I write them all and then cut down the words to make it more succinct and to the point. So can he be so sure that autographs are always shorter than the manuscripts?

    I am not sure about (2) – why not unless you think only Yoda does it so.

    I am all perplexed with (3). Here we were working so hard doing exegesis on why the authors would use such and such a word or phrase with such and such a tense or grammar, only to realize that it was an uncorrected mistake in the first place? Hard to swallow that for now.


    Autograph – the authored manuscript, penned, dictated or endorsed by the author
    Archetype – the copy of a text in a scriptorium or library used to make copies
    Manuscript – handwritten copies of text.

    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Am I a bibliophile or bibliomaniac?

    I wonder if I should be getting worried, for having this unstoppable penchant to buy books whenever I am at a bookstore. I was on my way to my firm's buka puasa event - I made a detour to Canaanland, on the excuse that it was early and it was nearby. I may not have any plans to buy but I definitely had the impulse.

    Then I saw this. And well, I don't have to tell you what I did.

    Encountering the Manuscripts, An Introduction to New Testament Paleography and Textual Criticism by Philip Comfort (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2005)

    I also found this online book that I must find time to dig in: William Carew Hazlitt's Book Collector, a general survey of the pursuit and of those who have engaged in it at home and abroad from the earliest period to the present time. (London: J Grant, 1904). It is said that even though it is published over a century ago, but still worth dipping into.

    I think that proves it - a bibliomaniac is a bibliomaniac is a bibliomaniac.