The last day, a full day, a book day, a new day

I had a long list of things to do today, being the last day of the year. Calvin and I went for breakfast. Then we headed off to Sufes to get some books I had wanted to get for Pastor Chris. I promised I will get him Continuity and Discontinuity, edited by John S. Feinberg but there weren't any copies available yet and so I ended up getting him these 2 other books:

Deuteronomy (New International Biblical Commentary) by Christopher Wright

Handbook on the Prophets by Robert B.Jr. Chisholm (a book I would love to get a copy myself!)

And I got myself The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity by James S. Jeffers. I think this will be the last of this genre of books because I seem to be so drawn to them lately, ending up having so many copies now.

But what was interesting about this visit to Sufes was meeting someone new. While I was browsing books at my favourite aisle, I saw this lady who kept pulling out books on Greek. I couldn't help myself from being curious and I started talking to her. Her name is Mei Wan.

Are you taking up Greek?

Oh no. But I am trying to learn it on my own. Do you take Greek yourself?

Only the basics.

I wanted to get to it a bit so I can look up on some important words in some passages.

We went on for awhile discussing how she can learn a little Greek to help her in doing word study to enhance her understanding of the bible. It was quite amazing because she told me that while she was pulling out the books, she was also asking God to help her find the right ones amongst all the tomes there. I just felt an urge to ask her, I did try to keep quiet so as not to be a busybody but I just felt compelled to do it, which in fact is quite unlike me! God certainly has his ways.

However, being a bibliophile, I am afraid I recommended her too many books! But of all the books, I did highlight this to her, which I think is what she needed:

Greek for the Rest of Us by William D. Mounce

After the visit to Sufes, Noel and another good friend of mine, Alex, asked me over for coffee. The three of us used to meet quite often and spent quite a lot of time talking and discussing about God, theology, books, the bible - but we haven't been doing that for too long a time. So even though I had quite a bit of things to do, I make it a point to meet anyway and headed off the MidValley/Gardens. I will have to find time later to complete what I will be procrastinating. We had a good chat talking about the different biblical softwares we have downloaded, some books and more. Then we headed off to Borders (how could we leave without stepping into the bookstore when there is a bookstore!). For once we succeeded in getting Noel out of the store without getting any books, but Alex and I weren't as successful. We got for ourselves each a copy of:

The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors by John Gribbin. Not only was it on bargain, we also got a 15% discount as well: RM33.61 is well-worth it for a hardcover with deckled edges - I really love these decorative uncut edges!

I headed home just in time to get ready for Watchnight Service in church. This was the first time we attended Watchnight Service away from my family church - in a smaller setting in our neighbourhood church. It turned out special. The worship was amazing, the exhortation moving, the fellowship warm and to the heart. Somehow or rather, we seem to be connecting often with the numerous greetings and sharing of the peace of God. It was a lovely close to the year and an wonderful opening into the new year. We renewed our covenant together, we partook in the Holy Communion together and we supped in the first meal of the new year together. To me, even though we have been doing these things week in week out, this time it just felt different. And when I was holding on to the bread and wine, I felt so blessed and so thankful that Jesus has commanded us to eat and drink, bread and wine, to remember Him. To be a part of his body, now resurrected and to be a part of the body of Christ, the Church.

There is hope in the Lord. There is joy. There is peace. There is love.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
~ 2 Corinthians 5:17


What do we treasure in our hearts?

Pastor Chris gave a very inspiring sermon today based on Exodus 33:12-23. The quality of our lives is determined by what we treasure most in our hearts. Learning from Moses, the thing he feared most is if the presence of the Lord does not go with him and with Israel. The treasure that Moses wanted the most is the presence of God. Without God, whatever we have however good and wonderful it looks or feel, will fail in the end.

What do we have in our hearts?


God, be merciful to me, a sinner!

Luke 18:9-14
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Are we fit for the kingdom of God - what kind of people are we, what characters, commitments and behaviour do we have? Do we think we are so righteous? In other words, do we think we are always right? Do we think we always live honourably before God? Do we - at least subsconciously in our mind - look down on others who do not show the kind of behaviour we expect?

I keep seeing this happening in the church, and without exception, I included. God in his creative being designed us so differently. Our characters and behaviours are so different and that is what makes the body of Christ, and yet our judgemental characters shows out the most when the behaviour of others are so different from us. We may argue that their behaviours are wrong behaviours, but that does not justify our behaviour when we approach them in disdain and worse yet, be contemptous behind their backs.

I am so guilty of this. God, please forgive and change me.


Book Review: Hearing God's Words

I said I will finish this book no matter what, and I did. No one can hit me now.

As I began to read Hearing God's Words, I had high expectations. I got this book because I felt it is always important for me as a reminder not to approach the Holy Word of God academically as I do find myself doing sometimes. There is a need to read it devotionally. As much as what D.A. Carson said during his conference here a couple of months ago that we can and should combine both the devotional reading and studying of Scriptures - do devotion in Greek for example and in my case, do devotion through my assignments - it is still a good reminder.

Halfway through the book however, I felt a bit lost: either I lost him or he lost me. I understand that the word "spirituality" is notoriously difficult to define. Peter Adam did not define or explain it and as such, when I was midway through, I did not know what he was getting at.

He started by stressing the importance of biblical spirituality without quite explaining what it is exactly. That was followed by what I refer to as short introductions of various books in the Old and New Testament. I kept saying, I know but so what? When I reached the chapter where he summarises Calvin's theology of revelation, I had to start again from the beginning, because he totally lost me. It was not until the third quarter of the book, when he discussed the issues in spirituality that I began to have an idea where he is going. With that, I had to again restarted right from the beginning!

Adam segregated the Christian belief into 3 schools of thought (p.40-41):

(1) The Reformed and Evangelical View
- all God's saving words and works are found within the Bible
- spirituality of the Word will focus entirely on the Bible for the content of the knowledge of God
- the witness of the Spirit within the believer and the Church will correspond with his external witness in Scripture (I don't quite understand this statement, by the way)

(2) The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and some charismatics view
- in addition to the Bible, God has continued to do his saving works and words over the last 2000 years
- he has revealed new truths and supported them with new miracles
- spirituality of the Word will not only include the words of the Bible but also words given to the Church since Bible times, whether recognised by the Pope, Patriach, or Council of the Church, or given by a prophet in a local church

(3) The Quaker and Liberal View
- revelation comes direct from God today by observation, reason, experience or emotion
- it may include some ideas from the Bible, tradition of the Church but will find other parts obsolete and irrelevant
- a spirituality of discerning what God is saying at the present time, in the world around or within our own conscience
- a spirituality of the contemporary words of God

Holding the first view, Adam writes to show how the Bible is a rich and fruitful resource for spirituality. He writes to show the fundamental shape and structure of the "spirituality of the Word" and the spirituality that the Bible teaches and encourages and what it results from using the Bible. He does it through highlighting the importance of the imparting of the Word through the Old and New Testament, what John Calvin said about revelation, through some issues and examples in spirituality.

Holding the first view myself, I kept having this feeling that he is merely stating the obvious. As such, I am not sure how it would follow through with those holding the second or third view.

In a scale of 5 stars, I'd give it a 2.


Adam, Peter. Hearing God's Words: Exploring Biblical Spirituality. New Studies in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove:IVP, 2004.

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I have shortlisted 7 books! So hard to decide.


Merry Christmas!

Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.

Emmanuel has come! God is with us. Amen.


Christmas Eve at LMCP

This year's a bit different as we head off to our neighbourhood church for an evangelistic meeting. It was a good service. The Sunday School kids sang, the youth did a play (they were fabulous actors) and the choir sang. Pastor Rao shared the gospel and people responded. We then closed the meeting with several carols in candle light.

For unto us is born, this day in the city of David, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.


Singapore: Day 4

Our bus leaves at 6.30pm today. Our friends' church service starts at 3.30 and lasts until 5.30 and we thought catching a train or even a cab to the station from church might be a tad too risky. The train station is about a 10-minute walk from both the church and the bus station and the roads might be gridlocked due to the holiday season.

So Calvin and I headed to Harbour Front way ahead of time, and we did a little bit of shopping. As expected, I went looking for a bookshop: the only eligible place to spend some spare time. It was like being in a treasure trove, looking for the perfect jewels and I found two.

A Short History of the Chinese People
by L. Carrington Goodrich
This is a good find for me because for one, I will never find it back home in KL and two, I do need to read up on the history of my people. I must piece together my history in a more systematic manner, rather than the bits and pieces I have right now. I only hope this book will help me do that.

The Oxford History of Greece and the Hellenistic World
by John Boardman, Jasper Griffin and Oswyn Murray
This is also a rare find for me. I have not seen this range of books in KL. Maybe in Borders or Kinokuniya, but I seldom go to these two bookstores anyway. As much as this will be not be an easy read for me, since I have no background knowledge in world history (never took the subject in school) I will try nevertheless, and try hard. Wish me luck!

We caught the bus and though the ride back was pleasant it was not without problems. One, the two people sitting right in front of us were the most inconsiderate I have ever encountered, at least for a long time. Without minding people behind them, they reclined their seats indiscriminately. Calvin's feet were stuck as a result until I drew her attention to the matter. But even after that, they still did it anyway. Two, traffic was heavy and upon reaching KL, there was a traffic jam. A traffic jam at 11.30pm? So the journey took longer than expected. We found out why later. Apparently, someone was attending to his stalled car at the emergency lane and another vehicle knocked into him. Never ever attend to your car at the emergency lane. Not worth it.

I thank God for the trip which was good. Calvin and I had a great time. But it is good to back though.


Singapore: Day 3

At Calvin's insistence, we did absolutely nothing today. Well, not exactly. We just stayed "home" at our friends for the day. Anyway, my legs just wouldn't allow me to go anywhere.

We did go out for dinner and Calvin had the tallest burger ever.


Singapore: Day 2

It was a good day today - the weather was good and we were well rested for another day of sight seeing, with just one exception: our legs are still suffering from all the walking we did yesterday.

We took a train to the Ang Mo Kio Station and from there we need to take a Bus 138 to the zoo. We had some problems figuring where to take the bus from as the signboards were pointing to 3 different directions: Bus Stop A, Bus Stop B and Bus Interchange. In the confusion of it all, again we met someone from back home and this time, Calvin's schoolmate also heading the same way. We got to the bus station, took the right bus and this time, the ticket counter lines weren't as long as the day before. There were a lot of people but I guess things were more efficient here. We bought tickets for the zoo and tram rides in the night safari.

Calvin at the entrance of the zoo

We had to walk really slowly as our feet would allow us, and had a really great time. The Singapore Zoo is really one of the nicest place in the world to be. It is amazingly well kept, well-designed and a very friendly place to be. We managed to catch the show in the amphitheatre as well as the polar bear feeding. Calvin's favourite were obviously the penguins and I suppose we were indeed waddling around the zoo just like penguins with our aching legs.

It began to drizzle in the evening and we settled on a bench at the free ranging orangutan site. It was very pleasant sitting there with the orangutans around and about us while we rest our aching feet.

I did not get good pictures of the orangutans because of backlight and I don't have that great a camera.

We left the zoo by 6 and headed to the night safari situated across the zoo. It was a misfortune we could not catch the animal show as it was drizzling quite badly but the tram ride was a very good one. My favourite was the tapir, I could see their black and white body even in the dark with a little light installed over head.

We ended the day with a purchase Calvin could not leave the zoo without - a toy penguin, which now goes by the name Pengy.


Singapore: Day 1

We could not make it to the zoo today as planned. Calvin woke up late into the morning as we arrived quite late last night and it had started to rain quite heavily at 9 this morning. We made our way to the Singapore Science Center instead. I think a lot of people had the same idea because we were greeted with a really long queue.

The queue in front of us

The queue behind us

Calvin enthralled with the exhibit out at the foyer

The science center was really crowded and after awhile, it got me really irritated with kids running here and there, punching buttons and turning dials just for the sake of getting the exhibits to do something. What was supposed to be a learning center became a children's playground. Calvin lost interest after awhile. But it was not a loss as we got to watch a movie at the Omni-Theatre. It was good. We watched an IMAX documentary made on the Hurricane Katrina and it brought me to tears.

Calvin's most favourite exhibit of the center after all: the first one he saw while lining up for tickets

It was quite unexpected that Calvin did not quite enjoy the visit since he is quite a science nut. I suppose it was just too crowded to enjoy it much and after one too many exhibits, he into the "let's-get-on-with-it" mode. We left and headed to Orchard Road to see the Christmas lights. We didn't walk too much, we were too tired and we didn't see much. But what we saw were beautiful.

And by the way, the freakiest thing happened. We met Janice here in Singapore, whom we see every week for Grace Notes practice. We knew we were coming to Singapore in our separate ways, and here we are hundreds of miles away from home, meeting on the same train, same line, same coach. Freaky.


Wrapping up

I am so bogged down with work these couple of days trying to wrap things up before I go off for a long break starting this Thursday. It is the same story at home as I try to catch up on a long of things I have been putting off before it is too late. We will be off to Singapore tomorrow evening on a long delayed holiday I promised my son. I told him I will bring him to the Singapore zoo when he was 4. It is high time I fulfill that promise before he turns double digit 10 next year!

The Singapore Zoo is touted to be one of the best zoos in Asia, if not the world. It is endorsed by the late Steve Irwin and Animal Planet utilises it for some of its documentaries. The other place we shall not miss will be the Singapore Science Centre and the Omni-Theatre. The science centre is said to hold 850 exhibits - impossible to view it all in one visit. Looks like we will have 2 science-filled days. Hurray!


Hearing God's Word

I have started too many books but finishing none, except for maybe a couple. I have just started - or re-started, which would be more accurate - Peter Adam's Hearing God's Words, Exploring Biblical Spirituality (New Studies in Biblical Theology) and hopefully I will stick to it until I finish reading it.

From the description of the book:
Many discussions of Christian spirituality draw on a range of traditions and "disciplines." Little attention, however, appears to have been given to the Bible itself for its teaching on this theme or as a source of spirituality. Similarly, it is commonly assumed that, when it comes to spirituality, the evangelical tradition has little to offer. In response, Peter Adam urges us to renew our confidence in a biblical model of spirituality and to test our spirituality by the Bible. Drawing on a selection of Old and New Testament texts, along with significant insights from the Christian tradition (including John Calvin and the Puritans), he expounds the shape and structure of a gospel-centered "spirituality of the Word" through which we know God himself and receive the life he gives.

I felt that it is timely for me to read a book on spirituality after having slogged on and on with endless assignment in the last several months. It is indeed a good practice that some of my lecturers make it compulsory for us to include a sermon or bible study outline as an appendix to the assignments. It makes us think about Scripture from the application side and hopefully the more we think about it that way, the more it will be practiced in our lives.

Again, I hope I'll not let the book down until I finish it. Hit me if I do.


update: I gave a review of the book here

More questions

Today’s sermon by Rev Christopher Rao was on the Christmas narrative as he pondered with us Mary’s response to Angel Gabriel when he told her about her impending pregnancy and birth.

I reread and rethought the passage I have read so many times over. Looking back at my thoughts last year, I now have even more questions than answers.

Mary was greatly troubled
In Luke 1:28-29, the angel came and said to her, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But Mary was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting that might be.

Question 1: why did Mary become troubled? Wasn't those words of commendation in the first place? Was it a common thing that angels appear to human in those days? At what circumstances do they appear and how were they received? An angel appeared to Hagar (Gen 16:7-13). An angel spoke to Abraham as he was about to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22:11-12). An angel even appeared to a donkey in Numbers 22! We see more angels in the OT, in the beginning and ending of Matthew and Luke, and in Acts. So why was Mary troubled?

The future tenses in the narrative
The tense used throughout is the future. Why?

v.31 … you will conceive … and (will) bear a son … and you will call his name Jesus
v.32 … he will be great … will be called the Son of the Most High … the Lord God will give to him the throne …
v.33 … he will reign … his kingdom will have no end
v.34 … how will this be …
v.35 … the Holy Spirit will come upon you … power of the Most High will overshadow you … the child to be born will be called holy
v.37 … nothing will be impossible with God.

Question 2: why did Mary understand it to mean that she will be pregnant without relations with a man? Isn’t it more likely to misunderstand like how the disciples, the other Mary and Martha did with what Jesus said later? Would it more probable that she understood it to be a promise given by God that she and Joseph will soon bear a son that is special as how the angel has described him to be? So how did she understand it so prematurely as I see it to be?

Question 3: why did the angel use the future tense for all the description of Jesus? The angel said he - “will be great” , “will be called the Son of the Most High”, “will give him the throne”, “his kingdom will have no end”, “will be called holy”. Isn’t he already is, since in John, in the beginning, the Word already was.

I am more perplexed than ever right now.


Play and work

My family church had its yearly Christmas celebration today and they decided to have it simple as a family gathering, not so evangelistic and to bring the message of Christmas to the "once-a-year-Christians". The service was packed with presentations from all groups in the church, young and old, with a Christmas message from the pastor. His message was good. He spoke about the three groups of people during that first Christmas - those in opposition, King Herod; those in ignorance, the innkeepers; and those in worship, the shepherds and the wisemen: which are you? It was good but I felt the message was drowned within the noise of almost 500-600 people. Usually church services are quiet and people are attentive but somehow or rather such Christmas services are as noisy as a market place.

My neighbourhood church on the other hand held a evangelistic programme for some migrant workers. I heard it went well and the good news of the Lord was ministered. Wish I had been there to witness and to be a part of. I find it more real than fan dance and mimes.


Busy Christmas?

Been busy, busy, busy. I have never had it easy at year end every year because of Christmas events in church but I thought having moved out of my family church, I will not be so busy this year end. But with Grace Notes, I still have one presentation tomorrow in my family church and a whole string of other events in my new neighbourhood church. However, I am still giving myself a break this year. I am going to fulfil a promise I made Calvin 5 years ago - bring him to the Singapore zoo! We will be heading off next week and looking forward to it. It will be just the two of us. The daddy can't make it this round.

But we will be back just in time for Christmas.


Christmas meme

HT to Kansas Bob for this meme:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper – gift bags are like you got it out of the store straight to the recipient

2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial ... because of the weather here

3. When do you put up the tree? Err … what tree?

4. When do you take the tree down? Now that it is up, I have to take it down again?!!!

5. Do you like eggnog? Never tasted it before.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Monopoly!

7. Do you have a nativity scene? No.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My mom.

9. Easiest person to buy for? My mom … cash.

10. Worst Christmas gift you've ever received? A used plastic container.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail … but these are hard to come by now.

12. Favorite Christmas movie? None.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Last week of Christmas.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Rarely … but yes.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Real fruitcake.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear and only clear.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Oh! There are so many … but O Come All Ye Faithful tops it all.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay at home ... no where feels more homey than home.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Uhuh … the only one I know is Rudolph and I think there is a Blitzen?

20. Angel on the tree top or star? Star.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? At 12.00am Christmas morning

22. Most annoying thing this time of year? The commercialization of Christmas.

23. What I love most about Christmas? The music, the carols, the smiles, the smells, the hugs and mistletoe … advent, remembering what God has done for us, Emmanuel who from Bethlehem went to Calvary.


Manga Messiah

I had the opportunity to get copies of Manga Messiah at very good rates and I grabbed enough to be given as Christmas gifts. I took a quick read and I must say I enjoyed it; though I was not really in agreement with several interpretations and representations of the gospel texts, but as it stands, it is inconsequential. As Paul would have it, "To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law." (1 Cor 9:20)

Calvin is having a go at it at the moment and it is encouraging to have him discovering the gospel in a new way. He is asking loads of questions and he just found out that Jesus read the same (almost, I suppose) Old Testament that he is reading and ain't that cool.


Miscellany and trivialities

Today is bland. But was nice. It was miscellaneous.
And also trivial. But was good.
  • I had a nice lunch in a restaurant which is getting more and more popular it was packed from wall to wall, and spilling to the patio
  • I had fun with MS Excel working on some figures and learning more from Mr. Excel
  • I found a great quote, which I think will become a favourite of mine: "This is so cool I've to go to the bathroom." ~ Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes
  • I took several ridiculous tests in Facebook:
    Which German philosopher am I? Immanuel Kant
    Which French philosopher am I? René Descartes
    Which Greek philosopher am I? Socrates
    Which dictator am I? Kim Jong-Il
    How will I die? Of old age
    What disaster am I? An earthquake
    What car am I? An electric car
    Which musical instrument am I? A violin
    My results for the World's Most Abstract Quiz? I ain't no double negative!
  • Found several great online radio stations As I searched on, the list became endless.
    Choirboys and Trebles - Christmas music from choristers, boy sopranos and the finest choirs of men and boys in the world
    Choral Treasure - Sacred choral music (mostly) in the Catholic tradition. Gregorian chant, polyphony and other music growing out of the Western and Eastern traditions of faith.
    Praise Broadcasting - Praise Broadcasting Network, featuring groups including Maranatha Singers, Praise Band, Songs of the Vineyard, etc.
Photo © 2007 Stefanie L.

Heirs of the Kingdom

Today's sermon by Peter Desmond Wee was entitled "Prepared for Good Works" and the Scripture passage was from Titus 3:1-8.

Titus 3:1-8 (ESV)
1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,
2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

He highlighted why, how and when God saves us:
Why? Because we are by nature objects of God's wrath
How? By the grace of God and the renewal of the Holy Spirit
When? As we become heirs of his kingdom

What struck me was when he gave a definition of the word "heir". He gave a definition of the word, which I think would be according to the dictionary: that an heir is a person who inherits or has a right of inheritance in the property of another following the latter's death.

I remember this song I sang a very long time ago, if I did not remember wrongly should come from the musical piece If My People:

We are heirs of the Father
We are joints heirs with the Son
We are children of the Kingdom
We are family
We are one

It now dawned upon me: if an heir shall only inherit upon the death of another, how does that square in relations to God?

Romans 8:16-17
It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

In the ISBE Bible Dictionary, I see that the word group an heir, to inherit and an inheritance should read in terms of a recipient of a gift from God, to possess and a possession. As an example, when God is said, for instance, to have given Palestine to Israel as an inheritance in Lev 20:24, nothing more need be meant than given as a possession.

So I guess that settles it. We cannot read it literally to mean heirs in human terms when it comes to being heirs of the Kingdom. God is after all, the Everlasting Father.


Biblical studies: good books to get

There were quite a number of first-timers in the last "Study on the Gospel of John" class and I made good friends with one of them, Jing Shan. I had caught up with her since classes completed last week, and she got lost in the forest - trying to get hold of what she needs to do with a theological paper and a short exegesis.

I am trying to help her come up with a list of good books to have for starters: I have these in mind. This is by no means the best books but I think they should be good enough. And in the course of looking for them: my own wishlist has expanded! Oh dear.

  • Exploring the New Testament by David Wenham and Steve Walton
  • Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament by William Sanford LA Sor, David Allan Hubbard, Frederic William Bush, and Leslie C. Allen

  • Biblical Dictionary
  • Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible by Kevin J. Vanhoozer
  • Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible by David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck

  • Biblical Interpretation
  • Introduction to Biblical Interpretation by William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg and Robert L. Hubbarb
  • New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors by Gordon D. Fee
  • Old Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors by Douglas K. Stuart

  • Bible Background
  • The IVP Bible Background Commentary: OT by by John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas
  • The IVP Bible Background Commentary: NT by Craig S. Keener
  • A Historical Survey of the Old Testament by Eugene H. Merill

  • For a more complete bibliography, check out Denver Seminary's:
  • Annotated Old Testament Bibliography - 2007
  • New Testament Exegesis Bibliography - 2007

  • pearlie

    My bloggerland

    It is time again to take a snapshot of the zeitgeist in this part of bloggerland.

    Milestones of a Worshipper
    Ruth is now in Cairo learning Arabic and feeling very alien in a world who sees her so differently from who they are.

    Kansas Bob
    He is the only Kansas Bob in the USA but as far as we are concerned the only Kansas Bob in the world; and he has some very good Christmas gift suggestions - the best things to give away, that will last not only for a lifetime, but for eternity.

    Kingdom Jewels
    Julia presented her Christmas tree. Note: the video also gives quite a good view of her home. And was it Edward la-la-la-ing Hark the Herald there? I think so.

    Meletao Logous tou Theo
    Chee Keat returned from the 32nd session of TRAC, where he had both a challenging and relaxing time. Go ask him the secret of how to be both challenging and relaxing at the same time!

    Old Testament Passion
    Anthony is at the Malaysian CARE center conducting a TEE module in Biblical Interpretation. He has also been musing about what his old Mazda can teach him about Old Testament theology (yes, Reb?! ;)

    Penless Writer
    Susan is acknowledging how blessed she is for the blessings that God has been pouring on her and her family - especially David and Oksana. Praise the Lord and I pray that your cup will always be overflowing with blessings, Susan, spilling over to touch the lives of others around you.

    Random Musings from a Doctor's Chair
    Alex has been musing about cord blood - should we be storing a newborn's cord blood and should there be controls over it - and the great Catholic and Orthodox Divorce - a re-look into history to help us understand life and live it better.

    Tension is a passing note...
    BK talked about the future of reading with the recent introduction of Amazon Kindle, a portable reading device. Really, how would our grandkids be reading in the future? What would become of the printing industry? What would happen to my books?! ;)

    Texas Chilly
    Missy's been rather effulgent lately and the ever-grateful one for all the good things God has for her. Missy, I have not responded to your kind words yet - I will!

    The Familyhood Church
    Kevin's been getting several migraine attacks lately and I hope he gets better soon. And for us migraine-proned people, please consider removing the word verification option. Seriously.

    the homilia of a budding NT scholar
    Kar Yong is away in Hanoi for a well-deserved break.

    The Milly Times
    Missy's son turned 14 recently - Happy Birthday!

    Karen turned 50 this year and delighted to know she is among good people who also turned 50.

    Weapons of Mass Deduction
    Doug's still on blogger-sabbatical. God bless you and all at home!

    The year is almost at an end and there is so much to thank God for: the good, the bad, the more, the less, the big, the small; in everything I thank God. And I thank God for all of you as well: the world is a brighter place because of friends, those who are close in the heart, in the mind and in the spirit.

    God bless you all.


    Mean what you sing!

    Grace Notes had to change a song with the little time we had left to practice but some of us was worried as it will mean memorising an entirely new song in just a matter of days. Joanna and Lee Mei reminded me of something I do but silly enough not to practice it when memorising lines for songs - write it all down. I once heard someone telling me that it works because you'd be processing it 3 times when you write something down: you think, you write, you read at the same time.

    I did some checking and found this interesting article "Acting: How to learn lines" which I think applies to singing just as well.

    Acting: How to learn lines
    What is absolutely the best way to remember your lines while rehearsing?


    Tony Noice, an actor, director, teacher and cognitive researcher and author of "The Nature of Expertise in Professional Acting: A Cognitive View (Expertise, Research and Applications)" has done research on how actors learn lines - and on memory in general. One of his latest studies confirms what professional actors already know:

    The best way to learn your lines in rehearsal is to "mean what you say." Tony calls the process 'active experiencing:'

    "[The] First thing you do is read [the play] and read it again, and read it again, and read it again, because the most important thing to lay the basis for memory is to really understand the meaning, the deep meaning. Then when you do that, you then go back to the beginning and now that you have a knowledge of the essential core meaning."

    "You ask yourself 'What am I really trying to get from the other person or do to the other person? What behavior can I see in the other person that will make me know I've achieved my goal at this moment?'"

    >> read more

    The beauty of this is this was exactly what Joanna has been trying to get us to do - mean what we sing. Until and unless we mean what we sing, we will not be able to get it across to the people who listens to us. And what do you know, it helps in memorising as well.


    Google Reader!

    I am not very well-versed with what's in the world of information technology: I only have a vague idea what stuff like RSS and technorati are and I don't really know about the other stuff like newsgator and I get periodic emails from bloglines but I don't find it very useful.

    I discovered Google Reader a couple of days ago and so far it has proved to be very useful - what I had hoped bloglines would do, Google Reader does it. Basically what it does is collate all the blogs that I subscribe to into one place. It acts like an inbox for blog posts and rss feeds - complete with images (and videos too I presume). It makes sense to just go to one place to check if there are new posts without having to open up 20 over windows like I had to, especially when my blogroll is growing.


    Study on the Gospel of John: Day 6

    Pastor Chris' sermon this morning was from Matthew 1:1-17 today stressing on the theme of many are called but few are chosen. I looked at the genealogy of Jesus, and it is good to be reminded that God uses all kinds of people, the good and the bad, the victims and the perpetrators to bring about his purpose and will. Amongst several prominent people, the women stand out: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah.

    A typical genealogy is patriarchal, whereas the one in Matthew included these 4 women. The mention of these women and not others seems to be both intentional and significant to Matthew's portrayal of the Messiah. Why did Matthew included them? Why did he choose these women and not the other more prominent ones?

    John C. Hutchinson suggests one very interesting perspective. He did not think the reason was the women themselves but to highlight 4 familiar Old Testament accounts that illustrate one common point. In terms of timeline, it spans the periods of the Patriachs, the Conquest, the judges and David's kingdom, and in each case a Gentile shows extraordinary faith in contrast to the Jews, who were greatly lacking in their faith: Tamar's faith supersedes that of Judah, Rahab's in comparison with the Israelites in the wilderness and Ruth's in contrast to the generation of the judges. Matthew refers to Bathsheba as "the wife of Uriah" most probably to highlight Uriah's faith with that of David's. And through all this, God remained faithful in preserving the messianic line, where in some cases He accomplished it through godly Gentiles. It was Matthew's message of God who was faithful to the Abrahamic and Davidic covenant promises to remind the Jews to forsake self-righteous attitude toward the Gentiles who were now joining them in the church. Matthew did this by highlighting the crucial role Gentiles played in the messianic story.
    (John C. Hutchinson, "Women, gentiles, and the messianic mission in Matthew's genealogy," Bibliotheca sacra 158 no 630 Ap-Je 2001, p 152-164.)

    The message is strong for us as well. We must be careful not to elevate and put ourselves so highly that we look down upon the weak, simple minded and the young. God can use anyone who is willing to be used, to bring about his purpose and will. And throughout history, we see God rather choosing the weak and humble so that his glory will be revealed. For when we are weak, then he is strong.

    I then proceeded back to class to complete the last session of the Study on the Gospel of John, where we closed it all with two narratives: the trial of the King in18:28-19:16 and the Coming of the Spirit in John 20:22.

    Again, the fact that I have read the entire bible before did not quite mean much was once again brought to light. I did not remember coming across John 20:22 when I was reading John: And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

    Allen brought us through three possibilities in interpreting this verse:

    1. A Pre-Pentecostal Anointing
    Max Turner subscribed to this. Basically this interpretation takes the Johannine verse to mean two separate anointing with this one being the "sprinkling" and later in Acts 2 the "full endowment" of the Spirit. The problem with this interpretation concerns the kind of anointing. Since there is suppose to be only one coming of the Holy Spirit and not several comings, what exactly was received here then. Some classmates suggested that this may be the already common filling of the Holy Spirit like what was already seen happening in the Old Testament.

    2. A Johannine Pentecost
    John Beasley-Murray and Gary M. Burge would take this interpretation where this Johannine anointing and the Pentecostal anointing in Acts 2 is the exact same one. Some interprets the chronological sequence to be a bit different in the sense that first Mary sees Jesus physically, the Jesus ascended and then Jesus meets with the disciples and breathes on them the anointing of the Spirit. Some others say that John in writing the Gospel writes it theologically as one event, where chronology is not key to the writing. The problem to this interpretation was that the events as presented in John and Acts are quite clearly 2 separate and different events that it will be a challenge to reconcile them.

    3. A Symbolic Act that looks forward to Pentecost
    This was first put forward by Theodora Mopstuetia at the 2nd Council of Constatinople in 553AD, and subscribed by D.A. Carson. This interpretation do not take it as something that actually happened but a symbolic breathing upon the disciples and a command for them to receive the Holy Spirit, which will happen later, as recorded in Acts 2. Mopstuetia was considered a heresy then for propagating this intepretation.

    Allen asked for a vote and the result was 10/2/5 for the 3 interpretation above. To me, at this point of time, I take more to the third one. But as I reread the passage, I seem to see that there is this one other option as well, which Allen thinks I may be stretching it a bit.

    Here is what I think, but first, the pericope to put it in context:

    John 20:19-29
    19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld." 24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."

    26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." 28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

    The passage can be divided into 2 parts: firstly, when Jesus appeared to the disciples but Thomas was not around and secondly, Jesus appeared to the disciples again and this time Thomas was with them. I tried working this out and I came out with this structure which I thought quite interesting:

    Disciples, in fear inside with doors were locked
          Jesus came and stood with them
                Jesus proclaimed peace, showed his physical being
                      Disciples overjoyed!
                Jesus proclaimed peace and breathed on them
          Jesus commanded them to receive the Spirit for mission
    Thomas was not there, was told, did not believe

    Disciples were inside, with Thomas, doors locked
          Jesus came and stood with them
                Jesus proclaimed peace, showed his physical being to Thomas
                      Thomas believed – my Lord, my God!
                Jesus proclaimed Thomas’ belief because he has seen him
          (No command given)
    Those who have not seen but believe will be blessed

    I am not sure if this structure I came up with would carry any water, since Part 2's B' is missing. But what I am trying to draw out is this: can the interpretation of "breathed" be part of Jesus showing the disciples that he has risen - that he is physical, has the wounds and that he can breathe as he breathed on them. If this is the case, then we have no problems in interpreting 20:21-22: "receive the Holy Spirit" can stand on its own and can be taken as a command for the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit when he comes upon them later after Jesus is no longer with them.

    So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you and even as He had said this, He breathed on them. And he said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.



    Study on the Gospel of John: Day 5

    We did quite a bit today continuing where we left off last night on the Raising of Lazarus, then onto missiology according to the Gospel of John, the pericope on the vine and branches and finally the passion narrative.

    Allen brought us through the narratives using Mark Stibbe's John as Storyteller: Narrative Criticism and the Fourth Gospel as a guide.

    As much as it was interesting at certain junctures but I felt more incredulous than ever of Stibbe's claims. Allen too highlighted where he felt it was really farfetched and dubious.

    I am not familiar with narrative criticism, but so far I think Stibbe is reading too much into the text. For example, Stibbe apparently highlighted a connection where Jesus called in loud voice for Lazarus to come out of the tomb with Jesus' crucifixion, where there too were the loud calling of the people to mock Jesus. He also highlighted on the light and darkness theme by contrasting in the narrative of the arrest of Jesus, the disciples in the dark in the olive grove and the light of the torches of the soldiers!

    Here's a couple of reviews of the book:

    Stibbe's desire to integrate various approaches to a biblical text is commendable; he appreciates the strengths and limitations of different methods. Nevertheless, it is not clear that this book attains the integration desired. The connections between the Good Shepherd discourse and the arrest cannot bear the weight S. places on them, and the link between the tragic mythos of the passion and the familial imagery is not adequately developed. While a fresh consideration of the gospel's historicity is welcome, the proposal of a Bethany Gospel written by Lazarus is tenuous. The book is perhaps more important for the questions it raises than for the answers it gives.
    (Craig R. Koester, Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary, St. Paul MN 55108, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 55 no 2 Ap 1993, p.400-1)

    For those unacquainted with narrative criticism this well-informed and clearly written book could serve as a stimulating introduction. But those already familiar with the method may find that S. delivers less than he promises. Only two chapters address the genuinely narrative concerns intrinsic to the text of Jn 18-19. Elsewhere S. deals with largely extrinsic concerns, which, while perfectly legitimate in themselves, contribute little or nothing to the true aim and method of narrative criticism, viz. understanding a narrative through close and careful analysis of its textual strategies. S. would have done better to apply his obvious talents to a more detailed, full-scale narrative reading of Jn 18-19. Instead he offers us a conflation of diverse methods that ends up diffusing the focus on what narrative criticism really is and does.
    (J. Warren Holleran St. Patrick's Seminary Mento Park, Calif, Theological Studies 54 no 1 Mr 1993, p 194)