Friday, February 29, 2008

Hermeneutics Quiz

Alex posted a link to a hermeneutics quiz by Scot McKnight that is suppose to show "your biblical blind spots and what you tend not to see." I find some of the questions almost unanswerable - I don't seem to fall into any of them. But, basically I am considered a moderate with a score of 62. In summary:
  • Seen as the voice of reason and open-mindedness
  • Conservative on some issues and progressive on others
  • Have a flexible hermeneutic that gives them the freedom to pick and choose on which issues they will be progressive or conservative.
  • More open to the charge of inconsistency
  • Take on struggles to render judgments on hermeneutical issues
The other moderates are Alex at 61, BK at 57 and Reb at 65.

Kar Yong is progressive at 72. Hmm ...
In summary, progressives are:
  • Not always progressive
  • Tends to see the Bible as historically shaped and culturally conditioned, and yet most still consider it the Word of God for today
  • One must interpret what the Bible said in its day and discern its pattern for revelation in order to apply it to our world
  • Takes on the challenge to examine what the Bible said in its day
  • Tend to be historians
  • Problems for the progressives are predictable: Will the Bible's so-called "plain meaning" be given its due and authoritative force to challenge our world? Or will the Bible be swallowed by a quest to find modern analogies that sometimes minimize what the text clearly says?

What about you?


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Word trouble

As much as I am of Chinese descent, I grew up reading and writing, thinking and dreaming in English. (I would admit without any qualms that I am a Banana Chinese - that is, outside yellow but inside white.) But, there are these 2 sets of verb-noun word groups that totally irk me: they are respond/response and prove/proof - I always have to think a little harder than usual to figure out which is which, i.e. which is the noun and which is the verb. If I do not think about it, more often than not, I will use the wrong one. And that irritates me.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I will harden Pharaoh's heart

Calvin and I are currently reading Exodus together, and we are now at the passages of the 10 plagues. When I was reading Exo 7:3, where the famous "hardening-of-the-heart" motif is found, this time, I thought of it differently.

I checked the limited resources I have on this verse and the interpretation of it is usually that Yahweh will deliberately make Pharaoh's stubborn so that his glory may be shown. A lot of people have a problem with that. I have a problem with that. But reading it this time, I see a different interpretation. Take a look of what I think and tell me what you think.

I began to read the hardening of Pharaoh's heart as a causal effect, not a purposeful God-intended act. What I mean is this: God heard the cries of the Israelites and it is time to rescue them. He wanted the Israelites to go into the wilderness to worship Him but Pharaoh refused. It will not be good for him to have all his kingdom stalled with his all slaves out of Egypt not working. But God wanted Pharaoh to know that He is God. So He shows him his power through Moses and Aaron. However, the more God showed him, the more Pharaoh become adamant and stubborn. The more God did, the more Pharaoh resisted. In this sense, it is not that God has purposefully hardened Pharaoh's heart but the more God revealed who He is, the more Pharaoh rejected him. What God has done, caused Pharaoh to harden his heart. Isn't this reminiscent of man's faith in general?

But, is this "new reading" of mine possible?

Take a look at the following verses in NASB version:

Exodus 7:3-5
3 "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 "When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. 5 "The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst."

Exodus 7:12-14
12 For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Yet Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pharaoh's heart is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go.

Exodus 7:16-17
16 "You shall say to him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness. But behold, you have not listened until now." 17 'Thus says the LORD, "By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood.

Exodus 7:22-23
22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts; and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. 23 Then Pharaoh turned and went into his house with no concern even for this.

Exodus 8:1-2
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'Thus says the LORD, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 2 "But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite your whole territory with frogs.

Exodus 8:15
15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

If you carry on reading on the subsequent plagues, you will see the same pattern. God showing his power, and it is Pharaoh who hardened his heart because he just refused to believe. Isn't it quite clear?


Monday, February 25, 2008

A lot, a lot

I was busy today
Working on the John assignments
A lot to figure out
A lot to think about

I sought my friend's thoughts
He is good in getting me on the right track
A lot to hash out
A lot to talk about

I looked closely at John
The Gospel is simply astounding and awe-inspiring
A lot to work out
A lot to mull about

I saw again a chiasm
Something I keep seeing in the Scriptures
A lot to puzzle out
A lot to thresh about

I sought a teacher's opinion
But he isn't much of a fan of this literary form
So how now?
O brown cow?

All rights reserved © 2008 Pearlie Ng
Photo © 2007 Wendy Domeni

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Interpreting the OT, Poetic Books - Day 6

We have Dr Lim Boon Hock, the Deputy Director of Methodist Christian Education as our speaker today, who gave us a sermon from Deut 6:1-25 on the lesson “that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord”. His emphasis was on the Word of the Lord, which will not return to Himself void but will accomplish that which pleases Him, and that we need to be saturated with the Word of God.

He says that we need to hear, read, study, memorise and meditate on the Word of God. Obviously that is not enough. We have to always be aware that we should not be satisfied with just listening to a sermon a week, even if we are disciplined in reading a passage a day. Nor should we be pleased or proud by just filling our heads with the results of the study of the Word, even if we remember the Word by hard. It also means nothing if we just have deep thoughts about the Word of God, and that's it, just deep thoughts. The Word means nothing if it is just heard, read, studied, memorized or meditated – it must be lived.

His interpretation of 2 Tim 3:16 is pretty good – the Word of God is profitable for progressive use:
Teaching – telling us what is right
Rebuking – revealing where and when we get it wrong
Correcting – showing how to get it back on track
Training in righteousness – instructing us to stay on the right path

According to Deut 1:2, we ourselves must first be taught by the Word of God, after which it is our duty to impress it on our children, and then onto the church and the wider community. A lot of parents these days leave it to the church and the Sunday School. We miss a lot if we do not do it, if we do not teach His Word to our children. I am glad I have got back into reading the bible together with Calvin, but I have to admit it is not easy. We do miss nights when we are just too tired to do anything else but to sleep. But we must press on.

One thing the speaker said had made me think: “God takes us out of our familiarity and out of our comfort zones to teach us great things.” This sounds familiar except that this time, it sounds rather poignant, for some very good reasons. I have recently been puzzling over two things: the understanding of the Messiah, and death and life after death.

If you notice my previous posts, I have been on the subject of Jews’ understanding of Scriptures. I have been reading and getting relevant books to give me some ground for thought. And what do you know, during this OT class, the subject of Messiahship was brought up and I began to now read the Gospels in quite a different light and with more questions. With the Jews expecting an earthly Messiah, what does it mean when the disciples said that Jesus is the Son of God? With this in mind, why was Jesus so hard on the disciples and even the authorities?

The second thing was as mentioned last week, I suddenly realized that death, afterlife, heaven and resurrection in the OT were not as I thought they were. My views on them were very much coloured by my own contemporary understanding as much as my view on Jesus as Christ were coloured by my belief and development as a Christian. In the midst of bereavement with my aunt’s demise just yesterday, and with Reb’s sharing of his stand on death, if I am not mistaken, as a sense of sleep until being awaken or resurrected at the Last Day, I have a lot to think about. In most Christian wake services that I have attended, I always have this peace within me, albeit resting on a bed of sorrow, that the one who has left us is now in God’s presence, in His bosom, is no longer suffering or in pain but safe and secure in the Lord. But, not so in this wake service, and what more, my aunt, whom I love and respect, have passed on. I was quite disturbed and at one point I did feel some fear – because the belief that I have always held is now shaken, regardless of whether it is right or wrong. This is why what the speaker had said about being out of familiar grounds and comfort zones struck me. While this may not the first time that God has taken me out of my comfort zone to teach me something, this one created a sense of dread in me. I had to keep reminding myself of the resurrection of Christ. Looks like I have got a lot to think about, and to relearn.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Obituary / Interpreting the OT, Poetic Books - Day 5

Before I talk about learning the Psalms, there is a need for a bereavement psalm. My aunt passed away this morning. She was suffering from cancer, which was just diagnosed not too long ago. My aunt was the spiritual pillar of strength of our family, and no doubt she is also one of the spiritual pillars of the church. During the wake service this evening, the appropriate words to send her off was 2 Timothy 4:7-8: for indeed she has fought a good fight and have finished the race. She had kept an astounding faith. She is now with God.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

We learned more about the types of psalms and spent quite a lot of time on one of the stalwart of psalm scholarly work - Hermann Gunkel. Reb also talked about acrostic psalms and showed us some interesting modern examples. This one I find utterly amusing:

The Acrostic Valentine by John Whitworth

Reb said it takes considerable effort and creativity to write acrostic poems. I took the challenge and he is right. I don't think what I have here is any good, but since I spent hours at it, you get to see it here:

(Click on picture)


Friday, February 22, 2008

Interpreting the OT, Poetic Books - Day 4

We are back for the second round of Interpreting the Old Testament, and this time I was all attentive - I must have paid back all the sleep debt through the week.

I have been learning so much about psalms. We continued our lecture today into Royal Psalms, Individual Songs of Thanksgiving, Communal Songs of Thanksgiving and other minor types. What intrigues me was that there is just about a psalm for every event and every emotion of the human soul. As you experience life, good or bad, as you feel the emotions, happy or sad, look at the psalm and you will find one befiitting your situation. Use it, pray it, appropriate it and worship the LORD.

From all the 150 psalms, I have been told from young, that David wrote them all, but not so I discovered later in life. There are only 73, which are attributed to him. There are also psalms of Asaph, Korah, Solomon, Heman, Ethan, Jeduthun, and Moses. In fact, one fifth of the book, i.e. a total of 43 psalms, are anonymous. I would like to think that a number of them are written by women. This certainly show that almost anyone can write psalms - be it sonnets or haikus, odes or free verse, anyone can and should write poems to God.

I like to write poetry but it is not often that it happens. Over the span of 2 years, I have written about 10. Here are my poems, my so-called psalms per-se:
  • When I am busy - written when I was so unbelievably busy and yet I had this peace in me which I thought was quite unusual a feeling when I am busy; rather than peaceful, I am usually flustered
  • Let Him Lead - written when I was feeling some discontentment about life
  • But - written when I was unsure about a decision I need to make
  • The Eternity in My Heart - written when I needed to remind myself that whatever happens in life, it does not matter, because I look to the eternity, and I am living it now
  • In the Stillness - written when I didn't know what to do
  • Goodbye 2006 - written as an ode of thanksgiving and worship to God, to thank him for the passing year
  • Waiting Room - written when I was going through a tough time
  • A Lament - written when I was the victim of unkindness, of a torture of the spirit and mind, just so I would stay sane
  • Never So Much - just a short release to God in my busyness
  • Good Company - maybe I can call this narrative poetry, I wrote this to tell a story of a delightful evening spent with a good friend discussing biblical studies and theology


Thursday, February 21, 2008

What can I do?

I don't know how to say this or even begin to talk about it. It has to do with my son. I know that he has been having some problems in school. He is okay academically - he just did not quite have the social graces, or the knack of being around people.

I suppose I could identify with him. When I was in school as far as I can remember, I did not really have close friends. I talked and played with my classmates, but I didn't have any buddies. I tried to get myself into groups but that didn't work - I just wasn't included, I didn't feel I belonged. Thinking back, it didn't quite bother me. I did what I had to do in school and that was it. Life goes on. Things did became better when I grew up.

But now that I see it being played out with my son, I am heart broken. He was asked several days ago to write about "My Life in School". First things first, I seriously think the school should be coming up with better and more creative topics for kids to write by now. My son has been asked to write about his school at least once, if not twice a year. Come on, how much can one write about school if you have been writing about it for the past 3 to 5 years? It gets boring.

He playfully started his paper by saying, "My life in school is boring." I told him to get serious and he wrote, "My life in school is very boring."

Since he has to complete the assignment today, he asked for my help. I started to suggest stuff to include: the usual stuff he does in school, i.e. the classes, the homework, the activities.

I said, "Write about your friends."

"I don't have any friends."

"Why not?"

"How should I know? They keep calling me names."

What can I do as a mom?


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Calvin turned big-10 today. Happy Birthday my sweet!
We got him a big cake, we gave him a big meal - you see, he loves to eat.
He is our gem, he is our precious, he is our sweetie pie, he is our son.
We love you!


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In chunks

As I was saying, I am currently listening to sermons and bible lessons in mp3s, in chunks as I zip my way here and there and everywhere in my old beat-up car. It is slow, I know and I also end up listening to certain portions several times over (long story but I have to break up the mp3s into chunks so that I don't have to listen to them from the beginning everytime I start my car). I find that I am learning so much with the spare time I have. It is so much better. Rather than to have my mind wander off aimlessly as I manoeuvre the roads or to fill it up with trash listening to the radio, I can now learn, think, discover and be amazed with God, my Strength and my Redeemer. I have grown tired with the limited selection of CDs I have anyway.

I have just started on Carson's teaching sessions on Revelations. I was on his first session on Rev 4 yesterday and Rev 5 today. I have just finished the first chunk and looking forward for more chunks later when I drive home after work.

My dad, who is a lay-preacher was telling me that based on his experience, he finds that what preachers usually repeat are illustrations and stories. That to me, is not very good a practice because illustrations and stories are usually the only thing the people will remember, if they remember anything at all, and therefore, a good preacher has to have a good variety of them, so that he does not repeat them too often.

But, because of the proliferation of sermons in mp3s, I have found that Carson, who is an excellent speaker by the way, uses similar illustrations, in different settings, in different sermons, in different topics. And it works for him, the illustrations serve for him as good analogies almost all the time.

In his Rev 5 session, in order to explain the distinctive use of the apocalypse genre, he used the examples of limericks: where he says that only in the English language, are limericks possible (Really? Is that true?) He used this limerick, apparently written to good-naturedly poke fun at Dr C.H. Dodd:

There was a professor called Dodd,
Whose name was exceedingly odd;
He spelled, if you please,
His name with three "D's,"
When one was sufficient for God.

I love it! I did a search - Carson also used this limerick in his speaking session on Justification by Faith. True but it works.


Monday, February 18, 2008

The Excuse if I Do Need One ...

... is that I have so few books on OT. So I got these today:

Philip S. Johnston, Shades of Sheol, Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament, Apollos: 2002.
As mentioned yesterday, I got intrigued by the subject upon realising that the concept of death and afterlife is one that is developed through time. The questions the book promises to answer include:
Death is a profound and complex subject.
How did the Israelites respond to it?
The dead apparently went to Sheol.
Where and what was it?
The inhabitants of Sheol are sometimes called "shades."
What does this indicate?
Many ancient peoples venerated their ancestors.
Did Israelites do this?
Did anyone hope for a positive afterlife?
If so, in what form?
What about resurrection?
How and when did this belief emerge?

Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms, IVP:1988.
I am thinking since I already have Terrien's commentary to the Psalms, this book will be helpful to understand the Psalms further. It covers genres, origin, development and use of the psalms, Old Testament poetry, imagery and parallelism and more. I am looking forward to reading this book.

Philip S. Johnston & David G. Firth (eds), Interpreting the Psalms Issues and Approaches, Apollos, 2005.
Just like the book by Longman III, this book also covers the interpretation of psalms but of course what caught my attention was that is addresses "issues and approaches". It covers topics such as The Psalms and Current Study, The Psalms and Ancient Near Eastern Prayer, The Psalm and Distress, The Psalms and Praise, The Psalm and the King, The Psalm and the Cult, The Teaching of the Psalms, The Ethics of the Psalms, Body Idioms and the Psalms, The Structure of the Psalms, and more. It boasts of contributors like Craig Broyles, Dale Brueggemann, Tremper Longman, Gordon Wenham, amongst others. This will be exceptionally useful.

John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible, Baker: 2006.
As I have mentioned before, after studying Biblical Interpretation, I am quite drawn to background books and when I saw this one, I could not let it off my hands. Being an entirely new subject to me, this book will be extremely fascinating.

Stanley E. Porter (ed), The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments, Eerdmans: 2007.
I am still in the process of writing a more comprehensive review on Why the Jews Rejected Jesus written by David Klinghoffer (I have a brief review written in, which was why this book attracted me. Its contributors are Mark J. Boda, S.A. Cummings, Craig A. Evans, Tremper Longman III, I. Howard Marshall, Stanley E. Porter, Loren T. Stuckenbruck, Tom Thatcher, Cynthia Long Westfall and Al Wolters.

Ethelbert W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, Explained and Illustrated, Baker: 2003 (23rd printing, originally printed in 1898 by Eyre & Spottiswoode).
Finally, I have been eyeing this book for too long a time, and since I am now doing exegesis on Psalms, all the more reason to get a copy. The most expensive of the lot, but the oldest: 110 years and Baker's 23rd printing.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Interpreting the OT, Poetic Books - Day 3

I rested quite well last night and all ready to go for class after church service today.

Reb lectured us briefly through "Worship in Ancient Israel" covering the places of worship (altars, the Tabernacle, the Temple) and the various festivals (Feast od Tabernacle, Passover, Pentecost, Yom Kippur).

One of the things I have never thought of before was the development of Jewish beliefs. I had not known that the concept of resurrection only occurred in the Old Testament two times: once in Daniel and once in the Psalms. Moreover, the concept of death was usually with Sheol - when they die, they believed that they will descend into Sheol. It had never occurred to me that the Jews may not have had the concept of heaven or of resurrection, which of course explains why the Sadducees did not believe in it in Jesus' time.

I cannot say more because I know now that I don't know anything about it. It is a good thing Reb informed us that his supervisor Philip S. Johnston had written a book on death in the Old Testament. I must get hold of a copy from SUFES soon.

Philip S. Johnston, Shades of Sheol, Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament, Apollos: 2002.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Interpreting the OT, Poetic Books - Day 2

I was not able to sleep enough last night - I am so deep now into my sleep debt. SH was up at 5.30am to get ready for Saturday dawn prayer meeting at church (I have to give him respect these days for he has been so disciplined lately to attend prayer meeting so early every Saturday morning in church - my hats off to him). I was not in a very deep sleep and woke up as well. "Oh no, I am going to have a difficult day today," and true enough: lecture was from 9am to 6pm and I zombied through the entire lecture. All I could programme myself to do was to keep typing what I see on the lecture slides and what Reb was saying. Other than that I was pretty much inebriated.

We only managed to cover the Psalm titles today and to me that was quite enough! Even though it was quite a dread to go through all the miktams and mizmors, the shiggayons and shoshannims, it was nevertheless very new and intriguing to me. It is good to now know a bit more what those psalm titles are, what they possibly mean and what I could do with them.

We did an exegesis on Psalm 117, the shortest psalm in the bible. I never thought much of it before but now, I am really impressed by it: it holds so much with just five lines - just amazing. How sweet and powerful is the Word of God.

I better get some quality sleep now. I will blog about Psalm 117 another day. There's church service tomorrow, after which I will be heading off for another 4 hours of lecture. I do not want to zombie through it again, so God help me to sleep well tonight. Amen.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Interpreting the OT, Poetic Books - Day 1

I have signed up for Interpreting the Old Testament on the Poetic Books, lectured by Reb. Class started this evening. I was pretty stoned for the day, which I think is attributed to my lack of sleep in the past few days.

We covered the introduction to the Psalms for about 2 hours, on the origin of its name, its placing in the Canon, its intention, the various types of psalms, dating of the psalms, the three periods of psalmody, etc. What striked me was the reminder that there is definitely a psalm for almost every situation in life. I had been very dependent on the Psalms back in 2006 but not so in 2007, when my attention was diverted by other requirements, mainly in the NT. To the Psalms I must now return, to the Psalms I gladly now return.

On a different note, this week turned out to be quite a weird one - first I met a person so odd and so weird yesterday that I wanted to scream had I spent another moment in his presence (hence, the Thousand Words picture yesterday) and then I received a call today from a sewing shop telling me that I had left a brown shirt uncollected since 3rd February 2007, which is almost impossible because it just didn't happen.

I told the lady, “I am sorry but I am quite sure it is not possible because I am not a person who alters clothes – I buy what fits and give or store away what no longer fits.”

“It has to be you or I will not have your name and number.”

“True but what did you say my name was again?”


“No, my name is Pearlie. ‘I’ would have written it for you when ‘I’ was at your place, right?”


“Then it is more probable that I write my number wrongly and not my name.”

“But it has to be you, could you please come in and take a look.”

“What kind of alteration was it there for?”

“You wanted the sleeves done and pleats in the front because it was too loose. So, you'll come?”

“I will but only because I am really curious now.”

It is just too weird.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Two Sermons

I was listening to two of John Stott's sermons on mp3 today: "When God's People Pray" and "The Word of Life". I was told that he is an excellent preacher and he certainly is.

In "When God's People Pray", I have never heard very much of a good sermon on prayer until now. He brought out 4 points from Ephesians 2:18, "For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." Prayer is first and foremost, access to the Father. That I feel is an excellent and more than that, a biblical definition of prayer; one I will be using from now on: access to the Father.

The four points are:

1. Access is to the Father
Prayers are directed to the Father, and thus they should be like a prayer of a child, simple. Stott says that our prayers sometimes can be too sophisticated, not simple enough. (How true! I tend to pray simple prayers in private but try to make them more sophisticated when in public. I see know how foolish that can be.)

2. Access is through the Son
Prayer should be performed in humility because it can only be done through the Son's sin bearing death. Let us not take that privilege for granted. Our utterances in prayer should be humble, not haughty or proud. (This reminds me of what I term as our "language of prayer". The next time we pray or hear a pray in church, try to take notice of the language we use, and conclude if it is a prayer that is humble and God-honouring or is it a prayer that begins every sentence with what sounds like a command: Lord, do this and Lord do that, even if it is a pleading prayer for the church or for others.)

3. Access is by the Spirit
Prayer is performed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is with intimacy, it is when the Spirit bear witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. He assures us of the lovingkindness of the Holy Father and the saving grace of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He takes our wayward undisciplined minds and focusses them upon God. He helps us to pray and lead us into the very presence of God.

4. Access is with all the people of God
When Paul says in Eph 2:18 that "we both have our access", he meant both Jews and Gentiles, in that we all have access to the Father as one community of prayer. When we pray, we must be reminded that we are praying as one universal body of Christ. When one prays, the prayer is among the many prayers of the people of God. So look not only on our own needs.

About "The Word of Life" sermon, what is interesting is that he brings out lessons we can learn from Doubting Thomas. What he says about our modern world is quite true - in that we look up on Thomas and commend him for doubting and for seeking for empirical proof in order to belief, because that is usually what we would seek for today. But Jesus rebuked him for that. The lesson to learn is this: it is more blessed to have not seen and yet believed. The words of the eyewitnesses of Christ, who are credible and reliable, are as good as empirical evidences.

Stott also has a way with words. He commented about Thomas being absent the first time when the disciples gathered when Jesus came amongst them. He talked about the "calculated risk taken by irregular churchgoers" and the "spiritual risk of spasmodic church attendance" as opposed to "spiritual blessings of disciplined regularity". Isn't that brilliant!


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Free online books

Reb highlighted several great links for studies in the Old Testament including this Online Book page hosted by the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL). Kar Yong posted it here and I cannot believe I missed it! I am not blind, but definitely very blur.

The site "provide free online PDF files for a variety of SBL publications to scholars and students who would not otherwise have access to this scholarship. Persons who are identified through our technology as being from a country with a GDP per capita substantially lower than the average GDP per capita of the USA and the European Union will be able to see links below to PDF files."

Check out Reb's post here for more OT links.


Monday, February 11, 2008

The cross at a distance, God up close

I have to confess that I missed Ash Wednesday. I did not realise Lent has come amidst all the busyness and Chinese New Year frenzy.

I started reading Peter G. Bolt's The Cross from a Distance today. I have only done about 30 pages after several hours of reading and it is a really good read. I look forward to snuggling into bed tonight, book in hand.

Here is what Bolt says about "The cross at a distance: God up close":

At the climax of Mark's gospel, Jesus hung on the cross, absolutely alone, deserted by God and people. But at that lonely hour, the narrative introduces some characters who have not appeared previously. In Mark 15:40 we read that a group of women were watching the crucifixion 'from a distance' (apo makrothen). In a sense, these women can be our point of reference. They are given a stance towards the cross that we ourselves share.

The cross is at a distance. It is an event that occurred long ago, in a world and culture that, in many ways, seem to foreign to our own. But, if we understand this cross correctly, we discover that it is there, in that distant cross, that we see God up close.
Source: Peter G. Bolt, The Cross at a Distance, Atonement in Mark's Gospel, (Leicester, UK: IVP, 2004): 17.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Cleansing Blood of Christ

Cave Assignment - I have been spending a lot of time working on Calvin's cave project. I know he should be the one doing it but since the school allow for parents to help I got so engrossed in it, I overdid it. But then, it all stemmed from very unclear instructions.

We purchased the material required several days ago and was trying to figure it out since then. We end up using very little of what we bought. All we did was soak lots and lots of old newspaper, which was as instructed but I added starch, just so it'll all stick together. The rest consist of barley seeds as pebbles, real grass, plastic grass, cut up chopstick as firewood, chopsticks to pass off as weapons, and two cut up pieces of fabric as beds. We have also included a well and added a little water in it.

I am not sure if it will all hold up. It is still wet. I hope it will be dry, stable and ready by Wednesday morning, his deadline.

What else do you think we can do with it?

Pastor Christopher preached from John 2:1-11 today, one of my favourite exegesis passages, and one so apt for the First Sunday of Lent. It is my favourite because it is one that I had not realised its implications before I studied it exegetically. There is still so much more to learn from this passage but here's what I have learnt so far:

The Gospel of John is a book of signs. The concept of sign is familiar in the OT; it is used amongst other for events that herald things to come, especially in relation to the eschatological future. John uses signs as a message that Jesus is the Messiah, He is the One sent by God. And this is the first sign that John records in his Gospel, pointing to its main message. John's main message in this passage is not so much that Jesus is powerful and can perform miracles, that plain water can be turned into wine, though in truth, Jesus is. The main message is that Jesus is revealing through the signs, who he is - the promised Messiah, and it points to the cross.

The first clue is found in v.4 where Jesus said, "my hour has not yet come". When Jesus speaks of "the hour", he is referring to his death and glorification (12:23). In this, when Jesus then performs the miracle, it has to do with "the hour", his death and glorification.

Secondly, Jesus used stone jars, that do not contract uncleanliness like earthenware, making them suitable for ceremonial washing. Jesus changed the water from these stone jars used for ritual cleansing into something better. The cleansing water became wine. I tried looking into the commentaries I have - Morris, Carson and Beasley-Murray and none of them link the wine to the cleansing blood of Christ. I also remembered something someone said that this wine shoudl not be connected to the wine at the Last Supper. So am I going to far if I say that Jesus is giving a sign - in that by changing the ceremonial cleansing water into wine, he is showing the people that he is the one who will be offering the ultimate, that will cleanse all from unrighteousness, once and for all: his life, his blood, the cross.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Shel Silverstein, 1930-1999

I came across Shel Silverstein's books when I was in Singapore end of last year. I browsed them through and found them absolutely brilliant. These will be in my wishlist.

How Many, How Much
How many slams in an old screen door?
..Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread?
..Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day?
..Depends how good you live 'em.
How much love inside a friend?
..Depends how much you give 'em.

Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic, Copyright © 1981 by Evil Eye Music, Inc.

I made myself a snowball
As perfect as could be.
I thought I'd keep it as a pet
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas
And a pillow for its head.
Then last night it ran away,
But first - it wet the bed.

Shel Silverstein, Falling Up, Copyright © 1996 by Shel Silverstein.

Homemade Boat
This boat that we just built is just fine
And don't try to tell us it's not.
The sides and the back are divine
It's the bottom I guess we forgot....

Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Copyright © 1974 by Evil Eye Music, Inc.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Bibles Confiscated

I talked about needing prayers for the sick yesterday - there is another urgent need for prayers, also for the ailing: our country. Kar Yong has it posted in his blog. Take a read, it is important that we know and do something about it:

Bibles Confiscated
Bibles Confiscated - Update


Thursday, February 07, 2008

New Year Prayers

It is the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year and it is the Year of the Rat.

We began the day by attending a New Year Thanksgiving Service in our family church. Rev Ling Shiang Ming reminded us with a message from Deuteronomy 11:1-12. It was a sermon about the presence of God. It has become a resounding theme lately coming from 2 different churches. The theme for me in 2007 seems to be mission, is this 2008's? Maybe it is too soon to tell.

After service, we headed off to bai nien with my in-laws. Every year, my mother-in-law would serve New Year breakfast and we will have her usual fried beehoon. We look forward to it - simple fare but it has become special as something that's sure to happen every year. Wishes were exchange and next we decided to visit one of my uncle and aunt to bai nien. SH joined them in a friendly game of mahjong, while I caught up with my cousins whom I seldom meet.

This New Year will be a year of prayers for the sick.

My father-in-law has deteriorated quite in a bit in his Parkinson's Disease. His motor capabilities has worsened - just last week, he fell while bringing the trash out, causing a deep gash on his cheek. He could not get up, could not call for help and laid there in a small pool of blood, until help thankfully came.

Both my eldest aunts on both side of my family are also not well. My dad's sister was just diagnosed of cancer, which I think is in its last stages. She has a lump at her side, which she had refused to be diagnosed. By the time it had grown to an unbearable size, it was too late for much to be done when found to be malignant. My mom's sister had suffered a stroke more than 20 years ago. She had been quite active only until last year when old age caught up with her.

We have tried to reach out to my father-in-law and my mom's sister. I am not sure about my father-in-law's faith - he was attending church for a little while last year, until he could not handle it physically and mentally anymore. He does not like being in crowds. My mom's sister did not want to listen when my mom tried to talk to her about it. It is my prayers that God's voice will still be heard by them in the stillness of their souls. I pray that his amazing grace will somehow or rather reach and received by them.

On the other hand, my dad's sister was our pillar of spiritual strength when she was healthy. She was faithful and strong in the Lord, full of joy in the Lord. Yet in her sickness and weakness, she has been refusing visitors. From what I have heard from my dad, she seem to have lost her joy. I hope I am wrong though. I pray that she will regain the joy she had in Christ, which will be her strength and have his grace which will be sufficient.

And I pray that we too will begin to learn the grace of growing old, to realise our total dependence on the Lord, to recognise that our final destiny is to be with the Lord in eternity. Pray with me.

Photo © 2005 Hobbes Yeo

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Reunion Dinner

I was again at work almost the whole day even though I got the privilege to work from home today - I was at my desk from 8am to 5pm, non-stop. Then we were off for our reunion dinner back to my in-law's - the usual yearly fare but this year we actually finished all the food! My brother-in-law and family was back from Hong Kong, 3 kids in tow and so there were more mouths to fill. He was in Hong Kong studying theology for 3 years and now he is pastoring a Lutheran church. He has done well.

I happen to come across Petronas's Chinese New Year greetings/ad. Click on the picture above and watch the video.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008


These pre-Chinese New Year days are the busiest and most occupied ones I have ever encountered at work. There is so, so much to do and so, so many deadlines to meet but I thank the Lord, all is well. I had to attend a meeting on my own at the last minute because my other team member suffered a death in the family and had to go on emergency leave.

Much to my delight the meeting went beyond my expectations and I have God to thank - I was uttering prayer after prayer for his deliverance when I found out that I am on my own.

Other than work, I did not have much time left for other stuff though I did do a bit of thinking on the logos assignment this morning. I might have something to work on after some thought.

One last thing as a record for the day, I received a missed registered mail notice a few days ago. I really hate it when that happens. Not the sender's fault but I try my best to provide my office address for all correspondences because we are never home during office hours, let alone be present to pick up registered mail or despatch deliveries. SH went to the post office today to pick that mail I missed - God bless him! - and guess what? I finally got my Exegesis of Romans results! It was quite long overdue - I took it in 2006 as a guided study module.

Anyway, since I have been sort of chided for talking about my results so openly (with all the hint-hint's and hint-hint's) I am keeping quiet this time.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Think harder

I promised myself that I will complete the two Gospel of John assignments before signing up for the next module coming up this month: Interpreting the Old Testament (The Psalms) but I failed miserably. There is still so much to read up and to do before I can even attempt to tackle the questions. Moreover, the theological question bewilders me. I am required to: discuss the background and meaning of Logos in the prologue of the Gospel of John and discuss how the Logos contributes to John’s Christology. I have read countless articles on the much discussed topic but still could not pin down anything to help me formulate a framework to the paper. I would have to think harder. Think, think, think!


Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Presence of God

I woke up at 5.30am this morning to complete the slide presentation due for worship I am to lead in church today. I thank and praise God that I feel much better though I still feel a bit dizzy now and then, and I almost fell asleep during sermon. Not that it was boring, I still didn't feel too well and I was tired.

Pastor Chris spoke from Joshua 7:1-26 concentrating on the message that the most ultimate in life is the presence of God. Without God, all is in vain.

Trent Butler in his commentary of the book says that "the key promise to Joshua in the book is the presence of God (1:5, 9; 3:7)". It is in the prayer of the people for Joshua (1:17), it is the basis of Joshua's exaltation (3:7) and the hope of possessing the land. (Butler, WBC, 2002, p.85).

Two points of lesson from this passage:

First, Joshua became self-sufficient and sent men to survey Ai, without seeking God. The result was utter failure. Israel lost in the battle they thought was a piece of cake (they decided they only need two to three thousand men).

Secondly, Achan decided to keep some of the devoted/banned things for himself, in utter disobedience. God had warned that they are to keep away from all the devoted/banned things or face destruction. Achan must have convinced himself that nothing bad will happen - he did not believe and went for it. Doesn't this sound familiar? Haven't we done this before? Convincing ourselves that it is not wrong? (Interestingly, I learnt a new word the other day: factoid, an item of unreliable information that is repeated so often that it become accepted as fact.) The result is the complete wipe out of not only Achan himself but sons and daughters, his herd and all that he had. This scene replays itself in Acts in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. This is the wrath of God.

We need the presence of God with us and in us. He has sent us His son to redeem us - we have with us Emmanuel, God with us. And with God in our presence, He demands from us holiness - a godly life, a holy life.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Rancangan Tergendala Sebentar*

I am totally washed out today: had the worst migraine in years. I don't remember having it this bad. I tried sleeping it off, praying it off, moaning it off and screaming it off - didn't work. It got worse and worse. I did not want to move, lest make my way to the clinic - bad idea. By the time I got SH to drive me there, I threw up outside the clinic, got back with medication and threw up again. All this with a dread thinking about the slide presentation I have not started on for the worship in church I am to lead tomorrow. I will have to wake up really early next morning to do it, and pray God I will be much better to lead in worship.

(posted for 2/2 on 3/2)

*a Malay phrase meaning "programme is temporarily disrupted", something the middle-aged generation in Malaysia would be very familiar with, as we had this notice quite often halfway through television programmes back in the 1980s.