Thursday, April 30, 2009

Calvin and the Giant Grouper

We were attending a friend's 70th birthday party held in a Chinese
restaurant where Calvin was amazed at the sight of a huge grouper in
the fish tank.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Personalising Scripture texts as prayers?

According to the Augustinian praying method I was blogging about a couple of days ago, there was this suggestion that I personalised Scripture text into prayers -- but being a student of theology and biblical interpretation, I was careful. But I feel that if it is done with care and understanding, it can be done to deepen our spiritual walk with God -- just as long as we know what we can personalise and what we can't (e.g. you may personalise psalms and certain sections of the epistles but not narratives).

Personalising Ephesians 3:14-19 here made it into a short but compact prayer to be uttered to God.

... I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant me to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in my inner being, so that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith – that I, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that I may be filled with all the fullness of God.

And now I need to read up a commentary to fully understand that prayer ...


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Depression and Suicide

I was catching up on blogs today when I read Alex’s one here, on depression and suicide. What’s your take on it?


Monday, April 27, 2009

Prayer and Personalities

I had wanted to get myself certified as an MBTI practitioner but someone I know who has been into personality typing for the past 15 years advised me to first do some reading and studying of the subject. So I bought this book by Otto Kroeger, Type Talk and ordered another book, Gifts Differing by Isabel Briggs Myers, one of the creators of the MBTI personality typing tool.

Type Talk, The 16 Personality Types That Determine How We Live, Love and Work
Otto Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen

Gifts Differing, Understanding Personality Type
Isabel Briggs Myers

On the other hand, as I googled on the topic, I realise I must also read up more on Carl Jung. I believe he held on to many beliefs and propositions that would certainly not sit well with my belief and my faith. On top of that, I must say that this personality typing thing would not sit well with some people who see it as a stereotyping more than anything. And I must agree that if it is not handled and used properly, they could well be right. For me, I fell into that trap before but now I am beginning to see it more as a way to understand and work with people better, without even having them succumbed into taking the type test. And I now believe that a person is not set and cast into just one type.

But what I did today, was to find out the linkage between type and preferences in prayer. I found it difficult to pray like some people, who seem to go on and on and on without any trouble. I have soon begun to accept myself for what I am, as far as prayers are concerned, though there are still people who insist on a certain kind of prayer regime.

I found this site today: I looked at my typing, NF, and sent it to Melissa as well, who is an NT. The website recommends us the Augustinian and the Thomistic Prayer modes respectively and they fit like a glove!

If you are interested, take a look and tell me if these disciplines of prayer fit you according to your personality type.

But the website does not cover the E-I and J-P side of the MBTI typing. I know of some people who are strong Es who can pray aloud for a long periods of time during corporate prayer sessions. I find it both distracting and disturbing – distracting as I keep listening on to what they are praying and thus not praying myself and disturbing as I just could not pray as much as I try. During such situations, I’d just take on a contemplative mode and keep silent before God—I still do.

And I am not sure about you, but I also find it disturbing when people, how shall I put it, push and force their prayers on God? I don't think they mean to do that when they pray, but they certainly sound like it to me.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Steak vs. Milk

We had Rev Dr Chew Tow Yow with us again this Sunday and SH commented after being handed the bulletin and sermon notes (we only get sermon notes when Rev Dr Chew preach) that we’ll have “steak” today which was quite a timely mention because Rev Dr Chew’s sermon today was about going on to maturity and weaning off milk.

Hebrews 5:11-6:12 (ESV)
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things- things that belong to salvation. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

What caught me in this passage was this “…you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God … let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation … (1) of repentance from dead works … (2) of faith toward God … (3) of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

So according to the author of Hebrews—repentance, faith and works(?), i.e. baptism, laying of hands, resurrection and eternal judgment—are just the basics. The sad fact is that most of us have not even laid this foundation in our lives, or have we?


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Calvin & Mommy's Day

The daddy went for golf today, which is not the ordinary, and so we had our own mommy and sonny time.


Friday, April 24, 2009

The only door

In tackling John 10:7-18 today, we spent time discussing in length about our experiences in facing those with the opinion that all religions bring you to heaven. But to us Christians, Jesus is the only way, which does not sit well with a lot of people. But if they would study the religions deeper, their ways are so different from each other. Not all religions are going the same way and so there is really just one right way, but which one? And if you would care to listen, Jesus is the door, the only door.

For Christians, the door also bid us to consider how we enter into the fold. If our way into the faith is not through Christ, i.e. not through denying ourselves, not through suffering and showing grace, we are like the thieves and robbers (v.1) and we'll be teaching falsehood (v.5). Christians, go through the door, through Jesus, and live in Christ.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mad World

I had decided that I am not going to follow this round of American Idol so closely but the opposite happened -- well, knowing me, maybe that was expected. This season’s team has the most excellent singers and performers, with Adam Lambert topping it all. Like all the other Idol fans, we look forward to every week’s performance just to see what is he coming up with next, and so far he has not disappointed us.

My most favourite performance of his was Smokey Robinson’s Track of my Tears, but the most poignant song that kept plaguing me for a few weeks now is Tears For Fear’s Mad World, which was remade by Gary Jules. The music is hauntingly beautiful and the lyrics very dark. The scary thing is that I can’t get it off my mind, these words and the melody:

All around me are familiar faces,
Worn out places, worn out faces,
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It’s a very, very
Mad world, mad world

I even bought the movie of which Gary Jules’ version of the song was used – Donnie Darko, rated more than 80% by, a dark dreary movie about a schizophrenic. I have not watched it yet -- not ready to enter into its darkness yet.

I had second thoughts sharing the video here – so watch it at your own peril.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Penguins and Calvin

I was browsing in a bookstore today when I saw this bookmark with this quote:

It's practically impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry ~ Joe Moore
That really made me laugh -- it is too precious. Calvin is like a penguin to us -- he look like one, walk like one and of all animals he likes, penguin tops it all. And we usually can't be angry with him for too long.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happy 2nd Anniversary!

We celebrated not only Family Worship today but also our church's 2nd anniversary. I was sort of the inadvertent worship leader, which was both exciting and apprehensive for me, because I have not been doing it since taking a break from worship leading in November last year.

With my common practice in using the D-to-D range right above middle-C for worship, being a range more befitting congregational singing, it was a difficult range for me. After the long hiatus from worship leading, I found myself pushing it and I ended up with a hoarse voice both yesterday after practice and today after worship leading.

But it was nonetheless a wonderful time of worship and celebration. Soli Deo Gloria.

And I am again reminded of why we made the change to this neighbourhood church two years ago -- to be in a faith community where we can connect and share life together. It's wonderful worshipping as the body of Christ and then fellowshipping together. We usually stay back after church to chat and connect with one another, and sometimes we do stay on for quite long. The presence and love of God is indeed with us. Amen.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Only one thing left to do

I woke up as early as 5.30am, drove Cal to the stadium at 7am for Sports Day, had lunch with Uncle Terry and Aunt Peggy who came down from Cheng Mai, finalized the songs for worship, had band practice with Daphne and Addison, had farewell dinner for Pastor George, got worship service slides ready for worship service tomorrow, and updated my blog. Phew! It has been an absolutely unending day. The only thing left to do now is to rest.


Friday, April 17, 2009

We, the dumb, dumb sheep

We began our study on John 10 today and we only went as far as v.6. This was because we were quite amused at how we are like sheep. Sheep are said to be really dumb animals – but then, I have not really studied sheep before. Are they really that dumb? And even if they are and even as dumb as they are however, they will never ever (double negative, ou me, in Greek) follow a stranger because they do not know the voice of strangers (v.5). They only recognize the shepherd’s voice and will only follow him. Maybe we are even dumber than sheep.

Photo (c) 2008 Tabery

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The John 10 Challenge
Complete Handbook of Voice Training

It has been a busy week and even though I have been telling myself to set some time to read up on John 10 in preparation for bible study on Friday, I only managed to start a little on it today. Now, John 10 is a toughie … it may sound simple but if you read it closely, you'll see that the parable refers to the one who enters by the door opened by the gatekeeper. And the one who enters is the shepherd to the sheep. Then Jesus explains that He is the door, and then He is the good shepherd. Multiple metaphors there: as such, I do look forward to learning a lot from this intriguing chapter.

Complete Handbook of Voice Training
by Richard Alderson

I also received delivery of my vocal training book today! (Though it did not come with the orange and blue jacket). I have ordered it via about a month ago. However, I now find that I do not quite appreciate buying books online. I got really excited when I saw the book, and even though I didn’t get to hold it physically, I got to read parts of it via and loved it. But now that I finally have the book, the excitement has since worn off. It will be for some time before I actually pick it up and start reading. But I still think I got myself an excellent book.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Scarcity of time?

I have been sleeping early and rising early with not much time to do anything else. But I got to visit a newspaper printing hub today, though it wasn’t running and so I don’t get to see all the action.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009


Life is simple sometimes
But confusing at most
I find myself in pantomimes
And ending up being morose

But this is one of those days
Where it is God’s leading
That things come into place
And now my eyes are seeing

Life is confusing really
But simplicity is what I need
So unto God I offer me
At the cross there I concede

All rights reserved © 2009 Pearlie Ng

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jesus is Alive!
Now seated at the right hand of the Father

Matthew 28:5-7
But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you."


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Early to bed and early to rise

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise
~ Benjamin Franklin

The early bird gets the worm
~ Anon.

Believe me, you have to get up early if you want to get out of bed
~ Groucho Marx

It gets late early out there
~ Yogi Berra

I have always been a late bird, a night owl, whatever you call it and I revel in the days when I can stay up late into the night till 2am and sleep in until 11. This week however, I am beginning to realise that I might be missing out on something.

Being the holy week, the church holds dawn prayer every morning at 5.30am. I did not make it to the prayer meetings until 2 days ago. Being up so early in the morning was harsh for me but I stuck to it and I found something that is so stark common and yet new to me.

I found out that my days are so much longer and having a long weekend is what I have always wanted. The day just stretched on and on! After prayer today, SH, Calvin and I went for breakfast and then to the mall, and when we were done, I looked at the time, and it was only 1! I still have half a day to spend! Wow! Haha!

I know I am using superlatives after superlatives here and if you are a morning person, you would be just 'duh!' :) But I'd be oblivious to you -- this is really something to me! Haha!


Friday, April 10, 2009

O The Wonderful Cross

The Wonderful Cross (With Matt Redman)

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

See from his head, his hands, his feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
All who gather here by grace draw near and bless
Your name

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all

Photo (c) 2009 Billy Alexander

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Amazing Grace

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Quiet for awhile

I am being very quiet.
At least for awhile.
Till then, let me meditate.
On the wonderful work.
Of the cross.

As it is with my practice, I will catch up and update on the missing dates when I come back, which should not be long.


Monday, April 06, 2009

The Son of God Must be Lifted Up—Like the Serpent~John Piper

John 3:1-15
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Today is the beginning of Holy Week—a time when we mark the most sacred week in human history—which includes Jesus’ final meal with his apostles when he instituted the Lord’s Supper, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the trial before Annas and Caiaphas and Pilate, the crucifixion and death of the Son of God, and the resurrection.

In keeping with what’s coming this week—especially Maundy Thursday—I am picking up where we left off in the Gospel of John in chapter three. Only I am jumping forward to verses 14-15 because of how suitable they are. We will go back and deal later with what we are passing over. What we are going to see is one of the most shocking and wonderful pictures that Jesus ever painted of his own death.

Nicodemus Comes to Jesus
Let’s get the flow of thought in our minds. Nicodemus a leader of the Jews comes to Jesus under the cover of night. He says in verse 2 that Jesus is a teacher come from God. Jesus bluntly responds in verse 3 that “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus wonders whether a man can enter into his mother’s womb again and be born.
Jesus answers in verse 5-8 that he is talking about a spiritual birth and that unless you experience it, you will never enter the kingdom of God—you will never be reconciled to God and forgiven and on your way to heaven. Then he adds that the Spirit of God is the one that causes the new birth, not man. And the Spirit is as free as the wind in the way he does it. In verse 9, Nicodemus is still at a loss, and asks, “How can these things be?”

Jesus Marvels
Jesus marvels in verse 10 that a teacher in Israel doesn’t understand this. Then he says in verse 11 that the problem Nicodemus has is that, even though he is hearing reliable testimony from Jesus and others, he doesn’t “receive” the testimony. He is not among the number described in John 1:12—“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Then in verse 12, Jesus says, I have taken you as far as I can, by way of explanation. You can’t go any higher. “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” In effect, he is saying, “You keep pressing me for deeper and higher explanations of the new birth. But a heart of unbelief, an unregenerate heart, can’t ascend to the kinds of truth that I have to give you about the new birth.”

Jesus Shifts
Now verse 13 is pivotal. What is Jesus going to do with Nicodemus? What would you do? Is he going to say, “Well, since you don’t get it, Nicodemus, I don’t have any more to say to you”? Come back after you have been born again, and I will give you the explanations you want.
That’s not what Jesus says or does. What he does is hugely important for us to see—important for our own faith and for those we desperately want to see born again. Verse 13 is a shift. Jesus shifts. Before verse 13 he is talking like a witness, a teacher—talking about the new birth like any born-again person might do. And with verse 13, he starts talking about himself not a witness or a teacher who tells people to be born again, but as the Son of Man from heaven who came to do something that makes the new birth possible.

The Basis of the New Birth
Or another way to say it would be that before verse 13 Jesus is talking about the process of the new birth—it’s spiritual, it happens by the work of the Spirit, it comes like the wind, and you can’t explain it. And after verse 13, he is talking about the basis of the new birth in what the Son of Man has come to do. And what is so incredibly helpful is that in this he also tells Nicodemus how to receive the Spirit’s work of the new birth.

Let’s read verse 13. Remember, Jesus has just said in verse 12, “I could give you heavenly explanations, but you can’t receive them.” Then he says, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” In other words, the reason I could give you heavenly explanations is that I have come down from heaven. No man has gone into heaven so that he can do what I do. I was in heaven with the Father, and I have come down. And now I am going tell you what I came to do. And this is the key to answer your question how you can be born again. I will tell you how you can enter the kingdom of heaven (verse 5).

What the Son of Man Came to Do
There are more obstacles to your entering the kingdom than merely your need to be born again, Nicodemus. Something has to happen to remove the wrath of God so that he will release the power of the Spirit to cause you to be born again (see John 3:36). That’s what the Son of Man came to do.

Now Jesus picks an analogy to explain what he came to do that Nicodemus would be familiar with, but it is shocking that he would pick it to describe his own work. Let’s read verses 14-15,

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Like a Snake?!
Comparing himself with a snake is shocking. Let’s go back and read the story that Jesus is referring to (Numbers 21:4-9):

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

Notice a few things: 1) The serpent on the pole is not preventative. It is for bitten people (verse 8). The poison is in them, and without divine intervention they will die. 2) The snakes in the camp are from the Lord. He sent them (verse 6). The wrath of God is on this people for their sin of ingratitude and murmuring and rebellion. 3) The means God chooses to rescue the people from his own curse is a picture of the curse itself. 4) All they have to do in order to be saved from God’s wrath is look at his provision hanging on a pole.

We know that Jesus read the Old Testament believing that it was all pointing to him. There were pointers and types and foreshadowings everywhere. But we might expect him to skip this one. It is shocking to compare the Son of Man to a snake. But Jesus doesn’t skip this one. He goes out of his way to choose it to help Nicodemus. So he says (verses 14-15),

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Five Observations
1) Jesus Is the Son of Man
Jesus is the Son of Man who is lifted up on the cross the way the snake was lifted up. He identifies himself as the Son of Man in John 9:35-37—“‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ [he asks the man he had healed.] He answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.’” So when Jesus speaks of the Son of Man being lifted up, he is talking about himself, and his own crucifixion.

2) Jesus Is the Source of Rescue
Jesus, in the place of the snake, is the source of healing, the source of rescue from the poison of sin, and the wrath of God. Jesus is the source of eternal life. Moses lifted up the snake, but Moses is not the rescuer in the way Jesus sets up the comparison. Who lifts up the Son of Man on the cross? “The Son of Man must be lifted up”—by whom?
There is only one place where the lifters are identified in John’s Gospel. They are the Pharisees. John 8:28 says, “Jesus said to them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he.’” Who is you? According to John 8:13, it’s the Pharisees. The Pharisees stand in the place of Moses. So Moses is not being treated as a rescuer, a savior. In Numbers, the one who saves is God by means of the snake. And in John, the one who saves is God by means of Jesus.

3) Jesus Is Portrayed as a Curse
Jesus in the place of the snake is portrayed as evil and a curse. This is what is so shocking. The snake is evil. The snakes were killing people. The snake on the pole is a picture of God’s curse on the people. So it was with Jesus. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:2, “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And in Galatians 3:13, he said, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” In becoming like the snake, he was the embodiment of our sin, and the embodiment of our curse. And in becoming sin and curse for us, he took ours away.

4) Jesus Gives Eternal Life
What he gives us from the cross is eternal life. Verse 14-15: “The Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” When our sin and God’s wrath are taken away, God is for us totally. And if God is for us, we will never die, but live forever with him in joy.

5) Jesus Crucified Is the One We See
All of this he is saying to Nicodemus, who was very confused about the new birth and how it happens. This is what you say to a person who is not born again. Why? They are dead and blind. Because God ordains to open the eyes of the blind when they have something to see—namely a compelling picture of Jesus crucified for sinners. And what should you do, Nicodemus? What you do today?

Believe in him. Verse 15: “that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” What does that mean? What does it involve? What, in this comparison with the snake on a pole, does believe in him mean? It means look to him. The grace of the new birth is our seeing Christ lifted up.

Do you recall that I have said that John 1:14-16 are functioning like a compass as we trek through this Gospel. Notice how it relates to this story. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . and from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” We behold his glory as he is lifted up on the cross, and in that look we receive grace. Nicodemus, do you want the grace of the new birth? Look!

I don’t know of any better way to make plain the importance of this or the meaning of it than to tell you the story of Charles Spurgeon’s conversion. Here it is in his own words. The day was January 6, 1850. Spurgeon was not quite 16 years old.

I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. . . . The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. . . . He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth [Isaiah 45:22].”

He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus: “My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look.

“But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me’. . . . Many of ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. Ye will never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the father. No, look to him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some of ye say, ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin’.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me.’”

Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ and great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! Look unto Me!”

When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “and you always will be miserable—miserable in life, and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.”

Then lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a primitive Methodists could do, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but to look and live.” I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said—I did not take much notice of it—I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” What a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could have almost looked my eyes away.

There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to him. . . . And now I can say—

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And Shall be till I die.
(C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, Volume 1, 87-88)



Sunday, April 05, 2009

Believe and you will be saved

Act 16:31
Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.


Friday, April 03, 2009

The John 9 Narrative

I realised something about the whole of John 9 as we brought the discussing and digging into John 9 to a close today. When the man born blind was healed, he had initially no inkling who Jesus was. When Jesus healed him, there he began on his faith journey. Mud made with saliva was put on his eyes. He was told to wash in the Pool of Siloam. He went, I imagine very slowly and obviously blindly trudging along, being careful of the mud on his eyes. He washed and he saw! For a mature man who has not seen anything before in his life who suddenly sees, it must really be an extraordinary experience. He went home in excitement and joy to show his good fortune.

Let's see how his journey went.

First, the neighbours were contemplating if it was him. He said, "Yes, I am the man." Then he recounted to them what happened when "the man they call Jesus" came to him.

Then, he was brought to the Pharisees. He began by recounting again his experience with Jesus but when asked what he has to say about him, and he made one step forward. He replied, "He is a prophet."

Next, the Pharisees called his parents, who were afraid of them. His parents would not bear witness for the son. They were afraid. I see that this is significant because the man's testimony is his own. No one else can bear witness for Jesus except himself, not even his parents. In the same way, our testimonies are our own. We are the ones who must make it and firmly proclaim it to the world. Don't expect others to do it for you.

Then, it was back to the Pharisees. Now his statement became more elaborated, firm and concrete when he said in retort to the Pharisees, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" and "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."

Finally, Jesus came to him and asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" "Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him." Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you." Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.

Imagine, if he had not gone through the neighbours-Pharisees-parents-Pharisees ordeal and if Jesus had ask him immediately after healing him, what would he have said?

In the same way, if we had not been through our very own ordeals and trials, what would we have said of Christ? What testimony would we bear for him?


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Why Proverbs?

In light of James 1:5 which I have been meditating on lately, I was soon led to the Book of Proverbs. I keep the New Living Translation at my bedside and while I was reading the book of Proverbs, its simple language spoke to me.

Proverbs 1:1-7 (NLT)
These are the proverbs of Solomon, David's son, king of Israel. Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles. Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

To paraphrase it even further, the purpose of the proverbs is to teach us to be wise and disciplined. It will help us understand the thoughts and insights of the wise and from it we will learn to live a disciplined life and become successful, which can only happen if we do what is right, just and fair, as opposed to the schemes and dealings of the world.

The proverbs are suitable for us no matter who we are and we are to explore the meaning of them. In doing so, if we are simple, we will gain insight; if we are young, we will gain knowledge and discernment; if we are wise, we will become even wiser; if we are the understanding, we will receive guidance in life.

But at the very foundation and basis of it all, before we do anything, we must first fear the LORD, i.e. be in awe and reverence to God. The wise fear the Lord, who is the source of wisdom. Those who shun Him, and despise his wisdom and discipline are fools, no matter how wise or how smart they are.

Which am I? Which are you?


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April Fool's Treat for the Soul

I have received an MPH voucher worth RM22, being rebate from the purchases I made in 2008. But since it was indicated there that I have to redeem it with the membership card, I did not bother because I do not plan to renew the membership.

I happen to be in MPH today and I decided to try it anyway. I argued that regardless of whether I am a member in 2009, I collected the points last year when I was. I got my way and off I went hunting for a book.

I did not have much time before I have to head back to the office and so I prayed. I prayed that God will drop “the perfect book” in my hands. I wanted a book on the soul and see what he got me:

Care for the Soul
Exploring the Intersection of Psychology and Theology
Mark R. McMinn & Timothy R. Phillips (eds)

Isn’t it perfect? I do have many books and journals to read right now, particularly for the purpose of completing my assignments on the Exile, and so this book will have to wait its turn.

But I will be back with a review of this soul book.

Happy April Fools!