Saturday, October 30, 2010

Love in the hard places

D.A. Carson wrote a book entitled Love in Hard Places. The book is described:

Too often the Christian version of popular culture's sentimental view of love is that, of all things, Christians should be nice. After all, people ask, isn't the Church about forgiveness? Aren't Christians supposed to love others without condition? This book not only focuses on the aspects of Christian love that are not easy--such as when it comes to loving our enemies, and even forgiving those loved ones who have hurt us--but also helps readers understand, then, what biblical love really is. As author D. A. Carson points out, thinking seriously about Christian love soon embroils us in reflection on justice, revenge, war, the authority of the state, forgiveness, hate, and much more. This book shows some of the important ways in which the love of Christians is a reflection of the love of God, and enables believers to develop an appropriate understanding of how to love in the hard places of life.

I read it some years ago, and it is time I read it again. Except that I have too many things to do and books to read. For one, I badly need to finish Goldsworthy book on Biblical Theology so I can get on with my book review assignment. But learning to love, especially when it is hard to love, is so important.

Maybe I can sneak in a minute or two every now and then.


Friday, October 29, 2010

I wish I had more time?

I have heard this many times and I have also said it many times - I wish I had more time.

But imagine, if we were to have more time in a day, the week should be shorter because we just cannot work longer hours for 5 straight days.

So think about it, would it be any better if we have 48 hours in a day, twice as long as what we have now?

We should only work 3 days in a week and rest one day. We'd end up with a 192-hour week instead of a 168-hour week. We would have an extra 24-hour rest time, but would life be any better?

I don't think so. So I think I will stick to have we have now.

However, I am firm believer that time is relative - I had such a looooong week that it felt like a month! So in that sense, when someone says they wish they had more time, you need to ask him what he actually means by that.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Petrol thieves?

I was involved in a minor accident and I took my car to the Honda workshop in Jalan Klang Lama to get my bumper and back panel fixed. I have a strong suspicion that they stole my petrol in the event.

I collected the car after a week and noticed that the petrol indicator was down by one third. I remembered it was a full tank when I brought it in but I dismiss it as I couldn't believe anyone would go so low as to steal petrol and thought I must have been mistaken.

I just refilled my tank and as usual I logged it into my iPhone Gas Cubby app. It was then clear that they did. The calculation of km/l has gone down quite substantially.

What should I do now? If I make a complaint and continue using them, the workers may decide to be mean and do more harm than good. But if I don't do anything, it goes against my principles.

So it looks like I am going to make the complaint and use another car service provider, which is a shame because I had liked this one and they are conveniently near. But they had their chance and they lost it as far as I'm concerned.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Little Gidding V by T.S. Eliot

Alex posted this in the comment page of my last post and I found it brilliant. Thanks again, Alex.

Little Gidding V
by T.S. Eliot

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I am back!

I have not flown around for quite awhile ever since I left KPMG but now that I am back into HR Consulting and Training work, I am back at it again and I am back in the game! But for the first time, I flew in and out on the same day, and it is dead tiring.

I woke up at 4.30am, got into a cab at about 5.15am to head off to the airport. Hopped into a plane at 6.15am and arrived in JB safe and sound. I spent the whole day in a client's place and felt alive again as far as my consulting veins are concerned. Flew back at 9.20pm and arrived home at 11.30pm.

Wow, what a day, what a tiring day.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Headless chicken...

...I was wondering where and how this phrase came about and found out that there was actually a real headless chicken that existed before, but whatever it is I have been running around like one lately.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

I am a son of God

Because those who are led by the Spirit of God
are sons of God.
Romans 8:14


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Come, Lord Jesus (Great is the darkness)

This is an excellent song with great lyrics and a good tune. It is written by Gerald Coates and Noel Richards.

I have not sung it for awhile now and I have forgotten how to. But I going to use it during my worship lead in church tomorrow morning. This is 2010 and I have Youtube to the rescue.

Verse 1
Great is the darkness that covers the earth,
Oppression, injustice and pain;
Nations are slipping in hopeless despair,
Though many have come in Your name
Watching while sanity dies,
touched by the madness and lies.

Come, Lord Jesus, come, Lord Jesus,
pour out Your Spirit we pray;
Come, Lord Jesus, come, Lord Jesus,
pour out Your Spirit on us today.

Verse 2
May now Your church rise with power and love,
This glorious gospel proclaim;
In every nation salvation will come
To those who believe in Your name.
Help us bring light to this world,
That we might speed Your return.

Verse 3
Great celebrations on that final day,
When out of the heavens You come;
Darkness will vanish, all sorrow will end
And rulers will bow at Your throne;
Our great commission complete,
Then face to face we shall meet.


Friday, October 22, 2010

The Reader

I have been putting off watching The Reader even though I knew it had good ratings and I like Kate Winslet's work. The movie deals with a 36 year old woman (Hanna) who has an affair with a 15 year old boy (Michael) and I have serious problems with that. But since I have some time today and a mood for a more serious movie, I watched it.

By the time the movie ended, my head felt like bursting thinking about it but not knowing where to start. For one, it is what a reviewer called a "sentimental-erotic fantasy". But more than that, one of the message of the movie is that Nazi workers in the death camps were only carrying out their duties, and that include sending the Jews to their deaths. But does that not diminish the horror of blatant genocide? When the guards were on trial, Hanna who was one of them, asked in rhetoric, "What would you have done?" Moreover, why did they not unlock the door of the burning church that caused the death of 300 inmates? They retorted that they were carrying out their duties. In other words, they had to keep them in there for order. In other words, they had to die to keep order.

The final scene is also quite ridiculous. Quoting from the same reviewer, "Ralph Fiennes, as the older Michael, comes to New York to visit Ilana Mather, one of Hanna's surviving victims, bearing Hanna's savings in an old tea-can...This is because Hanna wanted Ilana to have her money, to do with "as she wishes". Surely any sentient human being, no matter how burdened they might feel by a perverse obligation to carry out Hanna's wishes, would see what a grotesque insult that is? Michael's failure to acknowledge it is one of the most agonising, toe-curling aspects of the film." And I most certainly agree.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Big Bang Theory and Personality Types

I fell sick today and ended up staying at home watching episodes of The Big Bang Theory. It was hilarious!

The sitcom is about two Caltech geniuses, one an applied physicist (Leonard Hofstadler) and the other a theoretical physicist (Sheldon Cooper) who live across the hall from an attractive blond waitress and aspiring actress (Penny). There is also their two other work colleagues who are good friends, an aerospace engineer (Howard Wolowitz) and a particle astrophysicist (Rajesh Koothrappali).

And this is my absolute favourite line from the 6th episode: Penny had invited them to a Halloween party and they all ended up in Flash Gordon costumes. They were discussing what they should do and Raj suggested, "We could walk right behind each other all night and look like one person going really fast." Absolutely priceless!

The characters are really interesting and I tried typing them using the 16 personality types. Here is my take, If you watch it and if you are into personality types, let me know your thoughts.

From left: Howard ESTP, Leonard INFP, Penny ESFP, Sheldon INTJ and Raj ISFP.

Photos: Screenshots of the 6th episode and opening sequence of The Big Bang Theory, showing the main characters.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sentimentalism and the Cross

I am just wondering, can there be any space for sentimentality in the saving grace of the cross? What I mean is, for people who feel unwanted -- not necessarily actually unwanted, but those who just feel down in the dumps -- is there space for, "Hey, but Jesus loves you. He died for you on the cross." Or is the cross removed from sentimentalism and should only be focussed upon strictly on justification, redemption and penal substitution?

In short, does sentimentalism cheapen the cross?


Monday, October 18, 2010

Thy paths drop fatness!

Read this in the morning and it really spoke to me:

Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, Daily Readings
Morning, 18 October

“Thy paths drop fatness.”
Psalm 65:11

Many are “the paths of the Lord” which “drop fatness,” but an especial one is the path of prayer. No believer, who is much in the closet, will have need to cry, “My leanness, my leanness; woe unto me.” Starving souls live at a distance from the mercy-seat, and become like the parched fields in times of drought. Prevalence with God in wrestling prayer is sure to make the believer strong—if not happy. The nearest place to the gate of heaven is the throne of the heavenly grace. Much alone, and you will have much assurance; little alone with Jesus, your religion will be shallow, polluted with many doubts and fears, and not sparkling with the joy of the Lord. Since the soul-enriching path of prayer is open to the very weakest saint; since no high attainments are required; since you are not bidden to come because you are an advanced saint, but freely invited if you be a saint at all; see to it, dear reader, that you are often in the way of private devotion. Be much on your knees, for so Elijah drew the rain upon famished Israel’s fields.

There is another especial path dropping with fatness to those who walk therein, it is the secret walk of communion. Oh! the delights of fellowship with Jesus! Earth hath no words which can set forth the holy calm of a soul leaning on Jesus’ bosom. Few Christians understand it, they live in the lowlands and seldom climb to the top of Nebo: they live in the outer court, they enter not the holy place, they take not up the privilege of priesthood. At a distance they see the sacrifice, but they sit not down with the priest to eat thereof, and to enjoy the fat of the burnt offering. But, reader, sit thou ever under the shadow of Jesus; come up to that palm tree, and take hold of the branches thereof; let thy beloved be unto thee as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, and thou shalt be satisfied as with marrow and fatness. O Jesus, visit us with thy salvation!

(emphasis mine)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beat plowshares into swords OR swords into plowshares?

Coincidence? Sometimes there are coincidences, sometimes not.

Last week, one of my colleagues uttered out of nowhere the phrase "beat their swords into plowshares". We were both quietly working on our computers and suddenly it just came. I asked him why he said it and he simply replied, "Oh! A song, but it was the other way round, 'beat plowshares into swords'. Something is not right somewhere."

I am not so familiar with the prophetic section of Scripture and so I did a search in my Bibleworks and showed him: Micah 4:3 and Isa 2:4 have it as "beat their swords into plowshares", whilst Joel 3:10 do have it the other way round, "beat plowshares into swords".

So, we have both. But why he brought it up, I still have no idea.

I would have just let it rest except that the preacher in church this morning brought up the same phrase. He was not preaching from it - he was just using it peripherally to refer to his point on peace. But to me, it struck a chord.

I don't think it is a coincidence. Both almost came from nowhere, and a bible verse that is not that ordinarily quoted like John 3:16 or Psalms 23. A word from God to me perhaps? And if it is, it certainly speaks volumes.

Isaiah 2:1-4
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw
concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established
as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,

3 and many peoples shall come, and say:
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths."
For out of Zion shall go the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.

Micah 4:1-5
1 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
2 and many nations shall come, and say:

"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths."
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall decide for strong nations afar off;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore;
4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
and no one shall make them afraid,
for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.
5 For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.

Compare those with Joel:

Joel 3:1-21
1 "For behold, in those days and at that time,
when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
2 I will gather all the nations
and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
And I will enter into judgment with them there,
on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel,
because they have scattered them among the nations
and have divided up my land,
3 and have cast lots for my people,
and have traded a boy for a prostitute,
and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it.

4 "What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon,
and all the regions of Philistia?
Are you paying me back for something?
If you are paying me back,
I will return your payment on your own head swiftly and speedily.
5 For you have taken my silver and my gold,
and have carried my rich treasures into your temples.
6 You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks
in order to remove them far from their own border.
7 Behold, I will stir them up from the place
to which you have sold them,
and I will return your payment on your own head.
8 I will sell your sons and your daughters
into the hand of the people of Judah,
and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far away,
for the LORD has spoken."

9 Proclaim this among the nations:
Consecrate for war;
stir up the mighty men.
Let all the men of war draw near;
let them come up.
10 Beat your plowshares into swords,
and your pruning hooks into spears;
let the weak say, "I am a warrior."

11 Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations,
and gather yourselves there.
Bring down your warriors, O LORD.
12 Let the nations stir themselves up
and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.
13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
Go in, tread, for the winepress is full.
The vats overflow, for their evil is great.
14 Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
15 The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.
16 The LORD roars from Zion,
and utters his voice from Jerusalem,
and the heavens and the earth quake.
But the LORD is a refuge to his people,
a stronghold to the people of Israel.
17 "So you shall know that I am the LORD your God,
who dwell in Zion, my holy mountain.
And Jerusalem shall be holy,
and strangers shall never again pass through it.
18 "And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and the hills shall flow with milk,
and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water;
and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD
and water the Valley of Shittim.
19 "Egypt shall become a desolation
and Edom a desolate wilderness,
for the violence done to the people of Judah,
because they have shed innocent blood in their land.
20 But Judah shall be inhabited forever,
and Jerusalem to all generations.
21 I will avenge their blood,
blood I have not avenged, for the LORD dwells in Zion."

As I said, I am not at all familiar with prophetic books, so my disclaimer here is: I may be wrong.

What I can see for now, is that the 3 passages are eschatological but Micah and Isaiah are about peace within the nation, while Joel is about judgement on the whole entire race of mankind.

The thing is how different we see the world right now. We are fighting from within and being consorts with the world. Within the body of Christ, we need to beat swords into plowshare, the same goes for when we work in the world - we need to plow and not fight. We need to understand the other people, where they are coming from to reach out to them with the love of Christ. Instead, we are busy being at war with each other.

We need to stop complaining, stop bickering, stop blaming, stop comparing, stop hating, and start working. There is so much work - the harvest is white but the workers are few. Put down the sword, pick up the shovel and start working.


Friday, October 15, 2010

You got to be more like us men

What I went through today reminds me a lot of a House M.D. episode I have watched:

Season 5, Episode 12: Painless

At Cuddy’s house. She was at home with the baby after a home inspection to see if she is eligible for adoption. The inspection was earlier than expected and she did not have time to clean up her mess at home. There’s a knock on the door. Cuddy sees who it is.

Cuddy: It’s open. [Wilson enters carrying a giant, stuffed duck. She laughs.] Thank you.

Wilson: Is it too big?

Cuddy: She’ll grow into it. You can put it there. [She points to a chair.]

Wilson: I take it the home inspection was pushed back.

Cuddy: I passed.

Wilson: You do realize that's a good thing?

Cuddy: This place was a disaster. I had to stash a dirty diaper in my briefcase.

Wilson: So you buy another briefcase.

Cuddy: I let House supervise himself. That’s like handing a 12-year-old the keys to the liquor cabinet and the car.

Wilson: You passed the inspection. The patient lived. The car is still in the driveway.

Cuddy: And the next time my nanny gets sick when House wants to saw someone in half?

Wilson: Did I mention you passed the inspection?

Cuddy: I passed by their meager standard. I failed by mine.

Wilson: Why do women always do that?

Cuddy: Fail?

Wilson: Create ridiculous standards that no human could meet, with your careers, with your kids. You got to be more like us men.

Cuddy: Be lazy? Blame others?

Wilson: Get help! Most men in your position have a deputy and two assistants at work, and a wife and two nannies at home. You’re not superwoman. Don’t be a martyr.

So, when can I get a wife and two nannies because I am no superwoman and I don't want to be a martyr.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

ENFPs: are you one?

I have become quite fascinated by ENFPs. Here is how TypeLogic describe an ENFP.

ENFPs are both "idea"-people and "people"-people, who see everyone and everything as part of an often bizarre cosmic whole. They want to both help (at least, their own definition of "help") and be liked and admired by other people, on both an individual and a humanitarian level. They are interested in new ideas on principle, but ultimately discard most of them for one reason or another.

Social/Personal Relationships: ENFPs have a great deal of zany charm, which can ingratiate them to the more stodgy types in spite of their unconventionality. They are outgoing, fun, and genuinely like people. As mates they are warm, affectionate, and disconcertingly spontaneous. However, attention span in relationships can be short; ENFPs are easily intrigued and distracted by new friends and acquaintances, forgetting about the older ones for long stretches at a time. Less mature ENFPs may need to feel they are the center of attention all the time, to reassure them that everyone thinks they're a wonderful and fascinating person.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Presuppositions, huh?

I read this in page 44 of Graeme Goldsworthy’s “According to Plan” in Chapter 3, “How Can We Know?” on the topic of “Presuppositions”:

Presuppositions, then, are the assumptions we make in order to be able to hold some fact to be true. We cannot go on indefinitely saying, “I know this is true because…” In the end we must come to that which we accept as the final authority. By definition a final authority cannot be proven as an authority on the basis of some higher authority. The highest authority must be self-attesting. Only God is such an authority.

The presuppositions we must make in doing biblical theology are those of Christian theism. The alternative to this is to accept the presuppositions of some form of humanism. Either we work on the basis of a sovereign, self-proving God who speaks to us by a word that we accept as true simply because it is his word, or we work on the basis that man is the final judge of all truth. The Christian position, to be consistent, accepts that the Bible is God’s Word, and that it says what God wants it to say in exactly the way he wants to say it.

Thus, when the biblical theologian sets out to describe the theology that is in the Bible, he must understand the presuppositions that he accepts as the basis of his method. Many of the bible theologies that have been written over the past hundred years have been shaped by the presuppositions of humanism. In such cases the Bible is not allowed to speak for itself, but is subjected to a continuous assessment on the basis of human reason, which is seen as quite independent of God.

The presupposition of an independent and self-sufficient human reason has resulted in the writing of biblical theologies that tend to be descriptions of the supposed development of religious ideas among the biblical people. Such descriptions are complicated by the refusal to accept the Bible’s own testimony of the history of Israelite faith. When evolutionary philosophy was popular it was applied to the biblical documents to test their historical accuracy. The assumption was that religious ideas undergo a natural development from simpler to more complex forms. The possibility was excluded that the God of the Bible actually exists and reveals himself in the way the Bible depicts. Man is in control of the whole process of knowledge-gaining and God is only a religious idea that many people hold in varying forms.

I need help in understanding this section. I am okay with it until the third paragraph. My question is this: what are some of the many “bible theologies written over the past hundred years” that have been shaped by the presuppositions of humanism? What are these “writing of biblical theologies that tend to be descriptions of the supposed development of religious ideas among the biblical people”, that are “complicated by the refusal to accept the Bible’s own testimony of the history of Israelite faith”?

I would like to know because if it has been around for the past hundred years, it would have been instrumental in shaping my thoughts, and I would need to know in order to correct my understanding to a biblical theology that will take on a Christian theism and not humanism.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I haven't had a good long chat with my sister-in-law in too long awhile. It was pleasant and nice to catch up.

Photo (c) 2005 Lotus Head

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Plan or The Drama?

I have a book review to work on for my TEE module on Bible Theology. The list of books to pick from consists of:

(a) G Goldsworthy, According to Plan (IVP, 1991)
(b) T D Alexander, From Eden to Promised Land (IVP, 2008)
(c) M Strom, Days Are Coming (Hodder & Stoughton, 1989) [= The Symphony of Scripture (P&R, 2001)]
(d) E P Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery (IVP, 1988)
(e) V Roberts, God’s Big Picture (Paternoster, 2009)
(f) C G Bartholomew, The Drama of Scripture (Baker, 2006)

I have briefly checked out all the books, and decided on either Goldsworthy's According to Plan or Bartholomew's The Drama of Scripture. I bought both the book, started on them and like them both. Now I am not sure which one to pick. Though they speak of the same topic, i.e. the bible story as a whole, their approach is different.

Goldsworthy goes into it by giving an excellent and simple introduction on what biblical theology is and why is it important to us. He then tackled the storyline of the bible from the beginning right up to the end of the Old Testament but linking every theme to the New Testament, he completes the study by looking into the New Testament with "new creation" as the theme.

Bartholomew on the other hand approaches it using the model of a play, i.e. the Drama of Scripture. He divides it into 6 acts:
Act 1: God Establishes His Kingdom – Creation
Act 2: Rebellion in the Kingdom – Fall
Act 3: The King Chooses Israel – Redemption Initiated
Interlude: A Kingdom Story Waiting for an Ending – The Intertestamental Period
Act 4: The Coming of the King – Redemption Accomplished
Act 5: Spreading the News of the King – The Mission of the Church
Act 6: The Return of the King – Redemption Completed

I started reading The Drama of Scripture about a month ago but I stopped a third way through. Now that I try to pick it up again, I found that I have forgotten what I read. So I have decided set it aside and start on According to Plan instead. I find According to Plan much simpler but The Drama of Scripture more creative in its presentation. I am not sure yet which I will end up reviewing. We’ll see how it goes.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

I was up for preaching this morning and I have been mulling over Genesis 2 for about a week before this. I had wanted to preach from the three parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Lost Son but later settled on selected passages in Genesis 2 that focused on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

I chose this because I felt that God had impressed it in my mind that it would be a timely message for all of us, though at the start, I did not know what I will end up with. As I begin to work on the passage, I was still unsure why a tree and why knowledge of good and evil. As I spent time reading into the verses, digging into the commentaries and reflecting on what it all means, I have learnt so much!

My sermon was entitled “In the Beginning” and it ran more or less like this:

If you like numbers, today is a very special day. It is 10-10-10, perfection, which is just perfect because this morning, we go will back to the very beginning where it was perfect. But then, it all went wrong. Why, what and how?

But first, we must acknowledge that the book of Genesis is not a Sunday School special. It is not a storybook or a fairytale we read at our leisure. Genesis is a very, very important book to us as Christians, and we must redeem it at the pulpit.

Genesis 2:4-9 4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. 5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up- for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground- 7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We learn here that God created the heavens and the earth, gardens and trees, water and streams. Then, God created man and put him in the garden with everything he needed provided for. And there in the middle of the garden, two specific trees were identified – the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:15-17 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

God placed Adam in the garden and he began to work there. Interestingly, this is before the fall. So if you think that you can lie on a gold threaded feathered plush sofa when you get to heaven, think again. If heaven is like the Garden of Eden, we may still have to work but definitely without the stress and problems!

God gave Adam a commandment, a very, very interesting commandment. He said Adam can eat of every tree in the garden except only one. Wouldn’t this mean that Adam could have eaten from the tree of life and gained eternal life? Adam was that foolish? I don’t think so.

Imagine, you were walking in a mall and there right in the middle of the concourse you find this:

What would you do? Push! Of course not all of you will push it, but we will still get the temptation and inclination to do it, wouldn’t you? And that is what Adam and Eve ended up doing. They ate when they were instructed not to. Of course, it is not as simple as a red button. God do not give silly commands like the red button. So in that sense, we cannot say that God knowing Adam and Eve will disobey gave them the option anyway for them to disobey. I used to think that – why would God out the tree there when He knows that they will fall. Why not just not put the tree there and Adam and Eve will not eat it and we will all be safe.

No. We need to first realize what it means for God to create human being. The fundamental thing is that: God made us in His image (Gen 1:26). And that is the key to the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the fact that he made us in His image. When we are made in the image or likeness of God, we are not God but made to be like Him, an image of Him. A good modern analogy would be this: we are black and white photostat copies of the original coloured document. So in comparison to the original document, i.e. God, we are not all-able, not all-knowing and not all-present, but we are a good copy of Him, just without the power. But we definitely want the power, don’t we? Even though we are not God, we want to be like God and this is the very thing that God is telling Adam and Eve, no. Why? Because they can’t – they were but just an image of God. They are not the original.

In other words, God did not quite “put” the tree of the knowledge of good and evil there. It is there by virtue that we are made in the image of God. And we must also acknowledge that being made in the image of God also means freewill – God made us with freewill to decide – which is why God had to command Adam and Eve not to eat from that tree.

So, what is this tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is so appealing to man who is made in the image of God? God is the one who knows between good and evil (Gen 3:22). To put it simply, it is the perfect knowledge of what is good and what is bad, it is perfect wisdom. And here Adam and Eve, God’s image has to decide between 2 exclusive options: (1) to let God be the source of wisdom, which is perfect or (2) to take on the knowledge of good and evil themselves, albeit imperfect.

Adam and Eve chose the imperfect. They wanted the wisdom to know what is good and what is evil so that they can become their own destiny, they can become their own gods, they want autonomy, personal independence but sadly, it is to be imperfect. And when they ate it, as God has said it, they will surely die.

They will die, and in effect we will die – their decision is our decision as humankind. We will die because (1) the exclusive choice of autonomy has caused us to be removed from the perfect presence of God, of life and go into death and (2) since our knowledge of good and evil is imperfect, they will never be sure about what is good and what is evil. There is always this possibility in our limited being that what we hold on to might be evil though we thought it was good and vice versa, and there are many things we say are gray areas. So whatever we do, we will surely die, because we will never know for sure which is good and which is bad.

We can summarize life as follows:

Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we who believe in him now live in this era of being there but not there yet. We live a renewed and redeemed life in Christ and we are now being reconciled to God.

In our present state, it is not yet perfect because we have not gone back into the full presence of God. So God has to give us a new commandment.

John 13:34-35 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

And a question is being asked: what is the prime of all the commandments that God gave us?

Matthew 22:36-40 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

Isn’t it mind-boggling that the most important thing to God now that we are reconciled to Him is love? It is not obedience or purity or holiness, though these are still God’s commandments but the greatest of them all is love, where the rest of the commandments hang on.

Think about it! The treatment for having eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not more wisdom, but love. And that is what God did for us: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. And now he commands us “to love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


Saturday, October 09, 2010

Nature Walk

It has been awhile since I went for a photo shoot. Here are some which I have taken during the last trek I did with some friends in FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia), a forest reserve near the city.

This is the highlight of FRIM. They are the Dryobalanops Aromatica trees, locally known as Pokok Kapur. They have a nice-smelling exudate known as camphor, one of the main component of making ointment. The phenomenon you see at the tree canopies is called "Crown Shyness". The reason for its name is because the leaf tips of the trees shy away from each other, hence forming the neatly lined gap.

I took this at the waterfall.

I had to stay very still so that this dragonfly won't fly away. In fact, it stayed there for quite a long time.

On the way down from the waterfall, this monkey was just by the side of the walkway. A couple of young adults were feeding it some biscuits. I had not packed my camera and took the closest shots I could with my 90mm. I was a bit worried because monkeys can choose to attack, especially if you've ran out of treats. Thankfully, it didn't.

I also took some pictures of some very interesting people - I will post them here next round!

Photos (c) 2010 Pearlie Ng

Friday, October 08, 2010

Excuse me???!!!

Calvin and I was in Steven's Corner in OUG today when I could not believe what happened. One of the restaurant waiters was taking our order patiently (we are somehow quite particular how we want our dosai) when the boss suddenly redirected the waiter to handle something else and he took over to take our order. So I had to start over, but when I did, giving him all the details from beginning, he said "Faster, faster".


I don't create scenes or I would have just got up and walked off. I didn't. I still want my dosai but it will be the last time I'm there.

Then later, someone called me "useless".


I shouldn't have bothered but it got to me.


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Trust, trust, trust

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
Proverbs 28:26

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the LORD, I have made them known to you today, even to you.
Proverbs 22:17-19


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pastoral Leadership & Ministry

My Pastoral Leadership & Ministry assignment is due on 28th November 2010 and I have just passed it up! This is a record for me. I have never ever handed in any assignments until the very last week or even hour, if emailing is allowed.

Being an INFP, with an extremely strong P, I have this need to wait until the very last moment just to be satisfied that I have had access to whatever material I can get my hands on and that I have included whatever I deem valuable into the assignment. To me, early submission is an ineffective use of available resources.

But submitted it I have. I have no choice actually. Taking a TEE programme on a part time basis, we cannot have more than 3 modules pending on hand. Including this Pastoral module, I have 4. But STM is lenient for students who are about to graduate. Now that I have handed this one in, I have 3 more with assignments to work on: Exegesis of 1 Corinthians, Biblical Theology and Major Religion in Malaysia.

And I need one more to graduate and it happens to be Introduction to the New Testament, which is odd because anyone can see that this by no way should be anyone's last module! But things happen, and over the years I somehow could not manage to attend this module. I keep missing it and it has to end up being my last before I graduate. And what is amusing is that Introduction to the Old Testament was my very first module when I started TEE in Aug 2003.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

MS Office Home and Business 2010

I finally went to the store and got Microsoft Office for my netbook - the Home and Business 2010 version. OpenOffice was good but very limited in what it can do. I have sort of gotten used to Office 2007 (though I still need to squint my eyes and look for stuff I am used to in the older version). I'll see how Office 2010 will fare - I was told that Outlook is much better in this new version.


Monday, October 04, 2010

A Thousand Words #123

I have begun something new and this is the time to watch and learn.

Photo (c) 2005 Angel Norris

Sunday, October 03, 2010

God Spoke to Me

Lately, I have been very worried about what I hear said very often: "God told me that...", "God has revealed to me that...", "God spoke to me that..." followed by either a personal interpretation of verses from Scriptures or something out of nowhere or even from sermons which to me are anecdotal at best.

I am struggling with this because I know God can speak to anyone in any way He wanted to but how would I know what that person said is really something God has spoke to him directly or something he worked out in his own mind? I wouldn't know now would I?

Moreover, I am even careful with my own thoughts to differentiate which are the promptings of the Holy Spirit and which are just my own thoughts and desires. Sometimes I can't even tell and as a result I have to be more focussed on His word on one end, and have myself more attentive to Him on the other.

What one of my friends said is true: she said to me that whenever anyone tells her God spoke to them, she will respond by saying that it is good that God spoke to them and if it is to be, God will speak to her too but as off now, He hadn't yet.

I read something from this blog and I concur. It gave reference to a CD-set entitled From Truth to Experience: Why the Church is Losing Its Vitality in the 21st Century by Greg Koukl. I checked Koukl's website Stand to Reason but it was no longer on sale.

What I gather from the blog post is that there is a deep concern about the church's ability to fulfill Jude's admonition to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" because of a trend in the church that is getting worse. The church is becoming increasingly ineffective because there is an unhealthy hunger for an experience of personal revelation that has replaced our hunger for truth.

We desperately want God to communicate with us directly. We go to the Bible not to study the text for its truth but to look for private, personal, individualised messages from God to us. We think that God put His will in code and we must decipher in order to find "God's will". We think that a vital part of a real relationship with God is learning how to receive private, personal, special revelation from God.

The problem Koukl saw was that we've placed too much importance on the aspect of experiencing God. These days, feelings seem to be much more relevant, and valid, than "mere" academic or what they like to call "head" knowledge. Many emphasise that one can "experience God" when one enters into a "personal relationship" with Jesus. And instead of hearing and learning about God through Scripture, there is a call to connect at "deeper and deeper levels", and that they would yearn to learn more about God, but do they?

Instead we see them striving to get more of "the experience", and they flock to listen to more anecdotal sermons and sharing sessions dressed up as bible studies that do not actually study the bible but talk about how they have "experienced" more of God.

I am not saying that we do not experience God. What I am trying to say is that God has revealed Himself to us through Jesus, which is his Word and the entire Bible is what God has given us to "experience" him, so to speak. Not some mystical or titillating extra-biblical stuff that we think we hear.

Trouble comes when we elevate experience over revealed truth, i.e. personal revelation of experience over the general revelation of Scripture, because we will run into the problem of relativism.

Imagine, if you read a verse and you say it says something personal to you and I read the same verse and that it says something else to me and he reads the very same verse and that it says another different individualised thing to him, what does that mean? When a static passage of text can mean one thing to you and another to another person, then the text is being viewed relativistically and that is not way to view Scripture.

What we really need is to go back to what God has so graciously given us - His Word. We need to read it, hear it, study it and let it change and transform us. Only then will we understand what it means to experience God.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Movie: Catch Me If You Can

I watched several DVD movies today, and none of them as interesting as "Catch Me if You Can". It is based on a true story of "a former confidence trickster, cheque forger, skilled impostor, and escape artist. He became notorious in the 1960s for successfully passing US$2.5 million worth of meticulously forged checks across 26 countries over the course of five years, beginning when he was 16 years old. In the process, he claimed to have assumed no fewer than eight separate identities, successfully impersonated an airline pilot, a doctor, a Bureau of Prisons agent, and a lawyer. He escaped from police custody twice (once from a taxiing airliner and once from a US federal penitentiary), all before he was 21 years old."

It is very intriguing and to top it off, he is now a multi-millionaire providing legitimate consultancy services in security. Certainly gives a new perspective to the word "consultancy".


Friday, October 01, 2010

A Brand New Day

This is a new day
Tis but tied to the old
Still all in disarray
Yet much will come unfold
The sky is bright
All things aright
Hope it stays that way
It is a brand new day

(c) 2010 Pearlie Ng
All Rights Reserved