Friday, October 31, 2008

Re:Connect: Spiritual Exercises to Develop Intimacy with God

This is an new excellent book on prayer by my friend David Sherbino (Hot off the press). David is professor of Pastoral Ministries and Spiritual Formation at Tyndale Seminary and minister at Cornerstone Community Church (PCC) Kleinburg in Ontario, Canada.

Unlike most books on prayer which discuss about prayer, this book actually teaches you how to pray. The book is structured such that one can pray for seven weeks with daily prayer readings for each day. There is also a section for praying through the church year.

I have enjoyed praying through it and find it very helpful.

The problem is that it is only available from:
Tyndale Bookstore
25, Ballyconnor Court
Toronto ON
M2M 4B3
Tel: 416 226 6746, ext. 2188

David will be coming over to Malaysia and Singapore next year and I hope he will bring some copies.

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For the Love of Our Children's Genetic Future

Ted Peters, 1996, For the Love of Children: Genetic Technology and the Future of the Family, Louisville, KN: Westminster John Knox Press

Ted Peters is professor of systematic theology at pacific Lutheran Seminary. His writing is very precise and logical. In this book he takes on the challenge of looking at biotechnology and molecular genetics from the children's viewpoint.

This is a unique approach and Peters' thesis is that all children have claims on their parents and in turn their families. This places the responsibility of guarding the morality and placing boundaries on genetic research and application on the parents and indirectly on society and the church. He proposes an ethic "for the love of children."

His other book I have reviewed is The Stem Cells Debate

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

What will you do? (5)

An urban congregation in sub-Saharan Africa has very positive experiences with Mercy Ships and other short-term medical outreach programmes. They approach a mission agency staffed by Europeans, Americans and local health professionals. It is funded by Korean Christians and they plan to establish a permanent clinic. The local congregation argue this is one of their most powerful evangelistic tools.

‘The government provides only the bare minimum when it comes to health care’ says one of the elders. ‘If someone is very sick, they may get treatment at a public hospital for a reduced fee, but often there is no opportunity to access medical services. It’s not so bad here as in rural areas, but even here in the city there are not enough facilities. So people with “connections” get served in the hospital sooner, even before people who may be very sick and have waited a long time, but don’t know the “right” people.’ He goes on: ‘Western and Asian churches who are economically strong but don’t help their poorer brothers and sisters, never mind those who might be evangelised, are really no different than the rest of the world. Christians who have much have a duty to help believers who have little.’

Another influential church leader takes a different view. She claims the local congregation should instead put their efforts into expanding local services. ‘Health care is a right and the government should provide it. When the church steps in all it does is supply a quick fix, like putting a plaster or band aid on a gaping wound. Both the local people and the mission agencies should try to get the laws changed to provide adequate national healthcare services.’

What issues does this story raise?
What will you do?


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Persons In Community

William H. Lazareth (ed), 2004 , Persons in Community: Theological Voices from the Pastorate, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans

While Philip Rolnick in Person, Grace and God deals with the theological and philosophical concept of personhood, this book deals with the pastoral aspects of persons. Its main thesis is that persons can only be understood in community. This community is God's people who are faithful stewards and prudent managers of the world.

William Lazareth, the editor is the Jerald C. Brauer Distinguished Professor of Lutheran Studies at Carthage College, Kenosha in Wisconsin. He is also a program associate of the Pastor-Theologian Program at the Center of Theological Inquiry. This program is supported by an endowment by the Lilly Foundation. The program is set up because some Christians have perceived that there is a separation of theology and the church.

"A significant part of the current crisis in the church is the hiatus between academic theology as an intellectual discipline and ecclesial theology as a confessional stance" notes Wallace M. Aston, Jr. the director of the Center of theological Inquiry (p.ix).

The Pastor-Theologian Program "would seek to focus attention on the ordained ministry as a theological vocation and on the church as a theological community' (p.xiii). Sixty pastors were involved in the program and discussion. Twenty of these contributed articles to this volume.

The articles are easy to read and give a significant pastoral perspective on many of the issues dealing with personhood. It is a ground up theological investigation on what it means to be human.


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Paul and Margaret Brand

This interesting documentary is part of the Day of Discovery television series produced by the RBC Ministries.

The documentary shows the life and mission of Dr Paul Brand and his wife, Dr. Margaret Brand in their work among the lepers of India. There are still photos, videos of Paul and Margaret Brand at work, and interviews of Paul, Margaret and Philip Yancey.

This is suitable for individual, small and large groups viewing.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Attachment Disorder Churches

If your people won't follow, it may be the result of past abandonment.
by Kenneth Quick

It used to be that churches trusted pastors unless something such as moral failure or spiritual abuse broke that trust. Today, though, when the average length of a pastor's ministry in some churches is less than three years, the factor that prompts to churches to become "hard to lead" is a situation of abandonment at a crucial juncture.
What is a "crucial juncture"? A wolf on the horizon (some significant event with potential negative consequences for the church) that causes the pastor to flee. It can be a conflict or a challenge to his leadership. It could be corporate anxiety caused by a drop in giving, decreased attendance, a move, or a building program.

This is an interesting diagnosis of a condition for churches. I am also interested to learn that pastor stay for less than three years in churches before moving on. I used to think it was 5 years!

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Person, Grace, and God

Philip A. Rolnick, 2007, Person, Grace, and God, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans

This is a book that need to be slowly chewed, meditate upon and digested. Philip Rolnick is professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota. This is not an easy book to read but a great book to understand. Rolnick takes on the tremendous task of investigating the concept of personhood.

Rolnick started his investigation from the etymological and historical development of the concept of personhood. Then he takes on the challenges to the concept of personhood from neo-darwinism, polemical deconstruction and from the critical stance.

He concludes "(u)ltimately, to be a human person means that the totality of who we are is open-textured to the presence and power of God."
This is a remarkable work of scholarship of a theologian and philosopher whose methodical use of exegesis and analysis gives us a good idea of the concept of what it means to be a person.

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An Invitation to a Retreat (6)

Be Still and Know

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How to be Christian in a Brave New World

Joni Eareckson Tada and Nigel M. de S. Cameron, 2006, How to be a Christian in a Brave New World, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Joni is a quadriplegic who has spent three decades advocating for the disability community.
Nigel M. de Cameron is research professor of bioethics at the Illinois Insttute of Technology and president of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future.
The book is targeted at the general informed reading public and deals with human cloning, designer babies, redefining human nature and human harvesting. Though they do not offer new arguments, the recommended reading list and the Internet links are worth looking at.

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Breaking News for Christmas!

This is from Bob Teoh, A Christian journalist in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Dear friends

Christmas Story

This Christmas, I am coming out with a 32-page booklet with a selection of six Christmas stories which I have written since 2000 and published in local newspapers. There is also one story taken strictly from the Bible with full chapter and verse reference and a url link for those who may want to check out for themselves.

These stories are very reader-friendly and are therefore suitable for giving to your neighbours and colleagues. In fact, some of them have even quotes from the Qur'an regarding the birth of Jesus. Though not evangelsitic tracts, these are contextualised Christmas stories to give non-Christians an idea of what Christmas is all about.

They are priced at RM3.00 each, or less than the price of a Christmas card, for the purpose for giving them away. Publication of this booklet is generously and professionally undertaken by

You can pre-order them at packets of ten (10) each for RM30.00 and it will be delivered or posted to you. You can just bank in the payment through the ATM. Please let me know your order and I will provide you my Maybank account number. Contact me at

They will also be available at the Burning Bush Bookshop at DUMC and other designated bookshops.

Regards and have a blessed Christmas,

Bob Teoh

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Considering New Paradigms on St Paul

Getting to know Saint Paul today: A change in paradigm?
David M. Neuhaus SJ

Recent Pauline scholarship has revealed new perspectives from which we can examine the life of the apostle and the world he lived in, claims David Neuhaus SJ. What are these developments, and how can they change our traditional understanding of Saint Paul?

Introduction: Who is Saint Paul?
The figure of Paul marks the passage from Jesus of Nazareth, recognized after his death by his disciples as the promised Messiah of Israel, to the Universal Church that preached the Gospel to all the nations. Paul has been seen as the pioneer of Christian mission, the father of Christian theology and even the real founder of Christianity. Some have seen him as a apocalyptic thinker, others as a Pharisee rabbi become Christian yet others as a cultivated Hellenist or a Gnostic syncretist or an incoherent religious fanatic.

Getting to know Paul has never been easy. It is difficult to derive a clear autobiographical picture from his own writings. There are contradictions between these writings and the supposedly “biographical” presentation of Paul by Luke in Acts. In addition to this, in the past few decades, new historical and exegetical perspectives have changed how we understand the world in which Paul lived and worked. These perspectives have undermined at least some of our most basic suppositions in getting to know Paul. They would seem to necessitate a change in paradigm in order to read Paul and ascertain his role. I will propose here four aspects on which our understanding of Paul and his world have changed in the past decades. The question I pose here is: have the consequences of these changes been integrated into our reading and understanding of Paul? Can we integrate them without a new paradigm in Pauline studies? What can the new paradigm be?

read more

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An Invitation to a Retreat (5)

The participants were invited to assess the state of their spiritual life at the present moment and express it as a plasticine sculpture. Which one do you think is mine?









Monday, October 27, 2008

An Invitation to a Retreat (4)

Conducted a guided retreat on the theme Be Still and Know at Gethsemanne Retreat Centre/Reconre in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan from 25-27 October 2008.


Creating a Perfect World

Frederica Mathewes-Green is an author whose works I follows closely. She introduces me to the Orthodox tradition. I like her because when I order her books from her (sometimes it is better to order books from the authors directly than buy it from the bookstores), she agreed to autograph her books and dedicate it to me by name, ahem.

Let's Create a Perfect World
Posted Tuesday, October 21, 2008
[; October 21, 2008]

So you think that the existence of suffering proves that there is no God. But can I ask a question? How would you eliminate suffering? What would a world without suffering look like? You have free rein-make it any way you like.

Why don’t we start with something specific. People often cite the story told by the character Ivan in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: parents punished their little daughter for bedwetting by locking her in a frozen outhouse. Ivan cannot accept a God who would let that happen.
OK, how would you prevent it? Can you imagine a world where there is no child abuse? Not just that one awful case-there’s no point in stopping only one act of abuse. How would you stop child abuse entirely? Would you make it so that an angry parent could not think of any way to hurt a child?
Could a parent imagine striking a child, but be paralyzed and unable to raise an arm?
Could he strike at the child, but the blow would not land?
The blow would land, but the child would not feel it as painful?
Maybe you could make it so that parents could not get angry in the first place-how about that? Would that mean that no one, anywhere, could get angry? Why stop with parents?
(We’ll get to earthquakes and tsunamis later. One thing at a time.)

read more

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Twice Dead; the reinvention of death

Margaret Lock, 2002, Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press
One of the key debates in organ transplantation is the definition of death. The mostly held definition is the Harvard definition which is brain dead- no EEG, no brain stem activity. There is a need for organs for transplantation and the medical profession is tinkering with the definition of death so as to get more viable organs for transplantation.
The definition of death has been modified to either brain dead or cardiac death. Cardiac death occurs if there is proof that when a heart stops, it is irreversible and unlike to resume beating again. The National Institute of Medicine suggests 5 minutes but hospitals have been reducing the time to 2 minutes and even 90 seconds. This means that a potential organ donor is pronounced dead when he or her heart stops for 90 seconds and is prepared for organ harvesting. In 90 seconds, the brain will still be alive. In some hospitals, such patients are given large dose of morphine in case the potential donor feels 'pain'. This is a funny argument because if someone feels pain, that person must still be alive. I suspect the reason is that if allowing the heart to stop doesn't cause brain death, the morphine will, thus sparing the doctors, hospital, and ethics committees the embarrassment of being sued because the heart restarts during organ harvesting.
Margaret Lock did a good job of documenting the shifting definition of death. The interesting title is because an organ donor may die twice. His or her heart stops (cardiac death), then the body is hocked to a machine and the heart restarted and then allowed to stop when the organ harvesting has been done. This is a very thought provoking and frightening book about organs transplantation.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Guy Kawasaki on Public Speaking

In his chapter on How to Get a Standing Ovation,

Guy gives the following pointers:

  • *Have something interesting to say
  • *Remove the sales pitch
  • *Customize
  • *Focus on entertaining
  • *Overdress
  • *Don't denigrate the competition
  • *Tell stories
  • *Precirculate with the audience
  • *speak at the start of an event
  • *ask for a small room
  • *pratice and speak all the time

Example of a good presentation, watch Majora Carter's here

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Invitation to a Retreat (3)

A Retreat Prayer

Lord, here we are in Your presence. We have left behind our families, our jobs, our responsibilities and obligations, our friends and community to be with You in this retreat. Let us place the care and protection of our families, our jobs, our responsibilities and obligations, our friends and community in Your care and protection. Give us the peace and confidence that You will take good care of them in our absence.

Father, we approach You with great expectations and fear. We have high expectations in this encounter with you. Yet we are fearful because in Your light and holiness, we may discover things about ourselves that we are not comfortable with. Help us to discover and face the truth about ourselves. May the Holy Spirit works powerfully within our hearts, minds, and souls. May we rediscover ourselves in new ways and give us the strength to be transformed to the likeness of Your Son. Give us more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Father, we ask for a more intense revelation of Yourself to us in this retreat. We want to know You, know more of You and to love You. Help us to break the many false concepts of You that we have developed over the years, some of which we have made into idols. Help us to know You as revealed in Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Give us the grace to follow you. The road ahead is hard and rugged. We are afraid, O Lord. We are afraid of pain and suffering. We are afraid of things that you may ask us to give up. We are afraid of illness, loneliness, dryness, despair and constant stress. Know our weaknesses and be gentle with us. Forgive us in our failures when You test us. As you make a saint of St. Peter, make a saint of us, we pray.

Most of all, Lord. We ask that You will show us the splendour of what You have given us: our life in You; a life lived here on earth with Christ. We ask that You show us and lead us into simplicity of life and of heart. Lord, help us to know You in our daily life, to know You in the breaking of bread, in song, in fellowship, and in the cleansing of our hearts by penitence and prayer.

In the Name of Your Son we pray.


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God and the Embryo

Brent Waters and Ronald Cole-Turner (eds), 2003, God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning, Washington D.C: Georgetown University Press
Brent Waters is director of the center for Ethics and Values and assistant professor of Christian Social Ethics at Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary.
Ronald Cole-Turner is the H. Parker Sharp Professor of theology and ethics at Pittsburgh Theological seminary and an ordained minister in the united Church of Christ.
These two collected and edited various denominational positional statements on embryonic cell research. These statements included those from the Pontifical Academy for Life, The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, United Methodist Church, Southern Baptist Convention, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church (USA), Union of the Orthodox Congregations of America and Rabbinical Council of America and The President's Council on Bioethics.
With statements from such august committees, one will expect a consensus among Christians and Jews about stem cell research and cloning. Unfortunately, what came out is not a symphony but a confusing bubble of voices. While most feel that embryonic stem cell research should not be allowed, very few statements gave convincing evidence for this conclusion. Most appeal to emotions and a sort of pseudo-social theology that involves imputing more into the Bible that what the Bible actually say. One gets the impression that the various denomination study committees are more political and socio-cultural bound than theological.

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A Reading Nation

Books & Culture, September/October 2008

Reading Habits
by Timothy Larsen

The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period
William St. ClairCambridge Univ. Press, 2007 [2004]796 pp., $43.99, paper

Ah, to have been a reader two centuries ago, in a golden age of English literature. Or so we think. But the thrust of William St. Clair's The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period is quite different. St. Clair has done prodigious research to drive home his thesis that in this "golden age," books were largely inaccessible to ordinary people. Moreover, the real enemy of the common reader was the book trade. One bitter author from the early 19th century told the story of God endeavoring to find a London publisher for the Bible. The first one the Almighty approached "disliked the mangers and carpenters, wanted the characters to be made aristocratic, and asked for the story of King Herod and Salome to be expanded." The next one offered to print it on a vanity publishing basis.

In the Romantic period, St. Clair explains, the English book trade was committed to positioning new literary texts on the costliest end of the spectrum, thus restricting sales to a tiny élite. A typical new book would have cost a maid six weeks' income. This strategy reached its zenith with William Wordsworth's The Excursion (1814). For the price of that book (48.5 shillings), a person could buy one hundred fat pigs. One man bought his own printing press and thereby set himself up in business for the same amount as this single volume of contemporary poetry!

read more


Friday, October 24, 2008

Ten Worst Video Games Movies

According to TIME magazine 24 Friday October 2008, the ten worst video games movies are

(1) House of the Dead (2003)

(2) Wing Commander (1999)

(3) In the Name of the King (2007)

(4) Hitman (2007)

(5) Doom (2005)

(6) BloodRayne (2006)

(7) Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

(8) Double Dragon (1994)

(9) Street Fighter (1994)

(10) Super Marios Bros. (1993)

Worst Video Games Movies?

But I have enjoyed watching Wing Commander, Hitman, Doom, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Double Dragon, and Street Fighter. I find them interesting. They are not that bad, except maybe Super Mario Bros. I have not watched House of the Dead, In the Name of the King,and BloodRayne. I wonder what does this show about my taste in movies.


Songs from My Fair Lady (4)


Church Signs


The Defense of the Embryo

Robert P. George & Christopher Tollefsen, 2008, Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, New York; Double Day.

Robert George is Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics. Christopher Tollefsen is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina.

Questions about abortion and stem-cell research have created seemingly unbridgeable gaps between Americans. Should faith-based views be considered when deciding public policy? Using up-to-date research, George and Tollefsen show that embryos are humans beings from conception; and argue against "moral dualism" and the utilitarian worldview that places society's "greater good" above the life of the fetus.

This books differs from others in the sense that the authors argue from the perspective of public policy making in the United States. They argued against embryonic stem cell research and remind the public that the state has an "ethical and moral obligation to protect embryonic human beings in just the same manner that it protects every other human beings..." This is an irony when there is a call by some Americans for the separation of church and state. However, it seems that when it suits some people's purposes, the state should fight for their causes. The King in the musical The King and I would throw his hands up in despair, "It's a puzzlement!" I agree with you, dear king.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lego Church

HT: Kueh


A Good Day to Die in Bioethics

Alex Tang, 2005, A Good Day to Die:A Christian Perspective on Mercy Killing, Singapore: Genesis Books.

Euthanasia or mercy killing is an emotive and controversial subject. Tremendous advances in medical sciences and biomechanical technologies have prolonged our lives. Unfortunately, these same knowledge and technologies have prolonged our dying. Many today struggle with the issue of euthanasia or mercy killing, either for themselves or for their loved ones. Alex Tang approaches this issue from different perspectives. He uses examples from patient case histories to illustrate his points.

This book will help those who struggle with euthanasia or mercy killing to come to some resolution of death with dignity.

"Today is a good day to die" is the rallying cry of the Klingons, a warrior race in the science fiction worlds of Star Trek. To the Klingons, what is important is glory and honour. To die in battle is to die with full honour and much glory. Hence the embracement of death. Even Christians have assimilated this culture, and live in fear of death though the Bible teaches us that there is nothing to fear. God in His sovereignty determines the times of our birth and of our death.If He has chosen that day for us to die, then it is a good day to die.

When we bring about our own death, however, the day of dying is not of God's choosing but of ours. Do we have the right to choose when we are die? Do we have the right to determine the way we are to die? And do we have the right to ask someone to kill us?

Highly recommended. Order now...

Sze Seng's comments

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Reality Check on Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki is an interesting guy and I have been following his writings for some time.

This brief biodata is from wiki;
Guy Kawasaki (Born August 30, 1954) one of the original Apple employees responsible for marketing the Macintosh in 1984, is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. He is noted for bringing the concept of evangelism to the high-tech business, focusing on creating passionate user-advocates for the Apple brand. Kawasaki was a former Apple Fellow, and after leaving the company, became CEO of a pseudo-spin-off of Apple called ACIUS, which produced the 4th Dimension database program. He also started the company Fog City Software. Recently, he has been involved in the rumor reporting site, Truemors, and an RSS aggregator, Alltop. As of August 2008 his blog "How to Change the World" is ranked 88 in the world.

Kawasaki has a B.A. in psychology from Stanford University and an MBA from University of California, Los Angeles. He is Japanese American and a native of Honolulu, Hawaii where he attended the Iolani School.

He is currently a Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures, a venture capital firm which specializes in high-technology start-up firms located in Silicon Valley, California as well as co-founder of Nononina, the company that created the Truemors and Alltop websites.

This book, Reality Check (2008) is his latest. He writes in the introduction, "...I grew frustrated with the shortcoming of blogging, which I started to do in earnest in 2006 with my blog "How to Change the World." I quickly learned that people rarely scroll past the home page of a blog or search for previous material. However I wanted my blog to serve as a constant reference source for a wide range of topics of entrepreneurial interest. The reality is that blogs and online sources don't do this very well for everyone.

...inspired me to publish Reality Check.That is, I wanted to provide hardcopy information to hardcore people who want to kick ass, and I wanted this information in something you can hold you your hands-aka, a book. Why a book? Because a book boots up faster than a blog and a book has better copyediting and fact-checking than a blog. Also a book is not dependent on Internet connectivity, battery life, or of the ineptness of HTML printing. And best of all, because you can write in a book, stick stickies in a book, and dogear its corners."

Here is it folks, the guru of Silicon Valley prefers a book to a blog!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Malaysia Bible Seminary 30 years

Malaysia Bible Seminary in Klang, Selangor, Malaysia is celebrating their 30th anniversary. It is one of the pioneer theological schools in Malaysia.

Thank God for his providence and grace. May he continues to bless this seminary. Amen.


Ortberg and the Happiness Paradox: Leadership Weekly

Skye Jethani
Leadership managing editor

Last week I attended the Willow Creek Association's REVEAL conference. Bill Hybels was the opening speaker, and apart from discussing the impact of the REVEAL research, I was surprised by what he identified as the church's biggest challenge. Hybels says the largest gap exists not between seekers and believers, but between less mature Christians and "Christ-centered" Christians. The less mature, he says, believe that "God is for me, my plans, and my agenda in this world." But the truly Christ-centered have given up their lives and dreams in complete surrender to him. "A big honkin' thing has to happen for a Christian to move from self-centered to Christ-centered." This week's Leader's Insight from John Ortberg addresses the dilemma Bill Hybels identified. Ortberg, who happened to be the closing speaker at the REVEAL conference, says that our old definition of the gospel has failed to deliver us from the devastating and chronic selfishness that plagues this world. Evangelism that focuses on, "If you die tonight where will you go?" aims squarely at personal happiness. But, according to Ortberg, real happiness is rarely attained by direct pursuit.

This is a significant insight from Bill Hybels. I wonder what is this "big honkin' thing" that Bill refers to.


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Yet another bioethics anthology

Helga Kuhse & Peter Singer (eds) 1998, A Companion to Biethics, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
This anthology on writings on bioethics was published earlier than Ethics: An Anthropology. Its approach, though 'secular' was slightly dfferent from Ethics. The contributors were all pioneers in the field of bioethics. Though slightly dated now, it is still valuable reading on the development of bioethics theories and thinking.

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Random Glimpses of My desktop (4)

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An Invitation to a Retreat (2)

It is more than rest that Jesus receives in his retreats. He also gets wisdom. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…”(Luke 6:12-13). These twelve men will transform the world and brings God’s plan of redemption to another level. The wisdom comes from being in the presence of God. To achieve this type of wisdom needs trust.

For us, a spiritual retreat requires trust in the Holy Spirit. A retreat is not like a church camp, a conference or a vacation- where activities may be planned in advance and we know the agenda (mostly to have a good time, hopefully to learn something). In a retreat, we do not know what God has in store for us, but we are willing to take the risk to find out. We participate in confidence that the Holy Spirit is entirely trustworthy and will never lead us to harm.

There is a need for us to persist in Scripture reading, journal and prayer even though the silence and solitude frightens us. In a group retreat, there is a strong temptation to flee the presence of God into the company of friends where it is safe and comfortable. To engage in idle group gossip takes our attention from having to be silent before the Lord, and the discomfort of the work of the Holy Spirit on our souls. However it is to our good that we persist. The Psalmist says,

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:1-4)

It is in a spiritual retreat that you have the time and opportunity to discover who you are, and to whom do you belong. That is wisdom indeed.


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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Live and Let Live Bioethics

Alex Tang, 2006, Live and Let Live: A Christian Perspective on Biotechology, Petaling Jaya: Kairos Research Centre.

This is the age of cutting edge biotechnology. With the completion of the mapping of the human genome in 2000, we are poised for a great leap in life-changing biotechnological discoveries and innovations. Some of the many issues Christians shall face at the dawning of the 21st Century are:
• When does a human life begin?
• Is abortion allowed?
• Should Christian couples consider In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) or ‘test tube babies’ for their infertility problem?
• Should we allow ‘embryo reduction’ if there are too many embryos in successful IVF?
• What shall we do about ‘spare embryos’?
• What is therapeutic and reproductive cloning?
• Should human cloning be allowed?
• Is a ‘human’ clone a human being?
• Shall we allow embryonic stem cell research to continue?
• What are the promises of stem cell research?
• How will the practice of medicine be changed by new discoveries in biotechnology?
• Will you like to grow a new heart?
• Should scientist be allowed to make changes or ‘improve’ the human blueprint?
• Design your own baby?
• What is human eugenics?

The Bible does not give specific answers to these questions. Using biblical principles, this book seeks to help Christians to understand and be informed about these issues. Some of these questions may sound like science fiction. We have seen the way the silicon revolution of computers; mobile phones and the Internet have changed our lives within a decade. The biotechnology revolution has already begun. We are just beginning to experience its effect. We are living in ‘interesting times’.

Highly recommended. Order now...

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CPR and Staying Alive

Disco tune "Stayin' Alive" could save your life
Thu Oct 16, 2008 3:27pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. doctors have found the Bee Gees 1977 disco anthem "Stayin' Alive" provides an ideal beat to follow while performing chest compressions as part of CPR on a heart attack victim.

The American Heart Association calls for chest compressions to be given at a rate of 100 per minute in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). "Stayin' Alive" almost perfectly matches that, with 103 beats per minute.

CPR is a lifesaving technique involving chest compressions alone or with mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing. It is used in emergencies such as cardiac arrest in which a person's breathing or heartbeat has stopped.

CPR can triple survival rates, but some people are reluctant to do it in part because they are unsure about the proper rhythm for chest compressions. But research has shown many people do chest compressions too slowly during CPR.

In a small study headed by Dr. David Matlock of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, listening to "Stayin' Alive" helped 15 doctors and medical students to perform chest compressions on dummies at the proper speed.

Five weeks after practicing with the music playing, they were asked to perform CPR again on dummies by keeping the song in their minds, and again they kept up a good pace.

"The theme 'Stayin' Alive' is very appropriate for the situation," Matlock said in a telephone interview on Thursday. "Everybody's heard it at some point in their life. People know the song and can keep it in their head."

The findings will be presented this month at a meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians in Chicago.

HT: Punna

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Invitation to a Retreat (1)

There must be times in your life that you yearn for more of God than your schedule will allow. We all have. We are tired, stressed by our jobs, crowded by friends and burdened by obligations. We have abundant life but are too busy for it! Even good obligations and commitments can turn toxic to our soul. Christian author, Madeleine L’Engle resonates within us when she writes in A Circle of Quiet that “(e)very so often I need a OUT; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everyone- away from all those people I love most in the world-in order to regain a sense of proportion.” However this is more than just a need to get away. There is also a need to get to (somewhere). And in our case, the need is to get to the presence of God. In other words, we need to go to a spiritual retreat.

“Spiritual retreat,” explains Emilie Griffin in Wilderness Time, “is simply a matter of going into a separate place to seek Christian growth in a disciplined way. Retreat offers us the grace to be ourselves in God’s presence without self-consciousness, without masquerade. Retreat provides the chance to spend time generously in the presence of God. In such time, God helps us to empty ourselves of cares and anxieties, to be filled with wisdom that restores us.”

Jesus himself sought times of quiet and solitude. The evangelist Mark tells us in middle of a busy schedule, “(v)ery early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"” (Mark 1:35-37). This is not an isolated incident for Jesus. After his miraculous feeding of the five thousand, “(i)mmediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray” (Mark 6:56-46).

The evangelist Matthew too made a similar observation of Jesus: “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23). Luke too remarks on this peculiar characteristic of Jesus: “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16). It appears that the more his fame spreads, the more he is in demand as a teacher and healer, the more Jesus looks for a quiet place, to be away from the crowd that he serves. And what does he do when he is alone? He prays. He commune with his Father. As soldiers in battle in the frontline need to be rotated back to the rear to rest or team sportspersons have time out, Jesus after every spiritual battle needs a retreat; a retreat, not in the sense of a setback but in the concept of a timeout. It is in his Father that Jesus finds rest.


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Monday, October 20, 2008

Abortion in the Jesus Creed

Scot McKnight posted a interesting discussion on abortion in his blog, The Jesus Creed. I find it so interesting that I am reposting it here in full.

In my new book, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, one of my major points is that the Church has learned to read the Bible by discernment instead of treating everything as law. I got a letter recently about abortion, and I’d like to sketch — inadequately — the basics of how discernment works when it comes to the abortion issue.

Dear Scot,
Okay, here it is: I’m passionately committed to having all my theologyand practice be based on Scripture, interpreted as the original authorswould have intended it to be. To the best of my ability to determinethat, of course. So having assessed some of my other evangelical idolsin light of what the whole of Scripture actually says, I thought as athinking pro-life Christian I should do the same with abortion.

I believe the pro-life side has framed the debate properly. This isfirst and foremost about when the fetus becomes a “person” (a moreaccurate description than saying “when life begins”). We can argue itlegally or scientifically, but I needed to start with Scripture. I wasalways taught the first step in exegesis is gathering the evidence. Soto build a theology of the beginning of human life, I needed to gatherall the passages that apply to that issue, properly interpreted incontext. I haven’t gotten far into it, but here’s sort of a summary ofmy cursory research so far:
The Bible is ambiguous.

There it is. I said it. To clarify, the Bible says life:
- begins before birth (Ps. 51:5; Ps. 139:13; Luke 1:41)- is found in the blood (Lev. 17:11,14; Deut. 12:23; Ezek. 3:18)–canthere be life where there is no blood? At what point can we say thefetus has its own blood distinct from the mother’s?- begins/ends with the breath (Gen. 1:30; 2:7; 6:17; 7:15,22); 7 timesin Scripture “breathed his/her last” means “he died”; of course inHebrew & Greek the same word is used for breath & spirit–can there belife without breath?- In the Law, a person is not “counted” until one month old! (Lev. 27:6;7x in Num. 3; Num. 18:16; 26:62)

Dear Passionate,
First here is what you say and it is very important for me to begin right here: “Okay, here it is: I’m passionately committed to having all my theology and practice be based on Scripture, interpreted as the original authors would have intended it to be.”
I’m with you and our method is fine until we come to something, like abortion or prolonging life indefinitely with drugs or machines or heart transplants or nuclear war, that clearly isn’t discussed in the Bible because it was a document of its times (the point of my book Blue Parakeet). The Bible doesn’t address your issue because the biblical times didn’t have that kind of sophistication about this kind of issue.

When this happens, we are driven to make discernments the best that we can.
That means we don’t have “certain” clarity but have “faith” discernment.
That means we have to work with other Christians who share our general orientations.
That leads to a discernment in light of Scripture rather than a judgment based on something clearly stated in Scripture.

Abortion is one of those: I confess that those texts you quote don’t really interest me in this decision because those texts are not talking about “when does a fetus/etc become a human, an Eikon of God” but they are dealing with other things. Since these authors had no idea how humans formed, their words are metaphorical to some degree.

What we (mostly Evangelical) have discerned is based on one very big and very clear point made in the Bible: humans are Eikons of God, that is, they are made in God’s Image. This makes humans special beyond what any of us can fathom.

They are Eikons once they are conceived (RCs push this back to the sperm and egg more than to just conception so they are against birth control practices) because this is the “process” God has created for us to become co-creators with God in this wonderful world. We are fruitful and multiply, that is we extend God’s creation, when we reproduce. So, the very act of reproduction is part of the Eikon-forming process.

Eikons are sacred. This is the point of Genesis 1-2. Eikons are “like God.”
Abortion is therefore an act of irretrievable violence against the sacredness of Eikons whom God has made.

The Bible doesn’t say “Abortion is wrong.” The Bible gives us the raw materials to discern how to live out the gospel in our day.

There is much more to be said, and scientists have important insights in these very matters, but what I’ve sketched is an approach through Scripture.


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Should Batman Kill the Joker? (5)

Our investigation into the existential question should Batman kill the Joker? has evolved to why the Batman did not kill the Joker.

We have established that Batman does not subscribe to utilitarianism and Kantianism (odeontologism). That left us to consider virtue moral theory. While unilitaianism focus on the consequences of the action, odeontologism on the duty of actor, virtue theory is about who the actor is, i.e. the character or virtues of the actor.

Batman/Bruce Wayne has very strong influential persons in his life. His father, Dr Thomas Wayne is a compassionate surgeon, industrialist and philantrophist. He believed in the goodness of people. Note that he organises the rich elite to help the poor during the depression in Gotham City and built the monorail system for the people. His death was partially due to the fact that he brought his family to the opera by monorail instead of by private car (see Batman Begins).

The butler Alfred was another influence and served as a surrogate father figure after the death of Thomas Wayne. Alfred exhibits strong elements of loyalty and integrity, looking after the family estates when Bruce was wandering around in search of himself. Though he disapprove of Bruce's nocturnal activities, he restrict himself to sarcastic remarks while availing himself to rescue the Batman and offer medical treatment when necessary. It takes a strong character not to impose his will on others and to remind in the shadow of another.

Dr. Thompson is another who helped Bruce after the death of his parents. She provide the nurturing mother figure to balance Alfred's Yang with her Yin. A competent doctor, she chooses to devote her life to helping the poor and the helpless in slum alley.

Thomas Wayne, Alfred and Thompson did not act out of a sense of duty but because of who they are. It is their characters that dictate their actions, not the other way around. Bruce Wayne must have pick up this moral theory from them. In the storyline, Bruce Wayne:Fugitive, Bruce Wayne has an identity crisis. Is he the Batman and Bruce the man behind the mask or Bruce Wayne and the Batman is the person behind the persona? As expected, the crisis was resolved when Bruce realise that the Batman was a means to an end (limiting the activities of the criminal elements by putting a fear in the criminal mind). This question resurfaced numerous times, for example in the story arch of No Man's Land and Knightfall ( and Knightend).

Batman does not kill the Joker because it is not in his nature or character to kill. Like Gandhi who resort to non-violence to resist a unjustice government, the Batman resort to non-lethal violence to resist a corrupt justice system and the criminal minds. It is in their strength of character that we must respect hem.


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