Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Simon and Garfunkel: Scaborough Fair

Are you goin' to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Without no seams nor needlework, then she'll be a true love of mine

Tell her to find me an acre of land, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Between the salt water and the sea strand, then she'll be a true love of mine

Tell her to reap it in a sickle of leather, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
And to gather it all in a bunch of heather, then she'll be a true love of mine

Are you goin' to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine


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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Book of 7 Truths

The above book by Calvin Miller (New York: HarperCollins, 1997) gave 7 interesting truths.

1. Following only the guide who's been where you want to go.

2. The task ahead of you is not as great as the power within you.

3. You cannot help people if you are always with people.

4. Happiness is a choice, misery an option.

5. Wisdom lives only on the other side of pain.

6. Never love life more than the reason it was given to you.

7. Stop living only when you die.

Stop and meditate on these truths. It will make all the difference in how you live.



Sunday, March 26, 2006

Newton Juice: Angel of the Morning

There'll be no strings to bind your hands
not if my love can't bind your heart.
And there's no need to take a stand
for it was I who chose to start.
I see no need to take me home,
I'm old enough to face the dawn.

Just call me angel of the morning ANGEL
just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby.
Just call me angel of the morning ANGEL
then slowly turn away from me.

Maybe the sun's light will be dim
and it won't matter anyhow.
If morning's echo says we ve sinned,
well, it was what I wanted now.
And if we're the victims of the night,
I won't be blinded by light.

Just call me angel of the morning ANGEL
just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby.
Just call me angel of the morning ANGEL
then slowly turn away,
I won't beg you to stay with me
through the tears of the day,
of the years, baby baby baby.
Just call me angel of the morning ANGEL
just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby



Thursday, March 23, 2006

Thomas Merton on Love

Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.

Thomas Merton

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Last Seven Sentences of Jesus of Nazareth

The First Sentence
Luke 23:33-34 -- "Forgive them, Father! They know not what they do."
In this time of pain and suffering, it is striking that the first “sentence” of Jesus from the cross is of forgiveness. Who is ‘them’ that needed forgiveness? Peter later explained that though it was the Jewish and Roman leaders which crucified Jesus, they acted out of ignorance because they did not know he is the Messiah. He also explained that this happened because God planned it - the ‘them’ that need forgiveness is every single one of us (Acts 3:17-18).
As we take time to reflect upon the forgiveness Christ offers to each and every one of us through his sacrifice, may we not forget to forgive one another. If Jesus is willing to forgive those who crucified him then we should also be willing to forgive others who had hurt us.

The Second Sentence
Luke 23:39-43 -- "I tell you this: Today you will be in Paradise with me."
The second sentence is of grace. Jesus did not promise only that the crucified man would be in Paradise, but that he would be with Jesus in Paradise. So the thief, who is a sinner, received grace which he did not deserve. Grace was freely given. If we know that, beyond this life, we’ll be with Christ, then we need not fear. The grace of Christ cannot be earned. It is given freely to all.

The Third Sentence
John 19:25-27 -- "Woman, here is your son."
Jesus is entrusting the care of his mother to John so that she will be well looked after when he is gone. It is heart warming to note that Jesus still thinks of his mother’s welfare in this moment of excruciating pain.
As we reflect upon the meaning of Christ’s death, Mary’s presence at the cross reminds us that God is deeply involved in the human drama that we are daily living. It reveals a God that is caring in the smallest details of our lives.

The Fourth Sentence
Mark 15: 33-34 -- "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Jesus quoted from Psalm 22:1 as he is being crucified. In his moment of greatest anguish Jesus drew upon the Psalms to express how he felt. Jesus isn’t simply a man crying out to God as he is being tortured. This is also the divine Son of God crying out to God the Father. Through the fourth sentence from the cross we enter into the essence of Christ’s sacrifice. God is forsaking his Son in that he is allowing Jesus to bear the sin of the world. God is regarding his Son as if he were sin itself!

The Fifth Sentence
John 19:28 -- "I thirst."
The thirst of Jesus reminds us that he is human like the rest of us. He feels pain and he is thirsty. Jesus had to be fully human in order to save humans from sin and death. Because he is human, Jesus understands our weaknesses and our sufferings.

The Sixth Sentence
John 19:29-30 -- "It is finished."
What is finished? Jesus is dying. With his death, Jesus knew his passion will be over. His time of pain and suffering on the cross is finished. On another level, Jesus is proclaiming that God’s great plan for salvation has been completed. The penalty for human sin has been paid. The gap between sinful humanity and a holy God has been bridged by the sinless Son of God who was fully God and fully human. Now, because of what Jesus has done, we can be reconciled to God and be saved from eternal damnation.

The Seventh Sentence
Luke 23:46 -- "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!"
Jesus again quoted from the Psalms. By quoting from Psalm 31, Jesus is not only entrusting his spirit to God, but also affirming his ultimate trust in God, even the God who has laid upon him the sin of the world. It is affirming that in spite of all that has happened, Jesus still uses the word, Abba/Father to show the close relationship they have.

As we meditate on the seven last sentences of Jesus of Nazareth during this Lenten season, let us again be reminded of forgiveness, of grace, of care and concern, of sacrifice, of being human, of the completeness of God’s plan of redemption and of our trust in God.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Recovering the Doctrine of the Trinity for Christian Living

Spiritual Formation Institute Seminar: "Recovering The Doctrine of the Trinity For Christian Living Today"

Date: Saturday 8 April 2006 (public holiday in Johor)
Time: 2.00-10.00 pm
Venue: Holy Light Church
11-C, Jalan Gertak Merah
80100 Johor Bahru Tel:07-224 3285

The doctrine of the Trinity is often acknowledged but not understood. Its relevance to the Christian life seems minimal because its importance and impact are seldom articulated and taught.

This seminar is an introduction to the doctrine of the Trinity to show its importance and relevance for the spiritual formation of Christians. The seminar will be divided into three main sections.
(1) The first will be a study of Scripture to set out the biblical evidences for a doctrine that God has been involved with humankind as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

(2) The second session will be a historical and theological survey of how the early Church Fathers worked through these scriptural evidences to formulate a cogent view of a God who is One in essence and yet exists as three distinct Persons.

(3) In the last section, we will work out the implications of the doctrine of Trinity for our spiritual formation. How will our understanding of the life of God living in us, i.e. the life of the Trinity impact personal and corporate spirituality?

Seminar Leader: John Chong Ser Choon
Ser Choon is the currently the Retreat Director of Trinity Life Centre. This is a ministry that he started in July 2004. His vision is to serve the Christian community through conducting spiritual retreats, teaching seminars on spiritual formation and holistic Christian living by drawing upon the richness of the spiritual traditions of the Christian Church down through the centuries.

Ser Choon is a graduate of Regent College (Vancouver, Canada) where he studied and has completed his Master in Theology degree in Spiritual Theology under Dr James Houston.
His ministry experience included pasturing as well as serving as a missions mobilizer with OMF Singapore. Prior to setting the current ministry, he served for four and half years in Singapore Bible College as the Dean of Students where he also taught courses on Christian Spirituality.

Do come and join us if you are in the area. Also invite your friends who are in the area to come and join us.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Apologia for Apologies

Apologetics is in the air!

And what is that you ask?

No, it's not the art of giving good apologies.

Apologetics is that branch of Christian theology "concerned with the intelligent presentation and defense of the historical Christian faith."
Its the discipline that seeks to carry out Peter's admonishment to "Always be ready to make a defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you."
[1 Peter 3:15 NRSV]
There is a flowering of this in Malaysia if we look at the number of interfaith dialogs going on in our campuses.

During such dialogs representatives from the major religions will be asked to give their views on major religious topics like their concept of God, the basic tenets of their faith, and the reliability of their holy scriptures. There will usually be a session of questions and answers involving the floor at the end.

Such events will be advertised as an exercise for folks to better understand the faiths of others. Often they end up as exercises in "my God/holybook/beliefs are better/truer than yours." The atmosphere of such events can end up being fairly acrimonious with more heat than light generated, and the feeling of "my team took a beating tonight but you just wait till the next game."

Yet on the whole, I view this flowering of interfaith encounters positively.
For one such encounters discourages the post modern inclination to deny any sort of absolute truth. Perhaps as a reaction to the damage done by radical religionists, we are now encouraged to say that all communities have their own truths. No one is really absolutely right or wrong.
Let's play nice.

The core beliefs of the various faiths are so different that it makes nonsense of any approach that says they are all true.

Such an approach is an insult to all faiths and impossible for those who believe in the Jesus who said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." [John 14:6]

Such dialogs also help to shake up middle class Malaysian Christianity from their ghetto mentality. Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy where freedom of religion is enshrined in the constitution. Yet Islam is the state religion and all states have laws that punish both Muslims that convert out of Islam, and those that supposedly cause them to do so.
Because of this tension between these two legal realities, middle class Christianity have basically kept their distance from any continuing meaningful dialog with their Muslim neighbors.
But in today's connected world, such avoidance is no longer possible. TV and the Internet makes it a very much "in your face" world.

We can no longer escape the task of helping others understand our faith and the task of truly understanding the beliefs of those outside the Christian community.
Therefore we must seek to grow in our ability to do apologetics well.
The Christian faith has internal logical coherence and is true to history. We should not be afraid to enter into dialog with representatives of any faith.

However we must also remember that the primary Christian ethic is love and that we must be "quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness." [James 1:19.20]

And if we find ourselves undergoing trials and difficulties, James says:
"My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing." [James 1:2-4]
If we find the odds stacked against us, well, it's situation normal. In fact we are told to rejoice! But we are never told to hate. Christians are not into suicide bombing. One distinctive mark of followers of Jesus is that we are called to love and to love even our enemies.

Indeed James goes on to describe what sort of wisdom should characterize God's people.
"Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace."[James 3:13-18] James' understanding of Godly wisdom is not the type that produces debating champions. His understanding of wisdom is wisdom for righteous living. Therefore when people get to know Christians, their response is not so much "how clever they are" but "how whole they are."

I believe Christianity is intellectually and rationally true and defensible but I also believe that the ultimate "proof" of the reality of the gospel is the kind of people it produces, people who are "pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy."

The new millennium is a "in your face" world.
We must be utterly clear of the challenges before us.
We need to work hard at being better at articulating our faith.
We need to recognize those among us who may be specially called to this ministry and give them every encouragement.
We need to help believers at all levels to know the basics of what they believe and why.
Intellectual laziness does not honor God.

But the real battle ground continues to be encouraging all believers to grow in Christlike maturity. After all the ancient world didn't see Christians as intellectual giants.
But what was "in their face" was a community of people who:
*loved each other so much they were willing to die for each other
*sacrificially cared for all in need without thought of return
*willingly suffered and died for the privilege of following Christ
*welcomed people equally without thought of sex, race, social status, economic status, age...

It just won't do to win the battle for the apologetics of ideas and ignore the apologetics of life.
We mustn't let the recent flowering of interfaith dialogs make us focus on the former to the neglect of the latter.
We must press on in both.

Your brother,
Soo-Inn Tan
Write me!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)

What is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common disease of childhood, like chickenpox and measles. It is usually characterized by tiny blisters on the inside of the mouth and the palm of the hands, fingers, and sole of the feet. Blisters also commonly occur on the buttock and other parts of the body. It is commonly caused by Coxsackie virus A16 (an enterovirus), and less commonly by other types of viruses such as enterovirus 71. HFMD is not the same as foot-and-mouth disease of cattle and sheep. Foot-and-mouth disease is caused by different viruses.

What are the signs and symptoms of HFMD?
Young children are primarily affected, but it may be seen in adults. The most common age group affected is those below 10 years old. Outbreaks may occur among groups of children especially in child care centers or nursery schools. This is because these children are younger and their immune system is not well developed. In other countries, most cases occur in the summer and early fall. Symptoms usually appear 3 to 7 days after exposure.

HFMD begins with the child getting fever, poor appetite, tiredness and a sore throat. One or two days after the fever appear, the child begins to develop painful sores in the mouth and throat. These sores begin as small red dots which the blisters and develop into ulcers. They are usually located on the tongue, inner side of the cheek and at the back of the throat. The skin rash appears around the same time the oral ulcers appear. These rashes may be just red dots but some may proceed to develop into blister with fluid in the center. The rash are not itchy and is usually located on the palms of the hand, the soles of the feet and around the buttocks region .Mild cases may only has the rash or oral ulcers.

The fever and oral ulcers create a lot of discomfort for the child. They are usually irritable and would be unable to eat even though they are hungry and thirsty. In mild cases, the oral ulcers will begin to heal in about 3-5 days and the fever subsides around the same time. Most children recover without medical treatment in 7 to 10 days.
Complications of HFMD are rare. A few children with coxsackievirus A16 infection may develop meningitis with fever, headache and stiff neck. These children will need to be hospitalized for treatment. Another virus that causes HFMD, EV71 may also cause meningitis and also may cause more severe complications like encephalitis, myocarditis (heart involvement) and polio-like paralysis. EV71 encephalitis may be fatal. Outbreak of fatal encephalitis HFMD by EV71 occurred in Malaysia in 1997 and Taiwan in 1998.

How do HFMD spread?
HFMD spread from person to person by direct contact with nose and throat secretions, saliva, fluid form blisters or the stool of infected children. The infection spread most easily during the acute phase of illness when people are feeling ill, but the virus can spread for several weeks after the onset of infection.

Is there any treatment for HFMD?
There is no specific treatment for HFMD. There is also no vaccine for HFMD. Symptomatic treatment is reducing fever by use of paracetamol or ibuprofen and relief from the pain of oral ulcers. The child should be brought to see a doctor if high fever persists in spite of medication, totally unable to eat and was lethargic all the time.

Can HFMD be prevented?
HFMD cannot be prevented but the risk of infection can be lowered by good hygiene habits such as:
Washing hands well, especially after going to the bathroom and after changing diapers.
Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Frequent washing of toys.
Excluding children from child care or kindergarten if there is a fever, or ulcers in the mouth.

What can kindergarten and childcare facilities do?
HFMD occurs commonly in children who are in childcare facilities or kindergarten. Even if the children are checked daily and sent home if they have fever and oral ulcers, it may be too late as the virus would have spread before the signs of HFMD appear or after the infection. Adults who have no symptoms may be carrier of the disease. Nevertheless, it would be good if the following measures are to be taken especially during an outbreak:

· Daily examination of children before school starts. If the child has fever and oral ulcers, they are to be quarantine in a separate room until their parents or guardians come to pick them up.
· Child with HFMD should not be allowed in the kindergarten or childcare for 10 days.
· Toys and furniture in the kindergarten and childcare facilities should be cleaned using diluted solution of chlorine-containing bleach (made by mixing approximately one quarter cup of bleach with one gallon of water).


Raising Ebenezer

Robert Robinson had a rough beginning. His father died when he was young and his mother, unable to control him sent him to London to learn to be a barber, Instead he learned to drink and be a gangster. One night when he was about 17, he and his friends visited a fortune teller while drunk. They made fun of the fortune teller as she tried to tell their fortune. Something about the encounter disturbed Robert so he attended later that vening an evangelistic meeting by George Whitefield. Whitefield preached from Matthew 3:7. His words haunted Robert until he gave his heart to Jesus on December 10, 1755, nearly three years later. Here is a man who have turned from a sinful life and entered the ministry at 23 years old. He wrote the hymn, ‘Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ in 1758 to remember the time when the Holy Spirit entered into his life and make all things new.

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Simon and Garfunkel: The Sound of Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
'Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of
a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one deared
Disturb the sound of silence.

"Fools" said I,"You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you."
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.
And the signs said, The words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls.
And whisper'd in the sounds of silence.


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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Henri Nouwen on Gratitude

Gratitude... goes beyond the "mine" and "thine" and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.

Henri Nouwen

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Spiritual Formation of the Disicples

A Learning Organisation in Action

A disciple is a ‘learner’. Hence, it may be assumed that a church, which is a community of disciples (learners) will be a learning organisation. Unfortunately it is not so. The church has always been slow to embrace changes and remain relevant in a rapidly changing world. Recently, mainly through the works of Peter Senge, ‘secular’ organisations has discovered that they need to be learning organisations if they are to survive in this rapidly changing socio-political and economic climate

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