Saturday, September 29, 2007

Is Blogging a Dying Art?

Christianity Today, 29 September 2007 gives us the tiding

The Death of Blogs
Well, some of them, anyway.
by Ted Olsen posted 9/25/2007 08:57AM

Tech researcher Gartner Inc. reported earlier this year that 200 million people have given up blogging, more than twice as many as are active.

"A lot of people have been in and out of this thing," Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer told reporters. "Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they're put on stage and asked to say it." Given the average lifespan of a blogger and the current growth rate of blogs, Gartner says blogging has probably peaked.

Which isn't to say that blogging is dead. Quite the opposite. Blog aggregator Technorati estimates that 3 million new blogs are launched every month. The site's tongue-in-cheek slogan: "Zillions of photos, videos, blogs, and more. Some of them have to be good."...

But some of us can't help ourselves. Nearly as common as the abandoned blog is the "final comments before I reclaim my life" post. Followed by "an update to something I said in my final comments." And, "Well, I couldn't let this story go by." And on it goes.

One of the best resignation letters came from Alan Jacobs in Books & Culture. "Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought," he wrote in "Goodbye, Blog" (May/June 2006). A year later, in addition to writing a regular column for Books & Culture, the Wheaton College literature professor blogs thoughtfully at two different sites.

read the complete article here


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The Batcave

The Batcave held certain fascination for me even since I was a young kid. I always like secret headquarters. I love the villains of the James Bond movies because they all have such cool secret bases. This graphic novel, Secrets of the Batcave is a compilation of Batman and Robin stories concerning the trophies they have collected in their trophy room in the Batcave and indirectly about the Batcave itself.

Orginally operating out of a store room under the barn on the Wayne property, Bruce Wayne/Batman discovered a secret cavern underneath. A second level was added as Batman's base of operation expanded.

The Batcave underneath Wayne Manor was expanded into the nearby mountain.

With Dick Grayson gone to college, Batman decided to make his new base of operations in the central of Gotham City. Living in a penthouse in the Wayne Foundation building, Bruce Wayne built a secret Batcave in the sub-basement.

The Batcave was relocated back to beneath Wayne Manor

The Batcave is under the Wayne manor on the ourskirt of Gotham City

The lower level of the Batcave contain Batman's gynasium and also the spectacular Trophy room

The batcave of the present with satellite Batcaves in different locations in Gotham City


When Your Ass Speaks, Shut Up and Listen

When Your Ass Speaks, Shut Up and Listen
Balaam, an Angel and a Donkey
Text: Numbers 22:1-35

Balak, king of the Moabites was worried. His spies reported the invasion of this group of escaped slaves from Egypt called Israelites. They had won spectacular victories over King Og and King Sihon and are even at this moment camped beside the Jordan River, near Jericho. Balak was worried that the Israelites will be eyeing his country next. He also knew that he cannot defeat them by his army alone. So with his advisors, he hatched a plot to defeat these invaders. If they cannot be defeated by physical force, maybe they can be defeated by magic.

Balak knew of a powerful sorcerer and diviner named Balaam. He was so powerful that those he blessed prospered and those he cursed self-destructed. So Balak decided to enlist his help. He started by sending his prince-elders with a suitable amount of gold and silver to buy his services. Balaam received them and told them to stay the night. That night he consulted with God who told him to refuse. The delegation reported back to Balak.

Balak sent another delegation. This time it includes his more distinguished prince-elders and even more gold and silver. Again Balaam invited them to stay and that night consulted with God. It seems that this gentile prophet has open access to God. God said to go but on condition that Balaam will obey and say only what God had directed him to say.

The next day, Balaam saddled his donkey and set off on the main road. Suddenly, the donkey saw an angel with a sword in the middle of the road. So she turned off the road and went into the field. Surprisingly, the powerful wizard cannot see the angel. Angry at the change in direction, he beat his donkey with a stick. As the donkey continued along a narrow lane between two vineyards, again she saw the angel so she had to squeeze to the side of the lane to avoid the angel. This scratched Balaam’s foot so he got angry and beat the donkey again. The donkey continue into a smaller lane who there stand the angel and there was no escape. The donkey knelt down and refused to move. This was a smart donkey.

Again Balaam hit her. “Why did you hit me?” spoke the donkey, “have I not served you faithfully before.” It must have been incredible for the donkey to speak. It was even more incredible for Balaam to answer her. Balaam acted as if it was commonplace for animals to speak. The Lord showed the angel with the sword to Balaam and Balaam immediately perceived his peril. He fell on his face, confessed, repented and begged for forgiveness.

This story is part of larger collection of Balaam stories. However I want to draw some lessons from this:

(1) The Lord is in Total Control

This was a popular story amongst the Jewish audience for many centuries. It shows that the Lord, our God is in total control of the situation. The Lord was aware of what was happening with his people in Transjordan. They have just defeated the people of Sihon and Og. Yet he was also aware of what was transpiring in Moab.

Balaam is a Gentile prophet. We are told that he was a powerful sorcerer and diviner. It is not surprising that God sometimes uses people from outside the Israel nation. Some scholars debate whether Balaam is a true prophet. The word used for the Lord is elohim and Yahweh. Elohim is also used as a generic name for God. Hence Balaam may be worshipping a god when he suddenly came into contact with the real God; Yahweh. This story illustrates in a wonderful way that God is in total control of the whole situation. From where you are standing now, it may not appear so. You may be wondering why God allowed some bad things to happen to you. Be assured that God has not abandoned you. As God has shown, He was aware of what is happening in Moab which was quite a distance from where the Israelites were encamped. What is even more wonderful is that He forbade Balaam to ‘curse them’. No one who belongs to God can be cursed because God is more powerful than powers and principalities.

(2) The Lord demands total obedience.

One may wonder why God was so tough on Balaam. After all, did Balaam not follow God’s instructions closely? When God said, “Don’t go.” He didn’t. When God said “Go,” he went. My suspicion is that God is not unreasonable but that God knew the disobedience in Balaam’s heart. Though outwardly, Balaam was a model of obedience, in his inner heart there must be treachery. He must be thinking if I could fool this ‘god’ by pretending to obey and then when the occasion was right, he would curse the Israelites.
Later in the book of Numbers, we were shown that Balaam was responsible for leading the Israelites into idolatry and sexual immorality. In fact, Balaam’s name was infamous through the Bible starting from Numbers, Deuteronomy and even in Revelation.

God’s instructions were clear. ‘Say only what I told you to say.’ The fact that he sent an angel to kill Balaam meant that God knew that Balaam did not intend to follow His instructions to the letter. Many of us do not take the Lord seriously. We make bargains with the Lord when we are in trouble. We gave our vows when we have been emotionally or spiritually trapped. We pledged to give of our time, money, and possessions if the Lord will help us. Yet when we are out of trouble, we forget our bargains, vows, and pledges.

We also take the instructions of the Lord lightly. We know what He wants us to do, the type of life He wants us to live, and the kind of people He wants us to be. All His instructions and expectations are all available to us in the Bible so we cannot plead ignorance. He even came Himself as Jesus Christ to show us how it can be done. Yet, we so often disregard His instructions when it inconvenience us; when it moves us out of our comfort zone; and when its demand something sacrificial from us. The story of Balaam shows us that God will not be mocked.

(3) Listen to all around you because the Lord may speak through them.

The talking donkey shows us that sometimes we can miss seeing something that is right in front of our eyes. Balaam, for all his divination skills cannot see the angel with the sword. Yet his donkey can. So, we have to have humility and not be dogmatic in our walk with the Lord. Sometimes, our pride may blind our spiritual eyes. Then we cannot see where the Lord is leading us and walked right out of His will.

God did not always choose to speak through the high and mighty. He also speaks through the lowly donkey or ass. So we must be ever alert to discern God’s leading and instruction from all things around us. Anyone and anything can teach us spiritual lessons if we are humble and sensitive enough to discern them.

The story of Balaam, his donkey and an angel teaches us that God is in total control, He demands total obedience, and we have to be spiritually discerning if we do not want to miss His guidance to our regret. It means we have to walk closely with Him at all times.

Reflection Questions
(1) Do you believe that God is in total control of all situations? As you read the newspaper today, watch the news on televisions and look at your or your friend’s life circumstances, do you believe that He is in control? Why? Or why not?
(2) Have you been obedient to His instructions as revealed in the Bible? If not, why not? What is stopping you? What steps will you take to correct that? If yes, praise the Lord.
(3) How do you think pride prevents us from learning from those whom we consider ‘non-spiritual’ or from lowly people? What do you think we should do to be humble enough to learn from them?


Give us the conviction that You are in total control of what is happening in the world today. Reassure us that You have a plan. Help us to be obedient to you. Give us the strength to resist temptations to be disobedient. Help us to develop discerning eyes and humble ears to see and hear your presence in the world today.


picture credit

soli deo gloria

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Batman and Son

That's right. Batman has a son. This original storyline from BATMAN comic issues 655-658, 663-66 by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert reveals that Batman sired a boy named Damian. The mother is Talia, the daughter of Ra's al Ghul, now mistress of the greatest criminal empire in the world. Damian is genetically engineered for the best qualities of Batman/Bruce Wayne and Ra's al Ghul.

Damian was raised by Talia to be like his father, the world's greatest detective. However he was also trained and indoctrinated by the League of Assassins. Batman accepts Damian under his wings. The question is whether Damian is a young boy trying to prove himself to his father or Talia's ultimate weapon to destroy Batman. The storyline was made more interesting when Batman has to face three different versions of himself. An enjoyable read.

read more of my comments on comics here


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bringing Light Out of the Darkness

Reading this book is like reading some one's personal diary or a protected personal blog. I feel very uneasy especially when I knew that Mother Teresa had no intention of having her personal diary and correspondence published.

The books contains extracts of letters, personal notes and observations with commentaries giving the context, time and place of these writings.

It reminds me of reading the writings of another Teresa, St.Teresa of Avila. The greatest impression this book has made on me is that here is a woman in love with Jesus. After she embarked on her mission, she suddenly lost the sense of Jesus' presence. Although there were a few occasions when she did feel His presence, it never lasted long. Mother Teresa calls these periods of His absence as the 'darkness'.

In spite of her personal 'darkness', Mother Teresa resolves to keep her pain to herself and present to the world a face of one called by Jesus for a special mission. She hides her suffering behind a smile of encouragement.

Reading her writings does not reveal a person who is suffering from depression or burn out due to chronic stress working in the Calcutta slums. All these has been postulated as reasons for her 'darkness.' Personally, I believe her 'darkness' is what St. John of the Cross described as the dark night of the soul. It is in the absence that is the Presence.

I finished it with my respect for Mother Teresa increased. She is undoubtedly a woman of courage and strength. That she sacrificed so much, including the support she could have received from her sisters is a miracle indeed. Here is a life built on service to Jesus Christ, her Lord.

sli deo gloria

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How to Preach a Narrative Sermon

Is it difficult to preach a narrative sermon? Some pastors seem to think so while others think it is a breeze. Recently I read a book that teaches narrative preaching. What is interesting is that the author has been preaching it for 50 years!

Calvin Miller (2006), Preaching: The Art of Narrative Preaching (Grand Rapids. MI: Baker Books) is an excellent book by a preacher, pastor and teacher of homiletics (preaching).

Miller takes us through ‘birthing’ a sermon from exegesis, writing, and preaching a sermon. One of his points is to be yourself in the pulpit and not try to imitate another preacher. He has written a poem about being himself.

I’m me, and my “I-ness” is special to me.
Minus my “I-ness” I’d just be like you,
And you’d be like me and that’s nothing new.
“You-ness” looks good, but only on you.
‘Cause “you-ness” wouldn’t fit where “I-ness” should be.
My “I-ness” looks great, but only on me.

The gem of the book is in the appendix where he names and pays tribute to the great preachers and their specific strengths in building a sermon:

Meat and Potatoes (expository base of the sermon): Haddon W. Robinson
The Mind of the Sermon:
Ian Pitt-Watson
The Subject of the Sermon: Bryan Chapell
[subject is always Christ]
The Soul of the Sermon: Barbara Brown Taylor
The Witness of Preaching:
Thomas Long
The Philosophy of Preaching;
John Stott
The Narrative Base: Eugene Lowry
The Movement of the Sermon: David Buttrick
The Spirit and Life of the Sermon:
Donald Coggan
The Sermon and Altar: Calvin Miller


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Preaching for all Seasons of Life

Leadership Journal, Summer 2007 featured a really excellent article by Gordon MacDonald

Incarnate Preaching
It's not just living your words, it's knowing the lives of those you're speaking to.

MacDonald, drawing on his long experience as a preacher and pastor shares his wisdom on how to make his sermons relevant. What struck me most are his

Questions of the Decade

When I preach to people in their twenties, I am aware that they are asking questions such as:

What makes me different from my family of origin or the people around me?
In what direction am I going to point my life in order to pay my way through life?
Am I lovable and am I capable of loving?
Around what will I center my life?

Those in their thirties tend to have accumulated serious long-range responsibilities: spouses, babies, home mortgages, and serious income needs. Suddenly life becomes overrun with responsibilities. Time and priorities become important. Fatigue and stress levels rise. The questions shift to:

How can I get done all of these things for which I am responsible?
Why do I have so many self-doubts?
Why is my spiritual center so confused?
What happened to all the fun I used to have?
Why haven't I resolved all my sin problems?
Why is there so little time for friendships?

For people in their forties, the questions do not get any easier. Now they are asking:

Why are some of my peers doing better than me?
Why am I so often disappointed in myself, in others?
Why isn't my faith deeper?
Why is my marriage less than dazzling?
Why do I yearn to go back to the carefree days of my youth?
Should I scale back some of my dreams?
Why do I no longer feel attractive?

People in their fifties are asking:

Do these young people think I'm obsolete?
Why is my body becoming increasingly unreliable?
Why are so few of my friendships nourishing?
What do my spouse and I have in common now that the children are leaving?
Does this marriage of mine offer any intimacy at all?
Why is my job no longer a satisfying experience?
Are the best years of life over?
Do I have anything of value to give any longer?

Those in their sixties ask:

How long can I keep on doing the things that define me?
Why do my peers look so much older than me?
What does it mean to grow old?
How do I deal with angers and resentments that I've never resolved?
Why do my friends and I talk so much about death and dying?

Those in their seventies and above have questions such as:

Does anyone around here know who I once was?
How do I cope with all this increasing weakness around me?
How many years do I have left?
How long can I maintain my independence and my dignity?
When I die, how will it happen?
What about all these things I intended to do (and be) and never got around to?

Can a sermon speak to these issues? For many listeners, sermons that ignore these questions will not be credible.

It is around matters like these, which change through the years, that the preacher can speak into the fears, the failures and regrets, the longings and opportunities, and bring words of hope and clarity, touching a life with Christ's presence

read more


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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The White Feather of Cowardice

The Four Feathers is a remake of a timeless romance based on a novel. This movie was made in 2002. The previous movies were made in 1939 and 1977. Like all great stories, it is about love, honor, loyalties and discovering who we really are. This movie is set in the 19th Century when the British Empire ruled the world.

In Sudan there was an uprising led by an Islamic fundamentalist called Mahdi. This was the time of General Gordon of Khartoum. The British garrisons in Sudan were annihilated by the local rebels and fresh British troops were being sent in.

Harry Feversham was son of General Feversham, a famous British general. He had always drifted through life, doing what his authoritative father wanted him to do. After college, he joined the army. His intention was to hold a military commission for two years (as expected by his father) and then resign and get on with his life. He is in love with a beautiful girl who loved him and they were about to be married. Harry's life shattered when his regiment were sent to Sudan. Harry suddenly discovered that he really do not know who he is. In his gesalt of self discovery, he discovered that he did not want to go to war. Harry resigned his commission. In the 19th century, it was regarded as a noble task to fight for the Queen and country. To refuse to fight is regarded as an act of cowardice. This is symbolised by three white feathers sent by his three best friends in the regiment. The fourth was from his fiance!

The story is about a man who set out on a journey of inner self discovery. His refusal to go to war and resignation from the army branded him a coward. So he set out to Sudan to face his inner demons. One by one he redeemed his white feathers by saving his friends in heroic situations. He found that being brave is not the courage to face death but to face life.

This is a period movie with costumes and cliches. Yet, it is timeless because it deals with a basic question. Who are we? When the houses of card on which we built our identities collapsed and we are flat on the ground, then we will really know who we really are. How may of us have the courage to rebuild with solid bricks and a strong foundation? I suspect many of us will prefer to rebuild our houses of card again.

The key scene in the movie was when Harry told his fiance that he was refusing to go to war. They were in a nave of a church. The next time they met at the end of the movie in the same place, Harry was a changed person. It is symbolic as it reminds me of one of Elliot poem that in searching for ourselves, we will end up from where we began. The search is within, not without.

There is a lot of fighting and bloody scenes, comparable to Zulu but not like 300. Bloody good show, what?


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Monday, September 24, 2007

Persecution, Proclaimation, Profession, Power

Persecution, Proclamation, Profession, Power
Text: Acts 8:1- 25

Sermon Statement (Big idea)

God uses all types of circumstances as opportunities for his people to share the gospel so that others may be saved. There will be true and false professions of the faith. To all true believers there is only one church. Power is a powerful attraction for some, even within the church.


Adverse events in our lives may lead to better things. In the Bible, Joseph was betrayed and sold into slavery by his brothers. Yet, it turn into an opportunity for him to become the right hand man of Pharaoh and saved his family from starvation.
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Sunday, September 23, 2007

St. John's Illuminated Bible

A modern day attempt to create a medieval illuminated bible, named St. John's Bible.

By the time the Bible is finished (scheduled for 2009), the 1,150 handwritten pages will represent a decade of conversations and labor by artists, theologians, and scholars on two continents. Eventually, the pages will be bound between boards of Welsh oak into seven volumes and displayed in the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library on Saint John's campus.
Smithsonian magazine says that the Bible, expected to cost $4 million in donations, is "one of the extraordinary undertakings of our times." According to Saint John's, the endeavor is "a bold and dignified witness to the enduring importance of the Word of God."

read more

slideshow here



Saturday, September 22, 2007

Forgive and Remember

Pearlie blogged about "Forgive, forget and reconcile": a fallacy? and offered some convincing evidence that it is problematic in real practice.

Here is an interesting abstract from Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, David L. Weaver-Zercher (September 27, 2007, $24.95 cloth)

In fact, forgiveness is less a matter of "forgive and forget" than forgive and remember—remembering in ways that bring healing, as Miroslav Volf writes in Free of Charge. When we remember, we take the broken pieces of our lives—lives that have been dismembered by tragedy and injustice—and re-member them into something whole. Literally forgetting an egregious offense, personally or publicly, may not be possible, but all of us can and do make decisions about how we remember what we cannot forget.

For the Amish, gracious remembering involves habits nurtured by memories of Jesus forgiving his tormentors while hanging on a cross and of Dirk Willems returning to pull his enemy out of the icy water. When thirteen-year-old Marian said "shoot me first" in the schoolhouse, and when adults in her community walked over to the killer's family with words of grace a few hours after her death, they were acting on those habits. And just as surely, their actions at Nickel Mines will be recounted around Amish dinner tables for generations to come, creating and renewing memories about the power of faith to respond in the face of injustice—even violence—with grace.

In a world where faith often justifies and magnifies revenge, and in a nation where some Christians use scripture to fuel retaliation, the Amish response was indeed a surprise. Regardless of the details of the Nickel Mines story, one message rings clear: religion was not used to justify rage and revenge but to inspire goodness, forgiveness, and grace. And that is the big lesson for the rest of us regardless of our faith or nationality.

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Five Hundred Posts

The Athenian Agora was my 500th post for this blog. Since January 2006, I have been blogging. I hope you have enjoyed the posts as much as I have in writing them.
picture credit


Friday, September 21, 2007

The Red One or The Blue One

Moepheus begins by describing Neo’s plight as similar to Alice falling down the rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll’s story. He comments that Neo has the look of one who accepts only what he sees because he is in a dream and about to awaken, which is why they brought him here. It is his chance to learn what the Matrix is; Morpheus asks if he wants to know.

Neo nods slowly, but without hesitation, as if realizing that this is a turning point in his life, marking a change forever. Morpheus explains: “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you to the truth.”

Neo inquires as to what truth Morpheus is referring to.

“That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind.”

Moepheus opens a small silver box, takes out two pills from it, and informs Neo that mere description is not enough; that he must see it for himself to understand. Morpheus the leans forward, with a pill in each hand.

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no going back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

After having watched the Matrix Trilogy Movies by the Watchowski brothers and knowing what you know now, if you are Neo which pill will you choose: The blue one or the red one?


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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Athenian Agora by Panathenaic Way

AC 17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

(click on photo for an enlarged view)
Imagine Paul coming into the Athenian Agora. He would have been travelling from the port, having passed the Kerameikos and walked under the entrance arch of the Roman Basilica.
The Agora comprised a large open square where social and cultural events, religious festivals, open-air theatrical events and athletic contests were held and commercial exchange took place.

Looking to his right, he would have seen the Temple of Ares. Behind the temple, up on the hill is the Temple of Hephaisteion.

Further along the road on the left would be the Odeion of Agrippa- a state of the art entertainment hub of the time. This theatre was built by Marcus Vipsanius Agripa, an official of Augusus Caesar. Outside stood statues featuring three serpent tailed Giants and Titons on huge plith. Today two Titons and one Giant remains. This is a Giant.

To the right of the road would be the imposing Stoa of Attalos. A stoa is a sort of a shopping mall with a corridor on one side and shops on the other.

This is the corridor of the stoa where the people will gather and the shops would be on the right. There would have been 12 shops. Presently the shop space houses the Museum of the Agora

In front of the Stoa of Attalos on the right side of the road was the Bema. This was the speaker corner where anyone have a right to speak. Here I was standing on a stone that was engraved speaker's platform. To think that some of the great orators of Greece once stood here to speak. Stoic and Epicurean philosophers. Maybe Socrates, Plato or Aristotle. The apostle Paul may have spoken here. Cool!

At the end southern corner stood the Nymphaion or Fountain House. Now the Church of the Holy Apostles is sited here.

soli deo gloria


Respect Books

bookmark from MPH

An Adequate Theology of Childhood

One of the things I find lacking in our Christian thinking is a coherent theology of childhood. Of course, we have always referred to Jesus’ connection of children with the Kingdom of God. Various commentators take that to refer to mean innocence, lack of inhibitions, and of malice. Others struggle with the meaning of the original sin in children. Some argues on whether children should be baptised or not.

In the last decade, there have been many new studies involving the theology of childhood. This is a welcome addition as scholars and thinkers wrestle with what it means about the salvation of a child and his or her spiritual formation. The child’s interconnectivity with parents, family, community, society and nationhood are also being studied.

Thus it is a delight for me to discover Marcia J. Bunge (ed)(2001) The Child in Christian Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). This book collects together 17 essays on Christian thinking of children. What makes this book different is that the essays are not about contemporary thinkers but Christian thinkers from the past. These books disperse the myth that the early Christian thinkers are not concern about children. The chapter titles reads like a who who’s of Christian thinkers:

- The Ecclesial Family: John Chrysostom on Parenthood
- “Where and When was Your Servant Innocent”: Augustine on Childhood
- A Person in the Making: Thomas Aquinas on Children and Childhood
- The Child in Luther’s Theology
- Children in the Theology of John Calvin
- Complex Innocence, Obligatory Nurturance, and Parental Vigilance: “The Child” in the Work of Menno Simons
- Education and the Child in Eighteenth-Century German Pietism
- John Wesley and Children
- Jonathan Edwards, and the Puritan Culture of Child Bearing
- Friedrich Schleiermacher on the Religious Significance
- Horace Bushnell’s Christian Nurture
- Reading Karl Barth on Children
- Karl Rahner’s Contribution to Modern Catholic Thought on the Child

…and more. All my favourite theologians are here. This book is worth reading, especially for those involved in the teaching and ministry with children.

soli deo gloria

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Come Drink with Me

Come drink with me!
away from exploitation

Just you, me and the drink,
no more role-playing

Let the drink immerse us
into the presence

Sans dream, sans joy, sans existence


Sunday, September 16, 2007

More Data on Same Sex Sexuality

Tim Stafford, senior Christanity Today staff writer reviews the Ex-Gay movement and gives some new research data on same sex orientation.

An Older, Wiser Ex-Gay Movement
The 30-year-old ministry now offers realistic hope for homosexuals.
Tim Stafford posted 9/13/2007 02:19PM

Which sums up much of ex-gay ministry today. No hype. Limited faith in techniques. No gay bashing. No detectable triumphalism, religious or political. Just serious discipleship. This may be the only group in America that realizes all the way to the bottom that when you decide to follow Jesus, you don't always get to do what you want to do.

The ex-gay movement runs against the cultural tide. Given adverse public opinion, the ambivalent support of conservative churches, and the common assertion that ex-gays condemn themselves to a life of frustration, you would think the movement would shrivel. Yet Exodus affiliates have doubled in number over the last 18 years. Many of its leaders have been in the public eye for 20 to 30 years. They show every sign of stability.

They live by radical ideas about sexuality—that we are not, as our culture would have it, defined by our desires, heterosexual or homosexual. Rather, we are defined by our Creator and Savior. Our attractions, always disordered to some extent, must be submitted to Christ, who alone can redeem us. For those who feel strong same-sex attractions, that task is especially difficult. But it is the same basic struggle every Christian must face.

read more

The Best Research Yet
Two psychologists show that homosexuals should not be discouraged from seeking change.
Tim Stafford posted 9/13/2007 02:20PM

Jones and Yarhouse address this lack of good evidence in their book, Ex-Gays?: A Continuing Study of Religiously Mediated Sexual Orientation Change in Exodus Participants. By taking a sample of people entering ex-gay programs under the Exodus umbrella and following them with detailed questionnaires over several years, Jones and Yarhouse tested the impact of ex-gay programs on participants—whether they actually experienced change, and whether the attempt to change caused additional distress. Participants are still being followed, but the findings to date clearly upset the professional consensus. A substantial minority of participants showed significant change from homosexual patterns of behavior and thought, and there was no overall evidence of additional mental distress. The change observed was generally modest, perhaps comparable to the results of therapy for alcohol and drug addiction, for troubled marriages, or for personality disorders.

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The Writing Life

Here is an interesting article on God's Writing Life in Christianity Today
Our Creator has chosen a medium that is the most challenging of all.

Philip Yancey posted 9/13/2007 08:29AM . I hope Philip has recovered from his neck injury sustained in a road accident a few months ago.

"Does writing get easier the more you do it?" someone asked me recently. After three decades of making a living by putting words on paper, I have to answer no. The more I write, the more aware I am of problems—clichés, dull spots, weak images, repetitions. Whenever I attempt some other difficult activity, like climbing a steep and scary mountain, I remind myself, "Yes, but it's easier than writing!"

One day as I was wallowing in a writer's funk, I found myself wondering whether God knew something of the process I was going through. God spoke, of course, but did he write? I searched the Bible for examples.

The Ten Commandments came immediately to mind. Exodus reports that God gave Moses two "tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God," emphasizing that "the tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets" (Ex. 31:18; 32:16). Scholars note that the tablets established a treaty, or covenant, between God and the Israelites, similar to treaties between other rulers and their subjects that spelled out what each party could rightfully expect. Unlike their neighbors, the Israelites didn't need to fear the arbitrary whims of the gods; their God had signed a straightforward agreement.

By the time Moses descended from Mt. Sinai, however, the Israelites had already broken the first two commandments. Enraged, Moses dashed the tablets to pieces—which led to the first divine re-write.

The next scene of supernatural writing occurred in the nation of Babylon (modern-day Iraq), when King Belshazzar profaned golden goblets from the temple in Jerusalem by serving wine in them to lubricate his great banquet. Suddenly, the fingers of a hand appeared and wrote four words on the plaster wall. "The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way" (Dan. 5:5-6). Belshazzar had reason to tremble: That night the mighty Babylonian empire fell to the Persians (modern-day Iran).

Both scenes underscore God's role as sovereign ruler of history and judge of nations. Whether refugees in the Sinai wilderness or potentates in a palace, all human beings report to a higher authority. We cannot simply make up our own rules.

The Gospels record a single occurrence of Jesus writing, and even that is missing from the earliest manuscripts (John 8:1-11). Religious authorities had caught a woman in the act of adultery and dragged her before Jesus as a double-bind trap. Having broken one of the Ten Commandments, she deserved a death sentence according to Mosaic Law. On the other hand, the Romans forbade Jews to exercise capital punishment. What would Jesus say?
He said nothing, but instead bent down and wrote on the ground. As a writer, I find it humbling that the only time we see Jesus writing, he is using the medium of sand so that the words would soon be blown away by wind or washed away by rain. Moreover, the author doesn't bother to tell us what Jesus wrote.

When Jesus finally spoke, he said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." The trap sprang, but back on the accusers. Then the one person present who was without sin, who clearly had the right to exercise judgment, declined. The reign of grace was underway.

Elsewhere, Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments as "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and "Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matt. 22:37-40). Borrowing an image from the prophets, the apostle Paul later spoke of laws being written on the heart. He said of the Corinthians (yes, the randy Corinthians), "You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Cor. 3:3).

I found a mere handful of scenes portraying God as a writer. Taken together, they provide a progression toward grace, and, significantly, they involve each member of the Trinity. Three of the media—stone tablets, a plaster wall, and sand in the temple courts—did not survive the ravages of history. Instead, God's literature gets passed down generation by generation in transformed lives. "For we are God's [work of art]," Paul told the Ephesians (2:10), using the Greek word poiema, from which we get "poem."

After surveying scenes of God writing, I no longer felt so burdened. Composing words on paper is one thing; creating sacred works of art out of human beings is quite another.

Copyright © 2007 Christianity Today.

This gels with something I have been reading about writing by Thomas Merton in Robert Inchausti (Ed.) (2007), Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton and the Vocation of Writing (London & Boston: New Seeds)

If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy.

If you write for men - you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while.

If you write for yourself, you can read what you have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted you will wish you were dead (p.198)

I must remember this.

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The Rescue Society

The Rescue Society

Along a reef-ridden, rockbound coast, a small group became concerned about those who were losing their lives in the shipwrecks that took place on the reefs and rocks. They formed the Rescue Society for the purpose of saving those who had been shipwrecked.

For years they risked their own lives for the sake of others, but hundreds were saved who were otherwise would have been lost.

As a new generation entered the Rescue Society, they decided to perfect their techniques for rescue so that even more could be saved. They began to attend rescue workshops, to bring in consultants on the latest rescue techniques, to entertain salespeople who touted the latest in rescue equipment.

Before long, the maintenance and perfection of the rescue station, its techniques, its equipment became the focus of the Rescue Society.

One night, while the entire Rescue Society was attending yet another meeting to perfect their rescue skills, a great passenger liner struck on the reef and sank. Hundreds of people were lost because there was no one to go to their rescue.

The Rescue Society has come to exist for its own perfection and not for the sake of others.

picture credit


Friday, September 14, 2007

ESPress September 2007

ESPress is the magazine of the English Speaking Presbytery of Malaysia

This September 2007 issues is full of news about the many English Presbyterian churches in Malaysia.

It contains my article The Habit of Familiarity


The Great Commission September 2007

The Great Commission magazine September 2007 issue deals with Conflict: An inevitable part of life that we need to manage.

This magazine is published by the Campus Crusade for Christ, Malaysia

It features my article Conflicts in the Church


Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Gift of Daily Bread

Peter Young, (July 2007) The Gift of Daily Bread, (Puchong, Selangor: Peter Young)

Peter Young is the co-founder of Malaysian CARE, Interserve Fellowship, Dignity & Care and United Voice in Malaysia.

In this small booklet, Peter examines the meaning of receiving our daily bread in the Malaysian context. To him, some examples of daily bread/rice are
(1) Food/drink/clothing
(2) Gender/race equality
(3) Social rejection
(4) Employment
(5) Freedom of religion

Peter's concern for the poor and marginalised comes through very clearly in this booklet. What is even more clear is his opinion of the Malaysian churches' responses.

He writes,

We often fail to realise that our main response to the poor and marginalised in Malaysia is in our workplace. That is where the church is during working hours! What are we providing through our employment? Daily chicken/pork, daily rice/bread or daily poison?

Other than homemakers, and those serving in local churches/denominations there are, roughly, four main areas in our workplace:
(1) The private sector
(2) Government service
(3) Politics
(4) Non-governmental organisations

Whilst not denying the prime importance of the private sector, on which the economy of our nation depends, it must be understood that it is through the other three agencies that many of the basic needs of the poor/marginalised must be met. Education/healthcare/social services/advocacy for human rights are just a few examples of these needs. Unfortunately, our church leaders and Christian parents are failing to stress the tremendous opportunities for Christian service, including the provision of daily bread in jobs outside the private sector.

This is a provoking thought. However, I wonder in the present political climate in Malaysia, how effective a Christian can be in the government and politics? As for NGOs, it depends on which type, doesn't it?


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Byzantine Prayer

Serene Light, shining in the
Ground of my being,
Draw me to yourself,
Draw me past the snares of the senses,
Out of the mazes of the mind,
Free me from symbols, from words,
That I may discover
The Signified
The Word Unspoken
In the darkness
That veils the ground of my being.



Holy Communion for Communion

There are other understandings of the Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist than what has been suggested by Joseph Prince. I will look at four other views.

First, the view of the Roman Catholic Church, which is called transubstantiation. In this view, the bread becomes the real body of Jesus and the wine becomes the real blood of Christ when the bread and wine was eaten and drank during the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper). The main argument against this view is that it implies that Jesus’ physical body be present during the Eucharist which cannot be. Jesus is now in heaven (John 16:7, Acts 3: 20-21, Philippians 3:20-21, 1 Corinthians 11:26).

Second, the Lutheran view, called consubstantiation. This view says that when Jesus' was glorified, His physical body became omnipresent. Thus means that Jesus is physically present in the bread and wine in the Holy Communion. However, unlike transubstantiation, the bread and wine do not become the real flesh and blood. Luther believed that Christ's body and blood were present in the sacrament "in, with, and under" the elements of bread and wine. Furthermore, he viewed the sacrament as a means of grace by which the participant's faith is strengthened. This still signifies a 'physical' presence of Christ in the Supper, but not in a 'bloody' way. The problem with this view is that Jesus' glorified body is not omnipresent. It is still a localized resurrected human body now with God (Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 10:12-13, Acts 7:56)

Third, the Zwinglian view (Memorialism) states that the bread and wine are just symbols. The bread and wine are just symbols to remind us of the sacrifice of Jesus are his broken body and blood. The problem with it is that the New Testament teaches that we can have a real communion or fellowship with the real body and blood of Jesus through the communion service (1 Corinthians 10:16). The Zwinglian view does not take into proper account the powerful work of the Holy Spirit through the communion service. There is more at work here than our imagination.

Finally, in John Calvin's view, the bread and wine represent the body and blood of Jesus. They do not in any way become the literal body and blood themselves. But when we partake of the Lord's Supper, the Holy Spirit uses the symbolic message that Jesus is our spiritual nourishment, to strengthen our faith in Jesus. And faith is the human experience of our mystical union with Christ (see question 170 of the Westminster Larger Catechism). How do we have this mystical union with Jesus in His humanity if Jesus is now at the right hand of God and is not returning to earth bodily until the Second Coming?

The Holy Spirit accomplishes this in a way beyond our understanding, not through Jesus' coming down to earth at this time, but through our mystically ascending to heaven. The Christian's identification with the risen Christ is so real and significant that there is a genuine sense in which the Christian is now where Christ is. The Christian is seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:4-6). The Christian has come to the heavenly Jerusalem and to Jesus and His blood (Hebrews 12:22-24). We are where Jesus is through the mystical union effected by the Holy Spirit.

Our subjective experience of the mystical union grows as our faith grows. The Holy Spirit uses the communion service to increase our faith, to strengthen our faith, to confirm our faith. Thus through the communion service, we can have communion with the total person of Christ, including His body which was broken and His blood which was shed for our salvation.

The Reformed and Presbyterian churches based much of their understanding of the Holy Communion on John Calvin’s view. The Holy Communion is a communion with the risen Christ and is a spiritual experience. Holy Communion in the Reformed and Presbyterian traditions does not teach that the sacrament of the Holy Communion is for healing, physical wholeness or anti-ageing.

John Piper on The Lord’s Supper

Martin Luther on The Lord’s Supper

John Knox on The Lord’s Supper

John Calvin on The Lord’s Supper

More on Reformed Confessions on The Lord’s Supper

Soli Deo Gloria

picture credit

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Holy Communion for Health and Wholeness

Joseph Prince, (2006), Health and Wholeness through the Holy Communion (Singapore: Media Pte Ltd).

Joseph Prince is the senior pastor of New Creation Church, a megachurch of more than 15,000 members in Singapore. In this book, Prince seeks to correct “misconceptions about the Holy Communion have robbed many believers of an important God-ordained avenue of healing and wholeness.” (backcover)

In his introduction, Prince notes that, “I have discovered that God ordained the Holy Communion not as a ritual to be observed, but as a blessing to be received – the blessing of health and wholeness” (p.6). To expand on that statement, Prince attributes different function to the wine (representing the blood of Christ) and bread. He writes that “the blood is for forgiveness” (p.24-25) and the “bread is for healing.”(p.25-32). Thus the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion “brings the double cure…in other words, Jesus bore not just our sins, but also our bodily weaknesses, sicknesses, and pains.” (p.32)

While most evangelicals will agree that the Holy Communion is a sacrament which is a blessing from God, they may have problem with the fact that partaking of the Holy Communion cures diseases and ill-health. The proof text used by Prince is 1 Corinthians 11:29-30.
For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.”

Prince infers that “He (Paul) was pointing us to one singular reason Christians become weak, sick, and die before their time…their failure to discern the Lord’s body.” (p.13) Apparently because they “did not know why they were partaking” or “they had no idea why they were eating the bread.” (p.13) so they became weak, sick and die. Prince further adds, “since truth is parallel, it means that if we do discern the Lord’s body, we will walk in His health and wholeness.” (p.13-14)

What is the correct way to discern the Lord’s body? Prince offers this answer, “And as you partake of His broken body, know that yours can be whole. When you partake in this spirit of faith, something happens to your body. You become strong, healthy and you will live long” (p.31). He further adds, “so healing like forgiveness, is not a promise. It is the blood-bought right of Christians!” (p.36)

Prince also advises, “But if you are sick, I would recommend that you have Communion daily. I know of people who are so radical that they take it like medicine-three times a day. And you know what? They get radical results.” (p.45)

And also an additional benefit, “The Holy Communion is God’s solution to offset the decay (ageing). And even your friends will see the results. They will ask you, “Hey, why do you seem to look younger and younger? You never seem to age!”” (p.58). Goodbye biotox.



Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Areopagus or Mars Hill, Athens

Acts 17:19-23
Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean." (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

The Areophagus is a hill that is sited between the ancient Athenian Agora and the plateau of the Acropolis. The sacred road or the "Panathenaic Way" or "West Road" ran through it from the port, through the Agora and all the wall up to the Temple of Athena in the Parthenon in the Acropolis.

The name of the hill is probably derived from Ares, the god of war or from Ares-Erinyes (arai:curses), divinities of punishment and revenge. It was on this hill that the Boule of the Areopagus (Council of the Areopagus) sat in judgement of murderers. It was also a cult place or sacred place where the sanctuary of Eumenides or Semnai Theai (the kindly ones) was located.

This view is from the Areopagus facing north. Beyond the edge of the cliff is the ancient Athenian Agora. The large building on the right is the restored Stoa of Attalos. In its time it would contained shops and shade, a regular shopping mall.

Another view from a slight higher elevation, facing south. The building with columns on the left is the Temple of Hephaisteion, devoted to the god of metal working and where the metal workers worked. On the right is the Church of the Ayioi Apostolioi (Holy Apostles), a Byzantine church built over the Roman Nymphaion, a fountainhouse, which in turn was built over the Athenian Southeast Fountainhouse where Paul would have taken a drink.

To the north is the imposing Acropolis. Restoration works is being carried out and the building with the scaffolding is the Prophylaia, the impressive entrance to the Acropolis. The smaller scaffolded building to the extreme left is the Temple to Athena Nike (nike means victory).

This is supposedly the site where Paul preached to the Athenians.

And a plague commemorating that occasion. Apparently a number of Athenians were converted. One of them was Dionysios the Areopagite. Dionysios became the first Bishop of Athens. When he died, he became the patron saint of Athens. A church/Basilica named after him was built on this site.

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Why Do We Resist God's Sovereignty

A thought provoking post from John Piper's blog

There are two ways that the soul can resist the truth of God’s sovereign governance over all evil that is implied in Genesis 50:20—“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”

#1. The soul can resist with an unbelieving and rebellious spirit that willfully resists God’s right and power and wisdom in “meaning evil for good.”

#2. The soul can resist with a humble mixture of love for God’s holiness, justice, and love, on the one hand, and mental perplexity as to how these could be consistent with God’s “meaning evil for good,” on the other hand.

#2 brings God’s patient, merciful displeasure, leading eventually to greater light.

#1 brings God’s punitive displeasure, leading eventually to death, if there is no repentance.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Confession and Commitment

Confession and Commitment
Renewal in Christian Service
Text: Nehemiah 9:1- 11:2

Sermon statement (Big idea)
Repentance and confession, commitment and recommitment are part of the Christian process of becoming, especially in Christian service


An overview of the book of Nehemiah shows that Nehemiah wanted to restore not only the walls but also the people. The book is equally divided in two: chapters’ 1-7 concerns the walls and chapters’ 8-13 concerns the people.

Dr Rick Griffins of Singapore Bible College summarise the book thus:

The restoration of the walls and people in the land under Nehemiah record God’s faithfulness to His promise of restoration to encourage the remnant in covenant obedience rooted in temple worship in Jerusalem. (italics his)

read more

More of my sermons can be found here

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce

By the late 18th Century, over eleven million African men, women and children had been taken from Africa to be used as slaves in the West Indies and the American colonies.

Great Britain was the mightiest superpower on earth and its empire was build on the backs of slaves.

The slave trade was considered acceptable by all but a few.

Of these, even fewer were brave enough to speak out against it.

With these few powerful statements began the movie, Amazing Grace (2007). This movie is a dramatic chronicles of William Wilberforce's 20 years struggle for the abolition of slavery in the British Parliament. Though it is a film about Wilberforce's faith in God, it does not come across as preachy or dull. In fact, I find it an emotional and spiritual experience as I watch the story unfolds. I would place this movie on par with Chariots of Fire which is also a Christian theme movie that I love.

The movies tells of the friendship between William Wilberforce and William Pitt (who will later become Prime Minister). It starts with Wilberforce in his garden realising that he was found by God. He then wonder whether he now serve God or be a political activist. "Be both," said one of his dinner guests. In his search for his calling, he visited John Newton (Albert Finney), a former slaver who turned to the Church to become a monk seeking redemption. Apparently John Newton taught William when he was a boy and also taught him the song, "Amazing Grace." Newton was struggling with his 20,000 ghosts, slaves that he have killed. However he did encourage Wilberforce to set forth in his crusade- one person against 300 MPs in the House of Parliament.

The movie started at the time after 15 years of Wilberforce's fight to pass a bill abolishing slavery. Every year, he proposed the bill and lost. At the start of the movie, Wilberforce was a broken man, having lost his youth and health to his crusade. He was also an opium addict. William Wilberforce had two main objectives, (1) to abolish slavery, and (2) to reform society. In reforming ssociety he had improved working conditions in factories, education, and community work. But in his first objective he had failed.

He met Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai) who inspired him to continue his fight and whom he married. With renewed energy he outwitted the opposition (will not give away the how) and began the slow road to victory. In the movie, the bill for the abolition of slavery was passed with Wilberforce in the Parliament while in history, he heard about it on his dead bed.

The movie unfolds at a steady rate without being too slow to be a drag or too forced and artificial as in many Christian movies. Wilberforce's Christian faith is evident throughout without it being mentioned repeatedly. Ioan Gruffudd gave a convincing performance as Wilberforce; a crusader who was obsessed by his crusade that all but destroyed him but was saved by a woman's love. It also show the teamwork and support by an itinerant preacher, a former slave Oloudaqh Equiano (Youssou N'Dour), activist Thomas Clarkson, and a seasoned politician Lord Charles Fox (Michael Gambon).

This is a must see for the whole family. The closing segment with the whole Scottish pipe band playing Amazing Grace is a truly musical experience.

What other says
Rotten Tomatoes

More of my reviews of other movies here

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What Jesus Demands from the World

John Piper, (2006) What Jesus Demands from the World, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books

John Piper is the pastor for reaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Recently he received a gift of a five-month sabbatical from his church for serving as pastor in the church for 25 years. He spent the sabbatical in Tyndale House in Cambridge, England. Tyndale House with its excellent library resources and community of scholars and pastors is an excellent place to be. John used his time there fruitfully and wrote this excellent book on what Jesus demands from the world.

John is conscious that he is contributing to the ongoing quest for an authentic historical Jesus debate. He is aware that there have been three Quests for the Historical Jesus. Numerous scholars have tried to redefine our understanding of who Jesus is by using the most modern scholarship tools.

The first Quest period was arbitrarily started by Benedict Spinoza (1632-16770), Herman Raimrus (1694-1768), David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874), William Wrede (1859-1906) and ended with Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965). This ‘quest’ collapsed under its own weight as they realize that the reconstructed historical Jesus is not ‘the biblical Christ.’

The second Quest for the historical Jesus started in 1953 by Ernest Kasemann, a student of Rudolf Bultmann. However this second quest was heavily influenced by the social and psychological theories of the time. The reconstructed Jesus appears as an existential political figure (Milan Machovec) or as ‘collective process of consciousness’ (Niderwimmer).

The third Quest begins in the 1980s. Ben Witherington III observes that scholars involved in this third Quest are all in a hurry to say something ‘new,’ another product of our modern society where new gimmicks sells.

John Piper comes to the conclusion that “The growing conviction in me is that life is too short and the church is too precious for a minister of the Word to spend his life trying to recreate a conjectured Jesus.” (p32) To him, all that is required to know the real Jesus can be found in the four Gospels. That is truly a revolutionary yet simple statement. This he set forth in this book by revealing the real Jesus in terms of the demands or commands he gave to his disciples to observe and teach (Matt. 28:19-20). He resolved to use only materials from the four Gospels.

In this book, he has summarized the hundreds of Jesus’ commands into 50 and these are worth studying. Each demand is in a short chapter and hence can be used as a daily devotion.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Strengthening the Soul

The soul is strengthened to all manner of good works by the fire of the Holy Spirit, but it is weakened by the fire of indifference and neglect. The powerful fire and its contrite disposition mingle in human beings and bring forth good fruit. If humans are overburdened and wearied by sins, these sins will all gather together as a fire is smothered by thick smoke and can no longer burn brightly. But if through the power of the soul the greed of human desire is broken, then we burst out with longing for the Father's heavenly home, just as the bee constructs its comb from its own honey. In this way, the new works and old deeds of human beings are so intermingled that they are bound together in true humility, and the fire of pride cannot consume or dry them up.

Hildegard of Bingen
De Operatione Dei, Vision Four


Sunday, September 02, 2007

On Retirement and Semi Retirement

Received this from my friend and fellow spiritual traveller, Punna. This is in line with Blogpastor's post on Can I Retire?

Optimum Strategies for Creativity and Longevity
By Sing Lin, Ph.D.
Member of National Council of Chinese Institute of Engineers – USA/Greater New York Chapter, and Member of Board of Director of National Taiwan University Alumni Association – Greater New York (March 2002)

1. Most Creative Years in the Life

The Nobel Laureate, Dr. Leo Esaki, delivered the distinguished lecture entitled "Innovation and Evolution: Reflections on a Life in Research" in the University of Texas at Dallas in the afternoon of Feb. 23, 2002 during the 2002 US National Engineering Week. In this lecture, Dr. Esaki indicated that most of the great discoveries and innovations by the Nobel Laureates occurred at the average age of 32 even though the Nobel prizes were awarded 10 or 20 years afterwards. Furthermore, Dr. Esaki indicated that the peak creativity of most scientists occurred around the age range of 20 to 30 years. As one gets older, the experience increases but the creativity decreases steadily with the age.

It is, therefore, very important to stimulate, encourage and cultivate many young people to get interested in science and engineering at their young age and to provide the optimal R&D environment for these very powerful young scientists and engineers to unleash their very strong creativities during their most precious and creative years around the age of 32.

2. Longevity Vs. Retirement Age

The pension funds in many large corporations (e.g., Boeing, Lockheed Martin, AT&T, Lucent Technologies, etc.) have been "Over Funded" because many "late retirees" who keep-on working into their old age and retire late after the age of 65 tend to die within two years after their retirements. In other words, many of these late retirees do not live long enough to collect all their fair shares of pension money such that they leave a lot of extra-unused money in the pension funds resulting in the over-funded pension funds.

Dr. Ephrem (Siao Chung) Cheng provided the important results in the following Table 1 from an actuarial study of life span vs. age at retirement. The study was based on the number of pension checks sent to retirees of Boeing Aerospace.

Table 1 – Actuarial Study of life span vs. age at retirement
Age at Retirement (Average Age At Death)

Table 1 indicates that for people retired at the age of 50, their average life span is 86; whereas for people retired at the age of 65, their average life span is only 66.8. An important conclusion from this study is that for every year one works beyond age 55, one loses 2 years of life span on average.

The Boeing experience is that employees retiring at age of 65 receive pension checks for only 18 months, on average, prior to death. Similarly, the Lockheed experience is that employees retiring at age of 65 receive pension checks for only 17 months, on average, prior to death. Dr. David T. Chai indicated that the Bell Labs experience is similar to those of Boeing and Lockheed based on the casual observation from the Newsletters of Bell Lab retirees. A retiree from Ford Motor told Dr. Paul Tien-Lin Ho that the experience from Ford Motor is also similar to those in Boeing and Lockheed.

The hard-working late retirees probably put too much stress on their aging body-and-mind such that they are so stressed out to develop various serious health problems that forced them to quit and retire. With such long-term stress-induced serious health problems, they die within two years after they quit and retire.

On the other hand, people who take early retirements at the age of 55 tend to live long and well into their 80s and beyond. These earlier retirees probably are either wealthier or more able to plan and manage their various aspects of their life, health and career well such that they can afford to retire early and comfortably.

These early retirees are not really idling after their early retirements to get old. They still continue doing some work. But they do the work on the part-time basis at a more leisure pace so that they do not get too stressed out. Furthermore, they have the luxury to pick and chose the types of part-time work of real interest to them so that they can enjoy and love doing that "fun" work at a more leisure pace.

The late retirees are small in number, tend to die quickly after retirement and disappear from the population of old people beyond the age of 70. Late retirees, therefore, have very little weight on the statistical average life expectancy of the population of "old people" dominated by the early retirees.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The most precious, creative and innovative period in your life is the 10-year period around the age of 32. Plan your career path to use this precious 10-year period wisely and effectively to produce your greatest achievements in your life.

The pace of innovations and technology advances is getting faster and faster and is forcing everybody to compete fiercely at the Internet speed on the information super-highways. The highly productive and highly efficient workplace in USA is a pressure-cooker and a high-speed battleground for highly creative and dynamic young people to compete and to flourish.

However, when you get older, you should plan your career path and financial matter so that you can retire comfortably at the age of 55 or earlier to enjoy your long, happy and leisure retirement life into your golden age of 80s and beyond. In retirement, you can still enjoy some fun work of great interest to you and of great values to the society and the community, but at a part-time leisure pace on your own term.

On the other hand, if you are not able to get out of the pressure-cooker or the high-speed battleground at the age of 55 and "have" to keep on working very hard until the age of 65 or older before your retirement, then you probably will die within 18 months of retirement. By working very hard in the pressure cooker for 10 more years beyond the age of 55, you give up at least 20 years of your life span on average.

Personally I feel that there is a watershed is all our life. I do not think there should be a fixed age about it. Before this age, say 55 years, we are working hard first to establish our careers, to start and develop our families (for those married), to serve our churches, and to improve ourselves. The watershed comes after our children have graduated from university (and begin their own lives), and we have reached the peak in our chosen careers. We then move into a stage of producing significance. In this stage we do not have to worry about paying for our children's education, our mortgages should be paid up and as Fowler said, we should be thinking about our legacy. What do we want to leave behind? I believe our legacy should not be physical but spiritual.

Retirement? I do not think it is biblical and we should serve Him until He calls us home.

soli deo gloria