Thursday, January 31, 2008

Taste the World's Greatest Coffee

Wanna taste the greatest coffee in the world? Try Kopi Luwak from Indonesia. This coffee have a rather strange way of preparation. The ripe coffee cherries are eaten by the native civet cats. As it makes it way through the animal’s intestinal tract, the fleshy covering is digested leaving behind the coffee beans which are excreted in the animal poo. These beans are collected and roasted, and whallah…kopi luwak also known as cat poo coffee.

Aside from being the strangest and best tasting coffee, it is also the world's rarest and most expensive coffee… and I have a bottle of it. Who wanna share it with me?

Aussies go crazy for cat poo coffee (Reuters)

’Good to the last dropping’ (Taipei Times)

Life after coffee



Treat Your Child's Blocked Nose with Saline Wash

Children with acute rhinitis treated with saline nasal wash plus medications had fewer symptoms of nasal secretion and obstruction during the acute phase of the illness (up to 3 weeks) vs children treated with medication alone.

During the following weeks (up to 12 weeks), the saline-plus-medication group had significantly fewer illness days (31% vs 75%), school absences (17% vs 35%), and complications (8% vs 32%) and used fewer medications vs the group treated with medication alone

Read more here

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Please Don't Jail Our Doctors in Malaysia

Calling all doctor and student bloggers and anyone who can help. The Government has begun to arrest and jail doctors on a technicality - not registering their clinic with the PHFSA. This act treats doctors like common criminals. These are community doctors who have not committed a serious crime but instead face an incredibly harsh sentence for their technical lapse.

Dr Basmullah Yusom, a family practitioner, is the first victim of this legislation. He was sentenced despite not having legal counsel representing him, despite pleading for leniency (he had wanted to sell the clinic anyway and is in financial trouble) and as he could not pay the hefty RM 120,000 fine, he is now in Kajang prison.

You can read more about it in Malaysian Medical Resources

The 1st clinic doctor convicted under the PHFSA


The 1st clinic doctor convicted under the PHFSA (II)

The ex-Health Minister had promised that the Act would be used only against Bogus doctors and Bogus clinics. Yet, we see that legitimate licensed APC holding medical practitioners are now being targeted.

In support of Dr. Basmullah, we urge all of you to put up this logo in your Blogs and Websites until this travesty of justice is reversed.

Labels: , ,

My Batman Piggie Bank

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Freed By The Cross


Monday, January 28, 2008

What is Your Church's Focus?

OUT OF FOCUS? click on table to see clearly


Labels: , , ,

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Leadership Qualities of Star Fleet Captains

Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward wrote an interesting article, Following the Leaders in Jan/Feb issue of Star Trek. In the article they explored the leadership qualities of the various captains featured in the Star Trek universe. Here are the eight qualities listed.

(1) Initiative
"Well, a little late, but I'm glad they're seeing it our way"
-Captain James Kirk, Amok Time (Star Trek)

(2) Judgment and Decisiveness
"A hundred decisions a day, hundred of lives staked on you making everyone of them right."
-Commodore Stone, Court Martial (Star Trek)

(3) Integrity
"The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth...whether it's scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth. It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based."
-Captain Jean-Luc Picard, The First Duty (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

(4) Courage
"I don't care if the odds are against us. If we're going to lose, then we're going to go down fighting - so that when our descendants someday rise up against the Dominion, they'll know what they are made of."
- Captain Benjamin Sisko, Statistical Probabilities (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

(5) Bearing and Tack
"If you respect our customs and we see that respect, we will be friends..."
-Lutan to Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Code of Honor (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

(6) Loyalty
"Because the needs of the one outweighted the needs of the many."
-Admiral James Kirk, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

(7) Endurance
"...I'm going to ask all of you to think back to the day when this ship was first launched. We were explorers then. When all this is over and earth is safe, I want you to get back to that job. There are 400 billions stars in our galaxy. We've only explored a tiny fraction. You have a lot of work to do. Of all the captains who will sit on this chair, I can't imagine any of them being more proud than I am right now."
-Captain Jonathan Archer, Azati Prime (Star Trek: Enterprise)

(8) Justice
"In a part of space where there are few rules, it's more important than ever that we hold fast to our own."
-Captain Kathryn Janeway, Alliances (Star Trek: Voyager)

The Star Trek Universe is one imaginary universe from which I have learnt many important life lessons. From naming a space shuttle "Enterprise" to Motorola flip-phones, its influence on our own universe is undeniable. I have been a Trekkee, Trekker and now, Trekster. I am still recovering from the horror of 2005, when the television Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled after 4 seasons. However there is hope in the Star Trek universe as there is hope for ours. This year will see another Star Trek movie and the launching of a new computer game, Star Trek: Conquest.

Make it so


Labels: , , ,

Saturday, January 26, 2008

John Rambo: To Hell and Back

Rambo 4

[Warning: This review contain spoilers]

The situation of Rambo 4 is just not something you want to be in while you are on a mission trip. Seriously! Since Christians are in the resurrection business, we shall examine whether it is possible to resurrect a 20 years old trilogy with a 61 years old actor. John Rambo is a cult figure; on par there with G.I. Joe. Both have wonderful action figures.

Twenty years ago, John Rambo hit the big screen and was an instant hit. Starred by a young and slimmer Sylvester Stallone, it portrayed the homecoming of a Special Forces Vietnam veteran. The first movie was named Rambo: First Blood, based loosely on a novel of the same name by David Morrell. In the movie, John was rough handled by a small town sheriff who mistaken him for a drifter and in retaliation, a small town in the United States was almost blown up and burnt down.

The second movie was Rambo: First Blood Part 2, where a more muscular John was enlisted to find American P.O.W.s in Vietnam and ended in a successful rescue operation.

The third movie was just named Rambo 3 where John blows up a Soviet mountain fortress in Afghanistan. All these movies were violent with gory scenes of killing, maiming, explosion and destruction. However, all three movies highlighted certain groups of oppressed communities. In the first, were the unappreciated Vietnam veterans who fought in a highly unpopular war; in the second, the left behind prisoners of war in Vietnam, and in the third, the oppressed in Afghanistan under the Soviet Union. It is highly ironic that the Americans armed forces have replaced the Soviet forces today.

This movie is about another group of oppressed people, the Karens of Myanmar. The Karens are Christian tribal people and have been at war with the Myanmar military Junta for 60 years, making it the longest civil war in history. There have been reports of atrocities committed by the military that was graphically shown in the movie. It was 20 years after John Rambo left Afghanistan and went to live in Thailand. He was living a quiet retiring life when he was approached by some American missionaries to bring them up river into Myanmar. He reluctantly agreed. The group was captured by the local warlord. John was approached by the church pastor to lead a group of mercenaries to rescue them. This he did with a great deal of noise, explosions and flying body parts. The movie does raise some interesting questions.

First, what is the nature of Christian mission? Does God want his people to travel into volatile and hostile political situations to minister comfort and his word? The American missionaries wanted to bring medicine and food to the Karens. It is interesting to watch in the movie, scenes of them feeding the tribal people, treating their medical conditions and preaching from the Bible. In a way, moving into these unstable situations is asking for trouble. Reports of missionaries killed and recently of the Korean missionaries’ hostage situation highlight these. What is the Christian response? Do we still go, knowing that we will be tortured and killed? And when our missionaries were captured, what should the sending agency’s response? Negotiate, pay the ransom, or send in mercenaries?

Second, the issue of pacifism and ‘just’ war arises in the story. Initially the leader of the missionaries was a pacifist but became a killer after his imprisonment. The violence in the movie is consuming. At the beginning, when the soldiers were committing atrocities on the civilians, we watch with horror. At the second part when the ‘good’ guys started killing the soldiers, we feel satisfied and even gratified. Our sense of justice seems to be fulfilled. In a sense, we even begin to enjoy the violence.

Third, this movie brings to a close the spiritual journey of John Rambo. During the trilogy, John tried to justify his action by blaming the military for making him a ‘killing machine.’ In this movie, he came to realise that he was already a psychopath before the army trained him. This self-realisation brought peace to John Rambo and this movie ended with him reaching his home in the States, a journey he started 3 movies and 20 years ago. It is a journey of self-discovery and sometimes we need to come to terms as to who we are before we can move on.

Finally, the movie asks an important question; is violence ever justifiable? This is a violent movie but it never glorified violence. Violence was used to portray the evil that is in our hearts and our deeds. It was used to show how one community oppresses another.Violence was also used as a means of redemption. Unlike the earlier three movies, I walked away from this one shaken and stirred.

Parental guidance is needed and some scenes were too graphic even for me. You have been warned.


Labels: , , , ,

Peanut's Philosophy

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip. I have shared how much I like the Peanuts here and here before. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read straight through, and you'll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America.

4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress.

6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners .

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with .


The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care .

"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia " (Charles Schultz)

HT: Punna


Friday, January 25, 2008

He Ain't Heavy...He's My Brother

wonderful song by the Hollies

"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"

The road is long, with many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where,

who knows where

But I'm strong, strong enough to carry him

He ain't heavy - he's my brother

So on we go, his welfare is my concern

No burden is he to bare, we'll get there

For I know he would not encumber me

He ain't heavy - he's my brother

If I'm laden at all, I'm laden with sadness

That everyone's heart isn't filled with gladness of love for one another

It's a long long road from which there is no return

While we're on our way to there, why not share

And the load, it doesn't weigh me down at all

He ain't heavy - he's my brother

He ain't heavy - he's my brother, he's my brother, he's my brother

Now sung by Neil Diamond


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Good News is Much Bigger than We Think

picture credit: Christianity Today January 2008


The Slow Work of God

The need to keep in step with the Spirit is beautifully expressed by the French writer Teilhard de Chardin in this letter to his cousin, Marguerite:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are, quite naturally,

impatient in everything to reach the end without delay,
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way

to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made

by passing through some stages of instability......
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually;
let them grow, let them shape themselves,

without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on, as though you could today

what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own goodwill)
will make tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of your believing
that His hand is leading you, and of your accepting
the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense
and incomplete.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind: Letters from a Soldier-Priest 1914-1919 (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 57.

more on Teilhard de Chardin here


Is Cod Liver Oil Good for Your Child?

Centuries ago, northern Europeans used cod liver oil to protect them from the cold. It was made from the livers of Gadus morhua and other species of cod. Cod liver oil was said to relieve such complaints as rheumatism, aching joints, and stiff muscles.

At the beginning of the 20th century, scientists established that cod liver oil was antirachitic, and it became commonplace for mothers to give it to their children.

It turns out cod liver oil contains large amounts of vitamins A, D, and omega-3 fatty acids, and the health benefits may go beyond rheumatism and rickets.

Vitamin A is essential for the immune system, bone growth, night vision, cellular growth, testicular and ovarian function. Pharmaceutical preparations are used to treat acne vulgaris and keratosis pilaris and to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia.

Vitamin D not only prevents rickets but is also important for muscle function and may prevent type 1 diabetes, hypertension, and many common cancers.

Fish oils include the omega-3 fatty acids (O3FA), eicosopentanoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA). Recent evidence supports the cardiac benefits of O3FA, beginning in 1999 with publication of the GISSI study, which showed reduction of mortality and sudden death. Further data emerged from analysis of the Physicians Health Study, which showed a stepwise reduction in risk of sudden cardiac death based on blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Most recently, the Japanese EPA Lipid Intervention Study (JELIS) showed a reduction in coronary events. Sudden death was not affected, however, suggesting that the high fish intake in Japan may lower the baseline risk for this finding.

The mechanism for fish oil protection has been speculated to be an improvement in lipids with a reduction in triglycerides and an increase in HDL and a direct membrane stabilizing effect of omega-3 fatty acids.

The data are strong enough that European and American cardiac societies have incorporated EPA and DHA into their recent treatment guidelines for cardiac diseases.

Cod liver oil is not for everyone, however. Cod liver oil is probably best avoided by pregnant women, asthmatics, and people taking anticoagulants such as warfarin.

read more and watch a video here


Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Celebrating Thaipusam in Malaysia

Celebrating Thaipusam

A festival occurring in the Tamil month Thai (January-February), the day of the star Pusam around Pournami (Full Moon) is celebrated as Thai Pusam. It is a special day for worship of Lord Muruga (also known as Subrahmanya or Thendayuthapani) and is celebrated in a very grand manner at all Murugan temples, especially at the 'Aaru Padai Veedu' of Murugan (These are six temples in India especially dedicated to Lord Muruga). This festival honours Muruga or Subramanya, the son of Shiva. There are several legends about this festival. Here are a few of them:

A rich legend lies behind the origins of Thaipusam. Popular narration goes that the great Saint, Agasthya, instructed his student, Idumban to uproot two hills called Sivagiri and Shakthigiri belonging to Lord Murugan and bring it back to him. As commanded, Idumban flew to Mount Kailai Range where the hills rested and picked them up ready to fly back. But alas, Lord Murugan had other plans. He wanted to test Idumban’s mettle and devotion to his master. He reduced his size, to that of a small child and promptly stood atop one of the hills. Suddenly Idumban found that he couldn’t carry the hills anymore. To his bewilderment, a child was standing haughtily on the hill. Idumban humbly requested the boy to get down. When the child refused, Idumban flew into a rage and tried to attack him, only to find himself falling like an injured bird. Lord Murugan then reverted to his original self and appeared before Idumban. "I am pleased with your courage and determination," he said. "Your devotion to your guru is admirable. I now bestow on you the honor of being my guardian" Lord Murugan then proclaimed that henceforth, those who carried kavadis to see him, would receive his blessings. Today, thousands of Hindus carry kavadis as offerings to the Lord during Thaipusam. The kavadis symbolize the hills of burden that Idumban shouldered.

The other version was a demon named Tharakasuran who was troubling the Rishis and Saints. Lord Muruga was called by his parents Lord Shiva and Parvati and given the job of destroying the asuran. Lord Muruga set off with the blessings of his parents, to destroy the demon. He carried twelve weapons, eleven of which were given by his father Lord Shiva and the 'Vel' given by his mother Parvati. Lord Muruga destroyed Tharakasuran on the Pusam Nakshatra day in the Tamil month of Thai and hence Thai Pusam is celebrated in all Murugan temples.

In another legend, that on a Thursday in Thai that also happened to be the day of Pusam star and pournami, Shiva and Parvati were engaged in an ecstatic cosmic dance, as Brahma, Vishnu, Indra and the Devas watched. This indicates that this is a day ideal for worship of Shiva.

According to another legend, as Shiva was imparting a mantra to Parvati, Subrahmanya eavesdropped on them. For that error, Parvati laid a curse on him, in line with the rule that even a son, if erring, must be punished. To be redeemed from her curse, Subrahmanya offered hard penance at Thirupparankundram. Pleased with his penance, Shiva and Parvati manifested before him and lifted the curse. The day on which Parvati's curse on Subrahmanya was lifted was a Thai Pusam. It is thus a special day for worship of Lord Subrahmanya. Yet another legend has it that Kaveri, grieving that she had not secured the eminence acquired by Ganga through her position atop Shiva's locks, sat under a peepul tree on the banks of Sara Pushkarini and offered penance to Narayana. Pleased by her penance, Narayana appeared as a baby in her lap. That day when he manifested thus was, again, a Thai Pusam.

No matter what the legend, the rites that are followed are fairly similar. On Thaipusam day, devotees make offerings to Lord Muruga for eradicating the ills that afflict us. Perhaps the most potent propitiatory rite that a devotee of Shanmukha undertakes to perform is what is known as the Kavadi. The benefits that the devotee gains from offering a Kavadi to the Lord are a million-fold greater than the little pain that he inflicts upon himself.

Read more here

Photo credits here and here
Kavadi carrier

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Best of Philip Yancey

From newsletter 21 January 2008

Eleven months ago, we almost lost Philip Yancey. On February 25, the Ford Explorer he was driving fishtailed and flipped and skidded down a mountain road. The accident pulverized his C-3 vertebra, narrowly avoiding paralysis (if the impact had damaged the spinal cord) or death (if a bone fragment had nicked the adjacent artery that supplies blood to the brain).

Thanks to the miracle of e-mail thousands were alerted and began praying for his recovery. And a remarkable recovery it's been.In his first e-mail to friends after the accident, Philip talked about how, while his life hung in the balance and he lay motionless for an iodine-dye scan, he reflected on the wonderfully blessed life he had led. The one note of regret: he had climbed all but three of Colorado's 54 14,000-foot-plus peaks. But he wished he had conquered them all.

Amazingly, by August 15, he had done just that, and sent photos of himself standing atop Maroon Peak with hands raised—in prayer? in triumph? in praise?And during this past year he's also continued to minister, as well—most notably to believers and seekers at Virginia Tech following the massacre there last April.

Philip is a true introvert (and, like me, a textbook case), but through his ministry of spiritual transparency, he's made many thousands of friends. His vulnerability and openness (not to mention his wisdom) have allowed him to explore pain and suffering and prayer and doubt in a way that has bonded many to him. They are still spiritually alive because God in his providence has used Philip's honesty to rescue them from the shallower spiritualities so widely marketed among American evangelicals.

So, praise God that Philip is not only alive but active. And enjoy this newslsetter's essay on the best of Philip Yancey.

David Neff, Editor-in-Chief Christianity Today

The Best of Philip Yancey

One of Christianity's most respected writers has contributed much to the Christianity Today Library

By John Beukemaposted August 10, 2004

Referring to Philip Yancey as a best-selling author is like calling Barry Bonds a prolific walker—true, but not the main point. In his books and articles, one of Yancey's main goals is unwrapping Jesus. (See, for example, his article that relates the top ten things he learned about Jesus while writing The Jesus I Never Knew.) God's promises and passion for us are embodied in Jesus, yet it is possible to become so absorbed in the Christian faith that we miss the central story of celebration and love.

Yancey's priceless contribution to the evangelical world includes his "Back Page" column in Christianity Today. The column's topics range from social issues, to theology, to the care of his soul. One of the most personal and revealing pieces was "Getting to Know Me." Yancey described his determination to distance himself from his southern, fundamentalist background. Though successful, Yancey came to realize, "In most ways important to God, I had failed miserably."

Themes of servanthood and humility run like fragile threads through much of Yancey's work. "Humility's Many Faces" lists people he looks up to, such as Dr. Paul Brand and Henri Nouwen. Of those men Yancey writes, they "demonstrated to me that downward mobility can lead to the success that matters most." "My Gallery of Saints" includes those who tangibly display God's grace to a needy world, effectively ministering without fanfare in Jesus' name. In "Getting a Life," Yancey states, "Paradoxically, the life-givers I have known seem most abundant with life themselves."

Also on the personal side is "Letters to Philip." This sampling of negative correspondence from readers is as fascinating as it is frightening; the most venomous letters were sent in response to "Breakfast at the White House," about Yancey's meeting with President Clinton.

"The Fox and the Writer" recounts Yancey's enjoyment in observing and interacting with three fox kits near his Colorado home. In appreciating these small wonders of God's creation, Yancey feels a flashback to Eden. That marveling over the animal world continues in "Sheepish." In the world of sheep he finds a spiritual truth. Sheep might presume they order their own destiny, but nothing could be further from reality. "Little do they know that the entire scenario, from birth to death and every stage in between, is being orchestrated according to a rational plan by the humans who live in the ranch house." "Neat! Way Cool! Awesome!" is the "holy calling" of observing God's creation and expressing appreciation and praise to the one who made it all.

Seizing a sudden opportunity while in London, Yancey heard the National Westminster Choir and National Chamber Orchestra perform Handel's Messiah. "Hallelujah" is a classic article that describes more than the experience. It gives Handel's background and the theological significance of each movement of that masterwork. Yancey writes, "For that moment the grand tapestry woven by Handel's music seemed more real by far than my everyday world. I felt I had a glimpse of the grand sweep of history."

Living in a culture that seeks fulfillment apart from God, Yancey warns of the consequences. In "Holy Sex," he writes, "When a society loses faith in God, lesser powers arise to take God's place." Sexuality is one of those powers. The puzzling way our society treats sex ignores the dimension beyond physical activity. The shameful approach that the church sometimes brings to sex fails to appreciate that it too was created and designed by God. Yancey says, "In one sense, we are never more Godlike than in the act of sex." Marriage puts the power of sex to proper use, luring us into "a relationship that offers to teach us what we need far more—sacrificial love."

"The Chess Master" is one of Yancey's many fine reflections on the theme of good and evil. Likening God to a Grand Master, Yancey tells why we can trust God to bring redemption from our flawed maneuvers and tragic circumstances. "When a Grand Master plays a chess amateur, victory is assured no matter how the board may look at any given moment. In a miracle of grace, even our personal failures can become tools in God's hands."

Additional reflection on this topic is seen in articles on two tragedies, "Where Was God on 9/11?" and the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado. In both, Yancey grapples with the problem of pain and evil in a world made by a God who claims a loving interest in his creation. At these times, we wonder, in the title of Yancey's 1977 book, Where Is God When It Hurts? and repeatedly ever after. As humans scurry around the planet searching for meaning, satisfaction, and solutions to their problems, the answer is still found in the God who embodied his love in Christ.

—John Beukema is associate editor of and teaching pastor of The Village Church in Western Springs, Illinois.

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Bible is Like...(2)

Abba Ah Beng’s ‘durian’ theology may sound strange to us but it does encapsulate certain truths about the Bible. To some people, the Bible is like a thorny hard durian. It is difficult to hold. The thorns may cause pain by scratches and skin punctures. Thus the Bible appears as an obstacle to many who seek the Truth. Some will spent their lives studying the exterior of the Bible becoming expert without tasting the succulent flesh within. As all durian lovers will know, there are certain ways to open the fruit without causing themselves bodily harm. By inserting a screwdriver or a blade into a certain spot and twisting it, the durian will split easily into two halves. Similarly to get to the truth in the Bible requires certain tools and know-how. The Holy Spirit, a willingness to seek the truth, and a working knowledge of the language are primary requirements to split the hard shell of the Bible. Without the Holy Spirit to open our spirit eyes, the durian will remain a fruit.

The Bible contains many teachings. However, not all teachings contain the same weightage. Knowing about God is obviously more important than knowing how many meters make a cubit. The teachings of the Bible can be broadly divided into two groups; one which consists of teachings of core truths and are non-negotiable. These truths are often codified as in the Nicene Creed or in the Westminster Larger Catechism. Some examples are God the creator, the Trinity, Biblical inerrancy, and the redemptive mission of God. These truths stand outside of culture, time and space. The other group are the negotiable teachings. These teachings are to be interpreted in the context of the culture, time and space of the learners (hence negotiable). They have to be adapted by each generation of Christians to the era they exist in. Examples are whether we should have our worship service on Saturday or Sunday, or what type of music shall we play during our worship service, or should we serve grape water or wine during Holy Communion?

While it is easy to say that there are two groups; the non-negotiable and negotiable teachings, sometimes it is difficult to decide into which category a certain teaching belongs. One such example is that whether baptism should be done by sprinkling or immersion in water? While at first glance it may seem obvious, yet proponents for each mode of baptism will be able find enough verses to support their stand. What shall we do in such case? I believe then that it is time for us to stop fighting, and believe that our God is large enough for both positions. Why must everything be either/or? Why not either/and? One of the reasons why the church is so weak is because we are so fragmented. We spent most of our time and energy fighting over the non-essentials (negotiable) while neglecting the essentials (non-negotiable). We will be so much stronger if we focus only on the essentials of our faith.

Reflection Questions
1. How do we discern which Biblical teachings are non-negotiable, and which negotiable?
2. Why do you think Christians spend so much time fighting each other about Biblical negotiable teachings?
3. What steps will you take to extend love in a disagreement over a negotiable Biblical teaching?

Dear Lord,
Thank you for giving us the Bible as our guide and as our light. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who opens our spiritual eyes to your Truth. Forgive us, Lord, for in our limited understanding and sinful nature, we pervert your truths. Teach us Lord to discern which are the non-negotiable, essential parts of your Truth and help us to incorporate them in our lives. Help us to discern which are the culture-bound negotiable parts of your Teachings, so that we may adapt them to our daily lives. Have mercy upon us.


Labels: , , ,

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Time for a Prayer

HT: Lucy C

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Bible is Like... (1)

“Going to the cinema to watch movies is sinful,” declared Disciple Ah Kow. “No, it’s not,” countered Disciple Ah Lek who loves to watch movies, “It’s educational.” Both disciples were washing toilets in the Sow-lin Monastery. The monastery has this policy that its disciples should share in the maintenance of the premises. The policy was instituted for building character in its disciples. The monastery also saves by not employing more janitorial staff.

“Watching movies corrupts the soul,” Ah Kow continued, “Did not the Apostle Peter said, ‘Do not love the world or anything in the world.[1]’” “But the Apostle Paul said, ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind.[2]’ Going to movies will renew our minds.” responded Ah Lek. “Sinner!” shouted Ah Kow, “You just want to watch semi-naked girls.” “Do not,” Ah Lek shouted back, “I want to watch the movie The Passion of the Christ.” “Liar!” screamed Ah Kow pushing Ah Lek. Ah Lek responded with a well executed ‘drunken tiger falling down the hill’ roundhouse kick.

Abba Ah Beng was sitting crossed legged eating durian[3] in the main hall when his two disciples were brought before him. He looked up at Ah Kow and Ah Lek with a gleam in his eyes, which set the two disciples’ knees quaking[4]. “Fighting again, I see,” sighed Abba Ah Beng, “Ah Kow, open this durian with this screwdriver.” Ah Kow reached out to grab the durian and tried to open the fruit. All he managed to get were lots of painful scratches. “Here, let me,” said Ah Lek as he reached out and grab the screwdriver. With a skilful poke and twist, he opened the fruit into two pieces revealing the seeds with its golden fleshy outer layer.

A rich aroma filled the hall. Both Abba Ah Beng and Ah Lek inhaled with a satisfied “Hmm.” Ah Kow gagged. “Such a wonderful smell” sighs Ah Lek. “So horrible-lah. Like rotten eggs!” Ah Kow complained. “Here,” Abba Ah Beng said, “eat, eat.” Ah Lek took a seed and ate its luscious flesh with a look of ecstasy on his face. “Very good-lah” he commented. Abba Ah Beng beamed. “Sure good-lah. Special tree, B94” he explained. Meanwhile, Ah Kow shut his eyes as he put the fleshy seed in his mouth. “Urgh!” he croaked, “the inner seed is so hard.” Then he choked and turned blue as he had accidentally swallowed the seed.

“The Bible is like a durian,” explained Abba Ah Beng, as he performed the Heimlich manoeuvre on Ah Kow. “To apply it, you have to know how to open it. Otherwise all you get are some painful wounds. With the correct technique, which is the Holy Spirit, you can open the Bible and taste of its teachings. The succulent fleshy part of the seed is the interpretations and traditions of the church. These are the negotiable part of the Bible; like going to the movies, wearing jeans to church, or playing drums during worship. Some people love it, others hate it. The hard seed is the inner core of Biblical teaching. It is non-negotiable and consists of truths such as God is three and one (the Trinity), Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus is fully human and fully God. This seed when planted in the right soil will grow into a tree and bear good fruits.”

Both disciples blinked in awe at Abba Ah Bang’s insight, the durian forgotten. Abba Ah Beng calmly finished his durian, burped and said, “I’m going to town, my movie starts in an hour.”

[1] 1 John 2:15a
[2] Romans 12:2b
[3] A durian is a round fruit with thorns on the outside. It is the King of fruits. Either you love it or hate it. Want to know more, google ‘durian’ and hope your computer do not smell.
[4] Disciple Ah Kow later set up the Christian group called Quakers.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, January 18, 2008

Diabetes is Hazardous to Your Health

Practice Guidelines Issued for Screening, Diagnosing, and Treating Diabetes

December 28, 2007 — The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has issued practice guidelines for screening, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions that are known or believed to improve health outcomes of patients with diabetes. An executive summary published in the January issue of Diabetes Care provides a detailed description of each of the ADA practice recommendations, a grading system developed by the ADA that uses A, B, C, or E to indicate the level of evidence supporting each recommendation, and suggested targets for most patients with diabetes…

Some of the specific recommendations are as follows:

• To diagnose diabetes in children and nonpregnant adults, fasting plasma glucose (FPG) is the preferred test, and use of A1C levels to diagnose diabetes is not currently recommended (E).

• Screening for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in asymptomatic people should be considered in adults who are overweight or obese (body mass index [BMI] ≥25 kg/m2) with at least 1 more additional risk factor. Otherwise, testing should begin at age 45 years (B), and if results are normal, testing should be repeated at least at 3-year intervals (E).

• Either an FPG test or 2-hour oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT; 75-g glucose load), or both, is appropriate (B) to test for prediabetes or diabetes, and an OGTT may be considered in patients with impaired fasting glucose (IFG) to better define the risk of diabetes (E).

• Individuals found to have prediabetes should be evaluated and treated, if appropriate, for other cardiovascular risk factors (B).

• To prevent or delay onset of diabetes, patients with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT; A) or IFG (E) should be advised to lose 5% to 10% of body weight and to increase physical activity to at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity such as walking. Follow-up counseling seems to improve the likelihood of success (B). Because of the potential cost savings associated with diabetes prevention, third-party payors should cover counseling (E).

• Metformin therapy should also be considered in patients who are at very high risk for diabetes, based on combined IFG and IGT plus other risk factors, and who are obese and younger than 60 years of age (E).

• Individuals with prediabetes should be monitored every year for the development of diabetes. (E).

• Because lowering A1C levels to an average of about 7% has been shown to reduce microvascular and neuropathic complications of diabetes and, possibly, macrovascular disease, the target A1c goal for nonpregnant adults is generally less than 7% (A).

• For selected individual patients, the A1C goal is as close to normal (<>

• For children, patients with a history of severe hypoglycemia, those with limited life expectancies, individuals with comorbid conditions, and those with long duration of diabetes and minimal or stable microvascular complications, less stringent A1C goals may be appropriate (E).

• Individuals with prediabetes or diabetes should receive individualized MNT as needed to achieve treatment goals, ideally by a registered dietitian who is knowledgeable about diabetes MNT (B). This should be covered by insurance and other payors (E).

• Specific components of MNT should include management of energy balance, overweight, and obesity with diet, physical activity, and behavior modification (B); primary prevention of diabetes among individuals at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes (A); promoting fiber and whole-grain intake meeting US Department of Agriculture recommendations (B); controlling dietary fat intake by limiting saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total calories (A) and minimizing trans fat intake (E); and managing carbohydrate intake.

• Monitoring carbohydrate intake is a key strategy in achieving glycemic control, whether by carbohydrate counting, exchanges, or experience-based estimation (A). For patients with diabetes, glycemic index and glycemic load use may modestly improve glycemic control vs that observed when considering only total carbohydrate (B).

• DSME should be offered to patients with diabetes at the time of diagnosis and as needed thereafter (B), with the goal of changing self-management behavior (E) and addressing psychosocial issues (C). Third-party payors should reimburse for DSME (E).

• People with diabetes should perform at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (50% - 70% of maximum heart rate; [A]), and unless there are contraindications, those with type 2 diabetes should perform resistance training 3 times per week (A).

Read complete article here

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Hot Cup of 1,3,7, Trimethylxanthine

1,3,7,trimethylxanthine = Caffeine

I do not feel I am truly myself until after I have drank my first cup of coffee in the morning. Like billions of people around the world, this legal drug, caffeine, prepares me for the world. Also like billions around the world, I am addicted to the brew. I enjoyed the buzz of a double or triple espresso before watching an action movie, or a warm cappuccino to wind me down at the end of a stressful day.

Coffee originated in the highlands of Ethiopia. Coffee seeds were brought by Arab traders from Ethiopia to Yemen. The first mention of coffee was around the fifteenth century when it was used as a medicine. However, by the sixteenth century Arabs begin to drink brewed coffee socially. As alcohol was forbidden in Islam, coffee became an acceptable substitute. Coffee houses sprang up overnight and became social centres where men would hang around drinking coffee and telling tall tales. From Yemen, it spread to Turkey, India and Java. Coffee beans and coffee growing was strictly controlled by the Arabs. The Dutch finally managed to bring a tree back to Holland. This tree was grafted and grown in Paris. This tree was supposed to the the ancestors of the millions of coffee plants around the world.

In an earlier post, I have mentioned the close association of coffee drinking and book selling. Many bookstores also sell coffee. People will spend hours pouring over their books and coffee.

Anne Fadiman (2007) At Large and At Same: Confessions of a Literary Hedonist, London: Allen Lane is a collection of personal essays by bibliophile Anne Fadiman. Though it was not a good as her earlier book, Ex Libris, it does bring across her love of reading, her familiarity with many literary figures and their works.

There is a chapter title 'Coffee' where she shares her love of the drink and some nostalgic memories of being with some literary friends while drinking coffee when she was younger.

I suspect that there is a connection between the development of books and the widespread consumption of coffee. I do not believe anyone has done any study of this phenomenon. I will not be surprised if there is a correlationship, because reading a book or the act of writing is more pleasant when you have a warm cup of 1,3,7, trimethylxanthine in your stomach.


Labels: , ,

A Fistful of Learning Theories

Discovered this website which is a database about learning theories.

Explorations in Learning & Instruction: The Theory Into Practice Database

ACT* (J. Anderson)
Adult Learning Theory (P. Cross)
Algo-Heuristic Theory (L. Landa)
Andragogy (M. Knowles)
Anchored Instruction (J. Bransford & the CTGV)
Aptitude-Treatment Interaction (L. Cronbach & R. Snow)
Attribution Theory (B. Weiner)
Cognitive Dissonance Theory (L. Festinger)
Cognitive Flexibility Theory (R. Spiro)
Cognitive Load Theory (J. Sweller)
Component Display Theory (M.D. Merrill)
Conditions of Learning (R. Gagne)
Connectionism (E. Thorndike)
Constructivist Theory (J. Bruner)
Contiguity Theory (E. Guthrie)
Conversation Theory (G. Pask)
Criterion Referenced Instruction (R. Mager)
Double Loop Learning (C. Argyris)
Drive Reduction Theory (C. Hull)
Dual Coding Theory (A. Paivio)
Elaboration Theory (C. Reigeluth)
Experiential Learning (C. Rogers)
Functional Context Theory (T. Sticht)
Genetic Epistemology (J. Piaget)
Gestalt Theory (M. Wertheimer)
GOMS (Card, Moran & Newell)
GPS (A. Newell & H. Simon)
Information Pickup Theory (J.J. Gibson)
Information Processing Theory (G.A. Miller)
Lateral Thinking (E. DeBono)
Levels of Processing (Craik & Lockhart)
Mathematical Learning Theory (R.C. Atkinson)
Mathematical Problem Solving (A. Schoenfeld)
Minimalism (J. M. Carroll)
Model Centered Instruction and Design Layering (A.Gibbons)
Modes of Learning (D. Rumelhart & D. Norman)
Multiple Intelligences (H. Gardner)
Operant Conditioning (B.F. Skinner)
Originality (I. Maltzman)
Phenomenonography (F. Marton & N. Entwistle)
Repair Theory (K. VanLehn)
Script Theory (R. Schank)
Sign Theory (E. Tolman)
Situated Learning (J. Lave)
Soar (A. Newell et al.)
Social Development (L. Vygotsky)
Social Learning Theory (A. Bandura)
Stimulus Sampling Theory (W. Estes)
Structural Learning Theory (J. Scandura)
Structure of Intellect (J. Guilford)
Subsumption Theory (D. Ausubel)
Symbol Systems (G. Salomon)
Triarchic Theory (R. Sternberg)


Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Practicing Our Faith

Craig Dykstra wrote

"Christian practices are not activities we do to make something spiritual happen in
our lives. Nor are they duties we undertake to be obedient to God. Rather, they are
patterns of communal action that create openings in our lives where the grace, mercy,
and presence of God may be made known to us. They are places where the power of
God is experienced. In the end, these are not ultimately our practices but forms of
participation in the practice of God."

Some of these Christian Practices are

Honoring the Body
Household economics
Saying Yes and Saying No
Keeping Sabbath
Shaping Communities
Dying Well
Singing Our Lives

I wonder how our churches will be if we all practice the above Christian Practices?

photo credit

Labels: , ,

Madeleine L Engle

Books & Culture, January/February 2008

Madeleine L'Engle (1918–2007)
by Luci Shaw

Madeleine L'Engle. A powerful woman, large-hearted, fearless, quixotic, profoundly imaginative, unwilling to settle for mediocrity. Tall and queenly, she physically embodied her mental and spiritual attributes. I remember occasions when, in church during Advent, she would rise to full height, spread her arms wide like the Angel of the Annunciation, and declare, "Fear not!" in a tone that allowed no gainsaying. It was a challenge impossible to ignore.

She loved God and his children, but this didn't keep her from questioning and questing in pursuit of truth, which she never equated with fact. Without ever being a scientist herself, she had an uncanny understanding of some of the principles of physics, and the thrust of her life was to integrate her sense of the largeness, diversity, and unity of the universe with the spiritual principles she found in Scripture and her daily practice and rule of life.

read complete article here

picture credit

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dykstra on Christian Education

Christian education is that particular work which the church does to teach the historical, communal, difficult, countercultural practices of the church so that the church may learn to participate in them ever more fully and deeply. It is the dialogical process of teaching and learning through which the church comes to see, grasp and participate ever more deeply in the redemptive transformation of personal and social life that God is carrying out.

Dykstra, C. R. (1999). No longer Strangers: The Church and its educational ministry. Theological Perspectives on Christian Formation. J. Astley, Francis, L.J.,Crowder, Colin. Grand Rapids, IL:Eerdmans p. 107-118.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Ongoing Incarnation

Would Christmas have come even if we had not sinned?
Philip Yancey posted 1/10/2008 08:52AM

More than two centuries before the Reformation, a theological debate broke out that pitted theologian Thomas Aquinas against an upstart from Britain, John Duns Scotus. In essence, the debate circled around the question, "Would Christmas have occurred if humanity had not sinned?"

Whereas Aquinas viewed the Incarnation as God's remedy for a fallen planet, his contemporary saw much more at stake. For Duns Scotus, the Word becoming flesh as described in the prologue to John's Gospel must surely represent the Creator's primary design, not some kind of afterthought or Plan B. Aquinas pointed to passages emphasizing the Cross as God's redemptive response to a broken relationship. Duns Scotus cited passages from Ephesians and Colossians on the cosmic Christ, in whom all things have their origin, hold together, and move toward consummation.

Did Jesus visit this planet as an accommodation to human failure or as the center point of all creation? Duns Scotus and his school suggested that Incarnation was the underlying motive for Creation, not merely a correction to it. Perhaps God spun off this vast universe for the singular purpose of sharing life and love, intending all along to join its very substance. "Eternity is in love with the inventions of time," wrote the poet William Blake.

read complete article here

There may be more to Teihard de Chaidin's theology of the Cosmic Christ and the Omega Point.


Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Good Soil

The Good Soil
The Matrix of Spiritual Growth in Shalom
Text: Mark 4:26-29

MK 4:26 He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."

Sermon Statement
The Kingdom of God is shalom. In each of us has a spiritual seed which has the potential to grow. We cannot cause spiritual growth. Spiritual growth comes from the spiritual seed and a nurturing soil (environment). The church can be the nurturing environment for spiritual growth. The components of S.H.A.L.O.M. provides the nurturing environment –Story (sharing love), Heart (experiencing love), Action (Acting love), Learning (thinking love), Oneness (living love) and Maturity (growing love).

read transcript of sermon here


Labels: , , ,

Something for Calvin


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Reflection on Certificate of Spirituality Studies

Certificate of Spirituality Studies
Institute for Pastoral Ministries
St. Thomas University, Miami, Florida, USA

A few years ago, I enrolled and studied in an online course, The Certificate of Spirituality Studies organised by the Institute of Pastoral Ministries, St. Thomas University, Miami, Florida in the United States of America. This course is a major stop station and has a powerful impact in my spiritual journey and quest. Its core courses are Spirituality of New Testament and Early Church Fathers; Monks, Mendicant, Mystics; Spanish Mystics and Modern Spirituality; and Contemporary Spirituality. The content of the course opened my eyes to the vast and rich heritage of spiritual theology, historical spiritualities, and Christian mysticism. I am still unpacking the lessons I have learned since.

This course is online which meant that I can do it at home in Malaysia at my own pace. However, it also put me in contact with other students who are from different parts of the world. This interaction between students from different traditions and countries are truly ecumenical and has opened my eyes to the diverse ways God is working through His people. As an Evangelical Reformed layman, I developed an appreciation of the richness of Roman Catholicism and its mystical tradition.

Aside from the content, interactions and digital pedagogy, this online course will not have such a great impact without Dr. Helen Rosenthal who is the course facilitator. She is a modern mystic whose teachings are a reflection of her vast store of knowledge. Her comments and encouragement are great blessings to the students. Even now, she acts as a spiritual director and mentor to me. I have completed the course a few years ago. However the course still resonates in my soul and my interactions with my course mates and Helen still continues (online, of course!).

Strongly recommended for those who are interested in Christian spirituality.

More about the course here


Labels: , ,

More Lessons Learned in 2007

Here are some of the lessons learned by Helen Rosenthal posted on her blog. Her annual examen is wonderful.

1. I learned that I still procrastinate, especially when it is a disagreeable task (I think my mother pointed this out to me years ago), but I also learned that I have incredible discipline when I have decided to do something and I can sustain it.
2. I learned that I can sit and contemplate beauty, even a tree outside my window and be lost in wonder.
3. I learned that I have many relationships with different people of all ages and walks of life, but that I need to make time to foster these relationships and be grateful for them.
4. I have learned that I go to prayer to let God love me and that He does love me as I am and is always waiting for me and always with me, but I am so often insensitive to His Presence in me and in others.
5. I have learned that good spiritual reading is a way to nourish the soul.
6. I have learned that I can still be effective, even if I am not efficient!
7. I have learned that I tire more easily and need to use the morning energy.
8. I have learned that accepting my limitations gives me joy and contentment.
9. I have learned that joy and gratitude feed off one another and both grow when discontent is banished.
10.I have learned that some silence and solitude is essential for my inner life.
11. I have learned that what really matters is that God loves me as I am and wants me to surrender myself to Him and trust like a child in the arms of a loving mother.
12. I have learned that my "to do" lists are never realistic.
13. I have learned that small acts of kindness and words of encouragement make a difference.
14. I have learned that getting older has its own joys.

read more here

Labels: , ,

The Night Before Trekmas

Labels: ,

Friday, January 11, 2008

Dolphins in the Sea


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ten Paradoxes That Will Rule the Future

Next Wave Ezine issue #109 is now online.

Leonard Sweet offers 10 Paradoxes That Will Rule the Future

Here are the Top 10 paradoxes that will rule our future:

1) Do little large.

2) To move up, move down.

3) Learn to fail so you can succeed.

4) Your only control is in being out of control.

5) It's more important to know what you don't know than what you know.

6) The more you think out-of-the-box, the more you need well-built boxes to think.

7) A graying globe requires greening.

8) Only locavores can globalize.

9) When fast replaces vast, go slowly with the holy.

10) Moore's Law makes Murphy's Law all the more relevant.

Read complete article here

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tough Love for a Stubborn Church

Tough Love for a Stubborn Church
Thirty years after Paul wrote to the Corinthians, Clement gave them another lesson in humility.
by Jennifer Trafton and Diana Severance

Evidently, the problems in Corinth did not entirely go away. One of the earliest Christian writings we have outside the New Testament is another letter written to the divisive Corinthians, this time from a leader of the church in Rome in the generation after Paul.

The letter is anonymous and claims to be from the entire Christian community in Rome, but later Christians attributed it to Clement, a respected church leader who had apparently known Peter and Paul. For this reason it is called 1 Clement. It was probably written around A.D. 96, soon after a period of persecution during the reign of the emperor Domitian.

The Roman Christians knew what it was like to deal with problems in their own community and to suffer from the hostility of others. And they knew that, since the apostles were now gone, it was extremely important to hold on tightly to the apostles' legacy if Christians were to remain unified and strong in their faith. The church in Corinth needed to be reminded once again.

1 Clement shows us that the early Christians struggled with the same temptations we do—envy, selfishness, pride—and were sometimes in need of the same tough love from fellow believers.

read complete article here

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Natural Church Development

Christian A. Schwartz is the head of the Institute for Natural Church Development in Germany. Schwartz did an extensive research in surveying more than 1,000 churches in 32 countries on six continents to discuss what are the principles for church growth. He has analysed his findings and now helps churches to grow by his Natural Church Development curriculum.

Church growth is organic and occurs by itself if the correct conditions are present, much like a seed will germinate into a plant if the soil condition is good.

This in summary are the various components of Natural Church Development.

The eight qualities are the principles behind church growth. Schwarz claims that they are universal principles and are able to prove these by the churches that are adopting Natural Church Development.

source: NCD Media, Emmelsbull, Germany


Labels: , ,

Tozer on Character

"Whatever a man wants badly and persistently enough will determine the man's character."

A.W. Tozer

The Root of the Righteous, 116.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 07, 2008

Our Utmost for Shalom

Our Utmost for Shalom
A New Year Resolution for 2008
Text: Matthew 22:34-40

Sermon Statement

Jesus taught us that the greatest commandment is love; love for God, for our neighbours and for ourselves. Love leads to shalom which is the fulfilment of love. S.H.A.L.O.M. is how a church practices love –Story, Heart, Action, Learning, Oneness and Maturity.

read rest of sermon here


Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Season of Epiphany

The season of Epiphany, from the Greek epihaneia meaning “manifestation,” begins on January 6 and continues for nine Sundays, then concludes with the Sunday of The Transfiguration. It commemorates the first manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles, represented by the visit of the Magi from the East. The season goes on to encompass his baptism, followed by the first miracle at Canaan. As Advent celebrates Christ’s humanity, Epiphany commemorates his divinity.


Labels: ,

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Christian Character Development Survey

Take a Christian Character Development Survey here.

It's free


Friday, January 04, 2008

What is Wisdom?

In academic life the temptation to worship the Part instead of the Whole is subtle and rationally appealing. In the sciences—natural and social—in the humanities, we learn an enormous amount of invigorating truth. We know this search is valid. And therefore it is an aspect of the search for God himself. But if we stop at halfway houses, if we are content with a likeness of Reality, then we are bowing before graven images. They are not false, they are only seductively incomplete.

Gordon W. Allport, Waiting for the Lord: Meditations on God and Man

There are those who desire to acquire knowledge for its own value—and this is a base vanity. But there are others who desire to have it to edify others—and this is charity. And there are others who desire it so that they may be edified—and this is wisdom.



Thursday, January 03, 2008

Will You Send Your Children to Bible School?

Anthony asked some good questions, “[1] how do we attract the best people for seminary training?” This arises from our previous discussion on seminaries producing active or contemplative graduates. He adds, “[2] are Christian parents themselves holding back their best sons and daughters? [3] Are the youths themselves not interested in full-time pastoral ministry? Can the Christian vocation of pastoral ministry be presented as a viable vocation like any other secular vocation? And [4] is the trend in Malaysia going to be people who have worked a considerable number of years in the secular world and then opt to take optional retirement to come into seminary for training and serve their remaining years in the full-time ministry before they officially retire at 65 years?"

I believe questions [1] is related to questions [2] and [3]. From observation, I believe that many parents are not encouraging their children in taking up studies in local seminaries, and that the youth themselves do not see going ‘full-time’ as a viable vocation. There are a few reasons for this. First, there has been a gradual theological shift from understanding Christian service as ‘sacrifice and burning up for the Lord’ to ‘seeking my self-fulfilment in the Lord.’ The former was William Carey willing to give up his ambitions, his wife and family, his health and finally his life in the service of God. The latter is a pastor candidate asking about health benefits, child support, career advancement, and retirement plan. There is also the need to address the issue of women leadership in the church.

Second, ‘full-time’ service has lost its prestige and respect it once had. This erosion was gradual as pastors give up their role as soul carers and spiritual leaders to their congregation, and take up roles as administrators and fad-chasers. Christians are leaving institutional churches in large numbers because their spiritual needs are not being met. The youth have become so sceptical of the churches that they prefer not to have anything to do with it.

Third, the culture of consumerism, pragmaticism and individualism has influenced our churches. Parents are not willing to release their children and their children are not willing to enter a vocation where there is poor financial reward and security, where you are at the beck and call of everybody, abused by the lay leaders or members of the congregation, no career development plan, and at the end of the day, no significant retirement benefits.

Four, the increase in the number of gifted, trained and talented lay leaders in the church has changed the perception of the role of the pastor. The rise of marketplace ministries have reinforce the idea that one do not have to be ‘full-time’ to serve the Lord.

Finally, with the ecumenical movement and the loss of loyalty to denominations, many people sees local seminaries as irrelevant or even worst, sub-standard. Only certain churches expect their pastors to be theologically trained. Others prefer in-house training or Spirit-led pastors.

Therefore, I believe that we shall see the continuing decline of enrolment of young people in seminaries worldwide. However, I do see an increasing trend of matured people enrolling into seminaries and graduating to serve in churches. The demographic change has been building up for some time but has escalated recently. I do see this as a positive trend as these people from the marketplace with their lived experience has a lot more to offer to the church. ‘Full-time’ service as a second or third career may be the wave of the future.


Labels: , ,