Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Orson Scott Card: Ender in Exile

Orson Scott Card wrote a series of books based on a group of teenagers who were specially selected and trained as soldiers in a Battle School on Eros. As part of their training they have to play computer wargames. Ender or Andrew Wiggins was the leader of a group that was eventually involved in the final battle of the game. Only after winning the game by destroying the planet where the hive Queen aliens were did the children discover that it was no game. They were in fact directing real solders which ended in total victory- destruction of the Hive/Bugger civilisation. Earth was actually at war with that civilisation. Ender thus became the Savior of the Earth! And Orson Scott Card went on in the next 20 years to write a series of books in the Ender universe.

Ender's Game (1985, Ender's Game won both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novel)
Speaker for the Dead
Children of the Mind

Ender's Shadow
Shadow of the Hegemon
Shadow Puppets
Shadow of the Giant

It all started with child soldiers of 11 to 13 years -old. What was attractive about these novels was the way Card interweave the mental, physical and emotional development of the children of Battle School within the stories. There is the emphasis he places on the effect of parents on these children's development and subsequent characters. Each child's behavior and character is the result of the presence and/or absence of parenting. The type of parenting given is also important in Card's stories. Much of Ender in Exile deals with a manipulative and domineering mother and her daughter.

I have enjoyed reading Ender in Exile (2008) which is also the last book I read in 2008. Written almost 25 years after Ender's Game, it place into perspective what happened to Ender after the defeat of the Hive Queen. As a sequel written much later, it is a well written narrative, fitting into the Ender universe with only a few discrepancies. This, Card wrote, will be corrected in subsequent reprints/editions of the series of novels. This will be my last book recommendation in 2008. Happy New Year.

I also found that Marvel is printing the books in the comic format. I already have 2 out of 5 issues of Ender's Game and 1 out of 5 of Ender's Shadow.

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True Power In Paul

30 December 2008

True Power in Paul

David Harold-Barry SJ

Zimbabwean Jesuit David Harold-Barry looks at the concept of power expressed in the letters of St Paul, as part of Thinking Faith’s series for the Pauline Year. How does Paul’s idea of power differ to the manifestations of political power we see today?

read more

Interesting perspective of Pauline Theology from Africa

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The Reason for God
Belief in an age of skepticism by Tim Keller (Dutton)

"Tim Keller models for pastors how to thoughtfully and winsomely respond to the most common questions that people ask." –Rich Nathan

Also recommended:

Culture Making
Recovering our creative calling
by Andy Crouch (IVP)

"This book transcends the twin perils of Christian cultural engagement, lament and mimicry, with a wise and bold call to fully live out our creational mandate and go make something." –Mark Buchanan

Powerful leadership proverbs
by Bill Hybels (Zondervan)

"This book truly helps Christians become more skilled leaders by offering practical wisdom that can be readily applied." –Sarah Sumner

Consuming Jesus
Beyond race and class divisions in a consumer church
by Paul Louis Metzger (Eerdmans)

"Consuming Jesus sounds the death knell for a paradigm of church growth driven by the homogeneous unit principle and that measures success by numbers, dollars, and buildings." –Mark DeYmaz

Church Unique
How missional leaders cast vision, capture culture, and create movement
by Will Mancini (Jossey-Bass)

"Remissionalizing established churches can be rough going. If leaders are to successfully steer through the spiritual, cultural, and institutional challenges of the 21st century, they will need help. Will Mancini is a savvy navigator and Church Unique is an impressive blueprint for renewal." –Alan Hirsch

Surprised by Hope
Rethinking heaven, the resurrection, and the mission of the church
by N.T. Wright (HarperOne)

"Engaging the mind and soul, Surprised by Hope is an invigorating read that places the mission of the church within the massive context of God's redeeming work through the resurrection of Christ." -David Swanson

Also recommended:

The Jesus Way
A conversation on the ways that Jesus is the Way
by Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans)

"Eugene Peterson has a way of asking pointed questions but allowing the answers to surface conversationally, much like Jesus. Peterson lives what he writes, which means his tough questions come attached with redemptive motives." –Clark Cothern

The Attentive Life
Discerning God's presence in all things
by Leighton Ford (IVP)

"The school of spiritual formation is in session in the mundane rhythms of life, and Ford reveals how the Spirit intends to shape us through our attentiveness to God's movements in our ordinary life." –Matt Tebbe

Life with God
Reading the Bible for spiritual transformation
by Richard Foster (HarperOne)

"Foster helps us apply the Bible on a deeper level. He teaches us to read the Bible for transformation not just information. It should fill our lives and not just our brains." –Benny Perez

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor
The life and reflections of Tom Carson
by D.A. Carson (Crossway)

"In an age when pastors are told that in order to be successful we must seek power, recognition, and status, Carson shows us that God defines success in terms of giving, not taking; self-sacrifice, not self-indulgence; going to the back, not getting to the front." –Tullian Tchividjian

Wishes for 2009


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

LustBader: The Bourne Sanction

In this 2008 book, Eric Lustbader continues the adventures of Jason Bourne, a character created by Robert Ludlum.

Jason Bourne is the 21st century ultimate secret agent as James Bond is the agent for the 20th century. The interesting twist is that Jason Bourne does not exist but is an alter-ego created by the CIA to catch Carlos the Assassin as seen in Ludlum's trilogy: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatium. These have been made into movies. Eric Lustbader took up writing Jason Bourne thrillers and so far has produced two: The Bourne Betrayal and now, The Bourne Sanction. Eric Lustbader is a good choice to take up the mantle of Ludlum in writing Jason Bourne stories. I have enjoyed his Nicholas Linnear novels and China Mardoc novels.

This book took up with the life of David Webber, who is the real person. Jason Bourne is a created personality. David is teaching in an American college and having an identity crisis. He does not know whether his real persona is Jason Bourne or David Webber. This reminds me of The Batman/Bruce Wayne.

As in other stories, this weakness is manipulated by others. This time it is the Russian mob, an ultra secret terrorist organisation, and the CIA. In the pursue of his mission, Bourne leaves behind a trail of destruction and dead bodies. I like this book which has people double and triple crossing each other and thus is a mystery-thriller. What strikes me as I read these books is that basically David Webber and Jason Bourne has a deep sense of decency and loyalty to his friends. I look forward to the movie.

Related postings
The Quest for Jason Bourne
The 20 greatest fight scenes ever

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Outliers: Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell (2008), Outliers: The Story of Success (New York: Harchette Book Group).

One of my observation is that most medical students who scored well in their assessment examinations during their long medical courses do not do well and become successful medical practitioners after they graduate. Of course, there are rare exceptions. Usually those who are average and sometimes borderline passes do well in their lives after graduation. I have often wondered about this.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink: the power of thinking with thinking and The Tipping Point: how little things can make a big difference offers some insights into this. Gladwell is an insightful author, looking behind the obvious to gives us a more obvious answer.

Outlier (noun) means:
(1) something that is situated from or classified from a main or related body, and
(2) a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample.
In an average mean chart, an outlier will be a person who is either in the top or bottom 10% of the mean.

Gladwell tried to analyse the lives of successful men and women, those whom he calls 'outliers' to discover the secret of their successes. As in the previous books, he balanced his arguments with facts and anecdotes. His theses are both fascinating and obvious.

There is a limitation to what genetics can offer a person. For example, IQ. The higher the IQ a person has does not automatically translate to a more successful life. In fact, there is no advantage to being a success beyond a 120 IQ points.

Galdwell's theses has a lot to do with nurture. Given a person with average intelligence, these are the factors that will help make a person a success:

(1) Nurture
both in families and communities that produce an higher EQ. It is the high EQ that is a determining factor. The nurture of EQ seems to be better in higher income families and in families who are concerned to help their children grow.

(2) Opportunities
one example quoted is Bill Gates who in high school was given the opportunity to learn from the very best computer code writers and be allowed a job to write computer codes himself while as a high school student.

(3) Cultural legacies
such as the Asian culture of hard work ( Asian students tend to score well in Maths) which produce successful people and the hierarchical system in Asia which inhibits individual initiative and thus inhibits success (example the high rate of airplane crashes in Korean Air in the past).

It will be useful if Gladwell defines what he meant by success instead of mentioning men and women who "did things out of the ordinary" and launched into various biographies and autobiographies. My gleaming of what he meant by success is something very achievement-orientated, secular and individualistic. There is no spiritual or moral element in his definition of success. It will be useful to include these two elements into his group of 'outliers' and see how many still remains after this two criteria are added.

Another problem I have with this book is the way data from some researches are used. I find it hard to understanding how the hard work related to rice farming in China is linked to Asian children doing better in Maths. While it it true that rice farming demands hard work, it is a leap of faith to declare that the Chinese cultural legacies of hard work is related to the rice field and also to Asian children doing well in Maths. Another explanation offered in why Asia children do better in Maths is that numbers in English is longer that the same numbers in Mandarin. For example the pronunciation of the numbers: 7 in English is double syllable se-ven, while in Mandarin is monosyllable. Also English has more number names than Mandarin; English-eleven ,twelve, thirteen... while in Mandarin, Korean and Japanese, it is more logical- ten-one, ten-two, ten-three...

My impression is that Galdwell has formulated his theses first and then find studies to support them, i.e. he is working backwards. Thus he was very selective in his choice of literature. On the whole this is an interesting book to read. I am amazed at the varieties of studies Galdwell has dug up.


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Sunday, December 28, 2008

No More Menstruation for Girls and Women

I wonder how much of a woman's psychological makeup is being linked to her menstrual periods. How much of womanhood is tied with the menstrual cycle? I know some peri-menopausal women have identities crises when their menses stopped.

For the younger woman, what if it is possible to stop menstruation without any damage to your bodies? There will be no more premenstrual symptoms and the need to be suitable equipped for that time of the month.

Here is an interesting article from New Scientist Volume 21 Issue 6 Page 24

No More Periods -Period
by Glenn McGee, the director of the Alden March Bioethics Institute at Albany Medical College, where he holds the John A. Balint Endowed Chair in Medical Ethics.

The birth control pill contains hormones that stop the release of an egg, which in turn prevents the buildup of the uterine lining. Bleeding occurs on traditional oral birth control (21 days of hormone pills, 7 days of placebo) only because of the interruption of the hormones during placebo days. A newer oral contraceptive, Seasonale, reduces the period still further, with only seven placebo days every three months. But the newest, continuous low-dose contraceptive, Lybrel, stops the period entirely...

read more

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3D Dialogue: Kaballah

Jesse Hirsh host of 3D Dialogue interviews Tony Kosinec regarding the study and practice of Kabbalah."Kabbalah is not a religion. It is science so profound and fundamental to human existence that it can only be called Wisdom. It is a method that allows a person to know and enter the higher more inclusive reality."

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Friday, December 26, 2008

A Christmas Cartoon

Cartoon by Kevin Frank



A Children's Christmas

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Blessed Christmas

Blessed Christmas to all


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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Footprints in the Sand

My friend Anna have blogged about her personal adaptation of Footprints in the Sand. I find it so good that I will like to share it with you.

One night a young girl had a dream. She dreamed that she was walking along the beach, across rocky paths and towards the cliffs, when she stepped into quicksand. As she struggled violently to free herself, the treacherous soil sucked her deeper and deeper in. At that moment, across the sky there flashed scenes from her life. For each scene she noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to her, and the other to the LORD.

When the last scene of her life flashed before him, she looked back at the footprints in the sand.
She noticed that many times along the path of her life there was only one set of footprints and that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in her life. She also noticed that during these times, the footprints seemed to be going in circles and that towards the end of her life it seemed to be heading towards the rocks and the stormy sea.

read more

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The Return of the Prophet

Hajjar Gibran (2008), The Return of the Prophet (London: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd).

I am a great fan of the writings of Kahlil Gibran especially of his book, The Prophet (1923) which I have blog here. So it is with much anticipation when I read Hajjar Gibran's book. Hajjar Gibran claimed Kahlil Gibran to be his great-uncle. However, in a note in the end of the book, he reveals that they are more of distant relatives.

This book is autobiographical in nature with Hajjar attributing his spiritual awakening to visions and conversations with the Prophet of Kahlil Gibran. It documents his journey from despair at the death of his brother to his wild life and spiritual awakening. Then of his development of spiritual insights and success in Hawaii.

While the writing style imitates that of Gibran's masterpiece, it lacks the spiritual depth and wisdom of the book. Hajjar's work is more of a journal of a spirit channeling. Spiritual discernment is required to read this book.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Coming Surplus of Doctors in Malaysia

I have blogged about the potential surplus of doctors in Malaysia by 2020 in my post Too Many Doctors in Malaysia

In The Star newspaper article today (p.N14)"D-G: Report on future doctor surplus inaccurate", the director general of health in Malaysia was quoted as saying, "While it is true that projections indicate that Malaysia may be able to achieve a doctor to population ratio of 1:600 before 2015, this does not mean that we will face the surplus of doctors once the ratio is reached."

The 2005 statistics show that Malaysia has a doctor to population ratio of 1:1,400. To achieve a reduction of 1:1,400 to 1:600 in 10 years is an incredible increase in the number of doctors. What it means is that there is a large number of medical schools producing an incredible number of medical graduates to achieve this ratio. Once this ratio is reached in 2015, these medical schools are going to continue to produce doctors. Anyone can see that there WILL be a surplus.

It must be acknowledged that there is inequality in the distribution of doctors. There are more doctors in the urban centres than in the rural areas. And there is a 40% vacancy in the public section n 2007. However, the increase in licencing of medical schools will not solve the problem of shortage of doctors in the public sector. The three years 'compulsory service' all doctors have to serve the government may boost up the numbers in the public sector but increasing the number of fresh doctors is a short time answer to this shortage.

There have been an incredible increase of new medical schools in Malaysia. Somehow colleges which have been upgraded to university status, which do not even have their own campuses but work out of some shoplots in urban centres are setting up medical schools. Others like the University of Newcastle from the United Kingdom will be setting up a medical school in Nusajaya in Johor. I see a few problems with this scenarios:

First, what facilities can these new medical schools offer for their training of their students? Medical education must involve a large hospital for the students to learn medicine in. All the general hospitals already have a medical school attached to it. Where will these new medical schools be training their students? A district hospital will never be adequate as a main teaching hospital.

Second, where are the lecturers and professors going to come from? The pool of lecturers and professors are small in Malaysia and already many are playing merry-go-round; moving from one medical school to another. Many medical schools are calling doctors out of retirement to teach. Teaching medicine to medical students means that the teachers must be up to date and on the cutting age. Poorly equipped teachers will produce poorly trained doctors. There are no other possible outcome. Medicine is not something one can learn from a book.

Third, the large number of medical schools will need a large number of students. While there are overseas students enrolling in some of the better local medical schools, these are few in numbers. The majority still comes from Malaysia. What is happening? In fulfilling its quotas of paying medical students, the medical schools will be forced to reduce their entrance requirements. Students who would otherwise not be eligible to study medicine are admitted to the course. This may explain the high incidence of mental problems experienced by medical students and young doctors as reported by the Ministry of Health. The question to ask is whether you want these doctors to treat you when you are sick? Both the second and third point highlights the fact that too many medical schools in a small country like Malaysia may result in producing doctors who are not of sufficient standard to look after the health of the people of Malaysia.

Finally, one day the number of doctors will exceed the demands of the Malaysian society. Already in some urban centres, one can see two to three general practitioner clinics in a single row of shophouses. The value of a medical degree will drop as doctors will be forced to find employment outside their field of training. When that day comes, it will be a sad day for doctors in Malaysia.


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Why Pastors should Participate in Facebook

Pastors should participate in Facebook and other social network spaces because:

* it forces them to become more computer and Internet savvy. Many pastors are generations behind in their understanding and use of communication technology
* it introduces them to a new way of social interacting- the digital way.
* it makes them human. Depending on their openness and integrity, pastors who presents themselves as themselves will have to reveal a more personal and human side of themselves.
* allows them to understand and know what the younger generations in his/her congregation is doing in these social network spaces
* develop new aspects of their ministries. Most pastors do not realise that their ministry is limited to the verbal and printed words. They need to be missional with digital words
* provide the presence of Christ in these social network spaces
* make 'friends' with people from all over the world
* they need to create Christian faith communities in these social network spaces
* they should have fun

Read more here

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3D Dialogue: Falun Gong Part 2

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Evangelical Anxieties over Spiritual Formation

In the recent issue of Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, 2008, Vol. 1, No. 2, 129–148, there is this interesting article.

Sanctification in a New Key:
Relieving Evangelical Anxieties Over Spiritual Formation
by Steve L. Porter
Rosemead School of Psychology and
Talbot School of Theology (Biola University)

Abstract: This article is meant to be an apologetic for spiritual formation to those within the evangelical tradition who find themselves concerned about its emphases. Eight common objections to spiritual formation are presented with the twofold aim of recognizing any needed corrective and defusing the objection. While more must be said in response to each of these objections, it is hoped that enough will be said here to relieve much of the anxiety surrounding spiritual formation.

The eight general objections to spiritual formation from evangelicals are:
(1) Spiritual formation is just a fad
(2) Spiritual formation is Catholic
(3) Spiritual formation is New Age
(4) Spiritual formation is contrary to the sufficiency of Scripture
(5) What ever happened to old-fashioned obedience?
(6) Spiritual formation encourages works righteousness
(7) Spiritual formation is overly experiential
(8) Spiritual formation neglects mission/evangelism

Steve Porter addresses each one of these objections systematically, showing that Christians especially Evangelicals have nothing to fear from spiritual formation. In fact, spiritual formation as sanctification is very biblical. I am glad that someone has finally written an apologetic for spiritual formation.

In my teaching and researching of spiritual formation, I continually meet the same objections from some pastors and church leaders. Even today, I am on the blacklist of certain pastors and church leaders because of my association with spiritual formation.

Download the article here


3D Dialogue: Falun Gong Part 1

Jesse Hirsh host of 3D Dialogue interviews Joel Chipkar of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada about the spiritual movement that originated in China called Falun Dafa or Falun Gong

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Books on the Overseas Chinese

Picked up these books from Borders, Singapore last Friday.

(2007) published by Centre for Malaysian Chinese Studies, Kuala Lumpur

(2008) published by World Scientific, Singapore

Looking forward to reading them.

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God-kind of Faith

Yesterday I was told that I need a God-kind of faith because then everything God says will come to pass. I do not have problem with the second part of the statement but I am puzzled with the first part. What is God-kind of faith and why do God needs me to have that kind of faith? Three questions immediately comes to my mind;
(1) Does God have faith?
(2) Can we have a God-kind of faith?
(3) Does God require my faith in order to act?

(1) Does God have faith?

Merriam-Webster online defines faith as
1 a
: allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1): fidelity to one's promises (2): sincerity of intentions
2 a
(1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust
: something that is believed especially with strong conviction ; especially : a system of religious beliefs faith

So basically can God have faith in God? God is omnipotent and omniscience. He do not have faith because he is God. All the definitions of faith fit humans but not God.
Faith is to believe in someone or something. God does not have to believe because He knows! God does not have to believe in Himself.

(2) Can we have a God-kind of Faith?

No we cannot because God does not have faith. However we may have human-kind of faith in God.

(3) Does God require my faith in order to act?

If he does, then he is not God because his action is conditional to my faith.

The proof text used was Mark 11:22
"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. (NIV)

It was claimed that "faith in God" was mistranslated from the Greek. It should be "faith of God." In other words, if we have the faith of God, everything we say will happen. This is based on the grammatical distinctive of the Greek text echet pistin theou. This was taken to mean that
(1) God has faith (God faith),
(2) it is possible for us to have God faith, and
(3) we can use the God faith to move mountains.

By using that translation of Mark 11:22, it implies that with God-kind of faith, we can become like God, speaking things into existence.

Somehow I am not comfortable with that kind of teaching. I have only human-kind of faith in God.



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Does the Free Market Corrode Moral Character?

Some of the responses of the speakers are interesting. My gut instinct is that it does.

As economic indicators continue to nosedive, debate over the free market continues apace. On Dec. 3 the John Templeton Foundation hosted a forum in London to address the issue.

A group of economists and commentators gathered to debate the topic: "Does the Free Market Corrode Moral Character?"

Michael Walzer, retired professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, argued that free market competition forces people to break the rules of decent conduct. Attempting to justify this behavior leads to self-deception that corrodes moral character, he said.

Competition is not, however, only a negative force, Walzer added. Cooperation in economic enterprises produces mutual respect, friendship and solidarity, and people learn how to take risks and forge alliances.

Walzer proposed limitations on economic power and markets so as to reduce the corrosion due to market forces.

Kay S. Hymowitz, the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, also warned against the negative effects of the free market on morality. The modern market economy introduces many novelties that undermine established cultural and moral traditions, she argued.

read more

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Saturday, December 20, 2008


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Poor Man: Brian MacLaren

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Is there such thing as a true autonomy?

Sze Zeng's post on Anything goes as long as no harm on others set me thinking about True or Total Autonomy.

True or total autonomy
  • Takes no account of needs of others, nor of the individual’s need for others. It is based solely on the needs of the individual making the decision
    • Nothing about living with others
    • Life is lived in communities; family, workplace, religious, academic
    • Making decision without others – like planning a garden with regard to soil, climate etc
  • Takes no account of the autonomy of those individuals whose help may be needed to achieve that decision
    • Take no account of those who have to carry out the order
  • Concept of total autonomy does not take into account the realities of life
    • No such thing as total autonomous decision making
    • All my decision impinges on someone else
    • One cannot have everything
    • Society do not owe you anything
    • Concept based on an illusion. Why such we base so much of our decision making based on a delusion.
    • Autonomy recent after the human rights movement
  • Concept of total autonomy in a medical situation depends heavily upon the help of the physician, without actually acknowledging it
    • There is a contractual relationship between patient and physician
    • Paternalism
    • Physician becomes a servant
    • “these are my rights and you better deliver it”
    • Total autonomy prevent the doctor from providing the best possible care
  • Concept of total autonomy in medical situation do not take into account the realities of clinical practice
    • It is not realistic for patient to be involved in every aspect of his/her care
    • Hospital will come to a stand-still if it is totally subjected to the patient's demands

I do not think there is such a thing as true or total autonomy. It is just wistful thinking

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Euthanasia: A Christian Perspective


3D Dialogue: Mennonites

Jesse Hirsh host of 3D Dialogue interviews Peter John Hartman about the Mennonites

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John Calvin on Nativity of Jesus Christ

RPM, Volume 10, Number 52, December 21 to December 27 2008

Sermon on the Nativity of Jesus Christ

By John Calvin

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. — Luke 2:1-14

read more

I really enjoyed this transcript of John Calvin's sermon.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Alan Hirsch on Defining Missional


Defining Missional
The word is everywhere, but where did it come from and what does it really mean?
Alan Hirsch posted 12/12/2008

It has become increasingly difficult to open a ministry book or attend a church conference and not be accosted by the word missional. A quick search on Google uncovers the presence of "missional communities," "missional leaders," "missional worship," even "missional seating," and "missional coffee." Today, everyone wants to be missional. Can you think of a single pastor who is proudly anti-missional?

But as church leaders continue to pile onto the missional bandwagon, the true meaning of the word may be getting buried under a pile of assumptions. Is it simply updated nomenclature for being purpose-driven or seeker-sensitive? Is missional a new, more mature strain of the emerging church movement?

It's time to pause and consider the origin and meaning of the word that is reframing our understanding of ministry and the church. This tree diagrams the roots of the word missional and how its reach has expanded into different areas of ministry. Alan Hirsch, a self-described "missional activist," also provides a concise definition of the ubiquitous term.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Spiritual Formation on the Run

Finally it's here

Unfortunately the book will not make it to the bookstores in time for Christmas. For those who want to purchase a copy may contact me at and I will try my best to get it to you before Christmas.

Singapore $ 18.00 per copy
Malaysia RM20.00 per copy
Others: USD 20.00 per copy


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Did Jesus Died for Everyone?

RPM, Volume 10, Number 51, December 14 to December 20 2008

The Intention of the Cross,

By Damian M. Romano

The doctrine of the Atonement of Christ has seen some serious attention ever since it has first been contemplated. Controversies have sprung up since the dawn of the church age over whether Christ died for every single person or only the elect. The atonement is probably the most widely known and controversial point of what is known as the five points of Calvinism. I believe that of all the teachings of the Reformed faith it is the most misunderstood and misconstrued doctrine among those who disagree with it. The chief argument against the limited (definite) atonement is this: that this view limits the value of Christ’s death and the power in his blood. I want to echo at the outset what the Reformers taught that Christ’s death is indeed sufficient to save to the uttermost every person who ever lived, past, present, and future. But was this the intent of the Father? We will soon see that the scriptures may have something different to say. We will also see that it is not merely the Calvinist who limits the atonement, but those who oppose most certainly do as well. It is my intention to bring illumination to the proper understanding of this precious teaching.

read more

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

3D Dialogue: Christian Science

Jesse Hirsh host of 3D Dialogue interviews Eric Nickerson about Christian Science.


"Christian Science is a religious teaching regarding the efficacy of spiritual healing according to the interpretation of the Bible by Mary Baker Eddy, in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (First published in 1875). Students of Christian Science are usually, though not always or necessarily, members of the Church of Christ, Scientist. Christian Science has no connection with Scientology and is distinct from Christian fundamentalism."


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Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Sign of Immanu_el

The Sign of Immanu-el
Text: Isaiah 7:1-17

7:1 When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.
2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. 4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says:

”‘It will not take place,
it will not happen,
8 for the head of Aram is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.
Within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.
9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.
If you do not stand firm in your faith,
you will not stand at all.’”

10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.”
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”

Sermon Statement

The sign of Immanu-el for us is that God is in control, God saves and God is with us.

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Blind Spot of the Spiritual Formation Movement

The Blind Spot of the Spiritual Formation Movement
Listening to a sermon is a spiritual discipline that needs to be learned.
Craig Brian Larson

Craig Brian Larson is editor of and pastor of Lake Shore Church in Chicago. He is co-author and co-general editor of The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching (Zondervan, 2006).

Craig Larson identifies the spiritual discipline of listening to sermons as a blind spot of the spiritual formation movement. Read more

I want to say that sound biblical preaching does the following nine things that individual Bible reading, memorization, and meditation does not:

(1)Good preaching rescues us from our self-deceptions and blind spots, for left to ourselves we tend to ignore the very things in God's Word that we most need to see. Preaching is done in community, covering texts and topics outside of our control.

(2)Preaching brings us before God's Word in the special presence of the Holy Spirit, who indwells the gathered church.

(3)Good preaching challenges us to do things we otherwise would not and gives us the will to do them. God has put within human nature a remarkable power to spur others to take action.

(4)Good preaching brings us into the place of corporate obedience rather than merely individual obedience. This is a uniquely corporate discipline that the church does together as a community, building up individuals and the community at the same time. We are not just an individual follower of Christ; we are a member of his church and are called to obey the call of God together with others hearing the same Word.

(5)Good preaching contributes to spiritual humility by disciplining us to sit under the teaching, correction, and exhortation of another human. Relying on ourselves alone for food from the Word can lead to a spirit of arrogance and spiritual independence.

(6)Good preaching gives a place for a spiritually qualified person to protect believers from dangerous error. The apostles repeatedly warned that untrained and unstable Christians—as well as mature believers—are frequently led astray by false doctrines. Christians are sheep; false teachers are wolves; preachers are guardian shepherds. A preacher is a person called and gifted by God with spiritual authority for the care of souls in the context of God's church.

(7)Preaching and listening is a uniquely embodied, physical act. It literally puts us into the habit of having "ears that hear." There is something to be said for this physical act of listening and heeding. Good preaching is truth incarnated, truth mediated through a person from its ancient setting to today, truth we can feel through another person's heart, truth conveyed through an embodied person, truth we receive sitting shoulder to shoulder with other embodied Christians.

(8)Good preaching does what most Christians are not gifted, trained, or time-endowed to do: interpret a text in context, distill the theological truths that are universally true, and apply those truths in a particular time and place to particular people in a particular church—all this with the help of resources informed by 2,000 years of the Church's study that average Christians do not own. This is a challenging task for well-trained preachers; how much more so for those untrained?

(9)Listening to preaching has a much lower threshold of difficulty for almost all people. While many spiritual disciplines sound like exercises for the spiritually elite, both young and old, educated and uneducated, disciplined and undisciplined can at least listen to a sermon. It is God's equal-opportunity discipline. Preaching and listening is everywhere in the Bible because it is doable by the masses.


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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lawrence Khong's Give Me the Multitudes

Lawrence Khong (2008) Give me the Multitudes! Obeying God's Call into the Media World, TOUCH Ministries International: Singapore

Lawrence Khong is the Founding Senior Pastor of the 10,000 strong Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore. He has been commissioned as an Apostle by Dr Peter Wagner of the International Coalition of Apostles and is a member of Pastor Cesar Castellanos' International G12. He is also the Founding Chairman of TOUCH Community Services, a registered non-profit welfare organisation that serves the needy, and the Founding Chief Execuitive Officer of Gateway Entertainment, an entertainment production business that stages mega magic shows like Magic of Love (from the book burb).

This little booklet of 119 pages, large fonts with 1.5 spacing format and a few pages of black and white photos is an autobiography by Khong about the last six years in which he was involved in his magician/illusionist Magic of Love stage magic/dance/musical production.

Though an autobiography, it comes across as an attempt to justify his involvement with the Magic of Love. As I was reading it, I was wondering why is there a need to justify his actions if the call from God for him was to begin an apostolic ministry in the 'media and entertainment scene' to win the lost. It is good to know that his interest in magic/illustionist acts began when he was a child and remained his hobby. It is also good to know that he thinks that his Magic of Love may be a platform for him to share Christ with unbelievers. The telling of his daughter's out of wedlocks pregnancy and the neglect of his son by the show is of human interest but did not further the justification of his action.

It is my personal opinion that after reading this book that Khong may need to let go of being a pastor if he is to seriously consider entering into the world of media and to win it for the Lord. Being a pastor is a handicap because no non-Christian will take his shows seriously if he is still linked to the church. To them, this is just another Christian evangelism gimmick.

Khong also need to be careful in his choice of theme for his shows. The Magic of Love is a good them because it tells of the love between a father and his daughter. However, the "Spooky Show" may be a gray area.

Finally, Khong must realise that he is not alone. Maybe he has been a pastor too long that he has forgotten that thousands if not millions of Christians are involved in 'marketplace ministries' and many of them in the media. He writes as if he discovered the marketplace ministry all by himself.

On the whole, it is a good book to read. I have a better understanding of Lawrence Khong and his ministries.


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Friday, December 12, 2008

3D Dialogue: Zen and Western Society

Jesse Hirsh host of 3D Dialogue interviews Sensei Taigen Henderson from the Toronto Zen Centre regarding Zen Buddhism and how to integrate eastern spirituality with life in western society.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reading the Bible Backward

My review of Edward Hindson's thesis on Isaiah's Immanuel has elicited some interesting comments. One is that whether Matthew is quoting Isaiah 7:14 correctly.

Dennis Bratcher, Old Testament scholar of CRI/Voice Institute writes,

"We are accustomed to reading the Bible backwards. That is, we have tended to assume that the New Testament provides all the clues we need to understand the Old Testament. As a result, we tend to read the Old Testament in light of what we understand about the New Testament. However, most of the time we are not really even reading the Old Testament in light of the New Testament. We are actually reading the Old Testament in light of much later highly developed doctrines and systematic theology seen through the eyes of 21st century Western perspectives. We tend not to take seriously the deep roots that most of the New Testament has in the thought world, symbolism, and theology of the Old Testament."

read more in his article on Immanuel in Isaiah and Matthew and Isaiah 7:14: Translation Issues

For a Jewish view of Isaiah 7:14, see this article from Messiah Truth which gives a different perspective on the whole issue.


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Manga Messiah

The Real Superman
How comic books take Jesus to the world
By Laurie Fortunak

For the average person, the term "comic book heroes" brings to mind names such as Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman. But for Nate Butler, it's Jesus. Yes, the Son of God is a comic book hero.

The Real Superman

Butler is president and founder of COMIX35, which trains individuals and ministries around the world in the production and effective use of comics-style literature to share the gospel.

Throughout Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, billions of all ages avidly read comics—manga, manhwa, bande dessinée, historietas, foto novela, fumetti, or some other term in their own language and culture. Comics are the most-read form of popular literature; in Japan alone, 2.1 billion comics are sold every year.

No need to conjure images of Jesus in a cape or as a masked crusader. Butler and others use comics to present theologically sound and biblically accurate, yet graphically attractive and dramatically engaging, images of who Jesus Christ is. And God is using this medium to draw men, women, and children around the world to himself.

One Hong Kong publisher worked with COMIX35 to create Manga Messiah, a Japanese-style comic book version of the four Gospels in which Jesus is called by his Hebrew name, Yeshuah. That publisher tells how one woman and her husband had been reading Manga Messiah to their young children each night. One night, after the father read the story of Yeshuah's midnight conversation with Nicodemus, their 4-year-old said, "Daddy, I believe in Yeshuah. I want to be born again!" The parents immediately prayed with her to receive Yeshuah as Lord and Savior.

COMIX35 has worked in 42 countries and trained more than 700 people to create and use comic books as evangelism and witnessing tools in various cultures. The "X35" in COMIX35 refers to Exodus 35:30-35, where the Lord calls artisans whom he will fill with his Spirit.

Today, God is using the artistry in millions of copies of Christian comics to reach men, women, and children in ways that other print literature cannot.


Reading Comics is Good for Learning


How Comics Can Save Us From Scientific Ignorance
By Barry Harbaugh 11.24.08

What's the solution to America's crisis in science education? More comic books. In December comes The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA, a remarkably thorough explanation of the science of genetics, from Mendel to Venter, with a strand of social urgency spliced in. "If there was ever a time that we needed a push to make science a priority, it's now," says Howard Zimmerman, the book's editor and, not coincidentally, a former elementary-school science teacher. "Advances in treatments for disease cannot take place in a society that shuns science." Zimmerman works with the New York literary publishing house Hill and Wang, which discovered Elie Weisel and has been creating a new niche for itself as one of the premiere producers of major graphic "nonfiction novels" like the war on terror primer After 9/11 and the bio-comic Ronald Reagan.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

King Herod Revealed

Masada-King Herod's 3 tiered palace

This interesting article from National Geographic, December 2008

The Holy Land's visionary builder.

By Tom Mueller
Photograph by Michael Melford

Eight miles south of Jerusalem, where the last stunted olive trees and stony cornfields fade into the naked badlands of the Judaean desert, a hill rises abruptly, a steep cone sliced off at the top like a small volcano. This is Herodium, one of the grand architectural creations of Herod the Great, King of Judaea, who raised a low knoll into a towering memorial of snowy stonework and surrounded it with pleasure palaces, splashing pools, and terraced gardens. An astute and generous ruler, a brilliant general, and one of the most imaginative and energetic builders of the ancient world, Herod guided his kingdom to new prosperity and power.

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3D Dialogue: L'Arche

Jesse Hirsh host of 3D Dialogue interviews Carl MacMillan from L'Arche Daybreak about the organization and it's founder Jean Vanier."In L'Arche, people who have developmental disabilities and those who come to assist share life and daytime activities together in family-like settings that are integrated into local neighbourhoods. L'Arche in Canada has nearly 200 homes and workshops or day programs." -

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Isaiah's Immanuel

Edward Hindson (1978), Isaiah's Immanuel (Phillipsburgh, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co )

Edward Hinson was professor of religion at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia. He is an Old testament scholar.
This is a 'meaty' scholarly thesis on Isaiah 7:14. There are three possible intepretation of the 'virgin' in the verse (v.14-16):

(1) The boy of whom Isaiah wrote was conceived shortly after Isaiah spoke this message. A young woman, a virgin, married and then had a baby. Before he would be old enough to tell the difference between good and evil the northern Aram-Israel alliance would be destroyed. According to this view the woman was a virgin when Isaiah spoke his prophecy but was not when the boy was born because he was conceived by sexual relations with her husband. Some say this child was born to Isaiah (8:3-4). They point out that 8:1-4 corresponds in a number of ways to 7:14-17.

(2) A second view sees the predicted birth as exclusively messianic and the virgin as Mary, Jesus’ mother. It is argued that in Isaiah 7:14 the virgin is said to be with child (lit., ”the virgin is or will be pregnant“). It is also argued that Matthew, stressing the fact that Joseph and Mary’s marriage was not consummated till after Jesus’ birth (Matt. 1:18, 25), affirmed that Jesus’ birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Matt. 1:21-23).

(3) A third view, a combination of the first two, sees the prophecy as directed primarily to Ahaz regarding the breaking of the alliance. The ‘almâh was a virgin when Isaiah spoke his message, but then she would marry and have a baby. When the Aram-Israel alliance was broken the boy would still be young.

Hindson's thesis is that “(A)n evaluation of the evidence reveals that Isaiah did in fact predict directly and in advance the birth of Jesus Christ by Mary, the virgin of Nazareth.” (p.87) i.e. option number 2. Aside from the exegesis of the word 'virgin', Hindson seeks support from the Septuagint’s interpretation of Isa. 7:14 as that of a virgin birth. This messianic pre-Christian interpretation is shared by the rabbinic, Palestinian and Alexandrian Jews.

Option one is to be rejected because (a) Isaiah’s wife already had a child (Shear-Jashub, v. 3) and so was not a virgin,(b) the second child born to Isaiah’s wife was not named Immanuel but Maher-shalal-hash-baz which is a judgment on Judah while Immanuel is one of hope (8:3),(c) the virgin is Isaiah’s second wife which has no scriptural backing, and (d) there is no virgin birth. If option one is not acceptable, option 3 of double fulfilment is also not acceptable.


3D Diaglogue: Western Mysticism

Jesse Hirsh host of 3D Dialogue interviews Professor Robert Carter regarding the relationship between Western Mysticism and Eastern Spirituality.


Monday, December 08, 2008

From Entertainment to Disciplemaking

"Showtime!" No More
Could our church shift from performance to mission?
Walt Kallestad posted 11/26/2008 11:49AM

Entertainment evangelism: The concept came together for me while standing in a line at a Dallas Cineplex waiting to see the Batman premiere. The only way to capture people's attention is entertainment, I thought. If I want people to listen to my message, I've got to present it in a way that grabs their attention long enough for me to communicate the gospel.

It was an epiphany, a breakthrough understanding for me. So our church strategy revolved around the gravitational force of entertainment for evangelism. We hired the best musicians we could afford; we used marketing principles and programming specialists—for the gospel's sake. Attendance skyrocketed. More people meant more staff, more programs, more facilities, more land, and of course the need for more money. We became a program-driven church attracting consumers looking for the latest and greatest religious presentations.

For us, worship was a show, and we played to a packed house. We grew by thousands, bought more land, and positioned ourselves to reach even more people. Not that any of this is wrong in and of itself—people coming to faith in Christ isn't bad. I told myself it was good—I told others it was good. But now I was beginning to wonder if I'd led my church down a wrong path.
The show was killing me.

Attracting consumers was consuming me—not in the way vision consumes a leader. It was the opposite of that—I was losing sight of the vision. Our church was a great organization. But something was missing. We weren't accomplishing our mission; we weren't creating transformed, empowered disciples...

In the old days, we protected people's anonymity; today we thrust them into community, doing life together. We used to invite them to attend church; now we invite them to be the church. I used to ask, "What can we do to get more people to attend our church?" Now I ask, "How can I best equip and empower the people to go be the church in the marketplace where God has called them to serve?"

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Personal sharing from a megachurch pastor. The mission of the church is disciplemaking, not entertainment.


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Star Trek: Kobayashi Maru

From the Star Trek website Memory Alpha

The Kobayashi Maru scenario was an infamous no-win scenario that was part of the curriculum for command-track cadets at Starfleet Academy in the 23rd century. It was primarily used to assess a cadet's discipline, character, and command capabilities when facing an impossible situation as there is no one answer to the problem.

In the scenario, a cadet was placed in command of a starship on patrol near the Klingon Neutral Zone. The starship would receive a distress signal from the SS Kobayashi Maru, a civilian freighter that had been disabled in the zone after having struck a gravitic mine. If the cadet chose to enter the neutral zone in violation of treaties, the starship would be confronted by three Klingon K't'inga-class battlecruisers. The test was considered a no-win scenario because it was impossible for the cadet to simultaneously save the Kobayashi Maru, avoid a fight with the Klingons, and escape from the neutral zone with the starship intact. Electing not to enter the neutral zone to rescue the ship is considered a failure. A cadet's choice of how to handle the rescue operation gave great insight into his or her command decision making.

In this novel, Micheal Martin and Andy Mangels wrote an interesting novel about how the actual scenario came about. Located at the time after the end of the season finale of the fourth season of Enterprise, it documents how the starship Enterprise actually was involved in the no-win scenerio of a damaged freighter named Kobayashi Maru in the Neutral Zone and face off with three Klingon warships. Captain Jonathan Archer's action earned him a place in Starfleet training in the dilemma of the Kobayashi Maru. I have enjoyed this book.


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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Facing Shame in Small Groups


Facing Shame Issues in a Small Group
Why some group members don't want to open up, and how to help
Mark Bonham posted 11/17/2008

How people's shame is responded to by a group and its leaders will determine how deep they or others will feel safe to go. What would make it safe to share issues of shame in the first place? Group leaders set the tone. When leadersare in touch with their own brokenness and can talk openly about it because they have received help and healing, they create space for others to do the same. If people are not bringing up realstruggles of the heart, could it bethat they do not feel safe because it has not been modeled in the group?

We have been talking about shame over who I feel I am. But there is also legitimate shame over what I know I've done. It is not the goal of the group to talk people out of either kind of shame. Both expose what I am allowing to define me. In both cases, I have lost awareness of who I really am in Christ. Fortunately, once I have identified what is going on, I have the opportunity to go to the Cross and confess what I have believed. It is a beautiful thing when a group can go there together with one of their members, pour out their heart in confession, and, in exchange, have the righteousness of Christ poured out on them.

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This is especially relevent in Asia where we live in a culture of shame.

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