Saturday, February 28, 2009

Jesus: Man, Messiah or More

With biblical scholar Darrell Bock and others weighing the evidence, a new, eight-part documentary series offered by Day of Discovery asks the question, "Jesus: Man, Messiah, or More?" The first installment is available now for free; later ones to come next month.


Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 11, Number 09

Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 11, Number 09 (March 1 to March 7, 2009), is now available. The following articles are featured in this issue:

Divorce and Remarriage
An Article
By: John Murray
Webpage PDF Word

Hebrews 13:7-19
A Sermon
By: Scott Lindsay
Webpage PDF Word

Liberty of Conscience
An Article
By: Donald MacLeod
Webpage PDF Word


Friday, February 27, 2009

Reading about Spiritual Direction

Some good books...

1. Frederick von Hugel, Letters to a Niece (1928).

2. Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship (twelfth century, available in a 1974 translation by Mary Eugenia Laker, S. S. N. D.)

3. Francis de Sales (1567-1622, Catholic), Introduction to the Devout Life and Letters of Spiritual Direction (1988 translation by Peronne Marie Thibert)

4. Samuel Rutherford (a seventeenth-century Scottish pastor), Letters (available in an 1891 edition)

5. Kenneth Leech, Soul Friend

6. Martin Thornton, Spiritual Direction (1984)

7. Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction and Meditation (1960)

8. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a French Jesuit), The Divine Milieu (1960)

9. Gerald May (a psychiatrist who "knows the difference between psychology and spirituality and disperses some of the fog that confuses them"), Care of Mind/Care of Spirit (1982)

10. Jerome Heufelder and Mary Coelho, editors, Writing on Spiritual Direction by Great Christian Masters (1982)

11. Francis W. Vanderwall, S. J., Spiritual Direction: An Invitation to Abundant Life (1981)

12. Douglas V. Steere (a Quaker), Together in Solitude

13. Ralph Harper, On Presence (1991)

14. Martin Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel (translated in a 1955 by Theodore Tappert)

A more extensive bibliography on spiritual direction is available at


The History of Lent

This was posted in Christian History journal

Christian History Home > 2004 > The Beginning of Lent

The Beginning of Lent
Ted Olsen | posted 8/08/2008 12:33PM

"What did you give up for Lent?" I had grown up in Baptist and other conservative evangelical churches, so my friend's question held no meaning. I figured it was like a second chance at a New Year's Resolution for those who had already abandoned theirs.

Even around here at the Christianity Today Inc. offices,where Christian History is based, it seems that Ash Wednesday passed with little notice. There were just as many donut trays by the coffee pots, and just as many hamburgers in the lunch room.

That's surprising, especially since Lent is one of the oldest observations on the Christian calendar. Like all Christian holy days and holidays, it has changed over the years, but its purpose has always been the same: self-examination and penitence, demonstrated by self-denial, in preparation for Easter. Early church father Irenaus of Lyons (c.130-c.200) wrote of such a season in the earliest days of the church, but back then it lasted only two or three days, not the 40 observed today.

In 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting, but it's unclear whether its original intent was just for new Christians preparing for Baptism, but it soon encompassed the whole Church.

How exactly the churches counted those 40 days varied depending on location. In the East, one only fasted on weekdays. The western church's Lent was one week shorter, but included Saturdays. But in both places, the observance was both strict and serious. Only one meal was taken a day, near the evening. There was to be no meat, fish, or animal products eaten.

Until the 600s, Lent began on Quadragesima (Fortieth) Sunday, but Gregory the Great (c.540-604) moved it to a Wednesday, now called Ash Wednesday, to secure the exact number of 40 days in Lent—not counting Sundays, which were feast days. Gregory, who is regarded as the father of the medieval papacy, is also credited with the ceremony that gives the day its name. As Christians came to the church for forgiveness, Gregory marked their foreheads with ashes reminding them of the biblical symbol of repentance (sackcloth and ashes) and mortality: "You are dust, and to dust you will return" (Gen 3:19).

By the 800s, some Lenten practices were already becoming more relaxed. First, Christians were allowed to eat after 3 p.m. By the 1400s, it was noon. Eventually, various foods (like fish) were allowed, and in 1966 the Roman Catholic church only restricted fast days to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It should be noted, however, that practices in Eastern Orthodox churches are still quite strict.

Though Lent is still devoutly observed in some mainline Protestant denominations (most notably for Anglicans and Episcopalians), others hardly mention it at all. However, there seems to be potential for evangelicals to embrace the season again. Many evangelical leaders, including Bill Bright of Campus Crusade and Jerry Falwell are promoting fasting as a way to prepare for revival. For many evangelicals who see the early church as a model for how the church should be today, a revival of Lent may be the next logical step.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sayings from the Orthodox tradition

Those who seek humility should bear in mind the three following things: that they are the worst of sinners, that they are the most despicable of all creatures since their state is an unnatural one, and that they are even more pitiable than the demons, since they are slaves to the demons. You will also profit if you say this to yourself: how do I know what or how many other people's sins are, or whether they are greater than or equal to my own? In our ignorance you and I , my soul, are worse than all men, we are dust and ashes under their feet. How can I not regard myself as more despicable than all other creatures, for they act in accordance with the nature they have been given, while I, owing to my innumerable sins, am in a state contrary to nature.

St. Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia, Vol. IV.


Facebook and Tweet Fast for Lent

What a fast for Lent. This is from Christianity Today liveblog

February 24, 2009 2:56PM
Church of England Tweets for Lent
It wants to know 'What are you doing' for the Lenten season.

Sarah Pulliam

One of the top buzz words on Twitter today is Lent as people are announcing what they're giving up for the season. Not to be left out, The Church of England is offering tweets for Lent, which begins tomorrow.

Twitter is a social network and micro-blogging site that allows people to send and read followers' updates (or tweets), which are posts of up to 140 characters. Episcopal Cafe asks, "What Would Jesus Tweet?"

Others are abstaining from another social network. Stephanie Simon writes in The Wall Street Journal about how parents are going on Facebook fasts for Lent.

Lenten sacrifices are meant to honor and in a small way reenact the 40 days Jesus is said to have wandered the wilderness, fasting and resisting temptation. Abstaining from Facebook for the 40 days of Lent was the rage among college students last year. This Lenten season -- which starts next week on Ash Wednesday -- the cause has been taken up by a surprising number of adults. The digital sacrifice won't be easy, they say, but it may help them reclaim their analog lives.

Even CNET joins in by giving some tips on how to give it up without losing "friends."

Anyone fasting from Facebook for Lent?


Pleasure in Austerity

Pleasure in Austerity
Throughout the season of Lent, Thinking Faith will offer a series of reflections on how practicing austerity affects and benefits our own lives and the lives of those around us. In the first article of this series, Joe Egerton looks at how we might explain our Lenten observances to people who do not see the value of them – is it possible to take pleasure in austerity?

Read more

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday 2009

Today I wear the mark of the cross on my forehead,
visible black cross reminder of righteousness aforesaid.
stained mark from last year's burnt palm leaves
black on white, opportunity for repentance gives

Repentance done for repentance needed in words and deeds,
unconfessed sins unconfessed, sin and more sins will breed.
Repentance for grace undeserved, begins the season of Lent,
undeserved, unbidden, unexpected salvation was sent.

Darkness is my heart where selfishness sings evermore,
ego and pride above goodness and holiness soar.
Come, Holy Spirit, come breath of God, to my sorry plight,
Cleanse me, mould me, straighten me, to make me right.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Postcards from the Edge (6)


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bioethical Issues for the Church (1)

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Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 11, Number 08

Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 11, Number 08 (February 22 to February 28, 2009)

The following articles are featured in this issue:
Christ Himself in the Assemblies of His People
An Article
By: John MurrayWebpage PDF Word

Personal Distinctions in the Trinity
An Article
By: R. L. DabneyWebpage PDF Word


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Notes on Understanding Buddhism

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The Wisdom of the Desert Abba and Amma (12)

A brother came to see Abba Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, "Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved." So the old man said, "Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead." The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it. The latter said to him, "Didn't they say anything to you?" He replied, "No." The old man said, "Go back tomorrow and praise them." So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, "Apostles, saints, and righteous men." He returned to the old man and said to him, "Did they not answer you?" The brother said, "No."

The old man said to him, "You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too, if you wish to be saved, must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved."

Abba Macarius


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Christian Doctors or Doctors who are Christian?

Becoming Christian Doctors or Doctors who are Christian

Dr Alex Tang

Monash Medical Student Fellowship

21 February 2009

You are all beginning a new phase in your medical training. Some of you are entering the wards for the first time. You talk to and touch real patients. After two years of reading about them, you are now dealing with flesh and blood persons. For others this will be the second year you are dealing with patients. You will be dealing with the new fields of paediatrics, OBYGYN and psychiatry. For yet others you will be in your final year with graduation and housemanship visible in the near horizon. All this is exciting and scary at the same time. I do not think I need to remind you how privileged you are to be doctors.

Medical training in its various forms is an apprentice system. You are taught by doctors who are medical practitioners themselves. Thus they have been through what you are going through and have lived what you will be living during your professional life. This is similar to the way our Lord Jesus trains his disciples. He first gave them teaching and information. Then he sent them out in pairs to preach. After that they came together and Jesus debriefed them. This is what is happening in your bedside teaching, PBL, case presentations and clinical attachments.

There are two levels of learning. The first level is acquiring knowledge and clinical skills. This is what you have been doing here. You study and memorise enough facts to know how to treat your patients and their illness. You also learn how to dress, communicate and behave like a doctor.

Concurrent with this is level two learning. Level two learning goes deeper and involves your character and your worldview. In other words, level two learning makes you a good doctor: one that is caring, compassionate, humble, and committed to being a competent professional. The medical curriculum in this medical school is designed for two levels of learning. Their goal is to transform you into a doctor.

For you, there is also the additional question of whether you want to be a Christian doctor or a doctor who is a Christian. Am I playing with semantics here? A Christian doctor may be someone who was baptised as a baby, or grew up in a Christian family, or just listed Christian under the religion question in his identity card or birth certificate. Christian in such a case is an adjective. In describing a doctor who is Christian, the Christian is the person while ‘doctor’ describes what he or she does. There is a vast difference between the two.

Together with your training to be a doctor, you are also training to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Rom. 12:2 is about the transformation of the mind. Transformation or metanoia implies level one and level two learning. This involves attending church, bible reading and study, prayer and service. Note that training to be a doctor and training to be a disciple occurs together. You cannot postpone your discipleship development until after you graduate. So your time in the medical school is to train to be a doctor and a doctor who is a Christian.

The medical school will take care of your training as a doctor and your church will take care of your training as a doctor who is a Christian. Unfortunately there will be a limit to what your pastor or church leader can do. No matter how good their intentions, your pastors and leaders (unless they are doctors) will never truly understand what you are going through. They will not have experienced trying to do a venupuncture on a screaming child at 2 am in the morning, dealing with life-and-death situations (sometimes saving as many as three lives before lunch), watching a patient die, or delivering a newborn baby by cutting open the mother. Only another doctor who is a Christian will understand. This is where student Christian medical fellowships are important. This is where you will meet with doctors who are Christians and learn from one another, pray for one another and support one another. Some of them are further along the road than others and they can share their successes, failures and temptations.

Worry and fear will be two of your constant companions as you journey along as a doctor. When you wake up in the morning, you worry about what you will face today and fear that you will fail to meet the challenge or that your mistake will harm or kill someone. Matt 6:34 summarises Jesus’ teaching about worry and fear. Worry and fear are actually are both side of the same coin. It shows a lack of trust in God and a lack of confidence in yourself. If you avail yourself of the training in your medical school and your Christian spiritual formation, you will be better equipped to manage your worry and fear.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Bioethics Course and Conference at Regent College

This coming Summer School, Regent College is offering a bioethics course and conference. I am excited by it because this means Regent College is recognising the importance of Christian bioethics deliberation in context of our faithful engagement with the world.

Dr. Jennie McLaurin

Interim Dean of Students, Regent College. BS (Salem College), MD (Wake Forest University), MPH (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), MCS (Regent College).

Jennie is a pediatrician with a degree in maternal and child health, and has worked for many years with the American Health Resources and Services Administration, serving immigrant populations. In addition to her medical training, she holds a Master of Christian Studies from Regent College.

Faithful Medicine: Bioethics and Christian Thought

Christians struggle to make sense of modern medicine and its bioethical challenges. Abortion, euthanasia, AIDS and stem cell research continue to make headlines and fuel debate. But less public concerns also occupy us, such as infertility, aging, chronic pain and our neighbour's unmet medical needs. This course, through the help of interactive case studies, will explore 1) medicine's new role as a powerful secular institution; 2) ethical methods commonly used in public and Christian debate; 3) theological terms and perspectives that are (or should be) used to support bioethical viewpoints. The goal is to assist health professionals, church leaders and the wider Christian community to think well and Christianly about medicine, and thereby offer reasonable and faithful approaches to bioethical deliberation. Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit will be offered for health professionals.

June 8–12, 8:00-11:00am

2 or 3 graduate credit hours

The course may be completed in one of two ways.

  • The two-credit option runs from Monday through Friday morning.
  • The three-credit option runs from Monday through the weekend Bioethics conference, ending on Saturday. (see our Conferences section for details)

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Michael Card: Beneath the Door

A powerful song about the formative relationship of a father and his son.

...our wounds is part of who we are,
there is nothing left to chance,
pain the pen that writes the songs...



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Church Growth by Google

Churches are discovering that advertising on Google can be effective and inexpensive.
Tyler Charles | posted 2/06/2009

Church Growth by Google

Attendance at Radiant Church in Colorado Springs had been declining for years when Todd Hudnall accepted the position as senior pastor. Recognizing the computer-savvy nature of their community, Hudnall and his team focused their efforts on improving the church website and using the Internet for advertising.

"Our position on Google searches was poor," Hudnall says, "so we decided to use Google Adwords. It has essentially replaced our large Yellow Pages ad; it's less expensive and seems to be more effective."

After two years of using Google Adwords, the number of first-time guests who learned about Radiant through the Internet has gone up 25 percent.

read more

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A Christian Leader's Priority

Walking one day with a wise old man, at least fifty years my senior, I asked what now seems to be a stupid question: "What should be my priority? My family (meaning loved ones) or the Lord's work?" It seemed an appropriate question then. I'd grown up in a Christian tradition that makes it clear that the "Lord's work" always come first. Sacrifices had to be made, and loved ones get the leftovers in a leader's schedule, the last dregs of his or her energy.

I have carried a mental picture of my father, a one-time pastor, all my life. It s of his back when, each morning, he walked away from our home to his church office. In my imaginative picture, I never see his face. Only his back. But I understand why. It was because he was told by his mentors that "you must give yourself to God's work, and God will take care of your family." I know he loved me, but it's still his back, not his face, that I see in my mind.

So I asked the old pastor, "What should be my priority: the family or the Lord's work?"

His answer? "Gordon, your family is God's work." That simple sentence, spoken in a very teachable moment, changed a large part of how I structured relationships in my life."

Gordon MacDonald
The Leaf Raking Doctrine
Leadership Journal Winter 2009, 93-96


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 11, Number 07

Is Infant Baptism Scriptural?
An Article
By: John Murray
Webpage PDF Word

The Consistency of Divine Sovereignty and Human Accountability
An Article
By: Matt Perman
Webpage PDF Word


Postcards from the Edge (5)


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Power and Control and Christian Leadership

Most Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead. Many Christian empire-builders have been people unable to give and receive love.

Henri Nouwen


Redemption in Science Fiction

Christianity Today, February, 2009

How the genre draws us to its own views of redemption.

The culture-shaping force of science fiction storytellers may be more significant and more widespread than we imagine. That's because they trade in myth. By myth, I mean a transcendent story that helps us make sense of our place in the cosmos. This common definition makes the Christian gospel, as C. S. Lewis suggested, "God's myth"—not because it is fiction, but because it is a story that gives ultimate meaning. We live in an age in which new myths, born mostly of science-fueled imaginations, are crafted and propagated at an unprecedented rate.

read more

I love science fiction and it is still my favourite genre.

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Michael Bliss' William Osler

Michael Bliss (1999) William Osler: A Life in Medicine, Oxford: Oxford University Press

This is an biography of William Osler (1849-1919), considered by some to be the father of modern medical education. Michale Bliss' approach is show him as more human, after generations of writing of doctors who had idolized him. Bliss wants to show the humanity of the man Osler

Much more than a physician, Osler was a literate, inspiring, humanist in science. His essays and addresses about the medical life, past, present and future, were widely read and appreciated for their blending of scientific and literary knowledge with high idealism and sensible advice about getting on with the daily grind. In both his writings and his personal life, and through a prism of tragedy in the Great War, Osler seemed to embody the art of living.

I especially like Bliss' comment on Osler's philosophy. It is not so much as attaining medical or literary competences, of achievement of national accolades, or being fanatically idealistic. It boils down to "living well." I believe that is a valuable lesson for us- medical practitioners, students and educators alike. We must seek to live well in the everlasting present.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Non-Western Educational Traditions

Timothy Reagan (2005), Non-Western Educational Traditions: Indigenous Approaches to Educational Thought and Practice, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc (3rd Edition)

An excellent book on non-Western educational philosophy and practice by Timothy Reagan of Roger Williams University, USA. There are not many books by a single author which deals with such a variety of educational traditions. The traditions dealt with includes (these are also chapter titles):

  • "A wise child is talked to in proverbs": African
  • " Training "Face and Heart": Aztec
  • "Finding the True Meaning of Life": Indigenous Americans
  • "Developing the Chun-tzu": Confucius and the Chinese
  • "A intelligent man attends on a wise person" India
  • "Familiar strangers": Rom (gypsies)
  • "No gift is better than education" Islamic
Reagan writes well and it is an easy to read book. From his researches, Reagan has uncovered the rich non-Western educational heritage that is only recently being appreciated. Along with colonialism, Western educational philosophy especially the instructional-schooling paradigm has become the meta-narrative of the educational tradition, often destroying and replacing the indigenous traditions.

We in the non-Western world needs to recover our heritage or lose it forever.


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Sunday, February 15, 2009

No link between MMR and Autism

February 8, 2009

MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism

THE doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found.

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.

The research was published in February 1998 in an article in The Lancet medical journal. It claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the jab. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children’s conditions.

read more

This report confirm my belief that MMR is a safe vaccine and has no link to autism. Most other researchers have backed away from the MMR-Autism link and in fact 10 of the 13 authors have retracted their statements in a report in Lancet in 2004 (Murch SH, Anthony A, Casson DH, et al (2004). "Retraction of an interpretation". Lancet 363 (9411): 750. ).
"We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient. However, the possibility of such a link was raised and consequent events have had major implications for public health. In view of this, we consider now is the appropriate time that we should together formally retract the interpretation placed upon these findings in the paper, according to precedent."
Yet I continue to deal with anxious parents who are worried about the MMR-Autism link. I managed to convince almost all about the safety and benefits of MMR except parents of children with autism. For some reasons, they are fixed in their perception that MMR cause autism.

It is a sad day for medical research. Andrew Wakefield has done irreparable damage to the reliability of medical research, protection of children by the vaccine MMR and the confidence of parents with autistic children in the medical profession. I am sure in spite of this report, the MMR-autism link will continue to circulate and discourage parents from bringing their children for vaccination.

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Problems with the Manga Messiah?

I have received some negative comments about the Manga Messiah by some church leaders. I am curious about their objections. Is it because they are not used to the manga illustrations and their way of story telling? Or they object to the Gospel story told in a comic format? The Manga Messiah is all about Jesus Christ as told in the four Gospels.

I have read through the whole of Manga Messiah and I cannot find anything seriously wrong with it. This is taking into account that it is a paraphrased narrative synoptic telling of the the Gospel story. It is illustrated in the manga style which will appeal to the younger people who are reading lots of Japanese manga. I will not hesitate to recommend it to the younger folks.

I will be interested to know what are some of the objections to it.


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TIME's 100 Best Novels

Read the complete list | How we picked the list |

The Adventures of Augie March (1953)
Saul Bellow
All the King's Men (1946)
Robert Penn Warren
American Pastoral (1997)
Philip Roth
An American Tragedy (1925)
Theodore Dreiser
Animal Farm (1946)
George Orwell
Appointment in Samarra (1934)
John O'Hara
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (1970)
Judy Blume
The Assistant (1957)
Bernard Malamud
At Swim-Two-Birds (1938)
Flann O'Brien
Atonement (2002)
Ian McEwan
Beloved (1987)
Toni Morrison
The Berlin Stories (1946)
Christopher Isherwood
The Big Sleep (1939)
Raymond Chandler
The Blind Assassin (2000)
Margaret Atwood
Blood Meridian (1986)
Cormac McCarthy
Brideshead Revisited (1946)
Evelyn Waugh
The Man Who Loved Children (1940)
Christina Stead
Midnight's Children (1981)
Salman Rushdie
Money (1984)
Martin Amis
The Moviegoer (1961)
Walker Percy
Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
Virginia Woolf
Naked Lunch (1959)
William Burroughs
Native Son (1940)
Richard Wright
Neuromancer (1984)
William Gibson
Never Let Me Go (2005)
Kazuo Ishiguro
1984 (1948)
George Orwell
On the Road (1957)
Jack Kerouac
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)
Ken Kesey
The Painted Bird (1965)
Jerzy Kosinski
Pale Fire (1962)
Vladimir Nabokov
A Passage to India (1924)
E.M. Forster
Play It As It Lays (1970)
Joan Didion