Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shoes for the Journey

Conversations with my granddaughter: Shoes for the journey

Hello little one,

Grampa is very proud of the way you are walking now. We are all amazed that over a few days, you have progressed from a few hesitant steps to walking confidently with exceptional balance. Now that you are walking, we have bought you new shoes to protect your little feet. Floors are not always smooth. There are floors that are uneven and even have sharp things that can hurt you. That is why you need shoes, especially now you are venturing outside the house.

Little one, you will notice that there are two shoes. That is because you have two feet. No, they are not the same, so the shoes are not the same. Now you understand why the big people always get excited when you put the ‘wrong’ shoe on the ‘wrong’ foot. I know, little one, two wrongs do not make a wong, I mean a right. See. Grampa is also getting confused.

In this journey called life, you will also need shoes as there will be a lot of walking. I know you are just one year old but it is important that you learn early about your shoes. One shoe is called ‘resourceful’.  Little one, you will soon observe that many big people, when faced with new challenges, or need to do something useful will often say that they cannot do it because they do not have the resources. These resources may be time, money, people, skills, government grants, and hundreds of other things which is needed but not available. So these big people spent most of their time doing nothing but lamenting the lack of ‘resources’. What they do not realize is that it is not actually the resources but the resourcefulness that they lack. That is why one of your shoe is called resourceful. 

Being resourceful is doing what needs to be done using whatever is available. If life throws you a lemon, not only make lemonade but bottle and franchise it! Do you know your great-Grampa (Grampa’s Daddy) had only a few months of schooling because his family was too poor? Great-grampa taught himself to read by using a newspaper and a dictionary. He taught himself to read and write Mandarin and English. Then he taught himself mechanical and electrical engineering. Grampa still remember being fascinated by his Daddy’s books with its funny circuit diagrams. Great-grampa could have remained illiterate because he had no resources. Yes, he has no resources but he is resourceful. At 85 years old, he is still resourceful. He built himself a gym system using pieces of wood, and a koi pond in his garden by digging a wide trench, lined it with plastic and filled it with water. The koi are happy.

The other shoe is called ‘passionate’. It is call passionate because you must have passion in all that you do. Passion is an emotion. And emotions may be powerful driving forces. Little one, you will soon notice that many big people are driven by their emotions. Some of these emotions are anger, envy, hatred, lust, greed and bitterness. However there is one more emotion and it is more powerful than all the other emotions. This emotion is love. Grampa hopes that this will be the emotion that drives you on your journey. Love what you do and do what you love. Sometimes to love is not easy but you must stick with it because in the end it is the only worthwhile emotion. Recently Grampa completed a project which involved doing research and writing a 100 thousand words report. This took over 5 years and 18 drafts! Grampa did not exactly enjoy writing all these drafts. It was exhausting and draining. Grampa almost gave up many times. What made Grampa finish the project is that by completion of it, he can do more to serve God whom he loves very much.  Your daddy and Mummy works very hard every day so that they can provide for your needs in every way. You see, little one, love come in many forms, shapes and sizes.

Little one, put on the shoes of ‘resourcefulness’ and ‘passionate’ for your life journey. This journey is not easy with many twist and turns. My prayer for you, little one, is that during your journey whenever you meet obstacles you will be resourceful. I also pray that you will be passionate in all that you do.



Friday, January 25, 2013

The 'Garden' of Gethsemane

After eating the Paschal meal with his disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 22:10), Jesus would have set out with them to climb the Mount of Olives to go back to Bethany where they will spend the night.

 JN 18:1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. (John 18:1)

  MK 14:26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

The 'garden' of Gethsemane was not actually a garden but an olive grove.

MK 14:32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." 

could these be descendent of the olive trees under which Jesus prayed

 These trees have an appearance of twisting on its trunk as if having suffered from severe agony.

This is a sacred place where a momentous decision was made. Jesus has to make a decision. Obey God the Father which may lead to humiliation, torture and a horrific death, or walk about 10 minutes up the hill and escape into the desert before Judas and the soldiers come for him. I believe that Jesus is truly human, truly God. Yet, at this moment in time, Jesus God incarnate is human having set aside his Godhood. Otherwise if he is also fully God, then there is no decision to be made. It would have been an act rather than a struggle. Jesus struggled until his sweats were his blood.

please read my sermon Despondency in Gethsemane


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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dominus Flevit-the Lord has wept

plaque at entrance to church area
Dominus Flevit Church is a small Fransciscan church located on the upper western slope of the Mount of Olives. Dominus Flevit means "the Lord has wept" and tradition has it that this is the site mentioned in Luke 19:41

   LK 19:37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

  38 "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"

 40 "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

Luke 19: 37-44 (NIV)

The architecture of this church is based on that of a teardrop. The ampulla shaped pillars or 'tear cups' of the church is said to collect the tears of Jesus.The current Dominus Flevit Church was commissioned by the Franciscans and designed by Italian architect Anton Barluzzin. It was build on the site of a 7th century church. It was constructed between 1953-1955, making it one of the newest church in Jerusalem.

Dominus Flevit church

altar inside the church

from the church, a view of the Temple Mount

this would have been the view that Jesus saw that day....

looking north, the walls of the Temple Mount with the Golden Gate and St. Stephen's Gate
Greek Orthodox Church
 During the building of the church, some ancient Jewish tombs were discovered  beneath the earlier church.

to the right of the church, tombs containing ossuaries


possible remains of a Byzanthine church

 more photos here

The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, when "Jesus wept" over the death of Lazarus. In this site is another record of our Lord crying. This put to rest the fallacy of the maxim 'real men don't cry'. However it brings to the front the questions of when and where have we cried recently. We often cry because of circumstances or problems. How many of us cried like Jesus who when he saw the splendor of the Second Temple and Jerusalem cried because in spite of all the trappings of outward religiosity, these people and the city is doomed for destruction because they have turned away from God.

Jesus cried. Do we cry for the state of our own country? Do we shed tears for a rich country full of natural resources stripped of its resources to the blink of destruction due to her leaders and corrupt officials. Do we cry for the corruption of the rule of law and its failure to protect her citizens? Do we cry for parents whose children were kidnapped and their fate unknown? Do we still possess hearts of compassion that cry for the weak, poor, oppressed and exploited? Do we have tears for those who are spiritually blinded, led on the garden path to eternal damnation? Or are we so desensitized to the human condition, and are so self-centred that we only cry for ourselves?

Let us look at our own heart to see whether we have enough compassion to shed tears.

May God have mercy


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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Maintaining balance

Conversations with my granddaughter: Maintaining balance

Hello little one,

It is wonderful you are starting to walk on your own. As you pick yourself up and move forward by placing one foot before the other, I can see that you are learning to maintain balance by adjusting your arms and your body. It is obvious that you are not doing it consciously because you are more focused on getting to where you want to be. Day by day, I can see that you are improving your balance. Soon, little one, you will walk as well as all the other big people. I will not be surprised you will soon be running.  

Maintaining balance is something we all learn to do. Big people have to learn to maintain balance too. Not in walking as you do but in balancing the priorities in their busy lives. Life, you will soon learn, is a balancing act. Some big people have more things to balance. Others have less. Yet, all have to learn to balance if they are to achieve the target they set themselves so as to get to where they want to go. In my work, Grampa has to balance the roles of being a clinician-university professor and pastor-theologian. (Well, Grampa is not actually a pastor but we are talking about the role here rather than the title. Little one, we will talk about big people and their fixation with titles another time).  Grampa also has to balance my time taking care of family (which includes you, little one), household, health and time with God, the Father of all big and little people. That is a lot of things to keep track of and to balance.

Grampa keeps balance by continually adjusting the different roles so that equilibrium is achieved. Like when you walk, your body gets feedback and makes the necessary adjustments. Grampa keeps his balance by being sensitive to feedback and making adjustments. This is only possible because Grampa has a lot of help from other big people. Some help him in his roles and support him in many ways. Others pray for strength and stamina for him to keep balance.  Aside from physical support, Grampa is sustained by the love of people around him.  Love is a powerful force to energize especially when Grampa is tired, discouraged or depressed. You know what that feels like, little one? Remember the times when you fall down and cries? Then Mummy picks you up and suddenly everything is alright.

Like you, Grampa keeps balance by focusing on where is he is going. The big people have a big word for this. They call it ‘vocation’. Grampa understands it as living a life that is glorifying to God. Grampa may not be successful all the time. He has fallen down many times. Like you, Grampa gets up and tries again.  Grampa has learned that it is not the number of times that he falls but that he tries. Little one, God has created the necessary nerves, muscles, bone and sensory feedback mechanisms in your body for you to walk on your own.  Grampa also believes that God has given him the necessary gifts and talents to maintain his balance. Like you, he often falls especially when he gets distracted or when the floor is uneven. Keeping focus is important to maintaining equilibrium. Sometimes life may throw a curve ball and knock us down. We just need get up and try again. 

Grampa and grandma learned something about the Olympics games in Greece. In ancient Greece, the running tracks were sandy and uneven. When the runners start from one end of the track, they stirred up a lot of dust so often they cannot see the finishing line. These athletes have someone holding and waving colored cloths. The runners focus on running towards their colored cloths in spite of not being able to see where they are going. This gives context to what the apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize [towards the colored cloth!]. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.…do it all for the glory of God“ (1 Cor. 9:24-25; 10:31b). 

Living life is keeping our balance with our priorities in equilibrium in the context of all who love us so that we may live our lives to the glory of God. This is my prayer for you, little one, that as you learn balance in walking, you will also learn to balance your priorities when you grow up in the company of those who love and support you.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Growing Spiritually Deeper in Christ

Growing spiritually deeper in Christ may also be understood as growing deeper in faith, spiritual growth, maturing in Christ, discipleship, and Christian spiritual formation. I prefer the word Christian spiritual formation as we all are being spiritually formed from the moment of conception whether we know it or not. Our minds and hearts are continually being informed, formed and transformed by our parents, spouses, children, society, culture and many other influences we are exposed to everyday. Christian spiritual formation has the nuance that this formation and transformation is the result of the cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the person who is being formed.

The metaphor often used for spiritual growth is that of a seed germinating and growing into a tree. While this metaphor is useful for growth in faith or development of spiritual habits and virtues, it is limited in that it does not reflect what spiritual growth actually is, and does not have a biblical basis. The parable of the Prodigal Son as told by Jesus gives an apt metaphor for spiritual growth. The playboy son who squandered his father’s fortune, impoverished and returned home to a warm homecoming by the father. To the prodigal son, it is a journey of self-discovery; that he is his father’s son. Spiritual growth is the process of rediscovering who we are in Christ; restoring the fallen image of God within us and entering into the communion with the Triune God. It is a journey of becoming who we are already are.  T.S. Eliot describes this well:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. 

Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one[i].
(Little Gidding V) 

There are two components, three dimensions and four principles in this journey. The two components of spiritual growth are what we already possess. By Christ’s work on the cross, we are redeemed.  Our ‘hearts of stone’ are replaced by ‘hearts of flesh’ and each of us is given the gift of the Holy Spirit (Jer. 31:31-33; Eze. 36:26-27).  It is the interactions of these two components that will result in spiritual growth. The Holy Spirit will work on our heart of flesh through the three dimensions of spiritual growth. 

Spiritual growth is personal but not individualistic. Spiritual growth has the dimensions of being personal (between the person and God to result in growing into Christlikeness), communal (between the person and other persons so that they together become the people of God), and missional (between the person in community to become agents for God’s redemptive purposes). These three dimensions of spiritual growth are expansive and prevent inward looking, self centered spiritual development. Spiritual growth is personal, in community and purposeful.

The four principles of spiritual growth are; (1) listening to the Holy Spirit; (2) saying no to self and yes to God; (3) journeying with one another; and (4) seeing where God is working and joining Him there. These principles serve to build spiritual habits so that we become sensitive to the presence and activities of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In doing so we continue to restore the fallen image, which is intrinsic inside us (our sinful nature) to become that of the true image who is Jesus Christ. In other words, we become more Christ-like in our inner being. These spiritual habits include reading and studying the bible, praying, fellowship, evangelism, and being obedience to biblical teachings in all aspects of our lives.

We have all the provisions for spiritual growth. We only have to say yes to the two components (if we are not Christians yet), accept the dimensions, and practice the principles. The Holy Spirit is ever willing to help us. The apostle Paul said it truly, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom. 8:29-30).

Soli Deo Gloria

[i] fire and rose, ‘divine wrath and mercy’ become one



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Leading Change in Spiritual Formation Communities

LMC 557 – Leading Change in Spiritual Formation Communities (2 Credits)
Alex Tang, PhD

Spiritual formation is the task of the church.  Unfortunately some churches have become dispensers of spiritual services rather than enhancers of Christian spiritual formation.  They tend to influence their members to be religious consumers rather than encouraging them to grow into Christ-likeness.   A Biblical, theological and psycho social approach to faith formation in the context of communities will be developed.
  • 23 Feb; 9, 23 Mar, 2013
  • Sat, 9.30 am – 5.00 pm

 I believe they has a first course free program. Read more


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Interview by a Healthcare Magazine

a healthcare magazine is planning to feature me in one of their forthcoming issue. This is an extract of their interview.

Dr Alex Tang Tuck Hon
MD (UKM), PhD (AGSTA), Cert.Sp (USA), DCH (Glasgow), MRCP (UK), FRCP (Lond), FRCP (Edin), M.Min (M'sia), FAACP (USA), AM (M'sia)
Consultant Paediatrician

1.      What made you want to become a doctor?

I really did not remember when I decided I want to be a doctor. I came from a very poor family and there were no doctors around to be an influencing factor. I just knew from a very young age that I wanted to become a doctor and have never considered any other career choices. Even in my secondary school days when I begin to realise that there were too many obstacles to overcome, including financial ones, my desire to become a doctor never waivered. Looking back, I realise that it was not for altruistic reasons, because it is unlikely I know what that means. I feel that it is more of a vocation or calling.

2.      Why did you choose to specialise in your field of expertise?

In a sense, I did not choose to specialise in Paediatrics but Paediatrics chose me. During my initial years of training as a house and later medical officer, Paediatrics feels right for me. I am comfortable with it and it is a fit for my personality. The fact that I love children may also be a factor. There is so much innocence and joy in children that I hate to see them deprived of it. My special interest is in neonatology (care of the newborns) and respiratory medicine. My research interest is in medical ethics.

3.      What has been the proudest or most fulfilling moment for you professionally?

There have been many proud or fulfilling moments for me. One that stands out particularly was when I (and my nursery team) saved and kept alive an extremely premature baby that weighs 650 grams! After 3 months in the neonatal intensive care, I rejoiced with the parents when the baby was able to go home with a weight of 2 kg. I looked after him during his eventful childhood. Presently he is a practicing doctor in Australia.

4.      How did you come to be with KPJ?

In a way KPJ inherited me. I was with the original group of doctors from the beginnings of the Johor Specialist Hospital in Johor Bahru. These doctors invited the Johor State Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) to help them to run the hospital. The Johor SEDC evolved into the Johor Corporation and the team that ran the hospital into KPJ Healthcare.

5.      How do you feel to be part of the KPJ team?

KPJ has this culture where the doctors work closely with the administrators. This dated from its origin from my hospital, Johor Specialist Hospital, when the SEDC took over its management. Now at the hospital level, I am the chairman of the Pharmaceutical and Therapeutic Committee, and a member of the Board of Management. At the corporate level, I was with the KPJ Clinical Governance Committee and now with the KPJ Ethics Committee. I am grateful for the close collaboration between the clinicians and administrators at both the hospital and corporate levels.


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