Monday, February 24, 2014

The Spiritual Disciplines: Exercise Unto Godliness

How we behave, think and live our daily lives depends more on own inner self than on external circumstances. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato was very aware of this. In The Republic which may be considered the first text on spiritual formation, Plato emphasized that the training and shaping of personal character is the basis of great leadership and the building of great nations. Character is formed and transformed by the building of good habits.

We are aware that to excel at any skill sets require hours and hours of practice. While intrinsic gifting and talents are necessary, it is the single minded pursuit of excellence through repeated practice that distinguish successful persons from others. Musicians such as Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, basketball players such as Michael Jordan, footballer such as Pele, and programmers such as Bill Gates achieved their excellence through constant practice. Malcom Gladwell estimated that 10,000 hours of practice is minimum to develop successful skills that makes a difference[i]. Practice develops habits that affects body coordination, muscle memories, and worldview (which is a way of knowing and thinking about reality). This changes is circular in that the changes affects practice which then affects habits. A person’s character is formed by that person’s worldview (Rom.12:2).

Godliness is a Trinitarian worldview. This worldview helps us to perceive a reality that is in communion with the Trinity.  Paul encourages Timothy to develop such a worldview.

7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Likening godliness-also known as holiness - to physical training, Paul seems to imply there is also spiritual training. This is in connect to what Paul means to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God” and “spiritual worship” in specific spiritual training of our human bodies (Rom.12:1). This spiritual training is what we call the spiritual disciplines or “disciplines for the spiritual life”. The spiritual disciplines are helpful habits that will help us to develop holiness. We must be aware that the habits of spiritual disciplines will only conform us to certain behavioral patterns. These behavioral patterns do not change our characters. Only the Holy Spirit can transform our characters to that of the character of Christ. John Wesley regards the spiritual disciplines as means of grace that enables the Holy Spirit to work on our lives. Richard Foster notes that “[a] Spiritual Discipline is an intentionally directed action by which we do what we can do in order to receive from God the ability (or power) to do what we cannot do by direct effort”[ii]. The spiritual disciplines must be understood only as a means to holiness, not an end by itself. Further, we must note that the spiritual disciplines is not works-righteousness. Practicing the spiritual disciplines does not earn us righteousness with God. That righteousness comes from the work of Jesus on the cross. The spiritual disciplines leads us to form habits of holiness. It is exercises unto godliness. This in turn allows the Holy Spirit to transform our character to that of the character of Christ.

Discipleship or following Christ involves practicing the spiritual disciplines. In the preface to The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard wrote,

My central claim is that we can become like Christ by doing one thing—by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of his Father. What activities did Jesus practice? Such things as solitude and silence, prayer, simple and sacrificial living, intense study and meditation upon God's Word and God's ways, and service to others. Some of these will certainly be even more necessary to us than they were to him, because of our greater or different need. But in a balanced life of such activities, we will be constantly enlivened by "The Kingdom Not of This World"—The Kingdom of Truth as seen in John 18:36-37[iii].

If we study the life of Jesus carefully, we will discover that he practises many spiritual disciplines. And our record is only from snatches of his childhood and his three and a half years of ministry. What about the thirty odd hidden years? To have the character as revealed in the Gospels will mean that Jesus has spent years and years developing it. It is significant that the author of Hebrews notes that Jesus while on earth has to “learned obedience from what he suffered”(Hebrews 5:8). It should therefore not surprising to discover that the early church equates discipleship and spiritual growth with practising the spiritual disciplines.

The spiritual disciplines in this list should be considered. Please note that it is not a comprehensive list.
1.      Celebration
2.      Chastity
3.      Confession
4.      Fasting
5.      Fellowship
6.      Guidance
7.      Meditation
8.      Prayer
9.      Sacrifice
10.   Secrecy
11.   Service
12.   Simplicity/frugality
13.   Silence and Solitude
14.   Study
15.   Submission
16.   Worship
17.   Journaling
18.   Writing

[i] Malcom Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success (New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2008)., 35-68
[ii] Richard Foster and Kathyrn A.  Helmers, Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation (New York: HarperOne, 2008)., 16
[iii] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (New York: HarperCollins Publisher, 1988)., ix-x)


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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spiritual Formation Institute Seminar on Jonah



Friday, February 21, 2014

Random Glimpses of My Desktop

books on spiritual formation for the Malaysia Bible Seminary library.


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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Spiritual Discipline of Secrecy

Never before in the history of mankind has so much information about any individual is available on the Internet to those who know how to search for it. Similarly, never before are there so many platforms for individual to self-disclose or reveal themselves in a frequent or even the minute to minute moments of her/his life. Such platforms such as Facebook, Tumbr, Twitter, Linked In, Youtube, Whatsapp, blogs, and websites are receiving a continuous stream of really personal information, some of which should be kept private and confidential. There are many reasons why people do this. Some of these reasons are connecting with others, self-affirmation, seeking affirmation, marketing and boasting. In this climate of apparent ‘openness’ how does the spiritual discipline of secrecy fits in?

The spiritual discipline of secrecy is to keep some of our actions private and confidential. Some of these actions may be what we do in public in the presence of other people while others are what we do in private when no one else is around and watching. This discipline helps us to develop a spiritual habit that acts again spiritual pride and develop trustworthiness.

Jesus highlights three actions that need the spiritual discipline of secrecy: giving, prayer, fasting in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7)

On giving (Matt. 6: 1-4)
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

On prayer (Matt. 6:5-6)
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

On fasting (Matt. 6:16-18)
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The idea is not to trumpet our good deeds or piety before other people because we want them to think well of us. This is spiritual pride. This is also a delusion because most people do not think about us at all! They are too busy thinking about themselves. Jesus teaches us that not all our actions need to be made public or share to be ‘like’ on Facebook!

The spiritual discipline of secrecy is a covenant to keeps secrets entrusted to us and to stop gossips by controlling our tongue. Our relationship with others is based on trust. This trust has to be earned. The fact that you are able to keep secrets offers a safe place where others can share their personal stuff with you. The opposite of this is gossip. Christians are great gossips. Under the guise of sharing ‘prayer request’ we are often spreading gossips thus breaking the sacred trust in relationships. Sometimes, even public prayers are means to share gossip “Lord, please help Johnny with his gambling problem”.

James notes,

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
(James 3:5-6)

The spiritual discipline of secrecy not only develop spiritual habits for when we are with people but also when we are alone. We should guard against impure thoughts and actions when we are alone. Who we are in private should be who we are when we are with people. This is because we are never alone. Even in our most secluded moments God is present. We should seek to focus more on what God thinks of us than what other people does.

1.      Examine your giving, prayer and fasting practices. Do you do it so that others can see how generous and pious you are? If so, refrain from doing it for others but seek to do it with anonymity
2.      Decide before the Lord that you will keep the secrets that is entrusted to you. When you are tempted to share these secrets, pray for strength to control your tongue
3.      Do not tell others that you are keeping secrets
4.      Try to behave the same when you are alone as when you are with other people. Keep your focus and try to please God. Do not try to please others to fit in. If you fail, confess and try again
5.      When alone, keep your thoughts and action pure
6.      Do something good for someone this week anonymously (pay for someone’s dinner at the restaurant when you are leaving, leave a gift for your colleague, write a letter of encouragement to someone etc)

The spiritual discipline of secrecy helps us develop spiritual habit against spiritual pride. It also helps us to control our tongue to keep secrets and avoid gossips. God is with us in our secret lives as He is with us in our public ones.


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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Silence and Solitude

Sometimes during a noisy party or a particularly stressful day, we automatically want to sneak away from all the noise and stimulation to somewhere quiet; away from the crowd. It is just our brain trying to protect itself from overstimulation. Away from the crowd reduces stress on the brain, allowing it space to think and listen to itself. This is the basis of the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude. It is time away from the noisy busy world to a place where we can hear ourselves think. It is also during silence and solitude that we can hear God’s voice. It does not matter if you are an extrovert or introvert, we all need times of silence and solitude.

It has been pointed out by some writers that ‘silence and solitude’ do not appear in the bible. That is an interesting observation because Jesus Christ’s ministry are matched by continual practice, not only of prayer itself but of intense times of silence and solitude.
·        Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days (Matt. 4:1).
·        He "withdrew a deserted place by himself after learning of the beheading of his dear friend and cousin, John the Baptizer (Matt. 14:13).
·        Following the incredible experience of feeding the five thousand, Jesus immediately "went up the mountain by himself to pray" (Matt. 14:23).
·        When the disciples were exhausted from the demands of ministry, Jesus told them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while" (Mark 6:31).
·        After Jesus' healing of a leper Luke seems to be describing more of a habitual practice than a single incident when he notes that Jesus "would withdraw to deserted places and pray" (Luke 5:16).
The gospels record that our Lord uses this spiritual discipline in conjunction with the spiritual disciplines of prayer and service. It also shows that Jesus is familiar with and uses this discipline frequently enough that it is recorded by the evangelist in an offhanded manner!

Recognizing the importance of this spiritual discipline, the Desert Fathers and Mothers left their homes and families to stay alone in the deserts of Egypt and Syria. This later gave rise to the Monastic movement where thousands of monasteries and convents were built. The monasteries and convent are places where the monks and nuns can spent their time in silence, solitude and prayer.

How do we practice this discipline in our busy hectic and noisy lifestyles? Many of us do not have chunks of time to be silent and to be in solitude. This is a misconception about the discipline of silent and solitude. We do not need to climb to the top of a mountain or move deep into the desert though it helps. We do not need large amount of time. Though we can practice this spiritual discipline for days, we can also do it for a few hours or a few minutes. David’s comfort is in delighting in the Lord by trusting, waiting, and being still before him (Psalm 37:1-11). Silence is not empty but filled with the Lord’s presence.

1.      Find a quiet place where you are safe and will not be disturb
2.      Close your eyes and calm your mind and body by slow deep breathing
3.      Picture a peaceful scene in your mind – it may be a beautiful lake you have visited, a photo you remember, or a simple room with two chairs
4.      Pray to God for his protection and invite Jesus to join you at this peaceful place.
5.      Wait for Jesus to join you there. Feel his presence in the calmness. You may want to talk to him or just sit with him in silence.
6.      You may also use this time to meditate on a bible passage, praying, singing worshipful songs or writing in your journal
7.      When it is time to leave, leave the peaceful scene (which is a special place in your heart) slowly ( a timer app on your mobile is useful)
8.      Pray and gives thanks.
9.      Slowly open your eyes.

It is good to initially try this discipline for about 10 minutes. Then when you are comfortable, you may take longer periods. You can also do it a few times a day. I suggest a 20 minutes at lunch time and 20 minutes after dinner. You can combine this with your prayer time or Bible study time. It may be awkward at first. However, when you continue to practice it, it will become very easy to do. You will easily enter the quiet place of encounter with Jesus. A skilled practitioner of this spiritual discipline shared that she can practice silence and solitude while packed like sardines with other people on her daily bus commute to and fro from work every day.

Another way to experience the benefits of silence and solitude is to take a silent retreat. A silent retreat is not as scary and daunting as most people think. You do not have to jump into a 30 days silent retreat. Start with a retreat that offers half a day for silence and solitude. Then gradually increase the time to a full day, two days or more. It will usually takes about two days before your mind and body relaxes enough to fully enjoy the experience. However this does that mean that shorter silent retreats are not useful. Any intentional attempt to distant ourselves from the world to spend with God is always useful.


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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Conversations with my Granddaughter (12)

Little by little a mountain is formed

Hello little one,

How beautiful you looked in your red kimono when you celebrated your third Lunar Chinese New Year  (2014). You have enjoyed the festivities and the attention of your uncles and aunties. And you have enjoyed playing with your cousins. Grampa noticed that you especially enjoyed receiving the angpows, red packet containing money that were given by the married and elders to the unmarried grownups and children. Grampa also noticed that you are more interested in the red paper packets than the dollar notes it contain. Your preference is to play with the red packets.

Little one, you will learn as you grow older that the dollar notes are important. You have already observed that growups buy things with it. Dollar notes are called money. That is why your Daddy and Mummy go to work every day. When grownups work they get money. Having money is good. It is necessary to have money. What you may not know is that some grownups are so obsessed with money that they are willing to sacrifice everything to get money. That is not good. Some things must not be sacrificed. For example little children. Children must not be sacrificed. Not even for more money.

Yes, little one, you have observed that money can buy things. Money also can be saved. Grampa have been teaching you how to save money by teaching you to keep your coins in the many superhero coin boxes in Grampa’s study. You have your ironman, batman, wolverine, captain America, hulk and two dinosaur coin boxes. Every morning you put some coins into them. Keeping money is called savings. Savings is one way to make money your servant and not your master. Your Mummy and Daddy will take you to a Bank one day to start a bank account. This is like a big money box. It is good to save money. When you are older, you will understand more.

Little one, it is important to develop a saving habit. Saving money will help you later to buy important things like your education, car, and a house later without having to borrow money. When your Mummy and Ah Yee were young, Grampa and Grandma taught them to save. Every week, your Mummy and Ah Yee was given some money to use for that week. They can use that money to buy food in the canteen or buy sweets or toys. Your Mummy and Ah Yee are also encouraged to save in the ‘Bank of Tang’, an imaginary bank created by Grampa and Grandma. Grampa will set up a savings accounts for each of them. Every time they deposit money, Grampa will give them an account statement which show the amount of money they have accumulated in their accounts. They can withdraw money from their accounts whenever they want. At the end of every month, the “Bank of Tang’ will give them interest (money). Grampa are very generous with the ‘interest rate’ so that your Mummy and Ah Yee are encouraged to save more by seeing their money grow. Little one, you may start with only one coin but know that little by little a mountain is formed (I will talk to you about teutonic plates another time).

Little one, I pray to God that you will never be in want for money. That you will learn to make money your servant but never your master. I will also pray that you will not have so much money that you forget God. Our God is a good God, little one, He always provides.



Friday, February 14, 2014

Double Knowledge

One of my many joys of being a pediatrician is that I am involved in care and nurture of identical twins and triples. These children of multiple pregnancies are becoming more common because of infertility treatments. Advances in medical technologies has offered previously infertile couples the joys of parenthood. My challenge after their discharge from hospital and is brought to my clinic for review is to tell them apart. They are identical in every way. Sometimes, the parents sheepishly confess to me that they too have difficulty telling them apart! However, as they grow up, I slowly discover that I am able to tell them apart even though they are still identical in appearance. Initially it was the way they respond to others but gradually other telltale signs appear that mark their individual distinct personalities. It is a testimony to God’s creativity that each individual is unique with their unique personality. After making us, he threw away the molds. Thus the psalmist can echo that we are “fearfully and wonderfully” made (Psalm 139:14). Each person’s personality is as distinctive as their fingerprints or retina patterns. Though personalities are distinctive, they may be categorized into certain categories as people are also may be categorized according to ethnic origins, gender, or body shapes.

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, published his book Psychological Types in 1923. In his book, Jung developed his observations that people are born with specific ‘preference’ which forms the foundation of his personality theory. Our personality are our preference that affect the way we perceive the world, receive information from the world around us, process the information and from it develop our responses which is acted out in our actions and behavior. This is what made each of us unique. We act on our level of preferences on an unconscious level and these preferences are well developed because it help us to live and cope with the complex world in which we live in with minimal stress. We because uncomfortable when we are forced to act outside our preferences.

Two people going into a building will notice different things, two persons having a conversation may remember different things and two persons listening to a sermon may respond in different ways. The principal reason for this, according to Jung, is that our preferences are born with us. Thus each of us have a distinct personality type. The procedure of determining the type of personality someone has is termed personality profiling. This does not mean we are robots and are not free to choose. We are free to choose but are likely to choose in a certain way because of our inborn preferences.

Knowing our personality will help us to understand ourselves. Knowing ourselves is part of the process of knowing God. Augustine of Hippo, one of the greatest theologian of the early church prays in his book, Confessions: “Lord, let me know myself; let me know you.” The Confessions may one of the earliest spiritual autobiography available and is still relevant today for its honesty and frankness. In his prayer, Augustine reveals his understanding that we need to know ourselves in order that we can know God. This is often referred to as the doctrine of double knowledge: knowing the lord and knowing ourselves. This is the basis of spiritual growth and theology. Reformer John Calvin uses this theme in The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Both Augustine and Calvin and many others realize that we need to know ourselves as a basis of knowing God. Knowing ourselves means moving beyond the falseness of our false self to the real self within. We are all born with our real self. However, as we grow older, we tend to develop a false self to meet the expectations of others, and to protect our real self. In time this become the self we show to the outside world. Often the false self is very different from our real self. 

Self-knowledge in the double knowledge doctrine involves discovering our real self. C.S. Lewis illustrate this process by an allegory in his book, Till We Have Faces. He retold the Ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche from the perspective of Orual, the ugly half-sister of beautiful Psyche. Orual was so ugly that she hid herself behind a veil all the time. When Pysche was offered to the ‘God of the Mountain’ who was Cupid, Orural caused her to be banished by convincing her to lift the God’s veil which was forbidden. Later she came to repent her actions because of her jealousy and ignorance. Orual said,"How can [the gods] meet us face to face till we have faces?" Lewis argues that we have to speak with our own voices (not other’s), live our own desires (not other’s) and face the world with our own faces (not behind a mask). To do that we have to recognize our own voices and desires and have the courage to be transparent. In other words, to know our own unique personality which is one half of the double knowledge.


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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Random Glimpses of my Desktop

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Resisting the Corruption of the Soul

The Great Wall of China is one of the great feats of engineering of the ancient world. Built of bricks and stones, it is a massive man made structure that can be seen from space. Beginning in the 7th century BC, this 13,171 miles long fortification stretching from the northern eastern borders of China to the west was built to keep out the northern nomadic tribes. These tribes were making incursions into the Middle Kingdom. It was so effective that legends claimed that the walls were never breeched. The northern tribes were only able to gained access when corrupt officers or traitors opened the doors of the wall from within.

Edinburgh castle is a mountain fortress which dated from around the 12th century AD. It is an imposing structure built on a cliff and is accessible by a series of winding corridors protected by defensive gatehouses. Again, legend has it that the walls of Edinburgh castle were never breeched. The castle fell by treachery from within when treacherous persons opened the doors or when the besieged surrendered.

In spite of what many people think, the greatest challenge to our spiritual life comes not from outside. Perhaps exterior circumstances may be non-conducive to our growth into Christ-likeness. We may live in a truly pagan/non-Christian environment with little morality or are actively hostile towards Christianity. We may be under persecution for our faith. Even our family: father, mother, brothers and sister may be turning on us because we seek to be obedience to the teachings of Christ. Perhaps we are unevenly yoked to non-believing spouses who limit our opportunities for Christian fellowship. Yet, these challenges may not break us.  They may instead make us more resolved in our efforts to resist, stand our grounds, overcome them, and keep the faith.

The greatest challenge to our spiritual life often comes from within. In resisting external influences we may become successful. Unfortunately spiritual success as in other types of success carries with them the seed of their own destruction. Spiritual successes may lead to spiritual pride. Spiritual pride may lead to self sufficiency and self-righteousness. Spiritual successes may also lead to complacency or what the desert fathers call acedia. We became too confident and relax our defenses, thus allowing our enemy to gain a foothold. Both turn our attention from God, who is the true author of our successes, to ourselves. As the church in ancient Ephesus discovered; distraction from their first love (God) is a form of idolatry.

How then do we hold onto our center and maintain our vigilance against spiritual corruption? The answer lies in guarding our minds and our hearts. Paul writing to the church in Rome commends, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2a). The apostle knows that true transformation can only happen and be maintained by the renewing of the mind. It is an ‘action’ type of statement implying that renewing our mind is a continuing process, not a once off event.

The writer of Proverbs knows of the importance of the heart in the character of a person. In the times of the ancient Israelite, the heart is regarded as the seat of the soul, the point where emotions originate, and who the person is. The heart does not refer to the muscular organ that pumps blood around the body. We are warned: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

The biblical teachings is that we are to continually renew our minds and guard our hearts if we are to resist corruption from within that will allow the enemy to take a foothold in our spiritual life. We are told that the enemy is always looking for the weak points in our armors. Peter who knows from personal experience, advises, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

The key to continually renewing our minds and guarding our hearts is intentional discipleship. Discipleship involves living a life as if Jesus Christ is with us all the time (described as life with Christ) and following and obeying all his teachings. It is intentional because we have to make the effort to become a disciple. We do not automatically become a disciple just because we believe Jesus died for us on the cross. A person can become a Christian without becoming a disciple. However that person will be missing out on the greatest treasure of discipleship – that of growing into Christ-likeness. 

Living a life of intentional discipleship is living a disciplined life. That means we have to intentionally make time to pray, worship, studying the word of God, becoming aware of the presence of God, making the right choices, keeping our thoughts and behavior pure, and allowing the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in us (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) in our busy lives. Intentional discipleship is not works-righteousness. We are not doing this to earn merits from God. Intentional discipleship is creating spiritual habits that will transforms us into the likeness of His son.

Our minds and hearts are the gateways into our innermost being. It is through here that corruption is seeded to destroy us from within. Even as Christian, our old self/old man/old nature still remains as remnants. These remnants are easily stirred to life if we allow it. Intentional discipleship prevents that as intentional discipleship is all about removing the old self and putting on the new.

Soli Deo Gloria


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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ancient Thyatira

Thyatira (modern Ahisar) was located about thirty-five miles inland, between Pergamon and Sardis in northern Lydia, or Mysia.

Lydia of Thyatira, who lived in Philippi, was Paul’s first Christian convert in Europe (Acts 16:14–15, 40) and sold purple goods as a trade she had probably learned in Thyatira, which was particularly known for its dyeing process and had a strong guild of dyers.  The purple dye which was made from the madder root is famous all over the empire. Dyers uses a lot of water so they usually sited their businesses near the river. Lydia would have been a wealthy business woman.

One of the significant characteristics of Thyatira was the prominence of various trade guilds, including associations of clothiers, bakers, tanners, potters, linen workers, wool merchants, slave traders, shoemakers, dyers, and copper smiths

The major problem for the church was posed by the many trade guilds in the city. This was unusual, in that Roman administration discouraged such; but it is thought that Thyatira was useful to the Romans as a supplier for their garrison in nearby Pergamum, so they could overlook the guilds. The Christians, however, could not. Guilds had a patron god; the local god of Thyatira, a representation of Apollo, probably served that purpose. The feasts of the guilds were held in a temple and were viewed as religious occasions; the meat was offered to the god, so that participators shared it with him, and the occasions not infrequently ended in debauchery. How could Christians participate in such meetings? That woman Jezebel had an answer

read more


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