God is good all the time


I will be worship leading tomorrow morning. While practising the songs with the musicians just several hours ago, I was moved by God's goodness through Don Moen's song.

God is good all the time
He puts His song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time!

If you’re walking through the valley
And there are shadows all around
Do not fear, He will guide you
He will keep you safe and sound
He has promised to never leave you

Nor forsake you and His Word is true

We were sinners so unworthy
Still for us He chose to die
Filled us with His Holy Spirit
Now we can stand and testify
That His love is everlasting
And His mercies - they will never end!


Lately I have been thinking that however much I read His word and however much others encourage me with His word, I know God is with me, but I just don't feel it. I have to keep telling myself and reminding myself that He is and I must take His word on it, whether I feel it or not.

God is good, all the time. Because, He is God, He is LORD, the Great I Am.

1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for.
~ Hebrews 11:1-2

Maeghan
Picture by Marc Garrido i Puig

Acts Assignment 1


I rested but also spent time trying to complete my Acts assignment due this Saturday.

It has to do with the identification of all the main crisis in the book of Acts with a summary of the first episode, Acts 3:1 - 6:7. It is now running at 30 pages long. I have only the social setting of the episode to complete and I am done. Saturday, here I come.

What I would like to highlight here is that the first episode of Acts is about the beginnings of the spread of the gospel in Jerusalem. According to Wenham, it happened only in the span of about a year, which to me is really amazing. I would imagine that things then happened at a much slower rate than now, where a lot of things happen in split seconds. So for the gospel to have spread so fast that “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7), shows to prove how fervent the apostles were in their belief of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, which prompted them to go all out to spread the gospel.

It is my prayer that in our times of split-seconds, the gospel too would continue to spread.

Maeghan
Picture by Dieter Joel Jagnow

All Dried Out


It was a bad day today - all drives down to sheer incompetence. I am tired and I need a good rest. I went to the doctor just now and told him - I have a headache, a sorethroat and a sky-high level of stress. He laughed. He gave me a day off tomorrow - my long overdue day of rest, though I think I need more than one day to recuperate.

Noel has gone for the yearly bible conference, where I attended DA Carson's seminar and training on Psalms a few years ago. Wish I were there. This year, Chris Wright is here to talk about Deuteronomy.

I was reminded of the "remember's" in Deuteronomy.

(Deu 5:15) You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

(Deu 7:18) you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt,

(Deu 8:2) And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

(Deu 8:18) You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

(Deu 9:7) Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.

(Deu 9:27) Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin,

(Deu 15:15) You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.

(Deu 16:3) You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction--for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste--that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.

(Deu 16:12) You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.

(Deu 24:9) Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt.

(Deu 24:18) but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

(Deu 24:22) You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.

(Deu 25:17) "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt,

(Deu 32:7) Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.

Maeghan
Picture by Voy K

A respond to my question "But why?"


On Sept 14th I have posted "But why?", asking the fundamental and most basic of questions: why did God create us knowing we will turn away?

Martin Luther in Table Talk has a very good answer:

Someone asked, "Since God knew that man would not continue in the state of innocence, why did He create him at all?"

Dr Luther laughed and replied, "The Lord, all-powerful and magnificent, saw that He should need in His house sewers and cesspools. Be assured that He knows quite well what He is about. Let us keep clear of these abstract questions, and consider the will of God such as it has been revealed unto us.

Maeghan
Picture by Suzula

Our God, our Father


My good friend Noel brought his 2 Christian Pakistani friends to our church yesterday. They have been here for 3½ years, all this while waiting for a letter from UNHCR to formally confirm them as refugees, so that they can proceed with their migration to Canada. They have been waiting for 3½ years, with no income (they are not allowed to work) and living only on the little support from their church.

The happiest news is that the letter finally arrived today! They are too beholden with joy.

Thank you Lord, for your goodness, for your grace, for your love. What are we without you?

But we sometimes do wonder: why?

Why does it takes so long for you to answer our prayers?

What I know is that you are our Father and a good father provides in the right time and in the right measure. And in waiting for you, we strengthen our faith and grow in our relationship with you. That’s why.

Maeghan
Picture by Mike Scott

Tired in the Spirit to Fired in the Spirit


I walked into church today and a good sister approached me seeing that I looked tired. She began to give me a shoulder massage. In jest, I smiled and told her that I was not as physically tired than I was "spiritually tired". During the sermon, the speaker used a passage in Ephesians that brought me comfort for the day; His mercies are new every morning indeed. I was using the ESV which had a very encouraging title to Eph 3:14-20 - Prayer for Spiritual Strength, exactly what I need.
    Ephesian 3:14-20 (ESV)
    14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
I am encouraged:
- His glory is rich
- He strengthens me with power through His Spirit in my inner being
- Christ dwell in my heart through faith
- I am rooted and grounded in love
- I have the strength to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of his love that surpasses knowledge
- I am filled with all the fullness of God
- He is able to do more abundantly than all I ask or think, according to His power

The passage it quite a delight in The Message.

    Ephesian 3:14-20 (The Message)
    14My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, 15this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. 16I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit--not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength-- 17that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, 18you'll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! 19Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. 20God can do anything, you know--far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. 21Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
Maeghan
Picture by Dominic Morel

Romans 12


God reminded me of his grace through Romans 12 a few days ago and I mentioned it to Julia. She uses The Message and suggested that I read Romans 12 in that translation.

So here goes:

Romans 12:1-2, 11-12 (The Message)
1 So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
2 Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
11 Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master,
12 cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder.

Romans 12:1-2, 11-12 (ESV)
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Although I agree with the message in its own right, I can't say that I agree with the translation. But it presents somehow a perspective to the Word and to life in Christ. I especially like verse 11 and 12: Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Indeed.

Maeghan
Picture by Hilary Quinn

Luther's Table Talk


I purchased a good book not long ago: Martin Luther's Table Talk, "the culmination of all that is Martin Luther, revealed in conversations with his colleagues and students".

There are various topics including the church, angels, devil and his work, Christian life and even of lawyers!

I turned to his thoughts on Temptation and Tribulation. Reading them brought tears to my eyes. Here are some excerpts:



All heaviness of mind and melancholy come from the devil: especially these thoughts that God is not gracious unto him: that God will have no mercy upon him, etc. Whosoever you are, possessed with such heavy thoughts, know for certain, that they are a work of the devil. God sent His Son into the world, not to affright, but to comfort.

Therefore be of good courage, and think, that henceforward you are not the child of a human creature, but of God, through faith in Christ, in whose name you are baptised; therefore the spear of death cannot enter into you; he has no right unto you, much less can he hurt or prejudice you, for he is everlastingly swallowed up through Christ.



It is better for a Christian to be sorrowful than secure, as the people of this world are. Well it is for him that stands always in fear, yet knows he has in heaven a gracious God, for Christ's sake: as the Psalm says, "The Lord's delight is in them that fear him, and put their trust in his mercy".



It is impossible for a human heart, without crosses and tribulations, to think upon God.



David, doubtless, had worse devils than we, for without great tribulations, he could not have had so great and glorious revelations. David made Psalms. We also will make Psalms, and sing as well as we can to the honour of out Lord God, and to spite and mock the devil and his spouse.



The Lord our God is a God of humble and perplexed hearts who are in need, tribulation, and danger. If we were strong, we should be proud and haughty ... He will not quench the glimmering flax; neither will He break in pieces the bruised reed.



On 8th of August, 1529, Luther, with his wife, lay sick of a fever. Overwhelmed with dysentery, sciatica, and a dozen other maladies, he said: God has touched me sorely and I have been impatient, but God knows better than we whereto it serves. Our Lord God is like a printer, who sets the letters backwards, so that here we must to read them; when we are printed off, yonderm in the life to come, we shall read all clear and straightforward. Meantime we must have patience.

Maeghan
Picture by Rodolfo Clix

Lessons Learnt









I have had a troubled heart for awhile now, for reasons I myself aren’t too sure about. Maybe I do but I just can’t pin them down exactly. But it has certainly been a learning experience for me, and I am still learning.

Lessons I have learnt anew, those that are refreshed and reinforced in me:

• God is good, though He seem faraway sometimes, He is not
• Regardless of what I feel and experience, God is love, full of grace,
..hope and peace
• Even though the sufferings I experienced are so real,
..God is even more real
• He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world
• Life here is just temporary, I look forward to my eternal home
..with God
• Life is not me, me and me; through what I have experienced,
..I need to pray for others more fervently
• I am fallible, weak and frail; I am humbled in His perfection
• I am His

Psalm 23
A Psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd;
......I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
......He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
......He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
......I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
......your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
......you anoint my head with oil;
......my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
......and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Maeghan
Picture by Sem Rox

Psalm 63


1 O God, you are my God,
.....earnestly I seek you;
.....my soul thirsts for you,
.....my body longs for you,
.....in a dry and weary land
.....where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
.....and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
.....my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
.....and in your name I will lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
.....with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
.....I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
.....I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 My soul clings to you;
.....your right hand upholds me.

9 They who seek my life will be destroyed;
.....they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
.....and become food for jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God;
.....all who swear by God's name will praise him,
.....while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

I came across this psalm several days ago when I was browsing through the psalms and fell in love with it. I did a basic analysis of it and see that it breaks into 3 stanzas. The first on "O God", the second "my soul" and the third "they who seek my life". The second stanza is a response to the first, and the third an antithesis of the first two. Just that I am not sure yet what verse 11 is all about.

Maeghan
Picture by Luc Sesselle

The Book of Acts Day 6


As part of interpreting Acts, the lecturer gave us a short session on biblical interpretation i.e. exegesis and hermeneutics, which was informative and enlightening for me. I have been doing some exegesis and never really did understand what hermeneutics is until now. It is better to have someone explain things to us. The books and materials that I have been referring to would usually regard hermeneutics as the whole process of exegesis, which made me think of it as similar to exegesis anyway.

Here is the definition he gave us:
Biblical interpretation is the study of theoretical principle involved in bringing out the original intended meaning (exegesis) and the contemporary application (hermeneutics) of the bible and its message.

There is a problem in interpreting Acts. It is because it presents something unique to the bible as the only one of its kind in the NT. It is quite similar to the narratives in OT but we do treat it with a certain degree of difference - we do not take most of what is in the OT as normative because we know that it is written specifically for and on the Israelites. But because Acts is written about the early church, we tend to want to treat most of the stuff in there as precedent and hence the norm. The problem is that there is no other narrative or historical book relating to the church in the NT.

Examples are many: who should be baptised? How should we be baptised? Is baby baptism acceptable? How often should we take Holy Communion? What church government should we have? Should we have 2 baptism, water and spirit? And the list goes on.

Obviously, no answers are given the above controversial questions. What we have are some general principles: we have 3 kinds of statements and 2 levels of statements. The 3 kinds are Christian theology, Christian ethics and Christian experience; and the 2 levels are the primary and the secondary. Primary theological statements include: God is one, all Scripture is God-breathed. And secondary statements being the derivative of the primary would include those pertaining to the Trinitarian God and the infallibility of the bible. But we must be mindful that being secondary statements does not undermine their importance. They are just as important. How we interpret the bible is how we deal with it using the guidelines.

I know, it still sounds up in the sky but for whatever it is worth, at least we all could agree on the basic and fundamental primary statements.

In order to interpret Acts, we should have a good idea what the intention of the author is. Fee and Stuart in their How to Read the Bible for all its Worth gives us an idea. Basically, Luke wants to show how the church emerged as a chiefly Gentile, world-wide phenomenon from its origins as a Jerusalem-based, Judaism-oriented sect of Jewish believers and how the Holy Spirit was directly responsible for this phenomenon of universal salvation based on grace alone. Therefore, in dealing with with Acts as to whether the passages are prescriptive or descriptive, we would need to first ascertain the intention of the author. And that is easier said than done.

Unless Scripture explicitly tells us we must do something, what is merely narrated or described can never function in a normative way. (97)
~ Fee and Stuart

Maeghan
Picture by Jesper Noer

The Book of Acts Day 5


Our lecture today covered 2 sections:

1. Mission Practice and Theology (Acts 18-20)

There are 3 phases of ministry: (a) Developmental - Itinerant ministry in starting of churches and moving on, (b) Pinnacle - Extended ministry where Paul stays for extended periods of time and (c) Constrained - Prisoner-witness ministry

Paul was given a two-fold almost conflicting ministry goal - as an apostle to the Jews and to the Gentiles. Initially his strategy was to preach to the Jews first, who will usually rejected his message. He will then shake his garments and move on to the Gentiles.

Theology and practice must go together. Theology must shape our practice, not the other way round though more often than not, we can see that at times we allow practice to shape our theology. Theology must affect life.

2. Peter and Herod (Acts 12:1-24)

We turned back to look at Peter with an amazing account of crisis (James killed, Peter arrested), humour (silly Rhoda not opening the door) and gore (Herod struck down, eaten by worms and died).

This passage falls into type that create more questions than answers. Questions like: why was Peter rescued and James killed? What more can we say other than the fact that God is sovereign and that He has his purpose and plan for everyone of us. With the four guards who died because Peter was saved, does this mean that Peter's life was more important to God? The lecturer commented that this would be a "wrong" question to ask really. And what more, it was Herod who killed the guards. And finally, according to Luke, "an angel of the Lord struck down Herod". How do we decide then God acts in human history? Some we can observed through the prophecies in the bible, where we can't, it will depend on circumstances and discernment on our part. Obviously, the answers creates more questions. But what is important I felt is that, to the very end, it is still the purpose and the sovereignty of God.

Maeghan
Picture by Pawel Roslek

The Book of Acts Day 4


We continued with our Acts classes today. We focused on these 3 sections:

1. Philip and Ethiopian Eunuch 8:25-40
2. Paul's Conversion 9:1-19
3. Paul on Tour 16:1-18

I was pretty fatigued throughout the entire session having so little sleep over the past week, I only managed to drink in the lecture without much contemplation or mullings. But I did pick up these 2 statements from the lecturer, which I found meaningful, and one more, my conclusion of what he said at one point.

In relation to Paul's conversion:
Our upbringing prepares us for our ministry, so look at our lives as an opportunity.

In relation to Paul's actions:
God not only questions what we do but why we do what we do.

John Stott highlights 5 areas where Paul's worldview was transformed: he had his mind changed about Jesus, about the law, about salvation, about the church and about the Gentiles:
Our most fundamental question is, "Why am I a Christian?" Our answer would affect how we live our lives.

Maeghan
Picture by Natalie Souprounovich

Zzzzzz


I do not have the time, the energy nor the content to post anything other than this note today. I will be attending the second part of the Book of Acts classes tomorrow and I have not completed the assignment due - what with the days spent in Bangkok and at work working till the mid of night, I couldn't finish it in time. I hope I will finish it but at 1.45am, I am already half-asleep. God help me.

Acts 18:9-11
And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, "Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people." And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Maeghan
Picture by René Garmider

But why?


It has been a very stressful month, so much so that I wake up every morning with this squeezing feeling in my heart dreading the day ahead. God has been with me all along though sometimes it is hard to "feel" him around, but I know He is because He is Emmanuel.

During my morning devotion today, I went to John 14 for words of comfort and reread it for the umpteenth time.

John 14:1-3 (ESV)
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Jesus said these words to his disciples after the Last Supper and just before he was betrayed and taken in to be crucified. In that context, these are comforting words to the disciples who will remember them later, "where I am you may be also".

In our context however, I began to ask again the fundamental and most basic of questions: why did God create us knowing we will turn away? Why did God make us when some of us will be banished into hell with gnashing of teeth? This gnashing of teeth became somewhat a little too real to me because of the past month's stress and anguish. But I know the real thing will be thousands and millions times worse; and I cannot bear to think about it. So why did God create us to have some of us this possibility of suffering, and not just suffering for that matter, but suffering for eternity. Too unbearable to think. I obviously still don't know why. But whatever I say or think, God is still the great I AM.

Maeghan
Picture by Steve Knight

I will not be afraid


One of my friends introduced me to this song but I could not find any information on it from the internet. The words truly touches me today. (If you know this song, please let me know so I can give it due credit.)

I will not be afraid
I will not be afraid, O Lord
For Your love washes away my fears
For Your love washes away my fears

Your love overwhelms me
Completely surrounds me
And You go before me
You make a way
And You are my strength
My courage, my fortress
And I will not be afraid
Your love melts my fear away


Maeghan
Picture by Cavell Blood

Waiting Room


Silence in the air
So disquieting
      But I will wait on Him
Clatter and clatter in the mind
It’s overwhelming
      But I will wait on Him
Distress squeezing me in the heart
It’s agony
      But I will wait on Him

For they that wait
      Gets renewed
They who pause
      Will be strengthened
      Wings will be mounted
They will fly
      Not tiredly, not wearily
Not only will they walk
      They will run
Come soon
      I will walk
      And then I will run

Copyright © 2006 Pearlie Ng
Picture by Luc Sesselle

Being faithful to the Word of God


Our church leader came to my friend and I several weeks ago with the proposition to share with the congregation 10 minutes on the importance of reading the bible. I agreed because we live in a time too full of things that crowd out God's words in our lives. The three of us will take one Sunday each, and I was the first to do it today.

Matt 13:18-23
"Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

I did not share with them Matt 13:18-23 but just one verse: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). The gist of the sharing is this - if we love our God, the test is our keeping of his commandments, but if we do not read His Word, then how do we know what to do? There are basically 3 excuses to not reading the Word of God.

1. It is boring
Question: remember your first date? Didn't you open eyes and ears to all that he or she has to say and didn't you replay it word for word when you turn in for the night?
Jesus said, if you love me ...

2. It is difficult
Question: do you have kids? Is raising kids easy? But do you still do it with all your heart?
Jesus said, if you love me ...

3. I don't have time
This is what I call the worst excuse, almost criminal to be uttered.
Question: do you have 24 hours a day? Have you not segregated it for important things and unimportant things? Have you not dedicated it to people you love and people you don't even like?
Jesus said, if you love me ...

Maeghan
Picture by Warren Hrycun

Bangkok Day 4: Talk, Rush and Wait


The conference continued with its final leg today with separate departmental sessions, after which it was a complete rush to the airport. We need to check in 2 hours before, and with the infamous Bangkok traffic gridlock, we have very little time. We were rushed into a van and given packed lunch to eat on the way. Driving in Bangkok would be pretty scary - there were several near misses that had my face cringing in anticipation of the dreaded sound of an accident.


Air Asia has its delays. I was told that a friend had his flight delayed for 6 hours! I think maybe there is a 50-50 chance of a delayed flight with Air Asia, with my experience of one out of two. Our flight was supposed to be 3:15pm at Gate 43. After waiting more than 1 hour, we were told that the departure gate for the flight has been changed to Gate 12, which is right at the other end of the airport. We rushed in a frenzy to the other end of the building thinking we need to get there in time for check-in only to realise that the flight has been delayed to 4:30pm! Arrgghhh!

On our way into the waiting l0unge, I enquired the airline staff about the boarding time - 4:00pm they say. At 4:30pm, we were still waiting, the plane's docking area still empty. I think it was at 4:50pm when we saw the plane slowly taxiing itself into place. By the time we took off, it was well over 5:00pm.

It was pretty well into the night when I arrived. I took a shuttle bus from the LCCT to KLIA, got into the ERL train and headed back into the city. My husband and son (by now already asleep in the car) picked me up and even though I had a great trip, I am really glad to be home.

Maeghan
Head picture by Leon East, airport picture from www.cityblogger.com

ERL - Express Rail Link
KLIA - KL International Airport
LCCT - Low Cost Carrier Terminal

Posted 10 Sept 2006

Bangkok Day 3: Talk, Talk and Talk


The conference proper started today, when all participants have arrived in Bangkok. I think there were at least 15, if not 20 flights flying all of us to Bangkok just from the Malaysian office. There'd be another barrage of flights coming in from Singapore.

When the conference was over for the day, a few of us went on our own for dinner and this time we decided to go Thai, to a delightfully-named restaurant called Rosabieng. Food's good too, though, as I have already mentioned before, Thai food just isn't my cup-a-tea. After dinner, and being the final night in Bangkok, we went again for foot and Thai massage. Again, wonderful!

By now, you would already have realised that I did not manage to take any pictures while on this trip. The thing was that I did not even have time to take my camera out of my backpack. And if I do, every picture would have been a blur because everything just whizzed past!

Maeghan
Picture from www.southtravels.com

Posted on 10 Sept 2006

Bangkok Day 2: Shop, Shop and Shop


We have a whole day at our leisure today before we need to be back at the hotel for a dinner organised as part of the conference. So we started off after a good breakfast and walked several blocks to some shoppable complexes. I got some bits and pieces of souveniers plus some nice T-shirts.

We walked so much I had blisters on my feet and by the time we had dinner, I was exhausted and retired early into bed. I brought Andrew Murray's Humility to read but the day's flurry of activities were still so fresh in mind I could not concentrate and finally gave it up.

Maeghan
Picture from http://cheapeatsbangkok.com

Posted on 10 Sept 2006

Bangkok Day 1: Walk, Walk and Walk


I flew Air Asia to Bangkok for an annual business conference today - my first Air Asia flight, very basic, very budget, so far so good.


What I missed out during my first trip to Bangkok, I manage to make it up this time round, we walked and walked and walked. Our first stop was to the malls, which did not quite interest me, since I can't well afford Prada's and Gucci's. Therefore, I made a pact with my friends - that in the next day to come, we go to places more affordable.


The highlight of the day was our trip to Chinatown for dinner. The food was downright Chinese. And good - we had sharkfin soup, steamed crabs, jellyfish which was simply delicious, fat barbequed prawns, cockles (I did not touch this one), fried rice, fried noodles which was out of this world and bird's nest soup complete with a huge gargantuan side dish of cholesterol.


After dinner, we went to the night street market in Saladang but it started to rain heavily. We took shelter in a building and ended up going for foot massage and Thai massage. Wonderful!

Maeghan
Pictures from www.smarttravelasia.com, www.bangkokhotell.com, www.riverviewchildrensfoundation.com, www.terragalleria.com

Posted on 10 Sept 2006

Bangkok again

As adage would have it, time really travels and travel it does, with gusto. It only dawned upon me this morning that I am going again to Bangkok tomorrow! With so much to do, I am so not ready for it.

On the ministry front, I am given a 10-minute slot this Sunday during worship service to encourage church members to read the bible. I also need to work on 4 training sessions of 2-hr each for a worship team of another church. I am pretty excited about both.

I will therefore be quiet for awhile until I come back on Saturday. Updates on posts should follow thereafter, God willing.

Maeghan
Picture by Maria Kaloudi

The Book of Acts Day 3


We discussed on the topic of “Speeches in Acts” today and I’d say that it bordered on being quite technical.

It is important when we need to respond to critics who suggest that the speeches in the book of Acts e.g. the long one by Stephen in Acts 7, are creation of Luke and is not an actual event that took place. Using comparison with ancient historians, the lecturer tried to prove otherwise.

Basically, a lot of ancient historians take the Literary Appropriateness or Artistic Excellence is their methodology in writing history - the historicity of the content do not matter as much as style of writing. Critics in the 19th century had made a sweeping statement saying that since the ancient historians used that methodology and do create speeches, then those found in Acts are creations of Luke as well.

What the critics have missed out however, that there is a continuum between Literary Appropriateness and Historical Appropriateness. There are ancient historians that fall on either ends or even in between the two. In the Historical Appropriateness method, the consistency and faithfulness to the events take precedence over style.

For example:

[-------------------I--------------------]
LA.............................................HA
Timaeus.....Thucydides........Polybius...........(Greeks)
Cicero................................Julius Caesar.....(Romans)

All in all, what is important is that form of speech used by the author is not a criterion for accuracy. It is more important to determine is the account of history is faithful to the actual events, are they consistent with the situation and context.

I can’t really say much more than this, because at this point of time at least, it does not seem so much of an issue to me; though authorship of the books of the bible is an issue that we grapple with, at one time or another, as well as the rejection and skepticism of the words of Jesus being the very words that He actually said.

Maeghan
Picture by kevinzim/sxc

The Book of Acts Day 2


I had wanted to just post what I had felt over the 2 days of lecture, something that meant a lot me but upon reading Codepoke's comment, I must do both because the discussion over Ananias & Saphirra and communal sharing of property is certainly too good to keep quiet about. After class, the lecturer only had one word, "Fun!"

Firstly, what I felt. It has to do with the lecturer. He is a very, very learned person, whose wife is from Greece. Ironically, she teaches English and he teaches Greek. I am not sure what he teaches other than Acts and Greek but I heard him mention Mark, Luke and Revelations as well. He also has a penchant for history and the inter-testmental period literature. And when he lectured over the past 2 days, he does it with a fervour and we can seriously hear it in his voice. He speaks in a normal tone but sometime I thought I hear his voice break, as if one is going to break down and cry. I attributed it at first to his voice, which maybe breaks after prolonged speaking. But at one point, when he was talking about how churches have broken in disunity, his voice broke, we saw his eyes were red and then we saw tears. Oh boy, I thought.

Later, as I thought about it, I was touched. Here, I have a teacher who teaches from his heart. What he is doing is certainly not academic and certainly not just facts and doctrines or dogma, but truth and life. It became so much clearer to me when I brought some Sunday School kids through the topic of the Bread of Life (following our trip to the bread factory recently). When I told them Jesus said, "This is my body, which is broken for you," one of the boys, being boisterous as they all were during the lesson, laughed and said, "Broken?" I asked them, "Who among us have watched the Passion?" A few hands went up. "Do you not know that what had happened to Jesus then could even be worse that what we see in this movie?" At this point of time, I nearly broke down and it was also at this time I remembered our lecturer.

It is a reminder to me that in whatever I do, whether I teach or I sing or I lead or I help, it is the heart that counts. Why did God choose David over all his brothers? His heart what all that matters. It is our heart that matters.

Now onto the interesting parts of the lecture!

He touches just on 2 sections today which took us a long time, with some rather interesting class discussion and disagreements as well as bewilderment as to whether the act of communal property sharing a prescription or a description.

Ananias and Sapphira
Acts 5:1-11

The death of Ananias Sapphira can be regarded a miracle in the negative sense. Its parallel in the OT is Achan in Joshua 7. Both happened in the start of a new era in the life of the Jewish community or church. It shows a consistency of God's character in the OT and NT - he is the same God operating in both. Peter's case against Ananias was that he lied, it was deliberate, there is collusion and it was not a honest mistake.

The question of discussion that he got us into group to ponder upon are these:

1. What is hypocrisy and why is it so dangerous?
Hypocrisy is a behaviour in which a person pretends to have higher standards or beliefs than is the case. Our thoughts on why it is dangerous include the following points:
- there is a deceiving of self and self- justification
- it is work of the human and not the Holy Spirit; it will not cause the spreading of the gospel, and thus putting a halt to mission
- it will cause distrust in the community
- it will cause a precedent or a bad example that others in the community might just as well pick it up
- there is deceit in the community causing the foundation of the community to break
- it will cause more sinning

2. How should we interpret the death of Ananias and Sapphira?
God is still very serious about sin.

3. How should we deal with sin in the Church?
There are several models in the Scriptures that can be use including the counsel of the leaders and the church to the sinful party. But several points were also brought up:
- there will be a tension between different parties in the Church, one group will demand for judgement and ex-communication while another group will call for forgiveness instead, calling on the love of brothers and sisters in the community. It is the handling of these 2 tensions that also need to be worked upon other than the sinful person, who nevertheless needs to be dealt with but until and unless there is an agreement, the matter would stay unresolved
- there will be known sin and unknown ones: sins of people who comes out in light or those that remain hidden e.g. adultery, theft, lies, pornography, etc. that both needs to be dealt differently

The Fellowship of Believers
Acts 2:42-47

The lecturer uses the work of Capper (Reciprocity and the Ethics of Acts) to explain this section. The main concern of this passage is whether what Luke has so enthusiastically and emphatically presented in Acts a description or prescription.

The practice of communal living and the sharing of property is not radical back in that time as it is a practice that is present among some communities - among some of the Jewish and the Essenes. The Greek do not practice but they think it is ideal. So why did Luke include it then? What does he want to communicate to his audience, in this case, the Gentiles and the Diaspora Jews? What does Acts teach us about property?

The communal sharing of property is only mentioned in Acts 2 and 4, and in a modified form in Acts 6, after which there is no more mention but the practice of almsgiving takes place. Much were discussed but here is what I have in conclusion, as according to Capper, which the lecturer felt is the best explanation so far as to why he thinks that this section of Acts is not a prescription but a description:

The act of communal sharing of property were practiced by the Jews at one time, which Luke has picked up and noted it in Acts for his audience in the Gentile world. The Greek of that time has this concept of The Golden Age, very much like our concept of paradise and utopia. Therefore, in that background of the Graeco Roman world, Luke tells them something that is being practiced among the Jews, not expecting them to take it into practice but nevertheless as something important to teach them a heart of sharing and caring for the poor and needy. The people need to share their life and wealth with friends rather than having a patron-client relationship i.e. the rich giving to the poor making the poor in debt.

Certainly not an easy passage to do an exegesis, to understand and explain why we are not called to sell ALL our property and live communally.

Maeghan
Picture by Marinka van Holten

The Book of Acts Day 1


A few friends and I signed for a 3-credit hour course on The Books of Acts, which will bring us through 2 weekends of lectures - a whole day today, half day tomorrow, Monday and again the same schedule 2 weeks from now.

The lecture today was fully packed. It would be actually quite impossible to cover so much in just 2 weekends, but I suppose it is better than nothing. I am not very familiar with Acts to start with. The brief introduction with a broad look into the first 2 chapters today was quite good for me.

It is too much to replicate here and therefore I'll just post these 3 discussion questions, which the lecturer got us into some interesting discoveries in smaller groups, but with more questions raised.

1. Was Paul really an apostle and can there be apostles today?

The criteria for being an apostle are four:
a. they are chosen, not by human decision but divinely by Jesus (all the 12, Paul and Matthias through casting of lots)
b. they are eye-witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus
c. they are commissioned by Jesus
d. they are promised the Holy Spirit

So in my initial opinion ,I have taken the mention of apostles to mean the Apostles. But as we discussed it, I realised I could be wrong, because there are quite some instances in the New Testament that the apostles may also refer to other people other than the 12, who meets the criteria.

For example:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
~ Eph 4:11-12

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
~ 2 Cor 11:13

These surely do not refer to the 12, though Ep 4:11-12 is debatable.

With these criteria, Paul should not be an apostle in their strict terms. But he did witness the risen Christ in a vision. However, would this not open doors to other purported visions making more apostles out of eager men?

The lecturer however did mention that in general we are apostles but not so much as having an apostolic authority but having responsibility of mission and spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth.

2. Has the kingdom of Israel been restored?

Our group concluded that this is really not an issue to us as it was to the first century believers. "So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6) Jesus replied that the kingdom that they should be looking for is a spiritual kingdom.

3. Is it important that the ascension really took place?

This question is really interesting to me because I have never asked it before, or rather, never thought to ask it in the first place. To me the ascension was a given, Jesus died, he was raised up and therefore he will be taken up. But when the question was being asked, it raised some other very interesting questions. Why didn't Jesus just vanish? Why does he have to go up? Jesus can go any other way he chose, but why must he ascend up, since heaven is not really up in the skies as such?

To me, I would respond it this way:

a. True enough, heaven is not up in the skies but in the Graeco world and language, the word used for heaven and sky is the same (I may be wrong though). So in their context, heaven is up, as is the same in our context.
b. The disciples must see him go up. There are instances in the gospels that Jesus can vanish. Therefore, he cannot just vanish or the disciples would be set into confusion as to what next and they might as well get back into their fishing business. In seeing that the Lord was ascended after He gave them words through the Holy Spirit, they went back to wait for the Holy Spirit, sparking the next chapter of the mission and the spreading of the Gospel.
c. The lecturer reminded us time and again that Acts should be read as a Part 2 of the whole work of Luke including the Gospel of Luke. There is a chiasm between these 2 books culminating into the ascension as the crux of the matter. The ascension is a division between Jesus' work on earth and Jesus' work from heaven. So He has to be seen to go up to heaven, reassuring the disciples that He has been taken up and will work in them through the Holy Spirit.

Certainly good stuff!

Anyway, during the introduction, the lecturer, whose love for books is evident, was introducing some books and I could feel my wallet getting lighter and lighter as he went along! These are a few of the books I would love to get, but most probably never will:

Barrett, CK. The Acts of the Apostles. 2 Vols, International Critical Commentary (Edinburg: T&T Clark, 1994, 1998)

Witherington III B. The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI Eerdmans/Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1998)

Winter & Clark (eds.) Vol 1, The Book of Acts in its Ancient Literary Setting (1993)

Turner M. Power from High: The Spirit in Israel's Restoration and Witness in Luke-Acts (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996) - the lecturer said that this is THE book to get if you want to have a book on the Holy Spirit

Maeghan
Painting: John Singleton Copley, The Ascension, 1775, oil on canvas, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 1996 The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The Suffering God


I was once asked by a non-believer, "Why would Jesus' death matter? He knows the end of the story anyway."

That was what I was trying to work out 2 days ago while meditating on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I had wondered again how could he be in such distress since he already knows what is going to happen? Even though He knows He will be flogged and beaten, mocked and nailed on the cross (which could be worse that what was depicted in The Passion), He also knows that He will be risen and will return to the Father. So, why was He so distressed that "his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luk 22:44)?

He could be distressed for Himself but I believe it is more than that. I had to remind myself again that he could be experiencing ALL the sins and distress of all mankind as he bore them for us. He is an offering of sin, a substitutionary atonement. So all the distresses that I experienced and will experience, all add up together, pale in comparison. For that I am humbled. And so I go forth in faith in my Suffering God, the Suffering Servant.

Maeghan
Picture of the Garden of Gethsemane from www.israel-tourismus.de