SH, my husband sent this link today which is just plain cool. If you want to test your musical skills in 6 minutes, it is the place to go. It offers 3 tests: (1) Tonedeafness (2) Pitch perception and (3) Rhythm perception abilities.
My scores: (1) Very Good Performance at 80.6%, 69th percentile (2) At 500Hz, I can reliably differentiate two tones 1.2Hz apart, 59th percentile (3) Good Performance at 79%, 58th percentile
John 18:36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world."
This verse speaks to me today. I caught myself chasing for earthly things and accolades and it is certainly a good lesson and reminder for me when I read it this morning. Jesus' kingdom is not of this world and if I am holding a citizenship of his kingdom, I look not to the crowns of this world. Yes, I do need to put in my best efforts but at times, standing by biblical standards would bring me nowhere. I shall not be disappointed because His kingdom is not from this world.
John 19:2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe.
2 Tim 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Jam 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Today’s sermon was based on Micah 1:2-9. A stern text that gives warning about God’s judgment on Samaria and Jerusalem and the greatness of destruction that will happen because of the disobedience of the people.
We like to talk and always talk about the love of God, but we tend to not realise that the love of God is a holy love. It is a stern kind of love, not at all wishy washy. God’s love is a disciplining love. It is not soft and certain not easy. He disciplines, he punishes, he corrects, he chastises.
God’s love is tough love. It is not soft, mushy, soapy, sentimental or sappy. It is sure tough and hard, ultimately expressed on the cross: demanding, grueling, even painful and excruciating so. The next time we talk about love, think about the cross, think about Micah’s lamenting words to Jerusalem and Samaria.
Micah 1:2-9 2 Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. 3 For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. 4 And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. 5 All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem? 6 Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country, a place for planting vineyards, and I will pour down her stones into the valley and uncover her foundations. 7 All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, all her wages shall be burned with fire, and all her idols I will lay waste, for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them, and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return. 8 For this I will lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make lamentation like the jackals, and mourning like the ostriches. 9 For her wound is incurable, and it has come to Judah; it has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem.
This is the love of a holy God but yet it is the love of a fatherly God, who loves his children so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die so that we might live. So if you think that God’s tough and holy love is “unloving”, then think Hebrews 12 and think how we as parents would so willingly give up our lives for our kids if situation calls for it - because God did that.
Heb 12:6-13 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
It has been quite awhile since I read and finished a book - and I finished Alister McGrath's In the Beginning, The Story of the King James Bible yesterday night. Anyway, it was an easy read with it being a story book. I find it excellent because as I have mentioned here somewhere, it covers all three of my current interest: theology, English and history.
It was a booky day yesterday. I had absolutely forgotten about the lunch arrangement with Noel, where we agreed to go visit a bookshop that is new to us. So as payback, I had to bring him there after work.
So we visited CanaanLand. We did not have much time there though. We arrived shortly after 6 and the store closes at 7. But we were so much liked by the people there that they extended their hours just for us. Just kidding! They were so absolutely nice that they allowed us to stay on a little while longer just to complete our purchases. I am a total convert now - CanaanLand over Sufes. And I get a 10% discount on all books in CanaanLand. I left with 4 books and Noel with 3, I think.
I was delighted they had copies of Stanley Grenz's Theology for the Community of God, which is the text for my Christian Theology 1 (CT1) paper. Sufes was out of stock on this one.
Noel convinced me to get Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth which won a Gold Medallion Award. It talks about worldviews, Pearcey is an excellent author I was told and so I think it will be good.
And finally, it was Alex who introduced me to this much needed book. He wasn't there with us but knowing that we are off to a bookstore, he gave us his booklist and this was one of them, DA Carson's Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church. I was recently been confronted with the Emergent Movement and I need to find out more about it before I say anything. And at The Thinklings, I came across a post which led to these articles by Mark Driscoll and Scot McKnight. McKnight's article is a good introduction to the Emergent Movement but is in criticism to Carson's book. I had a problem creating links to the articles, so here they are if you are interested:
This morning, I turned to where I stopped previously in Carson’s For the Love of God, Vol.1. , John 17. Talk about parallel logic and circular logic in CT1, reading John 17 got me my brain all jumbled up! I need some straightening up. (The verses here are taken from the ESV.)
Referring to Matthew Henry’s Commentary, the chapter can be divided into the following:
1. Jesus praying for himself (1-5) 2. Jesus praying for those that are his .....a. General pleas (6-10) .....b. Particular petitions ..........i. That they might be kept (11-16) ..........ii. That they might be sanctified (17-19) ..........iii. That they might be united (11, 20-23) ..........iv. That they might be glorified (24-26)
Context John 17 happens in the midst of a conversation with his disciples. In John 16, Jesus was discoursing with them and preparing them for the time that is to come when he will be crucified, arise and taken from the world. He spoke about troubles, the Comforter, his resurrection, his returning to Father and the assurance of peace in him. At the end of the discourse, he lifts up his eyes to heaven and prayed. John 18 is where after the prayer, they went across the Kidron Valley into a garden where he was arrested after being betrayed by Judas.
Jesus praying for himself (1-5) Jesus has accomplished all that he was set out to do, he will be returning to the Father. He spoke about giving eternal life. While I was reading it, I wondered about what he meant when he said that. Verse 3 answers it, this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
We talk a lot about eternal life but I think mainly in the line of the results of accepting Christ as one’s personal Saviour. There must be some returns from such an investment. Therefore, believe and you will go to heaven. But what Jesus tells us about eternal life is different. Eternal life is a verb – something that we do – eternal life is knowing the only true God. So it is not so much, believe and you will go to heaven but believe and know the Lord your God. Yes, you will still go to heaven but that is not the point. You don’t go to a friend’s house just to be there but you go there to build a relationship. And to know God is to partake in the Holy Community of Three, to know Him.
General pleas (6-10) I did a simple word diagramming to understand the roundabout way of saying 2 things: Jesus has manifested God’s name to the people and he is now praying for them. But we also see what Jesus said about the people, who they are and who they believe.
Petition 1: That they might be kept (11-16) Jesus is about to leave our world, and going back to the Father but his disciples are still in the world though not of the world. He has while on earth, kept them prayed for them, guarded them and now that he is to return to the Father, he is praying that the Father will keep them in His name, and away from the evil one.
To understand what it means to be kept in God’s name, we need to understand what a name means to the world then. According to ISBE, “In Scripture, names were generally descriptive of the person, of his position, of some circumstance affecting him, hope entertained concerning him, etc., so that ‘the name’ often came to stand for the person.” Therefore, Jesus’ petition is for God to keep the people in Him. And that a wealth of meaning and significance: we are in God’s presence, in His saving grace, in His arms, in His bosom, in His plan, it goes on.
Petition 2: That they might be sanctified (17-19) Jesus prayed that his disciples will be sanctified in the word: to be cleansed from corruption, purified from sin, made holy and detached from the world and its defilements, and exalted to a supreme love to God. This sanctification is not for the sake of the disciples alone but because Jesus has sent them into the world as testimonies. They need to mirror Jesus in a life sanctified by Jesus, the very Word of God.
Petition 3: That they might be united (11, 20-23) Then Jesus extended his prayer to other people, those who will believe in him, like you and me, that we will all be united; firstly with God and then with one another.
The prayer is intriguing: Father you are in me .....and I am in you, ..........I pray that they may also be in us. You have given me the glory, .....and I have given it to them, ..........so that they may be one, as we are one. So now that I am in them .....and you are in me, ..........I pray that they may become perfectly one.
This is so that the world may believe that you have sent me, .....and love them ..........even as you loved me.
It speaks of an amazing unity. The Father and Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) is one. Jesus prays that we who are in Him will be perfectly one because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is one. This is so that the world will believe that Jesus is God, will love the people of God because the Father loves the Son.
I mean, this is not linearly logical, not at all – it actually makes no sense. But I think it is as circularly logical as you can get, and to me, it is simply amazing: God is one, we are one, so that people will believe Jesus is God, so that they will love us because the Father loves the Son.
Petition 4: That they might be glorified (24-26) And finally he prays that we will all be with him, not to enjoy heaven, but to see him in glory, to worship him. This reminds us of our purpose in life. We all have our small little purpose in our lives – to get an education, to have a good career, to get married, to build a good family – but our ultimate purpose in life is to worship and glorify God.
Henry puts it that “they might be glorified,” though in the verses, it is translated as “to see or behold my glory”. Pardon my limited knowledge of Greek, but I think the word θεωρεω, theoreo, may mean more than see and behold. It may well mean experience. In that sense Jesus prays that we will experience the glory of Jesus, when we are with him in the Lord’s day.
After studying the above, the final few words of the prayer of Jesus strikes very close to heart:
O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
With that, it is my prayer that we will all be truly and perfectly one because our Lord God is one.
Finally, the last and final portion of Scofield’s five parts of the book of Ecclesiastes: the best thing possible to man under the law, Ecc 12:13-14, what has somehow become my theme for the past couple of months and most probably for awhile more.
In answer to the words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (1:1-3), is that the end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecc 12:13-14).
I have been saying this over and over again in the last few posts but life has been rough lately but at the end of it all, I keep reminding myself of these 5 verses: there is no meaning at all, there are more important things in life and therefore why worry, fear God and keep his commandments
The whole duty of man - rather, the whole man. To revere God and to obey Him is the whole man, constitutes man’s whole being; that only is conceded to Man; all other things, as this book teaches again and again, are dependent on a Higher Incomprehensible Being (Albert Barnes, 1798-1870) .
This is a small one - the changing of my blog name. But I feel that it is nevertheless significant. I have started blogging on a trial basis, putting myself and my thoughts into a world of the unknown in the presence of strangers. The experience so far is good. I have made good friends and I am happy that I am able to verbalise my thoughts. In doing so, I made my spiritual journey more or less a documented one, albeit not very systematic.
So, continue to come by the gates, take a peek into my thoughts and journey, trivial or otherwise, and as you leave I hope you will come away with a glimpse of light into the kingdom of our Incarnate Lord Jesus, whom I am striving to imitate.
We did not have any lectures today but spent the evening sharing our thoughts, what we learnt and what we can take away from the past 5 days of learning.
Many brought up the issue of living out our theology. But I feel it is hard if we don’t first know what it is. On the outset, I may think that I do but after having encountered the many lines of thoughts, i.e. Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic (I have been googling for Theology of Work and found most of it in Roman Catholic sites), I am not sure what to live out anymore. So it still boils down back to the faith community that I place myself in – my church, my thinking Christian friends and my family – the need to have one another to check and counter check what we think, we say and we do.
A lot of things have been going round and round in my mind since CT1 started and it has brought up many things which I have tried to keep a low on.
Today’s lecture is on the doctrine of Christology. The group reflection topic sounds like this: The Evangelical tradition speaks of Christ mostly as the bearer of salvation, and hardly emphasises the role of Christ as an ethical and spiritual example to those who follow him. Consider how this missing dimension of Christian spirituality may be practically recovered in the life of your community.
The discussion we had centered on the church. I was mostly quiet throughout this discussion because as far as my thoughts about it are concerned, I am so disturbed over its current state. I am not able to fully articulate it at the moment but basically it boils down to these few worries: • The spiritual health of the clergy • The influence of the secular world creeping into clergy: pastors as managers and CEOs • The quality of pastoral care • The quality of pulpit ministry • The spiritual health of Christians • The trend of the inward view of Christians as opposed to an outward flow of the love of God
I feel so helpless but since I am studying Ecclesiastes, the end of the matter; all has been heard. What I need to do is to fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man, it is my whole duty indeed.
I sometimes have this experience whereby I’d read and learn about something, and later encounter it again in a more in-depth or personal way. It intrigues me because of the precursor that happens before I come upon it again not very long after.
This time, the precursor was the discussion I had with Codepoke when he brought up the subject of heaven. He said that he did not believe in heaven, i.e. the popular understanding of heaven up in the clouds with angels flying and pearly gates, as in the movies and maintained that heaven may very well be on earth, as in the end of days, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. In class today, this was exactly what that was brought up, that heaven may not be somewhere up there but right here, when God renews it into a new place. However, the mysterion is not lost: we still do not know how it will be like, what dimensions it will take, what will happen and just where will hell be.
The other interesting thing I learnt today is The Dream of God, in the line of His Plan and His Decrees. The lecturer introduced us to one line of thought which is considered new, coming from the grassroots. The academicians’ thoughts “from up there” in this topic is textbook style: the OT and NT teaching; the drawing together of biblical references about the plan of God, i.e. its eternity in nature, its purpose and perfection in love, its all-inclusiveness, its efficaciousness, its unchangeability; the logical relationship of the various aspects; is it Calvinism or Arminianism; process theology; which in the end, there will still be no answers to the questions.
What is coming now “from the bottom” has a subtle change in the stance of the view of the plan of God: the Dream of God. It is going back to the Trinitarian understanding of God. The over-arching question is: why did Jesus come? The common Sunday School answer will be: to die for our sins. But that begs the question: why then be so inefficient about it? Why must Jesus be born a baby, live 30 years and then go into ministry for 3 years to die on the cross to save our sins? Why didn’t he just come for one Holy Week to do that? What is all that 30 years about? Looking it from a Trinitarian understanding, God has existed in eternity as a community. It is love that is engulfing this Holy Community.
It is not a spatial kingdom, but a kingdom no less. From the outpouring of this love, God created the world and human being. The world was given to Adam under his care. Adam is to love and to build on the relationship with his fellow companion, Eve and with nature. At the fall, these relationships were severed: the relationship with God, with one another and with nature. Now enmity rule.
With this in mind, what did Jesus come to do? John 3:16?
The grass roots began to think that there is something more to that. They began to realize that this one thing was mentioned 70 times in the gospels. Jesus came more than just to die for us. He came to speak and to model a message, and the message is: the Kingdom of God, a restoration of relationships.
That is why he came; he lived, to show, to model, to preach the message of the kingdom. For example, with Zacchaeus, the tax collector, Jesus did not ask him to come down from the tree, say the sinner’s prayer and then go to his house for tea. Jesus offered him a relationship by simply asking him for tea. With that, repentance came with the offer of redemptive friendship and relationship. More examples can be seen in the Last Supper as a table of grace, where friendship is extended; Jesus washing of the disciples’ feet and the ultimate of all acts: the love of a friend shown on the cross. And John in his epistles repeats this time and again: love one another. Tradition has it that John in his old age, when he could only preach in whispers, simply told his people to love one another. It is the redemption of lost relationship in the three levels: with God, among people and within creation.
Jesus coming into the world is an inauguration of the Kingdom of God. Right now we are work in progress. We need to look beyond ourselves and see that the world is bigger than us.
Even in the OT, God is seen to build a visible kingdom. And John 3:16 is part of a larger whole. The Dream of God must be the restoration of relationships and taking responsibility for all creation, and how to live our salvation here and now.
And after this one circle, it goes back to what I started here with: Codepoke’s discussion about heaven being on earth, which demands our accountability to ecological restoration.
Today belongs to Murphy. If anything could go wrong, it went wrong. I came down with an upset stomach, and it turned my entire day upside down. It was nevertheless a busy day. I only got home at 9.00pm. I snuggled into bed to rest and read some.
Here is something I found interesting, in Alister McGrath’s In the Beginning, The Story of The King James Bible (p.263):
… the King James Bible possessed a penetrative force that could best be demonstrated by observing how its turn of phrase came to be absorbed, often unconsciously, within everyday English. Hebraic idioms that have crept into regular English usage include the following:
“to lick the dust” (Psalm 72:9, Isaiah 49:23, Micah 7:17) “to fall flat on his face” (Numbers 22:31) “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) “to pour out one’s heart” (Psalm 62:8, Lamentations 2:19) “the land of the living” (Job 28:13, Psalm 27:13, Psalm 52:5, Isaiah 38:11, Jeremiah 11:19, Ezekial 32:23-27) “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:3 and at least twenty other occurrences in this biblical book) “sour grapes” (Ezekiel 18:2) “from time to time” (Ezekiel 4:10) “pride goes before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18) “the skin of my teeth” (Job 19:20) “to stand in awe” (Psalm 4:4, Psalm 33:8) “to put words in his mouth” (Exodus 4:15, Deuteronomy 18:18, 2 Samuel 14:3, 2 Samuel 14:19, Jeremiah 1:9) “to go from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7) “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7)
… phrases that owe their origins to the King James New Testament include:
“the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) “to give up the ghost” (meaning “to die”: Mark 15:37, John 19:30) “the powers to be” (Romans 13:1) “and it came to pass” (Mark 1:9 and more than 400 other passages) “the scales fell from his eyes” (based on Acts 9:18)
Just think – how much the King James Bible has shaped modern English.
I did not manage to contemplate on anything today. Time was mostly spent at work meeting a deadline. At home, the internet was acting up again and so I ended up watching the recorded sessions of American Idol - Minnesota and Seattle, which reminded me why I don't watch AI auditions. If not for the rare moments of talent, though I have not seen it yet, I wouldn't have bothered because I end up cringing most of the time.
The 4th division to the book of Ecclesiastes suggested by Scofield deals with the best thing possible to the natural man apart from God (11:1 - 12:12).
Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 deals with doing good even though there is no return. From 11:7-12:12, the Qoheleth talks about remembering your creator when you are young.
Doing good even when there is no return in sight (11:1-6) “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days,” says the Qoheleth in 11:1. In other words, we are told to sow without hope of a harvest. Do good even to them who may even throw your blessings away. This is a hard thing to do in this world – it is just illogical. Why do good and why give if it is going to be thrown away anyway? Because you will find it after many days. The good will come, even if it takes a long time, it will come and it will be worthwhile doing good. And most probably, the kind of return may not be even be the kind we expected.
Remember Your Creator While Young (11:7-12:12) These are wise words – just not too long ago, one of my aunts upon our encouragement to believe in the Lord said she might as well wait until her deathbed. The Qoheleth here advised otherwise – think of God in your days of youth, before we get jaded, before we become immuned to life, before we become cynical, before we become worse than before. Remember God, think about Him, talk to Him, read of Him, study Him, praise Him, worship Him and most of all, love Him.
I continue with my study on the book of Ecclesiastes, where I left off when I went for Christian Theology 1.
Scofield’s third division on the book of Ecclesiastes covers 7 chapters, from 4 to 10. The Qoheleth expounds in depth here the theme of vanity in the light of human suffering, hypocrisies, uncertainties, poverty and riches.
In summary, these are the headers found in the ESV:
4:1-16 Evil Under the Sun – the outrageous violence that takes place on this planet (4:1, The Message)
5:1-7 Fear God – For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear. (5:7, ESV)
5:8-6:12 The Vanity of Wealth and Honour – For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun? (6:12, ESV)
7:1-29 The Contrast of Wisdom and Folly – God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes. (7:29, ESV)
8:1-9 Keep the King’s Command – For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? (8:7, ESV)
8:10-13 Those Who Fear God Will Do Well – I'm still convinced that the good life is reserved for the person who fears God, who lives reverently in his presence (8:12, The Message)
8:14-17 Men Cannot Know God’s Ways – you'll still never figure out the meaning of what God is doing on this earth. Search as hard as you like, you're not going to make sense of it. No matter how smart you are, you won't get to the bottom of it. (8:17, The Message)
9:1-6 Death Comes to All – Life leads to death. That's it. (9:3, The Message)
9:7-10 Enjoy Life with the One You Love – for God has already approved what you do. (9:7, ESV)
9:11-10:20 Wisdom Better than Folly – One day as I was observing how wisdom fares on this earth, I saw something that made me sit up and take notice. (9:13, The Message)
There is much evil. And since we are still stuck here in the now and not yet, we need to be wise and fear God. The wealth the honour, the things and the fame we have is nothing in comparison to Him. Know the Lord, and keep His word, live reverently in His presence, He is here. We are weak and life will come to an end. So why worry, cherish every moment with the people that God has given you to love, for this is the wisdom God gave us.
We had our lecture today after work for 3 hours in the evening. We had a short discussion about modernity and post-modernity, which we, being Asian never actually experienced. We felt that we experienced more of colonialism and post-colonialism with the effects of modernity and post-modernity.
All this brings me back to one thought I had about theological studies. Over the years of fervent reading and in-depth study of my faith and belief, I have been told that the line of thought that I am using and being exposed to at the moment is the “correct” one as opposed to the other thoughts over different periods of time.
It all started with my OT lecturer. His view of the bible and the Old Testament is slightly different and upon discussion with some friends, I was told that he was under the tutelage of a time when that line of thinking was prevalent and being schooled in that era shaped his understanding of the bible which flowed into his teaching. I was told that though not wrong, it was not really the “correct” way.
And that made me think: if that is true then what I am being taught and the way I am thinking now might as well become obsolete one day as well.
My thoughts are confirmed just after 3 days of Christian Theology, because my thoughts and line of belief and thinking is being challenged. Don’t get me wrong, the core of my belief remain strong and unmoved. It is the way of thinking, reasoning and logic that is being challenged.
We are now exposed to the many eras and cultures that form and shape the people they engulf: the Roman Catholic, the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, the grass root people, the Western Church, the Evangelicals, the list goes on. There is no one way that is “correct”. God is so vast and so different from us in quality and substance that our language is just not sufficient to hold Him. If it can hold God, He is no longer God.
There was a lot of emphasis on relational theology in our lecture today. There is a calling to read the Scripture vertically in a relational way through the language of prayer and worship and through narrative theology. Our experience then need to be discussed horizontally within our community through the language of discourse and then brought back into the relational through prayer, worship and narrative.
We shared with each other our own distinct implication when we look at theology, Scripture, our ministry and life in a relational way. In living our life and in carrying out the mission God set us out for, we need to relate it as an offering of worship to our God and we need to carry it out in love and touch the people around us. That’s relational. It is more than thinking and talking and studying Scriptures. It is living the Scriptures.
I have been trying to guard myself against studying and reading Scripture academically. In fact, it is an academic activity for me and I love doing it – I delight in reading, doing research and to logic things out but I have been trying my best not to just let it remain head knowledge but to live it as well. Therefore, the lecture today has been encouraging. It motivates me to be more active in working out my thoughts and transforming it into practical. It helps me make things more practical and believe it or not, to think less and do more.
But I am not sure if this is a good thing! – to think less … I need to think about it.
At the eleventh hour, I decided to sign up for Christian Theology 1 and attended class today. It will happen over 2 weekends – 8 hours on Sat, 4 on Sunday afternoon and 3 on Monday evening after work.
All along, I have been going for Biblical Studies classes. The classes I have taken include:
• An Introduction to the Old Testament (2003) • Greek Elementary 1 (2004) • Greek Elementary 2 (2004) • Exegesis of Ephesians (2005) • Old Testament Hermeneutics and Homiletics (2005) • Romans (2006-7) uncompleted • Study of Acts of the Apostles (2006) assignment pending
So it does take some getting used to for this Christian Theology class. We have only covered the study of the study of God and it got me still thinking and trying to work out what it means for me. It challenged me on 3 perspectives:
• I was reminded on things and issues that I need to work out • I was challenged on some existing thoughts I have • I was awaken to some issues which I have never much thought of before
What I need to work out One of the issues I realised I have to work and think out is the theology of work. Throughout my working life I have never thought much about it and just went about working when the time comes after graduating to work. It never occurred to me that I need to have a theology of work to understand and live out my working life. I have been struggling with this issue for a few years now which intensified itself from the mid of last year. What and how to do it – I don’t know yet and this will most probably occupy my mind for the next few months to try to figure it out.
What challenged me What about my existing thoughts that are being challenged? This is quite hard for me to articulate at the moment because I am still trying to work it out in my mind. During the lecture, as a foundational introduction to the module and understanding of the study of theology, the lecturer brought us briefly through the 4 critical periods leading to the study of God today. Beginning with the Patristic Period, where it is the most exciting and creative era brought about by the active minds and discussion at the presence of severe persecution. The main figures of this era include Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Origen, Tertullian, Athanasius and Augustine of Hippo. Then came the Dark Ages when Rome fell and Islam expanded. Christianity became a minority religion and shifted its bearings to the West and got somewhat more settled in the 11th century which brings us to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Period, where the first major schism occurred: the splitting of the Christian institution into the Eastern and the Western, bringing into existence 3 main powers:
• Byzantium: centering in Constantinople, now Istanbul, using Greek as the language; • Western Europe: majoring in France, Germany and Italy with its center in Rome, using Latin as its major language and; • Caliphate: the Islamic power majoring on the Mediterranean which grew and expanded to rapidly and strong that even Constantinople finally fell to its power
The stronger of the 2 Christian powers were the Western Europe who in the following period of the Reformation, where another major schism occurred: Roman Catholic and Protestants. From these ages, theology flourished but in the western thinking and reasoning. This is where I need to work out my thoughts. The lecturer mentioned about the Asian looking towards the West for most of our Christian thoughts. It is inevitable really, since we are of the colonialised and post-colonialised generation. He felt that we have thrown away a lot of Asian thinking and logic that will be useful for the study of theology: thoughts like narrative theology, other logically thinking like circular logic and parallel logic. It is hard for me because I suppose I am not conscious of what way I am thinking and to say that I need to be thinking Asian now makes me not know what to think. Talking to Noel did not help because he is very much a Western thinking person as he hails from the UK. He could not understand my problem.
What I was awakened to But regardless of my current confusion over the way of thinking, one thing did awaken me: the thought that the study of theology must happen in a community. Theology is “God talk”: it is a tracking down of what has been said about God. It is thought out and conversed about within the body of Christ, not a do-it-yourself individualistic collection of meditations and thoughts of a hermit, solitary and recluse in his own cave.
Tomorrow, I will be leading in worship and then in the afternoon off the continue with more of Christian Theology. There will be more things to think about then – I hope I will have a big enough mind to take it all in.
I was not able to spend time contemplating today because there was just too much running around doing this and doing that. And on top of that, I was a being a super blur cat, something which I have become quite often lately.
There were several things I had to do in Calvin’s school at the start of the school year, even though his classes had already started 2 weeks ago. I had to make a run to the bookshop to get him some art supplies, to the school office to collect his new sets of uniform which has just arrived – he has grown out of his old ones – and I also had to catch his Malay Language teacher to settle some issues. In all the hassle, I left my credit card in the school office after paying for the uniform. And what more, I had already left my mobile phone at home when we rushed out of the house in the morning.
After making my way to the office, I had to rush out reports and reports and proposals and more reports that got me quite flustered for the day.
Then after work, I had a worship committee meeting to attend to and after that a band practice for worship leading this Sunday.
By the time I got home, I did not want to do anything else but to wash up and get into bed, settle down and read. I read to Calvin and after he went to bed, I snuggled in myself for a good read. By the way, I am reading Alister McGrath’s In The Beginning, The Story of the King James Version. An excellent work.
Scofield suggested that the Qoheleth tried to prove from Ecclesiastes 3:4-3:22 his theme that everything is meaningless (3:1-3).
The Folly of Life: Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody'll remember them either. Don't count on being remembered. (1:11, The Message)
The Folly of Wisdom: The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow. (1:18, NLT)
The Folly of Pleasures: Then I took a good look at everything I'd done, looked at all the sweat and hard work. But when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke. Smoke and spitting into the wind. There was nothing to any of it. Nothing. (2:11, The Message)
The Folly of Living: The smart and the stupid both disappear out of sight. In a day or two they're both forgotten. Yes, both the smart and the stupid die, and that's it. (2:16, The Message)
The Folly of Work: So what do you get from a life of hard labor? Pain and grief from dawn to dusk. Never a decent night's rest. Nothing but smoke. (2:22-23, The Message)
The Folly of Everything: But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? (3:9, The Message)
The Conclusion: I've also concluded that whatever God does, that's the way it's going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God's done it and that's it. That's so we'll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear. (3:14, The Message)
So, why worry?: So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him? (3:22, NIV)
To me, this is a very good lesson. Life goes on but without God as the head of our lives, life is meaningless. What is there so meaningful to strive for? Nothing brings lasting contentment.
For life in general, the sun comes up and the sun goes down, whatever that has been said and done is forgotten. What about being wise and knowledgeable? The more we know, the more worried and stressed we become. How about filling our lives with things we like and doing things that we enjoy? The bliss is only but fleeting. After a purchase, the joy only last for awhile and we want something else. As for doing things we enjoy, we can’t be doing it all the time, now can we? So, why not spend our time and effort in our work? The accomplishments and rewards should bring us somewhere. But it is usually pain and grief from dawn to dusk, with never a decent night’s rest. So in the end, does it make a difference what we do? The Qoheleth concludes his first session of thoughts: God is eternal and whatever He does, it is going to be. So, stop worrying, stop asking questions and live in holy reverence to the Lord. Enjoy what we do as an act of worship to God.
And this brings us to what Jesus said:
Matthew 6:25 (ESV) 25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
So go! Enjoy your life, but with your eyes set on Christ.
The Qoheleth presents his theme in 1:2-3, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (ESV)
I think the word “vanity” is a bit hard for us to understand fully. Let’s try other translations:
GNB: It is useless, useless, said the Philosopher. Life is useless, all useless. BBE: All is to no purpose, said the Preacher, all the ways of man are to no purpose. CEV: Nothing makes sense! Everything is nonsense. I have seen it all-- nothing makes sense! GW: "Absolutely pointless!" says the spokesman. "Absolutely pointless! Everything is pointless." The Message: Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That's what the Quester says.]There's nothing to anything--it's all smoke. NET: "Futile! Futile!" laments the Teacher, "Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!" NIV: "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." NASB: Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." Amplified: Vapor of vapors and futility of futilities, says the Preacher. Vapor of vapors and futility of futilities! All is vanity (emptiness, falsity, and vainglory). NLT: “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”
To gain a fuller sense of the word and hence a fuller sense of the Qoheleth’s theme, ISBE gives a good insight into the word:
Vanity; Vanities van´i-ti, van´i-tiz (הבל, hebhel, און, 'āwen, שׁוא, shāw'; κενός, kenós; ματαιότης, mataiótēs): The words “vain,” “vanity,” “vanities” are frequent in the Bible. Their idea is almost exclusively that of “evanescence,” “emptiness,” including “idolatry” and “wickedness” as being not only evil but vain and empty things. They also signify falseness. The chief word translated “vanity,” “vanities” is hebhel, a “breath of air, or of the mouth,” often applied to idolatry (Deu 32:21; 1Ki 16:13; Psa 31:6; Jer 8:19, etc.); to man's days and to man himself (Job 7:16; Psa 39:5, Psa 39:11, etc.); to man's thoughts (Psa 94:11); to wealth and treasures (Pro 13:11; Pro 21:6); to everything, in Ecclesiastes, where the word occurs frequently in various applications: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecc 1:2; Ecc 12:8). Hebhel is also the name of Adam's second son (Gen 4:2). 'Āwen, meaning also “breath,” is likewise translated “vanity” in similar connections, but it inclines more to “iniquity” (so often rendered); it is joined with mischief and iniquity (Isa 41:29; Isa 58:9; Zec 10:2); another frequent word is shāw', having also the idea of “falsity,... wickedness” (Exo 20:7; Deu 5:11; Psa 31:6, etc.). “Vanity” does not often occur in the New Testament; but see VAIN, VAINGLORY. In Act 14:15 we have mátaios, “empty,” translated “vanities” (of idols); mataiotēs, “emptiness,” “transitoriness” (Rom 8:20, “The creation was subjected to vanity,” frailty, transitoriness); “emptiness,” “folly” (Eph 4:17; 2Pe 2:18). Among other changes for “vanity” the Revised Version (British and American) has “iniquity” (Job 15:35; Psa 10:7); “falsehood” (Psa 12:2; Psa 41:6); “deceit” (Psa 144:8, Psa 144:11); “vapor” (Pro 21:6); “calamity” (Pro 22:8 margin “vanity”); “a breath” (Isa 57:13); “wickedly” (Isa 58:9). Conversely, for “Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?” (Psa 89:47), “For what vanity hast thou created all the children of men!”; for “Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing” (Isa 41:29), “Behold, all of them, their works are vanity and nought,” margin as the King James Version, with “nought” for “nothing.”
We’ll see tomorrow how the Qoheleth proves his theme from 1:4-3:22
Ecclesiastes is a book about man “under the sun” reasoning about life. Scofield (1843-1921) divided it into 5 parts:
1. Theme (1:1-3) 2. Theme proved (1:4-3:22) 3. Theme unfolded in the light of human sufferings, hypocrisies, uncertainties, poverty and riches (4:1-10:20) 4. The best thing possible to the natural man apart from God (11:1-12:12) 5. The best thing possible to man under the law (12:13-14)
Though universally received into the canon, it is not without some controversy. Gill provided some instances where Jesus and his apostles may have alluded to Ecclesiastes. I found this one interesting:
Ecclesiastes 11:5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
I was drawn to Ecclesiastes today and began reading it from the beginning. When I reached 1:13ff, I was encouraged.
Ecclesiastes 1:13-15 13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. 15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.
Sounds dismal and gloomy but I was encouraged because I remembered an old, old song, what I sang was from a cantata which we had sung many Christmases ago, maybe more than 20 years ago. Even though I cannot remember the title or the author, the song of Isaiah 40:3-5/Luke 3:4-6 still rings very clear in my mind.
Isaiah 40:3-5 3 A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
Luke 3:4-6 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
Through the Qoheleth’s experience in life, he tells us that the crooked cannot be made straight, but in Jesus, every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the roughway shall be made smooth. And we beheld His glory. The glory of the only begotten of the Father.
It has been frustrating that our internet connection has not been stable. On top of the slowdown caused by the earthquake off Taiwan’s coast, there is also a problem in our hardware, which till now we have not been able to solve; hence, my absence since Thursday.
Noel and I have been in discussion on Rom 12:3 over some moussaka for lunch on Friday. With our bibles, Cranfield and Moo’s commentaries on Romans, we had a good time debating about it.
… εκαστω ως ο θεος εμερισεν μετρον πιστεως … each according to God who apportions the measure of faith
In order to translate this phrase, Cranfield asks three questions:
1. In what sense is μετρον, measure used? 2. In what sense is πιστiς, faith used? 3. What kind of genitive is πιστεως, of faith?
1. In what sense is μετρον, measure used? According to Cranfield, the noun μετρον can denote: a. a means of measurement, a standard or norm: literally; or metaphorically b. a result of measuring: a measurement, size, quantity or length; or something that has been measured, a measured quantity, length, etc. of anything c. due measure, limit, proportion: full measure, goal; or limit
2. In what sense is πιστiς, faith used? Possible meanings include: a. “faithfulness”, “trustworthiness” b. “faith” in the sense of fides qua creditur (the faith by which it is believed) c. “faith” in the sense of a special charisma possessed not by all, but only some Christians d. “faith” in the sense of fides quae creditur (the faith which is believed), “the faith”, the body of truth believed by Christians e. “trust” in the sense of something entrusted, “a trust”
3. What kind of genitive is πιστεως, of faith? a. a partitive genitive b. a genitive of apposition Check their meaning here.
It is obvious that there will be a considerable number of different combinations possible, theoretically at least.
Cranfield discussed these 3 favoured interpretations: 1. the measured quantity of special miracle-working faith 2. the measured quantity of faith, fides qua, the basic Christian response to God 3. a standard by which to measure of faith, fides qua
On (1) and (2), Cranfield says, “it is surely extremely unlikely that Paul intended to imply this; for such an intention would scarcely be consistent with his apparent purpose in v.4ff to encourage the Christians in Rome to conduct themselves in such a way as to maintain their brotherly love unimpaired. A congregation, the members of which are carefully calculating their relative importance according to the amount of faith (of either sort) which they possessed, would have little chance of being a happy one.” (p.614)
He feels that (3) is “surely to be preferred … Every member of the church, instead of thinking of himself more highly than he ought, is so to think of himself as to think soberly, measuring himself by the standard which God has given him in his faith, that is, by a standard which forces him to concentrate his attention to those things in which he is on precisely the same level as his fellow-Christians rather than on those things in which he way be either superior or inferior to them – for the standard Paul has in mind consists, we take it, not in the relative strength or otherwise of the particular Christian’s faith but in the simple fact of its existence, that is, in the fact of his admission of his dependence on, and commitment to, Jesus Christ …”
My take is with Cranfield as Paul mentions this measure of faith in relation with not thinking of oneself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment. Therefore, we are to think of ourselves not to the measured faith God has given but to the standard of faith that we are responsible with. Cranfield however, did not mention about the size of measure, whether measured or as a standard, which I feel is equal to all Christians.
We have been and will be attending weddings and more weddings including 2 marriage vows renewal ceremonies.
Today is the wedding of a friend and his bride from Thailand. I am honoured to read the Scriptures for him, which is taken from Genesis 2:19-25.
19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man."
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Alex and I are supposed to work on the final paper on our Romans studies that seem to last forever. We will be handling the last few chapters of the book and I finally managed to do some work this morning, though not much. But questions I have – many.
Rom 12:1 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.
What allusion to the OT has the phrase “living sacrifice”? What does Paul mean by “spiritual worship”? As opposed to it being physical?
Rom 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
What is the context when Paul talks about the “measure of faith”? Does it also imply that each of us has an assigned measure of faith that is different? Does it mean that if one is not assigned enough, then there is no belief? Or is it only confined to the context of thinking about oneself?
Rom 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them …
What does it mean and does it have any connection to the “measure of faith”?
Rom 13:1-6 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
“There is no authority except from God” - is this an absolute? What about authorities that are led by leaders who are against the understanding of good? What is they are really rotten to the core?
Rom 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
What does “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” mean? Are there any parallel in the other parts of Scripture?
Rom 14:2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.
Is this verse analogy to 14:1 or a lead into the subsequent verses?
Rom 14:9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
What is the meaning of “Lord of the dead and of the living”?
Rom 14:14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.
What does “nothing” refer to? I feel that this is a very good example of verses that can go awry if taken out of context.
I only have access to my bible this morning and with just an hour with it, I have no answers yet.
I am back at work after 2 long glorious week of holidays. This psalm would be appropriate for the day I am sure.
Psalm 113 (ESV) 1 Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! 2 Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! 3 From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! 4 The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! 5 Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, 6 who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? 7 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, 8 to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. 9 He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!
I have not been able to blog much lately and this would last for the coming few weeks due to the earthquakes that striked off the coast of Taiwan on December 26th. The earthquakes has cut undersea cables which led to a disruption of telecoms services in the region.
Digital blackout puts Asia in time warp It was a tsunami for the digital age, a natural disaster of the virtual world that radiated through much of Asia and beyond after an undersea earthquake last week off the coast of Taiwan. People awoke on Wednesday to find themselves without e-mail or the Internet and, in some cases, without telephone connections, cut off from the world around them.
Completion of HK undersea cable repairs delayed The earthquake off southern Taiwan last week damaged a group of submarine cables linking Asia to the world, resulting in unreliable telecom services. Hong Kong officials pushed back by one week the estimated completion date for initial repairs of the undersea communication cables damaged by an earthquake because of a problem with a cable ship.
In the old covenant, God chose Israel to be a special people and to obey the law. Our Lord Jesus Christ, by his death and resurrection, has made a new covenant with all who trust in him. We stand within this covenant and we bear his name.
On the one side, God promises in this covenant to give us new life in Christ.
On the other side, we are pledged to live not for ourselves but for God.
Today, therefore, we meet to renew the covenant which binds us to God.
Friends, let us claim the covenant God has made with his people, and accept the yoke of Christ. To accept the yoke of Christ means that we allow Christ to guide all that we do and are, and that Christ himself is our only reward.
Christ has many services to be done, some are easy, others are difficult; some make others applaud us, others bring only reproach; some we desire to do because of our own interests; others seem unnatural.
Sometimes we please Christ and meet our own needs, at other times we cannot please Christ unless we deny ourselves.
Yet Christ strengthens us and gives us the power to do all these things. Therefore let us make this covenant of God our own.
Let us give ourselves completely to God, trusting in his promises and relying on his grace.
I give myself completely to you, God. Assign me to my place in your creation. Let me suffer for you. Give me the work you would have me do. Give me many tasks or have me step aside while you call others. Put me forward or humble me. Give me riches or let me live in poverty. I freely give all that I am and all that I have to you.
And now holy God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. May this covenant made on earth continue for all eternity.