What's your favourite key on the keyboard?

My son asked me what I thought was a very superfluous question.

Calvin: What is your favourite key on the keyboard?

Mommy: None.

Calvin as usual: What is your favourite key on the keyboard?

Mommy as usual: I have none! All are important to me. I need them all.

Impatient Calvin: Yeah, but what is your favourite key on the keyboard?

Resigned mommy: Okay, okay - the Ctrl button.

Not a very amused Calvin: Very funny.

But amused I was. I did not realise the pun at first, but with his reaction, I had to laugh.

If I had to have a favourite key on the keyboard, it will have to be the Ctrl-button, with all the shortcut I can do with it: Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X, Ctrl-Y, Ctrl-A, Ctrl-S and my favourite, Ctrl-Z, the undo-miracle-button.

It would be nice though to have the Ctrl-button in life too now wouldn't it, but I'd rather let God have it instead.

pearlie

We began practice
Night of Miracles by John W. Peterson



My all-time absolutely utterly favouritest Christmas cantata and we are doing it this year. I am beyond words. To let you in how much this piece of music is a part of my life, ever since we did it more than 20 years ago, whenever I read the Christmas portions of the Gospel of Matthew and Luke, I sing that part of Scripture based on this piece.

pearlie

I don't believe in coincidences

I am pretty stressed out lately, to the point that I get panicky at the slightest feel of loss of control. On my way to work this morning, I was rummaging through the new selection of mp3 sermons I had just downloaded. I thought to myself, "Wouldn’t it be nice to listen to Dick Lucas on Philippians?"

Scrolling down the mp3 list, I settled on this series of four sermons by Dick Lucas entitled “All I Want”, and as you would have it, they were his expository Tuesday Lunch sermons on Philippians 3.

The Epistle to the Philippians is my favourite Pauline epistle.

And believe you me, Dick Lucas seem to have that calming effect on me – his tone, his faithful handling of Scripture, his dry wit and his sometimes no nonsense word of exhortation.

My favourite Pauline epistle and my favourite expositor-preacher, combine these two and it should settle me down.

I don't believe in coincidences. God hears our every thought.

pearlie

The Reality of the Struggle Against Flesh

It suddenly became so real - the desires of the flesh, the struggle, and the results or deeds thereafter.

Pastor Chris gave us a very apt and timely sermon today - important lessons from the experience of our 40-day fast.

I did not realise the 40 days is going to be so hard, and I am not even going on a full fast. During the past month, I have been irritable, testy and quick-tempered. I became apathetic about things, jaded about life.

On the 2oth day of the fast, the towel was almost thrown in. I was so tired while driving back from work that I "logically" worked it out in my mind that I might as well give up. I blamed everything on the fast. And it is "logical" that I give it up so that thing will become normal again.

I sent Pastor a text message but his reply was simple - hang on.

When I arrived home, I sank myself into the sofa. In a slumped position, I tried to come to my senses. I soon began to realise how much I depended on the things of the flesh. The drawing and pulling of the desires of the flesh is so strong. And it is so real. But it made no sense because at least for me, I was not even on a full fast. My daily hunger and thirst is still being satisfied albeit without meat. Yes, the temptations and desires of the flesh is senseless but very real.

Today's reading was taken from Gal 5:16-24.

Galatians 5:16-24 (NASB)
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

From my experience, I think I have gained new understanding about the desires of the flesh that Paul writes so much about. The results of the flesh are certainly evident from what I have been going through - the sudden unexplained anger, the sinful thoughts, the sense of giving in and giving up - exactly what Paul had said would happen because of the desires of the flesh.

Normally, we would live day in day out satisfied. But the moment one of the desires of the flesh is withdrawn, the repercussion is immediately felt. The flesh screams and howls for attention. Dousing all logic and reason, principles and truth, it demands for fulfilment. How then can we stand up and deny the flesh? I remember the words of the faithful people of God:
Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit, says the Lord.
(Zech 4:6)

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with
distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I
am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Cor 12:10)
And Jesus said,

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
(Matt 16:24-27)
pearlie

Gridlocked



I was the designated driver today, driving Calvin here and there for his activities. That is normal except that I kept getting stuck - traffic was bad wherever I went.

pearlie
Photo (c) 2007 Jon Ng

The Corinth that Paul Saw: Week 5

Today is the final session of "The Corinth that Paul Saw" held in my church by Kar Yong. Two more things he brought up: Roman baths and Roman villas.

Roman Baths
I suppose it is embarassing to say that I never realise that public baths at that time were necessary things to have. I thought they were nice to go places like the spas we have these days. How wrong was I. I never realised there weren't many private bathrooms or toilets in homes in those days. If you need to go, you need to run. If you need to bathe, you'd bathe in public.

The bath in Corinth are already in ruins and Kar Yong showed us this Roman bath in Bath, England.


Photo (c) 2004 Ian Britton

The significance of this information is quite great. The people of those days who took their baths in public, it was also a place where they socialised. And Paul having stayed in Corinth would have been to the bath as well. If we read 2 Cor 11:23 onwards, we see why it matters.

2 Corinthians 11:23-25
Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea.

Paul's scars would be clearly seen by the people and they would recognise them as dishonourable scars, for they would have been on his back. As such when we read 2 Cor 10:10, "For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing," we may have an idea what it would have meant. Could it also imply that they did not felt Paul deserve to be their leader, and that it might point to the division of the church with some following Apollos, some Peter, some Paul and some Christ?

Roman Villas
Next, Kar Yong showed us some plans of Roman Villas, the larger houses in Corinth where they would have been used as house churches. I could not find a picture similar to the ones Kar Yong showed us, but this is close enough.


Source: The Roman House

If the other rooms in the house are used personally by the host, the area where the people would meet during church gathering, communion and worship could have been in the atrium and the dining area. The dining room would most probably fit about 12 comfortably, and it would have been meant for the closer friends of the host, i.e. the rich. The rest of the church, the lesser, the poorer, the slaves, would gather in the atrium.

The rich having more time in their hands would most probably arrive first and gather in the dining room to eat and drink, while they wait for the working class to arrive for service. Communion at that time are held like a regular meal, and if you notice where the kitchen is, wouldn't it mean food would have been paraded on its way to the dining area, first food meant only for the richer and later scraps for the poorer?

With this in mind, try reading what Paul said to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 11:18-22, 27-29
18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! ... 27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

In application, we may not be so blatant or obtuse as to have different classes of food for different people in the church, but do we somehow or rather still have other kinds of segregation, whether in thought, word or deed?

pearlie

Kuala Lumpur National Art Gallery
Josip Generalic and Naive Art

Art

cuti.com.my

While in Melaka, Calvin was disappointed that he did not get to visit the art gallery there. To compensate, I brought him to the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur today. I have not been there myself and I must say it was worth a visit.


Josip Generalic, Flower Stump, 1971, Oil on Canvas

Of all the work there, I was attracted to the work of Josip Generalic (1936-2004). I soon found out that his genre of art was call “naïve art”. I never knew there was such a thing. According to Wikipedia.org, “naïve art is characterized by a childlike simplicity. It is a gross oversimplification to assume that naïve art is created by people with little or no formal art training.”

Little or no formal art training? More like an in-born talent.

pearlie

We were in Melaka



My mom, my niece, Chloe, Calvin and I took a day trip to Melaka today. Click on the above picture to view my photoblog for the day.

pearlie
Photo (c) 2008 Pearlie Ng

Going green?



SH, Calvin and I have recently acquired a liking for drink with aloe bits. The bad news though was that the regular cans of Green Tea with Aloe Bits have high sugar content and the more "pure" form of aloe drink that I manage to find was a tad too pricey to have it too often. So off I went looking for an aloe vera plant instead.

I got this one good-looking-of-an-aloe plant and plonked it in our once bare garden.

Been enjoying an aloe drink once in awhile ever since.

pearlie
Photo (c) 2008 Pearlie Ng

Preaching, heavy is the responsibility

This might be something quite sensitive but suffice to say that it is merely my thoughts and opinion of the matter. You are free not to agree with me.

The one thing that filled my mind today was the pulpit - with the fact that not only was I lamenting over it at church today but right after service I was also the recipient of an sms from a close friend lamenting over the same thing: the direction and focus of preaching in today's churches.

My lament over this morning speaker was on several points, while he gave a fair exposition of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, his initial attestation to several authors has put me off right from the start. I was not familiar with all three names that he mentioned, but the name of Cindy Jacobs was good enough to give me considerable suspicion. I remember being given an article once for a TEE class to read and comment about this so-called prophetess - I am bad with names, but this one rang loud and I was quite sure they meant the same person. I came home and checked - it was. Check here in the Apologetics Index for more information about her aberrant and heretical movements.

I was also not comfortable about the way the speaker preached his sermon. He was using a lot of demagoguery as he went along and towards the end he was crying as he did an semi-altar call. I must say that it is not wrong to do that, to cry I mean, just that personally I was uneasy, nor was I touched. I felt that if there were anything that would move me to respond to God is the power of His word, not a preacher's tears.

I am not saying this because I know best, because I don't. I actually feel bad about such thoughts but the more I think about it, the more I think about how important it is to preach the Word and nothing else. To preach the Gospel message, the saving grace of God, and of God himself and no one else. I do not have the courage to preach at the pulpit, I had done it only once - the responsibility is too great - God help me if he does call me to it. But I am just as responsible as a teacher - this very day itself, I had two classes to take on. And I tremble with fear at my own weakness and frailty. O God, have mercy on me.

James 3:1
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

pearlie

Book Review: The Case for Christ


I was given this book by a very dear brother, Noel Thomas, several years ago. This book is special to me because it was a catalyst that sparked in me the desire to have my faith seek for understanding.

If memory serves me right, Noel gave me this in year 2002. It took me several starts, four if I am not wrong, before I got into the hang of it, became so engrossed and completed it in very few sittings.

Lee Strobel was an award-winning journalist at the Chicago Tribune. Being legally trained in Yale Law School, he approached the case for Christ using his legal "tools" to investigate the evidence for Christ. It started as he began in the book when his wife Leslie, became a Christian in year 1979. He was a staunch atheist and was stunned by his wife's decision. He prepared for the worst, for his wife to turn into a prudish freak but soon he saw instead the unveiling of a beautiful person from the inside - he was a witness to fundamental changes in her character, integrity and personal confidence. With that, he decided to plunge in and search for evidences in The Case for Christ.

He did it through interviews with several scholars and experts in the field. He wrote the book almost in a narrative form, recounting the interviews and that makes it an interesting read. It's as though you were in the room with him, as he reasoned through the sessions through questions and answers.

In preparation for bible study with the Youth Group tomorrow, I grabbed hold of it for another read and it has not disappointed me. I was just as engrossed as ever. Back in 2003, I was quite blown away with what I read that I vowed to myself that I will continue to read to know more about Christ. As a result I began building my own little library in the process. I had not been familiar with the scholars the first time I read it but now, several names brought me smiles, I did remember J.P Moreland and Craig Blomberg but I never realised I had read several of them in The Case for Christ before I had started accumulating their works: the late Dr Bruce Metzger, Ben Witherington III, D.A. Carson, and Gary Habermas.

Isn't it interesting that other than Lee Strobel and I, every name mentioned here in this post is a Doctor, including Noel? By the way, I remember the first book I read after The Case for Christ was J.P. Moreland's Scaling the Secular City. Now on hindsight, I must be mad to have attempted reading that one. But it was the first book from Strobel's recommended reading I saw on the bookstore shelves.

pearlie

The Corinth that Paul Saw: Week 3 and 4

I missed blogging about Week 3 of "The Corinth that Paul Saw" - the session was short. Kar Yong and I were heading to church from the same direction and we both got caught in a bad traffic jam supposedly caused by Olympics fans heading to their rendezvous spots in town to watch the 8:08pm 08.08.08 opening event.


What I remember from Week 3 was the Bema at Corinth - the place where Paul might have been brought to Gallio, "But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the (bema) judgment seat," (Acts 18:12) and Paul used that imagery in 2 Cor 5:10: "For we must all appear before the (bema) judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

Today, Kar Yong showed us the background behind Paul's usage of the body metaphor.

1 Corinthians 12:14-27
14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.


In Corinth, there was at that time the Temple of Asklepios, which was undoubtedly popular as a healing temple. The people there would go to the temple whenever they feel unwell seeking for the god to heal them and when they get healed, the people would make an earthern image of the part of the body they were healed and dedicate it to Asklepios.

Paul could have allude to the fact that even the pagans know what they are doing - if any part of their body is sick, they would present themselves to the temple to get healed but when the body of Christ is sick, what happens?

We too need to ask ourselves that question. Do we care when any part of the body of Christ is not well, is suffering, or worse is abused by the other parts of the body?

pearlie

I am equipped with the sword of the Spirit



With stress coming in from all sides, I am ever more in need to be equipped with the living and active word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword. I seek for it to penetrate even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; and for it to judge the thoughts and attitudes of my heart.

Where I am working hard in the world, I will not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but instead I will delight in the law of the LORD, and on his law I desire to meditate day and night.

Where I tend to be so irritable and have been victimised, I will not let any unwholesome talk come out of my mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. I seek not to not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom I was sealed for the day of redemption. I seek to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. I seek to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave me. I seek to be an imitator of God, as his dearly loved child and to live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Where I am so downcast, in despair, worried and disturbed, I will put my hope in God, I will praise him, my Saviour and my God.

Where I tend to feel a sense of a day-in-day-out meaningless in life, I know that with God all has been heard and the conclusion of the matter is to fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Amen.

pearlie
(Heb 4:12, Psalm 1:1-2, Eph 4:29-5:2, Psalm 42:5, Eccl 21:13, Heb 4:13)
Photo (c) 2007 Danijel Juricev

Calvin's First!



Calvin prepared a meal for me for the first time and I must document it! Linguine with garlic, basil and olive oil, though being a safety-concerned mom, I did help him with the boiling part.

It was delicious!

pearlie
Photo (c) 2008 Pearlie Ng

Wish I were in the "wilderness"



Psalm 55:1-7 (NASB)
1 For the choir director; on stringed instruments.
A Maskil of David.


Give ear to my prayer, O God;
And do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
2 Give heed to me and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and am surely distracted,

3 Because of the voice of the enemy,
Because of the pressure of the wicked;
For they bring down trouble upon me
And in anger they bear a grudge against me.

4 My heart is in anguish within me,
And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5 Fear and trembling come upon me,
And horror has overwhelmed me.

6 I said, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
7 "Behold, I would wander far away,
I would lodge in the wilderness. Selah.

I seem to have this sense of dread within me - stress coming in from many sides: 6 at last count. So much so I wish I were in the “wilderness”.

Apparently, "wilderness" in biblical context has different connotations.


    In general, the “wilderness” was the area between fertile settled areas and the true desert. Wilderness areas are arid or semiarid and are not suited for permanent settlements or crops, but such areas can be used as pasture land for small stock. Thus “wilderness” is a technical term for pastures or semiwild areas adjacent to permanent or semipermanent settlements. People are scarce in a wilderness area (“in which there is no man,” Job 38:26). Like Jeremiah (Jer 9:1), the speaker in vv 7–9 thinks that simple living accommodations in the wilderness would be a place of rest from the raging disorder of the city. The suppliant would hurry to such a place like a traveler who is caught in a sudden wilderness storm and rushes for shelter. (Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51-100, WBC, 2002, p.56)
I will lodge myself in the wilderness and count my blessings: I just counted 6.

pearlie
Photo (c) 2007 Stephen Eastop

Isaiah 54:1-8

I never dare to attempt Isaiah. When I read it several years ago when I was attempting to read through the whole of Scriptures, I remember feeling so lost and dismayed at my lack of understanding.

As I attended my family church today, which is celebrating its 41st anniversary and Grace Notes was to give the anthem, CAC President Rev Boh Chee Suan spoke from Isaiah 54:2-6.

Now that I read it, Isaiah 54:1-8, I found it such a spectacular and beautiful hymn.

Isaiah 54:1-8 (NASB)
1 "Shout for joy, O barren one,
you who have borne no child;
Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud,
you who have not travailed;
For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous
Than the sons of the married woman," says the LORD.

2 "Enlarge the place of your tent;
Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
Lengthen your cords
And strengthen your pegs.
3 "For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left.
And your descendants will possess nations
And will resettle the desolate cities.

4 "Fear not, for you will not be put to shame;
And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;
But you will forget the shame of your youth,
And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
5 "For your husband is your Maker,
Whose name is the LORD of hosts;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
Who is called the God of all the earth.
6 "For the LORD has called you,
Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
Even like a wife of one's youth when she is rejected,"
Says your God.

7 "For a brief moment I forsook you,
But with great compassion I will gather you.
8 "In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment,
But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,"
Says the LORD your Redeemer.

The Israelites were termed as barren woman and saddled with widowhood - the lowliest one can be at that time: a woman, barren and widowed. But here she is told to shout for joy (v.1) for while for a moment, God has hidden his face in anger - now for everlasting God has shown his lovingkindness in compassion (v.8).

In the same way, we who were once far from the presence of God, now in eternity, live in the saving grace of Christ Jesus, and in the Day to come, in eternity, we will live in the very presence of God, loving, kind and compassionate.

pearlie

Working, Cooking and Eating



I spent the day working on my Psalms paper, cooking and eating. After driving Calvin to YMCA for Boys Brigade, I went to D'Lish and spent 3 hours there working on Psalms, with snacks in between the hours. When we were back home, I rolled up my sleeves and starting putting together my family's favourite dish - The Easiest Best-ever Scalloped Potato. I peeled some potatoes, brown several sausages, cut them into slices, cubed some mozzarella cheese and dumped them into a bowl. I topped it with a can of mushroom soup, add a canful of water and pop it into the oven until golden brown. Yumm ...

pearlie
Photo (c) 2006 Koos Schwaneberg

I awoke, for the LORD sustains me


Psalm 3 (NASB)
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

1 O LORD, how my adversaries have increased!
Many are rising up against me.
2 Many are saying of my soul,
"There is no deliverance for him in God." Selah.

3 But You, O LORD, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
4 I was crying to the LORD with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.

5 I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about.
7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God!
For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek;
You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the LORD;
Your blessing be upon Your people! Selah.

pearlie
Photo (c) 2008 Andrew Richards

Sniffling and coughing

It has been awhile since I fell sick, and I fell pretty sick. Cough, cold, fever, sorethroat, running nose, the whole works.

I was given 2 days off. And what have I been doing?

One, I was working, still.
Two, I did a bit of my psalm assignments.
Three, I while it away watching episodes of Star Trek Voyager.
Four, I sleep in between here and there when the cough mixture I ingest takes its effect on me.

SH was the one who got me into the Star Trek craze. I started watching Star Trek, The Next Generation back in the 1990s. My favourite character is Data.


When Star Trek Voyager started its seasons in the late 1990s, I was practically hooked. It is my all-time favourite TV series, even to this date - nothing has topped that yet for me. And my favourite characters are The Doctor and Seven of Nine.

To my delight, I managed to get hold of the Star Trek Voyager box set recently. The only problem I had with it was that the moment I sit down and start watching, I could not stop. I will watch the episodes one after another until I start nodding my head in sheer sleepiness.

pearlie

Your take on time

Time is one infamous topic, either there is too much of it like when you are waiting and waiting and waiting for something that just isn't coming, or you need more of it like when you are trying the beat the deadline of which you suddenly realised was yesterday.

Let's find out what we think about time by sharing your thoughts to these questions:
(1) What do you think about the concept of yesterday, today and
tomorrow? Is it a reality?
(2) Do you think you have enough time in a day? How much more do you need and how would you manage it?
(3) Why do you think others seem to handle time so well, with seemingly more than they could handle and yet seem to handle it all beautifully?
(4) Is there time in the new heavens and new earth? Why or why not?
pearlie

New heavens and new earth

Pastor Chris' sermon on mission prompted me to think further about the purpose of humankind. His message is mainly on the fact that we are made not for ourselves but for God and for others.

I was processing this some time ago and now that it got triggered again, I began to visualise my thoughts:

The Trinitarian God out of his love and creativity
--> created the heavens, earth, living things, man & woman
--> man & woman is to multiply the earth
--> man & woman decide to be god themselves
--> creation was separated from God
--> creation multiplied in that separation
--> creation deteriorated in a downward spiral
==> God will make new heavens and new earth


We are now in that "==>" period before God makes the new heavens and new earth. Here is where he prepares the people to receive him in faith. Here is when God came in the form of a man to redeem and restore creation to God so that we are no longer separated from Him. Here is where the wheat will exist with the chaff, only to be segregated in the Last Day when God will judge who will live with him in His presence, no longer separated.


I began asking questions - why doesn't God make us inherently good and loyal and loving? He made us and he can definitely do that. So why not? If we are naturally good and kind and loving, denying ourselves, the fall wouldn't have happened, or would it? I could not figure it out and so I went back to Scriptures:

Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

God in his creativity and love made man and woman in His own image, in His likeness. Much has been debated what "image" or "likeness" would mean in this case. The rarity of the word in the Bible and the uncertainty of its etymology have made its intepretation highly problematic. While there may be several possibilities I think it means the natural qualities in man, his capacity to reason, to create and his personality.

Genesis 2:18-19
Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.

Man was given the freedom to decide on how the created world should be, the way he wants to live his life, within the perimeters God set.

Genesis 3:6
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

I think this is where the question that I asked was faulty. God did create man and woman to be good, more than that he also gave man and woman companionship akin to the Trinitarian, he gave them freedom and dominion over the surroundings, and he created them in his image, with good but limited qualities like intelligence and creativity.

With the freedom and dominion given is where the first man and woman fell. They did not do badly in terms of companionship or with their intelligence, creativity etc. Where they did badly was the worst of all that dragged everything else down as well. With their capacity to decide, they rationalised their actions against what God had instructed. They first "saw" that is good for food even though there were numerous other trees they can take food from; then they thought it was pleasing to the eyes, and finally decided that it will make one wise.

The tempter was straight to the point - "the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." But they did not agree immediately. They rationalised it stey by step to finally be convinced that it was not wrong to do so, God meant it differently. That's when man fell, when he thought he knew better, not because he was bad.

But the badness of mankind did become the result of that decision.

We do have the capacity to be good, loyal and kind - just that we decided that we can be "better", we decided that it is not wrong to want to be good, loyal and kind only to ourselves.

Only Christ can help us - he has overturned everything that we hold on to.

Where we live for ourselves --> he denied/emptied himself
Where we want to be god --> he took the form of a bond-servant
Where we were made in the likeness of God --> he was being made in the likeness of men.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:5ff)

Coming back to where I was: We are now in that "==>" period before God makes the new heavens and new earth.

Here is where he prepares the people to receive him in faith:
It is only by faith in Christ that God takes us
Anything other than Christ is ourselves
And that will not do for the new heavens and new earth
Where God's presence will be
Where there is no more I, no more self
But God and the one body of Christ, us as one unit
There will be no separation

If you can't live with that, you can't live in the new heavens and new earth.

pearlie

Whatever ...

Why do I feel that I am always at the losing end?
Most of the time I usually try to see to it
That everyone is taken care of at every bend
But in the end I am the one who’s left in the pit

Maybe I am just being foolish and silly
Thinking I should be dependable, kind and good
But I feel that I am being walked all over really
Not that they even realized even if they could

So maybe for myself I should be more practical
Maybe I should just do what I want
Just as long as I think it is right, no pickle
Whatever is the operative I’ll be nonchalant

But that is not what I am, is it?
I am beginning to think it is
But I don’t want to just quit
Oh God, help me please

All rights reserved © 2008 Pearlie Ng

pearlie

The Corinth that Paul Saw: Week 2


Picture from http://www.greeceathensaegeaninfo.com/p_corinth_ancient.htm

We continued with the second session on the background study for 1 & 2 Corinthians by Kar Yong in our church.

I have gained more insight into Paul's letters to the Corinthians in his usages of temple imageries, his usage of language in relation of the imperial cult as well as construction of buildings.

Temple Imageries
As mentioned last week, Corinth was a place that was full of temples. The picture above shows the elevated temple of Apollos overlooking the Acropolis. Temples were very prominent in the lives of the Corinth people. Everywhere they go, they saw temples, they smelled the aroma of temple sacrifices, they walked into temple activities. The Christians there were Gentiles and at one time of their lives, they would have had experienced temple life and worship. Paul's usage of the temple imagery was brilliant to teach them about unity as a body of Christ, purity in their way of life and their distinct identity in Christ.

Firstly, Paul used it to talk about unity, where he spent 4 long chapters doing so. He told the Corinthians that they are in fact a temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in them. While no one thinks about destroying a temple, let alone doing it, the Corinthians are - through infighting, and divisions. Even in these days, any attempt to tear down a temple will cause anger, even violence, not only among their devotees but society in general. So, if the pagans and the world at large do not destroy their temples, why do we? Why do we cause strife and dissent among ourselves? Why do we cause divisions? Why are we dragging each other to court? Paul's words were strong: "If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are" (1 Cor 3:17). Let us heed the words of Paul and not put God to the test.

Secondly, Paul used temple imagery to talk about purity of a believer's life. There was in their midst a man who was having affair with his stepmother, something that was not even practiced by the pagans and even worse, he was proud of it. Paul's rebuke was that there were many temples in Corinth of that time, each temple to one deity - but they are not shared. You are a temple of God and God is the only God in your life - you have no place for another.

Thirdly, Paul used it in 2 Cor 6:14 - the popular verse, "do not be equally yoked with unbelievers", which is mainly used by most as a command not to marry out of the faith. While it can effected that way, it is more than that. It is a command to a way of life that must not result in the loss of our identity as the children of God. Woe be to us if we are so bound up with the life of the world that we lose our bearings and markers. Woe to us if no one recognises us as belonging to Christ anymore. What are your markers?

Imperial Cult
It has been impressed upon me the significance of (our common) phrases like Son of God, gospel or good news, Saviour and Lord. I knew that these were the titles used by Caesar but never quite in its significance. It now makes the reading of the Gospels for me so much more in context. To the first century Christian, the call that "every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" is cutting to the core of realigning their allegiance from the self-deified kings to the real King and Lord.

Construction Language
I am quite surprised that people in the first century had excellent building skills. Here's a collection of pictures of buildings in Ancient Corinth similar to the ones Kar Yong showed us in his slide presentation this evening.


Picture from http://www.caspercomsci.com
A two-storey building. (Actually come to think of it looking at the arch doorway, I think China was similar if not far more advanced in their construction skills.)


Picture from http://www.caspercomsci.com
The most prominent temple in Corinth - the Temple of Apollos. The columns are 6 feet in width and 24-foot tall.


Picture from http://www.flickr.com/people/clixyou/
This is the temple dedicated to the sister of the Emperor Augustus - an obvious testimony to the imperial cult. Notice the intricate design at the head of the columns.


Picture from http://www.grisel.net/corinth.htm
The west-end shops.

Paul uses construction language several times in his epistles - he talk about the foundation (1 Cor 3:10-11), the cornerstone (Eph 2:20). The foundation being the most important part of a building, where the most time and effort is spent but nothing is seen. The cornerstone being the most central piece, which is the first stone set in foundation where all other stones are set in reference to, thus determining the position of the entire building.

In our drive for instant results, how much do we spend in building the foundation of our life in Christ? In our world deep in syncretism, who do we place as the cornerstone of our lives?

Crucial questions to ask of ourselves and the church at large.

pearlie