Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On My Pastor's Retirement

http://strongerteams.files.wordpress.com/2007/02/ripple-crop.jpg



rain water wind blows,

plants fruit,
in the garden of the minds,
single water droplet falls,
pond calm surface calls,
in mind like living waters,
ripple widens,
outward forever flows.


Nicholas Yeo has been pastoring Holy Light Church (English) for 36 years. He was appointed as preacher in the Presbyterian church in 1973 and ordained in 1979. He retired on 1st October 2009.

author’s notes:

“rain” falls on all persons. The bible states that God allows rain to fall on the “just” and the “unjust.” This also shows the extend of Nicholas’ ministry which extends to Christians and non-Christians alike.

“water” signifies life. It is a life-giving work that Nicholas has been involved with all these years. Thirty six years is a long time. It reflects the character of a person and the strength of his calling.

“wind blows” – the Greek for Spirit is pneuma which is often translated as breath or wind. This indicates the influence of the Holy Spirit in Nicholas’ ministry. As at times, the direction in which the wind blows is unpredictable, as does the direction the Holy Spirit has led Nicholas’ ministry.

“plants fruit” shows the importance of investing in human beings. Plants are used to represent people in Nicholas’ ministry while fruit may be self-development of these people to fulfil their personal destinies. It also indicates the fruit of the Holy Spirit of their lives.

“in the garden of the minds” is where the battleground is. His teaching and caring ministry may be likened to a gardener caring for a garden. The planting, tilling, watering, prunings are conducive to growth as in the light from the Son.

“single water droplet falls, pond calm surface calls” is the imagery of a drop of water falling on the placid calm surface of a pond or a lake. A ripple forms and widens in concentric circles outwards. His ministry is like a drop of water in God’s redemptive plan.


“in mind like living waters, ripple widens, outward forever flows.” No one but God will know the effect of each individual action or act of kindness. Like as ripple in the lake spreading ever outwards, causing secondary ripples and so on, Nicholas’ ministry has far reaching circumstances that no one will know.

I dedicate this to the man and his wife who serve their God well.


http://www.kairos2.com/nicholas-yeo.jpg

The Twilight Zone - Are We There Yet?

I always like the Twilight Zone.



50 years later, 'Twilight Zone' bridges time

By WILLIAM KATES (AP) – 1 day ago

"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call 'The Twilight Zone.'" — Rod Serling

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — On a Friday night in October 1959, Americans began slipping into a dimension of imagination as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. They've really never returned.

"The Twilight Zone," first submitted for the public's approval by a reluctant CBS, has resonated with viewers from generation to generation with memorable stories carrying universal messages about society's ills and the human condition.

Like the time-space warps that anchored so many of the show's plots, Rod Serling's veiled commentary remains as soul-baring today as it did a half-century ago, and the show's popularity endures in multiple facets of American pop culture.

The complete list of episodes here

My favorite is "To Serve Man."

What is yours?

.

Do Theological Education Forms or Deforms Spiritual Formation?

Random musings on theological education # 3: Do theological schools form or deform their students' spiritual formation?

This is continuing my series of reflections on theological education. My earlier musings were on learning biblical languages, and curriculum content. My intention is to limit my reflections to students studying to be pastors, hence the focus on M.Div in theological schools in Malaysia and Singapore.

Imagine a group of bright young people who are designated future leaders of communities. How will you train or equip them to perform their calling as leaders effectively? Do you locked them away in a community, far away from their own, for four years. In these 4 years, you teach them many subjects, the content of which they will find irrelevant when they get back to their own communities after they graduate? Or in other words, are students spiritually formed or deformed by their study for the degree of M.Div in local theological schools?

There are some lecturers and professors of theological schools who claim the spiritual formation of their students in preparation for pastoring must be done full time on campus for four years. Hence the resistance of M.Div being offered as part-time, off campus course. The rationale is that the students needed to be living in a theological school community to be spiritually formed correctly. While there is no proof that this is indeed the case, it must be pointed out that most theological schools do put some emphasis on spiritual formation on campus; however as pointed out in an earlier post, there is little emphasis on spiritual formation in their formal curriculum. Spiritual formation on campus are assumed to occur informally.

Most informal spiritual formation activities planned involves students washing toilets and cleaning up after meals, campus community activities, small group meetings maybe once a week, prayer meetings, chapel service, and a lecturer/professor assigned to a single or a small group of students. Unfortunately students often end up as cheap labor, campus activities are social events, small groups become counseling or complaining groups , prayer meetings are not held regularly, chapel services are boring, and lecturers/professors are too busy to guide them spiritually. The students are often too burdened by their academic studies that they resent time spent in these activities. To be fair to lecturers and professors, they have a heavy teaching load. Also they are specialists in their areas of expertise (very few are specialist in spiritual formation). Hence they feel they are being asked to do more than they are required to.

The point I am making is that a campus community is an artificial environment. The students are taken away from their natural environments or communities. Four years is a long time and most returning students find themselves strangers to their own communities. An artificial communities produce a form of artificial spiritual formation. This form of spiritual formation is often disconnected from the real world outside the theological schools. Too much theological content cause students to be distanced from their own beliefs. Too much skills training make them good managers but not good shepherds. The question is whether after their time in theological schools, are they closer to God than before they began.

There is a big difference between knowing about God, and knowing God.

Spiritual formation is the process of knowing God.

.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book of Revelation



Elaine Pagels examines the Book of Revelation and asks questions about its origin and importance. Who wrote the Book of Revelation, when, and why? What other "books of revelation"--Jewish and Christian--were written at the time but left out of the Bible? What accounts for the enduring appeal of this book during the past 2000 years, and even today?

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Genesis Genealogies Code


Abraham Park (2009), The Genesis Genealogies (Hong Kong: Periplus Editions Ltd).

Abraham Park was the moderator of the General Assembliy of the Presbyterian Church of Korea, Hap-dong Conservative. Basing on Deuteronmy 32:7 "Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you," Abraham relates the Mosaic words "days of old" and "years of generations" to the ten genealogies in Genesis.

Taking each genealogy in turn, Park examines the names of the people, the duration of their lives and the order in which the names appears. Then he draws the fascinating conclusion that each of the ten genealogies reveals God's divine administration of redemption. That is, in each genealogy, there is the recurrent pattern of the fall of man, repentance and God's salvation.

Finding the hidden message in the genealogies is almost as exciting as reading the Da Vinci Code and equally as fascinating.

.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Mystery of God

from Christianity Today.com

Top Story
Photo by Jo Christian Oterhals
Reveling in the Mystery
Sometimes in order to see God, we have to learn to not know him.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Lone Cypress

The most famous landmark on the '17 Mile Drive' in the gated community of Pebble Beach
(note: In 1990 the Monterrey Journal reported that Pebble Beach's lawyer, Kerry C. Smith, said "The image of the tree has been trademarked by us," and that it intended to control any display of the cypress for commercial purposes. The company had warned photographers that "they cannot even use existing pictures of the tree for commercial purposes." source: wiki)

In 1990, we trademark trees, in 2008 we trademark the name of God, and in 2009 we trademark food (Hainanese chicken rice, laksa, chilli crab, nasi kandar, and nasi lemak). What next?
.

Phoebe Palmer

From Christian History.net.

I have great respect for Phoebe Palmers and any articles about her are welcome.

http://lists.christianitytoday.com/t/21842546/7887288/175397/0/
Holiness Fire-Starter
Transformed by her child's fiery death, Phoebe Palmer lit the flames of revival on two continents.


In January of 1857 the editors of a national magazine published a portrait of Phoebe Palmer (facing page). Being honest men, they admitted that the woman herself was neither as young nor as pretty as the picture made her appear. They did say, however, that she was smarter than she looked.


Finish this article from ChristianHistory.net.

Are Our Pastors Adequately Equiped for Ministry?

Random Musings on theological education #2 : Are the curriculum designed to equip pastor for ministry?

In random musing #1, I asked the question whether studying ancient languages (Greek and Hebrews) are essential for training of pastors who will probably not be using these languages in their ministries. Now I will ask whether the curriculum of local theological schools are designed to equip pastors for their role of being shepherd to their congregations or parachurch organisations. Here I will confine myself to the Master of Divinity (M.Div) program as it is taken by many churches as the entry level for ordination and pastoring.

The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the United States developed the following standards for M.Div in June 1996. Since then, many of the theological schools have been revising their curriculum to conform to these standards [see Foster et al, Educating Clergy: Teaching Practices and Pastoral Imagination (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006)]. The standards are that the curriculum should consists of four equal parts:

(1) Religious Heritage - the teaching and understanding of theology, traditions, languages etc

(2) Cultural Context- understanding the culture of the church and the local context or cultural realities in which the church is in.

(3) Personal and Spiritual Formation - development in personal faith, spiritual maturity, moral integrity and public witness.

(4) Capacity for Ministerial and Public Leadership - development of skills for leadership and ability to do theological reflection on their ministries.

These four categories are essential in developing a well equipped pastor and I can see why the ATS is eager to revise their curriculum to fit it.

What about our local theological school curriculum? I did a very rough survey using information from their websites about their M.Div program, using the credit courses as a rough indicator. It must be noted that I am just looking at the formal curriculum and not the informal and null curriculum of these schools. These are established theological schools in Malaysia and Singapore.

School A has a M.Div program that require 98 credits to qualify, School B (90) and School C (114).
School A have four majors (Christian education, Biblical studies, Intercultural studies, Pastoral ministry). School C has four majors (Pastoral, Missions, Child Development, Youth).



It may be observed that in school A the major emphasis in the "Religious Heritage" category is balanced by "Ministerial and Leadership." "Religious Heritage" are often core studies in OT, NT, biblical languages, historical and theological foundations. School B seems to weigh heavily in the "Religious Heritage" category. School C is interesting because it manages to reduce the "Religious Heritage" category and give room to cultural context and spiritual formation.

The major contribution to the category "Cultural Context" comes from practicum and internship programs.

There is very little formal programs for personal and spiritual formation in these curriculum with the exception of school C. While it must be acknowledged that all three schools are aware of the importance of spiritual formation of their students, not being in the formal curriculum means that it is often not given priority or treated as an optional add-on. It also means that there is no attempt to measure or assessment its learning outcomes.

Somehow the impression from this rough survey seem to indicate that our local theological curriculum is heavy with cognitive and skills development but weak in personal and relevance. This has important implications in the type of graduates produced. This is something worth thinking about.

Addendum

Matthew Green made a similar comment on his blog, Reflections of Spiritual Formation

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Batman Song

Of Mice and Men

Me and my friend John Steinbeck at Monterrey Peninsula

John Steinbeck is a Nobel Laureate who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. I considered two of his books, Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Grapes of Wrath (1929) as two of the greatest books of North American literature. The Grapes of Wrath won the Pulitzer Price in 1940.


Steinbeck wrote about true heroes and the indomitable human spirit against impossible odds. This is what makes his books so worth the reading. Of Mice and Men is about the dreams of two poor ranch workers, George and Lenny, trying to earn enough money to buy their own ranch. One of the men is mentally retarded. The novel is about racism, prejudice, injustice, bigotry and the struggle for personal independence. The Grapes of Wrath describes the struggles of a family of sharecroppers, the Joads, who were driven from their land due to the dust storms of the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. There are eerily echoes of the present economic meltdown. Steinbeck, himself no stranger to poverty narrates these lives well. I remember crying when I read certain portion of the novels and even today, I cannot bring myself to reread these portions.

I believe Steinbeck believed that he was called to write of these sufferings so that it will never be forgotten. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he said,

the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for
greatness of heart and spirit—for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion
and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright
rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe
in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.
(source Wiki).

Truly a great champion of the spirit of man.



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Do Youth Ministries Cause Problems for the Church?

In this interview, researcher Kara Powell makes an interesting observation. One of the reason we are losing our young people from attending church is due to our approach of age-segregation ministries. We separate people into ages-group activities when they are young and then expect them to attend church when they are older. Will age-segregation ministries goes the way of homogeneous unit principle? My mentor, Dr Allan Harkness, which researches in intergenerational ministries will be happy to hear this.


Is the Era of Age Segmentation Over?
A researcher argues that the future of youth ministry will require bringing the generations together.
An Interview with Kara Powell posted 9/18/2009


Is the Era of Age Segmentation Over?

The statistics are grim. Rainer Research estimates that 70 percent of young people leave the church by age 22. Barna Group argues that the figure increases to 80 percent by age 30. The Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest denomination, recently observed that growth in their churches is failing to keep up with the birth rate. Taken together, these findings suggest a startling fact: not only are we failing to attract younger worshipers, we're not holding on to the ones we have.

As executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary and a former youth pastor, Kara Powell has her eyes on the youth drop out trend. She is currently in the midst of a three-year College Transition Project, a study that involves over 400 youth group graduates and is focused on understanding how parents, churches, and youth ministries can set students on a trajectory of lifelong faith and service. Though research is ongoing, it is already revealing a promising pattern: youth involved in intergenerational relationships in church are showing promise for stronger faith in high school and beyond.

Leadership editors Marshall Shelley and Brandon O'Brien spoke with Kara about her research and what it means for the local church.



read more

The Babylon 5 Song

Zondervan and Logos Teamup


Zondervan has linked up with Logos Bible Software and now has a special offer for their 87 titles which include

* Expositor's Bible Commentary (12 Vols.)
* Expositor's Bible Commentary: Abridged (2 Vols.)
* NIV Application Commentary: New Testament (20 Vols.)
* NIV Application Commentary: Old Testament Prophets (8 Vols.)
* Zondervan New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (4 Vols.)
* Zondervan New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (5 Vols.)
* Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible (5 Vols.)
* Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: New Testament (4 Vols.)
* Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament (5 Vols.)
* 22 individual titles from authors like Gordon Fee, Robert Mounce, and Rick Warren

Zondervan Bible Reference Bundle (87 Vols.)



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Salivating...shall I or shan't I?

readmore

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Seminar on Transformational Learning

SFI Seminar 2009/2

Learning for Transformed Living

Learning strategies for disciples of Christ, and relevant approaches for those who teach them.

Speaker: Dr Allan Harkness

Date : 2.00pm- 9.30pm, Saturday 3 October 2009

Place : Hillville Chapel, Lot 156608, Off Persiaran Ponderosa Utama, Taman Ponderosa, Johor Bahru (Holy Light Church English HLCE)

Synopsis of Seminar

1. Learning that transforms: the nature, features and ecology of life-long and life-wide learning to be a disciple of Christ; and strategies to enhance that learning.

2. Teaching for transformation: principles and strategies for those who encourage others to be effective disciples of Christ, whatever age they are.

3. The Bible and prayer as transforming agents.


Speaker

Dr Allan Harkness, from New Zealand, has lived in Singapore for some years. A member of OMF International, he is currently heading up AGST Alliance, a SE Asian regional post-graduate theological study venture. Allan has a passion to see God's people of all ages formed and equipped together for effective service through the creative expressions of the Christian disciplines and through informed educational strategies which enable life-long and life-wide learning.

Allan’s wife Marven is a TESL teacher, and they have two young adult sons, products of the local education system.



Registration Form

Spiritual Formation Institute Seminar 2009/2

Learning for Transformed Living

Name: …………………………………………………………………………………..………………………………………….. Church…………………………………………

Tel : …………………………………………………………………………………. Email:………………………………………………………………………………………..

Please register with Sister Grace Soon of HLCE (Tel:07-2243285)

Seminar cost RM20.00 (includes refreshment,dinner and seminar notes).


All are welcome

The Survival Song

New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews

Thanks to budding NT scholar, Lim Kar Yong who alerted me to this conference and conference notes. This is fantastic timing as I have spent the last long weekend thinking about N.T.Wright's book, Justification (Downers grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009).

New perspectives on Paul and the Jews

The twenty-first century is proving to be a challenging time for Jewish-Christian relations. 2008-2009 is the bi-millennial anniversary of Paul’s birth, a figure not unproblematic for Jewish-Christian dialogue. On different levels initiatives are being taken to promote Paul and his legacy. Our Leuven interdisciplinary research project on the New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews is seeking to address the issue of Paul and his relationship to Judaism in an academic setting. An important feature of our project consists in the fact that the exegetical issues are being discussed in a larger hermeneutical, theological and dialogical framework.

The conference is organised around 8 topics:

  1. What nomenclatures best represent the Judaism that Paul was in dialogue with: covenantal nomism, variegated nomism, ethical monotheism, etc.? What are the notions of covenant or works-righteousness that lie behind the use of these terms?
  2. Is covenant a central notion in Paul? What are the merits of a semantic domain linkage between diatheke and dikaiosyne? Can one argue for an embedded covenantal framework in Paul’s thought? If so, does this framework supersede the Mosaic covenant (cp. 2 Cor 3:7-18)?
  3. What is the relationship between creation and covenant in Paul’s thinking, specifically the motif of kaine diatheke and kaine ktisis (2 Cor 3 and 5 respectively)?
  4. Does Paul move away from an Israel kata sarka to a notion of Israel kata pneuma? Is the new reality the ekklesia tou theou? Is this church part of, or distinct from, Israel?
  5. Was Paul Torah-observant? Did Paul’s Christ transcend the Law, embody it or something else? Is Paul in continuity or discontinuity with the prophetic reading of the Law? Is Paul an interpreter or manipulator of Israel’s scriptures?
  6. What is the relationship between Pauline studies and Jewish-Christian dialogue? Should Pauline studies take into account the post-Shoah context of contemporary ecumenical and interreligious dialogue between Christians and Jews?
  7. Are the classical interreligious and soteriological models of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism acceptable or useful for Christian/Jewish dialogue? How do they relate to the typical dialogical positions of single and double covenant schemes? What is the best way forward?
  8. Are the religious ends of Christianity and Judaism compatible? Is the church in mission with or in mission to the Jews? How should this apparent tension be portrayed in homiletics, liturgy, catechetics, etc?

Programme

The programme will consist of offered papers and panel discussions. The following scholars have already confirmed their participation:

The seminar is now concluded and pictures of the two-day seminar are now available.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Star Trek Song

A Stroke of Insight


Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight (London: Penguin Books, 2006)

Dr Jill Taylor is a neuroanatomist affiliated with the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute in Bloomington, Indiana. On 10 December 1996, Jill (37 years old) developed a stroke due to a rupture in an AV malformation (blood vessel) in her brain. Aside from the brain damage due to hypoxia (due to lack of oxygen because of reduced blood flow), she also had a blood clot which need neurosurgical removal a few months later. Being a Harvard trained scientist, Jill was able to clinically observe her stoke-in-evolution. This is the account of her observations where she was only able to perceive the world through her right hemisphere(brain) for the period before her operation and the gradually retraining of her left brain after the operation.

She noted that she experienced profound peace and interconnectness with all creation when she was using only her right brain. She liken this sense of peace to a religious experience or experiencing Nirvana. The left brain is associated with rational thinking and brain chatter. When she was rediscovering the use of her left brain, she discovered that she does have a choice to response positively or negatively to any situation. This is her 'stroke of insight.' The default preprograming was apparently to respond negatively to any situation with anxiety, worry and unhappiness.

There are some interesting aspects of her account. Is it possible that the right brain, being more intuitive are more sensitive to the transcendent and imminent God? Is the development of the spiritual life a development of the interconnectiveness through our right brain?

Her account of her insight on the left brain also rises some interesting questions. Is our spiritual development a reprogramming of the neuropathways of the left brain by perception, spiritual disciplines and choice? Is that what St.Paul meant when he wrote, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things" (Phil.4:8)?

I find this fascinating especially in the study of physiology of religious experiences. Maybe I should name this 'neurotheology' !

More about Dr Jill Taylor here

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Ultimate Truth of Nature

The Buddhist Centre




The Ultimate GOAL
The ultimate goal for students of the Buddha-Dhamma is to escape the cycle of samsara, the endless rebirths, and attain the peace of Nibbana. While those of theistic faiths hope to be 'born again in Heaven,' the Buddhist aims not to be born anymore. This is indeed a huge difference.

The idea of extinction is very often misunderstood.
Greed, hatred and Ignorance is what is extinguished, ego is what is being extinguished - the sense of separation and isolation of "I" from the rest of existence.

But the idea that people are striving to literally not exist in any possible sense of the word is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Dhamma.

Disatisfaction
Suffering is a fundamental fact of life, a common denominator to the rich and poor. The fact that we constantly seek for movies, music, tasty food or even just conversation and company, are ceaseless acts of escape from a fundamental disatisfaction with what is at present. For all beings, life has suffering and suffering is bad. Thus the aim of all Dhamma classes or sharing is to learn how to live lives that can minimise and ultimately END suffering, to do that we learn to lessen desires and eventually directly see the delusion of self, so that suffering ceases.

Suffering is
suffering, pain is pain. Physical pain is inevitable while mental suffering is optional. One is unavoidable so long as we are in the world of form, the other is not. We can learn from all experiences including pain (which is one form of suffering), but there is a difference between psychological and physical pain. Some people through a strong faith or believe in God or gods, are able to find relief from their pain and suffering with prayers and devotions, hoping for a future rebirth in a pain-free heaven. In this, religions truly act as the opiate for the suffering masses.


From the Buddha Dhamma we know that neither God nor gods can save anyone for while they are powerful and have very long lives, they are still Unenlightened and within the realms of samsara,
hence deities like humans have emotions of jealousy, anger and even threaten "Vengeance is mine"; the Dhamma is not about the imagery of creation or judgement but the Ultimate Truth of Nature. Within samsara all our actions should be in accord with virtues such as unconditional love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. How good or virtuous humans are is NOT based on any religious label but 'By their fruits shall you know them.' It is our Thoughts, speech and actions which makes us what we are.

Ceaseless Change, hence HOPE
All form is impermanent – things change. The greatest "sinner" of today eg the mass murderer Anggulimala can be the great saint of tomorrow. No surprise, then, that the idea of sin or sinner is not a part of the Buddhist vocabulary. If we are permanent entities then there will be NO HOPE but it is because we are ceaselessly changing that we can evolve to be better beings.










The three poisons (greed, hatred, and ignorance), which are the root cause of suffering, are born of delusion or our stupidity regarding Ultimate Reality. It is the wisdom of the Truth that finally liberates.

A Peaceful & Calm Way of Life
The Buddha is not a saviour who ferries one from earth to heaven BUT a TEACHER who teaches us to free ourselves from Ignorance and be Enlightened. The distinction is that one must walk his own path, not that one does so selfishly. It is a way of life, NOT of"Do this ritual, kneel, say this prayer, sing this hymn, take this sacrament, memorise this Creed".

And there is no evangelism; whether one wishes to take the SHORT CUT to Enlightenment or the LONG CUT of the ups and downs of existence in Heaven, Hell and earth is entirely an individual choice. Most Buddhists would not be comfortable debating the contentions of other faith traditions, the emphasis is upon the simple sharing of the teachings of the Buddha should one wishes to hear it.

However some people take this open and mild mannered approach as one of weakness.

If we are to "evangelise", then it should be by the example of a virtuous life, not by words. Even if we accept "evangelism" as being a synonym for “converting people to a religion”,
there is no conversion per se in Buddhism.

If a person wishes, he or she can the vows of refuge, but this is not like the notion of baptism. Nor is it even necessary to take such vows in order to practice the Dhamma. Nor does anyone have to renounce being of any other religion.

No one has anything sprung on them. There is no pressure to join a cell group or to conform to rituals, if they just want to learn to meditate or chant, that is fine. If they want to learn about the Buddha's discourses, that is fine too.
Ehipassiko.. come and hear what the Dhamma is and then decide for yourselves if you agree and want to learn more. No one is ever condemned as a sinner or threatened with eternal damnation if they don’t accept what is being taught.










It is never about "numbers", it isn’t about luring people into the temples but about genuine sincerity in loving thy neighbor, and valuing the worth of each person whether or not they believe. I was so proud and happy last Vesak day when a centre that I am affiliated to gave bursaries to 10 needy students, NONE of whom were from Buddhist families- they were simply people in need.

So many gods, so many creeds,
So many beliefs that wind and twist,
While just the art of being kind,
Is basically what this sad world needs.
My religion is very simple,
It's simply kindness!

Our actions "speak" so loud that you cannot not hear what we say!

HT: Punna

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Wishing all my Muslim readers

Two Books on Justice

Essential Ingredients for Spiritual Growth




Sermon Statement

The essential ingredients for spiritual growth is a correction understanding of the fullness of Christ in us, the old self, the new self, the work of the Holy Spirit and our appropriate response.

The Klingon Song

Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol


Dan Brown's latest offering of the exploits of Harvard Symbologist Professor Robert Langdon is another round of conspiracy theories, symbols, ambitious people and murders. This time it is located in Washington D.C. and involves the Freemasons and Ancient Mysteries. There is a lot of Masons mythos in this novel, too much in fact that at times it reads like a non-fiction book. Surprisingly for a best selling novelist, the character development is poor and inconsistent, and the writing is choppy. The writing and storytelling is not as smooth as in his previous books.

Nevertheless, it is an excellent book to read for relaxation for a few hours.



Read this review by Ben Witherington.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Myths about Preaching in Post Christian Culture

From Out of Ur, blog.christianitytoday.com


September 16, 2009

3 Myths about Preaching Today
Why a new kind of preaching is needed for our post-Christian culture.
by David Fitch.

David Fitch is a pastor at Life on the Vine in Long Grove, IL, and teaches as the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


MYTH 1: If You Preach a Good Sermon the Church Will Grow

MYTH 2: Who You Preach To is Who You Will Reach

MYTH 3: The Goal of Preaching is to Make the Bible Relevant

read more

There is a lot of good stuff in this article. I wonder what will he advise in preaching in a non-Christian culture?

.

The Data Song

Communicating with iGens

From Leadershipjournal.net

This Week in Leadership EVANGELISM
The Gospel for iGens
Reared on self-esteem and impervious to guilt, the next generation needs good news that can break through their defenses.


The first step a young man takes toward a woman who he thinks might be his future is delicate. The operative words seem to be "sensitive" and "careful" and "first impressions matter." As in love, so in "gospeling" (or evangelism). When Peter preached at Pentecost, he opened his sermon with a time-honored citation of Scripture and then sketched, in third person, what had happened to Jesus.

| Finish this article |


also check out the new digital magazine from Leadershipjournal.net; a journal which is multimedia; has text and video articles.


Catalyst LeadershipCatalyst Leadership

See the August/September edition of Catalyst Leadership

The Picard Song

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Faith and the World of Business


Faith and the World of Business:

The Christian in the Marketplace


Speaker: Rev. Dr. Gordon T. Smith

Date: 26 September 2009 (Saturday)

Time: 10:00 a.m. -- 4:00 p.m.

Venue: High Street Centre

1 North Bridge Road

#30-01, Singapore 179094


Can we speak of a business as a calling? Can we speak of a specifically Christian vision for excellence in the marketplace? And then, of course, what about the calling to entrepreneurship and innovation? How can the Christian faith foster a capacity for change and a vision for an effective response to crisis and opportunity in our economic circumstances? And how can the Church more effectively support, encourage and equip those whom God has called into this area?

Whether you are a Christian businessman who has been in the marketplace for years, or a believer considering venturing into this area, you will find this interactive seminar insightful, challenging and inspiring.


This seminar will consist of four back-to-back sessions:

I. Business as a Calling: A Christian Perspective.

II. The Soul of the Entrepreneur

III. Forum: Good Conversation about the Calling to Business

IV. The Church and Marketplace: Equipping Women and Men for the World of Business


Registration is at SGD$50 per person


To sign up, please follow these steps:

1. Log into the Graceworks website: www.graceworks.com.sg.

Click on:

Registration Now Open! Sign up for "Faith and the World of Business" today!

And follow the instructions.


Alternatively, you may mail us a cheque with the following details:

1. Name

2. Age

3. Gender

4. Email Address

5. No. of people attending


Sign a cheque, made payable to "Graceworks Pte Ltd" and mail it to 7 Eng Kong Terrace, Singapore (598979)


We look forward to seeing you there!


Kong Hee on Church Growth

From The Christian Post

Tuesday, Sep. 8, 2009 Posted: 1:54:46AM HKT



In the comparatively short span of two decades, City Harvest Church has become the largest congregation in Singapore.

And yet, for many pastors and believers, the phenomenal growth of the church is at best a mystery or a feat of which only a few are capable.

At worst, it is a tell-tale ‘sign’ of the shallowness of faith and lack of discipleship of the members.

For The Rev Dr Kong Hee, who founded CHC, the growth was unexpected.

Two themes emerged in the course of the email interview he graciously accepted from The Christian Post.

It was primarily the clear vision of God’s passion and calling to the believers and the relentless obedience of the small group of individuals that pioneered the church that enabled CHC to succeed in its outreach.


read more

Will the Real St.Paul Please Stand Up?



Written by two Jesus scholars, this 2009 HarperOne book is a fascinating search for the real Paul, a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth. Marcus Borg is Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture, Emeritus at Oregon State University and Canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, co-authoring this book with Catholic theologian, John Dominic Crossan, an Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul University in Chicago. Thus there is a lot of scholarship behind the book and an interesting interaction between Protestant and Catholic theology.

These two scholars purposed to discover the theology of the origin historical Paul. They carefully lay the groundwork by emphasizing that Paul can only be discovered by interpreting his writings through the context of the communities he wrote to, the early Jesus movement, first century Judaism and the influence of the dominant Roman empire. They further set the stage by identifying four 'Pauls.'

(1) The "Radical" Paul who wrote Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians and Philemon.
(2) The "Reactionary" Paul who wrote 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus
(3) The "Conservative" Paul who wrote Ephesians, Colossians and 2 Thessalonians
(4) The Paul as depicted by Luke in Acts

According to the authors, the "Radical" Paul is the historical Paul and the other three are attempts by others to modify his teachings in order to make it acceptable to the Roman Empire.

This "Radical" Paul

(1) is against slavery (the authors did a masterful study of Philomen)
(2) is for equality of the sexes
(3) is a Jewish Christ mystic in his personal encounters with the risen Christ
(4) understood the cross as (a) God's plan is for peaceful empire (versus the Roman empire); (b) participatory atonement as a transformational pathway; and (c) revelation of God's character
(5) Justification by grace through faith is God's distributive justice, not retributive justice. God's grace for a new nature or 'Spirit transplant' is available for all people.
(6) Life together 'in Christ' is a sort of 'share community' of Gentiles and Jews.

This is an interesting fusion of Protestant and Roman Catholic Pauline theology done during the Year of Paul as celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church. The authors put forth convincing arguments for their claims but it would have been better if a more detailed study is presented instead of what appear to be a brief abstract of certain key points. A work of this magnitude should merit more than 224 pages (Hardcover edition) and a single page of notes!

While this is an excellent work of scholarship, it begs the question, "what then?" Are we supposed to only retain the seven epistles of the "Radical" Paul and throw away the rest? That will be a large proportion of the New Testament we will be discarding. Yet that is what we must do if we follow through in this study and remain true to Paul's teaching.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who's Afraid of Witches?

From Christianity Today.com

Top Story
Saving Witches in Kolwezi
Accused of witchcraft by parents and churches, children in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being rescued by Christian activists.


SPEAKING OUT
Who's Afraid of Witches?
Among African Christians, too many of us are.

Classics of the Reformation

Timothy George | posted 9/03/2009 01:28PM


My own approach to Reformation studies has been greatly shaped by the authors of these five classic studies, each of whom I have been privileged to know personally. George Huntston Williams was my major professor and great friend at Harvard University, and I serve now as his literary executor. The first book I published was in a series edited by Heiko Oberman, a scholar of enormous energy and one of the finest classroom teachers I have known. Roland Bainton was a marvelous storyteller and had a distinctive knack for making history come alive. Jaraslav Pelikan was a scholar who transcended limits. He was a master linguist and wrote with sterling clarity. Patrick Collinson I met only once at a conference on the Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation. I have learned more about the Puritans from him than from anyone else.

Here I Stand
Roland H. Bainton

This book was first published in 1950, the year I was born. I first read it as an undergraduate, and it hooked me on the Reformation. Here I Stand tells the story of Luther as it has never been told before or since. Doctor Martinus almost steps off every page, a real human being beset by guilt but saved by grace. The woodcuts Bainton included in this book are a visual feast of Reformation iconography.

* * *


The Radical Reformation
George Huntston Williams

Williams argued that the Radical Reformation deserved scholarly attention in its own right, not merely as a reactionary "left wing" to other movements. This book traces the interconnections among a multitude of radical reformers, all of whom challenged the ecclesial and political structures of their time in their quest for an authentic Christianity. Williams himself coined the term "Radical Reformation" and provided a typology for understanding this amorphous movement. The Radical Reformation, he argues, consisted of three major thrusts: Evangelical Anabaptists, Spiritualists, and Evangelical Rationalists. These are not meant to be hard and fast categories but a way to understand essential themes and common patterns among the religious dissenters who stood on the margins of the official churches of the 16th century. This is a book filled with theological insight as well as massive historical detail.

* * *


The Elizabethan Puritan Movement
Patrick Collinson

This book was first published in 1967 and helped to define the entire field of Puritan studies. Collinson interprets the Puritans in terms of their own self-understanding and burning desire for a "further reformation." A model of historical research based on extensive use of primary sources.

* * *


Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700)
Jaroslav Pelikan

This is the third volume in Pelikan's five-volume set, The Christian Tradition. The cover of each of these volumes is marked by a distinctive color: red for the early church (symbolizing martyrdom), gold for Eastern Christendom (glory), purple for the Latin West (suffering), and sky blue for modernity (the sky is the limit?). The Reformation volume in this series is green—signifying renewal, new life, new beginnings. The chronological parameters place the Reformation in the context of late medieval and early modern times. Like nearly everything Pelikan wrote, this is a work of magisterial extent and nuanced detail. Historical theology at its best.

* * *


Luther: Man Between God and the Devil
Heiko A. Oberman

Originally published in German in 1982, this book is a masterpiece of Reformation history and theology. Oberman gives us a vivid account of Luther, his personal struggles, and his ecclesial import, all set in the context of the culture of late medieval society. Oberman's portrayal of an apocalyptic Luther, haunted by the devil and living on the edge of time, is a corrective to more domesticated versions of the German reformer. By looking at Luther "warts and all," we can see more clearly the abiding validity of his reforming work and theological insights for the life of faith today.

* * *


By Timothy George, author of Theology of the Reformers and General Editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, forthcoming from InterVarsity Press

Are Learning Ancient Languages Useful for Pastors?

Random Musings on Theological Education #1

I know I am going to step on a few toes here as I think through some 'sacred', dare I say, 'cow' in theological education here. I am doing research and preparing a paper on theological education in Malaysia and Singapore and do value your feedback.

I wonder how useful is studying ancient Greek and Hebrews in training people who aim to be pastors. Here I am thinking of certificates, diplomas and degrees up to to M.Div level, and D.Min. Most of these are aiming for a pastoral ministry either in churches or para-church organisations. For those who aspire to M.Th or PhD, I have no argument that a knowledge in ancient languages is essential.

In my limited experience, most of the pastors and seminary graduates I know in pastoral work do not make use of their knowledge of ancient languages. In fact, they begin to forget the languages due to disuse once they have passed the required courses. Most of them prepare their sermons and teaching by use of commentaries. Often commentaries are written by people who spent their life on a single book so it will be a height of arrogance to think that a person with one or two semesters of ancient language will be able to understand the text in the original better than the scholars.

So in view of the tremendous of time and anguish spent on ancient languages in an already tight theological education curriculum, why do we insist that the students learn the ancient languages? Would the time not be better spent equipping the students to use secondary sources?

What do you think?



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Monday, September 14, 2009

Philip Yancey's Reflection on Dying

from ChristianityToday.com

Top Story
THE BACK PAGE
Intensive Care Week
Thoughts while sitting beside my brother as his brain and body failed.



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