* * *
Thursday, December 31, 2009
I started this blog as a way to learn more about blogging. Gradually I find that this blog has become a way for me to voice out new ideas, and to process my thinking. Here I do find all your comments helpful. Writing the posts, reviewing the books I have read, movies I have seen, comics I have enjoyed, and computer games I have completed makes me more precise and disciplined in my thinking. It forces me to relate what I have just encountered with my belief system and worldview.
This blog is about my spirituality. I am a Christian by choice. My theology is Reformed. Christianity to me is not about a set of 'do' and 'don't' but about living out my beliefs in my everyday life. This includes my job, my hobbies, my reading and thought life. It should not be a surprise to some of my readers that a Christian may enjoy movies, reading books and comics, playing computer games and collecting Batman action figures. Or be tolerant of other religious traditions.
Most of all, I want to emphasis here, my blog is about my understanding of what Christianity is all about. I offer this blog as a resource. That is why I post links to articles, videos or other websites. The other resource I offer is my website Kairos Spiritual Formation where I have posted most of my writings and commentaries.
Thank you again for reading and visiting this blog. See ya and a Happy New Year
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
This is the year my eldest daughter got married and my youngest daughter graduated as a medical doctor. I also published another book. Actually Spiritual Formation on the Run came out in December last year but its publication date is January 2009 so I guess that counts. There are many highs and lows in the year but I wish to testify here to the goodness of Our Lord to my family and me. Here are some of the lessons and reflections of the year.
· I still hold to the idea of not making new year resolutions is a good one so that I will not be disappointed as I reflect on what has happened during the year.
· The more I serve in ministry in the forefront (preaching, teaching, eldership, writing, counselling etc) the more I want to retreat to the background. Each year the desire grows stronger to retreat and spent more time in contemplative prayer with God yet the Lord pushes me out with more challenges.
· I love teaching medical students as their youthful and sharp minds stimulate and challenge me. Yet I know I need to focus to do the work the Lord calls me to do which means I have to give up some of the things I have been doing even though it has been fruitful and beneficial to others.
· Offering spiritual leadership is difficult. My call to spiritual leadership is to introduce people to God and to deepen their spiritual life. Unfortunately many interpret spiritual leadership as having more programs, money, power, attendance and buildings.
· There is a very real danger to me that I talk and teach more about God than I actually talk and walk with God. I really need to spend more time in prayer and listening to God in the Bible.
· Every time I think I have made some spiritual progress in the growth of my soul, I backslide to square one. My inner struggles are mainly with pride, anger and patience. Kylie ereison.
· Walking my daughter down the aisle is a deep joyful stroll that concludes with a deep sorrow as I gave her away in marriage. The feeling is bitter-sweet as I release her to the next phase of her life and to accept the transition to the next phase of our relationship. I was in denial about the wedding for a long time. I am slowly learning how to relate with my adult children.
· Getting to know my son-in-law is interesting after I got over the shock of having a strange man wandering around in my house.
· It still trouble me what I think others think of me, but I am learning not to let it bother me.
· Being misunderstood is something that comes with the territory of a teacher/leader. People will only hear and read what they want to hear and read so I need to learn not to be too upset at being misunderstood. I need to remind myself to check whether I am pleasing the Lord or people. The temptation to please people is strong and so is the temptation to be popular.
· The pride I felt watching my second daughter ascend the stage to receive her bachelor degrees is humbled by the honour she showed us on stage by bowing in our direction (after the traditional first bow to the chancellor and the second bow to the dean of the medical school). This third bow is my daughters’ idea and I really appreciate the gesture.
· As my second daughter pick up the baton of practicing medicine, I wonder whether it is time that I lay down my own medical baton. Practicing medicine is fruitful and rewarding but is demanding and exhausting. I wonder if I have the energy to continue the practice.
· I find too much learning distances me from people. I prefer thinking about some obscure theological paradigm than interacting with people. And I prefer spending time in reading, writing and research than in building relationships with others.
· I look older than I am, and feel much older than I should. Yet there is this little mischievous little boy always lurking in the shadows
· I am deeply bothered by the state of my community, society, and country. I often feel despair but have never thought of leaving. In my despair I find hope in the Lord. Maranatha.
· I still have bouts of depression and suffer from dark nights of the senses and of the soul. I have learned in these times to sit, wait, and to embrace the darkness. The darkness of God brings light to the soul in due time.
· I discover that I am a systems thinker; seeing the big picture and able to find links between incongruent connections. However I am still hopeless with mental arithmetic and cannot calculate the correct change
· I need more bookshelves. Books, movies, computer games, and comics are still my love and joy.
· I enjoy travelling (this year we travelled to
· My family time with my wife, daughters, son-in-law, god-children and grand god-children are the most precious time of all.
Macrina Wierderkehr in her poem O Pilgrim of the Hours express beautifully my reflection lessons for this year.
opens on a new day.
You are invited
to join the great opening.
Open your ears.
Open your heart.
Open your eyes
to the sacred path
you travel every day,
the path of the hours.
Greet the hours
with joyful awareness.
Greet the hours
with faithful presence.
Greet the hours
with a reverential bow.
Greet the hours
with a sacred pause.
Reverence each hour
as a small steeping stone
on your pilgrimage
through the day.
Receive the gift
of seven sacred pauses.
practice waking up seven times a day.
(Macrina Wiederkehr (2008), Seven Sacred Pauses, Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 16-17).
Soli Deo Gloria
Monday, December 28, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Spiritual staged-development has become generally accepted in the last few decades with the acceptance of psychosocial development theories. Psychologist Erik H. Erickson identified that all human goes though eight stages of psychosocial development. Lawrence Kohlberg observed that there are six sequential stages in the development of human moral reasoning. Building upon this psychologist and Methodist minister, James Fowler identifies six stages in which faith develops in a person. However it must be be noted that Fowler definition of 'faith' is a universal faith and not the Christian faith.
In this book, Bruce Demarest, professor of Christian formation at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado seeks to categories spiritual staged-development into
stage one: putting our faith in Christ
stage two: experiencing struggles and doubts
stage three: coming to deeper faith
Demarest suggests that these stages are sequential and is an upward spiral. This is based on a model of the the spiritual life by Old Testament scholar Walter Bruggemann who suggests a three-fold pattern: spiritual beginnings (orientated), spiritual trials (disorientated) and spiritual renewal (reorientated). In a useful appendix, Demarest gave some examples of spiritual development or journey paradigms from ancient and contemporary sources.
While the idea of spiritual journey is not new, Demarest put it into perspective by using examples from the Bible and also some contemporary examples. He made it personal by sharing his own journey which include how his interest in spiritual formation come about.
His incorporation of the dark night of the spirit and the dark night of the senses (both from St John of the Cross) into the stages give a distinct flavour to the book. Where once Evangelical writers steer clear of Roman Catholic writers, now it is heartening to see them interaction with the numerous spiritual writers from both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox traditions.
This is a good book for those who wants to understand the Christian spiritual life.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Only one complaint though. It has no pictures!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 11, Number 52 (December 27 to January 2, 2009), is now available. The following articles are featured in this issue:
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Floating bookshop's sailing days are overPeggy Loh (Straits Times online)
AFTER sailing the seven seas for 32 years bringing "knowledge, help and hope", Doulos, the world's biggest floating bookshop, will bid farewell to the public on New Year's Eve.
|The ship has a crew of 290 volunteers from 50 countries, including Malaysia. — Picture by Peggy Loh|
Pasir Gudang, which she visited in September and October, was her second last port of call.
The ship is now open to the public for the last time at VivoCity, HarbourFront, Singapore, until Dec 26.
It will be open from 10am to 11pm today and 10am to 3pm on Christmas Eve. It will be closed on Christmas Day and reopen from 10am to 11pm on the last day.
The decision to decommission the ship was reached because it was no longer sea worthy and in need of costly repairs. Early indications are that the repairs would cost over US$14 million (about RM48 million) and take five months to complete.
Built in 1914, the Doulos is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest ocean-going passenger ship. For details, visit www.Doulos-last-Port.com.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Prices and coupon codes are good through December 31st, 2009.
Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible
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Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon
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Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, 2nd ed.
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Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study
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Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
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1 year subscription to
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I have my eye on the Word Biblical Commentary (56 vols) for some time. My problem is that I have most of the hard copies. So is it good stewardship to buy the soft copies for my computer.
What do you think? Shall I buy or not?
Monday, December 21, 2009
While there has been much discussion of spiritual formation on the Internet, much of it may be considered bias opinions and nebulous thinking rather than dealing with a foundational epistemology of spiritual formation. There is a great need to really define what spiritual formation. This journal is a major contribution. My only complaint is that its articles are not freely available on the Internet and its subscription is expensive to those in the poorer countries.
Why Jesus' Genealogies Don't Match Up
What the two genealogies of Christ, found in Matthew and Luke, are really trying to say.
By Grant Osborne
Is Jesus paternal grandfather Jacob (Matt.1:15) or Heli (Luke 3:23b)?
Interesting answers from Prof. Osborne. Grant Osborne is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.
Matthew's list resembles those used by rulers to justify their rank and status, and by families to determine connections to a common ancestor. Matthew arranges his genealogy into three groups of 14 names each. In Jewish gematria—a kind of numerology stemming from the fact that letters of the Hebrew alphabet were also numbers—names have numerical value. The three consonants for David add up to 14. So Matthew underscores Jesus' kingly ancestry by working in groups of David, or 14.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Stem cell therapies for hearts inching closer to wide use
(CNN) -- If you've just had your first heart attack, doctors may one day be able to reverse the damage done with stem cell therapy.
An intravenous method of injecting stem cells into patients who had experienced heart attacks within the previous 10 days suggested that this method works to repair -- not just manage -- heart damage, a recent study found.
Spiritual friendship, according to the great twelfth century English Cistercian Abbot, Aelred of Rievaulx is “mutual harmony in affairs human and divine coupled with benevolence and charity” (Aelred, Spiritual Friendship,
Firstly spiritual friendship has ‘sacred space’ that allows each of us to grow in our relationship with the Lord, with other people and with ourselves. The ‘sacred space’ is a safe space where we are free to make mistakes. It is also a space where we are to be non judgmental about each other. Therefore this ‘sacred space’ allows us to be ourselves, without the burden of putting on our false selves and trying to be someone else. In spiritual friendship there is an understanding of ‘agreeing to disagree.’ This meant that it is possible to hold differing opinions about politics, theology, lifestyle preferences, and cultural heritage without the need to prove ourselves right or to tear down the other person’s opinion. In many subtle ways, this will enrich our lives.
Secondly, spiritual friendship is a relationship with trust. This trust is about spiritual friends respecting each other’s confidentiality and privacy. It is in our psychological makeup that we need people we can trust so that we can open ourselves. This opening of ourselves is cathartic and results in our emotional well being. We need to be able to be free to verbalise our fears and desires. Confession is an important part of the process of repentance. Confession helps us to avoid the temptation of sidestepping our moral responsibilities. We cannot do all this if we do not trust our spiritual friends with our confidentiality.
Thirdly, spiritual friendship involves accountability. Spiritual friends are accountable to each other because they are brothers in Christ. Much of the problems of the world are the results of lack of accountability. Many Christian leaders fail because they do not allow themselves to be accountable to other Christians. Christian spiritual friends hold each other accountable in their spiritual life, thought fantasies, marital fidelity, fulfilling of promises, and management of finances. We need these check and balances because we are prone to self deception. The bible teaches that our hearts are very deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).
Finally, spiritual friends make very good prayer partners. There is a certain joy in praying together with someone we know and loves. Praying together reminds us of our dependence on the Lord. One of the highlight of my working week is the weekly lunch-time prayer with a spiritual friend. Spiritual friends are able to discern the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of one another other and to offer spiritual direction. This is especially useful when major decisions need to be made.
How do we seek spiritual friends? We start by becoming friends with others. Gradually we will come to be aware that certain people may become our good spiritual friends. We are comfortable with these people because they offer us ‘sacred spaces.’ We know that we can trust them to keep our confidence (not a gossip), are willing to be accountable to each other, and willing to pray together with us. The friendship of David and Jonathan is one such example (Isaiah 18:1-4). In my spiritual journey I am grateful for the friendships of many spiritual friends who live in many countries all over the world. I thank God for all of them. When you have a spiritual friend, hang on to them because they are very precious and very rare. You may even have to travel thousands of miles for them.
Soli Deo Gloria
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The francise holder of Star Trek continues to restructure the Star Trek universe in the original and the alternative (Star Trek movie) timeline.
Moving backwards in the original Star Trek universe, the Star Trek novels are picking up where the Star Trek television series, Enterprise was unfortunately and prematurely canceled after the 4th season. The 5th season was supposedly to deal with the Romulan War.
According to the Memory Alpha website
This novel continues the story after the novel Kobayashi Maru. The Romulans has perfected a technique of telecapturing Coalition (future Federation) ships and the climax of this novel is that Kobayashi Maru was destroyed. Kobayashi Maru went into Star Trek lore as the classical no win scenario.
The Earth-Romulan War, also known as the Romulan Wars, was a major interstellar conflict fought from 2156 to 2160 between the forces of United Earth and those of the Romulan Star Empire. Earth was assisted by its allies Vulcan, Tellar, and the Andorian Empire. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II")
The two sides knew little of each other before the war, and little after the war. Based on the limited state of knowledge that still existed in as late as 2266, the war was summarized as "Earth believes the Romulans to be warlike, cruel, treacherous; and only the Romulans know what they think of Earth."
The true situation was explained in this novel. Enterprise was escorting the Kobayashi Maru when they were attacked by Klingon ships telecaptured by the Romulans. The Enterprise has to leave the Kobayashi Maru behind in order to avoid being telecaptured. The telecaptured Klingon ships destroyed the Kobayashi Maru.
The novel The Romulan War tells of the early stages of the war. The Romulans are winning and the Coalition are having a hard time. Vulcan are abandoning the Coalition. One interesting note is that to prevent their ships from being telecaptured, earth ships are reverting from digital display to knobs and lights. This will make them look like Kirk's Enterprise which comes later. A very clever innovation for the continuity.
The novel makes for interesting reading but was draggy at times as if the author were trying to stretch it out for a few more books. I only wish authors will tell the story instead of trying for trilogies or multiple books. This novel emphasize the building of Daedalus class starship as a cheaper alternative to the NX series.
Friday, December 18, 2009
The latest from Thinking Faith...
iWitness: Christmas in the West Bank
As we make the final preparations for Christmas, there are many Christians in troubled areas of the world who will be unable to welcome Christ into their lives with the same freedom that we enjoy. Hilary Browne describes what Christmas is like now in the place of Christ’s birth, where last year news of violence marred the celebrations in already difficult circumstances.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Just when Hollywood seems to run out of box-office hits, Roland Emmerich’s 2012 succeeded in turning the tide. While raking in millions of dollars, the movie stands out in attracting the most disparaging reviews, ranging from “a total waste of time” to “two thumbs up”. Coming from the same Director of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, what makes 2012 so different from other disaster movies?
First, timing is everything. Unlike others catastrophic movies, like Armageddon or The Day After Tomorrow, 2012 predicts that the world is coming to an end within 3 years time. By adding an imminent period to the earth’s biological clock, the movie proves to work immensely well with an audience living under the sword of Damocles of the still unraveling global financial turmoil. From Wall Street to Main Street , bankers to brokers, fear has been the overriding emotion for the past two years – the fear of losing our jobs, our homes, and our livelihoods. Also, against the backdrop of “rain of biblical proportions” in Lake District , UK (as reported by BBC) and the recent talking heads reporting from Copenhagen , the time is ripe to take a hard look on earth-shattering disasters. Instead of providing a solution, however, 2012 deepens the fear, adding a twist to all the deliberation and empty talks. Sorry folks, this is it, there is no way of avoiding the end of the world.
Then, the place is the second twist. Unlike Armageddon, where the all American Bruce Willis joined hands with NASA to save the world, China played savior in this Hollywood sci-fi. Also, while the climatologist turned Whitehouse advisor (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) first discovered the world’s deadline in India and reported to the begrudging Whitehouse – as usual – it was China who acted on the delivery. At the end of the day, it was China who saved the world in 2012 – a new trick indeed! China , with her jaw-dropping technology and seamlessly orchestrated plan, not to mention her far-sightedness, patience, and inclusivity provided refuge for people from all nations, tribes and tongues. And in this case, China sacrificed herself in the process of saving the world. I was told that the original version has two scenes where the Great wall was swept away too but I did not see it in my version. Another trick inserted by the Director was, of the seventy over cities in China , it was not Beijing or Shanghai which was chosen for the secret location to build the ship but the mountainous Tibet . Three paradoxes are played out vividly here: (1) the strong and mighty like the Second-in-Command of the United States of America and the Queen of England came to seek refuge from the fragile, marginalized and often misunderstood savior; (2) In saving the world, the savior needs to sacrifice himself; (3) It was not in the capitol cities where the savior was hidden, but the quiet outskirt.
But what is the Plan? This, I believe, is what really distinguishes Emmerich’s latest flick from the rest, his previous ones included. Taking a leaf from Genesis – the first book in the Bible, the Plan is to have every living creature and some carefully selected people preserved in a very big ship when the world stops evolving following the deluge. In the Bible, the big ship was called the Ark , and it was built by a man called Noah (Genesis 6 – 9).
Had Emmerich been following China ’s aeronautical developments for the past few years, he would have named the spaceship Shenzhou ba hao. But, wait, why the Noah’s Ark Plan? The 54 year-old German director graduated from University of Television and Film Munich with a thesis entitled the Noah’s Ark Principles back in 1981.
Well, why then, did Emmerich choose China to play the unnamed Noah? Wouldn’t California – the hometown of Hollywood which is also governed by a Megastar-turned-Governor – the perfect blend to play savior? Pundits who suggest the quick answer of 1.3 billions cinema goers has got it only half right, for many – myself included – watched it through DVDs brought from the streets here in China.
Do the Chinese believe in the Bible? According to Emmerich, the answer is a resounding “yes”.
I have always been fascinated with future forecast especially in the area of science, technological, society and culture. I like reading books by futurists. Most futurists are system thinkers who sees trends in the present and are able to extrapolate these trends into the future. This book which was published in September 2009 deals with the future of biosciences. Most of us will appreciate that biosciences is the next wave of the future with its confluence into healthcare.
Bioscience is the new name for biological sciences that deals with the cutting edge technology of gene manipulation technologies, anti-aging modalities, cloning and pharmaceutical developments. The research and development of these technologies are expanding by leaps and bounds. It is not inconceivable that human life expectancies will be expanded to 120 years within the next decade.
The limitation to biosciences is not the research and development, the authors argue, but whether society can continue to support a large aging population especially if the life expectancy increase to over 100. The limitation is the resources for healthcare. There are four possible scenarios that can happen in the future. These four scenarios are the interactions of public perception of biosciences and healthcare resources. The public reception of biosciences can range from unconditional acceptance total rejection.
This is a well researched book on biosciences and healthcare resources. The discussion will be enhanced by a deeper discussion of globalisation and religious impact on social trends. However the authors are wise to limit their discussion to the North American context as their data are mainly from that region.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
MALAYAN ’ COUNCIL
SHOCKED BY SPM 10+2 EXCLUSIVITY
’ Council is shocked at the Government’s decision not to include Bible Knowledge in the 2 additional SPM subjects as announced recently.
This is despite repeated representations and memoranda to the authorities concerned since June this year.
In The Star Online news report dated Tuesday December 8, 2009 it was announced that the two additional SPM subjects are limited to Bahasa Arab, Bahasa Cina, Bahasa Tamil, Chinese Literature and Tamil Literature.
This decision appears to have been hastily taken without due consultation. It has unjustly excluded other subjects which are highly valued by ethnic and religious minorities in Malaysia.
Among these subjects are Bahasa Iban, Bahasa Punjab and Bible Knowledge. This marginalisation is a source of great consternation among the affected communities which constitute a significant percentage of Malaysians.
We urge the Cabinet, in particular the Minister of Education, to leave the choice of the two additional SPM subjects to the candidate. Surely, such an inclusive approach is more in line with the PM’s vision of 1Malaysia “People First, Performance Now”.
YAP KOK KEONG
MALAYAN CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS’ COUNCIL
Dated this 17th December 2009
(The Malayan Christian Schools’ Council represents the Mission Authorities of the Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Brethren, Presbyterian and Basel Churches)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 is the day 58 years ago my dear spiritual friend and mentor, Dr Helen Rosenthal, RSJC said her first vows to enter the life of a religious. RSCJ stands for Religious of the Sacred Heart in Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Sister Helen, as she likes to be called, still teaches Christian Spirituality at St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida in the United States. She is 80 years old but look not a day older than 60 years. Her favourite book remains The Cloud of Unknowing.
She writes a regular blog making her one of the oldest blogger I know.
I remember this day so well. I had a marvelous private retreat before it and Jesus was so present to me and I kept asking Him to let me realize what I was really doing when I took my vows and consecrated my whole life to Him. As I had had all the sports for the high school and seventh and eighth grade for the whole of my second year as a novice, I was allowed to go talk to the children that afternoon. I still remember standing on a bench so they could all see me as they crowded into the locker room; they wanted to see my vow crucifix and. of course, they had been present that morning when we were given our black veils. It was the octave of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and I had several days before going back to St. Louis to begin my active life as a religious.
I am privileged to have her for my spiritual friend, mentor and prayer partner. She is always an inspiration for me in her devotion to Jesus and her love for her fellow man and woman. Helen, you are truely the salt and light.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
One of the highlight of my New Zealand trip is to meet my blogger and spiritual friend, Pastor Paul Long of Kelston Community Church in Auckland. Paul blogs at Paul Long's Rambling. It is a wonder of the Internet that though we have been friends for many years( even before he left Malaysia), we have never met in person before! So I have really been looking forward to meet my digital friend in the flesh.
I really appreciate Paul taking a drive from the east side of Auckland to where I was staying on the North Shore on an early Saturday morning. It was a great time of fellowship and we hit it off at once. No sense of awkwardness. It is wonderful to be in the company of a kindred spirit. He is very enthusiastic about his calling as a pastor to this church. He shared his hopes and aspirations for this community of faith that he is shepherding. I came away from that short time of fellowship with the impression that if I want anyone to be my pastor, Paul Long will be the one. The Kelston Community Church is blessed to have him as their pastor.
Here's what he writes about me:
...I had a nice though short visit with Dr. Alex last week (he was in Auckland for a couple of days on the way to Ozland). Now I know another reason why he is into spiritual formation ... he can really draw all kinds of stuff out of me! (like a therapist) LOL!! Positive stuff lah ... no laments! And he gave me a stack of "Spiritual Formation the Run". Will enjoy giving them away soon!!Thanks, Paul for being my spiritual friend and my online community of faith. Good to meet you.
This list represents my own desire during this holy season to experience new birth in my soul, as modeled by that divine-human baby lying humbly in the manger. My main interest is in learning how to do discipleship, in finding affective theology to grow in me a more Christ-minded, thankful, wonder-filled, and kinder lifestyle. These are the books I am sipping tea over and steeping in this Christmas.
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St. Augustine: Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany
From the Paulist Press Ancient Christian Writers series, this splendid book of sermons invites us into the lives of the earliest Christians. Here, as the translator says in his excellent introduction, the "brilliant and profoundly spiritual" Augustine explores the divine mystery of the Verbum infans (the unspeaking infant Word) in fifteen sermons for the Christmas season, two for New Year's, and six for Epiphany. With great pastoral care for his congregation, Augustine expounds the Christian creed, exposes the heretical fallacies of his time, explains difficult passages of Scripture, praises God's infinite and ineffable mercy, and works to resolve his listeners' doubts—all in language that is accessible to the ordinary layperson. Above all, Augustine asks us to celebrate with deepest joy and gratitude the "wondrous humility" of the omnipotent and divine Word's coming into this world as a helpless human infant.
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Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons
Hanged on April 9, 1945, for conspiring in a plot to assassinate Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the most unforgettable Christian writers of the 20th century. He writes that Advent is genuinely celebrated by "those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come." This collection of his complete Advent sermons challenges us to consider how Christ's incarnation can transform our lives. It also includes insightful biographical information.
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Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St. Thomas Aquinas
Through the writings and prayers of this Doctor of the Church and founder of the Order of the Preachers (Dominicans), this Christmas book calls us to loving action founded on the discipline of daily prayer. Its devotions from Advent through Christmas lead us into intimacy with God. Each includes a reflection from Aquinas, Scripture verses, a prayer, and a call to action that helps us live out God's new birth in some practical way each day, thus emulating Aquinas's goal: "Nothing but you, Lord. Nothing but you."
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Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermons for Advent and the Christmas Season
Based on the critical Latin edition by Jean Leclercq and H. M. Rochais, this scholarly collection succeeds in being both engaging and readable. It includes an excellent introduction by Wim Verbaal, situating the reader in Bernard's 12th century milieu, when he was an unknown Cistercian abbot. It includes seven sermons on the Lord's Advent; six on the eve of Christ's birth; five on the Lord's "birthday"; one on the feasts of St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents; three on the Lord's Epiphany; and several for afterwards, all with this eternally vibrant theme: "There will be no lack of what you can do so long as you do not lack brotherly love."
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Martin Luther's Christmas Book
The well-known Reformation scholar and author Roland H. Bainton (d. 1984) here presents 30 timely excerpts from Martin Luther's Christmas sermons, nine Nativity illustrations by Luther's contemporaries (including four by Albrecht Dürer), and two of Luther's five Christmas carols. Luther's down-to-earth meditations on the reality of Christ's birth—Mary's cold and lonely stress, Joseph's misgivings, Herod's scheming, the wise men's questions, and the divine baby's naked accessibility—reveal the miracle of the Incarnation as a real event in history. Luther's message is that we should keep Christmas every day of the year.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Late last month, I made my farthest pastoral visit- 8,371 km (5,202 miles)! That is the distance between Singapore and Auckland, New Zealand. That did not include the distance I have to travel from Johor Bahru, Malaysia to get to Changi Airport in Singapore.
Meeting my old church-mate and his family is worth all the traveling. It is great to meet up with this wonderful family who has migrated exactly one year ago. Back in Malaysia, the husband and I served in the same church together in leadership roles. We were also in the same accountability group. During our stay, we are introduced to two other members from our home church who have migrated seven and twelve years ago respectively. All are hungry for news from the home church.
Whatever their reasons for migrating (and they are all valid reasons), it has not been an easy transition. It means leaving family, friends and jobs behind. It also means times of uncertainty and insecurity. In mid-life, they have to be retrained for new careers. I am happy that they are able to overcome all obstacles, and to observe that their family unit is now much stronger.
Makan is still an enjoyable activity and the table fellowship great. I am glad that they are settling down well and have found a wonderful church to worship with. It was good to renew old friendship and to catch up with each others' lives. Much have changed but much remains unchanged. They may be Kiwi now but they are still Malaysian inside out, and offers great Malaysian hospitality.
May the Lord continue to bless them.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Christianity Today, December (Web-Only), 2009
Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was a prolific writer. But apparently he didn't like to write. As he put it, "I love having written."
I admit that when it comes to Christian devotion, there are too many days when I say, "I love having prayed." I think of myself as a committed Christian, but many days prayer is more duty than delight, certainly not something I bound out of bed and eagerly begin. But I do admit to often being happy once I have prayed. It seems I like the idea of prayer more than prayer itself.
I know this is true because of the mental battles I fight upon first waking up. I often hear the enticements of the Enemy: Why not just sleep in; you deserve it; you've been working hard. You're not going to get much done if you're tired all day.