Sunday, February 28, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

A New Kind of Christianity

Top Story
Illustration by Daniel Chang
BOOKS
Review: Brian McLaren's 'A New Kind of Christianity'
Brian McLaren's 'new' Christianity is not so much revolutionary as evolutionary.

Future Trends of Global Missions


Learnings@Leadership Network suggests that there are

Eight Trends That Will Shape the Future of Global Missions

Many of these trends are very thought provoking.
  1. Mutuality

  2. Partnering

  3. Investing in leaders

  4. Combining good deeds and good news

  5. Greater financial accountability

  6. Business as mission

  7. Focus

  8. Technology


read article here

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 12, Number 09

Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 12, Number 09 (February 28 to March 6, 2010), is now available. The following articles are featured in this issue:

The Doctrine of the Word of God
Bible Problems
By: John M. Frame
Webpage PDF Word

The Gospel in All its Forms
An Article
By: Tim Keller
Webpage PDF Word

Our Need of Scripture
An Article
By: J. I. Packer
Webpage PDF Word

Presenting Evidence within a Van Tillian Framework
An Article
By: Jimmy Li
Webpage PDF Word

The Rent Veil
How There Came to be a Veil
By: Horatius Bonar
Webpage PDF Word

The Bondage of the Will
THE NECESSITY OF KNOWING GOD AND HIS POWER, Part II
By: Martin Luther
Webpage PDF Word

Random Glimpses of My Desktop (13)

Star Trek candy holder

Global Conversation on Muslim-Christian Dialogue

Christianity Today and the Lausanne movement have been conducting Global Conversation on certain important global issues recently. In March 2010, the Conversation is on

How should Christians who have a passion for evangelization relate to Islam? For North Americans, the question took on new urgency in the wake of September 11. But Christians in Muslim-majority societies have dealt with the question far longer.

Chawkat Moucarry, World Vision International's director of interfaith relations describes his commitment and mission in A Lifelong Journey with Islam.

I have never understood why some people look at dialogue and mission in either-or terms. In my experience, these words belong so much to each other that they should never be divorced. Evangelical Christians (whose theology I share) have shown an unwarranted suspicion of dialogue, simply because some have used it as a substitute for mission. Not only are the two words compatible, but they must shape each other.

more here.

David Shenks has this to contribute "My life motto as I engage in dialogue with Muslims is the same that Moucarry has highlighted (1 Pet. 3:15): Be clear in my confession of faith—Jesus is Lord. Give account of this reality to all who ask. Bear witness with gentleness and respect." more here in Experiencing Dialogue.

While dialogue seems to be the way to go, there are concerns. Evelyne A. Reisacher who had served for over 20 years as the associate director of a church-based organization in France called l'AMI, dedicated to facilitate Christian-Muslim encounters and assist Muslim Background Believers. She is assistant professor of Islamic studies and Intercultural Relations at Fuller Theological Seminary has this to say in Dialogue Shaping Mission Shaping Dialogue.
In conclusion: Has my perception of dialogue changed? Yes and no. The questions I raised prior to my first experience of dialogue in 2003 are still relevant and must be revisited each time I engage in dialogue. My commitment to Jesus Christ and the gospel has not changed. But dialogue is a constant reminder of the human face of mission: It helps us encounter Muslims as equal interlocutors worthy of being listened to and with whom we should respectfully share our beliefs.
How then does this dialogue translate to realpolitik?

Dr Ng Kam Weng, director of Kairos Research Centre in Kuala Lumpur shares about the situation in Malaysia "to explain the ambivalence of Christian minority groups toward Christian-Muslim dialogue" as a response in Building a Common Society.

Dialogue beneath the Gothic arches of Western universities should be welcomed, but surely genuine dialogue would gain more credence if it took place at the ground level, especially in countries where Islamic authorities do not feel the need to modulate their power so as to present an acceptable face, as they would when dealing with their Western counterparts. If indeed dialogue takes place, the Islamic authorities typically set the terms of engagement, reducing it to social rituals to confirm the dominance of Islam rather than to promote mutual understanding and respect. Naturally, local Christians lose enthusiasm for "dialogue."

It is not often so cut and dry about inter-faith dialogue in Muslim-majority countries as has been pointed out by Dr Ng. Read more here.

Nigeria is another country where is there had been violence between Muslims and Christians. Sunday Agang who is dean of the School of Theology and Ethics, JETS Theological Seminary in Jos, Nigeria comments on The Audacity of Dialogue.


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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Transfiguration of Jesus



The latest from Thinking Faith...


The Transfiguration of Jesus
This Sunday’s gospel reading is the account of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. Luke tells us that the disciples who witnessed Jesus’s encounter with Moses and Elijah were terrified by what they saw and heard, but Jack Mahoney suggests that this experience was one that nourished and encouraged them. What can we learn from this event, as Peter, James and John did, about the Christ towards whom we journey throughout Lent?

Read >>

Read also my sermon A Transfiguration of Love.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Will You Be My Facebook Friend?


Do you get irritated by people who invites you to be his or her friend on Facebook? Or are you happy to be invited. What if you decline? Are you worried about offending someone? Richard Baum of Reuters writes about How to decline Facebook friends without offence. He offers some suggestions

One is to accept the invitation and then use Facebook's privacy settings to limit the flow of information between you and your new "friend." To do this, you can create a "colleagues" list from the Friends menu and then add to it your new friend. Then navigate to the privacy settings and use the "Profile Information" section to control what information people on the "colleagues" list can see.

An alternative, says workplace etiquette expert Barbara Pachter, is to suggest to the colleague that you connect instead on LinkedIn, a social network for professional relationships.

"You can just go ahead and ask them to join you on LinkedIn and hope they forget they sent you a Facebook friend request," said Pachter, the author of New Rules @ Work.

"Or you can say, Thanks for asking me. I'm keeping Facebook for my family and friends. I'm asking you to join me on my professional network instead.'"

Pachter said that whatever you do, it's important not to offend your colleague -- and that's not just because politeness is good etiquette.

"The person you offend might end up being your boss next year," she said.

Ha. That's unlikely for me but I do like to make friends on Facebook. Each friend brings new aspects and perspective of humanity. For a student of human nature like me, that is a bonus. Some reveal too much of themselves while others reveal too little. Yet each life is of value and I am constantly being amazed at the diversity of my friends' interests. I am also amazed at how much time some of my friends spend online with Facebook. I assume they do have a life somewhere.

It is interesting that Facebook was started only 4 years ago according to Wiki but 6 years ago according to founder Mark Zuckerberg in his Facebook blog. This is because Facebook seems to be around like forever. Entertainment Weekly notes its value, "How on earth did we stalk our exes, remember our co-workers' birthdays, bug our friends, and play a rousing game of Scrabulous before Facebook?" This was also during the peak of blogging. Nowadays, many bloggers are Facebookers (yes, there is such a term. I checked).

Many Facebookers are also gamers. The top 5 games on Facebook today are Farmville, Mafia Wars, Cafe World, Fishville and Zunga Poker. CNN Doug Gross gives us the highs and lows of The Facebook games millions love (or hate). No, I have not played any of these games yet. I am still trying to figure out Star Trek online.

Facebook is a virtual watering hole for the gathering of the futurists, the nerds, the internet addicts,the technocrats, the lonely, the bored, the seekers, the gurus, the joyful and the sad. Facebook is a pub in L-space. It is also a place of interconnectivity for people to connect with one another, keep abreast of each others' activities, and retain a sense of control in our fast moving fragmented world. It is also a safe place to hide from intimacy and the emotional investments of a 'real' human relationships. As in the television series Cheers, it is a place where everyone knows your name!



Update

After writing this post, I read a blog post on Facebook Friendship by my Facebook friend Bob.

picture credit

Monday, February 22, 2010

Soulwork and Suffering

Two interesting and thought provoking articles.

Top Story
SOULWORK
Should Churches Be as Friendly as a Bar?
Perhaps people are looking for something else.


The End of Suffering
Finding purpose in pain.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review Roland Chia Biomedical Ethics


Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine and Dean of the School of Postgraduate Studies at Trinity Theological College (TTC) in Singapore. In this 2010 book which was jointly published by Genesis Books (imprint of Armour Publishing) and the National Council of Churches of Singapore, Chia develops his theological antropological approach to biomedical ethics. Chia has been instrumental in the writing of many of the National Council of Churches of Singapore's positional papers on biomedical ethics including organ trading and euthanasia. It is good that he now consolidate his thinking together in one book on biomedical ethics for the church.

This book is divided into three parts which is helpful in the way he develops his theological anthropology. The first parts deals with the theological foundations which he then applies in some current issues in bioethics in the second part. The third part is his suggestions for the role of the church in dealing with this complex problems.

This is a well written book and I am able to follow his theological discussion and appreciate his approach to these complex issues as a theologian. He notes,

The theological anthropology that we have been developing in these pages seeks to articulate a understanding of determinism and freedom proper to human beings who are self-transcending yet embodied creatures (p.51)

While it is understandable that this thin volume is an introduction to a complex number of issues, I have hoped that he has given more attention to the each individual issues rather than giving a general overall impression. For example, Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) was reckoned to be bad because of "medicalisation of procreation", "commodification", and "commercialisation of human beings". This is oversimplifying a complex series of procedures. ART includes In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). We have to examine IVF in light of his theological anthropology and to take into consideration the stigma of infertility in the Asian culture and whether IVF with the sperms from the husband, eggs from the wife and the fertilised ovum implanted in the wife's womb to be necessarily bad. The only shortcoming is that sexual intercourse is not involved. Yes, we do have to pay the doctors, embryologists and hospitals for the IVF services but could that be counted as commercialisation and commodification? (p.87-88).

In the section on abortion, Chia brings out the issue of whether abortion should be allowed in rape victims. While he makes a strong case that rape rarely result in pregnancy (which is not true), he however does not give the answer to this issue (p.99-100). I have hoped that he will.

The section on chimera research is well written and raises many questions. It is an area where more theological thinking must take place. Chimera research involves combining human and animal genetic material.

It is in the final section of the book that Chia gives us our money's worth. It is his call to the church to act, in being missional, teaching, counselling and being involved in public theology.

Public theology is based on the assumption that the creedal symbols and statements of Christianity have public meaning. Public theology therefore have to do with how the faith that Christian profess is linked with how they live and conduct themselves in society (p.200-204)

Chia argues that the church has a role in public policy. This is especially interesting to me as I have just read Tan Seow Hon's chapter on "Religion and Abortion in Singapore" from Issues of Law and Justice in Singapore: Some Christian Reflections (2009) which is published by Chia's seminary under their CSCA Christianity in South East Asia Series.

While the footnotes are helpful, it will be better if there is a bibliography and index to the book.

This is a significant book as this is the first book on the introduction to almost the whole field of biomedical ethics by an influential theologian in a respected seminary in Singapore. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who needs to understand biomedical issues (that means everyone especially pastors and church leaders). I will include this on the reading list when I teach my module on "Biomedical Ethics Facing the Contemporary Church" in June 2010 at East Asia School of Theology (EAST) in Singapore.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 12, Number 08

Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 12, Number 08 (February 21 to February 27, 2010), is now available. The following articles are featured in this issue:

The Doctrine of the Word of God
The Phenomena of Scripture
By: John M. Frame
Webpage PDF Word

The Gnostics and Jesus
An Article
By: Tim Keller
Webpage PDF Word

Incarnation - God Sent His Son, to Save Us
An Article
By: J. I. Packer
Webpage PDF Word

How Can I Be Sure
I Haven't Committed the Unpardonable Sin?
By: Richard Phillips
Webpage PDF Word

The Rent Veil
Open Intercourse with God
By: Horatius Bonar
Webpage PDF Word

The Bondage of the Will
THE NECESSITY OF KNOWING GOD AND HIS POWER, Part I
By: Martin Luther
Webpage PDF Word

Movie Review on The Hurt Locker


The Hurt Locker opens with a

"The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug."


This opening quotation for The Hurt Locker (2008) summaries the main idea of the movie. This quotation from War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, a best-selling 2002 book by New York Times war correspondent and journalist Chris Hedges.

The movie is about the experiences of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit in the early stages of the US occupation of Iraq in 2004. More about the story here. The title is slang for being injured in an explosion, as in 'they sent him to the hurt locker.' Bomb disposal is a very dangerous job and demands courage, knowledge and expertise from its practitioners. This is even more demanding in a post 'war zone' in Iraq where one does not know who is an enemy and who is not. It is nerve-wrecking just sitting through the movie and watching the actors in such situations. The movie is well paced and the actors are superb in their acting.

The concept that war is a drug may come as a surprise to some. It is not war itself but that war provides the opportunities for a being in a dangerous situations where fast actions and reactions are required. This is the adrenaline rush. These adrenaline rush where all our senses are sharpened, where we are in flight or fight mode, and where our mortality is at risk, is what some combatants describe as being 'fully alive.' Similar adrenaline rush are experienced by firefighters, police, doctors and rock climbers (and first person shooter computer gamers). And these adrenaline rush are addictive. The rest of living became mundane and boring by comparison.

Like all addiction, we can develop tolerance and need more and more of the drug to give the same high. The soldier in the movie portrayed an addiction to the adrenaline rush. And what happens when his tour of duty is over? Where does he get his fix then? Also as in all addictions, other people may be hurt. The theme of addiction to the adrenaline rush in wars is seldom addressed in movies where the maxim seems to be "war is hell" and "let's show more of it." This thought provoking movie is about what is happening to the soldiers in ground zero of a warzone.

The question then arises on how do we treat the veteran adrenaline rush addicts? This reminds me of the movie The Deer Hunter (1978) and Apocalyse Now (1979) which deals with a similar issue by showing the consequences of this addiction.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Movies of 2009

The Film Critics from Christianity Today online produces The 2009 CT Critics' Choice Awards
What do a war movie, a hot air balloon, and a post-apocalyptic father-son love story have in common? They're among 2009's best movies, as chosen by CT critics.
posted 2/17/2010


1. The Hurt Locker

directed by Kathryn Bigelow
The Hurt Locker is not so much a "war movie" as it is a movie about those who go to war. This character study looks at how the hell of war affects and even attracts those involved. Beautifully acted, written, shot and directed, this film goes beyond politics to show various aspects of the human condition.—Todd Hertz


2. Up

directed by Pete Docter
More than just another computer-generated cartoon, Up is a family-friendly fantasy that adults can love. Combining the whimsy of a Miyazaki feature with Pixar's acclaimed track record for storytelling, the film is brimming with humor and heart, resonating more deeply in a silent five-minute montage than most movies do in their entirety.—Russ Breimeier


3. The Road

directed by John Hillcoat
Less is more in this moving and terrifying tale of a father and son on a post-apocalyptic journey. Man and Boy cling to their humanity and each other in a desperate bid to stay alive, but not at all costs. In the face of temptations to trade their souls for survival, we see in starkly beautiful terms what being good requires.—Lisa Cockrel



4. Up in the Air

directed by Jason Reitman
Ryan Bingham, a frequent-flying professional hatchet man, gives us a searing and wickedly funny look at the effects of our jaded and relationship-wary society. With sharp dialogue, a surprising amount of heart, and one of George Clooney's best performances, the film wrestles with timely questions about commitments to work, family, and significant other.—Camerin Courtney


5. A Serious Man

directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
In this midwestern fable, the Brothers Coen make their most overt statement about the meaning—or lack thereof—of life. But it's emphatically non-pedantic, with a narrative you can't stop thinking about and knockout performances by a lot of actors you've never heard of.—Alissa Wilkinson



6. Summer Hours

directed by Olivier Assayas
An exquisite French film about the object- ness of art and the way humans interact with physical goods and spaces, Summer Hours overflows with observations that are delicate, simple and true, told with an aesthetic purity and humane sadness that is all too rare in contemporary cinema.—Brett McCracken



7. (500) Days of Summer

directed by Marc Webb
We're told up front that this isn't a love story. But like Tom, our erstwhile would-be romantic lead, we didn't quite believe it. With its finger firmly planted on the pulse of the twentysomething dating scene, the film is a clever tale of mismatched affections that manages to please cynics and hopeless romantics alike.—Lisa Cockrel


8. Star Trek

directed by J. J. Abrams
With six TV series and ten films, the Trek universe was so well documented that fresh, surprising storylines were rarer than quantum singularities. J. J. Abrams side-stepped into one of Trek's infinite possible timelines—and suddenly Star Trek was fresh, surprising, rousing fun again.—Steven D. Greydanus


see my review here

9. Avatar

directed by James Cameron
Not the year's best film, but hands-down the most visually spectacular, possibly of all time—especially in jaw-dropping IMAX 3D. But it's a good story too, with themes (if you look closely enough) of cross-cultural relations, of a love for creation, of compassion and empathy, and even of incarnation. And really cool special effects.—Mark Moring


10. Inglourious Basterds

directed by Quentin Tarantino
Dressed up as a violent Jewish revenge fantasy, Quentin Tarantino's bold and well-executed WWII rewrite is actually a smart, searing exploration of the power of story, cinema, and national pride. As you watch Hitler enjoy a bloody, one-sided propaganda film, it hits you that you're doing the same thing.—Todd Hertz


read more



Question: What are your 10 favourite movies of 2009?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Michael Hyatt on Leadership and Delegation

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers wrote an insightful post onWhat the Bible Says About Leadership and Delegation. This is a worthwhile reading and have important principles to follow.

  1. Admit that working non-stop is unsustainable.
  2. Understand your unique calling.
  3. Select qualified leaders to assist you.
  4. Give these leaders responsibility and authority.
  5. Only do those things which others cannot do.


read more

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Transfiguration of Love



A Transfiguration of Love

Text: Luke 9:28-36

Sermon Statement

The transfiguration of Jesus Christ is a God-event which affirms who Jesus is and encourages him to the cross. We can draw encouragement from a God who loves us that he plans for our redemption through his son, Jesus Christ.



read more

Anthony Egan on South Africa

In 2-11 February 1990, a ‘long week’ that shook the world, beginning with the unbanning of the African National Congress and other political movements and culminating with Nelson Mandela’s release from Pollsmoor Prison. This is akin to the tearing down of the Berlin wall, events that we never imagine will happen. Here Jesuit Anthony Egan SJ reflects on the event.




iWitness: South Africa: Twenty years on
Memories of the seminal events that took place in South Africa twenty years ago this week, which ended with Nelson Mandela’s release from prison on 11 February 1990, will live long in the minds of those who experienced the atmosphere in the country at the time. Anthony Egan SJ describes the reaction to this crucial chapter in the struggle against apartheid. How did people of faith see these events as a sign of the coming of God’s kingdom?

Read >>

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 12, Number 07

Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 12, Number 07 (February 14 to February 20, 2010), is now available. The following articles are featured in this issue:

The Doctrine of the Word of God
The Inerrancy of Scripture
By: John M. Frame
Webpage PDF Word

Tim Keller Reasons with America
An Article
By: Tim Keller
Webpage PDF Word

Knowledge of One's Sins a Difficult Question
An Article
By: Edward Payson
Webpage PDF Word

The Rent Veil
Preface to the Rent Veil
By: Horatius Bonar
Webpage PDF Word

The Bondage of the Will
ERASMUS’ SCEPTICISM, Part VI
By: Martin Luther
Webpage PDF Word

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tiger Millionaires

The sign of the Tiger is associated with money. So, it's always nice to know that you can relax and keep your money safe (especially when the tiger's looking after it!)



__________

Image Credit: bubblefriends@flickr.com

A Fascinating Box of Mandarin Oranges

Received this circular box of mandarin oranges for the Chinese New Year. The box cover has four movable parts.


the two eyes and horn may be moved to form the face of a lion


the eyes may be moved to form the symbol of a bat
which is considered lucky by the Chinese


the mouth opened shows the juicy mandarin oranges underneath

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Intelligent Design involves Intelligence?

Creationists and Evolutionists are a curious mixture. Throw them together and there will be more fireworks than in a Chinese New Year celebrations. Along came Intelligent Design (ID) and some Christians gave a sigh of relief. This sigh may be too premature as Stephen Barr, professor of physics of the University of Delaware points out in The End of Intelligent Design? published in First Things online

It is time to take stock: What has the intelligent design movement achieved? As science, nothing. The goal of science is to increase our understanding of the natural world, and there is not a single phenomenon that we understand better today or are likely to understand better in the future through the efforts of ID theorists. If we are to look for ID achievements, then, it must be in the realm of natural theology. And there, I think, the movement must be judged not only a failure, but a debacle.
Very few religious skeptics have been made more open to religious belief because of ID arguments. These arguments not only have failed to persuade, they have done positive harm by convincing many people that the concept of an intelligent designer is bound up with a rejection of mainstream science.

He concludes,
I suspect that some religious people have embraced the ID movement’s arguments because they want “scientific” answers to the scientific atheists, and they know of no others. But there are plenty of ways to make a case for the reasonableness of religious belief that can be persuasive to many in the scientific world. Such a case has been made by a growing number of research scientists who are Christian believers, such as John Polkinghorne, Owen Gingerich, Francis Collins, Peter E. Hodgson, Michal Heller, Kenneth R. Miller, and Marco Bersanelli. I have addressed many audiences myself using arguments similar to theirs and have had scientists whom I know to be of firm atheist convictions tell me that they came away with more respect for the religious position. Religion has a significant number of friends (and potential friends) in the scientific world. The ID movement is not creating new ones.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Random Glimpses of My Desktop (12)



Glazed porcelain figurine of Batman from the animated movie Batman/Superman: Public Enemies

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Cliff Richard's Twelfth of Never



You ask me how much I need you, must I explain?
I need you, oh my darling, like roses need rain
You ask how long I'll love you, I'll tell you true
Until the Twelfth of Never, I'll still be loving you

Hold me close, never let me go
Hold me close, melt my heart like April snow

I'll love you 'til the bluebells forget to bloom
I'll love you 'til the clover has lost its perfume
I'll love you 'til the poets run out of rhyme
Until the Twelfth of Never and that's a long, long time

Until the Twelfth of Never and that's a long, long time

Reframing Discipleship, Spiritual Formation, Christian Spiritual Formation


There has been much confusion about the meaning and usage of these words: discipleship, spiritual formation, and Christian spiritual formation. These words are sometimes used interchangeably by some teachers while others offered a more nuanced definition. Here I will offer some definitions of these terms.


Spiritual formation is the process of forming our inner spiritual beings (soul) which manifest outwardly as our character. This is an ongoing process which starts when we are in our mothers’ womb and continues until we die. There are numerous influences that affect our spiritual formation which includes our cultural legacy, our childhood experiences, our ethnicity, the socio-political environments in which we live in, the dominant culture in our society, and our social interactions with other people, including our family members. Often these influences act subconsciously by a process of socialization or enculturation. In other words, all of us are undergoing spiritual formation all the time, whether we are conscious of it or not.


Christian conversion (accepting Christ) involves a change in status by our justification by faith, and of the formative regeneration of our souls (sanctification). Christian spiritual formation starts after conversion. Christian spiritual formation is the process of the redemptive inner transformation of the character of a person to reflect the character of Christ himself. There are two components to Christian spiritual formation: (1) the work of the Holy Spirit, and (2) the willingness of a person to follow Christ in discipleship. Christian spiritual formation is a collaborative divine-human interaction. The influences that act on Christian spiritual formation are similar to those experiences by all living human beings. Additional influences are the formative practices of the Christian faith communities (Christian education) and the Word of God.


Discipleship is the part of Christian spiritual formation where we can be actively involved in. The Holy Spirit is ever willing to be involved but respect our choices and will not force us to be disciples. Discipleship is following and obeying the teachings of Jesus Christ and in doing so, we become Christ-like in our character. Jesus summarizes this by saying that, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). To be his follower, Jesus points out that there is a part about denying self, and there is another part about following him. Luke helpfully gives us some essential features on discipleship. These essentials are trust (Lk 9:37-43); suffering (Lk 9:44-45); humility (Lk 9:46-50); purpose (Lk 9: 51-56); commitment (Lk 9: 57-62); involvement (Lk 10:1-20), and prayer (Lk 10:21-24). However all these need the work of the Holy Spirit if Christian spiritual formation is to take place. We cannot will or discipline our bodies into spiritual transformation.


The purpose (telos) of Christian spiritual formation is three-fold reflecting the economy of the Triune God. Christian spiritual formation is (1) to restore image of God (imago Dei) within us so that we reflect the character of Christ; (2) to form a people of God –the body of Christ; and (3) to be part of God’s plan of reconciliation with all of creation (missio Dei). Christian spiritual formation is Trinitarian in basis as it is an invitation to join in the perichoresis or eternal dance of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


So let us embark on the journey of Christian spiritual formation, availing ourselves to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, and intentionally becoming disciples of Jesus Christ with “informed minds, hearts on fire, and contemplative in actions” until “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Self Whipping as a Spiritual Discipline?

Top Story
THEOLOGY IN THE NEWS
Why Pope John Paul II Whipped Himself
New book reopens questions on self-denial and "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions."


It is fascinating to read about this action of the late Pope John Paul II as he seeks to draw closer to God. Most Protestants will deplore the act but I think we need to understand the context and theology before we pass judgment. We, Protestants have such a fear of 'redemption by works' that we basically are offering a truncated Christianity, what is often referred to as 'cheap grace.'
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Musings about the Transfiguration

This Sunday is an auspicious day. Not only is it Transfiguration Sunday, it is Valentine Day and the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Like Paul Long's sermon preparation Let’s not miss the point of Jesus’ transfiguration, I am preparing a sermon I will preach this Sunday. Found some interesting facts about Raphael's painting, "The Transfiguration of Jesus."



The upper part The Transfiguration of Jesus by Raphael is an event reported by three of the Gospels in which Jesus is transfigured upon a mountain (one is Matthew 17: 1-9). Jesus became radiant, spoke with Moses and Elijah, and was called "Son" by God. Peter, James and John were with Jesus upon the mountain. The transfiguration put Jesus above Moses and Elijah, the two preeminent figures of Judaism. The lower part is a different scene from the Bible, in which the disciples fail to cure a sick boy.

Half-Finished Painting
A. C. Dixon tells us that when the great artist Raphael died at the early age of 37, some of his friends and relatives carried his marvelous painting “The Transfiguration” in the funeral procession. It was only partially finished, and they felt that because of his youth and the limited time he was allotted to use his creative genius, it was a symbol of life’s shortness. But the completed picture has a deeper meaning—a message that should impress itself upon all of us: life’s sojourn is fleeting and death sometimes terminates even our best efforts.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tan Soo Inn's Tensions for Youths

I have enjoyed my friend Soo Inn from Graceworks' sharing on speaking to youth. I was given a similar topic to speak to youth on numerous occasions. Unfortunately it did not get easier with time. Like Soo Inn, I wish I could promise them the future is rosy without no trouble. Unfortunately that is not the world we live in and I believe the sooner they learn about injustice the better. I am reposting the whole post with his permission as I am not able to link to his website. I believe all parents should read this.


Spoke to a group of Anglican youth last Tuesday morning (Feb 2nd). The topic assigned to me was a mouthful --- and important. I was told to speak on "Preparing to live out your faith in a real and broken world" to a group of young people between the ages of 17 and 22. As I looked at the young souls before me, I wanted to say "you must listen to this. This is important. You do not know what a fallen world will throw at you as you grow up!" But I didn't. Most of them had not gone through any life crunching struggles. I could only hope that they would remember the things I shared when they needed to. I could only claim for them the promise that God would not let them be tested beyond what they could bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Still, I tried my best to tell them a few things from my own journey and from the Word. I told them that the world is broken because of sin. (Images from Haiti were still dominating the media.) I told them that God entered human existence in Jesus, and that He knows the human condition firsthand. I told them that Jesus had defeated evil decisively on the Cross, but that the fullness of the restoration must await His return.

I told them that one of the skills they had to learn as they grow up is to be able to live with ambiguity and with tension. In this case, they had to be able to live with the twin truths that the victory over brokenness has already been won at the Cross ("it is finished" John 19:30) while the full experience of that victory awaits the new heaven and the new earth. They had to hold on to both truths. They had to be confident of the victorious power of God when the storms of life hit. They should confidently pray to their Abba Father and expect that Abba will never let them down. In a world that is increasingly secular, I wanted them to be confident of the reality, the character, and the power of the living God.

At the same time I didn't want them to be disillusioned if their prayers didn't get answered in the way they wanted or in their preferred time frame. They had to learn, as all of us have to at some point, about the utter sovereignty of God. He will still do what is best whether we recognise that best or not this side of heaven. I told the young people that there have been times in my life when I was totally perplexed by something that God did or didn't do. But I also told them that I had known God long enough to trust in His character even when I didn't understand His methods.

I wasn't sure if anything I said was getting through. As expected, with a group of young people, there was a lot of teasing and chatting while the talk was going on. I found this very distracting and I gave my usual spiel in such situations, that if the talk was not helpful they could leave the room and I wouldn't hold it against them. That worked for all of fifteen minutes. (Confession: I get stressed out speaking to youth which is why I prefer to speak to groups college aged and older.) I had some break out sessions with small group discussion, which resulted in more interaction --- and more noise. They did give me a thank you card after I finished. The card contained a number of notes which said that they had learned a lot from my talk, and had been inspired. I wanted to believe them.

In any case I closed by saying that there were two things they could do to fortify their faith for whatever lay ahead in their lives. They had to encounter the Lord on a regular basis through reading the Word. And they must have a few close spiritual friends to walk with. I turned to my favourite passage, the Emmaus Road Encounter from Luke 24: 13-49 and pointed that in times when God seems to have failed us, we need a friend to walk with, and we need to let Jesus sear our hearts with the Word. I hoped that if they got nothing from my talk, they would remember these two essentials of following Jesus: Scripture and spiritual friends. I think most of them did. And if they did, they would be prepared to live out their faith in a real and broken world. If they had these two things in place, they would encounter Christ in their brokenness, and in encountering Christ they will find healing, and meaning, and the equipping they needed to help others.
(Was I seventeen once?)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Befriending Our Inner Enemies

Befriending Our Inner Enemies

How do we befriend our inner enemies lust and anger? By listening to what they are saying. They say, "I have some unfulfilled needs" and "Who really loves me?" Instead of pushing our lust and anger away as unwelcome guests, we can recognize that our anxious, driven hearts need some healing. Our restlessness calls us to look for the true inner rest where lust and anger can be converted into a deeper way of loving.

There is a lot of unruly energy in lust and anger! When that energy can be directed toward loving well, we can transform not only ourselves but even those who might otherwise become the victims of our anger and lust. This takes patience, but it is possible.

Tony Siew's Seminar on Revelation (2)



Dr Tony Siew gave an interesting and insightful seminar on Revelation and the End-Times. The participants were very enthusiastic and excited about his chiasmatic division of the book of Revelation which helps in the understanding of this difficult book of the New Testament. His comments about the seminar is here.




SFI Seminar 2010/2


REVELATION & THE END-TIMES


Speaker: Dr Tony Siew


Date : 2.00pm- 9.30pm, Saturday 6 February 2010


Place : Berea, Holy Light Church, Jalan Gertak, Johor Bahru


A. Synopsis Of Training


Revelation is one book that understanding the form is vital in interpreting its contents. Like no other book of the NT, form and content fuse as in the book of Revelation. If we follow the literary markers used by John, then these patterns are not difficult to figure out. If we follow the temporal and chronological markers throughout the book, it is not difficult to figure out that John is concerned not only with the what (events) but also with the how and when these events will unfold leading to the coming again of Jesus Christ (cf. Rev 1:19; 4:1; 8:13; 9:12; 10:6-7; 11:14-15).


B. Areas to be covered


i ) Structure of Revelation, 7 Letters to the 7 Churches and the 7 Seals [Rev 1- 6]

ii ) 7 Trumpets and the Final 3 1/2 Years) [Rev 7-14]

iii) The Last Things - The 7 Bowls, World Economic System, Return of Christ, Millennium, Final Judgment and the New Jerusalem).


C. Speaker


Dr Tony Siew is an ordained pastor with Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Sabah, East Malaysia and has served the Church since 1994 before joining TTC as Lecturer in New Testament in July 2008. He holds degrees in law and theology, graduating with a PhD in New Testament from Otago University (NZ) in 2003. His dissertation on the book of Revelation has been published as The War between the Two Beasts and the Two Witnesses: A Chiastic Reading of Revelation 11:1-14:5 (LSNT 283; London & New York: T & T Clark, 2005).

Dr Tony Siew is an ordained pastor with Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Sabah, East Malaysia and has served the Church since 1994 before joining TTC as Lecturer in New Testament in July 2008. He holds degrees in law and theology, graduating with a PhD in New Testament from Otago University (NZ) in 2003. His dissertation on the book of Revelation has been published as The War between the Two Beasts and the Two Witnesses: A Chiastic Reading of Revelation 11:1-14:5 (LSNT 283; London & New York: T & T Clark, 2005).

Virtual Mentor February 2010

Some goodies from this issue. What is informed consent for experimental procedures? Do patients really understand the risk? How will surgical procedures progress if there are no patients? What about the harm during the learning curve?

Virtual Mentor :: American Medical Association Journal of Ethics | virtualmentor.org

(For best results, view as HTML or request text version from virtualmentor@ama-assn.org)

Virtual Mentor. February 2010, Volume 12, Number 2: 67-142. Full Issue PDF

February 2010 Contents

Ethics and Innovation in Surgery

From the Editor

Responsible Progress in Surgical Innovation: A Balancing Act
Catherine Frenkel
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:69-72.

Educating for Professionalism

Clinical Cases

New Devices and Truly Informed Consent
Commentary by Charles Rosen
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:73-76.

Prophylactic Bariatric Surgery
Commentary by Robert E. Brolin, Bruce Schirmer, and Angelique M. Reitsma
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:77-86.

Technical Skill and Informed Consent
Commentary by Robert M. Sade
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12:87-90.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Vinoth Ramachandra on Church Growth in Asia

The article was posted in The Christian Post and deserves some thought.

Much Christian Growth in Asia is Superficial: Theologian

Edmond Chua
edmond@christianpost.com

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010 Posted: 10:12:49PM HKT

The perceived growth of Christianity in Singapore and other nations in Asia is not an unqualified blessing in the view of an Indian theologian.

"Much of the numerical Christian growth in our nations is superficial," said Dr Vinoth Ramachandra in a series of lectures he gave at Trinity Theological College which the college compiled and published as a book in 2009.

This was the same year a South Asian Christianity researcher who was invited to give the lectures that year had concluded that the quality of the large number of conversions in recent years in Singapore is questionable.

“Large churches (including those that send out many cross-cultural missionaries to other parts of Asia) seem to have little transformative impact on their neighbourhoods and culture,” said Dr Ramachandra, stressing that the primary task of the Church is not ‘missions’ and discipleship – what he described as activism.

Rather the Church’s task is “simply being the Church; a radically new community in which social, cultural and economic barriers between peoples are broken down and men and women learn to love their traditional and personal enemies,” the Secretary for Dialogue and Social Engagement for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) said in ‘Church and Mission in the New Asia: New Gods, New Identities’.


read more

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Are We Transformed Yet?

Any article by Mark Galli is worth reading. I wished I have thought of the title first.

Top Story
SOULWORK
Are We Transformed Yet?
Why the spiritually mature don't talk about how God has made them spiritually mature.