This has been a glorious July. I have turned 50, my first milestone of 2014. Nothing dramatic except that I have begun my Jubileeth year on sabbatical and expecting great things from God. I am staying in a new place and I am going to a new church. Everything is new as prophet Isaiah declares, remember not the former things behold I will do a new thing, before it comes to pass will you not know it? I have spent almost a month reading the Septuagint and everyday I am discovering new truths. This morning I read Zeph 3,4 (LXX) and it is said that the prophets are spirit bearers, not found in the Hebrew MT. The other mention of this word is found in Hosea 9,7 where the prophet is called a man of the Spirit or spiritual man. Could it be that Paul's teaching on prophets and spiritual men is influenced by Zeph 3,4 and Hosea 9,7? More on this in a later post. This has been a glorious July. My second sabbatical goal is to meet to fellow Christian brothers and have quality time with them.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
The book of Proverbs says that hope deferred makes the heart sick. I was beginning to feel sorry for Joseph Schooling as he lost several races until yesterday when he made a statement by clinching Silver in the 100m Butterfly. At one stage I thought he was going to get gold as Schooling went head to head with de Clos. And then I was treated with another great show, really icing on the cake when Jasmine Ser won 50m rifles at 1am, with the last shot, after 50 shots in all. I went to sleep happy. Why is competition important for excellence? Apostle Paul made this statement that "not everyone who runs wins the race, therefore run in a way that you may win". Is Paul condemning losers as second class Christians? I doubt it since Paul in another passage would extol weakness so that the power of Christ is made manifest. Yet Paul realizes that our spiritual walk is like a competition.
Monday, July 28, 2014
It is not often that I received two messages from Sabah at the same time. Both are from young pastors. One is preaching tonight in the biggest event of my homechurch, 5000 youths gathered for the Annual SIB Youth Conference. It must be the 34th or 35th edition. I must congratulate my denominational leaders for giving local talent a chance, a young man in his early 40s but with about 20 years of pastoral experience. I got to know this pastor in 1996 when I was the Executive pastor of SIB and when we visited our partner churches in West Malaysia he was one of the 2 pastors we took with the team. I am proud of him, obviously being given this huge honour to speak in this major event where normally big-time Indonesian preachers are invited. But we broke the tradition of relying on foreign talent in 1998 where the government refused to issue visa for foreign preachers during the Anwar Ibrahim saga.
Last night I watched the finals between the Malaysian and Singaporean table-table teams for the Commonwealth Games gold. Which team did I support? Malaysia of course. If only Singapore had more local or Singapore-raised players, I would be torn between the two teams. I am not anti-foreigner. My point is that we must develop local talent. I am not into politics and I am writing about the church, Christian leaders and theologians. We need to develop our local talent. So much effort is wasted to get someone trained as a PhD and then you don't appreciate them. How many local scholars have published with prestigious international publishers and then they are loaded with teaching and preaching assignments that they have no time to develop their research and writing skills further? I really don't see much vision across the land. I got a friend, a brilliant NUS graduate, worked for a few years, pastored a church and then obtained a PhD from one of the top UK universities and then he got paid less than a new graduate working in a bank, let alone a new law graduate who can command $5,000 p.m starting salary in a multinational law firm. We need to develop our local talent in church.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
The first part of 1 Cor 16 again informs us that Paul is consistent in his teaching and practice among the churches he founded. As much as the women's role in church is the same everywhere as in all the churches of the saints, likewise the practice of giving, especially to the poor is equally applicable in Corinth as it is in the Galatian churches.
Second, Paul seems to expect some financial support for himself from the Corinthian church when he said, "you can send me on my journey wherever I go." (V. 6). It is not entirely clear whether Paul's refusal of financial support is a blanket rule as far as the Corinthians are concerned or perhaps Paul did not want strings attached or regular support that might be seen as patronage but that occasional gifts for his mission could well be appreciated.
Friday, July 25, 2014
I continued where I left off and read on to 1 Cor 15. In 15,15 Paul expresses his fear that he and his associates are found to be "false witnesses of God". This is certainly an interesting phrase and self-description where in the Greek the word is "pseudomartures" which is made up of 2 words, pseudo (false or inauthentic) and the word, martures for witnesses. The verb martureo is a key word in the New Testament and Paul later uses it to make the point that they have witnessed that God has raised Jesus from the dead. Interestingly, Paul could act as witness and he included others beside as witnesses to the fact that Jesus was alive or had been raised. Paul had earlier noted that that the risen Jesus had appeared to 500 brothers and to James and lastly to him as one born out of time. Paul could be a true witness to Christ and to God who had raised Jesus from the dead because he had encountered and seen the risen Lord.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
No matter how you see it, whether you are an OT or NT scholar, the Septuagint should be the mainstay of every biblical scholar. For the OT scholar, he or she must know Greek because the Bible (our OT now) of the early Church was in Greek. I am astonished to find that some OT scholars have little idea of the LXX, that only shows the shallowness of their scholarship. For the NT scholar, the LXX is equally important because the Bible of most of the NT authors including Matthew and Paul was the LXX as they invariably quoted from the LXX rather than the Hebrew MT when they cited Scripture though I have no doubt both Matthew and Paul were proficient in Hebrew.
“And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches:for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home:for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor 14:32-40 KJV)
“and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor 14:32-40 ESV)
Returning to this passage in 1 Cor 14 that concludes Paul’s teaching not just in ch. 14 but also for the whole section on spiritual gifts commenced in 1 Cor 11:1. First, we should note that in the Greek, the word, “subject” (verb) in relation to the spirit of the prophet to the prophet in v. 32 is the same word translated “submission” (noun) in relation to the women in v. 33. Just as the spirit of the prophet is subject/submit to the prophet, likewise a woman is subject or in submission to the man.
Second, we do well to note that the order or peace that God desires in the church frames the passage from v.32 to v. 40. As God is not the author of confusion or disorder (v. 33), everything ought to be done decently and in order (v. 40). Paul has already mentioned about the order on how prophets go about prophesying and their ability to restrain themselves when called for. Now Paul addresses the question of women’s role or place in church.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
I promised several blogposts ago to comment on 1 Cor 14,32ff in some detail. When I read the passage in Greek and English again, it is still as forceful as I first understood the true intent of Paul's words in April 1983, almost a year after my conversion. I have not changed my mind since, and I am more convinced than ever the truth of Paul's injunction that a woman should not speak in church. First, I will quickly deal with the argument that Paul could not be forbidding women speaking since in 1 Cor 11 he had earlier allowed women to pray and prophesy, both activities having to do with speech. Paul is not incoherent or self contradictory as some have claimed. Women praying and prophesying are regulated in that they must be covered (whether it is the veil or long hair as covering is another issue). The exception does not prove the rule. Praying or prophesying is permitted of women as these activities do not intrude into the authority of men. Women inspired to pray and prophesying are to be encouraged but it does not over-ride the limits of the women's authority as Paul sets out in 1 Cor 11 and 14.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I whipped out my tablet with my Olive Tree App that contains the Nestle-Aland 28th edition with critical apparatus. I was having lunch with my former MTh student (who is going for his PhD shortly) and we talked about the importance of the Greek New Testament. We were encouraging one another on our recent discoveries using the Greek NT. I was reading the Greek text of Mark 14 while listening to Philip Jensen's preaching at ARPC last Sunday on the Lord's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. My eyes fell upon the narrator's words that Jesus "fell onto the ground" (in the Greek, epipten epi tes ges). Jesus, being sorrowful, fell upon the ground praying to the Father. It is here that Jesus' posture of prayer strikes me. I know that people fall on the ground to worship (bow down) and people kneel before the Lord in prayers. But falling to the ground gives prominence to the added dimension of urgency and desperation in the Lord's prayers to the Father. Falling to the ground points to Jesus' utter dependence on God and on his humility. It was when Daniel sought for understanding and humbled himself that he was heard by God (Dan 10).
Monday, July 21, 2014
Saturday, July 19, 2014
I am still in shock. Lightning has struck twice for Malaysian airlines and Malaysia. I went to sleep 2 nights ago numbed when I heard the midnight news on MH17. I woke up yesterday and groaned and sighed before the Lord, the second occasion I felt such intense grief and anger towards the evil in the world. The first time I felt such anguish was the news on Benazir Bhutto's assassination from a terrorist act. Now 298 people on an airplane were blown to pieces within seconds. O! the evils and horrors of war. Humanity never changes. The heart of man is desperately wicked. Just for a piece of arid land, an island out in nowhere they will fight and kill. Even as Scripture says, for a loaf of bread man will lie. With modern weaponry, the world is a dangerous place. Nuclear accidents could happen, and wars are breaking out in various parts of the world. Since I conducted my last seminar on end-time in March at PJEFC, the world is spiralling out of control. In Iraq, Syria, Libya, Gaza, South China Seas and Ukraine. In fact I was speaking about air travel and people going to and fro in the end-time (Dan 12,4) when the news of MH370 gone missing began to filter through (10am 8th March). Now another airline is bombed into pieces by warring parties in the Ukraine-Russian border. Politicians make decisions that determine the fate of nations, the fate of individuals.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I would not be writing this if not for unceasing media attention given to the NLB's banned children books depicting gay lifestyle. The media attention given to this issue is really overblown; soon Channel News Asia will be airing a special documentary on this. I must say there is unfair coverage on TV and newspapers where 200 or so gathered for reading at the Central library is given much time and prominence in the media compared to 25,000 signatures in favour of the NLB's decision. I support NLB's decision without question. I love our national libraries. In fact I am writing this from a library. I love books and I support all kinds of books and intellectual inquiry from various perspectives of scholars and authors. But we are talking about children's books. One can't even have sex legally with a girl under 16 years old even with her consent. This is heterosexual sex but the State rightly protects young girls and women under age from being preyed upon or in the State's view, could not give considered consent given their age. I am citing this as an example that the State has authority to sanction or prohibit certain activities by law. And it is still the country's law that sex between males is an offence, even for consenting adult males. The State's view is enshrined in section 377A of the Penal Code.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Monday, July 14, 2014
Saturday, July 12, 2014
I tend to pay attention to small details when I read Scripture knowing that even in its jots and tittles are nuggets of precious truths. In Acts 13,25 it is said that John's life course was being completed when he confessed Jesus as the Christ, the coming one and not himself. In Greek, dromos means a race, a course, or career even and John's career was a short one but most significant and meaningful. By all accounts in the four Gospels, John's public ministry lasted less than a year, some even put it as 6 months. He baptised others and evidently taught his disciples but his crowning achievement was to point people to Christ. At that, it is said that he had fulfilled his dromos.
Friday, July 11, 2014
Why are we not seeing more multi-cultural churches when the society around us is multi-racial? First, perhaps we are not praying enough. The house of God is a house of prayers and there is much cleansing work to do to restore the original purpose of the church even as Acts 2,42 states that they devoted themselves unto the prayers. Further, there must a concerted and constant effort to pray for the nations, pray for the salvation of each nation, not so much a political entity, a country but a people-group.
When Jesus was asked to justify his action of clearing the temple from money changers, goat and dove sellers, Jesus quoted the verse from prophet Isaiah that God's house is meant to be a house of prayer for all nations. Apparently two things were taking place in the temple precinct. One is that the noise and clutter of trade and money changers and the bleat of sheep and goat would have distracted people from focusing and praying to God. God's sanctuary is holy and is meant for prayers, loud cries and heart-felt prayers along with quiet reflection and silent prayers of the heart. Second, the temple courts were meant for Gentiles/nations to come and pray to God. This shows that for Jesus the whole temple complex is holy and not just the sanctuary with the holy place and holy of holies.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Jesus prays in John 17 that he has other sheep and they will come and become one fold. The other sheep is often interpreted as the Gentiles or non-Jewish nations. Many nations will become the sheep of Jesus and together with Jewish believers become one fold. The prayer of Jesus is being answered as we see many nations beginning with Paul's ministry in the 1st century until today in the 21st century. But we may do well to consider that this Jesus' prayer is still being said and in many countries await fulfilment as we see the trend of churches dominated by one culture or one ethnic group (the Greek word, ethnos means a nation or a people/grouping). We see churches dominated by a single race even in places where society in general is multi-racial and multi-cultural like those in Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore as much as Malaysia as Robert Kaplan has noted consists of a convergence of civilizations. In many instances, Singapore is even more multi-cultural compared to Malaysia as the former being a city-State has within a small space of 700 sq kms in all as many as 20 different races intermingling, jostling one another for space, working, playing and living side by side. Why are then churches so monocultural?
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
When Paul rebuked Peter and company for not behaving according to the truth of the Gospel, two central principles are brought to fore. First, the truth of the Gospel is not only a matter of belief, or believing the right doctrine, but more importantly right behaviour arising from understanding the Gospel aright - the truth of the Gospel. But in this blogpost I want to focus on the second truth, equally important that is the truth of the Gospel has ecclesiological and sociological dimensions.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
In Galatians Paul reveals his past and present conditions. Before he met Christ he was extremely zealous for the traditions of his fathers (Judaism) but how wrong he was, so much so he persecuted the Way thinking that his zeal had sanction in his religion. Today we see much extremism and violence committed in the name of religion and the traditions of our forbears. Even when violence is not practised in some circles, the traditions of the fathers seem to cause much division and hatred in the body of Christ. Each tradition and its adherents claim to have the truth or the proper interpretation of the truth. One can be a work-based devotee, going about promoting a certain diet and drinks instead of the gospel of salvation. One could preach grace so eloquently in the name of tradition, Reformed or Protestant but the life exhibited is anything but gracious.
Monday, July 7, 2014
Sunday, July 6, 2014
The gift of preaching is a gift from God. When the gift is operating and flowing, it is one of the most precious because it has to do with communicating God's heart and mind to His people. There is only one thing needful that is to bring God's people to Himself, his will and purposes through preaching. Even when bad preaching happens one learns something if one is humble enough. But today was something else. By the time the preacher opened his mouth I knew it was not his calling and not his gift to preach.
Saturday, July 5, 2014
What do I do on my sabbatical? I kept two boxes of my books, some I have not read but some are the Old Greek or LXX. I will try to read the LXX as much as I can during my sabbatical. I started with the Song of Songs this afternoon. The shorter books before I tackle the heavy stuff. I remember reading the Song of Songs as a teenager only 2 years after my conversion. I studied the book for several weeks. I noted all the different flowers, the flora and fauna of Solomon's garden.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
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