Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Even His brothers were not believing in him" (John 7:5)

I have been thinking a great deal about the price followers of Christ had to pay in terms of frayed and strained family relationships. As for me, it was almost 15 years after I believed in Christ that my family (I have 3 younger brothers) began to accept me for who and what I am. It is too painful to recount some of the family conflicts (and misunderstanding) due to my confession in Christ and my giving up of everything to follow Christ. Being the eldest son in the family makes my position and situation in my family worse. But I thank God for a measure of love and unity in my family now. A couple of weeks ago, all the family except one sister-in-law spent Chinese New Year in Kuching, Sarawak.

A Serpent of a Sermon

On Sunday I preached from the key text of John 3:14-15 about Moses lifting up a serpent on a pole. As it was the last day (Cap Go Mei) of the Lunar New Year of the Snake, I thought I preached a sermon on the symbol of the snake in the Bible, covering from Genesis to Revelation. I prepared only 12 slides, mostly scriptural texts. I spoke first about the snake being a negative symbol in most instances but in John 3:14 we have a symbol of a snake as a positive symbol as the Son of Man was compared to the Snake lifted on the pole just as the Son of Man was lifted on a pole, the cross. Then I spoke about the negative symbol from the temptation of Eve by the serpent to Paul's admonition in 2 Cor 11 alluding to the Genesis' temptation account that we should stay focused in our pure and sincere devotion to Christ keeping our guard against the wiles of the serpent. The serpent's main task is to sow doubt about God's command. I ended with the exhortation that when we read Scripture and if it is clear we ought not doubt God's Word, but do our best to keep or obey God's Word by the power of the Holy Spirit which dwells in us.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Do not Despise the Lowly" (James)

I think it is in the letter of James that it is written that we should not despise the lowly and always be ready to minister and serve in their midst. Today I preached in a church, almost like a house church (literally) founded by a pastor and his wife to help the under-privileged and marginalized in society.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Labouring in Hope

It has been a while I have had such a busy week from Saturday to Friday. I could hardly keep my eyes open during the Colloquium, though I managed to follow the discussion on the Trinity and World Religions. The general view seems to be that the Spirit is at work in other religions in the world, but I thought one has to be more concrete and specific in speaking of the Spirit of God active within other religions. I managed to raise one question at the end, quoting John 14 where Jesus says that "where the Spirit of truth comes, which the world cannot receive, nor can the world see him or know him." I suppose any theologian that argues for the Spirit's activity in the world must contend with this Jesus saying. Although it does not say that the Spirit does not work in the world but what it affirms is that the world cannot receive the Spirit or know the Spirit. But Jesus in John's Gospel goes on to say that the Spirit is with you (plural, the church or body of believers) and because we know the Spirit we are able to see Jesus Christ in all his glory and the salvation that only Jesus can bring.

A Week that Was and Is

The glow of my ministry back home in Sabah continues to shine in Singapore throughout the week. As soon as I landed late Sunday night, I was already thinking on marking the LXX Greek exercises and getting ready for my Greek 2 class on Tuesday morning. Before that I needed to submit a report on a NT essay submitted by a prospective candidate in our MTh programme in New Testament. On Wednesday I lectured on John's Gospel from chs 5-6. Yesterday morning I woke up real early and after a short devotion reading a number of Gospel passages,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Message from the Heavens

The Year of the Dragon ended and I conducted an End-time seminar on the book of Revelation last week-end in Sabah in the Year of the Snake. It was a whole day seminar from 8:30am to 4:15pm. My home-church organized and hosted the event. It was planned for 200 participants. At the end, 430 people attended the Seminar. Perhaps the news on Friday night had an impact on some who saw how meteorites fell in Russia. See article by David Howell in Brisbane Times.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Year of the Dragon Ends

I thought I should post something about the end of the year of the dragon since it will take another 12 years before it comes round again. Not that I believe in the Chinese Zodiac but as a time marker and a cycle of life divided by 12, it is a good way to remember our age and no one is getting younger even as the Psalmist tells us to number our days and present our hearts for wisdom. The Year of the Dragon ends uneventfully for me. I shall be spending my CNY in Singapore for the 3rd time since I came here 5 years ago. The highlights of the year for me are as follows (photo in KL Oct, 2012, seminar:

5 is Grace

"5" is the number for grace even as Zerubbabel cried out, "grace, grace unto it" in the rebuilding of the temple. I thank the Lord for His grace, enabling me to finish 5 weeks of lectures. 45 hours in 5 consecutive weeks since the Semester started on 7th January. I also preached twice in the month of January in 2 churches and will be preaching 3 times in a row from next Sunday onward. I could not have survived these difficult weeks of getting up early or staying up late to prepare for lectures or simply taking a breather to relax from constant speaking. Yesterday, we ended the first part of our Semester with a Faculty lunch followed by a Faculty colloquium on "imprecatory psalms." As usual, there was some frank exchange of views among colleagues but all was done in good spirits.

Friday, February 8, 2013

1 Cor 11:10, "because of the angels": International Septuagint Day

1 Corinthians 11:10 That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels.

No wonder I was reading the LXX everyday for the past week. It's International Septuagint Day today. Yesterday in class while discussing 1 Cor 11:10 where Paul said that women ought to have their hair covered because of the angels, I remember reading Psalm 137 (ET: 138) in the LXX that David sang to the Lord before "the angels" while the Hebrew MT has the word, "gods." It seems that many of the difficult texts in the NT only appear difficult because English readers of the OT read them from the Hebrew translation and not the LXX. Yet the LXX is the Bible of the early church; the Bible of the Apostle Paul, Luke and even of Matthew who wrote the most Jewish of all Gospels. Matthew cited from Isaiah 7 where the word, "virgin" is found in the LXX but not the Hebrew MT.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mission of Futility (Isaiah 6)

Today at Chapel, the readings for the day were taken from Isaiah 6:1-10 and Luke 5:1-11. The Isaianic text tells of the prophet's vision of the Lord on the throne. These two texts, the commissioning of Isaiah and the call of Peter to be a fisher of men in Luke 5 are among the most influential in my own calling into full-time service. As for Luke 5, Peter experienced the power of Jesus in Peter's profession as a fisherman, so much so that the two boats were about to sink for the  large catch of fish. Peter did not take that miracle as some might do as an inducement to stay on as a fisherman since business was never better with the Lord's help but instead, he perceived his own sinfulness and in spite of it, the Lord could and would bless him in his work.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

New Testament Textual Criticism

Sometimes I wonder whether it is worth my while spending Friday and Saturday on sermon preparation if I have to preach on a Sunday. I am not preaching tomorrow and today has been a most productive day in terms of catching up on reading. In the morning I spent 3 hours preparing for my lectures on 1 Cor 11-14. I read 3 articles alongside the Greek of 1 Cor 11-14. My 28th edition NA Greek NT has finally arrived despite my having ordered it before Christmas from Amazon. NT textual criticism is something I need to continue learning and often times when I am not preaching on a Sunday I will spend time reading on NTTC. Today I started reading afresh Bruce Metzger's The Text of the New Testament (4th Edition) and also JW Childers & DC Parker's Transmission and Reception: New Testament and Text-Critical and Exegetical Studies (Gorgias Press, 2006). At the end of the day, biblical scholars are textual critics. We are text analysts. It's our job to make sure that our understanding of the Bible is derived from the best traditions and ancient manuscripts in Hebrew and Greek.

Head-coverings & Headship in 1 Corinthians

I required my NT 2 class to read a journal article by Mark Finney's "Honour, Head-coverings and Headship" JSNT 33.1 (2010) 31-58 for my lectures on 1 Corinthians 11-14 next Thursday. And also another article by Barry Smith on the Lord's Supper from Bulletin for Biblical Research. My classes in the New Testament (NT 2 and John's Gospel) read on average 1 to 2 articles per week plus textbook materials as well. Beside Gary Burge's New Testament in Antiquity, this Semester I am using Walter Taylor's Paul: Apostle to the Nations (2012) which I first read at Otago University Central Library early December last year. The photo here is taken from Alberto Angela's A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome.

Friday, February 1, 2013

John Walton's Genesis lectures

It was not one of the best lectures held at TTC. Prof Walton proposed a non-material creation account in Gen 1. I am not sure what he makes of God's creation of sea monsters and animals. Are they also non-material? Further, he proposed that God was making a temple and Adam and Eve were priests. Again I beg to differ. Adam and his wife were told to till and keep the garden of Eden, a kind of working the land/earth. God resting on the 7th day is like God saying that His creation is good and that Adam with his wife Eve are commanded to rule over God's creation. Dr Walton's take on Eve as almost half of Adam was another intriguing idea but it is not supported by the text. Sure it was part of Adam, a side of him, his flesh and bone. God filled the rib he took from Adam with flesh and made Adam whole after divine surgery was performed on him. With Adam's rib God built the woman and this woman was called Eve who became Adam's wife. After listening to the lectures I spent the rest of the day reading my Hebrew text and LXX of Gen 1-3 and came to the conclusion that Dr Walton's theory lacked textual basis and therefore does not hold good even as God's creation is good and even very good.