Saturday, May 31, 2014

Do Pentecostals Have Room for Prophets?

You may think that I have mistakenly framed the question since it is well-known that Pentecostals believe in prophets and many among their ranks have claimed to be prophets or to be exercising a prophetic ministry. But I am not mistaken because the many good things in Pentecostalism have shades of grey and those who have been long enough among Pentecostal circles will perhaps think that there is a dark side to the movement.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Do Evangelicals Have Room for Prophets?

Christianity Today has an article titled, "Do Evangelicals Have Room for Prophets?" (see here). I quote, "Let's be clear: Prophets can be annoying. They look at the status quo and wonder why it can't be different. They are impatient for change and are driven by a vision for something better, something clearer, than the rest of us normally see. Perhaps like the biblical prophets, they are driven by a vision for justice or compassion or righteousness that compels them to take risks in order to sound the alarm or heighten the community's consciousness."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ascension of Jesus & the Apostolic Church

Today is Ascension Day. It is a public holiday in Indonesia (Hari Kenaikan Isa Al-Masih). The Ascension of Jesus completes the work of God from the birth of Jesus, his life and ministry culminating in his death on the cross and his resurrection on the 3rd day. The ascension is the climax of Christ's life - once descending from the Father and now ascending to the Father in glory. The ascension of Christ has two major theological imports. First, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit only comes at Christ's exaltation on the right hand of the Father (Acts 2). Jesus ascends to the Father in order to receive the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. And on Pentecost, the 10th day after the ascension, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit to his disciples and the early church in Jerusalem. The pouring out of the Spirit completes the Trinitarian cycle of God's work and hence, all believers are to be baptised in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19-20) so that every believer will experience the fullness of salvation in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. From now, the Christian has the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, first making him a child of God the Father, a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son and filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue to do the works of the risen and ascended Jesus on earth. The second most important theological import of the Ascension is the giving of gifts to the Church. In the pouring out of the Gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), gifts are also poured out for the church. Out of the Holy Spirit, who is at once one with the Father and the Son, but is multi-dimensional in its working as if there are seven Spirits (Rev 1; 5) or seven facets on that one stone (Zech 3-4).

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Music is the Language of God

I think this is a line from Beethoven, if I am not mistaken. As much as I feel that many Pentecostals and charismatics have gone overboard in terms of noise and speaker volume, there is no doubt that music and song is the stuff of the gods. We know that there is only one God revealed through Jesus Christ. But who is this God and how is He worshipped? If you look at David, from young he was already a skilled harpist and an accomplished musician. Why did God love David? It must be because of David's songs and sweet melodies, most of which are now what we have as the Psalms. A song pleases You, O Lord more than a thousand bulls and rams. Do we have that excitement when we worship God? Look at David, how he danced and whirled like a common man, despised by his Queen but honoured by the King of Kings, God himself.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cicero on Old Age

I was inspired by Bishop Ambrose's De Officiis (On the Duties of the Clergy) to read Cicero's De Officiis (translated by PG Walsh as On Obligations) and now I am reading Cicero's Old Age - "Great deeds are not done by strength or speed or physique: they are the products of thought, and character, and judgment" (VI, 15). Cicero also shares how in Cato's latter years, the elder statesman learned how to read Greek (there is yet hope for me!). "Early adulthood is naturally rash; sound sense only comes with advancing years."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Scholar's Leisure

I have no doubt of the manifold grace of God, giving me an inquisitive mind, a largeness of heart to examine things, in fact many things. One could think of Solomon that his wisdom is as vast as the sand of the sea and there was no topic that escaped his notice. Whether one is gifted or not is something hard to gainsaid since the fruits of wisdom and knowledge are there for all to see. The lips of the knowledgeable are a rare jewel. When one finds that treasure, it is to be treasured like one having found a costly pearl sells everything and buys the pearl. Wisdom is costly and it comes with a price as Scripture says, "Buy the truth and sell it not."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Coins & Credit Cards

The process is set in motion. My first item of packing is making sure my finances are in order and I duly deposited all my coins collected and kept over 6 years in a coin-counting machine near Hougang yesterday. I did not realize the charges were exorbitant and I lost $8.00 for $75.00 worth of coins. That's how the banks make hundred of millions each year. I proceeded to my two banks where I hold one Visa and another Master credit card to make sure if I needed to cancel my cards there will be no fees and I know the deadline for doing that. For 5 years I only have one credit card but last year I took up a POSB Everyday card for shopping convenience, one may tap and go for anything less than $100.00. Further, it is free for 2 years and the annual fees are less than $40.00, probably the cheapest card around. If you want to keep to discretion and a well-ordered life, you need to manage your finances carefully. Obviously, I am earning enough income to make ends meet and some spare as well (by God's grace), but one has to be frugal and make do for the sake of the Gospel. Yesterday, when one departing student whom we sent off at Changi suggested Starbucks coffee, I took them to Wang's and I have a discount card for dining and coffee there. I am not going to spend $6.00 (RM 15.00) for a cup of coffee when half of the population of India (600 million) spend less than that for a whole day's living. Really financial management is a key to successful living, moderation in all things and not get into debt in whatever form if that is at all possible.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cards in a City

Have cards will travel. This evening I received a travel card, AMTC, Adult travel monthly concession costing $120.00. I don't think I spend up to $100.00 a month on travel on buses and MRT, but it was good for a kind of souvenir of my sojourn in Singapore, whether it will be my last month in June or the beginning of many months in the Lion city. I am amazed how efficient and orderly Singapore is. Last night I travelled back from Takashimaya bookstore and took bus 700 to Bukit Panjang. It was choking full but no one seemed to mind just quietly queuing and minding their own business. I have observed often times foreigners, maids giving up their seats to those in need. But sad to say young Singaporeans rarely make the effort to give way to the old and women folks, our aunties. Just last week I gave up my seat to a young woman who had a mask on. I thought she could be ill, so I offered my seat. I read about a Caucasian woman heavily pregnant and squatting in a MRT without anyone caring.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Boxes & Books

Three months ago I saw my departing colleague packing his books and things and he is all ready to go. But I have not packed a single thing as of today. But this evening I saw some empty boxes at Popular Bookstore and I duly took them with the store's kind permission. Five boxes could hold a quarter of my books and I need 15 boxes more. No wonder Jesus said, "How difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." Camels are beasts of burden; they carry the owners' possessions and when the possessions are too many and the camel is heavily loaded, the animal could not get through the gates of a city which in most cases are only 3 to 4 feet wide.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Tale of 3 Sermons

I preached 3 times yesterday and by the third service, I felt my feet giving way and I had to sit down several times during worship. Often-times, you know how you have gone in preaching. I thank the Lord that at 8am when I started preaching, I felt a strong surge of God's power and I spoke without notes and the text was my notes and my mouth was a ready instrument in the Lord's hand. The second sermon was solid but not as dynamic as the first though there were moments which I felt a sense of empowerment and anointing which touched many lives. The first took 32 minutes, the second, 35 minutes and I thought the third I would limit it to 30 minutes but it went for 40 minutes. The Lord was strong and mighty and His Spirit worked powerfully through his servant that the Word of God was spoken in clarity and to the point. It wasn't easy preaching about the last 7 bowls of judgments according to Rev 16. I began by explaining the structure of Revelation into 7 major divisions in a chiastic arrangement or a menorah model. In the first 2 services I also explained the chiastic structure of Daniel 2-7 as the OT counterpart to NT's Revelation. I felt good after the third message, all because the Lord was at work; it was not me but the anointing teaches everyone and I was simply His "handmaid", the bride who rejoices at the voice of the bridegroom and as the bridegroom's friend rejoices even more when people are drawn to Jesus and not to the speaker. If I preach the good news willingly, I will receive a reward and "woe unto me if I don't preach." I spoke about the 3 challenges of today - the generational, technological and cultural changes that we are experiencing in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.

A Man of a Calling

Bernard Cottret remarks this of John Calvin, "Calvin was a man of a calling and of uncompromising resistance." "In Geneva's insularity he found a refuge and an asylum; from there he drew his energy, his inspiration, his reasons for hope."(p. 157). Cottret goes to to say, "His correspondence shows us the hidden face of the ecclesiastical organizer - nervous, sensitive, troubled, and also ironical. He was also a stylist, who used writing to recover that peacefulness of soul that lucidity produces." (p. 158). I felt strongly encouraged by the last line that it has been writing through blogging that has brought a measure of tranquillity to my soul in these past months. Besides blogging, reading the life of Calvin (3rd biography in 12 months) has been my stay.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

5 Talents Become 10 Talents & More

This morning I had this wonderful one hour quiet time before I read my draft sermon to prepare for a 7.30am service. I read Matthew 25 and Jesus' parable about the talents - one given 5, the second, two and the third, 1 talent. One talent is not little but worth a weight in gold. This parable teaches us that every believer has at least one gift and this gift is not something minor but something significant and when used accordingly can bring great results. As we know, the first 2 servants are praised for their industriousness, the 5 achieving 5 more talents, making it 10 and the 2 also doubling his productivity and gains two more talents. But the one with one talent appears lethargic and folds his arms and refuses to trade but instead hides his talent. The result is that the servant is called, "wicked and lazy" and punished accordingly and has his one talent taken away. By logic, it appears more just to give the talent to the one with 4 talents (2 + 2) since he has less than the one with 10 talents but Jesus goes on to announce that this one talent from the lazy servant is given to the one with 10 talents with the attendant saying that, "to the more, more will be given so that he can have even more". It assumes that the 10-talent person could produce even more, perhaps exponentially and bring much glory to his Lord.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dialogues of Plato

I was reading the dialogues of Plato a couple of days ago alongside Kaplan's Asia's Cauldron. Plato, being disillusioned with the political establishment that put his teacher, Socrates to death, Plato decided against a political career and left Athens to travel and reflect. After more than a decade he returned to Athens to found the Academy where he taught and continued Socratic traditions until his death. That took place 400 years before Christ but many great men since then and until today have found it hard to fit within the establishment, even so-called Christian establishment. Like Soren Kiergegaard of Denmark in the 19th century who wrote much against the Church and Christianity in Denmark. I look upon Plato, Kiergegaard and John Calvin, the latter being a French refugee persecuted by the established Church and had to settle in Geneva and only several years before his death was granted honorary citizenship of Geneva. Hence, Calvin served for nearly 30 years as a foreigner in the midst of Genevans and the many migrants of his day, mostly "Protestants" who had to flee their homelands in search of a place where religion and godliness could flourish.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The South China Sea & The End of a Stable Pacific

Robert Kaplan's book of the same title just released 2 weeks ago proved to be prophetic as we are now witnessing conflicts between China and Vietnam over Paracel islands in South China Sea. Last night I took the opportunity to ask a Vietnamese student who just arrived from Ho Chi Minh city about the situation near Saigon where people were killed over protest against China's oil rig at the disputed South China Sea waters.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

New Testament 2 Exams On Now

Section A (Paul's Letters)
1. Discuss how Paul uses Scripture in 1 & 2 Corinthians.
2. Do you think that the kind of homosexuality condemned by Paul in Romans 1 is primarily pederasty? Answer the question with reference to Paul's teachings in the NT corpus and Sarah Ruden's article.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ready for A Year, A Month, Day and Hour (Rev 9.15)

Two years ago I was ready to move on. Then when it was certain I planned for 3 semesters of electives, the Fourth Gospel, Romans and Revelation. From years it came down to months and weeks. Now there are only 40 days before I had to move out to somewhere but where it is, is still unknown.Years, months, weeks and now days. When the sixth trumpet blows, the four angels are said to have been prepared for "this hour, day, month and year" (Rev 9.15).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Geography & Geopolitics

I don't like public holidays in Singapore. The libraries are closed today. It has been my practice that after dinner a visit to the library is a must. I borrow many books from the public libraries of Singapore. Yesterday at Jurong Regional Library I borrowed Robert Kaplan's books, one titled, Monsoon and the other, Revenge of Geography. Speaking of geography, it was my favourite subject during SPM or O levels. I loved maps, atlases and landscapes of countries and continents. Kaplan's books are about geography of states and regional hubs and how geopolitical alignment and potential conflicts between states has to do with geography.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Earthquakes, Natural Disasters & Globalisation

I did not expect the figures to be so high. "Since the millennium, more than 2.3 billion people have been directly affected by natural disasters..." so says the first line of Debarati Guha-Sapir & Indhira Santos (eds.), The Economic Impacts of Natural Disasters (Oxford UP, 2014?). That kind of population impact is close to a third of world population currently at 7.15 billion. Remarkably, the birth pangs attending the end-time events speak of events affecting only a quarter of the earth (Rev 6) including great earthquakes in Luke 21. The end-time could be upon us sooner than we think, though I would personally advise caution unless we see a convergence of not just earthquakes and natural disasters but famine, pestilence and deaths resulting from wars.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Marking Milestones: Spirit's Pentecost

I preached the New Year's Watch-night service on the 31st Dec 2013 with the sermon title, "Marking Milestones". Today I celebrate and rejoice in the fact that I was baptized in the Spirit 32 years ago in a Christchurch flat while praying with my brothers and sisters in Christ one late afternoon on Sunday. The following day, Monday I was baptized in water in a church, all done within 17 days of my encounter with Christ. My experience was more like Cornelius and his household who were baptized first with the Spirit before water baptism (Acts 10). Otherwise, the general pattern follows after Peter's inaugural sermon in Acts 2:38, "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." I knew then and I know now that what happened in the Acts of the Apostles could also happen to us and to churches that seek God.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic

I have not read a book by John Shelby Spong since my undergraduate days in theology some 20 years ago. But today I came across a book I could not resist buying, 30% of the usual price at BORDERS, Westgate, Jurong East. Since I was going to focus on John's Gospel in the next 6 weeks, I thought I read something recent (2013) and having read the first chapter, I already have many things which I would take issue with Spong and his analysis of the Gospel. But I will keep an open mind and read through to the last page.

John's Gospel: Politics of Place & Radical Discipleship

I have been in and out of the library whole morning. I have decided what I wanted to do for the next 6 or 7 weeks before bidding farewell to TTC's magnificent library. I should have been more bold and asked the Principal for life-long membership during last Monday's farewell or at least for the next 6 years, one for each year of my service here. I knew there is plenty for me to do but I need to get cracking and hone in to a topic of research. The Gospel of John it will be. I read this remarkably refreshing essay by Jeffrey Staley, "The Politics of Place and the Place of Politics in the Gospel of John", in Segovia (ed.), What is John? (SBL, 1998) where Staley shares his experience of moving from one place to another.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Set & Sealed

I had a final tweak to my exams paper for NT 2 this morning which I set two months ago. Now it is set and sealed and there will not be further changes. It is going to be a difficult exams, hence I have given the students the open book option - bring what you want, prepare what you can and write or type what you will and give me your answers in 3 hours, come 15th May. It will be my finale as lecturer in New Testament, a post or title that I am unsure whether I will ever hold again.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Not Welcome in one Place, go to another Place"

I was reading the Gospel of Mark this afternoon and came upon Jesus' saying on how his disciples should react when they are not welcome in a particular place. Perhaps I have often assumed that if the city does not welcome you, you move on to another city according to Matthew's Gospel. Mark's Gospel has the word, topos which is a slightly different reading from the other gospels. Jesus' disciples just needed to move from one place to another, but not necessarily leave the city when they are rejected in one particular location. I think in big cities of the world today, one may find a section of the city unwelcoming but a move to another section of the city might bring a welcome change. As for me, for the past six years during which I have been a College lecturer, I have seldom ventured outside the College compounds except on Sundays when I travel to different parts of Singapore to preach. Until last week, I have never entered an HDB flat (yes, 6 years!!).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Eagle Festival & Farewell

I was given two farewell cards, one yesterday by my Faculty colleagues and one today by a former student. Both cards have eagles printed in front. When I left my pastorate in 2008, the SIB Chinese congregation in KK also gave me a book about eagles. The other card has the caption, "Eagle Festival" in Mongolia where hunters use eagles as their hunting guides.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Last Leg & Lifted on their Shoulders (Ezek 12:6-7 LXX)

This morning I read Ezekiel again for my devotions. I chanced upon the passage where Ezekiel was commanded to pack his bags and go into exile in the sight of his countrymen. The LXX has a different reading to the Hebrew MT: "And you, Son of Man, pack bags for yourself for exile by day, and you are to be taken captive from your place to another place in their are to carry out your bags, by day in their sight,..for I have made you a sign for the House of Israel, shall be lifted up on people's shoulders...I was lifted up on their shoulders in their sight" (Ezek 12:3-7 LXX). Interestingly, the LXX has Ezekiel being lifted up on the people's shoulders as if the people are carrying Ezekiel and his bags from one place to another. This reminds me of Aeneas who carried his father on his shoulders when they escaped from Troy. Was Ezekiel incapacitated so much so he could not walk on his own? Or is it a sign that Israelites as a whole would be devastated to the extent that they could not even walk on their own into exile but had to be carried away or dragged along by their captors?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"I saw Visions of God" (Ezekiel 1)

Ezekiel the prophet introduced his prophecies by claiming that he saw visions of God. Not just one vision but multiple visions when God first appeared to him at the river Kebar. He was 30 years, 4 months and 5 days old (Ezek 1:1). Ezekiel prophesied for more than a quarter of a century. From before the people of Judah were exiled, to the fall of Jerusalem, exile and even when they were settled in exile, Ezekiel prophesied to his countrymen without fail. Not that they liked him or took him as prophet for there must be considerable scepticism since the refrain in Ezekiel is that "whether they listen or not, they will know that there is a prophet in their midst." How they knew is not made explicit but perhaps their rebellious hearts told them that God's prophet was in their midst even when they chose to ignore the prophetic word. The prophet Ezekiel must have been sustained in his prophetic ministry by the visions of God; he had such intimate knowledge of the God who called him to be watchman, a sentinel to the house of Israel, to warn the people of God's impending judgement.

Cottret's Calvin

He will do no wrong if he selects Bernard Cottret's Calvin: A Biography to get an introduction to John Calvin's life. It is one of the best biographies I have read on Calvin in recent years, better than Bruce Gordon's Calvin which I read a couple of years ago. John Calvin's life more than anyone else has been my inspiration for many years. Not that I see myself anything like this great reformer, but his youth and training mirrored mine in some ways. Calvin was a lawyer and a self-taught theologian.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Abraham! Abraham!

Gellman's Abraham! Abraham! (2003) has been a constant guide in times like these. Kierkegaard's writings are a treasure troves which not many have ventured but for the few brave souls, it is food for the soul and meat for the mind. Abraham had to offer up his son, in obedience to God, his one and only beloved son. Gellman writes of Reb Nachman that, "no one really can serve God. The main thing is the desire to do so. The ultimate, true service of God is the desire to be close to God..." (p. 17). When I read this, I realized that all my desires to serve God are full of human limitations and constraints. "Do I serve Thee for nought, Lord?" as the devil would challenge Job. But whatever desire for God I have, Lord You have put it there in the first place for we love Him because He first loved us. How can I serve this holy God whom holy angels dare not pry nor see into His majesty, only those whom God has chosen - those whom You have drawn near to Thyself, Lord.