Monday, December 05, 2005

Of Peter Crouch and Never Say Die

Last Saturday was a memorable day.

No, it was not my birthday. No, it was not me getting an A for any of my subjects. No, it was not me completing a paper. It was the celebration of Peter Crouch's first goal.

Many of you may have known my weakness to football. My legs will start going wobbly when I think about missing out a 'live' football game. Last Saturday was no exception as I watched Liverpool demolish Wigan 3-0 at Anfield. What makes it more special is that it was Peter Crouch who finally scored. After 22 continous football games, equivalent to 24 hours, the lanky striker scored and the Kop roared. I shouted, and woke my wife up on an early Saturday morning. I cannot help being happy for that courageous lad, who never gave up but believed that one day he will 'break the duck'. He did not once but twice.

That is a worthy attitude in Crouch, not only because I am a Liverpool fan but because of the self-belief that builds upon the trust and faith people have in Crouch. As I thought about this, there are 3 simple lessons to learn.

First, never say never. A striker will eventually score. The goal will eventually be achieved. The target will eventually be reached. It is a matter of patience and diligent waiting. Second, faith. We need to learn to believe that it is possible. Though I am wary of building up egoistic confidence, I think it becomes more meaningful when you are doing it in the midst of such wide support when everyone believes in you. It makes achieving something for yourself as achieving something for others as well. When one can achieve a personal conviction with an eye to encouraging others, I think it is a worthy task. Finally, do not be discouraged. Hebrews 11 has a long list of people who kept faith despite not seeing the results soon. We need to learn to press on, regardless of the results. That act of pressing on will bring us at least a step closer to the goal. Like Paul, we need to leave aside all that hinders us, and press on towards to goal, the calling set out for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

kianseng

Saturday, December 03, 2005

How to Create PDF Documents?

Ever wondered how to create pdf documents without having to shell out large $$$ to buy the Adobe Acrobat suite of software? Not that I discourage anyone from buying from Adobe. It seemed to me as plain silly to buy the whole suite just to get one small feature of the whole software. As long as you are using MacOS or running OpenOffice software on Windows, the ability to create pdf is already built in. For those of us without such programs, especially Windows users, you can check out the following.

Here are some useful links to the free downloads.

1) http://www.cutepdf.com/
2) http://www.gohtm.com/convert_pdf.asp (online)
3) http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/ (Recommended)


There are several others but I think the above should suffice.

ks

Friday, December 02, 2005

Snow! plus Reflections on the humble Tree.


Snow came early to Vancouver. It is nice to see the flurries of white coming down on the whole neighbourhood and blanketed much of the lower mainland.

It is a nice change of scenery to move my eyes from the computer and books to marveling at how miraculous nature itself is. The same tree showed at least 4 different displays of colours over a calendar year. how it adapted to the seasonal changes proved its resilience.

There is much to learn from a tree, one of my favourite nature sights. In the Spring, the leaves and flowers gushes out as like time waits for no man (er tree). In Summer, the tree maintained its shiny glory, providing much shade for the hot and thirsty people taking a break from the summer heat. In Fall, the tree began to get ready for the long weather and the leaves turned golden yellow. By Winter, all the leaves would have been shed and the tree starts to conserve and wait for the right season.

We should learn to anticipate changes like the tree. Otherwise, we will not be able to survive the seasons of life. People has said that 'luck' is when opportunity and readiness meet. The Scriptures exhort us to be prepared in season and out of season. For what? To share the hope that we have in Christ.

kianseng

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Bible Numerics

Many people revere the Bible. Some memorize large chunks of it. Others refer to it whenever the need arises. Many if not all who have encountered it, can attest to its impact on individual lives. There is a particular group of people who revere the Bible so much that the Bible itself proves its divine nature. A special group dwelled into the numerics of the Bible, in the light of popular reading from the BIBLE CODE. Is there really a Bible Code? Is there divine meaning in the numbers?

A popular theory is that in the Bible, there exists a mysterious and marvelous numerical pattern which establishes the correctness and proves the divine nature of the Holy Scriptures.

Oswald Thompson Allis in his short study on Bible Numerics has this to say:
1) The theory works only when attention is focused on places that works, while ignoring other areas where there DON'T work.
2) The wide variety of ways to arrive at the numerical features and factors merely proved that discovery of such devices are hard to find, and often depends on the ingenuity of the reader. This alone does not make Bible numerics any more significant than other 'common numbers'.

Simple counting of Bible verses, words, letters in the mathematical domain does not help us as far as faith is concerned. Afterall, the verse numbers and chapters are a later addition to help readers in the reading of the Holy Scriptures. In fact, the very same phenomena that Bible numerics use can be found elsewhere. A simple statement like "We had tea and toast for breakfast.", can even be considered 'divine' as it has 7 words and 28 letters!

Be careful not to use seemingly marvelous or impressive mathematical formulation to justify faith. Faith is beyond mathematics. It is beyond numbers. The numbers are there to help us, not to be worshiped.

kianseng

Monday, October 31, 2005

E=mc2


Being a scholar means you have to learn to quote other people's works, and to quote as many as you can. For many people, it is a representation of how widely-read you are. For others, it is the sheer caution of not wanting to plagiarise other peoples' work.

Occasionally I get sick of citing others. So this time, I let Einstein have the honours.

cheers.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

David Seamands

Another sad piece of news of high-flying pastors caught in the sexual trap.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Making a Living

How do we make a living?

The word 'living' in modern usage has been used as a noun. A man needs to make a living, meant that he needs to earn his bread and butter. All he does in life is to achieve the purpose of making ends meet. Sounds pathetic if all we do is to make a living this way. For what?


Rom. 14:9 ¶ For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

In the verse above, and many other verses in the New Testament the word 'living' is used as a verb.

c

Strike's Over. Back to School

The Teachers have voted. It is 77% yes to accept the mediator's proposal, and that means school resumes on Oct 24th, 2005 for many children and teachers.

As I thought about the past 2 weeks, I have mixed feelings about it all. Firstly, I am surprised by the power of the workers union who can single-handedly bring down basic services in the city. The 38000 teachers from the BCTF were supported by CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) which boasted 470, 000 people. Friday saw a bigger impact when CUPE went into action. All mainland Vancouver libraries were shut. Public facilities like swimming pools, Universities and other public services like transportation. Some questions I asked:

#1 - Was it about Money?
Initially I thought it was. Now I think it is more than money. For the duration of the 2 week strike, the provincial government need not pay the teachers at all, resulting in a savings of CAD160 million dollars. The resultant minor salary adjustment was considered too small to make any impact in terms of bottom line. For the teachers, they lost half months of salary but gained a small victory in standing up for their principles. For the government, it was a $160 million savings and not budging much from their initial positions. In a nutshell, the teachers have helped to refinance their own stikes. No strike pay (courts banned the $50 per strike-day pay), losing half month of salary and on top of it, their union getting fined CAD500,000. that is a big financial sacrifice on the part of the teachers. WINNER: Government.

#2 - Was it about the kids?
Partially. If it was for the kids, provisions should have been made specifically to help needy parents and children to do so, though it might have reduced the impact of the strike itself. WINNER: Nobody.

#3 - So What was it all about?
Basically the rights. The right to be heard. The right not to be overrun by unjust policies. The right to strike. Nothing seemed more important than the right to their perceived way of living. That is the culture in British Columbia. WINNER: Nobody
The picture is the perception of the government infringing on the rights of the teachers.


#4 - What are the Lessons Learnt?
I think human relationships are ultimately the key to resolving anything. The mediator, Mr Vince Ready, reputed to have successfully ended 7000 disputes, including this recent Teachers' Strike), put up a simple 7-page proposal to both the government and the Teachers Federation. Based on this proposal, both parties agreed to move on to engage one another at a future time. Meanwhile work needed to be done. Three observations I can make:

A) MEDIATION
- We need to recognize that it is easy to take radical positions when tempers and emotions are high. We need people who are willing to put aside their own biasness, and take a neutral stance in order to bring different parties together. Positions of compromise may eventually be the result that nobody is truly satisfied. But that is the fact of an imperfect world, an imperfect society. We need to have more emphasis on Reconciliation.

B) RESTRAINT
- Never be too quick to move into the last resort. It will leave one no way out. When the stakes are upped, it will make negotiations more confrontational and difficult to back down without a loss of face.

C) PRICE
- A price has to be paid, and the teachers have paid a heavy price. When we fight for certain principles, we need to be prepared to do so. That is the difference between a pragmatic mindset versus an idealistic mindset. The former will do the sums and make decisions based on bread-and-butter. If the sums are not right, principles can wait. What happens when some event or some party forces us or our organization to 'deny our beliefs' or starve? Do we do our sums and avoid punishment?

In any confrontation, there are no winners. In any

As Christians, we can learn from the 3 observations. We are called to be bridges to strengthening relationships. Jesus prayed that we may be one. We need to develop skills of mediation among fellow believers, and then to fellow human beings. Secondly, We need to be flexible, and not to place ourselves on the throne so easily. We are imperfect and must be prepared to concede our weaknesses. Giving in a little is better than surrendering our entire inventory. Showing a little flexibility always takes some heat off from an explosive situation. The crux comes when our basic beliefs are threatened. In situations like these, we need to exercise wisdom like Jesus, when he was constantly tempted and tested by the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The law is one thing. the spirit of the law is another. It is ultimately the attitude of the heart and the relationships that determines the courses of actions.



kianseng

Monday, October 17, 2005

Teachers Stike vs Law of Courts

It is already more than a week since my kids were school-less. The teachers are still on strike. Last Thursday, the courts ordered the teachers to end their strike and to go back to work. Instead of a widely expected heavy financial penalty, the courts decided to freeze the Teachers' Union financial assets. Widely viewed as an innovative way to uphold the law, I sense that the BC Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown, has creatively carved a way out for both sides to negotiate. On the one hand, for the teachers to escape heavy fines and go back to work. On the other hand, for the government to make good its promise to negotiate, only when the teachers are not breaking any laws.
Things Turning For the Worse
Today, 17 Oct at 11AM, there was a mass labour union rally from the powerful Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) which boast a membership of 470,000. Many union members walked off their jobs to join in the protest and to support the teachers. If this carry on, there is a strong possibility that the economy will grind to a halt, at least in British Columbia.

For me, it is one thing to support the teachers. It is yet another to disobey the law, even more so when a way out has been made last Thursday through the Court's decision. I must say that the government's argument of "who gives one the right to decide which law to follow and which not to follow?", hold water. Much as I would like to support the Teachers cause, I am increasingly uncomfortable with their blatant disregard even for the law. They should not break the law just because they say the government has previously 'broken the law'. If one condemns a sin, yet himself/herself committing the same sin, what difference does it make?

Cool Heads Negotiate Better
Pray that the teachers union leaders will take a step back and move away from their emotional grievances. With cool heads, have a meeting among themselves on how to temporary disengage themselves from breaking the law and go back to the classroom. Make it clear that they have not backed down on their insistence on negotiation. By doing that, they will be winning a moral victory in the hearts of many. If however they continue to picket and show inflexibility, not only will they lose moral authority, they would have lost their credibilities as teachers in the first place. The law no matter how much one dislikes (barring extreme poverty or Nazi like persecution or other like grievances), it ought to be obeyed.

Teachers come back, many children (my kids included) misses you.

kianseng

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

BC Teachers on Strike!

TEACHERS STRIKE
Strikes are unheard of in Singapore. Here in Canada, it is a normal way of life. Unions rear their fist frequently when they felt unjust, despite employers' explanation for their actions. The recent Teachers strike has led to something closer to home: Our children not being able to go to school. The two main issues on the table was over salaries and classroom sizes. Judging from the way the strike campaign has been fought, there is a feeling that the children were used by some people as a means to their ends. What remained true is that there has been cost-cutting throughout the province, by cutting the number of teachers (including not replacing any attrition) as well as classroom resources. Over 2500 positions had been cut since 2003 and more will leave if the situation does not improve. Teachers have tried to minimize costs, some even contributed their own money to make up for any shortfall. Recently, my daughter went for an educational camping trip. We were initially not keen to let her go as it was rather expensive for a 3 day weekend. Her teacher contributed half the amount in order to ensure that she is able to go. That is teacher commitment in action.

THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT STORY
On the other side, the provincial government managing British Columbia said that 52% of the entire budget was allocated to salaries and compensation alone according to a Sep 14th 2005 financial update. So any increase in the teachers salary will have a major impact on the budget, and that is not even considering other public sector employees asking for adjustments as well. Afterall, the current government has imposed a 0% increase for the entire public sector so far.

Even more complicated is that the law courts has declared that the strike is illegal. The teachers federation having upped the ante are still insisting that their actions are legitimate. To me, the kids will be confused even more. Are the teachers leading by example, that becoming an adult is to defy the government? Teachers and government are the good guys and bad guys respectively? Kids should belong where they are. Learning and not be involved in bipartisan politics. Children should be trained to make good decisions not based on political or social agendas but on values. Can the Church help????

PUBLIC SUPPORT
Public support has been strongly in favour of the teachers. Before anyone of us point a finger at the teachers actions, it is good to consider their rationale. By nature and culture, teachers are not militant. There must be something that has been done to them that they felt urged to obey their instincts and to take action about it. Rather than venting their frustration inside the classroom and on the children, they would rather vent it at the governing bodies. That is in some ways quite a good way to manage one's emotions. In contrast, if a teacher suppresses his/her own true feelings on a prolonged scale, it can create unexpected results that rub off our children.
There are legitimate concerns on both sides, and it becomes very complicated to resolve. One teacher puts it very well in terms of compromise. She said that she is willing to compromise on no salary increment as long as classroom environment are improved. Could this happen in Singapore? Very unlikely. However, if Singapore has a corrupt government, the society will be in trouble as the laws are very much against social action like civil disobedience. May the Lord have mercy that Singapore continue to have good leaders in government.

Put it this way. I would rather my kids enjoy school, learning from motivated teachers than having them to spend time with a disgruntled teacher who merely work for the sake of work. My kids summarised it very well. "I prefer that the teachers in Singapore go on strike because I do not like to go to school there. Here in Canada, I hope the teachers end their strike soon as I want to go back to school!". If a strike is needed in order for teachers to be rightfully motivated (ie for good reasons) and really take good care of my kids, I support the teachers.

Some web links:
- British Columbia Teachers Federation (http://www.bctf.bc.ca)
- British Columbia Public School Employers Association (http://www.bcpsea.bc.ca)
- British Columbia Federation of Labor (http://www.bcfed.com)


kianseng

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sharing Large Files Online

The rain is back. The cold is back. Winter is falling in slowly and surely. As most of us will be indoors, one of the most popular indoor activities in computing, Internet and of course online activities.

Here are some good resources for those who find a hassle to email large files, especially when email systems limit attachment sizes and mailbox sizes. Some executable files are even banned from file attachments. The following are some I have found and suggest them according to the file size limit. What they do is to allow uploading of the BIG file to a file server, followed by a short email link. The recipient can then download (mostly within 7 days) the BIG file at leisure. Check them out.

1) http://www.datapickup.com (up to 1.5GB)
2) http://www.yousendit.com (up to 1GB)
3) http://www.sharebigfile.com (up to 250MB)
4) http://www.dropload.com (up to 100MB)
5) http://www.rapidshare.de (up to 50MB)

kianseng

Monday, September 26, 2005

Regent Retreat @ WarmBeach 2005


Last weekend, we were at the Regent College Annual Retreat. For me it is a big improvement over last year's. Perhaps I was not as anxious to know as many people as possible, as I decided to take it easy and spend good time with a few instead of short moments with many. Much more meaningful when I am enjoying the conversations instead of trying to meet a certain 'quota'.

Dr Iain Provan was the main speaker. The theme was "Stories of Faith". It was about travelors together in a strange land. The first day, we heard the message about Abraham, who was depicted as a man of faith, that Christians often look up to in terms of a model for building faith. The second day we heard about Jacob, seen like the other extreme of human nature. Jacob was depicted as one who schemes, tricks his brother Esau and of course a wrestler with God. Two seemingly different persons but both under the same God. Despite the flaws of Jacob and Abraham, God's grace was consistent. Finally, Dr Provan presses home a simple message to bring the theme together in Psalm 23. He encouraged all of us as fellow travellors in a strange land of Vancouver, that our God will lead and guide us. Our God knows our needs and we need to learn to trust him. All of us at Regent has a story to tell. A story of personal sacrifice to come to Regent. A story of being a stranger in a strange land. A story of different personalities and cultures coming together to a place called Regent College. It will be God who will hold all things together. Living in Vancouver as strangers reminded us that we are in a real way, strangers to this world.

Our whole family enjoyed the time of rest, play and fellowship. We tented this time, and saved some money. The nights were extremely cold and there was a family who decided to move into a warmer cabin on the second night. Brave people we are, as one of the very few families with children who tented. It was fun (for the kids I mean).


kianseng

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Stress Steps In

Surely but gradually, the inevitable has to occur. Stress.

I am taking a reasonably heavy load, coupled with other things, it can drag my spirits down at times. The readings I am doing are difficult (correction, VERY difficult). Do pray for me as I attempt to use my available time to focus and not give up easily.

"One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple." (Ps 27:4)

How am I to focus on that one thing in the midst of all these stress and schedules? Is this seeking of the Lord an attempt at escapism? or is it a distraction from the struggles, as afterall, more likely than not, I will still need to get back to resolving the things to do. So many things to do, so little time. Isn't that familiar?

Focus on the Lord that all these things will be seen in its proper perspectives. What good will there be if one's stress destroys the very joy one could have? What benefit will it be if coping with these stress result in terrible relationships? I think, David has a very clear sense of his relationship with the Lord when he wrote the Psalm 27. He is not merely clear that only in the Lord can he be delivered from his enemies. He is not merely convinced that the Lord can give him the comfort he seeks. He is most convicted and glad to be WITH the Lord. The interesting thing in the above passage is that David did not ask for power, riches or things of this world. He asked not for gifts but for the Giver. He asks not to receive things but to be with his beloved God. He asked for this ONE THING: The Lord. He ask not to look but to GAZE. He ask not to be in momentarily, but to be in the house of the Lord ALL THE DAYS. Isn't it true that this lies one of the secrets of that relationship. Nothing else matters when the relationship is there.

Ask any employee who had a rough project but with understanding bosses and colleagues. Better to climb Mt Everest with people who supports and strengthens you, than to walk up Bukit Timah hill with people who hated and spite you.

Stress will always be there. Let it not distract from the one thing in our lives. Being with the Lord.


kianseng

Friday, September 09, 2005

What to Preach?

So many things to preach about but how to decide which? That is a strange dilemma. Actually not that strange as after answering the question of 'what to preach', there is another question about what about the "WHAT TO PREACH" am I to preach about. (Get it?)

October 16 is the day. Stay tuned. Any suggestions, let me know. I am open to the Lord to guide and preach to me first before I do.

kianseng

Friday, September 02, 2005

Intellectualism a bad word?

"The opposite of Intellectualism is Ignorance"

Sometimes, when we try to discuss things and concepts in greater detail, we get slapped with the word "Intellectualism", the latter word often used in a perjorative way. In sermons or discussions, when we fail to understand what was spoken, we merely dismissed the whole attempt as an exercise in Intellectual engagement which does not result in any good practical help at all. "Above the head"; "Too chim (deep)"; "Catch no ball"; "cannot understand" are feedback which the speaker will need to take very seriously. The use of heavy sounding words have to be explained adequately, and after explaining it, it has to be used with lots of examples to illustrate the meaning. The sermon, the message or the speech when seen from an educational view, will certainly help increase one's vocabulary and eventually knowledge for all to edify and be edified.

Suppose we were to see Intellectualism as a bad word, the opposite will certainly be worse. Would one rather be ignorant or being called an intellectual? I guess most people will prefer the intellectual path. There are certain words that is more difficult to understand, but that does not mean it is wrong to use these words. The problem often lies in the understanding between the speaker and the audience; the preacher and the congregation.

Hearers, see each difficult word as an opportunity to learn. Speakers, see each accusation of Intellectualism as a chance to explain, teach and clarify.

kianseng

About Worship

Read about a useful guide to worship:

"We speak to God before the service
God speaks to us during the service
We speak to each other after the service
As you are seated in the pew, please bow in prayer."


How important it is to recover the worship in our Churches. We come together as a community to worship God, and not to see the worship service as a therapeutic treatment for our stressed lifestyles. Everything in the service must point to God, and that includes not just the outside but inside us.

kianseng

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A Student's Prayer

For those who have insomnia, before a test or exam, here is a nice prayer to remember.

===========================
A Student's Prayer

Now I lay me down to rest,
I pray I pass tomorrow's test.
If I should die before I wake,
That's one less test I'll have to take

Anon.
==========================
kianseng

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

On Walmart, Starbucks and Methodism That Transforms?

There was an interesting blog (Wesleyblog.com) entitled "Methodism That Transforms" on the United Methodist Church and its position in the communities of today. It started out comparing Walmart (4000 stores) and Starbucks (5000 stores) with that of the UMC (35000 congregations), and then goes on to relate the differences in terms of influence and recognition in the communities it served. Clearly, the writer was bemoaning the situation where places like Walmart and Starbucks are becoming more influential then the Methodist Church, calling out for a 'Methodism that Transforms'. Following that, another blogger did a comparison of the Christian and commercial enterprises, and also bemoaned the differences in influences.

Comparing US Congregations vs US Commercial Enterprises
Christian Congregations
ELCA - 10,000 congregations
PCUSA - 11,000 congregations
UMC - 35,000 congregations
Total: 56,000 worshiping congregations

Commercial Enterprises
Target - 1100 stores
K-Mart - 1100 stores
Wal-Mart - 4000 stores
Total: 6200 retail stores

Comparing Singapore Methodist Congregations vs NTUC Fairprice
For me, such comparison should wake up the complacency of the Church at least, though technically we are not comparing apples to apples. For sheer fun, I did a similar comparison on the web on the situation in Singapore, comparing NTUC stores with the Methodist congregations and came up with the following:

19 CAC + 7 ETAC + 22 TRAC = 48 congregations (approximately)
NTUC Fairprice = more than 100 stores island wide with about 450,000 members

It would appear that the argument for Singapore statistically will not be similar compared to that of the United Methodist Church. However, if we were to take the census of 13% Christians out of a population of 3.5 million, that will be about 455000 professing Christians in the whole island of Singapore, which is about the same number as the total number of NTUC members (of which many I suppose are professing Christians as well). Now comes the hard question. Who has a bigger influence? Is it the Christian Church or the NTUC Fairprice?

The writer for WesleyBlog seemed burdened with the institutional UMC. Everyone knows Walmart and Starbucks, and many will readily pay them a visit for their cheap goods or that cup of latte. Who would think of the UMC Church when they feel a need to attend Church? For that matter, many in Singapore recognizes NTUC as the place to buy their groceries. How many think of the Methodist Church when they feel they needed something beyond consumerism? Maybe that is the wrong question to ask in the first place. Afterall, they are different, somewhat.

THAT DAY WILL COME
I am wary of making such comparisons as it will simply position the Church in terms of consumeristic tendencies. The Church is not something to meet our consumption requirements. The Church should be the place to help us worship God, and to push one another towards living a holy life, and in doing so to provide a living testimony for God. Having said that, it is good to take a pause in our Church lives, to take stock of ourselves and re-evaluate our witness in the community we live in. In peace time and secular prosperity, people will be nonchalant about spiritual things. We need to be prepared at all times for calamity, for sudden events that can devastate lives like the tsunami, acts of terrorism, SARS, mass epidemics etc. The Church must continue to be united and meet together to encourage one another unto love and good deeds. Build up this relationship within ourselves, among our neighbours, expecting that THAT DAY WILL COME, when the Church will be the only place where people will seek shelter and comfort in the storms of life. THAT DAY WILL COME, where Starbucks, Walmart, NTUC Fairprice will simply fade away into irrelevance. The fact that we do not know WHEN that day will come, should in itself motivate us to live holy lives and meaningful relationships with people.

We are mortal beings. Which dying person will regret not spending more time in Starbucks or NTUC Fairprice or Walmart? Safe to say that most, if not all dying persons will regret not spending more time with people, especially their loved ones and their friends. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, remember the parable of the virgins? (Matthew 25:1-13).

Always be ready.

kianseng

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Japanese Aggression & End of WWII Remembered

On Japan’s Surrender and WWII Memories

Aug. 15, 1945 was the day when the Japanese Emperor Hirohito signed Japan’s surrender and officially marked the end of Japanese aggression in countries like Korea, China, Philippines, Australia, the United States, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. While it evoked bitter memories and emotions in some, others simply shrugged it off as another event to forget. While it is important to remember the past, we should not be enslaved to hatred on a forever basis. It is not good for the soul.

The Sufferers - victims
As a generation who hardly experienced what World War II was like, I can only share in the gut-wrenching horror through oral stories, books, media portrayal of Japanese cruelty and the historical documents of the ugliness of war, and how war has de-humanized people. My grandparents used to describe how the Japanese soldiers brutalized the common-folks and treated them as if they were animals. Stories of them casting babies into the air and stabbing them with their knives, shooting men in the head in a sea of blood at Changi Beach, torture, raping women, forcing everyone to learn Japanese, building informant networks to encourage people to tell on one another. Those stories can easily make one’s blood boil. I have not even mentioned the atrocities that occurred during the Japanese ‘Rape of Nanking’ and the tortures in Korea, which dehumanized millions of people in East Asia! If Pearl Harbour was considered a terrible act of unprovoked war, the East Asian Japanese occupation is clearly the 'Holocaust' of the Far East.

The Aggressors
Having said that, the terrible atomic blasts in the two Japanese cities have killed and destroyed the futures of many ordinary Japanese who lived in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How the nuclear radiation and the slow painful death affected the survivors of the bombing. Thousands of Japanese also lost their lives. As much as I despised the way the Japanese has treated my forefathers, the Japanese themselves also suffered immensely in the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. War is something that nobody wins and everybody loses eventually.

Living Peaceably
What we can all do in the present and the future is to remember truthfully our historical past and make all efforts to ensure it does not ever happen again. The country of Japan must be truthful to their own citizens and state correctly history as it is, not a censored or diluted form that painted Japan the Aggressor as the victim! Likewise, the countries which suffered under Japanese occupation should gradually learn to see Japan with eyes of forgiveness as a whole new generation of Japanese has not been a part of the atrocities of war. They should not carry the blame and shame of their ancestors forever. What can we do to promote peace?

Building Up A 'Peace-Pool'
A Peace-Pool is like a Bank Account which stores credits in terms of goodwill, good deeds, friendship and harmony. As long as this pool is continually filled, despite sudden debits due to misunderstanding, the Peace-Pool will be large enough to sustain any debits and remain healthy. This is an active process and everyone is a depositor. How else can we fill this peace-pool?

This can be done by cross-cultural sharing and understanding. There should be no room for ethnic isolation nor segregation based on differences in language or racial discrimination. Anything that seek to create unhealthy discriminations will only sow seeds of discord and feed war-mongering thoughts. Wars do not simply happen. They take many years of little irritations, growing into compilations of sporadic brutalities and eventually becoming a pile of explosives so large that it only takes a spark to blow it up. We must always build up a ‘peace-pool’ of memorable events of peace and goodwill to counter any negative moves towards dehumanizing acts of cruelty and unfairness. How do we build up this peace pool? I do not have an exhaustive list, but I think the following should get us started somehow:
1. Go visit friends and neighbours REGARDLESS of ethnicity or other visible differences
2. Remember that underneath our skin, the colour is similar – blood red
3. Make an effort to learn simple greetings in as many languages as possible
4. Watch movies, films or cultural shows in another language
5. Enjoy food together through ‘pot-luck parties’, BBQs and different tastes of the world
6. Establish as many common factors as possible, like speaking a common language, working together on projects, learning to speak and understand the other party’s point of views etc.
7. Educate one another about one's own history and culture.

It is possible to live at peace with everyone. The most difficult first step is ‘your willingness’. That is God’s will for us.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Which is your preferred peace symbol?

Live Branch
Peace Candle
Painted Faces
Paper Dove
Hands with Dove in Center
Blue Palm
Children Holding Hands
Fu-He-Ping








kianseng

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Tough Questions to Tackle

Tough Questions about God's OmniScience

(1) If God is All-knowing, Why did God put the tree of good & evil in the Garden of Eden when He jolly well know that Adam & Eve is going to eat the forbidden fruit in the first place? Isn't it then an open invitation for Adam & Eve to sin? Is God trying to play a trick on humankind?

(2) Why did God allow Evil and Suffering to exist in this world? Granted that this is the price of freedom to choose. However, wouldn't there be a chance that this type of freedom is in a sense a 'bondage' to choose correctly?

(3) If God already knew that man will sin, and He put in place the redemption plan, still, isn't it an unnecessary act of suffering for everyone, including God?

(4) If God is so Perfect, what is wrong to create us all perfect? Maybe the argument that He does not want to create robots, but what about, we being given the choice to choose to be robots?

So anyone care to try to tackle these questions?

kianseng

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

On Video Games: Reducing Violence OR Increasing Immediate / Delayed Violence?

The latest Economist magazine issue had a cover entitled: "Breeding Evil? The real impact of video games". It openly declared that it is in defence of the idea of video games. Take the following description for example, using quantitative analysis from sources, not explicitly mentioned.

"Most of the research on whether video games encourage violence is unsatisfactory, focusing primarily on short-term effects. In the best study so far, frequent playing of a violent game sustained over a month had no effect on participants' level of aggression. And, during the period in which gaming has become widespread in America, violent crime has fallen by half. If games really did make people violent, this tendency might be expected to show up in the figures, given that half of Americans play computer and video games. Perhaps, as some observers have suggested, gaming actually makes people less violent, by acting as a safety valve." (Economist, August 6th 2005)

Such data itself was interpreted by the Economist on a positive manner, insisting eventually that the divide between the Yes and the No group for Video gaming is essentially a divide between the under 40s and the over 40s. Afterall, most of the people playing video games are under 40. Those who opposed video games are mostly over 40. Moreover, using the example of Rock n Roll, the Economist simply pointed that over time, people will come to accept Rock n Roll as a part of life to be lived with, and even be embraced. Afterall, they insisted that video games actually reduced the number of violent crimes. Clearly, there are always two sides to the coin. Data can always be interpreted either way.

COUNTER ARGUMENTS
Firstly, assuming the data provided by the Economist is accurate, that violent crimes has actually gone down with the use of video gaming, it is too simplistic to place a direct link between them. How about poverty, dysfunctional family background, drugs & bad influence, cultural idiosynchrocies etc?

Secondly, even if it is true that video gaming keeps violent crimes at bay, what happens when these people are NOT playing video games? If there is indeed a link between playing video games and reduction in violence, wouldn't it then be the responsibility of government and law enforcement agencies to start investing in video games companies to ensure a perpetual supply of video games (violent) to keep these people off the streets?

Thirdly, somewhat related to the second point above, what happens when the people are deprived of their video games diet? Will it then lead to withdrawal symptoms, resulting in possible physical violence patterned after what they have learnt from the violent games? I have heard of cases when children become violent when deprived of their video games diet.

Fourthly, the article defended video gaming on the basis of the reduction of number of violent crimes. It is far too early to declare that one has fully apprehended the positive or negative effects of video gaming. Games are constantly being changed. One thing is for sure. Consumers are buying more gory, bloody and violent games. Must we wait for an actual violent crime to occur before we realise that these video games do more harm than good? Simply put, one crime is one too many.

Fifthly, measuring human behaviour merely over one month grossly underestimate the ill-effects of violent video games. More time is needed to be more conclusive, as human behaviour is often measured in terms of a few months or even years!

THE OUTSIDE IS AN EXPRESSION OF THE INSIDE
As a Christian, we are not concerned just on the exterior but on the whole person. What good is it to preserve a good outside, when we allow the inner side to rot? Afterall, isn't it true that what happens on the inside, eventually gets manifested on the outside over time? It seems that with the report, the Economist merely attempted to address the symptoms and not the inner soul. Perhaps that is not within their purview. Perhaps this soul-talk is reserved more for the religious groups, Churches, social help organizations etc. Perhaps the Economist is merely trying to provide another point of view to the general objections of such violent games. However, by publishing this report as is, it is an unnecessary form of 'support' for the propagation of violent games. Games are generally ok, but when it come to violent, sensual, nonsensical images, we have to draw the line.

Christian, be careful what you feed yourself with! (*Remember to read the previous article on Two Wolves as an illustration)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8 NIV

Two Wolves

Two Wolves

An old Indian Grandfather said to his grandson who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice........

"Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times."

He continued......

"It is as if there are two wolves inside me; One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offence when no offence was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. He saves all his energy for the right fight.

But the other wolf, ahhh!

He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.

Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked...

"Which one wins, Grandfather?"

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said......

"The one I feed."

Author Unknown

Thursday, August 04, 2005

On the sinfulness of self and The Cross of Christ

Once in a while, it is refreshing to read about other testimonies of Christians in the faith. An example is John Stott's "Why I Am A Christian". In the chapter 4 entitled 'The Paradox of Our Humanness', he wrote that "The essence of evil is self-centeredness". He then goes on to mention the thoughts, words and deeds of which we become guilty when we fail to put God first, neighbours second and ourselves last. He did an interesting exercise by looking up words in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary that has the word 'self-' as a prefix and ended up with words like self-assertion, self-indulgence, self-applause, self-advertisement, self-gratification, self-glorification, self-pity and self-will. He counted more than 50 such words that are used perjoratively. Stott wrote that the essence of evil is self-centeredness. The paradox is that how can a God so holy and pure, care to love man who is sinful, selfish and utterly disgusting? Let me put it hypothetically, that with such a paradox, what has anybody (Christians and non-Christians in general) has got to lose to embrace this God?

It sounds scary at first look, just to think that anything to do with the self is an invitation to doing evil. Logically, when we look more to the self, we look less at others (including God). At Regent chapel, one of the images that humbled me, is always the humble cross. Why did the Christian Church not adopt the dove as a symbol for Christianity? Why not a picture of a glorious victorious kingdom? Why not a big star, or fire, or the baby crib, or a man on a donkey, or the towel to wash feet, or the alabastar vase? Instead, the cross was chosen, seemingly something that has shame attached to it? Thus we see people wearing crosses on their neck, their ears, on Church steeples, Church posters, and on the tombs. The cross is THE representation of the Christian faith!

Stott mentioned that many people thought that the cross represents death and shame arrived, while the resurrection represented the victory. Rather, it is the cross that represented the victory and the resurrection a re-affirmation of that victory! It is insightful indeed and theologically, the death of Christ turned things around for mankind in so significant ways. Indeed, the cross of Christ must not be taken in vain. So the hymn I learnt at Regent goes like this:

I BIND UNTO MYSELF (aka St Patrick's Breastplate
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Yes. When I bind unto myself the Holy Trinity, goal I approach that when I look into myself, may I see Christ more and more. If I cannot be 'sinless' in this life, may I then learn to 'sin-less'. God guide me to His path of holiness. Praise be to God.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Do Miracles Happen?

Miracles

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see. (CS Lewis)

Today, I walked past a car and happen to notice two words “Miracles Happen”. Normally I would not give it any second thought. However, my frame of mind is more contemplative of the word miracles these past few days. Can miracles really happen? When was the last time I have personally experienced a miracle for myself? These are thoughts I pondered and even ask:
‘After having being a Christian for so many years, can I recall any specific incidence of miracles in my life that in some ways point to God’s grace upon my life?’

If I were to define miracles as those resembling ‘brimstones and thunder’, or magnificent instances of BIG, SHOWY cases like Elijah or Moses, I struggled to find one deserving mention. However, when I wait upon the Lord, that soft prompting began to open my senses to see the tiny miracles happening in my own life. CS Lewis’s very insightful quote on miracles is a case in point. Life in itself is a miracle. It is a miracle that I am pursuing theological studies, after expressing my desire to God many years ago (albeit in jest at that time). Miracles continue to show itself in my friends who God has brought alongside us, besides the distance, gives us the "so far, yet so close" feeling. [In contrast, back in Singapore, sometimes I felt the "so near yet so far" feeling]
It is a miracle that I found my wife, though imperfect in many ways, yet I find myself loving her more each day. My family, my circle of friends and my supportive Church group and members back in Singapore. It is a miracle that even though I see myself as insignificant, others still see me of some worth. It is a miracle that when I gave up things for God, I received much more in return. For example, despite giving away most of my well-loved books accumulated over 10 years, I have at my liberty, access to hundreds and thousands of books in the Vancouver and Regent libraries, without having the pressing pressure of buying. Believe it or not, my UBC library card alone allows me to borrow an unlimited number of books from the UBC libraries! [That means able to access the collection which includes four million books and journals, 4.9 million microforms, more than 1.5 million maps, videos and other multimedia materials and over 33, 500 subscriptions.]

Christ has revealed Himself to me early in my life. The more I think of the way He has gently guided me to faith, the more I want to love and serve Him. The greatest miracle of all, which I am experiencing day by day is the receiving of love from God through many aspects, more so when I realized I do not deserve it in the first place, save in Christ alone. Miracles happen? Yes, all the time, for love is the biggest miracle of them all!

kianseng

Friday, July 29, 2005

On the 'Study of Theology'

Why Study Theology?

Theology is often referred to as the "Study of God". This is too simplistic an answer, but will suffice for the lay person, unless he/she is interested to find out more. In general, a lot of people will be surprised when anyone decide to take a step towards doing something like theology. Afterall, not much money can be made from it, and theological qualifications are sometimes not recognized for purposes of visa applications by secular governments.

Some Common Accusations
A common accusation at people studying theology is that it merely increases 'Intellectualism'. In some ways that is true, as it requires lots of the use of the mind power and reasoning. (However, it only becomes intellectualism if the buck stops there.) Furthermore, isn't studying theology a waste of time, when one can study the Bible for himself and totally depend on the Holy Spirit? Why can't one just study the Bible with all the available Bible tools? Isn't it that a waste of time and money?

To let the accusations above stick without a response will do gross injustice to the schools of theology and students world-wide. If anyone think that studying theology is merely intellectualism, I would say that is not true theology, for true study of theology involves BOTH heart, mind and soul in thought as well as in practice. If one were to read Ps 119 through, one will soon realise that it is a PRIVILEGE and imperative to study theology. The Psalmist even said "Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts dliligently" (Ps 119:4). We have to know the Word, and to keep it diligently, and such require discipline and hard work. We need to know the Word that we may not sin against God. Of course we can still do theology on our own at home. The biggest problem with this argument is that by studying alone, one will miss out on the community life that a theological school provides.

Below are my other responses:
A) Because we love the Word of God.
The Psalmist states 'And I will delight myself in the commandments, which I have loved.' (Ps 119:47) Why should I be accused of doing something I loved to do? If those who loved to fly, goes to flying school; and those who loved to cook, learns recipes or go to cooking classes; those learning business processes do an MBA; why should theology students be treated any differently when they pursue their love wholeheartedly?

B) Because We want to learn from our Forefathers, and their experiences
It is a pity that man has a 'glorious' history of re-inventing the wheel. Instead of learning from what our forefathers has agonized and thought through, some chose to struggle themselves through. Their time would be better used to try to research and tackle the many mysteries and issues that remained unresolved. In this way, not only will they get up to speed quickly by learning from the ancient Fathers, they will also help accumulate learning and knowledge for the benefit of future generations. There is much more for us to learn from our Protestant heritage. Understanding the context of how the historical Church has grown helped us to be careful of spiritual potholes. For example, learning about the Methodist heritage, John Wesley, gives us insight into the problems of society at that time and how the Church has helped.

C) Because we seek to lead others correctly
The Psalmist said "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path" (Ps 119:105). We need to avoid becoming the blind that lead the blind. As we let the Word of God illuminate us, we can help others to be guided by that light as well. People need directions in life. Direction setting need leaders to set forth and provide. Leaders need to be trained and guided. This training and guidance comes from God, through His revealed Word. The theological community from different races, walks of life, interdenominational forms a rich collection of experience and lifestyle that one will benefit richly.

D) Because We need Time to Study
Any diligent study of the Word need time. It is true that we spend regular time on daily devotions. However, do we really have time to study the History of the Christian faith, different schools of religious experiences, different ethical aspects of faith pertaining to daily life and work, the various denominational differences learnt through interactions with people outside our typical one-Church setting? We know that the busyness of life, family and work can easily swamp anyone. So much so that for some, the only spiritual input is the Sunday sermon (if he/she attends in the first place). Theologucal education is not cramming all the knowledge in within the timeframe of the programme concerned. It is the daily contemplative and diligent study + interaction that shapes the person to become even more grateful of the gift of life God has endowed upon us. Afterall, life is a gift.

E) Because of the Community of Like-Minded People
Nothing helps the study of Theology more than the presence of a community of like-minded folks. How often in the Church setting, when one attempt to do serious discussion on the doctrine of salvation but are not able to find sufficient interest among Church members to engage and guided in the proper manner? Sometimes any attempts to think and discuss more is brushed off as an exercise in "Intellectualism" or something too "chim" (deep) to understand and has no practical use. In a Christian college setting, there will be a community of individuals to spur each other to learning not just the mind but how they lived out that learning in their service and lifestyle. We fellowship and understand the Anglicans, the Presbyterians, the Lutherans, the Methodists, Free Evangelicals, Brethren, and many others worldwide. It is also good to note that even within each denominations, there are subtle differences based on countries, theological inclinations, or other factors.

In this simple summary, I think the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages of studying theology. If anyone can afford the time and energy, he/she should do some theology at least during a part of his lifetime, say few days, few weeks, few months and better still few years. But underpinning these efforts, there should be a clear love for the Lord and His written Word.

In summary, I personally feel that the study of theology suffers from the 'lack' rather than the 'more'. By this I mean, the need for Churches everywhere is actually for more theological grounding. Open up the directory and point to any Church, and one of the top concerns is Christian Education. I like this saying by Abraham Lincoln:

"Colleges are places where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed."


A Happy and Grateful Theological Student,

kianseng
Regent College

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

On English Bible Translations




Preamble
The English Bible that we have in our hands are actually translations of the original languages. My first Bible ever was an English translation, the Good News Bible. Historically, the first English translation (New Testament) was the Tyndale Bible named after William Tyndale who were eventually accused of heresy and treason in an unfair trial, and executed. The Old Testament (OT) were written in Hebrew and Aramaic while the New Testament (NT) were written in Greek. Translators will thus have to have a strong knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek in order to do the work of translation. The English Bible is thus not an original language Bible. Having said that, the quality and quantity of translations we have nowadays have helped English-language readers capture a greater understanding of the Bible. For the serious student without knowledge of Hebrew or Greek, and who wanted to do a good exegesis, Professor Gordon Fee of Regent College recommended 7 different good translations. Several members of the faculty at Regent College have also been involved with translations, namely JI Packer (ESV), Bruce Waltke / Gordon Fee (tNIV), Phil Long (NLT), Eugene Peterson (MSG).


My First Encounter
When I became a Christian many years ago, a good friend of mine gave me a Good News Bible (GNB) and that was my very first Bible I used. It was easy reading but soon I wanted something more solid. I adopted the King James Version (KJV) and fell in love immediately with its beauty and prose. The translation seemed so majestic and royal. Maybe that was why there is a 'King' in KJV.

At my first Bible School, I came to recognize that the New American Standard Bible (NASB) was a more literal translation in terms of its close adherence to the original languages. My Church then used the New International Version (NIV). So my main translations were the NIV, KJV followed by the NASB in terms of its frequency of usage. Most of my memory verses were done in KJV. Those days, I packed in Philippians, several Psalms, the Sermon on the Mount as well as parts of 1 Peter into my memory. My little KJV was all worn out. Today I can still recall parts of these chunks of memory verses, though not as good as my earlier years due to lack of review.

Now my scholarly professors at Regent College recommended me to use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). Another reason to use it for study is because the NRSV includes the Apocrypha. Though the Apocyrpha is not considered canonical, it still provides some good reading. Another version I particularly like is the New Living Translation (NLT) because of its freshness and accuracy of its translations. Some of the versions are summarised in the diagram below:



There are 3 main categories of Bible translations, namely Literal, Paraphrase and Dynamic Equivalence.

#1 - Literal
In short, this form of translation is 'Word for Word'. Useful for those who wanted to be as faithful to the literal wording of the original languages.

Strengths = Good for word for word comparison and study.
Weaknesses = Some aspects of culture and meanings might be lost.

Well known versions in this category is the NASB and the KJV. [King James (KJV, NKJV), Revised Standard (RSV, NRSV)New American Standard (NAS)]


#2 - Paraphrase
Here, there is a greater level of translation based on the interpretor's understanding and theological persuasion.
Strengths = Easy to understand in terms of language and context

Weaknesses = Not exactly allowing the reader to interpret for himself as the translation is already in a large way already interpreted for the reader
Popular versions include the MESSAGE and the Living Bible. It is useful for general reading and for discussion purposes. [Phillips Translation, The Message, Open Bible, Living Bible, New Living Translation, Amplified Version]

#3 - Dynamic Equivalence
This approach attempts to strike a balance between the literal and the paraphrase. In essence, it tries to be as close as possible to the original languages, while interpreting the ancient contexts and cultures and modernise it for the current reader.

Strengths = Tries to remain faithful in terms of language and accuracy
Weaknesses = Such approaches is still prone to problems of subjectivity as well

Having said that, the Bible versions have been improved to a large extent. [NIV, NAB, NEB]


Recommendations
So here are my recommendations for good Bible study. Have at least 3 Bibles, one from each category. For me, if I were to buy 3 Bibles from scratch, I will choose the NASB, the tNIV and the NLT. The tNIV is a level better than the NIV and is the updated version of the very popular NIV. It has better scholarship and more gender inclusive. Of course for scholarly perspective I will choose the NRSV. Other good versions are the MESSAGE good for devotions, and of course the good old 1611 KJV. If you have money to buy only 1 Bible, choose the tNIV (Today's New International Version).

Of course there are other factors to consider like the theological background of the translators, the Greek and Hebrew texts used in the translations, textual criticism, interpretative framework, suffice to say that we in the 21st Century has been richly blessed with the amount of Bible Study tools available in a language many of us are comfortable with. So go ahead, open your Bibles and read them!

kianseng


Some Sites on Bible Translations (these sites are for informative purposes only and does not imply my full agreement with everything there.)


  1. http://www.bible-researcher.com/versions.html

  2. http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/

  3. http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Scriptures/


Monday, July 25, 2005

Faith and Hope

"All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen" (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

As I was reflecting on faith and hope, it is refreshing to see the insight of yet another great quotation, which reminded us not to be too caught up to explain all the mysteries in the world. Often in life, mysteries are what they are meant to be: mysteries. Suffice to say, what we are is sufficient evidence to see God at work in our lives. Look at the fingers of a new born baby; or the common eye which is the world's most perfect lens; or the way the tree grows and the flowers bloom. Can man ever 'grow' these things by himself? The Scriptures said it well:"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." (1 Cor 3:6). What folly when men claim to be able to grow things when they have no idea how the growing actually happened. They can try their hand at the best seedlings and fertilizer, but they are still utterly dependent on the weather and nature. Ever wondered why free-range eggs taste better than caged chicken eggs? Or why organic food is more desired than genetically manufactured ones?

God is always at work. For those of us who fail to see God's Hand at work, saying God is invisible, God is no where, just open your senses and you will soon realise that God is ever present with us. For what we see is only a glimpse of what we have not seen or yet to see. In God, we hope and trust that the beauty and glory of the Lord will be revealed in His time.

"If the work of God could be comprehended by reason, it would no longer be wonderful." Pope Gregory I (c.1020-1085)
(St. Gregory the Great)

Let there be faith and hope everytime we think of God.

kianseng

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Living Care-Fully



Several things happened over my 1 week holiday trip. One of them was the increasing momentum of my alumni Christian Fellowship. The other was thinking about what it means to be living under a prolonged illness.

While I was thinking about how to minister to the sick and needy, I kept going back to the word care. Words like 'Careful, Careless, CareFree and Care-Bears' came to mind.

The word CARE-FULLY brought about a new meaning to me. How do I learn to care for others and yet living life to the full? It is by no means a mutually exclusive thing. When we care for others, we become more human ourselves. When we become more human, we are living a fuller life compared to a person who only lives for himself. Put CARE and FULLY together we have the word 'carefully' which is usually understood as being cautious to avoid any injury or harm to oneself. CareFree on the other hand implies a life that is near devoid of worries. The saying goes, that "I do not care how much you know until I know how much you care", is often a benchmark for us intellectuals. The head and the heart must go hand in hand. We should learn to be honest in our heads as well as our hearts, more so when they appear to be in conflicting directions.

This thought came when I read about a brother (FT) caring for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, even after graduation more than 15 years ago. He was chairman of NTI Christian Fellowship back in 1983, and at that time diligently seeking to shepherd young undergraduates for Christ. After having graduated and worked for many years, he continued to show that care and concern, forming an Alumni chapter and using it as a platform to help unemployed new graduates as well as retrenched workers find jobs.

BUSY LIFESTYLE?
We all say that we have a busy lifestyle. Brother FT continued to live "CARE-FULLY" while holding down a full time job with a family of 4 to feed. Being busy is certainly no excuse for NOT caring for others. He paved the way for many to learn how to care despite a busy lifestyle. Thinking aloud. that is so true. It is important to take regular breaks to ask ourselves what we are busy with. Are those things which make us busy, worth our time? People say busy is good but when one uses that as an excuse to avoid caring for others, maybe that kind of busyness is bad.

I tell myself that it is important not to wait until we are too old before we realise the need to catch-up or link up with friends/relatives. Too often we pay lip-service to "We must catch up with one another next time". I do not want to start keeping in touch with fellow brethren when I am too old. Neither do I want to wait to play Chinese chess in the gardens with kopi-O in hand only when I start walking with grey white hairs with a walking stick. I have seen how my own father and other elderly people living very lonely lives. The time to link up and care is now, for later may never come. There is a very appropriate verse written in Hebrews 10:25 that is often used to teach fellowship in Christ.

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

THE CARE-BEARS
There is no need for theological training in order to understand how to apply this verse in our lives. Often, we need to avoid 'Analysis until Paralysis' and instead live out the Word for Christ is the Word. [Having said that, theological education is also important as it helped us recognize the whats and the whys in order for proper contextualizing.] The CARE-BEARS at the top of this post is symbolic as it joins two verbs, the caring and the bearing. I have never really been a fan of CareBears but with this renewed symbolism changed that. Care for one another and bearing one another's burdens is one of the most powerful testimonies for Christ. Live it.

kianseng

Panoramic View of the valley Posted by Picasa



View from the Observatory Tower Posted by Picasa


All of us enjoyed the week at Kelowna and Banff. Interestingly I did not use my tripod until I remembered on our journey back. It was our only group photo we took and that was at Logan Lake after we made a slight detour from Highway 5 for a simple picnic lunch. See the wind blowing at us. Our mothers were feeling so cold. Cheers! Posted by Picasa

The View from the Gondola is awesome. See the Banff town at the bottom? The Banff Gondola was built since 1959 using Swiss technology. That is a little more comforting given that some of us are scared of heights. There were 7 of us and we got on 2 separate gondolas. Our mothers and Amelia were in one, and the rest of us in the other. Cost CAD22.75 per adult and CAD11.25 per child. Very expensive. Holidays are never cheap anyway. Posted by Picasa

The Most Beautiful Lake We Have Seen: Two Jacks at Banff (21 July 2005) Posted by Picasa


The other side of Two-Jacks Lake Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Awesome Rockies from a IXUS V3


Panoramic View of the Rockies from Banff Mount Sulphur Summit (21 July 2005). Amazing view and the photo can only capture a snapshot of the whole scenery. As I reflect, how true it is also for life. We can only capture a snapshot of our own life story. Better to live out and experience it to the full ourselves. The fullness of our sharing with other people is thus dependent on the fullness of our own lives. What we hear of other people's lives being touched by the Lord is just hearing it. We need to experience God for ourselves in order to appreciate Him and His glory! It is no wonder the psalmist say "Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.
O LORD, you preserve both man and beast." (Ps 36:6)
 Posted by Picasa

God's righteousness like a mountain? That is awesome! If seeing the mountains overwhelms me, what more to see God? Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Trip to Kelowna and Banff (17-22 July 2005)


Our family drove to Kelowna and Banff last week. It was awesome, eating the freshest and sweetest cherries ever. Just look at the cherries. They were absolutely yummy. We ate and picked, and what was more amazing was the ease of which the cherries dropped out.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Living at Tissington House - Kelowna


We lived in a Vacation House in Kelowna. The facilities there were amazing and there is an XBox there as well. They have DVDs, videos, hifi and all sorts of entertainment in the house But no internet.(sigh) Kids Playing XBox. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Cheers! (The Family at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival)) Posted by Picasa
Picture Taken on 28 March 2005 at the Tulip Festival (http://www.tulipfestival.org)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

My Favourite Browser

Behold! Here is a summary of my personal ranking on latest browsers:

#1 - Safari
#2 - Firefox
#3 - Netscape/Mozilla
#4 - Internet Explorer

Safari is only available on Apple Mac OS platforms. It has been my favourite web browser since I got my Powerbook. Fast, simple interface and powerful. Of course, the other reason is that it distinguish itself from the other browsers that PC users have been used to. I rank it #1 in terms of frequency of use

Firefox is a close favourite. It works well with both Mac and PC platforms. What I like about it is its easy way to add extensions and themes. At the same time, it remembers very well web inputs and I like especially the tabbed browsing feature. The first time I used it, I was sold. All my family members have migrated away from the Microsoft IE.

Netscape/Mozilla is another good browser, though not as good as the top 2. The latest Netscape 8.02 is promising as it allows users to open all windows in tabbed format, something that the other Mozilla based browsers did not do as well.

Finally the old IE still stuck at version 6.0 Of course it is partially upgraded when you install the MSN toolbar which makes it a little more clunky, like wearing a face mask on a permanent basis. Hopefully this will be improved when they release version 7.0

So here it is, my initial take on Internet browsers.

ks

On The NKF


Despite the distance from the island of Singapore, I could still feel the issues emanating from the recent NKF expose about the CEO's pay, the problem of corporate transparency and the resulting public reactions and even the vandalism than ensued the court case.

For those who do not know, the National Kidney Foundation is the largest charity organization in Singapore. Sometime in April 2004, there was an article written by a journalist Susan Long for the powerful newspaper The Straits Times, a publication by the government backed Singapore Press Holdings. The dispute was because of the implied extravagance of the CEO installing gold taps and flying first class using public donations. In trying to avoid negative public reactions over the implied negativity surrounding the use of public funds, the CEO, TT Durai launched a lawsuit against SPH for the publication. The case which was supposed to last 10 days starting from last week ended in two days after severe questioning of the CEO by a top lawyer Senior Counsel Davinder Singh (see picture). After two days, the NKF decided to drop the lawsuit, and under pressure by public sentiment, the CEO and the entire Board of Directors as well as the patron, Mrs Goh Chok Tong all resigned in order to pave the way for new people.

The entire saga has brought more negative perceptions on how public money is being spent by charities in Singapore. Chances are, such news are not good for social help organizations as it would mean they are viewed firstly with suspicion rather than trust. As the saying goes, it takes just one bad apple spoils the rest.

A friend emailed a funny poster which I attach for your laughs. The actual court case is of course not funny.

Some links for you to refer to:
1) http://www.asia1.com.sg
2) http://www.channelnewsasia.com
3) http://www.nkfs.org

I have never had a good impression of the way the NKF conducts their canvassing for funds. However, it is always important to understand that we are not angels ourselves. It it is possible for anyone of us to run the NKF, under similar political and corporate conditioning the CEO TT Durai have to work in, will any of us have behaved differently?

Let us play with a scenario: If for example, Pay CEO A $25k a month and he managed to bring in $100million a year. Pay CEO B $2.5k a month only managed to canvass for $100,000 only per year, which CEO will you employ? The end result, who suffers, the patients? A crazy ideal would be let the CEO work for free, and bring in multi-millions every year. Such an ideal world does not exist. The best thing would be to pay just wages according to the work cut out for him. In terms of corporate governance, as a Christian, it should not make a difference in how he/she behaves. He/She should do his/her utmost for the Lord no matter what organization he/she work for. For that matter, whether the person is a office manager, a doctor, a lawyer, a Church worker or simply a shop assistant, the work cut out should be discharged in a manner honouring to the Lord. As for wages, he/she should be paid appropriately according to the work cut out. Underpaying anyone is a sin!
This is one of the problems of human rationalising. How will we ever grow up in our understanding of corporate governance? How will we ever have a good balance of involving top corporate management into non-profit organizations? A clue to unravelling this problem is not to distinguish too sharply any organization in the first place. That is because underneath each job title, underneath each organizational umbrella is a normal human being like you and me, who needed to breathe, who needs to eat and drink, who has families and loved ones to care and provide for. The issue of paying someone justly is easier said than done. Having said that, it does not mean who stop at this point and don't do anything. On the contrary we should encourage and even applaud those who honestly tried to improve things. That is why Christian community ought to learn from one another the perceptions in place, and the rationale behind each decision to be made.

For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages. (1 Tim 5:18)

Please do not underpay the pastor or the Church worker. It is one thing to work by faith. It is another not to pay when an organization can afford to. Let the discussion go on.

ks

I Surrender

OK,

I surrender. ie I confess that I am not strong enough to go against the tsunamis of web-logging. Many of my friends at Regent has been blogging away like crazy, sharing such wonderful things about their lives via the the latest and the hippiest blogging. After many months, I admit that the old ways of individual emails and individual posting on web sites seemed like comparing typewriters to a modern work-processor computers.

As a repentent computer person, I hereby pronounce my entry into the blogging world. So here I come, bloggers, wait for MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!


ks

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