Sunday, December 25, 2016

Epistle to Hamers (18)

Dear Frank and Lora,

Thanks for the email and it is heart warming to read it through. Good to hear that Isaac's wife is expecting soon. Glad to hear that Frank is still going around and do all sorts of work. However considering his active lifestyle, I am surprise to hear that he need to take medication to control his blood pressure. Anyway will keep both of you in prayer.

From Desiring God.

This month of December was an eventful month, for the fact that we celebrate the First Advent during this time of the year. Since around 2012 it becomes a habit for me to read through the advent devotions from Desiring God, namely the "Good News of Great Joy" and "The Dawning of Indestructible Joy". During this advent I was reading the Christmas account again in Matthew and Luke, more thoroughly. Indeed it is an account worth to be re-read and be re-told for eternity. On top of that many articles and resources on the web are of indefinite value. I put some of the links at the end of the email. I also listened to Frank's Christmas messages again, after all it was in Russia that I first celebrated Christmas, for the right reason.

"Christmas Tree" at the Town Square.

This year I spent Christmas in Sibu again, mainly because I enjoy celebrating it last year in this place. On December 22 my church organized a caroling, where we visited houses of the children who are attending the Sunday school in my church. Most of their parents are unbelievers, and when you arrived in their home you can definitely see that many of them have financial issue and I was told that some have family issues (eg. the mother ran away, the father passed away, etc). Christmas is not just a flippancy kind of fun where people sing Jingle Bell, exchange gifts, or wearing Santa suit and say ho-ho-ho. Christmas is about remembering the great miracle of incarnation and proclaiming this good news of great joy, hence the carol signs "Go Tell It On The Mountain."

To quote from John Piper, "It is a wonderful thing that there are Christmas carols that are written for the real world of sorrowful joy, as well as the real world of exuberant joy. 'O Come, O Come, Emmanuel' is one of them." It is sorrowful to see this children living hard in their conditions, but this gives us more reasons to sing and proclaim this message to them and their family, because "... the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10)

Whereas on the Christmas Day itself, as usual we have Christmas service in the morning, and a dinner with celebration in the evening. It was kind of scary to see bunch of children making noise in a small room. But as they all sing the carol "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" in unison, immediately this verse came to my mind, "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise..." (Psalm 8:2, Matthew 21:16)
I remembered last time I asked both of you to describe Christmas in a phrase. I feel like doing this exercise again, in a more extensive ways.
  1. Use one word to describe Christmas:
  2. Use two words to describe Christmas:
  3. Use three words to describe Christmas:
  4. Use a verse from OT to describe Christmas:
  5. Use a verse from NT to describe Christmas:
  6. Use a sentence to describe Christmas:
Obviously there are wrong answers like Santa Claus or Reindeer, but there will be many right answers. I provided my answer at the end of the email.
Meanwhile during this season I was still doing some doodling.

​This was for a gift exchange in the hospital small group.

I guess that's all about advent for this year. I still miss the time in Russia where we celebrate Christmas until January 7th. I will be traveling to Kuching with my friends from December 31 till January 3, a short escape from our work, and to explore the nature.

I hope both of you also have a great time during this Christmas, and have a Happy New Year.
Take care and God Bless.

In Christ,


The Links:

My answers for the questions:
  1. Use one word to describe Christmas: Incarnation
  2. Use two words to describe Christmas: Hypostatic union
  3. Use three words to describe Christmas: Word became flesh
  4. Use  a verse from OT to describe Christmas: Isaiah 9:6
  5. Use a verse from NT to describe Christmas: Luke 2:11
  6. Use a sentence to describe Christmas: Jesus Christ, Son of God from eternity, broke into history, came to the world, took up the nature of humanity but still fully God, to bring salvation to sinners like you and me.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Epistle to Hamers (17)

Dear Frank and Lora,

[This email supposed to be sent much earlier in August, but I kept delaying it, and as I delayed it I added more content to it.]

How are you? I attended a pre-conference workshop on abdominal ultrasound and a three days conference called Emergency Medicine Annual Scientific (EMAS) Meeting in August. A good learning experience where there were many good local speakers with some international speakers, and also an opportunity to meet with some old friends currently working in other hospitals.

During one of the tea break my specialist who is also the head of department mentioned that one of our colleague, who is a man with few words, actually has a girlfriend. Suddenly he asked me whether I have a girlfriend. After getting a negative answer, he asked, "Why?" Honestly I have no answer to that question. Some christian friends said I should pray for a spiritual partner, but I just pray "Thy will be done." because I have this believe that both singleness and marriage are blessing from God, and I am still not sure what is God's will for me in this matter.

Joseph son of Joshua

I managed to visit Joshua and Jean, and also see their baby Jospeh. Really cute like in the photos. Currently they stayed with Jean's parents for the one-month confinement, an asian culture and belief that all women need to stay at home for one month after delivery and follow certain rules. I was told that Joseph was born via emergency Caesarean section due to fetal distress. Thank God that both of them are safe. As Lora asked me about the gift for baby, I was also thinking what gift should I give. Initially I thought of buy baby clothing with bible verse on top but I can't find it in such a short time, and I have zero talent in sewing. So I bought this and drew something behind it.

Pokemon Go

Recently mobile game called Pokémon GO was launched in Malaysia, and without surprise it became one of the hottest game, and also stirred up many controversies even before the game was launched in Malaysia.

Major and real concern is the road traffic safety issue, where people keep their eyes on the screen and get into accident. However secondary issue is something more spiritual. In spiritual matter, Muslims usually stirred up the issue first. Some Muslim religious teachers (mufti) gave a statement that it is not good to play if it bring harm. While some muslims declare it as 'haram' (not lawful in Islam).

On the christian side not much people mentioned anything. I notice in US some churches see it as a good evangelism approach, as many religious places are designated as Pokéstop for players to collect in-game items. So there will be people who have never been to church in their life time will actually appear outside the church.

However brothers and sisters in my church see it as something very negative. I understand their concern for possibility of trespassing and also risk of road traffic accident outside the church. But some see it as witchcraft and something demonic, which I think seems to be too exaggerated.

Surprisingly David, the pastor for City Harvest Church in Sibu said something quite insightful. People has been asking his opinion even before he knew about this game. He said it is just another game, and it depends how you use it or play it. All games can cause addiction in the players, and if someone play to the point of addiction, obviously it is bad.

Personally I am in agreement with Pastor David. Pokémon Go is not the first game in this world, and I think it is rather unfair to said it is demonic or witchcraft, and it get so much attention just because it makes the players go to the outside world to "catch Pokémons", while playing games is something that have been happening for so many years, just that those games make the players stay indoor. 

Yet it is not without problem.

"Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial.
"Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial.
"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. (1 Corinthians 10:23)
Indeed if playing Pokémon Go (and all other games) causing us to neglect the more important things in our life, it will be an idol, and it is bad.
However as I flipped through 1 Corinthians, I tried to notice what Paul mentioned in regard to food offered to idols. In one hand, Paul talked about how these food offered is intrinsically nothing (as in the food is not influenced by idols, as idols are nothing) (1 Cor 8:4, 10:19). But subsequently Paul recognized the demonic force behind it (1 Cor 10:20-22).
So in a similar sense, is it fair to say that there is also demonic spirit working behind this Pokemon Go game?

Gangster in Hospital

I recalled an incident happened a few months ago. Sibu is also known as the land of Foo-chow, and it used to quite a lot of gangsters in the town, but as years go by their number becomes lesser and lesser. However I met one few weeks ago, not just any regular gangster, but one of the gangster boss. He was referred from private hospital for further management of heart attack. He has known case of heart problem with two out of the three coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart was blocked, and percutaneous coronary intervention was done twice in Singapore. In short, he has serious heart problem.

He has chest pain at 11pm at night while drinking beer in the bar with his followers (in Malay we called them 'konco'). Immediately they brought him to private hospital. After the necessary blood investigation was done and medication was given, the private side decided to send them over to the government hospital where I am working, because private will not keep unstable patient or potential problematic patient.

When he arrived at 1am, he was very not cooperative. He was very reluctant to answer our questions, he was still trying to act like a boss. He even told one of my house officer, "Usually I am the one who ask question, nobody ask me question." I explained to him that we need to know what was going on with him in order to treat him, and whether he still has on-going chest pain after the private gave a dose of pain killer. Heart attack usually produce very severe chest pain until we have to give morphine. Apparently it is very shameful for a gangster boss to admit that he was in pain and need pain killer.

When he knew that he need to be admitted, he asked how many days he need to stay in hospital. When he was told that it will be at least three days, he said he is a busy man and cannot stay in hospital too long, doctor should come to his house to treat him. But no physician in the right mind will keep a heart attack patient at home! When he knew that it was futile to resist for admission to ward, he requested for first class ward, "I cannot stay with other people, I need to stay in a single-bedded room!" Again, no physician or even nurse in the right mind will keep a heart attack patient in personal room. Unstable patient cannot stay in private room, they have to be in the so-called acute bay near the nurse station. While waiting for admission he kept talking on the phone, apparently giving orders to his followers. He even asked my permission to smoke a cigarette, which I rejected for two fold reasons: he is a heart disease patient who should have stop smoking, and he was in a hospital where smoking is strictly prohibited.
After he was admitted to ward, my colleagues and nurses discussed about him. The same conclusion that we have is that, no matter how high and mighty you are in the society or in your circle of influence, when you are fall sick, you still have to come to hospital for treatment, you still have to answer our questions, and follow our orders. It is meaningless to act high and mighty like a boss. Everyone who is ill comes to us in emergency department is "patient", the only difference that matter to us is whether you are critically sick who need to be attend immediately in red zone, moderately sick who need to be attend fast in yellow zone, or still relatively well who can wait in green zone.
The story haven't finished. About an hour later a young lady came and was looking for someone. I asked her who exactly you are looking for. She answered, "Big boss." But who is big boss? My big boss is the head of department and he was sleeping at home at this hour. When I asked for the name of the person she is looking for, she just said, "Hmm...... the person that was sent here just now." But hundred of patients was send to this hospital daily. At the end she still cannot tell the name, and she left. Most likely she was one of the follower or 'konco' looking for this gangster boss. But I just cannot assume it and tell her where he was admitted. Sadly to say that even though he thought he was high and mighty with many followers, but how many of them know his name?
The same is for us. No matter who we are, how matter how much we have achieved in our life, no matter how many followers we have, when that day comes, all of us will come before Him. "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13)

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14)
So let us fear God and humble ourselves before God as we look forward to the day of God.

First Responder Course
Last month in September, my specialist asked me to be a facilitator for a course called First Responder Course. Initially I keep asking him what exactly I need to do? The job description for facilitator is very vague. After that he told me just need to present the topic on Primary Survey, and he kept assure me that it is very simple, the audiences are mainly medical assistants and nurses only, and the PowerPoint slide was prepared already (by someone else). He kept saying, "Just go only, just go and present, very simple only."
I can't really reject my boss' order, so I just accepted it only. Initially I was still very clueless about. After my head of department knew that I will be presenting the topic and also be a facilitator during practical session (which I was not clearly told about this initially), he actually asked me to meet him and have a debriefing session, explained what need to be said and done. Well that that session I am not that clueless.
Not only so, after that session, the organizer actually find him to go to the polyclinic where the course will be held (they called it as site inspection), so he brought me along for this site inspection, the clinic staffs shown us the conference room, where to do the practical session, etc. After visually see the place, I was more confident. He also assured me that both of them will come especially during the practical session.
Many time in my life, I felt that God is sending us to do something, like how God told Abraham "Go....", and like how Jesus told his disciples "Go....." I often have this misconception that God just simply asked me to just "go" but no clear instruction on what to do. But I am wrong. God did tell us what to do. Jesus said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
God also didn't just command us to go only, He actually show us the way. God told Abraham, "....go to the land I will show you." (Genesis 12:1)
And God didn't leave us alone. Jesus said, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)

Spiritual Gifts

The topic on spiritual gifts is always controversial in churches. No doubt that in pentecostal or charismatic churches, when people speak or pray in tongues without interpretation, something is not right. Either they did not exercise their gift correctly, since there is no interpreter; or they don't have the gift of tongues in the first place.

However now the question that bothers me a lot is the issue on whether certain giftsespecially speaking of tongues, healing, cast out demons, visions, dreamsstill continue to exist today? Sam Storms offered his insight on this topic (
One extreme is continuationism, saying all gifts continue to exist. But what about the gift of apostle? Surely we don't see new apostle in these days.
Another extreme is cessationism, saying many gifts especially gift of apostle, speaking in tongues, healing. But is there any indication in the Bible saying that some of these gift will stop to exist?
In Bible-Presbyterian churches, I asked some pastors and preachers. Many said these miraculous gifts were only meant for the New Testament church, when the apostles still alive. Some said we already have the complete Word of God, hence the cessation of the gift of prophecy. Some also added that the prophecy in Joel 2:28-29 was fulfilled in Acts during the Pentecost, and this prophecy fulfilled once only. But again I do not see a clear indication that it was so in the Scripture, since some prophecies have double fulfillment. After all, the gifts are meant for common good, for the building of church, so why will God stop to build His church through such mean?

The Case of ...

I finished both the Case for Faith and the Case for Christ. Currently reading the Case for Creator. Initially I didn't plan to buy that book from the conference, since I am not that interested in such topic. But I said to myself, I have miss my chance of reading that book in Russia, I am not going to miss the second chance, so I bought it, and I didn't regret doing so when I reading through the book.
A quotation from the Case of Christ that took my attention:

"First, I'm not saying, 'Just trust your experience.' I', saying, 'Use your mind calmly and weigh the evidence, and then let experience be a confirming piece of evidence.' Second, if what this evidence really do point to is true—that is, if all these lines of evidence really do point to the resurrection of Jesus—the evidence itself begs for an experiential test... And for people to accept the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and do not take the final step of testing it experientially would be to miss where the evidence is ultimately pointing... [The experiential realm] is the final confirmation of the evidence. In fact, I'll say this: the evidence screams out for experiential test." - J.P. Moreland
By the way I am quite disappointed that neither these two books, A Peculiar Glory by Piper and Knowing God by J.I. Packer is available in my local bookstores. Apparently the stock haven't arrived even after many months. Perhaps I do have to start reading the electronic version after finished reading the Case for Creator.


I came back to KL in the end of September to attend a 3-day preparatory course for Pre-Interview Assessment in Emergency Medicine (PIAEM), which is a requirement before applying for master programme in emergency medicine in Malaysia. It is basically a revision for basic science like anatomy, physiology, etc, to prepare us for the PIAEM exam in early November, a 40 questions exam. I also came back to attend a course an exam for Advanced Trauma Life Support in early October. It is a fun and enjoying course, but the exam which consists of 40 multiple choices question and also practical assessment made it doesn't that relaxing since we worried whether we will pass it, and I worried about it since February when I signed up for this course. But thank God for His mercy and grace that I passed this exam.

I will be flying back tomorrow (October 10, 2016). I guess that's all for this long email.

In Christ,

Monday, August 15, 2016

Epistle to Hamers (16)

Dear Frank and Lora,

I am glad to hear that Lora can teach in a Biblical Womanhood course, most sisters from Koinonia enjoyed this lesson back in Volgograd. In the previous e-mail, Lora asked, "Speaking of teaching and/or preaching, do you see yourself doing any of it sometime in the future? You really have a teacher’s and preacher’s understanding and passion. Never say never!!"
I do not denied that I have the desire in teaching, and hopefully preaching. I enjoy presenting topics on medical theme since medical school, and until now I still enjoy teaching in continue medical education (CME) session in my department. However I haven't involved in any teaching or preaching ministry in the church, because of a few reasons:
(1) The prerequisite for serving is to be a member, and I haven't become the member of the church I am attending, as I haven't completed the Basic Bible Knowledge (BBK) course—which is a prerequisite for membership of the church—due to the irregular working schedule during housemanship. Even so now I am reluctant to complete that course, especially when the elder sometime will take about KJV and VPP (
(2) In the church most teaching in Bible study was done by pastors or elders. And personally I am not interested in teaching in Sunday school, because I am not good in dealing with children.
These reasons sound like excuses, maybe the passion is not really there when the whole church hold fast to KJV-onlyism. However I am still trying to immerse myself with more understanding in God and His Word, so that when the opportunity comes, I will be fully equipped. I still haven't forget that dream/vision that I had in May 2013, where I heard a voice saying to me "Preach..."
I started to attend this annual bible conference by KVBC (Klang Valley Bible Conference) since 2013, and Joshua was the one who gave the recommendation. After reading D.A. Carson's books and listened to preaching from Internet, it was really a wonderful experience to see and hear from his preaching directly face to face. I wonder how it will be like, when that day comes, when we will see Jesus face to face.

  * * *

Regarding little gift for the baby that maybe is not readily available in Malaysia, Lora you have made a very good observation, because there is a joke "God created heaven and earth and every living thing, and everything else was Made in China." Personally I will give a few suggestions:
(1) Baby clothing or stuffs with Bible verses on them. I didn't active go and find out whether this kind of things is available in Malaysia or not.
(2) I remember when Joel's child was born and he requested for a baby dedication in the church, Frank gave something in an envelope for the child to read when he is old enough. So maybe you can write something, either a letter, or in a special way, (eg. like the message you sticked behind the photo and gave it to me when I graduated), so that when little Joseph grows up he can read it. I am sure that this kind of gift will be precious as it will be the one and only kind without the "Made in China" label on it.

  * * *
I have been reading this book The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity by Lee Strobel. After finished reading this book, I can say overall the book is very well written. The content of the book is structured in such as way as below:
  • Introduction: "The Challenge of Faith" with Charles Templeton
  • Objection #1 "Since Evil and Suffering Exist, a Loving God Cannot" with Peter Kreeft, PhD
  • Objection #2 "Since Miracles Contradict Science, They Cannot Be True" with William Lane Craig, PhD
  • Objection #3 "Evolution Explains Life, So God Isn't Needed" with Walter L. Bradley, PhD
  • Objection #4 "God Isn't Worthy of Worship If He Kills Innocent Children" with Norman L. Geisler, PhD
  • Objection #5 "It's Offensive to Claim Jesus Is the Only Way to God" with Ravi Zacharias, D.D., LL.D.
  • Objection #6 "A Loving God Would Never Torture People in Hell" with J.P. Moreland, PhD
  • Objection #7 "Church History Is Littered with Oppression and Violence" with John D. Woodbridge, PhD
  • Objection #8 "I Still Have Doubts, So I Can't Be a Christian" with Lynn Anderson, D.Min.
  • Conclusion: The Power of Faith.
 I am not very persuaded with objection #4 and #6, regarding killing of childrens (when Geisler mentioned about age of accountability) and regarding hell (I am not clear with Moreland's view on hell). Maybe I need to read this two chapters again. Otherwise the introduction, objection #1, #5, #8 are really very well written, recommended for those in doubt and also those mature in faith.

When I just finished reading objection #8, I recalled a junior of mine in Volgograd, who is a very strong and firm in atheism. He knows the arguments and debates well. He can put up with all the intellectual objection very well, he knows Ravi Zacharias, he knows the "liar, lunatic or Lord" by C.S. Lewis. Yet Anderson in the interview put up a very good question: "...people have a psychological need to believe—just as some people have psychological need not to believe. I said to her, 'What's the reason you don't want to believe? Is it because you don't want the responsibility faith brings with it? Is it because of despair over your own incorrigibility? Or is it because you don't want to give up parties?' " Of course Anderson did recognized those with genuine faith but in doubt when he made this statement. I remember my classmate told me that this junior indeed has a bad memory with some christians during high school. So it is not that the intellectual arguments that did not convince him, but something else lurking beneath those doubts that fueling his unbelief. Without surprise, objection #8 was finished with a conclusion of Mark 9:24 "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." Indeed this should be our attitude when we are in doubt.
Finally the book concludes with the fact that Strobel was mailing the manuscript of all his interviews to Charles Templeton. "How, I wondered, would Templeton have reacted to my interviews with these eight expects? Would he have been receptive to their evidence and argument? Or would the inexorable advance of Alzheimer's have already robbed him of the capacity to rethink spiritual issues anew?"

They said "do not judge a book by its cover" (this is the reason why I didn't read them when I saw them lying around in Koinoia, I judged them by the cover). This describes this book very well. This book is not just arguments about "The Big Eight" obstacles to christian faith. It is a story—to be more accurate, an account—of a journey of a journalist, embarked from an interview with preacher-turned-skeptic, and this journalist wanted to retell this person about his journey.

  * * *
I will be going back to KL again tomorrow (August 16, 2016) to attend this conference, "50th Malaysia-Singapore Congress of Medicine & 3rd AMM-AMS-HKAM Tripartite Congress incorporating the 1st Emergency Medicine Annual Scientific (EMAS) Meeting" ( Just to take note, 'emas' means 'gold' in Malay, so the pun is intended. By God's blessing I managed to summit three case report in poster format.

I might write more after my trip to back to KL.
In Christ, Kevin.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Epistle to Hamers (15)

Dear Frank and Lora,

How are both of you? I am fine. It has been eight months since I start working as a medical officer in emergency department in Sibu Hospital. Although we still facing stress, managing case that ends up with mortality, it is still wonderful to work in the department that you like, with good working environment and nice colleagues and superiors. The house unit that I rent is also a nice cozy place located just five-minute walking distance from hospital. The town is peaceful generally, and doesn't suffer air pollution in big cities like Kuala Lumpur.

But as the Russian proverb says, "в гостях хорошо, а дома лучше". There is no place like home. Since my last return home in March, I have been in Sibu until now. Initially I doesn't feel the excitement to go back. But as the date to go back home approaching, I was getting more and more excited. I started to clean up my room, wash the bed linen, preparing the necessity to bring back home. If we can get so excited to go back our earthly home, how much more we should be excited to go back out heavenly home? "And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth... Instead, they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one..." (Hebrews 11:13,16)

Recently I start to read The Case For Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity by Lee Strobel. I saw this book in a local christian bookstore in Sibu. Although the list of topics in the content doesn't look that attractive, but after listened to the audiobook The Case For The Real Jesus, I cannot resist my urge to buy this book. After reading the introduction chapter, I did not regret. The opening chapter is breath-taking, he talks about Charles Templeton, who was once an prominent evangelist and went for evangelistic crusades with Billy Graham, but end up as an agnostic  as he cannot accept the existent of a loving God who allows suffering in this world. Surprisingly in the end of the interview, Templeton actually mentioned that he missed Jesus. Unfortunately Strobel was unable to probe in further why Templeton said such thing.

I guess the author of Ecclesiastes says it well, "He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (3:11) Although we could not fully understand sufferings from this side of eternity, but man longs for something eternal, and this thirst and desire can only be fill up by God alone. Hence Templeton should have pray ""Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)

Another thing that make me enjoy reading this book is that I have listened another audiobook by the same author, and the audio recording was read by the author himself. Hence I can imagine his intonation and expression as I read this book.

However we are called to have the spirit of the Bereans when reading books or listening to teaching. In one of the interview with Norman Geisler in this book, Geisler mentioned that he actually believes in age of accountability,  which is something not biblical. I remember this issue was mentioned eight years ago in a long abandoned blog of Koinonia. (PS: Do read Kok Tong's comment in part 1)

Food for thought: "The argument used by most people in support of an age of accountability is that, "it has to be true in order to keep God fair," but this is simply an emotional response based on nothing but personal opinion." - Tony Warren

 * * *
By the way the main reason I came back home during is time is mainly to attend the annual KVBC Bible Conference 2016 and #PreachTheWord CEP Preaching Conference 2016.

Let's start with the Preaching Conference in the morning. The tagline is #PreachTheWord, as so that we preach with the Word as the centrality.
Day 1 focus on preaching the whole Bible.
Day 2 focus on preaching the Old Testament.
Day 3 focus on preaching and the Holy Spirit.

The new way they design this conference is that every day started with morning exposition on Galatians and end with afternoon exposition on Jeremiah, with lectures workshops in between.

I can't really write out every single thing here. But the good news is that the committee will try to upload all the recordings to, maybe by the end of the year. Anyway I will share a few things that left a huge impressions.

On Galatians

"Jesus + Nothing = Everything" - Tullian Tchividjian.
While Jesus + Anything = Nothing.

"Upon a Life I have not lived, Upon a Death I did not die,
Another’s Life; Another’s Death, I stake my whole eternity." - Horatious Bonar

"The coming of the new currency (pound and new pence) makes the old currency (pounds, shillings and pences - £sd) redundant. The coming of the new covenant makes the old covenant redundant." - David Cook.
(The analogy is in reference to the decimalisation of pound sterling in 1971.)

"Do not be a minister of letter that kills. Do not impose the expectation of the laws, rather impose the gospel of grace." - Tan Kay Hoe.

"The law convicts of our sins and made us run to Christ, Live as Christ's man, not as Adam's man, because we have been redeemed!" - David Cook

"Instead of viewing Galatians 5:22-23 as nine fruits of the Spirit, we should view it as nine flavors of the fruit of the Spirit, because we shouldn't be saying I have this fruit, but I don't have that fruit. It is not like the gift of the Holy Spirit." - Paul Barker

"Christian should crucify sins, put to death the flesh; not just pacify it, subdue it, restrict it, suppress it, put it in a cage then let it out once in a while. If the work of the flesh is like weeds, we should then uproot it instead of just cutting the leaves." - Paul Barker

"The aroma of the fruit of the Spirit is pungent to the sinful world." - Paul Barker
(He started off with his exposition on Galatians 5 with the food and fruits in Malaysia, so this saying is in analogy to durian actually.)

On Jeremiah 1, 11, 31

"In time of uncertainty, we need the Word of God, we need God speaking to us." - Andrew Reid.

"The safe place during judgement is judgement itself, because beyond judgement there is hope. Run toward the judgement and punishment of God, for there you will see the cross and resurrection, and there you will find forgiveness and grace from God." - Chris Green.

D.A. Carson ascribes to his father, "A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text."

The Gospel and The Word by D.A. Carson

1. The Gospel is christological.
2. The Gospel is theological.
3. The Gospel is biblical.
4. The Gospel is apostolical.
5. The Gospel is historical.
6. The Gospel is personal.
7. The Gospel is universal.
8. The Gospel is eschatological.

"Most of my students don't remember what I taught, instead they remember what excites me."
The duty of a teacher is not to make the students remember what you teach, how you teach, the fascinating analogies that you used, or the impressive analysis that you made. Rather it is to make them remember what is the thing that excites the teacher to teach.

Preaching the Whole Bible by Paul Barker

"When preaching Old Testament, we tend to fall into one of the two extremes, either we see the story individually, or we relate everything directly to Jesus and ignore the context."
"Do not read the Bible fragmentary. Fragmentary reading leads to fragmentary preaching."

"A word requires a sentence to give it a meaning.
A sentence requires a paragraph to give it a meaning,
A paragraph requires a chapter to give it a meaning.
A chapter requires a book to give it a meaning.
A book requires the whole Bible to give it a meaning."

"A context don't end in a chapter or even in a book, but extend from Genesis to Revelation. This is called Scripture unity, because we have a unified Bible, unified by a divine authour."

Paul Barker divides the whole Bible into six sections:
1. Creation.
2. Fall and sin.
3. Redemption (salvation) initiated.
4. Redemption fufilled (incarnation and resurrection).
5. Redemption lived and proclaimed
6. New creation.
"Each passage need to  be understood from creation to new creation."
"Biblical theology is not ONE of the method to read the Scripture, it is THE method to read the Scripture."

Preaching the Gospel from Old Testament by Peter Lau

Just a side note, though he looks like Chinese Malaysian, and his name sounds like Chinese Malaysian, but Peter Lau is not Chinese Malaysian. He is a Chinese Australian, but have been teaching in Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM) for six years. Peter Lau uses a Biblical Interpretation Pyramid to prepare sermons. He did mentioned what it is not THE method to prepare preaching, but it is how he do it,
We work through Haggai chapter 1 and chapter 2:1-9.
The subject is what I am talking about.
The complement is what am I saying about what I am talking about.
The big idea = subject + complement.
The big question = make a question from a big idea.

For example in Haggai 1
The subject = the correct response to God's discipline.
The complement = repent and put God's priority first in life.
The big idea = the correct response to God's discipline is repent and put God's priority first in life.
The big question = what is the correct response to God's discipline?
I tried to explain it out particular on subject, complement, big idea and big question, because it is not self-explained as much as other sections do.

When try to connect between Old Testament with Jesus, i.e. the differences that Jesus makes, he taught us to think alone these lines:
1. Continuity / Similarity?
2. Discontinuity / Differences?
3. Escalation?

Other notes that he used during the lesson.
Some one asked Peter Lau whether we must connect every sermon to Christ, i.e. can we preach a sermon theologically (God-centred) but not christologically (Christ-centred)? He didn't give a yes or no straight away, rather he gave us a quotation from Spurgeon to reflect.

“But do you not know that from every little town and village and tiny hamlet in England there is a road leading to London? Whenever I get hold of a text, I say to myself, ‘There is a road from here to Jesus Christ, and I mean to keep on His track till I get to Him.'” - Charles H. Spurgeon
For the complete quotation:  
Peter, however, did mentioned that he tries to preach Christ in every sermon, but not every sermon will lead to the person and work of Jesus on the cross. He might point to the teaching or the parable from Jesus instead.

I remember a few years back, when Shwen mentioned that that she learned something new in Luke 10:30-35 from the Chinese christian in Moscow. She was taught that the parable is talking a person in the parable was on the journey from Jerusalem, a city in Israel to Jericho, a gentile city, signifying a christian stumbles or slides back. He is assaulted and robbed, signify christian attacked by devil. When someone stumbles, neither the law or ritual (represented by the Levite and priest). Only the new covenant (represented by the wine and oil used to treat that person) can save him.

Till today I can remember it, because I am still amazed by how this person try to fit in every single detail into that parable and teach what he want, instead of teaching what is in the Scripture. At that time Frank reminded us well the context of this parable. Jesus said it in response to the question by the lawyer who tries to justify himself, "Who is my neighbor?" After telling this parable, the lawyer himself answered Jesus that the Samaritan is the neighbor. When try to do expository preaching, we have to see the big picture instead of getting too obsessed with the minute details, lest that we trying to be smart by our own intellect and make an inappropriate allegory from something that is not in the text.

Preaching Narrative in Old Testament with Biblical Theology by Andrew Reid

In Gen 9.10, Psa 14:1-3, Eccl 7:20, all of them have the same main point, they are all about sin, but each of them are of different genre. The great irony in preaching is that most preacher finds it the most difficult to preach from the narrative, but the congregation loves to hear from the narrative the most. The matter of fact is that narrative is the most powerful way to teach theology: gospel narrative, parables from Jesus, and historical books in Old Testament.

Below is a module used by Andrew Reid in approaching Old Testament,

Why preach narrative?
1. Jesus and apostles urge us to teach from the whole Bible which contain narrative.
2. Narrative allows listeners to enter the story themselves.
3. People love it, and a capable preacher can make the narrative lives.

Some primary things to look out for when preaching narratives:
1. Who is the hero? Reason?
2. Is there a goal or quest? What does it consist of? What is the hero after?
3. Who are the helpers and opponents?
4. Can you feel the narrator's presence in the text?
5. Does the narrator keep to the chronology of the event? If not, where it changes?
6. Where are the gap in the narrative time, why? Where does it speed up, why?
7. Is there a clear plot?
8. Where are the speeches? Why are they important?
9. Is there any particular choice of word that is striking?
10. What are the boundary of the passage?

Just as football is understood differently in different countries, so does the term biblical theology, which is a rather new term. Some define it as the storyline or the plotline of the Bible, but if that is the case, then it should be called as biblical storyline or biblical plotline. The correct understanding is that biblical theology answers the question: Where does the passage fit into the whole theology of the Bible that finds its centre and goal in Jesus. The keyword is theology, not just story.

Issues Facing Evangelicals Today by D.A. Carson

What is evangelicism?
From socialogical view point, it is everyone who call themselves 'evangelicals' but it will include and exclude many.
From historical view point, you need to trace back to the root, but how far? Awakening? Reformation? What about Augustine?
Some said evangelicals are those who embraces biblicalism, crucicentrocism, activism, and conversionism, but this will include the Romans Catholics.
From theological view point, they are those who expound the evangel, i.e. the gospel.
Things to be grateful for:
1. Growth of christians around the world.
2. Missionary movement shift from "west to rest" to "everywhere to everywhere".
3. Rising of first class commentators and scholars.
4. Digital outreach.
5. Rising of reformed theology.

1. Rising of biblical illiteracy.
2. Challenge with digital evolution,
3. Globalization and pushback of it to tribalism.
4. Secularization, pushing religion to peripheries, postmodernism.
5. Age of victimization and ego-centricism.
6. Changing face of tolerance. (in fact he wrote a book Intolerance of Tolerance)
7. Change in sexual morality and sexual identity.
8. Rising of open theism, new perspective, health-wealth-prosperity gospel, questioning on final authority of Scripture.
9. World-wide refugee crisis and differentiated birth rate.
10. Rising of world-wide persecution.

Principles to adopt:
1. Always remember God is sovereign and good.
2. Our first allegiance is with God and Christ.
3. We should not expect to be persecution-free.
4. Church should work hard to balance between:
- free from sin vs. free to sin.
- in the world vs. of the world.
We should live a counter-cultural living but with open heart to outsiders.

"If there is no transformation in life, the Bible will put a big question mark over your life."

* * *
In the evening is the annual Klang Valley Bible Conference, which is an walk-in conference, open for everyone. This year is on the the epistle to the Hebrews.

On Hebrews

D.A. Carson summarised the Epistle to the Hebrews in three words "Jesus is better."

Suddenly I recalled the bible study lessons on Hebrews with Frank, where after comparing Jesus with angels, Moses, Levitical priesthood, sacrificial system, temple, Frank will keep saying "so why go back to the old things?"

So if we want to summarise the Epistle to the Hebrews in ten words, it will be: "Jesus is better, so why go back to the old?"

David Cook put in another way, "Don't drift, because if Jesus is better, you will only be drifting into something lesser."

During this conference I can't help myself to buy more books. I found another two books by Lee Strobel: The Case for Christ, and The Case for A Creator. Both books are cheap, only about RM20 each. Nowadays books are quite expensive, from RM40 to RM80 for a small book (Now the exchange rate is about RM 1 = USD 4). I also bought According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy and Expository Preaching by David Helm. Helm used such a diagram to explain how and how not to do expository preaching. Rather insightful.

However I didn't manage to get the books that I initially wanted, A Peculiar Glory by John Piper and Knowing God by J.I. Packer. Both are out of stock at the moment. Hopefully it will be restock when I come back next time. Local bookstore in Sibu is mainly filled with Chinese literature, with a few old English literature at a small corner.

* * * 
It is rather unfortunate that I am attending this event alone. Well, the Bible-Presbyterian (BP) church that attending doesn't recognise them, after all in KVBC people use the newer translations like NIV and ESV, while BP church only see KJV as the only valid translation. Rather sad because this conference was held just 2 streets across from the church, and they missed the blessing.

Every time when I came to this conference, I cannot help to think whether I should continue to attend this church. To be honest over the year I realised their preaching doesn't stray away to something deadly wrong, but it is rather dry, and I can't see the Scripture get alive or holds together in their preaching like what I listen to in the conference. However at the same time I didn't have to decide right away, as I am working in Sibu at the moment and the only sound church that I found is the sister church called Calvary Sibu BP Church. Others are mainly methodist church with some having issues like female pastor, their teaching is not reformed. Almost 99% of the church in Sibu is preaching in chinese, so even in BP church I can put aside KJV-only issue, since there is no KJV in chinese translation. There is a weekly bible study on minor prophets (now in the book of Joel) and prayer meeting. Prayer meeting is fine, but the study on Joel is get not only draggy but also feel very lifeless.

Over the years my question on this KJV-only issue has change from "How to prove that other translations are valid translation?" to "How to persuade KJV-only people to accept other translations as valid translations, and start to accept teaching from other preachers in the evangelical circles?" The essence is that the former can end up just "winning" the argument only without change of heart and mind. As Frank said earlier, there is no use to "get sucked into a quagmire of an academic debate that will not resolve anything of substance". But I am still now sure how the latter can be done, in love and kindness, especially the whole denomination is deep-rooted in this ideology. Maybe one day I will first write down how I myself have settle down to my own viewpoint of this Bible translation and why I still keeping and reading the NIV Bible that Calvin first gave me.

Beside that I tried to invite other brothers and sisters from Koinonia to join this conference but apparently none can make it due to constraint with working schedule. During the conference I met J's mentor in his psychiatry master programme. I was surprised and happy to hear from him that J is expecting soon, maybe in early August. Well it shouldn't surprised me as I was in Sibu for the past eight months. I guess the surprising part is that I heard it from other people instead of J&J. I also manage to meet up with Z, who is doing public health, and is living in the apartment next block to mine. However I am sad to hear from him that his wife had a miscarriage.

* * *

Some doodling that I made.

This cell group consisted mainly of doctors and medical related people. But it is under the charismatic church called City Harvest Church, and I never consider to attend their Sunday service. During prayer many times they will speak in tongue (but every week what I noticed is the same repetition of syllables, with no interpretor) and every week they start with ice breaking by playing games. Some so-called games aren't that bad (those that make you think and share), but I really don't find the point of playing games that are not edifying at all (and how many times you want break the ice?). So when the group leader asks me to prepare for ice breaking, I will prepare bible quiz in the format of ten questions, either multiple choice answer, true/false, or fill in the blank. Hopefully this will encourage people to read the Scripture more. I attached the quiz with this email.

Not only so, sometime when the pastor is able to attend and share the message (other wise the sharing was prepared by the cell group leader, which is not bad), I can see it is rather superficial, topical, and sometime he fit the main points into some strange acronym. Not that acronym is bad, in fact some preachers including John Piper uses acronym occasionally. But the content is rather.... maybe I can say vain or empty, especially when the trace of prosperity gospel is seen (example: there is no point talking about how to dream big and fulfill your dream if your dream is just self-centred rather than God-glorifying, and he actually summarised his points into the acronym DREAM). This really discourages me go City Harvest Church and spend my Sunday to hear preaching of this nature. Yet the encouraging moment is when brothers and sisters sit down together and share their testimonies in life. This might be one of the reasons why I still attend this cell group.
* * *
After typing such a length of letter, I am not sure how to finish it. I guess a list of prayer requests?
1. Pray for J&J that their baby will be delivered safely.
2. Pray for A&Z that God will be with them and comfort them despite of miscarriage.
3. Pray for C as he continue to work in Sibu where English speaking church is hardly found. Pray too for his boy-girl relationship.
4. Pray for me as I need to prepare for poster presentation in an emergency medicine conference in August, and also for Advance Trauma Life Support (ATLS) examination in October.
5. Pray for evangelism in Malaysia, and peace in politics and government in Malaysia.
6. Pray for evangelism in Russia, and the steadfastness of faith among the brothers and sisters in Russia, even if persecution arise because of the new bill.

May the grace and peace of Christ continue be with you always.

In Christ,

Learn from the Water

Learn from the water. 
     They are very humble.
They take the shape of the vessel that they are in. 

     They conform to the situation they are in.
Even if they lie on the floor, 

if they want to fly, 
     they can evaporate and become cloud in the sky.
If they want to be strong, 

     they can become iceberg and sink a ship.
Each of us may be a droplet of water, 

     but if we are united, we can become ocean.