Batu Ferringhi pasar malam

Batu Ferringhi pasar malam(wed night)

The students told us of a Wednesday local pasar malam (night market) and we decided to have our dinner there. It was nostalgia: the messy arrangements, the smells, the crowds, the blazing lamps, the clothes, electrical stuff, and all kinds of food laid out in makeshift stalls. It reminded me of the pasar malams in the 1960s. It was disorienting and yet I relished the walk round the bazaar. Smack in the heart of the pasar malam was a hawker center where we had our dinner. I could sense some weariness over Penang hawker fare.

messiness is the hallmark of pasar malams

On the way back we were repelled by a foul smell. I shouted to Ramon and Sonny, Move away from the big drain. We all moved from the sidewalk and photo credits: Ying Khengcrossed the street to the shop-houses. It was a relief when the stench departed. Back at the Bible school apartment, Dicky brought out a snack at the table. He said, I saw the chou tou fu (smelly bean curd) in Hong Kong and regretted that I had not tried it. So when I saw it being sold by a hawker, I bought some to try. He opened the paper bag and the smell was familiar. So it was not the big drain that stunk, it was the fermented bean curd stall! He ate it and said it tasted like ordinary toufu. He looked okay. So Sonny, Eng Hwa and myself….we each gulped a piece down as fast as we could. Dicky was right: it tasted like fried toufu. What an anticlimax, and yet I felt relieved.

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Worship services that facilitates the Spirit’s transforming power

photo credit: YKThe presentations I had to do went well today and now I can pause to write before I continue working on my Sunday sermon and the post-campus assignment.

One of the interesting readings of this module is a  Christian Education Journal article (3.vol4, No.2) titled “Teaching Bible for Transformation” by Jackie L. Smallbones from Northwestern College.

Transformation inextricably linked to purpose of Bible

Smallbones’ big idea is that to teach in such a way that people’s lives are transformed we need to take seriously the primary purpose of the Bible. The Bible primary purpose is to reveal God, and only secondarily to show us how to live. The way the Bible is used popularly today,  both from the pulpit and in the small groups, the secondary purpose has supplanted the primary. Preachers and people move too swiftly into the applications that focus on what we should do and how we are to apply the truth in our life. Not sufficient time is given to let the text speak and reveal who God is and what He has done. The anthropocentric focus often deters a theocentric priority.

“Transformation is God’s business”

For Smallbones, transformation is a radical change that comes from deep within a person and is lasting. It  is growth in Christ-likeness. For her,  “Transformation is God’s business and not our own” (Smallbones, 2007) and it often takes place by grace, despite our efforts or teaching methodology. To Smallbones, the secret of transformation lies in having a dynamic, living, interactive relationship with God. No self-disclosure, no friendship; no friendship, no transformation. God’s desire to reveal Himself and have a transforming friendship with us is embedded in the purpose of the Bible. Therefore we need to teach it in such a way that it reveals who God is and what He has done, and elicit a response of gratitude, worship and faith. It makes you want to have a friendship with God, one that in the end would empower you with the grace to do all that a response of faith entails, and one that will transform you beyond surface behavioral cosmetics, and touch you at the roots of your personality.

Exploring a worship service that facilitates transformation

I like what I read in the article and there are many more stuff she has written that is thought provoking and resonant of what the Lord has been teaching me these several years. The question that begs to be answered then is what would a worship service look like that reveals God and invites us into experiential and living encounter and growing friendship with Him. Well for one, the lyrics of the songs we sing would be theocentric. They will exalt and reveal who God is and what He has done, and is doing.  Some time could be given for “testimony” where someone could share how God has been real to them.  The sermon should constantly have a theocentric focus that exalts God, and should lead people naturally and finally into deep trust, adoration of God, and experiential communion with Him. Instead of focusing on the faith of David, the cowardice of the Israelites, and the blasphemy of Goliath in the sermon, focus on the God who honors His covenant, and waits for someone to dare believe in Him, in order to deliver His people. See Christ defeat of Satan in David’s defeat of Goliath and how we are more like the people of Israel who rejoiced at the victory, than like David. We sat in fear, darkness and oppression until the One greater than David appeared and set us free (got this idea from Graame Goldsworthy).

Silence and holy communion

Another way to create space for the Lord to transform by friendship is the use of silence. Silence is the womb of communion. So have silence before the service begins; or a silent pause or two between or at the end of singing praises; at the offering time; silence for the gifts of the Spirit to manifest; at a pregnant moment in the sermon or a longer silence after the sermon; or during the Holy Communion; and hey, why not a long pause just before the benediction. And of course talking about Holy communion, that visible ritual that proclaims the Lord’s death until He returns, why not do it more often than the conventional once a month.

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Diary of a pastor in part time studies 4

church of the open air

lectio divinaChurch of the Open Air

What do pastors and seminary lecturers on course do on Sundays? We gathered to be the church at the cement front yard of the multiplex where all of us were staying. We christened it the Church of the Open Air, a church without walls and doors. Being so interdenominational in our mix, we did a rojak service. We sang a contemporary worship song, Above all powers, acapella. We had a time of silence for contemplation. The scripture from Exodus 11 was from the Revised worship with our feet grounded in realityCommon Lectionary for this Sunday after Pentecost. It was read three times with intervals of silence. After which we shared honestly about where our lives connected with the illumined texts. It was holy ground. God was palpably present though there were no pyrotechnics, strobe lights nor professional musicians. We felt close to God, close to one another -all welded in a strange mix that defies definition but which St John hints of when he speaks of koinonia.

members of church of the open air

kueh tie piConsumption and expenditure

Dr Rosalind Lim-Tan who heads the Holistic Child Development center showed us warm Malaysian hospitality and brought us to the New World Park hawker center for us to dig into local Penang cuisine. We had a walloping time! Penang laksa, char kway teow, ba-long-long juice with plum, etc. It’s my opinion that the best food is in the north and as you travel down to Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur, farther to Malacca and Johor Baru, and finally down to Singapore, the food somehow loses its explosive bang and becomes as tepid as Newater. After food we went off to window shop at a too “atas” shopping mall next to a marina, and then to Tesco to buy Penang char kway teowprovisions. We had our service at 9am in the morning and by the time we were back it was 2pm.After some discussions for a presentation on Tuesday, it was time to exercise and we trekked up and down and around the seminary for an hour and winded down with 15 minutes of stretching. Its been a wonderful Sunday. (Photo credits – Lau Ying Kheng)

Dr Rosalind Lim-Tan and guests

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Diary of a pastor in part time studies 3

Orientations to curriculum development

We were looking at different orientations towards curriculum development. In an article, Orientations to Curriculum Development for Church Education,  Burt Branius listed 3 orientations: the preservative, productive and the participative approach. The preservative is focused of transmission of a highly valued content. The productive is oriented towards developing a curriculum that produces a certain kind of disciple or worker or community. The participative is centered on the learner and his needs and what he is most in need of at that life stage or situation. It is participative in the sense that the learner is more involved in the development of the curriculum. The conclusion of the discussion was that the  ideal would be for most Christian faith communities to have some combination of all three. As a church we do have a faith to transmit(preservative); we do have growth outcomes we want to see in our members and in the community; and we do want to minister to the learners’ needs, both felt, hidden or developmental.

Meeting interesting people

Two persons that I was surprised to meet were Cheng Eng Hwa, pastor of Praise Evangelical Church, and Lau King Lang. In the course of conversation I found out that Pastor Cheng Eng Hwa was a brother of two committed lay leaders I knew from Church of True Light, Dr Samuel Cheng and Catherine Cheng. Small world. It was even more surprising when during lesson I heard a familiar name of a fellow Lau King Lang and me and Cheng Eng Hwablogger, Dr. Anthony Loke, affectionately called the “reb” as in rabbi, by his seminary students. He was mentioned by his wife King Lang during discussions in class! He blogs at Old Testament passion but I must add that Facebook has left quite a number of blogs like the walls of Jerusalem during the exile. Anthony also inherited my Arsenal jersey, when I almost gave up on Arsenal last year. 🙂

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Diary of a pastor in part time studies 2

L-R: Ying Keng, May, Judy, Sonny, Eng Hwa, Kenny, Ramon, Carlos, Dicky, King Lang

It was the first day of AGST Alliance MTh(Ed)/EdD  4-3 module with all the introductory rituals of explanation of course requirements and assignments and allotment of on course projects. The physical weariness is present and I need to sleep early tonight. Lunch was great: beef stew, spinach, mixed vegetables and soup. We ate with the Bible school students. This was their last week and in the evening they would celebrate the Moon Cake Festival with a barbecue. Our dean signed us all in. Itcontemplative beach front was to be held at the beach house (what kind of a bible school is so privileged to have a beach house? Ans: a Malaysian one!).

Curriculum is often regarded as that packet of materials that is part of a systematic way of covering biblical or theological content. They are often regarded as God’s gift to layman and most churches get their stuff from the USA. We are learning that it is much more. That’s like calling the wheels the car. Those are just the curriculum schooling materials. Curriculum is much more: it is “all the planned learning opportunities offered by the organization to learners and the experiences learners encounter when the curriculum is implemented.” It could even be enlarged to include all the informal, spontaneous experiences and learning that takes place in the community and even the “hidden curriculum”. I will stop this rambling, as my assignments are calling me by name to attend to their demands. Some pictures of barbecue:

view from rocky outcrop

10 mins climb to guestrooms: working off the calories

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