USM Combined Christmas 2003: Videos and Recollection


My Christmas post this time around features the grand celebration and show night the Varsity Christian Fellowships (VCF) had in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang, back in 2003.

The celebration was held in the Dewan Tuanku Syed Putra (DTSP) of TITAS class infamy.

(Two side notes: I was in TITAS class when the lecturer started on about how Islam is the only truth and every other religion – Christianity, Buddhism – is wrong. And he stated: “Kamu jangan offended. Ini bukan opinion, ini adalah fact!”. Talk about your muhibbah cultural sensitivity. Secondly, we got in trouble with the USM office who almost didn’t let us use the DTSP, because the previous year there had been a lot of emptied beer and liquor bottles left in the hall! We explained it wasn’t us who got stone drunk and litterbuggy in the DTSP, but the club that had used the hall immediately before us for their own celebration, whom I shall not name here).

We had lots of presentations, including dance, song, drama and music. The turnout was great, perhaps partly due to the buses we chartered just to ferry students back to their dorms after the show! We also had a quite intense awareness drive where volunteers would man the booth along the DK G (Dewan Kuliah) area.

A little history on Combined Christmas: It was started as a way to reach out to the campus students and tell them about the Christian message. Apart from that, it was also a way to bring together the various VCFs to work as a team and foster closer ties.

The VCFs who took part in 2003’s Combined Christmas were Persatuan Persaudaraan Kristian (PPK), Chi Alpha (CA), Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) and Living Word (aka Navigators).

(A note to all current USM students reading this: The CA here is not exactly the same CA that you currently know! After years of deliberation and prayer, in 2004 PPK and then-CA joined together to form… PKA, Persaudaraan Kristian Agape! If you don’t know this very rich history about the VCFs that date back to the first years of USM’s founding, do ask your leaders to fill you in!)

A little bit nostalgically, Combined Christmas has recently been replaced by other activities that serve the same evangelistic/fellowship purposes. There’s still nothing quite like that Christmas atmosphere…

Anyway, the following is the video of Combined Christmas 2003 as recorded and edited by Lim Kee Sitt (currently a wedding videographer pro), who generously filmed the event for posterity. The video is split into 9 parts for ease of loading.

Along with the videos, I will provide commentary on what is going on and how we went about it, so that future generations can take note and perhaps be inspired to host their own Christmas/Easter/other celebrations.

Enjoy, and God bless!

(For how to download these videos, see bottom of post.)

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Intro 1 (direct link at here):

This is a montage showing various scenes from pre-show preparations and the night proper. It serves as a good intro and teaser. You can see the dancers (who is that guy in tan bermuda shorts and brownish hair???), drama team, choir and emcees rehearsing, the pre-show group prayer, some of the decorations, and even the DTSP itself. If you’re quick, you can spot overall main director Adeline Poh conversing with stage director Anne Leong!

Intro 2 (direct link at here):

Another montage that has scenes from before the celebration proper. You can see the ushers preparing gift packs for the audience and how the performers were given make-up.

Part 1 (direct link at here):

The night opens with a slow ballet by Grace Woo and mime by Elina Goh, then it becomes a fast paced dance set to the song Joyful Joyful as seen in the finale of Sister Act 2. The dance steps were original ones painstakingly choreographed and drilled into the dancers by Hsien Hui, former USM student and Creative Arts ministry leader of Excel Point Commmunity Church (EPCC).

Hsien Hui was just one of the dance choreographers for the various dances of the night – each dance had its own leader and team.

The dance was also performed at the Rock 2 concert in Penang.

Notice the taller dancer in red, with the specs and the brownish ponytail… I wonder who that could be? ;>

Part 2 (direct link at here):

Emcee Joshua Hooi comes out onstage and performs his ‘unique’ (i.e. incredibly lame by intentional design) brand of humour, followed by the ever-talkable Jessica Lim. They serve as the link between acts and help to clarify the message of some of the less clear scenes.

Following that, a song & dance number by the choir group, Happy Birthday Jesus is performed (lyrics near bottom of link). The song is mean to remind/educate the audience about the fact that Christmas is supposed to be the celebration of Christ‘s birth.

(And yes, the usual Commercialmas icons of Western culture such as Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty et al were intentionally left out.)

This and the other choir songs were directed by the choir leader, Grace Oo. Sadly, the other choir songs – in traditional matching white costumes with purple ties, singing traditional Christmas carols like Away in A Manger – were accidentally edited out of the video. The raw footage exists somewhere in my CD pile, but I haven’t found it yet.

A quick note on the music transitions… The sound system was controlled by equipment just in front of and below the raised stage. When the next song was due, the person in charge would load and play the corresponding audio CD.

Following that is another dance number, a hip-hop take on Every Move I Make. This dance was led by Angeline Lye, if I’m not mistaken.

This song and dance, along with another later on, were taken from a CD featuring Korean dancers moving and grooving to various Christian songs. Even the costuming is based on the CD 🙂

Part 3 (direct link at here):

Ah! The main chunk of the night’s programme. The task of delivering a Christian message fell upon the drama. Yours truly was in charge of it after helping the past year’s drama director, Dan Fadalini. (I still have the close-to-final versions of the script for the drama.)

I shall skimp on the details of the plot so that I don’t spoil it for you, but in brief, I wanted several things from the drama:

1) Few words. Seeing that the majority of USM students are not really that fluent in English, and from my experience on the previous year’s Combined Christmas drama that was very heavy on the talking, I wanted to craft a drama that did not rely on speaking to convey its message. Hence the drama runs as acting/mime done to music. (FYI, for the past year’s drama, we pre-recorded all the dialogue in a studio – Dan’s room with all the doors and windows closed – and then lip-synched on stage to avoid needing to use finicky microphones on the night itself.)

2) A relevant message to university students. Discussion with the other leaders in the Combined Christmas team led to choosing a more contemporary plot that students could relate to – coming to campus, newfound freedom, studies, friends, romance, conflict with parents, and hopelessness. Without giving away the plot, let me add that the finale scene was inspired – and meant to contrast with – a well known actual case that happened in USM earlier that same year! Thus the direct relevance to the audience…

3) Not too preachy, but has the Christian message. This was harder… I actually didn’t have a clue as to how to directly include Christianity until Chang Yan Yi came up with the song/mime number in Scene 7 (in part 4 of the videos). I didn’t want the audience to be turned off by a direct-to-their-faces sermon. Nevertheless, Pastor Samuel Surendran of EPCC did give a short message after the play (not shown in the videos). I also did not include the last, hopeful option found in the finale until late in the year – people felt that the original ending was too depressing without it!

Apart from that, there are various tips I would like to impart… After the next video!

Part 4 (direct link at here):

As I said, I was in charge of the drama team. And I can tell you, it wasn’t easy herding these cats into a cohesive acting force!

For one, most of my team (an all-volunteer group, with suitable minor coercion) were not natural or trained actors.

First, the cast:

Lead actress – Tan Yu Pei
Mom – Vivian Tan
Guy friends (goof offs)- Dan Fadalini, Sadat Foster
Girl friends (studious types) – Chang Yan Yi, Ooi Ming Boon
Lecturer – Emmeline Tan
Waitress – Chia Pik Yee (whom I forgot had volunteered to act until late into the year)
Playboy guy – Woon Tien Ern (in my stylish threads lol!)

Sadat Foster and Dan Fadalini were used to acting, having been involved in the previous year’s drama. The rest had a lot of learning to do – and were often infuriatingly unserious about doing it!

Often they would come late, or dawdle and chat, or half-heartedly go about it… Once I lost my temper and sent a water bottle flying, after which (and after I had cooled down) they were more cooperative.

Another time I got a sounding from the Stage director Anne Leong (yes, my current wife Anne, but not back then!) when, on the day before Combined Christmas itself, my team showed up late and not in full dress for the rehearsal. I lost my temper again too, kicking over a chair, feeling frustrated and that it wasn’t my fault (though as director, I should be responsible for strictness with my team). I left a less than good testimony on the USM technicians, I think.

For all those times, I apologize to you guys. I wasn’t very good with stress, and I know I drove you hard.

But amazingly, they surpassed my expectations to really shine on the night itself! Especially the lead actress Yu Pei. To this day I am thankful for their sacrifice that made the drama succeed.

And now for the tips… Oops! Looks like they’ll have to wait until the next video part!

Part 5 (direct link at here):

Hmm, where was I? Ah yes! The tips.

First of all, without spoken words, I had to rely on the acting, music and background to convey the more subtle plot points.

First up, the music – I used a combination of various music genres and snippets to bring about the right mood for each scene. See if you can catch them all. In order, the song snippets used are:

Scene 1 – Mama Hao, One Week (by Barenaked Ladies, on Dan’s suggestion)

Scene 2 – Alright (by Jamiroquai), Smooth Criminal (Alien Ant Farm version), Some Enchanted Evening, Smooth Criminal (reprise)

Scene 3 – Mama Hao

Scene 4 – The Entertainer (sped up), Imperial March (from Star Wars)

Scene 5 – Canon in D, Flight of the Bumblebee (Maksim Mvirca version), Mama Hao

Scene 6 – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 (Yngwie Malmsteem’s rock version), Victory Fanfare (Final Fantasy VII version I think)

Scene 7 – Shop theme (Final Fantasy Tactics), My God (Sister Act, Yan Yi choreographed this)

Scene 8 – The Suits Are Picking Up the Bill (by Squirrel Nut Zippers)

Scene 9 – Some song by Turk Murphy (I forget which), Mama Hao, Succession of Witches (Final Fantasy 8 Piano Collection, just a snippet), Menghitung Hari (Kris Dayanti, at Kean Loong’s suggestion), Celes (Final Fantasy 6 Piano Collection), Magus’ Castle (Chrono Trigger), a track that I forget where I got it from, Magus’ Castle (reprise)

The Mama Hao song above was a headache – I couldn’t find a recording of it anywhere! (This was after file sharing programs, but before Youtube became mainstream.) So I tried recording Emmeline singing it sadly (didn’t turn out so great), before getting Jonathan Chen to play it on his violin.

The music was cut, edited and spliced together, volume and speed increased or decreased, fade in or fade out, all using SoundForge and Wavelab. I still have the completed music montages for each scene.

I like to think that watching lots of old no-dialogue cartoons that rely on music and sound effects like Tom & Jerry subconciously guided my style.

Next up, the background – Instead of the usual static physical backdrop, I had the bright idea to use the huge screen for Powerpoint presentations in the DTSP. In this manner, I could constantly change scenes with minimal stage work!

I believe I was one of the pioneers of using Powerpoint as the backdrop for a drama (well, in my own little sphere at least).

Annoyingly, each computer I ran the Powerpoint on would have different layout for the words! So I would think something went wrong, rearrange the words and fontsize… Only to have it mness up again on the next computer! In the end, the computer used for the night itself gave me that problem too late to fix, which you’ll notice with the opening titles of each Scene that are somewhat out of line.

Anyway, I, the director, was up in the control room above the second floor, tens of metres away from the stage, in order to control the Powerpoint slides. That seriously affected my real-time directing of the drama!

And we had only two working walkie-talkies, which the main coordinators needed to use. Handphones were impractical, partly because the busy people in a noise-filled environment simply couldn’t hear their phones ringing!

So I couldn’t both cue the actors and sound guy (who is down by the stage, as you recall) while controlling the intricate Powepoint slides from up there.

Or could I…

I realized that I could control the action with the Powerpoints! All I had to do was cue the actors using different slides – which you may have noticed with the END SCENE messages, and especially where the actors move in reaction to the background such as in Scene 1 and Scene 4.

So in this way, I could control the actors and music according to the clear sequence of events in my head – to a degree. I often gestured wildly and PSYCHICALLY WISHED MY THOUGHTS AT THEM to hopefully get them to “Move now! Come on! Move!” at the right times, as if sheer force of will could influence their minds.

Same went for the lights – the stage lights were controlled by the USM technician from inside the control room, so I could tell him when to switch them on and off. But the spotlights were manned by people outside the room, and they seldom glanced my way, focused on the fun as it were. “Point at her… Point at her… POINT AT HER!!!…”

The only time I left the control room was for the prop used in the finale, which I had entrusted to Victor but then changed my mind at the last minute. Unfortunately, I didn’t tell him that I had re-set the relevant prop, and he didn’t tell me that he had re-re-set it after I did, which led to a minor goof – but to me it was huge and embarassing, even though I quickly salvaged it as best I could (turned out better that way in retrospect), and I hurt my hand punching the wall in anger over it afterwards.

Third, the stage props – I didn’t know the importance of good stage handling, but thankfully Anne did. She discreetly placed markers on the stage floor and directed the stage team to quickly and efficiently move the necessary props in and out for each scene (which lends to the name of her blog!).

Without a firm command and careful plotting of each scene (which I did not provide until bugged for it), it would have been slow, clumsy and chaotic to shift the props in the dark. I opted to use as minimal physical props as possible. And if you’ll notice, we forgot to use some of them after we had prepared them – such as the drinks for scene 2!

Part 6 (direct link at here):

This part of the video has the closing of the drama, where I was up in the rafters high, high, scarily high above the hall for the aformentioned finale prop.

A guy whom I cannot remember the name of (sorry dude!) or whether he was from CCC or Living Word (sorry peoples!) helped me to move the Powerpoint slides while I was away… Quite a bit too slow IMHO, even after I gave specific instructions to him.

Later he was in charge of moving the slides for the upcoming songs, since I was part of the choir. (I therefore was in dance, choir and drama for the night!)

And the message of the story, without giving away the plot, is:

When you think you have nothing left, there is always still one thing – one Person – you can cling to. His name is Jesus, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.

After that, the emcees summarized the message of the drama (which I thanked and congratulated them on doing a good job for after watching the video).

I forget when Pastor Sam came out to speak his message and talk a bit about the drama (he was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of Bible verses in Scene 7), but during that time the audience were given feedback forms to fill in – an important procedure to encourage them to find out more about Christianity and to let us know if they wanted us to contact them. I can’t remember how many interested people we had, as counted during the post-mortem meeting.

Part 7 (direct link at here):

Another dance from the Korean CD, choreographed by Grace Woo. This one is a touching and powerful one to You Can Lean On Me. I seem to recall it being particularly moving and very different from what is usually seen in dances.

The emcees come out and speak again before the next part.

Part 8 (direct link at here):

It’s the Christmas Jazz Trio featuring ‘jazzman’ Jonathan Chen on violin, Choong Kean Loong on guitar, and Esther Siew’s vocals! They were a hit with the audience.

I remember on the morning of the Combined Christmas day, I got up out of the top bunk bed groggy from the late night’s last minute rushing preparations… And knocked over Kean’s guitar! It landed face-down and at least one string snapped!

Jon and Kean went to buy new strings and restringed the guitar before the night. However, Jon’s violin string snapped as well, during the performance itself! You’ll notice a slight jump at one point, where the video was edited out when they were restringing the violin.

Part 9 (direct link at here):

I forget whose idea this was, but it was most likely Grace Woo’s. She and some others led the audience in dancing and moving to a song which I forget the name of.

We learnt to do this (especially the fun bounce-twice-with-arms-in-air-woo!woo! part) at a Christian creative arts camp. It was great fun there, so we though to involve the audience in the night’s festivities as well.

I remember thinking the song was a bit too long, and the movements a bit too complex before the woo!woo! part.

The night ended, as often Christmas celebrations do, with everyone singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad while going into the crowd to shake hands with and greet the audience. It’s not shown in the video.

Um, not too proudly, most of us cut short the supposed-to-be sharing the gospel to interested audience members while mixing around, and instead gathered around and take photos for our own remembrance. Sorry!

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And that’s it for Combined Christmas 2003!

For 2004, I had a 70% finished plan for a really cool combined drama-choir-dance extravaganza about the life of Jesus, but we chose another angle instead.

I still remember all the details if anyone is interested!

If you have any queries about how the night and pre-preparations were run, feel free to ask too.

Just drop me a comment in the box below or email me, yes? Comments are welcome!

God bless to all, and to all a Merry Christmas!

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HOW TO DOWNLOAD YOUTUBE VIDEOS

You can do it with RealPlayer or other programs like my preferred free program Orbit Downloader, but here’s the easiest way that requires the least installations.

1) Copy the link/http/web address of the Youtube video.
2) Go to http://www.techcrunch.com/get-youtube-movie/ (if you keep forgetting the site, just Google for ‘techcrunch youtube’)
3) Paste the link into the empty box and click the Get Video button next to it. A link will appear underneath. Click the link to download the file.
4) Once the file is downloaded, rename it as you please. Make sure the last characters are .flv

You will need an FLV player program to run the FLV video. Get it at http://applian.com/flvplayer/ or any other will do. It’s just 2 or so mb.

Now either set FLV files to always be run using the FLV player, or open the player and drag the video files onto it.


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31 Responses to “USM Combined Christmas 2003: Videos and Recollection”

  1. Vanessa Says:

    Hey Scott ! Thanks for posting this up… really miss those time !!

  2. kean loong Says:

    good times indeed🙂 glad to be part of these historic event

    though the memory of the overshot hanging rope still haunting me …..

  3. Kee Says:

    Wah…you still keep this video🙂 I am happy it serves as a keepsake today🙂

    Din know I accidentally edited out the choir though. Did I?😛

  4. Jacklyn Says:

    hmm… trully historic but definitely brings back sweet sweet memories!!🙂

    Those were the days…:) Thnx for taking the time n posting it up too…

    Merry Christmas n have a wonderful year ahead, Anne & Scott!!

  5. tash Says:

    Happy Christmas, Scott =) God bless.

  6. Edi神 Says:

    Is the struggle that make them stronger!

    Anyway

    Wishing you and your families a very happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

    I am looking forward to a challenging but exciting 2009, when I will be encouraging us all to do whatever we can to support each other, in all that we do across the World. In this regard, I would welcome your individual thoughts early in the New Year, on how we can best support each other moving forward and what changes you would like to see, in order to facilitate that improvement.

    Warmest regards and a big thank you to everyone for your efforts in 2008.

  7. wits0 Says:

    “..“Kamu jangan offended. Ini bukan opinion, ini adalah fact!”.”

    BS.

    But he’ll gets offended with the response and reception, expressed directly or not. An asshat running around in so-called “academic” circles is like an elephant in China shop. Appropriate?

  8. sing lau Says:

    At this time of every year, I am made to wonder whether ‘Christmas’ – the so called celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ – has anything to do with biblical Christianity. The WORLD loves ‘Christmas’ so much… yet the truth is, the WORLD hates Christ. Something that the WORLD love so much can’t possibly originate from Christ himself… but from somewhere else. The WORLD rejects and hates Christ as King and Lord and Saviour – and that was the reason He came to this world.

    John 18:37 “Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”

    There is one thing which the Lord commanded us TO DO in remembrance of Him… most certainly not His birth, but His death.

  9. sing lau Says:

    Hi Scott, I have been in Sungai Dua since 1993, to pastor a small non-conformist church within walking distance of the USM gate at Jalan Sungai Dua. I was quite actively involved in reaching out to the students. I am familiar with some of the names mentioned above. I met them when manning an evangelistic table every Saturday morning at the Desa University Commercial Complex. (The church I pastor meets above the ‘Plus-2’ restaurant.)

    Seriously, I have come to believe that all those ‘gospel’ dramas are ill-suited to proclaim the gospel message. They are useful got ENTERTAINING goats, but they are hardly any good FEEDING the sheep. The modern church is entertaining itself, and the world it try to reach unto death!

    The nature of the gospel – good news of what God HAS DONE to save His people – is such that verbal proclamation of it is the divinely ordained means to communicate it…

    “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” Not in word only, of course. Also, ” For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” The foolishness of preaching… that is why so many are after dramas and skit, instead of the means ordained by the Lord!

    And really, preaching of the gospel is to reach out to those God HAS ALREADY give eternal life, i.e. made spiritual. To all others, the gospel is foolishness! Consider this, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

    Just the way I see it.

    May our Lord bless you richly as you endeavor to battle against falsehood and liberalism.

  10. Scott Thong Says:

    And really, preaching of the gospel is to reach out to those God HAS ALREADY give eternal life, i.e. made spiritual. To all others, the gospel is foolishness! Consider this, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

    – sing lau

    Ah, but how do we know whether someone has been preordained and set aside for God? For all we know, it could be that God wills a certain person to be saved, but He makes it reliant upon someone reaching out to that person… Perhaps through the planting of a seed in a drama.

    (That answers the question of ‘If God has already preordained who will be saved, then why bother praying for and evagelising to them?’)

  11. sing lau Says:

    <>

    The truth that preaching of the gospel is to reach out to those that God HAS ALREADY given eternal life is NOT in any way conditioned upon the preacher’s of anyone knowledge of who has been preordained and set aside for God unto eternal salvation. It is based on the revealed truth that only those who are already made alive are capable of discerning the truth of the gospel.’

    I take it that by ‘planting a seed in a drama’ you are trying to convey some spiritual truth. And the Scriptures state categorically, ““But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

    I understand that only SPIRITUAL man (in contrast to natural man) are capable of discerning spiritual things.

    <>

    It is like saying, why bother buying clothes and talcum powder and diapers, etc. if the baby is already conceived and born. All these were unnecessary to the conception and delivery of the new life. But they are necessary and vital to the comfort and happiness of the child ALREADY born.

    Eternal life is given by the free and sovereign act of God through His Spirit in regeneration. No human instrumentality is involved. “The wind bloweth where it listed,and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is EVERY ONE that is born of the Spirit.” When and where the Spirit works to regenerate a sinner is NOT dependant upon the presence of preachers. God does all Himself immediately, sovereignly and freely. ‘So is every one…’ therefore no exception about it.

    That which has been regenerated immediately, sovereignly and freely by the Spirit of God need to be brought to a knowledge of that eternal salvation PURPOSED by God, LEGALLY ACCOMPLISHED by Christ, and VITALLY APPLIED.

    The preaching of the gospel is the nourishing and cultivating of the life that has been given. It has nothing to do in the giving of the eternal life to the dead.

    Disciples can only be made out of the living, i.e. those whom God has made alive. That is how the great commission is to be understood. Man plays no role whatsoever in the ‘fathering’ of God’s children. God Himself does that all alone. However God appoints His children to do the work of nurturing other children with the gospel ministry.

    It is of utmost important to understand the biblical function and role of the gospel ministry. Distinction is the essence of sound theology.

    It is ‘faith cometh by hearing.’ It is not ‘life cometh by hearing’ – all too often people think this is what the Scriptures say. And it is quite obvious, only those who have been given eternal life is able to exercise faith.

    It is ‘whoever believes HAS everlasting life.’ It is not ‘whoever will believe shall have everlasting life’ – all too often sincere folks think that’s what the Scriptures say, i.e. you believe in order to get eternal life. The simple truth is, one believes because he possesses eternal life.

    Just my understanding of what the Scripture says.

  12. simon thong Says:

    sing lau: It is’whoever believes HAS everlasting life.’ It is not ‘whoever will believe shall have everlasting life’. Which scripture verse are you quoting? Which version?

    John 3.16 says, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (The New KJV).

    As for your “The simple truth is, one believes because he possesses eternal life”, where did that eternal life first come from?

  13. sing lau Says:

    Simon Thong asked:
    “As for your “The simple truth is, one believes because he possesses eternal life”, where did that eternal life first come from?”

    Uncle Simon, thanks for your questions.

    The issue is not WHERE the eternal life come from.
    The crux here is the ORDER and RELATIONSHIP of believing and eternal life.
    Which is first and the cause, and which second and the effect?

    I do believe you know the simple, and obvious answer. That eternal life was given when we were STILL DEAD in trespasses and sins, when we were in enmity against God, when we were a children of wrath, slaves to sins, children of disobedience, etc.

    Eph 2
    1 ¶ And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
    2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
    3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
    4 ¶ But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
    5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

    Please note: “EVEN when we were dead in sins.” Very many insist that even when they were dead in sins, they could believe in Jesus; and believing in Jesus, they were given eternal life.

    I do believe that ‘spiritual life MUST precedes all activities of spiritual life’ as an self-evident truth.

    Scriptures and logic (Scriptures is always logical) demand that eternal life precedes the activities of that life. Very many believe a man dead in trespasses and sins can believe IN ORDER to receive eternal life. It would be easier to believe that a dead man can eat char koay teow! The Scriptures categorically deny that. For eg. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Many insist the opposite – natural man dead in sin can discern spiritual things and believe in order to receive eternal life.

    Receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ (which accompanies and follows the spiritual hearing and discerning of the same) is an activity of eternal life that is ALREADY given.

    Our Italian brother Cornelius possesses eternal life long before apostle Peter came to him.

    Uncle, this is just my understanding. I am open to learning old things from the Scriptures. So, speak, your little brother hears.

  14. simon thong Says:

    I have only one observation to make at this time. When you use the example of a dead man eating char koay teow, what kind of an example is that? When a man is spiritually dead, is he dead in the way that a physically dead man is dead?

  15. simon thong Says:

    God gives spiritual life. No doubt about that. Here is my question. How is that spiritual life made effective in a person?

    I suggest that you stop quoting scripture unless absolutely necessary. In all of Christian history, people have quoted scripture against each other. For any scripture verse you give, someone else can give another. Why don’t you think through the issue and present it in a coherent way? This blog is not a pulpit, and thus, not an appropriate place for scripture quoting or preaching or doctrinal dogmatism. It’s a forum for openness.

  16. sing lau Says:

    sing lau: It is ’whoever believes HAS everlasting life.’ It is not ‘whoever will believe shall have everlasting life’. Which scripture verse are you quoting? Which version?

    John 3.16 says, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (The New KJV).
    ===============

    Uncle Simon,

    I would like to make several comments on John 3:16 for your consideration:

    1. The passage is a declaration of facts. It is NOT a statement of conditional offer. It declares several FACTS. It does not make any offer to any one.

    a. The FACT declared: God so loved the world that He gave His Son… (which presupposes and includes the followings…
    – God gave His Son to save His people, even those that He gave to Jesus before the foundation of the world.
    – His Son lived and died on behalf of His people, securing their righteousness by His sinless life and perfect obedience to God, and their forgiveness through His death of the cross.
    – His Son secures eternal life for His people through His life and death and resurrection.
    – His Son gives eternal life to each of His people at His own appointed and approved time through His Spirit.
    – It is the giving of eternal life that enables a man to believe in the truth of the Son of God.

    b. Whosoever believes in His Son should not perish…
    – the FACT declared: whosoever believes (simple present tense, indicating the new nature of the subject – a new creature in Christ) SHOULD not perish because he is in possession of everlasting life. The gift of God is without repentant.
    – ‘Perish’ speak of the condemnation and destruction to come on the great judgment day – something in the future. Whosoever believes SHOULD NOT come into condemnation. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

    c. Whosoever believes… HAVE everlasting life…
    – the FACT declared: whosoever believes does so because he possesses everlasting life. ‘Have’ speaks of present possession, not some future hope conditioned on some act of man.

    Too many people sees John 3:16 as a conditional statement of offer to sinners dead in trespasses and sins: if only such will believe in God’s Son, they shall be given eternal life and shall not perish.

    When you hear someone say, ‘Whoever eats has life,” how would you understand his statement? Would you take it as a declaration stating a fact, or would you take it as a statement offering life to the dead man on the condition that the dead eats?

    I use the kjv. A few more verses in the same ‘declaration of facts’ category.

    Joh 3:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
    Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    Joh 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:
    Joh 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
    Joh 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
    Joh 6:54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
    Joh 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
    Joh 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

    Imagine for a moment: that ETERNAL life is offered to a natural and spiritually dead man, conditioned upon man doing something (e.g. hearing and discerning spiritual things and receiving them) in order to obtain that eternal life, would there be any one who can meet that condition? would our ETERNAL salvation still be by the free and sovereign (redundant adjectives, but necessary somehow) grace of God? Often, the true state of natural man, diagnosed by the Scriptures, is not taken seriously.

    Offering life to a dead man in the coffin on condition that he assents to drink the magical potion is, at best, a cruel mockery to the dead man.

    Uncle, just the way I presently understand the Scriptures.
    Some old light is always welcome.

  17. simon thong Says:

    Some people believe that it’s all God’s work. Others believe that it’s all man’s work. The former is called predestination, the latter free will. Does not the truth consist of both extremes, that it is all God’s work and it is also man’s acceptance?

    As for your reference to a dead man in a coffin, in what way is that analogy applicable to spiritual truth? Unless you have explained how your earlier example (offering char kway teow to a dead man) applies to a spiritually dead man, this latter example is just as irrelevant.

    When a conman tries to cheat me of my money, he tells me, “You can trust me, uncle.” He assures me that he can be trusted.

    When you assure me that you are “open to learning old things from the Scriptures. So, speak, your little brother hears” and again, “Some old light is always welcome”, I am reminded of that conman’s words. You may want to give the impression of being open to learning. However, it doesn’t come across in that positive a light. What you write reeks of dogmaticism, and even arrogance.

  18. simon thong Says:

    Don’t read the Greek NT, sing lau? Relied on the New KJV? The last part of John 3.16 in the Greek says, “…that everyone believing in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” It does not say HAS eternal life, which is your version. MAY HAVE eternal life. What does that do to your assertion that “The passage is a declaration of facts…NOT a statement of conditional offer”? I think even your English is not up to standard. The MAY is dropped out in the second part because it is normal to drop it out. You’re supposed to read them in parallel:
    may not perish
    but may have eternal life.

    Which theological tome or Bible commentary did you rely on when you said that it does not make any offer to anyone?

    John 3.16 is a statement of FACT that sets out a conditional offer. It is an IF statement, with the future consequence based on the present condition. If you believe, you may not (or shall not) perish. What comes first? Believe. What comes next? Eternal life?

    Who gives faith? God. Yet the person must accept that faith. God and man.

  19. sing lau Says:

    # simon thong Says: December 27, 08 at
    “I have only one observation to make at this time. When you use the example of a dead man eating char koay teow, what kind of an example is that? When a man is spiritually dead, is he dead in the way that a physically dead man is dead?”

    When I address you as ‘uncle’, I use it as a term of respect for an older man. I believe you are Scott’s father. I am sorry you take it in a bad light.

    About your observation above, there is a strict parallel between physical realities and spiritual realities. Often spiritual realities is best illustrated by physical realities. The parables are wonderful examples.

    Physical life must precede the activities of physical life. A man devoid of physical life is utterly incapable of physical activities.
    Even so, eternal life must precede the activities of eternal/spiritual life. A man devoid of eternal life is utterly incapable of spiritual activities, like discerning, and receiving spiritual things.
    That’s my present understanding, and it is based on the simple declaration, “Except a man be born again (i.e. given eternal life while dead in trespasses and sins) he cannot…”

    Uncle Simon, I will speak no more. It seems that I have not only annoyed you not a little with my poor English, and ignorance of NT Greek, but also offended you for stating what I do believe presently.

    With due respect to an older brother in Christ.

    P/s ‘who gives faith?’
    The Holy Spirit dwelling in the regenerated man works in him, among other graces, the grace of faith… and that faith is brought forth by the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, only the person whom God has given eternal life is capable of exercising faith to believe the gospel. But believing, and all the other spiritual activities of a man, is an effect and manifestation of eternal life that has been given. It plays no part in obtaining eternal life.

  20. simon thong Says:

    I take no personal offence but anyone who assumes he is so right in his dogma should not be so careless in dealing with Scripture. it gives Christianity a bad name. For example, you quoted Ephesians 2.1-5 but what happened to verses 6-10? Ephesians 2.1-10 is integral to itself; is it because you know that verses 8 and 9 may undermine your view? Or you did not pay attention to the fact that 2.1-10 is one unit? I gave my students a tongue lashing for such inattentiveness when I used to teach New Testament exegesis, so you got off lightly in comparison.

    As for John 3.16, since you are wrong in your exegesis, your argument is wrong when based on that verse. You may believe what you want but if it is based on a wrong understanding of scripture and you pass it on as truth, that’s disturbing, to say the least. At the least, I had expected you to acknowledge the mistake you made. Incidentally, read a bit of church history and it may help give you balance. It’ll also make you a better thinker and a better servant of God. Church history is a humbling teaching. You would learn that there is nothing new under the sun in terms of theology.

    Anyone serious about parallels between the physical and spiritual should know that when you push a parallel too far, it breaks down. There is enough literature on that, and has been since the 1980s. Google the sources yourself. Be aware of the pitfalls.

    I am not rubbishing your belief. I am not asking you to give them up. Instead, I hope that you will adopt a rigorous approach to your own beliefs. In that way, you can honestly say, “I believe this..and that..and my conclusions are based on rigorous testing.” Spiritual truths are far more important than scientific truths for they deal with eternity. We should not be shoddy in our thinking with regard to them.

    May you grow in spiritual understanding and character.

  21. sing lau Says:

    Uncle Simon,
    you said, “For example, you quoted Ephesians 2.1-5 but what happened to verses 6-10? Ephesians 2.1-10 is integral to itself; is it because you know that verses 8 and 9 may undermine your view? Or you did not pay attention to the fact that 2.1-10 is one unit?”

    Eph 2:1-10 is indeed one unit. Together the verses describe the utter helpless state of natural man, and the free and sovereign acts of God in saving such man.

    Verse 8 and 9 only confirmed my view – that natural man must be regenerated first and given eternal life by God’s free grace… through the faith/faithfulness of Jesus Christ.

    Of course the most common and popular view of verse 8 is that the faith mentioned is the faith of man. Such view believe that the natural man described in verse 1-5 is capable of faith before eternal life has been birthed in him!

    I suggest that our eternal salvation by God’s free grace is through the faithfulness OF Christ, and NOT through our faith IN Christ. This basic and fundamental truth is almost completely lost in our generation. Man’s faith in Christ evidences and manifests the eternal salvation that has been given freely.

    I wrote something on Eph 2:8 and it can be found here if you are interested.
    http://things-new-and-old.blogspot.com/2008/01/saved-by-grace-through-faith-whose.html.

    Just my present understanding.

  22. simon thong Says:

    The faith spoken of is, of course, faith given by God. Why didn’t you read and understand what I wrote? “Who gives faith? God. Yet the person must accept the faith. God and man.” Don’t presume that only you and a select few, are right.

    What you call basic and fundamental truth is NOT almost completely lost in our generation. You may think so but sorry to disappoint you. And the basic and fundamental truth is that through the faithfulness of Christ, our faith is then true and not futile. God is everything but man is something, a very little something but still something. That, I’m sure you do not dispute for every time you write something as a believer, deny it as you may, the something-that-is-you is writing it. Not God. The believer exists; his faith exists; this does not deny that he, and his faith, is NOTHING but for Christ.

  23. sing lau Says:

    Uncle Simon,
    It is not faith that is given of God. It is salvation through the faithfulness of Christ is given by God’s free grace. Salvation, which is the gift spoken of comes from WITHOUT, from ABOVE.

    Faith is a grace worked WITHIN the regenerated by the indwelling Spirit.
    That which is worked within you does not need receiving. However that which is worked within needs to be manifested to evidence the eternal life already bestowed.

    That which needs to be believed and received is the gospel, the word of truth preached concerning the salvation which is already true of you.

    Faith is a fruit and effect of salvation. A fruit and effect of salvation is distinct from the cause of that same salvation. The cause and the effect have their distinct and proper place and relation. Distinction is the essence of sound theology.

    I don’t presume only I and a select few, are right. So there is no needs to put words into my mouth. I do express what I, and may be a few others, do presently believe. That means it is very possible that only I and a few others, may be wrong!

    Perhaps, to you, our eternal salvation is the grace of God PLUS a little cooperation of man… i.e. since you insist that in our eternal salvation, “God is everything but man is something, a very little something but still something.”

    If in our eternal salvation, God is EVERYTHING, and there is still room for man’s very little something, then words have no more meaning. ‘Everything’ is no longer ‘everything.’ It is deficient of a very little something! And ‘NOTHING’ is not really ‘nothing’. There is actually a very little something in that nothing.

    Uncle, our communication breaks down.

  24. simon thong Says:

    Communication breaks down only when you want it to. Giving up on uncle? Can’t get through his thick skull? Be patient, and we may learn something from each other. Uncle has forgotten more than you have learnt but he doesn’t have a monopoly of on learning, and you may teach him a thing or two.

    “This basic and fundamental truth is almost completely lost in our generation.” These are your own words. I don’t need to put words into your mouth.

    Christ saves. His faithfulness saves. And then there is Ephesians 2.8: “By grace are you all saved faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” That is self explanatory but I’ll spell it out for you. The salvation that Christ gives is made effective through faith (which itself is the gift of God). It is all God, yet man is there, too, somehow. Not God Himself with Himself, or God the Father with the Son and the Holy Spirit. God saves man. You. Or if you prefer, you. No capital letter.

    Why is it not possible to say “God is everything and man is something, a very little something”? Some theologians call it a paradox. A conundrum. I would rather say that they are two different categories. In human language and logic, everything must be exclusive. Yet think of the paradoxes that point to the limitation of human language and logic. For example, “There no beginning or end.” For if there is a beginning, where is the beginning of that beginning? And where is the end of the end?

    Solve this with human logic. “I dived into the river today to save a man who fell in yesterday and a woman who will fall in tomorrow.” How is that possible. Of course it isn’t. Yet, we say this all the time: Christ died on the cross approximately 2000 years ago to save all those who lived and died before him, and all those who were to come after him. And, being believers, it doesn’t puzzle us. We eat and breathe and sleep as though this is normal.

  25. simon thong Says:

    Correction to typo: are you all saved through faith..

  26. adeline poh Says:

    I miss those day…CA…PPK…after all the meeting…Here PKA started in year 2004…continue to light up USM!

  27. sing lau Says:

    Christian friends,
    As we enter the new year, my thoughts are turned to a hymn that we often sing in our worship services. The words express my thanksgiving for what is past, and my confidence in the Lord for every new year He is pleased to let my life continues as I wait for His return.

    “Our God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come;
    Our shelter from the stormy blast,
    And our eternal home.

    Under the shadow of Thy throne
    Thy saints have dwelt secure;
    Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
    And our defence is sure.

    Before the hills in order stood,
    Or earth received her frame,
    From everlasting Thou art God,
    To endless years the same.

    A thousand ages in Thy sight
    Are like an evening gone;
    Short as the watch that ends the night
    Before the rising sun.

    Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
    Bears all its sons away;
    They Fly forgotten, as a dream
    Dies at the opening day.

    Our God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come;
    Be Thou our guard while troubles last
    And our eternal home.

    The church here in Penang spent the last evening (Wednesday 8-10pm) of the year meditating these wonderful words in 1Thess 5:23-24 “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”

    The Lord strengthened and comforted our hearts with these blessed words.

    May our Lord bless each one richly in the new year.

    a brother in Christ,
    sing

  28. sing lau Says:

    Uncle Simon wrote:
    “Christ saves. His faithfulness saves. And then there is Ephesians 2.8: “By grace are you all saved [through] faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” That is self explanatory but I’ll spell it out for you. The salvation that Christ gives is made effective through faith (which itself is the gift of God). It is all God, yet man is there, too, somehow…”

    Thanks for stating your interpretation of Eph 2:8.

    What seems self-explanatory to me is this:
    – The gift spoken of is the salvation by God’s grace through the faithfulness of Christ.
    – There is nothing said about faith as the gift of God here even though that idea is very common and popular. It is self-explanatory that a man in the condition stated in verses 1-5 is plainly incapable of believing unless he has first been given salvation freely by God’s grace, which is through the faithfulness of Christ ALONE. Of course, many believe otherwise, even though anti-scriptural, and illogical.
    – The salvation by God’s grace through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ is FREELY MADE EFFECTUAL to a man dead in trespasses and sins. The gift of salvation already freely made effectual makes believing possible.
    – The gift of salvation is not conditioned upon believing or anything else. However, believing does MAKE MANIFEST or EVIDENCE the salvation that has been freely made effectual.
    – Believing is very important. It manifests and evidences salvation by grace. It does NOT make salvation effectual. Eating is very important, it evidences life as well as nourishing it; most certainly it does not give life to a dead man.

    Yes, the Triune God is there… freely and sovereignly and effectually ACTING upon a man dead in trespasses and sins (who is, therefore entirely passive), giving him eternal life, and the Holy Spirit to dwell within him. The Spirit of God in him works the grace of faith in him, thus enabling him to believe and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Yes, man is there too… but it is a man dead in trespasses and sins, completely passive, when ACTED upon – plainly stated in verses 1-5. Having been acted upon, bestowed with eternal life, he becomes active, and manifests the signs of the life that has been birthed in him.

    God is EVERYTHING lies in the CAUSE of our salvation.
    Man is NOTHING lies in the CAUSE in his salvation.

    Man’s VERY LITTLE SOMETHING lies in the EFFECT of our free grace salvation.
    Man’s very little something is not futile. It is most useful to make manifest and evidence what God has done.

    I believe Jesus ALONE saves, and He ALONE saves EFFECTUALLY, i.e making salvation effectual to a man dead in trespasses and sins.

    If I understand you correctly, you also believe that Jesus ALONE saves, but the believing of a man dead in trespasses and sins is NEEDED to make that salvation effectual, otherwise Jesus’ work of salvation would remain ineffectual.

    just my understanding.

  29. Jaxt Woodcarvings Says:

    It is difficult striving to sum the hours we’ve consumed looking up archives of the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints web pages.

  30. ADDRIENNE Says:

    hei scott! Thanks.Watching that video refreshing! Im glad i was a part of it! Time flies and all of us are scattered all over/maybe never meet again.Im glad i still keep in touch with some usm pka members.A bit here and there, reminds me oo a wonderful time.

  31. Adeline Poh Says:

    wow! speechless….really nice to look back too. I learned a lot from the whole process….I never knew that the outfit that I wore that time and still wearing now….

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