Gallery & Co. and the Uselessness of OT Sacrifices

After a quick lunch in Singapore’s CBD with tired lawyers and their heavy eyebags, full of chat that was tear-inducingly hilarious, I walked over the Singapore River to Gallery & Co. (facebook. City Hall Wing, National Gallery Singapore, 1 St. Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957) to work on Hebrews 10:1-18.

Along one side of cafe/cafeteria are French doors that let in the afternoon light (and some heat). Aside from the occasional blast of hot air from the outside, a good place to work.

mugging Hebrews 10:1-18 with a Sarnie's flat white coffee at Gallery & Co, National Gallery of SingaporeHebrews 10:1-18 is an absolutely fascinating end to the section on the superiority of Jesus as better high priest, ministering in a better tabernacle, having brought about a better redemption, mediator of a new and better covenant.

The passage totally rams it home that it’s not just that Jesus and what he does is greatly superior, but that frankly, the Old Testament stuff just never worked.

A friend’s Jewish (not Talmudic) law professor recently argued strongly in lectures that the way forward in Jewish-Christian relations would be for Christians to acknowledge that the Jews were saved by the Law, while the Gentiles were saved by Jesus. But he fails to realise that the Law was never the solution in and of itself – it was always pointing to the real and final solution in Christ.

The sacrifices made daily and yearly weren’t just limited in atonement, they did nothing at all (how could they?). It is impossible that the mere blood of bulls and goats should be able to take away sin. And if they could not take away sin, then not only were the worshippers not cleansed from their sins, their consciences were still impure, and the regular sacrifices merely reminded them of their miserable position (Hebrews 10:1-4). So the Law actually begs the question: what is the reality to which sacrifices are merely a shadow (and not in a Platonic way)?

mugging Hebrews 10:1-18 with a Sarnie's flat white coffee at Gallery & Co, National Gallery of SingaporeThis is all I had to show for 2 hours of work. 😦

Further, sacrifices are just second best, and a far far second. What God really wants is obedience, not sacrifice. And no human, pre-Jesus had been perfectly obedient, hence the need for sacrifice. When Jesus appeared (in accordance with (in fulfilment of, as a type of David in) Psalm 40:6-8a),  he was perfectly obedient, and by his sacrifice, he did away with the need for any more sacrifice (Hebrews 10:5-14).

Even better, there is total forgiveness of sins, so no more sacrifice is needed! And in typical typological trajectory, Psalm 40:8b (“your law is within my heart”) has been fulfilled in us believers, as promised in Jeremiah 31:33, by the gift of the Holy Spirit since Pentecost (Hebrews 10:16). So, as never before, we are now able to obey. And we look forward to the Day when we will do so completely.

Absolutely awesome possum.

…………………….

Gallery & Co. cafe
beans: Sarnies
coffee: a pity this was overextracted – somewhat bitter and astringent
milk: foam a little too thick
price: $6 (but mine was on the house)
air-conditioning: yes but balmy
free wifi: yes
power sockets: scattered

Other specialty coffee cafes near Orchard Road to sit and do work in

Morning Swim and the Work Ethic of 2 Thessalonians 3

competitive pool, OCBC Arena, Singapore Sports HubNothing like a good swim to attempt to clear the mind, even if laps at OCBC Aquatic Centre at the Singapore Sports Hub aren’t quite as heartily bracing as a dip in the pool on a blustery day in Portishead, Bristol.

The Singapore Church is coming to the end of 2 Thessalonians at the moment. Last night, we read the passage below:

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labour we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-11)

A bible study leader opined that this demonstrated Paul’s single-minded devotion to the gospel, with the application to us today that we too should follow his example. Paul does set such an admirable example in, say, Philippians.

D.A. Carson thinks that this is an example of the benefactor-benefactee relationship that was rife in those days, with the contemporary application being that we should not be of-the-world, but should be distinct from it.

But Paul’s instruction, nay, command, in 2 Thessalonians seemed quite a bit more pointed than that – work and not be sponge off others; be busy at work and not be idle busybodies.

If read together with the preceding chapters, it could be that some Thessalonians were so affected by the prevalent erroneous over-realised eschatology that they’d given up all attempts at “normal” life. But as BL pointed out, as we were discussing this over a picnic, there’s nothing in the letter to suggest that this might not be a completely separate point.

Ah well, parking it here for now.

flat white coffee at Symmetry Cafe, 9 Jalan Kubor, SingaporeThis flat white at Symmetry Cafe (9 Jalan Kubor, Singapore) was all creamy chocolate and hazelnut in the cup. Not sure which roaster they got the coffee beans from but the Etcetera is a blend of Guatemala Antigua, some Columbian, and some Panama. Excellent service as well, with one waitress coming round to top up the complimentary tap-water, even as I sat there trying to figure out 2 Thessalonians for several hours!

Killiney Curry Chicken, the Shadow of Joseph Schooling, and Hebrews 1:1-4

Peter O'Brien's Commentary on Hebrews, prata, curry chicken at Killiney Kopitiam, SingaporeI’d just settled down to a late breakfast of lemak curry chicken and crispy prata at Killiney Kopitiam, when the honking and shouting began.

Joseph Schooling's victory parade bus passing Killiney, SingaporeJoseph Schooling’s victory parade bus was just trundling past the Singtel building at Killiney, and the waiting drivers were saluting him with their horns, as people along the road waved flags and hailed him.

A small swell of pride – ah, our first Olympic gold medallist!

Unfortunately, it was difficult to be well and truly star-struck when working on Hebrews 1:1-4:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,

whom he appointed the heir of all things,

through whom also he created the world.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-4, ESVUK)

Somewhat fresh from a summer of working on an overview of Psalms (oh how a tiny swing on the Hermeneutical Spiral gives hope to fallen brains!), these four familiar verses totally blew my mind (again)!

flat white at The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore

Jesus – God’s full and final revelation.

Like most Christians, I’d readily assent to this without stopping to consider the biblical evidence for this and on the strength of that, the necessity of my acting on such belief.

Revelation

(Am fairly persuaded that there is a chiasm in Hebrews 1:1-4*, so that the passage is topped and tailed by methods of divine revelation in the past – the prophets (ie. most if not all of God’s revelation in the Old Testament) and the angels (the belief was that Moses got his official copy from angels – Acts 7:38-39, Galatians 3:19).

*friends will know that I’m well skeptical of “sandwiches”, especially when in the company of those adamant that they are as thick on biblical ground as Rattata in Pokemon Go.)

Our God isn’t one made up by deists – who creates the universe, then goes to the pub and leaves it to run itself in a closed system. The God of the Bible is fully engaged with his creation since he made the world, and has taken the initiative to reveal himself to humankind (mostly through one people, the Israelites) – he did this

at many times and in many ways…by the prophets…

In each archaeological layer of human history, as recorded in the Bible, God has spoken about himself and what he is doing in the world, in varied and fragmented ways. This revelation was progressive (but was not a progression “from the less true to the more true, from the less worthy to the more worthy, or from the less mature to the more mature” (F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews)).

The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore

Final Revelation

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things,

Jesus, however, was/is God’s final revelation. There has been/will be no more new revelation from God.

This is because Jesus came to bring human history to a close, to bring this world to an end. It didn’t happen all at once, as might be obvious. But the eschatological last days began when Jesus was born as a human, and they will end when he finally and fully comes into his inheritance of the whole universe.

This is the utterly universally victorious divine king Psalm 2 has been looking forward to!

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.

And it was Jesus’ death on the cross that led him into this inheritance:

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Jesus’ offering of the sacrifice of his own life on the cross cleansed us from our sins. That high priestly act was forever effective (unlike the Jewish priests who have to keep offering sacrifices), so Jesus sat down.

He didn’t just sit anywhere, by on the right hand of God the King – showing that God approved and honoured him. The king that Psalm 110 had also been looking forward to – who will execute judgement on all the world (Psalm 110:1,5).

There is no further revelation to be had – God has said what he was going to do in the world, the Old Testament has been looking forward to the coming of Jesus, and now in 2016 Jesus has come and gone. And he has left word that he will definitely come again, to judge all the nations in relation to whether they’d acknowledged him as king; to wrap up human history. These are the last days.

Hand brew bar. The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore
Full Revelation

 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

 In case any one was still thinking that Jesus being God’s official, approved, totally final wasn’t enough…the writer of Hebrews positively hyperventilates that Jesus wasn’t/isn’t just some model servant – he was/is exactly as divine as God. There was/is no one superior to him. He created the entire universe. And notice that the “laws” of physics/chemistry/biology seem to keep working? Oh, that’s because Jesus is maintaining the universe.

Therefore, says Hebrews 2:1, as if it wasn’t already, like, duh!

we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

Yet, how skeptics assume that only the brain-washed to think that way!

And how Christians assume that it is by strict practices (Quiet Time, accountability groups, regular church attendance, etc) under their own steam that they manage not to fall away! Hardly, in and of themselves. It is only by meditating on the revelation of Christ that we are hard-put to leave him for any (necessarily lesser) thing.

…….

(flat white from The Coffee Academics, Scott Square, Singapore – a well-balanced classic cup.)

The Plain Jane Cafe and the Word in Psalm 119

I love coffee.

When I used to sell the stuff, I’d passionately defend the Ethiopians against all aunties who wrinkled their noses and puckered their lips and complained,”Aiyoh, why so sour?”

“Auntie, not bad sour – is a citrus taste. Like lemon!”

“Oh yah hor. Hmm. Actually, not bad lah. Let me try again.”

The Plain Jane Cafe, Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, SingaporeBecause I love coffee, I want more people to have access to the good stuff; to enjoy the richness and breadth and depth of the coffee world. So I was pleased to hear that The Plain Jane (Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, Singapore. facebook) had opened at the properly heartland Serangoon Avenue 4.

The Plain Jane Cafe, Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, SingaporeIt had some of the accoutrements of a hipster cafe of course – this decorative table with bits of nostalgia, and bunting overhead,

The Plain Jane Cafe, Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, Singapore
and a bevy of hanging naked lightbulbs. The rest of the cafe was wood laminate and whitewash, with a display case full of Swiss rolls in tantalising flavours.

We chose the Thai milk tea version. Deliciously full-flavoured.

The coffee was made from Gentlemen’s Coffee Company‘s Handlebar Espresso blend. The lady at the espresso machine was quite apologetic about not knowing what a flat white was, saying that she was still learning. Not a problem, I said. Practice makes perfect. Also, I’d be happy to return and marvel at any improvement in her barista skills.
Thai milk tea swiss roll. The Plain Jane Cafe, Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, SingaporeAnother thing I love is the gospel, and similarly, I want people from all walks of life to get access to good Bible-teaching so that they can taste how absolutely wondering and refreshing and life-giving God’s word is.

The problem is that, locally there hasn’t been that much improvement in that regard for the last decade or so. There’s been a lot of noise about the advent of proper Bible teaching, and certainly there is the intentional push towards it – but in a sense, that’s always been what Christians have been on about since Singapore’s independence 50 years ago: the large number of Bible colleges, the immense number from every denomination attending Bible Study Fellowship, overwhelming number of campus ministries (Navigators, Campus Crusade, Varsity Christian Fellowship etc), Precept Ministries with their OIA (observation, interpretation, application), the Baptist churches getting inspiration from Reformed Americans (and John Piper’s arcing method) etc etc.

And different churches import faithful speakers – the Sydney/FOCUS/Unichurch camp get Phillip Jensen, Paul Barker, and Joshua Ng; the UK/St. Helen’s Bishopsgate/Cornhill gang get their usual fare; the Baptist churches, their modern-day Puritans…

The Plain Jane Cafe, Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, SingaporeSomeone was just lamenting today how these foreign speakers’ schedules are so highly regulated by their sponsors that groups with little money or clout are unable to get access to them. Further, the public talks are sometimes more dear than fence-sitters would pay (about S$40 – S$60. in purchasing power parity terms, £40-£60).

I didn’t really think this was much of a problem. What, after all, is the aim of breathing the same air as these faithful speakers? We certainly aren’t the celebrity-chasers that Kevin DeYoung claims the Americans are. And arguably, the ultimate goal isn’t learning to handle the Word correctly.

What does the Psalmist say in Psalm 119? Erm, ok, we haven’t gotten quite far in yet but just from the first few alphabetic acrostic chunks, knowing God’s commandments and statutes enable us to seek God and not sin against him, to keep our way blameless so that we will not be put to shame.

How can we do so? Not by imported preachers however charismatic and faithful; not by insufferable goody-two-shoes-ness. Rather, it is God who must open our eyes so that we can understand the wondrous things in his law. We are all literate, but it is God who must import the meaning of his commandments into our fallen-yet-somewhat-renewed minds.

Therefore, let us pray more earnestly that it is his good pleasure to do so. (Also, be thankful for the blessing of the internets!)

2016: Another Year to Serve. BRIL.

New Year resolutions. Pithy inspirational quotes. A sudden boost in planning for the year ahead.

The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, SingaporeThe Coffee Academics, Scotts Square

Plagued by chronic pessimism, figuring it’d be a waste of time joining the lemming rush, I was content to sit by the wayside (in a coffee shop) and think about the components of ministry and how one could get better at it. After all, the work of the Lord is far from pointless.

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:56-58)

The turkey-and-gammon-stuffed brain threw up an old gem from MY, fount of all pithily-packaged wisdom, though certainly not of the Hallmark variety.

The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore

What makes properly fruitful Christian ministry?

B R I O

Bible, Relationship with God, Individuals, Oomph!.

(Or “BRIL” = Bible, Relationship with God, Individuals, Leadership.)

First, the Bible.

  • importance of the Bible

The gospel is not about we have done, but what God has done for us. This is what distinguishes Christianity from every other religion in the world. But if the gospel is what God has done, then we need to know what he has done, is doing, will be doing. How can we know this? Through revelation, in God’s word – the Bible. Christian faith and maturity come from understanding what he has said in Scripture.

  • therefore, necessary primacy of the Bible in ministry

28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29)

 

Ministry is about telling people what God has said, so that people can be hearing and responding to what God has said. The job of the minister is to proclaim Jesus from his word.

The Bible therefore is absolutely fundamental to ministry.

But there is the temptation to move away from the Word. Why? Because there may not be any evident success in keeping with the Word. God works slowly – and what he does is not always spectacular; we may not see results soon. But only God’s work done God’s way will last. If we are not God-centred, we will be man-centred.

  • therefore, necessary familiarity with all God has said in the Bible

16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:17-18)

We need to be familiar with all that God has said in the Bible. The Bible is a compilation of books, but it is not a random collection of truth. It is a narrative – how God is saving a people to be with him in eternity. So we need to know how all the pieces fit together to contribute to that storyline.

26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:26-27)

We need to know what God has said with regard to some of the issues that we face. For example, the Bible has a lot to say about suffering. We must understand all of what God says about it – we can’t just select some bits, but must have some idea of the whole. So we can’t just say that suffering is normal now, without pointing to the new creation where suffering and death will be no more. Otherwise, there will be despair. Neither can we merely say that suffering will cease in the new creation, but neglect to mention that it is normal now.

To begin to get a good grasp of the Bible, we should get familiar with some of the key books of the Bible. We need to know a Gospel well. Romans is one of the best summaries of the gospel. Colossians and 1 Corinthians – are very important, and contain important truths. Starting with a few books begins to help us to get to know the Bible better. Over the years, we can then build up a portfolio of books that we can get to know. And over time, we can get to know the whole Bible. How very exciting! What alot there is to know.

Knowing the Bible is a lifetime’s occupation.

The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, SingaporeTherefore, learn to handle the Bible correctly for yourself

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Timothy has been Paul’s right hand man for many years. Still, Paul lists some key things necessary in being a good worker for God. Why is rightly handling the Word so important? See above.

How do we get to know the Bible better and better? By handling the Bible better and better. How do we do so? By working at the text ourselves, and not going to commentaries.

There are so many commentaries around – how do you know which one is right? Also, if we use commentaries, our understanding is always going to be secondhand – we won’t be able to check what is being said. And we won’t have the freshness of God speaking to us; it will be stale. We will be bored because we will always just be relying on someone else’s insight. We will not be excited by the word.

Why do so many people start off with good intentions in teaching the word then give up? Because they have no sense of freshness, of seeing for themselves and saying “oh gosh!”, no extra depth.

The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore
Therefore, learn how to teach the Bible to others

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

If you understand the Bible but you can’t teach it, it will be of no value to anyone else.

Teaching the Bible isn’t something you can learn from a book or talk. You learn by just doing it – trial and error. Just like learning to play a sport, to fish, or to ride a bicycle.

It takes a lot of time, and we might think that no one seems to notice. But cumulatively, over the years, this is what will most grow God’s kingdom. It may not seem glamorous or successful, but we must trust that this is the way God wants to do it since he says so in his Word.

———————

The Coffee Academics Singapore (facebook)
Scotts Square
Singapore

TCA at Scotts Square is the Singapore outpost of the much-recommended TCA in Hong Kong. But like the long slow process of training necessary for Bible teachers, it seemed it was still early days for their baristas when we visited.

The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore

JWF Blend, ice-drip (S$14 (£7))

Described as a blend of rare Kenyan caracoli beans, the unanimous opinion around the table was that it was extremely citrusy (or sour, depending on how pained you were at having wasted good money). Not quite the “delicate fruity flavours” advertised. Perhaps it was underextracted and needed a higher bean:water ratio.

flat white. The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singaporeflat white, TCA blend (Panama geisha, Columbia caturra, Ethiopian heirloom) (S$6.50 (£3.25))

Now any of these beans, by themselves, would have been excellent, so it was baffling why anyone would have decided to blend them. With the FW price index in Singapore hovering about the S$5 mark, the premium price seemed attributable to the brand-name beans rather than any corresponding increase in caffeine bliss.

The Sharing Economy, Collaborative Economy, “Gig” Employment

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista Road
Cafe-hopping, I was told, by various people and oft, when I arrived in Singapore, was totally the thing right now. It leveraged on synergies:

  • people wanting some content for Instagram
  • cafes ensuring their food was instagrammable, but at a cost
  • people banding together and pooling resources to ensure a much lower overhead cost for each enviable instagram-shot

The sharing economy or collaborative economy goes further than the mere cobbling together of resources. And the companies that have made the greatest gains don’t even start with much:

Uber – the world’s largest taxi company, yet owns no vehicles

Airbnb – the world’s largest accommodation-provider, yet owns no property

Alibaba – the world’s most valuable retailer, yet owns no inventory

Facebook – the world’s most popular media owner, yet creates no content

These sharing platforms have been hailed by many as representative of the new dawn of socialism. The idea isn’t new of course – Napster was nabbed for that a few years ago. And before that, the people in Acts “held everything in common”.

So this is libraries and hitchhikers, on steroids, built on the necessary foundation of “the internets”.

flat white coffee, Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista RoadWhat are the benefits of such peer-to-peer transactions?

  • transparent utility
  • transparent allocation of benefits
  • lowers inefficiencies in the market – through capital-sharing (Airbnb, Relayrides, Zilok), labour-matchmaking (Uber, Lyft, DogVacay, Taskrabbit,) person-to-person marketplace platforms (Alibaba)
  • better for community? more emphasis on social capital – the return to pre-industrial relationship (albeit in a very artificial superficial way) and the creation of trust relationships
  • more personal interest in behaving well, providing good service?
  • participation x choice x social justice? because the cost of use falls
  • if “sharing is the new buying“, there will be less demand for new products, and less strain on the world’s resources (as the environmentalist spiel goes)

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista Road
What are some concerns?

  • easy for these large corporates to flout laws much like the traditional big companies of old, except this time, they bypass the usual democratic process by appealing to their consumer-following to pressurise regulators into capitulating on laws, effectively nullifying the electoral/legislative process.
  • making business out of not being responsible – the companies running these platforms don’t bother with legislation meant to protect employees (from overwork, from discrimination, from exploitation, to ensure they are properly insured, etc); they don’t bother with consumer rights;
  • while marketing solidarity and saving liberal consumers a few pennies, what allegedly happens is that the rich get richer by shirking taxes (that are a mechanism, amongst other things, for the re-distribution of wealth).

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista RoadIt is with some amusement that one realises how similar the dangers of a (neo)liberals’ dream economy is to criticisms of liberalism in the political arena. This fetishised dream of freedom from “burdensome” laws! and “oppressive” authorities! and “overbearing” commitments! forgets that laws and authorities are meant to protect the weak, and commitments ensure job security (hence the protests against zero-hours contracts).

And if so for human laws and authorities which are inevitably flawed on many levels, what about God’s laws and the lordship of Christ?

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista RoadBut…I myself work for a gig employment type company that enables me to earn some bread to feed myself, while also part-time unpaid full-time ministry. It distinguishes itself by actually employing people and then seconding them, and it accords them with the usual benefits of healthcare and insurance.

This is a mere thought-in-gestation…I wonder about the efficacy of a collaborative economy or gig employment for Bible teachers. In a city where there are many churches and few good teachers of the Word, would it be possible to have some sort of platform for desperate churches or parachurch organisations to get the services of (be served by) someone well-trained but, as is usual in any monopoly, hasn’t been given the opportunity to make use of that training (because, eg. the pastors-in-power are wary of their better skills in bible-handling, because they don’t show enough loyalty to the pastor to be given a higher profile)? Most preaching/teaching gigs happen now along the lines of old boys’ networks, strengthening existing monopolies, widening inefficiencies that could be used better for the kingdom.

Of course, sovereignty of God…to which one says, ah but human responsibility.

Still, this might be useful in a limited sense: one-off talks or a short training season; it can’t quite replace a long-term pastor/teacher who is committed to loving and caring for his flock, and who is responsible under God for them.

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista Road

*the cafe in this post is Paddy Hills (38 South Buona Vista Road). They use Tiong Hoe coffee. This flat white was very dark – it tasted like ash on the roof of my mouth. Perhaps an off-day? The berry hotcakes idea was decent (crispy on the edges, fluffy inside), though the original Kettle Black one in Melbourne had the advantage of cream, which, everyone knows, makes everything better.

**update: see also Robert J. Shiller’s article, Faith in an Unregulated Free Market? Don’t Fall For It.

In Search of the Best Flat White in Bristol. Or Prayer and Coffee, and the Promise of Mark 10:29-30.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

It is only when cast upon the hospitality/mercy/generosity of others that one begins to understand the promise in these verses…

For the first pop-in to Oxford this summer, the Ls kindly let me have their spare bedroom in Headington. I was impressed how calm everything was in the house, despite the run-up to Keswick. If I was in-charge of a major national convention, I would more likely be in a mad tizzy than offering lifts to and from town to guests during the day and sitting with them calmly drinking tea and eating cake in the evenings.

One morning, while I was working on 2 Peter in the kitchen over a very slow and late breakfast, JL popped in to grab a drink – “all you need is prayer and coffee”, he grinned.

A week later, with friends in Bristol, JB was making delicious pour-overs on his V60 with Pact Coffee‘s Jammy Dodger (a Brazilian from Fazenda Santa Ines).

For the first few days, I kept forgetting that Bristol wasn’t Melbourne. The sunshine, the full-blown alternative culture that can’t quite be said to be alternative if it was so mainstream, the hipster cheerfulness of its inhabitants sitting out in said sunshine, and the high propensity for purchasing good coffee, almost had me fooled.

But first, the ones that didn’t quite make it:

Full Court Press (59 Broadmead Street, Bristol. facebook) didn’t quite do it for me, despite the high rating on Beanhunter. The Ethiopian Gedeb was completely overwhelmed by the milk.

Full Court Press Specialty Coffee, Broadmead, Bristol   Full Court Press Specialty Coffee, Broadmead, Bristol

Full Court Press Specialty Coffee, Broadmead, Bristol
Full Court Press Specialty Coffee, Broadmead, Bristol
Full Court Press Specialty Coffee, Broadmead, Bristol

Playground Coffee House (45 St. Nicholas Street, Bristol. facebook) was as per tin. It boasted swings and board games and fun little touches, and the staff, true to theme, were friendly and chatty – a marked contrast to the coffeeshop above. A place to sit with friends, though not a coffee destination.

The search for good coffee in Bristol: Playground Coffee House (St. Nicholas Street)
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Playground Coffee House (St. Nicholas Street)
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Playground Coffee House (St. Nicholas Street)
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Playground Coffee House (St. Nicholas Street)

Outstandingly good though, were:

Spicer + Cole (9 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton Village, Bristol BS8 4BX. facebook) – I had their flat white done with Extract Coffee’s Unkle Funka twice. Different baristas on different days, same amazing cherry kirsch chocolate bon-bon bomb. Well done.

The search for good coffee in Bristol: Spicer + Cole (Clifton Village, Bristol)
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Spicer + Cole (Clifton Village, Bristol)
The search for good coffee in Bristol: flat white from Spicer + Cole (Clifton Village, Bristol)

Small Street Espresso (23 Small Street, Bristol. facebook) provided a flattie that was a dark chocolate Cointreau bon-bon. Absolutely beautiful.

The search for good coffee in Bristol
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Small Street Espresso, Bristol
The search for good coffee in Bristol: Small Street Espresso, Bristol

More wonderful and satisfying than even the best coffee in Bristol was to go “home” after, to people who loved God, whom God loved, whom I loved, and who loved me. The brothers and sisters and homes promised in Mark 10.

The search for good coffee in Bristol: Small Street Espresso, BristolLady, I felt that good sans a back massage.

But the Mark 10 list that promises houses and brothers and sisters in this lifetime also includes persecutions. And that is already increasing, as it must. Still, we can look forward to, in the very near future, the certain hope of eternal life.

The Cup of Truth

We passed the board indicating the shops that dwelt underground, in the subway to Flinders Street Station. One name jumped out – “Cup of Truth” it said, matter-of-factly. It was so incongruous it made me laugh – like finding the Holy Grail at the back of a dusty charity shop, labelled “Holy Grail – used. 99p”.

Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St)

Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St) Cup of Truth (facebook, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway, below Flinders Street) was infact a purveyor of coffee, and a rather famous one at that. The shop was named for the large red cup on the counter where customers were to pay and pick up change; the honesty cup.

Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St) Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St)In the hopper for espresso was a Cup of Truth blend from Axil Coffee Roasters. While waiting, had a little chat with the barista about how the Technivorm compared with a Wilfa, and how the consistency you get from an EK grinder made so much difference to the final drink.

We sat in the subway tunnel sipping our drinks. I very much enjoyed my flat white – almost as fragrant as an Ethiopian, even though the advertised blend on their FB page is 75% Brazil Ipanema, 25% Costa Rica El Pilon.

Then some of us wandered around – across from the coffee-in-the-wall, a singing Italian barber and a publisher of self-zines. Others of us went to get our Mykis topped up, not wanting to cheat the public transportation system.

Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St)

Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St)  Cup of Truth, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders St)

Ah, the cup of Truth.

I thought of the Bible study group I’d been visiting back in Singapore – full of philosophy postgrad students and Oxon graduates, yet even with their obvious ability to read and comprehend vast stacks of material, they did not seem able to understand the most important book of all – the Bible.

It bothers me greatly that though they have such a treasure in their hand, they have shown themselves unable to enjoy the richness it contains. On their bookshelves, on their mobiles and laptops, the fountain of truth, containing living water that endlessly refreshes awaits, yet they have barely had a little sip to sustain themselves on the journey.

And any attempt I make to get them to look more closely at God’s word is seen as disruptive. Sure, it does rather break up the pointless meandering, but perhaps that’s exactly what’s necessary.

Coffee and Late Breakfast and Brunch in Melbourne

Brunch and coffee spots, said several Melburnians, were all the attractions we needed to pay attention to in this city. To aid our quest,

Broadsheet – Melbourne

The Urban List – Melbourne

Concrete Playground – Melbourne

City of Melbourne – Winter Guide 2015

Hidden Secrets Tours Melbourne

Smudge Eats

In Love With Brunch

Thus informed, our mornings became a week-long pilgrimage. This isn’t a buzzfeed list of Melbourne’s “top ten cafes you must visit before you die!”, but some favourites that we managed to get to. Of course, any casual review is profoundly subjective, affected by the weather that day, my mood, the interaction with the people I was with etc:

The Kettle Black

Instagram-worthy? Tick.

Design-savvy? Tick. Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road, facebook)’s classic but fresh interior design was courtesy of Studio You Me (Kestie Lane, Hana Hakim). A real delight to the eyes after all the faux-industrial cafes we get in Singapore. Cafe design is truly a thing in Melbs and the rest of the Antipodes – there’s even the Eat Drink Design Awards to highlight this.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black - hotcake, crayfish burger, beef steak burger

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: hotcake with ricotta, blueberries, pure maple, double cream and seeds

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black - fresh crayfish in an ash roll, with purslane and local leaves, lime and yuzu mayo

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black - Cape Grim fully-traceable beef with house-made mustard, seasonal fruit relish and leaves on the Kettle black bun And even the plating of the food was excellent. Festooned with edible flowers, a riot of colours, you might be forgiven for expecting that brunch that looks this good must be without substance. But these (especially the hotcake and beef burger), like math-teacher-male-supermodel Pietro Boselli, exceeded expectations.

Above: the hotcake with ricotta, blueberries, pure maple, double cream and seeds; Cape Grim fully-traceable beef with house-made mustard, seasonal fruit relish and leaves on the Kettle black bun; fresh crayfish in an ash roll, with purslane and local leaves, lime and yuzu mayo.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road) - flat white, latte, hot chocolateSquare One Coffee Roasters provided the house blend of 50% Ethiopian Wote and 50% Guatemala Santa Isabel. The chocolate-toffee notes were strong in my cup – interesting how un-citrusy it was, especially given the African-Latin American blend.

Manchester Press

On the other side of the Yarra River, down a little alley, there is Manchester Press (facebook, 8 Rankins Lane).

Flat whites and brunch in Melbourne: Rankins Lane, outside Manchester Press

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne It’s housed in one of those spaces off Little Bourke Street that was once an industry useful in the last millenium – a printing press. Some might call this gentrification, but that is perhaps too narrow a view; perhaps this changing use of space indicates the succession of generations, as observed by John Adams:

The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Manchester Press (Rankins Lane)We are of the cafe-hopping generation, with the luxury to indulge in whimsical fancies. But soon, as the circle of history turns, our children might have to study politics and war.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Manchester Press (Rankins Lane) - chia seed and coconut pudding with passionfruit coulis, topped with toasted oats, dried cranberries, and fresh berriesFor now, we can indulge in chia seed and coconut pudding with passionfruit coulis, topped with toasted oats, dried cranberries, and fresh berries, and edible flowers;

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Manchester Press (8 Rankins Lane) - Texas BBQ style pulled pork, slow roasted for 14 hours, soaked in BBQ sauce, and topped with homemade slaw and pickles in a bageland Texas BBQ style pulled pork, slow roasted for 14 hours, soaked in BBQ sauce, and topped with homemade slaw and pickles in a very good chewy bagel;

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Manchester Press (Rankins Lane) - toasted blueberry bagel with whipped raspberry mascarpone, fresh strawberries, and crushed pistachiosand toasted blueberry bagel with whipped raspberry mascarpone, fresh strawberries, and crushed pistachios;

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Machester Press (Rankins Lane)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne:Manchester Press (Rankins Lane)and talk about how good the flat white is here – 8oz Coffee Co. providing the house blend that tasted so much like rich chocolate milk, I had to check that no one sneaked a cocoa dusting into my cup. Delicious.

Brother Baba Budan

Just out Rankins Lane, on the corner with Little Bourke Street, is Brother Baba Budan (twitter, 359 Little Bourke Street), named for the chappie who smuggled 7 coffee seeds out of the Middle East, thus breaking their hegemonic powers in the caffeine world, liberating the oppressed etc.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street) - latte and flat whiteThis cosy cafe with its distressed walls and chairs hanging precariously overhead is a Seven Seeds Coffee Roasters outpost. I didn’t know if the blend was too light to come through the milk in the flat white or if it was a barista error – a decent cup, not a destination cup. The latte-drinker liked his milk drink much better than the one he got at Manchester Press though.

Captains of Industry

And then, just on the next alley off Little Bourke, Captains of Industry (facebook, Level 1, 2 Somerset Place) – describing themselves ironically (i think) as “The practitioners of Captains of Industry are Practical Men of Wide Experience offering the Good, the True and the Beautiful in traditional men’s outfitting and dining.”

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Captains of Industry (Level 1, 2 Somerset Place)It was a nice experience, sitting in a darkened space with naked bulbs hanging from a high ceiling, sharing the old table with an old sewing machine, or perched on the chairs looking out at fat little balls of sparrows flitting over Elizabeth Street.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Captains of Industry (Level 1, 2 Somerset Place)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Captains of Industry (Level 1, 2 Somerset Place) The flat white was what a reasonable gentleman might like on a cold blustery day after having given the morning’s sermon on Luke 10:25-37:

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Axil Coffee Roasters

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in MelbourneFlat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Axil Coffee Roasters Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne

A little further to the east, there was a long line for brunch at Axil Coffee Roasters (facebook, 322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn) on the Queen’s Birthday (8 June). We sat outside braving the cold, warming in the winter sun.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Axil Coffee Roasters (322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Axil Coffee Roasters (322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn) - Queen's birthday cake

The birthday boy bought me brunch and I bought him the Queen’s birthday cake. It was so lovely to catch up with the old boy over a seemingly-healthy (and paleo) breakky. Was encouraged by his singlemindedness and thankful for the great situation that God has put him in – to be working under a pastor who too loves the Word and trusts VK to do the job without needless overbearing oversight. We reminisced a little about MY and the people we met during our time together in London. Lurve-ly.

Dr. Jekyll Cafe

Near St. Kilda Beach with the scary clown mouth of Luna Park, is Dr. Jekyll Cafe (facebook, 107-113 Grey Road, St. Kilda).

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) - avocado and Meredith feta mash, with mint and lemon on rye toast, with a poached egg Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda)

Met an old friend there whom I hadn’t seen in decades (wow, I’ve always wanted to be old enough to say that without exaggeration!). I had the avocado and Meredith feta mash with mint and lemon on rye toast. Not being a great fan of that fatty fruit, I was under instructions to try it out on toast at least once in Melbs. Not bad actually!

HM quickly got to summarising the years that passed since our last meeting. She wanted to know how I became Christian, knowing that I was very much against it in school, and not being of the personality to follow trends. God’s grace, I said, worked out in:

  • how after investigating all the hypotheses found in philosophy, science, literature, politics, psychology etc., the Christian faith proved to have the best historical veracity of claimed facts, and the best internal consistency in the historical texts compiled in the Bible;
  • the Spirit working in my heart and mind so as to understand therefore, the dire state humanity is in because of our rebellion against God (by, fundamentally, not acknowledging him as God) and the gracious salvation offered by God’s son – if only we repented of our rebellion, turned, and acknowledged God as God, and Jesus as his son, who is able and will pay for the sins of the world.

She told me how she herself was getting on – wished I’d more words of assurance to offer, but those words would be empty ultimately. What she needed was God’s assurance – found, not in some whisper in the darkness, but in the comforting words of Scripture. God himself assures us about what reality really looks like, where this world is ultimately headed, and what the purpose in our life is. And so we do not despairingly “eat and drink for tomorrow we die”. Rather, we enjoy God’s gifts of food and drink and laughter in this creation, with thanksgiving to the Creator, fuel for the work to be done on earth, looking forward the new creation to come.

Hanging Out at Holland Village: La Nonna and Sunday Folks

Signature pizza, crab tomato cream linguine, La Nonna, 26 Lorong Mambong, Holland Village, Singapore
La Nonna, 26 Lorong Mambong, Holland Village, SingaporeThe 1-for-1 lunch promotion at La Nonna (Lorong Mambong, Holland Village) has drawn hungry students from the nearby National University of Singapore for some time. We had lunch with two of them this week, sharing the signature pizza (tomato, mozarella, asparagus, egg, parmesan, black truffle salsa), salmon e rucola pizza, and two crab linguine in tomato cream sauce.

Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore

Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore
Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore
After the students headed back to school, two of us repaired to Sunday Folks (facebook, 44 Jalan Merah Saga) across the road for their weekday S$10 cake and coffee/tea set.

We were talking about how difficult it must be for pastors/ministers of churches not to show favouritism to the people who themselves treated these pastors/ministers well.

  1. Full-time Christian ministry is a tough job – long hours spent in the study understanding God’s word, more hours spent on your knees for the sheep, and then counselling many with relational/psychological/personal/godliness difficulties, and dealing with the line of people waiting after service to tell them what exactly they disagree with in the sermon or running of the church etc.
  2. So, spending all waking moments dealing with sinful humans could very well be immensely discouraging, and it isn’t surprising that many ministers suffer from depression.
  3. But, said the friend who had been diagnosed with clinical depression, the temptation is to then depend on other people, other humans, for love, support, approval. Sadly, because they too are sinful human beings living in this fallen world, they may betray you, disappoint you, or, even if they were a perfect companion for life, they might die on you (and here the friend cited the Lee Kuan Yew – Kwa Geok Choo partnership). Also: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)
  4. Unfortunately, positive thinking, or being thankful for the good things in one’s life falls flat as well – it feel stilted and artificial especially when you’re already very down, and sometimes, objectively, there just isn’t much good in one’s life!
  5. Much better to trust in One who is eternal (won’t die), and who is in control of all things (not impotent to help), and who loves us so much that he died for our sins (more than willing to help).

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:4-8)

 

Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, SingaporeThe Sticky Toffee Cake was, as the name suggested, more spongy than the usual heavy-in-the-tummy sticky toffee pudding, and a good foil to the slightly over-extracted coffee.

flat white. Sunday Folks cafe, Chip Bee Gardens, 44 Jalan Mega Saga, Holland Village, Singapore

  • beans: Liberty Coffee‘s Speakeasy Blend
  • crema x microfoam: good
  • flavour x body: nutty and a little burnt
  • aftertaste: medium