Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Moltmann’s Worldwide Influence

Jurgen Moltmann is considered to be the most influential theologian of his generation worldwide. This is evident through his many books which are translated in more than twenty languages and through his untiring visit and lectures in many parts of the world throughout his life.[1] His influence is more apparent in the Third-world that its theologians recognized him as the most valuable conversation partner amongst western theologians. His deep awareness of the theological issues that emanate from the oppressions in Asia and Latin America motivates him to address the relevant issues in the development of this theological program.[2]

Moltmann has direct experiences of the suffering that many Christians are going through in countries like Korea, Kenya, Ghana, Philippines and Latin Americas.[3] A Protestant theologian writing from a German perspective, his works nevertheless have become increasingly more open to other traditions and movements that include Roman Catholic theology, Orthodox theology, feminist theology, Emergent movements and the liberation theologies of the Third World among others. Undeniably, his theological passion is producing diverse and extensive works that its relevance echoes in all parts of the world.[4]

[1] Bauckham, "The Modern Theologians," 209.

[2] Farenholz argues that the best way to read Moltmann’s biography is to see it as a long life process of ecumenical discoveries. See Geiko Muller-Fahrenholz,,+A+Broad+Place.+An+Autobiography-a0189832911 (accessed November 8, 2010 2010).

[3] Bauckham, "The Modern Theologians," 81.

[4] Muller-Fahrenholz, The Kingdom and the Power, 12.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jürgen Moltmann, ‘the most influential Christian theologian’

This article is from the University of Cambridge Research News page. Professor Richard Bauckham wrote this article as part of the announcement that Professor Moltmann will give a lecture at the Emmanuel College. The photo came from the same website. 
Jürgen Moltmann has been of his generation the most influential Christian theologian worldwide, both through his many books (translated into twenty languages) and through his tireless visiting and lecturing in many parts of the world throughout his career.
Since his first major work, Theology of Hope (1964), which was ground breaking in its time and was instantly recognized as such, his work has continued to be profoundly original and constantly creative, while also continually resourced from the theological tradition. Some key themes, such as eschatological hope, give a characteristic shape to his whole theological development, but his work has also continually moved on, and at every stage he has not only rethought major Christian doctrines, but also related them to one after another key issue that has arisen in the contemporary world (e.g. the Holocaust, advances in medical science, feminism, ecological issues, inter-faith dialogue).
Often his originality emerges from this bringing together of the theological tradition and the issues, demands and insights of the contemporary world. Some of the most creative features of his earlier work – such as his emphasis on hope, his claim that God’s love entails God’s suffering, his understanding of the triune God as fully interpersonal – have been so influential that they have become common, even taken-for-granted features of much subsequent theological thinking.
His work has been important not only for fellow theologians and theological students, but also for very many church leaders, clergy and interested lay people worldwide. This is not only because his work relates the central theological themes of Christian faith to the contemporary world and its concerns, but also because, alongside his major works, he has written many shorter and more accessible books that communicate his best thinking without technicalities and in a readable style.
Often in these shorter works for a wider readership he expands on the practical implications – spiritual and socio-political – of his ideas more than he does in the major works themselves. He has also progressively expanded his dialogue with Christians outside his own tradition: his trinitarian explorations brought him alongside Orthodox theologians, his strong affirmation of the Spirit in all life and experience brought him into dialogue with Pentecostals. He is a Reformed theologian who has become a genuinely ecumenical one.
The widespread recognition of the importance of his work can be seen in the fact that more than 150 doctoral theses have been written on him!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Broad Place: Moltmann’s Biographical Sketch[1]

Moltmann is considered to be the most important German-speaking Protestant theologian since the Second World War. The importance of his works is quite evident as he engages with the most controversial theological issues of the second half of the twentieth century as well as he interacts with the great theologians of the first half of the same century.[2] This section looks at Moltmann’s early life, his life during and after the war, his pastoral experience and his influence to theology all over the world.

Moltmann’s Early Theology

Jurgen Moltmann was born in Hamburg, Germany on April 8, 1926. He was raised in intellectual secular family that had no place for the Bible and the church. He grew up under the influences of German poetry and philosophy of Lessing, Goethe, and Nietzsche. Einstein and Heisenberg were his heroes and he thought he would become a mathematician and physicist.[3] It was not meant to be because he became one of the world’s greatest Christian theologians. This section will discuss the events that lead to the development of his early theology.
There are several events that lead to the beginning of Moltmann’s theology. First are the circumstances in his life during the Second World War. He was part of the Royal Air Force that defended against the Allies bombing of Hamburg’s center. Many of his friends were brutally killed during the attack while he on the other hand to his own bewilderment escaped unscathed. Witnessing his friends mangled to death while his life was spared evoked a few essential questions: “Where is God; “why am I not dead too;” and “what gives life meaning?” These questions signal the beginning of his theology.[4]
Second is Moltmann’s discovery of hope in the midst of prevailing hopelessness he shared among his countrymen during the war. He felt shame for the atrocities that their country committed at their expense. Those who survived the war certainly escaped death but their lives were stripped of purpose and meaning. This hopelessness overcame them like a disease that he realized that it was the actual caused of many deaths among the wounded rather than the physical injury or illness. Moltmann discovers hope from the Bible. He learned about the suffering of Jesus and believed that Jesus was with them as they suffer as prisoners of war. This hope was enriched by the unconditional love and forgiveness he received from Christians (supposedly are the enemies) who ministered to them in the prison camp. These acts of kindness gave him new life perspectives and the courage to live again. No wonder that hope and theodicy were of subjects of special interests for Moltmann in his early theological works.[5]
Third is his experience as a prisoner of war (POW). It was in the POW camp that his fascination with theology began. With the help of YMCA, books were purchased and famous theologians like Andres Nygren, Vincer’t Hoof, and John R. Mott visited and taught at the camp. The prison camp became his first seminary. His theology grew deeper not only because of what he had learned from the teachers and from reading the books but also because of the virtues demonstrated by the Christians. He received love and forgiveness and this experience gives him liberation from existential meaninglessness. It was from this moment that he experienced true freedom and uttered these words; “I was able to breathe again, felt like a human being once more.”[6] This explained why liberation is significant in Moltmann’s theology.
Moltmann’s association in the collective suffering, guilt of the German nation during the war, his discovery of the true meaning of hope and his experience of existential freedom set him on the road in his commitment to political theology.

Theological Development after the War

After the war, Moltmann’s theology radically developed. This section will discuss the events that serve as major contributors to the development of his theology as it is now perceived and analyzed.
The first event is his entering the University of Gottingen to pursue his newfound passion for theological studies. There, he learned from famous theologians like Hans-Joachin Iwand, Ernst Wolf and Otto Weber. It was through these theologians that Moltmann came to be recognized as Barth’s disciple. The great theologian profoundly influenced the young Moltmann. Moreover, during that time, Barth’s greatness was so remarkably pervasive that Moltmann thought that development of theology beyond Barth was impossible. Nevertheless, Moltmann’s theology had astonishingly evolved independently of Barth.[7]
The second event is his marriage to Elizabeth Wendell, a fellow doctoral student under Weber, had greatly affected his theological thoughts. For his wife Elizabeth, the decision to marry him meant sacrificing her own calling because the church regulation during that period forbid married woman to become minister and ordination to pastorate was unacceptable. She was relegated to the role of a housewife taking care of the children and cleaning the house. This relegation imposed by the church upon women impelled her to become a feminist theologian. Consequently, Moltmann himself became one of prominent theological voices in support of feminist theology.[8]
Finally, his early experience as a pastor of a small community church in Bremen is also essential to the development of his theology. He originally accepted the pastoral position of a city church in Berlin-Brandenburg. The government, however, refused him an entry to the city suspecting he was a spy because of his involvement in the war. He ended up ministering to a village church in Bremen. These circumstances provided him the opportunity to know the theology of the ordinary people in their struggles, bereavement, and anxieties. It was through his pastoral ministry that he “experienced theology as shared theology of believers and doubters, of the oppressed and consoled.”[9] His involvement with the life of his parishioners persuaded him to do theology for the benefit not only of the scholars but also of the church.[10]
Moltmann’s experience during the war, his theological studies after it, and his experiences as pastor of a small church are compelling reasons to believe that his theology is relevant to the subject of this research.

[1] A Broad Place is the title of Moltmann's autobiography published in English in 2008. The researcher has already written this brief biographical sketch when the book was published. Moltmann has been using the term to describe that the Spirit is the broad place in which human beings have their experiences. See Jurgen Moltmann, A Broad Place: An Autobiography, trans., Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2008). See Moltmann, The Spirit of Life, 174.
[2] Geiko Muller-Fahrenholz, The Kingdom and the Power: The Theology of Jurgen Moltmann, trans., John Bowden (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2001), 12.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Jurgen Moltmann, The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life, trans., Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 1997), 17.
[5] Ibid., 4.
[6] Ibid., 9.
[7] Bauckham, "The Modern Theologians," 209.
[8] Jurgen Moltmann, Experiences in Theology: Ways and Forms of Christian Theology trans., Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2000), 4-5.
[9] Bauckham, "The Modern Theologians," 209.
[10] Moltmann, Experiences in Theology, 4-5.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Christian Walk

Text: 1 John 1:5-10


Based on research studies, walking on a regular basis has the following health benefits:

  • Helps keep your bones, muscles, and joints healthy
  • Reduces anxiety and depression, boosting your mood
  • Helps you handle stress
  • Helps you feel more energetic
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Improves your self-esteem
  • Gives you an opportunity to socialize actively with friends and family.

Walking makes us healthy.  How many of us do walk? If you do, how far can we walk? One, two or one hundred kilometers? There was a time when people wanted to go to a place they walk. But today, people become so dependent upon their car or motorcycle.  Nobody wants to walk anymore.

Walking is a part of our life. No wonder that the Bible likens the Christian life to walking. There are three important principles in this text that tell us about the walk of the Christian life.

I. Christian should walk in the light (vv. 5-7).

We have to understand that when John this letter, people believed that darkness is evil. People had real fear of darkness. When darkness comes they think that something bad will happen to them. The believe that the darkness harm them.

Today, we may not understand how afraid they were because we have electric lights. During that time, when night came men just stayed in their homes, they do not move, they just slept or watched in fear of the dark.

John tells us that God is more than just light. In God, there is no darkness or evil in Him at all. He says that “you claim to be sons of God, Light has enlightened you, do your actions show this?

In the Philippines, there was a time when there was  energy shortage and there were long black outs every day. When it was dark in the cities  many bad people committed many crimes. The government has to find ways to keep the street lights on to reduce the crime rate.

This is the challenge for us as Christians, we need to ask ourselves the same question that John asked to these early Christians. If we claim to be Christian and have fellowship with God who is light, how can we still live in darkness. Why we are still do bad things that destroy our testimony and makes our church looks bad to the unbelievers. Some of the things we do, some words that we say and some of our attitudes show darkness than light.

II.  Christian should walk in fellowship with one another (v. 7).

John was writing to a gathering of Christians. He use the word “we” to show that he is included in their fellowship. All Christians should have fellowship with one another. If you say you are a Christian and do not want to be in the church to have fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, then you are missing one of the most important part of the Christian life.

One day I was driving, I was following a truck that has sticker saying “You’ll never walk alone.” I just learned that this is the song of the Liverpool Football Club. But this is true also with the Christian life. We never walk alone. God is walking with us and we are walking with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

As Christians, we should not even think that we can live apart from one another. When we do not fellowship with other Christians, our church suffers.

III. Christian should walk in forgiveness(vv. 8-10).

John tells those early Christians that God is a forgiving God. In order to be forgiven by God, the Christian must confess his sins. Before he can confess them, he must first admit them. To refuse to admit them makes God a liar.

It is surprising how many people today do not feel the need of confessing sin. Also, many do not believe they commit sin. Not to admit our sins, is to call God a liar. The hardest words to say are the words “I’m sorry.”

If we confess our sin we will be forgiven, if not then we will not. If we sin against a brother and a sister we have to do the same.  God has forgiven us and we should forgive one another.


In closing I want to read the poem of St. Theresa to inspire us to walk as a Christian.

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which he looks
compassion on this world
Yours are the feet with which
He walks to do good
Yours are the hands with which
He blesses all the world
Yours are the hands
Yours are the feet
Yours are the eyes
You are His body

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Exciting times

It was early morning the noises made by the children excitedly talking had awaken us. They were preparing to go to school.  It has been a month since the school had opened but the children are still overly excited to go to school. We pray and hope that their enthusiasm to learn will not dwindle down even when they grow older.  Although, the memories of last summer’s fun and activities are still fresh in our minds we are now determine to face the challenges of taking care of the children’s needs for their schooling.


Provision for Kids’ Education

Nine of the children are continuing their schooling at Wat Poweehan Municipal School. Christy and Pia will also be going there for the first time as pre-schoolers. Sam Rong is advancing to grade six in a school in Tachilek, so he has to cross the border to Burma every day at six o’clock in the morning. Reuven needs to learn to wake up early to go Mae Sai Prasitsart High School. This will be a totally new experience for him.Kids on Song Taew.jpg

Jared went back to the Philippines to go to college. The latest update we received from Nori and Dadai is that he is now enrolled in University of Cordilleras in Baguio City and had his first day of classes today (June 5).

We thank you for your prayers for  all the children’s education including our own three older children. Thank you also for your support, the school fees we are paying are much higher than the previous years. Nonetheless, God’s faithfulness to provide for this need never fails.  Please remember all the children and their needs in your prayers.

Teaching Ministry

Narlin enjoys teaching English to the elementary kids at Wat Poweehan Municipal School.   She was also invited to teach English in a community at Ban Nam Chan on the evenings. She has been teaching for two weeks. The number of students has doubled this week and it seems more people will be coming this weekend.  We are thankful for this opportunity. Here in Thailand, teaching English is still one of the most effective ways of sharing the gospel to the Buddhists.

Narlin Teaching.jpgJoey has been an itinerant preacher for a while. He has the opportunities to be invited  to share the word of God to the congregations in churches. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will use him in this ministry.

Taking care of 15 children and having other ministries are not easy. There are times when we feel tired and burned out and just wanted to get away which we could not do at the moment. However, we thank you for understanding our situation and for offering us time to rest. We will have the needed break as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Thank you so much for your care and concern.

Teams Visit

We had teams from two seminaries dropped by in our house. Students from Singapore Baptist Theological Seminary and Asia Theological Seminary from the Philippines came to Thailand for mission exposure. We were happy to welcome and show them the work we are doing. Our children’s home has served as a model of doing mission to students and future missionaries. We are thankful for the encouraging time they spent with us.

With ATS Students

Nuch is back

She called us up and said she was lonely and tired working  so hard in Bangkok. We asked her to come back home and work for us. We could not pay her higher salary than she was earning in Bangkok but we are confident that God will provide for this particular need.

Narlin & Nuch.jpg Nuch was one of the first two girls we adopted (the other one is Tina). Her father died when she was young and her mother spent more of her time in prison accused of selling illegal drugs.  We took her when she was 14 years old. She is now twenty and has finished her high school.  We believe that God saw our need for a co-worker and she is God’s answer to our prayers. She is the kind of co-worker we need. She is a good worker and can speak several languages like English, Wa and Chinese.

We are planning to send her to college with Jillian next year. Please  include Jillian and Nuch in your prayers. Both of them help us in many ways in working and  looking after the children.

Wait upon the Lord

Our plan to have a Learning and Ministry Center for discipleship, English learning and music school may not materialize this year. We thought that the center could minister to our adopted children and the children in the community. It can also be a means to evangelize and a source of extra income for missionaries who want to teach English.  However, we have doubt at the moment if we can sustain the cost of the rent and utilities as of the moment. Our ministry and finances are all focused to the care of the children and their education. The Lord has impressed upon us that there is wisdom in waiting. Please pray for this ministry opportunity.

Song Taew

It is now rainy season here in Thailand and bringing the children to the school on the back of the truck is no longer possible. We thank the Lord for God’s provision. We were able to pay for the installation of the song taew. The children are enjoying it.

Song Taew.jpg Just in case you are wondering what happened to the van, its door broke and fell down again. The repair was taking so long that we decided to give it to the mechanic who become a good friend already.  The van had been a big blessing to us but it had seen better days and had served us beyond its years.

Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the children’s schooling and their health.
  • Pray boldness to share the gospel through teaching English.
  • Pray for the churches we are attending and helping at the moment. 
  • Pray for Jillian. June 7 is her 17th birthday.
  • Pray for Sam Rong’s complete healing. There will be a celebration on 17 of June declaring that he is totally healed together with other TB patients at the hospital organized by the NGO who helped them.
  • Pray for smooth processing and provision for our visa extension in July.
  • Pray for Jared and Reuven’s adjustment in school. Pray also for provision for their school expenses.

Most of all our hearts is full of prayer of thanksgiving to God. We thank the Lord for you and other friends who are our partners in the ministry. Thank you so much for your love, prayers and support.  Our prayer is that God will continue to richly bless you.

Much love,

Joey & Narlin
With Jared, Jillian, Reuven & Nuch
AiPang, Tilek, SamChing, SamRong, Mike (SamRang), Ayong,
YekChai, Muey, Christy, Pia, Dina and Tina

Download the Printable PDF Version

Give Through Paypal

Monday, June 04, 2012

School Opening and A Graduation Ceremony

The school opens

The children raring to go to school

It was Monday morning and the children excitedly woke up early, ate their breakfast, carefully put on their uniforms raring to go to school.  It was the first day of the school for the year 2012. We had been preparing for a week for this moment, buying new shoes, socks and other things that they need for school. This year, all the 12 children are going to school. Three are in grade one, six are in grade three, two are in kinder one and  Sam Rong will continue his schooling in Tachilek, Myanmar. He will be crossing the border every day.

We thank the Lord for your prayers and support.  Please continue to pray for provisions for the children’s schooling.  Pray for Christy and Pia, as new students they need a document from the village leader which (to our puzzlement) he refuses to give. Pray that God will make a way.

Graduation Ceremony

A day after the school opened, we went to the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok for the Commencement exercises for those who passed the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the Philippine Department of Education. The test was held last February. The representative of the Department of Education told us that technical glitches (i.e. over printing of test sheets and the slowness of checking) allowed for the test to be extended to the OFW families in Thailand. However, we believed it was God’s miraculous provision for our natural children’s education.

The Graduates Jared, Jillian and Reuven with Narlin and Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Her Excellency Linglingay Lacanlale

By God’s grace, Jared, Jillian and Reuven passed the test.  As I already mentioned, Jared is now on his way back to the Philippines for college. Jillian would have to stay with us for a year and perhaps go to college here in Thailand. This week, Reuven was accepted to a local high school’s English Program. Although, he strongly dislike it, we believe that this is necessary to his personal growth.

Please pray for our natural children. This would be a major adjustments for them. They had been home schooled for six years and they are a bit apprehensive about going to a traditional school. Pray for provisions, English Program here in Thailand is not cheap and college is a major addition to our missionary budget.

Summer Ministry Concludes

Our summer ministry is coming to a conclusion and we thank the Lord for all the help we received from Asia Vision Short Term Missionaries (AVSTM).  Pastor Efraem and Elena took care of the children while we were in Bangkok.  We thank Jimmy and her wife (my sister) Nori for holding music classes for Burmese students in our house. We thank the Lord for Teachers Grace and Inae for teaching piano to the children. All of them enormously helped in the Summer English Camps.

New Ministries

The English camps resulted in creating relationship with churches and communities. Consequently, we start helping two churches in their educational and outreach ministries. First, we are helping the Pantamit Mae Sai Church with their children Sunday School with Teacher Gilmhe (a Christian English teacher in one of the schools here in Mae Sai). Second, we are helping Emmanuel Namchan Church in teaching English to the community during weekdays in the evening. Please help us in praying for these new ministries.


We thank you for your friendship and partnership in the ministry. Thank you for your prayers and support. We thank the Lord for friends who visited us and and extend help with our ministry. We are greatly blessed because of you.

Sermons Shaped by Story

I found myself preaching in two different churches in consecutive Sundays. I have not been preaching regularly for a long while since the Burmese church had cancelled its English worship two years ago. So the long break from preaching gives me an uncomfortable feeling. I have to find my way back to what I had been doing almost every Sunday for more than eighteen years. I still believe that preaching is one of the most important thing that God's servant could do beside the other ministries that are entrusted to him.

However, I am giving a lot of thoughts of preaching the stories from the Bible. I am used to preach from the propositional portion of the Scripture. This means that I love preaching from the epistles of Paul, John, James and Peter among others. I do a lot of expository study of any given book and divide it to three or four propositional truths. Then I explain, illustrate and find application for the hearers' every day life. The sermon I preached after a long while is a story and I found that here in Thailand, believers seem to enjoy listening to a story than listening to a propositional speech.

So I am considering that I will be doing narrative preaching in the future. But first, I need to learn to do it effectively. I googled "preaching through stories" and found a good article about doing it.  At Reformed Worship they provide me with ideas how to do it. Here are some of the guideline questions in creating a narrative sermon.

(1) What is the plot? How does the action move? Where is the crisis point? What is the resolution?
(2) What is the setting? What kind of place or places does it involve? What do they look like? What is the effect of the setting on the plot and the people?
(3) Who are the main characters? The minor? What is the nature of their interaction? What can we know about them?
(4) What is the point of view in this story? Does it change? If so, what is the significance of the change?
Careful consideration of these questions enables the pastor to answer the final one:
(5) What meaning or vision of life does this story reveal? What is its message, and how does the story help deliver that message?

Moreover, the author tells that it is:
best (and certainly more possible for a wide range of preachers) to use a narrative text from Scripture, letting the story inform and shape the structure of the sermon. Such a sermon is more than a simple retelling of the biblical text. It involves a particular way of approaching and studying the text, out of which the sermon then flows. One might think of one bank of a river as a story text, the other bank as the lives of the preacher and the congregation, and the sermon as the water that flows between the banks, shaped by them but not identical to them.