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Alex Tang



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UKM Medical Fellowship Alumni Retreat 2010


35 years ago, I started a Christian Medical Fellowship in the new Medical Faculty of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (National University of Malaysia). This was a new university, the second one to be incorporated in Malaysia with the specific purpose of using Malay as the medium of instruction and to produce more Malay professionals. I am the third cohort of medical students. In my cohort there are 3 Chinese and one Indian out of a class of 160 students.

I became a Christian while I was in first year and started a Medical Fellowship. I later started another Christian group in Bangi which is the main campus. To this day, both Christian fellowships are still active in the respective campuses.

The mission of the Christian Medical Fellowship is to equip Christian medical students to be leaders in the churches after they graduated.

By God's grace, that mission has been fulfilled in many ways. Some graduates are pastors, Bible teachers, elders, ministry leaders and there is even one politician. And all are still practicing medicine and a few have specialist medical and theological training.

The UKM Medical Fellowship alumni has been meeting in camps and retreats infrequently over the years. Recently a few of us wants to make it an intentional annual retreat for encouragement and mutual edification.

This year the retreat will be held in Kuching, Sarawak from 28-30 August 2010. I have been invited to speak on the theme of "Transitions: Lessons from the Life of Caleb"

My three sessions are:

(1) Become- developing a different spirit (Numbers 14:24) - to become a man/woman of God
(2) Be- possessing the land (Joshua 14:12) - to be a man/woman of God
(3) Bequest- upper and lower springs (Judges 1:15) - leaving a spiritual legacy


UKM Medical Fellowship Alumni Retreat 2010

28-30 August 2010

Kuching, Sarawak


Transitions: Lessons from the Life of Caleb

To see you more clearly.

To love you more dearly.

To follow you more nearly.

Day by day.

(Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester)


Session 1: Become – developing a different spirit (Numbers 14:24)

Numbers 13:27-33

NU 13:28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan. 30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." NU 13:31 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they  are stronger than we are." 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

NU 14:1 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?" 4 And they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt."

    NU 14:5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them."

    NU 14:10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites. 11 The LORD said to Moses, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they."

    NU 14:13 Moses said to the LORD, "Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. 14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. 15 If you put these people to death all at one time, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 16 `The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.'

    NU 14:17 "Now may the Lord's strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 18 `The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.' 19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now."

    NU 14:20 The LORD replied, "I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, 22 not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times-- 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it

Caleb was one of the 12 spies spent by Moses to spy out the promised land when the whole nation was camped at Kadesh Barnea. One representative from each tribe was sent. Caleb was from the tribe of Judah. The spies spent 40 days in the promised land. They discovered a land ‘flowing with milk and honey.’ The soil was fertile and well watered. Fruits and vegetables grew to enormous size. A bunch of grape needed two men to carry. The Canaanites were also big. They saw giants in that area. These were the Anakites. So when they came back to report, 10 of the spies were terrified and gave a bad report. They were so afraid of the giants that they regard themselves as grasshoppers underneath their feet. Only Joshua and Caleb were unafraid. They believed that with God’s help. Nothing is impossible. (They are a firm believer in ‘boleh’). But because the people chose to believe in the majority report and refused to invade and claimed the promised land, God was angry. God declared that none of men except Joshua and Caleb will enter the promised land. So the Israelites were commanded to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. 40 years is a whole Jewish generation. They wandered until all the men who refused to invade has died. Even Moses was denied entry into the promised land.

What is this ‘different spirit’ that Caleb has?

How will you develop and nurture a ‘different spirit’?

  • Active service
  • Correct perspective
  • Dependent on God
  • Not rebellion
  • Not afraid of people and challenges


Christian spiritual formation

Christian spiritual formation is the intentional on-going process of the inner transformation of the character of a person to become more like the character of Christ himself, to become a community of the people of God and become an agent for his redemptive purposes.





At the End of the Day: A Mirror of Questions

What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
Where could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How deep did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations had I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence — why was I given this day?

— John O'Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us


Session 2: Be – possessing the land (Joshua 14:12)

Joshua 14: 6-15

  JOS 14:6 Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, `The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.'

    JOS 14:10 "Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said." JOS 14:13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)



After 40 years, the Israelites again gathered outside the promised land. There is now a new generation of warriors. This time they gathered in the plains of Moab. For 40 years they must have been preparing for war. General Joshua in two brilliant campaigns conquered the promised land, land of Canaan. Invading through Jericho, he conducted a central and southern campaign which seized control of most of the major cities. Then he conducted a northern campaign to seize control of the cities of the north. Caleb was his right hand man in these campaigns. Thus they conquered Canaan. What they actually did was to take control of major cities and deposed of a few kings. Then they divided the land and it is up to the individual tribes to conquer the people and the land they were allocated.

What motivates you?

  • autonomy

  • mastery

  • purpose


How will you make sure that you will finish well?





Invoke a Blessing

What is a blessing? A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal, and strengthen. Life is a constant flow of emergence. The beauty of blessing is its belief that it can affect what unfolds.

To be in the world is to be distant from the homeland of wholeness. We are confined by limitation and difficulty. When we bless, we are enabled somehow to go beyond our present frontiers and reach into the source. A blessing awakens future wholeness. We use the word foreshadow for the imperfect representation of something that is yet to come. We could say that a blessing "forebrightens" the way. When a blessing is invoked, a window opens in eternal time. . . .

We never see the script of our lives; nor do we know what is coming toward us, or why our life takes on this particular shape or sequence. A blessing is different from a greeting, a hug, a salute, or an affirmation; it opens a different door in human encounter. One enters into the forecourt of the soul, the source of intimacy and the compass of destiny.

Our longing for the eternal kindles our imagination to bless. Regardless of how we configure the eternal, the human heart continues to dream of a state of wholeness, a place where everything comes together, where loss will be made good, where blindness will transform into vision, where damage will be made whole, where the clenched question will open in the house of surprise, where the travails of a life's journey will enjoy a homecoming. To invoke a blessing is to call some of that wholeness upon a person now.

— John O'Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us


Session 3: Bequest – upper and lower springs (Judges 1:15)

Joshua 15:13-19

    JOS 15:13 In accordance with the LORD's command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah--Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) 14 From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites--Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai--descendants of Anak. 15 From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). 16 And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher." 17 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.

JOS 15:18 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?"

JOS 15:19 She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

Judges 1:12-15

JDG12 And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher." 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.  JDG 1:14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?" JDG 1:15 She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.


In the desert, water springs are very important and strategic. Whoever who controls the water control the area. Without water, nothing grows. Without water, all living things die. A spring is a place where water comes to the surface of the desert. Normally water is absorbed into a porous soil and then sinks until it encounter a non-porous rock such as igneous rock. There it remains until it finds an outlet where it flows to the surface. However, depending on the source of these springs, it may dry out in summer or very hot seasons. These are the upper springs. Some water collects in large underground chambers. So of it is under pressure and is what we called the artesian wells. They never dry up. These are the lower or nether springs. London and Paris is situated over such a reservoir. South and Western Australia has a large reservoir. These wells or springs never run dry. So Caleb was very generous when he gave to his daughter, Acsah, both the upper and lower springs.  In modern day Israel, the desert is a major agricultural area because of water from these springs.

What legacy will you be leaving behind?




Be Blessed

May you recognize in your life the presence, power,
and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone,
that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you
intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that
you have a special destiny here,
that behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride,
and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.

— John O'Donohue in Anam Cara

Appendix: Lectio Divina

Lectio divina (pronounced lex-ee-oh di-vee-nuh) has been used for over 1,500 years. Literally, it means “divine reading’, ‘spiritual reading’ or ‘sacred reading’. The primary source of what is read in lectio is the Bible. It is gaining popularity as more and more people are finding it a powerful way to nurture their spiritual lives. As evangelicals, we have concentrated on the study of the Bible. We have come to know a lot about the Bible. But we have not been very good at applying the Bible, much less hearing God through the Bible. Lectio divina is an approach that builds on serious Bible study but moves to new depths as we open ourselves to God through the Bible.

PS 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

PS 119:15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.

PS 119:48 I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.

PS 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

1.                  The history of Lectio Divina

The early monks and nuns approached the Bible by means of lectio divina. In the daily routine of the monasteries and convent, there is specific time set aside for study, prayer and work. One of the leaders to commend lectio divina as a spiritual exercise was Benedict, an Italian monk who lived in the fifth and sixth centuries (about 480-550).

During the time set aside for study, a monk (or a nun) would go to a quiet place and begin to repeat aloud a passage from the Bible. Often this is taken from the Psalms or Gospels. The monk would speak the passage out loud until a particular word or phrase strikes him. Then he would stop and ponder this word or phrase, understanding it to be a word from God for him. In lectio divina, the practitioner looks for direct message from God. This meditation (which is what he is doing) will lead naturally into prayer as the monk seeks to communicate with the Lord. As he moved further and further into prayer, he will come to a place where he rested in the presence of the Lord. This is the state of contemplation.

2.                  The process of Lectio Divina

In the twelfth century, Guigo II. A French Carthusian monk developed lectio into a four step exercise:

2.1              Reading/Listening (lectio)

Read out a short passage of Scripture. When we read aloud, we become both proclaimer and hearer of the Word of God. As you read, listen for the word or phrase that speaks to you. What is the Spirit drawing your attention to?

2.2              Meditating (meditatio)

Repeat aloud the word or phrase that attracts you. Make connections between it and your life. What is God saying to you by means of this word or phrase?

2.3              Praying (oratio)

Now, take these thoughts and offer them back to God in prayer, giving thanks, asking for guidance, asking for forgiveness, and resting in God’s love. What is God leading you to pray?

2.4              Contemplating (contemplatio)

Move from the activity of prayer to the stillness of contemplation. Simply rest in God’s presence. Stay open to God. Listen to God. Remain in peace and silence before God. How is God revealing Himself to you?

3.                  Entering into Lectio Divina

3.1              Select a passage, which you have read and perhaps studied previously so that text and context are familiar to you.

3.2              As you come to the text you need to slow down. You are coming to wait before God, a waiting upon Him.

3.3              Posture – are you sitting well? Kneel if you desire. Sit if you need to. Be comfortable. Create space – secure and peaceful. The environment –flowers, music, special place, outdoor etc. Mark of block of time – 10-30 minutes a day. Make it regular.

3.4              Centring (Centering) – integrating yourself – mind, body and spirit. Breathing exercise – palms up (to give up to God); palms down (to receive from God). Recall a gift; sing hymn; recite a creed, etc.

3.5              Initial prayer – invoke God’s presence. Announcing that you are ‘waiting upon God’. You are seeking His presence.

3.6              Turn to the passage – this is the passage for me; savor the words; appreciate its inner and hidden meaning for me; carefully and tenderly hold the words.

3.7              Read it aloud, slowly and softly. Notice the punctuation. Slow down and breathe more slowly. Watch for the commas and periods. Taste the flavor of the Word; hear the gracious Word of God; see the content of the Word.

3.8              Read it again (or a third time). Gently dwell on each word, each phrase, each sentence. Read slower.

3.9              If distractions come, recognize them and tell them that you will come back to them later.

3.10          Attitude – patiently abiding in God’s presence and care of listening and looking in humble expectancy.

3.11          You can intersperse the reading with prayer, praise, petition, confession, or whatever comes into your heart.

3.12          Times of barrenness and darkness are also times of spiritual transformation. Do not depend on our feedings.

3.13          Stay with your impressions that come. Concentrate on one or two. Ask God to show you what they mean. Connect them with your present life issue/ problem/ circumstance, etc. Do you need assurance? Does it reveal your present situation? Are you in some need? Is it some issue you do not want to face at present?

3.14          At the end of the meditation, write down your impressions in your journal. Speak to your mentor or your close Christian friends or your spouse about them. Connect them to your life. This is important because some other person can help you make sense of what has been given to you. You can also check on God’s message to you.


‘For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”

                                                                                                    Hebrews 4:12 KJV


"treat, heal, and comfort always"

 "spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"  


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