Tuesday, October 31, 2006

So What's Wrong With Homosexuality?

In the tradition of STR, I wrote a brief response to an pro-gay article in Malaysiakini called So What? Its Their Sexual Preference.

Dear Francis

First, let me say that I hold no grudges against homosexuals. Not only that, I fully support your timely call to treat our fellow Malaysians who are homosexuals with respect, understanding and compassion.

The authorities must be vigilant to bring swift justice upon those immoral individuals who verbally or physically abused them.

Now, I accept my homosexual friends as valuable, dignified human beings. And they understand that I do so without condoning their behavior. In my humble view, homosexuality is immoral just as heterosexual adultery is immoral.

However, if you say that publicly nowadays, you are immediately called derogatory names like homophobic,
heterosexist, bigot or hate-monger.

I don’t use emotive labels to publicly stigmatize people who I disagree with. But name-calling is often used to condemn people who disagree with the 'morality' of homosexual behavior.

This is a convenient but unhelpful way of muddying the waters. Of course, I may be wrong but at least my views are based on principles, not prejudice.

So what’s the big deal about homosexual behavior?

You seem to argue that homosexuality is ‘normal’ or morally benign because “being gay is their choice, they have the right to choose their preferences”. That’s a “freedom of choice” argument.

But let’s think about this: Can people choose whatever sexual preferences they fancy?

Apparently not. We are not morally entitled to choose preferences like pedophilia, necrophilia or extramarital affairs, for that matter.

Why not? Because it’s wrong, even if it’s done in private.

Now, it may be objected that unlike pedophilia, homosexual behavior may be consensual among adults. What’s wrong with gay lifestyle as long as “the couple truly love and accept each other”?

But again, this argument does not hold water after a moment’s reflection.

Are people allowed to commit adultery or incest “as long as they love and accept each other”?

Even a heterosexual man who falls in love with his own sister or daughter (yucks!) can’t simply marry anyone he wants. So mutual consent simply does not justify immoral behaviors.

Now, I do agree with your description of homosexual practice becoming more “normal” or publicly visible as seen in examples of gay clerics, Ang Lee movies and celebrity tabloids.

But what is “normal” (as- is) may not be “normative” (ought-to-be).

Yes, homosexuals are among us. But it doesn't follow that their behavior is a moral norm just as having Mat Rempits all around us does not mean that we ought to encourage illegal races.

There is also another sense of the word “normal”, meaning “things are functioning in the way it was meant to be”. When things work “normally”, they are fulfilling what they are designed to do.

In this sense, homosexual practice is simply “abnormal”. Sexual organs were obviously not meant to fit in bodies the way homosexuals use them, resulting in a host of adverse medical consequences.

So we should not confuse the call to accept the existence of homosexuals in a spirit of tolerance with advocacy for homosexual behavior as morally acceptable.

Now don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of confusion when it comes to making such distinctions.

Our moral objection against homosexuality per se no more fosters violence against homosexuals than our disagreement against adultery fosters violence against people who are unfaithful to their spouses.

I am not asking people to be bigoted gay-bashers, spread hate or boycott Elton John’s music just because there are moral objections against their lifestyles. This kind of thinking would make PEMADAM responsible every time a drug addict gets beat up behind Chow Kit Road.

Lastly, I share your hope for a period of social reform in our nation that makes for a more equitable, just and caring society for all citizens regardless of creed, skin color or economic status.

Ethnicity has nothing to do with morality. With homosexuality we're talking about something different – it is a particular behavior that most Malaysians find odd, unnatural, harmful and deeply unethical.

As yet, there is no confirmed biological cause for homosexuality. Even if a biological factor may contribute to homosexual tendency, it does not determine our choices. Human beings are not programmed robots whose destiny is fixed by nature.

Surely, we don’t approve of hot-blooded heterosexuals who ‘naturally’ feel biological urges to grope female pedestrians to carry out their hormone-induced inclinations just because they are supposedly ‘born that way”. Even they are not entitled with such ‘equal rights’ in society.

Why not? Perhaps not because of blind prejudice, prudery or lack of scientific understanding.

But simply because it’s unethical.

They should still have the freedom to vote, find security and equal employment opportunity as any other citizen in our country.

But no one – heterosexual or homosexual – is entitled to unethical behavior.

Chang Wei Hao, a heterosexual sinner in the process of being rescued by Grace, is also an avid blogger at The Agora.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Mind The Gap

A few Sundays ago, I fetched a young gradruate to a Logos Presbyterian Chinese church mission conference... He is a multimedia grad and now working for a M'sian film production - doing some special effects.

He has been to another church for years but out of action for many months. But he decided to come back, after awhile he shared why he considered to leave his home church....

Apparently he was told by well-meaning bros and sis that there are three jobs christians should not do...

1) Politicians - bcos its dirty
2) Lawyers - bcos of the temptation of money
3) Artists - bcos it's worldly and spiritually dangerous to be in that business and it doesn't help that my friend's company is now producing another Malaysian horror flick! :D

And He shared something very telling which described many christian grads...

"I felt like two persons when in church and when at work (something I love and enjoy but I dun consider it ministry)... I put on a mask when in church which frowns at
my work, and when I go to work, happily cracking away at my craft, I feel unspiritual or dishonoring God..."

A split personality or schizophrenic Christianity is often wat the laity struggles with if we do not integrate faith and work.

This is also something I struggle with in my own life as well... Considering how most of our life is in the marketplace, imagine how crucial it is that we have a theology of vocation for laity in the marketplace.

I highly recommend the Lausanne Marketplace ministry 'suggestion for action' here as written by Gordon Preece, Tony and Siew Li (Kairos).

Who knows? Maybe there's a Van Gogh in ur church whose life and sanity depends on it. Oh ya, here is a FUN video clip of the recent GCF/iBridge Camp at Bkt Tinggi. To join the iBridge movement, click here

Something creative (Malaysian Idol Daniel's MTV) done with some MMU/CDPC students Way to go, fellas!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cahaya Nusantara

Cahaya Nusantara - Projek blog perbincangan tentang kehidupan dan pemikiran Kristiani, falsafah dan teoloji, budaya popular dan glokal, perbandingan agama, kerjaya dan iman, pembentukan rohani, misi dan gereja dalam Bahasa Malaysia. Dalam permulaan yang kecil ini, kami berdoa agar Tuhan dapat memberkati pelayanan ini dan mencurahkan berkat-Nya kepada para jemaah di seluruh pelosok Nusantara untuk memahami dan menghidupkan Firman Allah dalam dunia ini.


Cahaya Nusantara berhasrat untuk menggalakkan para pengikut Yesus untuk menghidupkan dan memuliakan Tuhan dalam segala aspek kehidupan mereka. Sebagai pergerakan dalam peringkat akar umbi, Cahaya Nusantara berhasrat untuk meningkatkan penulisan dan kerja pemikiran Kristiani dalam bahasa Malaysia di kalangan orang awam, sebagai bahasa kebangsaan dan perpaduan. Melalui bahan-bahan penulisan ini diharapkan umum dapat membentuk pandangan dunia dan pemikiran yang berasaskan Alkitab yang teguh untuk berdialog dalam masyarakat sekular dan umum.

Ini kerana gereja di Malaysia menghadapi beberapa cabaran semasa dalam kehidupan dan misinya seperti etika moral, sains moden, pluralisme agama, hubungan gereja-negara, budaya, relativisme, ekonomi, hubungan etnik, sekularisma, globalisasi dan sebagainya.

Adalah menjadi pegangan kuat kami bahawa cabaran terbesar bagi Gereja pada hari ini adalah untuk berhadapan dengan budaya semasa secara konstruktif dan kritikal melalui pemahaman Alkitabiah yang sejati.

Sehinggalah kita berbuat demikian, kesaksian Gereja untuk Kristus akan terjejas. Cahaya Kristus dalam Nusantara tidak akan terang.


Kami berhasrat untuk memantapkan nilai-nilai berikut dalam kehidupan peribadi, keluarga dan komuniti kami.

1. Memikirkan pemikiran Tuhan – untuk berfikir tentang isu-isu kehidupan, kepercayaan dan budaya dengan minda yang berserah kepada Firman Tuhan. Untuk mengintegrasikan minda, emosi, keinginan, dan kekuatan secara holistik untuk menyembah Tuhan dan mengetahui pelan Tuhan untuk masa kini.

2. Komuniti elektronik - Kami ingin berdialog dan berbincang dalam konteks komuniti antara satu sama lain untuk memanfaatkan pengajaran, teguran dan latihan daripada orang lain, supaya kita dapat dilengkapi untuk segala kerja yang baik. Kekangan lokasi menyebabkan kami memerlukan pendekatan yang lebih kreatif untuk berkomunikasi.

3. Misi dalam Panggilan – Untuk menjadi duta Kristus yang dilengkapi ilmu ketuhanan, menawan hati, dan bijaksana dalam memenuhi panggilan kita di mana sahaja kita berada, untuk menjadi soldadu kasih dan kebenaran. Kami percaya bahawa iman tidak bercanggah dengan logik. Kami juga percaya bahawa tidak terdapat sebarang pembahagian antara kerjaya dan iman, bidang sekular dan spiritual, ilmu dunia dan ilmu rohani. Semua aspek kehidupan wajib diterangi berdasarkan Alkitab.

Nilai dan Pegangan

Kami percaya bahawa Alkitab adalah teks yang boleh dipercayai dan benar, dan Yesus adalah satu-satunya jalan di mana orang berdosa dapat berdamai dengan Allah.

Kami mengalu-alukan umum untuk bekerja bersama-sama secara transdisiplin untuk meyumbang idea dan pemikiran, untuk menggalakkan semua untuk mencintai Tuhan dengan hati dan minda kita. Kami bukanlah orang terpelajar mahupun ahli akademik yang mengetahui segala-galanya, tetapi kami akan cuba sedaya-upaya untuk menggunakan sumber-sumber ilmu yang ada sebaiknya.

Kami mempunyai kecenderungan untuk menggunakan bahasa yang ringkas dan mudah difahami. Tetapi kami juga ingin bertumbuh dalam pemahaman kami terhadap Firman dan dunia Tuhan. Kami mempunyai komitmen terhadap Berita Baik dan mengaplikasikan teoloji kepada praktis (praksis).

Kami mempunyai komitmen dalam mengkontekstualisasikan ajaran Kristus dalam konteks Nusantara dan masyarakatnya supaya Firman Tuhan dapat difahami dalam konteks yang boleh dihayati masyarakat tempatan. Melalui penghayatan yang berakar pada jati diri masyarakat tempatan, kami percaya bahawa budaya tempatan dapat diperkayakan lagi.

Kami tidak mengeluarkan ‘fatwa’ tetapi kami berharap dapat mengeluarkan isu-isu untuk dialog terbuka dalam semangat kasih dan hormat-menghormati.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Puritan Lessons on Faith and Work - Part 1

One of the distinguishing marks of the Puritans was their fully orbed views on work. Their passion and commitment to the supremacy of God's authority in all of life extended into their work life. I thought it might be interesting examine what they believed and how they applied their rich theology in this area. What would the Puritans say to us who live and work in a digital age? They might begin with their conviction that all work is ordained by God. They would be eager to dispose of any false distinctions between secular and sacred work.

"This is a wonderful thing, that the Savior of the world, and the King above all kings, was not ashamed to labor; yea, and to use so simple an occupation. Here he did sanctify all manner of occupations." Hugh Latimer

This was in great part reinforced because they held to a view that God calls each person to a specific work or occupation.

"God doth call every man and woman...to serve him in some peculiar employment in this world, both for their own and the common good..." Richard Steele

Cotton Mather provides the following comment on how one should steward that calling.

"A Christian should be able to give a good account, not only what is his occupation but also what he is in his occupation"

Regardless of whether you share the Puritans views on work, their passion to see God honored in and through their work is commendable and inspiring. How might their conviction in the sanctity of all legitimate work inform us today? I offer a couple suggestions -

It should bring us purpose in our work. If the Puritans are right, all manner of legitimate work offers an opportunity for us to obey and honor God. In short, it provides an opportunity for worship.

It should inspire faithfulness. If you believe as the Puritans did that it is God who calls each man to a particular vocation, then faithful discharge of that work is vital if we are to fulfill that calling. Attention to faithfulness in other areas of life but not in this area would be deficient.

Even though I do not consciously subscribe to a sacred-secular dichotomy of work, I nonetheless often forget these truths in practice. By obscuring them, I may be missing opportunities for faithful worship in my daily life.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bridging The Gap

Dr Gordon Preece from Australia, who is speaking at the Graduates
Christian Fellowship Malaysia annual conference, will be holding an evening talk in PJ EFC. The title of the talk is "Bridging the Gap Between Faith and Work".

He aims to help us bridge the gap between faith and work so that we can live with integrity -- ie. in an integrated way. He will provide biblical principles showing that God is not just a Sunday God but a Monday God, a 24/7 God, and give a range of practical models and inspiring contemporary examples of how we can bridge the gap between faith and work today.

Date: 26 Oct 2006 (Thursday)
Time: 8:30pm
Venue: Petaling Jaya Evangelical Free Church
Heritage Centre
No.3 Jalan 13/6, 46200 Petaling Jaya
Topic: Bridging the Gap Between Faith and Work

More articles from Gordon can be found here

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Servant King

Lyrics By Graham Kendrick

From Heaven You came, helpless Babe,
entered our world, Your glory veil'd,
not to be served but to serve,
and give Your life that we might live.

This is our God, the Servant King,
He call us now to follow Him
to bring our lives as a daily
offering of worship to the Servant King.

There in the graden of tears,
My heavy load He chose to bear.
His heart with sorrow was torn,
'Yet not my will but Yours' He said.

Come see His hands and His feet,
the scars that speak of sacrifice,
hands that flung stars into space,
to curel nails surrendered.

So let us learn how to serve,
and in our lives enthrone Him.
Each other's needs to prefer,
for it is Christ we're serving.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals

The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals
A list by Christianity Today

Landmark titles that changed the way we think, talk, witness, worship, and live.
posted 10/06/2006 12:13PM

People and movements can be defined by the books they read and remember.
The time it takes to read and digest a book requires us to engage someone else's ideas with more seriousness than almost any other activity. So it is with some trepidation that we present this list.

See the full list here

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Homosexuality, are Christians wrong again?

Homosexuality, are Christians wrong again?

NTV7 Edisi Siasat featured a story on “Gay Coming Out” where they interviewed Ouyang whom I have been told claimed;

“people misinterpret the bible in the past. He brought out the examples of how people justify slavery using the Bible”

The argument that the current Christian position on homosexuality could be a misinterpretation like the misinterpretation of those who used biblical text to justify slavery is a fallacy we call the law of undistributed equals. Ravi Zacharias describes it like this;

Elephants have ears
People have ears

So people and elephants are the same thing

Do you see the problem? Just because 2 things may have one or more similarities, its still does not make them one in the same thing.

Read the full article here

How Much Does God Weigh?

In his book God in the Wasteland, David Wells describes the notion of how God is "weightless" in our postmodern society.

"...God is now weightless. I do not mean that he is ethereal but rather that he has become unimportant. He rests upon the world so inconsequentially as not to be noticeable... Those who assure pollsters of their belief in God's existence may nonetheless consider him less interesting than television, his commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, his judgment less awe-inspiring than the evening news, and his truth less compelling than the advertisers' sweet fog of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness."

One way to respond to this is to consider how secularized our society has become, but I was more impressed to consider my daily life, especially in the marketplace. If there's any place where "God rests so inconsequentially so as not to be noticeable", it is in the arena of business.

In the typical corporate workplace, the serious mention of God is so rare that it seems unusually out of place to do so. Even when spoken of, there is no gravity to the idea that God exists or that he has a claim on us. In stature, he ranks only a notch higher than a myth.

I wonder how I'm contributing this current state. I believe that this "weightlessness" of God at the workplace exists in large part because as Christians, we speak and act so as to undermine the reality of the immortal, invisible God. Much of this is inadvertant, unwitting and by omission.

Yet, when we speak of God in general, philosophical terms but never in personal terms, we contribute to the weightlessness of God. When we consistenly express enthusiasm about the football game on Sunday but no enthusiasm about the Sunday meeting at church, we contribute to the current dilemma. In times of difficulty, if we express our need for assistance from other co-workers but never openly acknowledge our need for God, we functionally ignore his providence.

I'm pausing to consider what I'm communicating about God everyday. Do I speak of God as though he truly exists? I wonder how we can better speak, work and live in such a manner that the gravity of who God is cannot be ignored. What would that look like?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Graduate Christian Fellowship

Greetings……Great news, the i-bridge camp/conference registration will be extending till next week FRIDAY(13th) due to massive response and the availability of few more places. So to all my bro & sis in Christ do encourage your Christian friend/churchmate come to the camp as it focus on the issue of your marketplace and definitely a great time to slow down things to hear what God is saying to each one of us at this particular time and season.

So who Is GCF and I-BRIDGE?
The Graduates Christian Fellowship (GCF) is a non-profit non-exclusive organisation for Christian graduates, professionals and anyone who wishes to play a meaningful role in the marketplace and in society in general. Since its inception in the 1970's, GCF has evolved from an informal gathering for fellowship and encouragement
into a movement of people committed to making a moral impact.

To build a community of servant-leaders committed to transforming society for Christ.

We are committed to the challenge equipping Christians to be servant leaders.

While recognizing the central place of the local church, our primary concern is for Christians in the marketplace where faith and life intersect.

iBridge is a ministry of Graduate Christian Fellowship (Malaysia). It was founded in 2001 with the aim of catering to the needs of young graduates in Malaysia, and to encourage and challenge one another to follow Jesus in the real world. iBridge holds on to its core values of ministering to young graduates in their transition from a student to a working adult.

iBridge aims to encourage networking, spiritual friendship and mentoring among young Christian graduates in Malaysia. Its main objective is to create Networking (connecting lives in transition), Spiritual Friendship (cultivating praying partners) and Mentoring (creating lifelong disciples).

iBridge is a growing community of Christians who are fresh graduates and young professionals in Malaysia desiring to transition from campus to the marketplace, follow God in the "real world", find meaning in their work and to keep their faith alive. iBridge is an initiative of the Graduates Christian Fellowship of Malaysia.

If you are a young Christian graduate desiring to transition from campus to the marketplace, follow God in the "real world", find meaning in your work, keep your faith alive... the iBridge community will help you find spiritual friends who are fellow pilgrims on the journey. The iBridge Camp is an annual camp which particularly
caters to this group of young graduates.

However, we recognise that there is also a growing community of Christians who have effectively transitioned from campus life into the working world; graduates who desire to be 'salt and light of the world', who seek to enlarge their worldview and to engage the world by constantly applying Scripture and their faith.

These graduates face different challenges and issues that a fresh graduate face during the transitional period. They face the challenge of going from 'survival' in their jobs to finding their life vocation. They face the increasing demands of career seniority, marriage, parenting that leads to being isolated. They struggle to
overcome their apathy and indifference and aspire to have a passion for people in the marketplace. In short, they are in a transformation phase of their lives.

With these unique individuals in mind, the GCF Annual Conference, which will be held together with the iBridge Camp this year 2006, will especially cater to complement the other group of graduates who have more than 3 years working experience and to assist them in deeper and another level of personal development, building communities and blessing the world.

For the registration forms just download it at www.taketheleap.org or you can email us at ibgcfcamp2006@gmail.com for more enquiries...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Bible & Homosexuality

This eCommentary is taken from The Bible and Homosexuality by Soo-Inn Tan, 25 Sep 2006

For the bahasa Malaysia version, check out Keropok Lekor's post "Alkitab Dan Homoseksualiti".

In their commentary on Romans, M Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock have this to say about homosexuality:

"The Christian ethical perspective on homosexuality is a complex subject involving legal, social, psychological, and medical points of view as well as theological and biblical statements. Although the biblical teaching on sexuality and sin is an indispensable factor in Christian ethical decision making, this issue cannot be settled by quoting a few biblical texts."

They are right of course. And I am always disturbed by the over-simplifiers in any debate, especially on a subject as emotional and as complex as homosexuality.
However Christians cannot avoid struggling with the theological and biblical statements especially if we believe that the bible properly interpreted is the authority for our life, beliefs and practice.

Struggling with theological and biblical statements is also
what we have to do since there is also a growing Lesbian and Gay Christian movement who maintain that the church has misread the Scriptures and that there is no biblical prohibition on homosexual practice, especially for faithful
monogamous homosexual partnerships.

(This matter has surfaced with a vengeance in Malaysia when recently a high profile Christian writer and thinker went public with his homosexual orientation and the fact that he was in a committed relationship with a same sex partner. He
is at present finishing doctoral studies in Sociology and Theology in the U.S. and hopes to return to Malaysia after his studies to start a church sympathetic to homosexual unions.)

What does the bible teach about homosexuality and homosexual practice? I think the church should always be humble enough to relook at the biblical material. After all it wasn't that long ago that some in the church justified racism and slavery from their reading of the bible.

And looking at the bible we have to admit that the passages that discuss homosexual behaviour are few. Richard B. Hays is right when he reminds us:

"The bible hardly ever discusses homosexual behavior. There are perhaps half a dozen brief references to it in all of Scripture. In terms of emphasis, it is a minor concern --- in contrast, for example, to economic justice."
(The Moral Vision of the New Testament, p.381)

Nevertheless, the few places where homosexuality is mentioned, the teaching is clear. Romans 1: 24-27 is particularly critical.

"Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed
forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for
one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error." (NET)

A full exegesis of this passage is beyond the scope of this essay. Readers are encouraged to read up commentaries on the book of Romans of which there are many.
We do note a few things. First Paul is addressing homosexual acts and not homosexual orientation. Both male and female homosexual behaviour are addressed. And, unlike places like 1Corinthians, Paul is not addressing specific people caught in specific sins.

Here Paul is talking about humankind as a whole, laying the case for the fact that all of humankind is in sinful rebellion against their Maker.

His point is that all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory (Romans 3:23), but interestingly he chooses homosexual intercourse as the sin that best illustrates the falleness of humankind.

Again Hays is helpful:

"Paul singles out homosexual intercourse for special attention because he regards it as providing a particularly graphic image of the way in which human fallenness distorts God's created order. God the Creator made man and woman for each other, to cleave together, to be fruitful and multiply. When humans beings 'exchange' these created roles for homosexual intercourse, they embody the spiritual condition
of those who have 'exchanged the truth about God for a lie.'"

Paul chooses homosexual practice as the example of a fallen humanity because a key expression of God's image in humankind is the fact that we were made male and female.

"God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them."(Genesis 1:27 NET)

Any turning away from male-female sexuality is finally an assault on the very nature of God.

Of course we now live in a fallen universe.
Some people are born with strong homosexual desires.
Heterosexuals who do not know the loneliness and unfulfilled desires of homosexuals could do with more listening and less lecturing.

One of my favourite writers on spirituality is the late Henri Nouwen. Many of his books speak of his deep loneliness and pain.

It was only after his death that I discovered he was homosexual.
But he was also celibate.
He had chosen to remain celibate rather than indulge in homosexual sexual intercourse.
He sounds like a follower of Jesus who took up his cross.

It is painful to be broken human beings living in a broken world.
We long for that perfect world to come when final healing will come.
Paul talks about a creation groaning and suffering while waiting for the ultimate rebirth and the coming of the new reation in full. (Romans 8:18-25)

If we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ then we are to strive to live in a way that aligns our present lives with the perfect life to come and not to give in to the broken patterns of a fallen world.

This will be tough for all of us, and tougher for some than others.
Much grace is called for.

(Is there pressure to start churches orientated to homosexuals because our churches have failed to show love and acceptance to our brothers and sisters struggling to
follow Christ in the midst of their homosexual struggles? God will hold us accountable.)

There is much soul searching to be done by all.
If we are really sincere about fighting for God's ways then we should fight for all of God's concerns and not single out homosexuality.

I suspect there are more of us excited about the issue of homosexuality than about economic injustice. And as Hays reminds us God has so much more to say about economic injustice.

But what we cannot do is to make the bible say something that it doesn't.
For me Romans 1:24-27 is clear.
The bible does not permit homosexual practice.

Your brother,
a heterosexual sinner saved by grace,
Soo-Inn Tan

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Learning Community

Addressing the need for intellectual witness in the wider society, Kam Weng proposed an action item on leadership development that resonates deeply -
"many Christian leaders in the third world do not have enough time to acquire the pre-requisite skills and knowledge adequate to confront the best scholars from the other religions. Hence, it is vital that we begin early to equip younger Christians for such a demanding task... It is urgent that we identify promising young leaders and nurture them with supplementary education while they are still in colleges."

Not only that, Soo Inn proposed that developing leaders is also about 'spiritual friendship', living and walking with these young leaders - sharing our lives, otherwise it could be too abstract.

With that in view, I highly recommend the following community learning initiatives in the Klang Valley which would put needed resources in your hands to be an ambassador for Christ in the marketplace and guided by facilitators who are willing to share their lives.

1) ACT Ministry will be having a fortnightly (Mondays) group study on Philosophy for Understanding Theology by Diogenes Allen and ACT Ministry notes on "Greek Philosophy in Christian Doctrine". Time: 8.30pm - 10.00pm

Length: 12 sessions beginning on the 25/09/2006 and ending 12/03/2007 with Christmas and Chinese new Year breaks in between.

2) Basic Doctrine Course (tapes/workbooks from John Stott) at CDPC starting on 29 Oct 2006. Facilitators: Michael & Yvette Koh, excellent couple-teachers.

3) KJ John is a regular contributor at Malaysiakini with an emphasis on integrity and transparent governance in our country. He and Kong Beng will team up to lead the OHMSI group study on the book "Total Truth" by Nancey Pearcey which is an excellent resource for being informed about cultural issues in our day - from sociopolitical engagement, ethics, intelligent design,
homosexuality, gender issues, secularism, islam etc etc...

(btw the term 'total truth' was coined by Francis Schaeffer to mean that Christianity is not only true for religious issues like 'personal encounter w God' but also true in the public issues like how we do science, economics, social-politics, arts racial, sexual issues etc ...)

Since KJ John is also an experienced and well-connected writer for the public square, I believe we can really benefit from his insights in the Malaysian context. Also, Kong Beng would contribute from a theological perspective.

The next best thing (imho, a much better thing) to getting a formal education is to get experienced mentors like them to give us some coaching and hands-on guide.

The take-home value, as i see it, is we could have a group of young people who are prepared to engage the issues in malaysiakini or other public forums in some specialised issues when the need arises...

So far, I'm encouraged to see some promising future leaders have expressed interest.

We are desperately in need of people who will stand up and be counted. Round up your frens who may be interested and suitably gifted, and let's get connected.

How to sign up? Just email me at hedonese at yahoo.com

KJ John's Proposed Ground Rules are:

1. Meeting once a month either Saturday or Sunday for about 2 hours at a location of our choice. Attendance is compulsory for those all who sign up.

We cannot miss more than one in a row to a maximum of two meetings. The book has only 13 chapters and we intend to only READ and REVIEW only one chapter a month.

2. Those who have not read relevant chapter CANNOT PARTICIPATE in the discussion and dialogue. Both Navs 2:7 program and BSG follow these rules. Good for personal discipline and good discipleship.

3. Once committed, it is from start till finish.

4. We all agree to undertake to endeavour to start a new group of our own as our passing on the baton of the new way of thinking about life and living; after the session is over after about one year.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Poliomyelitis- a disease that just will not go away

There had been high hopes that poliomyelitis or polio can be eradicated by the year 2000. The WHO has organized massive immunization programs and almost all countries use the WHO immunization schedule which includes vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus, and poliomyelitis. The Rotary Foundation has spent billions of dollars to ensure that children in the most remote areas receive the vaccine. With the combined might of the WHO and the NGO, the Rotary Foundation, there had been high hopes that poliomyelitis will go the way of smallpox.

Poliomyelitis cause paralysis of major muscles. In the old days, children with poliomyelitis have difficulty breathing as their respiratory muscles were paralyzed. They were placed in “iron lungs” which help them to breathe. The “iron lungs’ worked by alternately creating and releasing a vacuum.

In March 2005, a 20 months old boy was founded to be infected with a wild strain of polio virus in Girijaya village in the Sukabumi district of West Java. In spite of massive immunization of the Indonesian government, the outbreak resulted in 305 cases in 2005-2006 and claimed 6 lives. 47 districts and 10 provinces were affected. This virus was traced to its origin in Nigeria. It reached Indonesia via Yemen, Saudi Arabia and West Java. From there it spread to central Java, the Madera Islands and to Sumatra.

What went wrong? It was found that the polio vaccine coverage in Indonesia has dropped from more than 90% to 77.6% in 2005. Again, this is a reminder that we are fighting a holding battle against outbreaks of diseases like polio. We cannot afford to relax our vigilance.

There are two types of vaccines for polio. The Salk vaccine which is made up of the killed polio virus and the Sabin vaccine which is made from the weakened polio virus. Salk and Sabin are the names of two medical pioneers who did a lot of work on poliomyelitis. The Salk vaccine is given by injection into the muscles while the Sabin vaccine is given orally.

WHO made a decision to use the oral Sabin polio vaccine exclusively. The Malaysian Ministry of Health follows this decision religiously. However, there are two vaccine related problems with the oral polio vaccine which is not found in the injection polio vaccine.

First, it was found that the oral polio vaccine can cause polio! It was estimated that there are 400-800 cases of vaccine polio worldwide yearly. Vaccine polio can cause outbreaks; Hispaniola Islands in 2000, Indonesia in 2005 while the longest lasting was for 10 years in Egypt from 1983-1993.

Second, oral polio vaccine can cause paralysis. The muscles of affected children become flaccid. This condition is named vaccine associated paralytic polio (VAPP). It occurs in one per million does of oral polio vaccines.

One of the arguments against the use of injection polio vaccine was the “absence of herd immunity”. As the recent outbreaks in Indonesia shows, that argument is not longer valid since the polio outbreak occurs in spite of the community having “herd immunity’. Europe, Canada, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and USA has all changed to injection polio vaccine in the last decade and there have been no significant outbreaks of polio reported.

The WHO recommends that the oral polio vaccine be discontinued as soon as polio was eradicated in 2000. It is now already 6 years past that dateline and we still have not eradicated the disease polio. Maybe it is time our Health Ministry should reconsider the WHO recommendation and make the decision to switch to injection polio vaccine independently. Most of the developed countries have already switched to injection polio vaccine.

The battle against polio has not been won. The polio vaccine has offered us an effective instrument to hold the disease at bay. Unfortunately the vaccine has created two new vaccine related diseases. The trade off is good but we could do better.

There is not a single kilobyte of which Christ…

Have you heard of Flickr, Myspace or Wikipedia? Have you been hearing talk about a new internet revolution labeled Web 2.0? I spoke briefly in the past about the underlying philosophy of this phenomenon here. If we look past the media hype we (as Christians) are challenged with generation Y and the preceding generations that are the first generations to have grown up with the internet, PC and this technology driven reality we find ourselves in, and thus besides posing a challenge to church.

Will we keep whining about the dehumanization of technology and wishing for the good-old-days, or will we adapt to these irreversible changes and find ways to influence and utilize it for Christ, so that we can boldly say that there is not a single kilobyte of which Christ does not say, “Mine”.

Here is an excellent introduction on the phenomenon of Web 2.0 posted on one of my favorite blogs, ChurchMarketingSucks.com. While you are there, do check out their reviews on the technology scene and its implications on Christianity, though its made for the US settings, some of the advice can apply to us here in Malaysia as well.

What Web 2.0 Means for Your Church
(Filed under: Technology at ChurchMarketingSucks.com)

Web 2.0 is the latest rage. It's on the cover of Newsweek and everyone is speculating if it's the revenge of the dot com boom.

This is the beginning of an multi-part series on web. 2.0 and what it could mean for the church.

Read the full article here.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Evangelical Resurgence

Where We Are and How We Got Here
by Mark A. Noll

50 years ago, evangelicals were a sideshow of American culture. Since then, it's been a long, strange trip. Here's a look at the influences that shaped the movement.

Historically, evangelicalism has had integrity when it maintains the substance of classical Christian faith; it has exerted influence and enjoyed a broad appeal when it responds effectively to impulses within its host cultures. When evangelicals think only about honoring their heritage, they easily lose sight of the gospel imperative to evangelize and to be salt and light in the world. Conversely, when they think only about effective witness and responding to urgent psychological needs, they easily lose sight of the gospel imperative to preserve the truth in righteousness.

In some earlier eras, the balance of theological integrity and cultural sensitivity moved mountains. At other times, loyalty to traditions led to separatistic stagnation, or lust for cultural relevance perverted the gospel into Christianity-lite.

During the first half of the 20th century, the stress had shifted toward preserving traditions. At the middle of the 20th century, evangelicals began to move back toward a balance.

But have evangelicals today moved too far? Has an overemphasis on preserving tradition been replaced by an overemphasis on connecting to the culture? For such supremely important questions, it is, of course, too early for a historical assessment. When the balance shifts too strongly to one without the other, it is merely sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. But an evangelical resurgence that balances traditional faith and cultural relevance sounds a trumpet of salvation to the world.

The Boys' Brigade of Malaysia

William Alexander Smith was born in Thurso, Scotland in 1854. He moved to Glasgow in his teens and became involved in church activities. William was also a lieutenant in the 1st Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers in 1883 while he was teaching in the North Woodside Mission Sunday School. While working with the children in church, he discovered the need for wholesome activities for children outside school hours. William Smith shared his ideas with his two friends, which later invited boys from North Woodside Mission Sabbath School and formed the first company of The Boys' Brigade, 1st Glasgow Company on 4th of October 1883. It is the world's first uniform organization, even before the Scouts.

William was the first Brigade Secretary in 1887 where he worked towards spreading the Brigade across the world. In 1909, King Edward VII knighted William Smith for his contribution towards youth development. Five years later, Sir William Alexander Smith passed away. Throughout his lifetime, Sir William A. Smith poured out all that he has into BB and he is best remembered as the man who spells Boy with a capital 'B'.

The original object of the Boys' Brigade is the advancement of Christ's Kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of obedience, reverence, discipline, self-respect and all that tend towards a true Christian manliness. Christian “manliness” was developed by the use of a semi-military discipline and order, gymnastics, summer camps and religious services and classes. Christian manliness was changed to Christian character when girls were admitted to the BB.

However, the BB did not appear in the Asian scene until 1915 when the first Company was founded in the Chinese city of Swatow by the Rev Guthrie Gamble (the famous Swatow BB was to become a legend in later years in China) The BB came to South East Asia in 1930 with the founding of the 1st Singapore Company by Mr James Fraser.

The Boys’ Brigade did not come to Malaya until the after the second World War. A British soldier by the name of Robert Davis (former Captain of 6th Birkenhead Company at the Tranmere Freehold Methodist Church and later Tranmere United Reformed Church) gave the idea of The Boys’ Brigade to one of Penang’s great educationist, the late Mr Geh Hun Kheng, who accepted the challenge becoming the first BB Captain in Malaya. Mr Geh realised that he had to do his "small share" to win the Boys over from the various subversive groups that were so rife after the Pacific War. The first meeting of 20 Boys was held in the Methodist Church in Madras Lane on a Sunday in September 1946. Penang thus became the springboard from which Companies were started first in Kuala Lumpur and then in other parts of the country. When Malaysia achieved independence on 31 August 1957, The Boys’ Brigade was given the honour of being invited to take part in the Merdeka Parade (Independence Day Parade).

After Merdeka (Independence), The Boys’ Brigade began to spread rapidly as a result of the formation of the Malayan Council of The Boys’ Brigade under the initiative of Mr Khoo Oon Soo. More and more Companies were founded in every major town in Malaya. Even small rural towns began to have BB Companies functioning efficiently. By this time firm and friendly contact had been made with the BB in Singapore which helped in the supply and sale of equipment and with the founding of the first Company in Borneo in 1959, the 1st Kuching Company. In 1962, the BB in Malaya became a member of the Pacific Regional Fellowship (subsequently joined the East Asia Regional Fellowship when it was formed later) and the first Pacific camp was held with the co-operation of the Singapore Battalion in Port Dickson in December 1963.

On 5 December 1964, the former Federation of Malaya Council of The Boys’ Brigade, the Singapore Battalion and the 1st Kuching Company merged into The Boys’ Brigade in Malaysia. With the political separation of Singapore from Malaysia, The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore ceased to be a component District of The Boys’ Brigade in Malaysia as on 19 August 1965. With Malaysia a reality the National Council began to establish Companies in Sabah and Sarawak, maintaining friendly ties with the BB in Singapore.

The development of The Boys’ Brigade in Malaysia took a revolutionary turn when it invited girls to be members. It was first introduced in 1989 and debated for a few years before experimental measures were approved in 1992. The move received favourable response and strong support from churches and individuals. Starting of the girls’ wing was to cater for the girls in a locality where a Girls’ Brigade Company did not exist. Today, more than 20 companies in the BBM have girls on their membership roll, and many girls have been appointed NCOs, and they have proven to be capable in adapting well to the activities of the BB.

Since 1992, The Boys’ Brigade in Malaysia has also begun to play significant role in the extension of BB work in the East Asia Regional Fellowship, including conducting training and support BB works in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Today, there are over 70 Companies spread throughout the length and breadth of Malaysia. Ever since the setting up of a BBHQ in 1989, a permanent building has been purchased, and currently staffed by a team of 5 able full-time personnel.

The Boys’ Brigade in Malaysia has come a long way since 1946. Many things have since changed, many had come and gone with many new developments taken place. Throughout all these years, the BBM has been able to hold on to its object and continue in serving the youth of Malaysia. As the nation is fast moving towards greater heights in development, it is believed that the BB shall be called on to play an even greater role in the development and training of the Malaysian youths.

The BB is recognised by Kementerian Belia dan Sukan Malaysia as a youth body and by Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia as a school's extra co-curricular activity. This means BB is the only formally recognized uniformed Christian youth organization recognized by the government and allowed to be part of the schools extra co-curricular activities. BB is also an affliated member of Majlis Belia Malaysia and Council of Churches of Malaysia

The Advancement of Christ's Kingdom among members and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-Respect and all that tends towards a true Christian Character.

SURE & STEDFAST (taken from Hebrews 6:19). The original Old English (King James Version) spelling of "Stedfast" has been retained.

The emblem is original an anchor. Like the motto it stems from the verse "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Hebrews 6:19)

Please support the ministry by praying for them, getting your children to join them and becoming involved with them.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Left to Right is not Right

This morning, a 7 years old Chinese girl was brought to my clinic because she is having trouble in school. She is an intelligent girl but have problems reading and writing. Her verbal skills are good and she does well in art and drama. The teachers were upset with her for writing her “E”, “D”, “3”, “6” and “9” mirror image. Initially they thought that she was being naughty. Sometimes she will write the correct way but when she is tired or stressed, she will revert to writing her mirror image writing.

Her parents brought her to see me because they wanted to know whether she has dyslexia. On questioning, the parents admitted that she was initially using her left hand but they forced her to write with her right hand. So she was left handed, even though now she writes with her right hand.

Never force your left handed child to write with his or her right hand! All children are born with either left or right brain dominance. A left-handed child will be right brain dominant and a right-handed child will be left brain dominant. Some children are ambidextrous. They are able to use both hands equally well but usually one hand is more dexterous. When a child was forced to use the hand that is opposite to his or her brain dominance, a state known as mixed brain dominance occurs. The brain becomes confused and tries to adapt. Another name for this is mixed-handedness or cross laterality. This is not necessarily a good thing.

This problem is common among left-handed kids. Right-handed children do not face any such problem. The reason being there is a bias against left-handedness. The world is designed for right-handed people. If you do not believe me, just look at the design of a scissor. A scissor is designed in such a way that the line that is being cut can be only seen by a right-handed person. Another is the cork-screw. In fact, almost all instruments are designed to be used by right-handed people even though about 10% of people are left-handed. Hence I was excited when I discovered a shop called “The Left Handed Shop” at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The shop catered exclusively for left-handed people.

Left-handed people have problem writing. We write a sentence from left to right on a page. Some left-handed people have problems with their elbows if their tablemates are right handed. In writing Mandarin, the problem is even more acute. Writing right to left causes them to smug their notebooks. Chinese (Mandarin) characters are written in strokes in a certain format. Imagine how confusing it is to look at the word character in a mirror image format. The mirror image may actually be another Chinese character!

Left-handedness was once associated with Satanic influence. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the righteous will sit on the right hand of God. The unrighteous will sit on the left. Thus it used to be the tradition in missionary schools that children are punished for writing with their left hands.

In the Roman army, a left-handed person will have his left arm bounded to his body and trained to use the gladius (Roman short sword) with his right. In the Roman warfare strategy, left-handed solders will most likely stab their comrades. Roman legionnaires do not take kindly to “friendly fire”.

Fortunately, most right brain dominant children who were forced to use their right hands to write are able to adapt. Their brain just formed a visual “mirror image” of what they see. It was postulated that left-handed person are more visual in their thinking. Unfortunately, some could not and will be labeled “dyslexic”. Hence left to right is not always right.

Dreams & Ambitions

The best book I've read in the past year is "Lost in the Middle", Paul Tripp's newest book on the challenges of mid-life. You can read a review of the book here

One of the more interesting chapters of the book is Chapter 5 - "Towers to the Sky" where Paul Tripp discusses the power of our dreams and imagination. He reminds us that the ability to dream and imagine is a unique gift from God:

"A dream is imagination coupled with desire and projected into the future...Imagination and the ability to dream future dreams are vital gifts from God so that, though we cannot see, hear or touch him, we can still have a relationship with him".

However, our dreams (and ambition) can also be dangerous to our souls when they take hold of us.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

"Before long the dream is not just a faint and distant hope for the future. It becomes a prized possession. I become convinced that life without the dream would be unthinkable and unlivable. My sense of identity, purpose, well-being, contentment, and satisfaction becomes directly connected to the realization of the dream."

"...in the pursuit of my essential dream, I have been slowly building my own personal tower to my personal heaven. It has me. It defines me. It motivates me. It guides and directs me. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to press on."

Paul Tripps writings are always insightful and this is no exception. A couple of thoughts as I read through the chapter -

First, this is not a problem confined to mid-life...the towers of our dreams are often exposed in mid-life but they're constructed throughout our adult life. So his gracious exhortations are applicable whatever your age.

Second, it seemed to me that our dreams are actualized and often take form as ambition in our lives. Ambition is the drive to actualize our dreams - where dreams are passive, ambition is active. Yet, ambition often carries a negative connotation for a Christian. It leads me to ask -
Is ambition typically wrong or selfish? Or is there a right form and place for ambition in our lives?

In practical terms, is it right for a Christian to directly pursue a position of influence in politics, media or business? It made me wonder what godly ambition looks like for a Christian in the marketplace - what are its essential attributes? Related to the last question about the nature of godly ambition in the marketplace, here are my thoughts on what that looks like. May these only serve as a starting point for fruitful discussion.

1. Christian ambition in the marketplace should be motivated by our ultimate desire to know Christ and to make him known. Our aspirations for a specific position or area of work, should serve as an expression of our over-arching ambition as Christians to know, experience and love God more deeply.

2. Christian ambition is the marketplace should be characterized by God-centered humility, marked by a trust in God who brings about success or failure. We should look humbly to the one who raises the poor from the dust (Psalm 113) ... and brings princes to naught (Isaiah 40). We should make lots of room for the sovereign hand of God, leanin upon his Providence, recognizing the many things that only God can control and we cannot. On this point, I confess I often find myself striving when I should be resting. I often wonder if my striving at times isn't a desire for autonomy when God has designed me for dependency. Psalm 127:1 reminds us that "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain".

3. Christian ambition is about serving those around us. This is an ethic well understood if not always practiced in the church but in the marketplace it is seldom espoused, much less practiced. Yet, this distinctive is to mark Christians even when they operate in the realm of business. For the Christian, any aspiration for leading or management - any ambition to lead projects, build companies or make sense of disorganization is motivated a desire to serve others .

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matt 20: 26-28)

What are your thoughts on the topic of dreams and ambition? How do you navigate through your ambition, yet keep God foremost on your mind and heart?