Friday, June 29, 2007

Serving God in Our Work

"Never is a life more ennobled than when we do all things as unto God."

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

CH Spurgeon tells us that true faith in God leads a person to serve God in his/her daily calling. He further maintains that this service is marked by obedience to God's commands.

"Brethren, Christian men are helped by faith to serve God in their calling by obedience to God's commands, by endeavouring to order everything according to the rules of love to God and love to man. In such a case, integrity and uprightness preserve the man, and his business becomes true worship."

When we walk in obedience, our work is transformed into worship to God. On this topic, Spurgeon goes on to exhort us to "manifest a Christian spirit" in all we do. His point is simple - God is not honored by "correct behavior" that is devoid of a gracious spirit.

Here is what he says about this -

"The spirit that actuates us may seem a small matter so long as we are outwardly right; but it is in reality the essence of the whole thing. Take away the flavor from the fruit, or the fragrance from the flower, and what is left? Such is correct living without the savor of grace."

Years before Charles Sheldon issued the now popular, WWJD call, Spurgeon asked not only "what would Jesus do" but also "how would Jesus do it". He tells us the following -

"Oh, to act in your trade and calling as Christ would have acted had he been in your place. Hang that question up in your houses, "What would Jesus do?" and then think of another, "How would Jesus do it?" for what he would do and how he would do it may always stand as the best guide for us. Thus faith puts a man upon serving God by leading him to exhibit the spirit of Christ in what he ordinarily does, showing all courtesy, gentleness, forbearance, charity and grace"

Also, take note of Spurgeon's perspective on daily work, taking one day at a time and making full use of it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Where There's Will, There's Wei

Joash Chan's debut movie is available online. May the Lord raise up more movie makers who will connect to culture with stories that mirror life, point towards transcendence...
I'm told that the online version will be available for one more week only.

Is God Loving In Pursuing His Glory?

A Loving Command
by Millie Chan, 2006

"God commands us to worship Him, mama. Isn't that being self-centered?" my daughter asked me.

I used to wrestle with that question too. After all, we are told that "love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; ...does not seek its ownâ" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Do the rules on humility apply to God?

It all starts with His sovereignty. A sovereign God who is all-powerful and righteous can do nothing less but declare this truth to His creations. If God denies the infinite worth of His glory, by implication He would be abdicating His seat to take second place. He would cease to be God.

It is therefore fitting and essential that God proclaim His glory and worth. In so doing, He affirms an absolute truth.

But why the call to worship Him? One cannot escape the many commands scattered throughout the Psalms to praise God. As C. S. Lewis observes, these demands seemed to portray God as craving "for our worship like a vain woman who wants compliments." Does the command spring from a need on His part to shore up a deficiency?

Again we must reflect on His nature in order to relate to His command. Our God is a joyful God. "Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." (Psalm 115:3). None of His purposes can be thwarted. He is thus the most joyful of all beings. And there is an expansive quality to this joy which inclines it to overflow. At the very heart of creation is the impulse to share this joy.

What then would be the best gift He could give us to enjoy? In stark knowledge of His own majesty, wonder and beauty, He knows our fullest satisfaction is discovered in Him. When we encounter His goodness and incomparable excellence, we gasp in wonder and we worship. Of all creatures, only humans are capable of wonder. Monte Swan so aptly says that "when we halt in wonder, we instinctively hold our breath - which then catches in our throat. This pause, for a Christian, is in actuality a form of worship."

God is the best source of inexpressible and wondrous joy and He offers Himself to saturate us with this delight. Anything else would see Him giving us less. Our God wants us to delight in Him. In fact the faith that pleases God is a confidence that God will reward us when we come to Him (Hebrews 11:6) - the heartfelt conviction not only that Christ is reliable, but also that He is desirable.

Thus the persistent calls to worship Him. The act of worship is the pathway for the inflow of His abundant joy and love. In worship, eternity transcends time and the richness of God's glory reaches us where we are. The closer we are to God's absolute supremacy, beauty and purity, the more we marvel, and the more we want to worship.
Worship is basically adoration, and we adore only what delights us.

Blaise Pascal wrote this confession after he had an encounter with God
while reading the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John:

From about half past ten at night to about half an hour after midnight,
"God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob", not of philosophers and scholars
Certitude, heartfelt joy, peace.
God of Jesus Christ, God of Jesus Christ.
The world forgotten, everything except God.

"O righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You" (John 17:25).
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.

No, the rules of humility that apply to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator. For God, the act of seeking His own praise is the ultimate loving act. Precisely because He loves us so, He relentlessly commands us to pursue the praises of His name in our hearts. Think of what we would be missing if God did not insist that we worship Him. We would never know the source of ultimate satisfaction.

"Delight yourself in the Lord" (Psalm 37:4). What a loving command!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Nowhere To Flee

By Living Lee

In the aftermath of the devastating hurricane Katrina that wrecked havoc in New Orleans all sorts of blame and accusations have been leveled at the Bush administration for their too slow response to the natural disaster. Even the president had to finally admit that they have not got their act together to respond quickly and efficiently to a disaster of this magnitude. Hurricane warnings were given and people were told to evacuate. What they did not realize was many of
those warned had no means to do so as they don't have cars or were too poor to take public transport or even know where to go. It brought to the fore the problem of being poor even in the midst of the richest and most powerful nation on earth at present.

The leaders of the world are forced to confer and come out with plans to eradicate or reduce worldwide poverty (by 50% at least by 2015 if I'm not wrong). That is a noble task indeed for the world to work together but while everyone could agree with such a noble aim, making it work is going to be a monumental undertaking. Just how do you go about trying to wipe poverty off the face of the earth?

What are the causes of poverty in the first place? We all know that there are enough resources to feed, clothe and house every inhabitant comfortably on this planet. The problem is with the uneven distribution of these not even scarce resources. Why is there rich and poor, the haves and the have-nots? The economists and the sociologists will have lots of sophisticated answers to that question from natural differences due to climate and other factors to history and present management of these resources. Many have attempted to bring about a more equitable distribution either through force or persuasion but very few have achieved the success they envisaged.

What is the root cause of poverty and what can be done about it?

While accepting that differences do exist because of the myriad of reasons provided, we need to ask what can be done to tackle the problem of gross unequal distribution of resources. The communists tried taking from the rich and giving to the poor by force and it didn't work. The capitalist tried producing more so that there is
more to go around – slightly better track record but created problems of its own as not everyone buys the concept that what they earned must be shared. This tendency to keep and hoard what we believe is rightfully ours because we earned it, has kept the world in poverty.

I believe world poverty can never be eradicated as long as selfishness and greed resides in our hearts. As long as we believe that all that there is in life is what we can earn and have in this world, we cannot be set free from this propensity to hoard because that is where our security lies. We Christians may say with our
mouths that we trust in God and that this world is not our home but the way we live our lives proclaims otherwise. We are just as clinging to this world as the others if not worse.

True freedom comes when we dare to let go and let God. What it means in real life is giving – lots of giving with a cheerful heart. Not irresponsible giving like the mad person who throws fistfuls of dollars in the streets but carefully planned giving that targets and helps the most needy of the poor. Thank God for Christian agencies like World Vision, Malaysian CARE and many others. We need to give more and more of not just our money but also our time and thoughts and prayers. Then we will be doing our heavenly Father's will and be perfect even as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

Jesus tells that we shall always have the poor with us on this side of heaven (John 12:8). Our duty is not to wipe poverty off the face of the earth. It is to love and give to the poor what our loving heavenly Father has given to us. He will not ask us what have we done to solve the poverty problem of the whole world. He will ask us what have we done with the Lazarus who sits at our doorstep. While we actively seek to participate in and support organized efforts by world bodies and governments to try and tackle poverty on a global scale, we must not forget to act local and do what we can to help the poor within our reach until Jesus comes again.

A Hero In Our Midst

Alvin Ung, iBridge article
February 7, 2003

The Bible tells us to listen carefully to wise counsel. "He who walks with the wise grows wise," says the writer of Proverbs. That’s why, when I arrived at Regent College in Vancouver, I signed up for J.I. Packer’s class immediately.

Jim Packer, 77, is best known for Knowing God, a book which has sold more than three million copies. He has written more than a hundred other books. Teacher, scholar and pastor, Packer has brought about a renaissance in Christian thinking. He has weighed in on just about every major discussion on both sides of the Atlantic, and continues to do so. But what strikes me most is how he consistently strives to honor God.

A Holy Encounter

My wife and I didn’t see Packer during our first few days at Regent. Then one gray morning (and there are many such mornings in Vancouver), an old man in a khaki trench-coat strode through the frontdoors. Huey Fern spotted him.

“Look, it’s J. I. Packer!” a student gasped. Those who were reading looked up. The talking stopped. Heads swiveled and a silence fell across the atrium as people craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the world-famous theologian. He had white wisps of hair on his sloping forehead which contrasted sharply against a tweed jacket and dark green pants.

He loped across the atrium, shoulders hunched from carrying a sheaf of notes in one hand and a battered leather briefcase in the other. As quickly as he appeared, he disappeared. The students at Regent call such encounters "a holy moment."

The Gift of God’s Presence

It amazes me how one man can evoke such a powerful sense of God’s presence. It’s not hero worship. While his works may line bookshelves and fill our church libraries, it is the impact he has made on countless Christians that sets him apart. He has transformed many, simply by pursuing the knowledge of God all his life, and then pointing the way for others to follow.

“The supreme gift that anyone can give another is to help that person live life more aware of the presence of God,” writes David Benner in Sacred Companions. “Sacred companions help us remember that this is our Father’s world. They help us hear his voice, be aware of his presence and see his footprints as we walk through life. In doing so, they make the journey sacred.”

Dr. Packer isn’t the only one who can help us be more aware of God. We are surrounded by many such people. I call them ordinary heroes. They aren’t always larger than life, the way Dr. Packer may appear to be, but they are certainly people who have demonstrated God’s love.

Connecting with Ordinary Heroes

In my column, Ordinary Heroes, I will profile ten people – young and old, broken and saintly – who have impacted the lives of many people. In conversations with them, my heart is stirred and God is present in our exchanges. They inspire me. They have changed my life. And most of all they have connected with me.

These heroes aren’t perfect. They’ve made mistakes and continue to struggle with temptation. I hope that as I write about their lives, you may identify with them. I hope that we find courage and hope from the living stories that God has authored.

The apostle John says that we have met God when we encounter those love God and love us: “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us.”

Gordon T. Smith, twenty-first century theologian and author of Courage and Calling, puts it differently:

“God is only God in communion, and the bond is made of love ... Our capacity to love God and one another – to live as interconnected beings – is a primary dynamic of who we are, reflecting God's image.”

I pray that God will fill our hunger for friendships and human connections. May we find an intimacy that reflects the love and completeness in God himself.


1. Is there someone in your life that you look up to?
2. What are the qualities/strengths in him/her that you admire? How do these strengths reflect your own desire to grow?
3. Take a moment today to thank your hero. Write an email or a letter, or pick up the phone to tell the person how he/she has made a difference in your life.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Help CF: Government, Politics, Patriotism

John Chung and Dr. Goh Chee Leong

From HELP CF Blog:

Be politically aware – you’re not too young to be.
The students are the conscience of the country – Chee Leong
As citizens, we are in touch with politics every day of our lives. The university students of other countries rose. We can because we’re idealistic. The important thing here is that your passion is not lost.

Recognizing the authority of the government doesn’t mean we follow (blind allegiance). In Paul’s age, the people respectfully disagreed with the government. “You have the right to have the law that I can’t preach but I can choose to disobey that law because of God’s law. You would have to put me into prison but hey, I choose to submit to God’s law”. Here’s principle against God’s law. Stand up when you need. We love the country, yes, we do.

When I’m patriotic, I’m loyal to the country and I fight for the people. When you respect the government, the authority, you do things within the boundaries of the law. Martin Luther King Jr. was a politician. His ministry was politics. His ministry naturally flowed out to his politics.

Very few people have convictions to get into politics. How can we be salt and light to the world when we don’t know our world? You must be aware to be sent. Know what’s happening in your country and in the world – not for knowledge’s sake but for ‘making difference’ sake.

The church was complacent when it came to World War 2. Many Christians closed one eye when they knew. Don’t play ignorance. Open your eyes and respond.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Have We Lost Our Minds?

Dear Friends, Would appreciate your prayers for wisdom and courage as I prepare for a sharing with youths at the Community Baptist church in Subang-Sunway this Saturday (30 June) from 5 pm - 7pm...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Money Can Buy You Happiness?

By Fook Meng, a lawyer practising in Melaka

According to an article in the August 2002 issue of Reader's Digest, money can buy you happiness. Economists at the University of Warwick have found that a simple injection of cash is all it takes to make you happy. However, to shift an average person from the bottom of the happiness scale to the top takes a hefty USD 1.5 million, though even USD1,500 can perk you up temporarily. However, the researchers are keen to stress that money is not necessarily the easiest route to contentment. A happy marriage, for example, is the equivalent of USD 105,000.00 a year, good health is worth USD 300,000.00 a year, while the misery of unemployment cannot be alleviated for less than USD60,000.00.

Dr Tony Evans said that there are several tests to determine whether we are giving an unhealthy and unGodly focus on money:

1. Am I discontent with the blessings God had given in my life ?

2. Am I trying to buy the happiness, peace and tranquilty which only God can give ?

3. Am I hoarding money for myself and for self aggrandizement purposes ?

4. Am I failing to utilize my earthly resources for heavenly purposes ?

5. Do I see myself as the owner of the things in my life instead of being a steward of God's possessions ?

6. When there is a conflict between money and God, who wins ?

The Bible teaches us that there is no correlation between economics and a person's happiness. As a matter of fact, in the Bible, Jesus seems to suggest that people who are desperate, poor and oppressed have "God's preferential treatment". The lepers, the widows, the sick, the woman caught in adultery, the children, featured prominently in the gospel narratives.

James tells us that "God had chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom". ( James 2 v 5 ) Why ? Perhaps those who are rich and powerful and who have all the human connections will rarely sense the need for God. The characteristics which are precious to God, like holiness, humility, brokenness, compassion, are always more elusive to the rich and famous. On the other hand, the poor and really desperate, who have no hope in the riches of the world, are much more ready to turn to God for they have nothing to lose.

Are you feeling poor, not having enough of the world's riches ? Perhaps God had chosen you to be rich in faith.

I have a feeling that people who are at the top of the happiness scale are rich people... people who are rich in the faith and heirs of an eternal Kingdom. I want to belong to that category. And I don't need USD 1.5 million to get there.

Fook Meng, GCF icommentary

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Christianity's center relocated to the South

By Bro Ong

What does the future hold for Christianity? Would Christianity be dead and obsolete? Would the prediction of Voltaire, the 18th century French atheist, considered one of the greatest authors of his generation and who particularly weilded a astringent pen against Christianity, in a moment of self-exaltation boasted that, “In twenty years Christianity will be no more. My single hand shall destroy the edifice it took twelve apostles to rear.” But Voltaire's arrogance bragging was swallowed up on his death, yet Christianity has relentlessly continued on its triumphant march, just as Jesus promised that “the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Mt 16:18). Voltaire died, in his own words, “abandoned by God and man,” but the Church is still astoundingly to the chagrin of many and the scorn of the Jihads, “favored by God and man.” And Jenkins’ well-researched book provides solid evidences of this fact. His main argument is that the “man” who professes Christ is no longer the stereotype white Western man but rather a non-white person from the Southern Hemisphere.

Throughout his book, Jenkins compellingly contends four propositions, namely that geographically the center of gravity for Christianity has already or soon will be relocating decisively to the Southern Hemisphere. Two, demographically, the majority of Christians are now or soon will be non-white. Most will be Africans, Latin Americans and Asians. Three, theologically the 21st century church will be strongly influenced by Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. Fourthly, the tension between Christianity and Islam will intensify, and possibly leading to war.

On his first proposition, Jenkins confidently proclaims that Christianity will not only survive, but would be thriving in the future – just that the flourishing will take place in another area and not in the traditional Western world. If Jenkins’ prediction is correct, then by the year 2050, six countries (Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Congo and the United States) will each have at least 100 million Christians. Sub-Saharan Africa will have superseded Europe as the principle center of Christianity. This analysis is in total contradiction to the many books which argue that secularism, pluralism, post-modernity and other anti-Christianity forces will cause the Church to become ghettoised and eventually leading to her long awaited demise. He persuasively argues against Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilization prediction that in the long run, Muhammad will win over Christ, the cresent will overshadow the cross.[1] Base on the current demographic and geographic facts, Huntington’s analysis may not be as credible as it was first thought. Jenkins forecast that by 2050, there will still be about three Christians for every two Muslims worldwide. And these Christians will not be the customary white individual from Western societies.

In addition, theologically this Southern Hemisphere Christians will be characterised by its staunch conservative faith in Scriptures and yet vibrantly demonstrated through Pentecostal-Charismatic expressions such as prophecy, visions, deliverance, healing, and ecstatic utterances. The present rapidly declining Western Christianity has become more liberal and less literal, and more rational and less Spirit-empowered. The contrasting and distinct form of Christianity between the South and North has somewhat caused the more scientific-educated Western Christians to be extremely suspicious of these supernatural forms of spirituality. Some even considered it to be demonic and part of reverting to pagan practices of animistic religions. Yet, there is no denying that South Christianity is burgeoning and impacting many communities. It is estimated that there is more than one billion Pentecostals, cutting across denominations, regions, and ethnic groups. They are likely to be among the poorest and least educated in their various populations, but they will be the ones who are enthusiastically spreading their own Pentecostal-influenced beliefs to the rest of the world.

[1] Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).

This is an excerpt from my book review of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (NY: Oxford University Press, 2002), by Phillip Jenkins. I believe Jenkins has already produced a second edition.

I would like to hear your views and comments about the implications for the ASIAN churches. If Jenkins prediction is correct, would do you think we need to do to prepare ourselves and/or to accelerate such transformations?

Interview with L.T. Jeyachandran

By Ranee Quirey Published 10/2/2005

How did you come to know the Lord?

I was 19 years old when I grappled with issues of morality. I realized that I was in need of God's forgiveness. That led me to search and seek for answers. I had been fascinated in my studies in engineering, mathematics and physics. We had meaningful interactions that led us to asking questions related to our faith.

In fact, I encourage people that the best way to learn is to ask questions of those with whom you are sharing the Gospel, about their own belief system - that teaches you alot.

How do you connect with God on a daily basis?

I spend my time using a book of hymns, followed by a book of poems written by a Christian but based on secular living. What may be unusual is I do not distinguish between the devotional and Bible study. Generally, we are taught that "quiet times" and "Bible study" are distinct from each other. Having grown up in an integrated environment, I have applied the principles in my Christian walk. I do not separate the secular from the spiritual. Therefore, I have found integrating the devotional and academic essential, making no attempts to separate the two.

Who are your mentors?

Two gentlemen - one is my father-in-law, who is a doctor and an ordained minister. The other is a gentleman in his 70's who works for FES. Both of them encouraged me in my world of work, and the thought of the corn of wheat, which is essentially the principle of dying to self and living for Christ - I was God's ambassador right there in the engineering field.

Could you describe what your ministry entails?

Our main interest is to fulfill the Lord's commandment through the Great Commission, for which we employ the method of apologetics. How do we practically do this? We train the believers. We conduct direct open forums, making a presentation of the Gospel at pre-evangelistic meetings, providing a Christian worldview.

Should everyone be involved in Apologetics?

Philippians 1:7 suggests that all believers are to be partakers in the defense of the Gospel. However, it is not necessary for everyone to employ the methodology of apologetics. Apologetics is useful for all believers, but not everyone needs to be involved in it.

What are the keys to fulfilling the Great Commission?

We need to develop a genuine concern for people. We need to be more people-oriented versus program-oriented. We seem to be far more interested in the methodology, gadget and media aspects of the programs. This causes fragmentation. W e seem to have reduced Christianity to a whole lot of formulas for problem solving. I think life is far more complex than that.

We are far more complex than that. It requires being involved and relating one to another. Some of the methods are useful, but I normally suggest using the broad Biblical pattern, then let each person work out his or her own technique - there are some very good books on this subject. I think we have a weakness in this particular area - choosing quick fixes, versus allowing God to work through each one of us patiently. God takes His time. I believe very much in being committed to God and to His people.

Could you share your secrets of savouring life?

I have been very much fascinated with God and His people. Consider how He is intimately involved in all of life's affairs - the beauty of the Creator and His Creation. I have often used humour in daily living - humour is a part of the image of God, and I believe that God has made all things for us enjoy.

What would you advise our readers?

I would encourage them to embark on a journey of searching and seeking God.

Dave: LT has given the following messages at CDPC, which are good reads from the perspective of someone with extensive experience conversing with Muslims and Hindus in India and around the world.

What is God Like?
What is Truth?
Why Christ Alone?

The Atonement Of Christ

The Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ
By Davin Wong, GCF icommentary

Some time last year I was introduced to the term "great words of salvation". They are covenant, sacrifice, The Day of Atonement, passover, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation and justification.

Some of the words sound familiar, others I probably heard for the first time when I read "The Atonement" by Leon Morris.

For starters, I learned that approach to God in the days of Moses and Aaron was tricky business. Selected passages in Exodus, Numbers and Leviticus revealed that God made it clear to the Israelites that they could not rush into His presence at any time they wanted and just as they were. Not even the high priest! (Lv 16:2) Besides that, coming before the presence of the Lord was done in connection with
putting away of the nation's sins, hence the added importance and solemnity of
the occasion. Surely, we Christians who live in this time and age have reason to be glad that Christ came and did away with all these technicalities. Because of Him and through Him we now have direct access to God and His forgiveness. (Heb 10:10, 13:12)

Then there is the word "covenant". Looking at the OT, Exodus 24 recounts the significant event where God established the covenant with Israel which proceeded from God's choice of the nation. In verse 8, we find the familiar words "This is the blood of the covenant" which accompanied the putting of blood on the people. The
significance of the blood is seen in the light of Israel being cleansed from the sin
and defilement of its tainted past and at the same time being consecrated for its new role as the people of God. In response, Israel took upon itself the obligation to obey God's law even though this was not a condition of the covenant.

Nevertheless, the righteous requirement of the law could not be fulfilled as it was
weakened by the flesh and God decisively intervened by sending His own Son as the
once-for-all sacrifice that takes away sin, brings about forgiveness and establishes a new covenant with His blood. (Jer31, Luke 22:20, Rom 8:3-4, Heb 8:6-3, 1 Pet 3:18) Holy Communion then is a constant reminder of the place of the covenant. Our participation is a pledge that we, whose covenant with God has been established at such a cost, will live in a manner befitting the covenant.

A new word I learned from reading this book is the word "propitiation". Simply put, propitiation means the turning away of anger. Specifically, we're referring to God's anger. Some find it difficult in that they see wrath as incompatible with the fact
that "God is love". But this is faulty reasoning. The opposite of love is not wrath. It is hate. We can say that if God is a God of love, He will not hate those whom he has made, but we cannot say that He will never be angry with them. In fact, the more He loves, the more He would be angry with every sin that mars the perfection of the

Part of what Christ did on the cross was propitiation, the taking of such action so that the wrath of God no longer rests on us. This means a wonderful assurance of peace for the Christian. In the end we have nothing to fear, for "he is the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:2, ESV). Learning about propitiation definitely changed the way I approach fellow Christians on Sunday with the greeting "Peace
be with you!"

Finally, reading the book has brought before me some of the richness of the New Testament teaching about the cross of Christ. The great words of salvation provide many facets to the atonement. Each way of looking at the cross underlines the fact that the way of salvation is not a way of human merit. Salvation is of grace, for salvation is of God. Christians are to see the cross at the heart of their faith for
two reasons. The first is that it is solely by the way of the cross that Christ brought about our salvation. But we should not just stop at the study of the cross, for Jesus said that if anyone wanted to follow him, he must take up his cross daily (Lk 9:23). The one thing this book has done for me is to show that no matter how you
look at it, the cross still challenges us today to live a life worthy of the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Martha And Mary

The full illustrated version (with artwork) is on Yoke Yeow's website

GCF icommentary by Dr Yap Yoke Yeow

A friend took us on a Kinta Valley tour a few days ago. On one road in Batu Gajah, two buildings hemmed us in. The barbed state prison loomed over on one side and a serene hospital was sprawled on the other. We were quite amused. It seemed to say, 'Choose - get imprisoned or get healed!' It makes me think of the story of Jesus in Martha & Mary's house.

CHOOSE - A Life of Contemplation or A Life of Activism?

We all laud Mary's intuitive ability to choose the 'better thing.' Sitting at Jesus' feet, hanging onto Jesus' every word for her. Oblivious to the clanging in the kitchen and the needs of weary travelers. She did the difficult thing, refusing the tyranny of the urgent. She rose above the trapping of busy-ness. And for centuries
since, she's been our elusive goal of the centred heart with the heavenward gaze.

Honestly, if not for Jesus' pronouncement on 'the better thing', I'd root for Martha. I still do. She sees the needs. She's compassionate to the hungry. She gives from whatever abilities she has. She's responsible and she gets things done. I like Martha. And I try to be a Martha wherever I am. Don't you? Who would you prefer to have today in your workplace? What kind of colleagues, office help, or house
help would you want? Contemplative Marys or Productive Marthas?

I believe Martha and Mary are two faces of one holistic life rather than exclusive choices. We're called to be both Martha and Mary. To meditate on his law day and night, yet to bear fruit in season. To gaze on His face in the sanctuary and to do works of righteousness. To feed on Him, the bread of life on one hand, and to feed His sheep on the other. I guess, then, that the important message of Jesus' in
Martha & Mary's house is not choosing one against the other, but choosing what comes before what.

Contemplation must precede action, and must be the heart of all action. Relationship must be central to our workmanship. As we receive love from the Father, we overflow with love for others. When we know His word on the matter, we neither run ahead or lag behind on the work at hand. Listening with loving attention tunes us to attend
to others in love. If we chose to be Marys all the time, we soon become sedentary. If we were to be Marthas all the time, our spirits shrivel and we die standing.
I need to be Mary before Martha, and Mary inside a Martha. In that way, I am choosing the 'better' thing.

Lord, let me be a Mary at heart. Gazing into Your loving eyes. Listening to Your words of healing. Simply being, and being loved. Let all that You are within me flow into everything I do. May my touch carry the weight of Your tender hands. May my every word and action be infused with Your grace and mercy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cheap Grace

Bonhoeffer says of cheap grace:

[It] is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate...."
The Cost of Discipleship, page 30

Read on for a brief biography of his life

Candlelight Vigil For Dignity

Joshua from Agora Spore travelled hundreds of miles to be there at the candlelight vigil for Revathi yesterday. And KJ John, our friend at OHMSI and collaborator in the Total Truth study group wrote in his column In Another Tongue:

"The Lina Joy case has brought to the forefront core issues related to the freedom of conscience and the role of the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of this nation.

There is in fact an excellent article by Kim Quek which very clearly and simply argues the total case and full set of issues. Another excellent one appeared in the New Straits Times by Zainah Anwar.

The two become a must read. To the average Malaysian, the core issue is not whether Lina Joy converted or not, or whether M Revathi converted or not; the real issue is whether the constitution guarantees the freedom of conscience to every Malaysian.

In the field of academic theory or in the sciences of knowledge, the answers to the implicit ontological questions will be defined by the assumptions we all make about the nature of man. Ontology is the study of the nature of reality. Therefore, the key or core question is what really is the nature of human nature?

There are at least four or five theories about right the answers, based on academic theories; and yes, they are all only theories, and only from the point of view of empirical science. I do not mean to discuss each of them here.

Suffice to say that I subscribe to one of the theories; that of created humans by an Almighty Creator; who is a distinct other person and whose image we correctly bear. Therefore, as with the faith of all revealed religions; we believe that God created Man in his own image; and male and female he equally made them. Therefore we all bear his resemblance and capabilities.

One of these qualities is the freedom of conscience or the related concept of free will. This character or feature of human nature helps us define the concept of conscience. It is this aspect which is also defined as “the age of reason,” in all cultures.

While all socio-cultural socialisation is relevant and important; it is at the age of reason that a child ‘technically’ becomes an adult and begins to make choices that are meaningful, relevant, and significant. Granted that all such choices are never always good and right; from the perspective of society or the parents, but they nevertheless become the responsibility of the actor, and not those of non-actors.

We all bear the consequences of the choices we make including the eternal ones, so teaches every religion. If we take this responsibility of human choice away from an adult, then we also accept the full implications that such a human is only a function of the environment and never fully responsible for his or her own actions or choices. In sociology this is based on one “theory of nurture” against an alternative “theory of nature”.

Accepting responsibility

Translating all this into reality, now if we develop an entire society of Malaysians based only on this nurture theory, then we begin to accept illegal and irresponsible behaviour like that of the Mat Rempit as something tolerable and acceptable because they are a function of their nurturing environment. But we nurtured them. Therefore we are still responsible for their wrong behaviour.

If a student fails, the teacher is responsible. Most rational and moderate Malaysians will reject any such limited theory of human nature. Most will also see that responsibility begins equally with the nature aspect of human nature which is called the freedom of conscience or the freedom of the will.

Then we also conclude that our entire life is an opportunity of living a life of destiny; and ultimately being answerable to a Creator for the choices we do make; and the choices we choose not to make. It involves both action and non-action. Such a worldview makes holding people responsible for their own behaviour a fundamental and radical trait. Therefore, applying the nurture and nature theory jointly and both as equally valid, one can hold humans fully responsible for their behaviour even if they are not socially cultured properly. They simply need to receive the carrot-and-stick approach to learn civic culture or public space morality.

We then call it good moral values. But whose responsibility is it then to teach such public space morality? Surely, not just those in the public sector of governance! Is not governed society equally a responsible member of the triad for good governance; collaboratively with the public and private sectors being the two other components?

Therefore, it is imperative that the candlelight vigil for Revathi - planned by civil society groups at 8pm at Dataran Merdeka today - becomes a people's movement against the abuse of dignity and destiny of all Malaysians; regardless of religion or race, geography or economic status. My prayer is that hundreds or thousands of ordinary Malaysians of all races and religions will join this peaceful protest for another Malaysian whose freedom of conscience and freedom of life is now denied because of the wrong and illegal actions of a small segment of society.

In a civil law state wherein there is the constitutional guarantee of freedom of human rights and civil liberties, it is shocking that we can condone such a political abuse of religious power against one Malaysian while denying her the basic privileges under the Federal and civil constitution.

Lesson from history

Maybe we can and should generalise all this even further and learn one major lesson from the Gandhian protest of the Salt March against the British Empire. Malaysians need to also do a peaceful protest march against the abuse of the basic rights of all Malaysians by a weak bureaucracy which seems to have lost political will to stand up for what is right, honest and true; as defined by the Federal Constitution and our flag.

Maybe we can expand the peaceful protests to all cities. Maybe in each city, a small team of 10 Malaysians (of all races and religions) can organise themselves to go with 10 lighted candles and stand vigil in each town square or what we can henceforth call the 50th Dataran Merdeka of each town. This must become a multi-racial and multi-religious movement; the beginning of the real meaning of a Bahasa Malaysia and therefore a Bangsa Malaysia. I pray that the this people’s peace march of candle light fervor will in fact become the first step for the evolution of a new Bangsa Malaysia; even if only after 50 years.

Dataran Merdeka is after all the right place for us to being our march for the new future of Malaysia, to be attained by 2057. It was here that the freedom and independence of this new federation was declared and honoured. It must rightly be here too that the freedom and conscience of the citizens are also acclaimed, protected and preserved, right next the historic courthouses.

For it is this ‘rule of law’ principle which will ultimately protect and preserve the reality of the multi-cultural Malaysian federation. Without our written and unwritten constitutions vide the Social Contract of old, the legal federation cannot exist in its current form. They both define our rules and form of legal existence as a people in the international community of the world.

We cannot afford to only look back any more but must instead being to look very much forward and maybe 2057 is a good place as any to start.

But, it must involve all Malaysians; including the ordinary ones, and all Sabahans, and Sarawakians, and all women; as equals."

Bulding Bridges

When I first read in the papers that we were going to build our half of the bridge to Singapore a few weeks ago, I had a strong suspicion that it would not be carried through. Subsequent events that followed proved me right. Why did we want to build half a bridge? It was more to force the other side to stop negotiating and delaying and get on with what would be good for both our countries to replace the 82-year-old causeway with a better one that would ease the traffic congestion. This was not to be as the other side refused to play the game.

What does it take to be a good neighbour? Proverbs 3:27-29 says "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbour, 'Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow' – when you now have it with you. Do not plot harm against your neighbour, who lives trustfully near you". The biblical ideal is for us to trust and help each other, not to suspiciously try to outwit and take advantage of one another; to prosper your neighbour and not
beggar him, as our former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahatir used to say.

The sad part is we have developed such a kiasu mentality that we are always comparing and competing with each other because we think win-lose instead of win-win. Part of such thinking stems from the inherent competitive spirit drummed into most of us by our largely Western education system where one has to compete to be the top student. This carries over to our working life where one has to compete for promotions.

I was quite amused to be told by a missionary about her frustration with the Mongolians she was ministering to because they all copied from each other in their exams, including the Bible students. Could this be a cultural trait, whereby it is not only acceptable but good to help one another as a team to achieve a common goal that helps everyone to get good rewards?

After years of training the students in our educational system to work individually, companies are now evaluating how well a person can work with others in a team; it is a necessary character trait they want to see before they choose to employ the person. All sorts of workshops are conducted to build teams and help the members to trust and work with each other in order for the necessary synergy to be achieved that
would ensure greater success than the sum of individual efforts by each employee. The biggest problems in the workplace or churches and Christian organizations are not technical but are caused by people not being able to work alongside one another. What will it take and when will we learn to work with each other instead of competing against each other?

by Dr Living Lee, GCF icommentaryLet me end with the story of the farmer who hated his estranged brother who lived next to him across a big ditch he had dug to mark their common border. One day a stranger came round asking for work. On learning that he was a carpenter, the farmer set him to build a high fence in front of his house so that he need not even see the face of the brother he detested. The farmer was angry and surprised at the end
of the day when he returned from the fields that instead of building the fence as instructed, the carpenter had used the lumber to build a bridge across the ditch instead. Before he could scold the carpenter, his brother turned up with a gift, shook his hand and apologized for all the wrongs he had done to him in the past and hugged him as his long lost brother.

When will we learn to stop justifying ourselves by asking "who is my neighbour?" and begin to love him as the good Samaritan did in Jesus' parable? We can always find the excuses to be suspicious and protect ourselves from being taken advantage of when dealing with others but as long as both are determined not to lose out, there will be no real winners. It may take a little woodwork by the Carpenter to get us
going with each other instead of at each other. He has already built the bridge at Calvary when He was nailed to the two pieces of crude timber in the shape of a Roman cross. Are we willing to cross that bridge He has built for us at such a great cost to Himself and make up with our brother?

Post-Election Perspectives

The election is over and the dust has settled. To the credit of the local town councils, the cleaning was done swiftly and efficiently. In no time the vestiges of a general election recently held was no longer to be seen. We thank God that parochialism and extremism has been swept away, those who espouse only one way of life found themselves floundering as Malaysians voted with their feet and democracy, development and multi-racialism remain the bulwark of our society.

But after all the excitement is over, has anything changed? The euphoria of the landslide triumph was beginning to settle as reality sets in. Is the election a precursor of a new order, a new hope of a new style and new leadership with new vigor for nation? Some are disappointed with the first evidence of the new that their expected changes in the new cabinet did not take place. Landside victory, but still the familiar old faces, a new government but very much the same people still in charge. In particular what I saw is the politics of accommodation. We now have a new cabinet that is arguably the largest
ever.Is this needful? Will they be more effective, more focused in discharging their responsibilities? Or is it just an attempt to placate the many voices clamouring for more. Is Pak Lah's government more governable or is it becoming more unwieldy?

I also saw the politics of appeasement. How else do you explain the fact that many old faces were retained in their existing portfolios, not necessarily because they did well, and especially the few who were tainted by allegations of abuse and arrogance. At the very least you would have expected that Pak Lah, given the strong mandate now, would reshuffle the pack a bit more to send a strong signal to all that he will not tolerate abuse and arrogance.

Most sadly, I also saw the politics of annihilation. At least 2 ex-ministers whom I believed were at least doing a decent job were dropped by their respective parties. Why? Wrong team! Does not matter that you performed or not, more important is whether you are loyal to the right people. Looks like the hatchet was not buried, just hidden.

Will we see an honest, responsible, accountable and caring government as proposed by the new boss? Or will we see more of the same - lack of transparency, nepotism, allegations of abuse etc? I don't doubt his sincerity, but I do wonder if there's enough political will to see the agenda through. If the changes do not come and disillusionment sets in, the government must not blame the rakyat if they vote with their feet again and swing in the other direction at the next election.

For the good of our beloved country, may I suggest that the new PM ensures that the ministers and deputy ministers walk the talk and uphold the Rukun Negara in their service to the nation viz :-

Belief in God
Loyalty to King and Country
Upholding the Constitution
Rule of Law
Good Behaviour and Morality

He has started by introducing the report-card system to monitor the performance of the MPs and sending a strongly worded message that those who live beyond their means would be open to scrutiny. Let's pray that the fight against corruption that was initiated before the elections would not stop but be intensified during the coming days so that this cancer in our society would be eliminated for the good of the country.

And may we, Christians support the Government by i) praying consistently
for the leaders that they would be good stewards of their mandate, practice integrity in their lives and always act justly in their duties, ii) speak up and be counted in matters of the state, to be prepared to help be the nation's conscience, and iii) participate in various ways and at different levels to help make our society a more just, transparent, caring and free society.

Lai Tak Ming, GCF icommentary
14th April 2004

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Post-Election Reflections

Unknown to many, John Chung, one of the quieter co-founders of Agora, actually contested in the Bukit Gasing state assembly seat during the last general election.
Here is a post-election reflection, which may be a good reminder in preparation for the soon-coming next election. If you havent done so, register to vote quick!

Venue: Any post office
Bring: Your IC and a pen (to fill up form)
Time: Whenever the post office is open la, duh

iBridge Article
Column: Writing on the Wall
Author: Ong Kian Meng
Date : 28 April 2004
Title : Post Election Reflections

The posters have been taken away, the billboards dismantled. Pictures of smiling, aspiring YBs no longer demand our attention every time we stop at a traffic light. The 11th Malaysian general election has come and gone, almost in a flash.

Some of us were fortunate enough to be actively involved in the process whether it was helping out in a friend's campaign, monitoring the conduct of the elections or writing about it as a journalist. Others might have observed from the fringes by taking a greater than normal interest in the political news section (instead of the sports news), braving the elements and sacrificing our ASTRO program to listen to a ceramah or surfing the net to find out more about the parties and the candidates.

A few people on I-bridge would know about the candidature of John Chung, our fellow member, who contested under the DAP banner in the Bukit Gasing state assembly seat against Lim Thuang Seng of GERAKAN.

I heard that John got quite a bit of help from some I-bridgers in his campaign. I'm sure that it was a great learning experience for those who got involved and finding out what it's like to be part of a campaign.

I myself was traveling up and down the west coast of the Peninsular, spending most of my time in Kedah but making trips to Perlis, Penang, Perak and back to KL twice during that hectic one week.

Observing the different campaign styles of PAS and UMNO candidates was an eye-opener for me. Sitting in a midst of a PAS ceramah and being one of 2 non-Malays present (the other was a journalist friend of mine), listening to a fiery orator (Mahfuz Omar), having your car batteries die on you in the middle of a kampong in Pokok Sena and asking PAS supporters to push your car so you can restart it were all memories that I will bring back from this campaign.

But for most of us, the elections would have been a mildly interesting affair in which the outcome was more or less decided and which would not affect our lives in any great way. To a certain extent, this is valid and something to praise God for in that our elections are usually conducted without political violence and which
the elections outcome is accepted by and large. On the other hand, the danger of sliding into a comfort zone of political apathy can have dangerous implications for us as citizens of Malaysia and of the Kingdom of God.

We've all heard that we've got to play our part as Malaysian citizens but how should we do so? What should our role be as Christian Malaysians? Here I want to suggest some practical steps, which we can take during and in between elections with differing levels of commitment depending on our own political convictions.

1) Register to vote. I hope that most I-bridgers who are 21 and above have already registered to vote. This is the first step and the bare minimum, which we need to do as a responsible Christian citizen of this country. Registration is a simple process. You just need to bring your IC to the nearest post office and the rest will be done for you. Registration is year round. Also, the person taking down
your details will ask you for your religion. Here's our chance to make sure that the authorities (and the politicians) know that the number of Christian voters in this country are growing. The larger we are as a % of the electorate, the greater the likelihood that we can have a more substantial voice in influencing the policy-makers.

2) Know your MPs and State Assembly representatives. Before the elections, make sure you find out at least a little about the aspiring candidates from all sides at the parliament as well as the state level. If possible, try to attend at least one ceramah of the candidates, which you know less about so that you can make a more
informed choice when the time comes to cast your vote.

3) Organize and mobilize the community. And I don't mean this in a partisan sense. You can be part of a committee that organizes talks in your churches where all the candidates will be invited to share their views. In this way, more people can benefit from meeting the candidates and hearing what they have to say about their own
candidacy. Saint Francis Xavier (SFX) along Jalan Gasing, organized one such event where all 4 candidates (2 parliament and 2 state) were invited to come to speak as well as to listen to the congregation (John was one of them).

4) Keep abreast of the issues. Scan through the papers to know where different parties stand of the different issues of the day – the economy, education, religious freedom, social ills, corruption, human rights etc… Keep track of the service record of the incumbent so that he or she can continuously be made accountable for their
responsibilities to the constituents.

5) Be part of a campaign. This step requires you to take a partisan stand in terms of the party and candidate you want to support in a more public fashion. This requires a higher level of commitment e.g. taking leave to help someone campaign but should be encouraged if it arises from one's political conviction to get
involved in a more hands on manner. But make sure you support the party and more importantly, the candidate, whose ideals and aspirations you can agree with!

6) Be prayerful. Pray for the smooth running of the campaign and for the safety of the candidates and their workers as they travel extensively during the short campaign period. When the results come out, pray for wisdom for the winners and for encouragement for the losers. Pray also for the leaders of the government and the
Opposition as they require great wisdom to carry out their roles in a responsible manner.

7) Continue to engage post election issues. Stay on your toes even after the elections. If candidates in your areas have made election pledges, this will be a reminder that the people expect them to follow through on their promises.

The list is by no-means exhaustive but provides a rough guide as to what we can do, given our own individual limitations, to play a role no matter how minor in being part of the political process of our country.

Maybe more of us will be willing to help John out in the next time he runs?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Other Six Days

In collaboration with OHMSI, we are half-way through the group study on the book Total Truth. It would be good to step back a bit and reflect on the ground we have covered so far at Halftime.

In the Introduction and First Chapter, Nancy Pearcey discussed what Newbigin called "the cultural captivity of the church" to the sacred/secular divide. As a result, "religious truth" is kept in the private sphere of faith, locked away from the public realms of knowledge and facts. For example, a Christian high school teacher told her class: "The heart is what we use for religion, while the brain is what we use for science".

One clear effect of secluding our faith in a private corner lies in how we treat
our vocation in the marketplace.

Given the huge amount of waking hours we spent at work, it seems rather strange that “secular work” occupies such a vague place amongst Christians. A graphic designer friend of mine was once told by well-meaning folks in church that he should not be involved in three types of jobs: an artist (due to widespread worldly temptation), a politician (because it’s ‘dirty’) or a lawyer (to avoid the lure of wealth).

Sometimes it seems like there is a caste system of spiritual work with missionaries and pastors at the top, followed by people-helping professionals (like doctors, teachers, nurses) and, in descending order, “barely-religious” jobs (such as lawyers, politicians and jazz musicians) close to the bottom! Although my friend enjoys doing creative special effects for movies, he can’t shake off the guilt that it is something unspiritual, if not explicitly sinful. He inhabits two separate “worlds”, shifting from an ordinary life as an “artist” on weekdays to a religious life as a Christian on Sundays. He aptly described his incongruent existence as being “schizophrenic” or “split personality”. If we are not a “full time worker” in church, does that make us only “part-time” Christians?

Even if the example is a bit dramatic, we often talk about work being valuable only as a platform that opens up opportunities to share the gospel. Indeed witness should take place naturally in the context of relationships in offices, factories and cafeteria. However, our labor itself has intrinsic God-honoring significance and dignity. It is not just a material necessity to put food on the table.

According to Martin Marty, evangelicals have typically "accented personal piety and individual salvatioin, leaving men to their own devices to interpret the world around them". So how do we liberate ourselves from our cultural captivity?

Unable to engage culture, some Christians resort to political activism, which on its own is powerless if we do not develop a full-orbed Christian worldview. A worldview is a biblically informed perspective on all reality a mental map that guides how we live and understand the world.

It answers fundamental questions of life: Where did we come from? Who am I? What went wrong with the world? Why are we here? What can we do about evil? Where are we going?

But this is not just an academic, intellectual game. It is rooted in the Great Commandment (Matt 22:38) to love the Lord with our whole being - body, emotion, mind.
Like every aspect of character transformation, the renewal of our minds can be painful and hard work. But it is also an act of devotion and service to the Lord of all life.

Pearcey offered a practical toolbox, with which we could make sense of "work" through the lens of Creation, Fall and Redemption.

Creation: At the very beginning, God Himself rolled up His sleeves and worked creatively to get the universe up and running. (Genesis 1:1) Then He graciously gave Adam and Eve their first job description as His partners in eco-management - ruling, caring and stewarding the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). As Marvin Wrong wrote, “Without a human cultivator, every field and garden degenerates into wilderness. In other words, it’s only Eden if you have a gardener. Without one, what you have is the Amazon”. Work itself is designed as part of God’s good gift of creation, not a curse.

Fall: But due to sin, work is not always fulfilling or rewarding (Genesis 3:18). It is often characterized by abuses like overwork, shirk, bribery, office politics and exploitation of others. In this fallen world, we often struggle to maintain our ethical convictions and personal integrity in the face of evil.

Redemption: Yet when Christ came to redeem us from sin, He did not abandon the creation for otherworldly pursuits. His kingdom extends not only to a private corner called ‘religion’ but to every facet of public life as well. Instead, we will have resurrected bodies in the new heaven and new earth where everything is more real than before. We won’t “lepak” around playing harps in floating clouds, but would enjoy sanctified work as meaningful expression of who God made us to be. Therefore, as His followers, the rhythm of work and rest in our lives today ought to give out hints of what that future redeemed world looks like.

Equipped with a biblical worldview, we could live with the conviction that all Christians are gifted and called to be “full-time workers” for the Kingdom in the world. That doesn’t mean that all Christians should escape “secular” work to join “sacred” ministry.

But it does mean that if you are a software designer, you are an “ordained software designer”. You have been summoned by God to serve Him in that specific sphere of activity. Or, if you are an “ordained lawyer”, you are called to prayerfully explore how your discipline shows signs of rebellion against or submission to Christ’s Lordship. An “ordained environmentalist” ought to read the Scripture not just devotionally, but actively apply the biblical mandate for creation care in his work.

Whatever our vocation, we need to learn to think and live “Christianly” in areas specific to what we are called to do – media, education, politics, business or the arts. In humility and boldness, we should creatively integrate the biblical worldview with our occupations . It is not easy in practice. Ultimately, every single job (even missionaries!) has its unique challenges in the form of temptations, ‘dirty’ politics and/or money. That’s why we are “in but not of the world”.

That has profound impact on how we go about our work, life and relationships. With God’s grace and other Christ-disciples, we could embrace a congruent, integrated and holistic “faith that works” (James 2:22). Don’t settle for a fragmented existence torn between the secular and sacred “worlds”.

Personally I found the "toolbox" helpful and it reminds me of what Os Guinness said:

"Christians simply haven't developed Christian tools of analysis to examine culture properly. Or rather, the tools the church once had have grown rusty or been mislaid. What often happens is that Christians wake up to some incident or issue and suddenly realize they need to analyze what's going on. Then, having no tools of their own, they lean across and borrow the tools nearest them.

They don't realize that, in their haste, they are borrowing not an isolated tool but a whole philosophical toolbox laden with tools which have their own particular bias to every problem (a Trojan horse in the toolbox, if you like). The toolbox may be Freudian, Hindu or Marxist. Occasionally, the toolbox is right-wing; more often today it is liberal or left-wing (the former mainly in North America, the latter mainly in Europe). Rarely - and this is all that matters to us - is it consistently or coherently Christian.

When Christians use tools for analysis (or bandy certain terms of description) which have non-Christian assumptions embedded within them, these tools (and terms) eventually act back on them like wearing someone else's glasses or walking in someone else's shoes. The tools shape the user. Their recent failure to think critically about culture has made Christians uniquely susceptible to this."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Honest Questions, Honest Answers

iBridge article by Alvin Ung
June 14, 2005

When I was an international student studying in the U.S., I sometimes had nowhere to go during the long vacations. Tim Keyes, a college buddy, often invited me to his parents’ home in outside of Boston. His parents, Dick and Mardi Keyes, said they were directors of an unknown group called L’abri Fellowship. For a moment, I thought they were leaders of a cult group.

Most days, Dick and Mardi would host fifteen to twenty strangers living in an old, white house with more than 10 rooms. These people, called “students,” stayed there anywhere between three days to three months. They shared their meals together. During the day, L’abri students would repair the roofs, prepare meals, split firewood, dredge the pond, or whatever household duties that needed doing. I wondered: were they a church? After all, their library had more than 10,000 books – many of them were Christian books. Yet they did lots of things that most churches (and families) don’t do.

For instance, they spent hours during meals talking. Many people shared openly about their psychological problems and sexual issues, while some expressed their anger at how they had been abused by churches.

I met a man in his fifties who told me that his pastor abused him sexually for fifteen years. As a result, he suffered from insomnia, nervous breakdowns, ulcers and psychological problems. This man told me that he came to L’abri to figure out the past pains in his life. “I had so many questions, and I couldn’t find a place where I could ask those questions and find some answers without people giving me looks of condemnation, or disgust, or accusing me of being insane, or an attention seeker,” the man told me. “So I came to L’abri.”

After repeated visits, I knew for sure that L’abri, far from being a cult group, has been one of the most significant ways in which God has impacted the lives of Christians and non-Christians throughout the Western world.

L’abri was started by Francis and Edith Schaeffer after hundreds and thousands of people streamed to their home in Huemoz, Switzerland, to seek meaningful answers to questions about truth, life and Christianity. ‘Students’ would stay from several days to several months. During the day, they’d help the Schaeffers with household chores and meal preparation.

In the evenings and during meal-times, people would ask questions and discuss everything from nuclear disarmament to communism to hospitality to modern art to jazz. Eventually, more L’abri centres were set up in England, Holland, Denmark, the United States and Korea. Many senior Christian leaders have visited and participated in the L’abri ministry, including pastors and theologians from Malaysia.

The visits to the Boston L’abri were life-transforming for me. I saw the strength of Dick and Mardi’s marriage – how they honoured and respected each other as co-equals and openly shared their struggles in their relationship and their work as L’abri staff workers. As an ethnic Chinese from Malaysia, I was unused to people who were willing to be vulnerable and share their lives with honesty.

I also saw how they welcomed strangers into their family as part of Christian hospitality. They listened to people’s questions. They provided thoughtful answers to difficult questions, and they weren’t afraid of saying ‘I don’t know.’ Several times a year, they’d be invited to Harvard, MIT, Wellesley and Middlebury colleges to lecture on Christianity to a secular audience. Though they worked very hard, it seemed to me that their work was very meaningful. And that made a deep impression in me that lasted for years.

And they loved books. Dick has written several books on heroism and identity, while Mardi has published books and lectures on feminism and gender issues. They have an immense collection of reference books, and specialised collections on everything from jazz to art to eschatology and archaeology. One night, I asked them how they managed to amass more than 10,000 books, especially since they weren’t making tons of money as L’abri staff workers. “We put aside ten percent of our monthly salary for books,” Dick said. That was exactly what I did when I began working in Malaysia.

“We must visit L’abri together one day,” I kept on saying to Huey Fern, year after year, while we worked in Kuala Lumpur. “I would love you to meet Dick and Mardi.”

Just a few weeks ago, my wish became true. Huey Fern and I met the Keyes at a L’abri conference held in Portland, Oregon. Mardi’s hair seemed more streak with salt than pepper (sorry, my limited grasp of language does not permit me to understand this line). She seemed tired from the hectic pace of the conference, yet her eyes were lively. Later, I learned from Huey Fern (who attended Mardi’s workshop on “Hospitality”) that Mardi suffered from chronic fatigue two years ago because of hosting the students at L’abri.

As for Dick, I always knew him to be quiet, pensive, thoughtful. An experienced mountaineer and a former member of Harvard’s rowing team, Dick had large hands and thick, sinewy arms. “How’s your magazine project coming along?” he asked me, to my great surprise. When we last met, I’d told him about Phases magazine and how I’d been mobilising a community of young writers in Malaysia. That was five years ago. I was amazed he remembered.

Meanwhile, Mardi continued to talk with Huey Fern and peppered her with questions about life as a spouse in Regent College. Again, this was highly unusual. In Malaysia, many people tended to ignore Huey Fern, who’s by nature, a quieter and more thoughtful person than I am. “Mardi really welcomed me, even though I was a stranger,” Huey Fern told me later. “Both Dick and Mardi are really interested to know about other people, but they also share openly about themselves. And they treat all our questions seriously.”

Later on, as I reflected on our lunch meeting, I realised that I had not seen Dick and Mardi for many years. Yet my lifestyle and aspirations continued to be shaped by each of them, and the relationship they shared with each other.

There are some people whom we’ve met only a handful of times – but we are shaped by these people for the rest of our lives. All the disciples spent only three years with Jesus but their lives were forever changed. Paul met Jesus face-to-face only once, and that encounter on the road to Damascus shaped Paul’s priorities, lifestyle and thought forever. Malcolm Muggeridge interviewed Mother Teresa several times, but spent the rest of his life writing about her.

Some points to ponder:
1. Think of one or two Christians who have impacted your life deeply. What were some favourite stories/moments that come to mind when you think of them?

2. In what ways did their character, conduct and lifestyle remind you of Christ?

3. Thank God for the special ways He has used their lives to shape your own life.

Dave: If you like to listen to messages by Dick Keyes, check out the resources here

Honoring God In Our Occupations

Listen to these voices:

"I am stuck in this boring job because I need the money."

"I am too exhausted at the end of a working day to pursue spiritual activities."

"I cannot see any spiritual connection between my faith and my job."

"Work is a necessary evil in a fallen world."

I acknowledge that there are marketplace Christians who are fully engaged and contributing in a God honouring way through their secular jobs. But, my guess is that they are few in number. The majority of us struggle hard in fleshing out our faith in the "real world". Many mornings, I start out the day with an intention of hallowing my work by making it a sacrifice to God. But more often than not, by mid morning, as I am swamped with e mails, phone calls and meetings, my spiritual desires quickly slipped away and I succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. How then can I honour God in my occupation?

I got a useful tip on practicing God's presence at the workplace while reading Phillip Yancey's Rumours of Another World. Yancey wrote:

"Martin Luther saw the potential calling in any kind of work. "Even dirty and unpleasant work, such as shoveling manure or washing diapers, is pure and holy work if it comes from a pure heart," he said. Luther urged ordinary folk - farmer, milkmaids, butchers and cobblers - to perform their work as if God himself was watching. Luther was, in effect, bringing two worlds together, reading God into everyday life."

Yancey helped me to see that the mundane tasks that comprise my day are significant parts of a meaningful pattern in God's view. And, while it is difficult to practice, he also helped me to see lasting value in each of my mundane tasks.

I reviewed my previous work week and asked myself certain questions. Did I perform my routine tasks like signing letters, drafting documents and doing legal research with an awareness that God was watching me? Did I treat my colleagues, my clients and my professional peers with the attention they deserve? What was my inner spirit like - stressed, anxious, irritable or peaceful, contented and joyful? Sharing a joke over lunch, contributing an idea in a meeting, visiting a colleague whose father passed away - were these acts done for Christ?

When I began to see the potential of honouring God in every working day, I realized afresh that marketplace Christians are placed in strategic positions to influence the world for Christ. There are people and organizations that God wants to reach through each one of us. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we are willing to be faithful witnesses every single day in the marketplace?

Wong Fook Meng
GCF iCommentary

Thursday, June 14, 2007

At Least Ask The Boss

"Emigration continues to be a hot topic among Christians in Malaysia and Singapore. Many will cite reasons as to why things have gotten worse in their country and that it is time to think about going to a better place (Australia? America? Canada?) so that they can continue to enjoy a certain quality of life, and to ensure a certain quality of life for their children.

Since I minister mostly to English-speaking faith communities, many of the people I come into contact with are educated middle/upper-middle class folks. I cannot help but be struck by the ironies. The folks who talk most about emigration are those who have the know how and the resources to live a good life where they are. Those who are really hurting in the system, the poor and marginalised, do not talk about emigration because they do not have the capacity to do so.

The folks who talk most about emigration are also people who have been blessed greatly by the Lord. The bible says that to whom much is given much is expected. It would seem to be biblical to expect that folks who have been blessed so much would live life with a deep sense of gratitude, looking out for how they now can be a blessing to others. Instead many seem to be more concerned with protecting their blessings and defending their standard of living.

Many genuinely seek to emigrate for the sake of their children. They actually have a more comfortable lifestyle where they are (maids!) but undergo much discomfort for the sake of their children. I have four boys of my own and I want the best for them. I want them to have the freedom to develop into their full potential and to be physically and emotionally secure.But I also need to leave them a spiritual legacy.

By my choices I am teaching my children values, and what we do speaks more loudly than what we say. Is it for their good that I teach them that, when the going gets tough, and if you are rich enough, go to a more comfortable place? Is this the spirit of the Christ that calls us to carry our crosses if we want to follow Him (Luke :23-24)? At the very least we need to be clear as to what "good" means before we make decisions for our children's good.

As I have written elsewhere, I do not take a legalistic view on the matter of emigration. I know that God has different plans for each of us and I cannot use my own pilgrimage as a yardstick for the journeys for others. But when I hear people listing down their pros and cons as they decide whether to stay or to go, I just want to ask them one question: "Have you asked the Boss? What does He think? Have you inquired of the Lord? Does the Lord want you to stay or to go?"

A basic tenet of the Christian faith is that we are not our own. We were bought with a price (1Corinthians 6:19-20). And we now belong to Jesus. Paul reminds us that we are soldiers. We do not do what we want. We obey the orders given to us by our Commander (2Timothy 2:1-4)."

-- Soo Inn, Read On