Thursday, January 31, 2008

John Rambo: To Hell and Back

Rambo 4

[Warning: This review contain spoilers]

The situation of Rambo 4 is just not something you want to be in while you are on a mission trip. Seriously! Since Christians are in the resurrection business, we shall examine whether it is possible to resurrect a 20 years old trilogy with a 61 years old actor. John Rambo is a cult figure; on par there with G.I. Joe. Both have wonderful action figures.

Twenty years ago, John Rambo hit the big screen and was an instant hit. Starred by a young and slimmer Sylvester Stallone, it portrayed the homecoming of a Special Forces Vietnam veteran. The first movie was named Rambo: First Blood, based loosely on a novel of the same name by David Morrell. In the movie, John was rough handled by a small town sheriff who mistaken him for a drifter and in retaliation, a small town in the United States was almost blown up and burnt down.

The second movie was Rambo: First Blood Part 2, where a more muscular John was enlisted to find American P.O.W.s in Vietnam and ended in a successful rescue operation.

The third movie was just named Rambo 3 where John blows up a Soviet mountain fortress in Afghanistan. All these movies were violent with gory scenes of killing, maiming, explosion and destruction. However, all three movies highlighted certain groups of oppressed communities. In the first, were the unappreciated Vietnam veterans who fought in a highly unpopular war; in the second, the left behind prisoners of war in Vietnam, and in the third, the oppressed in Afghanistan under the Soviet Union. It is highly ironic that the Americans armed forces have replaced the Soviet forces today.

This movie is about another group of oppressed people, the Karens of Myanmar. The Karens are Christian tribal people and have been at war with the Myanmar military Junta for 60 years, making it the longest civil war in history. There have been reports of atrocities committed by the military that was graphically shown in the movie. It was 20 years after John Rambo left Afghanistan and went to live in Thailand. He was living a quiet retiring life when he was approached by some American missionaries to bring them up river into Myanmar. He reluctantly agreed. The group was captured by the local warlord. John was approached by the church pastor to lead a group of mercenaries to rescue them. This he did with a great deal of noise, explosions and flying body parts. The movie does raise some interesting questions.

First, what is the nature of Christian mission? Does God want his people to travel into volatile and hostile political situations to minister comfort and his word? The American missionaries wanted to bring medicine and food to the Karens. It is interesting to watch in the movie, scenes of them feeding the tribal people, treating their medical conditions and preaching from the Bible. In a way, moving into these unstable situations is asking for trouble. Reports of missionaries killed and recently of the Korean missionaries’ hostage situation highlight these. What is the Christian response? Do we still go, knowing that we will be tortured and killed? And when our missionaries were captured, what should the sending agency’s response? Negotiate, pay the ransom, or send in mercenaries?

Second, the issue of pacifism and ‘just’ war arises in the story. Initially the leader of the missionaries was a pacifist but became a killer after his imprisonment. The violence in the movie is consuming. At the beginning, when the soldiers were committing atrocities on the civilians, we watch with horror. At the second part when the ‘good’ guys started killing the soldiers, we feel satisfied and even gratified. Our sense of justice seems to be fulfilled. In a sense, we even begin to enjoy the violence.

Third, this movie brings to a close the spiritual journey of John Rambo. During the trilogy, John tried to justify his action by blaming the military for making him a ‘killing machine.’ In this movie, he came to realise that he was already a psychopath before the army trained him. This self-realisation brought peace to John Rambo and this movie ended with him reaching his home in the States, a journey he started 3 movies and 20 years ago. It is a journey of self-discovery and sometimes we need to come to terms as to who we are before we can move on.


Finally, the movie asks an important question; is violence ever justifiable? This is a violent movie but it never glorified violence. Violence was used to portray the evil that is in our hearts and our deeds. It was used to show how one community oppresses another.Violence was also used as a means of redemption. Unlike the earlier three movies, I walked away from this one shaken and stirred.

Parental guidance is needed and some scenes were too graphic even for me. You have been warned.


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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Please Don't Jail Our Doctors in Malaysia


Calling all doctor and student bloggers and anyone who can help. The Government has begun to arrest and jail doctors on a technicality - not registering their clinic with the PHFSA. This act treats doctors like common criminals. These are community doctors who have not committed a serious crime but instead face an incredibly harsh sentence for their technical lapse.

Dr Basmullah Yusom, a family practitioner, is the first victim of this legislation. He was sentenced despite not having legal counsel representing him, despite pleading for leniency (he had wanted to sell the clinic anyway and is in financial trouble) and as he could not pay the hefty RM 120,000 fine, he is now in Kajang prison.

You can read more about it in Malaysian Medical Resources http://medicine.com.my/wp/


The 1st clinic doctor convicted under the PHFSA

and

The 1st clinic doctor convicted under the PHFSA (II)


The ex-Health Minister had promised that the Act would be used only against Bogus doctors and Bogus clinics. Yet, we see that legitimate licensed APC holding medical practitioners are now being targeted.

In support of Dr. Basmullah, we urge all of you to put up this logo in your Blogs and Websites until this travesty of justice is reversed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

MISSION STUDIES & EQUIPPING

February 23 – 6 September, 2008 at GLO School, Taiping

Residential Course comprising 28 weeks of Studies & Practicum for Mission in GLO Training School, Taiping

Personal Relation with God for Ministry Formation

1.Devotional Life and Spirituality for Mission
2.Understanding One’s Personality Traits, Work Styles and Conflict Resolution
3.Integration between Ministry, Church, Family, Continuing Development and Interpersonal Relationships
4. Mission in the 21st Century: the Changing Trends and Impact on the Function, Role and Ministerial Approaches

God’s Truth & the Bible
Biblical Studies:

1. Reading & Understanding the Bible in Multi-Cultural Perspectives
2. Missional Basis in the Bible & Developing a Theology of Mission
3. Mission Ministry in Luke-Acts: A Study in Comparative Approaches
4. Understanding Jesus’ Parable of the Kingdom

Christian Mission & Ministry

1. Missionary Life & Work: A Biographical Study
2. History of Asian Christianity & the Asian Assemblies: Opportunities and Challenges
3. Understanding the World’s Major Religions: A Comparative Study
4. Evangelism in Different Contexts & Social/Community Actions as Evangelism
5. Apologetics and Pluralism in Multi-Cultural Society
6. Church Planting & Dynamics of Church Growth: Concepts and Strategies (local & cross-cultural)
7. Expository Preaching, Story Telling & Communications Skills
8. Philosophy of Religion & Competing Worldviews
9. Patterns of Discipleship Making: The Contemporary Challenges & Recent Developments
10. Confronting Culture and Contemporary Issues for Ministry and Mission
11. Specific Skills Ministry Development: Sunday School, Young People, Young Adults, Young Couples, Migrant Work, the Disable and Handicap, Creative Arts Ministry, the Terminally Ill, Counseling, etc

REGISTRATION: Open to all who have put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and are desirous of equipping themselves in evangelism and mission by applying themselves in the Word of God and ministry. Registration is open until January 31, 2008 for all believers intending to attend this programme. For those intending to attend on part time basis or individual subjects, application should be made before the closing date above for facilitating and planning of the relevant programme and subjects. A prescribed pre-application form is attached herewith or available directly from the GLO Training School office at No. 204, Jalan Taming Sari, 3400 Taiping or email – glomal@streamyx.com. You are required to fill in this form and send it directly to the Principal, GLO Training School.

COSTS: The cost for full board and lodging for the residential programme is RM300 per month or RM 80 per week for the duration of the course.

CONTACT PERSONS: for this programme is any one of the following persons:
(1) School Chairman: Sung Lai Su, h/p 012-5886162 – laisusung@yahoo.com;
(2) Principal, Eugene Yapp, h/p 012-2921474 – glomal@streamyx.com;

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Justification in Paul’s Epistles

A world class scholar will be in Malaysia, sharing on a burning issue "justification by faith" that Luther claims is the article of faith on which the church either stands or falls...

Course: Justification in Paul’s Epistles
Lecturer: Dr. Peter O’Brien


Description: Justification is the doctrine where a sinner is declared righteous before God on the basis of the righteousness of Christ and his atoning work on the Cross. This course will explore the development and presentation of justification in the letters written by the Apostle Paul. In view of recent scholastic studies that offer a “fresh interpretation” of the doctrine of justification, this course will be a timely reminder of the biblical view of how God justifies us while we were still enemies with Him.

Dates: 1 Mar (Sat), 4 Mar (Tue), 6 Mar (Thu), 8 Mar (Sat), 11 Mar (Tue), 13 Mar (Thu) & 14 Mar (Fri)

Time: Weekday classes meet from 8.00 pm to 10.30 pm. Weekend classes meet from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm

Location: First Baptist Church, Lot 8 Jalan Pantai 9/7, Petaling Jaya, 46000 Selangor

Contact Details
To register for the course, please contact the CBTE Registrar, Doreen Chan, via doreen28@tm.net.my or 016-238-0918

Course Fees

All registered seminary students (MBS, MBTS & STM) should contact their respective registrar and remit the course fees directly. For non-seminary students, the course fees are as follows:

RM240 for those who wish to receive credit pending registration with a seminary
RM120 for those who wish to attend the lectures (no exams will be required).
About the Lecturer

Dr. O’Brien is currently Senior Research Fellow at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. He has a PhD in New Testament from the University of Manchester. Dr. O’Brien has taught in other seminaries, including Union Biblical Seminary in India and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the United States. He has published and edited numerous articles, books and commentaries on Paul and the Pauline epistles including the two volume “Justification and Variegated Nomism.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Election: Christian Perspectives

Last Sunday, we had a sumptuous satay night at Meng's place... It feels like another cozy cell group meeting, except for the guests speakers who came to share with us. It was casual yet inspiring, perhaps a sign of growing sociopolitical awareness amongst urban Christians.

Check out the following conversation from Caffe Latte CHAT (And you won't wanna miss Jacksaid's response) and Kar Yong's response.

ACCORDING to the Malaysian Census 2000, Christianity in Malaysia is practised by 10% of the population, the majority being in Sabah and Sarawak, where they make up 40% of the population in the two states.

In the urban areas of Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Penang, Ipoh and Johor Baru, the profile of a typical Christian is one who is middle-class, English-educated, professional, conscious of issues, articulate and critical. And they will certainly play a crucial role in the coming general election.

There is no single Christian group that can claim to represent all the Christians in Malaysia but the major denominations include the Roman Catholics, Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, and independent charismatic churches.

Church groups like the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM), the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, and the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) are the constant voices that speak out on Christian issues in public.

In this session of Cafe Latte Chats, we bring together Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, Subang Jaya assemblyman Datuk Lee Hwa Beng, Balakong assemblyman Datuk Hoh Hee Lee, secretary-general of the National Christian Fellowship (NCEF) Malaysia Rev Wong Kim Kong, and Council of Churches Malaysia secretary-general Rev Dr Hermen Shastri to ponder on the issues that are of concern to the Christian community and how these will impact on the general election

Christian perspective on the elections

Chun Wai: The typical profile of a Christian in an urban area is likely to be middle-class, possibly English-educated and one who is very conscious of issues. Datuk Lee, Datuk Hoh and Teresa fit into this profile. We are beginning to hear of more churches organising activities and dialogues relating to the general election. What are the churches doing about the elections?

Kim Kong: The general election is very important for all citizens, Christians included. The government is one of the institutions ordained by God for a very definite purpose to do good, to maintain law and order, as well as ensure what is right for the well-being of the nation.

Most churches will pray about the elections. Christians look for spiritual guidance as to what is God’s plan for the nation. It is inevitable for pastors to preach on issues relating to good governance like justice, righteousness, fairness and moral principles.

Chun Wai: Some believe this election will be a very tight fight between the BN and the opposition, especially for the urban votes. Are churches being courted by both sides?

Hermen: I have not heard of political parties going to churches but I have heard of churches wanting to have dialogues with political leaders. The churches have taken it upon themselves to raise issues that are close to their hearts.

Chun Wai: Has the NECF been courted by political parties?

Kim Kong: NECF did not initiate any dialogue with political parties. However, Christians involved in politics have been extended the opportunity to meet with pastors and Christian leaders. Just a few weeks ago, an MCA contingent came to meet 100 over pastors. There was also a question-and-answer session. We continue to maintain an open door policy.

Chun Wai: Teresa, maybe you can share your experience as an MP from the DAP.

Kok: Not only in the past few months. All this while, we have been concerned about subtle religious persecution issues. We take the initiative to meet with the religious councils, especially when (former Prime Minister) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared Malaysia as an Islamic country. Sad to say, when I approached pastors back then, some of them said it was the job of the NECF and they did not want to meet us. They did not want to be involved in politics. I said it was just a closed-door dialogue but they still refused.

Chun Wai: Was it because you are from the opposition?

Kok: I think so. This is the kind of phobia for some pastors. However, times have changed. More pastors are now politically conscious of the present situation. Some of the charismatic churches I attended even hold special sessions to pray for every segment of the administration. So I think this is an encouraging sign.

Lee: To answer directly to Teresa, MCA’s view is that Malaysia is not a theocratic Islamic state. It is a secular state with Islam as the official religion. The Catholics have always been politically conscious, but lately the Methodists and the rest have also become more aware. We in MCA have taken cognisance of this.

Chun Wai: Does being more politically conscious mean being more anti-establishment?

Lee: Not really, but Christians realise it is their duty to vote. They will look at the candidates and choose those who come closest to their Christian values.

Hoh: I never consider the church as a specific group of supporters. I treat them as I will the others in my constituency. If they need help, I try to assist. I am very careful not to bring the church into politics and I do not want the church to be involved directly.

Politics from the pulpit

Chun Wai: In one particular church in Petaling Jaya, we have received feedback that the person concerned had been bringing up strong political views which some in the congregation perceived to be anti-government. And sometimes, the members feel uncomfortable because when they go to church, they want quiet time with God to unload their burdens, but they end up hearing political views. Does this kind of orientation fit in?

Kim Kong: I think the Bible is very clear – the church has to be apolitical and not be involved in the political process directly. The church is a neutral institution; we cannot take any political inclination towards any particular party or candidate. However, the biblical value of good government can be taught.

Hermen: In my 25 years in the ministry, I have been exposed to churches here and in the world councils. Notwithstanding what Rev Wong has said, I think church comprises human beings and human beings are caught in the social context, and much of the politics of the day are reflected in the social context. They always look after their own interests and everything is communal here. Urban constituencies more exposed to a modern way of life will be more interested in engaging different parties.

Chun Wai: In Malaysia, politics have always been quite partisan and even emotional at times. While the church may agree on certain issues, there’s always the question of approaches that can divide the congregation. For example, the pastor can be very anti- or pro-government, and the congregation is made up of people with various political affiliations and they may not be too happy with the stand taken by the pastor. Will that create division in church?

Hermen: You just take one issue, let’s say our response to a certain concern. And then, you will find in the church some will say get involved, others say don’t. They are no different from the rest of society.

Chun Wai: Teresa, you are a Catholic and Catholic churches are known to be more vocal, please share your experience.

Kok: We are duty-bound to speak up for justice. If you can’t speak up, can’t act, at least pray for the situation. I used to attend mass in Petaling Jaya and during the community prayer time, the priest always has no choice but to bring certain issues into prayer, and certain religious words banned, you have to pray for that. And ISA being used, you pray for the detainees and the families. And we pray for press freedom, religious freedom, for independence of the judiciary, pray for the Prime Minister so that he has the wisdom to rule the country – that is all for the good of the society.

What I also find interesting is that the priest also prays for Chua Soi Lek, so that he can have reconciliation with his family. All these, you can say they are political messages of prayers, but it is our duty to pray over what is happening in our country. People might think this is political. But, in fact, for me, it is not. It is our duty as Christians to bring out all these messages to act, and to pray, and participate in the restoration of the wrong things that are happening in the country.

Chun Wai: But when certain approaches are taken, do you feel that sometimes this particular church can be seen to be anti-government? Will it help at all?

Kok: I have heard that some parishioners had left that parish and they go to other Catholic parishes because they don’t like the priest to talk about or pray like this. But it has also encouraged parishioners to be more socially and politically concerned.

Lee: I think you have to differentiate between current issues and also party issues. There is nothing wrong for a church to talk about or pray about issues of the day. But I don’t think there is any church that will say, oh, I support the MCA or DAP. Church leaders have to be neutral on the pulpit but on the ground, if he or she supports a political party, or take part in a rally, or attend a pro-government activity, I think he or she has that right.

Chun Wai: But Datuk, if pastors, whether they wear their collar on Sunday, and after that, never wear their collar, should they be involved in politics?

Hoh: Definitely not, because it can be very sensitive for both sides. But let’s say it is a social programme like a charity and they help as individuals, that is a different story.

Chun Wai: Rev Wong, in Sabah and Sarawak, it is very common for pastors to be involved in politics. I think there are quite a number of pastors in PBS. Why do you think it’s different in Sabah and Sarawak?

Kim Kong: They are slightly different in terms of political engagement because of the social fabric of the community. They are more conscious of the political process because their social economic status compels them to be more politically orientated.

As a result of that, pastors being much more exposed and educated, the chances for them to alleviate the social condition are much higher compared to Peninsular Malaysia. As a result, some of them engage in politics but there is a very clear demarcation, in a sense that if you have to be involved in politics, you have to resign as a pastor.

Then, the second issue is, Christians or people in general need to distinguish between political parties and the Government. I may meet the Prime Minister or minister, but it does not reflect that I am meeting the Umno president or the MCA president. I think there’s a need to distinguish between the role of the Government, of the Prime Minister and their role as the presidents of the political parties.

Chun Wai: Teresa, can you tell us about the DAP fielding a pastor in the election?

Kok: This is a pastor from Sabah, Pastor Jeffrey Kumin. I was introduced to this pastor and every time we pray together and he’s the only pastor who is willing to pray for me and the DAP … (panel laughs). My party approached him and he agreed to stand as a party candidate.

Christian concerns and needs of churches

Chun Wai: The number of Christians has risen to around nine to 10% of the population, even larger than the Indians at about 6.3%. Why is the voice of Christianity more subdued than other religions?

Kim Kong: The church’s main concern is spiritual rather than political. Also, the church, as a whole, does not have a common political agenda to bind them together. I think the separation between the state and religion is a very clear doctrine of Christians.

Hermen: I think we have to complement that with the reality of the Catholic church which has a strong presence and has always made its position known. If you read their Herald (the Catholic newsletter), it is different from the other Christian newsletters as they raise issues like pro-life, migrant workers and a host of other things, which are part of their agenda.

Chun Wai: Let’s talk about the needs of the Christians, what they would like to see done, and what is being done.

Lee: Freedom of religious practice is always paramount. Number two, places of worship have always been an issue. Under our existing guidelines, when we approve any project, we have to allocate places for mosques and suraus. Two years ago, the Cabinet came up with a decision that any project more than 50 acres must provide places of worship for non-Muslims as well. It is a good step but some go round this directive by proposing less than 50 acres, so the ruling is not effective in this aspect.

Hoh: Youths today are facing a lot of problems. If we Christians can step up and solve this problem and help society, this is good. As for education, we can see the Chinese are very concerned about education. Christians can also be involved in raising funds, providing scholarships. These are some of the things we can do.

Kok: The concern is the missionary schools. When crosses are taken down, for instance, this has become an issue; also, the Bahasa Malaysia documents and bibles. When I attend campus student gatherings, their prayers and songs are all in Bahasa Malaysia. When the Government interferes so much over the language issue, it creates some kind of unhappiness in the Christian community.

Why are not many Christians involved in politics? I think we have many good quality, educated Christians but they are involved in evangelical activities. They think it’s godlier. Also because of their background, they are more educated, upper middle-class people, they don’t want to dirty their hands because getting involved in politics also means getting your name tarnished, and your hands dirtied. There are also Christians who ask me to leave politics and get involved in more spiritual work.

Chun Wai: Dr Hermen, in all these issues that have cropped up, when you speak to the leadership and dialogue with the Prime Minister, they are very fair. The problem starts at the lower level, when one or two officers start to implement rules that make the cases complicated

Hermen: I think the only way to get through to this, when the down line becomes problematic, is to deal with the issue as an issue, not as a religious one. They would want to make every issue religious, that’s their problem.

For example, the case of the confiscation of books at MPH. These are Christian books in English with pictures of Moses, Noah and all that. This one unit within Internal Security says you cannot show a picture of Moses because it is sensitive to Islam. This is not an Islamic book. I would like to appeal to the Prime Minister to look into this matter.

Chun Wai: Do you agree that when these bureaucrats start imposing these rules according to their religious interpretation, it shows the politicians in power are actually affected?

Hermen: Yes, correct.

Kok: I think the Prime Minister should interfere. He has the Islamic credentials and he is a moderate Muslim. He needs to speak up.

Chun Wai: In conclusion, the Christians make up a substantial chunk of votes in the elections and these are issues of concern to them. In the battle for hearts and minds, their voices and their votes certainly matter.

Thinking Theologically Conference

SIN is something that is rarely talked about in, to some it's a taboo word, and yet, it's the issue that affects all of us so greatly. let's come and learn to read the Bible and understand, what it has to say about sin in our lives.

TTC 2008 brings Christians like yourself and others together to think through this theological issue under God's Word. It promises to be 3 days of warm fellowship, good food, thoughtful prayer, and an equipping of the mind for faithful ministry.

Speaker: Rev Dr Andrew Cheah, a graduate of Moore Theological College and has served at St. Mary’s since 2003.

The organisers are: The Gospel Growth Fellowship ...is a fellowship committed to glorifying God through the growth of Gospel-centred evangelical Christianity in the local church. We believe Christians should be passionate about the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1-6) and make it central in
life, thought and ministry.

We therefore serve the local church in several ways:

Building its members up in a Gospel-centred biblical literacy: faithful to the text, theologically sound and interpreted accurately in Christ.

Equipping members of the local church with the skills and thinking necessary for doing Gospel-centred word ministry.

Encouraging Christians to be committed to Gospel-centred service and leadership of the church.

Fostering mutual support amongst fellow-workers in Christ for perseverance in
Gospel-centred ministry.

The Bible is Like...

“Going to the cinema to watch movies is sinful,” declared Disciple Ah Kow. “No, it’s not,” countered Disciple Ah Lek who loves to watch movies, “It’s educational.” Both disciples were washing toilets in the Sow-lin Monastery. The monastery has this policy that its disciples should share in the maintenance of the premises. The policy was instituted for building character in its disciples. The monastery also saves by not employing more janitorial staff.

“Watching movies corrupts the soul,” Ah Kow continued, “Did not the Apostle Peter said, ‘Do not love the world or anything in the world.[1]’” “But the Apostle Paul said, ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind.[2]’ Going to movies will renew our minds.” responded Ah Lek. “Sinner!” shouted Ah Kow, “You just want to watch semi-naked girls.” “Do not,” Ah Lek shouted back, “I want to watch the movie The Passion of the Christ.” “Liar!” screamed Ah Kow pushing Ah Lek. Ah Lek responded with a well executed ‘drunken tiger falling down the hill’ roundhouse kick.

Abba Ah Beng was sitting crossed legged eating durian[3] in the main hall when his two disciples were brought before him. He looked up at Ah Kow and Ah Lek with a gleam in his eyes, which set the two disciples’ knees quaking[4]. “Fighting again, I see,” sighed Abba Ah Beng, “Ah Kow, open this durian with this screwdriver.” Ah Kow reached out to grab the durian and tried to open the fruit. All he managed to get were lots of painful scratches. “Here, let me,” said Ah Lek as he reached out and grab the screwdriver. With a skilful poke and twist, he opened the fruit into two pieces revealing the seeds with its golden fleshy outer layer.

A rich aroma filled the hall. Both Abba Ah Beng and Ah Lek inhaled with a satisfied “Hmm.” Ah Kow gagged. “Such a wonderful smell” sighs Ah Lek. “So horrible-lah. Like rotten eggs!” Ah Kow complained. “Here,” Abba Ah Beng said, “eat, eat.” Ah Lek took a seed and ate its luscious flesh with a look of ecstasy on his face. “Very good-lah” he commented. Abba Ah Beng beamed. “Sure good-lah. Special tree, B94” he explained. Meanwhile, Ah Kow shut his eyes as he put the fleshy seed in his mouth. “Urgh!” he croaked, “the inner seed is so hard.” Then he choked and turned blue as he had accidentally swallowed the seed.

The Bible is like a durian,” explained Abba Ah Beng, as he performed the Heimlich manoeuvre on Ah Kow. “To apply it, you have to know how to open it. Otherwise all you get are some painful wounds. With the correct technique, which is the Holy Spirit, you can open the Bible and taste of its teachings. The succulent fleshy part of the seed is the interpretations and traditions of the church. These are the negotiable part of the Bible; like going to the movies, wearing jeans to church, or playing drums during worship. Some people love it, others hate it. The hard seed is the inner core of Biblical teaching. It is non-negotiable and consists of truths such as God is three and one (the Trinity), Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus is fully human and fully God. This seed when planted in the right soil will grow into a tree and bear good fruits.”

Both disciples blinked in awe at Abba Ah Bang’s insight, the durian forgotten. Abba Ah Beng calmly finished his durian, burped and said, “I’m going to town, my movie starts in an hour.”


Endnotes:
[1] 1 John 2:15a
[2] Romans 12:2b
[3] A durian is a round fruit with thorns on the outside. It is the King of fruits. Either you love it or hate it. Want to know more, google ‘durian’ and hope your computer do not smell.
[4] Disciple Ah Kow later set up the Christian group called Quakers.


read more here

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Postmodernism And The Emerging Church

As part of our continuing engagement with contemporary issues facing the church today, Dr Clive Chin, Coordinator of Theology Department at the School of Theology (English) will be conducting two lecture/discussion sessions entitled "Postmodernism and the Emerging Church." In the first session, Dr Chin will do a brief introduction to postmodernity, both in its popular and academic orientations, as background to discussing the Emerging Church Movement, particularly expressed in the writings of Brian McLaren.

The second session will involve a critical review of Brian McLaren's views, both strengths and weaknesses, on postmodern philosophy, culture, their impact on the evangelical church.

Make a date with us tomorrow and the week after, and bring your friends along.

Session One: Tuesday 22 January 2008
Session Two: Tuesday 29 January 2008
Time: 10.10 am - 11.00 am
Room: Blk 3, Level 3 Multipurpose Hall (Spore Bible College)

Warm regards
Dr Calvin Chong
Academic Dean
School of Theology (English)

Wilberforce's Dilemma

What is the Agora Penang up to this year (2008)? It all began here in-between Christmas and New Year... Then one of us saw the movie...

So we thought, WHY NOT?!

Coz we can learn a lot from Mr. Wilberforce, such as his life story...

...and his convictions: "Wilberforce, having converted into evangelicalism was seriously contemplating about what we’ll say as “giving up his job to go into fulltime ministry”, i.e. leaving politics to go into pastoral ministry. One of his Clapham saints, a lady, told him in a very sure tone, “We humbly suggest that you can do both”.

Do stay tune for further details on our first meeting which will be a movie screening (Amazing Grace - the story of William Wilberforce) to be held sometime after Chinese New Year. But till then, we covet your prayers and well wishes.

Sim Chee Keong, Steven

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New Goals For The New Year



Well-articulated and inspiring vision from our friend Ron Choong, at Academy of Christian Thought: As we begin the New Year, allow me to take a moment to reintroduce you to the ministry and goals of the Academy for Christian Thought (ACT). We take seriously Jesus' call to make disciples of all nations. To this end, we cultivate a "discipleship of the mind," to equip Christians to speak more confidently and knowledgeably about what we claim to be the most important factor of our existence, i.e., our relationship with God.

Our ministries provide theological safe spaces in which probing questions that may be uncomfortable to raise in polite company are welcomed. We ask that everyone be generous of each other's prejudices, knowledge level and excesses as together we work out the kinks in our beliefs. Our ministries allow Christians to challenge what they think they believe, and non-Christians to eavesdrop on believers dealing honestly with their understanding of God.

This radical concept is a departure from the traditional church dichotomy of insiders vs. outsiders, hearkening back to Jesus' own actions as he openly engaged both Jews and Gentiles. Since every believer was once an unbeliever, it behooves us to empathize with the concerns of our friends, especially those from other faiths. Evangelism asks them to abandon much of what they know from their respective communities. At the very least, we as Christians should try to understand their worldview, which is the impetus for the "What Every Christian Should Know About..." series of lectures covering Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam.

ACT seeks the renewal of minds with humility and intellectual integrity. Our ministry model of discipleship centers on three components--to learn, renew and share. Unless we commit to learn, we can not renew and transform our prejudiced minds. The renewed mind desires to share what it has learned, and seeks to apply it in real world situations. These three components represent what it means for us to know God and, by making disciples of all nations, to make God known to others.

Learn: ACT lectures and seminars are public ministries designed to introduce Christian thought and engage the disciplines of science, history, art, philosophy and ethics, the fields that SHAPE the way we think and act.

Renew: Project Timothy is an in-depth Bible study that erases the artificial boundary between scholarly inquiry and devotional reading. PT teaches the art and science of exegesis and hermeneutics. These help us to refrain from spouting unhelpful abstractions, which we sometimes use to mask our ignorance.

In a world where the growth of believers has outpaced the training of ministers, we seek to empower the congregation by narrowing the knowledge gap between pulpit and pew. Pastors anguish over the lack of successors in the midst of unprecedented church attendance globally. PT seeks to equip emerging leaders and provide a fresh pool of resources to draw from. At a modest level, it is a seminary without walls.


Share: Evangelism and missions have become synonymous in the global village, where sharing the gospel with locals and foreigners has taken on new meaning.

The traditional evangelism / mission dichotomy has been upended in the new global secular culture, where the Intel manager in Bombay has more in common with the Apple engineer in Cupertino than with his fellow Indians who farm in Kerala. Cultural, linguistic, national, racial and religious identification no longer matter: Anyone for whom Christ is not Lord and savior is part of the global secular culture. The apostle Paul calls us to contend for the faith, to make a case for it in a global culture of unbelief.

Sincerely,

Rev. Ron Choong
Director, Academy for Christian Thought

Friday, January 18, 2008

Religious Liberty Under Threat

KAIROS PUBLIC FORUM: Religious Liberty Under Threat

Time/date: 8.30pm, Thu 31 January 2008
Venue: Heritage Centre, Petaling Jaya
Speakers: Dr Ng Kam Weng & Mr Lim Heng Seng

Malaysian citizens - Malaysian Christians in particular - should be greatly disturbed by recent events that give alarming evidence of the erosion of religious liberty in the country. These events include civil court judgments that advise non-Muslims to go the shariah courts to settle matters of divorce and child custody, the demolition of temples and churches, and the seizures of Sunday School materials and Christian story books for children from bookshops. Of great concern is the Cabinet
announcement that non-Muslims may not use the word 'Allah'. This prohibition would ban Holy Scriptures (Alkitab) and forbid Christians from using well established liturgy, hymns and prayers in their worship services.

Are these events merely ad-hoc actions by the authorities or do they reflect the implementation of a more fundamental Islamic policy that informs and guides the authorities in their treatment of peoples of other faiths? How should Christians view these developments? This public forum will provide an analysis of current trends in our nation and explore how Christians may firmly and constructively respond to these challenges that threaten religious liberty in general and the Christian faith in particular. (*** Admission free ***)

About the speakers

Dr Ng Kam Weng is Research Director of Kairos Research Centre.
Mr Lim Heng Seng, a former senior federal counsel and chairman of the
industrial court, is currently a partner in a law firm in Kuala Lumpur.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Press Freedom In Malaysia

Article Press Freedom - Pressed or Oppressed? published on Kairos Magazine, Dec 07.

By Dorothy Teoh, From THE NEXNEWS GROUP, PUBLISHER OF THE EDGE AND THE SUN.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting next to a developer at a dinner, and the topic of our conversation came round to press freedom. He asserted, “The country should have a free press. It would act as a check and balance on the three pillars of government: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.” As a journalist, I couldn’t agree more. The role of the press as the ‘fourth estate’ was a concept introduced to me as a young journalism student at one of the local universities.

But when I started work as a reporter, I learned that there is a big divide between theory and practice. And over the years and now as an editor, I’ve seen how far short we’ve fallen of that ideal and of our lofty calling.

A free press that acts as a check and balance on both individuals and institutions—government, the legislature, the judiciary, business, the civil service, the police force, NGOs and so on—plays a crucial role in building a just and democratic society. By calling for transparency and accountability, the press reinforces good governance and helps to ensure that there is no place for corruption and abuse.

It is no accident that the 10 least corrupt countries (Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, Iceland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada and Norway) in Transparency International’s recently released rankings enjoy high standards of living. And except for Singapore (which incidentally makes for an interesting case study), they all enjoy a relatively free press.

I say “relatively free” because there is no such thing as absolute freedom of the press. Under Malaysia’s Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA), all print media of a periodical nature are required to obtain a permit that must be renewed yearly. It can be revoked or suspended by the Home Affairs Ministry for various reasons, such as the publication of content considered “likely to be prejudicial to public order, morality, [or] security”; or likely to “be prejudicial to… national interest.” If the Minister refuses to grant or renew a permit, the decision is not open to judicial review, under an amendment in the late 1980s.

Read on for the entire article

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Church And "Para-Church"



In an illuminating discussion on the meaning of laity and clergy, Paul Stevens wrote, “Clergy must be liberated by laity from having the impossible task of representing the entire ministry of the church. Laity must be liberated from becoming clergy assistants to discover and embrace their own ministry. Pastors then become assistants to the rest of the people of God. This mutual liberation must be a ministry of love, not rebellion.”

Check out the Lausanne document on “The Relationship between Church and Para-Church Organizations”. In this paper, I try to describe a Para-church Organization I am a member of, namely Graduate Christian Fellowship, indicating its origin, reason for existence, particular emphases, and the way it relates to the church generally, suggesting how both the Para-church Organization and the Church can learn from the Lausanne recommendations that can enable them to function more harmoniously together and achieve their objectives more effectively. Views expressed are entirely the author's alone.

Marketplace Calling

Marketplace calling? by Dr Leong Tien Fock, Influencers For Christ

A Christian executive working for a non-Christian boss once said, “As a Christian, I wonder if it is right for me to be giving my best to help an unbeliever become wealthier”. Can it be right? And can it be spiritual for Christians to enjoy conspicuous luxuries like a company-provided chauffeured Mercedes as “benefits” for making unbelievers “filthy rich”? During this time of soul searching, brought upon us suddenly by the economic crisis, it is appropriate to pause and ponder.

These questions cannot be answered biblically without first looking at God’s overall purpose for Christians in this world and in the marketplace: to be salt of the earth and light of the world. This involves making a spiritual impact in the marketplace in line with the calling to “seek first His kingdom [submit to God’s reign] and [thus] His righteousness [conform to God’s will]” in answer to the prayer “Thy kingdom come, [resulting in] Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (NASB, Matt 6:33, 10). The Church has the calling to promote God’s reign and righteousness on earth. Marketplace calling is simply living out this calling in the marketplace. And this involves much more than just sharing the Gospel and winning individuals to Christ!

Currently the term “Christian leader” refers to either a “full-time worker” in leadership position or a “lay Christian” in leadership position in a Christian context. So when we think of the making of a Christian leader we think of the (often painful) process whereby God raises up Christians to give leadership in and through a local church or parachurch context. But to fulfill God’s purpose in this world, and in particular the marketplace, Christians must also be raised up to give leadership in and through a non-church or secular context!

In the Old Testament, Joseph was just such a leader. God called and raised him up to accomplish His purposes solely in and through a “secular job” as Prime Minister (PM) of Egypt (Genesis 37, 39-47).

When God promised Abraham that his descendants would possess Canaan, He qualified that they would first be in a foreign land (turned out to be Egypt) for 400 years because the Canaanites were not yet wicked enough to be dispossessed (Gen 15: 16). Actually even if the Canaanites were “ripe” for destruction sooner, the Israelites were not ready to take over Canaan; there were too few of them. They needed the time to “be fruitful and multiply” to become “a great nation”. But Canaan itself was not a suitable place for that purpose. Besides being mere sojourners in that very immoral land they would be too exposed and could easily be wiped out by hostile groups.

God thus needed to provide them with a safe haven. He first allowed Joseph to be sold into Egypt, at that time the most powerful nation in the biblical world. Through the occasion of a 7-year abundance followed by a 7-year famine, first revealed to the Pharaoh through a dream, God enabled Joseph to rise up to become a powerful PM. From the secular perspective he was a great blessing to Egyptian society; he not only saved the nation from starving but also laid a strong socio-economic foundation for Egypt through his wise policies. But from the spiritual perspective his role as PM enabled him to fulfill God’s purpose by bringing his family to Egypt and providing them with a safe haven. And when it was time for them to leave for the promised land God first allowed them to be oppressed (Exod 1:8ff). Otherwise they would not be convinced to leave their safe haven for an uncertain future.

But it was not by accident that Joseph became such an effective PM: he was called and carefully raised up for the job. His calling to be a ruler came through dreams when he was a youth of 17 years. His sharing of this calling with his family actually contributed to his being sold into Egypt making him first a slave and then a prisoner before becoming PM. His 13 years as slave and then prisoner was God’s training programme for his calling. It not only honed his character as well as equipped him with the competence to be ruler but also deepened his conviction of God’s call (Ps 105:17-19). It gave him the 3 Cs needed for effective leadership.

When sold as a slave he chose not to be emotionally crippled by the betrayal of his brothers but worked his way up to be the CEO of his master’s estate; similarly when he was unjustly imprisoned for doing the right thing he did not allow bitterness to cripple him; he again rose up to be the virtual warden of the prison. Ironically in was behind prison doors that he found the path to PM-ship. The Bible tells us that “the LORD was with him” all the way and He prospered all his ways. All this happened totally in a secular context. Today God can similarly use “secular jobs” to raise up Christians to give leadership to His work in the marketplace.

Joseph’s experience also helps us answer the questions above. His unbelieving boss experienced increasing wealth under him: “from the time he made him overseer of his house, and all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field” (NASB, Gen 39:5). So God Himself enriched Joseph’s unbelieving boss because Joseph was faithful to Him! But it must be added that God also glorified Himself in the process; Joseph’s unbelieving boss “saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand” (NASB, Gen 39:3), which led him to promote Joseph as CEO with total freedom to run his estate. As a result he was able to promote God’s reign and righteousness in and through his “secular job”.

As PM, Joseph had access to all kinds of conspicuous luxuries, even during the famine. But this came as part-and-parcel of his being the PM. In most societies, both ancient and modern, it would be unbecoming to the image of the PM and what his office represents if he had no access to conspicuous luxuries. To Joseph the main thing was God’s calling; but in his case God’s calling came with conspicuous luxuries. His enjoyment of conspicuous luxuries was, in a sense, part of his job! Whether Joseph was spiritual in this enjoyment depends not on the action but his attitude. It is thus possible to enjoy conspicuous luxuries to the glory of God.

As for Joseph, God had also honed his character that he could be entrusted with extreme wealth and power. According to Max Weber, power is the “ability to control the behaviour of others, even in the absence of their consent”. (Since the value of money lies in its ability to get what one desires through “controlling” the behaviour of others, wealth is also power.) And “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. John Acton said this privately (in a letter) in the 1800s; it still has widespread appeal because it is so true. People who lust after power are already corrupt; innocent, even Christian, people not ready for power will be corrupted and abuse it. Christians in influential positions in the marketplace may have a ready platform to impact society for Christ, but to be a true leader, besides having other spiritual qualities, they must be uncorrupted and incorruptible by power.

Thus the making of a “marketplace Christian leader” is no less rigourous or spiritual than that of any Christian leader. It is high time that the meaning of “Christian leader” be expanded to include a Christian with a “secular job” who lives out his faith in his personal and professional life and who exerts significant Christian influence in the secular world. (Whether he is also a leader in a church context is beside the point.) He will not only himself be salt and light to society but will also be influencing other Christians to fulfill their marketplace calling. The current lack of Christian impact in society is reflective of the lack of marketplace Christian leadership. Thus, if the Church is to be salt of the earth and light of the world, this type of Christian leadership must be recognised and multiplied.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Translation of Gospel Resources

From Desiring God blog: Open Source Mission, a new web-based translation effort, has become a wonderful partner for DG International Outreach during the past year.

One of our top objectives is to grow the number of Piper sermons available in as many languages as possible and post them online for free access. Andre Yee, the founder of OSM, has a great vision to engage in a massive translation effort incorporating the writings of a number of authors. International Outreach and OSM will be sharing our translated resources for the purpose of global spreading of God-centered content.

If you are engaged in a non-English field of ministry, hopefully over time you will begin to see more translations that you may be able to use. Or you can actually help us create resources by getting involved in the translation.

Here’s a brief summary from Andre of what OSM is working to accomplish:

Open Source Mission is a ministry focused on making gospel-centric, biblically sound materials accessible to as many languages as possible through developing a network of volunteer translators throughout the world. Together with partners like Sovereign Grace Ministries, Desiring God, and 9Marks, OSM has launched the Gospel Translations Project, an initiative translate and publish biblically sound materials on a wikipedia type website called gospeltranslations.org.

Since officially launching in September, OSM has gathered a database of over 100 translators, nearly 50 of whom are actively at work translating books and articles into several different languages, including Indonesian, Chinese, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Korean and Russian.

If you’re a bilingual Christian, please consider lending your language skills as a translator or reviewer. Contact Andrew at Open Source Mission to find out how to get started. (andrew@opensourcemission.com)

Friday, January 11, 2008

‘Allah’ is for all Malay Speaking People in Nusantara

From Kam Weng's blog:

"Recently, the Malay media has printed several articles that insist non-Muslims cannot use the word Allah to describe the supreme God they worship. One such article, written by the Director-General of IKIM (Institute of Islamic Understanding), appears in the following site

It is a pity that this article is printed only in the Malay press. Its assertion that only Muslims have exclusive authority to decide how Bahasa Malaysia may be used for religious purposes would certainly draw a vigorous response in the English media (though certainly not in the censored mainstream English newspapers). Perhaps the article is intended more to ‘educate’ Malay readers even though readers of the Malay press show little interest in the issue. Political scientists may also be interested to note that the Government issued a gag order to prevent further discussion of the topic only after Muslim scholars were first allowed to express their views in the press.

As a result, the Malay papers have not printed a single article that offers a substantial analysis of the issue from the Christian perspective. To address this omission and unfair imbalance, I am making available an article written by a scholar who has studied in a renowned university in the Middle East and taught in Indonesia."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Legacy Of Billy Graham

By Rev Wong Fong Yang, on his visit to The Billy Graham Library

I stood there in one of the rooms speechless when I saw Billy Graham (Video presentation) placed his Bible on the stump of a tree, he kneeled and prayed to God and exclaimed that he accepted and believed the Bible in totality as the inspired word of God by faith. After that singular moment of utter surrender, Billy Graham never waivers for one bit about the Word of God. Always with the Bible in one hand and the other hand gesturing vehemently, he would speak with great confident and summoned the crowd to come to Christ and to put their faith in Him. “The Bible says!” is his clarion call. We can better appreciate this incident when we understand the context that Billy Graham was in. During the early stage of his ministry, it was a time when Bible was subjected to higher critical method of interpretation. Many doubted whether the Bible could be trusted in its entirety. Miracles recorded in the Bible defy rationale and were considered untrue. Charles Templeton, a better preacher and more brilliant man than Billy Graham in those days, shipwrecked his faith because he rejected the authority of the Word of God. Templeton did not believe that the Word of God is fully inspired and therefore could not be trusted completely. Billy Graham too struggled but he came to a settled conviction and by faith took the Bible at face value as the Word of God. He never looked back.

No wonder God uses Billy Graham as His mouthpiece to convict hundreds of thousands of people of their sins and to turn them to Him.

No wonder God uses Billy Graham to bring revival and renewal around the world.

No wonder no one can indict Billy Graham of any scandals. He is completely above board with regards to sex, money and power.

Billy Graham has anchored his life and ministry solidly upon the Word of God.

In an age when politicians, movie celebrities, spiritual and business leaders at the ecclesiastical and corporate world faltered and hogged headlines because of sexual or financial impropriety, Billy Graham stands tall. Billy Graham merely stands in biblical tradition where great men and women who were greatly used by God because they held on to the Word of God and allow it to shape and mould their lives.

Headstart Intake 2008

iBridge Ministry will be opening the new headstart group intake for the Month of March 2008.Right now we are in the process of arranging the groupaccording to the already registered fresh graduate and if you or your friends are interested to join this coming Headstart group or want to
know further details.Please send your enquiries or details to
iBridge.email@gmail.com

For this intake there will be several groups ranging from Penang,Ipoh,Melaka and Klang Valley. And this Headstart is a support group that focus on encouraging/mentoring fresh graduate in their struggle/questions/changes of transition from studying life to the working world.

Headstart will meet only once a month for 1 year and each time will go through a discussion topic/lesson bout marketplace related issues based on the book "Following Jesus In The Real World" by Richard Lamb. We hope that this Headstart will be a blessing to the fresh graduates as a place to find meaningful friendship to pray for
one another, encouragement to make a stand/impact in their working place and a good headstart in making their first step into the market place...

Also to all former Headstart Leaders, it will be much appreciated also if you all can volunteer again to help out in this Headstart ministry as the number of people in the intake have increase and it will be great if you all avail your time,knowledge and passion to bless those fresh graduates...

In HIM,
Jimmy Lee
(016-45322750)
~iBridge Ministry Staff~

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Christian and the General Election: Core Issues

OHMSI Dialogue: The Christian and the General Election (Core Issues)
Date: 26 Jan (Sat)
Time: 9.00am – 12.30am
Place: St Paul's Church Hall, Jalan Utara Kecil, Petaling Jaya (across highway from Amcorp Mall)

Speakers:
Dr Irene Fernandez, Executive Director, Tenaganita
Dr Datuk Denison Jayasooria, Executive Director, Yayasan Sosial Strategic
Mr Lim Guan Eng, Secretary General, DAP
YB Loh Seng Kok, MP for Kelana Jaya
YB Dato Dr Tan Kee Kwong, MP for Segambut

Moderators: Andrew Khoo & Tricia Yeoh

Registration: As there is limited seating space of 200 seats, registrations will be on a first come first served basis (based on your online registration time sequence). All participants are required to register electronically via www.OHMSI.net.

A free will offering will be taken during the event to cover organizing costs of the event. DVD recordings of the event will be made available for order and purchase on the event day.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bahasa Malaysia Milik Semua

Karya Keropok Lekor

Isu baru-baru ini yang melibatkan akhbar edaran dalaman Gereja Katolik dan isu pengimpotan bahan-bahan agama daripada Indonesia oleh Sidang Injil Borneo Sabah untuk penggunaan gereja melahirkan perasaan gusar secara amnya. Penggunaan istilah-istilah yang mempunyai kaitan rapat dengan agama Islam dan Kristian, dalam penerbitan dalaman dan bahan-bahan keagamaan khususnya dalam Bahasa Malaysia sebagai bahasa ibunda, telah melahirkan kerisauan oleh Kementerian Dalam Negeri tentang impaknya kepada masyarakat. Namun begitu, syukur kepada Ilahi atas kurnianya, masalah-masalah dapat diselesaikan dengan jasabaik dan persefahaman antara pihak-pihak yang terlibat. Sebagai wadah Bahasa Malaysia, Cahaya Nusantara berpendapat bahawa mungkin elok jika hujah-hujah yang dibincangkan dirumuskan dalam beberapa poin yang berikut, untuk renungan pembaca.

(Poin-poin yang dirumuskan ini tidak semestinya menggambarkan pendirian peribadi mana-mana penyumbang blog ini)

1. Menurut Presiden SIB Sabah, Pdt. Jerry Dusing, istilah “Allah” telah digunakan dalam ibadah gereja SIB dan Alkitab semenjak penubuhannya pada zaman pra-kemerdekaan lagi oleh jemaah Bahasa Malaysia yang rata-ratanya kaum pribumi di Sabah dan juga dipengaruhi oleh amalan-amalan dan kosa kata agama gereja di Indonesia. Penggunaan Bahasa Malaysia adalah lebih meluas lagi pada masa kini oleh rata-rata muda-mudi yang menggunakan Bahasa Malaysia sebagai bahasa ibunda dan pengantara. Menurut statistik, penganut agama Kristian di negara ini adalah kira-kira 10% dan hampir 60% daripada mereka menggunakan Bahasa Malaysia sebagai bahasa ibunda mereka.

2. Menurutnya lagi, penggunaan istilah “Allah” untuk mewakili Tuhan oleh orang Kristian seawal zaman pra-Islam lagi dan diteruskan ke zaman moden di negara-negara yang mempunyai pengaruh bahasa Arab, untuk menerangkan konsep ketuhanan monotheistik agama Abrahamik. Bidang etymologi (pengkajian perkataan) mencadangkan bahawa “Allah” bermaksud “Tuhan yang satu" dan mempunyai persamaan dengan “Elaha” dalam bahasa Ibrani yang bermaksud Tuhan.

3. Menurut Bob Kee dalam blognya, beliau berpendapat bahawa penggunaan istilah “Allah” dalam penterjemahan Alkitab mempunyai sejarahnya yang tersendiri. Dalam analisa sejarahnya, istilah-istilah seperti יהוה (YHWH), אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), אל (El), אלהים (Elohim) dan nama-nama Tuhan dalam bahasa Ibrani sukar diterjemahkan khususnya dalam frasa gabungan אֲדֹנָי יהוה (Adonai YHWH) yang banyak terdapat dalam kitab Perjanjian Lama.

Seperti dalam Bahasa Inggeris, di mana kata “Lord” dan “God” digunakan, teks Injil Matius pertama yang diterjemahkan ke dalam bahasa nusantara oleh Albert Cornelisson Ruyl pada 1629, menggunakan “Allah”. Istilah ini terus digunakan dalam abad-abad berikutnya dimana frasa gabungan Adonai YHWH diterjemah sebagai “TUHAN Allah” dan Elohim sebagai “Allah”.

Oleh yang demikian, adalah penting agar kita dimaklumkan bahawa penggunaan istilah "Allah" bukanlah amalan yang baru, tidak langsung mempunyai sebarang agenda. Malah, penggunaan istilah "Allah" adalah perkembangan sihat ke arah dialog antara agama-agama Abrahamik.

4. Kata “Allah”, di samping kosa kata Arab dan Sanskrit yang mempunyai konsep-konsep agama yang saling berkait seperti syurga, neraka, dosa, doa, sengsara, dsbg tidak ekslusif kepada satu-satu agama. Bahasa Malaysia sebagai bahasa Nusantara dan berpinjam dari pelbagai budaya mampu menguraikan konsep-konsep sains, teknologi dan tidak asing lagi, konsep-konsep agama secara berkesan tidak mengira ajaran Islam, Buddha, Hindu mahupun Kristian. Menteri-menteri Kabinet, seperti Tan Sri Bernard Dompok dan Datuk Zainuddin Maidin dalam kenyataan-kenyataan lepas menyatakan bahawa Bahasa Malaysia adalah bahasa untuk semua.

5. Di samping itu, Dr. Ng Kam Weng berpendapat bahawa gereja mempunyai hak untuk mentadbir soal dalamannya adalam peruntukan Artikel 11 (3) selagi tidak bercanggah dengan Perlembagaan dan mengamalkan nilai hormat-menghormati dalam suasana masyarakat majmuk di negara ini. Rakyat Malaysia yang berbahasa ibunda Bahasa Malaysia mempunyai hak dan keperluan untuk mendapat bahan-bahan agama dalam bahasa dan budaya mereka sendiri. Dengan kawalselia KDN yang efisien dan bijaksana, serta hubungan transparen, ikhlas dan akrab Gereja-Kerajaan, penulisan-penulisan bagi hal-ehwal dalaman umat Kristian sudah tentu akan diterbitkan dengan bertanggungjawab dan bijaksana.

6. Daripada membazir masa dan tenaga untuk berbalah tentang isu-isu penggunaan kata, adalah lebih bermanfaat agar kita memupuk persefahaman dan menyelesaikan masalah dengan sikap yang terbuka dan progresif. Adalah lebih wajar kita memandang kepada isu-isu yang lebih serius yang dituntut oleh agama seperti menjaga kebajikan anak-anak yang kurang bernasib baik, fakir miskin dan tertindas, memelihara alam sekitar, menegakkan keadilan sosial dan integriti di samping berjiran (dalam ertikata sebenarnya) antara agama untuk menghayati dan menyayangi satu sama lain dengan lebih akrab lagi.

7. Bagi masyarakat Kristian di Semenanjung Malaysia yang beribadah dalam bahasa Inggeris dan ibunda masing-masing, mungkinkah ini satu renungan untuk kita membudayakan penggunaan bahasa kebangsaan dalam kehidupan seharian dan ibadah kita? Sejauh mana kita memiliki, membaca dan menghayati Alkitab dalam Bahasa Malaysia? Emosi kita mempertahankan saudara-saudari kita di Malaysia Timur perlulah datang bersama usaha untuk bersama-sama mereka untuk membentuk jatidiri Gereja Malaysia yang bersatu termasuklah mengambil perhatian yang lebih serius terhadap penggunaan bahasa tersebut dalam gereja-gereja tempatan.

Peace In Asia

An example of mission-as-peacemaking in Japan by Rev Wong

“Article 9 of Japan Constitution states:
(1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce was as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.
(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

It is heartwarming to see Japanese Christian leaders as well as other religious groups in Japan stood their ground against the revision of Article 9 in their constitution. There is an attempt by the Japanese government to move in the direction to make amendment to Article 9. Already revision of textbook had taken place to portray Japan as a victim instead of being the victimizer in the Second World War. China and Korea protested vehemently to the distortion of history. These are the two nations, which had suffered the most during the brutal regime of Japan.

At the consultation which was organized by NCCJ (National Christian Council of Japan), delegates from Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Germany, UK, USA, Australia, and Japan listened to key note addresses and panel presentations and unanimously stood in solidarity with the majority of Japanese not to revise Article 9. Any attempt to revise Article 9 will pose as a threat to regional security and peace. Peace can never be achieved through military violence but only through promoting a culture open to patient dialogue and diversity that promotes justice, equality, and respect.

Transformation of society involves active engagement with national agenda. Although Christian population in Japan is very small but they are active in political and social engagement.

An elderly Japanese (probably in his mid 80s) spoke about the wars with deep sadness and remorsefulness. He obviously had gone through the pains of seeing the Japanese soldiers brutally killed and raped the victims of the wars. I could sense the great guilt carried by the Japanese Christians on behalf of their nation"

Read the complete blog post here

Monday, January 07, 2008

Stop, look, listen...please!

Last Sunday, Rev Wong gave an encouraging report that churches are responding to this article by KJ John to find ways to help liberate the marginalised frm their cycle of poverty. I'm eager to see what will come out of it as the church listens to the prompting of the Spirit...

"We have an unfortunate habit of focusing on the messenger and not the message. As a result, we seek to kill the messenger and then we believe that the problem is solved. Is it really?

Whether it was armed rebellion led by militant communists between 1948 and 1960, or the cry of so-called ‘reformasi’, we have made it a habit of killing the messengers and forgetting the message.

For as long as there is real poverty and real hunger and anger, the threat of rebellion will be equally real.

Is not the core issue facing the poorer Tamil Indians (the large majority of the Indian Malaysian community) who mobilised under the Hindraf label, one of relative inequity? Let us not be too quick to dismiss this with simplistic labels and media propaganda. Maybe it is worth pausing long enough to understand the issues facing poorer Indians.

Take the situation of poor and marginalised Indians. Their issues predate even the communist struggle. The rubber plantation industry was a classic anti-communist strategy deployed by the British General and Field Commander Gerald Templer and the British private industry was co-opted to win hearts and minds of the people. Is not such a continuing war of hearts and minds still relevant today?

Is not poverty and marginalisation the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow? If the plantations were sources of national wealth creation yesterday and if that wealth was good enough to drive and develop the country then, is something wrong when the same companies are today the biggest public-listed ones, and yet we have no political will to help the original workers and their families?

What then is the meaning of the oft-sung song of corporate social responsibility or the pride of having claimed these plantations through the London Stock Exchange? We cannot afford to forget the history of the rubber plantation industry and its workers, whose families are now second or third generation Malaysians.

Alarming data

I cite facts and figures specifically from the CPPS/Asli Report entitled ‘The Case of Low-Income Malaysian Indians’, which is the only recent formal report available to me. The original was submitted to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) for the 9th Malaysia Plan as part of the CPPS submission. My only contribution is in how I have linked it to the Hindraf problem, and then requested a progress report on the prescribed solutions, made as far back as 1991.

Based on the report, why are some classes of low-income Indian Malaysians especially from the rubber plantation sector still considered second-class citizens? I find three reasons.

It is estimated, for instance, that about 20,000 Indian women do not have Malaysian citizenship even though newer entrants from Indonesia and the Philippines have secured similar privileges through marriage and other backdoor methods.

Unlike the resettlement of bumiputras via the Felda, Risda, Felcra land schemes, there were no resettlement programmes specifically for the Indians who made up 67 percent of all Malayans of Indian origin in 1966 and who were involved in the rubber plantation industry.

In 2000, these same people made up 80 percent of Indian Malaysians in the urban areas. Their unplanned and disorganised rural-urban migration made them fall through the cracks. No society can afford such a large group of marginalised citizens. Between 1980 and 2000, it was anticipated that about 300,000 workers were displaced directly as a result of the break-up of the plantations.

In terms of house ownership, it was estimated that more than 30 percent of the lower- income Indians do not own homes, when the national average for both Chinese and Malay non-ownership is 17.6 and 25.2 percent respectively.

Other social indicators are even more shocking. There were 21.1 suicides per 100,000 Indians compared to 8.6 and 2.6 for Chinese and Malays respectively. Of the 703 suspected criminals arrested and detained at the Simpang Renggam rehabilitation centre in 2005, 54 percent were Indians. When you factor that against the fact that Indians in total only make up 7.5 percent of the population, such a high representation becomes an even more serious issue!

The CPPS study concludes this section of the analysis with these words: “Studies in developed countries have shown a link between crime and inequality and indicated that groups and gangs involved in illegal activities are more likely to form where chances of achieving success legally are small. In many countries it has been found that crime rate climbed steeply in an environment of greater affluence combined with growing inequality and a winner/loser culture.”

Problems addressed?

Have we created a win-lose culture? Are these facts alarming? Is this not maybe the problem that we need to re-examine with new and unstained glasses? Is this what maybe the Hindraf leaders are calling “ethnic cleansing”? Again, let us not be confused by the technical and legal aspects of the terms they use. It is simply their equally interpretive language to attract the world’s attention. If they did get our attention, they have succeeded in their agenda.

To be sure this is not ethnic cleansing by accepted definition, but could we pause to hear what they are really saying? If in fact many temples were destroyed in a short period of time - especially if they were built more than 50 years ago - then it is absolutely unacceptable for anyone to destroy them without at least a court order. Their legality of existence can be a contentious issue based on the principle of operation of law. It is only when emotions run wild that disregard for rule of law and the abuse of the law prevails on all sides.

As early as in 1991, the NECC Report recognised the practical conditions of the poorer Indian Malaysian. It defined the core problems and proposed the following solutions:

• Estate workers must be given a fixed monthly wage.

• Kindergartens need to be opened in plantations.

• All partially-aided Tamil schools should be converted to fully-aided ones.

• Training programmes are required for workers and youth in plantations to improve their earning capacity.

• Indians should be enabled to set up a commercial bank, a finance institution and an insurance company.

• A trust fund should be created for Indians to obtain credit facilities to invest in the share market.

• A special scholarship fund is required for Indian students to attain tertiary education abroad.

• Affirmative action measures, similar to those used to assist the bumiputra community, are needed for the Indian community.

My question to the government and particularly the EPU is: how have these issues been addressed explicitly with a perspective of improving the lot of these poorer Indians? It is now three Malaysia Plans after these recommendations were made under the uniting battle-cries of ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ and ‘Vision 2020'.

If someone can describe the programmes and policies that address these concerns, then I think the issues raised by Hindraf are not valid. But if we now have to scamper to find sources or are unable to come up with answers, then it is obvious why such a large group of people shed their psychology of fear and marched into Kuala Lumpur.

Their cause must be big enough for them to indicate that enough is enough. We only need eyes to see and ears to hear! My prayer is that everyone will put on their thinking-cap. God Bless Malaysia."

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Church Based Theological Education 2008

CBTE: A consortium of churches in the Petaling Jaya area have banded together in partnership with the Malaysian Baptist Theological Seminary and others to conduct theological education on church premises. You may download the latest schedule here.

For more details pls contact doreen28@tm.net.my

Having attended some of the courses before, I believe they would go a long way towards alleviating widespread biblical illiteracy. Here is a sample lecture note from Dr Leong Tien Fock on the book of Genesis, courtesy of Alexa.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Christians Pray To Allah?

Just when you think the Cabinet has some sense left in them, the Sun reported that "ruled that restrictions on the use of the word “Allah” are still enforceable and thus Catholic weekly Herald cannot use the word although its printing licence has just been renewed".

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We can heave a sigh of relief now that the government has finally backpedalled on the decision to prohibit non-Muslims from using the word ‘Allah’. Although it probably is just a temporary reprieve from a policy that threatens religious freedom in the country, we may take this opportunity to promote mutual understanding and clear up some public misconceptions.

The Reluctant Writer represents many when he/she writes, "Prior to this, Muslim Malaysians truly did not know that Christian Malaysians pray to Allah. They have always thought that Christian Malaysians referred to their God as ‘Our Lord’, ‘Our Lord Jesus’ or ‘Christ’. I dare say that it is only now Muslim Malaysians are aware that Christian Malaysians pray to Allah. If that is indeed the case then just confirm the fact. Muslims can be taught to accept that, if indeed that is the case...Do Christian Malaysians, in all honesty, when they speak about Christianity in Malay call or refer to God as ‘Allah’?"

Although others have clarified that Christians in Sabah and Sarawak have indeed been using the word ‘Allah’ for a very long time, such widespread confusion deserves a more sustained and well-documented response. And who better to do it than Dr Ng Kam Weng of Kairos Research Center?

In his blog, Dr Ng explained "The historical evidence suggests that Quranic Arabic was a subset of Arabic language and literature in the Middle East at that time. It is also beyond dispute that ‘Allah’ was widely used by all monotheists in pre-Islamic Arabia...

It is because of the linguistic affinity between the term ‘Allah’ and other Semitic terms that Christian Arabs called the supreme God ‘Allah’ centuries before the appearance of Islam. Arab Christians continue to use ‘Allah’ today.

It is also true that historically, Christians in South East Asia have used ‘Allah’ to refer to the supreme God they worship. The earliest Christian writing in Malay, Kitab salat as-sawai (Christian prayers) was printed in Arabic type 1514. Christian catechisms in Malay were published around 1545. ‘Allah’ was used in the printed version of the Gospel of Matthew in Malay (1629) and the complete Malay Bible (1731-1733). (photos of 19th century Malay Bibles available here)

‘Allah’ as such has been used in the liturgy, prayers and worship among the Christian native peoples of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak from the very beginning when these churches were first established generations ago. The fact of the centuries-long usage of ‘Allah’ among native Christians bears importance significance to what is perhaps an unexpressed charge behind the Deputy Minister’s declaration, “We cannot let other religions [the context refers to Christianity] use it because it will confuse people.” That is to suggest that there is a hidden agenda when Christians use ‘Allah’ in their Scriptures, that is, to confuse Muslims.
But Malay-speaking Christians have already been using ‘Allah’ for centuries and there was never any suggestion that in using the term ‘Allah’ Christians were at any time confusing Muslims. Indeed, it may be argued that the existence of a common term ‘Allah’ facilitates communication and promotes mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims.

The Malayan Declaration of Independence (1957) provides an outstanding example of how common usage of ‘Allah’ builds mutual understanding. The Declaration of Independence begins with the phrase “Dengan nama Allah yang Maha Pemurah lagi Mengasihani, segala puji bagi Allah yang Maha Berkuasa.” The Declaration continues to affirm an agreement between the Queen and the Malay Rulers whereby Malaya was granted Independence. Obviously, the Declaration assumes that both the Queen of England (who is the head of Christianity in England) and the Malay Rulers could appeal to the same supreme God (‘Allah’) to ratify their agreement. The Deputy Minister ought to take note that there was no hint of any confusion regarding the Independence granted to Malaya."

On the history of the name "Allah"

...the term ‘Allah’ was the common term used to refer to the supreme God long before Islam existed. The evidence for this is supported by many authoritative reference works including the following:

“That the Arabs, before the time of Muhammad, accepted and worshipped, after a fashion, a supreme god called Allah – “the ilah” or the god, if the form is of genuine Arabic origin; if of Aramaic, from alaha, “the god” – seems absolute certain” (Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, ed., H. A. R. Gibb & J. H. Kramer, p. 33).
“The cult of a deity termed simply “the god” (al-ilah) was known throughout southern Syria and northern Arabia in the days before Islam… It seems equally certain that Allah was not merely a god in Mecca but was widely regarded as the “high god,” the chief and head of the Meccan pantheon,…Thus Allah was neither an unknown nor an unimportant deity to the Quraysh when Muhammad began preaching his worship at Mecca” (The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, ed. John L. Esposito, p 76-77).
The Japanese scholar Toshihiko Izutsu remarks that it is precisely because the name Allah was common to both the pagan Arabs and the Muslims that gave rise to the heated debates that arose between Muhammad and his adversaries. Likewise, Muhammad addressed his adversaries in the name of ‘Allah’ without bothering to explain what this name meant given their common understanding of ‘Allah’ as referring to the supreme God (God and Man in the Quran, Toshihiko Izutsu, pp. 100-117).