Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Agora Events



We covet your prayers for a few events coming up for Agora. Do feel free to join in or invite friends to attend if it is of interest.

Topic: Where do we come from?
A discussion on different Christian positions on science and Darwinism

Date: This coming Saturday (28 Feb 09)
Time: 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Venue: City Discipleship Presbyterian Church (CDPC)
W-10-2 Subang Square Business Center,
Jalan SS15/4g, Subang Jaya

Topic: Apologetics - Giving A Reason For Our Faith

Next Tuesday (3 Mac 09)
Time: 8 pm
Venue: Multimedia University Christian Fellowship,
Cyberjaya (Engineering Faculty)

Picture courtesy of this website

Thursday, February 19, 2009

God The Economist

The Alpha-Omega International College (formerly TCA Malaysia) is offering
the following block classes in March and April.

*Church in Society*
This course will study the purpose of the church and what makes it more or
less pleasing to God. Two themes, "holistic ministry" and the "kingdom of
God" will be highlighted. In addition, significant time will be spent
learning practical ways for the church to be a holistic witness to saving
grace of Jesus Christ in society.

Facilitator/Lecturer: *Karen Scott, PhD (Fuller)*
Monday - Friday (7:15pm - 10:45pm)
March 16 - 27
Text: Ron Sider, Philip Olson, and Heidi Unruh; *Churches That Make A
Difference: Reaching Your Community with Good News and Good Works*. Course
Reader

*God's Mission In Economic Life*
This course will challenge students to look at contemporary economic life
from God's perspective. Is the business world wicked and unspiritual? Why
are so many of God's people spending most of their waking hours working in
it What does God intend for this realm of life? Can it be used for His
redemptive purposes? For Christians not working in business, how should they
relate to the business world? What business principles are in use in
Christian organisations and why?

Facilitator/Lecturer: *Carol A. Christopher (PhD Candidate, Regent)*
Monday to Friday (7:15pm - 10:45pm)
April 20 - 30
Text: Douglas Meeks; *God the Economist: The Doctrine of God and the
Political Economy*

AOIC (Formerly known as TCA College (Malaysia)) is an Asia Thelogical
Association accredited Bible college located in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. It
is in collegial relationship with TCA College, Singapore and a member of the
National Evangelical Christian Fellowship.

Further details about AOIC and enrolment information can be found at
http://www.aoic.org.my/ or call +60 3 7880 7994

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And Then They Came For Me - Lasantha Wickramatunga

The following editorial was written by Lasantha Wickramatunga , one of Sri Lanka’s most respected journalists and the editor of one of Sri Lanka’s leading newspapers, The Sunday Leader. Less than two weeks after he wrote this piece, he was gunned down by unknown assailants and killed. His funeral was attended by thousands and had both national and international coverage. His funeral service in Colombo was held at The People’s Church … an Assemblies of God church that is Sri Lanka’s largest evangelical church. His editorial is well worth reading to the end, and I trust will prompt your prayers and response.

Editorial

And Then They Came For Me

No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.

I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009 will be The Sunday Leader's 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the greater part of that change has been for the worse. We find ourselves in the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty. Today it is the journalists, tomorrow it will be the judges. For neither group have the risks ever been higher or the stakes lower.

Why then do we do it? I often wonder that. After all, I too am a husband, and the father of three wonderful children. I too have responsibilities and obligations that transcend my profession, be it the law or journalism. Is it worth the risk? Many people tell me it is not. Friends tell me to revert to the bar, and goodness knows it offers a better and safer livelihood. Others, including political leaders on both sides, have at various times sought to induce me to take to politics, going so far as to offer me ministries of my choice. Diplomats, recognising the risk journalists face in Sri Lanka, have offered me safe passage and the right of residence in their countries. Whatever else I may have been stuck for, I have not been stuck for choice.
But there is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.

The Sunday Leader has been a controversial newspaper because we say it like we see it: whether it be a spade, a thief or a murderer, we call it by that name. We do not hide behind euphemism. The investigative articles we print are supported by documentary evidence thanks to the public-spiritedness of citizens who at great risk to themselves pass on this material to us. We have exposed scandal after scandal, and never once in these 15 years has anyone proved us wrong or successfully prosecuted us.

The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it.

Every newspaper has its angle, and we do not hide the fact that we have ours. Our commitment is to see Sri Lanka as a transparent, secular, liberal democracy. Think about those words, for they each has profound meaning. Transparent because government must be openly accountable to the people and never abuse their trust. Secular because in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society such as ours, secularism offers the only common ground by which we might all be united. Liberal because we recognise that all human beings are created different, and we need to accept others for what they are and not what we would like them to be. And democratic... well, if you need me to explain why that is important, you'd best stop buying this paper.

The Sunday Leader has never sought safety by unquestioningly articulating the majority view. Let's face it, that is the way to sell newspapers. On the contrary, as our opinion pieces over the years amply demonstrate, we often voice ideas that many people find distasteful. For example, we have consistently espoused the view that while separatist terrorism must be eradicated, it is more important to address the root causes of terrorism, and urged government to view Sri Lanka's ethnic strife in the context of history and not through the telescope of terrorism. We have also agitated against state terrorism in the so-called war against terror, and made no secret of our horror that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world routinely to bomb its own citizens. For these views we have been labelled traitors, and if this be treachery, we wear that label proudly.

Many people suspect that The Sunday Leader has a political agenda: it does not. If we appear more critical of the government than of the opposition it is only because we believe that - pray excuse cricketing argot - there is no point in bowling to the fielding side. Remember that for the few years of our existence in which the UNP was in office, we proved to be the biggest thorn in its flesh, exposing excess and corruption wherever it occurred. Indeed, the steady stream of embarrassing expos‚s we published may well have served to precipitate the downfall of that government.

Neither should our distaste for the war be interpreted to mean that we support the Tigers. The LTTE are among the most ruthless and bloodthirsty organisations ever to have infested the planet. There is no gainsaying that it must be eradicated. But to do so by violating the rights of Tamil citizens, bombing and shooting them mercilessly, is not only wrong but shames the Sinhalese, whose claim to be custodians of the dhamma is forever called into question by this savagery, much of which is unknown to the public because of censorship.

What is more, a military occupation of the country's north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self respect. Do not imagine that you can placate them by showering "development" and "reconstruction" on them in the post-war era. The wounds of war will scar them forever, and you will also have an even more bitter and hateful Diaspora to contend with. A problem amenable to a political solution will thus become a festering wound that will yield strife for all eternity. If I seem angry and frustrated, it is only because most of my countrymen - and all of the government - cannot see this writing so plainly on the wall.

It is well known that I was on two occasions brutally assaulted, while on another my house was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Despite the government's sanctimonious assurances, there was never a serious police inquiry into the perpetrators of these attacks, and the attackers were never apprehended. In all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.

The irony in this is that, unknown to most of the public, Mahinda and I have been friends for more than a quarter century. Indeed, I suspect that I am one of the few people remaining who routinely addresses him by his first name and uses the familiar Sinhala address oya when talking to him. Although I do not attend the meetings he periodically holds for newspaper editors, hardly a month passes when we do not meet, privately or with a few close friends present, late at night at President's House. There we swap yarns, discuss politics and joke about the good old days. A few remarks to him would therefore be in order here.

Mahinda, when you finally fought your way to the SLFP presidential nomination in 2005, nowhere were you welcomed more warmly than in this column. Indeed, we broke with a decade of tradition by referring to you throughout by your first name. So well known were your commitments to human rights and liberal values that we ushered you in like a breath of fresh air. Then, through an act of folly, you got yourself involved in the Helping Hambantota scandal. It was after a lot of soul-searching that we broke the story, at the same time urging you to return the money. By the time you did so several weeks later, a great blow had been struck to your reputation. It is one you are still trying to live down.

You have told me yourself that you were not greedy for the presidency. You did not have to hanker after it: it fell into your lap. You have told me that your sons are your greatest joy, and that you love spending time with them, leaving your brothers to operate the machinery of state. Now, it is clear to all who will see that that machinery has operated so well that my sons and daughter do not themselves have a father.

In the wake of my death I know you will make all the usual sanctimonious noises and call upon the police to hold a swift and thorough inquiry. But like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one, too. For truth be told, we both know who will be behind my death, but dare not call his name. Not just my life, but yours too, depends on it.

Sadly, for all the dreams you had for our country in your younger days, in just three years you have reduced it to rubble. In the name of patriotism you have trampled on human rights, nurtured unbridled corruption and squandered public money like no other President before you. Indeed, your conduct has been like a small child suddenly let loose in a toyshop. That analogy is perhaps inapt because no child could have caused so much blood to be spilled on this land as you have, or trampled on the rights of its citizens as you do. Although you are now so drunk with power that you cannot see it, you will come to regret your sons having so rich an inheritance of blood. It can only bring tragedy. As for me, it is with a clear conscience that I go to meet my Maker. I wish, when your time finally comes, you could do the same. I wish.

As for me, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I walked tall and bowed to no man. And I have not travelled this journey alone. Fellow journalists in other branches of the media walked with me: most of them are now dead, imprisoned without trial or exiled in far-off lands. Others walk in the shadow of death that your Presidency has cast on the freedoms for which you once fought so hard. You will never be allowed to forget that my death took place under your watch. As anguished as I know you will be, I also know that you will have no choice but to protect my killers: you will see to it that the guilty one is never convicted. You have no choice. I feel sorry for you, and Shiranthi will have a long time to spend on her knees when next she goes for Confession for it is not just her owns sins which she must confess, but those of her extended family that keeps you in office.

As for the readers of The Sunday Leader, what can I say but Thank You for supporting our mission. We have espoused unpopular causes, stood up for those too feeble to stand up for themselves, locked horns with the high and mighty so swollen with power that they have forgotten their roots, exposed corruption and the waste of your hard-earned tax rupees, and made sure that whatever the propaganda of the day, you were allowed to hear a contrary view. For this I - and my family - have now paid the price that I have long known I will one day have to pay. I am - and have always been - ready for that. I have done nothing to prevent this outcome: no security, no precautions. I want my murderer to know that I am not a coward like he is, hiding behind human shields while condemning thousands of innocents to death. What am I among so many? It has long been written that my life would be taken, and by whom. All that remains to be written is when.

That The Sunday Leader will continue fighting the good fight, too, is written. For I did not fight this fight alone. Many more of us have to be - and will be - killed before The Leader is laid to rest. I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland. I also hope it will open the eyes of your President to the fact that however many are slaughtered in the name of patriotism, the human spirit will endure and flourish. Not all the Rajapakses combined can kill that.

People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted. An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niem”ller. In his youth he was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, however, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niem”ller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, Niem”ller wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: The Leader is there for you, be you Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, low-caste, homosexual, dissident or disabled. Its staff will fight on, unbowed and unafraid, with the courage to which you have become accustomed. Do not take that commitment for granted. Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you. Whether you deserve their sacrifice is another matter. As for me, God knows I tried.

©Leader Publications (Pvt) Ltd.
24, Katukurunduwatte Road, Ratmalana Sri Lanka
Tel : +94-75-365891,2 Fax : +94-75-365891
email : editor@thesundayleader.lk

Monday, February 16, 2009

Economic Sufficiency and Justice



By Ho Sui-Jade

Economic life in all its ramifications is of profound ethical significance.
This is so because of scarcity which gives rise to conflict, because of
interdependence which creates mutual obligations, because of the wide
range of values sought through economic activity, and because of the
significance for human life of the economic process itself.

Howard Bowen

Background on areas of study

One of the greatest scandals in the world is the growing gap between rich and poor, both at the international level and within individual countries. Indeed, this trend has been prevalent since time immemorial. Members of society have commonly been divided according to their wealth status as the “haves” and “have-nots”.

The concern for the poor is at the very heart of God. For it was Jesus himself who deeply empathised with the cause of the poor, when he said “for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink...I needed clothes and you clothed me….Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt 25:35-40).

In Scripture, economic concerns and acts of justice are woven intricately together.
Central in this witness is the call to Jubilee. This call is firstly, an acknowledgement that the world created by God is abundant with enough for everyone, as long as mankind restrains his appetite and lives within limits. Situations of extreme economic insufficiency in pockets of society are not natural but the product of sin with man turning against the biblical mandate of caring for the poor. Hence, the second call to Jubilee is a call to redemption – to rectify serious deprivations in the socio-economic order and to set forth the mandate for spiritual renewal and faithfulness to the Lord.

Read the full article here
Photo courtesy of EPU

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Christianity & Science In Plain Language

We Just Can't Do As We Please!



Selected excerpts from From Vantagepoint
by Melissa Ong, a filmmaker engaged in conservation work zooms in on the need for creation restoration and encourages all to get involved!

THE ENCOUNTER WITH A ROCHA
A Rocha (Portuguese for "the rock") is an international Christian conservation NGO working to show God's love for all creation. When I first found A Rocha through Google on the Internet, it was like finding my long lost family and I just had to work for them. The other search results were disappointing. Basically, a whole lot of Christians condemned the movement as unbiblical, a form of new age spirituality, and connected to worship of Gaia. A Rocha turned out to be very biblical, totally legit, and they didn't just talk about creation care, but actually did practical conservation work. I was so happy (my husband, Dan, said I was jumping up and down). I didn't feel alone anymore!

That was 2003. I had been in the local television industry for about eight years writing and directing TV programs and documentaries. I loved making shows about Singapore's natural heritage and the environment. A turning point came when I was in Japan for another environmental series for youths. I felt really moved by the Japanese activists who were doing amazing work and I couldn't help but ask myself, "Why aren't Christians doing something about the environment? We are supposed to be stewards, right? What does the Bible really say about the new creation?"

Immediately, A Rocha (AR) got an email from me: "Do you have a media department? I would like to make films for AR." At that time, I had just resigned from my job as an Executive Producer at a production house and I wanted to give more time to missions and conservation. Well, they didn't have a media department, but Peter Harris, the founder of AR wrote to encourage me and also sent his book Under The Bright Wings. It's the story of how AR started in Southern Portugal. This book changed my life because it articulated something I felt for deeply, but didn't have the theology or language to express. A year later, Peter and his wife Miranda invited Dan and I to join the AR International team as volunteer filmmakers for one year. By then, we had met in Singapore, organized a little AR conference at the Singapore Bible College and gone to Bangkok together to run an AR booth at the Third IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2004. We had become dear friends.

So Dan and I raised our financial support through friends, bought camera equipment, and a souped-up laptop for video editing. In March 2005, our church sent us off on an itinerant life which has led us to France, Portugal, UK, Kenya, and Canada to film what God was doing to restore His creation. It's a dream come true to serve God in this way.


HOW TO GET INVOLVED
If you'd like to know how you can support or partner with us in our work (communications and creating Chinese resources), we'd love to hear from you. It would be wonderful to see an AR community group start in Singapore.

We need to ask ourselves: How can we be better stewards of God's creation? How can we love our neighbor? Who is our neighbor? In the environmental crisis, the poorest people are most at risk. It can be quite overwhelming. Where do we start? Shopping and eating are a big part of Singaporean culture. I'd like Singaporeans to be more connected to where their food comes from and for Christians to eat responsibly as a spiritual discipline. Can we ask the Holy Spirit to show us how we can shop and eat in ways that honor communities and places? It's important to ask where does this come from? How was it grown, produced or reared? Do I need to buy this new thing or can I borrow it, fix the old item or stick with what I already have?

You don't have to be a field biologist to volunteer in A Rocha although we do need them! When Dan and I were in Canada, there was a colorful mix of volunteers: those who helped in the Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) project and worked in the organic vegetable garden, businessmen who gave good advice, people who fixed the lawn-mower, carpenters, helpers in environmental education with the kids, children who weeded, and environmental studies students doing surveys.

Like all charities, A Rocha also needs people who can give or know of others who can. I would be happy to exchange emails, meet with people, go to home groups, and to show the A Rocha films.

"If God is really at the center of things and God's good future is the most certain reality, then the truly realistic course of action is to buck the dominant consequentialist ethic of our age - which says that one should act only if one's action will mostly likely bring about good consequences - and simply, because we are people who embody the virtue of hope, do the right thing... Our vocation is not contingent on results or the state of the planet. It is simply dependent on our character as God's response-able human image-bearers." - Steven Bouma-Prediger

Melissa Ong and her husband Dan Tay are a filmmaking team based with A Rocha in Singapore. Melissa produces video tools for A Rocha teams (find them on our Creation Care video resources page). They are also making A Rocha's work known amongst Chinese-speaking audiences. You can contact her at melissa.ong@arocha.org.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Befrienders for the Marginalized



Edmund Smith would like to share this video with you for use in your homeschool / church / ministry / home-cell etc … when/if you are ministering or teaching in the area of homosexual and the exgay lifestyle.

One Conversation At A Time

Edward Ling could only lie in bed after hurting himself in a football game. With nothing to do, he wondered about what to do with his young life. (photo courtesy of Akalminda)

Then an iBridge friend came to visit, and they began to talk about Malaysian politics and their responsibility as Christians for justice and truth and mercy. The conversation inspired him to sign up in a political party, and later encouraged a like-minded ex-school mate to do likewise.

That person turned out to be Hannah Yeoh, and the rest is Subang history. She had this to say about her political secretary who has since recovered from his football injury:

"For those who do not know, Edward Ling played a key role in inspiring me to register myself as a voter prior to March 2008. His interest in politics started when he was still in school. He would read the newspapers more than his textbooks and that passion never ceased. Returning from Australia after obtaining his degree, he began to seriously consider how he could make a difference in our nation's politics. He would speak to his friends over coffee on the effect of corruption and danger of being indifferent. I was one of them at such coffee sessions. Sometimes, a single act of encouraging someone to do something small yet positive could lead to something way greater than what you can ever ask or imagine."

How true! And the person who visited his bed-ridden friend that day was John Chung who co-started the Agora and will be doing a talk on political involvement for RZIM soon. You'd never know the domino effect of every random act of kindness or conversation...

In an interview from his blog, Edward Ling (young politician/activist) was asked, "How does your Christian faith and worldview inform your politics? Are there specific Biblical references or teaching your draw from in your work?"

Check out his reply: "Well, the Bible speaks a lot about governance. The Bible speaks very much about God’s instruction to man on how to govern. Take numbers/leviticus/exodus for example.

John Chung was instrumental in helping me realize how easy it was to be involved.

You can read more about Christian involvement here:
Politics, Why Bother? By John Chung"

Great advice!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Political Realities in Malaysia

by Rev. Wong Fong Yang



Everyone in Malaysia is talking about the new political realities after the General Election in which the Barisan National, the ruling party was dented in its ego.

The new political realities: Umno's dominance is crippled. Its invincibility is exposed. Umno like the proverbial emperor is without clothes.

BN has never lost two third of Parliament seats but it did. Worst, BN lost 5 states to the opposition party, which is unprecedented. BN leaders wanted honest and brutal post mortem so that they could win back the hearts of the people. But whom are they hearing from?

The Barisan Rakyat is euphoric and in cloud nine and the Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng and Menteri Besar of Selangor, Khalid had implemented clear policy of transparency and integrity. All tenders must be open tenders and for public view and scrutiny. It is to be totally above board. They are on the right track so far. But will power corrupt them eventually? Time will tell.

The arrogance as epitomized by wielding the keris at the Umno General Assembly, the blatant corruption at high places, the unfairness of awarding government contracts without open tenders and many other factors led to the downfall of BN. Umno Putra have benefited from the power of the ruling government. The Bumi Putra are resenting against the Umno Putra. Even Malays are not happy with the government. The swing votes were telling sign of protest.

Many Hindus temples were demolished, the poor Indians were marginalized and the pent up feelings finally exploded and shocked the nation. Social injustice as experienced by the minority Indians had brought about Hindraf rally- a tipping point that toppled Samy Vellu and brought about Tsunami effect in the General Election.

Churches and Christians have been harassed by the little Napoleans – banning the use of God's name Allah, banning of Christian books and literature which use the name Allah, demolition of Orang Asli church buildings. Christians have been denied legitimate places of worship. Fairness and justice is just empty slogan. Malaysia is a pluralistic society and not an Islamic republic.

The local councils are corrupted and incompetent. They shut their ears to the voice of protest by the Rakyat.

These days our RM $50 have shrunk.

My reflection on political realities:

The race-based policy by ruling party has been rejected by the Rakyat. Christians cannot go along with such ethos, as it is unbiblical.

Leaders whether political or religious are not to be self-serving but to serve others. If there is ambition in leadership, it must be ambition to serve others. The worldly system thinks of greatness in terms of mastery and rule, in God's kingdom, greatness is manifested in service. The way forward for BN and BR is to be humble in lowly service, to fear God and to be uncorrupted.

The greatness of a nation is not in its wealth or superiority in weaponry nor technological advances but how it reaches out and take care of the minority, the poor, the destitute, the marginalized regardless of race, creed or religion. Righteousness exalts a nation. Therefore national leaders must do what is right in the sight of God. Church must take the lead to share its wealth with the poor.

The Church must be awakened to its role in nation building. More Christians must participate in Public Square. Christians must be encouraged to take up politics as a vocation.

Church leaders must teach political theology and good governance to Christians. Church to model good governance and structure and practice.

Christians must learn the moral courage and moral vision of great men and women who brought changes to their nations (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nelson Mandela, Aleksandar Solzhenitsyn, Ghandi, Aung San Suu Kyi…)

Church must see itself as an NGO that can play significant role in society.

Civil Society can act as check and balance for the government through wise and righteous policy.

Ordinary Rakyat can be a voice of conscience to the nation.

God can use righteous, fair-minded non-Christians to speak up against injustices.

Christians need to learn how to work alongside people of different faiths for the common good of society.

Racial integration and reconciliation are possible and Christians must take the lead by loving people and communities unconditionally.

Human hearts are corrupted. The depravity of sin is present in every human heart. Everyone needs the gospel. Evil structure and institution can only be changed when human hearts are transformed by the gospel.

We need to pray unceasingly for our nation.

Monday, February 09, 2009

A Rocha: Christians In Conservation



Husband and wife team Daniel and Melissa were in CDPC recently to introduce their work in A Rocha, a conservation organisation with a Christian ethos. It is presently (2008) in 18 countries worldwide, where it undertakes scientific studies, and engages communities in conservation work and environmental education. I'm happy that some church member(s) who have read Total Truth were inspired to explore this ministry.

Why Christians in conservation?
There are at least four good reasons for Christians to be involved in conservation.

Love
Christians believe that God made the world. When we make something, whether it be as life-changing as giving birth, or as quick as sketching a picture, we care about what happens to our creation. So it's easy for us to understand that God cares deeply about all his creation. The Bible makes this clear in many passages, e.g. Psalm 50, verses 10 & 11, where God says "every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine." Studying, thankfully enjoying and caring for the world that God has so wonderfully made is an obvious way for us to show our love for him.

Obedience
Christians are called to obey God in every part of their lives. In the Bible, we find that the first wish expressed by God, concerning men and women, was that they would rule over "the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground" in a way that reflects his own image. Not just his power, but his unselfish love, mercy and tender compassion. Tragically, because we are human, and sinful, our rule has often been characterised by cruelty, greed and short-sightedness, but this was clearly not God's intention. If we desire to obey God, then we must look for ways in which we can be good and responsible stewards of the natural world.

Justice
The environment is an issue of justice. Often it is the poor who suffer first when the environment is damaged.

Hope
Those who care about the environment can easily become depressed. The news is so often profoundly disturbing: the destruction of forests, the disintegration of coral reefs, the extinction of species, over-fishing, global warming and a multitude of other disasters and gloomy forecasts can cause us to wonder if there is any point in even trying to take action. But the Bible provides much-needed grounds for hope. The Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Hosea foretell a time of human and environmental harmony. In the New Testament, Jesus is described not just as the Saviour of fallen mankind, but as the one for whom all creation was made - and as the one through whom all creation will one day "be liberated from its bondage to decay" (Colossians 1, verses 15-17; Romans 8, verses 19-23). We do not know how all this will be accomplished, but we are given motivation and hope. We can be sure that the Almighty God who created and sustains his world wants all his people to be actively involved in his great plan to redeem the whole of creation.

This is just a brief introduction to the biblical basis of A Rocha's work.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Forum: Christianity & Science In Plain Language



Ron Choong: "I left my home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for London in 1984 to read law in preparation for a legal career. There, my personal faith in Jesus underwent a vital transformation. I saw the need to renew not just my heart but my mind. I began to read the Bible seriously. In renewing my mind for God, I noted the inherent challenges scholars and marketplace professionals face. How can Christians reconcile their personal faith with their world of politics, business, the sciences and the humanities?

Sensing a call to an evangelistic ministry to fellow international scholars, I came to New York and started International Student Ministry: ‘to serve locally while reaching globally’. As our ministry footprint expanded, ISM became ACT, with a fresh mission. I invite you to join us in this exciting enterprise to equip the church through discipleship of the mind to worship God."

Ron founded ACT Ministry and read law, the natural sciences, international relations, the humanities and theology in Great Britain and the United States. His academic training includes BA (Open, UK), LLB Hons. (London), MDiv, ThM (Princeton Seminary), STM (Yale) and PhD (Princeton Seminary).

He will be doing a forum on Christianity And Science which will be followed by an interactive questions and answers with participants:

Venue: City Discipleship Presbyterian Church (map at link)
Date: 21 February 2009 (Saturday)
Time: 6 pm
All are welcome. Free of charge.

There will be two more forums on the following:

1. What Every Christian Ought to Know About Islam
2. Christianity, Evolution, & Evolutionism in Plain Language

It will on Monday (Feb 16), 8 pm at CBC Sea Park, PJ. Free of charge, although a free will offering will be collected after.



"Christian theology through the Church ought to welcome responsible articulations of scientific knowledge as natural scientists within and without the Church discovers (investigates) divine disclosure (revelation). If science is discovery and theology is confessional, knowledge can only assume the status of wisdom when it becomes understanding. Mere knowledge shaped by wisdom provides true understanding.

For example, science alone explains the composition of the human material self so that we can maintain our lives but does not comfort our desire to find the meaning of life (so religion became the most persistent and consistent act of human culture). Theology alone teaches us that we were made from created dust for fellowship with God, but without science, we cannot maintain our existence for very long (if for example, we do not learn to abstain from poison or forget how to feed ourselves). The knowledge from science coupled with the wisdom of the scriptural theology helps us understand why we exist as we do at all, carbon-based auto-poietic reproducing pods of chemicals which cognize.

The Christian commitment to its convictional confession (CCC), must lie at the center of any discovery of divine disclosure (DDD), which includes both the natural sciences and the non-natural sciences. From such an integration of knowledge (‘what, why and how” questions) springs forth the resources for wisdom (“why” questions) to announce the Good News that Christ has come, Christ has risen, Christ is Lord indeed."

Diversity In Church

Philip Yancey writes: "As I read accounts of the New Testament church, no characteristic stands out more sharply than [diversity]. Beginning with Pentecost, the Christian church dismantled the barriers of gender, race, and social class that had marked Jewish congregations. Paul, who as a rabbi had given thanks daily that he was not born a woman, slave, or Gentile, marveled over the radical change: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

One modern Indian pastor told me, "Most of what happens in Christian churches, including even miracles, can be duplicated in Hindu and Muslim congregations. But in my area only Christians strive, however ineptly, to mix men and women of different castes, races, and social groups. That's the real miracle."

("Denominational Diagnostics," Christianity Today, November 2008)

Can this be said in our local congregations in pluralistic Malaysia?