Sunday, December 26, 2010

Looking Back on 2010

As a tradition of sorts, I would recount with thanksgiving some of the events/projects the Agora has been privileged to be a part of for the year 2010.

January started with disturbing news of arson attacks on churches and surau around the country. It was a teaching moment to the Sermon on the Mount message on Loving The Enemy (delivered earlier in CDPC Subang) and translating some official statements and this article by Farish Noor "Kepala Khinzir, Kepala Lembu Dan Kepala Raksasa Di Kalangan Kita" to call for calm and not to give in to these irresponsible provocations.
 
This is the way of the cross. This is how we setup signposts of the Kingdom that points to a different way of being human. Not through hatred but through love for our enemies. It was also an opportunity to assist Kairos in disseminating information regarding the usage of the word "Allah" amongst Bahasa-speaking Christians.
 

2010 is a milestone of sorts because I am now part of the church planting team in Puchong. I had the honor of drafting out a summary of the gospel for the CDPC Puchong website.

In February, from the initiatives of Kar Yong and Chai Hock, I learnt the joys of writing short Lent devotionals based on a few Romans passages on faith, mortification, perseverance in grace and the Resurrection (Easter Sunday).

In March, I took leave to address the student fellowship at University Malaya on the topic of apologetics. Managed to make some connections from 1 Peter 3:15 injunction to sanctify Christ as Lord to the climate of concern and uncertainty during that time. PKV has a special place in the history of Agora.

One of the highlights of 2010 was participation at an Interfaith Forum at International Medical University (IMU) on the topic "Purpose of Life". It was like a privilege to share the panel with distinguished speakers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism and of course, Bro Shah Kirit representing Islam. The questions and answers session was stimulating and cordial, I was relieved the atmosphere was not as tensed as the previous ones I've witnessed.

After flying back from a business trip in Vietnam, I drove up Cameron Highlands for the CPDC youth retreat to address the topic - "Be Yourself". Learnt a couple of new things there... I have become used to speaking with full written texts for some time now, as opposed to the more free, impromptu style adopted in earlier forays into public speaking. It worked in CDPC sermon contexts, but in an more informal youth camp setting, it needs some major adjustments. Need to learn to be more flexible and give myself more time to be familiar with the mood/environment. Also, I have become more and more indebted to Tim Keller's approach to apologetics, gospel-centeredness and cultural analysis as evidenced in the message content.

Delivering an Easter message at an Orang Asli village was the second time in my life to give a mini-sermon in Bahasa Malaysia. But the first one was an impromptu, 2-minute attempt during college days before a group of East Malaysian soldiers (who providentially walked into the campsite) so that hardly counts. If I had more time, I wish to do more translation work in Bahasa.

While continuing my studies at Malaysia Bible Seminary, I managed to get Rev Loh Soon Choy to teach me on Modern Theology even though he retired. In April, I handed in my assignments on Karl Barth, Liberation Theology, Pannenberg and early liberal theology.

Agora partnership with Kairos continues with article contributions to the bimonthly magazine - on the topic of Creation Care and Recovering the Biblical Text. The latter was pretty tough as it touches on two weighty issues of textual criticism and translation philosophies. I was about to throw in the towel as the deadline looms. Somehow I was sent on an assignment in Kuching which required me to be on standby until 4 am! (That was the blessing in disguise that allowed me to complete it in time)

In August, Elder Chew contacted me to speak on apologetics and cultural engagement (salt and light) at Klang Presbyterian Church. It was to be a partnership that continues on into 2011.

In CDPC Puchong (home base), I am grateful that lay preachers like myself get the opportunity to address self-chosen topics like Rojak Spirituality (pluralism-September), Hungering God and Discover Your Life Calling (November). Especially meaningful was the small group discussions facilitated by Alvin Ung that followed the sermon on vocation discernment. We learn how to listen to each other and share what gives us joy/pain so as to help each other to discern our calling.

In October I was happy to promote the MICAS Christian art exhibition in Cheras but only able to view this year's offering on the last day. Wished I could have attended the launch but family commitments are different now that little Zhen is 1.5 years old.

It was also a great privilege to discuss Reformed theology for four sessions at Meng's cell group gathering and doing bible study on Romans with the youth group in CDPC Puchong. It was no small feat to complete reading the epistle in about 7 months or so. Made a trip back to CDPC Subang youth group on Common Misconceptions people have about the Christian faith.

That brings us to December - returning to d'Nous Academy after 3-year cycle to do four-session introduction to Worldview is another highlight for the year 2010. Especially loved the interactions and questions between breaks and over meals. I feel most alive doing this kind of thing.

Most encouraging is their Thank you card which had these comments that made all the time and effort worthwhile:

- "Thank you for answering my questions. I really enjoyed your lessons"
- "...the study group was very interactive and exciting" (assigned them to talk abt a movie's worldview)
- "you make my doubts clear and I'll treasure it"...
Thank you, Lord, for the opportunities and strength You gave that made all these possible. Help me grow in wisdom, diligence and skill.
 
And... Thank You - all readers, forum participants, blog contributors, ministry partners, prayer supporters, downloaders, forwarders, lurkers etc. You have been a great encouragement to me as well.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Some Reflections on dNous 2010

I had the pleasure to spend two days with a group of teens at dNous Academy camp at Seminari Teologi Malaysia, Seremban discussing the Christian worldview (scripts/slides below). The informal conversations with the youths were most stimulating and challenging (I must say!)... It's moments like these that make all the hours poured into reading and research worthwhile.

Looking back, I wish I could give more time and detail to some of the questions raised and that I had been more prepared as well (i.e. on the question of sex selection). So here is an opportunity for me to provide some possible resources for anyone who is interested to explore more.

1) For those keen on cultural stuffs, check out Damaris Culture watch which provides a Christian perspective on the latest movie, song, book etc


2) The issue of homosexuality is 'hot'... students want to know how should Christians respond and whether it is genetically determined ("born that way"? "hard to control/suppress"?). I highlighted Real Love Ministry and Pursuing Liberty under Christ in Malaysia that provides practical support to gays with compassion and hope as examples of how Christians could respond. Below are two helpful articles from Bethinking.org

Why do Christians Hate Homosexuals?

Determined Homosexuality?

3) Another group of popular questions revolve around bioethics - 'what about sex selection of babies?'  Did some Google and found this article from Probe.org to be quite balanced yet cautious


4) Relationship between faith and science is also a hot topic. Is Big Bang a problem for Christian faith? On the contrary, I think it could be understood as supporting the Christian belief in a finite universe.

The article below is a bit technical on the science side of things, but try jumping to the last few paragraphs where the conclusions are.

God And Big Bang Models

Bethinking also has balanced articles from both sides of the debate on evolution. Check it out here



5) I also wished I had more time to discuss biblical passages on the 'new heaven and new earth' (Revelation 21) so here is a good summary of a book called "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn. It also answers common questions like "Will dogs go to heaven?" You can download free chapters of the book here

Basically, the earth as it is now will not remain forever but will pass away.

The passage in 2 Peter 3:6-13 seem to imply that the present world will be subjected to judgment by fire but would ultimately result in the new heaven and the new earth. John Piper writes, “When Revelation 21:1 and 2 Peter 3:10 say that the present earth and heavens will ‘pass away,’ it does not have to mean that they go out of existence, but may mean that there will be such a change in them that their present condition passes away. We might say, ‘The caterpillar passes away, and the butterfly emerges.’ There is a real passing away, and there is a real continuity, a real connection.”

Through fire, the present universe will be refined, restored, renewed and transformed into the new one. Just as the old world was destroyed by the Flood and the present world arose out of it, so also would the present world be dissolved by fire to give rise to a purified new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:5-7).

God did not create the physical world only to annihilate or abandon it. Rather, He will completely transform and rescue the present fallen universe. "We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth" (2 Peter ). There are two Greek words for the word "new": Neos means “new in time or origin” while kainos means “new in nature or quality”.

Here Peter uses kainos to denote that the present heaven and earth will be changed in its nature. We see the same meaning in 2 Corinthians , “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new (kainos) creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (kainos).” It means that the same person who is regenerated will be radically transformed, rather than being replaced by someone else.

When many people think of the resurrection, they also think of those popular cartoon sketches of people floating around in fluffy clouds, wearing white gowns with a harp in their hand and a halo on their head. The idea is to escape as a ghost-like spirit from this physical world. It creates a mentality where we withdraw from life and passively wait for the afterlife.  
But the Christian hope of eternal life is not about running away from reality. We look forward to a resurrection just like Jesus’ where we will be raised to life in a glorified body. What God has done in Christ on Easter morning, He would do on a cosmic scale for the entire creation, including us! In the meantime, we are to live today as if the future is already present. The way we live should point forward to what God’s reign in its future fullness would look like. Therefore we have every reason and motivation to care for creation today!

“As God may gather the scattered DNA and atoms and molecules of our bodies, he will regather all he needs of the scorched and disfigured Earth. As our old bodies will be raised to new bodies, so the old Earth will be raised to become the New Earth. So, will the earth be destroyed or renewed? The answer is both—but the “destruction” will be temporal and partial, whereas the renewal will be eternal and complete.” (Randy Alcorn, “Heaven”)


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Destiny: Where Are We Going?

Secular vs Sacred Divide

We have come to the final worldview question: Where are we going? Is human history heading somewhere or is it going in an endless, meaningless cycle?

In the passage we read just now, we follow the events after the death of Jesus. On the third day, his tomb was empty! And now Christ appeared right before the disciples’ surprised eyes. Filled with fear and doubt, the best theory His disciples could come up with was that they have seen a ghost! (Luke 24:37) So Jesus shows them His very physical hands and feet, “Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones”. Still they remain stunned in joy and amazement. Then Jesus gave them the ultimate evidence.

“Er… You’ve got anything here to eat?”

And the risen Lord of the universe munched down a piece of “ikan bakar” right in front of their eyes (Luke 24:42). His resurrected body is capable of swallowing food neatly unlike those messy ghosts we find in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. This is no phantom. He is back – with muscles, bones and a functioning stomach. All over the world, Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. But what does the resurrection mean for us today?

When many people think of the resurrection, they are actually thinking of life after death in heaven. Like those popular cartoon sketches of people floating around in fluffy clouds, wearing white gowns with a harp in their hand and a halo on their head. The idea is to escape from this physical world. Life on this earth is just a temporary transit station to a disembodied state of bliss somewhere else. Only the spirit minus the body survives death. But this state of being is only temporary for those who died and awaits the final resurrection. It is not the ultimate or permanent hope for Christians.

And the danger of misunderstanding the meaning of resurrection is we can be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. It creates a mentality where we withdraw from life and passively wait for the afterlife. Some people see the poor oppressed and the environment destroyed and they shrug and say, “Oh well, this world’s gonna burn anyway so I just wait for my time to go to heaven.” Or in some worldviews, after we die, we just get reincarnated as an animal or a less fortunate person if our sins or karmic debt is great. “Why should I help these suffering people if they are only getting what their karma deserved anyway? If I help them, it means they will suffer even longer”. No wonder many people see religion as a drug that makes us insensitive to pain and oppression happening around the world.

But the Christian hope of eternal life is not like that. It is not about running away from reality. Our final hope is a resurrected spiritual body. Our ultimate future is a new heaven and a new earth. This world we live in will be renewed, transformed and restored. It won’t be abandoned or left to rot. So we look forward to a resurrection just like Jesus’ where we will be raised to life in an incorruptible and glorified body. (Not as a ghostly, floating apparition!) And God did not create the physical world only to annihilate or abandon it. Rather, He will completely transform and rescue the present fallen universe. Through fire, the present universe will be refined, restored, renewed and transformed into the new one. Just as the caterpillar passes away and the butterfly emerges; so also would the present world be dissolved by fire to give rise to a purified new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:5-7).

What God has done in Christ on Easter morning, He would do on a cosmic scale for the entire creation, including us. There will be no more sorrow, sickness, decay or violence for God will wipe away every tear and restore all that is good. We can expect to be stewards in His renewed universe and priests who glorify and enjoy God’s presence forever. C.S. Lewis described the future redeemed world to be more substantial, more tangible and more solid than the world as we know it. You see, the Christian worldview values the material world and the human body much more than other worldviews which treat the world and body as an illusion or evil.

Because God himself took on physical flesh and blood and invaded this planet 2000 years ago, we long to see the presence of God's kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We live in the interim period between the coming of God’s kingdom already present in the world and the future, not-yet fullness of that Kingdom. And while we wait for that glorious day, we can start practicing right now! In the meantime, we are to live today as if the future is already present. The way we go about our daily chores, prayers and worship are to be signposts pointing forward to what God’s reign in its future fullness would look like.

So the church community is like a movie preview: We are to display some hints, clues, glimpses or foretastes of the actual movie so people will look at us and go, “Wow! I want to see the complete show!” New Creation: Akan datang. Coming soon to a planet near you… Lesslie Newbigin said, “The church is the bearer to all the nations of a gospel that announces the kingdom, the reign, and the sovereignty of God. It calls men and women to repent of their false loyalty to other powers, to become believers in the one true (king) and so to become corporately a sign, instrument and foretaste of the sovereignty of the one true and living God over all nature, all nations, and all human lives. It is not meant to call men and women out of the world into a safe religious enclave but to call them out in order to send them back as agents of God’s kingship”.

Now, how would that look like? Let me trace out the practical implications of the biblical view of human destiny as resurrection and a renewed heaven and earth.

1) It means that Christians, of all people, have the strongest motivation to be involved in transforming the world with justice, healing and mercy. If we do not have a God-centered worldview, we can get so easily discouraged and despaired: What’s the point? The ecological and social problems in the world are so huge. What I do won't make any difference.” But if we have a worldview of human destiny that is meaningful, we know that God will put things to right. If the present creation and our bodies will not be forsaken but ultimately transformed, then we are to work here-and-now in anticipation of that final vision. We can do what is right not primarily because of the perceived usefulness, but as an act of worship, trusting in the sovereignty of God for the results even when the circumstances look bleak.

Perhaps, at each individual level, it could mean simple things like signing up for a new project that gets our hands dirty caring for the creation or planting a tree. Or maybe, getting involved in caring for the poor and the sick around us? Ever thought of spending some time and energy on a worthy social cause that promotes fairness and peace in our country? Surely the surprising reality of Easter Sunday ought to empower us to be witnesses of Christ’s death and resurrection the way it did for the early disciples. Resurrection power is lived out in down-to-earth realities, grounded in the real world where we do business, as we cook in the kitchen, when we play with our children, study in schools, draw a painting, love and be loved, infusing everyday life with fresh spirituality and power.

For example, a Christian conservation movement called “A Rocha”, took a piece of abandoned land in West London and turned it into an oasis for wildlife called Minet Country Park. It raised questions among the neighboring people, “Why are they doing this?” (By doing this, we become a sign, an instrument and a foretaste of God’s kingdom) It gives opportunities for others to find out that our ecology is based on the gospel and our gospel is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ.


2) The suffering and evil we see in the world is not without meaning. If there is no God, there will be no final justice. If there is no God and everything is just ‘survival of the fittest’, then this world is exactly what you would expect it to be. It’s natural for the strong to eat up the weak. Why should we be concerned when the weak gets oppressed by the strong? “Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless” (Bertrand Russell). There are times when evil seems to be winning.

But because the rightful king of the world had entered human history and conquered death itself by rising from the grave, it means that death and sin will not have the final laugh. All unjust structures and rulers will be held accountable and judged. Wrongs will be put to right at the end of history. Dictators like King Herod, Roman Caesar, Satan, Sin, Death, Injustice, Pain and Diseases - their days are numbered. The worst they can do is put people to death but even death (the final enemy) is conquered by the resurrection. Let me share a story how Christians can challenge a corrupt system in society. You can watch it in action in a movie called “Amazing Grace”, based on the life of William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a Christian Member of Parliament in Great Britain who worked all his life to abolish slavery of African people. (By the way, human trafficking and modern-day slavery is not a thing of the past, it’s something happening at our own doorsteps. Even in Malaysia!)

Wilberforce first launched his campaign for abolition of slavery in 1787 and lived to see it finally succeed in 1833 (just three days before his death). That’s 46 years in total! His life reminds us that social justice is a long, painful marathon. It’s not a 100 meter sprint. For the first twenty years, he suffered nothing but defeats, rejection from friends, insults from enemies, physical illness and even threats to his life. And it’s so easy to burnout. But social justice is a community project, not a solo effort.

Fortunately for him, William Wilberforce has a group of friends who work and walk together with him. This famous small group was nicknamed “The Clapham Sect” or “The Saints”. They shared a deep conviction in the evangelical Christian faith, a long-term commitment to a social cause and a lifelong spiritual friendship. Won’t you like to be part of a cell group like that?

What’s more amazing is that in their lifetime, this little platoon of committed believers managed to start a Missionary Society, a Bible Society, they promote agricultural reform to supply affordable food to the poor, prevent cruelty to animals (RSPCA), promote Sunday school education, prison reform, improve harsh child labor conditions and championed the freedom to preach the gospel in India! It’s simply amazing… It’s both word and deed. And the impact of their work can still be felt today. So don’t underestimate the power of small, committed groups to start social change. We don’t need to wait until there’s a huge Christian population to make a positive influence in society. Small groups of committed people empowered by the gospel can make a significant difference where we are! We may not do exactly what Wilberforce did but just imagine what we can do if each small group in church creatively commits ourselves long term to at least one social cause that we are passionate about?

The King had come. The kingdom of God had broken into history, bringing healing and hope, peace and life. Easter marks the decisive victory of Christ to recapture the world has been won. The fullness of this victory will be experienced when He returns. Human history is heading towards a meaningful destiny and resolution. Tears will be wiped away. The lion and the lamb will lie down together.

Origin: Where Do We Come From?

Worldview-Who Are We

The gospel of John begins like this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”


One day a little boy came to his father and asked, “You know, Dad, our teacher just showed us that the world is really round and that it is just out there hanging in space. But Dad, how can the earth just hang in space without support? What holds it up?”

And the father, thinking that his son would be satisfied with a simple answer, said, “Well, son, a camel holds the world up”. Always trusting his father, the boy walked away satisfied – at least, for a while.

The next day, he came back to his dad with the obvious question. “Dad, you know, you said yesterday the world rests on a camel. But what supports the camel?”

A bit troubled now, the father decided to give a quick answer to avoid more questions so he said confidently, “Son, an elephant holds the camel up”.

But the son got smarter now: “Hey dad. I’ve still got a problem. What holds up the elephant?”

His father was now desperate and so he searched for any animal he could think of and said in a loud voice: “A Turtle holds up the elephant!”

“Come on dad”. By now the son realized that the father is not getting to the bottom of things so he asked, “What holds up the turtle?”

So his father answered in a stroke of pure genius, “Son, it’s turtles all the way down”.

This story highlights the question of origin: “What is ultimately real? Where does everything ultimately come from?” Maybe you too have looked up to a starry sky and felt a sense of cosmic wonder: “How come we exist in this universe? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the final reality that holds up the universe?” Suppose that the father in the story just now answered his son’s question scientifically: “Son, the law of gravity holds the world in place”.

The next question would be: “Why is that so, Dad?”

The father may say: “Because the laws of nature work the same way under the same conditions. The universe is an orderly place and governed by natural laws”.

But his son again could ask, “Why, Dad? Why is that so?”

And you cannot go on forever. Sooner or later, the father must end the discussion in one of two ways. He could say, “That’s just the way it is. That is the foundation principle of the universe: It’s the law of nature all the way down”. The final reality is the orderly structure of the universe. That is the worldview called Naturalism: The universe is a closed system and there’s nothing else. No angels, no demons, no miracles. All that is ultimately real is this world. Where do we come from? We come from matter + energy + random chance + time. Who are we? We are just highly evolved biological machines. Why are we here? There’s no ultimate purpose or freedom of choice. We just exist to survive and pass on our genes. Where are we going? In the long run, everything in the universe will be dead. The end. “The cosmos is all there is or ever was or ever will be”.

Or the father can go one step further and say, “Well, son, that’s the way God made the world. Isn’t it wonderful that God is rational and orderly so the created world is also governed by rational and uniform laws of nature. It is God who sustains everything”. That is the worldview of Christian theism. Where do we come from? There is a personal and infinite Creator God who created the universe and all of us. So the air that we breathe, the planet we walk upon, our bodies, souls and minds belong to Him. All that we are depends on Him for existence. But God Himself is self-existent. He was, He is and He is to come. The Alpha and Omega. He is the source of all living and non-living things. He does not need anything else for His own existence. Because God is rational, the world he created is also orderly and can be explored rationally. As a result, the Christian worldview provided a key foundation for the scientific movement in Western civilization.

You see, either way your answer comes to the bottom of reality at which we cannot go on any further. We have come to the beginning that has no beginning. We have stopped at what is “really real”, which explains everything else. But you can’t explain it any further from that. So when someone asks “Who created God?” he or she doesn’t really understand that by definition God is self-existent. He is the ultimate reality which does not need to be created. He is the beginning that has no beginning. So the question itself is meaningless.

Suppose that in the beginning there was nothing. If there was absolutely nothing at the start, there won’t be anything now. Because out of nothing, nothing comes. No cause, no effect. But something does exist today and not only that, if we look around us, everything that we observe has a beginning and was caused to exist by something else. For example, I have a beginning and my existence was caused by my parents, and my parents came to exist because of my grandparents, and if you rewind all the way back, even the universe has a beginning. Scientists called it the big bang. But what caused the big bang? Who is the Big Banger?

There must be something or someone that has always existed from the very beginning. In ancient times, the Greeks called this eternal force that holds the universe together – the Logos. The Logos (translated as the word) gives life to human beings and order in the universe. So when the apostle John spoke of the “Word of God”, the people understood what he was talking about. He’s talking about the rational principle Logos that made all things to exist, brings order to chaos. The Logos has always existed, it is eternal, uncreated since the very beginning of time… The Logos is the beginning that has no beginning. That means: The Logos existed long before the heavens and the earth were even created. In fact the Logos was the one who created everything.

But then the apostle John went on to say something radical that they never thought of: “Guess what? This Logos is not something abstract or a philosophical system. It’s not even an impersonal force that you can manipulate.” The Logos is a person. He is someone who knows, who loves and makes choices and communicates with us. He is relational. The Logos took on a human body and dwell among us.

And that’s what Christmas is all about. The God who is from eternity stepped into time. He took on flesh and blood and moved into our neighborhood. The invisible has become visible, the spiritual has become physical. The ideal has become reality. In other words, God has become human without losing His divine nature. It’s a profound mystery -Jesus is not just fully man, He is fully God.

To appreciate just how radical this is, we can compare it with what other religious worldviews tell us about God. On one hand, in Islam/Judaism, God is so high above the creation, so transcendent that incarnation is impossible. It’s scandalous to think that God could take on human nature. On the other hand, in the worldview called Pantheism found in religions like Hinduism/Buddhism, God is so close to the world, so immanent that reincarnation is normal. It happens to everyone. Everybody has a divine spark in us. The world and God are one and the same. So not all religions are the same…

Listen to these words from Tim Keller: “But Christianity is unique. It doesn't say incarnation is normal, but it doesn't say it's impossible. It says God is so immanent (near us) that it is possible, but he is so transcendent (high above us) that the Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ is an earth-shaking, history-changing, life-transforming, paradigm-shattering event. Christianity has a unique view on this that sets it apart from everything else”. The Word became flesh and dwell among us.

So who is Jesus? He’s a teacher but not just a good teacher. He’s a prophet but not just a human prophet. He’s so much more. He is the transcendent God who became incarnate. He’s not a far away God. He is God with us (Emmanuel). He is the personal yet infinite God who created the heavens and the earth. He is all-powerful, untamable, uncontainable yet He intimately knows and loves each and every one of us.

Now, does the Christian answer to the question of our origin make any difference to the way we live? Yes, indeed. It has enormous implications on how we understand who we are: What is a human being? What is our true identity?

Because if human beings are just a bunch of carbon-based materials; then we are just a random product of blind accident. There is no eternal purpose or meaning or value to the human life. We are only valuable because we can contribute to the society or because we are functional (able to think and do stuffs). But we have no intrinsic worth. If someone is incapable of contributing to society or loses his ability to function, then his life is not worth living. You can pull the plug or poison him to death. These are the questions involved in ethical issues like euthanasia or abortion – what does it mean to be human?

In the Christian worldview, however, human beings have infinite dignity and worth because they were made in the image of God, in His own likeness. We are fearfully and wonderfully made for relationship with God and with each other. So there is an infinite worth, value and dignity in you that does not depend on how many A’s you score in exam, what brand of T-shirt you wear, who you hang out with. You are infinitely precious because you are created in God’s likeness and bear his image. That is why for Christians, we should care for people even when they are weak, sick and incapable of contributing to society. When God created the earth and everything in it, He declared that they are good. Everything bears the fingerprints of the Maker. Of all people, Christians should be at the forefront of protecting endangered species, conserving the environment and enjoying the beauties of nature because they are God’s handiwork. The implication is that no part of creation is bad in itself. Music, food, work, dancing, sex and the physical body are part of God’s good creation. In fact, Adam and Eve were given the responsibility and privilege to work as God’s partners in eco-management - ruling, caring and stewarding the earth. Genesis 1:28 says: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” They were to care for the garden. and to complement each other as husband and wife. Without a gardener, Eden will quickly become like the Amazon jungle. Because the world belongs to God, we are just stewards of His world. The earth does not belong to us. Therefore we are called to care for creation and create culture and develop society as part of God’s creation mandate.



But that is not all. Although we are created in the image of God, we have also rebelled against the Creator when we have turned away and decided to run our lives apart from God and become self centered. Every part of our being – our bodies, minds and spirits – is tainted by sin and death. When we ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we have made ourselves the center of the universe – to define our own morality, to decide what is right and wrong without reference to God. We try to find happiness, self fulfilment and meaning in life in chasing after idols that do not satisfy. But there is no happiness apart from God. As a result of our rebellion and idols, there is sorrow, pain, suffering and broken relationship with God and with each other. Even the natural world has been affected by human sin, resulting in natural disasters, pollution, extinction of animal species, destruction of rainforests, death and diseases. And Sin has twisted what is created good to express our rebellion against God. For example, music is good but a lot of popular songs today can be used to glorify violence and immorality. Work is a calling from God, but as a result of sin, it becomes an addiction and a curse characterized by frustration and greed. Sexuality is God’s idea in the first place but it can be distorted to serve selfish pleasures at the expense of others. That’s the bad news.

But the good news is Christ has come to redeem every area of life from sin. On the cross, He reconciled the world to God by providing the atonement for sin. He has come not only to save our souls but also to save our bodies and the entire creation. Our weak and corruptible bodies will one day be resurrected and raised in a glorified and incorruptible physical body. There is no ‘sacred versus secular’ division. Every part of creation will be rescued and transformed in the new heaven and new earth. We will explore the question of our final destiny later. For now, let’s recap what the Christian worldview says about “who we are”. The naturalist says that we are nothing but carbon-based biological machine. That is too low a view of human nature because there is no transcendent purpose or value for human beings. We’re just highly developed animals.

The pantheist says that we are part of God and we just need to realize that we are divine. But that is too proud a view of human nature because we are claiming to be God when we are just His created beings. That’s idolatry – trying to rob God’s glory.

The Christian worldview says that we are not God and we are not just animals. We are created by a loving Creator in His image, reflecting His likeness. Therefore, we are endowed with great dignity, creativity and worth. At the same time, we are also fallen sinners who have rebelled against God so death and darkness have infected the deepest core of our being. So we are both noble and depraved, capable of both compassion and cruelty, of both wisdom and foolishness. We are like a living contradiction yet through Christ, we are redeemed and rescued by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Purpose: Why are We Here For?

Worldview-Why Are We Here DNA 2010

Maybe some of you have heard of the famous rock band called Radiohead. The lead singer was once asked in an interview, “What are your ambitions after achieving so much success in the music industry?”


And he answered, “Ambitious for what? What for? I thought when I got to where I wanted to be everything would be different. I’d be somewhere else. I thought it’d be like in heaven. And then I got there and achieved the success I’ve always dreamed of. But I’m still here.”

Then why are you still making music?

He says: “It’s filling up the hole. That’s all anyone does”.

The interviewer goes on and asks: “What happens to the hole?”

There was a pause… And he finally says: “It’s still there”.

It seems like we human beings have this infinitely huge vacuum in our hearts and we try our best to fill it up with things, money, gadgets, sex, music, success, English Premier League football, religion, you name it… but it leaves us empty as before. And in some cases we see the symptoms manifested as boredom, addiction (i.e. workaholic, alcoholic or drug abuse), a sense of despair or even suicidal tendencies. More than a thousand years ago, Saint Augustine wrote that our hearts are restless until they find rest or fulfillment or satisfaction in God.

In modern terms, the psychologist Dr.Viktor Frankl said that the drive to fulfill our meaning in life is the primary motivational force in us, human beings. From his experience in a horrible Nazi prison camp, he observed how prisoners who have lost hope and meaning for the future also lose the will to survive. And those who do not have a purpose worth living for will find an inner hole and a deep sense of emptiness within their hearts.


OK fine… We need to find the purpose of life. But why can’t I live a normal, meaningful and functional life without God?

Since we’re all going to die anyway, then let’s make this world a better place. We hear speeches at funerals that so-and-so has enriched many lives so his life and death is not in vain.

Or some may say, “Since we’re all going to die, let’s seize the day! (Carpe diem) Let’s party, eat, drink and be merry for life is short. Enjoy the simple pleasures while we still live. Then life can be meaningful.”

Or the existentialists will say, “Yes, life is meaningless and absurd. But I refuse to accept it and live as if there’s meaning. Let the world be cruel and indifferent, but I will not. I will choose to be compassionate and kind. That’s authentic human life.”

Well, so far so good. But let’s do a thought experiment here… If there is no God, then we are nothing but the accidental, by-product of nature. We came from matter plus time plus chance. We hit the lottery so we were born. We are a random collision of carbon based molecules. No soul, no spirit in us. There is no reason or no purpose for our existence. Our ultimate destiny is death and nothingness.

So in a million years from now, it doesn’t ultimately matter what you did to improve the world or how many sunsets you have enjoyed. We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take anything with us. In the long run, it’s just chasing after the wind.

Maybe your life was important because it influenced the course of history like Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. But even that is like leaving your footprints in the sand… in just a moment, the waves will come, washing over them and they are gone. In the bigger scheme of things, it makes no difference. Nothing means anything. Because our lives are not connected to something bigger than ourselves… if there is no God.

But with God, everything changes. Yes, you can work to make this world a better place. Heal the sick. Fight injustice and relieve suffering. And that only makes sense because people are created in the image of God. Therefore human lives are infinitely precious and valuable in themselves… even when they are weak, unproductive and suffering, they are still precious and worthy of our care. In a million years from now, the choices we make today will echo through eternity. One day, we will be raised back to life and God will judge our thoughts and actions. So how we live today has enormous significance.

Yes, like the existentialists, we can defy the absurdity and cruelty of the nature. But if there is no God, there is no higher law of right or wrong. Everything is just ‘survival of the fittest’. It’s only natural for the strong to prey on the weak. That’s the law of the jungle. Being kind and compassionate to the weak only makes sense if there is an objective moral law higher than the law of the jungle and a moral Lawgiver we call God. For unless you know what a straight line is, how do you know that the world is crooked? Unless we know a divine law higher than the law of nature, we cannot rationally defy nature’s cruelty and indifference.

And lastly, yes, we can enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Friendships. Love someone truly, madly, deeply. Hug a baby. Write a poem. Listen to music. Go backpacking and enjoy the sunset.

But again, that only makes sense because a creative, personal and loving Creator God made us as relational beings, able to love and reason and enjoy the beauty of creation, music and creativity. Without God, love is just a biochemical reaction in your brain. Friendships are just an illusion created by our selfish genes to help pass on our DNA to future generations. Sunsets are just light reflections and nothing more. Without God, you can only enjoy these things if you suppress thinking about what they really are. For the Christian, these pleasures of life are good gifts from God that we can enjoy. They are clues, hints that point us to the Creator who is the ultimate source of all joys.

So the funny thing is this: we can have the courage to make the world a better place and enjoy the good things in life only because God makes all these things meaningful and beautiful. Everything is full of purpose. But without God, life is absurd, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Alright, I know what you are going to tell me, David, I need religion to give me purpose in life, right? All religious worldviews teach us to do good and if I live a better life, a less selfish life, I’d find the purpose of my life rite…

Actually, that’s not it. The Christian worldview is much more radical than that. The problem is not that we don’t know stealing, lust, hatred, attachment to worldly things, selfishness, cruelty is wrong or sinful. The problem is we already know it but we still do it. We want to do good but at the same time, we also find another desire to do exactly the opposite. It’s like our parents say “Don’t touch!” and we purposely touch it. So just getting religious advice and teachings, laws and regulations, do’s and don’ts is not the solution. The diagnosis has to be much deeper than that.

Cause if we are really honest with ourselves, we can find selfishness, greed, pride, lust and fear hidden in the deepest core of our being. I want to be good but there’s a dark side inside of me. It’s like having a split personality.

Have you heard the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? Once upon a time, a brilliant scientist named Dr Jekyll came to realize that his dark side is waging a war inside him. So he comes up with a potion that can separate his good nature from his evil nature. When he drinks the potion during the day, he will be his good self and free to do what is good. But when he takes the potion at night, his bad side comes out and he becomes 10 times more selfish and evil than he normally is. This evil side of himself is called Mr Hyde, because he is hideous and because he is hidden in the dark.

Even in the best, the most righteous and kindest of us all hide something hideous in the depths of our hearts. There is a strong tendency in you and I to seek our own interests above all others, to be self-seeking… Unless we realize that we are sick, we will not look for a doctor. Unless we realize how helpless we really are, we will not turn to God.

When Dr Jekyll realizes that he is this living contradiction of good and evil, he decided to do all he can to get rid of selfishness and pride from his heart. He devoted himself to charity and good works, to drown his selfish nature with acts of kindness and sacrifice and pay for the wrongs he had done before. You know what? And it worked! He became the most moral and kind person, and stopped taking the potion at night to become Mr Hyde.

Then one fine day Dr Jekyll thinks of all the good that he has achieved, and how much better a person he was compared to others. He says, “I can say with total honesty that my decision to do good has produced great results. You know how much hard work I spent to help suffering people… But as I smiled, comparing myself with others, comparing my acts of goodness with their lazy, cruel neglect to do good… at that very moment, a horrible feeling came over me and I looked down… I was once again Mr Hyde”. At that moment, just when he has achieved his standard of being good and righteous, Jekyll transformed into Hyde again, this time without drinking any potion at all. Unable to control his transformations any longer, Jekyll killed himself.

The moral of the story is this: Covering up our selfishness and pride with lots of good works and kind deeds won’t make us less self centered. Instead they only feed into our pride and self righteousness. Jekyll becomes Hyde, not because he is bad, but precisely because he is good. If you define the purpose of your existence in terms of performance, you do good deeds motivated by self-interest (in order to get to heaven, escape from hell or to feel good about yourself, to meet expectation of others). In the end, the ultimate motive is still ‘yourself”. If you achieve it, you end up with self righteousness and pride. If you fail to achieve it, you will end up with despair and fear. Either way you still end up becoming Mr or Miss Hyde.

Here’s the difference:
Other worldviews: “Do good, obey the rules – then I will be accepted by God”.


The Good News: “I am accepted by God because of what Jesus has done – therefore I obey”.

Imagine if your Father hugs you and tells you, “Girl, you are my daughter. Boy, you are my son. I love you because you are my child. Not because of your performance in exams. No matter how you perform in exams, you are still my child and I love you. Therefore I want you to do the best you can in the exams.” How would that make you feel? Would you turn around and say, “Thanks Dad, since you love me so much, I’m gonna fail all my exams this year”? No, this kind of love releases you from fear and the crushing need to earn his love through performance. Instead it gives you a new motivation to perform i.e. because you are loved and want to please your father. You’d want to do even better. That’s exactly how God the Father accepts and loves us.

For the Christian, the purpose of life is LOVE – “ To love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves”. That’s why we obey God. Not out of fear, but out of love. 2000 years ago, God Himself came into the world and became a man. His name was Jesus the Christ. While we are still sinners, still disobedient and undeserving of God’s love, Jesus lived the perfect life that we should have lived and died the sacrificial death that we should have died. We should have died for our sins but the Lord Jesus laid down His life for us. This is the reason God came into the world. He came to rescue us. He came to be crucified on the cross to take all our guilt, punishment and shame upon Himself. Because He loves us, He opens the way so that we can be forgiven and accepted by God. The Good News is: “You are accepted by God because of what Jesus has done – therefore you obey out of love, not out of fear”.

So the Purpose of life is not an abstract principle, a theorem, a set of rules and regulations you can find in a book. The Purpose of life is a Person. You can have relationship with this person, to love and be loved by God. The good news is Christ loves us more than we ever dare imagine even though we are more sinful than we’d ever dreamed of!

Not only that, on Easter Sunday he was resurrected from the grave! Jesus is the only Person to have conquered death itself. Death will not be the last word. It is not the end of everything. Because what God has done in Christ He will one day do for us and the rest of creation! Our physical bodies will be transformed to glory. The heavens and the earth will be renewed and purified. And this project has already started like a mustard seed in the world, ever growing and swelling and spreading. In the meantime, we are called to be the ambassadors of God’s kingdom on earth – in our lives, in our studies, in our worship, in our work, in our relationships to reflect God’s love to the world. We will say something more about this later.

If you will place your trust on Jesus at the center of your being, and let Him shape your life, you will be transformed. You will love because God first loved you. You forgive others because God has forgiven you; and you serve others because God has served you. In a million years from now, you will have eternal life, caught up in wonder and awe in the presence of God forever. This is the purpose of life according to the Christian worldview.

Why is Worlview Important?

Worldview-Introduction DNA 2010

The big questions in life that people ask for thousands of years: “Where do we come from? Who am I? Where are we going?”


Have you ever looked up on a starry night and wonder, “Why on earth are we here for?” Or perhaps, you wake up in the morning, open your eyes and look at yourself in the mirror and think, “How do I know I’m not wasting my life? What is the point of living if everything, absolutely everything ends in death?” No matter how advanced medical technology becomes, in about two hundred years from now, everyone in this room today will no longer be alive. No one can escape from this. If death is the final destination, and that’s all there is to it, then what difference does it make?



And the moment you begin to ask these questions at some point in your life, you begin to think about the ultimate issues that all religions and philosophies throughout the centuries have tried to understand. Consciously or unconsciously, every one has a mental map of what the universe is like and a vision for what life is all about. Whether you realize it or not, the way you answer these big questions reveal your assumptions, your ideas and your views of the world. It’s your worldview.


"A worldview is, first of all, an explanation and interpretation of the world and second, an application of this view to life. In simpler terms, our worldview is a view of the world and a view for the world." You know, without my glasses, I can’t see very well… everything is blurred. I wear glasses so that my vision can be refocused to see more clearly. Similarly, our worldview is like a pair of contact lenses through which we look at life, our own selves, the world and what is ultimately real.

OK fine… but why should we spend time understanding worldviews? Is it important at all? Isn’t it just some philosophical stuff that has no connection to real life?

Today I would like to give you FOUR reasons why intentionally working out the Christian worldview can be both practical and important. How you answer these big questions in life will have great impact on the way you live the Christian life.

Reason No.1: We need to understand the Christian worldview (or how the Bible answers these big questions) because it is part of loving God. It is the discipleship of our mind.

Who can tell me – What is the greatest commandment? It is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our strength, with all our soul and with all our mind. This is the great and first commandment that sums up the entire law. True Christian spirituality involves our whole being - heart, head and hand. Our feeling, thinking and doing are all involved in loving and following God.

If we do not love God with all our heart, what happens? Well, our spiritual life will be all head knowledge but there is no real passion, desire or joy in it. We merely analyze God but we don’t worship Him. And if we do not love God with all our strength, then no practical fruit comes out of our beliefs. It’s NATO - “No Action Talk Only”. But what happens if we do not love the Lord our God with “all our mind”?

If we do not care for our mind, we may run around with lots of meetings, programs and activities (giving an appearance of vibrant spiritual life) but we don’t stop and reflect “Why are we doing this? Is this biblical? We may do things right but are we doing the right things?” Or we may also run the danger of emotionalism – that means, having lots of misguided passion, having lots of zeal but without wisdom. Sad but true, I’ve come across some sincere but seriously misguided people who slither on the floor like snakes, roar like tigers, bark like dogs because they mistakenly believed that is what God wanted them to do. Truth without emotion produce dead orthodoxy but emotion without a true vision of the greatness of God produces a shallow frenzy. But God is looking for worshippers who worship both in spirit and in truth. Passionate feelings for God rooted in sound doctrine about God will express itself in songs, shouts, tears, silent awe, confessions and obedient lives. We love God with our mind by letting our understanding of life and of the world to be shaped and informed by what God has revealed to us in Scripture. We learn to think biblically and theologically with God’s gift of our intellect.

Reason No.2: Understanding the Christian worldview equips you to discern what is right and beautiful from what is ugly and wrong in our culture.

You see, when a medical doctor and I look at the same skin problem, we “see” radically different things. The trained doctor can observe more because with years of study, her mind is filled with relevant medical concepts that enable her to look for the right things and tell me whether it’s a cancerous or not. Whereas I can stare at the sore all day and not see what she saw. Believe me, this ability to discern is something very practical. It can make a difference between life and death. Similarly, if your mind is equipped with biblical concepts like creation, sin and redemption, you are able to look at life and the world and see things that others don’t even notice. You can see beyond surface appearance in world events, movies, books, culture or people and discern truth from error, right from wrong, beauty from ugliness.

A good worldview is a very practical thing. When I don’t know the way to STM Seremban, having a good map helps me decide whether to turn left at this junction or right at that traffic light. The map itself is not STM but just a smaller model of the real thing. But if the map is accurate, it can be very useful. In the same way, having an accurate mental map of reality guides your navigation through difficult decisions in the world.

Because what we believe to be true has a powerful influence over how we should live. For example, if we view human life as just a biological machine, we won’t be terribly inclined to treat it with much dignity or respect. It’s just a machine. If it breaks down, there’s no big deal. But if we see human beings as more than biology but also a person made in the image of God with infinite worth, it compels us to treat life as sacred and other people with dignity and respect. Sound theology is practical when it connects to life and flows from the head to the heart and to our hands. True knowledge and living experience should enrich each other.

Nowadays, information about anything under the sun is just a Google search away. We cannot totally isolate ourselves from ideas… even dangerous ideas or deceptive philosophies out there in the market. And if we do not submit our thinking to God’s revelation, then obviously our minds will be easily influenced by worldly ways of life. We may still call ourselves Christians but we absorb notions about wealth, about sex and about success from Lady Gaga music videos, popular movies, novels or Youtube without even knowing it. Our thinking will be shaped by the patterns of this world, all those big words like hedonism that says (Life is short. Grab all the fun you can get), or consumerism (I shop till I drop because my social status depends on what I buy) or pragmatism (Whatever. As long as it works, I don’t care how you do it), and all sorts of other ‘ism or worldviews about life.

But the Bible says: “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewal of your minds”. It doesn’t say “Be transformed by the removal of your minds”! So we don’t need to remove our brains in order to be a Christian. In fact, renewing our mind with God’s truth and kingdom values is crucial to our holiness. Jesus says we are light of the world and salt of the earth, But if the salt loses its saltiness or gets mixed up with worldly values, then it is no longer of any use. The way we handle money, success, relationships and power should point the way to a radically different way of being human. For example, the popular culture often makes success, money or sex into an obsession or an idol: “I must have it!” But if we are equipped with a Christian worldview, we will march to a different drum beat. For example… Because sex is a precious gift from God to express a lifelong, exclusive love between a man and a woman, we do not cheapen it but rather celebrate it in the context of an exclusive, self-giving commitment. That means abstinence outside of marriage and faithfulness within marriage.

Regarding power and money, the Christian worldview defines success not as the wealth we accumulate but in terms of serving others. That means a radically generous sharing of our time, energy and resources to social justice and the needs of the poor, the immigrant, and the physically weak. So Jesus’ Kingdom turns the world upside down and inside out: You must die to live. You must lose to gain. Weakness is strength. Joy in the midst of suffering. Love those who persecute you. Pray for those who hate you. It is not the strong or the violent who will inherit the earth, but the meek. If our minds are renewed with a biblical worldview, then we can begin to transform culture instead of conforming to culture.

Reason No 3: Understanding the Christian worldview helps you to be an informed ambassador for Christ to your friends and family (gospel witness).

I wonder if your friends have asked you questions like, “Why do you believe in God? What do you think is the meaning in life? What happens after we die? Why do you believe the Bible?” How would you answer them? Would you say, “Don’t ask so many questions, just believe-lah!”? Last year I met an American lady on a tour bus in Vietnam. She works as a scientist for a research program, trying to find a cure for cancer. As we talked, she told me that she envies her Christian friends for their faith. She says “It’s so easy for them but it’s hard for me to believe because as a scientist, I’ve been trained to think critically and ask questions first”. So I encouraged her, “Sometimes people ask questions not because of unbelief, but because they are serious about the truth”. Then I recommended her a book by a famous Christian scientist as she tried to understand evolution and hope it’s helpful to her.

But to a lot of people like her, when you wish something is true but suspect that it actually doesn’t exist you need faith. And when you know for sure that something isn’t true and you still believe in it, then you must have very great faith indeed. But biblical faith is not wishful thinking, but based on facts. Although faith is beyond reason, it is not against reason. It is not blind faith or intellectual suicide. True faith involves knowledge, agreement and trust. For example, I can examine that this is a chair, it has four legs. That’s knowledge of the facts. But knowing alone is not enough, I must agree that yes, this chair is strong enough to support my weight. But knowing and agreeing alone won’t do me any good unless I put a personal commitment to rest my weight on that chair. So faith has both objective facts as well as personal trust. You need to know the facts of the Christian faith, you need to be convicted that they are true and reliable, and you need to put your personal trust to embrace and practise these truths. Our hearts, head and hands are all involved in the act of faith.

Therefore, our feeling, doing and thinking should also be involved when we witness to our friends. The apostle Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15-16). The command to be ready with an answer for seekers or skeptics’ questions is for the whole church. It is not reserved to an elite group of scholars or intellectuals. All of us are called to be prepared to give our friends a reason for the hope that we have in Christ. To do that, we obviously need to know something about what we really believe and why we believe the things we believe. In other words we need to know the Christian worldview of life.

For example, you may be playing Counterstrike with your friends one day and he turns around and asks you, “Eh, what is the meaning in life, ar? The Bible got answer or not?” How would you answer? If you don’t know, never mind, go home, look it up in books, ask your pastor, do some research and get back to him. But if he asks same question 2-3 times, and your answer is always “I dunno” then it just shows that this is not important even to you so why should I bother? If you understand what the Bible says about the big questions in life, you will be able to use this opportunity to present the gospel effectively. A Christian worldview enables you to compare the answers from other worldviews and show why the biblical answers are much more compelling and satisfying.

Reason 4: Understanding Christian worldview helps you to connect your faith with every area of life

A school teacher once drew a vertical line on the blackboard. On the left, she drew a heart and on the right, she drew a brain. “The heart is what you used to worship God at home. But in my class, we are going to study science with our brains so we shouldn’t mix them together.” The heart is what you used in a relationship with God but the brain is what you used while studying science, computers, economics and history in school. Like it or not, this worldview called dualism is very popular even among Christians.

There is a separation of the heart for spiritual stuffs and the mind for secular stuffs. When that happens, no wonder our faith has so little impact on how we do our work or studies in the world. And no wonder our ‘daily activities’ outside the church has very little to do with God or the gospel. It happens to some young Christians I know that the more they study and work in science, for example, the further they feel apart from God because they have separated the mind from loving God. The famous Christian scientist Kepler once said that when we discover scientific laws in nature, we are actually thinking after God’s thoughts. What true knowledge we discover in biology or physics or chemistry are clues that point us to the wisdom of God and leads us to wonder and worship. All truth is God’s truth.

When was the last time you were encouraged to think Christianly as a student of law, business, information technology or education? We need to develop a Christian mindset for every area in life. A Christian mind is not simply thinking about topics like prayer, worship, bible study or spiritual warfare. Whatever our calling is, we need to learn to think and live “Christianly” in areas specific to what we do – be it in media, education, business, technology, politics or the arts. In humility and boldness, we should creatively integrate our faith with our vocation. What does it mean to be a Christian artist?

If you are a businessperson, you are an “ordained businessperson”. You have been summoned by God to serve Him in that specific sphere of activity. Or, if you are an “ordained lawyer”, you are called to prayerfully explore how your discipline can be used to serve justice and order in society. Or if you are an “ordained artist”, you could create art as a spiritual act of worship and reflect the beauty of creation. With great power comes great responsibility (Spiderman). A Christian worldview allows you to be faithful to your calling and the gifts that God has given you in the marketplace.

Consciously or not, all of us already have some basic ideas about how to look at life and the world that guide our actions like contact lenses through which we see everything else.

The only question is “Is our worldview biblical or not? Do we have a Christian worldview?” It is important for us to examine our worldview together in light of God’s word.

Gordon Fee: why must we choose between ‘fool on fire’ or a ‘scholar on ice’? Lord, help me to be a “scholar on fire”. Not everyone is called to be a scholar, but it is my prayer and hope that we should all be disciples of Jesus whose minds continually grow in knowledge and hearts continually burn with passion.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Taking Your Soul To Work (Book)



The book Alvin Ung has written, Taking Your Soul to Work, has arrived in Malaysia (it was published in US mid-November). It can be purchased at Pustaka SUFES in Petaling Jaya.

The book could serve as a reflective reading for people before they begin work in January. It can also be for people who are stressed out by work, find their jobs meaningless, or desire for something more than just working the daily grind. This book is definitely for people who desire to find God in all things, and to
grow spiritually while working.

Here is how Alvin described the book: "I began writing the book four years ago with Paul Stevens, my
professor and mentor. We share a common passion helping Christians integrate their faith and work. Paul and I saw that for many people, including myself, work is often a hindrance to spiritual growth. At
work, our prayer life suffers. We get stressed, irritable, fearful. Work draws out our dark side and sinful tendencies.

This book helps thoughtful Christians to see the workplace as an arena for spiritual growth and transformation. Since we spent most of our waking hours doing work of some kind (at home or in the office),
wouldn't be fantastic if we could see our workplace as a holy space where we can grow in godliness and discover God's loving presence in the midst of great struggle?

The book costs RM36. Each of the 30 chapters addresses 21st century challenges and dilemmas. Paul and I have provided tools to help people grow spiritually while working. We have developed a framework that helps people take ownership of their soul-sapping struggles, experience the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit, and become the people God meant us to be.
It's written in a world of Blackberries and 24-7 work culture. We also suggest practical tips for Christians to become vibrant disciples in the workplace. Although this is a book published by an American publisher for US/international readers, I am delighted and proud to say that there are many Malaysian examples (including satay) in the book. I've written about Pastor Fong Yang's mentor, Dr David Gunaratnam, a dentist, in one of the chapters.
You can check out what it looks like here: http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Your-Soul-Work-Overcoming/dp/0802865593

Pastor Wong has read an advance copy. Here's what he said in a blurb:

"The Malaysian Church is big on transforming the workplace, but I think the more pressing need is that God will use the workplace to transform us first and then we become catalyst of transformation.
People need to see the gospel impacting our lives. The authors show us how God shapes us into His likeness -- especially when we experience His presence amid great challenges. With this book, all Christians can look forward to going to work."

Eugene Peterson (pastor, scholar and author of over 30 books, including The Message) has written this in our foreword:

"If you are among the growing number of Christian men and women who want to take your souls into your workplace, this is the book for you. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung are wise guides. You can trust them. This is a major work for restoring dignity to the laity."

Here's what other theologians and business leaders have to say about the book:

"In the competitive marketplace where self and the soul are often insidiously compromised, this book comes as a good antidote to take a pit stop to process the state of our inner being. The exercises in each chapter are superbly crafted."

Dr Daniel Ho, Senior Pastor, Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC)


"Many people talk about doing things for God in the workplace, but it is easy to forget God's presence while we work. With this book, all Christians can look forward to going to work."

Wong Fong Yang, Senior Pastor, City Discipleship Presbyterian Church (CDPC)

"Amazingly simple... profoundly deep... spiritually challenging. Taking Your Soul to Work will revolutionize your thinking and transform your busy and intense work life. I have been profoundly inspired by this book."


Yaw Chun Soon, Executive Director of TA Enterprise, and Head of SIB Marketplace Ministry

"Reading this book has stirred up my thoughts on what it means to grow spiritually in the workplace when we welcome God in the centre of it all. The authors have given me a deeper insight on how to be attentive to His presence in the midst of a busy workweek."

Helen Read, Managing Director, MS READ


"The practices for daily life help us discover that it's more about God at work in us, than us trying to work it all out on our own."
Sivin Kit, pastor of Bangsara Lutheran Church, and blogs at http://sivinkit.net/

"A unique book ... full of deep theological insights and draws on the time-tested resources found in the Christian spiritual tradition. At the same time it is a practical workbook offering sensible answers to
the common pitfalls in the modern workplace."
Simon Chan, Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Theological College, Singapore

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Discover Your Life Calling

One of the guiding principles of CDPC Puchong is Integration of Faith and Work (celebrate God's presence at home, work and rest. Equip followers of Christ in the marketplace). And we had great pleasure and honor to celebrate the dedication of Han Meng and Doris' legal office in Subang Jaya today. We walk through different parts of the office, praying for God's presence and wisdom and courage as they work out their calling in the marketplace. That coincides with this Sunday's sermon on "What On Earth Am I Here For: Discover Your Life Calling"

Discover Your Life Calling

Powerpoint slides downloadable below:
Discover Our Calling

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Free eBook on Spiritual Formation of a People of God

This is an ebook based on reflections on 1 Chronicles


Please download here

This is offered free in the hope that you will be edified by reading it. Please accept this gift and also send it to your friends.

Blessings,

Alex

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spiritual Art-Making: Chong Keng Sen (Interview)

Source: Createlevoyage (Writer: Aaron Lee)


Chong Keng Sen is pastor of Hope Evangelical Free Church (Chinese) and a visual artist. He recently organised and curated the first Malaysian International Christian Artists Show 2009, an annual regional exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. More details of the show can be found at http://www.artmalaysia.com.my/galeri/2009Micas.html


Aaron: What are your present artistic preoccupations?

Chong Keng Sen (CKS): Since I left my lecturing days at the Kuala Lumpur College of Art in 2000, to continue my artistic vocation, I have been exhibiting my art both locally and overseas. Back then, as I was also the head of the communication design department, it was difficult to juggle art-making with my responsibilities.

During the mid-’70s to early ’80s, I was quite active in the local arts scene. I was among 23 artists invited for the inaugural Malaysian Young Contemporary show organised by the National Art Gallery, in 1977. Around this time I also became the pastor of a Chinese-speaking church that my wife and I had started some years previously. This new arrangement allowed me to fulfill my artistic vocation. For this, I am grateful to the church leadership for their encouragement and support.

I have a passion for networking with other Christian artists, and exploring ways to help the local Christian community understand the significance of the arts. I have had opportunities to teach in local seminaries and at conferences related to this subject. In 2009, I took up the offer to curate the Malaysian International Artists Show (MICAS09), in which artists from 11 countries participated. I am now preparing for another exhibition in conjunction with the 2010 Christian Conference of Asia assembly, which is held every five years. This exhibition will feature Malaysian Christian artists from the Unity Art Fellowship (AUF), of which I am the advisor. I am also tasked to research and write on the development of Malaysian Christian visual art. Lastly, as the Malaysian coordinator for BuildaBridge International, I am preparing an art camp for refugee children. BuildaBridge International is a Philadelphia-based non-profit art education and intervention organisation that engages the transformative power of the arts to bring hope and healing to societies in need.

Aaron: Is there a particular specific issue or theme that you are exploring at length in your art?

CKS: I agree with the Augustinian understanding that man is a spiritual entity. Presently, I am preoccupied with the spiritual dimension of man, informed by the Biblical worldview. Materialism with its utilitarian logic has sought to replace the need for God. But man is made in God’s image — hence there is a relentless existential tension.

I want my art to bring out the ‘spiritual man’ that is rooted in the divine — over and against the unfortunate, blinding, pursuit of material things. I feel an urgency to heighten this spirituality which is unique to the human race; we are caught up in a materialistic-driven environment, and it is imperative therefore both as an artist and a biblically-informed Christian to dwell on this particular subject. Most of today’s critical issues can only be addressed by a renewal of our spiritual consciousness rooted in the Biblical paradigm.

Aaron: Where does this preoccupation fit into your development as an artist so far?

CKS: Only in the past three years or so, I have begun exploring the ‘motif’ which I think will occupy me for the rest of my life. By this I mean that I hope and seek to heighten man’s spirituality through my art. All of life is spiritual and has spiritual values and implications whatever the human situations and conditions. I want my viewers to remember their spiritual ‘rooting’ in the God of the Bible.

As an example, in my self-portrait I painted myself both as a Chinese as well as one rooted in the Adamic lineage. It is both a recognition and a celebrative gesture, spiritually speaking, hence the art work is entitled Adam’s Song. The ongoing ‘fantasy’ series of imaginary islands and rivers speaks of our longing for something beyond mere materialistic needs in the face of our present man-made degradation — we are spiritual beings.


Aaron: Do you see your work as a calling from God, and in what way?

CKS: It is my conviction that I am made in God’s image. Therefore it is axiomatic that this created image should reflect in various degrees the creative attributes of the Creator (as revealed in the Bible). I am not saying this simply because I am a Christian. Back before I received Christ, I had always accepted the notion of God — especially since, as an art student, I had spent a lot of time observing the natural world.


Aaron: What is the biggest spiritual obstacle you face in your art?

CKS: To me, art-making is primarily both a doxological act — a spiritual act of worship — and a ministering act — the sharing of a life. Again, I do not say this because I am a Christian and a pastor. The fact is that I am constantly being reminded about this spiritual reality in the art of Kandinsky, and recently, of Damien Hirst. I would like to point out that author Ben Okri also likened his writings as an act of prayer.

Thus, for me, the biggest spiritual obstacle is maintaining the integrity of my art-making. This is because my motifs (subject matter) come from my meditating on the Bible and my constant reflection upon what I read in contemporary contexts. This is why I make art, and why I always do so with much rejoicing! Moreover, making something meaningful and pleasing in the ‘here and now’ is also a way to anticipate what I believe will be comprehensive artistic opportunities in the ‘post-Consummation Age’. The Biblical prophetic writings, especially in Isaiah, vividly envision God’s re-creation of the new heaven and the new earth. I like to imagine that in that time, artists will be able to create art in the way that creativity is are truly meant to function.

Aaron: Are there are any artists who are Christian, who have inspired you?

CKS: Definitely! There’s Giotto, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Zurbaran, and Barlach, for example. Viewing their works in church settings is both meaningful and inspirational. (Personally, admiring Giotto’s fresco in the Arena Chapel, Padua, is much more enjoyable aesthetically and spiritually speaking than perusing Michelangelo’s in the Sistine Chapel.) Contemporaries like HeQi and Emmanuel Garibay are like beacons that lead the way forward. For me, foremost among them is George Rouault. I aspire to be like him in the way he lived his life — as an authentic (spiritual) human being who sought to fulfil his artistic vocation without the hype that is expected of an artist in our modern-post-modern strictures of ‘high art elitism’.

PS: You may view some of Ps Chong's works at this event