Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jeremiah 2: God’s legal charge against Israel (part four) - pastor's notes

Just posted up this Sunday's Pastor's notes for the 5th September bulletin.

Decided not to do a Fathers Day devotion but carry on the Jeremiah series.  Four parts for chapter 2 and still not finished ... :-)
To read, click HERE

Btw, father's Day in NZ is in September not June

Mono-Ethnic Ministries and Multi-Ethnic Churches (Out of UR)

Interesting .... I am sure you can guess where I stand on this ....

August 25, 2010

Mono-Ethnic Ministries and Multi-Ethnic Churches (Part 1)

A multi-ethnic church leader responds to the call for more homogeneous churches.
Tom Steers, founder and co-director of Asian American Ministries for The Navigators, recently wrote a guest opinion column for Christianity Today(July 7, 2010). The column is entitled, "Needed: More Monocultural Ministries".
In the opinion piece ("not necessarily representing the opinion of the publication," as CT makes clear in the footer), Steers argues that a multicultural society demands more monocultural ministries. In so doing, however, he does not clearly state what he means by use of the term, “ministry.” Consequently, I believe he a) confuses evangelism with local church development, b) wrongly exegetes Scripture in attempting to support his claim, and otherwise c) speaks from assumption in stating what advocates of the multi-ethnic church truly believe. With this in mind, the following blog entry respectfully, but critically, challenges Steers' thinking.
Steers writes:
“Some argue that since we are an increasingly multicultural society, our churches should become more multicultural. There is a certain logic to that. As long as there are people who want to be culturally and socially multicultural, or multiethnic, there also must be structures for them. Such ministries are crucial for healing America's racial and ethnic wounds. They potentially model the unbiased oneness that Jesus prayed for in John 17.”
Theologically informed “advocates” of the multi-ethnic church however (at least, none that I know) are not suggesting, as the author states, “since we are an increasingly multicultural society, (that) our churches should become more multicultural.”

To read the rest of the article, click HERE

To read part two of the article, click HERE

For John Steer's article that prompted this response, go HERE

Ramblings on Parables and "Beware the Dark Side" and "You become what you do"

It has been a busy period for me. And it looks to be just as busy for the next three weeks. So ... it is time once again to "re-center" lest I lose my focus.

Chapter 31 of "Spiritual Formation on the Run" and chapter 40 both seem like ideal chapters to reflect and blog on especially in the light of my current sermon series on Parables of Jesus, the concept of "righteousness" and the theme of "choosing" has been very prominent.  Have been thinking a lot, among other things on these two areas. Anyway, first the chapters ...


George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith was one of the most awaited summer releases of 2005. The Star Wars movies - six in total - represented a significant milestone in movie making as the computer became as important as the actors and cameras. This futuristic intergalactic war epic started off in the middle of the story with Episode 4-A New Hope. To get an idea of the storytelling, imagine reading a book from the middle and finding out the ending, and then reading it from the beginning. Revenge of the Sith tied the beginning to the end, which is already known. In Star Wars, the underlying philosophy of power is the Force, an energy that sounds suspiciously like the Tao of Taoism. The Force inside the Jedi Knights seems similar to the Chi in Chinese religions. Before watching Revenge of the Sith, we already know that Anakin Skywalker will be seduced by the dark side of the Force. The movie revealed the reason for Anakin's choice. When he chose the dark side, Anakin became Darth Vader, who was powerful in many ways, yet was in bondage to the Emperor.

There are certain similarities between the Star Wars series and another movie, Kingdom of Heaven. In the Kingdom of Heaven, a movie about the Crusades, one of Saladin's (a famous Muslim general) deputies said, "In Islam, God said `submit' In Christianity; Jesus said "choose". Both stories are about the choices that people make. Choices that destroyed a fictional intergalactic empire and a historical Jerusalem. The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of conscience, as the narration in the movie so eloquently put it, "We choose with our minds and our hearts to do what is good and we do it" Choices that could seduce a soul, or redeem it. While the violence may not be edifying, the basic tenet of these movies resonates with our Christian faith.

In our Christian life, we are asked to choose daily. To choose to walk with Christ or to walk for ourselves and away from Christ. Our God is a God who gives His people the freedom to choose. We are not puppets on a string, manipulated by a master Puppeteer. We are given the freedom to choose, even to say "no" to God. Joshua, the military leader of the Israelites, declared at the beginning of the conquest of Canaan that he would choose Yahweh and fight his battles following the Lord's strategy. Jeremiah chose to follow the Lord even though he was asked to do some funny things to illustrate God's message. Jesus chose to drink from the cup of suffering in Gethsemane and died a humiliating death on the cross. There are also those in biblical records who chose badly. Lot chose the rich plain where Sodom and Gomorrah were. His home was destroyed and he committed incest with his daughters. David chose to lust after Bathsheba, leading to adultery and murder. Judas chose to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

We are asked daily to choose. We must learn to do it with wisdom. That is why knowledge of the word of God is important. The Bible is a manual for decision-making. It helps us to be in the light rather than in darkness. So choose wisely. Beware the dark side.


Brother senior disciple Ah Meng is so pious that he will be made Abba soon,' observed Ah Lek, as he continued to knead dough to made mooncakes. Every year, the Sow Lin Monastery would make mooncakes for the poor in the surrounding villages. The mooncakes were eaten to celebrate the Mid-Autumn or "Mooncake" festival held in the middle of the eighth month of the lunar calendar.
p/s This "Black Knight" is a Marvel Comic
character and actually a "good guy" :-)

"He prays so fervently that his pew often shakes and so many tear drops flow down his face that he wets his Psalter. He has memorised large chunks of the Bible too. And he is Abba Ah Beng's favourite."

"I don't like him," said Ah Kow, as he put a piece of dough into his mouth. "Yuk;' he said, spitting it out. "Senior disciple is always picking on others, looking for faults. He likes to point out my mistakes and always insists that I spend time confessing them."

"You are right. Just this morning he hit me on the head during morning prayers. Who does he think he is?" complained Ah Lek. "You were falling asleep:'
"Was not:'
"Yes, you were. I heard you snore"

"The other day he told Abba Ah Beng that my cell was dirty;" said Ah Lek, changing the subject. "That tell-tale. Abba Ah Beng made me scrub my cell and his too."

"The young disciples are ill-disciplined and not fit to be in this monastery;' Ah Meng pointed out to Abba Ah Beng during his time of spiritual direction. "They don't know how to pray, how to read the Bible properly, how to be forgiving and how to help others. I want to help them so much. I want them to be holy. I want them to good disciples. I want them to give up their selfish desires and bad habits. In fact, I feel so strongly about it that I cannot sleep at night:'

"Yes, I have been hearing stories from the young disciples about you. It is good that you are so concerned about their spiritual formation. However, be careful that in your zeal you do not cross the line to become the opposite of what you are fighting. Let me tell you a story;' said Abba Ah Beng.

"Once upon a time, during the time of the Crusades, there was a young, strong white knight who was very pious and devoted to God. He made it his personal quest to kill all black knights. The black knights were unholy and impure. Throughout his long life this white knight killed many black knights. One day, when he was old, he met a young white knight on the road. To his surprise, he was immediately attacked by this white knight. He fought valiantly but was unable to overcome the young knight. Throughout the fight, a question lingered at the back of his mind, `Why is this white knight attacking me?' Just before he was killed, he caught a reflection of himself in the shining shield of his opponent. The knight reflected in the shield was black:'

I noticed that there was a period of time this year where I stopped reading news about Malaysia. Not that I was not interested, reading the Malaysia news was frankly depressing and often made me angry on many areas and levels. So the "best" course of action for me is not to read and so avoid putting myself in such situations. Of course that was simply avoidance. 

What I find interesting (to me at least) is that I am at peace with my move to NZ. This is because I "worked out" with God many conditions that had to be met before coming over so that I could be clear in my heart and mind my motives and calling. My calling to come to NZ was never in doubt and this has been confirmed numerous times in many ways since coming here. 

So anyway, been mulling over my problem was more of "residue anger" which I realize has been simmering deep within me from unresolved hurts (like a volcano?), and the need to resolve it. I have noticed that Whenever there is a hint of "I am ungrateful" to abandon Malaysia (esp the church), anger would well up within and I would think, "And just what has the Malaysian church done for me that I should be grateful?" And a huge list would pop up in my mind ... a list I shall not list here :-) Needless to say, I had a huge list of grievances (and humanly speaking, a valid one too I might add) and how much I had done and yet not only unacknowledged but been even abused despite them. And when I think of the blessings of being in NZ and serving as a pastor in a great church, I find myself too often comparing my current experience with the many in Malaysia in not the healthiest of ways. I mean, I had great times in Malaysia and I have many wonderful friends who have blessed me and impacted my life ... but I don't thank God for them as often as I should. I have too often chosen to dwell on the negatives rather than the positives. This is simply WRONG!

Venting to God and even close friends etc is fine and often necessary to find healing but there has to be a time limit :-) and the need to move on! Basically I found God telling me gently this whole year that I have still pockets of anger and hurts (even residual resentment) that I needed to CHOOSE TO LET GO FULLY OR RISK LETTING THE DARKNESS OVERWHELM AND CHANGE ME INTO SOMEONE I SHOULD NOT BE.

I thank God I see more and more signs of healing of residual anger! And awareness is half the battle won.

I think of the many lessons I have been learning from my current series on Parables. Here's a partial sampling.

From The Parable of the Rich Fool - I need to share and find help in community and not "dialogue with myself". And this is a great quote from Kenneth Bailey that I did not develop on due to overwhelming material : "A naked cry for justice, unqualified by any self-criticism is not heeded by Jesus".  

From The Parable of the Great Banquet - You can choose not to join in the banquet. But if you choose not to join, it is your fault and you will have to bear the consequences! And ... part of the incredible theology of the cross is how God chooses to turn his anger into costly grace! The challenge to see the reality of the power of this principle when applied in my life. 

From The Parable of the Two Builders - Jesus is the foundation, and not to listen and obey Jesus is to have no foundation. It is really hard work to dig deep to get to the rock but it is necessary. Choice again ... to take the easy way out or take the tough but necessary route!

From The Parable of the Unjust Steward - A reminder of the importance of being wise as serpents but innocent as doves - my ethical foundation needs to be strong. But more important, to be wise and realize that the ultimate resource available to me is a gracious and generous God. It's a "risk" to bet everything on God but in reality it is the only "sure fool proof bet".

From the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector - The main issue is for me to have a right relationship with God. This is what righteousness is. It is a gift that comes through a relationship with God. And I can't understand and receive grace of I choose to compare myself with the failings of others rather than the perfection of God.

From the Parable of the Compassionate / generous Employer (Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard) - God is FREE to CHOOSE and He will choose to do what is right / just. The big question is, do I choose to trust Him in that "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?". Also, everyone is equally undeserving and has access to God's grace (if we choose to accept it!).  And one more ... my attitude to service should be that which springs out of gratitude rather than motivated by rewards. 

It is hard to describe my main point - hence my ramblings but it is along the lines of kingdom principles / values versus worldly principles / values are very different. And while some worldly principles I do feel are valid (all truth is God's truth), kingdom principles are on a higher level. The more I choose kingdom values, the more I will allow God's light to shine in me and through me. The more I choose to work just on the level of worldly values (even the valid ones), the greater the danger of my succumbing to the dark side - not because I intentionally want to but it will happen. 

Hmmm, not a very clear conclusion even if it just a "ramble" - perhaps some quick Malaysian examples? 

To fight for the rights of pastors that they should be treated with dignity and respect as one would expect to be treated is a valid principle. But kingdom principles would add the perspective of call and the example of Jesus who calls us also to expect suffering and to trust in God rather than men. Without the kingdom perspective, the slow unintended and unrealized crossing over to the dark side is a very real danger. I see now how there is a lack of pastors and also how there is a danger that more and more may be viewing being a pastor as just another job among many. 

To boldly speak out and  fight to end racism and racial politics, and to demand for a just government and the removal and punishment of corrupt government officials and politicians is a valid principle. But kingdom principle also warns us of the danger of going the way of "the ends justify the means". I get scared that PR option is looking to be just as corrupt and more people "seem" to just close and eye? I post comments on "Malaysia Today" and I get scared when I realize that I am one of the few who refrain from using foul language and make degrading remarks. Interestingly I realized that my last 2 comments while free from foul language etc were laced with sarcasm. The gentle slope to the dark side is very slippery....

Have a great week! I know I will by God's grace. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Interview with Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee

After more than a month of problems with e-mail correspondence, superstar magic legend Paul Daniels got my e-mail a few days ago and kindly replied giving me not just the go ahead to publish the interview, but also added a personal note of encouragement! What a man!
My thanks to another magic great - this time the New Zealand living legend, Alan Watson for helping me resend my interview transcript.

Hehehe. I now have Paul Daniels personal e-mail ...and NO, you can't have it :-)
For the interview please go here.

Interviewing them was one of the highlights of my magic journey!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

facebook friends ...

Being Ready to Die (Henri Nouwen)

Being Ready to Die

Death often happens suddenly. A car accident, a plane crash, a fatal fight, a war, a flood, and so on. When we feel healthy and full of energy, we do not think much about our deaths. Still, death might come very unexpectedly.

How can we be prepared to die? By not having any unfinished relational business. The question is: Have I forgiven those who have hurt me and asked forgiveness from those I have hurt? When I feel at peace with all the people I live with, my death might cause great grief, but it will not cause guilt or anger. 

When we are ready to die at any moment, we also are ready to live at any moment.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ramblings on "Looking at Islamic Center Debate"

A friend sent me this article. I agree that it is interesting to think about and there are so many views. My view for what it is worth is after the article ... 

August 25, 2010

Looking at Islamic Center Debate, World Sees U.S.

For more than two decades, Abdelhamid Shaari has been lobbying a succession of governments in Milan for permission to build a mosque for his congregants — any mosque at all, in any location.

For now, he leads Friday Prayer in a stadium normally used for rock concerts. When sites were proposed for mosques in Padua and Bologna, Italy, a few years ago, opponents from the anti-immigrant Northern League paraded pigs around them. The projects were canceled.

In that light, the furor over the precise location of Park51, the proposed Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan, looks to Mr. Shaari like something to aspire to. “At least in America,” Mr. Shaari said, “there’s a debate.”

Across the world, the bruising struggle over an Islamic center near ground zero has elicited some unexpected reactions.
For many in Europe, where much more bitter struggles have taken place over bans on facial veils in France and minarets in Switzerland, America’s fight over Park51 seems small fry, essentially a zoning spat in a culture war.

But others, especially in countries with nothing similar to the constitutional separation of church and state, find it puzzling that there is any controversy at all. In most Muslim nations, the state not only determines where mosques are built, but what the clerics inside can say.
The one constant expressed, regardless of geography, is that even though many in the United States have framed the future of the community center as a pivotal referendum on the core issues of religion, tolerance and free speech, those outside its borders see the debate as a confirmation of their pre-existing feelings about the country, whether good or bad.
“America hates Islam,” said Mohaimen Jabar, the owner of a clothes shop in Baghdad, Iraq.
“If America loved us, it would help the Palestinians and stop the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “It would stop Iran and Israel from distorting the image of Islam.”

Interestingly, leaders in Iran, Afghanistan and even occasionally prickly rivals like China and Russia — both of which have their own tensions in some of their heavily Muslim regions — have refrained from making much of the Park51 debate.

China’s state-run news media has used the story to elaborate on the need for a secular state strong enough to police extremism, a matter near and dear to its own ideology.

American diplomats are selling the controversy as Exhibit A in the case for America as a bastion of free debate and religious tolerance.
But “the harmonious image of the melting pot, of the ability to integrate all immigrant ethnicities is tottering dangerously,” Federico Rampini wrote in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

That was echoed by Pierre Rousselin, a French columnist writing in Le Figaro: “America is discovering that its Constitution and liberal principles don’t protect her from the debates that the practice of Islam stirs up in our countries.”

In Thailand, which has contended with its own Islamic insurgency, an editorial in The Nation worried aloud that America’s handling of the cultural center would affect relations worldwide between Muslims and non-Muslims. “If the era of former President George W. Bush tells us anything, it is that how the U.S. deals with the Muslim world affects us all,” the editorial said.
Far more common, however, was a sort of shrug of the shoulders from clerics and observers accustomed to far more unpleasant debates. While extremists have presented the controversyas proof of American hostility toward Islam, some religious leaders have taken quite a different stance, arguing against placing the center close to ground zero.
Dalil Boubakeur, head of the Grande Mosquée of Paris and one of the most senior Islamic clerics in France, told France-Soir: “There are symbolic places that awaken memories whether you mean to or not. And it isn’t good to awaken memories.”

A senior cleric at Egypt’s Al Azhar, the closest equivalent in the Sunni Islamic world to theVatican, said that building at the proposed location sounded like bad judgment on the part of American Muslims.

“It will create a permanent link between Islam and 9/11,” said Abdel Moety Bayoumi, a member of the Islamic Research Institute at Al Azhar. “Why should we put ourselves and Islam in a position of blame?”

That is not to say that the language in the United States has not agitated some observers, like Aziz Tarek, who wrote on the Saudi Web site Watan that America was in the grip of “intolerance and racism.”

He referred to Newt Gingrich’s widely reported statement that there should not be a new mosque in Lower Manhattan until Saudi Arabia allows construction of churches or synagogues.

“How can they compare building a mosque in N.Y. with building whatever in Mecca?” Mr. Tarek wrote. “I thought they viewed themselves better than that country of Saudi Arabia with its many human rights violations, as they love to put it.”

One Cambridge University researcher, writing in the Palestinian daily Al Ayyam, said Muslims could win their case for a center near ground zero in a court of law, only to end up losing in the court of public opinion.

“Provoking the other side will eventually create public opinion that will undermine the very laws that the Muslims evoke today,” wrote the researcher, Khaled al-Haroub, adding that many Muslim states do not tolerate Christian or Jewish houses of worship: “We keep increasing our religious demands vis-à-vis the West, while refusing to meet even a few of the demands made by religious minorities living among us.”

Paradoxically, the public reaction has not been heated in Lebanon, a country with 18 recognized religious sects where Muslims and Christians have a long history of occasionally violent coexistence.

If the mosque were built, many Lebanese commentators said, it would increase the influence of the ideal of the secular state. Many Lebanese, however, seemed more interested that Miss U.S.A., Rima Fakih, a Lebanese-American, had suggested that Park51 seek another location, than in the debate itself.

“Let’s be honest, it is kind of weird to build it there,” said Samer Ghandour, 33. “But the U.S. is also incredibly polarized and does not tolerate Islam.”

Mahmoud Haddad, a history professor at the University of Balamand in Lebanon, said that “the Muslim community should take the high moral and political ground” and agree to move the center, even though it has every right to build near ground zero.
“They should show they are more concerned about the general good of all Americans,” said Mr. Haddad, who studied and taught in the United States for two decades. “American society refuses to accept Muslims, even of the Westernized type, and consider them as a potential risk at best.”

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the project leader, has been speaking about his Cordoba Initiative on a two-week tour of the Persian Gulf sponsored by the State Department, although he has gingerly avoided discussing the Park51 location.

“What’s happening in America is very healthy,” said Muhammad Al-Zekri, a Bahraini anthropologist, after spending an evening with the imam.

The United States, he said, was still assimilating historical influences, including Islam, into its inaccurate self-image as a solely Judeo-Christian nation. The construction of Park51, Mr. Zekri believes, will help shape that.
“We pray for the people of New York, for peace,” Mr. Zekri said solemnly. “And if it matters, we apologize for what those people have done on 9/11.”

Thanassis Cambanis reported from Bahrain. Reporting was contributed by Anthony Shadid from Baghdad, Maïa de la Baume from Paris, Ethan Bronner from Jerusalem, Nada Bakri from Lebanon, Elisabetta Povoledo from Rome, Mona El-Naggar from Cairo and Thomas Fuller from Thailand. Li Bibo contributed research from Beijing.

My personal position is that it should be built on the condition that the mosque authorities (no matter what is said about it being a community centre, it still will also function as a mosque on one floor so to deny that it is a place of worship is not sincere) can show they are indeed true "moderates". They should have a press conference and also put in writing (in both English and Arabic) in clear public view (on a plaque in a prominent visible place in their mosque / centre) and not just on their websites their views on the questions posed by Tawfik Hamid (his second test) which I reproduced in my blog some time back. Click here for that article

They can't answer for Muslim authorities actions and statements in other countries (Tawfik Hamid's first test) but they surely can make their intentions clear for their mosque cum community centre project.

It's not a difficult or unreasonable request. Not to be willing to do will naturally make people question their motives (and rightly so).

Doing this simple thing in my humble opinion will bring a lot of healing to all sides and will help bring acceptance to Muslims who are truly seeking to live in peace and will garner support for his building project. I have no doubt that there are many Muslims who are truly seeking peace.

Clear statements in both English and Arabic for me is important because of the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya (dissimulation) which allows Muslims to practise deception in certain circumstances. 

This is why there is so much confusion and anger because many Muslim leaders / clerics say one thing in English to one crowd (non Muslims) and in the next breath another in Arabic (to Muslims). Too often the English and Arabic versions are totally different. Much of it is clearly deliberate which is why websites like MEMRI exist (one of its purposes) http://www.memri.org/ to point this out. 

Sounds a lot like certain Malaysian politicians who are playing the Malay / Muslim race religion cards!! Say one thing to one crowd and another to a different crowd.

Going to get slammed by some and I know many will want to distance themselves from me for this but ....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jeremiah 2: God’s legal charge against Israel (part three)

Just posted up my latest Pastor's notes for the 29th August 2010 bulletin. To read click HERE

Syariah Court can decide on religious status

I suppose this will make some label me an "Islamaphobic" (whatever that is) but is this not very disturbing?
The Syariah in Malaysia is now openly announced as superior to the civil courts.

Syariah Court can decide on religious status
Saturday, 21 August 2010 10:33am
©The New Straits Times
By V. Anbalagan

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal ruled that the Syariah Court is the competent authority to decide the religious status of Muslims and those whose conversion is disputed. It also held that a non-Muslim challenging a conversion could appear in the Syariah Court to set side any order.

Court of Appeal judge Datuk Zainun Ali who delivered the unanimous decision in dismissing the appeal by S. Kaliammal, the widow of M. Moorthy, said a High Court in 2005 was right in declining to hear the widow's application on grounds that it lacked jurisdiction.

Zainun said when a question arises whether one was a Muslim or not, "it is our view that the legislature has, by Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution, placed the determination of this question in the sole jurisdiction of the Syariah High Court".

Zainun, who sat with Datuk Wahab Patail and Datuk Clement Allan Skinner, in her 14-page judgment said if there was a conflict between two judicial systems (civil and syariah) and they were irreconcilable, it was the intention of the constitution that the legislature should provide the remedy.

In December 2005, the widow sought legal redress in the High Court as the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur Islamic Affairs Council wanted to give Moorthy, a member of the first Malaysian team to scale Mount Everest in 1997, a Muslim burial.

Moorthy is said to have converted to Islam prior to his death on Dec 20, 2005, without informing his family.

The High Court declined to hear the case after the council produced an ex-parte syariah court order that Moorthy died as a Muslim.

Zainun said it was not for the civil court to go behind that (ex-parte) order of a court of competent jurisdiction to question the merit of the matter decided upon. She said it was argued that the council's appearance before the Syariah Court was a nullity because it had no locus standi.

"It is not for the civil court to determine who may or may not appear before the Syariah High Court in matters within its jurisdiction," she said, adding the assumption that a non-Muslim was barred from suing the Syariah Court arose from the provision the religious court had no jurisdiction over non-Muslims.

She said the question of jurisdiction, however, related to the power of the court to exercise compulsive authority over "a person or on a subject matter". She said the fact that a person who sought relief in a syariah court may not be a person who was subject to the compulsive authority of the religious court would not "in our view preclude such person from going to the Syariah Court through the council to obtain relief".

Zainun said Kaliammal was not prevented from applying to the Syariah High Court to try to set aside the ex-parte order and giving the religious court an occasion to address the relevant issues and deliver a fair decision.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Our Poverty, God's Dwelling Place (Henri Nouwen)

Our Poverty, God's Dwelling Place
How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich? Poverty has many forms. We have to ask ourselves: "What is my poverty?" Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That's the place where God wants to dwell! "How blessed are the poor," Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.

We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. Let's dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden.

Made me also think of this song ...

You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all
Seeking You like a precious jewel
Lord, to give up I'd be a fool
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Holy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Holy is Your name

Taking my cross my sin my shame
Rising again I praise Your name
You are my all in all
When I fall down You pick me up
When I run dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Holy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Holy is Your name

Jesus, Lamb of God
Holy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Holy is Your name

You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all
When I fall down You pick me up
When I run dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Holy is Your name, lets go
Jesus, Lamb of God
Holy is Your name

Dreaming of a good day (part 2)

This time a good day of fruitful multi-tasking labour ... :-)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dreaming of a good day

I dream of a day like this! :-) I am planning for a day like this in December 2010!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clinging to God in Solitude (Henri Nouwen)

I thank God time and time again for Henri Nouwen's insights. This really rings through, doesn't it?

Clinging to God in Solitude
When we enter into solitude to be with God alone, we quickly discover how dependent we are. Without the many distractions of our daily lives, we feel anxious and tense. When nobody speaks to us, calls on us, or needs our help, we start feeling like nobodies. Then we begin wondering whether we are useful, valuable, and significant. Our tendency is to leave this fearful solitude quickly and get busy again to reassure ourselves that we are "somebodies." But that is a temptation, because what makes us somebodies is not other people's responses to us but God's eternal love for us.

To claim the truth of ourselves we have to cling to our God in solitude as to the One who makes us who we are.

Jeremiah 2: God’s legal charge against Israel (part two) - Pastor's notes

Posted up this Sunday's Pastor's notes. To read click HERE

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Hidden Life of Jesus (Henri Nouwen)

Another gem and timely reminder from Henri Nouwen. Especially in this busy period for me ....

The Hidden Life of Jesus
The largest part of Jesus' life was hidden. Jesus lived with his parents in Nazareth, "under their authority" (Luke 2:51), and there "increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with people" (Luke 2:52). When we think about Jesus we mostly think about his words and miracles, his passion, death, and resurrection, but we should never forget that before all of that Jesus lived a simple, hidden life in a small town, far away from all the great people, great cities, and great events. Jesus' hidden life is very important for our own spiritual journeys. If we want to follow Jesus by words and deeds in the service of his Kingdom, we must first of all strive to follow Jesus in his simple, unspectacular, and very ordinary hidden life.

Beware of becoming a church pastor :-)

Dr. Alex posted this article (below) on his blog. Allow me to ramble on a bit before you read the article (basically interesting statistics).

I found it very timely as one of my added roles this year is to be a supervisor for a church  intern - someone in my church who is studying at a Bible College and focusing on youth ministry. She''s studying at a College called Pathways where the motto is 50% study, 50% ministry and 100% relevant in the real world. Tough motto to try and live up to, don't you think! But I digress ... Point is that the practical ministry side is literally as important as the academic side. Now that I know how to search my blog (I digress yet again), I recall blogging aspects of this practical ministry side HERE (if you are curious).

Anyway ... one of the issues I have been grappling with my intern is what I consider the huge difference between being an active church lay leader (in any department) and being in full time church based ministry. And I think too that there is a clear difference in terms of expectations between working as a church pastor and working for a para church or Christian organization. The article / stats were really a helpful reminder that being in the ministry as a pastor is a decision not to be entered into lightly.

This is not to say that a pastor's job is more noble or spiritual or even necessarily more difficult than other jobs, just that it is certainly very different. Read the stats below and you will see what I mean. And while much of the stats is USA based, I think does quite accurately reflect the situation in many other countries.

Taking on the responsibility / job of a pastor is a dangerous thing and has can end very badly for a person, his / her family, the local church as well as the universal church IF IMHO a person is not clear in his / her mind that he / she is being called by God for the job. OK, enough rambling, over to the statistics...

Statistics (article source is from HERE)
Man standing by cross

  • 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor's children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.
  • 95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.
  • 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 75% report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged as
    role of pastors.
  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
    thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
  • 33% confess having involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church.
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
    they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
  • out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
  • 94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor's ministry.
  • 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
  • 80% spouses feel left out and underappreciated by church members.
  • 80% of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose a different
  • 66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves.
  • Moral values of a Christian is no different than those who consider themselves as non-Christians.
  • The average American will tell 23 lies a day.
  • The profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above“car salesman”.
  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
  • Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month , many without cause.
  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.
  • Many denominations report an “empty pulpit crisis”. They cannot find ministers willing to fill positions.
#1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastor's believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.
Statistics provided by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is Your Local Mosque 'Moderate' or 'Radical'? (Tawfik Hamid)

Another excellent piece by Dr. Tawfik Hamid that is not hard to comply with if one truly is moderate

Is Your Local Mosque 'Moderate' or 'Radical'? (Please circulate)
Ask the Imams of Mosques, the Muslim leaders, and the Islamic organizations in the US and worldwide to sign this declaration (See below)  
by Tawfik Hamid 

After the problem of Ground Zero Mosque has escalated it becomes an urgent necessity to distinguish 'Moderate' from 'Radical' Islam. Without making such a distinction the US and the rest of the world will remain divided regarding this issue. Debates about the issue can be endless unless we define the words 'radical' and 'moderate'.
Mosque leaders, Islamic scholars, and organizations who want to be considered Moderates MUST clearly and unambiguously declare the following declaration in their media outlets and on their websites.
I suggest that you send this declaration to Mosque leaders and the Islamic organizations inside the US and worldwide to see if they are ready to accept such a declaration or not.
Please feel free to circulate this newsletter so that we can start a process that allows us to distinguish radical from moderate Islam.

Declaration of Beliefs of Muslim Moderates -
 I (We) are Muslims who want contemporary understandings of Islam to replace currently predominant harsh and radical (Salafi/Wahabbi) interpretations of our religion. We therefore declare that:
 1-    Redda Law, the Sharia Law that allows the killing of Muslims who convert to other faiths, must be banned in Islamic teachings and in Sharia legal doctrine.  Islamic countries that practice Sharia must stop the practice of this law and must admit that Freedom of belief and the right to convert to other faith or believe is a basic right that must be given to all Muslims. 
 2-    Current mainstream Sharia doctrines justify the use of violence against women.  They encourage men to beat their wives to discipline them.  They allow women accused of adultery to be stoned to death. These doctrines are barbarically inhumane, non-egalitarian, and teach Muslim children to be violent. These teachings must be ended by reinterpreting the Islamic text that justifies such violence.
 3-    Traditional Sharia doctrines teach Muslims that they must engage in war so that Islam will dominate the world.  When Islam becomes dominant, Non-Muslims are offered three options: to convert to Islam, to pay Jizzia (a humiliating tax), or to be killed.  These doctrines run contrary to modern respect for diversity and for personal freedom of speech and belief.  This understanding of Jihad that seeks domination of Islam over other peoples must no longer be regarded as an Islamic value and its teaching as a duty for Muslims must end.
The early Islamic wars known as "Futohaat Islameia" were fought to implement this doctrine of Jihad. These wars therefore should now be regarded as un-Islamic and un-justifiable.   
4-   Jews are individuals who deserve the same respect accorded to all individuals.  They should not be called "pigs and monkeys."  The Islamic teaching that Muslims must fight and kill all Jews before the end of days is totally incorrect and unacceptable as it does not exist in the Quran.  All teachings that encourage anti-Semitic attitudes, violence or disrespect toward Jews must be declared un-Islamic.
5-    Slavery is a crime against humanity. All Sharia laws that justify slavery in our modern times must not be taught any more. Muslim scholars must have a clear and loud voice against slavery.
6-    Islamic Sharia laws currently permit the killing homosexuals. These laws also are advocating a crime against our fellow human beings.  They must be declared un-Islamic and their implementation must be considered criminal.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid

The above violent teachings, which currently are taught in mainstream Islamic books in America, are implemented in countries that allow governance according to Sharia Law. Future Muslim generations must be protected from these destructive doctrines, interpretations and customs.
These violent Sharia doctrines must be replaced with clear and unconditional explanations of why they no longer are valid. 
Anything short of a fully clear and unequivocal stand against these doctrines indicates passive approval.  Therefore, all Islamic leaders who genuinely consider themselves to be Muslim moderates must post these principles in English and in Arabic in full public view on their websites and declare them in their media outlets. 
Failure to publically post and support these principles should be interpreted as clear evidence that a leader's mosque or Islamic organization must be considered radical.

ABC's Test for Radical Islam
The time has come to define Radical Islam. Please ask your local mosque, Islamic Shool, and Islamic organization to clearly, unambiguously and publically denounce the following concepts:


Apostates killing
Beating women and stoning them to death for adultery.
Calling Jews pigs and monkeys.
Declaring war on Non Muslims to spread Islam after offering Non Muslims three options - subjugate to Islam, pay Jizia (a humiliating tax), or be killed.
Enslavement of Other Human Beings.
Fighting and killing Jews before the "End of Days".
Gay Discrimination and Hostility.
A true moderate person or organization must be able to immediately denounce the above concepts and stand publicly and unambiguously against them.
The Muslim world can not expect the world to consider Islam peaceful as long as they teach and promote such tenets.
A clear stand is needed from leading Islamic Scholars all over the world against such teachings.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Challenge to the Ground Zero Mosque Leaders (Tawfik Hamid)

Another excellent and reasonable article by a Muslim scholar.

A Challenge to the Ground Zero Mosque Leaders
by Tawfik Hamid 
Controversy is heating up on plans for building a giant 15-story Islamic community center and mosque on Ground Zero. 
Journalist Thomas Friedman and many others including New York's mayor consider the building of a mosque proof of American tolerance that will have positive impact on the Muslim world. 
Yet others, myself included, say to the contrary that Radical Muslims and their sympathizers want to raise the giant mosque as a sign of victory of the Jihadists over the US.  Such a mosque would signal to the Islamic world that Jihadists' overt and covert attacks against America and its interests are succeeding and should be continued.
Allowing the erection of a Ground Zero Mosque would enable Jihadists to extend their narrative of success:  "First our 9-11 attacks destroyed the World Trade center, symbol of American power, and now the mosque symbolizes Islam's rise to power within America."
How is the public to know which side is correct? Fortunately, Friedman's hypothesis that the Islamic world respects religious tolerance can be tested. 
One test would be to ask Mosque leaders request that Saudi Arabian leaders reciprocally allow churches and synagogues to be built in their country.  
 A second test would be to ask questions that would clarify if the mosque's proponents are truly moderates or in fact Jihadist radicals disguised as moderates.  Americans who defend the building of this mosque could ask the mosque's Islamic proponents to publicly post to the media and on their websites answers to the following questions:
 1- Islamic Law (Sharia Law) states that Muslims who convert to Christianity must be killed (Redda Law ), women in adulterous relationships must be stoned to death, men can beat their wives to discipline them, and homosexuals should be killed.
 Are you willing to recommend that these traditional Muslim practices be banned and to condemn countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran which accept such practices as religiously mandated?
2- Several Muslim texts declare that Jews are pigs and monkeys and that killing Jews before "end days" is a religious duty for Muslims.
Are you willing to declare that these texts must be changed and/or reinterpreted and that Muslim teaching of such anti-Semitic values must stop?
3- Muslim texts that is approved by ALL the schools of Jurisprudence in Islam (Shafeii, Hanbali, Maleki, and Hanafi) state that Muslims must declare wars against non-Muslims to spread Islam and those they conquer must either convert to Islam, pay Jizzia ( a humiliating tax) or be killed. 
Are you willing to declare that this belief, used in "Foutohhat Islameia," the early wars to spread Islam and praised currently in much of the Muslim world, is un-Islamic and unacceptable?
Mosque leaders issue statements such as that 'Islam is the religion of peace,' 'Islam respects freedom of religion,' 'Islam is the religion that gave them their rights,' or 'Islam is not anti-Semitic.'  Their answers to the questions above about Sharia teachings would clarify if it would be unfair to call these leaders Jihadist Islamic radicals, or if in fact their statements about Islam are misleading propaganda.
Are Islamic Mosque advocates willing to declare publicly, in English and in Arabic, that their answers to these three questions are yes?  If so, let the mosque proceed.  If not, plans to build a shrine to Islam on the grounds of the World Trade Center are contrary to America's values should be halted immediately.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dreaming of a non homogeneous church

Got to quickly post this up ... from Out of UR. Just noticed it.

Down with the Homogeneous Unit Principle?

Can we call our church model “biblical” if we’re not reaching out to everyone?

Ninety-five percent African American, five percent other. These are the demographics of the Chicago neighborhood where our three-month-old church has been planted. I am “other.” White. One hundred percent white. As the pastor of this young church plant, I have lost sleep over these percentages.
Most of the church planting models and examples I’ve been exposed to are very different from my current cross-cultural experience. In the recent past, the Homogeneous Unit Principle (HUP) was viewed positively as the rationale for starting churches of demographically similar people. This principle states that it is easier for people to become Christians when they must cross few or no racial, linguistic, or class barriers. Ideally, then, these new churches were led by pastors whose culture, class, and skin color closely matched those of their flocks.

Yes. Down with homogeneous unit principle! :-) For article go HERE

I am glad someone is openly questioning what I have been saying for years so that I don;t feel like an "arrogant smart alec wannabe" ... I sometimes think I am like a broken record (yes I am now old and my figures of speech are from another generation :-). I have had to explain too often my vision for the local church to be not just multi-cultural but needing to cross racial, linguistic and class barriers. I repeated it again last Sunday in my sermon ... This is my vision and I believe God's vision for KCC as well. To do our best to try and model an imperfect church that is doing its best to be a community where people from all races, backgrounds, socio economic levels and age groups become family in Christ.

Man, I am "chuffed"! :-) Okay, back to my sermon preparation!