Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kindergarten guitar maestros

Someone sent me this via email. Just had to pass it on.
A real delight to watch!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why Africa needs God - by an atheist

Thanks Z for sending me this link .... truly brightened up my day.


December 27, 2008

As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.
It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.
At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.
We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.
Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.
This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.
It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.
There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.
I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.
Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.
How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.
To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.
Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.
Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Unresolved resentment (Henri Nouwen)

Second Week of Lent - March 24, 2011

"There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man's table." (Luke 16)

The elder (the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal) is not free in his relationship with the father because he is bound by resentment. Resentment is probably one of the most pervasive evils of our time. It is something that is very real, very pernicious and very, very destructive. ... each of us might examine how our lives and relationships are wounded because of unresolved resentments buried in hour hearts.

- Henri Nouwen

Some thoughts on “grace and peace” (Galatians 1:3) – part one (Pastor's notes)

Pastor's Notes for the Sunday 27th March 2011 bulletin.

To read click HERE

More on the Malay Bible detention and "release"

Check this link out. Well written.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

KCC 20 March 2011 Sunday worship

We had my old friend Geoffrey Woo speak / sing at KCC last Sunday. Hah! He went way over time! :-) But it was a blessed meeting. Many of the older folks gave me good feedback.

But it was a special meeting for me for another reason too. New people getting up to serve.  And to help me try to bring an Island feel to the worship (if that makes sense).

Audrey on the piano after a lapse of 20 plus years! Was good to have Kimberly singing too (next time with the ukulele too?) And so nice to have my two boys helping with the music - drums, guitar / bass. 

And Sia and Kata - our wonderful consistent PI couple. Though their boys got the jitters at the last minute - it was still so cool, especially to have Kata a Samoan teach the Samoan verse of Glory Glory Lord and lead us! And it was "way cool" to have Sia be so totally relaxed and naturally bubble over up front, swaying and clapping while he sung. He helped get me swaying and moving naturally as I played the guitar (and those who know me, know I am quite a klutz and have a reputation of having 2 left feet :-)

So much positive feedback from various members on the service. Thank you Lord! 

Pictures by Ken. Thanks Buddy! But typically when I upload I never seem to know how to get it in chronological order ... :-)

Geoff or Geo introducing himself

Sia lost in worship - this is what I wanted him for! Natural Island style rhythm
that is contagious! (Even if he was too shy to face the congregation directly.

Kata, teaching us how to pronounce the Samoan words

Steven ...

Audrey and Andrew ...

Back up vocalists - Kata, Julia, Kimberly and Sia

Yours truly - after 2 songs - i had to lose the coat! Got too hot! :-)

Insincere Government backing down in Alkitab row?

IGovernment backs down in Alkitab row ahead of Sarawak polls


That's the news bulletin but isn't this not just a little late but way too late?

If this was 10 years ago and the elections (polls) were not just around the corner, I would have been joyful and positive. Sadly I have become cynical as my immediate response in my mind and heart was skepticism and distrust AND wanting to know if the BN govt is actually sincere.

Why has KDN and the minister in charge not apologized? 

There is no real evidence that the govt will not change the goal posts again if they win Sarawak. It's easy to promise. It's the actual implementation that is the question 

And why is Idris Jala asked to do the talking on behalf of the government? Yes, I know he is a Christian but that should not be the point. This is to me tantamount to admitting that the inter religious relationship / situation in Malaysia is so bad now that a Muslim minister cannot / will not / is unable / unsuitable to discuss this matter because it is related to a non Muslim religion? Haram to talk to the country's accepted Christian leaders?

Idris Jala is not the one responsible for this mess, the Home Minister is. Every step of the way he has refused to accept even the remotest shred of responsibility. He keeps putting the blame on the Christians and tells lies. And any news reports that shows him in a bad light, he censors and has removed by threatening to revoke their publishing licenses? 

If he had the guts and decency to be honest and stop trying to "save face", maybe I would be less inclined to be skeptical. 

Not the way to instill confidence in the government's sincerity. 

The BN government coffers are overflowing with money. If the offer was that the govt will pay for the Bibles to be replaced, then  it would been something. Why should these "donors" have to bear the cost? 

Too many suspicious and insincere actions in the past that needs a lot more than this one small gesture of "compromise". :-(

And is it really true that stamping and serializing of the Qurans is standard procedure? Will some Muslims in Malaysia be willing to verify this as a fact? I am skeptical because I am right now looking at a copy of the Quran which was bought in Malaysia, which in turn was imported and  printed in Saudi Arabia, (from King Fahd, Holy Quran Printing Complex so endorsed by the Saudi religious authorities) BUT it has no stamp and serial number.

And BTW, will saying this get me in trouble and arrested because I am not allowed to have a copy of the Quran? :-(

That's it out of my system I hope....

Monday, March 21, 2011

Why Defacement of the Alkitab is Desecration (Ng Kam Weng)

Thanks Dr. Ng Kam Weng for posting this!


Why Defacement of the Alkitab is Desecration

By nkw

Some government officials have claimed that Christians are making an unnecessary fuss over the recent stamping of the Alkitab seized in Port Klang and Kuching. After all, they say, the Government also requires copies of the Quran to be chopped/stamped with a notice of government approval before they are sold in the shops.

Even some Christians also wonder why such a big deal is being made about the stamping since Christians, unlike Muslims, do not regard printed copies of the Bible with reverence. It is just a printed text. What matters is the message conveyed by the Bible.

This article seeks to address the failure to understand the reason for rejecting the stamping of the Alkitab. The terms of the debate need first be clearly defined to ensure accuracy in my analysis and coherence of my argument. Since the issue is whether the government officials committed desecration of the Holy Bible let me begin with some definitions taken from the Oxford English Dictionary

1. Of a thing, place, etc.: kept or regarded as sacred; set apart for religious use or observance; consecrated.
2. Of a god or icon: (to be) held in religious veneration or reverence; spec. in the Christian
Church, free from all contamination of sin and evil, morally and spiritually perfect.

1. Consecrated to or considered especially dear to a god or supernatural being.
2. Set apart for or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration or respect;
consecrated, hallowed (in names of animals and plants indicating ancient or traditional

Desecration 1. Remove or violate the sacred nature of, profane;fig. spoil or treat with contempt (something venerated or admired).

From these definition I shall say that when Christians refer to “The Holy Bible” they are commending it as something set apart or dedicated to religious activity and thus to be held in reverence. There is some diversity among Christians in the way they approach the Bible. Some devout Christians approach the text with veneration. Other Christians feel they do not need to revere a printed book, but they will still consider the text to be indispensable in leading them into the presence of the Holy God.

We should also keep in mind that Muslims display great reverence for their holy text, as is evident from the way they physically handle the printed Quran and how they protest (violently in some cases) when the Quran is reportedly mishandled or desecrated.

How do we decide when a holy text has been desecrated, that is, violated and treated with contempt? Let us consider several scenarios pertaining to how the holy text could be treated:

1. A government official stamps on copies of the Quran to declare they are legally approved by the authorities.
2. A Christian stamps his name on the inside cover to declare ownership of a copy of the Bible.
3. A Christian highlights a scripture text while reading the Bible.
4. A critical scholar scrawls on pages of his Bible with the word “LIES AND MYTHS” while a militant atheist cuts off sections of the Bible he considers out of date and irrelevant (for example – miraculous stories).
5. A Nazi mob burns a heap of seized Bibles with wood carved in the form of the Swastika.

Comments on the above scenarios:
1. Obviously, stamping on these Qurans is not an act of desecration. Rather, it positively declares that these copies of the Quran are to be accepted as authoritative texts to be used by Muslims in their devotion. Its intention is one of positive regard in contrast to desecration that treats the text with contempt.
2. This action has no expressed valuation on the Biblical text. The owner simply declares his ownership of the book. The question of desecration does not arise.
3. For this devout Christian, highlighting the texts emphasizes his response while engaging with the text – as a human listening to the voice of God speaking through the text. It represents thepersonal response of the reader as he is led into the presence of the divine. Obviously, the reader’s attitude is one of reverence rather one of triviality and contempt.
On the other hand, other Christians may hesitate to highlight the text even when they experience spiritual uplift while reading the text because of their cultural background and personal sentiments.  In this case, both these groups of Christian should respect each other and give allowance to one another so long as both groups respect the Bible and more importantly, obey the spiritual injunction of its teachings.
4. There is no desecration when a critical scholar declares he does not regard the Bible as the revealed word of God. He may even exercise his academic freedom and publish articles that criticize the Bible. The scholar is entitled to his view but the militant atheist is expressing contempt for the Bible and commits desecration by cutting up the Bible.
5.  The Nazi mob is expressing publicly their contempt towards the Bible. The fire symbolically declares the intention of the Nazi movement to destroy both Christianity and the Bible. This is a desecration and a violent declaration of war.

The Question
Obviously, the issue of desecration is a complex one. We need to take into account the cultural values and the intention of the actors in making judgment when someone makes a mark on a holy text. We need to be sensitive to both the intention of the actor (message sent) and the perception of the believers of the holy text (message received). They may or may not coincide.
How then do we evaluate the action of the government officials when they stamped the Alkitab with the words: “FOR CHRISTIANS ONLY” “BY ORDER OF THE HOME MINISTER”.

Background Information
The root cause of the problem can be traced back to the December 1981 when the then Deputy Minister of Home Affairs gazetted the prohibition of the Alkitab in Malaysia under Section 22 of the Internal Security Act 1960 (PU (A) 15/82).
It was a draconian order prohibiting absolutely the printing, publication, sale, issue, circulation or possession of the Alkitab. The gazette contained a very serious accusation, which might even be considered seditious, stating that the prohibition was made on the grounds that the Alkitab is prejudicial to the national interest and security of the Federation.
In March 1982, a subsequent decision of the Deputy Minister repealed the above order in recognition of the fact that it is unacceptable to prohibit Christians from using their Holy Scriptures. This was done vide PU (A) 134 which, while retaining the prohibition, subjected it to the condition that “this prohibition does not apply to the possession or use in Churches of such publication by persons professing the Christian religion throughout Malaysia”.
It should be emphasized that such a restriction is unacceptable by any standard of modern democracy. But even then the Christian community went along with the government. As such, there was no attempt to display and sell copies of the Alkitab in public bookstores like MPH.
In December 2005, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi made an agreement with Church leaders whereby Christians were allowed to import the Alkitab on condition that its front cover has the words “Penerbitan Kristian” along with the symbol of the cross.
Although the word ‘compromise’ is used here, it was actually the case of Christians giving ground. After all, even the unacceptable gazette in 1982 did not require imprinting of the words “Penerbitan Kristian” and the symbol of the cross. So when Cabinet Minister Max Ongkili now suggests that Christians should compromise in a spirit of give and take, he should be reminded that it has always been the case of the Christians compromising – the Christians are always giving and the government is always taking.

The issue of desecration did not arise when Christians agreed to print the cross with the caveat onto the cover of the Bible since it was to assure the government that Christians are not engaging in covert evangelism. Unfortunately, this did not stop the government from continuing to seize the Alkitab and other Christian teaching materials. The harassment from the government climaxed with the recent stamping of the Alkitab without consent from the Christian community.
To add salt to injury, the chop includes in bold print the words, “FOR CHRISTIANS ONLY” “BY ORDER OF HOME MINISTER”. This imprint amounts to discrimination against Christians and displays contempt towards their Holy Scripture. Two concerns arise immediately.
First, Christians cannot in good conscience limit the Word of God only to Christians. It is for anyone who freely seeks him including the animists in East Malaysia, atheists, secularists, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. By the same token the Buddhists and Hindus also say their holy writings are also for every interested seeker. They don’t have to apologize for their view and Christians respect their freedom to share their holy writings to all and sundry. Christians want to ask the government: “Why single out Christians and the Bible?” This is religious discrimination to say the least.

Second, the government officials obviously displayed contempt towards the Alkitab in the act of stamping it. How else can Christians react but to reject such an imposition? Why should Muslims feign surprise that Christians feel their Holy Bible (Alkitab) has been desecrated? Indeed, some Muslims would respond with violence if their Quran is treated in the same manner. Be assured that Muslims understand the need to respect and give reverence to printed copies of holy texts.
Further, the government acted with arrogance towards both Christians and the Alkitab when they went full throttle to stamp on the Alkitab, even while the Christians cried “Desecration!” This is nothing less than an “in your face” insult.

To cap the arrogance, the government now arrogates for itself power over God’s Word with the bold imprint, “BY ORDER OF HOME MINISTER”. Such a statement imposed and imprinted upon the Alkitab is alarming as it can amount to BLASPHEMY (arrogating for oneself the honor and authority which belongs to God). It is already an act of defacement when the government utterly disregarded the fact that Christians regard the Alkitab as Holy Scripture. It is a hostile and contemptuous action that ignores the protest from Christians.  In the light of these factors, any self-respecting Christian who loves God and His Holy Scripture can only judge the government’s action as one of DESECRATION of God’s Word.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

7 books for 7 dollars - March 2011

On the way back from the post office I dropped in on the monthly New Lynn Lions Club $1 book sale.

Picked up a few interesting books.

"A world full of Gods" by Keith Hopkins. Never heard of him before. His blurb says he is Prof of Ancient History at King's College, Cambridge and a fellow of the British Academy. Not sure I might like what he writes based on the front cover flap but I'll find out one day when I get down to reading it. What intrigued me was that the style of the book is different. Portions of it is written in the style of a fiction piece. Hard to describe. Not exactly a Walter Wangerin style approach but .... a half serious scholarly work and a half light fiction piece to illustrate his point - via a time traveller?

"Between Heaven and Earth: Conversations with American Christians" by Helmut Thielicke. Written and translated based on some conversations and discussions in 1963.Interesting to go back in time to the year I was born and see what some of the pressing church issues were.  Interesting that some are still to be very significant.

"Expressions of the Catholic Faith" by Kevin Orlin Johnson. Also never heard of him before. *sigh* I am so poorly read :-) Will be a useful guide to better understand the teachings and practices of the Catholic church.

"Samoa (A hundred years ago and long before)" by George Turner. If that sounds old, the book was written in 1884!  (But this actual copy printed in 1983). I was attracted to it (despite the old style font which I find so hard to read!) because is it son customs and cults etc., I am always fascinated with old stories and tomorrow in church, will be the first time we will be singing part of a song in Samoan (hope I don't mess up the pronunciation!)

OK back to work! Here's wishing you a great and blessed weekend.

"Finding Faith" by ... Brian McLaren. Bit of a surprise. Hmmm.. withdrawn library book. Obviously not popular and little borrowing so out it goes.

"The Beginners Guide to Martial Arts" by Ray Pawlet. Oh, why not it is a nice coffee table style book with loads of colored pictures and illustrations. Educational and who knows one day something I casually read in this book might save my life :-)

"The Robe" by Lloyd Douglas. This one was a really pleasant surprise as two days ago I was actually thinking abut two old novels that had a big emotional impact on my early twenties and I was thinking how nice it would be if I had my own copies to read. "The Robe" was one of them. And the other since I brought it up is the "Grapes of Wrath". 

God is very kind to me as the cover was so dull  that I am surprised that it even caught my eye. Plus I kind of just glance through the pile of books that are marked "hard covers" or "paper backs" as they are mostly fiction novels that don't usually interest me

Ok got to go - a lot to do before this afternoon / evening / night's youth activity. Have a wonderful and blessed weekend

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ramblings on the Bible desecration conflict in Malaysia

Dr. Ng Kam Weng says is so much better than what I can manage so I will just point you to his blog posts..

Read the first link before the second



I however want to add my two cents to the matter for what its worth.

1. I am glad many Malaysian Church leaders have decided to be bold and speak out and show strong leadership in correcting what I think has been letting PC and politics (as in national politics) set the tone ...

I think of this episode in Acts and I leave it to you to interpret what I mean :-)

Acts 16: 35-40
35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: "Release those men."
 36 The jailer told Paul, "The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace."
 37 But Paul said to the officers: "They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out."
 38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed.
 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.
 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.

2. I think certain Muslim ulamas have made a valid point - that in a real way the Bible is a "dangerous" book that threatens the security of Islam in Malaysia (though the politics of the matter is that for the ruling party, this is equated with threatening national security).

It is to me a valid and much needed recognition that the Bible when truly understood and embraced as God's Word has the power to turn lives inside out and hand upside down - but for the better! The Gospel is real good news and when properly lived should transform not just one's "personal religious rituals" but should transform our lives radically for good that in turn affects whole communities and the whole world.

What makes me more sad than the politics and Bible desecration (for me it is not the letters of the printed page but the message of truth and life (the spirit) of the printed page seems too often forgotten or even ignored by Christians.

It seems ironic that some Muslims understand how "subversive" the Bible message can be as it tells us in no uncertain terms that we must put God (Jesus Christ) first above all things.... but many Christians don't?
The Bible is too often treated like another book to be taken apart and critiqued (not against scholarship but against the attitude!) where we are assumed to be above the Bible, standing over in judgment and in authority over the Bible rather than humbly study under the authority of the Bible.

The Bible with its call to discipleship and obedience to God is so radical that, for example, even the love we have and must have for our family when compared to our devotion to God is in comparison like hating them.

I think these ulamas are dead wrong and unjust in how they express their devotion to the cause of Islam BUT I do wish that more Christians would catch some of their raw passion and commitment and make a stand for Christ, the Bible and the Gospel.

Some passages that came to my mind as I wrestled with this on going political cum religious conflict(?)

Acts 2: 41-47

 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Luke 14: 26-35
 26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple.
 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
 28 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?
 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,
 30 saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
 31 "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?
 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.
 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
 34 "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Romans 1:14-17

 14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.
 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.
 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Moving from “Why” to “Now what” (Pastor's Notes)

Pastor's notes for the 20 March 2011 bulletin. To read click HERE

Am tired ... so tired ...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Catch up ramblings and rantings - March 2011

Have not had the mood to blog for a pretty long time. Various reasons but its mostly I have nothing much to days that has not been said by others and the news has been so negative of late and dwelling on negative things has not been helpful.  I have tried to fast from the news for a few days but even that did not help. I am drawn to bad news like a moth to a flame? :-(


The lyrics of an old Don McLean song came to mind ... (yes, I know that this verse is about Buddy Holly's death) but the lyrics and mood of the song made me reflect on current events and how I felt .... Bad news ... emotional crippling and worse, an inability to empathize due to "bad news fatigue"?

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

Earthquake in Canterbury, then now in Japan, with the tsunami and the still real unresolved threat of a nuclear meltdown. I can't imagine how all the aid agencies and government authorities are going to coordinate help for 2 million people (and growing).

Then of course there's all kinds of trouble in the Middle East, and Christians in Muslim dominated lands and parts of India being persecuted not just relentlessly and blatantly in the open but with sick sadistic and systematic violence. Half the time I feel number with pain and other times I get angry at the situation (and I get moody and that sometimes doesn't help how I relate to my family). Almost every other news e-mail I get (actually more than half) is news on persecution. I get upset too that it seems that many Christians who are more concerned about "social justice in the world via political dialogue" etc  but are not willing to speak out loud and demand that a stop to persecution against Christians and help them with practical aid. And if you are a Christian, are not these our brothers and sisters by the blood of Christ? 

And on the Malaysian front, corruption, blatant lies, greed, arrogance and selfish petty politicking and seem to be the happy mode for the majority of politicians and leaders - on both sides of the divide. Thank God though that there are some shining bright lights. I thank God that I am currently living and working in NZ - not a perfect country and loads of different challenges but in general a more caring and down to earth attitude prevails here and politicians caught lying and cheating don't get off easy. Though I worry that in 10 to 20 years, this will change to be replaced by selfishness, greed and irresponsibleness (is there such a word?) as a new generation seems to be emerging that seems to be very self absorbed about their right to have a good time. Thank God for the bright lights of the Student army that responded to the Christchurch quake. That impressed me and I thanked God so many times for them.

And of course it was my birthday yesterday. Lots of kind wishes and birthday greetings etc. Thank you all! But while I think it is good to have church traditions / celebrations and family traditions (I actually even preached on this on Sunday) I also mentioned that I have never been one to celebrate my birthday. Not a big deal for me and it's not because I am getting much older :-) Reason is simply that for me (for a very long time now and it's a personal quirk / eccentric? thing), I just don't like the fuss and I find it hard to want to think of enjoying myself and being the centre of attention when there is so much suffering in the world. Of course I am adjusting my view on this as I know that's not the whole point of a birthday celebration. :-)

It irks me too that more and more Christians seem to be more interested in emphasizing our differences and even fighting among themselves. It seems to me that we middle to upper class Christians are contented to tie ourselves up with too much "enlightened discussion" and academic debates and nit picking. Instead of  Christian communities working hand in hand with each other to bless and share the gospel, the concept seems to be more and more what an "individual" thinks and wants to do. Even the Bible is being taken apart by many "enlightened Christians" who read the Bible with the premise that its has errors and they know better to correct some of these errors. *sigh* 

I find it disturbing too that more and more Christians seem to be very willing to be "tolerant and affirming" with a non Christian but not with a fellow Christian. Perhaps too I see this trait in me at times as well? :-( Each year I grow more frustrated with lop sided political correctness and the doctrine of "tolerance" and "inclusiveness" and "syncretism" or whatever. Simply because it seems all around the world everything is acceptable (especially Islam) and needs to be embraced or given special privileges and rights except Christianity. Tolerant about everything except Christianity?!!? Then there is the selective reporting and twisting of truth of key news agencies. Reading alternative media makes me  frustrated, angry and confused ... not necessarily in that order. 

Some Bible verses that have been coming to my mind for about a month now that may help give some context to my ramblings and rantings..

Philippians 4:8 
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things.

1 Corinthians 12:22-27
 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,
 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it,
 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Galatians 6:10   
10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. 

Matthew 16:25 - 28
25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.  28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."  

John 15: 18-20
18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

John 17:9-26
9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.
 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.
 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-- the name you gave me-- so that they may be one as we are one.
 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
 13 "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.
 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.
 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
 20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:
 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
 24 "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
 25 "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.
 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

Matthew 24:3-13
 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
 4 Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you.
 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.
 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
 9 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,
 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

2 Timothy 3:1-7
1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--
 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires,
 7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Egypt's Christian protestors under violent attack (Barnabas Fund)

Do much sad news, bad news, evil news ...

10 MARCH 2011
Egypt's Christian protestors under violent attack
A Muslim mob has turned on Christian demonstrators who were protesting in Cairo against the burning down of a church by Islamists. The ensuing violent clashes left 13 dead and 140 wounded.
Thousands of Christians took to the streets of the capital this week after the destruction of a church in the village of Soul, 30km from Cairo, on Saturday evening. A Muslim mob attacked the Christian demonstrators, resulting in deadly clashes.
The violence broke out around Mokattam garbage village, where Barnabas Fund has been helping the Christian residents with various projects over several years. A number of homes in the vicinity were looted and torched by the mob during the violence.
A senior church leader from Cairo said:
Large groups of Muslim youths from surrounding areas began to form and attack the Christians. Within hours there were many thousands in the fight, and the attackers had all kinds of weapons, whereas the village youth mostly had stones. Although the army sent in several tanks, they apparently did nothing until later in the evening, when they are reported by eye witnesses to have shot in the air indiscriminately. It is quite obvious that this was a well-organized and deliberate attack on Christians.
The incident that sparked the Christian protest involved a mob of nearly 4,000 Muslims, who attacked Christian homes and destroyed the church in Soul by exploding gas cylinders inside. In an act of "collective retribution", the Muslims were seeking revenge against all the Christians in the village because of a personal dispute involving one Christian and a Muslim family.
Severe anti-Christian violence has also broken out elsewhere in the region. Mobs of Muslim extremists have been rampaging through western Ethiopia this week, setting dozens of churches and Christian homes ablaze after accusing a Christian of desecrating a copy of the Quran.
Egyptian authorities target Christians
Since the overthrow of President Mubarak, Christians have come under a series of attacks by Islamists and the authorities. On 22 February, church leader Dawoud Botrous was found stabbed to death at his home near Assiut, Upper Egypt.
That same week, Egyptian armed forces stormed ancient Christian centres, firing live ammunition at the Christians, wounding some, and demolishing fences they had erected to protect themselves during the revolutionary protests.
And Christians in Minya are seemingly being targeted by the province's governor, who has ordered the demolition of a church-run welfare centre for disabled children and young people. Last Monday (28 February) more than 10,000 Christians protested against the governor, who on the same day had ten newly-built houses belonging to three Christian families demolished.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
Christians in Egypt are reeling from this barrage of assaults that are coming from all angles. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Egyptian revolution has made the country's Christians even more vulnerable to attack – not just by unrestrained Islamists but also by the authorities. They need our prayers and practical help today.
Please Pray
  • That Egypt's depleted security forces, which are struggling to maintain order, will be able to establish peace between the country's Muslim and Christian communities.
  • That Christians who have come under attack in recent weeks will know the Lord's comfort and peace.
  • For the future of the Christian community in Egypt; pray that Islamists will not gain a political foothold in the country and so make the conditions for Christians even more unbearable.
Give Today
If you would like to help Christians in Egypt and Ethiopia affected by by these attacks please send your donation to project 00-345 (Victims of Violence). Please click to donate online using our secure server.
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference 00-345 (Victims of Violence).
If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference 00-345 (Victims of Violence).
For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) textBarnabas/345 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).

Media statement by CFM on the Bible detentions (yet again)

Just helping to spread this news around. Hats of to CFM as they are willing to be bold to speak up (as usual).
You can go to this reputable website to verify that I am not making it up ... Ok, ok, real reason is to give the website some extra publicity :-)

10 March 2011
The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) is greatly disillusioned, fed-up and angered by the repeated detention of Bibles written in our national language, Bahasa Malaysia. This time yet again at the Port of Kuching in Sarawak.
30,000 copies of the “Perjanjian Baru, Mazmur dan Amsal” i.e. the “New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs” are currently being withheld.
This is notwithstanding that the Government in its attempt to to justify its position against the use of the word “Allah” in the Alkitab, the Government had given the assurance that the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia, will be freely available, at least in Sabah and Sarawak.
Since March 2009, all attempts to import the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia, i.e. the Alkitab, whether through Port Klang or the Port of Kuching, have been thwarted.
The previous consignment of 5,000 copies of the Alkitab imported in March 2009 is still being held by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Port Klang. This is despite repeated appeals which resulted in the Prime Minister making a decision to release the Alkitab held in Port Klang in December 2009 which was reported to CFM leaders by several Cabinet Ministers and their aides.
In absolute disregard of this decision, the 5,000 copies of the Alkitab remain detained. The Prime Minister when told about the continued detention of these 5,000 Bibles at a hi-tea event last Christmas expressed surprise that the order to release the same held in Port Klang had not been implemented. However, nothing has been done by the authorities to ensure their release.
Prior to March 2009, there were several incidents where shipments of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia were detained. Each time tedious steps had to be taken to secure their release. It would appear as if the authorities are waging a continuous, surreptitious and systematic programme against Christians in Malaysia to deny them access to the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia.
Malaysian Christians, many of whom have grown up with Bahasa Malaysia as their principal medium of communication as a result of the Government’s education policies, must have access to Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia in order to read, comprehend and practise their faith.
The freedom of religion guaranteed as part of the fundamental liberties under our Federal Constitution is rendered meaningless if adherents to a religion are denied access to their religious texts in a language that they can understand.
It is an affront to them that they are being deprived of their sacred Scriptures. Many are wondering why their Scriptures are considered a threat to national security. All these actions in relation to the detention of the Bibles continue to hurt the Malaysian Christian community.
We would ask how the Government’s transformation programme can be successfully implemented if civil servants can blatantly refuse to obey the Prime Minister’s order? Is the Government powerless to act against these “little Napoleons” who substitute their own interests and agenda in place of the Prime Minister’s directives?
We call upon the Government to act now and prove their sincerity and integrity in dealing with the Malaysian Christian community on this and all other issues which we have been raising with them since the formation of the Christian Federation of Malaysia in 1985.
As an immediate step, we insist upon the immediate release of all Bibles which have been detained.
Bishop Ng Moon Hing
and the Executive Committee,
Christian Federation of Malaysia