Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Creating Space for God (Henri Houwen)

Creating Space for God 

Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating. It is important, however, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God's guidance.

Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God. Solitude requires discipline, worship requires discipline, caring for others requires discipline. They all ask us to set apart a time and a place where God's gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ramblings on some Random photos - Feb 2012




Took this photo last week. Saw this bird on my church driveway.
It didn't fly away when I came near it. Just kept hopping one step out of my reach.
So took a photo. Made me smile. Beautiful bird, isn't it?

This made me smile too but at the same time sigh! Too many churches in my area which is sad.
Not that we are in competition with any but ... the caption says it ...
I know it is meant to be humorous but it does make a point, doesn't it?
It is only humorous when it reflects reality ... :-(
But it also made me glad. Before I left for my course cum short break in  Australia,
my church committee told me that the days I was taking to do the course was
NOT accepted as part of my annual leave!
The course was something done on my own initiative so I was not expecting anything like that.
But it was a blessed moment as it reflected my fellow church leaders appreciation. 
First day of our course. My wife practicing - and trying to clean up my mess :-)
I am not very good at this unlike my wife who picked things up much faster and more naturally.
I could not even get basic flowers right ... BUT I haven't given up :-)

Last day's work. Top left picture of Jesus was done by our teacher  (a very quick  example without taking
the usual time to put in the finer touches). Bottom left picture was done by my wife, following our
teacher's basic example. Also a quick job without the finer touches.
I was impressed as was our teacher.
The angels .... top one was done by lour teacher to give me an example. The middle and bottom
were done by me - testing out different color combinations.... BUT not much of an excuse for the messiness.
LOL - really not gifted in this area BUT I will NOT give up! :-)
Good start in my opinion.

Ramblings and rantings on Syria and other places

In Egypt, many predicted and warned (and showed proof) that the so called pro-democracy uprising was manipulated by radical Islamists. Outsiders formed the bulk of demonstrators and protesters with their Islamic agenda.

Egypt is worse off now (not to say it was wonderful before) and the minorities especially the Copts are being blatantly and systematically persecuted with all kinds of horrors and injustice. It is not democracy as they are prevented from even voting (among many other things) for fear of their lives.

And I wonder - is Iraq any better now that Saddam Hussein is gone? Not in the eyes of the minorities especially non Muslims.

And Afghanistan? Look at the way the reaction of the majority of people the US coalition forces are trying to protect.
http://tribune.com.pk/story/341222/quran-burning-in-afghanistan-anti-us-protests-spread-to-pakistan/

Can so few people (especially Americans) see the irony of the situation? I think the third Rambo movie is sad picture of how the Mujahideen were glorified because it suited someone's political purpose and now it still coming back to bite the hands that fed them and taught and encouraged them how to fight.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rambo_III

I wonder if this is where "suicide bombers" grew bold and convicted of using this method of madness as a justifiable weapon. And now these same people condemn suicide bombers?

And Iran is still around and becoming a military nightmare for the West - and life is getting progressively worse for the non Muslims there despite all the interference and arming of their enemies.

Now it is Syria's turn? Perhaps the rebels cause is arguably just but surely not the means they chose?
If a "new country / era" is birthed by violent killing, fighting and trampling on innocents, I do not see much hope for such a country. If the old regime / leadership is toppled, will it end up with an even worse one?

It scares me that there seems to be so few people in the mould of the likes of Martin Luther Kings, or Mahatma Gandhis, or Nelson Mandela ....

And I have no emotional energy to think of what's happening in Africa.


Christian homes invaded in besieged Syrian city; families desperate to flee 
(24 Feb 2012)
Christians desperate to flee the besieged Syrian city of Homs are caught in the crossfire; they are not even safe in their own homes as fighters invade and plunder their properties.
Homs_email.jpg
Homs is the third largest city in Syria; its population is around 17-18% Christian
zz77 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The rebels, who are increasingly influenced by Sunni Islamists, go from house to house, taking whatever they want – even the doors – to resource their campaign against government troops. To avoid being captured, the intruders make their escape by knocking holes through the walls between the properties. 

Around 70 homes belonging to Christians in Homs have been invaded and pillaged. The rebels are also seizing vehicles and stripping them of their parts.  

In recent weeks Homs has been subjected to intense government shelling, which has killed many civilians, while rebel snipers kill people on the streets, making it almost impossible for anyone to leave their homes.

A senior Christian leader told Barnabas Fund:
The situation of Homs at the moment is a horrifying one. Violence has escalated… We witnessed a lot of bombardments, killings, shootings, kidnappings.
As well as the danger of being caught in the crossfire, the lack of resources is putting the survival of Homs’ residents under serious threat. There is no electricity, and people are running out of clean water, food and medicines.

A senior Church leader told Barnabas Fund that thousands of Christian families who are still trapped in Homs would flee if there was just a small window of opportunity, even two or three hours.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has called for a daily truce of at least two hours to allow for the delivery of life-saving aid and evacuation of the wounded.

Barnabas Fund is helping to get emergency supplies to Christians who have escaped to the villages around Homs as well as Christians in other parts of Syria.

The country has been experiencing very low temperatures, with snow in some places, which, along with power cuts in certain localities, is aggravating the difficulties and hardships of the Syrian people.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
Life is now completely unbearable for those trapped in Homs, including thousands of Christians. It is far too dangerous for them to leave their homes, and even there they are not safe, facing artillery and tank shells from the government forces and knowing that rebels could burst into their properties at any moment. Our beleaguered brothers and sisters in Syria continue to need our prayers and practical support.
Please Pray
  • For a swift end to the hostilities in Homs and other restive parts of Syria.
  • That aid and medical supplies will reach all those in need.
  • That Christians in Syria will not be anxious but will be granted the peace that transcends all understanding as they present their requests to the Lord (Philippians 4:6-7).
Give Today
If you would like to help Christians affected by the crisis in Syria, please send your donation to the Middle East Fund (project 00-1032). 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 Middle East Fund(project 00-1032).
If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference Middle East Fund (project 00-1032).
For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) textBarnabas/1032 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).


As for Malaysia ... will key opposition politicians who have questionable track records make the country better if elected? *shudder* I fear when people think the ends justify using unethcial means.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A New Year of 'Dhimmitude' for Egypt's Copts


A New Year of 'Dhimmitude' for Egypt's Copts

by Raymond Ibrahim
Stonegate Institute
February 17, 2012



For Egypt's Christian Copts, the New Year began with threats that their churches would be attacked during Christmas mass (celebrated on January 7). Because many were eyeing the situation—several Coptic churches were previously attacked, including last Christmas (eight dead) and New Year's day (23 dead), not to mention ominous harbingers around the world, such as the Nigerian Christmas day church bombings (40 dead) —the Muslim Brotherhood proclaimed it would "protect" the Copts during their church services. Happily, Coptic Christmas came and went without incident.
Yet, if the Muslim Brotherhood "protected" Coptic churches when many around the world were watching, as soon as attention dissipated, it was business as usual: a large number of Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood members entered a church, asserting that it had no license and no one should pray in it, with hints that it might be turned into a mosque—an all too typical approach in Muslim countries where building or even renovating churches is next to impossible.
More to the point, 2012 appears to be unfolding as the "year of dhimmitude" for Egypt's Christians. Consider the following anecdotes starting from just last January, all of which demonstrate an upsurge in the treatment of Egypt's Copts as dhimmis (dhimmi being the legal term for Islam's "protected" non-Muslim minorities—"protected," that is, as long as they agree to a number of debilitations that renders them second-class citizens):
Insulting Islam
According to the Pact of Omar (which is also one of the earliest sources banning the construction or renovation of churches), dhimmis must "respect Muslims" and never insult them or their religion. Accordingly, a prominent Christian, Naguib Sawiris, is charged with "contempt of religion" for twittering a cartoon of a bearded Mickey Mouse and veiled Minnie: "The case has added to fears among many that ultraconservative Islamists may use their new found powers to try to stifle freedom of expression." Nor are the double standards in Egypt's "contempt of religion" law missed: Christianity is daily disparaged in Egypt with impunity.
Likewise, a 17-year-old Christian student accused of posting a drawing of Islam's prophet on Facebook—which he denies, saying it was posted without his permission—triggered days of Muslim violence and havoc, including the burning of three Christian homes to cries of "Allahu Akbar." The student, who was beaten, is to be "held" for fifteen days, "pending investigation." Muslim leaders agree "that priests should publicly apologize for the images, and that the student as well as his family should move out of the governorate."
Conversion Issues
Also according to the Pact of Omar, dhimmis "shall not prevent" any of their family members from converting to Islam. Accordingly, thousands of Muslims just attacked a Coptic church, demanding the death of its pastor, who, along with "nearly 100 terrorized Copts sought refuge inside the church, while Muslim rioters were pelting the church with stones in an effort to break into the church, assault the Copts and torch the building." They did this because a Christian girl who, according to Islamic law, automatically became a Muslim when her father converted to Islam, fled her father and was rumored to be hiding in the church. This would not be the first time in recent months that churches are attacked on similar rumors.
Collective Punishment
Traditionally, if one dhimmi transgressed, all surrounding dhimmis were collectively punished. As the jurist al-Murtada writes: "The agreement will be canceled if all or some of them [dhimmis] break it"; another jurist, al-Maghili taught that "the fact that one individual (or one group) among them has broken the statute is enough to invalidate it for all of them."
Accordingly, a mob of over 3,000 Muslims attacked Christians in an Alexandrian village because a Muslim barber accused a Christian of having "intimate photos" of a Muslim woman on his phone (Sharia bans non-Muslim men from marrying Muslim women). Terrified, the Christian, who denies having such photos, turned himself in to the police. Regardless, Coptic homes and shops were looted and set ablaze. Three Christians were injured, while "terrorized" women and children, rendered homeless, stood in the streets with no place to go. As usual, it took the army an hour to drive 2 kilometers to the village: "This happens every time. They wait outside the village until the Muslims have had enough violence, then they appear." None of the perpetrators were arrested.
Since the initial attacks, and in an effort to empty the village of its 62 Christian families, Muslims attacked them again, burning more Coptic property. According to police, the woman concerned has denied the whole story, and no photos were found.
Jizya
Koran 9:29 commands Muslims to "Fight … the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] until they pay the jizya [monetary tribute] with willing submission and feel themselves subdued." Although abolished under Western pressure during the colonial era, Muslim demands for jizya are back. And though it has currently not been reinstated, some Muslims have taken matters in their own hands by extorting money from Christians in lieu of jizya. (Who can forget the Egyptian preacher Abu Ishaq al-Huwaini's lament that Muslims could alleviate their economic woes if only they returned to the good old days of Islam, when plundering, abducting, and selling/ransoming infidels were a great way of making a living?) Thus, Two Christians were killed "after a Muslim racketeer opened fire on them for refusing to pay him extortion money." The local bishop said "I hold security forces and local Muslims fully responsible for terrorizing the Copts living there, who are continuously being subjected to terror and kidnapping."
Islamic Superiority
Then there is the Islamic principle that necessity makes that which is forbidden permissible. In this context, the rights of dhimmis can be trampled upon so long as an Islamic interest is served. Accordingly, in a region that is half Christian, Muslim mobs went on a rampage, attacking Copts, destroying and torching their homes and property to more screams of "Allahu Akbar." Why? Simply to prevent Copts from voting and to ensure that a Salafist (Islamist) candidate win. "No Copt from Rahmaniya-Kebly was able to vote today, so the Salafists will win the elections," descried a witness. Equally telling is that, while the population of this region is half Christian, there are 300 mosques and only one church.
Institutionalized Discrimination
Finally, perhaps nothing better demonstrates the return of dhimmitude for Copts as when the Egyptian government itself—as opposed to "radicals" or "mobs"—openly treats Christians as second-class citizens. Aside from the aforementioned "contempt of religion" cases, other anecdotes surfacing in January include a legal case revolving around the abduction of a 16-year old Christian girl. The court sided with Islamist lawyers, in a decision that Coptic activists are saying will "encourage Islamists to continue unabated the abduction of Christian minors for conversion to Islam." Similarly, rather than punishing the aggressors, the government has arrested and is trying two priests in connection with the Maspero massacre, when the military opened fire on and ran tanks over Copts protesting the constant destruction of their churches. Finally is the fact that, although Egypt's new parliament has 498 seats, only six are Copts, though Copts make up at the very least 10% of the population, and so should have approximately 50 seats.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Related Topics:  Anti-ChristianismDhimmitudeEgypt  |  Raymond IbrahimThis text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

Most politicians and high ranking government officials can learn from this

I like this video very much

Pastors notes for 19 and 26 Feb 2012

Forgot to put the links to the last 2 pastor's notes. Cheers!

For 19 Feb, click HERE

For 26 Feb, click HERE

CHURCHES ORDERED TO STOP HOLDING SERVICES IN IRANIAN NATIONAL LANGUAGE

Will Malaysia attempt to follow this? :-(

http://www.barnabasfund.org/Churches-ordered-to-stop-holding-services-in-Iranian-national-language.html

CHURCHES ORDERED TO STOP HOLDING SERVICES IN IRANIAN NATIONAL LANGUAGE

Country: Iran, Middle East and North Africa
The last two registered Tehran churches to hold services in Farsi have been ordered to stop doing so on Fridays in an apparent bid to prevent Muslims from hearing the Gospel in their own language.
The pastors of Emmanuel Protestant Church and St Peter Evangelical Church were issued with the order by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security earlier this month and announced it to their congregations on 10 February.
Iranian-Christians-worship-4X3.jpg
Iranian Christians at worship
It means that there are now no Christian services in Farsi, the language of the Muslim majority in Iran, in any officially registered church in the capital on Fridays. The order was not applied to Sundays, but Friday is the main weekend-day in Iran, and it is difficult for people to attend church on any other day because of work commitments.
The two churches are among the small number of officially registered churches that principally serve the Armenian and Assyrian communities of Iran. Most of their activities are conducted in the Armenian and Assyrian languages.
Middle East Concern said that the order to stop Farsi services was consistent with the authorities’ policy of restricting Christian activities to these traditional communities. It is illegal to conduct church services and Bible studies in Farsi, which prevents Muslims from hearing the Gospel and converts from Islam from worshipping in their own language.

INDIVIDUALS TARGETED

Individual members of the two churches have also been targeted; some have lost their jobs after the authorities put pressure on their employers.
In a separate case, Maasis Mosesian, an elder of the Assemblies of God church in Tehran, was arrested in a raid on his workplace by state security agents on 8 February. No reason has been given for the arrest of the married father of two, whose family have not been allowed to see him.
The Iranian authorities are also continuing their campaign against the country’s growing house church movement. On 8 February, a house church in Shiraz was raided by security officers; they searched the premises, confiscated Bibles and arrested at least seven Christian converts. Their homes were also searched, and items including Gospels, Christian books, CDs, computers, faxes and satellite TV receivers were seized.

CHRISTIAN STUDENT DENIED EXTRA MARKS AWARDED TO MUSLIMS IN PAKISTAN

I wonder .... will Malaysia add this to their heavily biased "quota" system? :-(

http://www.barnabasfund.org/Christian-student-denied-extra-marks-awarded-to-Muslims-in-Pakistan.html

CHRISTIAN STUDENT DENIED EXTRA MARKS AWARDED TO MUSLIMS IN PAKISTAN

Country: Pakistan, South and East Asia
A Christian student missed out on a place at state medical school under the discriminatory system in Pakistan that awards an extra 20 marks to Muslims who have memorised the Quran.
Ophthalmoscope_4X3.jpg
Haroon Arif’s hopes of training to become a doctor have been shattered
Connor Tarter / CC BY-SA 2.0
Haroon Arif, from Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab, got A grades in both his matriculation and intermediate exams but was just 0.0255% off the mark required in his final aggregate to attend a government-run medical university.
He argued that his knowledge of the Bible was equivalent to that of a Muslim who had memorised the Quran, and that he should therefore qualify for the extra 20 marks they receive; this would boost his final result by about two per cent.
Haroon said:
I deserved it and yet just because I am Christian, I have been put at a disadvantage.
I know of students who did not perform well in the test and had lower marks in their matriculation and intermediate exams, but they got in, just because of these twenty marks.
Haroon tried to show the university his three certificates in Bible education, but the authorities said they had no policy to accept them.
Mohammad Atif, head of public affairs at the University of Health Sciences, which conducts the medical tests, said:
We realise this is against human rights and have debated a lot on this policy, since minorities are being marginalised – but we follow government orders.
Haroon took the case to court with the help of a human rights organisation, arguing that his rights had been violated. He submitted two letters, one from the Church of Pakistan and the other from the Bishop of Islamabad, that stated that Haroon’s religious education was on a par with any Islamic education. But the court did not acknowledge that this was a human rights issue.
And it does not seem that the policy, which has been in place for over 20 years, is likely to change any time soon.
Punjab’s education minister Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman said:
We cannot change the system because of a nominal amount of people.
A state-run medical school, which charge only ten per cent of the cost of a private university education, was Haroon’s only hope of training to become a doctor. His parents are lowly paid health workers.
He said, “I have seen my parents in this profession but only as support staff. Is that all Christians are destined to do?
I am as much a Pakistani as any Muslim, we are all equal citizens and the government will realise this.
Pakistani Christians face widespread discrimination in public life, which means that most can get only menial and low-paid jobs, keeping them trapped in poverty.

What Is Most Personal Is Most Universal (Henri Nouwen)

What Is Most Personal Is Most Universal

We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, "Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else's business." But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life.

Jesus says, "No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house" (Matthew 5:14-15). The most inner light is a light for the world. Let's not have "double lives"; let us allow what we live in private to be known in public.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dying Well (Henri Nouwen)

I like this very much ....

Dying Well

We will all die one day. That is one of the few things we can be sure of. But will we die well? That is less certain. Dying well means dying for others, making our lives fruitful for those we leave behind. The big question, therefore, is not "What can I still do in the years I have left to live?" but "How can I prepare myself for my death so that my life can continue to bear fruit in the generations that will follow me?"

Jesus died well because through dying he sent his Spirit of Love to his friends, who with that Holy Spirit could live better lives. Can we also send the Spirit of Love to our friends when we leave them? Or are we too worried about what we can still do? Dying can become our greatest gift if we prepare ourselves to die well.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Muslim Brotherhood Needs to Change Before Asking the US for Support (Tawfik Hamid)

Good questions ....


Muslim Brotherhood Needs to Change Before Asking the US for Support
By Tawfik Hamid
In an article published in the Washington Post on Feb 4 [I], Mr. Khairat el-Shater, the deputy supreme guide of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) accused the U.S. and Europe of neglect after the January 25, 2011 uprising and overthrow of the Mubarak regime.
This situation raises several points for discussion.
First, the MB convinced millions of Muslims over the last few decades that "Islam is the Solution". In fact this has been used as their slogan to support their political party (Freedom[II] & Justice Party) in the recent Egyptian elections. The MB need to explain to us and to the Muslim world where has the slogan "Islam is the Solution" gone? And; if Islam is the Solution as they claimed, why then are they begging for money and support from the West? Shall we see their attempt to gain Western support as an admission of failure of this slogan?
Second, if the MB is ready to accept money from the U.S. and from Europe, then the concept of Sharia Banking that many Islamic organizations have been promoting for years has to be seen as a big myth since part of the money from the US and Europe are coming from un-Islamic sources such as taxes and alcohol. Additionally, the interest rate for these Western loans will not likely follow the Sharia rules. Shall we consider this request from the MB to the West as an indication that Western Banking systems are fully compatible with Islam and thus there is no need for Islamic Banking?
Third, why has the MB not taken correct measures to improve the Egyptian economy instead of blaming others for not supporting Egypt? These measures could have included issuing a clear statementimmediately [III] after the Jan 25 revolution to say that they support the freedom of women to dress as they wish (including wearing bikinis) and freedom of drinking alcohol will be respected under their ruling. Such statements could have helped prevent the collapse of the tourism industry after the revolution. In fact, the MB did the opposite as on several occasions many of their leading members have expressed animosity to tourists wearing bikinis and drinking alcohol - which ultimately resulted in a very negative impact on Egypt's tourism industry and thus weakening the country's economy. It seems bizarre that the MB leaders have been giving statements that frightened tourists instead of reassuring them and at the end- instead of blaming themselves for contributing to the economic crisis of the country - blames the West instead for the economic collapse after the uprising.
Had the MB expressed clearly andimmediately after the Revolution that they would follow the Turkish model of secularism and will not interfere in personal freedoms of individuals such as dressing and drinking, the tourism industry would not have collapsed to such an extent and the economic situation would not have been so dire.  
Fourth, how is the MB expecting support from the US while they refuse - until today - to give a clear and strong commitment to one of the main interests of the US in the region which is to the peace treaty with Israel. Recently, the MB announced that they will put the peace treaty with Israel toa referendum while they know very well that the majority of Egyptians are against it (IV). 

The leaders of the MB need to give unambiguous statements to show respect to US interests and stop their clear support for the Hamas organization that aims - according to their charter - at killing all Jews, before expecting American support.  
Fifth, the attempt of the MB to get support from Western countries could be an indication that wealthy Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are reluctant to support them. Irrespective of the reason or reasons for such reluctance, there is a possibility that these Arab countries are afraid of the success of Egypt after the Jan 25 revolution as this success may be used to encourage their own population to revolt against the leaders of these countries.
 [I] From Egypt, a call for Western support by Stephen Glain: The Washington Post Feb 4 2012 A7
[II] According to Sayd Quttb (one of the most respected religious thinkers for the MB), "Freedom" means freedom from man-made Western laws and "justice" means according to Sharia law
[III] It took the MB nearly a year to start issuing some statements to reassuretourism industry. These statements were too late and are still not very clear and can be seen as temporary tactical step rather than a real change in policy.
[IV]Due to the virulent anti-Semitism the Mubarak regime allowed