Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Really with each passing day, Malaysia looks less and less recognizable. Whatever we had dreamed about – a successful formula of a diverse, multi ethnic people living together and working towards a common destiny seem like a distant mirage now.  Even as we look at our daily life here in Malaysia, it is discouraging to say the least. Government just isn’t working. The city is dirty, road works and public amenities are slipshod with little care for the details. Public transport is inefficient and costly.  Parks and public amenities like swimming pools and public spaces are few.  Our public education system is so bad that people are having to pay for an international or private education.  Those who cannot afford many times, sadly, face mediocre and unmotivated public school teachers. It’s impossible to start a company or to do business in Malaysia without being asked for graft or a bribe. This sickening culture exists from government officials in Putrajaya and local councils to purchasing executives in private companies. Foreign companies loathe to start a business here in Malaysia for this reason. Instead of worrying about the billions that have been lost from Malaysia through the 1MDB fiasco, politicians are more concern about passing through Parliament an archaic form of punishment that would take Malaysia back to the dark ages.  It seems like nobody cares anymore that Malaysia is heading in a dangerous trajectory, least of all the political leaders who seem to be fiddling with politics while “Rome burns.”
With all that is going on, it is so tempting to throw in the towel and to give up on Malaysia. It would be a lie to say that the thought of a successful and comfortable life in the suburbs of Sydney or Perth never crossed my mind. It has and of late all the more frequent.  Why stay?  

Indeed there can only be one reason for any Christian Malaysian to stay on.  It is our cultural and gospel mandate which is given to every professing Christian. What is this cultural mandate? It is the mandate given in Genesis 1 to rule over and subdue the earth. How do we do that as New Testament Christians? We do that by living out the values of the Kingdom of God here, now, while we live in the kingdom of this world.  This idea of the Kingdom is clearly spelt out through a series of parables Jesus told in Matthew 13. Christians are not to be separated from the weeds but both are to grow up together (Matt 13:24-30), Christians though small in number like the mustard seed shall have great influence and become a blessing to many nations(Matt13:31-32). The influence of the Kingdom of Heaven, the influence of Christians, like the little leaven is to permeate and work in and through the Kingdom of this world, spreading the values of the Kingdom(Matt13:33) – justice, truth, righteousness, mercy, grace etc.    
So why cant we do this from wherever we are.  We can also fulfill our cultural mandate in a more civilized environment like New Zealand or Australia. True and yet not.
I think the beatitudes of Luke 6:20-26 gives us a clear picture of what we are to seek and the posture of our hearts as we seek them.  According to the Beatitudes It appears that there are two ways to live. One way of living is the way of the Kingdom of God (20-22) (blessed) and the other the Kingdom of this world (woe). It is not that one should seek to be poor or hungry or sad or hated so that we can be called blessed and neither is it cursed to be rich, full or happy. The purpose of kingdom of this World lives for power(rich), comfort(full) and recognition(accepted) and does all it can to obtain these things. Power, Comfort and recognition controls the thoughts and decisions in life for a person living under the influence of the Kingdom of this World.  However, the Beatitudes are calling us as Christian disciples to live for the purpose of the Kingdom of God.  For a Christian disciple he is no longer controlled by what the world thinks as important (power, comfort and recognition). He doesn’t need them and these things don’t drive or motivate him anymore.  Its not that he avoids them but that they don’t drive his motivations and decisions. Eventhough a Christian may weep because of sadness or difficulty, he may be blessed or deeply satisfied.  Even if he is hated because of being a Christian he may rejoice on that day (the day he suffers or excluded not the day when Christ returns V.23) because he knows his eternal reward in heaven.  In other words, a Christian disciple is able to live for the things above, things that have eternal value.  He can live with courage in the face of difficulty wherever he is because he is driven by the eternal kingdom of God not the rewards of this world.  What drives us as Christians living in Malaysia?  Is it power or comfort? A great career hence recognition and acclaim?  I suspect if we seek these things we would lose it but if we seek the Kingdom, we shall gain them.

How then should we live in Malaysia as Christians?  I believe the model answer is found in Jeremiah’s letter to the exilic community in Jeremiah 29.  Go into the city, built your houses, plant your gardens, marry and raise a godly family.  Seek the shalom of the city. Pray for the shalom of the city. The false prophets wanted the exilic community to stay outside the city, live off the city and take form the city but remain separate and undefiled. After all their exile is only 2 years. Jeremiah tells the exilic community that it is going to be 70 years and that they should go in and live in the city.  Make a living from the city and grow a godly family. Increase in number.  Seek the welfare or shalom of the city.  Shalom is not just absence of war but really the wholesome flourishing of every aspect of society.  They were also to pray for their captors.  This is a missional community. This was their purpose in Babylon. To extend the influence of YHWH in Babylon and to seek after the flourishing of that city.
Somewhere along the way we began to belief that Christ promises a comfortable and prosperous life for each of us.  Our faith became quite individualistc and our relationship with God became quite business like. God’s existence in my life is to help me live a comfortable, middle class life with as little bumps as possible. I tithe, I remain faithful to CG, I go to church and go for prayer meetings and God you keep your end by keeping me safe and comfortable and successful.  Having a clear understanding of the Kingdom and our calling as Christians would help reorientate our priorities.  We are called to live out our lives in the greater story of God’s redemption plan. This isn’t always comfortable and nice, in fact many times it becomes hard. Its filled with dangers, toils and snares but as the Beatitudes remind us :
Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
 Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.

So in your consideration of whether to stay or to go, think about your calling, the Kingdom and your response.    

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Genesis Lessons -Man and woman made in God's image

Many have argued what this meant - "Made in God's image." Not quite the exact replica but an image. What attracted Eve in Gen 3 was to be like a god.  She was not satisfied with just being an image.

So what does it mean to be made in "His image?" Man and woman were made quite different from all His other creations.  It appears that man and woman were given 2 mandates: To be fruitful and multiply (1:27) and to rule over every living thing that moves.(1:28) it appears in 1:29-31 there is the food chain in place and humans held a special place in this chain.  Part of this included naming the animals 2:19

Man and woman were different from all creatures.  They were tasked to care for and tend the animals. It appears that the animals and plants on earth were given for human sustenance and flourishing. How were humans different from the other creations? They were made in God's image.  They were able to think and reason. They were able to create and make things.  They were chief of all pant and animal forms on earth.

To the original hearers, the people of Israel who had fled Egypt hearing this changed their perspective of who they were. All their lives they worked as slaves to Egypt and the Pharoah. They had no rights or no value.  They worked the pyramids and if they were sick and weak they were a burden and discarded.  Now God is telling them through Moses that they were made in the creator's image. They had a value and a purpose and an authority.  They understood this for wherever Pharoah's statue was that was his image and authority over the people. God was telling them that they are made in His image and like their first ancestors have been given the mandate to subdue and rule over creation.

Can  you imagine what this would do to their self esteem and value as humans?  

Monday, February 02, 2015

Thoughts from Genesis...Made in His image

The Judaic Christian value of respecting human beings and human life come from the theological understanding that all mankind is made in the image of God.  This deep rooted belief is grounded on the Genesis account of creation; “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”Obviously some societies have been influenced by this Genesis passage more than others.  A society which esteems its people highly and extends benefits even to visitors or foreigners to their society have this deep seated Judaic Christian value.  A society which understands this value will find a citizenry which respects each other regardless of race, religion, looks or sexual orientation.  I specifically mention these four because it is the four most dividing issues in our nation.  We tend to judge and disrespect by speaking ill and perhaps harshly to those who are most different from us specifically in these four areas.
We may not be able to accept ones religion, habits or behavior but we must always accept an individual based on the fact that he or she is created in God’s image.  It may be a broken image but nevertheless a person created by God and therefore to be respected and honored.How we treat and speak of others reveal how much we believe and understand this idea of the worth and value of an individual.  This also relates to the idea of the sanctity of life. That is why to some cultures heinous acts like beheading or burning a human alive in the name of an ideology or religion is repulsive and barbaric.

Let us look at every human being regardless of his or her belief system as individuals created by God and therefore have a value and a worth to God.  He or she created in God’s image deserves full respect and honor and should always be treated with dignity.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

How we view Knowledge?

The first picture shows a wise sage in asia who is being consulted on his wisdom. He provides solution and words of wisdom.

The second picture shows the Debate of the Ancients where there is learning through dialogue. Knowledge is created and new thoughts evolved.

Is this telling of how we view education in asia and in the west?

How we are taught and how we learn?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

3 Constants and 1 Acknowledgement (3 and 1)

As I get older, I find myself wanting to encapsulate or summarise everything into 4 or 5 points. Perhaps my mind is not able to function on so many levels anymore and so I find the need to gather them into clumps to feel some sort of sanity or order. I spend most of my days (4 days a week) in a Christian Seminary in Seremban and the rest between family and the world of grassroot politics. I find the two worlds so apart that I feel like a schizophrenic at times. Hence my need to pen down what is most important in my life into 4 (5 actually but now I've forgotten:)) items which came to me today as I was driving.

1) My faith in the Lord Jesus and His Word as my guide.
This has been a beacon for me ever since I became a Christian in 1977. From small decisions as a 10 year old to larger ones today, my faith in Christ has been my guiding light. His Word, the Bible - my instruction for life. I have only grown deeper in appreciation of the wisdom found in the Bible and the ability to know the God I love through it. Hence, my entry into this phase of life - devoted to studying the Bible for my masters degree at the age of 44.

2) My fight against injustice and for a civil society
For some strange reason, nothing moves me into rash action then the sight of injustice and oppression of any people group. This was learnt from a young age by watching dad who would always fight for the underdogs; the poor, the marginalised and the weak. It certainly rubbed on and together with a conviction that God himself is a God of justice, I have been drawn to the world of politics. Granted that any political party itself is fallible and definietly not the solution for shalom, however the idea of a non raced based political party attracted me in the late 1998. I have been involved in KEADILAN since then and have found myself involved in grassroot politics with no real ambition for any higher ranking positions except to fight injustice, corruption and arrogance.

3) My love for my family and our love for God
My eldest son came back before dinner one day and said, you know dad, we are a very close knit family. Trying to hide my emotional choke; I said why? He said; all my friends are going out for dinner because their parents and siblings don't eat together most of the week. We are a close knitted family and this has been the tradition handed down from Mom and Dad. We eat together, pray, fight and laugh together. My prayer each day is that God would fill our hearts with grace to love one another and all around us and to live for Him all the days of our lifes.

4) I acknowledge that I am in constant need of God and His gospel
I know that I don't have it together and that I am capable of blowing everything except for the grace of God. It is only the measure of Grace which He apportions to me each and every day that carries me through this life. I still have remaining sin which often rears its ugly head and struggle through them. If not for the gospel of grace, that I am a sinner saved by grace alone; the realisation of which hopefully comes to me each day; I know I am in trouble.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This week I'm knocking down the papers, smaller ones to concentrate on the bigger ones. A paper on the psalms for OT Survey and a paper on Inter-testamental Period for NT Survey.

Last night I attended the Division meeting for the political party I am still attached with and they will be increasing in frequency and intensity as the General Election looms. I am living on two ends of a spectrum between Seminary and Politics. As I sat in the meeting, I was thinking to myself, how different and seperate are the two - as night and day in content and experience. I am glad for this two experiences in a day for I think they provide the necessary balance between the two worlds. After all in practice, they are the same - human predicament, corruption and life in general.

Here are some pictures of the STM Library where I spend my Tuesday mornings. The view from the library overseeing the driveway into STM - The road I take every morning when I come in.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Week 5 of STM

It has been a busy week with a preaching slot at CDPC on (Gospel centered) worship. A topic close to my heart. Went well and had an extended time in worship after the sermon encouraging everyone to enter the presence of the Almighty, acknowledging our sinfulness and receiving His grace.

One thing that struck me most this last 2 weeks getting an overview of the OT and NT was to see how our Sovereign God had planned and kept the people Israel through the generations to bring the gospel to all of humanity. Learning about the inter-testament period is especially helpful to see how God was not actually silent but active in preparing history for the coming of the Messiah who would burst into history to declare that the "Kingdom of God is at hand."

Much of the history about the Syrian, Greek and Roman empires are all new as I never had the opportunity to study it in school ( We were busy studying Malacca and
Parameswara for for 5 years)

My faith is strengthen as I see our Sovereign Lord's hand in preserving the saints and the story through the Jews. I am sure the main actors going through the stories would not have been able to see the big picture but with the benefit of hind sight - my soul is encouraged!