Thursday, July 30, 2009
Center For Faith And Work: Artists tell the stories of our culture, and impact 21st century society as perhaps no other field does. To the extent that art reflects the heart of its creator, lives transformed by the Gospel serve as agents of cultural change.
This is a talk Makoto Fujimura gave in Leesburg, Florida to the board of Leesburg Center for the Arts. It was originally published on Mako's "Refractions" blog.
"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."
As an artist, I often find myself trying to answer “Why Art?” Why is art necessary in our lives and in our education? How can I justify spending so much of my time and expenses invested in being an artist, and helping others by advocating for their artistic expressions? Why do we need the arts here in Leesburg? We have now much research pointing to the economic benefit of bringing art into communities. We have efforts to scientifically prove that the arts help us directly in education, in improving children’s school grades, and helping them to engage better with their worlds. I can give you evidence of how the arts help slow down dementia and reduce stress. (see Gifts of the Muse, by Rand Corporation)
But usually, in these gatherings, I end up listening to people, by finding out what deeply matters to them. And I often find that in the areas that they are most engaged in, and most passionate about, art is already present in that conversation. The person I may be speaking with may not know anything about art in New York, but he/she may talk about their children’s dream to become a dancer or an actor. They may talk about a movie they just saw that affected them deeply. They may speak of their business enterprises and find out that now businesses are starting to realize that the “bottom line” is not really sufficient; but there is a “second bottom line,” or a third. Business schools are now inviting designers to discuss creativity and design, to apply these principles into business practices because worker are no longer content to work in “bottom line” driven companies, but they want their whole person affirmed, and they want community. What I hear these workers stating, is that they want their humanity back. And in that conversation, art always presents itself as an expression of that humanity.
I was recently speaking at a church in NYC, and asked the people what they enjoy doing on Sundays apart from going to church. And everything they listed had something to do with the arts and entertainment. Art is everywhere, from the food we order in restaurants, to clothes we purchase, to paintings hanging on museums. Aristotle defined the arts as “our capacity to make.” So we could broaden our discussion into medicine and sciences. Even if we do not include these sister disciplines in our discussions, one thing is for sure: Our cultural productions and our art will defines us, whether we like it or not. Art expresses who we are.
One of the most frustrating moments in recent memory, for myself as an arts advocate, was to see the Super Bowl half time show knowing, that for the first time, that Janet Jackson fiasco was being broadcast in China. What do the Chinese think of us now? We have come to define ourselves by how we degrade ourselves, and we have exported that vision to the world.
When I traveled with The First Lady to represent the USA at the UNESCO general assembly several years ago, one of the the UNESCO officials told us of her fears in America’s reengagement with UNESCO: “We are struggling to believe that the US can bring more than McDonalds, Coca Cola or Hollywood movies (I might add pornography to that list, but she was too polite).” We tried to convince her and other UNESCO leaders that we have a very unique patronage system that encourages our democratic patronage of the arts like the NEA and NEH. But it was when she connected with our projects with Shakespeare and Jazz Masters programs and touring of Martha Graham dance troops that convinced her that we were committed to a higher vision. These distinctively American forms of art, I would argue, are the greatest fruits of our democracy. And we have every reason to celebrate and broadcast with pride what freedom has brought us.
Tolstoy stated “Art is not a pleasure, a solace, or an amusement; art is great matter. Art is an organ of human life, transmitting man's reasonable perception into feeling”.
Art is a building block of civilization. A civilization that does not value its artistic expressions is a civilization that does not value itself. These tangible artistic expressions help us to understand ourselves. The arts teach us to respect both the diversity of our communities and the strength of our traditions. I encourage people not to segment art into an “extra” sphere of life and decorations. Why? Because art is everywhere, and has already taken root in our lives.
Therefore, the questions is not so much “why art?” but “which art?” We are presented with a choice. And this choice is a responsibility of cultural stewardship. Just as we have responsibility for natural resources, so do we have to take stewardship care of our culture.
What, then, does the current cultural ecosystem look like? NEA Research such as Reading at Risk, is pointing to a cultural epidemic of disengagement. The studies point to how we are reading less and less, but even more pronounced, in my mind, is how we are less engaged with civic activities, with nature (and even sports!).
The Columbine High School incident and 9/11 taught us that we can either use our imagination for destroy lives or to save lives. We have on the one hand a girl reading Macbeth (she wanted to be an actor) in the library, and on the other a teen pointing a gun at her head and asking her “do you still believe in God?” And she said “yes” and was shot. Her words affirmed the source of her life and salvation, and inspired countless others to express that belief: His actions prompted others to copy the destructive acts of horrors. On 9/11 we had, on the one hand, militant hijackers who took their imaginative vengeance into determined evil acts. On the other hand were firefighters who climbed the falling towers. We have to realize that before any of these acts were committed, they were imagined. We swim in the ecosystem of imagined actions. We do have a responsibility to that power. We do have a choice between saving lives, or destroying lives.
If we do not teach our children, and ourselves, that what we imagine, and how we design the world, can make a difference, the culture of cynicism will do that for us. If we do not take the initiative to love our neighbors by imagining better neighborhoods and cities, despair will take the imaginations of their children and turn them into destructive forces.
A few hopeful examples in the ecosystem of culture today:
1) Rafe Esquith, a National Medal of Arts recipient two years ago for his efforts among the Hobart Elementary School children of inner city Los Angeles, challenges immigrant children, many of whom do not speak English, to memorize and perform Shakespeare. In the recent ceremony announcing "American Masterpieces," a new N.E.A. initiative to bring masterpieces of visual art, dance and music to American cities, regional museums and schools, the First Lady and other guests sat in awe as two of Mr. Esquith's students performed Henry the Fifth. Beyond knowing their demanding lines, they gave life to the words and elevated us all in the audience. Their childlike but confident orations had a beauty and a deeper resonance, something that this nation desperately needs to hear and understand today when these sounds are too often drowned out by crass commercial noise. Our children's voices can be elevated, drawing the world's attention to excellence, and the nobility of civilization.
2) About 20 years ago, Mayor Joseph Riley of Charleston, South Carolina woke up one day and realized that being a mayor means that you are the chief architect and designer of your city. He came to the NEA and asked for help because he knew nothing about design. What a humble man. He states: “We mayors exhaust ourselves with lots of decisions – political, personnel, budget. But 100 years from now, there will be no real evidence of how we made those decisions. In contrast, a decision about the physical design of a city will influence the city and its people for generations.” Now the Mayors Institute has helped over 625 mayors become the chief urban designers of their cities. 8 mayors are locked up in a room with 8 designers without the media or their aids. They share solutions, and dreams. Then they go home to their towns to see how the real life solutions can also benefit the environment and the general quality of life. This effort was so successful that it has grown to affect leadership at the state level. I just attended a press conference with NEA chairman Dana Gioa and Former Governors Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey and Parris N. Glendening of Maryland to begin a Governor’s Institute on Community Design that brings this transformation into the state level.
The Governor’s Institute is co-sponsored by the NEA and the EPA. Strange bedfellows? No, it’s smart to connect the two —again, it’s the issue of stewardship. The best design is most efficient, and friendly to the environment. The best design considers what the community needs first, and even her voiceless inhabitants. The best design brings beauty into our lives.
A journey of an artist in the ecosystem of culture:
I get to spend my days, thinking and imagining, painting and writing. I think about a journey that started as a child, simply wanting to draw and express, having encouraging parents, and being blessed with a wife who suffers alongside with me. The life of an artist is never easy, but I take it seriously because I know that imagination has consequences.
But I do, on occasion, go back to that question "Why Art?" Because it was a question I addressed to myself in a diary for a creative writing class in college, many years ago. My professor, wrote back in his comments: “Your questions are valuable, and I encourage you to push that question further, as many of the writers and artists have done in the past: 'Why Live?'”
Perhaps that’s why we need the arts in Leesburg. By continuing to create and imagine a better world, we live .
Graham McAll on the medical community and climate change (1:22 minutes) - Melissa Ong & Daniel Tay
Dr. Graham McAll – family doctor, member of the UK’s Climate and Health Council, and conference speaker – found that medical professionals agreed on the major impact climate change has on human health and that important initiatives designed to combat the effects are already under discussion.
In the wake of A Rocha's "Why Creation is Waiting for the Christians" conferences in Singapore and Malaysia in July 2009, Dr Graham McAll who spoke on the relationship between medicine, Christian faith and climate change, states that the medical community can play an essential part in connecting the scientific community and the general public, because "we know the suffering of the poor... we know the suffering of our patients."
What do faith, medicine and climate change have to do with each other?
Many Christian health care leaders are now fully aware that environmental conservation is an integral part of their faith commitment. Over 500 people were involved in two weeks of A Rocha meetings and conferences in Malaysia and Singapore this July, examining the links between creation care and health care.
Dr. Graham McAll – family doctor, member of the UK’s Climate and Health Council, and conference speaker – found that medical professionals agreed on the major impact climate change has on human health and that important initiatives designed to combat the effects are already under discussion. They also expressed great concern about the effects of pervasive haze and poor air quality – those who met in Kuala Lumpur were particularly aware of the problem.
Meanwhile, many beautiful species are endangered by habitat destruction, including this Blue Nuthatch, found in Malaysia’s spectacular montane forest. Others, like the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul from Pulau Ubin island in Singapore, are harder to see – but take a moment here to listen to its song!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
A crucified Saviour? A sacrificial Lord?
Why did Jesus have to die?
Was there any other way?
What does it have to do with my Christianity?
Does there really have to be this bloody death?
What was once the central teaching of Christianity is now a matter of question and debate in every decade, even within evangelical Christianity. Its up to us and every generation of Christians to understand for ourselves what God did for us when Jesus gave himself up to death. Can we possibly look to the Cross and see what God saw? Would Christianity be any different for us if we just accepted it but didnt fully understand it?
One thing is clear. The Cross, the Death of Gods Son, was a central event, not only in Christianity, but in human history that deserves our full attention and understanding.
This year the Gospel Growth Fellowship brings you the reason why our only comfort has to be in:
The Cross and Union with Christ
3 days of learning for yourself why Christ died.
Thinking Theologically Conference '09
21-23 Sept 2009
Empress Hotel, Sepang
Call Jeremy at 012-294 1116 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Introducing the Gospel Growth Fellowship
The Fellowship exists to promote, propagate and defend a gospel-centred existence for the church of Jesus Christ.
The church has never been free from the twin dangers of every wind of teaching (Eph 4:14) externally and men who will arise from your own number who will distort the truth (Acts 20:30). In our present age to speak thus seems unnecessarily 'negative' when in fact vigilance is seen in the New Testament to be a corollary of the gospel, for instance in the pastorals e.g. 2 Tim 1:12-15.
Thus in every generation, from the New Testament times, through to the Reformation, and even now when Evangelicals seem to have ascended to the heights of various institutions in 'leading' Evangelical nations like the United States of America, the call to remain faithful to the gospel is never rendered unnecessary.
Further, it is in this gospel-centredness that we are kept in Christ-centred, Christ-honouring ministry, a ministry that has true legitimacy founded as it is in the church's supreme Head and Chief Shepherd (see Rom 1:1-6 together with Rom 16:17-27).
Flowing from this raison d’être the fellowship serves the local church expressed in 4 basic objectives:
•Building Christians up in a Gospel-centred biblical literacy: faithful to the text, theologically sound and interpreted accurately in Christ
•Equipping Christians with the skills and thinking necessary for doing Gospel-centred word ministry
•Encouraging Christians to be committed to Gospel-centred service and leadership of the church
•Fostering mutual support amongst fellow-workers in Christ for perseverance in Gospel-centred ministry
A small group in the
Approximately fifty representatives of this group met at the recent Renovaré International Conference in June of 2009, at
(http://acalltospiritualformation.info/history.aspx accessed 20 July 2009)
A Call to Spiritual Formation
Christian spiritual formation is the process of being shaped by the Spirit
into the likeness of Christ, filled with love for God and the world.
God calls us all to become like Jesus. Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”* We experience this abundance of life – here and now – as our passions, character, understanding, and relationships are increasingly aligned with those of Christ. This lifelong transformation within and among us is the continual gift of God’s Spirit. We are called to be renewed into the likeness of Jesus – but we do not always fully embrace this calling. Sometimes we seem content to be known as “Christians” without intentionally engaging with this work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Other times we desperately long for a new way of life, wanting to grow in our walk with Jesus, but needing help and encouragement. We, therefore, commit to pursue passionately and to receive joyfully God’s grace to be more fully transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.
(John 7:37–39;*John 10:10;Romans 8:29;1 Corinthians 11:1;1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:17–18;2 Corinthians 4:16–18; 2 Corinthians 5:16–21;Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 3:16–19;1 John 3:2;1 John 4:17)
As we are rooted in Jesus and in the kingdom he proclaims, we are progressively transformed. Jesus is the center of all life and history, both the source and goal of all creation. God shaped this universe as a place where the love and life of Jesus Christ might flourish. Because we are formed in the divine image, we have the capacity to receive and express this life and love. Although human disobedience corrupts the divine image in us, God still forms a people able to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love their neighbors as themselves. Jesus makes this possible through his life, death, and resurrection. In him we experience a restored relationship of love with God and one another, and continual transformation into his likeness. We are becoming a reconciled and renewed community – which is both the goal and the substance of life in God’s kingdom. This is the good news we proclaim with joy to the whole world.
(Genesis 1:26–28; Genesis 3:1–7;Proverbs 8:22–31;Isaiah 42:5–9;Jeremiah 31:33–34;Mark12:28–34;John 1:1–18; John 13:34–35;Romans 5:9–11;Romans 8:1–11;Romans 8:19–23;Ephesians 2:11–22;Colossians 1:9–23;1 Thessalonians 5:23;1 John 2:7–11)
Our engagement with God’s transforming grace is vital. Renewal into the image of Christ is not a human attainment; it is a gift of grace. God mercifully uses all our experiences, including our suffering and trials, to teach and transform us. Even so, transformation requires our involvement and effort. We need to make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit’s work in all our life experiences, particularly through intentional engagement with historical Christian disciplines, including Word and sacrament. These practices open us to the presence and grace of God. As a result, we become, through time and experience, the kind of persons who naturally express love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self‐control.
(Matthew 5:43–48; Matthew 11:29–30; Luke 6:40; John 7:38; John 15:5–17; Romans 12:1–2; Galatians 5:16–25;
Philippians 2:12–13; Philippians 3:12–16; Titus 2:11–14; Hebrews 5:13–6:1;Hebrews 12:7–13; James 4:7–8;1 Peter 2:2;1 Peter 4:1–2)
Spiritual formation happens in community. As we long to know and follow Jesus and be formed into his likeness, we journey with those who share this longing. God is calling the church to be a place of transformation. Here we struggle to fulfill our calling to love. Here we learn to attend to the invitations of God’s Spirit. Here we follow the presence of God in our midst. Spiritual community is the catalyst for our transformation and a sending base for our mission of love to the world.
(Matthew 18:20; Luke 6:12–19; John 17:20–26; Acts 2:42–47; Romans 12:4–8; 1 Corinthians 12:1–7; Galatians 6:1–2; Ephesians 4:1–16; Hebrews 10:23–25;1 Peter 2:4–10)
Spiritual formation is, by its very nature, missional. As we are formed into the likeness of Christ, we increasingly share God’s infinitely tender love for others. We deepen in our compassion for the poor, the broken, and the lost. We ache and pray and labor for others in a new way, a selfless way, a joy‐filled way. Our hearts are enlarged toward all people and toward all of creation.
(Isaiah 60:1–4; Matthew 5:14–16; Matthew 28:18–20; John 3:16–21; John 20:21–23; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Galatians 6:10; 1 John 4:7–21)
We invite all people, everywhere, to embrace with us this calling to become like Jesus. By God’s grace, we will seek to become lovers: lovers of God, lovers of people, and lovers of all creation. We will immerse ourselves in a lifestyle that is attentive and
responsive to the gracious presence of God. We commit ourselves to the community of Christ’s beloved, the church, so that we can learn this way of love together. We entreat you to join us.(Matthew 5:1–10; Matthew 13:44–46; Mark 1:15;Luke 9:23–24;Romans 12:1–2; 2 Corinthians 6:1; 1 Timothy 6:11–12; Revelation 21:2;Revelation 22:17)
Friday, July 24, 2009
Please book in your calender the dates for Klang Valley Bible Conference 2009 and Expository Preaching Seminar 2009.
And please note that we're back at the Clubhouse of Tropicana Golf and Country Club.
This year, we are pleased to announce that we have expanded to Penang as well, but only for the Expository Preaching Seminar, details as below.
Our speaker this year is Dr Bryan Chappell, who is the President and Professor of Practical Theology at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, USA.
Our publicity brochures and registration forms is still being prepared - they should be ready by August 2009. We will send you another email then :)
Please also join us in prayer that the events will run smoothly and many may be blessed by the teaching of GOD's Word. Thanks!
KLANG VALLEY BIBLE CONFERENCE (KVBC) 2009
Expositions from the book of Daniel
Date: 6 to 8 October 2008 (Tuesday to Thursday)
Time: 8:15 p.m. nightly
Venue: Clubhouse, Tropicana Golf & Country Club, Petaling Jaya
Speaker: Dr Bryan Chappell
We hope to see you there! For further information, please visit our website
Please note that Bryan Chappell will also be conducting the Expository Preaching Seminar 2009, details as follows:
EXPOSITORY PREACHING SEMINAR (EPS) 2009
Christ-centred Preaching - Proclaiming the Grace of all Scripture
Date: 7 and 8 October 2009 (Wednesday and Thursday)
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Venue: Clubhouse, Tropicana Golf & Country Club, Petaling Jaya
Speaker: Dr Bryan Chappell
Cost: RM 80 per person
Date: 9 and 10 October 2008 (Friday and Saturday)
Time: 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (Friday, 9 Oct 2009) and 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Saturday, 10 Oct 2009)
Venue: Wesley Methodist Church, 136 Jalan Burmah, 10050 Penang
Speaker: Dr Bryan Chappell
Cost: RM 40 per person
What if they commit acts that are reasonably deemed to be offensive if not sacrilegious to Christian worship.
Should Christian rely on the authorities to enforce punishment under the Penal Code?
For a brief reflection read this article by NKW
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Creation Care and Mission
By Peter Harris, Director, A Rocha International. Adapted from DOWN-TO-EARTH CHRISTIANITY edited by R W Dayton and P E Pretiz, 2000. ISBN 0-9678717-0-0
We live in exciting times. All over the world the church is recovering the truth that the gospel is concerned with restoring three areas of relationship. Principally it brings peace between people and their God, through Jesus Christ the Redeemer. Secondly it can restore relationships between people, through Christ who breaks down all the walls of hostility. Finally it makes possible a renewed relationship between people and God's Creation itself. This manual has given many examples of work that focusses specifically on this last essential aspect of gospel reconciliation. But how does it relate to those who are working in the more usual tasks of cross-cultural mission? Those tasks may range from servicing the computers of a denomination in South-East Asia, to translating scripture in central Africa, from cooking at a conference in Kazakhstan to teaching Old Testament in Lebanon. Surely there is nothing of Creation care in any of that? But there is, as some essential biblical insights may help us to see.
We begin by taking seriously the perspective of scripture that makes it plain that we live in the creation, not the environment. That is to say that when we have anything to do with the material world, it is with God's handiwork that we are involved, and thus all we do in our lives, all our actions, have to do with what the Creator has made, and so of course with the Creator himself. If we think of the world merely as "the environment", or "nature", or even more selfishly as "natural resources" we tend to think of it as what is around us, and there for us. We take our place, idolatrously, in the centre of things. But biblically the world and all we see, at least that which we have not ourselves transformed, is both from God, and for him. That brings much of our daily living into the conscious context of our personal and communal relationship with God; just as every Christian is inevitably a witness, every Christian and Christian community must inevitably care for Creation if it means anything at all to say that we believe in a Creator God. So whatever our work, our relationship to creation is part of it, and reflects our relationship to God. If we wish to care for Creation better, we need to worship God more fully! If we wish to worship as the Bible intends, we must recognise that we join the worship which creation itself offers to God. And if we wish to worship in offering our souls and bodies as God encourages us to do, we must make our care for his creation part of that.
We go on to discover that the creation is everywhere, and not merely in the countryside. We often think that environmental issues are for the foresters, or the biologists, or maybe the agriculturalists and rural development workers. But we all turn on taps or fetch water, we all switch on or off lights or light fires, we all breathe and eat. All of these things involve us in choices, and responses to God's good gift of creation. They may well also involve us in the suffering that has been brought into the world through the Fall. The water may be polluted, the light comes at a high cost to creation, the very fabric of our food is increasingly an artefact of profit-driven choices that have major implications for many other species of plants and animals that share the planet with us. So whether we live in a mega-city, or a tiny hut in the rainforest, we live in Creation, and its care is our concern.
Most of all, we express our relationship to God, and therefore witness to it and make it evident, by all that we are, and not merely by all that we say. So an abusive or indifferent relationship to the Creation sends confused signals if we wish to proclaim Christ the Creator. Often it is our concern for the church that encourages us to cross cultures and undertake the challenges of work in all kinds of places, regardless of the difficulties that we may encounter. We know that Christ died for his church, and so our concern is not a trivial one. But what is the church for which we are concerned, and what is the gospel that we wish to see spread through all the earth? The church is the community of people redeemed from the three broken areas of relationship that we have talked about above. But if we ourselves continue to live that broken-ness, what do we bring with us to the different societies that we enter, and the churches elsewhere that we go to serve? Globalisation ensures the export of the unsustainable and abusive western lifestyle - what Tom Sine has called the McWorld syndrome . Inevitably globalisation has its Christian counterpart in the development of a more uniform Christian sub-culture world wide. In so far as that sub-culture has its origins in western societies, it can unconsciously perpetuate the western indifference to creation and the consumerism that mark the wealthy nations, and western missionaries risk bringing their toxic cultural additives admixed with the life-giving gospel they intend to share. Non-western missionaries, increasingly in the majority, bring similar assumptions about their relationship to the creation with them wherever they go to serve. What we must recognise is that this is not merely an unfortunate detail, but that the very gospel itself, corrupted in that fashion, does no justice to Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Creator, who we wish our gospel to reveal.
What can we do in practical terms therefore to make sure that we are faithful witnesses to him in our life and work, regardless of where that life and work is lived out, and regardless of what its official business is?
Firstly, just as it is now normal for some degree of anthropological or cultural study to be a regular part of cross-cultural training, along with the obvious demands of language study, so we should make it an essential part of our preparation to acquire an equal awareness and understanding of the physical setting in which we go to work. By definition those who merely visit a place are unfamiliar with all of its dynamics, ecological and otherwise. They tend to be acutely unaware of the constraints that must exist if their life is to be sustainable in an unfamiliar environment. They also have far less invested in its sustainability, because unlike those they have come to serve, they can always leave! If they are part of demonstrating or teaching a lifestyle that results from the gospel, as inevitably they are, cross-cultural workers need to be aware of the local context if they are not to endorse or even recommend disaster. Two actual examples, one negative and one positive serve to illustrate the point. In a semi-arid African country, missionaries began to feel acutely the difficulty in training church leaders who belonged to a nomadic group. The people were never in one place long enough for the teachers to complete any serious work. As the missionaries understood little of the interaction between the movement of the cattle, and the availability of food, they resolved to sink a borehole that would avoid the need for wandering, and provide constant water, keeping the people in place for long enough to be taught thoroughly. Needless to say, within four months the land for some thirty kilometres in every direction had become a dust bowl, trampled by the constant presence of the many animals who had now settled down in the area. Serious poverty was only averted by the resumption of the old nomadic lifestyle. More positively, in a South American country, a pastor was very concerned by the way his church people were destroying the last of a dryland forest in order to sell the wood for much - needed fence poles. Once the trees were cut, the land soon lost its topsoil, and families who had once lived in the area were forced to move. Furthermore the pastor was convinced by teaching Genesis that this kind of way of living by destruction didn't reflect a proper human response to the Creator. So he gradually introduced a bee-keeping economy which ensured the protection of the woodlands that were habitat for the bees, but which served to safeguard the livelihood of his church members over future years. Properly understood, and obediently undertaken, the search to understand creation is part of a quest to understand God, just as the search to understand a culture is an act of compassion that reflects God's love for the people he has made. John Stott has reminded us of the dictum of the seventeenth century astronomer, Johann Kepler, that in studying the creation we are "thinking God's thoughts after him." It cannot afford to be a neglected or forgotten part of our preparation if we are truly concerned to be of service in places which are unfamiliar to us.
Secondly, we can simply offer to our host country and church an awareness that our relationship to creation is relevant to our relationship with God and to our discipleship. For many Christian communities that will come as an entirely new idea, and will also conveniently serve to challenge the besetting dualism which does such damage in Christian living. World-wide the idea that God is indifferent to the material has taken root in popular Christian thinking, and its results are seen on every side in the form of strained marriages, disrupted families, ugly Church buildings, and incoherent Christian thinking about the world around us. An affirmation of the fundamental goodness of Creation, and of the possibility of redemption in the midst of life, rather than by escaping life, is urgently needed. It will need great humility, and the awareness of our partial understanding of many issues, but it will do greater justice to the truth that any idea of what is "spiritual" must include all that is of the Spirit of God, rather than meaning "non-material" as is too often popularly assumed. A more biblical recognition of the role of the Holy Spirit in creation should protect us from that.
Then thirdly, we must re-examine how our work in evangelism, which in one form or another makes up such a major part of normal missionary endeavour, is affected by a recovery of our understanding of God as Creator, and people as his creation. Once again this may seem to be of limited relevance, but in fact the reverse is true. If we begin from the understanding that in common with all people, both those who call themselves Christians and those who don't, we are created human beings, we are immediately spared from a disastrous "us and them" posture. Whatever our good intentions, we need to accept that this has been widely misunderstood as elitism or arrogance. We share the gospel with those who hear it, it is for all of us, no matter what stage we may have reached in hearing or receiving it. There is a kind of created community here. Furthermore we understand that everything about all people is in some measure created - body, soul, spirit, person. The old and agonised discussions about the priority of evangelism over social work, and maybe the newer ones about the importance of creation care, set against evangelism, can only survive if we regard people, quite unbiblically, as souls on legs, or some other disembodied entity. God's care is manifest to all his creation, and not merely a part of it. His care is for the created person, in need of redemption in all its fullness, and not merely for some non-material entity deemed to be eternal. Moreover, the understanding that all people, in every place and in every condition, share an equal status as created beings gives us a renewed motivation for crossing cultural barriers, and reaching out everywhere with the good news. No human community should be overlooked, or regarded as less important. Chris Wright has pointed out that the affirmation of Psalm 24:1 is similarly intended to be a contentious challenge, a call to mission "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." Above all, we must be aware, because of the fact that the word was made flesh and lived among us, that whatever our preaching or talking, it will often be our embodiment of the message that speaks loudest. Once again our model is the ministry of Jesus, whose words served as explanation for the mighty works of God, and whose action in laying down his life and taking it up again brought our redemption. Tellingly we celebrate that now in a meal together, and not just in words. We cannot neglect the material reality that embodies our verbal evangelism. Who we are is as much our preaching as what we say.
Finally the simple actions which involve us in exchanges with the Creation can be looked at and seen for what they are - either as grateful or exploitative, potentially worship, or thoughtless and indifferent. How do we use paper, or electricity, or transport, in our work? What is left for the future when our work is complete? Do we recognise any constraints and limits, and how are the other members of God's creation affected by our projects?
So - if we see the growth in the number of environmental missions we should rejoice, but then beware of thinking we can leave any of this to the professionals. For as we have seen, whatever our work or our life, it is inevitably something that we will all do, and the choice we face is merely whether we will do it well or badly, whether we will do justice to the gospel, or will distort it.
JULY 21, 2009
CCM Youth refers to the articles, commentaries, joint statements and various public responses recounting the shocking death of an MACC witness, Teoh Beng Hock, under dubious circumstances. CCM Youth is not only horrified and outraged, but deeply ashamed and bewildered.
This tragedy yet again adds another nauseating leaf to our country’s sheer lack of a credible and transparent value system of integrity against a painful track record of mistreatment of suspects and dubious deaths under detention. What makes this more disturbing is that this is the first case of a witness dying under questioning. The primary concern is the clear lack of oversight, which is a shameful symptom of the nation’s ingrained and persistent lack of political will to revamp clear violations of basic human rights by enforcers of the law and those in authority.
The critical issue is not one of “Who’s next?” but “Who’s before?” Teoh Beng Hock is but the latest of a growing list of deaths under detention or custody or police action –
A Kugan, Samiyati Indrayani Zulkarnain Putra, Francis Udayappan, Dr Tai Eng Teck (the police officer was eventually convicted), V Vikines, Tharma Rajan, M Ragupathy, Syed Fadzil Syed Ibrahim, Hasrizal Hamzah, Prakash Moses, Kannan Kanthan, Ahmad Salleh, Ulaganathan Muniandy, Vivashanu Pilai, Ho Kwai See, Ravichandran Ramayah, Veerasamy Gopal, L. Yoges Rao
– just to name a few of the more celebrated deaths out of the untold numbers who died under police action, or inaction. Do we still remember these names? Or have they been neatly filed and forgotten?
This only the tip of the iceberg - what of the deaths of undocumented migrants or detainees in rural police stations that we don’t hear about in the media? According to our previous Deputy Home Minister Wan Fairuz Wan Salleh, he reported in Parliament that a staggering 1,531 died in custody in 4 years from 2003 to 2007. According to Suhakam, 1,300 foreign migrants died in detention centres in the past 6 years. These statistics are damaging, and damning. How many more talented youth do we have to sacrifice before we finally pull the plug on the potential for blatant abuse by enforcers of the law?
We need to move beyond a call for yet another Royal Commission of Inquiry. We are jaded by the setting up of panels and commissions that are unable to bring about meaningful countermeasures. We are saddened that nothing concrete has been done despite countless recommendations by generations of “toothless tigers”.
We need a working public system to track such deaths. Witnesses and detainees should have the right to immediate legal representation. Standard operating procedures for the protection of witnesses should be made available to the public – remove the veil of secrecy. Violations by enforcers of the law, who are to protect, not harm, should be swiftly dealt with. So what if we have CCTVs? The tapes can be easily erased or tampered with unless a system of checks are in place to protect the integrity of evidence. Evidence collection and forensics intervention must be immediate and timely. We must remove any conflict of interest in investigations of public interest.
We are a grieving nation today. We are in pain. The government has failed repeatedly to enact meaningful and honest reform to the enforcement community, that is, the police, RELA and prison system - and the prospects are depressing to say the least.
We thank the public, NGOs and media for keeping such issues alive and urge politicians not to milk Teoh Beng Hock’s death for their own agenda.
We call upon Tan Sri Musa Hassan to ensure that he leaves no stone unturned in these investigations and to honestly reveal the findings, without conspiring to hide the truth from the Rakyat, to whom the Police are accountable.
We call upon our new Home Minister, Dato’ Seri Hishammudin Hussein to take leadership and act swiftly and courageously on this. The government urgently needs to bring the detention system up to basic standards of decency and fairness. We need to lift the veil on interrogation centres, migrant detention centres, police jails, and hold all heads of departments to full accountability for all misdemeanours by their officers. And that includes MACC. We demand automatic inquiries upon death whether by police action, or inaction. We need to implement and re-design an enforceable and just system with the highest standards of accountability and transparency. The Home Minister’s planned review of 33 Acts would not be meaningful to the Rakyat if there is no justice or if we are unable to trust the very authorities who are supposed to enforce them.
We believe that Teoh Beng Hock and the countless others who died before him, did not die in vain. We look to our Home Minister to restore the Rakyat’s faith in the authorities whose duties are to protect them.
In his efforts to bring about unity in his 1Malaysia concept, we call upon our Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak to make this a reality by leading the nation to repentance before the Almighty God for the deaths of our young Malaysians in custody, poor treatment of migrants, lack of honesty in the government system, and the lack of love and care for the vulnerable.
Our Prime Minister must honour God first, and since he is God’s chosen leader for this nation, he should call for a National Day of Prayer. We trust that our Prime Minister’s recent pilgrimage will give him new found strength to raise a God fearing nation that honours the Almighty, and a people not only of knowledge, but of wisdom, integrity and honesty. The first tenet of the Rukunegara – “Belief in God, or Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan” – bears no meaning if we do not come before God in national mourning and repentance. Failure to answer for wrongdoings puts us into condemnation from the Almighty God. The Rakyat is counting on our Prime Minister to ensure that justice will prevail in this nation for all communities. It is our hope and prayer that justice will prevail in this matter; that those who are responsible be identified, convicted and punished.
Our Prime Minister must be seen to exercise an even hand in his fight against corruption – if MACC is so short handed, then priority must be placed on catching the big sharks like political leaders with assets beyond their means or leaders who have misappropriated public funds in the name of welfare for their personal use or entertainment. To try to distract the Rakyat with investigations involving small amounts of a couple of thousand ringgit is insulting the Rakyat’s intelligence.
May our God Almighty deal justly and severely with those who do not fear Him, and on those who are intent on suppressing the truth.
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Sunday, July 05, 2009
Why care for creation if it is to be destroyed eventually (2 Peter 3:10-13)? Check out Peter Harris and the A Rocha inaugural conference this month on why Christians should be committed to environmental stewardship.
"Christian thinking and action has only recently begun to follow the biblical calling to care for God’s creation. However, now that this calling has been taken up all over the world, many opportunities for demonstrating the relevance of the Christian gospel to the challenge of sustainability have begun to emerge. At the same time, it has also become clear that something more than environmental education will be needed to halt the rapid degradation of habitats and their species. So at this time of challenge, how can the Christian church respond to the challenges, to God our Creator, and Jesus the Lord of Creation?"
I like Vinoth Ramachandran's answer. The new heaven and new earth is the old one renewed, restored and transformed. As God's redeemed people, we are to live as if the future is already present, as signs of the future eschatological reality in the here-and-now.
Sign up asap for this exciting conference to connect Christians in conservation!
Friday, July 03, 2009
Ron Choong will be in town to discuss how China nearly became a Christian nation? The Dead Sea Scrolls and Belief in a Postmodern World in August 2009. Details as per brochure here. We have limited seats so kindly book seats for you and your friends now by clicking email@example.com to avoid disappointment!