Saturday, June 30, 2007

Good Well Behaved Boy

Don't laugh. I actually had a mother who called me up because her son is behaving himself.



Influencer of Spiritual Formation in Malaysia (2)

Chinese Culture and Religions
for those Malaysian Christians of Chinese Origin

Chinese culture and Chinese religions are powerful societal spiritual formation influencers on the Malaysian Chinese Christian psyche. The Chinese psyche and history is strongly influenced by Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) and subsequent Confucian scholars. The Way of Confucius is based on two thesis; “that goodness can be taught and learned, and that society can only be in harmony and peace under the guidance of wisdom” (Yao 2000, 26). Out of these two theses are developed four precepts of the Way (dao), ritual/propriety (li), humaness (ren), and virtue (de). The Way (dao) of Confucius leads to the formation of the ideal or virtuous man (junzi), who is in harmony with Heaven and Earth. Becoming a junzi is achievable by learning, and the cultivation of virtue and self-control. This includes the Confucian ideal of family (jia), cult (jiao), and learning (xue)[1]. (Yao 2000, 26-30)

Confucianism was later incorporated into Taoism. When Buddhism was first introduced into China, there was a conflict with Confucianism. Gradually however it was incorporated into a syncretistic folk religion consisting of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and animism. Many Malaysian Chinese Christians come from families that still worship this Chinese folk religion. This involves going to temples on festival days, ancestor worship and having family altars.

However Confucianism remains the key to understanding the Chinese identity. Chang Lit Sen, a Chinese apologist, theologian, scholar in Asian philosophy and Distinguished Lecturer in Mission Emeritus in Gordon-Cornell Theological Seminary, writes, “Confucius has been respected by Chinese people not only as a great sage but also as an idol in their hearts, they strive to imitate him as Christians imitate Christ.” (1999, 40) To be a Chinese means to embrace the latest incarnation of Confucianism. Confucianism is an inseparable part of the Chinese identity. Whalen Tai, a faculty member at the Department of Religious Studies, University of California at Davis, California makes an interesting observation between Chinese identity and Christianity.

He observes,

There is one underlying cultural link. Chinese Christians might denounce Buddhism and Taoism as pagan and superstitious but not Confucianism. Even in the most Christian of Chinese families – the notable sign of which is the greater egalitarianism between church-going spouses and generally greater freedom for the offsprings – the behavioural patterns are still very much Confucian. There is still a greater sense of filial piety, a greater stress on book learning, familial loyalty, hard work, etc. than in a typical Western counterpart which
would cultivate greater individuality still, with more physical vigour, personal independence, romantic openness, venturesome traits, etc.
(Lai 2000,132).

The Chinese psyche is strongly influenced by Confucianism. It is estimated that 90% of Chinese students in Malaysia attends the Chinese School system. This is a separate school system form the National Type Schools run by the government. This school system uses Mandarin as its medium of instruction. Its philosophy of education is strongly influenced by Confucianism. The pedagogy is indoctrination of Confucian values.

Yao Xin Zhong, Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Wales, Lampeter observes, “Many Chinese converts made use of Confucian philosophy and ethics to reformulate Christian ideas.” (Yao 2000, 242). This is true of both Chinese and English speaking Presbyterian Christians, though more marked in Chinese speaking Christians. Confucianism teaches a personal moral code of ethic behaviour that finds the Protestant doctrine of unconditional personal salvation offensive (Chu 2001, 209).

However, there is a great emphasis on building right relationships. The five key relationships in Confucianism are ruler-subject, father-son, husband-wife, elder brother-younger brother, and friend-friend. Chu Sin Jan, associate Professor of History, Chinese university of Taipei, notes,
…their (Chinese Christians) Confucian way of reflecting on Christian theology shows their concern that Christians, in the pursuit of ren, be in relationship to establish their character and other people’s character as well as to live in harmony with each other and with God. Confucian values, not to mention Confucian logic and language greatly color their Christian faith. Their Confucian heritage makes them more concerned about personal and social ethics than anything else
(2001, 210)

Therefore Chinese Christian relates more to spiritual formation which involves relationships and community better than to personal salvation. Historian Roxbough notes that, “In Malaysia this is a church which for much of its history has rejected the idea of being Presbyterian in favour of wishing to be Chinese” (Roxbough 1992, 101). The Malaysia Chinese lives in a continuum between two cultures: Chinese and Malaysian. One end is Chineseness and the other end is Malaysian multiculturalism. Where one is on the continuum decides one’s behaviour. Samuel Ling, President of China Horizon and researcher into cultural trends that affect Chinese Churches observes that “the Chinese model is rooted in the traditional Chinese family and clan, which sees adults as the focus, and children as appendages. (Ling and Cheuk 1999,69).

This will have an effect on how Chinese in churches plan for children’s ministries[2]. In traditional Chinese culture, leaders and teachers are to be respected. Hence a pastor’s decision is final and accepted without arguments (Ling and Cheuk 1999)148. Again this will create problems in many churches especially amongst the English educated who sees the pastor as an equal and call him or her by their first name.[3]


Chu, S. J. (2001). Confucianism and Christianity. A Dictionary of Asia Christianity. S. W. Sunquist. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Confucius (1999). The Analects. Hunan, China, Hunan People's Publishing House.
Lai, W. (2000). Cultural Confucianism, Cultural Christianity: One Dilemma of the Modernized Chinese. Confucianism in Chinese Culture. H. T. Cheu. Kuala Lumpur, Pelanduk Publications (M) Sdn Bhd: 113-140.
Ling, S. and C. Cheuk (1999). The "Chinese " Way of Doing Things. Vancouver, China Horizon and Horizon Ministries, Canada.
Yao, X. Z. (2000). An Introduction to Confucianism. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press.


[1] This is a very simplified version of a very complex philosophy and ideology. See Confucius (1999). The Analects. Hunan, China, Hunan People's Publishing House. It has often being argued by Confucian scholars that there is no one Confucianism but many; as Confucianism have evolved into different incarnation throughout its thousands of years of Chinese history. See Yao.
[2] Children and Youth ministries are not given much attention in Malaysian Presbyterian churches until recently. What caused a change in focus is the realisation that most youths when they leave their home churches to go to the bigger cities to study do not join Presbyterian churches but churches of other denominations. The solution by the ESP is to form youth orientated churches in the bigger cities. Another area of concern is the role model of fathers in the Chinese culture. Fathers in Chinese culture are often distant, disciplinarians, and business minded. Bishop Ting of China writes, “In fact, the proper Chinese way to refer to one’s own father in polite conversation is the “severe one in my family”…” One wonders how this will affect the perception of the Heavenly Father in the minds of children from these families who became Christian.
[3] These are but two examples of Chinese thinking affecting churches with both Chinese and English educated members. Other examples quoted are evangelism directed to children and not families (p. 142-143), respect for pastors and leaders (p.147-149), and sharing testimonies in public (p.143). Non-Christian families are often unhappy if their children become Christians, respect for leaders and pastors mean not speaking so because to do so is to ‘shame’ them, and for Chinese sharing their ‘achievements’ or giving testimonies in public is taboo (“showing of”, “pride”, “disrespectful”). Ling, S. and C. Cheuk (1999). The "Chinese " Way of Doing Things. Vancouver, China Horizon and Horizon Ministries, Canada.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

It's Deeds that will Test Religion

NST Online » Columns

ZAINAH ANWAR: It’s deeds that will test religion
zainah Anwar

LIKE so many others, I had thought that Karen Armstrong’s public lecture in mid-June would focus on the unsettling relationship between religion and politics in the 21st century.

The religious historian and former nun did give an account on how religion has been implicated in the catastrophes of the 20th and 21st centuries and how the growth of militant piety in all the major religions as a response to the challenge of modernity has led to a distortion of faith. But for me, it was her focus on how to find common ground among all religions and what constitutes good and bad religion that made the biggest impact. As someone constantly battling suffocating patriarchy justified in the name of religion, I was moved by the strength and utter simplicity of her spiritual message.She feels many people have turned away from religion because it is made so complicated in its emphasis on doctrine rather than practice. We are so obsessed with being right in our doctrine instead of being just in our practice, she says. Thus, her emphasis is on practical compassion as a way to be religious, to attain enlightenment.

She believes the most important virtue in religion is compassion — this does not mean feeling sorry for the others; it means feeling with them, displacing our own ego at the centre of our lives and putting others there. It means to look into our inner self, find out what distresses us and refuse to inflict this upon others.And it’s not good enough if we confine our compassion only to our own group. We must extend it to others as well. She strongly believes in the golden rule of not doing unto others what you don’t want done to yourself. Since preoccupation with compassion is common to all religions, she believes this can establish one common ground that enables us to live together and respect each other.We didn’t need Armstrong to come to Malaysia to tell us this, of course. But the standing room-only audience of all religions and races was a telling sign that we wanted to hear a voice of reason, wisdom and compassion that could help us make sense of a world that has become so polarised and unjust, and how we can make religion a source of solutions, rather than a source of problems. As I listened to her, I wondered how many of us in the audience would really be thinking through what she was saying and applying it in our lives. It did not take long for reality to hit home. The second person to ask a question began by giving his salam only to the Muslim brothers in the room and a good morning to others.

I cringed as I felt the murmur in the hall. A Christian friend behind me muttered that she was being excluded in this man’s greeting of peace, and a Muslim woman next to her remarked that even Muslim sisters were excluded. I felt compelled at the end of the talk to approach the older man to try to understand why he started his comment about the need to be considerate of others by excluding and "othering" so many in the hall.

I have been thinking about all that has gone wrong with the practice of my religion where too many of us are obsessed with what we believe is doctrine, rather than practise what reflects the justice of God. On Wednesday, a Chinese Muslim friend came for advice on how she could make sure that her property, her Employees’ Provident Fund and insurance benefits would go to her Buddhist parents and siblings should she die. She is a convert and is divorced. She has no children, and under Muslim inheritance laws, non-Muslims cannot inherit from a Muslim. But she wants all her hard-earned assets to go to her parents and siblings, and not to Baitulmal. Just the other night, a friend emailed from California, saying her grandmother had died, leaving a house to her mother and her two aunts. They are in the midst of selling the house, but Baitulmal is demanding its share because the three daughters are entitled to only two-thirds of the property. In the absence of residual male heirs, one-third should go to Baitulmal under our Shafie school of law. But under the Hanafi and Hanbali schools, daughters can inherit all. Needless to say, the three sisters, all in their sixties and seventies, are very upset about this. For me, it is public deeds that will test the place of Islam in the 21st century. We all know what theory says — that Islam is a just and peaceful religion. That more than any other religion, it recognises pluralism, differences and disputation. It was revolutionary in granting women rights unheard of in the 7th century, the right to inherit, own and dispose of property, the right to enter a contract and the right to be treated as an equal. In fact, according to Armstrong, the Crusaders were shocked at how well women were treated in Muslim land, and the scholar monks in Europe criticised Islam for being too egalitarian and giving too much respect to ordinary people, especially women. Where and how it went wrong remain the subject of books and articles, even as I write this. But as I told a group of young women at the Feminista Fiesta two weekends ago, we can begin to make it right by doing little things to make a difference, to make someone’s life better, to show compassion not just to those who share our faith but to others as well. Yesterday, even though it was my day off, I visited two Indian restaurants in Bangsar which were raided by a team of enforcement officers from the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim), Federal Territory Islamic Department (Jawi) and Kuala Lumpur City Hall over their halal certification. I went because my niece’s young Chinese friend who was eating in one of the restaurants was so distressed by the show of power and intimidation by the religious officials (10 inside the restaurant and more milling outside) that she says she cannot bring herself to speak up for this country any more when it is unfavourably compared to others. I wanted to join my niece in assuring her that the action of those little Napoleons does not represent the belief or have the support of most other Muslims. Armstrong says any belief that makes you compassionate, kind and respectful of others is a good religion.
If your beliefs make you intolerant, unkind and belligerent, this is bad religion, no matter how orthodox it is.

Aha … could this be why her celebrated books on Prophet Muhammad, the Battle for God and the History of God are banned in Malaysia?

Thank God that although one arm of the government, the Internal Security Ministry on the recommendation of Jakim, banned the books, another arm of the government, the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Institute for Diplomatic and Foreign Relations saw the wisdom in inviting the author to give a keynote address on "Bridging the gap between Islam and the West" and a public lecture on religion in the 21st century. These days, we should be grateful for little mercies that confusion brings.

Wrong to display religious pictures?

KUALA LUMPUR: Is it an offence to place pictures of verses from the Quran and Hindu deities in restaurants? This is the poser following the confiscation of such pictures from two restaurants in Lorong Maarof, Bangsar, here. A spokesman for Restaurant Aiswaria, A. Mohd Dhasthagi, said officers from the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim), Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the Domestic Trade and Industry Ministry inspected the premises on Tuesday.A notice was issued, saying that the restaurant did not have halal certification from Jakim and also did not have Muslim workers. The owner was asked to rectify the situation. The team took away a picture of Mecca and another with verses from the Quran.Aiswaria owner Jehabar Ali Hussain Kader said yesterday: "I have not broken any laws. It’s ridiculous that I was cited for these offences. I never knew that it is an offence to display religious pictures in my premises. Being a Muslim, I purchase food items from a halal vendor." He said he had Muslim workers.Restaurant Seetharam, a few doors away, was also cited for similar offences. The raiding team confiscated three pictures of Hindu deities placed behind the cashier’s counter.The employees said they were baffled by the removal of the pictures.

The issue was highlighted yesterday by opposition leader Lim Kit Siang. He had earlier visited the outlets with two other MPs, Chong Eng and Fong Po Kuan.Lim said this was not the first time such raids were conducted and he feared it could set back inter-racial harmony.

Jakim director-general Datuk Mustafa Abdul Rahman said he was not aware of the incident. "If it is true, I will ask for a report from the officers involved. This is a sensitive issue and I can’t comment until I know the whole story." Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said the display of religious pictures had nothing to do with the food served.

He said Muslims could consume food in restaurants as long as the ingredients were halal and the preparation followed Islamic principles."Islam allows the display of religious pictures and paraphernalia in a private area as long as it doesn’t disturb the peace. This incident must be investigated carefully as we don’t know what the real issue is."


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Influencers on Spiritual Formation in Malaysia (1)

Influencers of Christian spiritual formation in Malaysia (1)

Malaysian Presbyterian Influence on Spiritual Formation
Note: This is written from a Malaysian Presbyterian point of view and does not represent the official position of the Presbyterian churches of Malaysia.

Denominations is an important context in which to understand spiritual formation in Malaysia. Presbyterianism first came to Malaya when the Dutch captured the trading town of Malacca in 1641. The second wave came with the British colonisation of the Straits Settlement of Singapore, Malacca and Penang. These were Scottish and English Presbyterians who were traders, soldiers and missionaries from mission organisations. One such organisation was the London Missionary Society (Helms), now known as the Council for World Mission (CWM). The third wave came in 1950s, when China closed its door to foreign missionaries and they relocated to Malaya and Singapore. An English Speaking Presbytery (ESP) was formed in 1990. The first two waves are mainly English speaking while the third wave was mainly Chinese speaking. Together with this third wave came missionaries from the Inland China Mission, now called Overseas Chinese Mission (Bloomfield) which “served as the bridge between the two streams[1].”(Roxborogh 2001, 673). The New Zealand Presbyterians have worked closely with the China Inland Mission (Roxborogh 2001, 672). Therefore Presbyterianism in Malaysia was influenced by the Dutch, Scottish, English and New Zealanders but not the Americans Presbyterians.

The influence of Carl McIntyre and John Song caused a church split and the Bible Presbyterian Church was formed. (Roxborough 2001, 672). In Malaysia, Presbyterianism is divided into the Presbyterian Church and the Bible Presbyterian Church.

The Presbyterian mission was strongly involved in education, itinerant evangelism and medical care. (Roxborough 2001, 672). However, its involvement with education is not so extensive as compared to the Methodists, Anglicans, and the Roman Catholic Church. The significance of this Christian involvement in education by building Christian schools is that “in 1950, they educated nearly half the students in the English medium schools in West Malaysia and produced nearly two-thirds of all secondary education in any medium” (Sunquist 2001, 189). The influence of Christian schools decreased after Malaysia became independent in 1957 and the newly appointed government ‘nationalised’ all Christian schools. The Presbyterian Church is still involved in higher education, especially theological education, for example, in Trinity Theological College (TTC) in Singapore[2]. What this strategy produced are churches in Malaysia that values Western education and are English speaking.

Initially the English speaking congregations was to cater for the expatriates. Then as the number of English speaking converts increased, the church demography began to change. St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Kuala Lumpur still has a large expatriate membership. Holy Light Church (English) is the largest English speaking Presbyterian Church in Malaysia. Its history dates back 125 years to J.A.B. Cook. Cook was called by the Presbyterian Church of England in 1882 to Singapore to lead the Chinese Presbyterian Church after the death of its founder, Benjamin Keasberry (Sng 1993, 104-107). After reforming the church in Singapore, Cook planted a few Chinese speaking churches in Malaya. In Johor Bahru, he was able to get grants of land from the Sultan of Johore through Keasberry’s son-in-law, James Meldrum (Hunt 2001, 215). It is on one such plot of land that Cook started the Holy Light Church (Chinese). In a series of events which will be repeated all over the country, the Chinese speaking congregation started an English speaking service which grew and in time developed into an English speaking church. In this case, Holy Light Church (English) was started and today both the churches occupy the same premises[3].

The tensions between the English speaking and Chinese speaking Presbyterian churches are an influencer in the Malaysian Presbyterian ethos. This sibling rivalry disrupts the harmony in church relationships and provides a bad model of inter-community relationships. The more hierarchical Chinese speaking churches regard their younger English speaking brethrens as disrespectful. Basically it is a conflict of worldviews. Church historian John Roxborogh explains, “The English speaking have already made a break from their home culture and at the same time are in contact with a wider range of Christian thought and activity. Chinese speaking congregations feel that there will be a place for them in Malaysia of the future and believe that English will lose some of its importance.” (Hunt, Lee et al. 1992, 76). One effect of this is that the English speaking congregations are wider in their outlook and look towards the West for ideas, while the Chinese speaking congregations are more inclusive and looks toward Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China.

Though the Synod is the main governing body, Presbyterian churches are by its nature independent, led by ruling and teaching elders. A lot of responsibility was placed on the ruling elder to interpret the Presbyterian/ Reformed ethos. In recent years, many of the pastors do not subscribe fully to Calvinism. Some are also Arminian in their thinking. Most of them are evangelical in their thinking. There is also a charismatic influence in some churches. Obvious this will have some influence the spiritual development of its members.

Another inherited problem is the role of youth and women in church ministries. In some, but not all Malaysian Presbyterian churches, women are not allowed to preach from the pulpit. This problem with the role of women in ministry and leadership were not unique to Malaysian Presbyterians. The Presbyterian Church of the United States (PCUSA) first ordained women elders only in 1920 after years of debates. (Smylie 1996, 113). Four ladies were appointed to the Board of Managers of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in 1957 (Cummings, 1964). Since then there are some hopeful signs in some churches in Malaysia where some women are being appointed deaconess and elders. Youth are not appointed to be deacon or elder and are often not represented in the upper leadership echelons. In the Presbyterian ethos, youth is not a priority. Again, there are hopeful signs that a few new Presbyterian churches are formed for youths. Concerning the response to the Charismatic revival, Roxborogh comments, “The Charismatic movement influenced many English speaking congregations in the 1970s, but despite pleas for a more pastoral approach the Chinese speaking majority introduced constitutional changes in 1984 requiring that all baptisms be by sprinkling and discouraging speaking in tongues.” (Roxborogh 1992, 99). This reflects the conservatism of the Chinese speaking congregations and their relationship with the English speaking congregations.

Denominational distinctive, while not so important as it once was, is a major influencer in societal corporate spiritual formation. There is not much emphasis on Calvinism and one can be a member of a church for more than 10 years without knowing about Presbyterianism and the Reformed tradition[4]. There is a chapter on Presbyterianism in the baptism class and after that was never mentioned again[5]. The issues of the role of youth, women and of the Holy Spirit need to be addressed because these issues are important in corporate spiritual formation.


Bloomfield, F. (1983). The Book of Chinese Beliefs. London, Arrow Books.
College, T. T. (2006). At the Crossroads: The History of Trinity Theological College 1948-2005. Singapore, C.O.S. Printers Pte Ltd.
English-Work-Committee (1977). Christ Our Life: A Communicant's Manual. Kuala Lumpur, Geraja Presbyterian Malaysia and The Presbyterian Church of Singapore.
Helms, H. M., Ed. (1982). Fenelon: The Royal Way of the Cross. Brewster, MA, Paraclete Press.
Hunt, R. (2001). Cook, J.A.B. A Dictionary of Asia Christianity. S. W. Sunquist. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans publishing Company: 215.
Hunt, R., K. H. Lee, et al., Eds. (1992). Christianity in Malaysia: A Denominational History. Kuala Lumpur, Pelanduk Publishers (M) Sdn Bhd.
Roxborogh, J. (2001). Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. A Dictionary of Asian Christianity. S. W. Sunquist. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. EerdmansPublishing Company: 672-675.
Smylie, J. H. (1996). A Brief History of the Presbyterians. Louisville, KN, Geneva Press.
Sng, B. E. K. (1993). In His Good Time. Singapore, Graduates' Christian Fellowship.
Sunquist, S. W. (2001). Colleges and Universities. A Dictionary of Asian Christianity. S. W. Sunquist. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: 185-191.
Tan, R., Ed. (2002). Holy Light Church (English): 50 Years of Grace (1952-2002). Johor Bahru, Holy Light Church (English).
Trinity-Theological-College (1999). Our Heritage Our Future. Singapore, Armour Publishing Pte Ltd.


[1] The two streams refer to the English speaking and the Chinese speaking Christians. These two streams still exist today. They exist in the same church or in separate churches.
[2] Trinity Theological College started on 4th October 1948 started as a joint venture between “The English Presbyterian, The Church of English and the Methodist Church.” Trinity-Theological-College (1999). Our Heritage Our Future. Singapore, Armour Publishing Pte Ltd. p.30. The idea for an ecumenical theological college were mooted during discussions among Rev. Hobart B. Amstutz (Methodist), Rev.Gidson (Presbyterian), and Canon Adams (Anglican) when the three were interned at Changi Camp during the Japanese Occupation. College, T. T. (2006). At the Crossroads: The History of Trinity Theological College 1948-2005. Singapore, C.O.S. Printers Pte Ltd.p.39
[3] It is argued that the initial English speaking service started in Holy Light Church (Chinese) was for the Meldrum family and not truly a church service. This English service was stopped after James Meldrum died. It was revived in 1952 by Rev. Hood and it was claimed that this was the real start of Holy Light Church (English). See Tan, R., Ed. (2002). Holy Light Church (English): 50 Years of Grace (1952-2002). Johor Bahru, Holy Light Church (English). p. 15
[4] Personal communications with members of a few English Speaking Presbyterian churches.
[5] The instruction manual for Baptism classes is English-Work-Committee (1977). Christ Our Life: A Communicant's Manual. Kuala Lumpur, Geraja Presbyterian Malaysia and The Presbyterian Church of Singapore. A personal survey with the pastors and elders of the English Speaking Presbytery revealed that most churches are not using this manual, and are not teaching about Calvinism and the Reformed tradition.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Jazzy Blue Book

(2003) Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publisher.

This is a book for light reading. Donald Miller is an excellent story teller and in this book, he deals with the tenets of the Christian faith in a light hearted autobiographical format. There are many stories and anecdoctals to illustrate his points.

There are even two cartoon stories in the book.

Don Rabbit
Don Astronaut
Miller has a wacky sense of humour so it is also a fun read.

Donald Miller grew up in Houston, Texas. Leaving home at the age of twenty-one, he traveled across the country until he ran out of money in Portland, Oregon, where he lives today.

House Publishers released his first book, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance, in 2000. Two years later, after having audited classes at Portland's Reed College, Don wrote Blue Like Jazz, which would slowly become a New York Times Bestseller.

In 2004 Don released Searching for God Knows What a book about how the Gospel of Jesus explains the human personality. In 2005 he released Through Painted Deserts the story of he and a friends road trip across the country. Don's most recent project is a book about growing up without a father called To Own a Dragon.
Don is the founder of The Belmont Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation which partners with local churches to create mentoring programs for young men growing up without fathers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Poverty Stricken Church

Poverty stricken as the church is today in many things,
she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer.
We have many organizers, but few agonizers;
many players and payers, but few prayers;
many singers but few lingerers;
lots of pastors but few wrestlers;
many fears, few tears;
much fashion, but little passion;
many interferers, but few intercessors;
many writers, but few fighters.
Failing here, we fail everywhere

Leonard Ravenhill
20th century preacher on revival


Does Quality Theological Education Produces Character?

In his blog, the homilia of a budding NT scholar, our very own, not just budding, but also blooming NT scholar with a sense of humour (you don’t see many of these around) posted another “sick project”. The discussion is about the quality control of Malaysian building projects and also of the quality control of theological education.

Kar Yong poses two interesting questions; “But I wonder is there a close corelation (sic) between quality theological education and character building? The better the quality of theological education, will this translate to better spiritual formation and character building?”

That set me thinking. I guess the key word is “quality” because we know that not all theology education offered by all theological institutions, seminaries, and departments of theology are the same. I will also take the liberty not to define “theological education” too finely as it can refers to higher Masters (Master of Theology) and PhDs but use it to refer to general theological education. So, does getting a “quality theological education” means “better spiritual formation and better character formation”?

I have been following the theological education curriculum designs in seminaries for some time. I find that theological institutions, seminaries and universities departments are often torn between two objectives: spiritual formation and academic excellence. An emphasis on spiritual formation will develop their students’ character while the emphasis on academic excellence will build up the institution as a world recognised centre of learning. While not mutually exclusive, it is not possible to have both. We must also recognise that they have 2-4 years for each student to do what is needful.

First, a lot depends on the teaching staff and the institution’s philosophy. If the institution aims to be a centre of academic excellence, on par with other centres of academic excellence in producing publications and leading the trend in the latest theological constructs, then it will secure for its teaching staff, men and women with PhDs and a leaning towards research and writing. Normally these brilliant men and women speaks a different language from us ordinary mortals, and often it is difficult for them to come down to our level (I am not being judgmental here. Their training has made them so). Their interests will be more in their narrow fields of study than in the mentoring of students which takes up time and effort.

Second, if the institution thinks of itself as a university rather than as Christian community of faith, then the design of the curriculum will be heavy on theology, hermeneutics, homiletics, New and Old Testament studies rather than on spirituality or spiritual formation. These may be the reason why in most theological institutions, theology and Biblical studies take up more teaching time than relational skills or counselling.

Finally, most theological institutions grade their effectiveness by measurable outcomes like exam scores. It is rather difficult to measure spiritual growth. It is much easier to grade a paper in theology or biblical studies. All theological institutions seek accreditation with some national and international bodies. Unfortunately accreditation depends on measurable data such as how many PhDs on staff and how were the average student scores than on the character of the teaching staff and students.

I must acknowledge than many theological institutions are now aware of their weaknesses and are attempting to incorporate spiritual formation into their academic curriculum. Unfortunately, this is often more like tinkering with the curriculum. What is needed is a radical restructuring of theological education to make spiritual formation and character formation premier in the theological institutions. Back to Kar Yong’s questions. For the reasons given above, I feel that there is a negative correlation between spiritual formation and character building, and quality theological education at this present moment.

Photo credit

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Monday, June 25, 2007

How Heavy is Your Burden?

Is Your Burden Heavy?

There is an old story about three men and their sacks . Each man had two sacks, one tied in front of his neck and the other tied on his back. When the first man was asked what was in his sacks, he said, "In the sack on my back are all the good things friends and family have done. That way they're hidden from view. In the front sack are all the bad things that have happened to me. Every now and then I stop, open the front sack, take the things out, examine them, and think about them." Because he stopped so much to concentrate on all the bad stuff, he really didn't make much progress in life.

The second man was asked about his sacks. He replied, "In the front sack are all the good things I've done. I like to see them, so quite often I take them out to show them off to people. The sack in the back? I keep all my mistakes in there and carry them all the time. Sure they're heavy. They slow me down, but you know, for some reason I can't put them down."

When the third man was asked about his sacks, he answered, "The sack in front is great. There I keep all the positive thoughts I have about people, all the blessings I've experienced, all the great things other people have done for me. The weight isn't a problem. The sack is like sails of a ship. It keeps me going forward.

"The sack on my back is empty. There's nothing in it. I cut a big hole in its bottom. In there I put all the bad things that I can think about myself or hear about others. They go in one end and out the other, so I'm not carrying around any extra weight at all."

What we carry around affects our spiritual life. The writer of Hebrews uses the metaphor of a runner to illustrate the spiritual life. Living the spiritual life is like running a race. We cannot imagine a marathon runner running with a sack on his or her back. That will hinder their running. A runner will do everything they can to reduce the excess weight. The writer of Hebrews advises us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” in order to run the race (Heb.12:1).

Unfortunately, many of us are like the first man. We keep before our eyes all the bad and horrible things that has happened to us; our poor relationships with other people, our bad experiences and unfulfilled expectations in church, and the horrible events that scarred our lives. What is out of sight is out of mind. We do not remember the good that others have done for us. Our focus is on the bad things which crowd our thoughts causing anger and bitterness. It is hard to run forward when there is so much negative emotional burden. The heaviness of these burdens causes some of us to drop out of the race, like those marathon runners falling by the roadside. Once down, we are contented to stay down and refused to get up. Others leave the church not realising that they are bringing their sacks with them. Still others struggle for spiritual growth yet not bearing fruits and making progress because their souls are being poisoned by bitterness and unforgiveness.

The second man keeps his achievements and things that make him feel good in front of him. He revels in his accomplishments, his wealth, his fame, and in his sacrificial service for the church. He always reminds others of his contribution to the church, and the favours he has done for others. He turns a blind eye to his mistakes, his imperfections, his idolatry, and his pride. All these he throws into the sack behind him so that he does not see them. Unfortunately what the eye does not see remains in the subconscious. The prick of conscience is a constant thorn in his side and the sacks remain heavy. Such people need great effort to run. Some can hardly walk. Every step is a struggle because of the weight of the load of the sacks they carry.

The third man fills his front sack with positive thoughts, gratitude and appreciation for people around him, and the blessings he has received. For all the gossips, slanders, and bad experiences, he forgives and forgets. He throws then into the sack at his back which has a big hole in the bottom. Thus the back sack is empty, and he is freed from bitterness, hatred, and anger. He only feels the goodness of this life and of the blessings of God. All these make his sack to act as a sail. The Holy Spirit who is like a wind blows the sail and helps him forward as he runs the race.

Running the spiritual race is so much easier if we get rid of bitterness, unforgiveness, and anger. That is what Jesus is giving us when He offers us His yoke. Many of us are running like the first man or the second man. Our sacks are heavy with our burdens and they wear us out. Jesus offers, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30). Being yoked with Jesus is like the third man. He is like Eric Liddell, an Olympic runner in the movie Chariots of Fire who said, “God make me fast. And when I run fast, I feel His pleasure.” For Eric Liddell, however, the Olympics were not the ultimate race. The son of Scottish missionaries to China, he saw his whole life as a race: a race for the kingdom of heaven. That is why, two years after taking the Olympic gold, he sailed to China, to become a missionary himself.

Reflection Questions

(1)What are you carrying in your sacks?
(2)Are you allowing negatives events in your life drag you down?
(3)Look at your life now. Are you like the first man, the second man, or the third man?
(4)How do you become like the third man?


help me to be like the third man in the story. Help me to keep all the positive thoughts I have about people, all the blessings I've experienced, all the great things other people have done for me in the sack in front of me. Let the sack behind me have a big hole where I shall lose all the bad things that I can think about myself or hear about others. Let me share the yoke with your Son so that I will find rest for my soul.



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Influences on Spiritual Formation in Malaysia Churches

What do you think are some of the factors that influence spiritual formation of Chinese Christians in Malaysian and Singapore churches churches? Here are some of my ideas.

  • Denominational history

  • Chinese culture

  • Post-colonial legacy

  • Religious pluralism in a multicultural society

  • Islam as the dominant religion in society
  • Media-interconnectivitiy

  • Effects of globalisation

Can you think of any other factors that can influence spiritual formation in Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese Christians? Please let me know.

I am conducting a research on this area and will great appreciate your input.


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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Identity 'Crisis' about Sanctification

Christianity Today, July, 2007

Identity 'Crisis'
Nazarenes rethink entire sanctification.

Brad A. Greenberg posted 6/22/2007 08:49AM

The Church of the Nazarene is in a "theological crisis," general superintendent Jerry Porter announced five years ago at a global theology conference in Guatemala City. As the 1.5-million member denomination approaches its 100th anniversary next year, leaders are rethinking their central holiness doctrine of entire sanctification.

Some Nazarene theologians dispute Porter's interpretation and say the denomination is rearticulating, not reforming, its beliefs. But other scholars insisted to ct that the crisis persists.
"A lot of the folks who have been around the church awhile thought of themselves as being characterized by things they don't do: You don't smoke, you don't drink, you don't go to dances, and in some parts of the denomination, you don't wear makeup or go to clubs or some parts of society," said Thomas Jay Oord, professor of theology and philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, and co-author of Relational Holiness. "That kind of Christianity loses steam really quickly. It's not something you can give your whole life to."

Nazarenes belong to an evangelical church that formed in 1908 when various groups in the holiness movement came together under the leadership of Phineas Bresee, a former Methodist minister. This new denomination, which stemmed largely from Methodism, emphasized entire sanctification as an "act of God, subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made free from original sin, or depravity, and brought into a state of entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love made perfect." But it hasn't always, if ever, been clear what such a sanctified life should look like.

"[T]he question in the last decades of the 20th century was whether or not the Church of the Nazarene had a coherent and cogent doctrine of holiness at all," Mark Quanstrom, professor of theology and philosophy at Olivet Nazarene University, wrote in A Century of Holiness.
Oord has been working to redefine holiness and to persuade the church to drop the word entire in its Article of Faith on sanctification. He said the Wesleyan tradition has more to do with social justice than social conservatism. In particular, Oord focuses on Jesus' "love command" in Luke 10:27: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself."
While theologians, including those involved with the Wesleyan Holiness Study Project, continue trying to rearticulate entire sanctification, the Church of the Nazarene's six superintendents have already taken action. In February, they released this revised mission statement: "To make Christ-like disciples in the nations."

Copyright © 2007 Christianity Today.

Related Elsewhere:

The Church of the Nazarene's articles of faith include a short explanation of the doctrine of entire sanctification.

The general superintendents emphasize that holiness is Christlikeness in the Church of the Nazarene's section on their new mission statement.

Thomas Jay Oord delivered "Fifteen Changes in the Church of the Nazarene's Article on Entire Sanctification" at a 2006 "Revisioning Holiness" conference.

Documents and sound files from the February conference on "Revisioning Holiness: Looking Back and Pressing Forward" are available from the Wesley Center Online.

Rob Staples describes the problem of Nazarene identity and says that "It is time for the Church of the Nazarene to finally admit … that in the issue of equating Pentecost solely with entire sanctification, along with a few other issues as well, the American holiness movement got it wrong" in "Things Shakeable and Things Unshakeable In Holiness Theology."

Holiness Today published an op-ed about the teaching of entire sanctification in Nazarene churches.

read more


Friday, June 22, 2007

Common Witness in Contemporary Asia

20.6.07 ASIA UCAN Document - Joint Statement Of CCA, EFA, FABC: 'Our Common Witness'

KUALA LUMPUR (UCAN) -- Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical delegates have approved the following statement on their deliberations at the fourth seminar of the Asian Movement for Christian Unity, recently concluded in Kuala Lumpur:


Joint Statement
The Fourth seminar of the Asian Movement for Christian Unity (AMCU IV) was held on 11 to 14 June 2007 at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 24 participants, representing the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), and the Evangelical Fellowship of Asia (EFA), took part. Earlier AMCU seminars (Hong Kong, 1995; Bali, 1997; Chiang Mai, 2001) were jointly sponsored and organized by CCA and FABC. The participation by representatives of EFA in AMCU IV was the result of discussions carried out at the Asian chapter of the Global Christian Forum in Bangkok on 21-23 September 2006.

The theme of AMCU IV was "Our Common Witness in Contemporary Asia" and focused on the importance of Christians of all Churches and Christian communities to be united in responding to the social, political, and religious realities of Asia today. The participants shared their personal faith journeys and then examined the possibilities of joint Christian witness of faith in the context of the social challenges of injustice and discrimination and in the milieu of Asia's religious and cultural plurality.

The participants agreed that Christian commitment must lead the Christian Churches in Asia to take a prophetic stand against any form of discrimination, such as that of caste, class, race, and gender, as being incompatible with the teaching of the Gospel. God's message to humankind, as enunciated by the prophets and expressed in God's word in Jesus Christ, affirms the equal human dignity of all people and condemns as sinful those human attitudes and deeds that oppress and discriminate among persons.

The common witness that Christians are called to make against patterns of oppression includes self-examination and self-criticism to become more aware of the ways in which sinful structures have also become engrained in the life of Christian communities in Asia. To be credible, Christians must oppose injustice and exploitation, not only when the victims are themselves Christian, but also in those instances where those who suffer discrimination are the followers of other religions or of no religion, and in cases where the perpetrators of injustice are fellow Christians. Christian witness, based on the Gospel imperative of loving service to others, must focus on the needs of the most vulnerable such as victims of natural calamities, oppressive regimes, and all forms of degradation of human life and should confront problems like global warming and other environmental concerns.

Faced with the multiplicity of religions in contemporary Asia, the participants of AMCU IV sought to define some elements of common Christian witness. Faith in Jesus Christ must be proclaimed in full respect for the beliefs and practices of others. Witness to Christian faith should never be carried out by putting down or denigrating the faith of others. Genuine Christian witness understands faith in Christ to be liberation from patterns of human sinfulness and which arises from a free and joyful response to God's grace.

In the light of the various challenges facing the churches, the participants call upon the component bodies (CCA, FABC, and EFA) to address together the following concerns. One challenge is that of forming Christian youth in a commitment to build Christian unity. A second challenge is that of making our parish communities and pastors to be focal points for deeper involvement in the search for full visible Christian unity.

The three bodies can concretely promote Christian unity by getting to know one another better through mutual discussions and invitations to assemblies and plenary sessions, by engaging in joint projects such as the Asia Conference of Theological Students (ACTS) and the Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS), and by undertaking joint actions such as summer camps for Christian unity for young people. Mutual cooperation and activities at national and local levels are also to be strongly encouraged.

The participants expect to hold the next seminar for the Asian Movement for Christian Unity (AMCU V) in the middle of 2009.

Christian Conference of Asia
Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences
Evangelical Fellowship of Asia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Seasons of the Soul

The lives of Francis and Clare (of Assisi) are themselves seasons of every soul, and it has something to do with Assisi in the spring becoming summer, surrendering to the gentle mists of fall, lying seeming dead in winter, and waiting for the poppies of another spring...

You choose your vocation in life over and over again. It is not a decision made once for all time when one is young. As Clare grew in her experience and in understanding of her commitment, she had to say yes again and again to a way of life that was not exactly the life she expected at the beginning.

Murray Bodo
Clare of Assisi: A Light in the Garden

...there are seasons of the soul, where are you now?
...we choose our vocation in life over and over again.



Reflect Me

A pilgrim looked at the reflection of a mountain in still water. It was the reflection that first caught his attention.

But presently he raised his eyes to the mountain. Reflect Me, said his Father to him, then others, will look at you. Then they will look up, and see Me. And the stiller the water the more prefect the reflection

Amy Carmichael

What does this say to your heart and actions?



Monday, June 18, 2007

Marvel Universe Civil War

The Marvel comics storyline House of M has Wanda/Scatlett Witch changed reality in a fit of temper tantrum. When things rightened itself, reality was not installed. In the new reality, all mutants have lost their powers in a story arc called Decimation. Now just when things are coming back to normal, or as normal as they can get in the Marvel universe, a civil war occurs.

Four New Warriors, who are young superheroes and are also reality television stars decide to boost their television rating by attempting to apprend a quartet of superpowered villians on real live television. In the fight, which was telecasted live, one of the villians named Nitro blow up part of the city of Stamford and a school! Hundreds of adults and children died. Millions in the United States watched the live telecast. The public outcry against the superheroes was intense. The President tried to defuse the situation by passing a Superhuman Registration Act which made it compulsory for all superheroes to register, reveal their secret identities, and undergo training to control their powers. The one behind this is Iron Man/Anthony Stark who wants to control the superhero community. The Act will involve superheroes revealing their secret identities and thus endengering their families. Captain American led the revolt aginst the Act. Remembering the lessons of the Second World War, "first come registration, then comes the camps.." or even worse, be compelled to serve as combat troops. This is an astonishing change in the outlook of Captain America who used to say that "my country, right or wrong." Here he said that it is right to fight an unjust law in his own country.

The superheroes communities are divided into two camps. The government declared those who refused to registered as outlaws and authorised that they be brought in by whatever means and imprisoned.

Hence there was a general melee as good guys and former allies fought each other. Of course the superheroes villians made full use of the situation. The series ends when Captain American was apprehended, and was assassinated! Iron Man became director of S.H.I.E.L.D. a multinational force composed of superheroes, thus making Captain America's fears prophectic!

It was the comic book event of 2006/2007. What makes it interesting is that in a way it is a social commentary of the Homeland Security Act in the United States after 9/11. Homeland Security are given increasing powers including the power to register persons of Middle Eastern origin and detention without trial (like Malaysia's ISA). First comes registration and then come the camps stuck in my mind. Registration is discrimation; whether by race, religion, or gender. This information can be used against them anytime. In Nazi Germany the Jews and undesirables (like gypsies etc) were forced to register and we know what happened to them. In Malaysia, one wonders why students have to write their religion on their exam answer scripts.

In all of this it is the country's Constitution versus national security. Natural security seems to win most of the time. People support it without regards to consequences or morality of what they are doing. In 1942, the President of the United States signed executive order 9066 which precipated one of the largest controlled migration in history. In fear of a "Japanese invasion", over 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent were incarcerated in 10 wartime communities or camps under the Wartime Relcoation Authority. Over half are children. They left behind millions of dollars worth of properities. To be fair, their camps or relocation centers, those spartan properties, provide free food, lodging, medical care, clothing allowances, education and all basic necessities. Freedom always come with a price tag.

'Nuff said

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Read Any Good Books Lately?

These are some of the gems from my last bookshopping trip. The Great Singapore Sale is still on!

James Houston is one of my favourite teacher, writer and mentor. Now that he has retired from Regent, I hope he will spend more time writing to transfer on his knowledge and wisdom.

(2006) Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
James Houston presents in six essays insight into the Christian life. Offered as a legacy to pass onto the next generation, Houston explores the tensions and challenges inherent in the Christian truth.

In my opinion, Eugene Peterson taught and wrote more about spiritual formation that Dallas Willard. However, it never ceases to amaze me that spiritual formation is more associated with Dallas Willard. This is the third volume of a 5 volume set in which he plans to publish his thoughts on the Christian spiritual life. The other published volumes are Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places and Eat This Book which are also great reads.

(2007) Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

One area of my interest is how the Internet and interconnectivity, and convergence is influencing our culture and society.

Andrew Keen is a digital entrepreneur and Silicon valley insider who writes on culture, media, and technology. His blog makes interesting reading.

(2007) Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing

In this book, edited by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, the following authors looks at the Emergent Manifesto of Hope:

Brian McLaren
Dan Kimball
Sally Morgenthaler
Will Samson
Tim Kell
Barry Taylor
Samir Selmanovic
Karen Sloan
Ryan Bolger

(2007) Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books

This book is bought on recommendation by Dr. Lim Kar Yong, Seminari Theologi Malaysia (STM). It feeds my interest in Paul and Pauline theology.

(2007) Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press


It is Impossible for God to Fail Us

Something I shared with a Youth Group yesterday

Things that are impossible for God

Part 5: It is impossible for God to fail us

A lot of us think that God has failed us in some way. Usually when something bad happens to us we love to blame God for it. When we have no hope, it can easily lead to discouragement and feeling that life is being sucked out of you. This can lead to drugs, sex, or hanging out with people that seemingly can give us what we’re missing. The truth is that God created us as original masterpieces and today’s pain is only temporary. His will is someday you would step away from the world’s way and be reconciled to him and trust in the promises He gives us.

(1) God knows us very well.
PS 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
PS 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
PS 139:15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
PS 139:16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Who am I ?
Nobody understands me
I don’t like how I look
I want to be smart
Why am I so shy?
I hate pimples
My parents do not understand my needs
Why can’t I have a PSP/PS3/X-box/iPod/3G phone/notebook/car/dog?

(2) We are on a journey of life. Some roads are rocky, some roads are smooth.

Who am I becoming?
Will I do well in my exams?
What job do I want to do?
Will my life be okay?
Does she/he like me?
Will I continue to be a Christian?

(3) God will always give us another chance if we fail.

1 Cor 10:13
13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Oops, sorry. Try again.
· Why can’t I get anything right?
· Why is my mother/father always angry at me? Don’t they know I must be me?
· Why do I always fail?
· Does God always forgive?
· How do I find God’s will?
· What happens if I fall out of God’s will?

(4) God’s plans for our lives will succeed.
2 Cor. 1: 20-22
20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Money back guarantee
· God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
· God never fails.

God loves us and it is impossible for Him to fail to help us become who He created us to be.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

How to Raise a GENIUS Child Seminar

How To Raise A GENIUS Child
June 30 - July 1, 2007

What Is A GENIUS Child ?

There is a lot of interest in effective parenting. Often seminars on parenting are presented from a functional point of view based on anecdotal and sometimes erroneous behavioral techniques.

This seminar aims at presenting effective parenting from biblical perspective and will give a balance view of parenting with respect to the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the growth of the child.

It grows out of my experience as a consultant paediatrician and my concern for the current emphasis on parenting for performance and achievement at the expense of a balanced growth of the child. It is our responsibility as parents to grow a GENIUS child.

Seminar Topics
Session 1 : June 30 Growing a GENIUS Child
Session 2 : July 1 Empowering a GENIUS Child

Language: English

Seminar Fees
RM 30.00 per person
RM 50.00 for both spouses attending together
Childcare will be provided for toddlers and older kids with a concurrent programme in an adjacent room.

There is a room for nursing mothers as well for breastfeeding and changing.

Date, Time & Location
June 30 - July 1, 2007
2.30 pm - 6.30 pm

Bangsar Lutheran Church
23, Jalan Abdullah,
off Jalan Bangsar
59000 Kuala Lumpur

About The Speaker
Dr. Alex Tang is a senior consultant paediatrician at the Johor Specialist Hospital, Johor Bahru and is part of the teaching faculty of Monash University School of Medicine in Malaysia. He earned his medical and theological degrees from Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States. He is the chairman of the Johor Branch of the Malaysian Paediatric Association.
Alex and his family worships at Holy Light Church (English) in Johor Bahru, Malaysia where he also serves in the pastoral team and is the director of the Spiritual Formation Institute.
For more information about Alex, visit

Registration & Enquiries
Download the brochure here (PDF) and send in your registration by post, fax or e-mail.

For further details, please feel free to get in touch with us:
Phone / Fax : 03.2284.5928 (Adeline)



Thursday, June 14, 2007

Prevent Child Abuse

New Guidelines Issued for Evaluating Physical Abuse in Children

June 7, 2007 — The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines providing a clinical approach to accurately evaluate and diagnose children who appear to have been physically abused in the past or present. The new recommendations are published in the June issue of Pediatrics.

"Physical abuse remains an underreported (and often undetected) problem for several reasons including individual and community variations in what is considered 'abuse,' inadequate knowledge and training among professionals in the recognition of abusive injuries, unwillingness to report suspected abuse, and professional bias," write Nancy D. Kellogg, MD, and colleagues from the Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. "Misdiagnosed victims [are] more likely to be younger, white, have less severe symptoms, and live with both parents when compared with abused children who [are] not initially misdiagnosed. Such studies suggest a need for practitioners to be vigilant to the possibility of abuse when evaluating children who have atypical accidental injuries or obscure symptoms that are suggestive of traumatic etiologies but who do not have a history of trauma."

Read more

Child abuse is a problem in Malaysia. It is a silent problem because many cases go unreported. Present legistration and child abuse surveillances are not adequate or efficient to deal with these poor children. Relatives and neighbours are often reluctant to report child abuse. Also there is the matter of culture being involved. The culture of shame hides the crime. Also where do one draws the line between parental discipline and child abuse? However the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines are useful for doctors and concerned citizens.

Drawing credit: OM Chennai

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The Internet and the Wired Scholar

Thanks to Kar Yong for referring to this interesting article

The Wired Scholar: Five Free Tools You May Not Know About

Published in the Society of Biblical Literature Forum

by Danny Zacharias, Acadia Divinity College

The Internet has radically changed how information is stored, researched, and published. Work that was once done in a file catalog and in the midst of towering book shelves can now be done with a few keystrokes on a computer. The ability not only to find information, but to store your own information for the benefit of others makes the Internet an exciting tool for academic research. At the same time, the Internet has also become a resource for free quality resources.

Google BooksGoogle Books,… continues its aggressive effort to digitize books and make them available for public searching. A Google executive has stated that they aim to make every book ever published full-text searchable within ten years. This developing resource has already made itself indispensable, and its value will only increase. In addition to searching inside books, Google Books, along with …, now makes freely available texts that are in the public domain. Most of J. P. Migne's Patrologia Graeca and Patrologia Latina are now available online for viewing (and downloadable as PDF's), the first twenty-eight volumes of Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft are available, as well as many other treasures from the likes of Albert Schweitzer, Hermann Gunkel, Julius Wellhausen, and C. H. Dodd, to name but a few….

Google ScholarGoogle Scholar is a heavily used search tool that indexes the vast majority of periodicals that are available online. Google Scholar also indexes the articles themselves, if they are available online, although a user needs to have access through a library or personal subscription to read or download them. The obvious advantage of Google Scholar over against something like ATLA is that it is free and takes the user immediately to the access point for the article. The limitation, again comparing it to ATLA, is that there are a number of periodicals that ATLA has indexed but have little or no online presence, so they are absent from Google Scholar…

Google DocsSupported Browsers: Firefox and Internet ExplorerGoogle Docs, which is still in its beta phase, is a fully functional online word processor and spreadsheet program. Google Docs is free. Users have an unlimited amount of space for storing documents, though documents are currently restricted to 500kb in size. Google Docs can import .doc, .rtf, .html, .txt, and .odt (Open Office) documents. Once imported, these documents can be edited online. Files can be exported from Google Docs to the supported import formats, as well as to .pdf. Documents can also be emailed. Every Google Docs account receives a unique email address for easy importing. All the user needs to do is attach a document to an email and send it to the Google Docs email address, and the document will be imported. Google Docs users can also enable right-to-left text in the Google Docs settings to support Hebrew, Aramaic, and other right-to-left unicode scripts. Unicode Hebrew can be imported and inputted within Google Docs. The only limitation is the small number of fonts available in Google Docs, which can sometimes make for imperfect presentation of Hebrew, particularly vowel pointing. But any potential pointing problems are solved when a document is exported and a more suitable unicode font is chosen for the Hebrew characters in a word processor. If a user imports non-unicode Greek or Hebrew into Google Docs, it will not display properly, but will revert to roman…

Google Docs can be effective for educators as well. As the world becomes increasingly paperless, Google Docs can provide a way for teachers to read, comment on, and correct student papers. Students could email their term papers to their teachers' unique Google Docs email address, the teacher could then read and comment on the paper, and the result — with inserted comments, highlights, and corrections — could be emailed back to the student. Google Docs may also provide an ideal platform for MA or PhD students who need to have their work regularly read and critiqued by professors or external readers who are geographically distant. Google Docs is a centralized place where reading, comments, and revising can be done, without the mess of emailing documents back and forth between multiple people…

Google NotebookSupported Browsers: Firefox and Internet Explorer Google Notebook is a free application that allows users to collect online content into one easily accessible place. After installing the plugin for Firefox or Internet Explorer, the user will see an access link to Google notebook in the lower left part of the browser. With a single click, users can now store information into their notebook. The collection process is very simple: highlight a portion of text in the web browser, right-click the highlighted portion, and choose the option to "note" the information in Google Notebook. The selection of text, called a clipping, is now in the user's Google Notebook. Clicking on the link to the Google Notebook in the lower half of one's browser will open a mini-window and show the item(s) most recently saved. From there, users can make a quick comment about the clipping in the comments section, if they so choose. Google Notebook attaches the reference (the URL) of the clipping, so users are aware of the source of the information. Unfortunately, Google Notebook does not yet put a timestamp on the clipping so a user can know when the information was copied. Users can also type their own notes directly into Google Notebook…

LibraryThingLibraryThing has quickly become a popular tool on the Internet for cataloging one's books. A user can rate his books, write a review of them, and tag them with keywords according to content. It is free with a limit of two hundred books, but users can catalog an unlimited number of books with LibraryThing for a small fee. Importing books is as simple as searching for a title, but users can also import a large list of books by uploading a plain text, Excel, or EndNote file. Aside from the sheer amusement that this tool can bring for bibliophiles, LibraryThing is also described as the social network for the intelligent, for several reasons: (1) LibraryThing lets one know if other users have the same or similar collections; (2) one can join discussions surrounding books; (3) one can get a sense of what others think about certain works; and (4) it can also help users find books that had previously been unknown — both by browsing other users' collections and via LibraryThing's recommendations. If a user maintains a website, LibraryThing also comes with a number of tools that can be used to display cataloged books (see an example here). LibraryThing also connects to a service called Ottobib, which can generate a book's information in APA, MLA, or Turabian format. A user's collection can be exported to disk in an excel-supported document…

Read complete article

To be a student/scholar/teacher today, one needs to be very computer savvy. It is amazing how much information there is on the internet. The only problem is how to find them. And determine the authenticity and accuracy of the information. And have a reliable broadband provider. Hear that streamyx!!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Dark Age for Comics?

Don't Mess with My Genre
A fan of comic books wants to clean house.
By Edirin Ibru posted 06/11/07

These days it seems everyone is stumbling across some sort of philosophical or spiritual truth buried deep within pop culture, a discovery which I have no problem with at all. In fact I'm glad. People are actually thinking about what they watch, read, and listen to, and may even be benefiting from these pastimes. You've seen the titles at the bookstore: Finding Religion in the Scream Trilogy, Family Guy and the Meaning of Life, Even More Matrix and Philosophy: The 5TH Edition …

All right, I'll admit I made those up, and not every book which claims deep philosophical insight into a popular medium is worthless. But when the subject being butchered is one I happen to hold dear to my heart, I simply have to speak up.

It should come as no surprise that comics have figured in the "philosophy of … " frenzy of recent years. But unlike sports and movies, for example—which have generated whole libraries of explication—comic books have a unique vulnerability. While sports may have roots in children's play, they are watched by millions of adults and are praised for bringing out the best in the human spirit. Movies have been recognized as artistically credible from the beginning, even if skeptics have argued otherwise. Comic books simply do not have the same sort of foundations to rest on. Anyone writing about comics becomes an ambassador for a genre dragged down by the stigma of its own past, and if he does his job poorly, the whole genre suffers.

Consider Who Needs a Superhero? by H. Michael Brewer, a benevolent attempt to make a case for comic books as credible works of art. Alas, in his quest to elevate the medium, Brewer staggers around searching for connections between comics and the Christian faith. At best, these stand as serviceable youth-group sermons; at worst, they will make theologically learned readers cringe. Superman is compared to Christ; Bruce Banner (aka the Incredible Hulk) is said to recapitulate humanity's internal battle with sin; the nature of the Green Arrow suggests parallels to an all-seeing, active God. Brewer's heart is in the right place, but his execution is lacking.

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Who Needs a Doctor?


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

St. Patrick's Breastplate

This prayer is often called "St. Patrick's Breastplate" because of those parts of it which seek God's protection. It is also sometimes called "The Deer's Cry" or "The Lorica".

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Most Ancient Lives of Saint Patrick, by Various, Edited by James O'Leary here

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