Saturday, September 26, 2009


Some of my readers would know this by now. Due to the way my visa situation has developed, mostly due to the way the entire immigration system in the UK has been restructured, I'm leaving the UK next week. Hopefully, this is merely temporary, and I would be back in a few weeks time with a fresh visa, but nothing is entirely clear-cut at the moment. In theory, all the paperwork seems fine, but it's hard to be confident in the current climate.

It is quite a worrying and disappointing time for me, of course, to say nothing of the disruption it's causing the international student ministry here. I also have had, and probably will continue to, wrestle with trusting God and his sovereignty and goodness. It also means I'm forced to evaluate how much stock I'm putting into my own plans and whether I am willing to allow God to change them.

Nonetheless, I can already see the positive side of going home at this point in time. It'd be great to actually be back in Malaysia for more than just a week or so and see how it's going, to catch up with people (maybe even some of you?), to have some reflection time, and as my supervisor put it, to see what good works God has prepared for me to do.

Thank you to those who have prayed and continue to pray for me. It is much appreciated.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Are we searching for a better god?

One of my friends has just started reading a fascinating book called Searching for a Better God by Wade Bradshaw, who used to be on staff at L'Abri England. He's been waxing lyrical over it, so I borrowed it to read on one of my lunch breaks.

Loads of thought-provoking stuff. Bradshaw starts off by showing that all of our lives are grounded in some form of hope. You could say we all fashion narratives out of our own lives, with a climax or ending we hope to reach, although he won't put it that way. In that sense, we live teleologically. He then argues that (Western) culture has shifted imperceptibly. Whereas previously the main question people ask would be: "Does God exist?", this has now shifted to "Is God good?". That isn't to say people no longer ask the first question, as New Atheism shows. But people reject the gospel not so much because they don't believe in God, but because they no longer believe that the God, as found in the Bible, is morally good. What sort of God would allow, even command, the atrocities found in the Old Testament? What sort of God is so intolerant, of homosexuality, of pluralism? In truth, we humans are morally superior to such a God. God "cannot be a source of hope, not because He isn’t real, but because He would not be good to know and to live with forever."

That's as far as I got. Bradshaw then presumably goes on to wrestle with such new challenges, as the chapter headings for the rest of the book suggest: Is God angry? Is God distant? Is God a bully?

I certainly have lots of time for Bradshaw's argument. This is a generalisation, of course, but those of us in our 20s, it seems, living in a world where any disaster can be communicated to us via twitter, where we are subjected to a 1001 worthy causes (reminding us of the dark side of the world we live in), are tired of living for ourselves. Consumerism has been tried and found wanting. We long for more. We want to find something beyond ourselves. We're looking for a better hope, in other words. And so there is a renewed activism, a passion for social justice. Even in Christian circles, this can be found in expressions as diverse as the resurgence of what is sometimes called "New Calvinism", where the glory of God is emphasised and "man-centered theology" abhorred, and those stressing the cosmic dimensions of God's salvation and downplaying penal substitution. I guess you could also claim this is also seen in the language of the "kingdom" being deployed more commonly if differently, though I wonder if some charismatics (John Wimber was not shy about such terminology!) and Reformed types (we've been reading Vos/Goldsworthy since you were in your nappies, don't lecture me about "kingdom"!) would object.

Interestingly, as a Christian, I think I share similar struggles. The fixed point of God's sovereignty has not, as far as I can tell, posed a huge struggled for me. But the fixed point of God's goodness, that he actually cares for me and the details of my life, is one I struggle with more. Granted, it's not quite the same issue being articulated as that of the non-Christian, but I wonder if they spring from the same DNA.

I think too of one of the (Asian) girls some of us know. She's been coming to Christian things for quite a while now, and she's willing to say Christianity is objectively true. She was even encouraged that one of her mutual friends - getting baptised this Sunday! - actually came to Christ. But for her, she isn't sure if Jesus is worth it. Is this God really that good?

Anyway, happy to hear comments.

† Expand post

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

NBA Hall of Fame

Every year the NBA Hall of Fame inducts a few people into its hallowed halls. They've just admitted the Class of 2009, and what a class. One person overshadows them all, of course: Michael Jordan. But he's not who I want to talk about. Alongside Jordan is John Stockton, the NBA's all-time assist and steals leader. There have been flashier passers, but Stockton is the type of player who knows where he wants the ball to go to, and that it will go there. I once watched him throw a bounce pass that looked so simple, but was so razor sharp in splitting the defence - it was ten times better than any behind-the-back pass you find on an ESPN highlight reel. Of the other point guards I've actually watched (as opposed to those I didn't, such as the old-timers like Bob Cousy), only Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd are comparable.

And then there's David Robinson. My favourite player as a teenager was Penny Hardaway, but there's no player in the NBA, possibly in all sports, I admire more than the Admiral. David Robinson is class, not just as an athlete, but as a person. I like to think the reason why the San Antonio Spurs has remained such a professional and respected organisation unlike one or two others (see: New York) is due in no small part to his influence. I don't think I got to watch him at his peak - the early 90s, where by most accounts he could justifiably lay claim to being the best centre of all-time, but I did watch him in the late 90s and especially after he gracefully ceded leadership of the Spurs to Tim Duncan. He had no ego. I'm proud he calls himself a Christian, because he has shown complete integrity; no one speaks of him badly. Here's a brief news profile, and a more in-depth one. Here's a tribute post.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Let us Love and Sing and Wonder

Weekend's here! Am happy after having had to do 8 days straight. Here's the song that's been stuck in my head for the last few days - John Newton set to new music by Laura Taylor, as featured on the album Indelible Grace III: For All the Saints. It was also covered by Jars of Clay on their Redemption Songs album. Band featured here is an Asian-American Christian group, I believe.

Let us love and sing and wonder
Let us praise the Savior's name
He has hushed the law's loud thunder
He has quenched Mount Sinai's flame

2. Let us love the Lord Who bought us
Pitied us when enemies
Called us by His grace and taught us
Gave us ears and gave us eyes
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He presents our souls to God

3. Let us wonder grace and justice
Join and point to mercy's store
When through grace in Christ our trust is
Justice smiles and asks no more
He Who washed us with His blood
He Who washed us with His blood
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God

4. Let us praise and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high
Here they trusted Him before us
Now their praises fill the sky
Thou hast washed us with Thy blood
Thou hast washed us with Thy blood
Thou hast washed us with Thy blood
Thou art worthy Lamb of God

Words: John Newton
Music: Laura Taylor

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Bible translations for non-literates

There's a very interesting article over at the Lausanne World Pulse on advancing Bible translations for non-reading audiences. (HT: etrangere)

This is a great reminder to bookish people like me that print media is not the only form in which the Word of God can be conveyed. While I very rarely meet anyone who's illiterate, I have tried to think through (vaguely) how to teach/lead Bible studies for non-book people. That is, those who might have some ability to read, but struggle with it, or just aren't at all interested in it. This reminded me that while it's good to try to teach Bible reading skills (Observation etc.), they aren't the only tools at my disposal. I remember a Bible study years ago which I restructured as a drama being quite a hit! An oral translation might also be better at bringing out some aspects, such as tone and emphasis, much better than a written translation can.

Of course, anything that seeks to make the Bible accessible to more people is always a good thing!

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Unsurprisingly, quite a few introspective "state of the nation" pieces coming out.

There's an outsider's perspective, from a decidedly secularist viewpoint: The myth of a moderate Malaysia, originally published in Forbes. I get the sense that the piece is more about his larger point that religion is best subordinated to modernity, with Malaysia as his prime example, rather than Malaysia itself. But it's an interesting piece nevertheless, since it probably is representative of the beliefs of many of the urban, upper-middle class, Malaysiakini-reading segment.

Another myth to come under attack is that of the monolithic community. This is a piece I'm generally happy to agree with.

I've also gone back to read my post from over a year ago - Race meets the Malaysian church, in conversation with my friend WN, who incidentally is trying to think through what it means to be a citizen at the moment over at his blog. And I don't think there's anything I'll change from that post.

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