Saturday, 1 December 2012

Secular position is not neutral

There is no genuinely secular state, no secular argument, and no secular motivation, even among those who consider themselves secular. There is no neutrality. On questions as ultimate as the existence or nonexistence of God, or the binding or nonbinding character of His dictates and commands, or the objectivity or subjectivity of morality, or the absoluteness or nonabsoluteness of truth, there are no mediating positions. There is no neutrality.
  -- p17 Culture Shift by Albert Mohler Jr.

Mohler's point is clear and simple. I've left out the context, but he isn't saying that we cannot or should not have a secular society. He is saying that we cannot be ultimately secular, or think secular position is some kind of a neutral ground. What people often regard as secular position is ultimately anti-religious position, which is hardly neutral. Until people realise this, the religious in our secular society will always feel like outsiders and feel the burden of hiding their religious motivations when attempting to build a better society together. They will be cast as second class citizens who do not have a place in public debate because they hold to a religious outlook of life. Christians (and to a large degree, people with most other religions) should not feel that their views are particular biased, because their really isn't any neutral grounds.

(Image credit: ABC)

Friday, 12 October 2012

A reason for engaging cultural life

 If you attempted, in either case, to suspend your whole intellectual and aesthetic activity, you would only succeed in substituting a worse cultural life for a better. You are not, in fact, going to read nothing, either in the Church or in the line: if you don't read good books, you will read bad ones. If you don't go on thinking rationally, you will think irrationally. If you reject aesthetic satisfactions, you will fall into sensual satisfactions.
 -- from "Learning in War-time"(p52 of The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis)

Engage the culture - enjoy good music, good books, even good movies, but don't let bad music, bad books, or bad movies flood your mind.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Rejecting made-up Jesuses

Why and how would you reject this Jesus?

But I cannot apply to divine matters a method of exegesis which I have already rejected with contempt in my profane studies. Any theory which bases itself on a supposed "historical Jesus" to be dug out of the Gospels and then set up in opposition to Christian teaching is suspect. There have been too many historical Jesuses - a liberal Jesus, a pneumatic Jesus, a Barthian Jesus, a Marxist Jesus. They are the cheap crop of each publisher's list, like the new Napoleons and new Queen Victorias. It is not to such phantoms that I look for my faith and my salvation.
 -- from "Why I am not a Pacifist" by C. S. Lewis (p. 88, The Weight of Glory)

I hope, by this quote, people wouldn't misunderstand and think the historical Jesus is actually to be rejected. It is what we may in our days call, the reconstruction of historical Jesus that we must reject. It is the biblical Jesus, that is also the real historical Jesus we must embrace for our faith and salvation.

As a side note, it is interesting that, while Lewis himself had some theological problems, he doesn't seem to have had much patience for Barth.

Saturday, 6 October 2012


Last time I posted, it was about prayer. It was specifically about Christian prayer. Since then, I was privileged to listen to several wonderful sermons on Christian prayer. Now that I am once again reminded of what prayer is, and how we ought to pray, I want to point out a possible misunderstanding from my previous post.
"Cliche" is not the worst enemy of the prayer. What I think Eugene Peterson was suggesting was that we shouldn't just recite the words and think we prayed. In the similar light, but perhaps a bit more concretely and explicitly, Phillip Jensen points out from Matthew 6:5-15 that it's the sincerity and the content that matter over the length, eloquence, strict style or frequency. And it all has to do with who God is.

There are several other sermons on prayer by Phillip Jensen, but this one maybe a great place to start.

(note: the audio quality isn't so great on this particular sermon, but I don't think you'll find it hard to follow.)

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Cliche'd prayer?

Pose, pretense, and posturing are primary dangers that threaten prayer. Ignorance is no impediment, and most emphatically not sin. The great temptation always crouching at the door of prayer is to use prayer as a way to avoid God: using God language to avoid God relationship; using the name of God as a screen behind which to hide from God. Clichés are the usual verbal giveaways of prayer that is, in fact, nonprayer.
 --p.278 from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

Prayer has to be one of the most paradoxical aspect for a Christian living. It should be the most basic and natural activity for a Christian. It's just talking to the Father who loves you dearly, and you can talk to Him about anything really. No need to craft your words and phrases. And yet, the words and phrases are vitally important, because otherwise you wouldn't actually be talking. You might be speaking or chanting, but you won't be talking. And when you are talking to someone as majestic as God, someone you love so much (at least you confess to do so), you cannot help but choose your words carefully. You engage your mind and heart as you speak — anyway, are we ever excused from doing that anyway no matter whom you are talking to? It seems to me that genuinely engaging with the Person you are talking to is what is difficult.

The biggest problem for me about praying remains to be not praying enough. But when I do pray, it isn't so hard for me, I can do it, except, it's awfully hard to pray genuinely.

(Image source: Ambrozjo)

Monday, 10 September 2012

Who am I?

If you want to know who I am and what makes me tick, don't for heaven't sake look up my IQ or give me a Myers-Briggs profile or set me down before a Rorschach test. Study me in the company of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
 -- p307, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

No, that's not my IQ.
In the past I was so curious to find out who I was, what I was like. I was a sucker for all those personality tests, IQ test, and all sorts of categorisation questionnaires that were freely available on the internet. When I got results I was a little bit more sure about myself and happier, even more proud for what I received by those tests.

But what really mattered, what was at the core of my being wasn't revealed by those tests. It was meant to be found in my relationship with the Triune God. How am I related to God the Father? Can I call Him my Father? Do I? How am I related to the Son? Is He my Lord and Saviour? How does my life look if He is my Lord and Saviour? How does my heart look like if He is? How am I related to the Holy Spirit? Do I know Him? Do I walk in step with Him?

IQ tests and the personality tests have their uses, of course. But if I am more interested in those results than how I am related to the Trinity, I have lost sight of what is most fundamental about me and the world.

(Image Credit: ryanrh)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

What is sin?

John (the Apostle) knows that we will never get love right if we don't get sin right, and the looming difficulty in getting sin right is our propensity to deny or minimize it. Euphemisms proliferate: mistake, bad call, poor judgment, error, wrong, negligent, slip, oversight, misstep, stupidity, screw-up, bungle, faux pas, and so on. But rarely, sin. We happen to live in a culture that has a low sense of sin. Here I distinguish sin from immorality or crime. Sin is a refused relationship with God that spills over into a wrong relationship with others - it is personal or it is nothing. Immorality and crime, on the other hand, are violations of rules or standards of the society, or violations of other people. Behavior is in question, not personal character. But sin is relational.
--p316, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson, italics mine

I don't think Peterson is offering a definition of sin here, but that italicised sentence gives a pretty good summary of what sin is. Worth pondering on.

What's your relationship status with God?

(Image credit: DanAndJennifer)

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Resolutions: Being fatherly on the Father's Day

Although the consumerism of our day has hijacked most of its meaning and our letterboxes and inboxes are full of junk trying to get us buy stuff "for our fathers", the Father's Day is still a helpful reminder for all of us to express our appreciation for fathers and honour them for being one. Unfortunately, for many people in our society, this Father's Day would bring back painful memories and invoke sadness or anger for their abusiveness or absence.

This got me thinking, how should I celebrate my Father's Day? As a father myself now, my first impulse was "what can I get?" Tragic. I know. But I wonder how many of my fellow Australian fathers think the same thing. A new tool, gadget, toy, or a dvd set? A new shaver, perfume, tie, shirt, shoes, or even socks? A nice meal, beers, wines, or even whiskey? How about just a lazy day when I don't have to care about vacuuming or dishwashing, kids, or my personal hygiene? Whatever it is, my point is that it is so very easy for any of us to think self-centred.

There is nothing wrong for my kid (well, when he grows up a bit more) to buy nice gifts for me, and even now, it's nice and even heart-warming when my wife cares to let me enjoy the Father's Day and shows her approval of me as a father to our child. But, as a father myself, there's something insidious about focussing my thoughts on "what I can get this Father's Day." I don't know, maybe I'm just too much of a beginner as a father and haven't learned to forget about myself and serve my family more selflessly, self-forgetfully, even on a Father's Day.

But if my suspicion on our day's culture and society is correct, many of the fathers in Australia tend to think that we deserve to be treated with gifts, ease, carelessness, and time for ourselves, at least on this Day. Perhaps it is precisely what's needed for some fathers. I doubt it to be the case for most fathers. It certainly isn't the case for me.

I don't want to be like that. I don't want to think that I somehow "deserve" gifts, extra laziness, or the whole day for myself by myself, especially on THIS DAY.

I am probably not the worst father on earth, but I know I am not the best father I want to be, and I am beginning to understand the kind of fatherhood my heavenly Father has called me to is far greater, weightier, and higher than I knew before. I don't want to give wrong impressions that the fathers need to be a kind of superman who can and does all things right. I don't believe that's a biblical picture of a good father, unless you are the Heavenly Father. I just want to be a father who models after the Heavenly Father. And even though I myself will stumble and fall, my hope is that my stumbling and falling as well as my victories will, without ambiguity, show my child the grace of Jesus.

That's why I am making these resolutions.
I will not use the Father's Day as my excuse to be a worse father for 24 hours.
I will not make it my ambition to be a couch potato on the Father's Day.
I will not imagine that I somehow "deserve" gifts from my family members on a Father's Day.
Instead, on the Father's Day, I will meditate on God's relationship with me and His character as my Heavenly Father.
And I will do one thing that will help improve my character and self-control.
And I will think how I can serve my family better as a father.
And I will do one thing that will strengthen relationships within my family.

In short, by God's grace, I will be the best father I can be especially on the Father's Day.

(Photo credit: Hammonton Photography)

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Irony of marriage issues

Marriage has been in the media a lot lately.
Here are some articles related to marriage from SMH: (Not in a particular order)

Men, women, and leadership

Marriage and law of Australia

Why new marriage vows

People taking new marriage vows

More on marriage vows

Not only the same-sex marriage is in the news (and regrettably in the Parliament as well), but most recently, the new (optional) marriage vows from Sydney Anglican church have stirred some people's emotions. It was to do with the bride's vow, which included the "S"-word: Submit. To love and submit to her husband.

The issue of male leadership often brings deep emotions and I tend to think it is a good thing. At least it shows that there's something that we aren't apathetic about in this relativistic, post-modern society. But, if what I've seen and read are anything to go by, the people in our society is angry and hateful of biblical teaching about the male leadership. The article by the Archbishop Peter Jensen attracted nearly 1000 comments in just a day, mostly unhelpful, but loudly evidencing the misunderstandings and anger of many readers.

I won't go into explaining all this myself here. I don't think I can do better than Peter Jensen anyway. But I just wanted to note that all these uproar against the biblical teachings on wife's submission and husband's leadership is quite ironic in our society. They all seem to view this husband's leadership and wife's submission as an attack against women's value and dignity, and hence an evil we need to get rid of from our society. But do we, as a society, really value and respect women? The biblical notion of male leadership is never oppressive to women nor is it degrading for women to submit to the male leadership. But how is it so much of an issue in OUR society? How are women treated in OUR society today? On a surface level, women in our society are well dignified; they have the same voting rights as men, no education is kept from women, they are not barred from work or fair pay (some still argue they are, but it is marginal and our law provides way to continue improve it where appropriate), etc. But just below the surface, our society is engaged in activities that terribly degrade women. Pornography, prostitution, overtly revealing images of female models on magazines and ads. Sexualised objectification of women is rampant in our society. Just a few months ago, promotional games for Lingerie Football League was a big success, I heard. Right near my work place, literally just outside the train station ticket gates, there's a bar where women serve in lingeries. And then there is the Fifty Shades Trilogy, which set the record as the fastest selling paperback of all time, even surpassing the Harry Potter series (according to the wikipedia).

So, why is our society up in arms about the new marriage vows? As I perceive it, our society is not against the new vows because it is so concerned about the dignity of women, nor is it trying to protect women. Our society as a whole is simply refusing God's authority over His creation, us. At the core of all the recent marriage issues is the society's refusal to recognise God's goodness in the way He created us, men and women, and rejection of His loving rule over us. Even still, the most ironic and tragic of all is that this confusion and refusal of God's design for marriage has crept into many churches in Australia.

It's not a new thing that the world rejected and hated God. That's precisely the reason why Jesus came and died on the cross, in order to create a people who will love and submit to God. We, Christians are the ones who confess that God has rescued us through Jesus' sacrifice, and now as a result, we respond by loving and submitting to God. But this marriage issue seems to be not only a debate between the Church and the World, but also a debate within the Church, amongst Christians! It is terribly sad and most ironic scene to behold, that Christians would reject God's good design.

I must admit though that I have to keep on reminding and challenging myself too. Pornography is just a click away. Women in revealing clothes are on huge billboards and also sitting just few seats away on the train. Undignified comments about women, men, and the relationship between them are too common, and my ears itch to hear the jokes and my mouth eager to tell. God warned us through Paul, "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Timothy 4:16)
It won't do to simply assent to the biblical teaching of male leadership. It isn't enough to just agree with Peter Jensen. It must be accompanied by everyday life that acts towards women with respect, dignity, and holy love.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Yearning for something definite

From the book, Australian Christian Life from 1788 by Iain Murray, Alexander Edgar said:
'One of the most striking features of the present day - so the press is reiterating - is the drifting away from dogmatic preaching. It is argued that if you preach dogmatic theology the people will turn from you. I assure you that I do not believe this, for I am convinced that the heart of humanity wants something definite. We must not misunderstand the boldness and directness of that firm declaration of Christ, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36)'.
This is not my first time hearing something along this line, but what was different this time was that Edgar was saying this in 1901. The drift towards pragmatism and watering down of doctrinal stance seems to have been going on for a long time. But then the warnings against it also have been given for a long time. We, Christians, need to take heed of this warning today.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Marks of true revivals

Once or twice, I heard some friends saying that there had been no revivals in Australia. I didn't know how to respond to that when I heard it because I had no idea whether that was true or not, and also because my understanding of revival seemed to be somewhat different to what those friends emphasised.

Recently I have been reading Australian Christian Life from 1788: An introduction and and anthology. In this fascinating book (which I will be posting about later on), John Watsford is introduced. According to the author, Iain Murray, John Watsford was the first outstanding preacher to be born in Australia.

What John Watsford says about true revivals is instructive. Referring to the revivals that occurred in areas around Parramatta, Liverpool, and Windsor in 1840 - 1841, which he himself witnessed, he wrote:
These were true revivals. The fruit soon appeared in changed lives, in earnest work for Jesus, and in cheerful giving to His cause. What collections we used to have! At one of our missionary meetings at Castlereagh, Mrs. G---- brought in her missionary gold. When the box was at last opened, sovereign after sovereign rolled out, until we counted forty. At one of our meetings Mr. Lewis and I had to stop the people in their giving. We positively refused to take any more.

-- p.155, from Australian Christian Life from 1788: An Introduction and an Anthology

Sunday, 5 August 2012

God serves men, but He's not a servant to men.

Guido: (learning how to be a waiter) How far do I bow? I suppose I can even go 180 degrees.
Eliseo: Think of a sunflower, they bow to the sun. But if you see some that are bowed too far down, it means they're dead. You're here serving, you're not a servant. Serving is the supreme art. God is the first of servants. God serves men, but he's not a servant to men.
-- from the movie, Life is Beautiful

God serves men, but He is not a servant to men. I reckon John Piper would agree with it. What do you think? Do you know how this is so?

Friday, 13 July 2012

History: the record of a broken world

  Meanwhile I continue to reflect on what it means to be plunged into history. God made everything good. But in that good creation, soon or late each of us, one after another, gets discovered by Garrison Johns and finds that not everyone thinks that our place in this creation life is so wonderful. We are plunged into pain and disappointment and suffering. Sometimes it recedes for a while; other times it threatens to overwhelm us.
  The final verdict on all of this is death. We die. Strangely, virtually every death, even of the very old, feels like an intrusion and more or less surprises us. Tears and lament give witness to our basic sense that this is wrong and that we don't like it one bit. Death provides the fundamental datum that something isn't working the way it was intended, accompanied by the feeling that we have every right to expect something other and better.

-- p.137 from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

* Peterson introduces Garrison Johns earlier in the book as a school bully who made Peterson's life miserable for months until one day Peterson fought back and ended up beating him up. The story seems to tell that it was through Garrison Johns that Peterson first learned the world was not as it's meant to be, and that this broken world was not simply external to Peterson but also in him too.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Creation: Created and completed by Jesus

  In John's rewriting of Genesis, the resurrection of Jesus completes the creation story. The week of the Genesis creation was complete as Jesus rested ("was buried") on the seventh day, the Sabbath. Then Jesus presented himself alive to his friends and followers early in the morning following the Sabbath. Over time they realized that they were now involved in a new creation week marked by this "eighth day" resurrection. Gradually, the traditions and commands associated with Sabbath were transferred to Sunday, referred to as "the first day" (Mark 16:2 and John 20:19) and "the Lord's Day" (Rev 1:10).

  -- p.119, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

Monday, 9 July 2012

Wonder: falling asleep and waking up

  What has really happened during the last seven days and nights? Seven times we have been dissolved into darkness as we shall be dissolved into dust; our very selves, so far as we know, have been wiped out of the world of living things; and seven times we have been raised alive like Lazarus, and found all our limbs and senses unaltered, with the coming of the day.
  -- G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, 8 July 2012


  Unfortunately, we do not live in a world that promotes or encourages wonder.

  Wonder is natural and spontaneous to us all. When we were children we were in a constant state of wonder - the world was new, tumbling in on us in profusion. We staggered through each day fondling, looking, tasting. Words were wondrous. Running was wondrous. Touch, taste, sound. We lived in a world of wonders. We became Christians and found to our delight that all this is confirmed in Genesis and John (and so many other places), and we realized that the wonder is deep and eternal, that we are part of a creation that is "very good."

  But gradually a sense of wonder gets squeezed out of us. There are many reasons, but mostly the lessening of wonder takes place as we develop in competence and gain in mastery over ourselves and our environment.

  -- p.123, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

Whenever I hold John, my 7 months old son, and walk towards our car parked on the street, I observe John watching all the trees, shrubs, leaves, flowers, branches both lush and dry, grass, sky and cloud, whatever that comes in the line of his sight. It seems he really is struck by the wonder of God's creation. He might have been wiggling and even squealing just before we walked out the door, but while we walk on our driveway, he is silent and his movements slow down. He looks around here and there and try to reach out and touch those green leaves, dry branches, or orange flowers. He does not make any sound. His eyes sparkle and his mouth hints a smile.

I think I was somewhat like that too when I was younger. I used to get distracted by flowers and leaves on the side of the walkways and by the trees and birds next to the roads. I do notice them time to time, but only occasionally. Maybe I cannot and even not meant to live in constant wonder all the time by everything (even my little child don't do that when he's inside for the whole day), but it seems quite a healthy thing to notice and find them pleasing to my senses. Isn't it a great thing to gladden my heart by these plants and animals, if it did so with a reminder that God is wonderful and He means good for us? Terrible things are in this world and certainly within my heart. But there are some profoundly good things in this world because it is made by the good God and recognising them as such is perhaps a piece of evidence that there is some good in my heart too. It might even give us courage and motivation for living our best.

That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.
  -- Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, 30 June 2012

What sort of marriages do homosexual people want?

The issue of gay marriages has been a hot topic in recent months. A report from the bible society is worth taking a look if you are interested in this topic regardless of your opinion on this.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

De-souling effects of consumerism

  In our present culture all of us find that we are studied, named, and treated as functions and things. "Consumer" is the catch-all term for the way we are viewed. From an early age we are looked upon as individuals who can buy or perform or use. Advertisers begin targeting us in those terms from the moment we are able to choose a breakfast cereal.

  For those of us who are reared in North American culture, it is inevitable that we should unconsciously acquire this way of looking at everyone we meet. Other people are potential buyers for what I am selling, students for what I am teaching, recruits for what I am doing, voters for what I am proposing, resources for what I am building or making, clients for the services I am offering. Or, to reverse the elements, I identify myself as the potential buyer, student, recruit, resource, client, and so on. But it is consumerism either way.

  I have no complaint about this at one level. I need things, other people offer what I need; I am happy to pay for and take advantage of what is offered whether it is food, clothing, information, medical and legal help, leadership in a cause that is dear to my heart, advocacy in matters of justice, or victim-rights that I care about. I'm quite happy to be a consumer in this capitalist economy where there is so much to consume.

  Except. Except that I don't want to be just a consumer. I don't even want to be predominantly a consumer. To be reduced to a consumer is to leave out most of what I am, of what makes me me. To be treated as a consumer is to be reduced to being used by another or reduced to a product for someone else's use. It makes little difference whether the using is in a generous or selfish cause, it is reduction. Widespread consumerism results in extensive depersonalization. And every time deprsonalization moves in, life leaks out.

  But souls are not sieves; souls brim with life: "Bless the Lord, O my soul!"

- p.39, Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

Friday, 22 June 2012

De-souling effects of misapplied words: resources and dysfunctional

  Two words, widely used these days, are symptomatic of the reduction of soul to self in our society. The first of these, "resource," is commonly used of people who can help us in our work. I can still remember how jarring that word sounded to me when I first heard it used forty years ago by a man who was giving me direction in my work of developing a new congregation. He kept pushing me to identify the resource-people that I could use in my work. And then I noticed that he was using the word as a verb; he frequently offered to resource our church board, our financial committee, our planning committee.
  But "resource" identifies a person as something to be used. There is nothing personal to a resource - it is a thing, stuff, a function. Use the word long enough and it begins to change the way we view a person. It started out harmlessly enough as a metaphor and as such was found useful, I guess. But when it becomes habitual, it erodes our sense of this person as soul - relational at the core and God-dimensioned. 
  And "dysfunctional." It is alarming how frequently people are referred to as dysfunctional: dysfunctional families, dysfunctional committees and congregations, dysfunctional leaders, dysfunctional relationships, dysfunctional politicians. But dysfunctional is not a personal word, it is mechanical. Machines are dysfunctional but not souls; bicycles are dysfunctional but not children; water pumps are dysfunctional but not spouses. The constant, unthinking use of the word erodes our sense of worth and dignity inherent in the people we meet and work with no matter how messed up they are. 
  We cannot be too careful about the words we use; we start out using them and then they end up using us. Our imaginations become blunted. We end up dealing only with surface, functions, roles. 

    - p. 38-39, Christ plays in ten thousand places by Eugene Peterson

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The School Chaplaincy Programme and the challenge

This morning, SMH reported that the national school chaplaincy programme is constitutionally invalid. It's 10pm and the article seems to have been edited to expand on the details and implications since this morning, and most significantly, its title has been changed to highlight that the school chaplaincy programme will continue to be funded.

From the edited version, which contain the most of the original content, I think there are two take-away points.

1) The court challenge against the school chaplaincy programme was basically on two grounds, religious freedom and the invalid use of executive power of the federal government. The court found that the funding agreement the Commonwealth committed itself was beyond its executive power, hence the scheme is constitutionally invalid. However, quite significantly, the High Court ruled unanimously that the chaplaincy programme did not infringe on the constitutional protection for religious freedom.

2) The father of four, Toowoomba man who challenged the programme reportedly said this:

"If we can't have a playing field within the public school system for our children that has freedom of religion and freedom from religion, I don't think there's anywhere else to go."

I am for the freedom of religion. But what's telling of what many outspoken atheists of our days, as with this man, is that they wish to have not just the freedom of religion but freedom from religion. I think it's common oversight in many people's thinking who are not necessarily atheists. But those who speak out against religion often seem to pursue freedom from religion knowingly. This is problematic because freedom from religion is most emphatically set against the freedom of religion. It is just as tyrannical as forcing everyone to comply with one and only state sanctioned religion, for atheism is not a neutral position you can take when religions are concerned. It is a religious position where you believe there is no God. So, in some sense, ironically, he was right in thinking that there's nowhere else to go. Not because our schools are overtly religious right now, but there's nowhere else to go but a religious place. Religious-ness is inherent in human nature, you cannot escape it.

I am glad that the chaplaincy programme was not unconstitutional on the grounds of religious freedom. I am glad I live in a country where freedom of religion is in fact upheld and rightly understood and applied (at least in most cases it seems) by law. At the same time, I am sad to be reminded of the fact that many people in this society want God banished from it. I am not surprised though. The bible informs me very well on how people, including myself, are set against God. But this in turn, reminds me of how God had mercy on me, a wretched sinner. How God reigns from heaven and in His grace, had turned me to see the wonder and glory of His Son. I can trust in His good plan for the whole world and continue to stand for truth and love those around me regardless of their religious stance.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Sunrise's neutrality on same-sex marriage

I felt very tired and almost couldn't be bothered making an effort to comment on it, but I did it. I'm not sure if Sunrise will publish it or even give a serious thought about it, but here's what I wrote on the issue of Sunrise giving support to the same-sex marriage.
I have learned that Sunrise decided to engage in supporting the same sex marriage. Perhaps I have been under a false, misguided impression about the nature of the show, but I had thought Sunrise was a current affair show. And it is disappointing to see Sunrise as a current affair show has publicly decided on a highly contentious issue, rather than facilitating discussions and presenting differing views, maintaining neutrality. Since Sunrise has decided on the issue, I'd like to ask a few questions. The Australian government has done a good job in removing discrimination in over 80 laws in 2008. Overseas, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the same-sex marriage is not a human right. How did you come to the conclusion that this same sex marriage issue is a human rights issue? Are you sure that you are not being pressured by certain lobbyists? If anyone's rights are at risk in this issue, it is our children's. Do our children not have fundamental "rights" to a father and a mother? Or, shall we provide such "rights" in the future by allowing a gay parent to be called a mother, and a lesbian parent to be called a father? If we did so, we would be re-defining the meaning of mother and father. It is not different with the same-sex marriage, we are not providing "rights" to same-sex couples, we are redefining the meaning of marriage. I am left to wonder that, as a citizen in this society, as a parent, as a potential viewer or the show, who disagrees with Sunrise in the issue of the same-sex marriage, what should I expect from Sunrise? Many people who are against the same-sex marriage are described as bigots by the same-sex marriage supporters. Politicians certains have been called that. What do you expect me to do with Sunrise? Am I expected to continue enjoying the show ignoring the great issue at hand? Am I expected to simply watch the show as if it is a neutral journalism? If it were, I should have been able to view Sunrise and trust the presentations. I would have gained insights and understandings of opinions that are different to mine. Now it seems Sunrise itself is no longer a neutral ground. I may need to find a different grounds for neutrality.
You might want to leave your comment too.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

What do I want for this life on earth?

All you want is to be light.

Maybe finish school,
get a good job,
find a husband or a wife,
nice house,
nice car,
long weekends,
good vacations,
grow old healthy,
have a fun retirement,
and die easy,
no hell.

And that's all you want.
You don't give a rip whether your life counts on this earth for eternity.

That's a tragedy in the making. That is a tragedy in the making.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Because He Loves Me

I felt it was more for a female Christian than guys. The title of the book is "Because He Loves Me," written by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick. The title, the book cover, the fact the author is a female, all contributed to my feelings that it was meant for lady Christians. But the message of the book is properly for any Christians, male or female, young or old, new or seasoned. It's because the book is about what the gospel is, and how it's meant to apply in our lives. It's about what God has done for us, and how we can live by faith in Him. It's for all Christians. You could be skeptical of this, if you have been a Christian for a while. There are only too many "how-to" books in Christian bookshops. But I dare say this book is different. This is not a "7 simple steps to become a better Christian" kind of a book. It brings focus back to what Jesus had done on the cross again and again, and reminds us to see ourselves through that lens, which will both liberate us from the guilt and the power of sin and motivate us to live a godly lives.

Here's a quote from the last chapter, The Hope of the Gospel.

On the days when you feel as though you'll never get it, you'll never please [God], you're such a failure, you must remember the lavish gift: [Jesus'] great heart pumped blood through his veins and then out his wounds so that he could bless you. This perfect blood streamed down his body and tumbled through space, pooling on the earth beneath his feet. It was trampled on by those who stood below jeering. It mingled with the dirt he had created, and from it grew your hope. And then, on the days when you believe you're finally getting it, finally pleasing him, when you think you can look in satisfaction at your goodness, you'll need to look at that blood even more closely. Take yourself to Calvary and stand there until all your good works seem to you as they really are: vile sludge purified only by his cleansing flow.
 - p. 190, from Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

Also, the appendix of the book contains a personal testimony and evangelistic message from the Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, which I thought was excellent.

You can read more about it at Crossway, or if you are up to buying your copy already, you can get it from all these places.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

To my caring wife, from the sick husband

Haiku is fun. Sijo (시조) is as much fun though.

This one is dedicated to my wife who took such good care of me for the past three weeks while I was sick with a terrible cold.

아침 점심 저녁밥 간식까지 준비하고
기저귀에 목욕에 빨래 청소 다 했더니
남편은 아프다며 잠만자려 하누나

Thanks, wifey!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Better to be counted with the ignorant Christians

I should have said, "that's hardly a complement."

At one point during our mildly heated arguments about the worldview of atheism and of Christianity, my friend said to me, "you are not the type of religious people they (the militant atheists) are concerned about."
I knew what he meant. He was saying that the religious people the atheists have troubles with are those unreasonable, illogical, over-zealous, fundamental, unscientific sort.
I should have said it's hardly a complement.
No, I should have known it was not a complement. It wasn't. But I was too quick to imagine and revel in the supposed fact that I was acceptable and respectable in atheists' eyes. I was not repulsive to the intelligent people. I was not unreasonable. I was not ignorant and hot-headed.

I should have known better. I should have known that it is far better for me to be counted with "ignorant" and "passionate" Christians even if that meant I was going to be despised and ridiculed by atheists. I should have known that it was far better to have the world unworthy of me than to be seen worthy by the world. (Heb 11:36-38)

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Remembering Jim Elliot and his legacy

On January 8, 1956, five Auca Indians of Ecuador killed Jim Elliot and his four missionary companions as they were trying to bring the gospel to the Auca tribe of sixty people. Four young wives lost husbands and nine children lost their fathers. Elisabeth Elliot wrote that the world called it a nightmare of tragedy. Then she added, "The world did not recognize the truth of the second clause in Jim Elliot's credo:
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain what he cannot lose."
   -- p. 215, Desiring God by John Piper

Monday, 2 April 2012

Reflections from the land where Facebook is blocked

I recently visited China for the first time in my life. (I say China here in this post, but really, I only a tiny part of it, a small-by-Chinese-standard, peripheral city in China called Qingdao. If you heard of it, you might have heard it only because of the famous beer from that place, Tsingtao beer. It'd do an injustice to the large and culturally diverse country as China to do so, but for the sake of readability, I'll simply refer to the place I visited as China. I hope most of things I noticed apply not only to Qingdao, but China in general.) It was good to catch up with Sulah's parents who live there, and they enjoyed seeing us, especially the little John.
Aside from that, seeing the country and people of China opened up my mind a little as well.
Here I list some of the things I learned through this trip.

1) Pray for the safety and health of your family.
You might have packed some medicine and perhaps even purchased a travel insurance. That's all good and fine, but it's important to ask the One who is sovereign over all things. Making sure you have basic access to medicine and choosing safer way to travel is not necessarily a sign of your lack of trust in God, but not praying is. I guess I learned this because Sulah and I kept on getting sick on and off throughout the trip.

2) A boring plane trip is a good plane trip.
I used to secretly wish for some excitement when I went on a plane trip. Not the super-excitement that ends in tragedy, like a real terrorist attack or a serious accident, I don't want that to happen to anyone, anytime. But just a little turbulence that will rattle the plane to let me know that I'm flying, or a rough landing to let me know that the pilot's not god, etc. But, no. Now that I've got a little child travelling with me, I realise the quietest, smoothest, eventless, yes, boring flight is the best flight. The flight where my child won't be scared or awaken is the most enjoyable flight, not those little excitement I wished in luxury of single life.

3) Chinese people are confident.
Their confidence may be tainted with pride, but I found it both fascinating and attractive. They might be poor and doing a hard labour, but they don't suffer from inferiority complex. I think they know what they do is not what they are. Their confidence isn't grounded in Christ, maybe it's their rich cultural and historical heritage, but I was just envious of the fact that they could be so confident in who they are. I am a Christian, and why do I still feel so insecure and lack confidence? How deeply do I really know who I am in Christ?

4) I need to repent of cultural prejudice.
I realised that my prejudice against people from a different culture was worse than I thought. For example, I used to think that many behaviours by a Chinese was rude or wrong even if it was acceptable in Chinese culture. But I realised that a lot of it had more to do with my prejudice. I still believe that some accepted behaviours in Chinese culture are wrong, as I always believed that some accepted behaviours in Australian culture are wrong as well. However, I now understand that it was my narrow-mindedness and cultural arrogance that shaped my attitude towards different cultures more than their culturally acceptable behaviours.

5) There are many things to do other than Facebook.
I was surprised to find that Facebook was blocked in China. Twitter was blocked too. I think Chinese government sees these social networking services to be a threat to the stability of the country. I think it helps people to be more productive too. Using Facebook attracts more criticism for wasting of time, I suppose, than Twitter. I think Twitter is used more for sharing and spreading ideas than Facebook, and used less for entertainment. But after the initial adjustments, that is, not habitually logging on to Facebook or Twitter, I didn't miss either very much. I once or twice wanted log on to Facebook to see what my friends were up to, but then, I knew I would be able to catch up with them when I get back home. In fact, seeing their updates on Facebook every so often, I now realise, kind of dilutes the joy of seeing a friend after some time had passed. Twitter, likewise, didn't really improve my life all that much. It did break some of the world news or interesting ideas to me a few times, but it didn't come without a price. By consuming streams of tweets whenever I had to wait for something I forgot how to wait and grew impatient. I guess I can't blame Twitter for making me impatient. But it was one of the quick and easy distractions. Having said all that, would I now stop using Facebook or Twitter? No. But I hope to use it more wisely. I still think Facebook and Twitter can be used well.

6) China blocks as well.
This was actually more disappointing and I missed it more than Facebook or Twitter. I should be more thankful for the openness we enjoy in Australia.

7) Chinese roads are much more chaotic than Australian roads but there was no road rage.
There were quite a lot of cars on the road. It was pretty much comparable to an average Sydney road. It looked very chaotic to my eyes, but even I could sense that they were being more mindful of other cars and people than Sydney road users. Perhaps they became more accustomed to cars coming in and out in front of you, but I didn't see anyone getting angry over the way other people drove. I would hear honking time to time, but it wasn't at each other like showing their aggression towards other drivers, but rather just a warning of a danger. It felt kind of comically friendly the way everyone drove, all sharing the road together. It also seemed that these Chinese people were above the little annoyance traffic could cause. I think we, Sydney-siders could learn from them.

8) Durian is very tasty but its smell is still hard to bear.

9) I found myself interested in the Chinese history, culture, and landscape. I wish to learn more about them.

There. Just a few things that came to my mind reflecting on the trip.

Maybe I'll write up some thoughts from my stay in Korea too... Just maybe.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Against the same sex marriage bills in 250 words or less

There is a government survey about the same sex marriage bills that were recently proposed. It's a very short one. I suggest you take it and let your voice heard. The most difficult part of this one page survey was describing my reasons for not supporting the bills in less than 250 words. After struggling to keep the number of words under it, I managed to complete it in 249.

Firstly, the meaning of marriage is well understood and accepted by the vast marjority of Australians as an exclusive union between a man and a woman. It is not the government's role to re-define marriage.
Secondly, the majority of Australians do not actually want the change.
Thirdly, even if the majority indeed wanted to legalise the same sex marriage, the government must not simply bend to the public wishes and opinions. I should not doubt for a moment that the government officials are concerned with what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is good and what is not, even if it may cost their next election.
Fourthly, re-defining marriage is not going to promote tolerance. It will only have an adverse effect where, instead of learning to live with those we disagree with, we will be forced to actually agree with them.
Fifthly, keeping the current meaning of marriage is not in any way discrimitive or intolerant action, it is merely stating what is plain.
Finally, the victim of redefinition of marriage will be our children. Upon legalising the same sex marriage, our children will helplessly and voicelessly be forced into accepting a false meaning of marriage. It is also likely to be followed with the countless cases where children will be denied a father or a mother by the same sex parents. Will we, finding ourselves in such situations, attempt to redefine the meaning of the term, father, or mother, too, then?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A train station with no lift

First, let me describe a scene from a Korean fantasy novel I read years ago. It comes from Dragon Raja (드래곤 라자) by Youngdo Lee. In the world this author created, there is a powerful wizard, a kind of equivalent of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings. I've forgotten the name of the wizard, but the most memorable feat this wizard had done was not some kind of powerful battle magic or a insidious mind-controlling socery, but rather a piece of social engineering. What he had done was creating a special kind of bridge to cross a great chasm in the middle of a well-known travel route. Rather than building a conventional bridge, he had created a floating platform to move back and forth between two landing spots. If this was all he had done, it would have been just another clever trick any fame-hungry wizard could have done. What I was impressed with was the fact that this floating platform was crafted so that it only activates when there are at least 7 (I think it was 7, but the exact number is not important) travellers gathered at one of the landing spots. The hope and purpose for this, as the story tells, was that the wizard wanted the various travellers would rather learn to co-operate with each other even if it meant Orcs and Elves had to stand by together to use the floating platform. His hope was to build a society where former enemies would be accepting of each other and learn to live peacefully together.

Why this story? I was reminded of this recently when I was coming home from work. I've been thinking quite a lot about the state and meaning of community, especially in my local area. One of the things that I have been thinking ever since I moved into this area over a year ago is the fact that the Wentworthville train station does not have lifts. I saw the need for a lift immediately. Many mums travelled with their children in prams. Even though they often travelled with their friends and families to help carry their prams, I thought it would be much easier for them to use a lift. Of course it is easier. It is convenient. Occasionally, perhaps more often than I could ignore, they even had to rely on strangers helping them. I was the stranger a few times myself. If anyone asked me what we need in our local community, I had little doubt that a lift installation at Wentworthville station was a high priority.

But when I helped another mum carry her child in a pram last week, I suddenly remembered that aforementioned story. Perhaps this lack of lift isn't as bad for the community as I used to think. Just like that magical floating platform made Orcs and Elves to work together and tolerate each other, perhaps this lack of lift at our station is helping us to look out for each other. Certainly it is not convenient, both for mums and, well, strangers like myself who help them. But, when was the last time convenience helped strengthen communities? Wasn't it often the case when a great crisis and challenges, like natural disasters or war came upon a society that people worked together and community strengthened? Perhaps this inconvenience of not having a lift at the station is in fact contributing positively towards the sense of belonging in this community, however small it may be.

There's probably a safety hazard in carrying prams up and down the stairs. And there are people with less mobility who really need lifts to access the station. It probably is better to have lifts installed at our station after all. But if it is better to have lifts, it would certainly be not on the grounds that it's simply more convenient.

(Image of Wentworthville station is from Wikipedia)

(While searching for images to use on this post, I came across this article saying petition is underway! Talk about timing! So, we might actually get lifts installed after all.)

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Farewell, SCPC EM!

I was 15 when I started coming to this church. That means I have spent roughly half of my whole life here at SCPC EM, now called the Rock church. My wife, Sulah also joined me here when we got married about 2 years ago. For all those years, God had been most faithful and gracious with us, encouraging and challenging us to grow in many ways, often through people here at the Rock. First me, and then years later, my wife, we were both warmly welcomed into the lives of many people here, and we know the friendship will continue even though we may not be able to see each other so often as we would like to.

Yes, it is true. We are saying goodbye. As you have now learned, perhaps as a bit of shock to some, my family have decided to start attending a local church nearer to our home. The reason, or rather, the purpose for moving is something that has been on both my mind and my wife’s for quite some time. For several years now, I have had a desire to be part of a local, non-ethnic church where I could serve its local community with the gospel. When I married Sulah, I was delightfully surprised to find that she also had a similar desire. And as we talked about this, we started dreaming, dreaming of reaching the Australian community which once was built on the Christian foundation, but now has lost it. Once we both had this dream, we had sought God’s guidance in this matter. We also tried to weed out any sinful motives that might influence our decision making. Several months passed before we mentioned our thoughts to pastor Bernie, and then many more months before we finally submitted our thoughts and desires to our God in deciding to leave the Rock and join a local church (which we now have to find). It was difficult and slow coming as you can imagine, especially when we knew that it was not impossible to reach non-Koreans here at the Rock. In the end, however, we learned to trust God and step out, even while having some nagging doubts and fears remaining! Have we got some kind of undeniable assurance that this is God’s will for us? No, but we came to believe that God will be with us and be pleased in us acting out in faith. Have we eliminated all our sinful, ulterior motives? I hope so, and we do not perceive any within ourselves, but it’s possible that we are still subtly affected by them. In this as well, we came to believe that God is gracious and will teach us wisdom without condemning us as we continue walking in Him.

Now that we are embarking on a new chapter of our lives, we wish to express our gratitude, ask for your prayers, and give you a reminder.

For the past 15 years, many of you have helped me grow as a Christian and accepted me as part of the family. I am most acutely aware of your love and maturity since I got married. I saw many of you showing good will and extending your friendship and support towards my wife without any reservation. We thank God for such love we received from you, and we want to say thank you to you all as well. Especially to pastor Bernie, thank you for all the years of loving, counselling, and understanding, and all this even when we shared our thoughts about leaving the Rock. We are not here to encourage people to leave this church, but we still want to acknowledge the maturity of the pastor and the congregation here at the Rock for being able to send us out in love.

Now, as you can imagine, after all those good years here at the Rock Church, we find changing church extremely daunting to say the least. This church is the only one I’ve been a member of since I was 15, and with your great encouragement and support, my wife and I began, enjoyed, and grew in our marriage here at the Rock. We both grew to know God better here. It was at this church that I saw the glory of the sovereign God and rejoiced for the first time in my life. It was at this church that I learned the bible was entirely and absolutely true word of God. It was at this church that we learned the famously phrased truth, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. It was at this church I realised that I must like Jesus as well as obey Jesus, in other words, delighting in Jesus was part of His command for us. And now we need to find and settle in another church where we will be taught God’s word clearly and faithfully, build relationships, serve sacrificially, and learn to glorify God in all that we are and all that we do. Please pray for us that in and through the new church, God may preserve us, provide for us, and complete the good work He started in us. Also pray for us that we may be fruitful in the ministries that we will be part of in the new church as well.

Finally, we wish to leave you by reminding you of a bible passage, 1 Cor 15:3-4.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Apostle Paul says that he delivered this message of Christ crucified as of first importance. This message is still of first importance. Many things can be said from this, but let me remind you just a few things from it. Jesus died for our sins and was raised. It is this Person and this event that is the goodnews we bear to ourselves and to the world, not how-to’s or to-do’s. And we didn’t make it up according to our fanciful thoughts, but this event happened according to the Scriptures, God’s own word. God is the author and perfecter of our salvation, from beginning to end. The world began by God’s word, and it has run its course according to His word, and will end as He decreed in His word, the bible. And at the centre of history, at the core of His purposes, there is Jesus. I want to remind you to seek and obey Jesus of the bible and never sway from Him or His word. If we all, by God’s grace, stay with Him and stick by His word, then we will most certainly meet again one day, and rejoice and worship God together like never before. The new heaven and earth awaits us. Let us bear the good news of Christ crucified. How paradoxically glorious and humble our God is!
Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone)!

Wonil (Tim), Sammy (Sulah), and John Lee

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Mystery of marriage

This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:23 ESV)
This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:23 NIV)
The mystery [of marriage] is this: God did not create the union of Christ and the church after the pattern of human marriage - just the reverse! He created human marriage on the pattern of Christ's relation to the church.  - p213, from Desiring God by John Piper 

I love my wife, but I am not always the godly husband I am called to be. Whether I feel good about myself as a husband or not, how glorious, humbling, and encouraging this mystery is.

O, Lord, be gracious to me, and empower me to love her like Christ does the church.

Foundation for building a tolerant loving society

Read this great article by Phillip Jensen: Britain is changing. Will Australia?

I thought for some time that discrimination against Christians we observe around the world will come to this country, Australia, soon, well, if it isn't already here.
Various European countries, although their heritage was rich in christianity, with the wayward political-correctness and confused multiculturalism, have lost what it takes to encourage tolerance and fight discrimination. And such discrimination against christians led me to suspect it will soon come to Australia, another country rich in Christian heritage, but rampantly secularised.

Perhaps, I have been lagging behind.
Phillip Jensen argues that Britain is changing in the way they think about religion and the way they want to, or need to build their society and culture. Perhaps they are finally waking up from their moral sleep that was caused by secularism. And, if his observations and predictions are going to be accurate, Britain just might be able to establish a cohesive and tolerant society we all want.

But the question remains, as Phillip posed. Will Australia regain their religious and moral footing in Christianity? Will the people who lead the public opinions understand and embrace the truth uttered by Mr. David Cameron, the current British Prime Minister:
"Those who say being a Christian country is doing down other faiths... simply don't understand that it is easier for people to believe and practise other faiths when Britain (in our case, Australia, of course) has confidence in its Christian identity."
Christian faith and truth lay the most solid foundation for any nation to allow its people to believe and practice their faiths whatever they be. Granted, "christian countries" throughout the history have not always allowed its people to do so, but neither have countries of other faiths. But when we actually delve into the teachings of these various faiths, you will agree that christianity does provide the foundation, the most solid foundation for building a society that is loving and accommodating.

This kind of foundation is even more acutely needed in a country like Australia where it has so much to gain from its Christian heritage already and has so much to lose if severed from it.