Scruffy!


I often call him “Oi”. Sometimes he’s “little buddy”. When Kiddo and I talk about him, he’s “Little Black Jedi“, or LBJ. Scruffy has become a little man about the house. He certainly spends more time in the house than any one of us. He’s got 2-3 spots in the house which are his favourites, and have become sort of his spots.

He likes both corners of our old couch in front of the TV, right on top of the headrest. He is often perched up there in either of the spots, sleeping in the groove between the back board and the back cushion. Lately, he has also taken up a spot on the leather couch in the lounge, overlooking the main windows into the park across the street where we take him when it’s not raining. Tress thinks he is pining for the park visits when he does that, especially when he sees other dogs there.

At night, he wont go to the room to sleep as long as one of us are in the lounge or TV area. He’d sleep on the old couch, but sprawled across one of the seats. When the last of us (usually me) gets up to go to bed, he’d wake up and trot off to one of our rooms. Currently he appears to be avoiding kiddo’s room. We think it’s the VCE mess he’s avoiding.

Once in the room – or at least with Tress and I – he’d wait on the floor for a few minutes before hopping onto the bed. He wants to settle down right next to us but we usually make him sleep just at the end of the bed, near our feet. He’d settle for that more than in his own bed on the floor. Experts tell us Schnoodles are like that. They just want to be near their humans, as much (and as near) as possible. Sometimes when all 3 of us are watching TV, he’d curl up next to one of us on the couch, usually on the long end of the chaise. He’s become an honorary fourth member of the family.

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Is Mutuality Unreasonable?


I recently had a conversation which reminded me how challenging life can be for anyone starting out on a new phase in his journey. A new migrant was relating to me how one of his children miss their previous home, and how that child misses the parents’ stations in society. I offered some words of comfort and encouragement but I suspect what was much more needed was simply a listening ear.

Being present, being available was almost as useful if not more useful, than any practical advice I may have had to offer.

This morning we had an in-house sermon from a leader, who gave a warm, touching and challenging message. I believe the message spoke to many hearts and the experience of being in the congregation among whom the message clearly resonated, was palpable although obviously intangible. If only more members were present to listen not just audibly but also with the heart.

Being present amongst the congregation in that sense, was priceless.

I have been brought up to be present in church at every Sunday. In my past life I often missed church on Sunday when I travelled for work, or I was simply too engrossed with the things of this world to think about being there as a member of the community of faith. That was something I regretted badly and while I love to use my Sundays to enjoy the many things this beautiful country has to offer, my upbringing sees me in church on almost every Sunday, safe for the once or twice a year when we are away for one reason or another, usually because we are out of town during a holiday season.

It feels great when I turn up on Sunday morning and see many faces – familiar as well as new ones – being in church. Being present in itself, can be an encouragement to others. It can build others up. I feel deflated when I notice many not there. I tell myself I am in church to worship God but I am also there as a member of the community of faith, which doesnt quite work if we all dont have a mutual commitment to each other as members of that community, that it will be our priority to be there.

In this busy and stressful world we live in, there will always be good reasons to take time off to de-stress and re-charge. If we cant do that however, by coming to the Lord and leave our cares with Him and wait on Him for our souls to be refreshed and revived, we are shortchanging ourselves. If we cant be encouraged by others’ presence and mutual commitment to the body, there is work to be done in refining our understanding and commitment to this body.

Sometimes we absolutely need to be away. Sometimes in a place like Australia when summer sees a lot of people travelling, perhaps on a de facto basis that commitment becomes released and the expectations may then have to be recalibrated. Maybe I am old schooled but I would have thought that is perhaps the only time we can safely be away and where our mutual commitments and obligations to the body may be parked aside, because our presence is no longer expected, where we can expect our fellow sojourners can be refreshed and revived in their travels also.

Maybe I need to calibrate my old schooled expectations to take into account the dynamism and subjectivity of each person or families’ circumstances. Maybe the body of Christ as a whole also need to calibrate that expectation as given the countless permutations of perceptions of what is important and what is beneficial in each person or family’s lives, there can no longer be the expectation that we will all be there on Sunday to renew our relationships and covenants with each other.

Maybe that mutuality is no longer reasonable.

Fair Work Act to break Qantas strike?


Alan Joyce‘s apparent brinksmanship is exciting to watch. At least to a neutral observer like yours truly. The Qantas industrial action has been going on and has been otherwise boring but this swashbuckling Irishman wields quite a weapon.

The entire Qantas fleet has now been grounded and the Transport Minister said an application under the Fair Work Act would be made. Section 424 of the Fair Work Act says this:

424 FWA must suspend or terminate protected industrial action—endangering life etc.

Suspension or termination of protected industrial action

(1) FWA must make an order suspending or terminating protected industrial action for a proposed enterprise agreement that:

(a) is being engaged in; or

(b) is threatened, impending or probable;

if FWA is satisfied that the protected industrial action has threatened, is threatening, or would threaten:

(c) to endanger the life, the personal safety or health, or the welfare, of the population or of part of it; or

(d) to cause significant damage to the Australian economy or an important part of it.

(2) FWA may make the order:

(a) on its own initiative; or

(b) on application by any of the following:

(i) a bargaining representative for the agreement;

(ii) the Minister;

(iia) if the industrial action is being engaged in, or is threatened, impending or probable, in a State that is a referring State as defined in section 30B or 30L—the Minister of the State who has responsibility for workplace relations matters in the State;

(iib) if the industrial action is being engaged in, or is threatened, impending or probable, in a Territory—the Minister of the Territory who has responsibility for workplace relations matters in the Territory;

(iii) a person prescribed by the regulations.

Application must be determined within 5 days

(3) If an application for an order under this section is made, FWA must, as far as practicable, determine the application within 5 days after it is made.

Interim orders

(4) If FWA is unable to determine the application within that period, FWA must, within that period, make an interim order suspending the protected industrial action to which the application relates until the application is determined.

(5) An interim order continues in operation until the application is determined.

So it looks like at the most the industrial action should end no more than 5 days from the time the application is lodged (Monday?) but given the bloodletting this has caused, we’re probably going to get some form of orders by Monday. Otherwise many people’s Melbourne Cup day would turn into horse manure…

Time with friends and family – what is the cost?


This is a busy time for most people. Periods leading up to Christmas is a hectic time for work, and prevalence of school exams  plus end of school terms also add up to mean a busy period for kids and parents. At such times, the church becomes an important source of respite, refreshments and affirmation and encouragement. Given the centrality of Sunday services, church at this time is an important factor.

This is also a time for planning for the coming year. Ministers generally embark on the planning process at this time and often lend support and momentum to the process and all who are involved in it.

Notwithstanding a long weekend (Melbourne Cup Day) therefore, the question of everyone counting on everyone else to be around on Sundays is one all church goers need to think about at this time. We cannot exhort each other, hand on heart, and expect to prop each other up, build each other and encourage each other if we are consistently away on Sundays. It becomes even more difficult when Sundays are often the only times we have where we can otherwise expect to see each other.

Maybe I am old schooled. Maybe my expectation that when I go to church I want to see everyone there – especially the shepherd – is misplaced, in this day and age. There is now so much emphasis on family time and time for good friends, that the cost is that of the wider community. Maybe out of necessity we focus on increasingly small groups to build relationships, especially with family, relatives and close friends. Hence if we are with these people, being with the wider community of faith becomes less important. Maybe that is acceptable now.

I guess if that is the situation it will take more effort than ever before, to build a community of faith, because the cost – that of giving up exclusive recreation time with family and close friends – gets increasingly higher and such sacrifices and priorities become increasingly harder to bear.

School Year-End Horsing Around


There was a young bloke on radio this morning. His name was Nick Langford. He’s the school captain of Melbourne Grammar, and on muck-up day he rode a horse to school and “parked” it on the school oval. Apparently that was one of 3 entitlements a school captain of Melbourne Grammar has. The other 2 were to grow a beard and bring the wife to a school function. I guess a school which screams establishment continues to frown on facial hair generally but even with this exemption he could not grow a decent one within a short period of time, and it must have been a very old rule to have a married high school student.

So Nick Langford exercised the only right he could and rode a horse to school. He had someone bring a horse down from Bendigo, spoke to the deputy principal and executed his triumphal entry.

Yeah – it’s that time of the year again, when school finishes up and kids celebrate. Last night Tress and I were at Kiddo’s Valedictory Night for the MacRob Class of 2011. It was at the San Remo Ballroom in Carlton North. Nicholson Street is a nightmare on most occasions and last night was no different. The usual administrative genius of MacRob school meant a venue was chosen for a function which started at 5pm, right in the middle of peak hour traffic, where public transport was limited (just the Tram No. 96) and car park were either 1 or 2 hour spots. I zipped in and out of adjoining streets and corners and finally found a 4 hour slot, and got in with about 5 minutes to spare. It all finished close to 9pm and by the time I got home I was too bushed (I had gone to work at 7am that morning to make up for an early finish) and could barely read half a page for my exam preps before deciding to just have a glass of red and go to sleep, before waking up to news of Nick Langford’s exploits.

Who Do You Think You Are? Basis for Identity and Values


Looking at recent events in the UK and hearing how varying segments within the church needs to be addressed differently, I thought the following article useful in providing some clues in a search for the way forward in an increasingly pluralistic society.
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The global church needs to ground youth in their true, deepest identity.
A Christianity Today editorial | posted 2/23/2009 10:27AM

About a year ago, Kenya exploded in post-election riots that resulted in a thousand deaths. Many of the killers were unemployed young people who were “hanging out and feeling people were looking down on them,” says Muhia Karianjahi, the Nairobi-based director of Tanari International, an international youth outreach ministry.

This basic storyline repeats itself around the world, and is arguably to blame for much ethnic violence in other 2008 hotspots such as Jos, Nigeria, and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

One sobering reality in these conflicts is that they are happening in very Christianized regions. Kenya is, like the U.S., about 80 percent Christian. The DRC is 95 percent Christian.

“There are churches all over the place, and Bible schools, and everything else; and planted right on top is this horrific conflict,” says Wheaton College professor Paul Robinson, who grew up in eastern DRC. “Christianity doesn’t make a difference—that’s not your primary loyalty. Christian leaders need to ask: Isn’t there a higher, deeper loyalty?”

For many young people raised in the worldwide church, the answer is no. Ethnicity is their default identity. Karianjahi says Kenya’s “kids are frustrated that life is not working out.” When their options fail, so does their allegiance to Christian principles. A similar dynamic seems to be at work in the U.S. Recent Barna Group research found that a majority of American youth raised in the church have left it by age 29. The issue for American Christians is less about rioting youth and more about a rising generation whose commitment to Christ may not stand when shaken. And it doesn’t take much to shake it before they abandon Christ for lesser loyalties.

While we know that not all who are in the pews are in Christ, we should be concerned enough to take a second look at how we go about making disciples within the church.

Throughout Christian history, this task has been known as catechesis, the Greek term for systematic religious instruction. David Kinnaman, president and strategic leader of the Barna Group, says, “Leaders are realizing that it’s not just that we need more catechism for youth but a different kind.” He says more personalized, intergenerational teaching for youth is in order, to avoid giving them the impression that theology is unrelated to life outside the church.

Many young adults have gotten past questions of morality and now need answers from the church about Christian identity, how to follow their calling no matter the challenge, and how to have a positive impact on the world. The church has answers to these questions, but teaching them to the next generation is not easy. Karianjahi has wracked his brains over this issue, and has developed a ministry to begin addressing it. Tanari International uses church-based rites of passage, based on tribal rituals, to help young people journey into the fullness of Christian faith.

At Kenya’s Moi University, Emily Choge, an ethics professor and a John Stott Ministries Scholar, is doing something similar. “Instead of teaching the traditional African values or the values that separated one community from another, [we] are now using that time to instill Christian values,” she says. They use ceremonies to tell youth what they are to become (in this case, full members of the church), set out expectations, and give them the community’s affirmation.

While personalized teaching and rites of passage can help many young adults, it will take more than a program to develop a commitment to Christ. The church needs to reaffirm regularly in its teaching, preaching, and example that loyalty to God and identity in Christ leave all other allegiances in the dust.

Why We “Fought”


For posterity, and as a reminder of why we pursued what we did, quite strongly, more than a year ago.

Hi everyone

I like to share my personal thoughts with you as home group members, concerning the integration.

I don’t think the questions (which were raised yesterday) about what is the will of God for ICC and whether Pastor TF engagement fits that will, are questions which bother us in our home group. In any case I would like to share my thoughts with you, so that we have a (somewhat) clearly articulated position.

If you agree, then we can at least be clear in our mind about why we are doing this. We will also be better placed to share this with others in ICC.

My apologies for being “cheong heh” but if you can spare 10-15 minutes please read through. If you agree, you are welcomed to share this with others.

Finally, if you can, try to attend the prayer meetings. Apart from the integration, it is always good to pray together and to meet specifically to pray. For this integration, come together to pray as a church if you can. This is just so we can commit the matter to Him even as we plan and do the detailed work of implementing these plans.

—————————————-

Why integrate? What is the will of God? Is it simply to plan and do our best for Him?

1. ICC has not had a pastor[1] since late 2005/early 2006. In the second half of 2009, efforts to find a pastor escalated and a number of candidates were identified and considered at length.

2. Prior to 2009, efforts to find a pastor were confined to limited number of candidates namely, Rev Jeremiah Yap and Rev TT Quah. Both these candidates have current and extensive portfolios in Australia as well as overseas. They are often overseas and their current commitments preclude them from responding to our needs in the manner we expect them to.

3. The candidates we have considered in 2009 have now been narrowed down to just one, namely Pastor Tham Fuan. I will refer to him as “TF”.

4. TF graduated from the Bible College of Victoria in 1994. BCV is a seminary accredited by the Australian College of Theology. Prior to 1994 TF was serving as a lay leader in his church in Malaysia and served as a leader in student ministry in Tasmania. From 1994 to-date, TF has been serving actively as a full-time servant of God. He continued his seminary training and obtained post graduate qualifications – an MA in Ministry from BCV in 2002.

5. TF has served as a pastor (in chronological order) in Canaan Church in KL Malaysia, FGA Melbourne in Box Hill and Cornerstone Church of Christ in Oakleigh East. He has been with Cornerstone since 2006.

6. We have heard TF preach in ICC for maybe 6-8 times now. Some of us have also had the opportunity to spend time with him socially a number of times. I believe many (if not all) share the view that he is a godly man who is committed and has a passion for the work of fulfilling the Great Commission and building His church. His pulpit messages have been godly biblical expository teachings which challenge listeners to take life changing actions and decisions.

7. TF was a board member of Wycliffe Malaysia and has participated in mission work both on-field and as a support mobilising intermediary. In fact ICC first initiated contact with TF as a result of Alex’s mission network which included Beram Kumar and STAMP, whom TF also knows and worked with.

8. Additionally TF is a sole pastor in Cornerstone, a church which shares the same statements of beliefs as ICC.

9. On a personal level, TF is married to Suan Choo and they have 2 daughters, Danica who is in Year 12 and Elysia who is in Year 7. We have been to his home for meals and they are not unlike any ordinary lively and loving family making their lives in the suburbs of Melbourne. Suan Choo works as an accountant in the city and Danica and Elysia attend Oxley College.

10. In all respects therefore, there is nothing about TF, his beliefs, teachings, work ethics, values, family lives and commitment to God and His work which creates any concern for me. To me he is as good a candidate as ICC can be blessed with.

11. As with all good candidates, he is presently serving in another church – Cornerstone Church of Christ. Cornerstone renewed the engagement of TF last year and under TF, the church has settled, stabilized, grown and is seeking to be even more effective for God.

12. I am glad TF is not seeking to resign from Cornerstone to come to ICC. This demonstrates his commitment to the flock he has been entrusted with. He is looking to ICC only as an expansion to provide both Cornerstone as well as another church (namely ICC) in Melbourne, with a common and enlarged platform for even greater effectiveness for God, so that we can better obey Him and be better agents of the gospel for Him.

13. We are therefore looking at engaging a pastor who has been and remains committed to the work of God as a full time pastor. There is neither any question about TF commitment to do this on a dedicated full time basis nor has there been any event in his life to render continuation of this work problematic.

14. Obviously TF will have his flaws. He is shy – we all know that. There have been remarks that he has a strong character and while I don’t see that as a flaw, let us just accept that it may be at this stage. That makes him human. However it is his good traits I am more interested in and all of these which have been identified, have no doubt been seen by Cornerstone as well. They too want him to continue serving as their pastor.

15. This brings to a logical question of whether ICC and Cornerstone can come together as one, with TF as the pastor for a new merged church.

16. To me, this requires much harder work than just engaging a pastor who doesn’t “come with a church”. However. I’d rather wear this hard work than engage a pastor who has for example, just left a church (making it necessary for us to consider why he left) or just joined the ministry (he would then lack the experience of TF) or any other circumstances which makes him available readily. The only other scenario is to get someone from overseas. This may not be the best route as such a person would have to acclimatise himself with the way churches function in Melbourne/Australia. As a relatively fresh migrant I see very different setting between churches in (say) Malaysia and in Melbourne/Australia.

17. And so we consider merger. Even as I looked closer, I begin to see why this can be a good thing.

18. Churches in Melbourne are a fragmented scene. The average number in a church in Melbourne is about 65. Every week thousands of churches some as small as 20-30 persons and most with less than 100, replicate resources and stretch what we have in order to carry out the most basic of church functions.

19. In each of those thousand of churches, we all replicate and invest time so that a church will have basic Sunday worship, prayer meetings, weekly or fortnightly bible studies and some (often annual) outreach programs. For a church of under 100 persons, these activities alone will keep most members busy.

20. Additionally, if you consider the 80-20 rule, you’d have pockets of 20 persons across Melbourne all doing the same thing – attending to the bare necessities for a church to function. Few have spare time to do more than the basic functions. If someone gets sick and needs visitation or attention then that stretches the resources of the church. If someone is moving house that stretches resources. If there is a wedding that really stretches the church resources. If a newcomer comes and needs follow up – ditto. Someone needs a lift – ditto. Someone has emotional needs – ditto. We spend our time tending to the most basic of needs to keep the church running (floating?). This is especially true in a church such as ICC, which has had no pastor for a number of years.

21. These are important functions but they must not erode the role the church has to play to fulfil the Great Commission.

22. Size isn’t everything, but it does tend to provide more resources so that efforts can be pooled and deployed more strategically. Resources must be targeted at outreach and mission work, at work which builds disciples and at work which teach and edifies members.

23. As someone has already mentioned (I think it was Pauline) Cornerstone also provides a plug to a critical demographic gap. Cornerstone comprise of a large proportion of young adults and young families. This complements the demographics of ICC. This age group is critical because it is a bridge between the 40/50+ and the youth (primary and high schoolers). Without this age group, primary and high schoolers may not have the required handles as to what sort of role models they can focus on, relate to and/or aspire to become.

24. As a merged church, I hope to see ICC (or whatever our new name may be) become better resourced to do the work of God which matters the most – outreach, evangelism and mission, and teaching each other the Word of God.

25. Pastor TF will be able to provide us with sound, biblical teachings with life changing challenges and do this consistently and systematically and members will be better placed to grow and become agents of the Great Commission and make disciples of those God place in their lives.

26. I cannot see how the above scenario can be against the will of God. I often say to others that God doesn’t lead us just by the weird and unusual stuff – ie dreams, visions, “word” etc.

27. God by and large leads and guides us by providing us with logical thoughts and preparing us to put those thoughts into perspective by making us go through a range of experiences. God is an orderly and logical being as evidenced by His creation. Why would He lead us in ways other than in an orderly and logical fashion? Why are we not confident that when we think logically and plan in an orderly fashion it isn’t being lead by God? Against those thoughts and plans, I’d pray and search the scriptures. The Word of God ultimately has to be the arbiter of whether it is against the will of God for us to be doing something.

28. If what we have logically and orderly sought the Lord, planned and determined – and therefore confident God has lead us in an orderly and logical way – cannot be refuted by any biblical principles, then we should be confident to move on. We cannot orderly and logically plan for example, to kill, steal or hurt our neighbours. Where what we have committed to the Lord and thought and prayed through and considered all facts and circumstances in a responsible, engaging and wise manner, and there has been no biblical principle adduced to suggest otherwise, we should be confident to move ahead.

Delinquent Teenager – Body Blow or Knock-Out Punch to IPCC?


I’ve just read the first half dozen or so chapters of “Delinquent Teenager” and I wonder how IPCC will react to this. This is a death knell to IPCC, if they cannot respond adequately to Ms Laframboise.

The pre-eminent scientists we all thought the IPCC appointed were actually a kumbayah bunch of political appointments. Young barely out of university scientists were preferred over true experts in their fields. Young university graduates who have only an undergraduate qualification, and were appointed because they were female or had the right social concerns. Links with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace were prominent. Rajendra Pauchari the head honcho in IPCC, was almost a patron to Greenpeace. How does he maintain objective impartiality in leading a team meant to do serious scientific research and investigation? Influence by activists abound.

This will be my side reading for the next couple of days – like many before me (although the book is just only hot off the press (9 October), and many more after me, I think the IPCC will henceforth be a joke as far as scientific reports, findings and recommendations are concerned.

The Delinquent Teenager (Book on the IPCC)


The Delinquent Teenager is a book about the IPCC, written by Donna Laframbroise. I have just got the Kindle version off Amazon. It is probably going to fuel my antagonism with the Red-Outside-Green-Inside Carbon Tax fiasco but I would have to keep it bottle up as I need to focus on the coming exams…

Get it if you are looking for the next book to read. The Kindle version is only $4.99 and it is likely to be well worth the money.

Occupy Everywhere


Occupy Wall Street. Occupy London. Occupy Melbourne. This “Occupy Wherever” movement has come to our doorstep. No one has quite worked out what these groups are occupying wherever for, but it seems to be gathering momentum.

The general common denominator for all those who have turned up, seems to be that the rich gets richer whereas the rest of the population (99%, so they say) are either poorer or not getting richer, at least.

So what else is new? The fat cats – in Wall Street, Collins Street (non-Paris end) or Spring Street – have always been in the minority. That’s just the way it is. It is a combination of hard work, intelligence, connections and circumstances and either divine providence or pure luck, depending on your metaphysical beliefs.

I don’t know if it is a social justice and equality issue. It may well be. Wall Street and Collins Street riches however, are symptoms of whatever societal imbalances and injustices we may have, not the cause. Theoretically at least, all Australians have equal access to education, employment and career progression. No one is systematically or institutionally excluded from any of these channels – it is a question of who is the best.

There may be issues of the factors which arm one to be the best and equality of access to these but the State has always provided assistance to try and equalise any inequitable access or opportunities. It is hardly the fault of the likes of Wall Street or Collins Street.

Maybe there is something to these “Occupy Wall Street”, “Occupy London” or “Occupy Melbourne” protests but it would take a bit of thinking and hard work to get there. What would it take for this to be realised? Statistically, perhaps only 1% of the hundreds or thousand of protestors will have the intelligence, industry and wherewithal to produce and articulate a cause upon which this movement may be based. They may even pay this 1% something to produce this. So maybe 99% of these protestors would not produce the goods and so would not be paid. Would there be protest against THAT? 🙂