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.
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.


Harold’s Hogwash

Harold Camping is an 89 year old. He likes numbers. And dates. Based on numbers, he’s worked out THE date. According to Harold, the numbers in the Bible all work out to the world ending on 21 May 2011. That’s tomorrow. My mate is celebrating his 50th tomorrow. Should I tell him about Harold?  

I wonder what his website (http://www.familyradio.com)  will say if per chance, the clock ticks over 12am on 21 May 2011 and we find ourselves looking at 00:00:01 on 22 May 2011 with little more than a slightly sore head as a result of a few extra glasses of tipple on a mate’s 50th party.

Thankfully Harold isn’t taken too seriously, generally speaking. There are always people who would believe anything. Like the Norwegian Blue parrot, or the Arctic Grey. Enough people, apparently, to let him raise in excess of USD120 million. I wonder if Harold has given any of that wealth away, if he truly believed his own work. Or maybe he’ll disappear for a few years, and resurface with some explanatory recalculations locked away in case he is ever asked to account for the non-event.

Malkuta di Elaha

That is the Aramaic phrase for “Kingdom of God“. If you know Malay, and bearing in mind Kingdom of God often imports threads of throne of God, doesnt this strike you an amazing web of connections that is language? It also beggars belief why the Malaysian government thinks Allah is an exclusively Islamic word.

Mahkuta di Elaga or malkut shemayim means Kingdom of God, emphasising God’s activity of reigning.

Second Experience? Hmmm

We have been doing a series on fundamental Christian beliefs in church and a couple of weeks ago we looked at the topic of the Holy Spirit. Unsurprisingly, the issue of a second experience (of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit I guess) came up, albeit cursorily. I was thinking about it when preparing some thoughts for cell discussion on Friday and continued thinking about it on the periphery. A short while ago I came across these statements:

1. The baptism with the Holy Spirit occurs the moment a person is saved. It is not the same experience as salvation but happens at the time of salvation. It is not a second experience following conversion.

2. God has given believers everything in Christ. When we are saved we are complete in Him. We lack nothing. There is nothing else for Him to give to us.

3. Nowhere are believers commanded to receive any second blessing that would give them power. All power is already available.

4. The power of the Holy Spirit working in a persons life is something that should be desired. Some who have legitimately experienced the Spirit’s power label the encounter as the baptism with the Holy Spirit whereas the Scripture calls this experience the filling of the Holy Spirit. previously mentioned, everything has been provided for us upon conversion. We only need to appropriate what God has already done for us.

I think I agree with these statements and am reasonably at peace with not having a second experience, although who is to limit God – He can show me otherwise.


In the meantime, I have to contend with the historicity of the Messianic Jesus seen through the incident of the Triumphant Entry…sigh indeed….

2012? Peace Brother!

I was just reading an article about how businesses are having it tough. Payment terms have apparently deteriorated and receipts or payments not made on time have caused considerably more businesses to go belly-up.

It’s a sort of catch-22 situation that regulators have to contend with. On the one hand the new Basel capital regime for banks should see banks become better backed and therefore, stronger. On the other hand, this latest Basel model is causing banks to hold back credit and is choking business cashflows.

Admittedly cashflows should be generated via revenue receipts but with interest rates up and property equity value down, reduced consumer spending is impacting revenue. Basel III (or is it IV now?) is holding back much needed credit which would have bridged such cashflow gaps.

Earlier I was reading something a mate sent through a day before. Titled “The New War” it had a horrible story about how Muslims are fighting each other in the middle east and Ahmadenijad wanted a nuclear bomb not just to decimate Israel but also its non-Shia Muslim neighbours. The context was a Sunni-Shia enmity which has run for hundreds of years.

Apparently the target was Saudi Arabia and the House of Saud royal family. If the Shia assault happens – with or without the Peugeot rider’s nuke – the obvious casualty to the consumerist west is oil prices. Already Tress and Kiddo gasped at the $1.45+ per litre price over the weekend. Mad there-will-be-no-carbon-tax Gillard’s action aside, it looks like it will continue to be very expensive to drive.

I wonder what it does though, to Israel and what this means to world history through the eyes of the Bible. Maybe nothing at all but with a huge event brewing in the middle-east, one has to think about implications to Israel and the Biblical views of things, no?

So – companies are failing, we have to drive less and an Armageddon styled confrontation is brewing. All this as we witness the unfolding of 2011 to usher in 2012. Is the 2012 story really credible after all or is it just a convenient collating of events to say – there, I told you so?

Somehow I feel vindicated for leaving a job which was taking away my opportunities to do other things. Since starting my new job about a month and a half ago, I have found more time to read, write and feel less stressed.

Last Saturday after dropping Tress off for a dental appointment I went back to do some reading and planning and after picking her up again about an hour later I went to the MST library to acquaint myself with the system and resources there and to do some research. Unfortunately it closes at 12pmon Saturdays so I only had just over 1.5 hours there. I did what I could and got home to do a bit more work.

I had to move on though, to finish my preparations for a foundation course I had to present on Sunday (“TRAIL”) so I quickly put my MST stuff away, had a quick lunch and started work on the TRAIL prep work. The slides had to be cleaned up and organised and I went through the 40+ slides at least 3 times more, and prepared guidance notes for a macro map as well as for specific slides.

In the midst of doing all this a mate called and asked if we’d like to drop in for dinner. Kiddo had an exam (a “SAC”) coming up on Tuesday so she has been working hard too so I decided we’d turn it down and concentrate on finishing the work we had to do.

We went out for a quick dinner and came back to watch a DVD on the course presentation again – a third viewing for me – before I decided it was enough work and saved the slides on a desktop shortcut and printed off my notes.

Somehow, spending time on these things made it feel like it was all worth the while. Given what I read recently about what’s been going on in this seemingly crumbling world, I’m glad I paid the financial cost of giving up my previous role to be able to do what I did over the weekend.


Sent from my iPigeon

Goodbye, Dad

Got that dreaded call this morning – my father, aged 68, passed away. I battled the notion that it would be cold to blog this but again, this blog is for posterity. Hopefully, some day, someone in future generations would read this and remember Teh Seng Beng. I hope to put up a eulogy at some point.

“So, I commend the enjoyment of life.” (From the Bible – really. Eccl 8:15)

Screwtape Revisited

One of the yellowest and most tattered books sitting on my shelf is CS Lewis‘ “Screwtape Letters“. I first came across this gem more than 20 years ago, gave away a couple of copies and the old fragile copy is one of the many CS Lewis books I brought with me from Malaysia 2 years ago.  


Letter Eight of this book has this:

Humans are amphibians – half spirit and half animal… As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirits can be directed toward an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change – for to be in time means to change.

Therefore, their nearest approach to constancy is undulation – the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back. It is a series of valleys and peaks. Ifyou watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every area of his life: his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth, periods of emotional and physical prosperity will alternate with periods of depression and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, asyou fondly suppose, your workmanship. They are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make good use of it.

To decide how to best use this unstable condition, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the valleys even more than on the mountain tops. Some of His special favourites have gone through the longer and deeper valleys than anyone else…

You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be physically present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the irresistable and the indisputable are the two weapons which th every nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the slightest degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot dominate them. He can only woo. For His idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves. To neutralize or assimilate them will not serve His purposes…

He leaves the reature to stand on its own feet – to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost their enjoyment. It is during the peak periods, that they are growing into the kind of creatures He wants them to be. It is the prayers offered in the state of dryness that please Him best.

I dont know why I took that book out again. I have borrowed a book called “Daughters of Galilee” and have been toying with Alex Ferguson’s autobiography again so I certainly have entertaining stuff to read for now. CS Lewis’ work however, has always provided a solid intellectual basis for my beliefs and the above passage somehow struck a very rational chord in my mind. I wont try to articulate it for now (and would appreciate anyone assisting with that task) except to say it has centered me, at least for now.

“So, I commend the enjoyment of life.” (From the Bible – really. Eccl 8:15)

Anwar’s Acquittal – Judiciary Independence Back?

This is a mixed result. The Malaysian judiciary is in a no-win situation, largely due to its own doing in allowing the previous administration to boss it. While the succesful appeal is obviously good not just for Anwar but for the judiciary and therefore the whole country of Malaysia, it also shows the judiciary is to a large extent, beholden to the executive. The executive is now helmed by a more docile leader who needs this result, so this action on the bench isn’t one of great courage or integrity. What it should have shown was its principles and resolve, when the executive was headed by a less respectful leader. That, it failed to do. It is still, in my mind, a bench that would rule as others see fit.

“So, I commend the enjoyment of life.” (From the Bible – really. Eccl 8:15)

London Town

My wife and I have been pouring over information on schools and apartments in London. SW6 is now the centre of our attention. Not exactly my idea of fun. In fact I dont really want this scenario. I just want to continue on in KL, preferably in a different company/employment situation, and wait to move down under. This London thing is turning everything on its head. Yet if this is where God is leading, I can do little else. My dearest wife, who is ever so supportive, is my one comfort now.

“So, I commend the enjoyment of life.” (From the Bible – really. Eccl 8:15)