Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Christopher Wright and Old Testament Ethics

I find Christopher Wright's Old Testament Ethics for the People of God an excellent book. If you want to have a good understanding of Old Testament Ethics, social justice, ecology and the earth, economics, the land and the poor, etc, this is a good book to read. Highly recommended.

My friend Jim

Here is a webpage of a good friend. (Click here.) Jim is a good man, and was my teacher. I learned a lot from him. Jim is a Christian, and is a Greens member. His views can be controversial. In fact, I don't agree with him all the time. But I learn from him as I listen to him and let him challenge my views. So, have a look at his website and his blog, and get ready to be stretched, to disagree and to be challenged.

Humility and grace

I had the opportunity to hear from the International Director of a major mission ageny today. Here are some encouraging words from him (my paraphrase).

"It is not about our organisation, but about the people we seek to serve."

"We have a great history. But it is not for us to be proud of - instead, it is for us to remember God's faithfulness."

"There is no place for triumphalism or superiority... there has to be cross-centred humility."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Climate Change Day Conference

A day conference on climate change will be held at St Hilary's Anglican Church in Kew, Vic. One of the speakers is Dr Brett Parris, who holds a Bachelor degree in Theology and a PhD in Economics. He is the Chief Economist at World Vision. I think the conference will be good. Click here for the church website for more information, and here for a brochure.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Welcomed by strangers: Asylum seekers raising money for bushfire victims

In previous post (18th April 2009) I mentioned the Christian mandate to welcome strangers. Today I heard that a group of asylum seekers/refugees in Melbourne are running a fund-raising event for the recent bushfire victims. In a sense, they are showing Australia hospitality and love by their action.

I found a UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) report, which shows the following stats regarding the recipients of new asylum seekers in the first half of 2008.

Australia 2,000
Canada 16,800 (10.2%)
France 15,600 (9.5%)
UK 14,500 (8.8%)
Greece 10,200 (6.2%)
Switzerland 5,900 (3.6%)

As you can see, Australia did not take in a lot of asylum seekers at all. Let's be generous towards them. You may want to write you the PM, your MP and the key senators about it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lifestory: "I don't want to be poor"

Here is a brief story about myself. Just click here for the article.

My intention is to share something about the Scripture, faith, poverty and wealth, and how they have shaped my life and thinking. I hope the article will bring you peace and hope.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Types of people not in our churches

Transforming Melbourne has reported on a research about Melbourne churches. Here is an excerpt from their recent email news (24 April 2009).

Major groups largely absent from the churches

People in de facto relationships: (=1% of church attenders, 8% of adult population)
People who have never married (=19% of church attenders, 43% of adult population)
People without tertiary qualifications (=53% of attenders, 80% of adult population)
People in full-time employment (=27% of attenders, 37% of adult population)

I think to some extent these are due to the fact that we tend to share the gospel with those who are similar to us. I live in an eastern suburb in Melbourne. Most of my friends have someone in their household working full-time. Most of them have tertiary qualifications, and indeed many of them have postgraduate qualifications. But my heart goes to the others whose lives are different from mine, especially those who are less fortunate than I. That's why I prefer to be part of a Christian community that has plenty of people unemployed, single and without tertiary qualifications. (But I understand that not everyone can, in practice, be part of such a community, and often for good and/or valid reasons.)

Any thoughts after reading the above stats?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Paul as a pray-er

I find that Professor Gordon Fee is by far one of the best teachers on Paul's letters. One of Fee's books is called Paul, the Spirit and the People of God. Here are two very good quotes from the book.

"A prayerless life is one of practical atheism." (p. 149)

"What is clear from Paul's letters is that he was a pray-er before he was a missioner or thinker.' (P. 147)

Often pastors, teachers and preachers (and scholars!) think of the apostle Paul as either a practitioner/pastor or theologian. But if we read his letters carefully we will realise that he is first of all a worshipper of God - and a pray-er! A role model for us.

Another Way to Love

Look out for a new book called Another Way to Love: Christian Social Reform and Global Poverty. It's edited by Tim Costello and Rod Yule. I wrote a chapter in this book and so I thought I might promote it here.

Writers in this book include Dr Andrew Sloan (Morling College), Tim Costello (CEO of World Vision Australia), Amanda Jackson (Micah Challenge), Dr Andrew Cameron (Moore College), Rod Yule (World Vision), Peter Weston (World Vision), Rev Angus McLeay (Anglican minister), Dr Brett Parris (World Vision), Bill Walker (World Vision), Fiona McLeay (World Vision), Dr Mark Hutchinson (Southern Cross College), Dr Jayakumar Christian (National Director of World Vision Inida).

The book is about how Christians can engage in issues surrounding poverty and injustice. It has a theological/biblical section, as well as a section with practical examples. It should be available in Christian book stores in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A book about working class in Taiwan

I am close to half way through a book called Dead Women Walking, written by Jennifer Su (who has a degree in journalism). It is about the lives of three women in Taiwan. They belonged to the working class in Taiwan, where there are only about 0.5% Christian. Their lives were surrounded by traditional folk religion, alcoholic husbands, domestic violence and poverty. In one case, the woman was regularly raped, and then she became a sex worker. My understanding is that later in their lives they all became Christians. (I haven't got to that part of the book yet.) If you are looking for a book to read, this would be a good one.

Monday, April 20, 2009

G20 reaffirmed their commitment to the poor

The G20 contries affirmed their commitment to the poor on 2nd April 2009. Here is a quote from their Communiqué.

"We recognise that the current crisis has a disproportionate impact on the vulnerable in the poorest countries and recognise our collective responsibility to mitigate the social impact of the crisis to minimise long-lasting damage to global potential."

But please also note that more has to be done for the poor. Have a look at this article from TearFund (UK) commenting on the G20 statement.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"We are not the centre of the universe." (Tom Wright)

I just started reading Tom Wright's new book Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision. Here are a number of interesting quotes.

"Discovering that God is gracious, rather than a distant bureaucrat or a dangerous tyrant, is the good news that constantly surprises and refreshes us. But we are not the centre of the universe. .. It may look, from our point of view, as though 'me and my salvation' are the be-all and end-all of Christianity. Sadly, many people - many devout Christians! - have preached that way and lived that way." (p.7)

"God made humans for a purpose: not simply for themselves, not simply so that they could be in relationship with him, but so that through them, as his image-bearers, he could bring his wise, glad, fruitful order to the world." (p.7)

"God is rescuing us from the shipwreck of the world, not so that we can sit back and put our feet up in his company, but so that we can be part of his plan to remake the world." (p.8)

"The reason I am writing this book is because the present battles are symptoms of some much larger issues that face the church at the start of the twenty-first century, and because the danger signs, particularly the failure to read scripture for all its worth, ..., are all around us... I am suggesting that the theology of St Paul, the whole theology of St Paul rather than the truncated and self-centred readings which have become endemic in Western thought,..., is urgently needed as the church faces the tasks of mission in tomorrow's dangerous world, and is not well served by the inward-looking soteriologies that tangle themselves up in a web of detached texts and secondary theories..." (p. 9)

I was in Hong Kong when I became a Christian. I always understood that the Christian faith is not about "me and my salvation". But now, after twenty years living in Australia, I have to admit that in some ways Tom Wright's observation is right - ie. often we think that we are the centre of the universe. But the Christian faith has to be much more than my salvation. Instead, it is first and foremost about God, and what he has done - and continues to do - in us, for us, in the world and for the world.

I think this new book by Tom Wright would be a good reading for pastors and Christian leaders.

(Not all will agree with Tom Wright, obviously. I, for example, don't expect myself to agree with everything in this book. This book is, however, recommended by Scot McKnight, I Howard Marshall, Rob Bell, Micahel Gorman, Richard Hays, Brian McLaren, Darrell Bock, and others. I am sure it will be an interesting read.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Christian mandate to welcome strangers

On ABC Lateline last night there was a piece about the latest political debate on the government (relaxed) policies on detention rules and temporary protection visas. (See the Lateline script here.)

In my own Christian circle I have the opportunities to talk to asylum seekers very often. The fact is that often they still have to wait for a very long time for a permanent residence visa to be granted (if it is granted). Often their temporary visas are renewed for a few months at a time (sometimes monthly), and as a result they have to constantly live in a state of uncertainty.

I talked with one of them recently. He is a kind Christian man who loves God. He loves the Bible and reads it regularly to seek comfort and hope. As I got to know him I found that he was separated from his wife and children as they fled their country. A permanent visa would enable him to travel to the region (not his own country, I suppose) to search for his family. We can hardly understand the hardship he endures as he waits anxiously for his permanent visas and at the same time separated from this loved ones. (A timely article from The Age entitled No Way Back Now would help us to understand the issue further.)

The Bible again and again refers to God's people's obligation to plead the cause of the fatherless, widows and resident foreigners (or "aliens" in the NIV). It is important to realise that in other ancient law codes there were rules to protect/help orphans and widows. But it was only in Israel's Scripture that foreigners (or "aliens") were to be protected because of their vulnerable situation. Israel was to remember that they were once aliens in Egypt and now they were to look after the foreigners in their midst. And of course Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan because he was asked "who is my neighbour?" Our neighbours are not only those who live in the same street or suburb, but include people from all nations and cultures - and hence when they suffer from persecution and hardship we are to help them. May the church hear the heart of God and respond accordingly.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Q & A: Rick Warren

The following is an interview with Rick Warren after he accepted the invitation to pray at the President Obama's inauguration. Personally I find that people - out of their respect to this leader of a great church - tend to get offended when someone criticises him. And then there are those who don't particularly like him because of their perception that he represents the megachurches. I tend to think that we should not hesitate to critique his teaching in light of the Scripture (something that I guess he would welcome), but at the same time listen to him and show him the respect due to him. This interview is full of interesting stuff for discussion. Feel free to start the conversation.

Click here for the interview.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tom Wright on Easter

Have a look at this article written by Tom Wright on TimesOnline in the UK. You may want to start by browsing the comments on the article. Apparently it's fairly well received. Let me know what you think!

Click here for the article.