Where am I going?

All of us have to try and find an answer to this important and personal question, which refers to what happens to us when we die or when Jesus comes again.

As a Christian, I have put my faith in Jesus Christ and he gives me his reply in John 14 : 1 -6

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14 : 1 -6, NIV)

Note that the title of this PPP is ‘WHERE am I going?’ and not ‘WHEN am I going?’. Only God knows ‘when’. And so, what does the future hold until the day of my departure? Although the language is rather old-fashioned, the following poem is very meaningful to me:

The Rest of the Way

O fathomless mercy! O infinite grace!
With humble thanksgiving the road I retrace.
Thou never hast failed me, my Strength and my Stay!
To whom should I turn for the rest of the way?

Through dangers, through darkness, by day and by night,
Thou ever hast guided and guided aright:
In thee have I trusted and peacefully lay
My hand in Thy hand for the rest of the way

Thy cross all my refuge, Thy blood all my plea,
None other I need blessed Jesus but Thee!
I fear not the shadows at close of life’s day,
For thou wilt go with me the rest of the way.

Postscript:
This PPP brings us to the end of the third and final year of Peter’s Pithy Pointers. So what about THE REST OF THE WAY? As long as the Lord permits me to keep going on, I hope to be writing Peter’s Ongoing Pointers. This acronym POP is very fitting for an octogenarian!

Justified

This word, in bold red letters, was one of the headlines in the sports pages of the Sun on Wednesday, February 9, 2011. It referred to the fact that the Liverpool footballers had to play well in order to justify their place on the team.

Every Christian is JUSTIFIED, but in a very different sense of the word and certainly never depending on their own merit, which is non-existent! The Greek word for “JUSTIFY” is ‘DIKIAOW’ which means ‘acquit or to make righteous’, the opposite of ‘to condemn’. In Romans 3: 21-26, Paul explains that we are JUSTIFIED when we put our faith in Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made on the cross so that we, who are sinners and come short of the glory of God, might become AT ONE WITH GOD (atonement).

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3 : 21 -26, NIV)

The New Living Translation (1996) gives a simpler explanation of justification in the same verses.

21 But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight — not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. 22 We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. 23 For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.24 Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. 25 For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. 26 And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus.

We have declared our faith in Jesus Christ and are JUSTIFIED, ACQUITTED, DECLARED RIGHTEOUS – and this is a GIFT FROM GOD. Therefore, we have a responsibility to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. (See Micah 6 : 8 )

Out of Egypt

These words were the headlines of The Star on Saturday, 5th February 2011. They refer to the evacuation of 11,700 students (registered with the Malaysian Embassy in Cairo) from the continued anti-Mubarak demonstrations in Cairo, Alexandria and other parts of Egypt.

The phrase OUT OF EGYPT occurs at least 100 times in the Bible. The story, in the biblical book of Exodus relates how God used Moses and Aaron to deliver the Israelites, who were being used as slaves, from the hands of the evil king Pharaoh.

The following four examples (from these 100 verses) concerning the Lord, our God, who brought the Israelites (and the Christians!) OUT OF EGYPT, demonstrate the following:

1. His love
Our forefathers went down into Egypt, and we lived there many years. The Egyptians mistreated us and our fathers, but when we cried out to the LORD, he heard our cry and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. (Numbers 20 : 15 -16a, NIV)

2. His power
We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. (Deuteronomy 6:21, NIV)

3. His demand for holiness
I am the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11: 45, NIV)

4. His warning
Be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deuteronomy 6 : 12, NIV)

In the New Testament, slavery is sometimes used as a picture of sin. In Galatians 4 : 3 -7, (NIV) Paul tells us how God has rescued us from the terrible grip of slavery:

3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Now we are no longer slaves. Our heavenly Father has adopted us and we have the tremendous privilege of being his children – his sons and his daughters.

And so the headlines in The Star refer to all of us who believe in Jesus, the Son of God, who, in his great love, has rescued us from slavery and brought us OUT OF EGYPT.

Postscript: I often wonder what Egyptian Christians think when they read in the book of Exodus how God condemned both the king and the nation, with a few notable exceptions, for their gross ill-treatment of the Israelites. What do they think when it is always OUT OF Egypt?

However, the Egyptian Christians can hold their heads high. Where did the angel of the Lord tell Joseph to take Mary and baby Jesus in order to escape from the wicked Herod the Great? EGYPT!

A custody battle

The parents of a 11-year-old girl have failed to mediate the child’s custody.

Mediation judge Datuk Wira Low Hop Bing fixed Feb 16 for the matter to be heard before a Court of Appeal three-man bench.

The appeals were on a Family Court ruling allowing Low Bi-Anne’s mother, Tan Siew Siew, 37, a restaurant manager in London, to take Bi-Anne to Britain; ordering the surrender of the girl’s passport; dismissing the child’s father, Low Swee Siong, interim access to the girl and finding and convicting him for contempt of court and refusing a stay order.

The mediation was conducted via video-conferencing for two hours and 15 minutes. Proceedings, which began at 4pm (local time), were held in-camera.

Pushpa Ratnam, one of the lawyers representing Swee Siong, said mediation failed because the mother wanted Bi-Anne to live in London for six months and be with Swee Siong for another six months.

Bi-Anne refuses to go to London and wants to stay with her father, but is willing to spend time with her mother, on condition that her mother comes back to live in Malaysia.

Swee Siong said he was willing to share custody of the child with his ex-wife, provided that she returned to Malaysia, but his ex-wife insisted that Bi-Anne be with her in London.

The couple divorced in 2006 and custody of Bi-Anne was given to the father. In 2008, Tan, 37, then applied for and won custody and Swee Siong was given reasonable access. But Bi-Anne refused to be with her mother and insisted on living with her father.

On Sept 13 last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court fined 40-year-old real estate negotiator Swee Siong RM20,000 for contempt of court for disobeying a court order that he hand over Bi-Anne to his ex-wife.

He was also ordered to pay a fine of RM400 for each day of delay in handing over the girl to Tan.

(NST, Saturday, January 29 2011)

Without knowing the parents, it is not easy to comment on this particular mediation. However, it would appear that three factors are emerging.

Firstly, it is not reasonable to expect an 11-year old child to live in London for six months and in Malaysia for six months during the rest of her childhood. Secondly, the fine of RM400 each day, given the fact that the child wants to stay with the father, seems grossly unfair. Thirdly, and very tragically, IT IS THE CHILD WHO IS SUFFERING THE MOST. We are told that Bi-Anne emerged from the 90-minute mediation at 6.15pm (28th Jan 2011) teary-eyed and glum.

Let us pray that there will be a satisfactory solution when on February 16th, all appeals in the case will be heard before a 3-man panel.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law – extremists vs moderates

1. Extremists

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in the Pakistan city of Karachi against possible changes to the blasphemy law that was behind the killing of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab.

A large number of police officers guarded Sunday’s demonstration (9 January 2011) which forced the closure of businesses and roads in the area. Participants chanted slogans and waved the flags of religious parties.

Quari Ahsaan, from the banned group Jamaat Ud Dawa, addressed the crowd from a stage saying “We can’t compromise on the blasphemy law. It’s a divine law and nobody can change it.”

Pope Benedict XVI has called for Pakistan to repeal its anti-blasphemy law. Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a senior leader of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), responded : “The pope has given a statement today that has not only offended the 180 million muslims in Pakistan, it has also hurt the sentiments of the entire Islamic world”.

2. Moderates

Despite warnings, thousands of flag-waving Pakistanis attended Salman Taseer’s funeral in Lahore and supporters posted furious diatribes against Qadri (the bodyguard who murdered the governor) on Facebook. Surprisingly, a Taliban-aligned cleric joined the protest, condemning the killing as “the product of extremism and fanaticism which is damaging for an Islamic society.”

Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer and human rights activists based in Pakistan, believes that Pakistan and its democracy are in a state of ethical and political uncertainty, and the coalition government is too fragile to address the issue without internal and external help. The international community is well-placed to demand change, given Pakistan’s extraordinary reliance on foreign support. Bibi needs to be saved, and the laws perpetuating these barbaric practices need to be repealed,

3. Conclusion

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yousef Raza Gilani, told reporters in the capital, Islamabad, that he has no intention of amending the law, which calls for the death penalty, for anyone who insults the Prophet Muhammad. He made this announcement on Sunday, 9th January 2011 after speaking to the leader of one of the country’s largest religious parties.

Postscript

This article depicts THE THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS OF MAN. But we must not forget that there is a SOVEREIGN LORD. He is able to change DARKNESS to LIGHT, CHAOS to ORDER, and HATRED to LOVE. This must be our prayer for the present terrible situation in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law – the murder of a moderate muslim

The blasphemy law in Pakistan received worldwide news coverage when in November 2010, Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death for blasphemy (see PPP 40 : Sentenced to death for blasphemy).

On Tuesday, 4th January 2011, the governor of Punjab province, and an avowed opponent of religious extremism, was shot to death at an open-air shopping centre in Islamabad that is frequented by foreigners and the Pakistani elite. The gunman – Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri – was a member of the governor’s own police security contingent.

The governor, Salman Taseer, allegedly called the blasphemy law a “black” law. He visited Aasia Bibi in prison and called on President Asif Ali Zadari to grant her clemency, saying she should never have been charged in the first place.

The bodyguard said that he killed in the name of religion because the governor wanted to reform controversial blasphemy laws. He said that he acted on his own and that there was no involvement of any militant organisation.

News is given of death threats received by two other courageous civil society activists.

Several clerics have issued fatwas against former Pakistani minister, Sherry Rehman, and declared her an infidel for calling for changes in the blasphemy law. Media reports said the imam of Sultan Masjid, one of Karachi’s biggest mosques, declared Rehman a ‘kaafir’ (infidel) and ‘wajib-ul qati’ (fit to be killed) while delivering a sermon after the Friday prayers.

Shabhaz Bhatti now has a death fatwa hanging over his head for defending Aasia Bibi and challenging the blasphemy law.

We can give thanks to God that, in the midst of this raging storm, Muslim and other civil society activists are prepared to challenge a law that they know to be wrong, and in so doing, are willing to face not only verbal abuse, but even death.

Pelting rocks for Jesus Christ?

Shortly after midnight on 1/1/11, an explosion detonated, by what authorities say, was likely a suicide bomber, and ripped through a crowd of worshippers as they emerged from New Year’s Mass at a Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt’s northern port city of Alexandria.

The blast left 21 people dead and 17 others wounded, while opening a fresh wound in the country’s already problematic sectarian rift. All but 8 of the injured and all the fatalities were Christians. Our deep sympathy and prayers must go out to the bereaved and all the injured and their families.

Unfortunately, following the bombing, several hundreds of Copts took to the streets in protest. Furious Christians clashed with Egyptian police and security forces. Christians and Muslims pelted each other with rocks, and cars were torched. Similar violent rioting against the police spread to Cairo.

Estimates of the size of the Christian population in Egypt vary between 8 and 12%, or about six to ten million people. One major area in which Christians find themselves severely restricted is the construction and repair of church buildings. All applications for new buildings must be approved by the President in person. Even the replacement of a broken window cannot be made without local authority agreement.

With regards to employment, Christians are largely excluded from government jobs, high-ranking positions in the military and security services, and positions in the state universities.

Egyptian converts from Islam to Christianity are particularly vulnerable to hostility from the government and wider society. There is no law against leaving Islam, but converts usually face harassment and severe pressure, and sometimes even threats to their lives. Some have been detained and pressured to return to Islam, and have suffered physical abuse while in custody.

It is not possible for converts to Christianity to register their change of faith officially or to alter their religion listed on their identity cards. Converts whose religion is still listed as Islam face difficulty in marriage, inheritance and even in attending church services.

(Sourced from Los Angeles Time & Barnabas Aid)

If ever the church in Malaysia were to face such persecution and Christians were forbidden to leave our country, how should we react?

I hesitate to answer this question as I am not being persecuted. I honestly do not know how I would react if I were imprisoned and tortured for my faith or if one of my family were injured by a suicide bomber.

So I leave you, not with an answer, but just a few thoughts:

  1. Praise the Lord! (not easy!)
    Jesus Christ tells us in Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
  2. Call for international prayer for both the persecuted and the persecutors
  3. Call for international advocacy and aid
  4. Righteous anger (“It must be righteous!”)
  5. Lots and lots of love

Again, we have more words from Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:43-45a

“43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

PELTING ROCKS FOR JESUS CHRIST IS NOT ON THE LIST BECAUSE VIOLENCE DOES NOT PROVIDE THE ANSWER.

Pithy pointers for 2011

As we think of New Year resolutions, may the Lord use one or more of these short Pithy Pointers to radically change our thinking and behaviour in 2011:

  1. What is the use of running if you are running on the wrong road? (an old German proverb)
  2. Regret looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up. (John Mason)
  3. Faith is the master, and reason the maidservant. (Martin Luther)
  4. We are mirrors of God, created to reflect Him. (Ernesto Cardinal)
  5. A man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God. (C.S. Lewis)
  6. We should listen with the ears of God so that we may speak the Word of God. (D. Bonhoeffer)
  7. We do the works, but God works in us the doing of the works. (Augustine)
  8. The goal of God’s discipline is restoration – never condemnation. (Anonymous)
  9. By suffering, the Father would lead us to enter more deeply into the love of Christ. (Andrew Murray)
  10. Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. (Thomas Moore)
  11. A sight of his crucifixion crucifies sin. (Charles Spurgeon)
  12. No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown. (William Penn)

Third force v Parti Rakyat = Barisan Nasional victory

I think that it is fair to call the following four groups (and there may be still others or more to come!) a THIRD FORCE.

1) THE HUMAN RIGHTS’ PARTY
This party is the daughter of HINDRAF (Hindu Rights Action Force). It will be contesting 15 parliamentary and 38 state constituencies in the next general election. They have the audacity to say “we sincerely hope PR will not field candidates in these 15/38 constituencies to become the spoiler and cause three-cornered fights against our common political enemy”.

2) KITA
Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s newly-named party, Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (KITA) is due to be launched on 19th January 2011. It is learnt that it is poised to form an alliance with the United Borneo Front. Datuk Zaid has moved from UMNO to PKR to KITA. This party will be joining the fray at the next general election.

3) MALAYSIAN CIVIL LIBERTIES MOVEMENT (MCLM)
MCLM is a legal entity with Raja Petra Kamarudin as its Chairman and Haris Ibrahim as its president. Its objectives are:

  • To promote and propagate the people’s voice and the people’s declaration to all political parties contesting the coming general election
  • To offer non-political party candidates from amongst the professionals/lawyers to all the political parties contesting the general election that may either be short of candidates or not able to find ‘quality’ candidates to field in the elections.

Unfortunately, it does not stop there. When asked if no one is interested in the candidates, Haris Ibrahim said that the rakyat would be the guide as to whether they should contest as independents. ‘We will do a poll. If the constituents like us and say that we should run, then I guess that is what we will do.’

And so we may have even more three-cornered elections!

4) UNITED BORNEO FRONT
Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, a seasoned politician and a seasoned party-hopper, is in the process of setting up the United Borneo Front. Its demands include a fairer revenue sharing formula and a representation at the federal level, and restoration of Sabah and Sarawak’s status as equal partners in the federation. It is most likely that UBF will participate in the next general election.

Having re-read my article, perhaps a more suitable title might have been SPOILERS VS PR = BN VICTORY!