Thursday, April 29, 2010

The perversion of intent: A cautionary tale

The movie 300 (as opposed to the actual battle as narrated by Herodotus) depicts the Battle of Thermopylae where the Spartans, led by their heroic King Leonidas defends the pass between the Trachinian Cliffs and the Thracian Gulf against an overwhelmingly superior force of Persians led by Xerxes. Now, the Spartans were approached by Ephialtes, who's portrayed in the movie as a severely deformed creature, the child of a former Spartan soldier.

He comes up to Leonidas and asks for entry into his army so that he might serve and do his part against the Persians. This was a noble intention and Ephialtes was certainly brave to volunteer to embark on such a suicidal mission. Unfortunately, because of his deformity he was not able to hold his shield properly and therefore fit into the Spartan phalanx formation which was their main source of strength against the numerically overwhelmingly superior Persians. And thus, despite his unquestioned bravery and the nobility of his intention, Ephialtes had to be rejected in order that the Spartans and their phalanx formation could be used.

Here's where something bad happened. What started out as a noble intention to serve was warped and twisted by Ephialtes' ego and the spirit of service and self-sacrifice which initially motivated Ephialtes was deformed to match his grotesque body. His previous nobility turned into bitterness and the bravery now turned into vengefulness. His ego was bruised and his pride was hurt, to have his offer to serve rejected. He did not understand, nor did he care that what was done was for the greater good. He did not have a true spirit of service, through which one serves where needed most, and not where one wants to serve which is a projection of the ego. He wanted what he wanted, he wanted to do what he wanted, to serve where he wanted, in the capacity that he wanted, no matter what the cost, regardless of whether of whether what he wanted served the common good. He was the center now.

His heart and spirit now matching his misshapen body, his desire for revenge overcoming his sanity, his self-control lost in a lust for vengeance, the formerly noble Ephialtes betrayed the Spartans to the Persians by revealing a path where the Spartans may be flanked and thus destroyed. In the movie, he is seduced by Xerxes' offer and exclaims "Yes! I want it all! Women, wealth, and one more thing... I want a uniform".

He wants a uniform. He. His ego and desire to fit in and his sense of rejection have warped his motivations to conform to his body and now, he wants a uniform. Besides the women and the sex and the wealth. A uniform.

Later, clad in the uniform of the elite Immortals of the Persian army (I wonder what the Immortals thought of this treacherous creature soiling the elite uniform an Immortal), and looking utterly ridiculous in comparison to the true Immortals who look regal and dignified, he betrays the location of the path and this dooms the Spartans.

The uniform does not make the man. It's the man who merits the vesture and not the other way round as the government, putting weak students into good schools hoping to turn coal into gold have found out.

Scripture warns us: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Pet 5:8-9) The devil prowls around like a roaring lion, always on the hunt, always waiting to strike and to devour. When we give in to our vengefulness and our lust for revenge, when our motivations and our reasons for wanting to serve are contorted by our ego and what we want dominates and takes center stage and the good of the whole is subjugated to the desires of the one, then we are easy prey for this roaring lion.

Let's look at our motivations and not let the green eyed monster possess us. Let our grapes be sweet and not otherwise so that the libation we offer be not rejected. Let our intention to serve be motivated by the greater good and not for the puffing up of our egos and, for Heaven's sake, not for a uniform!

It's been a while, yeah, I know. I've been busy. This is in response to a comment received the other day on my Fb =)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year!

To all readers who are celebrating the Lunar New Year,

May the new year bring you prosperity and good health and an abundance of God's choicest blessings!

For those of you who do not know, the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, which is also known as the Spring Festival, lasts for fifteen days and is the most important of all the Chinese festivals. It is celebrated in China, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and wherever the Chinese can be found in the vast Chinese diaspora. This year is the year of the Tiger according to the Chinese zodiac. To celebrate the Year of the Tiger, Chinese ppl all over the world strive to eat tiger parts =)

One of the most important aspects of this festival is the reunion dinner on the eve of the new year. All the members of the family, regardless of whether they are overseas or in the neighbouring towns, will make the long trek to the eldest member's usually the parents, grandparents or great-grandparents home for the reunion dinner. But, due to the affluence of Chinese society, the reunion dinner is frequently held in restaurants and hotels these days.

The rush back for the reunion dinner has sparked a mass migration of hundreds of millions in China. Liberal amounts or liquor will be consumed as family members catch up on the latest news and gamble the night away.

In the morning of the first day on the new year, the eldest and most senior married couple will distribute red packets filled with money to all the unmarried members of the family who will form a line and greet them. This is the part that the kids look forward most to. All married couples are expected to give out the red packets and all unmarried people, including yours truly, are eligible. Red is the traditional colour of good luck and is worn by all Chinese on this day.

The kids will also go from house to house bearing new year wishes and collecting the 'ang pows' or red packets. Most importantly, the first day of Chinese New Year is a time where families will pay a visit to the oldest and most senior member of their extended family, usually their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.

Some families may invite a Lion dance troupe as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Lunar New Year as well as to evict bad spirits from the premises. These troupes come with drums and cymbals and will let off fire crackers which the Chinese believe will frighten away the evil spirits.

I have fond memories of those joyful days when I was a kid. The extended family, including my grandparents, a huge numbers of aunts and uncles and cousins thrice removed would gather at a great grand aunt's place for the reunion dinner. The table would then be cleared and out would come the cards. Black jack and poker would continue into the wee hours of the morning. Before fireworks were banned, we kids would go into the field and let off loads of firecrackers and play with sparklers.
Then, just before midnight, we would get into a car and go down town where the banking district was. The banks would vie and compete with each other to see which bank could let off the most firecrackers. The long red firecrackers would be let down the side of the banks headquarters and at the stroke of midnight, a mighty roar would gather and grow as the firecrackers were were simultaneously lit and the crowd would anxiously wait to see which bank would last the longest.

The gambling would then continue and I would renew my friendships with my cousins. it was so easy making friends when you're a kid. You could see each other only for a day and a year later, you can still pick up where you left off and go bounding off together looking for mischief. =) Those were fun times. When the gambling finally ends, I would get all the spare coins. That was fun!

My grandfather died many years back and the family began to move away and some have migrated overseas. For us the reunion dinner has ceased as there's just no one left.

Anyway, this was a little snippet into Chinese culture. Hope you've enjoyed it!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pray for Haiti and her people

A map locating the epicentre of a 7.0-magnitude quake that hit Haiti. Rescuers dug with bare hands to reach victims trapped in the ruins of the Haitian capital on Wednesday with tens of thousands feared dead, injured and missing after a devastating quake.

Among the dead was the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Archbishop Joseph Serge Mio, RIP.

In this undated photo released by the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010 Pope Benedict XVI meets Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot in his private library at the Vatican. Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, 63, was found dead in the ruins of his office in Pourt-Au Prince, Haiti, said the Rev. Pierre Le Beller of the Saint Jacques Missionary Center in Landivisiau, France. A powerful earthquake crushed Tuesday thousands of structures, from schools and shacks to the National Palace and the U.N. peacekeeping headquarters.

(AP Photo/ Osservatore Romano, Ho)

Injured people rest outside Port-au-Prince's cathedral after an earthquake January 13, 2010.

REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The sun sets behind the crumpled National Palace Port-au-Prince, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010. The powerful earthquake that hit Haiti on Tuesday flattened the president's palace, the cathedral, hospitals, schools, the main prison and whole neighborhoods.

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

People look at bodies along the road in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. More than 100,000 people were feared dead Wednesday after a cataclysmic earthquake struck Haiti, filling the streets with corpses and burying thousands under razed schools, hotels and hospitals.

(AFP/Thony Belizaire)

Survivors camp gather outside Haiti's National Palace, which was damaged by an earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010. A 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the country on Tuesday.

(AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

The body of a little girl lies in rubble in Port au Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010.

(AP Photo/Patrick Farrell, The Miami Herald) NO SALES, NO MAGAZINES, NO TV

Monday, January 11, 2010

Update for Jan 11: 8 Churches attacked so far

From TheStar:

Photos are from the fire damaged Metro Tabernacle Church, which was targeted by arsonists.
Arson attempt on
eighth church

SEREMBAN: The Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) church at Lake View Square, Seremban 2, Negri Sembilan became the eighth church attacked when scorch marks were found on its main entrance door.

The at
tack, the first in Negri Sembilan and discovered this morning, however did not affect the church interior and was believed to have occurred early this morning.

Negeri Sembilan deputy police chief Datuk Abd Manan Mhd Hassan said police were informed of the incident by a man who found the main door of the church with burn marks at about 8.30am.

"A team of police officers, together with the forensic unit and the Fire and Rescue Department went to inspect the incident and found the front entrance door damaged.

"We believe assailants used petrol to set fire to the door but, fortunately, the fire did not spread," he told reporters at the scene of the incident.

He said police believe the incident took place between 1.30am and 8.30am because a police unit had patrolled the area at 1.30am and found everything in order.

He added that he had directed all police patrol cars and all police officers on duty to monitor places of worship, especially mosques and churches, to ensure their safety.

"I urge the people to stop such activities. Do not do anything that can disrupt peace and harmony of the country. We will take stern action against those found responsible," he said.

Meanwhile, the priest of the church, Eddy Marson Yasir, 33, said he was the last one to leave the church after a meeting at 11.30pm last night.

"I was shocked when a church member informed me of the fire this morning. The church has been in existence in Seremban for the past 10 years," he said.

A church member V. Jashua, 49, said he was having breakfast in the area when he noticed a man standing in front of the church.

"When I went to investigate, the man told me that the front door of the church was burnt," he said.

Four churches in the Klang Valley were hit by petrol bombs on Friday while one was hit Sunday in Taiping.

A Malacca church reported it was splashed with black paint.

On Sunday, a convent school in Taiping was also the target of an attempt with petrol bombs found near its guardhouse overnight while a stone was thrown at a church in Miri.

The church attacks followed a High Court ruling on Dec 31, that Catholic weekly Herald had the constitutional rights to use the word 'Allah' to describe the Christian God in their Bahasa Malaysia section. - Bernama

And more:
New cases of attempted arson and vandalism
being probed


Police inspect the damage on the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Petaling Jaya outside Kuala Lumpur January 9, 2010. Arsonists in Malaysia struck another church on Saturday, bringing the attacks on churches to four in two days as a row escalates over the use of the word Allah to refer to the Christian God. REUTERS/Stringer

TAIPING: Two cases of attempted arson were reported involving the All-Saints’ Church at Jalan Taming Sari and SMK Convent along Jalan Convent here, while in Malacca, black paint was splashed on the outer wall of the Malacca Baptist Church in Durian Daun.

The staircase leading to the 122-year-old All-Saints’ Church – the oldest Anglican church in the country – was slightly burned while the Molotov cocktail thrown into the school failed to explode.

Meanwhile, in Miri, police were probing the minor vandalism of a church near Lutong after work ers found two broken windows yesterday.

Miri police chief ACP Jamaluddin Ibrahim said he believed this was not linked to the arson attacks against several churches in the peninsula.

In Bukit Mertajam, a car belonging to a 40-year-old pastor in Bukit Tengah was splashed with red paint by vandals. State police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakob said the incident was isolated and not related to the arson attacks.

All-Saints’ Church pastor Rev Joshua Ong told reporters he saw burn marks at the church entrance and side porch when he was opening the premises at 7am in preparation for its service yesterday.

Police officers inspect damage at the All Saints Church in Taiping of Perak state, Malaysia, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010. Firebombs were thrown at two more churches in Malaysia early Sunday, the latest in a series of assaults on Christian houses of worship following a court decision that allows non-Muslims to use 'Allah' to refer to God.

(AP Photo)
Two broken bottles, believed to be home-made Molotov cocktails, were seen near the spots.

At the school, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at about 3am into the guardhouse, located at the school compound adjacent to the Taiping Catholic Church.

Perak CPO Deputy Comm Datuk Zulkifli Abdullah said police had beefed up security at places of worship in the state and urged the people to remain calm.

In Malacca, police were investigating the black paint incident following a report lodged at the Melaka Tengah district police station.

Black paint is seen on the wall of Malacca Baptist Church as police investigators inspect in Malacca, south of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010. Firebombs were thrown at two more churches in Malaysia early Sunday, while another church was splashed with black paint in the latest in a series of assaults on Christian houses of worship following a court decision allowing non-Muslims to use 'Allah' to refer to God.

(AP Photo)

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said the two arson attacks and vandalism were being investigated thoroughly.

“I assure the public that we have increased our presence at churches and mosques as well as other places of worship and will do everything within our means to bring to book those responsible.”

Selangor police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar who visited the Assumption Church in Jalan Templer, Petaling Jaya, urged the public not to aggravate the situation by listening to rumours.

Assumption Church parish priest Father Philip Muthu appealed to all Malaysians not to politicise the attack and refrain from attending a candle light vigil planned on Wednesda


Friday, January 08, 2010

The Allah question in brief and the situation now

Some of you might have heard in the news about the happenings in Malaysia. In short, the native language of a large number of indigenous Christians is Malay which, as a majority of the Malays of the Muslim faith, has a lot of Arabic words. In the Bibles of the Malay language used by these native Christians (as early as the 1800's), the title Lord God is rendered as Tuhan Allah. And Allah is frequently used to refer to God the Father.

Allah as you all know is the name of the god of the Muslims. And my position on the equivalence of the Muslim and Christian God is pretty clear. There is none and though the words are the same, when a Christian uses Allah, and a Muslim uses Allah, they refer to different entities. Please refer to my post, "There is only one God and Jesus is His Son" for more details.

Anyway, this longstanding use of Allah was recently forbidden in the Catholic Herald, a weekly publication which also appears in the Malay language. Non adherence was threatened with a revocation of the publication permit. So the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, as the publisher of the Herald, challenged this decision in court and, the legal and historical facts being presented, won the case.

Ignorant of these facts, the majority of Muslims think that the Christians are only now beginning to use Allah to refer to God and think this will confuse Muslims and are madly and irrationally angry, as Muslims often get. And so, things like the burning of Churches occur. May protest marches are also being planned. But the majority of the people have no clue of what is actually going on or what the issue is.

D0 pray for us in Malaysia and may the Lord Jesus return soon. Maranatha.

Fire attack fails in PJ church

By Debra Chong

PETALING JAYA, Jan 8 — A Catholic church next to the Assunta Hospital here came under attack early this morning, just hours after another church in nearby Kuala Lumpur was torched.

Roman Catholic church officials said some homemade explosives were lobbed into the Church of the Assumption in Jalan Templar at about 4am.

“It did not explode,” said Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of Catholic paper Herald.

Lawrence was himself informed of the incident through a text message sent out by Assumption parish priest Father Phillips Muthu.

“Someone threw homemade kerosene explosives into Assumption Church, Jalan Templar, Petaling Jaya at 4am. Am going to Police later. Earlier the Metro Tabernacle was burned in Desa Melawati, media has filed story,” said the message forwarded toThe Malaysian Insider.

This is the second such reported attack on a church in the last 12 hours.

A Protestant church, Metro Tabernacle in leafy Desa Melawati, was torched at around midnight.

The fire took out the church's administrative office, which is housed on the ground floor of its three-storey premises.

Eyewitnesses recounted seeing several people on motorcycles stopping in front of the church and smashing the glass windows to pour flammable liquid and igniting the blaze.

Church officials have reported the attack to the police.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohamad Sabtu Osman said it was too early to link the attack on the church to Muslim protests over a High Court ruling allowing the weekly Herald to publish the word “Allah” to refer to God in the Christian context.

“'We are still investigating,”' he is reported to have said.

Mohamad Sabtu also warned Muslims not to take part in planned protests at several mosques in the Klang Valley after Friday prayers.

The mercury is expected to rise and all fire stations have been put on the alert.

The police have also tightened their nightly patrols around churches in the past week following the High Court ruling on Dec 31.

KL church torched

Policemen at the scene after the fire. - Picture courtesy of Metro Tabernacle

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — A city church in the leafy Desa Melawati suburb was set on fire at midnight as police warned angry Muslim groups not to protest a controversial ruling allowing Catholic weekly Herald to use “Allah” in its national language section.

The attack on the Metro Tabernacle A/G, an Assemblies of God church in Jalan 4/4C Desa Melawati, completely gutted its administrative office on the ground floor. There were no reported injuries in the midnight attack.

Police have yet to identify the attackers and no one has claimed responsibility for the attack which could be related to anger over the Dec 31 court ruling. The judgment has been suspended pending government appeal.

According to an eyewitness who had just finished a drink at a coffeeshop located directly across the church, three or four persons on two motorcycles stopped in front of the church.

"They proceeded to break the glass panels on the ground floor before pouring some flammable liquid and setting off a fire," said a statement issued by the church.

The church is housed in a three-storey shoplot with the office on the ground floor. Church officials have lodged a police report over the incident.

Earlier in the night, the judiciary website was defaced and later taken offline.

The Metro Tabernacle is not affiliated to the Roman Catholic Church which had challenged a 2007 order to stop using “Allah” to describe the Christian God in the Herald's Bahasa Malaysia section.

The Herald is tightly circulated among the mainly Muslim country's estimated 850,000 Catholics who worship in English, Mandarin, Tamil and Bahasa Malaysia.

The Roman Catholic Church had agreed not to object to suspend the judgment out of "national interests" as Muslim groups objected to the ruling and threatened to protest.

The groups have organised protests after Friday prayers at two mosques in Kuala Lumpur today despite police orders not to proceed.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his cousin Home Minister Datuk Hishamuddin Hussein have backed the right to protest within mosque grounds to the chagrin of many who have been previously detained at opposition gatherings.

Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohamad Sabtu Osman said it was premature to link the attack on the church to the protests over the Allah ban.

''We are still investigating,'' he told the Associated Press. He also urged Muslims not to participate in the planned protests, adding that police would be stationed at mosques to monitor the situation.

Police limit gatherings in public to five people and usually take tough action, including using tear gas and chemically-laced water from water cannons, to disperse protests.