Monday, August 31, 2015

Thoughts About Bersih 4.0 and Merdeka

Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: August 31st, 2015

Then people will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.” (Ps 58:11)

Malaysia celebrates her 58th Anniversary today. It was on August 31st, 1957 that the British colony became the federation of Malaya, referred to as Peninsula Malaysia or West Malaysia. Until September 16th, 1963, the country was still called "The Federation of Malaya." Many people still confuse this with another event called "Hari Malaysia" which was when the states of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore, all came together to become Malaysia. Merdeka Day is about how Malaya became a sovereign state (1957). Malaysia Day is about how the Federation of Malaysia was born (1963). This year, two days before Merdeka Day is Bersih 4.0 which highlights a mysterious show of the best of Malaysians and the worst of Malaysian politics.

A Sea of Yellow from Bersih 4.0 @KL
(Photo Credit: Nicholas Cheng on Twitter)
Bersih 4.0 was conducted to showcase the best side of sanity and that democracy reigns supreme. From cars to buses, trains to planes, Malaysians from all over the country brave the threats of arrest and tear gas to gather at Kuala Lumpur in a sign of patriotism, unity, and solidarity. The largely peaceful crowd was aided by a well organized and restrained police force. Kudos to the Police and security forces in this regard. I even suspect that there are many within the police ranks who are increasingly sympathetic to the cause of Bersih. From August 29th to 30th, 2015, thousands of Malaysians descended upon Kuala Lumpur to gather for the Bersih 4.0 rallies. It was a peaceful demonstration against the ills of Malaysian politics, especially with the recent exposure of RM2.6 billion that was found credited into the personal bank account of the leader of the land: the Prime Minister. Explanations flowed from incredulous justifications like "donations from the Middle East" to "money being used to fight Jewish influence." Depending on where you read the news, or who you were hearing it from, there seemed to be a strategy of confusion used to deter attention from the glaring problem. The Americans call it wag-the-dog. I call it "the publicity haze." Many people voluntarily traveled to Kuala Lumpur, and other major cities both inside and outside of Malaysia to make their feelings known. From where I am, watching via the Internet, I saw unity. I saw solidarity. I saw a common call for integrity. The sea of yellow numbered in the tens of thousands. The place was like a carnival with people from all races and all religions coming together not with swinging accusations of racist rhetoric, but with singing of the national anthem: The Negaraku. Instead of heckling, non-Muslims remained respectful and quiet as their fellow Muslims say their prayers. Instead of discrimination, Muslims shook hands with non-Muslims. They embraced. They partied. They walked together. They declared with one voice that they are all Malaysians.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Would You Ask For?

SCRIPTURE: 1 Kings 3:5
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: August 21st, 2015

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5)

The story of Solomon begins well but ends badly. Most of us would remember how God was pleased with Solomon, instead of asking for wealth or anathema for his enemies, he asked for wisdom and discernment to rule the country. It seems like a sudden appearance from God. Suppose God were to appear before you in a dream and said to you: "What can I give you? Ask." What will you ask for?

I don't know about you, I think not many people really know what to ask for when given a spiritual blank check. Maybe, what we ask would depend on the situation we are in. If we are poor, we may ask to be rich. If we are sick we may ask for health and healing. If we are jobless, we may ask for a job. If we are single, we may ask for an ideal someone to marry.

There was a joke about a man who found a bottle with a genie inside. Upon rubbing the bottle, a disgruntled genie appeared. "Alright, since you've released me, I'll will have to do the genie obligation. However, times have also been tough for the genie world, I can only grant you one wish of my choosing."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Thoughts on SG50

SCRIPTURE: Job 12:23
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: August 14th, 2015.

"He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them." (Job 12:23)

Panorama of August 9th, 2015 Celebrations @ The Padang
(Photo Credit: NDPeep)
It was one of the most elaborate celebrations ever for the tiny island nation. It was also a rare long weekend to celebrate 50 years of independence. From the 7th to the 10th of August, many were dressed in red and white, the national flag colours. Singaporeans ought to celebrate this momentous event, which they did. It had been a long and hard journey. I woke up at 4am Vancouver time, in time to catch the last part of the awesome National Day Parade. My wife was sound asleep.

She is Singaporean. I am not. Yet, I found myself enjoying the parade, especially with the six chapters brilliantly told with professionalism, realism, and fond memories. There were so many things I could identify with. I remembered the songs, the campaigns, the landmark events that happened in the country since independence.

This week, I will share about what Singapore means to me. It's a journey through my years in Singapore.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Am I Growing?

SCRIPTURE: Colossians 1:10
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: August 7th, 2015
“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,” (Col 1:10)
Are we more interested in other people's spiritual growth? Or are we serious about our own? If we are, be prepared to deal with the ugly parts of ourselves. For spiritual growth has less to do with programs or activities. It has more to do with personal self-examination.

If you are like me, you would probably prefer to talk about other people than ourselves. Better to hide while others get exposed. We are comfortable about telling stories about someone else, or the plight of some unfortunate soul. By shining a spotlight on others, we avoid the limelight of being singled out as some kind of a mental guinea pig for others to talk about or comment on. Most people do not like unwarranted attention, especially the negative ones.

When I am preaching from the pulpit, it is a lot more comfortable to tell stories about other people from another place, another Church, another time, or another era. Sometimes, I would choose stories that would not embarrass any of my listeners. I would say things like:
This story is about a man who is NOT from this congregation.”
Upon hearing this, people usually heave a sigh of relief. At least the pastor is not talking about any one of them. Whether it is good news or bad news, people are generally more at ease at looking through the windows of other people's lives. It is also easy to talk about a fictional story or some movie plots and to explain our ideas from there. It is not so easy to talk about ourselves, our warts, weaknesses, and wobbly works. Sharing about ourselves can be very risky. People may take it the wrong way or misinterpret our intent. If we share too much about ourselves, people might accuse us of self-glorification. If we share too little, people say we are too impersonal. We can choose to share a lot about other people and then make a convenient excuse that time does not permit us to share more about ourselves!

The fears of self-revelation are real. It might not be safe. Someone else may use our stories against us. We may say things only to regret later. That is why sharing about others remains a popular choice, even in prayer meetings.

A) The Strange Curiosity About Others

Humans tend toward Schadenfreude, where we take special interest in bad things happening to other people. Like a curious zoo visitor excited to watch how lions and crocodiles eat up their prey alive, humans are especially piqued by tragic events happening to others. That is one reason why news reports on tragedies, disasters, and accidents tend to be more widely read. Air disasters are extremely popular and seem to be picked up by most if not all news agencies. The missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 is a case in point. When the ill-fated Boeing 777 was first reported missing on March 8th, 2014, many countries throughout the world reported on it. Although the plane was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with passengers hailing from 15 countries, interest in the missing plane garnered attention from more than these affected countries. This week, when part of the plane was washed ashore at a French territory called Reunion Island, the world took notice all over again. It is easy to talk and read news about others. It is not so easy to talk and read news about ourselves, especially bad news.

What about self-examination questions? What about asking ourselves about our own health, our own situation, and our own spiritual growth? This is the subject of this week’s Sabbath Walk.

Am I growing?