It’s Final! Invitation to Private Screening of Amazing Grace the Movie

1 02 2008

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It’s final!

The Agora @ Penang 2008 inaugural meeting will be a private screening of the movie Amazing Grace.  Details as follow:

Date: 17 Feb 08
Time: 4.30 pm
Venue: FES Northern Office (click on the poster above for maps and contact numbers – in case you can’t read the map)

Due to limitation of space, we are extending the invitation to this private screening on a FCFS basis. Just drop me an email scheekeong (at) gmail (dot) com or call/sms any of the phone numbers in the poster for confirmation of attendance.

See you there!


You Can Do Both – William Wilberforce’s Dilemma

19 01 2008

One of the best remembered quotation in the movie Amazing Grace was when Wilberforce confronted his newfound group of friends, some later to be known as, in sarcastic manner at first, the Clapham sect. He told them, at dinner table (what amazing thing happened at makan time!), his dilemma about going into pastorals or continuing in politics. Bear in mind that Wilberforce had been a Member of Parliament in the House of Common since he was 21 years old! – compare that to Dato Seri Najib who won the pekan seat (uncontested) at 23 years old and  YB Fong Po Kuan, the who was elected to the Batu Gajah seat at 26.

But anyway, Wilberforce, having converted into evangelicalism was seriously contemplating about what we’ll say as “giving up his job to go into fulltime ministry”, i.e. leaving politics to go into pastoral ministry.

One of his Clapham saints, a lady, told him in a very sure tone, “We humbly suggest that you can do both”.

How when we today began to dichotomize between a secular and sacred life is actually thinking backwards, in regress back from Wilberforce into the neoplatonic thought which poisoned the Well of the Christian religion since St. Augustine drank from it.

The god of the Bible is not the god of Plato or Plotinus, I mean he is at least not the sort of god propounded by both great Greek philosophers. The Biblical god is the meticulous and loving Creator of the whole cosmos, who both concieved and made the world, matter spirit and all, from none. And human beings, the acme of god’s Creation were to be the little mirrors reflecting his sacred image and role both in the interaction with one another and with the wider world of nature. The truth is, Creation was not a profane thing, matter was not evil, but the joy of an outburst of love from the Creator. The body, flesh, is not evil, it is not the prison of the soul (as taught by Greek and Buddhist philosophy), but the would-be temple of god himself.

I believe the Incarnation is not merely what we traditionally believe as god becoming man because that is the only way he could be understood by us. Rather, I believe it was god identifying with us – with all the reality of being material, of being creature, of being human. And I really do not think god was despising material nor found it too obscene to be used as the vehicle for his ultimate revelation – The Word became Flesh.

The oft quoted and unfortunately oft misinterpreted words of Jesus, “My Kingdom is not of this world” has paralyzed centuries of Christians to have nothing to do with the so called “secular world” which is deemed to be evil and belonging to the devil. We are contended to operate within the Church, seeing life on earth as a journey to heaven, and while here trying to do away as much as possible “the things of this world”. I remember overhearing a conversations of a group of elderly Christians, one whom remarked to the others, “Good for you that you are retired, now you can plant your legs firmly in the kingdom of god. I still have one leg in the world and one leg in the church”.

That was in contrast to a dear friend, also an elderly christian, Mr. LT Jeyachandran, currently heading the Ravi Zacharias Intl Ministry in Asia who when invited to speak, refused to be introduced as “he worked for 30 years in the public service in India and then gave up his life to serve the Lord full time”. He commented that it was as if 30 years of life were in vain when working with the Government of India (he rose to the rank of Chief Engineer before retirement). To him, serving the Lord could be while working under the Government of India or as a Bible teacher in RZIM Asia, they are one and the same in terms of the demand of obedience to god.

I believe we live in a generation where it is crucial to reclaim the biblical vision of Lord Wilberforce and that of Bro. L.T., that it is a fake and unnecessary dichotomy to separate the sacred and secular in our life. God demands all the segments. And we are called into serving him not more effectively or more powerfully when working as a full time worker in the Church or Christian organization, but on equal footing of utter conviction to play the role of ambassadors of the King of Justice and Righteousness in all areas of life, whether in politics, economics, academics, business, finance, everything.

When we give up serving god within what popularly understood as “secular world”, we are in effect abdicating from our role to proclaim and effect the reconciliation which Christ has birthed forth through his death (Col 1:20). Christ has reconcilled the world, the whole world to god through his blood, we need to ensure that is worked out within our lives and into the lives of others around us. We are called to be the co-groaners with the Creation where it is in pain the most. And rest be assured that even as we groaned with the rest of god’s good earth, he is there with us, not as a silent observer from the high throne of heaven, but in all sorts of strange and mysterious manner, as the compassionate Spirit groaning with us and through us (Roms 8:22-26).

Biography of Lord William Wilberforce

13 01 2008

Check out here for an excellent biographical reflection on Lord William Wilberforce’s life and work by Dr. John Piper:

 Peculiar Doctrines, Public Morals and the Political Welfare

Next up!

11 01 2008

Watch out for this space…in a lil’ while, we’ll post on our activities for 2008. The first of which will be a screening of Amazing Grace, followed with a discussion on the ideas behind the movie.

 Stay tune folks.

Disclaimer: the movie screening is strictly a private event and guests are welcome on invitations only. We do not intend to breach any copy right laws in Malaysia.

Amazing Grace: The Movie

10 01 2008

Written by enn@j (founding member of Agora@Penang) originally posted here


Behind the song you love
is a story you will never forget

From Wikipedia : Amazing Grace is a 2006 film directed by Michael Apted about the campaign against the slave trade in 18th century Britain, led by famous abolitionist William Wilberforce, who was responsible for steering anti-slave trade legislation through the British parliament. The title is a reference to the hymn “Amazing Grace” and the film also recounts John Newton’s writing of the hymn.Thanks to Jacksaid and JR for introducing this movie to me. My first post of the new year and what better than to start it off with a great movie . Amazing Grace is more than just a great movie, it is soul touching and thoughts provoking, to the point that it pierced right through your bones if you would only listen intensely to some of the lines spoken.

God made all man equal yet before the slave trade was abolished, some man were not more than just mere trading goods, worthless and lifeless, bound by chains and commands. They have no purpose for living, no future that awaits them, not even the basic choice of freedom in any sorts. I would rather die than to imagine myself living in such conditions. Our freedom today was indeed bought with a price, a price we did not pay for ourselves but a group of individuals who dedicated almost their entire lifetime fighting for what they believed in, determined to finish what they started even when the road ahead seem unappealing to their sides and brought forth hope for a better world.

Has the world become better today? In many ways, I believe it’s a yes – economically, socially, medically, politically (hmmm…). But just like most medication, there is always a side effect. So are we truly living in a better world?

I can’t help but think of the ‘slaves’ we have put ourselves in by choice in this modern world of materialism. We are indeed, at times, slaves, by our own choice. Chains of material wealth, compromising values and most of all, the timidity to think for ourselves. Being in the sales line, in one of the most demanding multinationals around, I have personally felt such chains and it gets harder when you try be be who you are, especially when values do not meet. One will be branded as a rebel when one speak up or try to be different. In my case, I do not even think I was trying, I was just being me.

The worst tragedy that can happen to anyone, is to not exercise their ability to think, to act and ultimately to make a difference in the capacity that they could. What more if one is a Christian, convicted by the Holy Spirit and God Himself who will give us strength to live up to who He has called us to be.

Quote from the movie:

When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon – men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men. But contrast the reception they will receive when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will arrive in pomp and in power, a man who’s achieved the very summit of earthly ambition. And yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow and remember: the slave trade is no more – Lord Charles Fox

Agora Penang in my Reflection

29 12 2007

My friend, N, from church, asked me rather casually one Sunday after church service, “are we becoming more irrelevant?”.

It’s a common questions we were all hit at within the christian community, whether at CF or in churches. But I cannot help to notice “more”.  The fact that we were having a consecutive Sundays of sermons on James and we just had our weekly dosage of James that day made sense of N’s “more”.

How bad can we get, preaching James and all, and still get such a comment?

We do not need another group telling us how to defend our religion against the bit-sized doctrinal questions, we do not need another group telling us how to provide therapeutic escapade from this “sin-stricken world” as one of my church leaders love to use to describe god’s good earth.

Can we live up to our name, Agora, and reflect the myriad and complexity of human interactions in the market place, neither affirming the evilness of the human heart nor denying the beauty of all Creation, not least humanity created in god’s own sacred image?

As I was reflecting recently on the existence of Agora Penang, I cannot help but to post this excellent article by the Rev. Jim Wallis. I do not know if this is even loosely related to N’s rhetorical question or my own questions to Agora Penang (which is basically, for now, Joanne, YK, JR and I and a few of our close friends), but the sheer beauty of the whole idea of Christmas binding man to man, that is powerful enough for me to think that the World, more than ever, still need God and need to see and experience all His wondrous beauty, most especially displayed in fellow human beings. And this I pray will be Agora Penang’s mission, no matter how small we are now. This I pray will be the mission and vision of the Church of God, to demonstrate and uphold God’s beauty:

Reading the Bible

2 09 2007

But the Bible is so clear!

How many times do we hear our church friends exclaiming to our horrible conscience for not taking a strong stance on a particular issue due to our lack of understanding of passages which strangely seemed so clear to others.

The truth is, the bible may be clear (at least to its original readers), but are we?

Too often we come out from reading the bible thinking (arrogantly?) that we have successfully pinned it down. Or as if we have managed to leash god’s word. And we emerge, proudly, able to throw out points after points which we claimed to be our christian doctrines. Yet could it be that these usually bodiless and contextualless assertions and statements are but our cherished traditions, instead of the word of god which we would like them to be?

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