Posts Tagged ‘Christianity Explored course’

Oh! Open House 2012 – Occupy Tiong Bahru

February 20, 2012 1 comment

Tiong Bahru Community Centre, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Merchandise, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru Map, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru

The Oh! Open House at Tiong Bahru was an interesting enough tour – some participants in my group were more interested in the flats per se than the art work in them, remarking that the plain historicity of the spaces was more authentic than the installations imposed on them.

The occupation of Tiong Bahru is a reference to its gentrification, as the details of the homeowners attested. In contrast, the original residents stared at us behind their curtains as we trooped by, with one, who had the unfortunate opportunity to witness 16 of us emerging from her stairwell, shouting in Cantonese (until wheeled away),”What are they doing here?! What are they doing here?!”

Yes, there was much trudging up narrow staircases and taking off of shoes – so comfortable clothes and slip-on footwear you didn’t mind people stepping on were useful.

Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru Liz's house, Queue, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru

The first house was Liz’s. Liz works as a publisher and had interesting lights (not part of exhibition):

Tye Sokkuan, Queue, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Tye Sokkuan

Isabelle Desjeux, Queue, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru Isabelle Desjeux, Queue, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Isabelle Desjeux, Queue, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru Isabelle Desjeux, Queue, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Isabella Desjeux

Lavender Chang, Queue, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Lavender Chang who took 6-hour exposures of homeowners sleeping in the nude.

Second was Justin’s place. Justin works as a banker:

Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Zhao Renhui – God Sent (Bukit Ho Swee Fire)

Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Zhao Renhui – Sleeping Mata Puteh

P2191844 Justin's House, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Cindy Salim

Third up, Jason’s place. Jason (a banker whose secret ambition was to be the president of the Ryan Gosling fan club) was on hand to welcome us with a big bowl of candies:

Jying Tan at Jason's House, Jason's House, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru Jying Tan at Jason's House, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Jying Tan at Jason's House, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Jying Tan

Jason's House, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Ang Song Nian

Next was Doris and Kenny’s place. Doris works as an arts manager and Kenny, formerly a member of a death metal band, now works in the audio industry:
Doris and Kenny's House, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru Doris and Kenny's House, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru

Rebelling against the Speak Mandarin campaign

Stephen Black the Kwaytologist, Doris and Kenny's House, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru Ang Ku Kueh, Doris and Kenny's House, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Stephen Black the Kwaytologist and his Ang Ku Kueh

Mark Wong,  Doris and Kenny's House, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Mark Wong

Lavender Chang,  Doris and Kenny's House, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Lavender Chang

Alfred is a lawyer who loves his alcohol. This is his house:
P2191922 P2191918

There were no art installations at Kelvin’s. He just wanted to show how he collected art from the countries he travelled to:
P2191925 P2191928

Monkey God Temple:
Monkey God Temple, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru Monkey God Temple, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Gilles Massot, Monkey God Temple, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru Monkey God Temple, Oh! Open House 2012 - Occupy Tiong Bahru
Gilles Massot and Mark Wong

The hunger to be residents of the art deco / Bauhaus neighbourhood led to earnest discussions about how one could score a flat in Tiong Bahru. This made me think about the passage from Mark 10 we did that morning. A contrast was made between Jesus’ disciples (Mark 10:35-45) and the blind beggar (Mark 10:46-52).

“Teacher”, said James and John, the disciples of  Jesus,”we want you to do for us anything we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied,”Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:35-37)

James and John rightly recognised Jesus as someone powerful and authoritative and headed for much better things, so they astutely followed him to attain what was important to them. Jesus was, for them, merely a means to an end.

What a contrast this is to the blind beggar who was told by the crowds to shut up and not harrass Jesus:

As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:46-52)

The only item of value Bartimaeus had was likely to be his cloak, yet he threw this aside (rendering it up for grabs by anyone) for an opportunity to go to Jesus. In any other case, this would have been quite a gamble – the possibility of freezing to death at night for some vague hope. But Bartimaeus knew that even though he had nothing to offer, Jesus was able and willing to have mercy on him and Jesus commends the beggar’s faith. Thus healed, a whole world of possibilities would have now been open to Bart. But Barty demonstrates that Jesus was his ultimate treasure by choosing to follow Jesus along the road.

This isn’t a fanatical extremist view; it is a mere demonstration of not just obedience to the first commandment but also of common sense: he is the LORD our God, who made the universe and demonstrated his character in history by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. There should be no other gods before the LORD because he alone is God.

Thinking that the good things that God has made like wealth, success, family, lovers, friends, rather than God himself, will satisfy or fulfil us or give us stability is tragically silly. Idolatry is precisely this turning of something God has created into a substitute for God. And using Jesus as a means to obtaining our idols (believe in him and you will be wealthy, healthy) would be just unconscionable!


Dessert, Grace, Sunday at The Training Shed

February 13, 2012 Leave a comment

A bully of a weekend, despite having to miss the mildly-attractive Laneway Music Festival line-up. Time was fairly spent, though results not quite as hoped (and some just short of being complete disasters).

A prayer meeting (at least i made it for the prayer part and not the earlier frivolous chatter bit) and some cider, the first AGM of a newly-minted society, then hacking dessert for dinner:

Deconstructed "Banoffee Pie"Can’t remember how I made the last dessert (which could have been euphemistically termed “banoffee pie” but people were too honest for that). Setting out POI below in hope of boosting future efficiency:

Digestive biscuit crust: buy 1kg bag of broken digestive biscuits from Phoon Huat, vent frustration on bag. Melt butter. mix melted butter with enough biscuit crumbles so resulting mixture feels like damp sand.

Banana layer in banoffee pieBananas: local varieties contribute more flavour than bland Del Monte and friends. Slice into thin slivers with mandolin.

Condensed milk reduced to dulce de leche Dulce de leche layer of banoffee pie

Dulce de leche: use condensed milk not evaporated milk. Method of boiling whole can in water for 3 hours is superior to water bath method in terms of achieving caramel taste. But for utter unctuousness, the marriage of good butter and sugar for caramel is superior to all else.

P2111478 Drizzle of chocolate over banana slices and digestive biscuit crust

Chocolate layer: to maintain stability at room temperature in Singapore, do not mix melted chocolate with butter which decreases melting point. The Valrhona 66% Caraïbe wasn’t quite bitter enough for my taste, but dark enough for the kids.

Creaming whipping creamCream: use whipping cream (35%) not “pure cream” (45%). Whip. To stabilise at room temperature in Singapore, add icing sugar or cocoa powder.

ET Artisan Bag ET Artisan box
ET Artisan Macarons

Everyone was polite enough to commend the mess and the kids apparently even whooped. In any case, had standby dessert in the form of macarons from the best commercial baker of such treats in Singapore: ET Artisan (facebook) – not Pierre Herme or Ladurée, but the macaron shells were very well-done.

The next day, we were on to the sixth session of Christianity Explored, which has proven to take quite a systematic approach to things.

So far, people had been asking why they should bother with Christianity, which is reasonable. Now, they had to consider what their own answers would be if God asked them why he should let them into heaven (synonymous with: give them eternal life, save them from coming judgement). Most people might say:

  • I’m generally a good person,
  • I don’t steal large sums of money,
  • I give to charity,
  • I work to make sure that the poor, old, disabled, disadvantaged are taken care of,
  • I don’t eat shark’s fin or foie gras and I contribute to animal welfare organisations,
  • I’m a spiritual person,
  • I give up my seat in MRT trains to those who need it more,
  • I’ve been baptised, I go to church, I take communion,
  • I’m not a murderer,
  • I don’t commit adultery with IT execs trying to get contracts in my organisation,
  • I read the Bible,
  • I’m not a rapist,
  • I don’t visit prostitutes,
  • I pay it forward,
  • I’ve been nice to people and lived life the best I know how.

In Mark 10:17-22, Jesus meets a rich man who has been even better than most of us can claim to have been. The man falls on his knees before Jesus and says,”Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”.

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone.” Jesus wasn’t discounting his own goodness or deity; he was challenging the man’s concept of what it meant to be good.

So, Jesus said, the man should already know what he had to do – it’s no different from God had told the Israelites hundreds of years ago – to enter heaven, the man had to keep all the commandments (embodied in general in the ten commandments given to Moses on top of Mount Sinai after God saved the enslaved Israelites out from Egypt).

“Teacher,” the rich man declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Although the man would have been said to be a good son who honoured his father and mother, a good employer who did not begrudge his servants their wages, a good business partner who did not lie or steal, a good husband who did not commit adultery, a good member of society who did not covet his neighbour’s things and act to get them, he actually failed to keep the first commandment: to have no other gods before God (Exodus 20:3). And as we’d already understood from previous session, the greatest commandment is “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:29-30). But money was actually the rich man’s god, which is why he could not give up his wealth.

The disciples were shocked that even this “good” man could do what was expected of him, and so wouldn’t be able to get to heaven. If even he couldn’t have eternal life, then who could?! Jesus affirms their conclusion: “with man this is impossible”.

This is consistent with what we have seen so far: it is not anything outside ourselves that corrupts us and makes us evil, as if babies start off (as someone at the session termed it) tabula rasa and are then polluted by the world; rather it is our heart that is inclined to evil all the time. As Jesus said:

“For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:21-23).

Because our hearts (and minds and souls) refuse to love the Lord our God, it is impossible for us ever to enter heaven, no matter how relatively good (better than others) we think we are.

But (and this is a great “but” in bold capital letters in dancing lights) what is impossible for man is possible for God:
1. This is exactly why Jesus had to die – to pay for our sins that we ourselves could never pay for, even if we killed ourselves. If we could somehow save ourselves from God’s wrath on us because we sinned against him, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die.

2. The only way to be saved then (and to enter the kingdom of God, to get to heaven) is by just accepting and trusting that Jesus’ death paid for our sins. This is what it means to “receive the kingdom of God like a little child” (Mark 10:15) – not that we are to have regress to some sort of feigned innocence, nor to switch off our minds and pull on blind faith, nor “take a leap of faith” into the dark; rather, it is merely to trust, from the evidence we have seen so far in the Gospel of Mark that no matter how bad we’ve been, God, by his grace (undeserved favour) has ordered it such that all sins will have been paid by Jesus. There is nothing left to do (or can anything be done in any case).

This is what’s so good about the good news (that is, the gospel): it is impossibly valuable and life-saving and it is free!

Labrador Park Labrador Park
Reflections at Keppel Bay

After such a full weekend, we’d schemed some chillaxing at Labrador Park.

Sunday at The Training Shed, Port Road Graffiti, Sunday at The Training Shed
P2121544 Graffiti, Sunday at The Training Shed
Graffiti, Sunday at The Training Shed Burgers, Sunday at The Training Shed
Beers, Sunday at The Training Shed Drinks, Sunday at The Training Shed

At Sunday at The Training Shed (8 Port Road, Labrador Park), there was dancing with beer bottles in hand, graffiti and watching paint dry, burgers on the grill and satay, and fun for all (including babies and dogs). But it got too hot and muggy from the recent rain, and, despite the promise of good beats, not wanting to quench thirst with just Heineken and Tiger, sweatily decamped to Chinatown Complex for eats and good cold ‘uns from The Good Beer Company (facebook, #02-58 Chinatown Complex, Smith Street).

The end.

Daisy’s Dream Kitchen, Politics, And the Problem of the Human Heart

January 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Brought a friend along for some last minute shopping for the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Bakwan kepiting soup, Daisy's Dream Kitchen, West Coast Road Chap chye, Daisy's Dream Kitchen, West Coast Road

When the car boot had been filled with cooler bags and an assortment of items gotten at wholesale retail, we stopped off at Daisy’s Dream Kitchen (facebook) at Blk 517 West Coast Road for a re-fuel and a gab. (The balance of flavours in the buah keluak pork ribs and assam chicken was excellent: not rob-you-of-senses robust but just the right amount of assam acidity to liven up the palate. Friend insisted on returning for more soon.)

Assam chicken, Daisy's Dream Kitchen, West Coast Road Buah keluak pork ribs, Daisy's Dream Kitchen, West Coast Road

Naturally, the conversation turned to the on-going debate about ministerial pay, and the merits of the content of speeches of Alvin Yeo, Vikram Nair, Tan Chuan-Jin, Chen Show Mao, and Pritam Singh in parliament. She despaired over the opposition wasting the opportunity (the Workers’ Party specifically) to show that they could form a sensible government, with their complacency in thinking the internets would cheer on anything Chen Show Mao said and their failure to show they cared more about the people than scoring political brownie points.

But it is naive to expect that everyone will work together peacefully for the common good, whether in the government of a country, the management of a company, or just to save stray (and sometimes rabid) dogs and cats from being culled.

What is the real problem with this world?

The third session of Christianity Explored yesterday showed us that more than war, poverty, environmental issues, racism, greed, etc. our hearts are the real problem. If there was a website that listed every single thing that we did or thought, even our best friend(s) wouldn’t look us in the eye.

We can’t blame society, our parents (or lack thereof), unfortunate life events, or even our genes for causing us to act or think this way; all this evil comes from our hearts:

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them,”Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said,”What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:14-23 ESV)

Tea and kaya cream crackersSince the time of the book of Genesis, God’s command has always been the same, because it is only right and just to treat your Creator and those made in the image of your Creator in this way:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:28-33)

Sadly, we don’t even manage to treat the one or two people we call our “loved ones” this way.

Those who think of Jesus as gentle and loving are half-right: he is certainly loving enough to warn of the dangers ahead but this means saying some hard truths rather forcefully:

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell,‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:42-48)

Whatever form hell will take, the warning is simply to avoid it at all costs by not sinning.

But we all know that we can’t stop all that evil pouring from our hearts every second of the day.

This is why Jesus came. Though not as a pep-talk lifestyle guru. But that’s for the next session.

Whole New Worlds

January 9, 2012 1 comment

There is little that can trump the excitement of exploring a new world. The great wilderness of wines is that (not quite Aldous Huxley-ish) brave new world for me.

Crystal Wines Wine Tasting (Decanter French Wines of the Year), Crystal WInes
Wine Tasting (Decanter French Wines of the Year), Crystal WInes Wine Tasting (Decanter French Wines of the Year), Crystal WInes

At Crystal Wine‘s thematic tasting of named wines in Decanter Magazine‘s Best of France 2011, i was amazed to find two bottles that nosed like roasted meat – the Chateau Lafon-Rochet, St Estephe 4CC 2004 (Decanter: 16.75) and another which i can’t recall (memo to self to take contemporaneous notes). Tasting in parallel with perusing the tasting notes in Decanter was very helpful in figuring out the vernacular of the wine world.

Magnum Wine Fair, The Wine Gallery

And at The Wine Gallery’s Magnum Wine Fair, was intrigued enough by the intensely floral aroma of the Mario Lucchetti Guardengo Lacrima di Morro d’ Alba Superiore 2009 to get a bottle of it, despite the self-imposed purchasing ban until storage is sorted. 100% native Lacrima grapes. “Violets and raspberry jam” it seems.

And happily, quite a few new-ish wine bars in Singapore offer by-the-glass or Enomatic machine menus that give n00bs the opportunity to take bottles out for a test drive. More expensive than purchasing the whole bottle and the wines won’t be in as good shape, but as an L-plater, i’m just happy to have a go:

Verre Wine Bar at 8 Rodyk Street, Robertson Quay; Taberna Wine Bar at Binjai Park;

Enomatic Machines, Vintry, Clarke Quay Vintry, Clarke Quay
Vintry Enomatic Wine List, Clarke Quay Wine tasting, Vintry, Clarke Quay
Cheese platter, Vintry, Clarke Quay Red wine tasting, Vintry, Clarke Quay

Vintry Wine Bar & Restaurant at Royal Selangor, Clarke Quay with its 4 Enomatic wine-dispensing machines;

Praelum Wine Bistro, Duxton HillPraelum Wine Bistro (facebook) at Duxton Hill (2 Enomatic machines); and

The Tastings Room The Tastings Room
Eggs benedict, The Tastings Room Morning tea, The Tastings Room
Tomato soup, The Tastings Room Duck confit, The Tastings Room
The Tastings Room

The Tastings Room at Marina Square (by-the-glass wine menu).

Yesterday, i was roped in at literally the last minute (ok, if literally, then last 15 minutes, while eating breakfast) to help run a Christianity Explored group. The six/seven week course gives people an opportunity to explore Christianity and think about what life is all about: no question too silly or offensive, no pressure to convert or anything. Basically, Mark’s Gospel is the car key so they can take Christianity out for a bit of a test drive for the next two months, see how it works, and discover if they really need what the Bible claims they need.

It’s a whole new world for some and it’s so very exciting to be on hand to show them around. Thankfully, we’re not used car salesmen working on commission nor are we selling lemons. I mean, if it’s a relationship with God that’s on offer, all that we need to do is to articulate the wonderful free offer and tell people how to accept it. No payment needed. No better offer, ever.

In Mark 1, we are already confronted with the claims of Jesus. Mark says he is the Christ (not a surname, a title – Χριστός “the Anointed One”, Greek translation of Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (“Messiah”)) and the Son of God. What proof is there? In just this chapter alone:

  1. Isaiah prophesised that before the Lord came, there would be a messenger preparing the way – before Jesus came, John the Baptist prepared the people for his arrival.
  2. The Spirit resting on him points to him being the stump of Jesse who will judge and rule the earth (as prophesised by Isaiah – Isaiah 11).
  3. God himself attests that Jesus is his Son.

Naturally, this led to good questions about the historicity of the Bible, the accuracy of human authorship, the objectivity of the accounts, possibility of miracles, with some Plato, Pascal (though only a passing reference to that rather misunderstood wager), Richard Dawkins stirred in for good measure.

I suppose this isn’t often said about issues of life-and-death, but: this is going to be serious fun!

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