Friday, March 25, 2005

Remembering Dad's legacy

Many things were said in the days following Dad's passing. On Sunday evening, family and friends gathered informally to honour Dad's life and thank God for His grace. We laughed, we cried. Monday was a more formal memorial presided by Pas Keng Sen who conducted the service in English and Chinese. During the Homecoming Service on Tuesday, some family members (Sunny, Albert, myself, and May Lyn) recalled our sometimes stormy relationship with Dad, how he kept the faith, and his last hours in Sunway Medical Centre. Pas Teoh who was so much a part of our lives back in our youth later emailed this note:
Dear Tan family members,

I do not remember having ever attended a more spiritually uplifting wake or funeral service than what I experienced over the past few days, pertaining to the demise of your father, the late Mr. Tan Ewe Phuan. In all the years of ministry, I have kept to this principle: give the deceased an honourable burial but everything else we do and say at the wake and funeral services are for the living, to encourage them in their life and faith. I have been encouraged.

What particularly struck me were the testimonies so genuinely and freely shared by several of you children about how loving and caring a father and husband he was, even though things and circumstances were far from perfect. From the first evening at the funeral parlour, I was moved by the reminder that your father never tried to be what he was not but faithfully, and over a long period of time, carried out what fell on him to do. At the funeral service you spoke of his strong sense of duty toward family, church and community; I felt the Lord said to me that dutifulness from the human perspective translates into faithfulness in his eyes and I am sure your father has now received that one and only reward all of us can ever hope to receive, Well done, good and faithful servant.

If only more of us fathers, husbands and Christians will strive to be what your father exemplified and faithfully or even dutifully live how he lived, many lives and families would be a lot more blessed. I was so thrilled to hear you all talk about how his life has become a legacy, an example for us to follow, Hebrews12:1.

Lastly, I must mention how thankful I am for having come to Alor Setar and Trinity, and the Tan family home, at a very special time both as a student and young pastor and worked with your father. After the funeral service this morning, a group of us talked nostalgically and with tears about the “monkey climb” incident at Trinity; I thought that happening probably caused your father’s blood pressure to hit a record all time high. But that and many, many other episodes are fondly held today in the collective memory of the so-called “Trinity Group” and among those dearly loved ones from that period of time is your late father, the church chairman. In that tapestry of lives and events he was assigned a particular role to play and he faithfully carried his part; he was “Pak Tan.” Amen.

Ronnie Teoh
To all our friends, relatives, and colleagues who came to pay their respects, thank you. To God be the glory.

[Read Ethan's post here]

Monday, March 21, 2005


“Because I live, you also will live.” John 14:19

Mr Tan Ewe Phuan (PCK)
1927 – 2005

Tan Ewe Phuan, much loved husband, father, and grandfather,
went to be with the Lord, 20 March 2005.

Please join our family in remembering his life at
the Memorial Service
Monday 21 March 2005
PJ Modern Casket Funeral Home
Jln 229, Section 51A, Kpg Tunku, Petaling Jaya
8.00 pm.

The Homecoming Service
will be held on
Tuesday 22 March 2005, 10.00 am
at First Baptist Church, Pantai Centre,
Lot 8,Jalan Pantai (9/7)
Petaling Jaya
following which his remains will be interred in
Cheras Christian Cemetery.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


“Tightly controlled” is how Malaysia is often referred to. Although in some ways its citizens enjoy greater latitude compared to other Muslim countries, there are signs that the grip is tightening. Take blogging for instance. Opinionated Malaysian bloggers who think freedom of expression is a right will find out soon enough that in this country at least, it is a privilege. No, not just a privilege, but a risk.

This privilege is defined by legislations implicit and explicit (and a host of unwritten taboos) purportedly to serve national interest. Stick your nose too far and you’re liable to have it bloodied. Popular blogger Jeff Ooi of Screenshots knows something about this being one of Malaysia’s most read blogger (if not the most influential). Now fellow blogger Mack Zulkifli finds himself playing host to ‘unofficial’ visits by the police and government officials. No one relishes becoming a celeb blogger with fans like these.

That’s not all. Veteran journalist and commentator MGG Pillai laments ugly comments from ‘vigilante bigots’ who threaten civil discourse. I do not always agree with MGG’s views but he’s right that we have become a nation cowered into silence, not least by fear of the law, stalkers and bigots, but also a deadening of the spirit. It may explain why so many Christian bloggers here (including myself) find it easier to write about theology, church, philosophy, travel, the arts, books, what we did last weekend, who made us cry. Politics? Uh-uh. Social commentary? Ditto.

Controversial Christian intellectual, activist, and student of Francis Schaeffer Vishal Mangalwadi once wrote:
“Christ’s mercy did not touch the individual alone. It sought to touch the heart of a society. It sought to awaken the sleeping conscience of society. It troubled the stagnant waters which brought about a torrent of retaliation from vested interests.”
He was commenting on Jesus’ healing of the invalid at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5. Mangalwadi insists that Jesus’ act of healing did more than make a paralysed man walk; it was a deliberate provocation of the Establishment. Jesus went about doing good, but for all he taught and the good he did, he was above all seen as a troublemaker.

Now that’s scary. Provocateur. Troublemaker. Who? Me?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

What a friend

Sherwin plays for Dad Posted by Hello

Sherwin who is first violinist with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra asked if he could play for Dad. Sure, why not? we said. I wasn't able to be there when he dropped by but I was told he played several tunes beautifully (including What a Friend We Have In Jesus, Amazing Grace, As The Deer, and a Chinese song). It was a moving performance, and Dad clapped. Amazing, really amazing.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

RZIM's Malaysian connection

I was quite pleased to have met I Ching Thomas. In case you did not know, I Ching is a true-blue Malaysian lass who is the newest addition to Ravi Zakarias International Ministries. It was Pari who introduced us and the three of us had tea talking about apologetics and the challenge of acquainting Malaysian churches with a decidedly more robust appreciation of their faith. Is there a postmodern approach to apologetics I asked? I Ching said the approach may be different but essentially the issues are the same. It’s how you handle the questions, which is what Ravi Zakarias himself illustrated in one of his lectures: even in India, you still have to look left and right before you cross the road.

I Ching will be based in Singapore. Hmm, her biodata isn’t on the RZIM site yet. Anyway, I look forward to seeing and hearing her in the near future.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Dumb and Dead

Sure there are problems in the church - one of them is me. Joe Carter’s post on Evangelical Outpost quotes Eugene Peterson on the church that rings true.
But many Christians would look at this church and say it's dead, merely an institutional expression of faith.

What other church is there besides institutional? There's nobody who doesn't have problems with the church, because there's sin in the church. But there's no other place to be a Christian except the church. There's sin in the local bank. There's sin in the grocery stores. I really don't understand this naïve criticism of the institution. I really don't get it.

Frederick von Hugel said the institution of the church is like the bark on the tree. There's no life in the bark. It's dead wood. But it protects the life of the tree within. And the tree grows and grows and grows and grows. If you take the bark off, it's prone to disease dehydration, death.

So, yes, the church is dead but it protects something alive. And when you try to have a church without bark, it doesn't last long. It disappears, gets sick, and it's prone to all kinds of disease, heresy, and narcissism.

In my writing, I hope to recover a sense of the reality of congregation - what it is. It's a gift of the Holy Spirit. Why are we always idealizing what the Holy Spirit doesn't idealize? There's no idealization of the church in the Bible - none. We've got two thousand years of history now. Why are we so dumb?
For a dose of reality there's Paul Johnson's History of Christianity. His telling of 2000 years of church history is full of political intrigue and war, church vs state, as much as it is about struggles over theological touchpoints. And to think that this is the church that Jesus calls his body.