Today is a significant day for a number of reasons. Firstly, today was the day that the Happy BirthdayFederal Court in Malaysia was to render their verdict on the Allah case.

The Catholic publication is appealing against the ruling delivered last October by the Court of Appeal that it cannot use “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia version. The appellate court had decided in favour of the Government, which sought to reverse the High Court ruling in 2009 allowing the weekly its constitutional right under the freedom of religion to use the word. The Government’s ban on the word is ostensibly to prevent Muslims from getting “confused” which may then lead to a breakdown in public order. The High Court ruled that there was no such evidence because The Herald is circulated and read within a small non-Muslim circle and is available by subscription only.

The Federal Court will decide on 5 March 2014 after hearing arguments, if it will allow The Herald to proceed with its appeal. The Catholic Church is also raising 26 questions of law to the Federal Court covering constitutional issues (on Islam as the religion of the federation, on the freedom of speech and freedom of religion); administrative issues (the Home Minister’s powers to ban The Herald); and the scope of the court’s powers to decide on religion (the Court of Appeal said that “Allah” was not integral to Christian faith and practice). []

We have since learnt that the court has reserved judgement, postponing their ruling indefinitely. How long, O Lord? Again, the Lord calls us to be patient and to wait on Him.

This year, March 5th, also marks the beginning of the period of Lent.

During the 40 days of Lent, Christians remember the time when Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray before beginning his work for God. During this time Jesus was tempted several times by Satan, but was able to resist.

Lent is a time of giving things up. For Christians, it is one way of remembering the time Jesus fasted in the desert and is a test of self-discipline. []

Today is also my birthday. I am 59.

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that my birthday this year falls on the first day of Lent. Perhaps the year before me is to be a year of preparation for a new chapter of life and ministry? If it is, then this is to be a year of spiritual preparation.

As I look over my journal, it is clear that questions of vocation haunt me. I have a rough idea what my vocation is — to see lives changed through the passionate and accurate teaching of God’s Word. I know what I am supposed to focus on at this chapter of my life — discipleship and mentoring. But in what context am I supposed to be living out my vocation?

Clearly, I am more consumed with questions of “doing” than with questions of “being”. I should be more concerned about the latter. I should be more concerned about what kind of person I should be than what kinds of things I am called to do. The first call of Christ is for us to follow Him so that we can be like Him. And that means, by His grace and power, to grow in holiness (1 Peter 1:13–16) and love (1 John 4:7–12).

One of the benefits of growing older is the stripping away of illusions. When we were younger we had a certain picture of what we are like. As we grow older we better understand what we are really like. Maybe it is not surprising that late in his life, Paul understood himself to be the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). As we grow older we have a greater clarity of our ”lostness”, and with that a deeper appreciation for the grace of God.

If this is to be a Lent year, a year of preparation, I need to hear the Lord speaking to me afresh in passages like this:

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:20–26 NIV)

Perhaps this is the passage I am to live with this year. And if you know me, you know how far I have yet to go. But the grace of God and the encouragement of my friends will get me there. We live in challenging times. May all of us be all we are meant to be in Him, for the tasks at hand and for HIs glory — my word to myself on my 59th birthday.