The Benefit of Friends: Lessons from a hiking trip.

Some experiences in life teach us valuable lessons. How we perceives the experiences determine what we get out from them.

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Recently,  our koinonia group went for a hike up the Trias Ridge outside the Antipolo city. It was an exciting, yet a challenging hike for most of the members in the group. The slippery and muddy trail caused everyone to slip and fall several times except the tour guides (Ted and Arthur) and me. Our past experiences of hiking on bush trails helped us to walk with less struggle on the slippery mud without falling. Our shoes, clothes, arms and legs were painted with mud. Yet the joy of hiking as a group and the beauty of the vegetation made us took the challenge of climbing the hills with so much fun.
As I reflected on the experience, I am reminded of how challenging life can be.
Today, there are many lonely hikers in the world navigating their way in an attempt to accomplish something. Life can be stressful on a lonely journey. If you travel alone, you might succeed, or you could also give up on the way.
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Being a lonely traveler, often  life is not the same as walking with a group of supportive friends and families. There are many circumstances in life that we do not have any control over. The road can be slippery, muddy and cause us to fall.
The sad thing about walking alone is that, when you fall, there may not be someone there to offer a helping hand to pick you up or support you in some ways. But with good friends and families, we can be supported. There are others in the group that may have experienced something similar that can come to your aid.
Despite the challenges everyone faces, being part of a company of good friends can change our perspective of life. It shifts the focus from thinking too much about “ourselves” to being concerned about the well-being of “others.”
Sometimes it is hard to smile, laugh or even have a sense of humor when you are exhausted from brokenness, strife, stress, and failures in life caused by the slippery and muddy journey. However, walking with a group of positive friends can shift our perspective from focusing on your weariness to something joyful and exciting that can be enjoyed together at the present moment. Thus, it boosts our energy to strive and persist on towards the finishing line.

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Have you ever tried sharing one of your difficult life experiences to someone who does not understand what you are talking about? You might become frustrated when the person does not show any interest or emotion towards your story. The person may hear and understand you but may not feel what you feel because he or she had never experienced the same thing. Nonetheless, it is easy for us to share our joys and struggles with those that we’ve journeyed together with since they understand the experience.
In a fast paced modern culture, life is busy. There is always so much to do in a day that often we do not realize that we do not have time to spend with friends and families. We may focus on our work, school and other priorities. But let us not forget to find time after hours to spend with others. If you set a fixed schedule to meet with friends for a meeting or a social activity, soon you might become bored from the routine. But if you cultivate a habit of spending at least a few moments with your friends during the week or over the weekend, you will soon benefit from it. It is not a schedule that would bother you with preparations for the meeting. Rather it becomes a voluntary lifestyle that does not need any preparation except your presence. You will be able to share what you have in mind to others and also listen and learn from others. In that way, your friends and you are able to journey together in life.
Psychologists remind us that a person who is kept in isolation for a longer period of time is likely to develop psychological, emotional and physical problems. God has given us neighbors as well as friends at school, work and other places. Do you find time to talk to them or are you a busy bee? Relationship is an important part of human life that cannot be avoided. Do not let your introvert personality or your busy schedule deter you from spending a few moments with friends. Spending time with good friends is good for you, your friends and the kingdom of God.

 

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How my participation in worship deteriorated by relying on technology

Few years ago, I was fascinated in learning about how technology can assist to improve one’s worship experience. And in fact it did and is doing. Thank God for technology!

However, after some years now I look back and realize there were a few good habits I had in the past in worship without the help of technology. Unfortunately, I have lost them. I thought maybe I am the only one doing it, but whenever I enter a church with modern facilities, I see something familiar. I look across the room full of worshippers and realize that a good number of them are also doing what I am doing.

I don’t know how each of person feels in a worship service. But here are three things I have noticed about myself because I either depended on technology or the way technology is used discouraged me from doing what I am used to doing.

I have become a spectator

garfield_115402I enter a worship room and sit down on an empty seat. Soon our favorite game, “Simon says,” begins – So I sit and stand and sit and stand until the service is over. The musicians sing a song and I try to sing along but my voice is drowned by the loud sound of music coming from the speakers. So I thought, “What’s the use of singing when I can’t even hear myself singing.” But I needed to show those beside me that I am singing so I just open and close my mouth pretending to sing without a sound coming out from it. Not only that, I cannot sing along with the worship leader because I do not know the songs that are being sung. It seems like in every worship service there are new songs to sing and I do not have time to learn all these songs. In the past we used to have a certain number of songs that we sing until the congregation is familiar with. Then we would introduce a few new songs to add to the old ones. Today, with the help of internet and youtube, it is different. In every worship service, there are new set of songs to sing. I look across the room and there are many who are not singing. I wonder why they are not singing?

I don’t need to bring my Bible to church anymore

I no longer cared whether I brought my Bible to church or not because it won’t be needed. The powerpoint does everything for me. All I need to do is bring myself. I do have a couple Bible apps on my phone but I don’t need to use it. It’s up there on the big screen.

I no longer take notes

PENCLPADI sit down listening to the preacher while watching the slides on the big screen. I pay so much attention that I forget to take notes. I no longer need to bring at least a notebook and a pen to take notes of what I am hearing from the sermon. Again the powerpoint does everything. It outlines everything that the preacher wants me to hear. I keep on listening until the preacher stops and the powerpoint is gone. I end up with nothing to take back home except the theme of the sermon or a phrase from the pp that stuck on my mind. During the week I try to reflect back on what I have learnt so far and realize I have forgotten what was said. I liked the message but I cannot remember it anymore.

I am left to wonder whether the church is becoming a place full of people who are physically present and mentally absent or is it only me that is going through this?

[For additional reading, click http://www.renewingworshipnc.org/2014/06/11/nine-reasons-people-arent-singing-in-worship/ to find out why people are not singing in church].

What Makes You Want to Serve in Your Local Church?

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[Photo courtesy of Cliparts.co]

Serving in Church programs has become a part of many Christians who find joy and satisfaction in doing it. It can help a person grow in his/her skills and abilities to do what they are doing, and it can keep the members in the church when they feel like they are doing something important. Yes, Serving is an act of worship. There are many good reasons why people should serve in their local churches. In fact, the Bible does encourage the service of at least every member of a local church to contribute in serving each other.

 

While there’s nothing wrong with that, I have sometimes come to ask myself the question, “Why am I serving? Why do I want to do this?” What is the motive or desire behind what I am doing? Any person can serve. But there is a great difference between:
1. What we do,
2. Why we do what we do,
3. And our relationship with God and what we do.

We may be satisfied because we play music in church, collect tithes and offerings or teach a Sunday school class.Service is vital for the effective functioning of a church. However, if it becomes a yardstick that one uses to measure his/her religious condition, or a part of a religious obligation one needs to complete to pass a class in the seminary, there could be a propensity to do it for the sake of the class or something else other than serving God.

Sometimes service can substitute our desire for God. We can be busy serving that we forget to seek God. “It is possible to do the work of the Lord and not be connected to the Lord of the work (T.D. Jakes).” Dr. Modine, https://www.facebook.com/mitchel.modine?fref=ts  in his sermon to the seminary students of APNTS stresses a key point about “Spiritual Muscle Memory;” things that often condition our perception of our service and life with God that could affect our view of the reality.

Whatever, you are doing this week in serving the Lord, may it not substitute your search for God and your desire to know him more. Let whatever you are doing flow out from your relationship with the Lord. Make your relationship with the Lord of the work a priority than the work he had assigned you to partner in.

Finally, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:16-17, NIV).

A similar article can be found on this link, http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/jarrid-wilson/serving-isn-t-enough.html.

6 Ignorant statements Christians Use to Comfort a Hurting Person

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Quotation from Quote Addicts

A glimpse of the Book of Job reminds me of the comfort and encouragements given by his three closest friends. They were probably honest and sincere. But why was Job not comforted by their words? There may be several reasons why their opinions were not acceptable. And there’s no doubt that God did rebuke them for that. However, from a human point of view, the three friends were probably not arrogant but were somehow ignorant of the fact that Job was going through a terrible suffering and needed comfort rather than false opinionated accusations and ignorant encouragements.

Job isn’t the only one who has experienced suffering. His story is an example of what happens in life. Every human being alive had experienced some form of suffering. In almost every suffering, there are friends that come to show their concern and support. Often the words they use to express their sympathy or to simply encourage the grieving person can cause more hurt and anger in the broken person instead of comfort.

We’ve all made unintentional mistakes in our loving attempts to comfort grieving people. I didn’t really think much about how grieving people feel about the statements I make to encourage them in times of sadness until I was hurt and grieving. I began to analyse the common phrases people use to comfort me and realized there are many ignorant phrases we should not be using when attempting to comfort others in their times of sorrow.

Like many other people, I also had my share of crises in life. My early life was shattered by a volcanic eruption. I had over the years had several car accidents. One of them was four years ago that nearly took the life of a child and put me in prison. I went to court. Two years ago, I lost my baby. These are some of the moments I was broken and needed comforting words. I am grateful that God provided many friends that comforted me during that period of grief. There were friends that cried and prayed with me, held my hands and assisted me in different things. There were friends who ministered to me with their presence without talking a lot. Interestingly, among all those friends, I discovered that there were those who added more salt on my wound by their ignorant encouragements. While I do not hold them accountable for the ignorant comforting and encouraging phrases used, I cannot forget the lessons I learnt from these ignorant phrases. Here are few of them.

1. Don’t worry, It’s OK
This is a complete ignorant phrase one could use to comfort a grieving person. It shows that the friend does not see and feel the reality of what is happening to the person he/she is trying to comfort. How can we expect the grieving person not to worry when he/she is hurting? It may be OK with the encourager but it is not OK with the grieving person. It is simply not the right time to say, “it is OK.”

2. Cheer Up
I have heard many Christians tell me, “Cheer up brother, Christians should not worry. We should rejoice at all times.” When I hear this I doubt whether the person understands me or not. Whether you are a Christian or not, people have emotions. And emotions do fluctuate and moods change. There are seasons in life that cause circumstances that affect people’s moods and emotions. Christians should learn to use the right scriptural quotations and make appropriate theological statements at the right time in a better way. Your theological statements towards a grieving person may be true, but if said at the wrong time, you could inform but not able to comfort. We also should learn to accept the realities of life and not live in an imaginary or fantasy Christian world.

3. If only you had done this/ or You should do this…
In my traditional PNG culture, there is a common phrase used when dealing with loss, “Don’t build a bridge after someone has been carried away by the flood.” When people are hurt, let’s assume that they probably know something about the cause of their problem. It is not the right time to tell them what they should have done. It is time to comfort the hurting person. We may think we know what they should have done or should do now but in fact we do not know everything about their problem. It is better to save your opinion and advice for a later time when the grieving person is emotionally and mentally prepared to accept them. Your advice may be good but can only be appreciated when the hurting person is ready to listen. The grieving person will appreciate if you can give your ears and hold back your tongue.

4. Thank God, you are lucky
I remember many times ignorantly singing the hymn penned by Horatio Spafford, “It is well with my soul.” By singing this hymn we attempt to comfort and encourage the grieving person to compare his/her situation with Spafford’s loss. Some people would want to compare the situation of the hurting person to another person. It can sound good trying to compare and reflect on the level of one’s suffering with another. Yet it does not help the hurting person at the moment of suffering. It is not well with the person’s soul at the moment. Each person is unique and experiences different circumstances in life in unique ways. Whether big or small the situation is, people need comfort and not comparison in suffering.

5. Don’t even talk about it
Some hurting people are advised as, “Don’t even think or talk about it. It will cause you more pain.” Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. When people are grieving, it is better to allow them time to talk. They need someone to share their pain with. The best thing you could do for a hurting person is to listen to him or her. By listening you can understand something about the person you are trying to comfort.

6. I know exactly how you feel
Really? Do you know how the other person is feeling? We are often tempted to quickly boast of our experiences and opinions about situations that other people are facing. Just because you have had a similar experience does not mean you understand that person or how they are feeling. Everyone’s different. Your experience and the feelings of a similar situation may be relatively similar but your response may not be exactly the same as the other person. And do not expect him/her to respond the way you did because every person has a different temperament. Besides, it is better to focus your attention on the hurting person. If the hurting person wants you to share your experience, you may do so. Otherwise keep it to yourself. Sharing it without his/her interest or request will make him/her feel that you are undermining their moment of grief. Grieving people don’t care how much you know or how much you’ve experienced life until they know how much you care.

I hope this might be helpful to someone who is trying to comfort a grieving family or friend at this moment.

Please leave your comments below and let me know what you think.

Some advice for young single people

Are you a single person who is struggling to get married?

I read this article http://www.thinkinghumanity.com/2016/06/10-things-i-learned-while-everyone-else-was-getting-married.html and thought it could offer some help to some single people who are hoping to somehow be married as soon as they can so their lives could be better.

Any single person who needs some advice can post your questions and comments below so we can try to help you as best we can.

Just a reminder. Do not forget to like https://www.facebook.com/nuggetsinthenorms/?ref=bookmarks  on Facebook or subscribe to this blog to receive updates every weeks on different topics that might be of interest to you.

 

20 Things PNG Christians Should Avoid When Fighting Political Corruption [#1-5]

 

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Photo courtesy of Paul Kemga

Many claim that PNG is a Christian country, but I wonder what we are referring to. Is it the constitution, the religion or the people who make PNG a Christian nation? I wonder if we are what we claim to be. You can embrace Christian principles into the constitution. You can have the freedom to practice your religion and make it become the biggest religion. You can put Bibles as magic charms in the parliament, in your offices, in hotel rooms, in your cars or in your houses to create a religious presence. Yet that does not make a country become a genuine Christian nation. A true Christian country is depicted by the present thoughts and actions of its people, and not its history or the religious symbols it possesses.

A true Christian country is identified by the conducts of its citizens who claim to be Christians. Being a Christian is not about attending church services on Sundays or becoming a member of a Christian denomination. Though these are important, they are not the purpose of being a Christian. Being a Christian is being a “little Christ” in the world we live in. Christians are ambassadors of the kingdom of God. They have dual citizenship for both their own country and the kingdom of God. In the case of PNG Christians, they are to respect the constitution of their country by displaying a better pragmatic Christian approach in their lives as citizens of the kingdom of God in dealing with issues of injustice.

Papua New Guinea is going through a lot of political crises. As citizens we have a duty to contribute towards the betterment of our country. And part of it is to fight corruption at all levels of our society. However, we have to know how to do it the Christian way. Sadly, at this stage, most Christians are not sure what to do.  Often many Christians fight corruption using other unchristian methods. To help us understand where and how to stand in our fight against corruption, there several things we need to avoid.

PNG people
Photo courtesy of Paul Kemga

1. Use or support crime and violence as a means to fight corruption
The Black American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr, once said, “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.” Mahatma Gandhi, the father of Independent India said, “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary… non-violence is a weapon of the strong.” Christians should support the fight against any injustice. Yet they are not to instigate, use, aid or pledge their support for crime and violence in any form as a means to fight corruption or gain attention. Even if you are successful in achieving justice through any of these means, the end does not justify the means in any way for a Christian. You are still accountable for every action you take. The recent fights happening among students in the three universities that destroyed public and company properties and the loss of human lives have prompted a lot of people to raise their voices to justify the actions of the students. Many blame the cause of all these to the Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neil and his cabinet ministers. Non-Christians can, but a Christian will not in any way support these violent actions of the students. Christians are not even supposed to support the police shooting of the university students.

2. Carelessly destroy public and/or other people’s properties
Humanity was created with a mandate to be the stewards of God’s garden. They were mandated to create, redeem and sustain the creation of God. But not everyone seems to understand that. Therefore, Christians are required to display the attitude of good stewards in caring for the environment. God is not a careless God; Satan is. Therefore those who are God’s children should not be careless. We should be taking care of both the public and private properties. Christians should not support the students who burnt down the school buildings and other private properties. Any government, religious or private property that was established to help the people are to be cared for. Harboring arsonist or crime suspects is against the law.

3. Use illegal and dangerous elements to further the cause of justice
The use of guns, bush knives or any lethal weapon intended for destruction of lives through different mediums including sorcery and magic should not be supported. People using such weapons of destruction for the purpose of destroying human lives should not even be praised. Justice should always be voiced by Christians only through non-violent means.

4. Support Racial and ethnic discrimination
Racial and ethnic discrimination is an age-old issue all over the world. Christians are not to favor a particular ethnic group and discriminate against another. They are the glue that are meant to hold people together in peace and unity. Since everyone is unique, Christians are not called to be activists of any religious or social uniformity. Instead, they are called to initiate and promote “unity in diversity.”

5. Use vulgar or obscene languages to express anger or frustration
There are so many vulgar and obscene languages used by people commenting on Facebook posts made against corruption. The use of such filthy languages discourage healthy dialogues that are intended to contribute towards a better conflict resolution. Christians should not use such languages or be entertained by them. Such languages shows the content of the heart of the individuals who post them. The use of obscene languages displays a lack of maturity in the use of proper language communication to discuss pressing moral issues. People’s opinions should be respected. Any comment made as a negative response to people’s opinions should be made not to destroy another fellow brother or sister but help them see things differently (the way you see it). After all we are all fighting for the same cause.

Thank you for taking your time to read these first five things we should avoid as Christians when fighting corruption. But these are not the only ones. Like my Facebook page to keep yourself up to date for the next five things I will be posting again next week.