Reflection on 1 Peter 2:11-12

Last Sunday, 1 Peter 2:1-12 was being preached at church. I found the 1 Peter 2:11-12 stands out to me and even more as I re-read it this morning.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

It’s about Christians being exiles, sojourners in the world – not sure why but it seems God keeps remind me about that fact.

Being a Christian in Australia especially in the last few months you do feel like you are an outsider. With issues like SSM and euthanasia – Christians are at odds with the masses and indeed have been portrayed as evildoers like Peter said. But shall we expect anything less? No, we shouldn’t – the pastor said on Sunday, we are not Australians, we are not Indonesians, we exiles even in our countries.

Keeping our conduct honorable is a good point to remember too. Last night, my wife told me an encounter with a parent at school whom want her child to be enrolled in Scripture class. She herself is not a Christian strangely enough. But she said her child’s teacher who is a Christian left such a good impression to her as such she wants her child to have exposure to Christian teachings.

The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness – book review

I am almost half way through reading Tim Chester’s book called
The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness (affiliate link btw). Apparently you can read the first 50 pages online on Google books

As someone who likes to be busy and love his work (and dare I say driven?) – this book has been a timely reminder personally. How much do I love my work? Well, I am currently on holiday and I am using it to plan for my career (had finished some coding tests and learning for my certification. So I am glad to pick up this book for my trip, I have bought it few years ago, but never got around to finish it.

What is this book about? From The Goodbook UK:

While offering practical help to busy Christians, Tim Chester also opts for root-and-branch treatment: it’s not enough to slow down, or to simplify your lifestyle, you need to deal radically with the things what are driving you.

If you’re busy because of the following:

  • ‘I need to prove myself’
  • ‘Otherwise things get out of control’
  • ‘I need the money’

Think again! At the root of our ‘slavery’ are serious misunderstandings, often reinforced by our culture. If we want to be free, then we need to counteract them with God’s word. It’s important to manage our time, but it’s more important to manage our hearts.

God has promised his rest to all who are weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28). It’s up to us to accept it.

The book is easy to read, but the points Tim makes are loaded with biblical truths and to be honest they are personally confronting to me, I definitely felt rebuked as I read through the pages.

Reading the book has helped me refocus ‘why’. As a side note, I was introduced to Simon Sinek’s Start With Why – which highlights the importance of knowing your personal why. As a Christian though, my why comes from my creator, as Tim alluded in the book, for a Christian the ultimate why (including the reason for work) is to have God say in the end “well done, good and faithful servant”.

The ultimate why for a Christian is to have God say in the end – well done, good and faithful servant.

In the early part of the book, Tim gave practical tips to avoid being too busy – I guess that’s the how bit, but on the subsequent chapters he deals with more important question – why are we (Christians) so busy? A question that he asked is, is it possible that we do more than God wants us to?

It’s important to manage our time, but it’s more important to manage our hearts.

I am looking forward on finishing the book and perhaps re-read it every year or two, I think this is one of the books that worth regular re-read.

Some interesting points that I picked up:

  • People are getting busier at work, our secular age gives a material answer to spiritual problems (I forgot why Tim identifies busy as a spiritual problem). For example: going to the gym to relax. But in the end you must work harder to afford this leisure (gym membership).
  • Access to data doesn’t make you wise, wisdom takes study and reflection. Study and reflection needs time.
  • People used to work to maintain a standard of living, but today we work to attain higher standard of living.
  • Greeks and Romans aspires a life of leisure, free from work. Work is seen as necessary evil. I guess that thinking permeates to today too, for example: people work so that they afford overseas travelling.
  • Our culture assumes that holidays are the answer to busyness. But holidays are a modern invention. 48 weeks work, 4 weeks holidays, 40 years work and then retirement, this cadence is human invention. The bible for example, does not recognise the idea of retirement. This is challenging for me, having been involved with an investment community, the majority of the group is driven by the goal of retiring early or at least retire comfortably. While it is certainly nice to have that option, God does not ask me to retire early – it’s not what important to him and I better not make it as a goal in life either.
  • Value people over schedule. I am guilty of this – I like my days planned (and packed), but if I do that I will not have time for people. My God is a god that values relation – so I need to reflect that in my life too.
  • The goal of Christian living is not to achieve work life balance – but to use both work and life to God’s glory.
  • Christians should not compartmentalise work, life, leisure, ministry, family time – all of them should be ministry.
  • What you do matters, not how much – so sort out your priorities.
  • How you do it your work matters, not how much – so glorify God in all that you do.
  • Why you do your work matters, not how much – so identify your desires.

Church Camp 2017

Just came back from FOCUS church camp 2017 – this year topic was “Living Success – God’s Wisdom for Life”.

It’s interesting that God’s words keep on speaking to me even though I have been through camps / sermons / bible studies on Proverbs (the main book we’re studying for this camp) several time. In fact, I was a bit reluctant to go thinking that I know this stuff already – which is a very arrogant statement, as a Christian you could never be hearing His word enough.

My main take from this camp is – the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom, wise sayings, observations are not exclusive to the bible – other religions or even the non religious have theirs too and many are the same as Christians wisdom. However there is one big different – Christian wisdom is rooted on the fear of the LORD.

Having all the wisdom but not knowing the LORD is the same as not having wisdom at all. It can even be said the wisest thing someone can do is trust Jesus – God’s wisdom.

I don’t know how many FOCUS church camps left for me and my family, so I am trying to treasure this as much as possible. I throughly enjoyed talking to and getting to know the next generation in our Indo church – thing that I found difficult to do in the weekly church. I am thankful to be part of a faithful church.

Last day of 2016 in Ambon

Last day of 2016 will be a memorable one for me and for our family. At that time, we were in Ambon holidaying with Lina’s family, as usual we live at my in-laws house, it is a huge three levels house (bare with me this is an important details).

It is a custom with Christians in Ambon (Lina’s family included) to go church on the last day of the year for kebaktian tutup tahun. As family we were going to the 5pm service in 2 groups / cars.

As the 1st car was about to leave, they found that the road outside the house was blocked by government’s/military cars. There was a little bit of commotion as we were trying to get them to move their cars so we can get ours on the street.

Pa was upstairs at this stage as he would go later with the 2nd group, but he noticed the problem downstairs and he went down to help out (as he always does). At that time I was downstairs helping with opening the gate – since I have done my part, I was heading back up to prepare myself.

Me and pa passed each other on the steps – shortly after that I heard a noise and when I turned my head, to my horror I saw Pa fell down the steps, it happened so quickly I was shocked and couldn’t do anything to prevent it. Pa was lying down at the bottom of the stairs not moving, people downstairs were rushing to him as they heard the thud. Pa was bleeding from the cut on his head. He bled quite a lot.

Sui, San and some other people then took him to hospital after that (thank God that Sui can drive and the generous cousin that lend us her car). Thank God again that apart from the cut and some bruises, there were no major health issues.

The aftermath

After it happened, I apologised to Pa, I should’ve been more thoughtful when passing him on the steps – I should’ve let him hold on the rails or I should’ve stopped and let him pass first.

He quickly dismissed my apology, he said it was no one fault, he also didn’t see the accident as something “bad”. He said nothing happens that God doesn’t allow to happen, we may not know what God has in store from this accident, but it’s for our goodness.

To be honest, at that time I can’t see the good that comes from this accident. But maybe he’s right – at the very least God shows me how a Christian should handle a misfortune or suffering – he should handle it fully trusting in God’s goodness not by complaining or anger.

I am always amazed at my parents in laws for their simple yet deep and strong faith in God – they’ve experienced so much sufferings in their life and yet I never once I detect any resentment from them.

I thank God that we still have them around so me and my family so we can learn from their faith.

Mom’s stroke

Most of this post was written during my visit to Surabaya few days after the stroke happened, I didn’t manage to finish it and now 8 months later, I finally had a chance to.

Mom had a stroke on Friday, 29th April 2016 – just a mere few days after she came back from visiting us here in Sydney Australia.

On the day of the attack, in the morning, she started to feel pain on her right arms or back (can’t remember). And then later on, while walking, her right leg was “stuck”, that’s how she described it. She then fell and hurt her backside quite badly.

My family including mom were not that informed with diagnosing a stroke attack, hence they focused on treating the pain on the backside and arm by taking her to “tukang pijat” (traditional masseur). They self-diagnosed mom’s condition of losing control of her right side as her being tired (capek) or masuk angin as she has been travelling overseas for awhile. On a side note, please do have a read about recognising symptoms of stroke – it’s very easy to spot.

When my sister messaged me about mom, me and Lina had this fear that she was having a stroke (although we prayed that it wasn’t that) and did urge family back in Indo to take her to hospital asap. But things are not that straight forward with my family, they have this “family doctor” (more like dodgy doctor to me) and God knows why he suggested against taking her to the hospital (only in Indo – when doctor suggesting not going to hospital on critical case).

My sister finally admitted her to emergency ward on Saturday as her condition has turned to worse.

Much to our family dismay, the hospital didn’t seem to take mom condition urgently, apparently because it was Saturday, the specialists aren’t there – so they won’t do anything but monitor mom and told us to wait until the doctor came the next day (seriously you need a specialist to see a possible stroke patient?).

The details are a bit blur after this – but the doctor in hospital finally did confirm of a stroke attack. After that confirmation, I flew to Surabaya on Tuesday.

Here are my observations during my stay.

About doctors and hospital

So my mom is assigned two doctors – a heart doctor (dokter jantung) and a neurologist (dokter saraf). These 2 doctors don’t stay in the hospital the whole day – they only come to see the patients once a day (usually in the morning).

I wanted to see these doctors as soon as possible as to get better understanding on mom’s condition. The doctors already explained it to my sister and aunt, but I wanted to hear it from the source.

Getting hold of them proved to be quite frustrating. I don’t sleep in the hospital at night, so I try to come in the hospital very early to meet these doctors when they see mom. However it was trickier that I thought, sometimes they don’t come to the hospital at all, sometimes they come earlier than usual so I missed them.

When I finally met them, getting an explanation out of them is also quite interesting experience. The neurologist is quite friendly, he explained what happened quite clearly. The heart doctor on the other hand is quite challenging to talk to, he looks to be constantly irritable and doesn’t like answering questions.

So in summary, I found the hospital system here in Surabaya (RKZ hospital) is inefficient bordering dangerous (mom not immediately treated) and strangely organised (doctors don’t stay on hospital). I am somewhat thankful of Australian health system – sure it has its own issues but miles better than what I experienced here.

Diagnosis

Both doctors said that mom’s condition is quite concerning, there were blockages on the blood vessels on the neck that deliver blood to the brain. I asked whether mom needed operation to deal with the blockage and they suggested against it as it is high risk.

The neurologist said the best solution is for mom to lower cholesterol level to a very low level and maintain it for a number of years then hopefully the blockage will slowly go away.

I am quite sad with the recommendation simply because I know my mum, she isn’t someone who is willing to persevere. We were hoping for a quick fix like operation or medication.

Family Tension

Understandably, my family in Indo which consist of my aunt, sister and grandma were finding it hard to cope. Since my dad passing (and me no longer living with them), my mom is the de facto head of the family. Now that she is incapacitated, my aunt had to step up. I am grateful that she was there to hold the ship, but it did take a heavy toll on her.

As the tension was high – everyone seem to be getting to each other nerves. There were a couple of big and small clashes. I think to this day 8 months after it happened, the relationship has sadly changed a little bit for the worse.

I also saw a lot of selfishness out of everyone – me included. Our sinfulness is just magnified and brought into light in this difficult time.

Sharing the Gospel

When I was accompanying mom at the hospital, I made use the time to read the bible to her and praying with her. She was quite receptive and even asked for bible reading and prayer at times. My sister did her share of reading the bible and praying with her too.

Although I am happy that she was receptive but also at the same time I am sceptical knowing her. She believes that all religion is the same, although she considered herself as a Buddhist (well Taoist really but she can’t tell the difference), and she would gladly seek and accept prayers / thoughts / whatever from any religion if it is going to help her to get better. Although I am sceptical – I keep her in my prayers because maybe this is just a seed and one day it will grow – God knows.

Mom’s attitude

I was hoping that this situation made her question her life, maybe prompt her thoughts about after life, about getting right with God rather than getting things from God – unfortunately looking at our conversation months after the stroke doesn’t indicate a change on her attitude on life.

She kept on focusing on the negative aspect of the stroke – she whinged and whined a lot, she sees the stroke as a misfortune (“sial”), she’s impatient with the slow progress of her recovery.

My concerns

I am actually at lost on how to relate to her now.

I should be encouraging her to keep on working towards recovery, but also at the same time I think I also need to prepare her about the possibility of long recovery timeframe (years not months) and the level of recovery (just don’t expect 100% recovery).

Mom is so focused on recovery – but I am more concerned in the blockage, how can we get that monitored regularly – a second stroke would be fatal needless to say.

Of course, the biggest concern is her spiritual sickness – one day it will be too late for her to be right with God.