THOUGHTS

Some of my thoughts and musings on faith, life and ministry. All that is posted here are of my own opinions and do not necessarily represent any organisation, church or ministry that I am a part of/affiliated with. 

What Should We Make of "Pokemon Go"?

The international phenomenon known as "Pokemon Go" was officially release on the 6th of July earlier this year, and boy has it been stirring up a storm ever since. If I am not mistaken, this is probably one of the first games that incorporates both the virtual and physical world. The general concept of the game is players walk around in public hunting these "Pokemon". Different locations serve as different hotspots for "Pokemons", with some areas having more than others and the possibility of catching a rare Pokemon depends on location as well. Players can visit PokeStops (which are usually placed in places of worship, restaurants, monuments, parks etc) to get items and experience (to level up) for free and a player can pit their Pokemons against others at PokeGyms. 

Pokemon came to Malaysia a couple of days ago (August 6th I think) and to say that it is really catching on is... an understatement. I decided to give this game a try just to see what all the hype was about and I'll admit it can be VERY FUN making it REALLY ADDICTIVE! While I knew this game is a big hit, it did not prepare me for what I was about to see. I discovered the area I lived in had many PokeStops, so I ventured out to go get myself some free items. I thought it would pretty embarrassing to be seemingly wondering around aimlessly while staring at my phone but when I got there - there were PLENTY of people doing what I was doing! Some in groups, some alone... some were young children with their parents (the parents were playing too), some were in office attire etc. In fact, I noticed everyone (almost) is playing it everywhere (really)! 

The game is definitely fun, and you actually do not need to have any prior knowledge of Pokemon to enjoy it.  So the question that comes to mind then is... is Pokemon Go demonic, evil, dangerous, bad? Should Christians avoid playing Pokemon Go? Is this a tool of the devil to bring about the destruction and demise of people all around? 

 

IS THIS DEMONIC/OF THE DEVIL/EVIL? 

Some people have responded to the game's popularity by deeming it demonic. Firstly, because "Pokemon" literally means "Pocket Monster" in Japanese (where the game originated from). These "monsters" vary from cute to grotesque and unnatural - they surely must carry demonic symbolism! Let's address this first. Pokemon is a cartoon, and like many cartoons out there they contain elements of fantasy and imagination. Think of every cartoon that comes to mind, they each have different characters ranging from fantasy creatures, talking animals, to a mystical world etc. 

Now, unless we have substantial proof that Pokemon Go has diabolical subliminal messaging (that conflicts with the Christian worldview) and/or creators and writers who are outrightly anti-Christian, it would be unfair to pass judgement based on this but giving exceptions to other fictional content. Think of every movie that Disney and Pixar have produced: don't they all involve more or less the same things? In fact, if I were to use the same line of thought I would go so far to say VeggieTales, a popular Christian cartoon for children which features talking vegetables is "unnatural" as well and hence should be boycotted!

Some then bring up the fact that Pokemon has elements of evolution which is against Christian teaching... again not very solid reasoning. The key here is to distinguish between fantasy and reality. If we are able to draw clear boundaries on what is real and what is imaginary, this should not effect us. If we are to absolutely avoid everything that could potentially influence us in a negative manner or lead us astray... the solution will be to completely avoid all forms of entertainment altogether. 

Yet, that sounds silly doesn't it. Christians and churches that wage an all out war against culture may do really well in avoiding "contaminating" themselves but end up doing really poorly in reaching out to the world, which is a mandate for all Christians (Matthew 28:18-20). So on this note, I will say this: to me there is no substantial evidence that Pokemon Go is demonic unless proven otherwise. 

 

EDIT: A few people pointed out to me that there was an "interview" supposedly confirming that the creator of the original Pokemon series was motivated by his disdain towards his parents' Christian beliefs. That interview is a HOAX. Read the real interview here

 

IS IT BAD ENOUGH THAT WE SHOULD AVOID IT THOUGH?

However, I will say this: proceed with caution. The fact that it is really fun just means that the temptation to spend a ridiculous amount of time and energy (and even money) is real. This is like any other video/computer game: prolonged exposure to it can cause addiction, irritability, feelings of aggression and inability to concentrate on anything else. This is not just limited to Pokemon Go, but applies to social media, the internet, other online games, movies, series etc. 

The key here is moderation. While there is nothing outrightly sinister about Pokemon Go, it does come with its own risks and drawbacks. Just as the bible tells us: 

1 Corinthians 10:23 (NLT)
23 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.

The truth is, not many of us are disciplined enough to keep ourselves in check though. If you can, set a schedule for this game. Do not neglect your school, work, social, work and church responsibilities. If you have trouble setting boundaries, ask for help from your leaders, family members and friends. If you have been spending too much time on this game, allow other people to point it out to you without getting agitated. 

Take time to understand the risks and dangers that could potentially arise from this game. Search the internet for some safety tips, and parents read this for some helpful advice. 

 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Not every new thing that comes along should immediately be labelled as "demonic." I understand that people have concerns, but that does not warrant a knee-jerk reaction that many Christians have. The truth is, we are too quick to pass judgment on things that we do not understand or that does not suit our own preferences. This kind of attitude actually alienates us even more from a world that we are called to reach, and we should be looking to build bridges instead of more walls.

But I do acknowledge that there is a real enemy out there who is actively trying to lure people away from God (1 Peter 5:8). He is known as a deceiver, and he would often use either TEMPTATION or DISTRACTIONS (which is more effective in my opinion) to keep us away from the things of God. We must be aware of the spiritual world and battle that we are involved in as Christians, and must do our part to live wisely (Ephesians 6:10-18). 

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you play Pokemon Go:

  1. Does it cause me to neglect my studies/work?
  2. Does this game take away quality time from my friends and family?
  3. Do I find myself making decisions based on the game without taking into consideration of those around me?
  4. Do I find myself constantly thinking about the game which makes me unable to concentrate on anything else?
  5. Do I find myself feeling frustrated, agitated, annoyed, grumpy while/after playing this game?
  6.  Does this game actually make me not want to go to church, read my bible and/or pray? Do I find the quality and quantity of my time with God has reduced as a result of playing this game? 

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then take some time to evaluate with the help of a leader and/or parent whether it is wise to carry on playing this game. Think of Pokemon Go, and any other form of entertainment really, in "nutritional" terms. Physically, we need a balanced diet of protein, fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins etc which would ensure we are "healthy" in our bodies. The occasional indulgence in "bad foods" will not be detrimental to our health, but we cannot live on cake, chocolate, pizzas, potato chips and the likes alone. 

In the same way, our "spirits" need to be fed the right amount of things as well. We need time with God (church, bible reading and prayer) and time with our loved ones to ensure that we are "spiritually healthy." So by all means, play Pokemon Go if you like with a clear conscience - just remember that you are the one who owns the game and not be in place where the game owns you. 

 

For more practical information by Focus On The Family including a guide for families, a review, parental guides as well as a breakdown on Pokemon's worldview, click this link. 

 

 

The Way Of The World vs The Way of The Kingdom

This is the way of the world: we look at what others have that we don't, and are either filled with longing which leads to despair or a constant striving to get what we so desperately covet.. Or we develop a condescension based on a assurance that we are somehow better than those who lack the privileges we have.

This is the way of the kingdom: we look at what we have that others don't, and are filled with compassion which compels us to be the a vessel in which God can channel His blessing through us. We look to contribute to the needs of others. We understand that whatever that we have is a blessing and not a privilege, and we are simply stewards.

People of the world will always ask: "How can I be blessed? More of me me me me me."

People of the kingdom on the other hand: "How can I be a blessing? Less of me me me me and more of YOU."

The only time we ought to look down at someone is right before we reach to pick them up.

Is Christianity really A "Relationship" and Not A "Religion"?

"Christianity is a Relationship, not a Religion."

This is often used in Christian circles, while its intent is a noble one - but it can be misleading. What this saying is trying convey is that Christianity is more than just a bunch of "dos" and "don'ts", and following Jesus is not strictly bound up in rules and regulations. In essence it is more like having "a relationship" and not joining "a religion." Herein lies the problem: the relationship and religion aspect are not at odds: it is not one without being the other. Instead, it is more like two different sides of the same coin. 

You cannot quite say that Christianity is not a religion... because it is! You cannot deny that it is also a relationship: because we are dealing with a LIVING being: a Being that speaks, acts, has feelings, desires etc. Relationship, not just religion, actually have "rules" as well. Think about this: any romantic or plutonic relationships are based on mutual exchanges. This means that while in a relationship with someone, you have to take into consideration what actually pleases and displeases the other person. It is not all about our own preferences: you cannot want the benefits yet deny its implications.

There are many benefits of being in a romantic relationship, but the implication is we cannot do whatever we want. We cannot flirt with other people, we have to be somewhat accountable about our whereabouts, we have to be transparent with our partners. You cannot say "I want the companionship, but I still want the freedom to do whatever I want." Similarly, if you are friends with someone you will not intentionally keep doing something that makes them unhappy thinking that it is fine because after all it is a "relationship."

We are not responsible for how much God loves us, but we are in charge with how well please He is with us. God is not just our Santa Claus or fairy god mother (or worse, our ATM machine) where we only go to Him and expect Him to do whatever we want. A genuine relationship with God will not just seek the WORKS of God, but actually want to follow the WAYS of God as well. Loving God means obeying what He says (John 14:15, 23).

Loving God also means living the way Jesus wants, not doing whatever we want. God does not just want us to be happy, He actually wants us to be Holy. That is what the bible says! The bible actually has clear instruction on how we should live as Christians, and we would do well to be aware of that what that truly means. Read 1 Peter 1:13-25 and Ephesians 4:17-5:20. A real disciple on a true journey following Jesus does not need to have it all together - but must be willing to surrender it all. Jesus is either Lord of all, or not Lord at all. 

Some would contend: wait a minute! Is God not a God of Grace and Mercy? Has He not forgiven all our sins? Does not the Bible say that as long as we believe in our heart and confess with our mouths we are saved? (Romans 10:9) Yes that is all true, but read that scripture clearly: "we believe in our heart that Jesus was raised from the dead but we declare that Jesus is Lord." Declaring is not just paying lip-service, it is actually truly doing it. As they say - actions speak louder than words and you have to walk the talk.

Right believing leads to right living. Whenever a loving parent makes a decision for a child, he does it for the good of that child. There are times when a parent will give the child while he wants, there are times he will withhold. Sometimes he will comfort, other times he will discipline. Sometimes he will give liberty, but other times he sets boundaries. The parent knows why he is doing what he does, but the child has to believe that the parent knows better and has a heart to bless and not curse - and this in turns cause the child to live willingly by the parent's guidance.

We have to realise that we are limited in our own understanding, and how our sinful nature sometimes gets the better of us. We have to trust that God whose ways are higher than our ways, is more than just a mystical being who is aloof - He is in fact more like a personal parent who desires us to grow, mature and experience true blessing and fulfilment.

As Christians, we have to truly follow Jesus - and that means actually heeding the entire Bible, and not just the parts that we like. When you have truly experienced the transforming power and love of God in your life, I am confident that is enough motivation to want to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. A genuine relationship with Jesus will cause us to realise that His commandments are not a burden (1 John 5:2-3) but rather a pathway to a rewarding and fulfilling relationship with an Almighty God. 

If you struggle to accept or understand this, I would suggest you first examine yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5) - have you really embraced the Gospel in your life? Or maybe you need to open your heart and sincerely pray: "God, I want to truly know you, and not just know about you - reveal yourself to me." (Hebrews 11:6)

Grace is not a license to do whatever we want, it is the empowerment to live however Jesus wants

 

 

Why Does God Make Us Wait?

Waiting: we all have to do it at different times in our life. It could be waiting for a reply from someone (email, text etc), waiting in line at the shops, waiting to see the doctor, waiting for our plane/bus to arrive/depart - waiting is part of everyday life. Most of the time we are made to wait for legitimate reasons: a person could be occupied and had no chance to read our message, our food is still cooking in the kitchen, there is still an ongoing appointment, the flight crew could be still cleaning up the plane and prepping it for boarding and take off etc. 

Other times, the process of waiting is made longer due to neglect or inefficiency (orders getting mixed up, appointments taking longer than they should, staff not being responsible) and that is when things get really frustrating - when we feel like we have been waiting a lot longer than we should. We have all been there... I once waited for a flight that was delayed for 8.5 hours. 

For those who have been following Jesus for a while, we know this to be true as well: there are times we have to wait on God. It could be for a variety of things: waiting for answered prayer, for a breakthrough, for healing, for provision, for direction, for a dream to come true and so forth. 

Sometimes what we are seeking comes almost instantaneously, but other times we are made to wait excruciatingly long that it almost seems like it is never going to happen. Why does God make us wait? Does He have good reason? Is He too busy answering other prayers? Or is he like the frustrating officer at a governmental office (inefficient?) 

 

1. WAITING BUILDS OUR RELIANCE ON GOD 

I believe the reason God sometimes makes us wait is just so that we will continue to learn how to rely on Him - and only Him.  Imagine if all our prayers were answered immediately, the tendency would be that we will only go to God when we want or need something - it is human nature! If this were to be the case, prayer would not be an act of seeking and connecting with God. It will be like simply going to an ATM Machine and keying in the correct combination to get what we want.

If God answered our prayers quickly and swiftly imagined how spoiled all His children would be. Have you ever seen a spoiled child behave when he does not get what He wants? He moans, whines, throws a tantrum in an effort to get his parents to succumb to his wishes. While we are considered children of God, God desires us to be mature as well. Jesus only spoke of us having childlike faith - not childlike behaviour!  

Waiting produces that kind of maturity that God desires, a kind of maturity which only comes by actively spending time with God and learning more about who He is. Often when we are waiting on God we can be very spiritual... We spend more time worshipping Him, reading His word, praying. When we are waiting on God our hearts are actually more open to the things of God; and the temptation to grow cold and complacent is when things actually start going well for us. Think about it. 

God desires a relationship with us more than anything else. In fact, He created us to be in relationship with Him! The precious time spent with Him while waiting definitely outweighs the actual time waiting because in His presence we are able to find all that we need: peace, wisdom, revelation, clarity, strength, perseverance etc. 

Lamentations 3:25 (NKJV)

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.

 

2. TRUST GOD - TO BE GOD

One thing I have realised is that God's delay is not His denial. We have to trust that God knows best and trust in His timing. God as our loving Father wants what is best for us, and in His infinite wisdom He is able to discern when the right time is. Imagine a 14 year old wanting to drive a car. His father would not deny this kid the opportunity because he is mean - but simply because the father knows the kid is not ready for that kind of responsibility yet. 

Many great men in the bible had to wait. Joseph waited 13 years before his dream came true. Abraham waited 25 years for a child to come AFTER God promised him one. Moses waited 40 years before he became the man to free Israel from Egypt. David waited 12 years before he became king. Jesus waited 30 years before He started his ministry. 

If you are waiting on God, guess what: you are in good company! Do not be too obsessed with the destination, just enjoy the journey. In due time, God will come through. Do not worry, His timing is always PERFECT; even when it seems like it is too late. Just ask Lazarus. 

 

3. GOOD... OR GOD?

There comes a point of time of course the wait could be too long and the outcome is not what we wanted... and the waiting was all done in vain. What do we make of this if it happens? How do we process it? 

God's nature is not to withhold good things for no good reason, in fact the bible tells us that because He has already given His best (Jesus); He will now not hold back on ALL of the rest! (Romans 8:32) So God does not want to give us the best things in life, but things that we think are good may not necessarily be the best for us. 

In Luke 11:1-13, my favourite scripture on prayer; Jesus teaches how we should be bold and shameless when presenting our requests. He sums up His teaching by saying:

Luke 11:9-12 (NIV)

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

It sounds like a certain thing: just ask and you will receive! Whatever that you want! BUT... sometimes we do not realise that while we think we are asking for a "fish", we in our limited understanding are asking for a "snake". We believe sincerely that we are asking for an "egg", but in reality we are asking for a "scorpion". 

I know this for sure: anything that seems good by natural or worldly standards but in actuality draws us away from God - is not a good thing. That job may seem really wonderful, that girl or guy may seem heaven sent... but if it comes in the way of our relationship with God...

God sometimes denies us the good things, so that He can give us the BEST (God) things. This is where point (1). and (2). comes in. I can promise you this - God knows what He is doing, and He always has a greater plan. 

Rejection is simply a redirection from God.
God has 3 answers when we ask Him for something:

1. Yes
2. Wait
3. No, because I have something better - or I have a greater plan.





Making New Year's Resolutions? Think S.M.A.R.T.

IMG_2338.JPG

The New Year is upon us! Anybody else amazed at how quickly time flies? I personally find the first half of the year usually goes by quite slowly but once the mid point mark is passed, things just seem to accelerate exponentially (or am I just the only one?). 

A new year often brings new resolutions: it is something we vow to ourselves (and sometimes carelessly to others) despite us knowing that the chances of us sticking to it are as slim as Leonardo Di Caprio winning an Oscar (jokes). 

Why are we not able to keep our resolutions? First of all, we probably make way too many. First step is to change that: think of maximum three and just keep it at that for the time being. Secondly, it may be because the resolutions we make are not S.M.A.R.T ... I explain further below:

 

1. Specific

Have specific goals for yourself. Sometimes having too generic aims are not helpful, for example: "I want to be a better person." / "I want to be fitter." / "I want to be richer" / "I want to be smarter." 

The problem with these statements are they are too broad and cannot be quantified objectively, which leads to...

 

2. Measurable

What is a measurable goal? Something that can be properly defined and determined. A measurable goal would be something like: "I want to lose 5 KG" / "I want to get at least 5As for my grades" / "I want to save XXX amount of money"/ "I want to serve in a ministry at church" / "I want to be able to bench 100KG by year end (me)."

Not only are these statements more specific, but they are measurable as well. Why is this important? It helps you clarify "the win" or "the aim". Imagine playing a game or sport where you did not know what the objective was? How frustrating would that be??

If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. - Zig Ziglar

3. Action-Oriented

What actions are you going/willing to take in order to achieve your resolutions? Intentions alone are not enough, it has to be accompanied by action. As they say "don't just have a wishbone, grow a backbone."

Goals will need effort in achieving them, hence active steps need to be taken. Do what you need to do: adjust your lifestyle, be more disciplined, set aside time, cut down on certain things, find someone to keep your accountable, find a mentor, sign up for a course (and stick to it) etc. 

 

4. Realistic

This is important: do not set goals where you know you cannot realistically achieve them. While most of us would have the sense not to do so, sometimes the inner idealist in us takes over. However giving yourself crazy goals is merely setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.

If you struggle reading the bible and praying, giving yourself a goal of doing it an hour everyday is probably going to be more of a deterrent than inspiration. If you only earn a certain amount of money and you have other commitments, resolving to save half of your salary is not going to work. If your grades are not that great and you want to hit straight As in your first semester: probably not going to happen. 

 

5. Time-Based

Lastly, make your goals time-based. Without a timeline, we not only lack an effective method for tracking; we would most probably not be disciplined enough to keep to it as well. 

So then, what is a Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, Time-based resolution? Here are some examples:

  • I want to lose 5kg in 6 months, and will commit to exercising at least twice a week. 
  • I want to save XXX amount of money by the end of the year, and I will put aside at least 30% of my salary every month to achieve that.
  • I want to improve my grades in school by at least 20% by the first semester, and will commit 2 hours a day to study and homework
  • I want to draw closer to God and know Him more, so I will spend at least 15 minutes a day reading the bible and another 5 minutes praying, and will try to increase that after 3 months. 
  • I want to be a nicer person, so for the coming year I will endeavour to give out words of encouragement to at least 2 people daily

 

If you achieve your goals, CELEBRATE!

If you do not, EVALUATE!

If you do achieve certain goals either by the time you set (or even before), celebrate that little victory and push yourself to achieve more! If you do not however, fret not: just take some time to reflect and evaluate what were things that hindered you and what are things you can do or adjust to ensure you achieve your future goals

 

Happy goal setting and Happy New Year!