Friday, August 29, 2014

Christian Influence

SCRIPTURE: Acts 26:25-29
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: August 29th, 2014

I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:25-29)
The power of an influential life is this: When others see us, they wanted to be just like us. The power of a Christian testimony is this: When others see us, they wanted to be just like the Christ they see in us.

Influence moves people. Those who have been touched by Mother Teresa will faithfully learn and work like her. Those who have been impacted by the peace efforts of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. will advocate for the peace Gandhi and King had preached. Those who have been transformed by the ministry of Billy Graham would be on the way to evangelize and to share the gospel, just like the legendary evangelist. We like to become the people we like. The essence of leadership is that people would desire to follow the leader. If there are no followers, what good is a leader?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Vocationally Challenged

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 5:5
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: August 22nd, 2014

"So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, 'YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.'; " (Heb 5:5, NASB)

Key Point: Being vocationally challenged is another way of asking what we are called to do. Let us not become stuck in this endless cycle. This week, I propose that we do not need to elevate "calling" or "vocation" as a form of activity to be done. Instead, what is most important is cultivating our capacity and ability to listen. Perhaps, when we listen well, we will avoid letting our vocationally challenged posture become an end in itself.

When I was at Regent College, one of the most interesting terms I heard was "vocationally challenged." Next to the other three famous words "I Don't Know," fellow students and staff used "vocationally challenged" whenever they were asked about what they wanted to do with their lives. A friend of mine noticed that there were two groups of students. The first group came with a keen sense of calling that once they graduated, they would enter into ministry so and so. The second group was a little more common: those who are using theological education as a way to find their calling.

I countered with a third group: those who tried but still failed to find what they wanted. From my many encounters, I realized that students often come to Regent College thinking they can find answers to their spiritual search or theological learning. Instead, they leave with more questions. In fact, they will leave with more expertise to ask the very same questions in a more savvy manner. They become more confused. Like Humpty Dumpty who had a great fall, after a few years of de-constructing old theologies and archaic structural frameworks, they are at a loss on how to put them all together again.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Darkness - To Avoid or Embrace?

SCRIPTURE: Ps 88:1-2
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: August 15th, 2014
"1Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. 2May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry." (Ps 88:1-2)
Depression is in a way, a journey into darkness. For many, it is a descent not an ascent. What troubles me is the uncritical acceptance among people to avoid darkness at all costs.This week, I want to reflect on depression not simply as a descent into darkness. When we learn to embrace it with Christ, it can very well be an ascent to the light.

The world mourns the suicide-death of Robin Williams. Major news agencies and television channels cover the story feverishly. Social media buzzes with multiple sharing of posts. Pop stars chime in with their tributes and memories of the popular actor-comedian. Even scientists and medical professionals have entered the fray to discuss the causes, the fears, and the need to seek help during times of depression. The common thread among all is that depression is bad; it is something to be avoided like the Ebola virus; it is to be treated like a disease.  What is depression? Is it a walk in the dark?

A) Too Little Too Late?

Suppose it is a disease to be eradicated, sometimes I wonder why we talk about things only when it is too late. Like government agencies that tightened up their security checks when there is a breach. Or banks that install new procedures when a loophole was exploited. Or the revamp of some medical procedures as a result of a fatality. Or pharmaceutical companies that stop making profits off a controversial drug only after a major scandal. We are creatures that only learn when bad news arrives. Such a phenomenon is everywhere. Just take a look at the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks. Before the attacks, traveling was a breeze with laughable security systems. Post-9/11 travel went to the other extreme: Police state style frisks at various checkpoints.

Depression however is different, perhaps more sinister. It is a hidden demon waiting to terrorize the victim. It stays dormant most of the time, appears some of the time, and if allowed to conquer and to consume, it can lead to fatality. Despite the news about Parkinson’s Disease as part of the reason, depression is reported to be a big factor leading to the death of Robin Williams. As a hidden monster waiting to reveal itself, if left unchecked, it will torment, torture, and torch away one’s sanity and sensibility. Such is the case of a fellow student at Regent College back in 2005. Brilliant and dedicated, he took his own life, leaving behind a young wife. (Read my article on suicide and depression here.) His death stunned my Regent community. Very soon, instructions and emails were sent out to all about the need to come out and talk when depressed or when harbouring suicidal thoughts. For the loved ones of victims, any post-partum activities will come too little too late. We can do all the talk about depression. We can conduct classes on what to do. However, for the loved ones of suicide victims, such things are literally “too little too late.”

Saturday, August 9, 2014

On "Chronological Snobbery"

SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 4:2
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: August 8th, 2014

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." (Ephesians 4:2)

Things new are not necessarily superior. Things of old are not necessarily better.

I remember years ago the excitement at a school. What was life like 50 years ago? What kinds of fashion or things most defined that generation? The unveiling of the time capsule gave present day people a chance to glimpse at the past. After some searching for the actual location, the time capsule was found. When opened, there were old school uniforms, school magazines, books, newspapers namecards, and old photographs. The purpose of the time capsule was to communicate to future generations the life and culture of the times back then. It is usually a very exciting event as people go "woohs" and "wahs" about how life had progressed over the years.

I suppose a typical time capsule to describe our modern fast-paced Western society would comprise of some electronics, DVDs, picture of an electric car, green initiatives, newspapers, electronic tablets, some website pictures, an iPhone and a Samsung, and anything to represent what 2014 looks like. Perhaps we can include web addresses, the way we communicate, social media, and other creative things we can think of. Generally, when we look from a technological angle, things now are way more advanced than things then. This is evident from movies about some futuristic characters zapping through time to land sometime in a historical past. Like the Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, where the Starship Enterprise had to travel back in time to look for primitive whales in order to save themselves from potential destruction. As the crew traveled 300 years back into the year 1986, they mesmerized earthlings with their advanced communication devices, their technological prowess, and more classy ways of getting things done, like the classic Star Trek "Beam Me Up" effect. As a Star Trek fan, I saw everything from the standpoint of the Star Trek heroes, and becoming amused at the way 1986 people were so "primitive." I lived out a little bit of what CS Lewis had called: "Chronological Snobbery."

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A New Form of PTSD

SCRIPTURE: Galatians 5:13-15
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: August 2nd, 2014
13You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galatians 5:13-15)

Yesterday morning, a social media giant was down. For a few hours, Facebook users encountered frustrating times when trying to log into their accounts. "Sorry, something went wrong" has become the bane of many people. For some, they continue to try "" in the hope that maybe the problem was their own Internet connection. For others, they fled to the other social media titan "Twitter" to update their statuses. I was one of the latter ,who used Twitter to check on the status of Facebook. Ironically isn't it? Welcome to a new way of using Company A to check on Company B!

I marvel at the many messages due to this outage. Messages like:
(Picture Credit: @_youhadonejob)

  • [Ash@Infamous_PR] "It's official, society has finally lost it! Facebook goes down for 19 mins & FB users act like the world is going to end!#facebookdown
  • [Bizarre Lazar @BizarLazar] "Facebook went down this morning, marking the first time in five years some people actually saw their family."
  • People dialing 911 over Facebook outage (link)
  • and many more that puts sarcasm over those who panicked over the whole situation....
One user tweeted the following picture (on the right) that pokes fun at the whole thing. I shared my own tweets too under my Twitter handle @yapdates.
  • "Facebook down. Life goes back to normal." (link)
  • "Facebook is down. That may be a good thing for our real social life." (link)
  • "There's a new PTSD in town. Post-Traumatic SocialMedia Disorder." (link)

I moved from laughter (lol) toward sighs of incredulity (*facepalm*) as I watch how a Facebook outage appears like an end-of-the-world scenario. What has the world become? Calling an emergency hotline (911) just because one cannot post anything on Facebook?

Welcome to a new version of PTSD: Post-Traumatic SocialMedia Disorder