Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is There Hope for Education?

This quote expresses my concern about modern education so well. I could not have articulated it any better. While the text may seem to be attributed to Chris Hedges, some of the ideas in the quote are from Chris Hebdon and William Dersiewicz.

I admit. I had to rub my eyes to read the statement slowly and intentionally, and each time I do that, I end up saying: "Wow!" conrade

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ten Things I Learn About Using FaceBook

I have been thinking recently about how social media has changed the way we live. Years ago, I was still happily maintaining different emails for work, for home, for Church, and for other social groups. Nowadays, one Facebook account essentially blurs the line. Perhaps, forever. I confess that I was a social media skeptic initially. I held off being active on Facebook, and resisted Twittering for two years. Then I caved. Still, there was a little reticence in my participation. After all, I thought that social media is more a waste of time and a platform for self-publicity, and worse, narcissistic sharing of one's life that paints only the nice parts of what we want to share. Authenticity is painted almost always with a brush of sunshine and smiles.
Facebook me or else..

Life is not like that. I reflect a little bit about social media today, and here are ten things I learn about using Facebook. I use (+), (-), and (+/-) to indicate the somewhat positive, negative, or neutral of using FB.

  1. Number of Friends Do not Equal to Your Worth (+/-)
    I look at some of my Facebook friends and their friends exceed a thousand people! I know of some movie stars whose friends run in the hundreds of thousands. With my tiny group of friends, am I worth less than these popular friends? There are times in which I feel like I am an unknown. There is always a temptation to think of ourselves as less worthy on the basis on the lack of friends or the lack of interaction with existing friends. Yet, the fact is that not everyone is on Facebook. Maybe, it reflects the peers of mine who are mostly Facebook averse. After all, Facebook is a recent phenomena, and one needs not be surprised that numbers of friends on the social media varies for all kinds of reasons, and that does not determine one's worthiness as a friend.
    Still, I admit it makes me question myself when someone else posts a simple word, "Happy" and receives 100 likes, while my hard work in presenting some truth hardly merits any responses.
  2. So Close But Yet So Far (-)
    It takes a click on the button "Accept" in order to connect with a Facebook friend. One can share lots of details on Facebook, but at the end of it all, the person is still a distance away. No emoticon can equal a handshake, a smile, or a warm hug.
  3. You are What You Reciprocate (+/-)
    Years ago, some of my friends told me about the time needed to invest on social media before reaping any dividends. The minimum was 20 minutes a day. Now, I think it is measured in hours. As I observe the interactions happening on Facebook, there is an underlying principle that the key to participation begins with you. If you participate in commenting on other FB friends, there is a higher likelihood of of reciprocal comments on your own posts.
  4. You Truly Get to "Keep In Touch," Finally! (+)
    I label this a plus. It is so common to say to one another to keep in touch. Although we take down our telephone numbers or email addresses, chances are, unless there is a need, most people have very little incentive to actually keep in touch. Like, why keep in touch with a friend from Australia unless you happen to visit Australia?

    FB has changed that. It has become easier to keep in touch, as everyone regardless of their location in the planet sees the same posts at the same time on the same platform.
  5. Narcissism Without Regret (-)
    One peeve of mine is to see a lot of people posting only their strengths, their good news, nice pictures, and suppress their other side. Like movie stars with heavy makeup, many FB personal postings are simply about the "nice" parts of themselves. One case in point is the "LIKE" facility in Facebook posts. There is no UNLIKE button. Perhaps, this has swayed people's ability to talk negatively about themselves.
  6. Privacy? What Privacy? (-)
    I am increasingly skeptical about the kinds of privacy arguments some people have. Each time Facebook changes their privacy settings, some people vehemently complain. Yet, having looked at the kinds of information people share willingly on social media, I cannot help but laugh at the whole irony of it all. People are exposing themselves more than what anything FB can or cannot do.
  7. People Just Like to Share Themselves (+/-)
    This follows from the last point. I am amazed how much information people reveal about themselves. I am still old-school, where I do not want to expose all my life on social media. I notice that people do like to share about themselves. I have seen people confessing in public about them playing with their digital gadgets when sitting on the toilet, and for that matter, revealing intimate parts of their diet, their health conditions, and even their relationships with other friends!
  8. An Evolving Cultural Mixpot (+/-)
    I am still trying to understanding the way different cultures play out on the FB platform. Some people are prolific indeed. They write short quotes that are witty and compelling. Others basically rant away like speaking to a dead log. Still there are others who are caught in the deep throes of sadness and talks in a way that only their "real" friends understand. Across continents, across nation states, across religious and non-religious persuasions, it is hard to perceive the true meaning of the posts. There are others who simply forward news articles without sharing anything about themselves or their opinions. There are also those who share so much of themselves that reading them makes me feel like I am intruding on their privacy. Here is what I do not understand.

    Why do some FB "stars" hardly say anything but the followers and responses come fast and furious. Each comment they make breaks records. Some share 50 posts without a single comment. Others make one comment and gets more than 50 likes or responses. Strange.
  9. High in Contact but Low in Context (+/-)
    It is hard to understand people apart from what they type. FB has a powerful way to enable people to make contact with one another, but very inappropriate for any indepth discussions. I call this "High in contact but low in context." FB lacks the basic nuances of sound, facial expressions, or verbal articulations of a real heart to heart communications.
  10. There's a New Addiction in Town (-)
    Finally, how we use FB on a day-to-day basis reflects our level of addiction to it. If you update FB once a day only, you are probably old-school. If you update as and when you have time, or during specific FB time of the day, you are trying to balance real life with social media life. If you are constantly checking or updating your FB status more than once every hour, I call you a FB Addict.

    One classic test of whether you are a FB addict is this: What are you going to be doing when FB is down?
A Negative Thought from the naysayers (From

I know, I know. The higher number of (-) may probably explain that I am old school. I'm still learning ok?


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to Overcome Prejudice? (12 Ways)

Prejudice is bad. Prejudice is unhealthy. Prejudice is an evil that not only pulls the rug off the victim for no good reason other than that person being different from us. Racial prejudice judges one's worth based on the colour of their skin. Language prejudice pits one language (typically oneself) above all others. Religious prejudice downplays all other religions save one: your own. Sexual prejudice means one gets hired or fired on the basis of gender, transgender, or sexual orientation. In many countries, prejudice in whatever form, manner or flavour is generally bad.

(Credit: PTK)
Even in societies where democracy is widely practiced, there will still be degrees of prejudicial treatment of one another. According to Robert Sena, a National Hispanic Missionary of the Southern Baptist Convention, prejudice is defined as: "an opinion formed without taking the time and care to judge fairly. A biased opinion, attitude, or tendency formed unfairly or unjustly." Blacks have encountered racial prejudice for a long time, and it takes the martyrdom of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and the bold defiance of Rosa Parks to begin a process of equality for the blacks. Asian Americans are also experiencing a gradual movement toward greater equality, with the rising stardom of the basketball sensation, Jeremy Lin, bringing to light the stark unequal status through racial discrimination in sports. Even in hiring, while sexual, age, and all other forms of discrimination are illegal, it is common to see employers trying to stay legal in the eye of the law but practise preferences that are prejudiced in some way. Sena, a Hispanic who has suffered through racial discrimination in America has this to offer with regards to learning how to overcome prejudice where we are. It all begins with our own inner selves. Sena provides us 12 ways to do just that. The words in italics are mine. The rest of the 12 ways are Robert Sena's as found in his article, "Overcoming Prejudice" in the excellent book, "Effective Men's Ministry" edited by Phil Downer.

  1. "Stop demanding that everyone be like you."
    Christians need to be humble to learn, and behaving in any superior way smacks of arrogance.
  2. "Stop insisting that everything be done your way."
    Sometimes, this is very much a result of impatience. Cultivate the very Christian value of waiting, and being patient with one another, especially those who are different from us. 
  3. "Repent of your prejudice toward other races and ethnic cultures."
    Such negative attitudes need to be repented before the Lord and before one another. Don't wait for something embarrassing to happen before you do something about it.
  4. "Seek opportunities to make friends across racial and cultural lines."
    We can start where we are. Many opportunities appear to us in our day to day lives.
  5. "Learn to celebrate your own culture."
    Know what our culture is good at. Know what it is not so good at. The key is to understand our culture as accurately as possible.
  6. "Learn to celebrate other cultures."
    This is one of the strengths of multicultural societies. We get to eat one another's food, enjoy entertainment and many other unique features.
  7. "Understand the difference between a process orientation and a task orientation. "
    America is very much task-oriented that puts merit-based skills above others. This has to be explained clearly and frequently when it comes to getting the job done, so that there will not be misunderstanding about skill over prejudice.
  8. "Be willing to allow minority persons to fail."
    Sometimes, minority races are simply shy or uncertain about how well they are being accepted. Encourage them. Give them an atmosphere where they feel safe and secure to do their best.
  9. "Differentiate between race and culture."
    In an age of interracial marriage and relations, this is getting to be more and more difficult. Race is something we cannot change, something physical and external. Culture is beyond. Culture can be changed.
  10. "Help to remove the barriers of racism and prejudice."
    Many acts of racism is a result of a 'learned' behaviour. They can be unlearned. That requires intentionality.
  11. "Help to remove the barriers of racial and ethnic myths and stereotypes."
    Be ready to speak out on stereotypes and do whatever you can to eliminate errors in such myths.
  12. "Help to remove the barrier of fear."
    Perhaps, in every person there is a temptation to fear being unaccepted. Unless we feel we are genuinely accepted for who and what we are, there will always be fear. Let the love of God rule in our hearts, to free us to love and be loved as we are.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Four Kinds of Worshipers

"Guard your step when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few." (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2)

Yesterday, I preached on Ecclesiastes 5:1-7. In it, I mentioned the four kinds of worshipers who come to Church each Sunday. The basic theme is basically learning to prepare our hearts to come before an awesome God. Be awed by God. Recognize the awesomeness of God. Go out and live awesomely for God.

One of the basic peeves I have is the nonchalant or irreverent manner some people come to worship. During the singing, I notice that many do not sing. Some sing only certain pet favourites while others simply shun the entire singing. I put together four images of the different kinds of worshipers we typically see.

1) INDIVIDUALISTIC (I obey what I pick)

Instead of being humble and open to worship God, there are some worshipers who simply choose what songs to sing, when to sing, and the choices are made on the sole basis of personal preference. They hum when they want. They are easily irritated by the one next to them who happen to be singing too loud. Some even get easily upset when the Powerpoint slides are out of order, or of a different shade from their personal liking. Instead of their love for God that determines the level of their singing, they depend on their own moods as a primary gear control. Such people pick and choose what they want to sing. Individual preferences triumph.

2) SUPERIORISTIC (I Pick God Obey)

This second group of worshipers is worse than the first kind. Here, God become their servant or genie. Instead of worshiping God, their basic measurement of worship is by self-experience. Songs are there to uplift them, instead of them lifting God up in praises together with the rest of the congregation. It is an attitude of telling God,

"You better be grateful I even bothered to come in the first place!"

Such a superiority attitude puts God as slave, while personal preference is master. This is typical of the busy high achiever, who comes to church only because they expect something to be done for them.


The third group of worshipers is the one who is uninvolved at all. These people can be spouses who are unwilling to come to church in the first place, or children forced by their parents to come. They come with an attitude that mirrors their lack of concern for anything associated with God or with Church. Some come basically to wait for the after service refreshments, or to meet friends. Some even see the worship service as merely a precursor to their main event: Lunch!


The fourth group of worshiper is the learner. This kind of worshiper asks God to grant them a refreshing newness in things of old. They do not see old stories as boring or nothing new to be learned. Instead, they ask constantly for new eyes to see old truths. They are content to come with an attitude that prefers a heart without words rather than words without a heart.

The words of the song, "You are Beautiful Beyond Description" is a mark of this kind of worshiper.
You are beautiful beyond description,
Too marvelous for words,
Too wonderful for comprehension,
Like nothing ever seen or heard.
Who can grasp your infinite wisdom?
Who can fathom the depth of your love?
You are beautiful beyond description,
Majesty enthroned above.

And I stand, I stand in awe of you.
I stand, I stand in awe of you.
Holy God, to whom all praise is due,
I stand in awe of you.

You are beautiful beyond description,
Yet God crushed You for my sin,
In agony and deep affliction,
Cut off that I might enter in.
Who can grasp such tender compassion?
Who can fathom this mercy so free?
You are beautiful beyond description,
Lamb of God, Who died for me.


I like what Kelly Sparks say about worship, that "God is not moved or impressed with our worship until our hearts are moved and impressed by Him."

How do we begin to journey there? Think less of ourselves and more of God, and strangely, God will make us aware of how much He thinks of us. Let us come to God just as we are. Let us remember that God knows us, and our needs much more than we ourselves know of our own needs. Is that not a reason to cast all our cares and burdens on God? Is that not a reason to worship God freely, knowing that our needs will be taken care of according to God's own time?

May the Lord help us to be the obedient worshiper.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's Pentecost Sunday!

A hymn for Pentecost Sunday!

Author: Isaac Watts
(English Theologian, 1674-1748)

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning powers;
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of ours.

Look how we grovel here below,
Fond of these trifling toys;
Our souls can neither fly nor go
To reach eternal joys.

In vain we tune our formal songs,
In vain we strive to rise;
Hosannas languish on our tongues,
And our devotion dies.

Dear Lord! and shall we ever live
At this poor dying rate?
Our love so faint, so cold to Thee,
And Thine to us so great?

Come, Holy Spirit, heav’nly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning powers;
Come, shed abroad the Savior’s love
And that shall kindle ours.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tuition Fees Increases

Currently, the big news in Canada is the tuition fee increase in the province of Quebec. In particular, it is the student protest that is getting the headlines.

I remember myself experiencing a transition more than 20 years ago. In my first two years as a University student, I pay only a few hundred dollars of tuition fees. While that is only a small percentage of the total fees, I have to sign some government papers that essentially entitles me to receive a cheque that pays off the majority of the actual fees to the University. In my third year, there was a major shift in terms of government funding. The hand out has turned into interest-free loans. That means I get to apply for bank loans from local banks, interest free for a short period of time, payable the year after I graduate. The amount came up to be a few thousand dollars. After my graduation, I got a job and promptly paid off the bank loans in less than a year. Piece of cake. Those were times of low tuition and high education subsidy. Of course, my generation experiences less than my predecessors, who pay even less tuition.

Student Protesters in Montreal (Credit: National Post)

Those of us in other provinces outside Montreal will be appalled at the protests based on at least two reasons. First, Quebec students pay the lowest tuition when compared to the rest of the country. Second, the increase in tuition fees are considered pittance compared to the kinds of increases in other provinces. Take a look here.

My initial thinking is that, if anyone needs to protest, it is the rest of Canada more than Quebec. The weighted average annual tuition for Canadians is $5535. Montreal students only pay $3793, which is way lower than the national average. What then is the problem?

The problem lies not in the final number but the sudden jump in costs. If you have been paying $1968 per year, think about what it means to be suddenly paying $3793. That's almost double. It is not the increase per se but the quantum and the suddenness of it all.

A) Double Whammy on the Education Front

Fast forward twenty years later, the picture has changed. Tuition fees are much higher than before. Subsidies are much lower than before. That is a double whammy which students bear the brunt of the costs. We understand that professors need to be paid. School facilities need to be maintained. Equipment need to be upgraded. Governments want to cut costs.  With governments around the world tightening their belts, and with lesser money being channeled to education, students are now saddled with thousands of dollars of debt the moment they receive their degree. My daughter tells me that one of her teachers only managed to repay her student loans after many years of work. Thanks to a blogger friend, I came across this article that gives a fresh take on the current student protests in Montreal.

It is also easy to point a finger at our existing generation about them having a sense of entitlement. I have heard that from many of my contemporaries. Initially, I too have jumped on the same bandwagon. Now I see with eyes from the other side as well. Before any one generation points a finger at another generation, remember that backgrounds are different. Times are different. Life was very much different, as far as tuition fees are concerned.

  • Government subsidies for education thirty years ago are more generous than existing ones.
  • Tuition fees back then are much cheaper than present times.
  • Market forces in the past are way different from this current era.
B) At Least Understand The Students

If you do not support any forms of student protests, that is fine. In fact, I am all for non-violence and for a return to normalcy as much as possible. Having said that, the minimum any man in the street can do is to understand the predicament of students. I want to speak out for students primarily because I feel that education is a core part of any society. Students have a right to a proper education. Students have a right for government money to go into the educational fund. If governments aim to cut educational budgets, they must also make sure they register a tax cut for these persons when they enter the marketplace. 

As the media focuses more on protests they call "violent," and how such students have been "arrested" like criminals, and how they are burdening the justice system, let us not forget that students are not doing these for fun. In any violence, there needs to be two parties. An instigator and a reactor. The trouble is, there are pockets of both students and the police that are guilty of both.

I think this tuition fee problem reflects a deeper systemic issue. It reflects how government does things. It reflects the different generational differences on the word "entitlement." It reflects a world of changing values that we are only beginning to see. It is not primarily about money. It is about agreeing how money is to be spent.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Of Beauty, Eternity, and Worship

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

A beautiful world outside. An eternity inside. Man is still unable to understand all of what God has done.

A) Of Beauty and Of Eternity

This verse is the key theme for today's devotional.  Everything is beautiful, but only in its time, in particular, God's time. Everything covers things both external and internal. Everything can mean whatever we see with our eyes, or things that remain unseen. Even our imagination is a 'thing.' In God's time they will be made beautiful.
"That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful." (Ninon de L'Enclos) 

Next up, is 'eternity in the hearts of men.' This gives us a clue that men is created and given a special place in life. They last longer than things. Their souls are of precious essence. They are able to comprehend things far beyond any other ordinary entity. Sometimes, I wonder if all our acts of worship are recorded somewhere in the celestial realms. Is God remembering all the words we sing, all the good deeds we dedicate back to Him? I believe He does. If an act of worship in our small ways, can be like a ripple, it will generate waves after waves of worshiping and culminating in glorifying God.

Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” (Sean O'Casey)
B) Of Desire to Worship

What is most pertinent is the ability of men not simply to worship, but to desire to worship. Throughout the history of Israel, whenever there is an absence of God in the life of Israel, there is non-stop struggle. As they build altars to their idols, not only are they digging their own spiritual graves, they are angering the Almighty God, who continues to keep His Covenant even though His people has forgotten theirs. This desire to worship is evident from the third part of the verse.

C) Of An Incomprehensible World

Beauty cannot be understood, only admired, marveled, and appreciated. Eternity cannot be measured, only glimpsed. While beauty is seen, eternity is very much unseen. While beauty is fleeting, eternity appears in a strange mix of dual affirmations of now here, but not yet here. Eternity is a difficult to understand concept or reality. Yet, our hearts yearn for something deeper all the time, if not now, surely later.

Men cannot comprehend, cannot "fathom" what God is doing. Yet, it amazes me on how men's behaviour reflects exactly the opposite. Take the example of Job. Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar are all philosophers who spout the religious theories of their time, that as long as one does good, one will be rewarded. As long as one does evil, one will be punished. Their logical conclusion to Job's suffering is essentially this: Job must have sinned.

Throughout the generations, the question, "Why people have to suffer?" continues to plague all nations. Some religions build their entire philosophy on the meaning or the explanation of suffering.

Sometimes, I wonder why people when they get all the goodies in life, when they win the jackpot, or when they receive some good turn in life, have they similarly stopped to ask: "Why must it be me to win this grand prize?"

Qohelet, the writer of Ecclesiastes brings us through a deeper search for meaning in trying to make sense of time, and life within the short span of time. He shows us glimpses of eternity through reflecting the conditions of our hearts. Perhaps, there is a clue here. Men is not designed to find satisfaction in possessions or in domination of time and space. Men is designed to worship, and to find their greatest meaning in worshiping the One True God. Miss it, and we will continue to miss the real meaning of life.

D) Worship is Indescribable

Perhaps, for those of us high achievers, we can be easily frustrated when things do not turn out our way. Let those be times in which we can be humble.

Perhaps, for those of us low achievers, or feel like we get the wrong end of the bargain each time, we can be discouraged when we see others more successful than us, and we start to ponder what significance we have.

Perhaps, we are neither high or low achievers, but just a simple traveler taking life as it comes. There will come a time where we will be asking: "What is life all about?"

Here is my thought. We are created not primarily to work. We are created for God. Searching for meaning is a noble thing. Finding significance in life is a necessary thing. Yet, those efforts will come to naught if we fail to recognize that "who we are created to be" is more important than the things we are trying to do.

In response to the beauty we see, let us praise God. In response to the ability to glimpse eternity, let us glorify. In response to the many unfathomable things in this life and the next, let us worship.

"To be converted to faith in Jesus Christ is to return to the worship of the true God, and to dethrone all rivals to his authority." (Graham Kendrick)
Come Pentecost Sunday, may the Spirit helps us to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Seven Habits of the Burning Heart

Burning hearts remind me of the two men in the gospel of Luke: "They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32). When the Word of the Lord illumines our minds and opens our hearts, we get the special feeling of being strangely warmed like John Wesley's Aldersgate experience, or like the two men on the journey to Emmaus. The following list of seven habits are adapted from John Calvin's seal of a heart burning for God, as well as E. Stanley Ott's book, "Twelve Dynamic Shifts for Transforming Your Church."
  1. Habit of DEVOTION: to grow in relationship with Jesus through worship and devotion. 
  2. Habit of WELL-BEING: to seek physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
  3. Habit of BUILDING FAMILY/FRIENDSHIPS: to build relationships within families and friendship circles.
  4. Habit of FELLOWSHIP:  to spend time with other believers and community groups.
  5. Habit of STEWARDSHIP : to manage one's money, sexuality, power, time, and speech
  6. Habit of MINISTRY/MISSION: to nurture other people in well-being and discipleship
  7. Habit of WORK:  to offer up our work to god and standing up for Jesus in all situations.

Grow spiritually beginning with any of the seven habits. Cultivate them. Develop them with the help of the Holy Spirit. Our aim in growing is in being blessed to bless others, and ultimately, bring glory to God.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What do Men Lack Most?

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 23 May 2012

Back in 1993, Dr Gary Rossberg traced out four of the biggest pressures and four of the major challenges for the male gender in our society. Talk to most men, and they will agree to at least some of the challenges that face them. Those trying to climb the career ladder under the pretext of bringing home the bread and butter, are at a deeper level looking for significance. Even those who are struggling with barely making ends meet are hopeful that one day, they will be able to start climbing like everybody else. Then there are those who struggles with the issue of money and finances. With greater earning power, they are more able to control their own wants and desires. Better finances mean greater ability to be in charge. Go to the restaurant and the rich can ask the waiter to run a second mile with a bigger tip. Without money, one quickly gets ushered out of the restaurant.

Then there is the area of relationships. I have seen many men who are quiet when out in social circles. They speak minimally and for many, usually the wives talk more. They have a tendency to withdraw, and to be passive. The older they get, the more passive they become. This invariably affects their relationships too. This third pressure leads automatically to sexual temptations. Without a healthy circle of people to relate to, men are particularly vulnerable to sexual temptations. Underlying the sexual temptation is a desire to conquer, to compete against one's fantasies.

The major reason why men typically go wayward as they fail to handle these pressures and challenges adequately is due to this: Lack of friends.

Table attributed to Gary Rossberg, in (Vibrant Men's Ministry Resource Kit, Denver: Promise Keepers, 1996, p9)

Without friends, one spends time simply working and climbing the career ladder. One focuses on making more money. One is unable to relate well since one does not have many friends in the first place. Worse, without friends, one's relational need is extremely acute. Husbands who do not have a good relationship with their wives are particularly vulnerable. The book of Ecclesiastes is a reminder of our need to relate to people.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)

The writer of Ecclesiastes has identified a key need in human beings. Two are better than one. With friends, one can be helped up. With friends, one can keep warm. With friends, living on this earth becomes more bearable.

Our modern world has become more lonely simply because we have lack of friends. Without friends, the difficult becomes more difficult, and the tough becomes impossible. It takes friends to encourage us, and to give us a sense of purpose and hope. I like this particular saying about what friends do.

"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words." (Source unknown)

One advantage of having friends is to be able to get a frank feedback of self. The Roman Catholic theologian Mary Hunt writes,

"Friendship is an honest mirror, but it must be allowed to reflect or its power is lost." (Mary Hunt)

Every man needs friends. A healthy person has at least 3-5 good and close friends they can openly share their lives with. This is something many men lacks. How many friends do you have? I do not mean Facebook friends or acquaintances. I mean friends you meet regularly face to face.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Living with a Magnificent Obsession

"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting." (Acts 2:1-2)

Pentecost Sunday is in a few days' time, this coming Sunday to be precise. Occurring about 50 days after Easter, this day is remembered as the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples who were meeting together as a church. It stirred up a great revival and led to a movement that changed the world forever. This is what turned out to be a magnificent obsession. A passion for sharing the glory of God with anyone, and everyone.

The American author, entrepreneur, and a philanthropist called Napoleon Hill calls the "magnificent obsession" as one that uses one's entire resource to help make the world a better place for all. In his book of the same name, he writes,

"Develop an obsession — a Magnificent Obsession — to help others. Share yourself without expecting a reward, payment, or commendation. And above all else — keep your good turn a secret. And, if you do this, you will set in motion the powers of a universal law. For, try as you will to avoid payment for your good deed — blessings and rewards will be showered upon you." (Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1987, 228-9)
Wow. What a legacy of giving. What a way to desire to bless others with all.

I am not crazy over success seminars. Yet, I am keenly aware that many of the inspiring thoughts are essential for good mental health. If in doubt, always let the Bible be the reference. I have two thoughts with regards to such 'magnificent obsession.' Firstly, I support this attitude of desiring to help others. It is a noble thing. One does not need to justify having such a desire. It is an in-built emotion in all of us. It is a reflection of us being made in the image of God. I like Hill's attitude of not expecting anything in return even as we give all of ourselves away. It reminds me of how Napoleon Hill himself, bequesting his money away through the Napoleon Hill Foundation, which expressly states its mission as: "Our mission is to make this world a better place in which to live."

Secondly, we need to take a step back periodically to check our motives. Like the popular saying, too much of a good thing is not that good, just like having too much honey or salt on our food. The wise proverbs teach us.

"Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint." (Proverbs 23:4)

This proverb will help us put things and life in perspective. Even when we have a "magnificent obsession" to do all the good that we can, we need to show restraint by letting the Holy Spirit direct us always. How much to make? When to earn? What to give? Who to share? It is one thing to make it our ambition to give away all our possessions. It is yet another to trust the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts. Far better than having riches in our hands to give away is to have a rich heart that we learn to give not only our possessions, but ourselves away. This is the way of Christ. Disciples are to follow Him in thought, word, and deed.

When the Spirit of the Lord moves, great things happen. It is far better than a magnificent obsession. It becomes a great mission. While the efforts of Napoleon Hill tries to make this world a better place to live in, the efforts of disciples of Christ go much farther. It includes a world that is beyond the current world.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Kregel Blog Tour: "Praying with the Grain"

This review is part of a blog tour with Kregel Publications for the week May 21-25, 2012. Published simultaneously on my book blog, "Panorama of a Book Saint."


TITLE: Praying with the Grain: How Your Personality Affects the Way You Pray
AUTHOR: Pablo Martinez
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2012, (176 pages).

Why is prayer so easy for some people, and difficult for others? Why are some people uncomfortable about praying in public? How do I learn to pray with pleasure rather than pressurize ourselves to pray? Is there a way to pray in a way that befits how we are created, like our personality types? What about prayer as a psychological projection? Are Christians imagining a divine person in their prayers? These questions and many more are tackled in this very insightful book about personality types, psychology, psychotherapy, Christianity, temperaments and how prayer can be therapeutic and also spiritual.

In this book, Pablo Martinez describes the psychology and the apologetics of prayer. In Part One, "The Psychology of Prayer," Martinez highlights three factors that directly affect our praying, namely; our temperament, our personality, and our circumstances. All of these are not separate entities but play varying roles according to the interactions of our mental, emotional, and spiritual being. For temperament, Martinez uses Carl Jung's classification of two general attitudes (introvert, extrovert) and four psychological types (thinking, sensation, feeling, intuitive). For instance, introverts tend to prefer praying in private while extroverts are comfortable in public prayer gatherings. Introverts prefer meditation while extroverts work better through activities. The author is careful to point out that such classifications are simply tendencies rather than totalities.

Psychological Profiling

Jungian Four Personalities
On the psychological profile, Martinez believes that while everyone exhibits a little of thinking, of sensing, of feeling, and of intuition, only one trait is dominant. The problem occurs when there is an imbalance of all four to the point that this dominant trait grows at the expense of the rest. The healthy condition is for the dominant trait to be strengthened and not undermine the rest. For example, while we can cultivate our strengths, it is good to be aware of our weaknesses. We can train ourselves in such a way to train ourselves accordingly, knowing our psychological tendencies. This helps immensely when it comes to relationships. With this understanding, thinking types tend to be more objective over the subjective. The Apostle Paul and Martin Luther are thinking types.

At the other end of thinking, there is the Feeling types that use emotions more expressively than the thinking types. Feelers are more sympthetic to social causes and reactive to injustice they see. For them, they step forward with heart first. The biblical character, Jeremiah is an example of Feeling personality.

Then there is the Intuitive type that sees the possibilities, contemplate better, and more apt toward the presence of God in prayer. Mystics like Theresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, are known as intuitives. The missionary David Livingstone is also another example. Intuitives shun methodical praying, preferring freedom in approaching God.

On the other end of the vertical spectrum is the sensation which responds more readily to external senses. For them, perception is key in their seeing, their hearing, their touching. While they can enter into prayer quite readily, they are also susceptible to the ups and downs of everyday living.

The three recommendations that Martinez gives are the need to accept ourselves as we are, accepting one another, and to strike a "temperamental balance."

The rest of Part One deals with how the various temperaments and personality types interact with regards to overcoming difficulties and therapeutic element of prayer.

Apologetics of Prayer

Part Two addresses two basic questions. The first is about psychology and prayer. The second covers the comparison between Christian prayer and Eastern meditation. In it, Martinez engages a challenging aspect of psychological versus prayer, painstakingly distinguishing one from the other, clarifying the purposes of each and how they can complement, not supplant each other. There is a powerful explanation that prayer is not another form of "self-suggestion" because of three factors. First, unlike self-suggestion, the purpose of prayer is not evasive from reality, but seeking a known God. Second, the object of prayer is not a hysterical or "uncritical compliance" designed to please man but a journey toward God in peace, order and balance, zeal and fire.Third, the duration of prayer outruns that of self-suggestion. Prayer is also not behaviorism which is essentially us growing out or away from something, but growing in love more toward God. Martinez finishes his book with a brief comparison of Christian prayer and Eastern Meditation in terms of differences in purpose, means, and how it leads to valuing the person concerned.

My Thoughts

This book is rich. It dives in deep into explaining the psychological and temperamental traits of a person without becoming lost in the psychotherapy world. In fact, the author makes it a point to constantly check back on Christian principles and biblical perspective of it all. Even the analyses of each personality profile are measured carefully. It is clear that the author does not want to paint a picture of a one-size-fits-all scenario for all readers. Instead, the author invites us to consider the different personality types, understand the nuances, and the importance of depending on the Holy Spirit to show us ourselves. He deals with some of the most difficult questions asked.

  1. Is pain a spiritual or psychological problem?
  2. How do we make sense of feelings in prayer and intercession?
  3. Is it ok to ask for things for ourselves?
  4. How do we know God's will?
  5. What to do with bad thoughts in our praying?
  6. How do we avoid over-analyzing things when we pray?
What Martinez is trying to drive at throughout the book is that prayer is not only necessary but a vital return back to the first relationship we have with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Everyone of us can pray, albeit differently. The book is more descriptive rather than prescriptive. What is missing are some basic questionnaires that can help readers at least to get some snapshot of their own tendencies. For after reading and appreciating the different prayer personality types, I am still not sure where I am. Moreover, while Martinez affirms the unity of the mental, the body, and the spirit, his wholesale adoption of Jungian concepts makes it challenging for the reader in knowing how to integrate them intuitively. It gives me a feeling of the book being easy to understand but difficult to apply.

What is more helpful in the book is the way Martinez answer the various questions regarding overcoming difficulties in prayer, prayer and psychology, eastern meditation and Christian prayer, and the various apologetics. If that is your area of interest, this book is a must read.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Kregel Publications without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry

Hurry up?
One of the biggest modern problems in our culture is busyness. It has become a norm everywhere we go. At work we are busy. In Church we are busy. At home, we too live like busy people. The fact is that we have become so accustomed to our busyness that we have taken it to be something we can do nothing about. I believe that one reason why we are perpetually busy people is because our hearts are not at peace. Our hearts are restless. Our hearts are constantly looking for things in this world to satisfy our wants. Truth is, our hearts are God-shaped hearts, and until we let God fill us, we will always be restless. We will always be unsatisfied. Our busyness will never fill us. Our hearts have been tainted by sin such that it is like a broken cistern. No amount of busy pouring of water (or search for satisfaction) will be able to keep it filled. After a while, all the water will leak out, leaving our vessels empty. Unfulfilled. Dissatisfied. Lacking.

John Ortberg, in his early years as a pastor at Willow Creek Community Church shares about his learning from his spiritual mentor. He asks about how to be spiritually healthy in the light of pastoral work and busyness. Back comes the reply: "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."

Like a typical high achiever, Ortberg, like an obedient student puts this as point #1 and asks "Now, what else is there?"

The reply is classic. "There is nothing else. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."

That's right. One trait of restlessness is how easy we are distracting ourselves from the main thing. We have compartmentalized life in such a way that anything we have received, we imagine to be only a partial delivery. Isn't this the way we treat God's grace? Are we not guilty of trying to add to what God has already done? Instead of appreciating and enjoying what God has given us, we are so apt to ask the second question, "What's next?" or "What else?" or "Is there more?"

This is the key to good rest. Learn to pay attention to first things first. Learn to be busy when absolutely necessary. Learn to trust God for each step of the way, leaving the subsequent steps to God to initiate.

Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives. This is key to resting well.

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday." (Winnie the Pooh)


Saturday, May 19, 2012

On Regret

This is particularly applicable to those of us too busy, especially those in ministry.

"When I look back over the schedule I kept thirty or forty years ago, I am staggered by all the things we did ….

Were all those engagements necessary?

Was I as discerning as I might have been about which ones to take and which to turn down?

I doubt it.

Every day I was absent from my family is gone forever….

I would also spend more time in spiritual nurture, seeking to grow closer to God so I could become more like Christ.

I would spend more time in prayer, not just for myself but for others.

I would spend more time studying the Bible and meditating on its truth, not only for sermon preparation but to apply its message to my life.

It is far too easy for someone in my position to read the Bible only with an eye on a future sermon, overlooking the message God has for me through its pages."

- (Billy Graham, from Just As I Am, his 1997 autobiography)

Friday, May 18, 2012

"How to Find Your Mission in Life?"

TITLE: How to Find Your Mission in Life
AUTHOR: Richard Nelson Bolles
PUBLISHER:Berkely, Toronto: Ten Seed Press, 2005, (96 pages).

This little book gives a spiritual dimension to a world of job hunting and purpose finding. Using a pyramid that comprises 4 layers, the author explores the issues of the job-hunt. The lowest level deals with the question "What's happening?" The third level is about survival. The second level is about meaning and mission while the highest level is about effectiveness. At the very minimum, the spiritual director teaches us that we ought to have learned to make this world a "little richer" in our presence, and a "little poorer" in our absence. Bolles also cautions us that the book is not meant to be the only way. Neither is it primarily designed to be an intellectual exercise. Instead, it is to learn to remove obstacles that prevent us from finding our mission, and to take our search in stages.

Bolles states upfront our three missions in life.

  1. "to seek to stand hour by hour in the conscious presence of God, the One from whom your mission is derived."
  2. "to do what you can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better place, following the leading and guiding of God's Spirit within you and around you."
  3. The third mission is in three parts.
    1. "to exercise that Talent which you particularly came to Earth to use - your greatest gift, which you most delight to use,"
    2. "in the place(s) or setting(s) which God has caused to appeal to you the most,"
    3. "and for those purposes which God most needs to have done in the world."

The rest of the book deals with thoughts about the three missions in life, beginning with right thinking, followed by right practicing, and then right living. Bolles ends with a priceless quote from CS Lewis.

"We now have a strong desire for living combined with a strange carelessness about dying. We desire life like water and yet are ready to drink death like wine." 

Bolles follows this up with an apt word, "We know that we are here to do what we came to do, and we need not worry about anything else." (61)

This nice little book is easy enough to read and provocative enough to spur us to action.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cultivating INLINE Behaviour in an Online World

One of the things that is needful in our interconnected world is the wisdom on how to use social media. There are tonnes of books that talk about the steps to get onto social media, techniques on gaining followers, advertisement snippets, and all kinds of methods to up one's profile in world gone online. As I ponder on the new world, I cannot but help think about what Jesus will do and say if Internet and social media had been available back then in the first century. Remember John 17:15 where Jesus says: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one"? Chances are, the online world will be included with the "world" used by Jesus. How then do we practice being in the world but not of the world? Being online is one of the most recognizable marks of our current era. Think about this. According to Toni Birdsong and Tami Heim (incidentally, they met on Twitter), people spend 110 billion minutes a month on social media. Some have even used the Internet platform as a way to evangelize. One popular website talks about 4 principles for 21st Century evangelism.

  1. Think Digital
  2. Think Social
  3. Think Mobile
  4. Think Storytelling.

I have no beef against any of these Internet evangelists. They all stem from a deep love to share the love of God in Jesus. My main concern is whether the drive can be sustained. I am wary of the race to try to keep up all the time, telling ourselves we need to connect constantly with newer technologies at greater speed using many different kinds of devices. I admit. After the initial novelty and fanfare, I get bored. I become more exhausted than excited, more skeptical than hopeful. Don't get me wrong. Birdsong and Heim are right on so many counts. They are correct in identifying the potency of the new social media platform. They are spot on with regards to the need to understand the new world of Twitter, Facebook, and all things social media. They are to be commended to bring a sense of Jesus awareness in a media that is secular and dangerously filled with all kinds of worldliness. Many other things they have written deserve our attention.

  • We may be fixated on social media updates but only Jesus sticks to our hearts, if we allow Him to
  • Social media may be filled with glittering images, but there is only one true light
  • The world constantly changes, but the love of God never changes.
  • Jesus came not to inform but to transform us
  • Being holy is better than being awesome
  • God has given us a mission to share the gospel, including using online means
Readers can find more updates about their book and resources at 

My Thoughts

It is one thing to be fascinated by the online world, but we need to recognize the motivation that leads us, not the fascination that drives us. The online world is mostly glittered with images and visual stimulation that is temporal and fleeting. All it takes is a click of a LOGOUT icon, or an Internet disconnect, or a power trip, and our entire online world gets darkened and blacked out. For anyone who spends hundreds and thousands of hours online, there is a risk of substituting visual images for real images, digital replacement for an analog life, and an electronic version instead of a real version. 

For me, I believe we need to take on an "inline" mentality when working or thinking about online/offline circumstances. Being inline means we are constantly aware of two things. Our audience as well as ourselves. We know the limits of social media, what it can and cannot do. Being inline requires us to have an astute knowledge of expectations placed on our online and offline relationships. Being inline means we speak in a manner that is understood, and we listen in a manner that is respectful. It is one thing to open a social media account and start typing away our own life. It is yet another to observe an "inline" attitude, to share according to what the Spirit is prompting us to.

Being inline means we notice our own online patterns, and constantly seek to ask ourselves how that glorifies God, and how they lead to loving our neighbours more. How then do we grow our inline behaviour in an online world? Let me suggest 5 ways. I will use the acronym SPACE as a way to incorporate an inline mentality in an online world.

1) S = Sabbath

Make a point to rest ourselves from the online world. Being connected all the time is not healthy emotionally. Learn to work six days and rest one day. We will not only do our own minds a favour, we enable our family members to look forward at least to one day a week where our eyes will be on anything other than the computer, the tablet, or the smartphone screen.

2) P = Prayer

The online world is largely a visual stimulant. We are easily attracted by moving Youtube clips or sound bites that try to garner our attention. Learn to shut our eyes on a periodic basis and to utter a short prayer. Think of God. Read Scripture. Remember the things of God as written in the Word of God. Intercede for one another.

3) A = Addiction-Awareness

The online world tempts us with the addiction to do more rather than to be more of ourselves. We are tempted only to share positive sides of our lives. We keep most of our negative parts to ourselves. We can easily become addicts to popular videos that have gone viral, or are constantly on a search for articles that give us an adrenaline rush. One quick tip with regards to checking our addiction is to record how many times per day we are checking or giving updates on our social media account. A few times a day is good and healthy. Many times each hour may be way too much.

4) C = Community

Ask not what the Internet can do for you, but what you can do for the community THROUGH the Internet. This is perhaps one of the least practised in an Internet world of I-Me-Myself. Social media is an insidious platform for self-promotion.  From personal updates on our blogs to self-publishing of books, almost everything revolves around ourselves. Learn to use our social media resources to share about the needs of the world around you, or the communities you are in.

5) E = Exercise

Last but not least, one of the biggest problems for an online world is that we have a lopsided use of our body parts. Our fingers do most of the typing while our feet becomes more or less stationary. Our eyes are constantly bombarded by visual images and digital pixels while our ears receive silence. Our bodies are often in a seated position more than any other positions.

Take a walk. Smell the roses. Listen to the birds. Breathe in fresh air from the park.

Let us learn to incorporate an inline behaviour by giving ourselves the SPACE we need.

Conrade Yap, (Dr), D.Min.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Basics in Trusting God

What do we mean by these two words: Trusting God? How do we trust God? One thing is clear. It is easier to trust God when times are good. It is much more difficult when the times are bad. Jerry Bridges, famous for his classic, The Pursuit of Holiness, gives us three ways to help us to do exactly that. Firstly, it is to believe that God is completely sovereign. This brings us to willingly submit our wills to the will of God, trusting that God is in control. Secondly, it is to recognize that God is infinite in wisdom. This enables us to trust God by knowing that the One we trust is completely wise and understands all mysteries and all knowledge. Thirdly, it is to recognize that God is love, and God's will is driven primarily out of pure love. This enables us to trust by feeling comforted that God cares for us through it all.

Bridges goes on to share the following tip from an unknown Christian.

"God in His love always wills what is best for us. In his wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about." (Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1998,18)

I like that. One more thing. I think trials and tribulations are good tests on how authentic our faith in God is. There are those who know a lot about God, and those who know God. The difference is this. When adversities come, the former tries to reason and to rationalize, relying on the mind to make sense of it all. The latter on the other hand begins with a reliance on relationship. Those who know a lot about God are at greater risk of distancing themselves from God when they fail to rationalize it through their senses. Those who personally know God will not hesitate to trust. One knows in the head. The other knows in the heart. True trust in God begins in the Father's heart.

What kind of trust do you have? A head trust, or a heart trust?


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mother's Day - 2012

This video clip is a nice dedication to all mothers around the world. Thanks P&G. Thanks most of all to our mum, especially my mum. Like the millions of mum to their children, You're the best.

Yapdates dedicates this to all mothers.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Don't Call it Marriage

As the US presidential elections approaches, the fight is increasingly between the incumbent Democrat, Barack Obama, and the Republican representative, Mitt Romney. Both candidates have stirred up controversies of various sorts, of which the most talked-about is their statements on faith matters. Romney's status as a Mormon has brought about arguments for and against the candidacy. Evangelicals from different camps have shared varying opinions about whether Romney is able to represent their religious interests effectively. Now, Obama has jumped into the pot of controversy. This time it is same-sex marriage. Making a statement after the North Carolina ban on same-sex marriage, Obama plays into the sentiments of the same-sex marriage proponents, and very likely to win the votes of this influential group of people, reportedly about 50% of the electoral vote. I am not sure about the numbers, but to me, it is clear that Obama's open support for same-sex marriage is more about votes and less about religious convictions.

I know of friends who are staunchly behind Obama's stand. They are mindful of the ways the LGBT sector have been marginalized through discriminative actions. They are also speaking out to uphold their understanding of democracy where everyone has the right to choose and to adopt whatever lifestyle choices made. In the words of the former Canadian Prime Minister, they will chime with the same melody, that the state is not to pry into matters of the bedroom.
The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” (Pierre Elliott Trudeau)
Simply put, political decisions are to be de-linked from morality issues. After all, policies of the state affect everyone, while morality matters are more subjective.

I also know of friends who find Obama's stance unbelievable, and lament at the downward spiral of a once great American state that uphold good family values based on basic Christian beliefs. At the crux of the matter is the word "marriage." I believe that the LGBT group is mainly asking for equal rights to be extended to them. It is about the privileges of marriage that they are seeking. It is also about allowing them to choose whatever sexual orientation they want.

How then do we solve the impasse? I believe that as long as the word marriage is wrangled out of its traditional understanding, there will always be controversies. If that is the case, why not keep the marriage word reserved as between a man and a woman? For same-sex couples, choose another word altogether, and then get the state to sanction the word for them. 

I am not here to attack anybody's right to do this or to do that, to argue for or against same-sex matters. I am here to state again marriage (as a word) is between a man and a woman. Those who are same-sex, please do not use the word marriage. Call it legal union, shared relationship, or whatever, so that you can get whatever rights/benefits you want. The reason why same-sex couples are using the word marriage to describe same-sex union is simply because there is no other word so far for them to obtain similar benefits. Why don't we all agree to reserve the legal union between a man and a woman as marriage, while those who are same-sex, go choose to use another word altogether? Once the semantics are dealt with, we can all learn to live and let live without having to dig up this issue every time some leader make an opinion. Regardless of what opinion, it always tend to be divisive.

Here is a list of links that affirms the marriage as between a man and a woman. Credit to Eric Teetsel, executive director of the Manhattan Declaration.

1) What is Marriage?
by Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan T. Anderson

2) Why I'm Optimistic About Natural Marriage
by Andrew Walker

3) Why Is Marriage Important? (video)
by John Piper

4) Who Needs Marriage?
by Chuck Colson

5) Marriage in Society: The Generation Clash (pps. 47-57)
by Matthew Lee Anderson

6) What Would Bonhoeffer Do?
by Eric Metaxas

7) Dennis Prager Debates Perez Hilton on Same-Sex Marriage (Warning: YouTube contains objectionable content)

8) Religion, Reason, and Same-Sex Marriage
by Matthew J. Franck

9) A Marriage in Full
by Gary A. Anderson

10) On Marriage and the Moral Limits of Human Sexuality
by Metropolitan Jonah

Eric Teetsel
Executive Director, Manhattan Declaration

Again, keep marriage clear as legally between a man and a woman. For same sex unions, choose another word altogether. Otherwise, this issue will continue to divide families, societies, and even nations.


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