The Lessons from Research for Life

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. (Proverbs 25:2, NIV)

The above verse tells us that God is glorious because He is “mysterious”, whereas a king will become glorious when he is able to disclose a mystery. Being a researcher is everyone’s duty, which is a great privilege, because the way of a researcher is the way of a king.

In this short article, I would like to share a few lessons from my research life and daily routines over the past few months. (It is a perspective of an engineering student).

Research is a long-time process that demands patience, endurance, and persistence. 

Researchers must realize that “nothing great comes easy”. One may not expect an instant good result without any struggles. Oftentimes, we must¬†deal with tedious works, revisit the (same) problems, and exercise our problem-solving skills again and again. As I described in the previous article, research essentially means a “repetitive search”. It is true not only for people who work in science or engineering field, but also for those who study other disciplines, such as music, religions, politics, sports, arts, etc. In this sense, we could say that basically everyone is a researcher.

A simple case is that when you are planning to travel, you must first do a “research” about the locations, transportation, accommodations, foods, etc. In doing so, we must allocate time, energy, and money; we should be ready for a “long suffering” if we want to get the best results and make the most of our journey. To survive this long and rough journey of research, we need to understand what is our motive in the first place. I believe that the basic motive of doing research is curiosity, which will eventually determine our true passion.

In addition, we must however realize that it’s impossible to research everything; just like we can never resolve every problem in life. We might have an unlimited potential, but our time, energy, and priority are all limited. That’s why, we need to keep in mind that¬†even after graduating and holding an academic degree, we may not stop researching. (Now I feel that it’s probably not just a long-time process; it’s a life-long process!)

Research will reveal our personalities and how we deal with problems in life.

We can do research because problems exist, hence the quality of our research will be determined by the extent of problems that we can resolve. The more problems we overcome, the greater impact we make, and thus the higher quality of research we’ll end up with. In a real life, we also have to deal with such seem-to-be-never-ending problems everyday. The way we deal with problems in life will pretty much reflect the way we do research, and vice versa.¬†Our hidden strengths and weaknesses are often revealed by problems, both in life and research. Our characters or personalities are going to be tested by and developed through the problems.

A successful research requires good communication skills and creativity. Think about of how we deliver our ideas, how we collaborate with others, how we organize our thoughts to approach a series of problems, how we cope with our own perfectionism, how we treat our “superior” or “inferior” ones, how we prioritize contribution over recognition, how we can become of a true impact beyond a good impression, and so on…

Research will tell us whether we are an optimist, a pessimist, or a rationalist. The optimists are usually very ambitious toward publication; they believe their works deserve attention and can get published as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the pessimists are normally a type of people who don’t really enjoy “spotlights”; they may like publication, but they don’t actually like publicity (and sometimes get confused by two of them: publication vs. publicity), therefore they are not very eager to build a reputation based on the number of publications. In between these two, the rationalists are those who demand compelling evidences in order to believe any claim or theory; they are usually more concerned with the depth of understanding than the quantity of papers, however they could be pessimistic if neither solid facts nor strong reasoning is provided. We see now that research may reveal whether we are “believers” or “doubters”.

I observe that research may also help us identify ourselves: whether we are a “broad learner” or a “deep learner”; it might tell our preferences when dealing with problems, whether to approach a broad or a deep learning. After all, one good thing is that research is a humbling experience that will encourage us to willingly learn from others and neither rely on our own understanding nor think that we are the smartest person in the world.

Research is preceded by vision and leads to an innovation.

The normal stage of PhD life is to spend most of the first year for an intensive reading (literature review). In this stage, we should learn from “history” of what is already known and what is still missing or remains unknown (i.e. knowledge gaps) in a particular field that we investigate. It is the time when we brainstorm ideas and develop a critical thinking. We are expected to have a good sense to criticize one’s works or publications, to tell whether or not a publication really has a great quality. In short, we should have an ability to examine whether or not any claim or theory is true and thus we are able to distinguish the truth from any misleading information. By the end of this stage, we are expected to have a “big vision” in our own research. Again, this is true not only for research, but also for life, in which we should know what to do as well as why and how we do something. Don’t be upset if your supervisors ask you the same question again and again, “What’s your goal?”

Here is the good news: a great research will lead to an innovation. After we develop our critical thinking and visions, we have a chance to formulate our own originality and novelty. It is now possible for us to be a pioneer, the one who open up a new way and make a breakthrough or ground-breaking research in the particular field of interest. We have seen that the rapid development of technologies, say in electronic devices (like smartphones or computers), is always driven by innovation, developed through research, and initiated by vision. In other words, without critical thinking and curiosity there would be no vision; without vision there would be no research; without research there would be no innovation; without innovation there would be no advancement or progress. It is now true what the Bible says:

Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

Interestingly, to have a vision, oftentimes we should be able to see the unseen. It is our faith that will determine the “size” of our vision. As I heard someone says, “The eyes of our head give us sight, but the eyes of our heart give us vision“, it is actually important for us to develop faith, not only logic or human reasoning, in doing research and dealing with problems in life. We are to use not only our head, but also our heart.

Putting all together, I believe that we should not have an “anti-criticism” attitude in our minds. A good governance should embrace critics if it desires to progress. Otherwise, the nation will suffer due to its corrupted government (which can’t tolerate any critics and refuse to change or innovate itself). As a final remark: a nation will be blessed if the people are passionate in research.

Vancouver, February 28, 2018

The Life Lessons from Research



The Power of Problem

A wise man says “The way we see problem is a problem.”¬†As we see our world today, people struggle everywhere ‚Äď no one is spared from problem. We all face, at least, a problem every day. Different people have different problems (with the different kind and intensity), be it hardships, diseases, the lost of loved ones, and so on. The question is probably not “What problem do you have today?” but rather “How do you deal with your problem today?” It is apparent that the way we response to problem is also a problem!

Knowing that we have problem each day, how to deal with it? Leaving the problem unresolved often lead us to feelings of guilt, inferiority, and frustration. On the other hand, we might fear the problem would “kill us softly” if we insisted on resolving it our own ways. Problem often has a negative image and it is normal that people would long for a problem-free life. However, is there really in the world such a life without problem? If we know that problem¬†is inevitable, don’t we feel challenged to overcome (or take advantage of) it? Are we often discouraged or encouraged by a problem?

In fact, some problems persist and at times the best we can do is just to accept it and keep moving forward. As long as we don’t lose hope, we may see some opportunities that disguised as problems. Now the question is “Can we benefit from problem?”¬†Here are some interesting facts that you may not always realize about the good sides of problem, which I would refer to herein as The Power of Problem:

1. Problem is like an exercise that gets the best out of you

Just like your body muscles are strengthen through exercises, your “heart and mind muscles” are also developed through problems. Students are required to pass the tests, which comprise a series of problems, in order to advance to the next level. Moreover, it is interesting that humans tend to grow, not in the midst of pleasures and comforts, but rather of pains and problems. Whenever you are facing problem, don’t lose heart and remember that your character is more important than your comfort.

In military, a man is called powerful after he had conquered enemies, mainly the most difficult ones. It is only until we resolve a difficult problem that we experience a real progress. We know the more problems we fix, the more progress we make. When was the last time you felt a deep satisfaction and fulfillment after solving a problem? It is probable that problems exist (and persist) that we may become an expert in problem-solving and be victorious over our “enemies” every day.

2. Problem is the beginning of purpose

Do you agree that because problem exists, human can have a purpose? Just simply put it this way, for instance:

  • Because of health problem, doctors and hospitals exist (with the purpose of healing).¬†There is no need for doctors and hospitals if everyone is healthy (has no health problem)
  • Because of the lack of knowledge, teachers and schools exist (with the purpose of educating).¬†There is no need for teachers and schools if everyone is smart (has no lack of knowledge)
  • Because of the limited access to information, internet exists (with the purpose of providing the accessible information). There is no need for internet if everyone can have a limited access to information, and so on…

Problems happened that we may have a purpose: to help each other. Do you agree that all the technologies (the man-made things) exist because of a wide variety of problems? Believe it or not, even your job now does exist because of problem! (and you are there also for fixing one)

3. Problem is a reminder that life is not yours (and the earth is not your home too)

One of the characteristics of life on earth is temporal or perishable. When you feel good or bad, you know the feelings won’t last. How many times do we get tired of all the highs and lows, ups and downs, lost and found? Life is dynamic and that’s why it is important to enjoy every season and make the most of every moment. Problems remind us that life is not ours. What we call “possessions” or “treasures” do not actually belong to us. It is good to remember not to be possessive and act as if we are to control everything.

In my life, I have witnessed a person who had struggles with relationship, health, and financial problems all at once. He was divorced, suffering from a lung cancer, and had no house under his name before his passing over ten years ago. What can be concluded from his miserable life? To me, there are at least two important lessons that, first, this world is not our home and, second, a far better and greater place must have been awaiting us on the other side. The constant existence of problems prove that the world we live in now has been permanently damaged and therefore requires a complete restoration, which can only be done by the Perfect One.

4. Problem reveals the human’s greatest need for a Savior

There are times when the problems were so intense that we felt helpless. Deep down in our hearts, we acknowledged that no human powers were able to save us. Imagine you were trying to run for help from a tsunami. This kind of situation “forced” us to seek out a “divine intervention” (as the ultimate resort) which is able to deliver us. We, at last, are willing to humble ourselves and confess our weaknesses and limitations. It is often at this point that most people finally recognize their needs for salvation and thus decide to believe in a supernatural being, whom they may acknowledge as God, the Almighty, Savior, etc.

Everyone needs mercy and love. Knowing that life is fragile, we can never live by our own strength, we need each other, but ultimately we need a Savior. The power of the Almighty greatly surpasses the power of any problems you have. In my life, I have testified that the most relieving and rewarding ways to live is by putting our trust and hopes in the One who is always in control and takes care of everything (Romans 8:28). You’ve probably heard someone says, “When God allows you to face a big problem, He trusts you.” God is faithful and will not allow any problems to overwhelm you beyond your capacity or ability to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). Our ultimate strength comes from the Omnipotent, who is able to turn our problems into blessings (Philippians 4:13). What a great privilege to walk this life in a personal and intimate relationship with the Savior, who has overcome the most fearing problem on earth, i.e. death, so that we may have joy and peace until the end of time (John 16:33, Romans 8:37-39)

First written on November 30, 2017 and finalized by December 09, 2017 in Vancouver




Thanksgiving Day: A Moment to Count Our Blessings

Every year Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday of October. This has been a tradition since 1957 and is linked to the harvest festivals of the European. Last year, I got a chance to eat turkeys and pumpkin pies, however this year I missed both; I had beef steak and apple pies, instead. Not bad ūüôā

The event on Thanksgiving Day has passed, but its spirit should always be with us throughout the years. Believe that thankfulness is an efficacious medicine to greediness as we live in an age of constant dissatisfaction, where human tend to take anything for granted. Remember, no matter what happens to you, always rejoice and be thankful.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)

In this moment, I want to challenge you to write down, as many as possible, the things you are thankful for, no matter big or small, either over the past few days, weeks, months, years, or even the course of your life. You might be surprised that the list can go on and on, beyond what you could ever think of.

Alright, without further ado, let me go first with my thanksgiving list over the past year here. (This list is arranged randomly and the order does not necessarily reflect the level of importance)

  1. Thank God for healthy body and mind of mine and my loved ones. I’m grateful for the five senses that still function well.
  2. Thank God for my study and research work in which I could earn knowledge, experience, and also… stipend and scholarships ūüėÄ
  3. Thank God for all people who’ve been kindly supporting me. I’m thankful for my parents, professors, pastors, and all friends in school and church.
  4. Thank God for giving me the opportunity to learn cooking for my daily meals. Also, I’m thankful for all the foods and drinks, either the free or the purchased ones, for my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  5. Thank God for all the physical or material blessings, such as clothes to wear and electronic devices to use everyday.
  6. Thank God for nice weather and beautiful views in Vancouver.
  7. Thank God for protecting my journey on the roads everyday. I’m thankful that since I don’t yet have a car, no expenses for gasoline or parking fees are required. Public transits are, thankfully, quite convenient here.
  8. Thank God for giving me a place to stay with such a warm-hearted family. I’m thankful for enough rest and proper sleep every night.
  9. Thank God for bringing me to the places I’ve never been before, both inside and outside Canada. In the end of last year, especially, I got a chance to visit my uncle’s family in Los Angeles.
  10. Thank God for my marriage! I’m so much thankful for a beautiful wife, bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. I can never thank our parents enough for all their love and supports, especially with respect to the engagement and wedding preparation.
  11. Thank God for the honeymoon time. We had a summer vacation for 12 days in France and Italy. I’m grateful for the successful arrangements, from the visa application to the itinerary schedule.
  12. Thank God for the long distance relationship with my girlfriend-turned-out-to-be-wife. During this season, we have been learning about the values of faith, trust, endurance, patience, and many other important lessons.
  13. Thank God for the recent approval for my wife’s visa application to Canada, which means that our LDR will come to an end soon.
  14. Thank God for the new place ready prior to my wife’s coming.
  15. Thank God for the information technology and social media which have been very helpful in facilitating communication with my loved ones. I’m grateful for all the smart and intelligent people who have worked “behind the scenes”.
  16. Thank God for giving me new ideas that I can continuously share my stories through this blog. I’m so grateful for the gift of writing.
  17. Thank God for showing me the books I need to read and all the valuable articles from internet which have been very useful source of my inspiration.
  18. Thank God for enabling me, under the supervision of my professors, to publish the fourth scientific paper in the reputable journal, in addition to our previous three articles. I’m thankful for all the citations.
  19. Thank God for people who’ve been praying for me and my family, in addition to those who’ve been inspiring me through their life experiences.
  20. Thank God for my siblings as well as spiritual brothers and sisters, who’ve been a great source of my encouragement.
  21. Thank God for people who dislike me because of my personality, views, beliefs, or even fortunes. I’m thankful that because of them I’ve been more motivated to be a better person everyday.
  22. Thank God for the inspiring public figures, from whom I can learn so many great lessons. I’m grateful for the modesty of President Joko Widodo, the audacity of the former Governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the life testimonies of Nabeel Qureshi, and the brilliance of David Wood.
  23. Thank God for the wisdom to my parents-in-law, who have given me valuable advice necessary for my personal and spiritual growth.
  24. Thank God for the faith and labors of my parents, which I believe, would be the most precious legacy for us in the days to come.
  25. Thank God for the patience of my wife. Love is patient, and yes she loves me! Indescribable gratitude for the love of my life.
  26. Thank God for all the troubles and difficult circumstances I’ve faced, which have been turned into the opportunities for developing my characters.
  27. Thank God for forgiving my sins through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
  28. Thank God for the assurance of hope, peace, and joy in the midst of worldly tribulations.
  29. Thank God for the gracious gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ our Savior.
  30. Thank God for this 30 years of life and for making me realize that life is not about me. I’m very much thankful for Jesus Christ and his revelation. Let everything that has a “NAME” realize that life is “Not About ME”. Life will one day be history and yes, it’s HIS story, all about the ONE whose name is above every name.

Alright guys, that’s it!

The above list can go further but there’ll be no enough space to write down everything here. I guess yours will be the same too. Thus, you may also want to make a list based on the numbers of years you’ve been living for.

OK, now is your turn to count your blessings!

Nabeel Qureshi: A Hero of Faith in the Present Age

In summer 2014, I was in Seoul working in a laboratory while doing my final project (thesis). My interest in apologetics, in addition to research interest in clean energy, has grown ever since, leading me to do another “research” about Christianity and Islam. During those times, I often spent times watching series of testimonies on YouTube. One of the most fascinating figures I found was Nabeel Qureshi, a former Muslim Christian apologist, who has now become the world’s most prominent figure with respect to the Christian versus Islamic worldview. Believe it or not? (Try to use the words “a former Muslim Christian apologist” in Google and you will be directed to Nabeel’s profile in Wikipedia on the first page)

Since he was diagnosed with stomach cancer on August 2016, I regularly watched his vlog on YouTube, wondering about the progress of his health. Hundreds, or perhaps thousands of people all over the world have been actively praying for him and his family since then (especially for his healing). However, the Lord seemingly has another plan. September 16, 2017 was the end of his life on earth yet the beginning of his life in the eternal and glorious home with the Lord Jesus, the true love of his soul.

I don’t know Nabeel personally, but his ministry has been a tremendous impact for me. I have read two of his books,¬†Seeking Allah Finding Jesus¬†and¬†Answering Jihad,¬†which, I believe, would be valuable resources for any truth seeker. As we live in the age of internet and information technology, we all know that finding the true and accurate information is easier now than it has ever been.¬†For those of you who are interested in seeking the truth about God from the perspective of Christian in comparison to Islam, I would suggest you another great resources, which have been carefully worked by Nabeel’s best friend, David Wood.

Here, I would like to share with you, at least, but not limited to, three spiritual blessings I received from Nabeel’s life and ministry, together with the references from the Scripture.

1. Death is not the end of human existence

Some people might have been wondering about the reason of Nabeel’s death. There would certainly be a lot of speculation on this matter. To me, the most unsurprising one would be due to his conversion from his former faith, as if his death was a God’s punishment. (It is quite understandable that people tend to find the “cause-effect” relationship, trying to rationalize everything that matters. But, I believe that we can’t, and don’t have to, explain and have the answer for everything). To this type of reasoning, I would ask, “What if God actually loved Nabeel so much that He was willing to bring him back to Him forever in the heavenly home?”.

As long as our concern is merely about earthly life and the worldly pleasures, we might think that Nabeel’s short life was quite unfortunate. (Had he lived longer, he could taste more delicious food, visit more beautiful places, and do more enjoyable activities). However, I believe death is not the end of our existence and the ultimate joy is not meant for our temporary-and-fragile life here. If they were so, how pitiful are the morally good people who died at the early ages, innocent children or kids who were killed in a war or accident or natural disasters, people who were dead by injustice and crimes, etc. Should they all have died in vain and lived meaninglessly? How can we explain all these things?

What if death is just the beginning of our eternal life? What if the separation from our mortal body leads to the unification of our soul and spirit with the brand-new immortal body? What if the beauty of life and all the wonderful-yet-perishable things here on earth is just nothing compared to the eternally wonderful things the Lord has prepared for us on the other side? What if death means “rest in peace” while life means “restless in pain”? What if death is not a curse, but a blessing? What if death is good, not evil? If death is evil, why would a good Creator allow it to be the inevitable part in the life of all creatures? And if death is good, like Paul says in Philippians 1:21, why would you still have a fear of death? Indeed, death can be good or bad, depending on where (heaven or hell) and with whom (the loved ones or the enemies) you will spend the eternity. I believe, just as Nabeel does, the gift of everlasting life has been given to those who believe in, and therefore have been saved by, Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord. Because of his faith in Jesus, Nabeel fears neither death nor evil.

So, could it be the time to change our mindset and how we perceive the matters of life and death? Could it be the right moment to focus on what matters most, i.e. the unseen things with eternal values (such as faith, hope, and love) beyond the seen things (such as the worldly riches, fame, and fleshly pleasures) which are momentary?

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13, NLT)

2. The sovereignty of God over all things

There are so many things we don’t know and many stories we can’t understand in life. Have you ever seen the wicked people outlived the good people? Have you been familiar with the corrupted leaders who are getting richer while the innocent people are living in poverty? Life often seems so frustrating and unfair that we might consider escaping the reality (read: suicide) as the better solution. Is there really a true measure of success while we live in this broken world? We are all clueless, without definite answers.

Had Nabeel lived longer, imagine how many memorable moments he could make with his wife (Michelle) and daughter (Ayah), how many more inspiring books he could write, and how much greater impact he could have. Again, God’s will is not like ours. Our spirit, soul, and body belong to Him, He gives and could take away anytime He wants. Now we can see why we should always leave a room for the God’s mystery in our theology. It is God’s privilege, in all His majesty and wonders, to conceal a matter (Proverbs 25:2).

At the end of the day, we can only trust that His plans are far better than ours and He is still good no matter what. By this way, our faith in Him will get stronger and we will always have hope in life. The just shall live by faith and surrendering our life to God is the most relieving feeling and the most rewarding moment we could ever experience. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Sovereign Lord ‚Äď abide in Him all times, and find our total confidence in Christ alone.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.¬†For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9, NLT)

3. Faithfulness of God’s servant, even to the point of death

Regardless of what our job title is, we all have one specific role in life: to serve. I believe that we are all servants towards others. I’ve shared about this in my previous post¬†last year. Whether you are a custodian, a teacher, or even a president, you have the same responsibilities of doing a good service for others.

Now, have you seen any person willing to die for what he/she believes? I am asking to myself, “Are you willing to die for your Chemical Engineering knowledge?” and probably you could also ask yourselves, “Am I willing to die for what I am doing and I believe now?” Some people were born with such incredible gifts or talents to become, for example, the world-class singers, the world-renowned musicians,¬†the world’s greatest football players, etc. You may be wondering if they are also willing to die for their passions. Have you found the truth (or the love of your life) that is worth dying for?

Here we can see the distinguished life of Nabeel. Just like Paul, he has considered everything else is worthless when compared with the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). Nabeel has been willing to die for knowing Christ and proclaiming His truth despite the struggles with his dearly beloved parents, in addition to the challenges from people who had mocked him blatantly.¬†He knew that life on earth is temporal and things are perishable. He is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what He has done for him. Heaven is a far better place where he can be forever with the Father in the everlasting peace, love, and joy. I wonder if the Lord has said to Nabeel, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Master!”

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. (Psalm 116:15, NIV)

In the following video you can see Nabeel’s statement of faith and hope in eternal life. Hope you will be tremendously blessed!

First draft written by September 18, 2017 and finalized by October 6, 2017 in Vancouver



A Brief Story from My Summer Vacation

Thank God I finally get a chance to write and share a story again after 2 months. From the mid of July until the end of August I had summer vacation outside Canada. Luckily, my supervisors allowed me to take vacation for 1.5 months as I had planned for marriage since October last year. Thank you Sirs!

Yes, I am a married man now ūüôā and I am blessed (not only lucky) to marry my other half, Sandra, on behalf of whom I am writing this now. By grace of the Almighty, we are no longer two but one!

I believe that marriage is God’s idea to unite two imperfect people, a man and a woman, to faithfully love one another for a lifetime with the love that God has already put into their hearts to bring out His beautiful plans and wonderful purposes in the world.

Undoubtedly, it was hard for us to prepare the wedding since I was being away from¬†home and my loved ones in Indonesia. You may ask any married couples how complicated it is to prepare their weddings, even if they lived in the same places (country or city) on the days of preparation. To me, it was a bit more challenging, not only due to the long distance communication, but also because I had to divide my attention between the wedding preparation and my responsibilites to study and research. During those days, we never talked face-to-face in person, but through video calls we often discussed and fought about many things on the preparation. (Thanks to the technology) ūüôā Needless to say, it was draining our energy! ūüėÄ But I loved to be in struggles with my loved ones! ‚̧

Big thanks to our parents who have faithfully supported us, not only materially but also emotionally and spiritually! I realize how much important it is the prayers from parents to their children. We would never be where we are today without the faith, hope, and love of God through our parents. Thankful words would never be enough to express!

It was my very first experience having such a tight schedule for vacation. There were 3 main events that we had: engagement, wedding, and honeymoon (in addition to a pre-wedding photography session). When I was still in Canada before the vacation, I was doubtful and did not expect all the plans would eventually work out.

Now, looking back to all we’ve been through, I am still amazed of how God has worked in such a miraculous ways to make everything good in the end, and even better than expected, despite our limited efforts. The engagement was done so well that two families could meet up and be the witnesses in the ‘semi-official’ day of our relationship. And July 30th was the day we were blessed in a holy matrimony and officially become a husband and wife.

Never came to our minds that we would have wedding parties in two different cities in Indonesia (Semarang and Bandung) which continued to the honeymoon in two different countries in Europe (France and Italy). One might probably ask how we could arrange the Schengen visa applications while we were still very busy with many stuffs for the wedding. My answer again would simply be: all is by the grace of our Father, Lord Jesus Christ, given through people (family and friends) who love and support us so much!

To be honest, until now, I still feel unworthy to receive all these blessings. Many times I was slow to make a decision and struggled with my unresolved weaknesses: lack of discipline, lack of focus, and too much worries. After all, I believe that we experience good things in life not because we are good enough, but because He is good! Not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done. Not because of who we are, but because of who He is! At the end of the day, our life stories are not about us. All is about Him, the Author of Life, who deserves all the glory, honor, and praise. It is not my story, it is His story…

If there is one thing about my last summer vacation that I am a bit regretful was that I didn’t have enough chances to meet some friends in Indonesia, especially my childhood friends, and hang out together with them for a cup of coffee (or two). Hope to see you guys soon in the near future, anywhere, anytime!

Lastly, here are some of the pictures from our last pre-wedding photoshoots. (The pictures from my engagement, wedding, and honeymoon can also be seen here)

PS HOP_0549Porto HOP_1105Porto HOP_1275Porto HOP_1441PS HOP_15691599

Alright, guys! Thanks for reading and see you in the next posts.

Vancouver, September 10, 2017

Mengapa Saya Tertarik Apologetika

Peran keluarga sangat besar dalam menentukan iman atau keyakinan seseorang. Faktanya, sebagian besar orang menganut suatu agama atau kepercayaan dengan mewarisi iman atau ajaran orang tuanya. Bisa dikatakan bahwa, pada umumnya, agama yang diyakini oleh seseorang adalah hasil pilihan orang tuanya. Jika seseorang terlahir dalam keluarga Kristen, maka biasanya ia juga akan mengadopsi iman Kristen sejak kecil hingga tumbuh dewasa, sampai kemudian ia pun akan mewariskan lagi iman yang sama kepada generasi berikutnya. Demikian halnya untuk agama atau kepercayaan yang lain (Islam, Katolik, Budha, Hindu, dll.). Ini adalah contoh kasus yang lazim (mainstream) dan saya yakin pembaca pun telah menyadari hal ini.

Namun, seiring berkembangnya pola pikir atau cara pandang seseorang, ditambah banyaknya pengaruh lingkungan yang diterimanya seiring pertumbuhannya, maka¬†sangat mungkin seseorang mengalami ‘konversi’ dari suatu keyakinan¬†tertentu ke keyakinan lainnya. Motivasinya pun beragam, dari yang sederhana hingga yang kompleks. Saya tidak bisa men-judge¬†di sini, tapi setidaknya dari yang saya ketahui, orang-orang¬†memutuskan untuk beralih keyakinan karena didasari, misalnya oleh rasa cinta terhadap seseorang (dan/atau hartanya, mungkin), rasa kecewa terhadap sesama penganut keyakinan sebelumnya, ketidakpuasan terhadap keyakinan¬†sebelumnya, dsb.

Saya sendiri berpendapat bahwa motivasi yang benar (seharusnya) didasari oleh rasa haus akan kebenaran sejati, dari hati yang tulus. Isu agama, tidak dapat dipungkiri, adalah isu yang sangat sensitif dan cenderung membawa pemisahan daripada persatuan. Hal ini dikarenakan, secara natural, masing-masing agama memiliki perbedaan ajaran yang¬†substansial dan, secara alamiah¬†pula, manusia (pemeluk agama) memiliki kecenderungan untuk mengklaim bahwa “kecapku-lah yang nomor satu” atau “rumputku-lah yang paling hijau”. Jadi,¬†sangat wajar bila setiap agama dan pemeluknya akan mengklaim bahwa keyakinannya adalah kebenaran yang sejati. Namun, benarkah semua agama atau keyakinan merupakan kebenaran sejati, jika kenyataannya mereka saling berkontradiksi (tidak saling sepakat) satu sama lain. Apakah mungkin nilai-nilai yang saling berkontradiksi semuanya benar?

Di sinilah saya ingin berbagi pengalaman melalui tulisan ini. Hal ini tentu tidak menyiratkan bahwa pengetahuan saya sudah lengkap atau keyakinan saya sudah sempurna. Saya dulu bersekolah di SMP dan SMA negeri di kampung halaman saya (kota Kudus) dan saya sudah terbiasa dengan perbedaan, menjadi kaum minoritas, dan beberapa kali saya juga pernah berdiskusi bahkan berdebat dengan teman-teman Muslim tentang keyakinan kami masing-masing. Saya berteman dengan cukup banyak orang hingga hari ini, mulai dari yang berbeda keyakinan sampai dengan yang tidak berkeyakinan (atheis). Tentu, tidak dalam semua hal saya sependapat dengan keyakinan (atau ketidakyakinan) mereka, namun saya tetap menghormati mereka. Prinsipnya, kita boleh berbeda pendapat atau keyakinan secara tajam, namun kita tetap bisa berteman baik dan saling menghargai tanpa mengorbankan prinsip.

Walaupun saya dilahirkan di keluarga Kristen, namun sejak kecil hingga tumbuh remaja, saya merasakan pergumulan yang begitu kuat dalam hati. Banyak pertanyaan serta keraguan di benak saya (termasuk pada keyakinan saya sendiri), terlebih karena saat itu saya berada di lingkungan yang mayoritas warganya berbeda dengan saya, baik secara etnis maupun keyakinan. Sampai saya pun pernah berpikir, “Apakah mayoritas pasti selalu benar? Bagaimana jika saya menganut keyakinan yang berbeda dari yang dianut oleh keluarga saya? Apakah mereka akan bisa menerima? Jika saya ingin diterima oleh teman-teman, apakah saya harus berkeyakinan yang sama dengan mereka?”, dll. Pemikiran-pemikiran semacam ini sempat cukup mengganggu pada awalnya, namun akhirnya justru mendorong saya untuk berpikir lebih dalam lagi apakah saya sudah teguh¬†dengan keyakinan sendiri.

Semasa remaja hingga mahasiswa, saya sangat menyukai diskusi rohani. Saya senang belajar dari guru agama maupun teman-teman seiman dan yang berbeda iman. Dan anehnya, saya justru sering tertidur ketika nonton film di bioskop, tapi tidak ngantuk sama sekali ketika mendengarkan khotbah di gereja. Bagi orang lain mungkin hal ini tidak wajar, dan saya pun sadar tidak semua orang cocok dengan karakter saya ini. Kadang saya dianggap sok rohani, kaku, dan tidak easy-going, mungkin. Namun saya sadar, mustahil menyenangkan semua orang, dan saya tidak ingin membohongi diri sendiri dengan memerankan karakter yang bukan diri saya. Beberapa orang mungkin tidak terlalu tertarik membicarakan iman dan hal-hal rohani lainnya, karena menurut mereka wilayah keimanan adalah hal yang sangat pribadi dan tidak perlu digembar-gemborkan. Beberapa orang juga mungkin menganggap bahwa diskusi rohani itu abstrak, mengawang-awang, dan dapat memicu konflik. Saya memahami dan menghargai pendapat mereka, namun saya juga tidak harus menjadi identik dengan mereka bukan? Saya sendiri berkeyakinan bahwa, sesuai ajaran Yesus, membangun iman harus seperti membangun rumah di atas fondasi yang kokoh, yaitu batu, bukan pasir; sehingga tetap kuat dan tidak roboh ketika gelombang badai kehidupan datang. Dari sinilah saya mulai tertarik pada apologetika.

Banyak definisi apologetika yang bisa pembaca temukan di internet. Dengan kalimat sendiri, saya mendefinisikan apologetika sebagai “suatu disiplin atau ilmu yang berkaitan dengan usaha membela atau mempertahankan suatu keyakinan, teori, atau doktrin”. Dalam praktiknya, seringkali apologetika berhubungan dengan ilmu agama, namun saya memahami bahwa prinsip apologetika juga dapat diterapkan dalam cabang ilmu yang lain (sains, hukum, dll.); artinya ketika seorang mahasiswa sedang men-defense¬†argumen atau hipotesa-nya di hadapan para profesor penguji, pada dasarnya¬†ia sedang ‘berapologetika’. Saya menyukai theologi (ilmu tentang Tuhan) dan apologetika, meskipun saya tidak memiliki latar belakang pendidikan theologi. Dan saya pun berpendapat bahwa setiap orang, terutama yang mengaku rasional dan intelektual (terpelajar),¬†harus mampu berapologetika. Yang saya maksud ‘terpelajar’ di sini bukan saja orang yang memiliki gelar akademis, melainkan juga termasuk orang yang belajar secara otodidak sekalipun ia tidak pernah lulus sekolah formal, misalnya. (Karena saya percaya gelar akademis tidak serta-merta menjamin pengetahuan dan kemampuan nalar yang lebih baik). Jadi intinya? Setiap orang, yang jiwanya masih sehat, harus mampu berapologetika. Kita perlu memiliki dasar mengapa kita meyakini suatu hal.¬†Semakin kuat dasar yang kita miliki, semakin mudah kita akan menjelaskannya pada orang lain.

Tentu di luar sana banyak tokoh apologetika yang luar biasa. Mereka memiliki daya ingat yang hebat dan mampu menghafal teks-teks kitab suci di luar kepala. Mereka adalah profesional yang mendedikasikan waktu dan tenaganya dalam bidang ini. Sementara saya bukanlah seorang full-timer yang menekuni apologetika, namun prinsip apologetika ini juga dapat saya terapkan pada bidang keilmuan yang saya geluti saat ini. Menurut iman Kristen, saya menemukan sedikitnya ada tiga alasan yang mendasari ketertarikan saya pada apologetika:

1. Akal budi adalah anugerah Tuhan dan harus dipergunakan untuk mengekspresikan kasih kita kepada-Nya.

“Kasihilah Tuhan, Allahmu, dengan segenap hatimu dan dengan segenap jiwamu dan dengan segenap kekuatanmu dan dengan segenap akal budimu, dan kasihilah sesamamu manusia seperti dirimu sendiri.” (Lukas 10:27)

Akal budi (nalar), sama halnya dengan hati, jiwa, dan kekuatan, adalah anugerah Tuhan. Bahkan, akal budi inilah yang menjadikan manusia paling¬†istimewa diantara makhluk ciptaan lainnya (binatang dan tanaman). Salah satu cara untuk mengenal Tuhan adalah dengan menggunakan akal budi yang telah Ia berikan. Memang, terkadang kita tidak bisa selalu mengandalkan pemikiran (rasionalitas) sendiri karena akal budi manusia terbatas, namun menjalani sesuatu tanpa pengertian yang benar¬†juga tidak akan membawa hasil yang maksimal. When ‘why’ is strong, the ‘how’ becomes easy.¬†Let the thinkers believe and let the believers think. Dalam mengasihi Tuhan, selain percaya penuh dalam hati, kita juga perlu mempergunakan akal budi yang telah diterangi oleh kebenaran Firman-Nya.

2. Kita harus bertanggungjawab pada apa yang kita yakini dan mampu menjelaskan pengharapan apa yang kita miliki.

“Tetapi kuduskanlah Kristus di dalam hatimu sebagai Tuhan! Dan siap sedialah pada segala waktu untuk memberi pertanggungan jawab kepada tiap-tiap orang yang meminta pertanggungan jawab dari kamu tentang pengharapan yang ada padamu, tetapi haruslah dengan lemah lembut dan hormat, dan dengan hati nurani yang murni, supaya mereka, yang memfitnah kamu karena hidupmu yang saleh dalam Kristus, menjadi malu karena fitnahan mereka itu.” (1 Petrus 3:15-16)

Terjemahan bahasa Inggris nya mengatakan:

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”¬†(1 Peter 3:15-16)

Artinya, saat kita mampu mempertahankan keyakinan dan menjelaskan pengharapan yang kita miliki dari keyakinan tersebut, kita sedang memberikan penghormatan pada Kristus. Tapi tentu saja cara kita ‘berapologetika’ juga penting untuk diperhatikan, yaitu harus dengan lemah lembut, penuh hormat, dan didasari oleh hati nurani yang murni (tidak ada motif terselubung, misalnya demi kepentingan atau keuntungan pribadi). Ketika orang mempertanyakan iman kita, maka kita perlu menjawab dari dua sisi: ‘mengapa’ (defense) yaitu alasan kita percaya, dan ‘untuk apa’ (hope) yaitu tujuan kita percaya. Dalam hal ini, alasan saya percaya pada Yesus, at least,¬†adalah karena Ia telah terlebih dulu mengasihi saya dan mengampuni segala dosa kesalahan yang telah saya buat, seperti yang telah dinyatakan dalam Firman-Nya; sedangkan tujuan saya percaya pada Yesus, at least, adalah untuk semakin mengenal dan mengalami kuasa kebangkitan-Nya. Kebangkitan Yesus adalah jawaban dan penghiburan bagi ketakutan terbesar manusia, yaitu penderitaan dan kematian. Seandainya¬†Kristus tidak dibangkitkan, maka sia-sialah iman kepercayaan kami kepada-Nya (1 Korintus 15:17), tidak ada pengharapan hidup di dunia ini karena pada akhirnya semua akan binasa, dan yang tidak kalah penting, hal ini dapat mengindikasikan¬†bahwa Sang Pencipta adalah “Allah yang cuek, bersikap masa bodoh terhadap pergumulan manusia, nyaman dengan tahta surgaNya, dan tidak mau berkorban turun ke dunia ‘menjangkau’ umatNya.”

3. Semangat untuk menyelidiki dan membuktikan kebenaran yang sejati.

“Orang-orang Yahudi di kota itu lebih baik hatinya dari pada orang-orang Yahudi di Tesalonika, karena mereka menerima firman itu dengan segala kerelaan hati dan setiap hari mereka menyelidiki Kitab Suci untuk mengetahui, apakah semuanya itu benar demikian.” (Kisah Para Rasul 17:11)

Di zaman para rasul, yang hidup di periode waktu yang dekat dengan masa kehidupan Yesus, diceritakan bahwa orang-orang Yahudi memiliki¬†passion¬†untuk menyelidiki Kitab Suci (mungkin Taurat, Mazmur, dan catatan sejarah sebelumnya) setiap hari! Bayangkan, setiap hari! Artinya, mereka memiliki rasa ingin tahu yang tinggi, begitu haus akan kebenaran sejati. Jadi saya membayangkan bahwa di masa itu mereka tidak gampang menerima suatu berita tanpa membuktikan kebenarannya. Mereka tidak mudah ditipu dan terpancing emosinya mendengar¬†berita palsu (hoax). Menurut saya, mungkin saja semangat jiwa orang Yahudi inilah yang diwariskan turun-temurun, sehingga sekarang kita bisa melihat fakta bahwa orang-orang hebat di dunia teknologi kebanyakan berlatar belakang Yahudi. Jadi saya meyakini ada keterkaitan antara kecerdasan intelektual dengan semangat mempelajari Kitab Suci. Hal ini diaminkan oleh Raja Daud, yang menyatakan bahwa mempelajari Taurat membuatnya lebih pandai dan bijaksana¬†daripada musuh-musuh, bahkan gurunya! (Mazmur 119:97-100). Di era teknologi internet sekarang ini, kita telah diberi kemudahan untuk mencari informasi kapanpun di manapun berada. Masyarakat, yang memiliki akses internet, seharusnya sudah lebih pintar dan bijaksana dalam membedakan mana (informasi) yang sesat¬†dan mana yang akurat. Sudah bukan zamannya lagi kita dibodohi oleh oknum yang mengatasnamakan Tuhan demi meraih simpati dan kekuasaan. Setiap orang pun bisa melakukan survey atau riset sendiri, sehingga kita pun bisa sadar jika misalnya ada informasi salah yang telah kita yakini selama ini; tidak hanya dalam hal agama, tapi juga dalam bidang kehidupan lain, misalnya gaya hidup sehat, cara bermain alat musik yang baik dan benar, sejarah peradaban manusia, dll. Dan jika memang apa yang kita yakini selama ini ternyata terbukti salah, maka kita pun harus berani mengambil langkah tegas untuk melakukan ‘konversi’! Tidak perlu gengsi demi sebuah reputasi.¬†The real truth is worth dying for.¬†Untuk itulah, setiap orang punya hak untuk didengar dan, oleh karenanya, setiap orang memiliki kesempatan untuk¬†berapologetika.

Vancouver, 13 April 2017

Acknowledge God: Is it Worthwhile?

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:6, ESV)

Have you ever met people who always said good things (like “Praise God”, “Thanks God”, “By the grace of God”, “God is good”, etc.) when you gave him/her compliment or appreciation? What would you think of those ‘godly’ persons? Do you think they are always real and honest when they are responding that way? Or… do you think sometimes they are just pretending to look good in order to give you a good impression (niceties)? Or you might¬†think they are just simply trying to tell you that “My life is going well because God loves me”.

I suppose that not all people really expect those kind of answers when they are giving compliments to others. Imagine when you have a friend who always relates all the good things happened in his/her life to God. Would you think that he/she is too religious or a spiritual snob? Would you not wonder if he/she is truly a godly person or just trying to be ‘godly’? And you may often see that some people just want to give ‘normal’ answers rather than the ‘spiritual’ ones because they do not want people to think of them as if they are boasting.

In fact, in my experiences I have seen many people who are sort of ‘allergic’ towards “God’s stuffs” or religious attributes. They tend to feel uncomfortable even to have a conversation about God or spiritual matters with those ‘godly’ people. In my view, there are at least three reasons of this apathy or ignorance:

  1. They think the ‘godly’ people are just absurd. They have found it is hard to believe in the ‘fantasy’. To them, God is not real because they have neither seen him nor touched him. They hate bigotry and can’t really accept the idea of surrendering soul to God if you want the happiness or fortune.
  2. They think the ‘godly’ people are judgmental. They have seen many religious people often think themselves as highly moral persons, who like to value¬†things from a right-or-wrong perspective. As a result, they often feel as if they were being judged in the presence of these ‘theologians’.
  3. They think the ‘godly’ people are hypocrites. They have argued that in the history¬†people had struggled with the so-called holy wars, where people fought and killed each other in the name of God. These evil people had used the God’s name to gain authorities, to subdue and overcome others. No wonder that eventually these skeptics chose not to believe in God and rather follow their own ways.

Well, I can understand those feelings as some of their objections are actually quite reasonable. However, while it is true that people might¬†use God’s name in vain in order to impress (or even dominate/control/rule) others, it does exist people who sincerely thank God from the bottom of their hearts. They acknowledge God for all the blessings and goodness they have experienced. In fact, the Bible tells us, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31). Now, you may wonder, “What then really motivates those ‘godly’ people to always praise and thank God publicly or… shamelessly?”

Let me attempt to explain with the following illustration.

Suppose you are an author of a book (or a research paper)¬†and there have been many people who have contributed to¬†your publication. Some of them have given very significant contribution that you would¬†never ever complete it by your own effort. Then, would you be so mean not to acknowledge them publicly? In reverse, when you become¬†a significant contributor to¬†your friend’s work but¬†he/she does not even mention your name in the acknowledgement part of his/her publication, what would you feel? The same is true not only for book or research paper, but also for all masterpieces, such as movie, photography, music album, etc. You should give the credits to the people who deserve the credits! That’s the way you honor and respect the contributors.

So, what is the importance or significance of acknowledging God? I found, at least, three reasons.

1. Expression of gratefulness

All possessions we have and all things with us now are, in essence, the gifts from God. Even every breath we take should not be taken for granted. Nothing is really produced by our own efforts, if we would honestly confess. Therefore, we have no reason for not expressing gratitude. When we are not ashamed to sincerely thank God publicly, we trained ourselves to acknowledge God and remember his goodness in all our ways. It is very important to remind ourselves to be thankful everyday and not to allow a little bad thing steals our joy. When we acknowledge God with a thankful heart, we please God.

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. (John Piper)

2. Show of respectfulness and trust

For if we are honoring people by giving them the due acknowledgement for what they have done, how much more does God even deserve our respect, praises, and honor? God is the ultimate source of life, and we should honor him through all we do, our work and achievements. Moreover, respect is strongly intertwined with trust. Oftentimes you lose your trust when you lose your respect to someone. Thus, just as you trust someone by showing him/her respect, you are trusting God by honoring and acknowledging him.

Live in such a way that those who know you but don’t know God will come to know God because they know you. (Anonymous)

3. Sign of humility

Success is never accomplished by¬†a one-man show. Behind our success, there must be a lot of efforts, supports, and prayers; usually from invisible people who have worked “behind the stage”. Each contributor deserves the due credits. But then, who deserves the most of your success? Knowing that throughout the journey to success there were¬†actually so many things beyond our control (e.g. sick/diseases, misfortune, disaster, etc.) that could possibly ruin our plans, we had better acknowledge that without the “gracious divine intervention” we would never be able to¬†achieve our goals nor successfully reach our destinations. Some people may not confess that their success are from God, instead they would merely argue that it was a good luck that gave them success. They even boast that it was their hard-work and intelligence that have enabled them to succeed. Yes, that’s their right to do so! But I also have a right to believe that it is God who has actually¬†given all the success and blessings for us to enjoy which are¬†ultimately dedicated for his honor and glory! Isn’t it true that the ability to work hard and the intelligence are also given by God? We, human being, are fragile and even our own success can¬†eventually destroy us if we do not handle it with care. Therefore, I believe that surrendering our success to God and giving back all the glory to him is the best way to find rest from all the heavy labors and to enjoy the full benefits of our success. To acknowledge God is to place God on the highest place and to humble ourselves before him.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. (1 Peter 5:6, ESV)

Article history:
First drafted on March, 3, 2017
Finalized by March, 12, 2017
Vancouver, BC, Canada