Monthly Archives: October 2009

What would Jesus Say? (WWJS)

If you had the opportunity to sit right in front of Jesus, and could ask him any question, what would it be?  Would it be any of the following?

Who are you? What exactly is your message to the world? What would I need to do to go to heaven?  Are you really the Son of God or just a mere nice teacher?  Can you tell me if God is happy with me ? Can I just choose any religion I want and still see God one day? Do I have to believe in you?

Let me invite you to consider each one of these questions, shall we?

1. Who are you?

The High Priest asked this to Jesus and his reply was clear:  “The one sent from heaven , Son of Man, Son of God” (Mathew 26:63-64, Luke 22:66-70, John 6:38)

2. What exactly is your message to the world?

The Scribe asked this question referring to the greatest commandment and Jesus said:  Love God and your neighbors (Matheo 22:34-40)

3. What would I need to do to go to heaven?

The rich young man asked this question to Jesus and this was his answer:  “Sell everything and give to the poor.”

4. Are you really the Son of God or just a mere nice teacher?

John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus questioning his identity, and Jesus answered by referring to what he has done as evidence of his identity, : ” The Blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, mute talk, the dead are risen”

5. Can you tell me if God is happy with me?

Someone asked Jesus this by saying who is the greatest or valuable in the eyes of God, and his answer implied that it depended on a particular behavior: “Only if you act as humble as children ” (Matthew 18:1-5)

6.Can I choose any religion I want and still see God one day?

Thomas asked this question and Jesus was clear: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…Nobody comes to God except through Me”(John 14:5-6)

7. Do I have to believe in you?

Some people told Jesus they did not believe in him, but Jesus said people would not believe him even if He tells him plainly,  but said: “Believe in my works, which bear witness of who I am… If I do not do the works of God, do not believe Me, but if I do, believe the works” (John 10:22-39).

These few questions, which, as you can see, were already asked to Jesus, are followed by answers that reflect the main themes of Jesus’ teaching:  Love God and your neighbors, by being  humble, helping others, and believing that my works are God’s.

Any other questions you might ask Jesus, regardless of your belief?


Lesson 3 : Blessed are the Meek

What is up with being meek?  Can’t I just be proud of what I do and my accomplishments?  Do I have to live in a cave or as a homeless to experience the Kingdom of Heaven?  Not if we do it in a genuine way.  Jesus saw that many people live lives full of “superficial stuff”.  This is exactly what we experience in our modern world: Live the American Dream, have two jobs, buy the most expensive cars, be proud of your heritage, don’t accept “no” as an answer, fight for your rights, etc.  Isn’t all these what has been taught to us?  It sounds good, right?  But what exactly does it all lead us to?   It leads us to a selfish, complicated, self absorbing life.  Live life in a superficial manner, not settling for less.  This is dangerous.  It actually separate us more from others, and therefore, from God.  Jesus told us to follow his example, because he was meek (Mathew 11:29).  He also warned us from acting like the pharisees, who were self serving religious fanatics who worried mostly about appearance (Mathew 23). We must let go of all the superficial and artificial lifestyle, be ourself, and love others as ourself. Jesus warned us that if we don’t return to be like children, we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, because if we do, then we will be considered the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Sounds ironic, right?  And let us not worry about what God already knows we need, the material needs, but we should worry about living the Kingdom of Heaven instead (Mathew 6:25-34).   The same way Jesus did.  “Love one another as I have loved you”.

Kingdom of Heaven = the Life

Kingdom of Heaven =  The Life

It was confirmed today (by God I believe) what I have realized in the past few months.  The central theme and message of Jesus (and the Bible) is, like it was written in the Gospel of Mathews chapter 5, we must accept our dependence in God (poor in spirit), allow ourselves to be weak (blessed are those who mourn), be simple and humble (blessed are the meek), treat others with respect and fairness (blessed are those who hunger for righteousness),  have compassion (blessed are the merciful),  forgive (blessed are the pure in heart), resolve conflicts (blessed are the peacemakers), fight for justice in spite of the opposition of the unjust (blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness), and continue to follow the teachings of Jesus in spite of what this world says about you (blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, lying about you, for my sake).

Jesus wants us to serve others in a selfless way, not so that people think highly of us, but so that God can think highly of us and He is glorified.  This is why Jesus continued his journey teaching to “love your enemies” (Mt 5:44), “always be honest without having to swear” (Mt 5:33), “walk the extra miles for others, even if they are mean to you” (Mt 5: 38-42).  These are not easy things to do, but are essential for experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven. This is also why Jesus taught us not to worry about earthly things (Mt. 6:25), and don’t judge others (Mt 7 1-6), so that we keep focused on the heavenly things which is to love others unconditionally (as it is done in heaven; Mt 6: 10). All of these teachings are a reflection of the main message found in Mathews chapter 5, commonly known as the Beatitudes. This is why Jesus said to the pharisees in Mathew 22: 37-40, “‘You shall love God with all your heart…and You shall love your neighbor as yourself’, On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’”.

But Jesus realized this was not an easy thing to do, which is why he named it the “narrow path” (Mt. 7:13) which leads you to the Life, but if we do not live the Life (not “this way of life” but the only true “Life” of serving others), Jesus will not accept us in His Kingdom (Mt. 7:21, Mt. 25:31-46).  This might sound crude to those who resist serving others unconditionally.  Jesus also expressed how difficult living the Kingdom of Heaven is by inviting us to go to Him when we are tired, because the Life (Kingdom of Heaven) that he is inviting us to live requires sacrifice because we have to stop serving ourselves like this world demands us to do, and we might get tired of trying to continue to serve others when the rest of the world, and our human nature, tells us to do otherwise.  This is when we should rely on Jesus by praying and fasting, so that He can restore our strength and continue to live the Kingdom of Heaven. This is also why Jesus gives us the Parables of the Virgins, which teaches us about being consistent in living the Kingdom of Heaven until the end (Mt. 25: 1-13).  But it is imperative to accept the difficulty of living the Life (Kingdom of Heaven), which Jesus also urged by saying “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself (earthly and selfish life), and take up his cross (the sacrifice of letting go of selfish ways), and follow Me”, and then “for whoever loses his life (selfish life) , will find it (the real Life)”.

Isn’t this clear to you as it is to me?  Don’t you realize what Jesus is really inviting us to do?  It is not merely going to a church, singing songs, tithing, fasting, and saying grace.  The Prophet Isaiah said it in chapter 58 when he wrote “They ask me (God speaking) why have we fasted and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls and You take no notice?”…Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to undo the heavy burdens (help others in need), to let the oppressed go free (fight for justice) and that you break every yoke? Is itn not to share your bread with the hungry, bring to your house the poor, when you see the naked, that you cover him ..then your light shall break forth like the morning (you will live the Life)”.

The gospels and the rest of the Bible are full of examples of the teaching of the Kingdom of Heaven (the Life).  I know this may rise many questions, such as what about Jesus’ teachings about his identity (Divine Savior or mere messenger), His miracles, and His Resurrection.  these will be discussed in other log entries.

Lesson 2 : “Blessed are those who mourn.” Happy to be sad?

What is so good about mourning?    Why did Jesus tell us that we should be happy when we cry?  That does not make any sense, right?   This life is full of suffering, and despair.  Everyday there is something that happens  that disappoints us, angers us, and depresses us.  No one is exempt.  There is always something “wrong” in our lives.  There are wars, crimes, diseases, natural disasters, hatred, discrimination, divorce, and envy, to mention a few.  Why all the suffering?  And the more financially challenged we are, the more challenging our lives tend to be.  The lower the social economic status, the more stress we tend to have.  Or do we?  Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  So, if we don’t mourn, are we really in trouble?  Jesus later said that the rich people already have their reward.   He may have been talking about the temporary, immediate reward that the material blessings bring.  The true  blessing is the one that comes after we have suffered poverty.  Should we just give up all of our money to be happy?   Not exactly, but we should not love our money as we should love people.  But if we suffer and cry, Jesus said we will be comforted.  We will not be abandoned.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.   I understand this to mean that, when we face difficult times in life, which they will always come, give thanks to God and trust that we will be comforted.  We may cry and mourn, but we may not curse and demand, because that is not what God wants us to do to experience the Kingdom of Heaven.  And also, if you think about it,  suffering actually proves that something wrong is happening, and if we can identify the “wrong”, then that means there must be a “good” .  I would not recognize darkness if I was not aware of the existence of light.  So, in other words, be happy that you can recognize suffering, because it means there is always a better alternative that can replace it.  We will be comforted.  So, in summary, to continue to experience the Kingdom of Heaven,  accept the suffering, don’t curse and demand, but be content with the suffering, and continue living.  Blessing will follow.

Lesson 1 : “Poor in Spirit.”

Do we know what it’s like to be “Poor in Spirit”?  Jesus said that those who are poor in spirit experience the Kingdom of Heaven.  This is the very first lesson Jesus teaches us. It is an introduction to how our attitude should be before we continue to practice the Kingdom. But, what does it really mean?  Let us consider the following statement by Warren Berkley:

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit?” It is that fundamental characteristic of realizing that you are spiritually empty, and that only by depending upon God can you fill that emptiness. This is about knowing you are spiritually poor, therefore you know your need.
It may help to think about the opposite of “poor in spirit.” The contrast would be “proud in spirit;” self-sufficient, arrogantly independent. There are individuals with the attitude that says “I don’t need anybody to give me any direction in life. I can do fine without any moral standard from a divine source.” This is the modern spirit of humanism. In the Glossary of Humanism the concept of is defined this way: “…a view of life that is centered on man and his capacity to build a worthwhile life for himself and his fellows here and now. The emphasis is placed on man’s own intellectual and moral resources, and the nation of supernatural religion is rejected.”   Humanism says man doesn’t need a Savior; shouldn’t rely on the gospel, and doesn’t need any spiritual blessing. This is opposite of “poor in spirit.”   To be poor in spirit is to have the disposition described in Isa. 66:2 — “But on this one will I look; on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My Word.
”    By Warren E Berkley, From Expository Files 7.10; October 2000.

In other words, recognize the reality that I have a need that only God can meet.  This world, no matter how much it tries to convince me that I should be self sufficient, proud, and independent, does not offer me anything that gives me true blessings.  This world offers limited, temporary happiness.  God offers everlasting blessing.

I think about all the time that I have forgotten the love of God, simply because things go my way.  The minute I am in a crisis, either financial or social problems, then I look up and say, “Help me God!” or I say “Why me, God?”  Either one of those responses is an indication that I am acknowledging the presence of God and my limitation.  Even if I question God, I am recognizing his unlimited power.   Some people say that thinking that “God is on my side” is ignorance and arrogance.  My thought is that thinking that I do not need God, even if my strength is truly limited, is truly ignorant and arrogant.  I HAVE to recognize the presence of God, even if I am angry at Him.  Jesus taught us to continue to depend on God, to avoid being arrogant, and be “Poor in Spirit”. God bless you.

Teaching Moment

What are we supposed to learn if we are going to be true Christians?  Actually, this is not about being “Christians”, but about how we, as human beings, are supposed to be, regardless of religious affiliation.  Jesus taught us how to be humble, compassionate, forgiving,  meek, seekers for equality, accepting of suffering, and peace makers (Mathews 5: 1-12).  The rest of the gospel gives us more detailed explanations of these characteristics of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Later he said that we shine like a city in a hill when we practice these characteristics. Those who practice these characteristics are considered the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  He warned us to do better than those who claim to practice these characteristics but do not.  Jesus also taught us not to harbor hatred, refrain from lusting, be honest without having to swear, and love our enemies.  These are not easy tasks, but are required to practice the Kingdom of Heaven. Can we do these things?  If you notice, these teachings, which start in Mathews chapter 5, are mainly about how to treat one another.   The farther we go in this gospel, the more clear it is that Jesus wanted us to learn how to better treat each other, be honest, and have a relationship with God.  These were the main themes of his teachings. You think you already knew this?  That’s what I thought until I took a deeper look at his teachings.