Monthly Archives: April 2011

Too much Chaos

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  The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble! God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts! Psalm 46:6

It brakes my heart when I read the news about the 300 plus deaths in Alabama and other states as a result of the tornados.  I shake my head while looking at the pictures of the destroyed communities. This is another example of disaster that occurs througout the world.  Tsunamis, earthquakes, nuclear disaster, tornadoes.  It is just becoming overwhelming.  Not to mention unemployment, foreclosures, terrorism, human trafficking, etc.  I wonder, are these reminders that the world is simply a chaotic place with no purpose?  Or is this simply another transition that us humans must pass through so that another era, or generation can begin?  Or is this a reminder of how finite we really are and how we just need to rethink and reconsider our priorities towards a better society?  What is the role of God, or whatever you want to call it, in the midst of these destructions? What is our roles? 

There are too many questions and not enough answers. While pondering about these questions, I wonder why do some people continue to allow themselves to be distracted by trivial events in other parts of the world, including royal marriages, celebrities without makeup , etc.  How segregated can we be?  It’s like we live in compartmentalized cubicles where people are concerned about their own affairs, until a gigantic crisis comes in the form of a tornado, earthquake, loss of jobs, or illnesses and wakes us up to the realization that our “cubicles” were just a temporary and superficial state of illusion that blinded us and now we see the reality of life.  But the reality of life, no matter how difficult,  can unite us even more into a stronger and bigger community, if we choose it.  How much more can we take as citizens of earth?  Maybe this is why we choose to be distracted, because the reality of the brutality of life is just too great to bare.  Then we are probably too self-centered to reach out to each other, and instead keep ourselves in our little, comfortable, selfish livesOur hearts should be troubled at the sight of the disasters that happens all around us, and be moved to help those in great need.

 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.  Matthews 25:36

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Spiritual Roller Coaster

rollercoaster  Since I was a little kid, I dreaded seeing roller coasters from a distance.   I don’t like to feel fear, so the few times that I actually rode a roller coaster (the worst being the Space Mountain at Disney World) has been bad experiences.  Just like a roller coaster, my personal growth in faith has been  turbulent.  I have found myself going up and down, sideways, fast and slow.  I have felt confusion and frustration.  I have also felt happy when I am up (like going to the highest point of the roller coaster) but then start feeling disillusioned again when I start going down in my faith.

About ten years ago I learned that having doubts is not a barrier, but a step towards learning more about God.  So I have embraced my doubts as tools to motivate myself into knowing God more.  I have also learned not to conclude that I already know God.  That would be choosing to stop growing and settle with an incomplete notion of God.  It also limits me from fully experiencing God.  David wrote in Psalm 105:4 “Seek the Lord and His strength, seek his presence continually!” Getting to know Him has been my “roller coaster”.

Sometimes I doubt, and sometimes I feel closer to God.  But I am always seeking.  The day that I stop seeking, the day that I decide that I know everything there is to know about life and God, then that day I will move farther from God.   I believe that this is a continuous transition.  I have grown from thinking that I must believe in certain doctrine in order to be “saved” to accepting the fact that allowing myself to grow is truly my Salvation. Sometimes I don’t like the circumstances, but I remind myself that it is temporary.

I learned I am part of a bigger purpose.   I have grown from believing that the reason to live is to simply go to church and be a good “Christian”, to believing that my purpose in life is much greater than that.   My purpose is to serve, in a genuine way, in order to please God, not men (Colossians 3:23).   I am beginning to look at the bigger picture.  I am here temporarily. Like the famous author Rick Warren said in his book “The Purpose Driven Life”, life is not about me.  This is a test to prepare me for the “real” life.  I believe that Matthew chapter 5 (The Beatitudes) introduces the instructions for living the Kingdom of Heaven. Loving our neighbors as we love ourselves has been repeatedly stressed as the number one reason for being on earth by Jesus and His followers (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, 22:39, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8, 1 John 4:21.

I have also grown from thinking that I must prosper in order to be happy.  I believed that when I am suffering financial hardship, it meant that I am not right with God.  But now I believe differently.  I believe that being poor and having necessities is actually an opportunity to learn to depend more on God.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 says ” Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.  This too is meaningless.”  Jesus said “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth…. but in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20). James 2:4 says “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” It is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 10:25).

In summary, my growth has been and continues to be fluent.  I have accepted my doubts, continue to learn more about God, serve others more, and be content with simplicity and scarcity.  Looking at the bigger picture, instead of worrying about the little details of life, has helped me to see things the way God sees. it.   I must live the Kingdom of Heaven by living the example of Jesus.  “Your Kingdom come, your will be done” should be my daily prayer.


Lesson 8: Doing Right versus Conforming

freedomDo not conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2).

Do you conform to what is expected from society, or do you do the right thing?  What standards to you use when making decisions: what you know is right, or what most people do?  I like to watch the reality TV show “What Would You Do?” with John Qui~ones.  It shows how people usually react to injustice and prejudice. It makes us think what would we do in a situation where people are blatantly treated unfairly.  Do we dare stand up against racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, and the like?  In one of my previous posts (Lesson 4 ) I talked about Matthew  5:6  which is about being hungry for righteousness.   In this post, I go a little further by explaining Matthew 5:10.  Jesus said “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”.   It is not enough to simply want to treat others equally and do it.  It is also imperative to continue to do it  in spite of what this world says, which teaches the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, most modern laws are designed to enforce justice, equality, and the rights of people (“All men are created equal…”).  However, we still struggle with prejudice, racism, terrorism, discrimination, and other practices that keep us segregated and struggling.  Human trafficking, suicide terrorists, genocide, and other inhumane acts continue to devour our world.  They are monstrosities which prove that Evil does exist in this world.  I define evil as simply serving the self alone.  Any selfish act, without considering the needs of others, is evil.  And it always leads to mistreatment of others. And  since the self is all that matters, others become objects  to be used.  Hiding our selfish acts, by pretending, lying, and covering it up is even more evil.  Everything that is not honest and sincere is evil.  Jesus talked about this in John 3:19-21 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” This is why I believe that this world is in darkness, because what is practiced is evil acts to serve the self, and they hide it so that it is not exposed. But in order to live the Kingdom of Heaven, we must practice righteousness and point out the unrighteousness.  Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility with God? So whoever wants to be a friend of this world is an enemy of God ( James 4:4).  Jesus taught us to learn the Lord’s Prayer, which says “let us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13) which included the temptation of going with the flow of this selfish world.

I am glad that there are people and communities that are waking up to the realization that things like racism, discrimination, and homophobia are wrong and should not be tolerated.  But practicing righteousness is not easy when there are other people  around us who continue to be unfair and selfish with their own arrogant belief systems that segregate us.  Just because we have different view points about religion, for instance,  does that mean we cannot come up with some agreement?  The moment that I believe that I am better than you because of my race, social status, or religion, I start practicing evil.  If I let go of these preconceived concepts and start regarding you as a human being worth of respect simply because you are human, then I begin to live the Kingdom of Heaven.  Injustice and discrimination must be revealed.  It must be pointed and rebuked!  We must acknowledge the injustice and discrimination that exists all around us, no matter how difficult and unpopular.  Jesus did exactly this when he publicly exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, comparing them with white tombs filled with  bones and everything unclean.  He calls them “blind fools”  and “snakes”  (Matthew 23).  I don’t mean going out and start condemning people on street corners, but refuse to be part of the injustice of this world and be active in organizations that fight for justice.  Martin Luther King, Jr. preached civil rights.  Rosa Parks dared to exemplify fairness. Eleanor Roosevelt advocated for children, women, and minorities.  Gandhi fought discrimination. Dalai Lama struggled for peace and liberty.  All these famous human rights pioneers and many more fought for what was right, no matter how others tried to silence them.  Let us not blend with this world, but be light of the world (Matthew 5:14), by making a difference in fighting for righteousness.


My New Blog Address

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WELCOME to  http://www.livingthekingdom.wordpress.com .  Remember not to click on the old link to my blog. Sorry about the inconvenience. If anybody knows any easier way to help viewers have access to my blog using the new address, please let me know. I look forward continuing to share comments with my WordPress friends. Have a happy WordPress day!


Ownership is an Illusion

greed

The other day, I struggled with giving tithes and offerings to church.   It bothers me sometimes because I don’t know exactly what is “my” money being used for.  I can have faith that it will be used for a good cause (feeding the poor, giving homes to homeless, helping the elderly, etc) but I don’t know for sure.  I prefer to give directly to charity, so that I “know” what is it being used for.

This blog is about giving; about the importance of serving others without expecting immediate reward, just what Jesus taught us in the Beautitudes (Matthew 5).  But I can’t deny feeling a little uncomfortable with giving up some of my “possession” to others, especially after knowing that I worked hard to earn it. But at the same time,  I think of when Jesus taught about denying the self, walking the narrow path, for a camel to go through the eye of a needle easier than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  And then I say to myself, “Self, this is exactly what the process of living the Kingdom of Heaven entails: sacrificing the selfish, giving up the natural tendencies of my body in order to serve others, and therefore get closer to God”.

When I expressed my discomfort to my wife about giving the offerings, she quoted the Bible “God provided, God took away” (Job 1:21).  I contemplated on this.  I then thought about it further.  I concluded that I don’t own anything.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” Psalm 24:1.  The Bible is actually full of verses that repeatedly mention that we don’t own anything.  But God is the one who does (Exodues 9:29, Job 41:11, Haggain 2:8).  Not even my own body belongs to me (1 Corinthians 6:19).   If I think that I own the house I live in, the car I drive, the money I spend, the body that sustains me, then what do I do with them when my body dies ?(1 Timothy 6:7).  Nothing.  We like to pretend so much.  We like to be our own gods.  We like to live the illusion that what we have is actually ours.  It gives us a false sense of security.  The material things give us the fantasy that we can control things around us, including our selves.  Not even the children that my wife gave birth to our mine!  And this last statement actually hurts me a lot!  I can’t deny this feeling!  But the reality is, when my children grow up, what will I do to them?  Trying to continue to “own” them by overprotecting them, by giving them too many advices, will actually damage the relationship I will have with them. The key is to let go, and when I let go of something, do I really own it?  No.


Living HELL

heavenhellI was listening on the radio today a person talking about believing in hell.  He asked if the listener believes in hell, and if the answer was yes, then than meant that the listener had to make an important decision about Jesus.  In other words, if I believe that hell exists, then believing in Jesus becomes crucial.  I just shook my head in disbelief and changed the station.  Does this mean that I must believe in the Gospel of Jesus simply because not doing so will guarantee an eternal damnation in hell?  This leads me to follow Jesus out of fear, not out of love.  I understand the concept of the consequence of not choosing to believe in God and living as if God does not exist.  I believe that a Godless life must be really miserable.  But teaching that believing in Jesus is important because it prevents me from going to eternal damnation is a twisted message.

Jesus is about unconditional love.  He did talk about those that will be judged because they chose to live wicked lives. But the main message , the main purpose about Jesus is simply to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  The Gospels started talking about loving others, being humble, fighting for righteousness, forgiving, and having a pure heart more than it talked about avoiding hell. I guess the real message of love that Jesus taught is not chosen frequently because it may not motivate people as hell does.  Fear can move people quicker than love can.  I don’t know for sure.  But the reality is that many Christians use the scare tactics to motivate people to follow their doctrines, not Jesus.  It is sad.  It reminds me of telemarketing.  You hear a lot of messages like “Use our products and you will get rid of the wrinkles” (avoid the reminder of aging)  or “Try us for a month and you will lose 50 pounds!” (avoid obesity which threatens our lives) or “Try our product and you will save hundreds of dollars!” (avoid not having enough money).  Avoid this, avoid that.  Fear.  People respond quick to fear.

But as soon as people hear the message of “Donate blood today and you will save a life!” or “With your $1 gift, a child will not go hungry tonight!”, then they think twice about it.  Not fear.  But love.

Jesus’ message was more like “donate blood” and “give money to the poor” more than “follow me and you will avoid hell”.

Let us turn things around and follow Jesus for the right reasons.  Let us not talk to people about avoiding hell, but about embracing love, acceptance, equality, justice, mercy, peace, community, humility, and the like.  While thinking about today’s message on the radio, I thought of a nice way to turn the message of hell into a message of love.

So I just came up with the acronym of H.E.L.L. which stands for Heaven Embodied in a Legitimate Life. Heaven is where all begins, the spiritual life, God.  Embodied because heaven can be manifested and materialized with our actions here on earth.  We reflect the life that is lived in Heaven by following the teachings of Jesus.  In a Legitimate life because we must practice the Kingdom of Heaven in a sincere way, without expecting a selfish reward (avoiding hell) but knowing that we are simply serving others (Jesus).  And Life because this life is the gift that God gave us to practice Heaven. So let’s get out there and start living H.E.L.L. !!

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