Monthly Archives: September 2011

Difficult Life

Life is difficult.  The Life that Jesus taught is even more difficult. He taught about how to live the Kingdom of Heaven and its rewards (Mathew 5:1-12), but it is an uphill battle.

Let me share something that serves as an example. Yesterday was a rough  day at work. I felt I was about to lose control.  I prayed this morning about God leading me, and giving me strength. But instead I encountered a hectic day.  I haven’t prayed as much as I have before.  And I believe (or want to believe) that God is putting me in difficult situations so that I can “hit rock bottom” and reach out to Him.  Well that is exactly what happened yesterday.  I cried out to Jesus like I haven’t done in a while.  Whether or not this will work out, I am not sure, but I was in a state of desperation.  Am I going to reach out to God only when I am in a crisis or desperation?  I have even almost forgotten to practice daily what I believe is the reason for being: Living the Kingdom of Heaven.  Although this mainly entails serving the poor and loving others as I love myself, I am not able to do this if I don’t first humble myself, forgive others, be honest, stop worrying about material things, etc.  And, since I don’t learn the easy way, I guess I will have to learn the hard way.  So last night I cried like a baby, pleading God to give me strength.   I was praying like this because out of coincidence (or a message sent to God) I was listening to the radio on my way back from work and noticed  the song “Make you Stronger” my Madissa.  Was this a reminder from the Almighty about my current situation?  Am I supposed to be stronger after all of this tribulation?  Well, that is my hope, since I don’t think I can withstand this unless I am actually gaining some strength.

The life that Jesus taught, I mentioned at the beginning of this post, is even more difficult.  I believe so because he taught some outrageous things that we must do to live the Kingdom of Heaven.  Hatred is equal to murder and prefers forgiving each other than sacrifice  (Mathew 5:21-22). Lust is the same as adultery (Mathew 5:27). To swear is evil (Matthew 5:37).  We should love our enemies (Ouch!) so that we can be like God  (Mathew 5:38-45).  How can we possibly love those who hate us?  Who can possibly do such a thing?  And also we are supposed to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, and forgive 70 x 7. This sounds more difficult that what I am going through now.  So then, how can I experience the things that Jesus taught us to practice, if I cannot bare what I am living right now?

What I am trying to get at is that I have tried to know God with my own strengths.  I admit it.  And what I have learned lately is that I need to slow down and don’t worry so much about doing the right thing.  Having these difficult situations have helped me to realize this.  I need to wait (although I don’t want to) and allow these situations to humble me even more, because otherwise I am not going to be able to live the Kingdom of Heaven.

Please enjoy the music video that follows which has the lyrics of Madissa’s song “Make you Stronger”.  It brought tears to my eyes because it speaks exactly about what I have gone through.  It has been an inspiration.


God Magnified

Should I celebrate when a criminal is incarcerated? Am I supposed to share the same feeling that most people feel? I work with mentally ill people, and one of them just went to jail.  Every person I know despises him because of his abusive behavior.  Everyone hoped for this person to be put away for whatever reason.  And today it “finally” happened.  I have tried to have some hope for this individual. I really wanted him to succeed.  But his actions brought him back to jail.  The popular thought was that he deserved to be locked up.  And this popular belief made me go along with the flow.  I became paranoid because of the stories everyone shared about this person.  Having him in the community caused everyone to be guarded and anxious.  I was afraid of how violent he could have been.  But now he is in jail.  And for some reason, I feel sad.  Am I not supposed to be happy? Am I not supposed to feel relieved that this criminal is behind bars?  While he was still in the community, I remember thinking how would God want me to approach this person?  What would Jesus do with a person like this?  Certainly not what everyone else was doing.  Certainly not how everyone else reacted to the news that he was put in jail.

In Mathew 5:48, Jesus commanded us to be perfect as God is perfect.  What exactly did this mean? Being perfect is associated with completion, fullness, without any need, purity.  What does it mean to be completed like God?  Imitating God is extremely difficult, but not impossible.  Reflecting the characteristics of God is challenging, but necessary in order to live the Kingdom of Heaven.  “Normal” people usually find happiness and joy when they have possessions, are well fed, and things usually go their way.  But for those who want to be perfect like God, happiness and joy usually happen for other reasons, like when they are needy, poor, and serving others who are undesirable.  Being humble, forgiving, meek, and peaceful is what makes a person more like God.  But of course, this is not popular nor encouraged in this world.  We are supposed to hate our enemies, seek for our own well being, compete, and always do what is convenient and easy in order to be accepted in this world.  But his world is full of darkness because of our selfishness.  We are called to be light of the world (Matthew 5:14).  We are called to love those who hate us (Matthew 5:43).  We are called to bless those who curse us.  We are called to forgive those who persecute us.  We are called to help those who want to harm us.  Crazy stuff, right?   Well, if this is irrational and weird, then so be it.  It is actually what we are called to be and do to manifest the Kingdom of Heaven.  Please, don’t misunderstand me.  I am not trying to brag about how “perfect” I am for feeling sad for this individual. This post is not about me, but about what God wants us to be. It is about how God can me magnified in our lives.

How do we then magnify God?  By singing hymns?  By loving those who love us?  By being nice to some people and hold grudges against those we dislike?  In order to glorify and actually magnify the love of God, we must suppress all those natural and popular characteristics that make us “normal”, like being excited that a criminal is put into jail, or being happy that our enemy is suffering.  Living a joyful life because we are blessing those who persecute us is all about how God wants us to live.  Being perfect is the way to glorify and magnify God.

Is this all there is to Life?

I admit it. I am the man that is double minded. I feel closer to God one day, and farther away the other. I have faith one day, and doubt the next.  I feel encouraged to pray or reflect today, and tomorrow I don’t want to hear anything about God or Jesus. I am easily influenced by circumstances. I am the man described by the book of James in the Bible which says that “because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do (Ch. 1:7-8).”

I need to be honest about who I am, I don’t want to do what I used to do in the past.  I used to pretend that I firmly believe in everything that other Christians claim to be the ultimate truth.  I used to force myself to pray in certain ways simply because it was what was expected.  It was strictly religion.  But what I do now is to be open to various interpretations.  No, I am not creating my own religion, although I may be doing exactly this without noticing it.  Neither am I agnostic, because I believe there is a God. But I am not sure who or what this God really is. Although sometimes I can feel Him very close to me.  And sometimes I do not.  I am inconsistent.  The book of Revelation  claims that Jesus says “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Ch. 3:15-16).” This is a strong message, stating that Jesus will reject me when I am inconsistent.  It says He wishes I am either hot or cold.  Does this mean he will accept me if I am consistently away or close to God?  I don’t believe so.  But this same chapter continues with Jesus saying that people who are lukewarm say they are “rich”.  I don’t claim this, although I sometimes fall under the erroneous presumption that I am already heading towards that right direction, failing to be “poor in spirit”, as Jesus said he prefers us to be in order to have the Kingdom of Heavens (Matthew 5).  I understand also that this chapter refers to a particular early church in Laodicea. Should I interpret it pertaining exclusively to this historical church, or also to the present lukewarm church, like myself?  Don’t know.

But I read further in this passage, and feel a strange inspiration when I come across the statement that says “  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”  Sometimes I hear the door knocking, but I am afraid to open it.  I am afraid that when I open the door there is nothing on the other side.  I am afraid of living an illusion.  But I am also afraid of not opening the door, because I might miss the greatest opportunity ever.  You see, I have opened the door before, or so I thought, and the joy was there, but with time, it disappeared, because of my double mind.  I feel tears in my mind while reading this passage, because I don’t want to reject God/Truth/Life.  But I don’t want to fool myself with empty hopes.  If God truly loves me, then He must be rebuking me and disciplining me, like this last verse says.  This is probably why I going through a spiritual tribulation.

I am also like Thomas, the disciple who doubted until he saw the resurrected Jesus. He told Thomas that those who believe without seeing are blessed (John 20:29).  Could this mean that I am not blessed if I keep looking for evidence instead of having bling faith?  I am certainly not completely happy and content.  But at the same time, if I am content, then I will not feel motivated to seek more of God.  I may be blessed and happy to simply believe, but I will not know more of God.  I also recently understood that having faith like “a seed of mustard”,  will enable me to do great things, which also means I don’t have to have great  faith (Luke 17:6).   I am not necessarily underestimating God’s power by looking for evidence, I may actually be glorifying Him even more if I keep searching to know more about the nature of His power.

If I am wrong for being double minded,  I can accept that.  What I cannot accept is that knowing God is simply believing everything that other “believers” claim.  I want more from God.  I want to actually feel closer to God, not be content with a few doctrines that is convenient to our selfish desires and cultural norms.  I don’t want to claim to believe certain things in order to be politically correct.  My goal should not be to please others, but God. I live in a constant spiritual struggle, which many might say is the “evil” versus the “good” in my body, like Paul describes in the letter of the Romans (Ch.7:1524).  But, is my doubting an evil thing?  I cannot accept this either. My understanding of evil is to be selfish and to exclude other people.  Doing good is to be inclusive, to love others regardless.  If I claim that my faith is the right one, and everyone else who thinks differently is wrong, then this is true evil.

So what I still have firmly is the thought and belief that I must serve others to live the Kingdom of Heaven.  This I don’t doubt.  It also does not mean to expect a reward, like this world only knows to do.  But to simply and genuinely reach out and help the poor, the hungry, the needy, the sick, the homeless, the mentally ill, the handicapped, and everyone else who is considered “the least of these”.  Jesus identified himself with these people.  I still hope that, by doing this, I will know God more, in spite of my many doubts.  In spite of my double mind.  Because what I see with my physical eyes cannot be all there is to Life.


Simply Complicated

simple I should live my personal life in the most simple way. But we should live our collective lives (as a community) in a more complicated way. Let me explain.  Simple individual lives would mean letting go of the desire to accommodate to the demands  of the media, fashion, religion, government, and other social influences.  I would not try to “fit” in to certain groups or certain kinds of people so that I can feel better about myself.  My self worth (as opposed to self esteem) should come from within, not from others.  When I grew as an adolescent, I desperately tried to fit in to a group so that I could be “cool” and accepted.  But I feel I have grown to the point of realizing that I don’t need others to feel worth. So, instead of living a life of indulgence, self service, and vanity, I would empty myself from all of this superficial qualities and fill myself  with peace, joy, acceptance, and service.  I must let go of all the complicated demands that we allow others to put on us, and simply live one day at a time, accepting my faults and limitations, and embracing who I really am.

Now, on a social aspect, we would need to be a more complicated community.  What I mean is, instead of simplifying our communities with segregating ourselves into individual subcultures (different races, ethnicities, fashions, religions), we should combine ourselves more into a more inclusive society.  Instead of labeling some liberals and others conservatives, we should think “outside the box” and perceive ourselves as united citizens.  We would need to refrain from thinking in dichotomies (black vs. white, religious vs. atheists, rich vs poor, democrats vs. republicans, educated vs. uneducated, us vs. them, etc. ).  Dichotomy thinking separates us from each other.  It makes us assume about who others are and what they represent. The famous author M. Scott Peck put it this way  “We have an obligation to confront our simplistic thinking about what being ‘normal’ should mean: an obligation to use critical thinking”.   We don’t think twice about many unjust assumptions.  We often assume that mentally ill people are dangerous.  We assume that all Muslims are terrorists.  We assume that  gays are perverts, religious people are fanatics, teenagers are lazy, the obese eat too much junk food, and that business owners are greedy.  M. Scott Peck also wrote that “Many assumptions we draw from labeling keep life at the level of superficiality” (The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, pg 38). We are afraid of going deeper in our lives, and prefer to have  a superficial, erroneous perception of the world.

This is because we don’t want to make the effort to listen to each other.  It is much easier to simply assume and label other people, and have a preconception about the person, and move on.  We are so concentrated in our own lifestyles and agenda that considering what others truly experience and believe in is not worth our time.  We simplify our social lives to the point of neglecting each other. We must empty ourselves form all the preconceiving thoughts about each other, and start reaching out.  We must deny ourselves so that we can effectively love our neighbors as ourselves.