shiningliketheson

A growing human's walk as a servant/woman/warrior of God

Prayers Answered

Have you ever prayed to God, asking for more of Him?

I have. And I don’t say this in a pretentious way, as if it increases my spirituality; I bring this up because, recently, God has been consistently reminding me about such prayers in my life.

“God, help me to understand the price of the cross”

“God, help me to love you more”

“God, use me; let me serve you”

In the past 1.5 years of college, I have learned so much about God. In an academic setting, walking with professors who share my faith and are so knowledgable in their field has been incredibly enlightening. From science professors who praise the creator’s masterpiece, to anthropology professors who find their strength and hope in God through the reality of inequality and suffering on this earth, my understanding of God has expanded so much.

I am surprised at myself…how I am overflowing with joy and excitement when I think about who God is and what He has done for us. The gospel is enough. And when I catch myself being surprised, I sense the Holy Spirit bringing me back to the times where I was on my knees, begging for Him to help me understand. Or maybe even when I nonchalantly asked that my friends would pray that I would love God more.

I am convinced that there might just be nothing more beautiful to God than when one of His children desires to know more of Him.

I am reminded of this verse:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Mat 7:9-11)

We can ask for a good job. We can ask for a good husband or wife. We can ask for a prosperous life. But what good is that if God does not come with us? It is easy for God to give us things. God told Moses that He would give the Israelites the promised land, but He would not follow them. And what was Moses’ response? He said, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here” (Exodus 33:15).

Moses knew the value of the presence of the Almighty God. Everything is meaningless without Him. I believe that God wants us to follow this example.

I hope that the prayers of every Christian would be filled with “Lord, help me to know you more” because it is truly, truly wonderful and sweet.

I am the rich person

 “And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:17-25)

I once read this passage with 100% assurance that it did not apply to me in any way. My dad is a pastor and my mom is a talented-but-struggling musician, so we never lived in abundance. However, the more that I am able to view my surroundings from an outside-looking-in point of view, the more I realize that I am more well off than I had previously assumed.  In fact, despite the small apartment we live in, we are still very well off. Although barely, I am still able to go to college. Having a college degree may mean debt, but education is the best way for someone to progress in society. Also as a college student, I have options, which so many people in the world do not have the luxury of having. (e.g., I have the option of using my education with the intention of increasing the zeros behind my paycheck or with the intention of doing good in the world, I have the option of choosing which field I’d like to pursue)

What Jesus teaches in Mark’s gospel is so far from what our world tells us. The world (from my experience) tells us to do whatever we can to become well-off and live comfortably. But in this passage Jesus dares to call the rich man to give up all the wealth that he has and all that he could have. What if he called us to do the same? Now that’s frickin’ hard to give up.

Can you imagine?

No more hipster socks, organic hot chocolate, unjustly expensive ugly-christmas sweaters, vacations to the Caribbean. No more.

It sounds extreme, but if you think about it, is it extreme or does it just sound extreme because it hurts?

Jesus’ words ring in my head: “How difficult will it be for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God…” 

Ah, the rich man had the riches, he had the comfortable life, and he had a good religious record. But still unsatisfied, ran and knelt in front of Jesus. I see a parallel to the lives of my Christian brothers and sisters here.

Many Christians live lives of consumerism and materialism, basking in wealth that they do not realize is great riches in comparison to the poverty in the world. I wonder if we who are more well-off or who have the option of becoming well-off would go to Jesus, desperate for something more saying, ‘teacher, I have read my Bible, I lead worship team, I pray, and I am a good person, but I still feel so empty.’ And I wonder if He would have compassion on us, saying, ‘you lack one thing…go and give your college degree…go and give your talents…go and give your wealth to the poor and follow me.’ I wonder how we would answer.

 

 

Advent is Not ___: Reflection on Christmas

In the United States, the holiday season is always exciting. It is filled with bright, cheerful glee and end-of-the-year sentiments. This year, however,  Christmas has a different meaning for me.

Actually, I have both gained a whole new appreciation for Christmas as a Christian and I am quite disgusted by what Christmas has become.

In this season, the stores are filled with humans who scurry to get their loved ones materials. Sure, we can think of it as simply making our friends and family feel appreciated with gifts, but I think that’s just scratching the surface of the problem. Nowadays, I have been reflecting on the “norms” of our culture. It is a norm to give each other gifts during Christmas, but isn’t that a construction of our market-centric society?  The United States is an extremely consumeristic country–that’s what has built up our economy for the past few centuries. However, there are so many consequences that follow. I am reading more on our economic system at the moment, so I cannot write details; however, it’s messed up but still we relentlessly consume…even Christians.

This critique of our Christmas culture stems mainly from my newly-found meaning of Advent.

This past semester, I was enrolled in a class called Intro to Peace and Conflict. In the class, we discussed a lot of gruesome events such as the Rwandan genocide, mass incarceration in the United States, global mental health…etc. Basically, it was a heavy class. To be frank, a semester of talking about such things every single class got really tiring. By the end, I was confused on what to think. In the last class, though, we took time for reflection and what my classmates said amazed and humbled me.

One student said that she learned more about Jesus.

Here I was, thinking that I learned more about what I ought to do as a Christian, and the fact that I was learning more about Jesus’ heart for the poor didn’t even cross my mind.

Another student said that she learned the value of advent.

Wow. Yeah, the more I learn about the sufferings in this world through my classes, I am realizing just how dark our world is. When Jesus came into the world, He came as light. On Christmas we celebrate that coming; that’s why we sing “Joy to the World, the Lord has come.” Every individual and systematic sin has been forever cleansed by Jesus’ blood, and during Christmas we celebrate the birth of that miracle.

Through God’s grace, I was able to learn these things from my classmates. That’s why I mourn when I see Christians making their stockings full (of course, not every Christian). In celebrating the arrival of the prince of peace, the father of the poor and powerless, should we really be investing on the next expensive electronic device? I say, no, if anything, the celebration of the coming of Jesus should be with as much humility that Jesus had…He left his throne in heaven that day…will we dare to give up ours?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2)

Christian Responsibility for People In Danger

Today, my roommate and I went to Starbucks to study and finish the incredible amount of work that we had been assigned in the next two weeks.

At approximately 9:55pm, a man walked into Starbucks. His appearance was more haggard than a usual person, but we didn’t make any judgements about him–nor did we want to. He walked around for a few minutes and walked out.

10:02pm we left Starbucks to walk back to our dorm. The man was standing outside the door. We met eye contact with him. He had an eerily wide grin on his face. Although I begun to feel uneasy, I decided to ignore it and kept walking.

A few yards after, I threw something away in the trash and looked back at where the man was standing. He was still staring at us. Once again, I tried to think nothing of it.

As my roommate and I were turning the corner, however, we noticed that he had started walking towards us. It was after 10:00pm. All the stores were closed. No one else was outside.

Creeped out, my roommate and I started to run towards the nearest apartment building. In the process, I screamed, “don’t leave me!” with genuine fear and my roommate fell on the ground, resulting in a hole in her right hand mitten. Thankfully, we made back to our dorm safely.

Truth be told, I find this event to be comical in a terrifying way. In part because the man might have actually had malicious intentions. In part because we may have dramatized this event way more than we should have.

There are a few important things to get out of this experience, however. First, is realizing the ways in which [especially] women have to live in fear of potentially being attacked and not being able to defend themselves through it. Second, I felt incredible fear in the moments when I thought the man was following me. In my mind, I thought about possibly being attacked by this man–“would anyone come to save me?” Then, a thought came about people in legitamate danger: people like those in Syria, who are battling unimaginable violence and fear in the country,  people such as the 21-36 million who is suspected to be enslaved in the world today, people in our very neighborhoods who are suffering abuse. People who need other people. People who wonder, “is anyone going to come and help me?” I am not encouraging a savior complex. I’m referring to the Christian responsibility to be the hands and feet of God in this world.

Tonight, an officer from my school came to escort us back on campus. Who will be the ones to escort those in trouble back into the hands of Jesus? It has to be someone. Maybe it’ll be you.

Nothing Else Matters (Really!)

“You [Wormwood] complain that my last letter does not make it clear whether I regard being in love as a desirable state for a human or not. But really, Wormwood, that is the sort of question one expects them [humans] to ask! Leave them to discuss whether ‘love’, or patriotism, or celibacy, or candles on altars, or teetotalism, or education, are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Can’t you see there’s no answer? Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at a particular moment nearer to the Enemy [God] or nearer to us [Devil],” Thus it would be quite a good thing to make the patient decide that ‘Love’ is ‘good’ or ‘bad’…” (240, The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics: The Screwtape Letters)

In case you were confused, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a book that is from the perspective of a more mature demon to another, mentoring the other about the human condition and the best ways to keep them away from “the enemy” (God). It has a lot of good content as well as a very interesting perspective.

This particular paragraph refers to our tendency to ask moral questions: is this good? Is this bad?

I am mind blown by this. Aren’t you? It seems like nowadays there is so much talk about ethics. Is cussing okay for Christians? Can Christians drink? Can Christians listen to secular music?

Whatever you believe, it is important to look at the intentions behind the laws. From what I have learned, it is to keep us set apart for God; it is for us to have a relationship with God. It is not, “will drinking alchohol make me a bad christian,” but, “will drinking alcohol pull me closer or further from God?” Sometimes it’s mutual (everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial). When we battle with these moral questions, we often do not have God in the picture. Surely, we discuss the importance of following the rules in the Bible, but we do not glance a second at the One who has commanded it and why He has done so.

I have heard theologians suggest that we are idolizing the Bible, as the Bible is the word of God, but it is not Lord. I am not discrediting the Bible at all. It is good and it has authority. However, I do not want anyone to miss the big picture that God has been painting since the beginning of earth because they want to pick at every rule in the Bible.

I think this passage provokes some much needed reflection about the condition of our hearts. Are we putting others at a moral standard that we have decided is ‘good’? Do we understand why these guidelines exist?

In Christ we’re a new being, not a better person

A “promised land” also awaits the Christian who is willing to move from the wilderness wonderings of self-effort and frustration.[i]

It seems like people with a high sense of morality are often people who don’t know or haven’t accepted Christ. I studied Buddhism, Jainism, and Vedanta in my first year of my Masters Degree in Philosophy. The idea of morality and how to attain it is so meticulously devised in these philosophies that, if it is followed to its very detail, I believe it’ll make gods out of men. Although, as good as it sounds, it’s only ideal in nature. Meaning, it’s completely impractical.

The same was, and is, with Moses’ law. Yet, even after knowing this, I’d struggled every day of my life trying to be a good Christian. I tried to live up to the standards of what I thought defined a good Christian.

Dress well…

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The Beauty of Diversity 

Like these three very different vases, outwardly we are so different (our culture, our physical appearances, our expressions of love etc.). Yet, by the fruits that we bear we are witnesses to God’s work in our lives. The flow of the Holy Spirit from our souls are like the flowers. Though we are so different, our purposes are the same: we are to be the vessel through which the fruits (or in case the flowers) of God is shown to the world. 

One of the most important things that God has taught me this year is how to love and appreciate diversity and unity in the church. Let’s self reflect tonight and see where God wants you to practice this message.   

“Just Have Faith” is not enough

Many times, being emotional for God can be seen as a negative thing. “I do not need emotion,” people say, “I can be faithful without feeling anything.” I know that it is something that I have struggled with in the past year. My heart had become hardened to emotion, often critical of my own emotions towards God. This was a very difficult time in my life because I was saved through such an emotional experience, and I was most encouraged when people felt something for God.

I guess I was afraid of emotionalism. However, what I have come to realize is that emotion is not the same as emotionalism. In a book called Revival by Martin Lloyd Jones, he says, “we are so afraid of the false that we quench the truth.” That is exactly what I have been going through in the past year and something that I need deep healing from. Jones claims that fear of emotion is one of the great hinderances to revival. I believe that speaks both in the individual and corporate level. He also talks about Paul who is the greatest intellect there every was in the Bible, yet he himself was so overflowing with emotion for God. Being passionate for God is the result of experience His presence. 

God desires us to be free. Not people who are obsessed with correcting others. Not people who grumble about the wrongs of this world. Not people who are so frozen with the fear of what is to come. But people who, in all circumstances, can sing with joy, freedom, and genuine love for God.

I know that there will be periods where we feel dry, and I am not implying that we should ride with our emotions. Rather, I am saying that there is something very wrong (not to mention that you’re missing out) with not being so in love with God that you’d be willing to look like a fool to worship him. I pray that the Holy Spirit will overtake us to the point where our surroundings fade away, and all we desire is for our souls to dance with the Lord.

Undeserving

The more that I observe myself, the more I realize how hypocritical I am. How much fear, doubt, and unfaithfulness I have inside of me. I should be ashamed to be a leader at church. I should be ashamed to call myself a Christian. I do not deserve to carry his name.

However, I will hold on to the fact that I have been cleansed through the blood of Jesus. I can call myself a hypocrite. I can call myself a loser. But I have to listen to what God is calling me and that is his beloved. Lord, please please please please please continue to teach me what is inside my heart and mold me into who you want me to be.

To Be Crucified with Him

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 5:5-6) 

In light of Easter, I have been thinking more about the crucifixion. Over and over again in the Bible, there is constant talk about sharing the sufferings of Christ and even being “crucified with him.” I wonder if many of us truly realize how heavy the cross we are being called to pick up is.

This fact is true: nothing can separate us from God’s love and nothing that we do can make us right with God. Our actions are not the determinants of finding salvation. Yet, over and over again, there is a call for Christians to act. 

Being a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. Although there is salvation is proclaiming that Jesus is Lord, it should not be the high point of the Christian walk. C.S. Lewis said this,

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

This quote basically describes what I have been wrestling with for the past year: what does it mean to be a follower of Christ? Basically, it’s all or nothing. 

Many of us are very lukewarm about our faith. We are too anxious not to have a spiritual teddy bear, but too cowardly to devote our full lives to Jesus. This is what the Bible says about Christians: we were crucified with Christ. While we have life and peace with Jesus, we must die to ourselves first, denying our selfishness, pride, comfort, and desires. Although Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, he was also born into a world that denied him. Jesus always went to those who needed to hear the good news. He sacrificed the comforting spirit of God the father and took on his wrath.

This was the life that Jesus lived.

Yet, as Christians why are we so anxious to keep both our comfort and serve God? Let us not be moderate Christians but become radical, bold followers of Christ. Let us live the word of our God out as we wait faithfully for his return.