Posted by: Chris | November 20, 2009

To endure is what counts

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. ~ Hebrews 12:7-11

Life is so hard, sometimes. Doesn’t matter how well you are on the outside, you can easily be struggling on an emotional and spiritual level. And that’s something you can’t hide from yourself. There is no running away from it. In the world, struggles are often unbearable because there seems to be nothing to hold on to. There is no hope and everything seems to come to a dead end. Yet, the degree of fear and pain doesn’t decrease in the life of a Christian. However, it offers an opportunity to gain inner strength, not through one’s self, but through a loving Savior. Yes, in Jesus, there is hope for the taking. There is faith to be had. There is light at the end of the dark tunnel. And the effort exerted is never wasted but always rewarding.

This life is not about ridding ourselves of our “problems.” That is a futile attempt, at best. It is about enduring the hardships that come our way. Without them, there is no reason to exercise our faith in God whom we claim to love and obey. I had to go through my divorce and feeling of loneliness for years, just to find out how far I would go with my God. Some people may have to go even farther, but to me, I have to fight to quickly see the big picture before things get worse. I cannot give up. My relationship with God is too precious to gamble with. If I lose that, what else is there to live for? Both here and the afterlife, that is. There is no hope without God. Only darkness. There is no better place. Only a dead end road. No forever. Only oblivion.

Each of us has a personal road to walk on. We live our own lives in our own personal deserts – with our own sacrifices, hardships and struggles to go through. No one is exempt. I am thankful for my own struggles for without it, God would not be in my thoughts regularly. My need for him would grow lesser and lesser each day. And that, to me, is scarier than having to go through the discipline God has put me under – because he loves me and wants me to know that there is someone who cares. It’s his way of getting my attention. And boy, does he need to do that on a daily basis. Talk about his own perseverance! And my “good deeds” is not what pleases him, by the way… but my brokenness and my desire to get up everytime I fall. That’s what puts a smile on his face. My desire to keep walking when I get tired. My desire to try it again, for the umpteenth time. Yes… my desire to endure. It’s what counts.

Posted by: Chris | August 4, 2009

Group love

(This post is a response to this one.)

I remember a time when I would be in tears because there were people I knew who were searching, struggling and spiritually lost. These were people whom I’ve invested in and built close personal relationships with so I could share with them the overflowing abundance of fruit in my life.

Sadly, those days are now gone. Today, I don’t care. Or, maybe I still do. Only I don’t have any proof.

Recently, I thought of why this is. And I realized that one of the biggest reasons I was able to develop feelings that strong towards the lost, in the past, is because I was not alone. I was in the company of BROKEN disciples who were driven to spurring each other on, at all times; to leave our old characters behind and to renew our way of thinking. We had a single purpose and were united in mind and thought. And most importantly, our love for each other shined like a blinding light which made our evangelism utterly effective.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. BY THIS ALL MEN WILL KNOW that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  ~ John 13:34-35

Group love. Obvious, embarrassing, inconvenient, silly, cheesy, awkward group love. Nothing less.

To this day, I still have the conviction that men will not care about our Christianity until we have something to show for it. And what that is – is love that is impossible to ignore. They may either appreciate it or loath it, but they can’t ignore it. You know why people sometimes persecute? Because they’re envious… whether or not they’re aware of it.

For a lot of us, one thing that we probably don’t think much of, in our little circle, is the fact that we are Christians today because that is how we grew up to be. We weren’t really converted, in a sense. Neither was there much struggling nor searching for our faith. Church was familiar ground. It was home. Jesus was and is a part of our household. We didn’t really eat much with “sinners” either. I mean, when was the last time we’ve changed the life of a Satan worshiper? Or someone who simply hates God with a passion, for whatever reason? Would we even give these people the time of day? Wouldn’t we be somewhat indignant if they were a part of our community? As opposed to having and showing compassion towards them instead? Let’s be real.

Anyhow, we know we can’t just talk about love. We need to show it and prove it. And the world will be the judge of that. Not us! If the world does not take notice… we can’t blame them. We can only humble ourselves to desire to find other means to meet them, where they’re at. The ball is always on our court.

Our church needs to act as ONE body, not as individual parts laboring individually. That is how strength and individual courage is built. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. The culture that is born of modern society subtly encourages lukewarmness towards God. This culture MUST change and conform to that of the first century Christians. And not the other way around. Unless that happens, I seriously doubt that spiritual growth, be it personal or that of the church, can be expected anytime soon.

So, what is Evangelism 101? To love the lost? I believe, before we can develop our love for the lost, we first have to develop our love for one another. A kind of love that the world can attest to. One that they cannot ignore, even if they tried.

Alas! We have work to do, don’t we?

1 Corinthians 12:12

Posted by: Chris | July 30, 2009

Trust no one

When I first moved to Hollywood, CA back in the late 80′s, I remember it being a time of discovery. A time I was beginning to learn the ropes of life away from the comforts of my own hometown. I lived near Sunset and La Brea where, back in those days, the craziness was at its peak. Or so, it seemed. It was supposed to be a bit scary actually, but I wasn’t scared at all. I thought it was just festive and that’s what I liked about it.

One night, I remember driving to a Laundromat down on Sunset to wash my clothes. I had a boatload and needed a ton of quarters to get them all washed. So I used the bill changer to get my quarters. Now, most of the washers were in use at that moment, and I had to wait till they’re done. Since I had time, I thought I’d go next door to grab a slice of pizza. What I did before I went out is that I left all my quarters sitting on top of the washer. When I came back, the maintenance lady got on my face and said, “Are you nuts, leaving your money out here? This is Hollywood, boy! You’re lucky I knew it was yours and I made sure no one took it.”

Well, I thanked the lady and went on my merry way. Then it dawned on me later, I left the money there thinking it’s no big deal. Hollywood, schmollywood! Why would anyone steal it, I thought? I mean, that’s crazy talk! Who in their right mind would do such a thing?

Needless to say, I eventually learned that a lot of people, in fact, aren’t in their right minds, at times. Me, included! Imagine that. So now, I had to go from knowing nothing to knowing too much! I had to go from being naive to being suspicious. From being carefree to being careful. From trust to doubt. Smooth to scarred. It’s what the world calls… being wise.

But isn’t that what the world teaches, anyway? Really. To trust no one? I wonder sometimes, if the ones who consider themselves experienced, learned, wise… the ones who say, “enough is enough” or “no more”… I wonder if they still experience true happiness and contentment? I wonder if they’re still able to love unconditionally? To be sincere and compassionate? It’s hard to imagine. Or what if they are, indeed, wise enough to admit that they have been scarred? That they have certainly lost their spiritual virginity and have become a victim of this enslaving world that rejects God?

I am a victim. But I also admit to having allowed myself to be one. And I am just now getting myself back to where I used to be. Back to where it’s safe. Back to where there is freedom. And pure joy. Back to the world of trust. Hey, “wise” can sometimes be overrated, you know?

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?  ~ Psalm 118:6

Almost there… I hope you’re waiting.

Posted by: Chris | April 26, 2009

Ask not

Sometimes, I find myself being frustrated with my church. You know, like I want it to be a certain way but it’s not. If it only does this and not that. Or, if only they have this and not that. Whatever.

Every church has its own culture. For the most part, that culture rubs off from that of its surrounding community and society. The church I’m in now isn’t the one I grew up in. And neither is the city. I will forever be the new kid in town, where I am right now. But that’s not my point.

It’s not necessarily wrong to desire for a change in one’s religious culture – be it of the church or society – if you’re willing to do the work. It’s going to take an enormous amount of time and effort to do it (especially for a stranger like me). And on the way, there will be resistance of all kinds. Don’t believe me? Go, ask Jesus.

Me? Actually, I’m willing. Maybe, I’m just unable. Or so, I think. Anyhow, just because I’m used to certain things doesn’t mean it has to be that way all the time. Right? Well, there’s my excuse! Flexibility is beneficial in life. I realize that in most churches, people come and go because they church-hop hoping to find the “right” church for them. And I can understand that. To a degree, that is. I’m beginning to see that this can, indeed, become a sin as well. Trying to be in control when God should be. Giving in to what we want instead of looking beyond our circumstances to see what God is trying to say to us. Finding the perfect church is a futile attempt, I think. Any church “can” be the right church, if only we listen closely to what God is telling us instead of what we’re trying to tell ourselves. A desire for convenience can sometimes lead our hearts astray. It’s a comfort zone issue.

Bottom line is, as long as humans stay imperfect, we’ll never find the “perfect” church. However, we will always find our hearts, regardless of its condition, in any church we’re in. And I certainly don’t want to find my heart in a bad condition at a church that God has put me in. I want to find out what he has in store for me. I’m sure it is good. I know it is. Maybe, I won’t find it today. But I trust that someday, I will. Like the saying goes – In his time.

So meanwhile, I say… Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for it. For by this, God’s voice will resonate louder than ours so that our purpose will become clear to us. We will then find an answer to our questions and meaning to our lives.

God bless.

Posted by: Chris | April 19, 2009

Got ten thousand talents?

As usual, I played music for our worship team at church this morning. It wasn’t anything new or spectacular. Just another Sunday service full of technical difficulties and an out-of-tune guitar (mine). Glad no one noticed. In fact, I was on my way out to the parking lot when a flattering voice came from behind.

You have great talent, Chris!

Now, I don’t mean to toot my own horn but I have to admit, this wasn’t the first time that’s happened to me either. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment. However, every single time it happens, I’m always confused as to whether or not it’s something I’d really like to hear. Well, rather than, say… “You’re a good man, Chris!”

And to make matters worse, the sermon this morning dealt with the scripture about The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant and let me tell you, did it have something new to tell me this time around! I know the story is about forgiveness, however, something else came up to me while reading it. I see that Jesus is comparing the magnitude of having to forgive a debt of ten thousand talents (millions of dollars) as opposed to just a hundred denarii (a few dollars). Now, we’ve all read the famous Parable of the Talents where burying your talents is said to be a very bad thing. Talent is a good thing. Talent is a gift. It needs to be multiplied, shared and used for God’s work. Just like money, it’s a currency that needs to circulate. So, back to the first parable, it showed me that a talent is something we owe God. And talent is something we all have in some capacity, believe it or not.

Perhaps, this is the reason I am uneasy everytime I hear a flattering statement about my talents. It’s probably because I don’t like the idea that I’m indebted. And just like money, talents can lead you to places you don’t want to go. Just like money, it can be used as an instrument of both good and evil.

Speaking of talent, I can boast of one I know I’m really good at… sinning. Yep, a recurring talent, if you will. As well as a debt I can never repay.

How about you? You got talent? How much?

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