My Christmas

It’s not Christmas yet, but this has already been one of the greatest holiday seasons I’ve had.

But to most of my friends, I’m having the worst Christmas. I’m spending these next couple days home alone, with nothing to eat but applesauce, pudding, and yogurt. I spend each hour either trying to write college essays or watching TV.

But when all the things the world associates with Christmas is stripped away, I’m reminded more of Christ.

I spent a couple of days feeling sorry for myself and not looking forward to Christmas, but God woke me up and asked me, “How could you not be satisfied when I’ve given you the greatest gift I could. I gave you my son!”

Isn’t that all we need to rejoice during Christmas and everyday of our lives? That story of Jesus being born in a manger is told and retold so many times, but the miracle of God coming down to be with us never gets old.

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:13-14

It is the holidays. Take this time to stop, and mediate on God’s amazing gift.

The Creator of the universe has made us the humble recipients of the world’s greatest gift. May we never cease to praise Him.

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YOU are on my mind…

You need to read this, chew on it, and realize that this is about you and I, and I write this because I can not hold it in anymore, and when I read these words in James, I started to cry and I can not hold it in anymore!

James 1:22-27

“22But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Too often, we the believer, fail to remember this. We have become Christians with HUGE heads…we don’t even all fit in a room …because there’s so many big heads puffed up with knowledge/inflated egos walking around. We are all about the knowledge, all about the intellect, the catchy arguments, and we’ve been blinded by our own pride of accumulated information that we fail to even consider the possibility that perhaps Christ is not asking us to simply gain knowledge but to live it out through our daily lives in love. This is found throughout the Word of God. Jesus tells us to Love GOD, and to Love our Neighbors. There is an incredible disconnect that behooves me because rather than even trying to love, we sit there philosophizing and being theoretical … telling others to do so, and yet WE personally have never experienced even going to love those around us. Who is our neighbor? The lawyer asked… that’s everybody. We are the Pharisees… we preen and make ourselves look pretty sitting in our comfortable ways… we are like that Pharisee who prays while looking at the Tax Collector and says… thank you that I’m NOT like others especially that sinful dude crying in the corner (Luke 18:9-14).

Lately, in talking to multiple friends… all I hear is this… I’m listening to William Lane Craig, I’m reading about Eschatology… I will simply say this. William Lane Craig and eschatology are both laudable and praise worthy things… Mr. Craig is an amazing Brother in Christ/ Professor/Apologist that is doing much for God’s work. But rather than just sitting admiring his wonderful arguments and enjoying his shaming of Atheists, Muslims and other non-believers… perhaps we have to realize that is HIS calling by God to further His Kingdom. This is NOT everyone’s call! We have all been called to different roles, and that is each part of our uniqueness in Christ and how the Lord calls us to further do His Will in this world.

About eschatology… this is important and has an important role in each Christian’s life. But let me ask you a question. When you eat dinner do you sit there fixated upon just the dessert? Yes, eschatology is like dessert… it is part of the whole package and it is the end…the last part… but if we focus on simply that, we forget about all the other courses… the appetizer, the main course (filet mignon), the soup, the salad… are ALL forgotten. Is that right? Too many of my peers, and brothers and sisters are attracted to the knowledge of faith… and have never considered the whole big picture. Our lives do not consist simply about the head, but also the heart and the hands and feet. Our lives need to reflect our understanding of our faith. Our quality of works reflects the quality of our faith. Too many people whom I talk to … talk about loving, talk about theory… talk about eschatology… can give you a whole discourse with all the fancy Christianese… but when I ask them have they attempted to live it out, or to even love those around them… and all I get is blank stares. Talk to me about eschatology, and yet your life reflects nothing about Christ… you obsess over your careers, your pleasures and pursuits, computer games, shopping, the material things, men and women… it is all about you… and you ignore the needs and cries of the body and those around us in the world. How is that possible?! Is that even biblical? James words challenge us to not be like the person that looks in the mirror and forgets… he asks us to reflect in our living our faith out, and how that is not just about us, but also then about those that are suffering (for him that was the orphans and the widows).

Pop that over-inflated head like a pimple, and get on your knees, ask & pray for a heart that is broken… ask God to break your heart with what breaks His. Simply put, focus not on the knowledge, but simply as Paul shares…

Philippians 1:1-16

1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 910so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

12Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

Treasures in Heaven

Treasure in Heaven?

Treasure in Heaven?

A few years ago, I wrote a post around Thanksgiving/Black Friday in regards to where we place our values and our hearts especially during the season where it is all about consumption and accumulating wealth. This past week, I spoke with my Youth Group on Matthew 6:19-24 about “Treasures in Heaven”. As the season of Christmas approaches, I have had many opportunities to remind people about the birth of Jesus Christ, and how this is not just a time of personal satisfaction, but a time of remembrance to God’s amazing plan of salvation through the birth of Jesus in the most humble of circumstances. Still, I woke up this morning, and felt compelled to share from my lesson, an excerpt about one portion of that teaching, and hopefully in the midst of it… encouraging us to have a perspective that is not upon our selves but on the Lord.

Matthew 6:19-21

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,

where moth and

rust destroy, and

where thieves break in and steal.

20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,

where moth and

rust do not destroy, and

where thieves do not break in and steal.

21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Very briefly, we find ourselves in the middle of chapter Six of Matthew’s Gospel, and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In chapter six, the first part in practicing righteousness, praying, and fasting, we encounter a very big temptation and danger. This is that as Christians we basically put man (ourselves or others) on a pedestal. In today’s passage (well part of it), we encounter not so much about Christians can do, but MORE about how we are to think… I say the mindset that we are to have for Kingdom living. This is the 2nd temptation I see… which is being like the world, pursuing the treasures of this world… seeking security and satisfaction in them FIRST, rather than seeking and being after God’s purpose FIRST.

This is my favorite verses in the Bible. I have loved these words since I first saw them when reading Matthew for the first time. This is probably because God’s Word is so liberating… and showed me that I was not bound by the urges of this world, that I could place my value in something greater. I find these verses particularly poignant in the time of Christmas and stressing about College Applications. The question to consider is whether our lives are just about us, or is it about God and our relationship with Him. This excerpt is focusing on that FREEDOM through Christ and NOT SLAVERY from the world. We have been hopelessly enslaved by the things of this world, and my hopes is to show you in Jesus’ words what He says about the world’s things, and having the mindset of a Christian…Jesus follower.

The question then to ask is this: What do you put your values in? Matt. 6:19-21 has this basic structure (as I have set up for you above)… of do not do certain things… but do the right things… and the reasons why. First off, what are treasures on earth (verse 19)? I think they are anything that is finite, man-made, and can be all kinds of wealth. Jesus here covers the bases. He talks about “moth”, “rust”, and lastly, “thieves break in & steal”… I think these all are types of wealth that we do accumulate. Moth usually denotes clothing, but if you think more deeply it is anything that may be destroyed by nature. Rust usually denotes metals, but if you think about it… it is anything that can slow be destroyed over the course of time. Lastly, thieves usually makes us think that it equates to the rest of the things that moth and rust can not destroy, but what I think it truly reflects is humanity and how what nature and time does not destroy… other people will seek to take from you. Isn’t this the reality of treasures on earth?

Jesus in verse 20 then moves to the challenge to lay up treasures in heaven. This is a big contrast from treasures on earth. I think treasures in heaven are things that are infinite, a hope, a promise in something God-made, infinitely valuable, in heaven, and imperishable. Moth aka nature can not destroy it. Rust aka time can not destroy it. Thieves aka humanity can not mess it up. In verse 21, the reason why it is important to place our treasure in heaven is because where our treasure is, is where one will find one’s heart too. What we place our values in shows where our heart truly is.

Jesus in this teaching is trying to spare us from the slavery that comes from worshipping things of this world. We want treasures and riches because we believe they will give us security. Isn’t that the irony? We believe they will make us happy and comfortable. What Jesus teaches here is those riches are finite, they may decay, they may rust, they may be stolen by thieves… these things fall apart, and they will not last. We all know this! The things that are so finite instead of giving us security… they actually do the opposite… riches and treasures actually lead us to ANXIETY! It is a constant worry, dissatisfaction… concern… and then our desire to look for the next new and big thing. IT NEVER ENDS. Rather than rest that we find, it is a constant war and struggle with decay, covetousness, and lust. Once we get it, we start looking at other things… we are never satisfied and we start letting it consume us… and then it’s a vicious cycle that we constantly try to achieve.

An example of this is one of my Uncles, whom I greatly love and respect. He drives an Audi R8.

Audi R8 (not my Uncles but same car)

Audi R8 (not my Uncle's but same car)

This is an amazing work of human engineering, but a few weeks ago, I rode with him to eat dinner, and though this car attracted so much attention and was a beauty to hear its engine and feel the power, when my uncle was parking the car, I noticed the anxiety that comes with owning it. Since we were trying to park at McCarthy Ranch (lots of Asian drivers), my uncle spent about five minutes finding parking space that he was comfortable with. Not too close to everyone else it might get “dinged”, but not far away that others may try to steal it. We skipped so many perfectly good spaces, and he even had to get out of the car to check that it wasn’t close to the curbs or anything. What anxiety and what worry. I thought it was supposed to be enjoyed?!

What Jesus is teaching us in these words is to re-direct our desire. He does not deny that we have desires… he’s not telling us to hide and live in a vacuum of total Christian-ness… but he challenges us as part of our Kingdom living to adjust and change our perspective. Put our desire first into the infinite… into God and His promises. Jesus is asking us to elevate our desires… to step up our game… to seek not just to please oneself, or man in our finiteness, but seek to please the infinite, our God in Heaven. This is life and death… placing your value in the things of this world is that constant pursuit of what fades… it becomes our life and rather than giving us safety, joy, peace, security and happiness.. it enslaves us in worry, anxiety, covetousness. I think Jesus’ words here have a certain empowering quality as it teaches us that we are no longer bound by such things… because we have a hope and a promise through Jesus Christ.

Christmas is not a time to accumulate more gifts and wealth and toys. It is a time to remember the advent conspiracy (look it up). To remember that our lives do not consist of the wealth and gifts we consume, but that it consists in a greater purpose… that we are meant for greater things that we are meant to pursue the infinite rather than the finite, and that in the midst of great suffering in this world… we are called to love… and to not simply love by thoughts and prayers, but in deeds. The world does not need talkers, it needs lovers that will act on that love of Christ through the hope in the Good News, and display compassion for the broken, weary and lost. John Chrysostom says it best: “Do you pay such honor to your excrements as to receive them into a silver chamber-pot when another man made in the image of God is perishing in the cold?” I find that it is incredibly hypocritical that as Christians we are in pursuit of things for ourselves… when we daily walk by people that are hungry, freezing (especially with the weather lately) … and we don’t even bat our eye. Christmas becomes a time about us, and about pursuing the finite things, and wanting, coveting new toys.

Where is your heart? What are your values in? Do you seek the finite or the infinite? Are you a slave of your desires and the worldly mindset of Christmas, or are you free and liberated through the blood of Christ to love God first and then others around us? If not, then pray and seek that he Holy Spirit will give you that burning compassion and love for our world and those around us.

Here is how I’m spending Christmas:

Funding water projects to bring water to the parts of the world, which have no clean drinking water…

http://mycharitywater.org/p/campaign?campaign_id=2169

Love you all, and God bless.

A Fitting Reminder During a “Busy” Time of Year

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

May we take the time to be still before Him. If our lives are overly busy and drawing us away from Him, let us be stilland remember that we love, serve, and worship the creator of the universe.

If everything in our life is crashing down and falling to pieces before our very eyes, let us stand confidently, not in ourselves, but in Him, who sent His son to save us. Know that He is God.

Be it high school, college, graduate school, careers, or families, may this be a reminder for us to not always fixate on the next “goal in life”, but rather

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… (Hebrews 12:2)

Now that’s a target that never changes.

Who’s this God we speak of? Meet the contributors and feel free to reach out to any one of us, we’d love to share more.