God’s will

TemporaryVisitors - Guest Post

Whenever there’s a 5th Sunday in a month, we take a break from the regular rotation between myselfHeliconTim, and Dien to feature a guest writer. Since there were 5 Sundays in April, this week’s post comes to you from my good friend and younger* brother, Nathan Yee.

* He does not allow me to call him “little” for obvious reasons if you’ve ever seen us standing next to each other. 


Lately I have been contemplating what it means to ‘be in God’s Will’.  We always speak about and pray that we want the ‘Will of God’ to be expressed in our life and that we would co-labor in it.  The question I posed to myself in studying this was:

Am I not seeing an opportunity that is right in front of me which God has placed in my life, that I ought to be pouring into? 

I am reminded of Paul’s missionary work and how he had a genuine desire to go and share the Gospel to the Romans. Obviously Paul didn’t just wait and not do anything and wait for God to open a door for him to get to Rome so he could fulfill his desire.  If so, the book of Acts would have looked much differently, but on the contrary what we do see is Paul actively contending for the faith everywhere God sent him.  Even though Paul didn’t immediately get to Rome in the beginning of his missionary journey, he poured everything he had into what was before him. Acts 14:20 tells of Paul being stoned in Lystra and dragged out of the city presumed dead by the locals, but immediately re-enters the city which tried to kill him.  We do not experience that type of persecution today, but how often do we bow out of opportunities to share the love of God when confronted with the slightest opposition? Paul could of said at that point, ‘I’ve had it with Lystra, my desire is to be in Rome and that is where I’m going.’ But Paul didn’t allow life’s circumstances and his own genuine desires to get in the way of doing what God had for him and followed faithfully.

We can have our desires for our life but the Lord will take us ultimately where He sees fit. Even when our desires are praiseworthy and for the God’s glory, it may not be what God has in store for us at the moment.  We ought not to let circumstances dictate where we believe God is leading us.  God has not promised us comfort and ease in following Him but the contrary ‘Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’ 2 Timothy 3:12.  Easily we fall into a trap today where the most comfortable and logical choice is sought after as God’s plan for us.  We pour everything we have into obtaining this dream to where we have lost sight of what it says in Matthew 22:37 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’.  Lets be reminded that we are to love God for who He is rather than the blessings He gives.

I am reminded of the lyrics to ‘Give Us Clean Hands’ by Chris Tomlin, “Oh God let us be a generation that seeks, who seeks Your face, oh God of Jacob”.  We have an opportunity to have intimate fellowship with the one and true living God for all the days of our lives, let us not consume ourselves with the periphery.

For the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Shalom,
-Nathan

The greatest lesson we can learn from the Linsanity

Jeremy Lin

I didn’t plan to write a blog post about Jeremy Lin, but I felt it was necessary in light of the Forbes’ article that was posted recently, and  my concerns that such an article could mess with the thinking of many of my close friends.  This is a response to that post because I think it portrays everything that is wrong and why our perspective of Jeremy Lin’s story can be a trap that will only lead us into unhealthy places of our lives and faith.

As of the writing of this post (2/13/2012), Jeremy Lin has captured the hearts of millions of fans especially those that are Asian American.  Why?  For the uninformed, Jeremy has been the ultimate feel good story for all Asian kids that want to play NBA basketball.  Always counted out since high school (Palo Alto) through college (Harvard)  to the NBA (Warriors/Rockets), Jeremy Lin started 4 games ago and his team, the New York Knicks, has won the past 5 games with both their main stars (‘Melo & ‘Mare) out.  The Jeremy Lin show or the Linsanity/All he can do is Lin!/ Linspiration/Shao-Lin/Linderella, and so many ridiculous nicknames… has captured the minds and the hearts of many folks recently. What makes it even better? He loves Jesus Christ and does not hesitate to give God the glory for it all!  If anything, we as his brothers and sisters in Christ need to be praying for him because it is getting dangerous for him.

But why do we love this story?  We love this story because it is the ultimate underdog story!  As Michael Wilbon of ESPN best put it, we love this because it is about a person “going from a nobody to a somebody.”  Kobe Bryant after his team’s loss to the Knicks made this statement too: “a great story…it’s a testament to perseverance and hard work.”  Forbes magazine listed 10 things we can learn from Jeremy Lin’s story as these qualities:

1) Believe in yourself when no one else does.

2) Seize the opportunity when it comes up.

3) Your family will always be there for you, so be there for them.

4) Find the system that works for your style.

5) Don’t overlook talent that might exist around you today on your team.

6) People will love you for being an original, not trying to be someone else.

7) Stay humble.

8) When you make others around you look good, they will love you forever.

9) Never forget about the importance of luck or fate in life.

10) Work your butt off

Now I think both of these men & the Forbes article captures the essence of our culture and our mindset because what it reveals is really how we all think we are to live our lives.

So what does our culture and world look for about these things that’s so attractive to us?  We are so into these stories because it shows how the virtues of hard work, getting stronger, and getting more powerful can change your circumstances.  Let me first caveat everything by saying that the pursuit of working hard, becoming stronger, or desiring to overcome circumstances is NOT a bad thing.  My concern is that these qualities begin to become the dominating or ultimate motivating force in our lives and we allow these pursuits then to define us and to elevate them into a place of how they give our lives meaning.  The problem with this is that this in many ways becomes a theology or belief that strength /power/effort are the only ways for a person to live their life!  This is the reality of our lives and if anything, we seek to fight and overcome power with power, and what I want to share with you today is this… God has a different way to live your life; he shows this to Paul and it changes Paul’s entire perspective of faith.  God’s way is not one of power versus power, it is through a completely different level of “power” that one can learn an incredible lesson about what true strength and how it affects our lives.

Take a look at 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So what’s going on… how does this text possibly connect with us?  Especially those as Christians? As the 2nd letter to the Corinthians, Paul is writing to a church that is located in a busy port-city that was major trade route between Italy on the western side of Greece to the rest of the Asian Mediterranean on the eastern side (Turkey/Israel/Syria); Essentially Corinth was one the safest paths that connected the Ionian & the Aegean sea.  As a result of this popularity and traffic, Corinth was a very culturally diverse city exposed to many philosophies/cultures/people and was of thinking.  If anything, we can compare Corinth much to the US today because the internet and our diversity as a country makes us so exposed to much thinking… and the problem was that over time the wealthier Corinthians would invite folks to guest teach/speak at the local Corinthian church. They would house them, and as a result because of their skills both in oration and in amazing things happen  such as signs and healing… these super apostles… would start to draw the attention of the Corinthian folks and Christians!

Compared to these “super apostles”, Paul was not spectacular.  If anything, he was probably flawed whether in his physical ailments (blindness/epilepsy/speech impediment), to his physical appearance (he was scarred from his many experiences as a missionary)… Paul was nothing like these “super-apostles”.  As a result, folks started to get drawn to these characters and started to question/disobey/disrespect Paul and what he was teaching or talking about.  So Paul shared these comments in 2 Corinthians because he was in many ways having to deal with this drama… fighting power versus power… Paul being the underdog… was tempted I’m sure to counter these ridiculous statements with those of his own.

You see, he had been given some crazy visions & revelations from God (beginning of 2 Cor. 12),  which could have elevated him in his status… and yet  God took this time to teach Paul a great lesson on his perspective on power and how He didn’t want Paul to have to fight in this.  Rather than fighting strength with strength, God gave Paul a thorn (verse 7).  This thorn in Greek, skolops, not only means thorn, but was often used as a word for things thrown on the ground to hinder an enemy army in their advance.  Anyways, this thorn was bugging Paul and driving him nuts!  After praying 3 times for God to take it away, the Lord explains to Paul that “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  We miss so much of the detail from the original language, but what Paul realizes is that ultimately this is God’s perfect plan for Paul.

God’s grace is sufficient for Paul because God’s power is made perfect in Paul’s thorn weakness.  God’s tying together His grace to His power… and ultimately, Paul starts to see that this has only been possible through the ultimate example of weakness… that is Jesus Christ!  God did not use the strong or the powerful means to prove and save humanity.  He chose the least likely, most humbling way through His son being born to a teenage mom (seemingly out of wedlock)… lived a humble life… home-less, and then Jesus was subjected to an unfair trial which led to his humiliating death on the cross!  This is the way that God chose to show His power, through Jesus’ humble/”weak” death on the cross, but what we forget was it was only through this way that true power via Jesus’ resurrection is revealed!

Paul is able to finally say, “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” because he understands that it’s only in our weakness that we are most close to our suffering Savior!  Why? When we are at the weakest, we are the most helpless. When we are helpless, we are utterly vulnerable, and when we are utterly vulnerable, it is then that we realize our complete need for God.  There is no other time that we are as true about our sin and our brokenness!  Our vision is most clear; nothing obstructs our sight of God… and we realize that we can rely on nothing else, but God!  This is when we all truly begin to tap the infinite power of God through Jesus Christ.  What Paul realizes from that point on is that there is nothing he can do that will ever come close to being as effective or as powerful as his complete dependence on the Lord because when he is weak, his closeness and connection to God is most reliant upon God and His power.

Paul learned that the theology of power that our world teaches… this false gospel is nothing like the theology of weakness which leads to the truest power found only in God.  It changed his life and the way he viewed himself.  No longer was there an elevated image of his own ability, but there was a humbling and an understanding that the truest power is only found in Christ and that it is the only way to live then.  The world lauds the theology of self-power and if you consider the Forbes article… what you notice is that almost all the ten qualities listed point to a self-reliance on self-power and says very little about what God has done.  But as we have seen, and I’m sure Jeremy Lin would agree, the truest credit and power that can help us to live our lives well is NOT founded or based on our own strength/power, but it is founded in our weakness.  It is in our weakness, we are the most true and real about our need for God and therefore it is in our weakness that we are the most close to our Lord, Jesus Christ… and it is then that our reliance and realization of our need for Jesus Christ is most clear; it is the way God chose to show His power to this world through weakness!

After writing this post, Jeremy Lin released an exclusive interview with the SJ Mercury News… check out what he says at the end:

“There is so much temptation to hold on to my career even more now…to try to micromanage and dictate every little aspect. But that’s not how I want to do things anymore. I’m thinking about how can I trust God more. How can I surrender more? How can I bring him more glory? It’s a fight. But it’s one I’m going to keep fighting.”

Jeremy Lin gets what Paul is saying.  This is the way we are to live lives with the truest and most pure power, and it is only then that we can say like Paul “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

When life gives me lemons…

i hope and desire that i would choose to give thanks because those very lemons in the hands of a great chef can create so much more than i could ever do on my own. i will not “go make lemonade” as the saying so often goes. it isn’t about what i can do, rather it is about what has been done. and because of that i can…

“consider it all joy…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-4)

“rejoice always…pray without ceasing…in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

“not loose heart…for momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

i am no great chef, but i know those lemons can make a lot more than lemonade. why settle for lemonade when there is so much more to be gained from something such as trials in this temporary life? in reality these lemons are a gift, and for that i am thankful, because…

“every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above…” (James 1:17)

as you embark on your black friday adventures and all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, i encourage you to take a moment and pause to reflect on the many things we have been blessed with. here’s a great idea if you’d like to give someone a different kind of gift this year.

happy thanksgiving,

bryan

Justified Disobedience?

Often we live our lives consumed with ourselves, what we will do next, where will will go, forgetting that in an instant it could all come to an end on this earth as we know it. Looking back on my own experience in life, it took some rather dire circumstances that caused me to wake up in my later years of high school to realize that we are not meant to live forever. All throughout my younger years I simply lived what I could only call a two-faced life, one on Sundays, and another Monday-Saturday. It wasn’t until an experience in high school that I came to the crushing reality that there’s more to life than seeking to fulfill our pleasures, and that we were created for a purpose, by One who is greater, who has known us from before we came to exist, and who has an awesome plan for our lives if we will simply put our faith in Him, and trust in that plan. Unfortunately, I know I speak for many of us when I say that we go in and out of that state of awe, forgetting who He is and what He has and is still doing in our lives when we fill it with the commotion of “life”.

This isn’t to say that we are not to give God the best in all we do and to seek to glorify Him through the daily activities that He has called us to, however if we realize the brevity of life, perhaps how we approach these day to day activities would differ. Something that really convicted me was how we allow the activities of our lives affect us, namely stress. For those of you who know me well, these past 3+ years since graduating from Cal Poly have been a time of growth through my work life and serving at CCCTO, but also challenging in terms of the stress I subject myself to. While I recognize a lot of this may be self inflicted at times is beside the point, to put it simply, a nutritionist I was seeing last year said everything was fine in my diet/exercise, yet my HDLs were abnormally low, putting me at risk for some sort of heart condition, and the only explanation was elevated stress levels.

Regardless of the cause or reason however, Philippians 4:4 reads:

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

We are called to rejoice in the Lord always, not once, but twice. We know that when something is repeated in scripture it’s important but even more, it says to rejoice in Him always. It isn’t followed by a statement saying, “except when you’re doing something important because that’s when stressing out is ok”, it simply says “always”. So for me to live in a life of stress means that I have decided that the circumstances of MY life, are more important than God’s command to always rejoice.

To worry implies that we don’t think God is big enough, powerful enough, or doesn’t know what’s best for us. Likewise, stress implies that the things in our lives are more important to merit our impatience, frustrations, and lack of grace to those around us. Call me a control freak, but it’s crazy to realize how quickly I can forget that my life is just a vapor in the wind in the big picture, resulting in the tendency to plan out my life with such detail and to grip on tightly to the things of this life. It’s something I’m sure many of us can relate to at the end of the day, and until we come to a point of realizing that it’s not all about us, that we can start to loosen that grip and trust in His perfect and holy plan.

Now this is not to say that our dreams come true overnight when we put our faith in Him, in fact God has taught me over the course of these 3 years that sometimes my plan isn’t His plan. When I start wondering if He’s listening, it takes these moments of reflection to realize that maybe what I’m expecting isn’t what He has in store for me, So often we say “God I trust you, now please make this and that happen in my life,” not even realizing we’re treating Him like a take out window who is asking for our order. Rather if we realize who He is, and who we are, we’d gladly open up our hands and loosen the grip we try to hold onto life with. The old adage goes, “when He takes something away from us He’s not necessarily trying to deprive us of something we think we want, more often than not He’s freeing up our hands to grasp onto whatever else it is that He knows is so much better for us”.

In addition to rejoicing always, we are reminded in verses 6-7 to:

6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

If we didn’t get the point that we are to rejoice ALWAYS, we are reminded in the opposite sense to not worry about ANYTHING. But it doesn’t stop there. We are called to prayer, prayer with thanksgiving. And what results of this? A peace that surpasses ALL COMPREHENSION, which will guard our hearts and minds in Christ.

I know that for myself, I have a mind that will keep me up at night if it’s running at full speed. In fact it did do that, to the point where I was only sleeping 1-2 hours a night for a good part of the year because I was so stressed out. Despite all the prescription medication that my doctor could prescribe me, I would lie awake until sunrise. What I failed to realize was that I had decided that the circumstances of MY life, were more important than God’s command to always rejoice, and to not be anxious about anything. It’s funny, how sometimes it takes us coming to utter brokenness, to realize our folly. While I longed for that peace, I could not let go of “my” life, and in my anxious thoughts, I tortured myself for months on end. It wasn’t until from physical exhaustion that my I could no longer grip onto these things that I finally realized the path I had gone down, and asked God to make my calling clear in my life. It was also the first time, in a long time, that I earnestly listened for an answer. And yes, that peace surpassed ALL comprehension.

In closing, we are reminded of what we are to dwell on in verses 8-9:

8Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

9The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

So what does it look like if we remove this focus on ourselves, and not live selfishly? To answer a question with another question, I would pose the following, are we living every day like it’s our last? I can see how it becomes easy to “put God off” until later in life, or to say that He’ll be our first priority…after I get through this or that, but how can that be right? The only way something like that can sit right with us is if we compromise and water down how we see Him. So often we forget what it means to truly stand in awe of Him. If we can honestly say that we are standing in awe of who He is and what He has done and is still doing, how can we not respond in worship and with lives that are obedient and even more, honoring to Him? Sadly, we dip in and out of these “highs”, only to justify our stress and anxiety, while disregarding what He commands us to do and blinding ourselves of the fact that He is in control. Given the reality and realization of the brevity of life, are we living everyday, ready to do His will, in a response to the amazing gift of salvation He has offered us (see my previous post, Freely We Receive), or are we putting Him off until it’s convenient for us in our life, according to OUR plan? Perhaps if we can correct our view of who God is, and stand in awe of Him, maybe, just maybe we wouldn’t be a people so easily swayed by our circumstances, and instead a people who rejoices in Him always.

The Young Pharisee Who Could…

In chaos and ridiculous times, I often find myself clinging to the only thing that I can reach. Although I wish to say God, the answer is myself. Throughout the tiresome schedule of waking and sleeping, eating and talking, my head seems to turn off and my heart resides to only pumping. All around me I see that time is leaving me behind, and that I am trying to catch up in an inevitable failure. “But how are you doing?” so many people ask. Wait, did I not just explain myself? In times of peace and relaxation, I often find myself clinging to the only thing that I can reach. Again, this is not always God. Sounds familiar does it not? Always, I take on the world and relationships onto my own weight and before I know it I’m playing the God of this city.

I’ve grown to accept my heart’s failures and inability to trust in Him at times, only so that I may seek Him with a greater heart for perseverance. But how am I doing? I’m alright. Tired, but alright.

What I do wish to share is what God has revealed to me through His Word and my own struggles as a Christian.

You see, I invited a handful of church friends this last Saturday morning to take on an adventure of hiking and reading the Word. Our target was this: to finish the book of John and walk through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We arrived at the spot of choice to read and we sat down, seeing the deep valleys of nature and trees that enveloped us amidst the sunlight.

John taught me things when I read through with my brothers and sisters, as well as in my life as both a Christian and a leader. I saw that my heart was becoming prideful, people-loving, and all in all, like a pharisee.

Now in John, I saw how much the Pharisees made guest appearances as unwanted antagonists, and this made me dig deep and study what they were doing, and why they were so blind. I came to realize that this moment in life right now had many reflections of these Pharisees, where I would take on these tasks and refuse to keep seeking what is true, and often what is right in front of me.

There is so much in John that depicts many of my actions, where I am constantly angry at people, or unable to see clearly. An interesting passage in John 12: 43 says “for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

I’ve always prayed for a correct and true view of God, where his soverignty is known.

In John, I found myself telling the Pharisees to open your tiny eyes, of course they were not Chinese, but because they were so blind with their pride that they could not see the Son of God, the Messiah before them.

I have learned that it is not me. It is not me who is in control. The Pharisees thought they could control all things, but they were so blind, and they were at loss because of this. I am not in control of my life, but that God is able to give and take away, even when things seem so bland and unappealing. Life is full of God, and we need to accept that and live in all of His Glory.