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

Finding that Much Needed Peace in Your Life – How to Be Content

I have been wanting to type out my thoughts and notes from this message that deeply impacted me when I heard it at Redeemer one Sunday. I did not bring a pencil so my notes were roughly from memory as well as some personal commentary. But I would love to share this with anyone willing to read it, because I really find it quite necessary to remind ourselves of these three things.

*Based on Tim Keller’s Sermon on Peace and how to achieve contentment in our lives.

1.) Thinking

2.) Thanking

3.) Loving

Philippians 4:4-12

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thanks for Their Gifts

10I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Thinking:

Often in this world and society, if you want to achieve a feeling of peace and contentment, people advise you to just try to ignore whatever is bothering you and not think about the things that are causing you to worry or stress. They tell you to relax and distract your brain until you feel better. However, Paul tells us to think about what is troubling us. The type of peace the world advertises to us is a shallow kind of peace that uses ignorance as opposed to seeking deeper into the situation and understanding why you should feel content even through suffering. When writing this, Paul was in prison and facing possible torture and death. Yet, he still could find contentment in the wretched circumstance he was in. Having gone through so many tribulations and hardships in life already, Paul must have finally understood God’s way of giving us peace. Paul talks about a “peace that transcends all understanding”. Even through immeasurable pain and suffering in life, God and only God alone can give you a peace that is not understandable to this world.

Thanking:

We always seem to thank God after He answers our many prayers. However, we should be thanking God already during our prayers, before the results appear. For whatever God chooses to have happen in our lives will forevermore always be better than whatever we want to have happen. He knows so much better than us. If only we knew as much as God knew about our lives, then would we fully comprehend and agree with His ultimate plans for us. We only know what is the present, but God knows beyond the present in every aspect of our lives. God is a good Father and He alone knows what is best for us. And therefore, we should trust Him and learn to accept what is to come. The key here is to honor God’s Sovereignty in our lives with the act of trusting in Him, to the point where before anything even happens, we are already thanking Him regardless of the future outcomes. With this mindset, peace will come into our lives.

Loving God:

Instead of loving success or wealth or family, we need to love God with all of our hearts. When you put your life on the shaky foundation of success or even family, there is always going to be that insecure feeling of losing it even when you gain it. Therefore, putting your life hand in hand with these worldly goals will bring instability and constant dissatisfaction in your life. Those things will come and go, but God is constant and will always love you faithfully. It is us who turn away from His loving embrace and we fall in life solely because of ourselves. When you see a big wave crash into some pillars of rock on the side of a beach and completely immerse the rocks underwater, it seems that the rocks have been demolished by the waves. However as the waves subside, the rock is still firmly standing there unscathed. God is like that rock, strong and firm in our lives. We just have to realize our own weaknesses and fragility and LOVE God and turn to Him as the sole refiner of our lives. God loves us so much that He sent His only son, Jesus, down to this earth to painfully die on the cross for us! Who are we to deserve such love and care from one so great and almighty! Think of how Jesus must have felt. He, of no sin and of perfect peace from God in His life dying on the cross for us and so suddenly feeling all the woes of the world and all our insecurities and lack of peace. It must have been pure torture, yet Jesus beared it all just so we could gain that peace and contentment from God. What a sacrifice that is! We are truly so blessed to be God’s children.

And to end…

The Hymn: “It is Well with My Soul”

Horatio G. Spafford wrote this song in 1876. He had a wife and four little daughters. One day his wife and children were on a ship sailing to England. That ship suddenly hit something and began to sink. His wife and children were separated in the waters. His four little daughters did not make it, but his wife fortunately survived and was taken to England. She sent him a message with two words: “Saved Alone”. As he was sailing to England to pick up his wife, he began writing this particular hymn. In the world’s view, the lyrics have no correlation whatsoever to how he must have been feeling. But as Paul stated in Philippians 4, God can give us a “peace that transcends all understanding”. And that is exactly what he gave to this faithful man of God who lost all four of his precious daughters.

So when any of you are feeling discontent in life, think of these things and realize that there is no need to be discontent, for God has filled our lives with already so much of His love and His grace.

God, This Hurts

Philippians 1:29

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him”

I added the “daily bible verse” tab to my facebook page, and for the most part, the verses have been pretty popular, famously quoted verses.  Today’s verse in Philippians, however, struck me in its transparency and straightforward truth.  The nature of a Spirit-filled body in Christ is such that we are “not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (verse 29).

In my personal life, it has become a habit to talk to God whenever suffering enters my life.  This is one of the fantastic qualities of our God – He is a Father who desires us to come to Him with everything, our triumphs and sorrows.

I will try not to go into the issue of pain and suffering too much – C.S. Lewis does a far better job in “The Problem of Pain.”  I merely want to state that in today’s society, I often find myself subconsciously adopting a secular mindset in my faith.  In the drive to find a major, a career to pursue, I often receive the advice,  “If you don’t enjoy it, it isn’t for you.”  This advice is almost always followed by this enticing, all-familiar phrase: Do something that makes you happy.

Yes, of course God gives us natural gifts and desires in a certain field, and it would be foolish to ignore those talents.  Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.”  Needless to say,  a significant amount of suffering is involved to achieve that level of skill.  The struggle to become like Christ is no less demanding.

My issue is perhaps best illustrated through the book of Psalms.  The book of Psalms is a heartfelt chronicle of man’s struggle to live a God-pleasing life; Pastor Krishna spoke on the Psalms, saying that as God-breathed scripture, the psalms are God’s way of telling his children how to pray to Him.  And yet, as I read through the book of Psalms, I find that I often miss out on a key message God has for me, which He reiterates through Paul in Philippians – suffering for God.

Take a look at this unashamed cry to God in Psalm 69:

1 Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”

Let me make something clear – the writer of this psalm is an upright, God-fearing man.  Later on in the psalm, he writes,”7 It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face. 8 I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children. 9 It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

This is the suffering that I believe is expected of us as followers of Christ – why should we expect any different treatment than what He received if we are being truly Christ-like?

But to return to the first part of the psalm, I felt a doubt rising in me as I read, “the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”

Because quite honestly – and I hope I’m not alone in this – those moments can happen whether or not I’m in tune with God.  And when I find myself floundering, I ask myself, deeply, whether I am doing God’s will – after all, could it really be this horrible for me?

At Sunday School we recently watched a documentary on a missionary who brought the word of God to a very remote part of Asia; his openness about his doubt in doing God’s really resonated with me.

Regardless, the last few weeks, I have made the mistake of embracing the “do what makes you happy” mentality in my spiritual life, completely ignoring the call to suffer as well.  I pray for wisdom in my decisions from this  point on, that I may find joy in pursuing God in all aspects of my life.

What I Believe

Have you ever wondered how we make decisions in life? It may be the conscious decisions such as what I’ll have for lunch, or the ones we subconsciously make like when we place our entire weight on a chair (as opposed to “hovering” over it just in case it were to collapse).

Ultimately it seems as though the things we do result from some sort of belief inside of us that causes us to act in that particular way. I choose to order a particular meal because I believe it will taste good. I subconsciously choose to place my entire weight on a chair because I believe it will support my weight. Every action of ours results in some belief that we hold.

If those of us who say we believe in what God has done for us, in sending His son to die for us on the cross, then what are the “actions” that result from that belief? This is not to be confused with the misconception that we must earn favor from God through good deeds. Rather, have we become too comfortable in this world that will one day pass away and allowed ourselves to fixate not on Christ, but instead on earthly treasures?

Perhaps that is the reason why we consume ourselves at an early age with SAT scores, because we believe that will get us into a good college. Then we slave away for 4+ years of our lives because we believe that is the only way to secure a well-paying job. We then drown ourselves with endless hours at work because we believe that it will bring us a fortune. And then we allow the worries of financial stability to consumer our minds as we look to acquire one thing after another, because we believe that it will bring us security and ultimately happiness. It isn’t wrong to desire happiness, but I can tell you I have only found a temporal happiness in those things, a happiness that comes and goes.

And here we come to the crux of the matter. Do we simply see Jesus as the means to something wonderful, or is He that something wonderful? Because if He is the later then our lives would reflect that, as they did in Paul’s writings to the Philippians:

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith

Phil. 3:8-9

I believe that I was once enslaved to sin, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

I believe that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), separation from God for eternity, but that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:24).

I believe that there is nothing I could ever do to deserve this gift, but rather that it is “by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

I believe that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

It is my hope and prayer that what we believe dramatically changes the way we live, how we relate to others, and what we value in life. Let’s encourage one another to have an eternal perspective, remembering that we are but temporary visitors here. And as Resurrection Sunday draws to an end and a new day starts, may we stand in awe of the One who gave it all.

Jesus is so much more than the means to something wonderful, He is that something wonderful.

That is what I believe.

God Provides

On Saturday my laptop screen broke. On my laptop were my project due on Monday and all my college essays. UC applications were due in a week.

I freaked. Somehow I got my laptop hooked to a monitor. I transferred the UC essays and homework I needed. I tried to get the rest of my files, but the monitor stopped working.

A couple days later I realized I needed another college essay. I tried hooking up my laptop to my monitor again. At first, it didn’t work, but after a few tries, I finally uploaded the essay I needed online.

God gave me exactly what I needed.

I had been inconsistently praying for God to help me trust Him with school and college. Every once in a while I would remember to pray about trusting Him to choose whatever college I go to.

Even though these were half-hearted prayers, God answered them.

My immediate reaction to my laptop breaking was to worry about finishing assignments and essays. It was so easy for me, when things didn’t go as planned, to worry and forget that God is still in control.

I want to control everything about school and colleges, thinking that I know exactly what is right for me. For some reason, I’m afraid to trust God because then I won’t be in control. I forget that I can trust in an omnipotent God who created this universe and has my entire life planned out.

28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?…33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:28-34