The Leper

In the Kingdom of the Sun, there lived a king so powerful that no man can match. He had more than enough power to destroy the whole world and create another again just to please himself. Not only was he powerful, he also possessed immense wisdom that no man can equal. No one could play mind tricks around him for he was always a hundred steps ahead of any wise man. It is this wisdom that allowed the Kingdom of the Sun to become the wealthiest and most powerful place in the world.

And there’s another trait of this king that sets him apart from the other minor ones: he was in equal amounts good and pure as he is powerful and wise. Not only was he full of strength, he was also overflowing with love for the people of the Sun. And the people of the shining kingdom loved him back selflessly. They loved him so much that the people considered it a great honor for any man who would be able to put a smile on the king’s face. Making the king happy became a way of life for the kingdom. Annually, they would hold a spectacular feast and they called it, the Day of the King. That day of the year was spent only for one purpose: to see the most glorious creations the kingdom has made for the king.

Every man spent his every day seeking ways to honor the king. And the king, being perfect and all-wise, was quite difficult to please. Many spent their whole lives creating wonderful things that they thought would make the king break out in joyful tears, only to get a simple nod of approval from him. The Day of the King broke many men and women, and yet they would not give up and would keep trying again.

Seeing the dedication of his people, the king made a prize for the person with the best creation. It was a trophy made of all the jewels of the world encased in gold and silver. It was so beautiful that the whole kingdom wept when it was revealed. The king called it, The Glory of the World. And it became the yearly obsession of, not just the Kingdom of the Sun, but the whole world.

Every year, a man or woman won The Glory of the World on the Day of the King. The victors grew in number and they were called the Champions of the King. One champion created a new source of energy. One made water from nothing. One made a gadget that destroyed all lethal weapons. One unlocked the ability to fly. Another made a medicine that healed a person regardless of the disease. Such were the quality of the Champions of the King.

The hundredth Day of the King came. The whole world was feverish and was anxious for the 100th Champion of the King to be chosen. The finalists were on every lip in the world. There were new comers to the competition. And there were also old Champions who joined once again for the hope of winning the coveted title. The excitement was something that the world has never experienced before. The Glory of the World waited for the 100th Champion of the King.

The moment that the finalists were waiting for finally came. It was time to reveal the most splendid work of man in a hundred years. The Castle of the Sun was beautifully decorated. And so was the King. There were entertainers and magicians present. All important people of the world were there. Everyone was well prepared for the glamorous day. Everyone was beautiful and elegant.

The competition began. One finalist revealed the first ever invisible cloak – capable of making the wearer completely disappear at will. One showed his incredible nanites – capable of building anything from just the air in only a few minutes. One demonstrated his airborne chemical that can clean up polluted air and leave only the freshest breeze. The fourth presented to the king a drug that can regrow any amputated limb or organ. The fifth demonstrated a liquid that can turn any kind of garbage into fragrant, harmless perfumes. The sixth created a machine that can teleport anyone to the other side of the world. The seventh showed his ability to control the hotness of the sun. The eighth revealed a machine that can accurately predict and stop earthquakes and storms. The ninth demonstrated his device that can move planets, comets and asteroids. And the tenth showed that he can travel up to five days into to the future and then back again.

Every finalist earned awe and applause from the audience. The castle – no, the kingdom – was filled with celebration. For the Day of the King always turned out something that made human life better. And this year, the greatest so far were revealed.

The time came for the King to announce the winner. There was a sudden silence in the room. The king spoke rarely. But when he does, it felt like everyone’s insides shook. The ten finalists knelt before him on one knee – each one trembling in excitement. The Glory of Man stood nearby in its splendor. The king raised his arms as he always did before he made a proclamation. He was about to speak when someone shouted from the crowd.

“My king! My Lord! Please! Let me come to you!”

The crowd expressed indignation in chorus.

The king’s captain of the guards drew his sword and ordered his men, “Arrest whoever that man is! How dare he interrupt the king!”

But the king halted his men, “That is not my desire,” he said. His voice was like thunder. By instinct, people took one step back – even the captain. “Who speaks? Come.”

Everyone looked around – not wanting to be even mistaken for the interrupter.

Then a man covered with a hooded cloak came out from the crowd and presented himself. His cloak used to be white, but was now covered in dirt. He had a stink around him that made the people cringe. The crowd, the finalists, the champions and the soldiers shouted their disapproval.

“How dare you!”

“The king doesn’t deserve this!”

“Get him of here!”

The cloaked man began turning away. The crowd was more than eager to make a path for him.

“Wait.” The king said to everyone’s surprise. “You said you wanted to come to me. So come, that I may see you.”

The captain stepped forward, “My lord, whoever this is, he is not one of us. There are no beggars in your kingdom, my lord. And certainly none here stinks as bad as this.”

The people laughed. The hooded man was trembling now.

“Show yourself.” The king ordered him.

A croak came from the man covered in rags, “No, my lord! I only meant that you would let me see your face. I only wanted to give you my creation. I don’t even want to come too close…”

“He’s not even a finalist my king! We have a process to follow!” One of the ten finalists exclaimed. The other nine nodded in agreement. The champions shouted their support. But the king silenced them with his hand.

“Come closer. Show me this creation.” The king commanded. The crowd looked at each other, wondering if the king was ill.

The beggar came one step closer and no more. He moved as if he was on the edge of a very deep cliff. He raised his creation a little bit for the king to see, ashamed. It was only a humble basket of fruits. Those who saw sneered at first. And then there were murmurs all around. After a few moments, the castle was full of laughter. The beggar began to walk away.

“That’s the creation you’re going to give to the wealthiest king in the world?!” one of the champions said. His laughter created a shower of spittle. Another round of laughter filled the halls as the beggar took another step towards the door.

“I don’t recall giving you my leave,” the king said.

The beggar stopped. “My lord, I can see that this was a huge mistake. It won’t happen again. I will just leave my basket with your soldiers on the way out.”

“And what makes you think us soldiers will even touch that… filthy thing?” the captain remarked. “My king, let us get rid of this filth. You deserve only the best…”

“What fruits are those?” the king asked the beggar, ignoring the captain who now had wrinkles on his forehead.

The beggar turned to face the king. He answered with delight in his voice, “It came from my small farm, lord. In – in the Kingdom of Crows. I have been striving for many years to come up with my best. This, I think, is the best I could come up with…”

“The Kingdom of Crows…” the king repeated. The people buzzed once again with disapproval. The beggar looked around, not knowing what was going on.

“He does not know!” another champion mocked. “You don’t understand do you?”

The beggar, his face still hidden in the darkness of his hooded cloak, shook his head.

“Well, allow me to enlighten you,” one of the finalists explained, “not only is your creation unfit for our king, beggar… The kingdom, from which you and your fruits come from, is known only for three things – murderers, thieves and prostitutes. Nothing good has come out of your home – ever.”

“Get him out of here! Make sure that he never comes back!” The captain growled, stabbing the air with his sword as he spoke.

The guards grabbed the beggar. His basket fell as they dragged him out and his fruits spilled and rolled away. As he struggled against the guards, his cloak was pulled off of him. The crowd shouted and jumped as far away from the beggar and his fruits as they can. The soldiers threw away his cloak as if it was on fire.

“Leper! Leper! Oh ,dear god, a leper in the halls of the king!”

The panic of the crowd heightened. The leper tried to cover himself but could not find his robe. He struggled to pick up his fruits and carefully placed them in the basket he made.

I will leave it by the gate for my lord, he thought.

As he was reaching for the last apple, someone picked it up. The crowd screamed in horror. When the leper looked up to see who it was, he screamed as well and covered his eyes and as much of his skin as he could.

It was the king. And he was handing the apple to the leper.

Everyone, including the leper, screamed the same thing, “No! No! No, my lord! Get away! Don’t come any closer!”

But the king cupped the leper’s disfigured hands and gave him the apple. He embraced the beggar, unashamedly running his fingers through the bleeding cracks of skin on the leper’s back. The crowd held back their breath. The leper held back his tears. No one has ever touched the king.

The king found his robe and covered the beggar up.

“Let me finish this ceremony. Wait for me here,” He whispered to the leper.

No one seemed to exhale as the king walked back to his throne. He resumed his position before he was interrupted, and so did everyone present, although they were confused and cautious. The finalists knelt down once again before the king. The crowd settled down and stayed well away from the leper who was now in tears. The music resumed and filled the halls like nothing happened. Everyone was excited and warmed up once again. The crowd gave a round of applause as the king raised his hands.

“I proclaim the winner of this year’s Day of the King and the one who will take home the 100th Glory of Man: the tenth finalist – the time traveler.”

The crowd went wild. The king took the Glory of Man and awarded it to the 100th Champion of the King. The champions, the finalists, the important people present – crowded around the time traveler to give him pats on the back. There was jubilation and merrymaking. The music was playful. The leper stayed where he was and stared in amazement at the celebration.

The time traveler slowly approached the leper and showed him his Glory of Man and said to him, “You really thought you could win this with your basket of fruits?”

The leper shook his head, “No, no, no. I only wanted to offer my best to the king.”

The people nearby sneered, “Leave now leper. You’re not welcome here.”

“B-but the king – he told me to wait…” they were about to kick him out of the castle, hidden by the crowds, when the music died suddenly.

It was the king. His hands were up again and was about to make another proclamation.

The time traveler smiled brightly, “He’s going to call for me! I knew it. The 100th champion gets to be the first person to spend time with the king!” Another round of pats landed on his back.

“I have given you what you want. Now, please, everybody out.” The king said.

No one moved or made a sound. Everyone was stunned. This has never happened before and no one expected it. Everyone looked at the person next to him looking for answers.

It was the 100th champion who broke the silence, “Why my lord? This is your day. Don’t you want to spend time with us, your best citizens? We who sacrificed so much for you?”

“You are all great, no doubt about it. And I thank you for your service,” the king replied. “But I seek something that I have been looking for for so long…”

The king looked onto the leper and waved for him to come. The leper came running and was met by the king’s embrace.

“I seek someone who has a heart similar to mine…” the king said as he embraced the leper as if they’ve been friends for so long.

Then the king said once again to the others, “Now, please, resume your merrymaking outside. Take your glory and your trophy and your pride – and leave me with my kindred…”

The Companion

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Man wakes to another day with his companion. This companion he’s always had. He’s called it many names, but the trouble it brings remains the same.

This companion brings too many questions. Questions that are too deep for comfort. Questions that he has no answers to. Questions he runs away from. For they take whatever joy he has achieved to hold.

As man looks towards nature, the companion asks, “What is the purpose of such beauty? And when this beauty turns into chaos, who drives it?”

“It all came by accident. No one drives it.” Man answers like he’s always done before.

As he looks at his reflection in the mirror, the companion asks, “Such a masterpiece! Why were you made? Why are you here?”

“To work. To be a part of humanity. To leap from whatever adventure to another,” Man replied.

As man looked at the work of his hands, his companion asked, “What is the point of all your work? You will leave all this one day.”

“I know… You never fail to remind me behind closed doors. I don’t know. As long as it gives me the money I need to survive and thrive, I don’t care what the point is.”

As man looked at the world – the healthy, the sick, the rich the poor – his companion gives him another nudge and asks again, “What about the world around you? Why are they here? Is it an accident too that you’re in the midst of them?”

“The rich I despise. The athletic I despise. The poor and the sick I despise all the more. I want them all to look up to me. That is I think why I’m in the midst of them. Which reminds me, I must get to work. Go away.”

“One more question, if you will,” the companion pleaded, “Wouldn’t it be a great thing if a good God were in the middle of all this?”

“If he is, he doesn’t care. And he’s not much of a god, really. Look at all that’s happening! Why even seek him out? Besides, he’s too busy with the nice people. He has no love for me.”

And so man kept going the same way he’s always done. As the years go by, he became more determined to ignore his companion. Man didn’t like being alone or being still, for he knows that the companion will bother him again.

So he poured out all his resources and all his efforts to keep on moving. He did it all. Work. Business. Investments. School. Achievements. Entertainment. Fitness. Travel. Shopping. Gadgets. Properties. Dining. Partying. Fashion. And a tinge of good deeds here and there.

It went on for years and years. And one day, man realized that his companion has finally lost him. Behind closed doors, his companion was no longer there. With a smile, he said to himself, “I have found success and fulfillment.”

And then, The Time came. That time when all things faded and broke down. The man wanted to keep going, but his body was failing him. He felt his heart run out of control and his legs giving way. He lay on the floor, feeling the coldness creeping in.

Knowing that the end is knocking on his door, he forced himself to think of the good life he has lived. He thought about his loved ones and that made him glad. He thought about the work he will leave, it will continue without him. He thought about the money he’s accumulated, that gave him a good sense of accomplishment. He thought about having seen the world and all it had to offer, it made him happy. He remembers all the people he has helped, that gave him joy.

And then he remembered, all that cannot go where he’s going now. He will have to be alone when the cold overwhelms him. No one and nothing can come with him, he knows. He will go to a place with an iron door that no one could open once shut. And he didn’t know what’s on the other side. All the good feelings were suddenly snatched away.

Strangely, a few moments before his heart and lungs stops, he yearned for the questions of his old companion.

“This may sound strange, but I wish you were here old friend,” He whispered to no one.

“I have never left you,” came the reply. His companion was there.

“My old friend. I am glad that you’re here in my final moments. It’s strange to miss you. Your presence bring me peace,” man said with slight smile.

His companion did not reply. He came near and smiled, but with sorrow in his eyes.

As man felt his life ebbing away, he gathered all his strength to do what he always wanted to do but did not have the time. He wanted to ask the questions this time, to his companion. With gasping breaths, he began.

“What do you think is the point of all this? Nature? Me? Work? The world? People?” he struggled for his last few gasps of air and then continued, “Don’t you wish a good god is in the middle of it all?”

His companion wept. And then He replied, “I am the Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and The End. I hold all things together. And all things were made by Me. I am the God whom you said did not do much of a job at all. And I have never left you.”

Man, struck with awe, struggled for words, “Why didn’t you –“ he tried to ask. But his strength was already leaving him.

“I have always loved you. You never did outrun me. I was always there as I am here now. I wanted you to know Me. That’s why I asked you all those questions. I didn’t want to force you to love Me back. Because, then, it wouldn’t be love at all. It would be fear… This world is fallen. I am about to replace it. I wanted you to be a part of it. I wish you didn’t drive me away. We could’ve done so many lasting things together…”

Man struggled to speak. He had tears in his eyes. He seized up. The words would not come out. But three words managed to escape his lips, “H-how do I –“

And then man’s clock finally stopped. His body went limp. His eyes closed for the last time. His companion wept once more.

 

10 Reasons Why The World Dislikes The Christians

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Christianity, according to polls, is the largest religion in the world. But this survey is too simplistic. There is so much more to the faith than just a simple declaration of beliefs, than just going to church on Sundays, donating to the church, than this short period of piety for most during the holy week…

There is more to being a Christian than that.

Proof of this is how professing “Christians” roll their eyes when their fellow believers share their faith. They challenge and discourage those who preach the Bible while writing in their bio-data that they are of the faith.

Also, there are many who are only “partially Christian” – they take the principles they like in the Bible and then throw away the rest. They say they believe that Jesus is God, but they hang on to their 2nd and 3rd wives.

Then there are those who are just naturally superstitious and just happen to be born in a Christian background. While I was recently watching the fight between Pacquiao and Bradley in a restaurant, one “Christian” remarked before the results were announced: “Manny, you better make the sign of the cross or you will lose again…”

These are the fillers to the said number of Christians in the world. They’re the fence-sitters who like to see what’s going in the church but would rather not be involved. They’re those who don’t bother with the deepest things of God and are more concerned with their image. I’m not referring to these Christians.

The Christians referred to in this article are those who believe in the Bible as the only source of knowledge for faith. Those who live out what they regularly meditate on in Scripture. Those who deeply believe that there is only one God: the God of Israel who sent His only Son, Jesus, to be the final sacrifice for sins. Those who believe that Jesus lives to this day and will soon return to keep His promise of a new heaven and earth. Those who use all God’s gifts to bring back glory to Him and to share the gospel.

These are the Christians of old led by the same Holy Spirit. They’re the real deal.

So why does the general population, including the Church’s own members, dislike them? If you’re one of those who have always been wondering why you feel that way, below are 10 possible reasons.

1. Christians are excited about the thought of the end of the world.

While most of the world are ecstatic about a better world that is coming through science, technology and man – the believer looks forward to the day that it will crumble and die. Christians believe in this because Jesus did prophesy about it. They don’t wish for everyone and everything to be destroyed, actually. They just long to see a world without poverty, sickness, evil and death just like everyone else.

Needless to say, there are those who who primarily preach this not out of love and joy, but out of frustration because of their failures in this world.

2. Christianity calls for a holy life.

There’s just no escape from this. The Bible is clear, the struggle against the evil within will always be on the shoulder of the believer. It’s a struggle because its going against the tough grain of the human heart that just loves the flesh and the world. But Jesus paid for the price once and for all, there is no need for condemnation. Christians are free to be good and holy. Nothing separates them from the love and presence of God no matter what happens. Its like a huge free buffet with an endless supply of forgiveness, love and the power of God. And He Himself paid for the bill.

3. Christianity requires a lot of work.

The misconception is that once one becomes a Christian, there is no longer anything else to be done. The result is backsliding (going back to the old life). The call of the faith is a call to God’s work. The believer will be encouraged to be mobilized in church, to serve. He will be guided to meditate on the Bible regularly, to pray unceasingly, to share the gospel to friends and family, to preach, to teach, to feed the poor, to give… The list is endless. No this faith is not a dead end. Its a new way of life. The God Christian’s serve will not make you idle and lazy. He will turn you into someone you never thought you could be.

4. Christianity will demand your time.

Whether its attending a small group, a prayer meeting or teaching – the Church will not only ask for you to walk down the aisle or to just raise a hand and shed a few tears. The Church will ask you to replace all the useless things in your schedule with what pleases God.

5. The Church will ask you to part with your money without apology.

Jesus was clear in Scripture: you cannot love both God and money. He taught in plain language to give to the poor, the widows, the orphans and the harassed. He knows the dangers of being attached to the things in this world. He intends to replace that with Himself – the source of life. Does this mean that we ought to live like cavemen? No. Jesus simply teaches that you should be the master of your money, not the other way around.

Sadly, this is also Jesus’ teaching that most wolves in sheep’s clothing love to use.

There are many false teachers out there that look legit but are really just after your money. They would ask for it in exchange for wealth, promotion, health and power. They appear like the real thing as they preach, but a close examination of the Bible always reveals what they really are.

6. The Church will ask you to put God first.

Jesus teaches even to this day to love God above all else, and then others second. He also teaches that if you had to choose between God and friends, family, job, wealth, even health – you gotta choose God. He may appear cruel as He asks this from us, but it really is a test of faith that all Christians go through. Think about it, if we really believe that God is all powerful, good and wise – then why could we not believe that He will take care of all other matters when we put Him first?

7. Christianity makes its followers appear weak and lame.

Jesus’ teachings on radical love and forgiveness, even towards enemies, is an offense to most who prefer instant justice. For the shallow others, brotherly love hints of secret homosexuality. The shameful cases of sexual abuse in the Church today committed by its leaders are only confirming these concerns… But loving unconditionally, loving the unlovable and loving even one’s enemies are also acts of faith that Jesus taught. Apparently, the kind of love that God revealed is much more bigger than what man is capable of doing. And how about justice when we’re wronged? Again, the answer is faith. Why take matters in your own hands when you have an all-powerful God who is always present and knows the perfect timing for everything? This is one of the most difficult struggles of being a Christian.

8. Christians teach God-confidence, never self-confidence.

This, I think, is the area where believers today are encountering the most resistance and persecution. The world today advocates relativism and self-sufficiency. Everyone is free to choose what they want to follow because everyone is now the god of their lives. Each person is taught to depend on themselves for everything, even things about God, which explains everything that is morally wrong in the world today. And where does that leave God? Outside of everyone’s life. No one today will readily accept that God is the source of every good and right thing.

Unfortunately, this idea has infiltrated the Church too.

Most Christian believe that they can force God to give them something as long as they believe in their mental capacity to think positive. This reduces God into a mindless genie (for more on that, click here.) The Bible is quite clear though, all its heroes depended solely on God and not on positive thinking or self-confidence. When they asked God for something, they asked like the servants that they were. Not like CEOs calling on the logistics department.

9. Christians breed fanatics.

The believers have no one to blame here but themselves. God is all about balance and fairness in Scriptures.

He only lifted this balance and fairness when the time came for Jesus to die on the cross. In that case, things became unfair – for God.

But everything else about God’s teachings encourages balance.

For example, Jesus teaches that no one who puts family first before Him is worthy of Him. Does this mean that we should abandon our kids for Him? Of course not. Because He also showed multiple times that He loves kids (and they loved him) and even His own mother. He even warned everyone who would make little children stumble in their innocence (he was also referring here to the believers with child-like faith). The ancient church also emphasized love for family. So, putting these together, this means that in our struggle to provide for our families, we should always remember that God and His work is more important than the things of this world.

But the fanatics, they get one or two teachings, focus on it and ignore all other teachings that are meant to balance it. This is why we have Christians who are racists, who are hateful, who are discriminating with their spiritual gifts, who follow false Christs and who recklessly spread their selective ideas to the disadvantage of the Church.

10. Christians elevate God above science.

Science is actually a religion nowadays that even the atheists bow to. But for the Christian, science only proves the existence of God. Any discovery by science was made by God and serves a purpose in His plan. There are many other things in the world that God created and is only waiting to be discovered. And if there is anything about the faith that science could not accept, it’s only because science is dealing with Someone that they could not possibly measure.

When Stephen Hawking declared, “There is no need for theology… There is no God…”

The Christians answered, “It is because our God is too big for your devices, your theories, your formulas and your equations… And He requires something that your science can’t grasp: Faith.”

It’s a never-ending debate. But does this mean that the Christian doesn’t enjoy science and technology? We do! But its just that we see a higher purpose to it all: it all points to Jesus, our Maker and Creator.

And the Church goes on…

These are just some of the reasons why Christians are disliked. And we know that its not going to change. Its something that we have to live with. Its part of the cross that we have to bear. And we do so joyfully for our Lord who took our place on the cross.

This faith that we have will continue, despite the regular attacks we receive. Why? Because this faith is not of this world. And the God who nurtures it is beyond this world.

A Jewish leader, Gamaliel, did well when he said this in a deliberation among Jewish leaders on what to do with the apostles in Acts 5:35-39:

“…be careful about what you’re going to do with these men… Leave them alone… For if this plan or this work is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God… you may be even found fighting against God…”

2000 years later, the Church of Jesus still stands.

 

Struggling with Discontent, part 3 of 3

This is the last installment of this 3-part article on Struggling with Discontent. In part 2, I talked about some of the things that give us discontent. Then I lingered on the inadequacy of the Prosperity Gospel to give the Christian a joy-filled life. Here’s the rest of it…

Here’s another truth. Here’s what else is real in our lives: the hard rules of the Earth.

These rules everybody must abide in, believer or not. Yes, God loves you. But don’t think He will bend these earth rules just for you all the time. More often than not, He allows these rules to have power over us to teach us discipline, perseverance and to develop our character. In case you’re asking why, let me remind you that He’s not your genie, He’s your Father in heaven.

Whether these rules would be miraculously suspended for anyone, its His call, not ours.

What are some of these hard rules that God often chooses for His people to work under? There are many. Let’s quickly go through a few:

The Laws of Physics. Throw a Christian and a non-believer from a 20-story building and they will both fall flat on the ground, regardless of their theology. Try it. Let me know what happens. I’m kidding.

No work, no pay. Amazingly, this is the law that most of us believers think we’re exempted from. Guess what?Even if you can make a pencil levitate in Jesus name, no income will come to you if you don’t work. No certain amount of prayer will make money sprout out of the ground if you don’t work hard. But, to be clear, the opposite extreme is also true. If you work hard without God’s help, you will also be working in vain. Any work done apart from Christ will eventually fall or deliver an empty life. But prayer without hard work, is also a recipe for failure.

Life not being fair. The Earth is not designed to be a child’s playground although it may seem like that sometimes. Evil is present everywhere and it affects believers and non-believers alike. We’re not supposed to be comfortable here. The Lord has prepared a place of peace and abundance for those who do believe in Him, and one day He will renew all things when He returns. But right now, the world is filled with fallen people. Let’s be thankful that evil can only go as far as we and God allow it to go. We are here not to love the world. But to love and yearn everything that is God’s.

The Appeal of Excellence. Being a meek and humble Christian doesn’t mean being mediocre. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t compete. You can strive to be excellent & competitive without being arrogant. You simply can’t be trusted and can’t be promoted if you don’t show the bosses that you’re capable – even if you’re a devoted Christian.

Value of Time. Whether you lose time from relationships due to vices or work or because of your service to God, you will lose loved ones all the same. Just because you’re a church volunteer doesn’t mean that your marriage will be miraculously mended without spending enough time with your wife. Its the same with your kids, your family and your friends. If time is used poorly, the result is always the same regardless of our beliefs…

OK, let’s stop there. What’s the point?

Instead of wasting time wishing for a better life, wishing for the prince charming to come, for superheroes to emerge, for Reality TV producers to walk up to us, for fortune to come as we pay Prosperity Gospel tele-evangelists – why don’t we use our God-given faculties, talents and skills to get off our behind and solve them instead? Instead of spending a lot of time daydreaming, why don’t we get the gears in our minds grinding? God designed your powerful mind not to park it, but to use it for His glory.

And if we can’t solve the problem regardless of how hard we’ve tried, then maybe we’re approaching the problem the wrong way… Or maybe we’re heading the wrong direction and God’s hand is not going with us and we need to change direction…

Because of His work on the cross, Jesus now isn’t just your Lord, Redeemer and Savior. He can be your always-present life-coach if you work on a relationship with Him.

The Lord Jesus did not promise an easy life. But He did promise rest even in times of chaos (Matt. 11:28). He promised never to leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He promised that He will provide enough for us the way that He does for the birds of the air (Matt. 6:26). He assured us that we need not fear life with Him because He knows how to give good gifts – better than what’s in our minds (Matt. 7:11). His words bear in them power that the world doesn’t understand. Jesus is worthy of our trust. And all these promises are ours to claim by His cross (Gal. 3:26-29).

He designed each one of us to be problem-solvers not problem-hoarders.

He wants His children not to be overwhelmed but to be always persevering. Worrying and complaining only wears us down. Let us remember that Jesus is the best example of submission to the Father’s plan even when it seemed impossible. Let us also remember the great victory that He achieved and the highest authority that He has now over all things in heaven and on earth.

We have been given a Spirit of Power and not of fearfulness (2Tim. 1:7).

So lets stop fantasizing about a life without kinks and dents. Face those problems head-on and grab it by the neck. Use them as foot holds as they come. Use them to bring you ever higher. Let us work towards a life that is always resilient, always hopeful and always faithful.

Struggling with Discontent, part 2 of 3

In part 1 of this article, I enumerated some of the things I blame for our habitual discontent.I ranted about some of the nice things most of us love to watch and follow (Disney movies, Hero movies, reality-TV, tele-evangelists, etc…). I expressed that I think these, despite of their good intentions, teach us never to be content with what we have.

Here’s the rest of it…

All these and more give us discontent. They pressure us to come up with a solution that will make all our troubles go away— or be labelled boring or unblessed. These suggest that money, fame and power will solve all problems. If only we could just break-free from the prison that we’re in. If only we could escape…

But what is real? Your life is real. Your problems are real. Your job, no matter how meager it is, is real.

Let’s get even closer to reality…

Girls, odds are, no prince charming will come to your rescue. And guys, for goodness sakes, find a job or build a business when you can and don’t wait for good fortune. Stop trying to become someone you’re not.

No superheroes will come to save us from a failing economy. We’ll just have to figure it out ourselves.  Most of the time, the greatest dangers we face is not physical and do not come from zombies or cataclysmic events (good luck to the doomsday preppers out there). The real heroes are those who do their jobs well and add value to the community.

Stardom is not the solution to anyone’s problems. We need to tell that to the youth. There are millions wanting to be in a Reality TV Show. Even if you can manage to get in, its no guarantee that you’ll stay up there for long. Stars do fade and fall, often. And, even if you’re just a simple fan, try to look at how much of your time and money is spent on watching them on TV and on buying the products that these shows promote. You buy them because you’ve been taught that what you see in the mirror is below expectations. Can you spell S-U-C-K-E-R?

Politicians are necessary. We do need to respect and submit to them. Someone has to lead and take care of the nation. But its just wrong to depend on them to make our future brighter. These guys are not at the very top of the society, we are. That’s why they’re called public servants. Its just sad that the public perception is inverted. Its a pity to see that there are unfortunate citizens out there depending on hand outs from the government without looking for a way out of their situation; thinking that they are entitled to government help because they have voted for those in position. Progress in our lives can’t be entrusted to politicians. They’re too busy promoting themselves. Depend on them for your personal progress, and the result would be a joyless life full of bitterness.

This may come as a surprise to you, but please read on after this:

Do not entertain any preacher who teaches that God will shower you with money, fame and good health for as long as you are faithful with your giving.

This is where I’ll linger… You only have to take a second look at Bible stories and you’ll realize that it is filled with, not only blessings, but sufferings as well. Living a Christian life is no guarantee that your problems will go away. It’s not a bed of fragrant flowers. Being a believer does not guarantee that your sickness or difficulties will disappear. Paul did all those great feats of faith with an illness. The Lord Jesus Himself was born into a simple life. You know how the rest of His story goes.

There are preachers who will teach you that since Jesus suffered and died already, you don’t have to. This is true, but it should always be followed by this other truth:

We are not in charge, God is.

Yes, there are abundant blessings, healing and prosperity— all good things— from God through the cross of Jesus. Amen to that. But He also has a grand plan that will be followed. Sometimes, it is part of His will for suffering to stay, for evil to triumph, for poverty to linger, for sickness to occur. Why these have to stay, no one knows for sure (more on that here). That’s why faith (believing in God and His goodness despite of difficulties) is very important to us and to Him. This is why, in the gospels, Jesus emphasized the value of faith, even if its as small as a mustard seed.

The Lord’s sovereign plan will not take a backseat so you can have your little project. The prayers we say are not to change His mind, it’s to mold ours into His.

End of Part 2…

Struggling with Discontent, part 1 of 3

Image by Roberto Bouza via Flickr, Creative Commons

Why do we spend so much time wishing for someone else’s life? Why are we so paralyzed by the things that we don’t have? Why do discontent and worry have a firm grip on us?

I blame Disney. With all its fairy tales where evil always loses to good; where dreaming and hoping always bear fruit as long you keep on believing; where young girls are taught to depend on the coming of the prince charming while wasting every second of their lives daydreaming; where young boys are taught that only those with the looks, the armor, the castle and the horses should do the venturing and the leading.

I blame the superhero movies that I love; where the fate of the world lies often on one man or a small group of individuals with superpowers; where we’re taught that we need extraordinary circumstances to be able to make a difference (get bit by a radioactive spider, be born from a different planet, be ultra rich); where it’s suggested that normal people should stand aside, scream and panic, as the mighty ones do all the work.

I blame the Reality-TV industry. I’ll throw-in show business as a whole as well. They teach us that anyone can be popular and glamorous; that if we keep auditioning, we too can be the next star; that as long as we devour all the beauty products that they sell, we too will eventually be discovered. They propose that as long as we stay beautiful, fabulous and visible— things will turn out OK. They present themselves no longer as entertainers but as the ultimate solution to poverty and hopelessness.

I blame politicians. They always promise to end ancient problems but often end up causing new ones instead; who present themselves as the ultimate solution but reveal later that they have short-term memories; who will indeed implement projects but for their own future campaigns; who will take the hope of the people but give little back to them.

I also blame those irresponsible Tele-Evangelists. Particularly those that preach solely the Gospel of Prosperity. Those who claim that hardships and difficulties are not meant for the genuine believers of Christ; who preach that for as long as we have faith, our businesses will prosper; who say that for as long as we “pay” our tithes and offerings to their movements, the Lord will always “return our investments” beyond our imagination (I wonder what they were thinking when the recession came in 2008?). They who claim that they can command the Holy Spirit of God. Who show as if they can “shoot” blessing from their hands; who then wear expensive suits, ride luxury cars, personal planes and go on spending sprees— all for the “glory of God”.

All these and more give us discontent. They pressure us to come up with a solution that will make all our troubles go away— or be labelled boring or unblessed. These suggest that money, fame and power will solve all problems. If only we could just break-free from the prison that we’re in. If only we could escape…

But what is real? Your life is real. Your problems are real. Your job, no matter how meager it is, is real.

End of Part 1.

Click here for part 2 of this article…

The Power Of Desire

Firedancer

Your deepest desires dictate your actions.

Our desires have multiple layers. Its coverings are like that of an onion. The outer coverings are a reflection of what’s inside. There are many layers, but when you peel them off, you’re left with a small compact center.

Our desires are often a reflection of the deepest ones. And if you dig deeper, you’ll understand yourself better. It is profitable to a person if, before doing something, he asks himself first, “Why am I doing this?”

Our desires can be tricky. Most of the time we think that a certain desire is the very reason why we do things but later on discover upon introspection that the desire is actually just a result of an even more powerful desire hidden deeper in our hearts.

Let’s say you got angry at a sales clerk at the mall, shouting at her after she told you that you can’t return an item. At first, you believe that you’re emotionally stirred because its an injustice, that you need to set it right because you’re being wronged. So you scream at the clerk without so much as asking her what she’s went through that day and how low her salary is.

You walk away satisfied that justice had been done. That satisfaction is lifted up all the more by the fact that justice had been done yourself. And then days later, in a moment of calmness and reflection, you dig in deep into your heart. And then you find that the incident with the sales clerk was not about justice at all but because of a very deep desire of yours to be respected and even feared. Because once upon a time in grade school you were terribly bullied and no one interfered for you and you promised yourself along the way that it should not happen again. And that desire to protect yourself gave birth to your thirst for justice and vengeance. And at that moment with the poor sales clerk was really not about her, the mall and not even about the $10 shirt. Without you knowing it, one of your deepest undisclosed desires have taken control of you. That whole incident was in fact the 8-year old you, defending itself from the kids that bullied you decades ago. It was an unsettled part of you bursting out.

This is important I think because it will add value and nobility to our lives.

It could free us from our bondages. Upon realizing that a desire for prostitutes is rooted on a deeper desire for acceptance because the person was once upon a time rejected too many times by too many people – money and effort can be redirected to better things that soothes the same desire.

It could intensify our passion for work. On the verge of giving up, a person can recover from burn out after successfully uncovering that he has been working not just because of his desire for money but because of his desire to preserve the heritage of his parents.

It could help us with life-changing decisions. An aspiring politician can postpone his plans upon figuring out that his drive to succeed is not driven by genuine public-service but because of a deeper desire for fame, power and money. If all politicians did this, I wonder what kind of world we’re all living in right now?

In the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Bradberry and Greaves teaches us that looking deeper into our hearts is the key to making better decisions:

The biggest obstacle to increasing your self-awareness is the tendency to avoid the discomfort that comes from seeing yourself as you really are… Rather than avoiding a feeling, your goal should be to move toward the emotion, into it, and eventually through it…

This brings to mind what Jesus said in Matthew 12:34-35 about the source of the words we speak and the things we do:

For the mouth speaks out of the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil.

Also, in Mark 7:15, He reminds us that we should be more careful of what’s going on inside than the food that we’re ingesting:

Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him… For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.

The widely accepted school of thinking teach that the way to discipline is the reward system. We reward what is good. We punish what is evil. This works, but most of the time it doesn’t. If it does work, it does so temporarily. Proof is the overcrowding of our prisons worldwide. There is clearly a missing factor in the way we correct ourselves.

Desires are powerful. Especially the deepest ones that hide deep in us. Those desires that have gained the ability to create multiple coverings around it. Desires that are able to tap into the power of the mind to dig itself deeper and deeper into the darkest parts of the heart.

Good news is, we’ve been equipped with the ability to harness these desires. We can either harness them and use them to propel us. Or we can allow them to subdue and control us.

The Bible offers help to those subdued by unwanted desires. And David asked from God in his writings in Psalms 51:10-12 for intervention because, just like us, he had desires that were getting out of control:

Create in me a pure heart, O God… Renew a steadfast spirit within me… Restore me… Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

And the Lord answers in Matthew 11:28 and 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest… If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

No one comes to Jesus without being changed. Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church said this:

The true mark of a genuine Christian is a changed life… his sanctification.

There is only one requirement God asks a person for Him to give the power to overcome unwanted desires. No, its not to buy a book or to deposit $100 in a televangelists’ account or to touch a TV screen like some idiot. Its simpler than that. It’s in Psalms 51:17:

The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.

Come to Him with pride and your academic prowess, and He will not come. All you’ll see are the inconsistencies in the BIble. Come to Him with your desire for prosperity and you will find the company of heretical fanatics. But have that broken, humbled heart the Lord requires, and He will come to you and change you into the person you were meant to be.

The best parts of your life yet are in His hands.