How to Abuse Your Relationship With God.

girl-hair-meadow-403I have to admit.

Sometimes I think God is in an abusive relationship with me.

I get it. “Abuse” is a word loaded with paper trails, court appeals, and restraining orders. It does have baggage. But when taken at face value, to abuse simply means to misuse, or use improperly.

In that vein of thought, here are three ways in which you and I can ab-use our relationship with God.

Hopefully you don’t resonate.

1) Talk to him only when you need something.

Dr.Allan Walshe, my professor from my youth and young adult class, laid this gem on us:

“Requests are a part of prayer, but they are not the heart of prayer.”

He further explained that the heart of prayer is a relationship – a sincere, singular commitment to a personal God who knows you and longs to be known.

This was paradigm-shifting because prayer, for the most part, had been nothing but a calling bell for my Cosmic Butler.
It’s usually my 911 line for a bruise all the way to a breakup. Yes, I do season my communication with the occasional pre-meal grace. Yes, I do thank him for that miraculous A.  But prayer is still optional communication. I need it when I need God.

Yes. God does want us to come to Him with our requests and desires. As a matter of fact, he’d rather have us to come to Him than anywhere else. But we diminish the function of prayer when we relegate it to a mere transaction. Check out what Aunty White had to say about prayer:

Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him” (SC, 93).

God doesn’t want to be used. He longs to be loved. I’ll do well in trying to remind myself of that daily. Today, did I talk to him when there was nothing for me to ask him? Did I take some time today to tell him how great He is just because? Did I talk to him as I do to a close friend?

I wonder how our marriages and relationships would fair if we only talked to our partners only when we need something from them.

2) Enjoy the privileges of the commitment while ignoring the responsibilities of it.

When I join a company, I am made privy to two things: My membership privileges and the company contract. I can enjoy these privileges as long as I’m a member of the company, but the moment my choices conflict with the company contract, I may potentially lose my privileges as well as my membership.

Enjoying the privileges of my company while ignoring its responsibilities is a sure way to get fired. Yet when it comes to my company and commitment to God, the same rules remarkably do not seem to apply.

The privileges of Christianity are many. We are called to enjoy gifts like grace, peace, community, purpose, strength, joy and eternal life among others. But while we do that, we are concurrently called to uphold the responsibilities of Christianity such as discipleship, love, sacrifice, service, and join in with the missio dei of seeking and saving the lost.

Unfortunately many of us want to enjoy the crown without bearing the cross.
We let Jesus do all the dirty work while we get to enjoy his spoils. The German theologian and activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, referring to this as “cheap grace”, galvanized his sentiments with the following definition found in his epoch-making book, the cost of discipleship:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” 

Have mercy.

Have I enjoyed the privileges of salvation while ignoring the responsibility to my Savior? How have I done that done that today?

Salvation is free but not cheap. The price tag is still high. What then should be our response to the One who paid it all?

3) Ask him to modify your behavior without transforming your life.

The overarching meta-narrative of scripture begins with man created in the image of God and ends with the complete restoration of that image in man where the old order of things has been replaced and transformed into a new one.

The apostle Paul mentions this new order in his letter to the Corinthians:

“if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things passed away, behold, new things have come.”

In order to effectuate this, he exhorts the church in Rome not to conform to the patterns of this world, but instead be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

Scripture is replete with references which convey the necessity of a total soul transformation. God seems to be asking more of his people because he wants to do more. And yet I still find myself asking him to change certain parts of my life not realizing that God is more interested in transforming all of it.

But is it wrong to ask God to give me more patience? Is it wrong to consult him for my weaknesses? I think not.  However, I think I’m missing the point when behavior modification takes precedence over a desire for life transformation.

The ultimate end of a relationship with God is God Himself. He wants us to see him face to face and to enjoy Him in an unadulterated atmosphere of holiness. This requires us to be changed and transformed into His likeness in order for us to withstand His glory in eternity.

Then what about our behaviors? When God transforms the life, behaviors are more than modified – they are repurposed.

These are three of the many ways I think I have abused my relationship with God. What about you? Have you found yourself in a similar or different situation? If you care to share, leave a comment below!

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The Gospel According to Sriracha

sriracha-sistine-chapel

There are two kinds of people in this world.

People who have tried Sriracha. And people who have not.

If you are here, chances are that either you know what Sriracha is, have tried it, or wondering where this gospel is found in the Bible ( check in the appendix…… just kidding)

For those falling under the aforementioned third category, Sriracha is the world’s greatest sauce.
If you haven’t tried it yet,  I suggest you stop reading this article, go to your local Asian store, buy a bottle,  and put it on as many food items as possible and immediately consume them.

You will see the light.

Sriracha, predictably, is also my most favorite sauce. I like it so much, I douse Sriracha on my Sriracha.

Recently, one of my Sriracha-lover friends mentioned a documentary made on this ubiquitous, fan-mongering sauce, the origins of which no one seemed to know. Being an obsessed fan, I wanted to know more about this condiment than just its effect on my tongue.

I watched all 35 minutes of it.

As I began reflecting on the documentary, I could not help but see parallels between my favorite sauce and the good news of the Christian message ( i.e the gospel)!

Here are some napkin-notes I took while watching it.

1) Sriracha does not advertise. Ever.

I was dumb-founded when I heard that David Tran, the CEO of Huy Fong foods and the mastermind behind Sriracha, does not advertise his product. “We don’t have time to advertise” David says. “There’s only time for production. I’m busy looking at my chili supply that I don’t have time to look at Facebook or Twitter” he continues.

Tran spends almost all of his time with the source of the product that he doesn’t have time to be concerned with advertising it. As a result, the quality of the product does its own advertising.

Reminds me of John 15 where Jesus gives a lesson in horticultural to his bros.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

Jesus tells his disciples that when they are connected to Him, they won’t have time to flaunt their “fruit.” The more they would spent time checking their relationship with the Source and less on themselves, the more their friends will see and share their Christ with others.

What if we spent less time advertising our Christianity and more time with our Christ?

How would that look like?

2) Sriracha forms authentic community.

Sauces don’t form community. Sriracha does.

When I wore my Sriracha shirt to class few weeks ago, I was ambushed by at least half a dozen people. All of them were diverse, yet unified by one goal:

They loved Sriracha ( And they wanted my shirt ).

Everywhere I go, I invariably meet Sriracha fanatics like myself who inevitably end up reminiscing the moments when their tastebuds were resurrected.
It fascinates me how community is formed around a green-capped, plastic bottle!

Part of the reason, I think, is how affordable it is.

Tran purposely marked down the price per bottle in order to make it accessible to both college student and congressman alike. He loved his recipe so much that he wanted everyone to try it.Sriracha-Mac-and-Cheese-Baked1

Coincidentally, Scripture mentions that God so loved the world that he wanted everyone to try His “product” – salvation.

The gift of salvation – the person of Jesus Christ –is made available, accessible, and affordable to every human being.  Those who had “tasted” this gift were not only transformed, but also formed a community of “fanatics” who’s only purpose was to offer this gift to others.

Today they call it the “church.”

3) Sriracha is a symbol of sacrificial commitment.

David Tran is boss.

As an immigrant from Vietnam during the 50’s, he had to endure many hardships prior to starting his business. After noticing the lack of hot sauces in local Vietnamese restaurants, Tran began to experiment with chili and spices and concocted his own sauce.
It took him one week to make one bottle, but he persevered.

That was 4 decades ago.

Now David has a factory that manufactures 3000 bottles per hour, 24 hours, 6 days per week raking over 1 billion dollars in global sales.

Because of one man’s commitment to his passion and the sacrifices he was willing to make for the benefit of others, millions around the world can now truly taste food.

The Christian message is rooted in One who was willing to give it all up. One who was faithful to His commitment to save the world even to the very end. Because of what He did, millions around the world are still able to truly taste life.

———-

Can’t wait for that glorious day. When at that great banquet table, with all who have endured till the end, my Savior eats with me.

It will be fantastic.

Especially when He reaches under the table…

..and pulls out His Sriracha bottle.

🙂

A Sriracha lover? What do you like about it? Any more connections to anything you can find with it??
Feel free to share in the comments below!

Why Christians Should Not Focus On Being Like Jesus.

photo-1421809313281-48f03fa45e9fI’ve always wondered what the phrase “be like Jesus” meant.

Does it mean to copy His appearance? If so, does that mean I had to grow a beard, sow my own clothes, and chuck my shoes for some sandals?

Does it mean to imitate His personality? Then does that mean I have to swap my hyena laugh for a sanctified snicker? Sing softer in the shower? Or replace my srilankanamerican accent for a more middle-eastern one?

Or does it mean to mimic his character?  Be more loving? Caring? Inclusive?

However way you look at it, there were people in history who made it their life’s aim to be like Jesus.
One such individual was the apostle Paul who appeals to his readers to “imitate him as he imitates Christ.” In another letter, he encourages some church folk to fix their eyes on Jesus as they run the race of faith.

As a matter of fact, both scripture and history are replete with individuals who proclaimed that the strongest argument for Christianity were Christians who acted like Jesus.

This even resonated with the famous Indian liberationist Mahatma Gandhi, who made the following statement:

“I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike Christ.”

Ouch.

Here’s the bottom line:  Christ-like behavior is the acid-test of true Christianity.

But here’s the thing..

Christians should not focus on being like Jesus.

“Wait a minute, Kev. How can you be like Jesus without focusing on being like him??”

Buckle up.

Christians should not focus on being like Jesus. The word that needs to be sharpied and spotlighted in that sentence is focus.

I don’t know about you, but I thought that focusing on being like Jesus was the way to do this Christianity thing. I thought I was supposed to focus on walking, talking, and acting like Jesus to display his character.

And I tried. I tried my best to be more loving, be more caring, and be more inclusive.  I tried my utmost to be Jesus-y with others, especially towards my non-Christian friends to be “salt” and “light.” I tried my best to have the right thoughts, the right actions, and the right behaviors.
But instead of becoming more like Jesus, I found myself becoming more disappointed.

Because the more I focused on being like Jesus, the less I focused on Jesus and more on my works.

Check out how Dallas Willard puts it in his book Renovations of the Heart:

“The external manifestation of Christlikeness is not the focus of Christian spiritual formation. When outward forms or behaviors are made the main emphasis, the process will be defeated, falling into deadening legalisms…”

Mercy.

Now let’s just say that my trying to be like Jesus actually made me more like Jesus. If that was true ( and I wish it was sometimes! ) the object of glory will then be my works instead the grace of Christ!

Inevitably, my spirituality will become my savior while my Savior will be used for my spirituality.

Christians should not focus their efforts on being like Jesus. In theological jargon, that’s called “righteousness by works” and that’s not how the game’s played.

“So Kevin, if I am to be like Jesus, and focusing on being like him is not going to get me there, what else am I supposed to do??”

Glad you asked. Here’s my answer and the seminal point of this post:

Christians should not focus on being like Jesus. Christians should focus on being with Jesus.

In John 15, Jesus preaches a sermon where he likens himself to a grape vine and his followers to attached branches. Then he makes a remarkable statement:

“If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Notice. The branches were not asked to focus on producing fruit ( good works) to produce fruit. They were asked to remain with the vine so they can bear fruit.

Christians are not called to produce fruit. They are called to bear fruit.
Christians are not called to focus on producing Christ-like behavior. Christians are called to bear the characteristics of Christ by remaining with Jesus. This is confirmed by Paul when he says that it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure.

So when you are with Jesus, spending time alone with him, talking with him, meditating on his love for you, and receiving his grace, He will transform you from the inside out. The more we admit we are powerless to beat sin and inculcate Christ-like behavior by ourselves, the more we open our souls to the work of God to change us into the likeness of Christ.

But isn’t that works? Yes it is. A lot of works.
But the most important work of a Christian is to focus all the efforts in being with Jesus in word, thought, and deed.
This requires you to forgo your need to prove your worth to God so that Jesus guide and transform you.
That’s probably why Oswald Chambers says

“all I do ought to be founded on a perfect oneness with Him, not on a self-willed determination to be holy.”

Don’t focus on being like Jesus. Focus on being with Jesus. And He will make you more like Him.

What are your thoughts? What are some ways you can start being with Jesus instead of trying to be like him?
Leave a comment below!

 

The Single Most Important Choice You Can Make RIGHT NOW to Grow in Your Relationship with God.

awareness-of-god

What’s the most important choice you can make right now to grow spiritually?

If I were to tell you, you probably wouldn’t even believe it.

It is so simple, so unsophisticated, so candid that you might even kick yourself for not realizing it.

At least that’s what I did when I first realized it.

If you’re reading this, you are probably one of those people who have vowed to spend more time with God in 2015. Maybe you are sick and tired of being sick and tired of your relationship with Him. Maybe it worries you that your relationship with God has been relegated to a prayer meeting, one worship service, and one church service per week.

If you are not, that’s ok. I’m going to let you know this anyway.

Here it is:

The single most important choice you make RIGHT NOW to grow in your relationship with God this year is to be aware.

Did you catch that?

The one thing needed to start, improve, or deepen your relationship with God this year is awareness.

The sound of those wheels and cogs turning in your head is almost deafening, so allow me to unpack this concept.

If there is a resounding refrain God has been trying to sing toward mankind throughout history, it would be the following stanza:

“I am with you.”

The story of God as mentioned in the Bible starts with God “in the beginning” with the first humans at the Garden of Eden. It ends with God promising that He will be with them in the earth made new. The story of Jesus in the New Testament starts with God declaring that He is now physically and spiritually with man. The last thing Jesus mentioned before ascending to heaven was a promise to always be with his disciples, even to the every end of the age. Time and time again, God has revealed Himself in various ways to various people and has reminded them that He is and will be with them.

It’s also evident that whenever God is with people, they change.

God revealed Himself to Moses through a burning bush and Moses was never the same. God displayed himself through the elements of nature to Elijah and he was never the same. God interrupted Saul’s trip to Damascus and when he regained back his sight, he was never the same. The disciples of Jesus, when they experienced God through the Holy Spirit, were never the same. These are some of the many exemplars throughout the story of God where people are changed and transformed because of the presence of God.

But here’s a question:

As disciples of Christ, if God’s presence is with us all the time, why aren’t we experiencing change? Why don’t we seem to be growing in our relationship with Him? Why are we not experiencing spiritual growth as much as we hoped we would?

Here’s the answer: it’s because we are not aware of His presence most of the time.

We live in a world of distractions; a world that is vying for our attention while sapping our attention spans. According to the results of a survey, if this blogpost didn’t get your attention within the first 3 seconds of you clicking it, you probably wouldn’t be reading this sentence. Ads, posts, and tweets have gotten shorter yet flashier to accommodate to our ever changing media interests. Our attention is their currency.

If attention is currency, God is broke.

God is not getting all the attention He deserves from His professed people, and if you’re anything like me, you may still be struggling with paying attention to God. But the sooner we realize it, the better off you and I would be. Giving God attention is being aware of His presence and that makes all the difference to our spiritual lives.

Moses was aware of God’s presence and he was changed.

Elijah was aware that it was God who was speaking and he was changed.

Saul was aware that God was with him and he was changed.

The disciples were aware of God’s presence and they were changed.

One of my professors summed it up this way.

The presence of God + awareness = growth

The disciple of Christ, Paul, towards the end of his life wrote that it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose.
God is with us and in us working. All the time. But spiritual growth is cooperative act! God does the growing when we are aware of Him and is work in our lives. It’s only when we are aware of His presence, through prayer, reflection, study of His word, or in service to others, that we take the most crucial step in growing towards a deeper relationship with Him.

More awareness, more growth. Less awareness, less growth.

Do you want to grow deeper in your relationship with God?

Leave this page, close your eyes, and be aware.

 What about you? What are you going to do this year to become more aware of God’s presence in your life? Leave a comment below!

A Letter to the Silent Disciple (A Christian response to Ferguson, Garner, and recent events)

Dear Silent Disciple,

I get it.

Everyone else is talking while you’re quiet. You’re been following the story, albeit from afar, through your twitter feed or FB newsfeed. Some of your friends have been picking and choosing chairs on the table of truth; whether it be the ones labelled “black lives matter,” “all lives matter,” or “justice matters.”  People are streaming in, picking their chair of choice, all the while discussing and debating on where they stand and what should be done.

But you haven’t picked.

You are not even in the room.

I don’t know what your deal is. Maybe the reputation you’ve garnered in social circles or social media circles is more important to you than the family of Garner.  Maybe you have more important things to worry about than what’s happening hundreds of miles away. Maybe the atrocities that are happening elsewhere don’t really concern you directly. Maybe you believe that whatever you say or do is only going to be a pebble toss on a sea of opinions. Maye you’re just disinterested in the whole thing. Maybe you just don’t care.

But maybe…. you do.

Maybe you’re legitimately concerned. Maybe you’re so concerned that you are trying to figure out what’s the right course of action YOU need to take. Maybe you’ve been raised in a cross cultural context where everybody gets along. Maybe you’re struggling to pick a chair because you hear truth in all sides. Maybe you don’t even WANT to sit because you are so deeply troubled that you just have to move from one side of the table to the other to be there for all people. Maybe you are wondering what all this has to do with you being Christian.

Maybe you are wondering what I’m wondering right now:

As a disciple of Christ, should I respond? If so how?

If, in case you’re wondering that, this is my ‘two rupees’: ( because #SriLanka )

Let me be the first one to tell you this:

It’s OK to be silent.

I know you’ve seen many lash out at each other using their polemical whips laced with stats and statements. You’re so distressed by the opinion wars that you’d rather shut up and do what you can quietly.

That’s ok, because Jesus had a disciple just like you.

Someone who was didn’t really want to be a part of the action, but remained behind the scenes throughout his entire discipleship journey. He was a follower. A disciple. Yet silent. Unassuming. Quiet.

And here’s the kicker:

He was silent even while his Lord and Master was being crucified. Even while His hands were raised. Even while He couldn’t breathe. Even when everyone around Him was convinced that His life didn’t matter.

This silent disciple is named in the bible as Joseph of Arimathea.

Now before you get a little too comfortable and try to add him on Facebook, let me share with you what else we know about this dude:

“This man ( Joseph ) went to Pilate and asked him for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb and departed.” ( Matthew 27:58-60 – Bible)

Joseph was quiet. But not for long. When he knew he had to act, he acted. In fact, Joseph did what Jesus’ other well-intentioned, opinionated disciples were unwilling to do; sanitize his body and give him the dignity of a burial.

So what am I getting at?

Bro, sis, It’s ok to be silent. But fortunately or unfortunately for you, it won’t be ok forever.

I know it’s tough. But it was even tougher for Joseph. Being a wealthy Pharisee, he risked his social standing, any hopes of being promoted, his job, his family, and maybe even his life to do what he did. But when he knew he needed to do something out of his love for his Lord, he just went ahead and did what he could.

Didn’t tweet awater-drop-ripplebout it. Didn’t Facebook it. Didn’t make a documentary out of it. Just did it.

Friend. Both an earthquake and a pin drop accomplishes the same thing: Breaking silence. So please don’t compare your contribution to the conversation to someone else’s. Do what you can. It could be as small as “liking” a post because it shows solidarity with what you believe is right, or as big as being a part of a march to create awareness to pray for the victims as well as those who trying to do the right thing. Do you.

When should you do it? Only you know. Joseph didn’t ask.

At the end of the day, as a fellow disciple of Christ writing to a fellow disciple, whether you are coaxed into opinion or silenced by it, I want you to remember this:

Jesus didn’t need to go on a protest because His very life WAS a protest.

A protest against injustice. A protest against pride. A protest against sin.

My prayer for you brother, sister, is that this Christmas you will not see Jesus as a vulnerable baby but as a born king; whose birth spoke to the injustice of the Bethlehem infanticide, whose death answers injustice everywhere else, and whose soon return sings of an existence where joy is indescribable and “injustice” is indecipherable.

Merry Christmas.

What’s the right course of action for you as a disciple of Christ? Please share your thoughts and comments below!