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.

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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!

What I Learnt When I was Fired From a Summer Camp ( and why I’ll be taking a break from writing )

Last year, I worked as a camp counselor at Pine Springs Ranch Christian Camp (PSR). My experience at the camp was cut short due to a forest fire which significantly affected the camp. Due to considerable damage to the sewage plant and other facilities, the camp was cancelled for the summer.

So I was fired. quite literally.

But during my few weeks there, I jotted down the following “lessons” for the sake of my own memory.

1) There’s nothing more important than calling kids to Jesus Christ.

2) There are very few things that are more valuable than a Christ-like character.

3) Humility opens doors to many good things.

4) People are always watching you. Especially when you think they are not. 

5) You are capable of giving your personal best at all times. Your best will be inevitably different from someone else’s.

6) Take care of your character; your reputation will take care of itself.

7) “There is no limit to where a man can go if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.” : President Reagan.

8) “Seek first the kingdom of GOD and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” : Jesus

9) Be thankful for the things that you take for granted; like your own bathroom and the sphincter muscle (look it up).

10) There is so much power when young people are united in Christ.  

It’s been a year since the fire happened. But I’ll be heading up to the same camp tomorrow morning to start my service as camp chaplain for the summer. 🙂

This will be a new experience. I don’t know what to expect.

But I’m going to record as much as I can. Soak in as much as I can. And be inspired as much as I can.

So I will be taking a break from writing till August. I pray that God will use me in any way He sees fit during the next few weeks.

Adios!

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus – Philippians 1:6

What Subway Taught Me About The Love of God

I was starving.

The cacophony of voices from the transiting passengers at the Dubai International Airport was muffled by the growls of my stomach. Yes. I should have bought something in the plane. But i I’d just spent half my inheritance on a baguette at the Charles de Gaulle
airport in Paris prior to this trip.

And who in their right mind would pay $5 for a pack of crackers??

Where were the days when airline food was FREE??

This was injustice. Oppression.

Anyhow, I spotted the most affordable eatery in the place after quickly scanning the lounge. Who would have thought that a green and yellow neon sign can generate so much joy? Subway was an oasis in the middle of a concrete desert. I was never grateful for cheap fast food in my life.

I rushed over and hastily ordered a foot-long philly cheesesteak with all its trappings. My eyes lusted over my sub as it evolved from bun to succulence. After it was made, the server packaged it carefully, received my card, and waited for the receipt. “There is a God.” I thought to myself as I contemplated eating the sub just a few moments later.

Then the unthinkable happened.

The server looks back at me and utters four painful words.

“Your card has been denied.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. But then it dawned on me. Distracted by my hunger, I forgot that I had splurged my card to its dregs in Paris.

The sub was made and the cashier was waiting for a response.

Frantically, I dug into my pockets to see if I had any cash. Imagine my surprise when I felt some notes! I emptied my pockets to find 10,000 Lebanese pounds I had from a previous trip couple of days earlier.

I told the cashier to save the sub for me till I get some cash for him. With two 5000 pounds notes in my hand, I hurried to the cash exchange to convert that money to dollars.

I got $5. Inflation sucks.

When I came back and gave the money to the server, he told me that it wasn’t enough to cover for the sub. I was still short. Just in case something like this happened, plan B was to break down in front of him and start throwing a tantrum.

But that wasn’t necessary. For what the server mentioned afterwards more than satisfied my hunger.

“You still short, boss. But man behind you in line overheard problem and when you went away, he paid for your sub in full. Here is your sub. Thank you, come again!”

….

You see, while I was still broke, while I was still hungry, while I was away trying to find some way to satisfy my hunger by myself, the man who had been right next to me in line all this time, paid for me in full.

The Bible says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins (Romans 5:8). While we were still distant from God, he sacrificed himself for us. Jesus Christ showed His love to me when he voluntarily gave himself up for me so that through Him, I can truly live; in this world and in the world to come.

True satisfaction starts when you realize that there are hungers that even food can’t satisfy. I was in my teens when I realized that and His love has satisfied my deepest longings.

What about you? How have you experienced the love of God in your own life? Leave a comment below!

 

What I Learnt from Having My Dad For The Past Three Weeks ( and why you should connect with your family NOW)

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Dada left.

We’d spend almost a month together and yesterday, he caught a flight back to Michigan from where we are in California.

It’s been surreal having him around. There has to be a word that’s more memorable than “memorable” to describe the experiences I’ve had with him during the past few weeks. My pastor once made a profound statement about recording events and memories. He said that “the shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.” What you’re about to read, then, is my “scribbling” on “scratch paper” for my sake and, hopefully, for your sake as well.

I’ve taken my family for granted.

In theory, my family is priority. In reality, they have been tolerable at best. My itinerant living and independence have only aggravated this. Every time I get to spend time with them, however, a wave of guilt rushes over reminding me of the times I haven’t put the effort to make that phone call or send that Facebook message.

You tend to realize the value of something when you don’t have it. And that’s exactly how I felt when I came back from the airport and saw dada’s shorts lying around in the room.

I need to be more intentional about communicating with my family. No excuses.

Love is giving.

Last night I was watching the second sequel of Star Trek with my girlfriend. Khan’s riveting question to Captain Kirk after his capture got me thinking:

My crew is my family. Is there anything you wouldn’t do for your family, Captain?

My family may not be my crew. But I can’t begin to describe how much my family has sacrificed for me to have what I have. When we were on our way to Chicago, my dad and I got into a minor squabble about showing love. I argued that while I knew he was doing a lot for me and Khayali, he should affirm me verbally by saying nice and encouraging things. My dad sighed. Then he went on to vividly recount all the sacrifices amma and he had made so that Khayali l and I could have an education overseas.

By the time he finished, the waterworks began from my eyes. When I tried to give him a lesson on “words of affirmation” from Chapman’s infamous “5 love languages,” dada shut me up by giving me a dissertation on sacrificial love.

I was reminded that evening that love is giving. It gives continuously and sacrificially. I thought I knew it. My parents had lived it.

Be yourself.

My dad is as Sri Lankan as one gets.

You can get the man out of Sri Lanka. But you cannot get Sri Lanka out of the man.

As I type, I am wearing the sarama he wore while he was here in California. From where I am sitting, I can also see the strainer he used to make his morning tea. In addition to that, I also remember the big hugs, the quintessential Sri Lankan head bob, and the “aiyo’s” he would appropriately employ at a given location. But wherever he went, people felt a genuine sense of kindness, respect, and hospitality emanating from his distinct personality.

In the past few weeks, Dada reminded me that I don’t have to respond to the pressure of conforming to the culture around me to have influence. Dada showed that I can be my Sri-Lankan, “fresh-off-the-boat” self and still make a difference in the lives of those I interact with.

God is love.

Dada being here was a miracle.

Few weeks before my graduation, dada, amma, and khayali showed up at the U.S embassy in Oman for their visa interviews. To our shock and dismay, all three of them were denied visas fearing that they will not come back to Oman after being seduced by the “greener pastures” of the country.  (-___- )

My dad then reapplied for the visa alone hoping for a miracle. And that’s what happened. My mom and sister decided to spend the vacation in Sri Lanka whereas Dada flew over to the States to be with me.

God has showed His love these past few weeks in very tangible ways.

Out of His love, He brought my dad to witness the ceremony of the first college grad of his family.
Out of His love, He allowed my dad to meet the man who changed his life indefinitely.
Out of His love, He gave opportunity for my dad to see friends he hadn’t seen in decades.
Out of His love, He helped me get closer to my father.
Out of His love, He reignited my love of my family.
Out of His love, He drew our family closer to each other and to Him.

I believe none of this happened by chance or luck.  I wholeheartedly attribute me being here and my dad coming here to the goodness and the grace of a personal, Almighty God who cares about you and me.

—–

I miss my father. But I know I will see him again. It’s been refreshing and wonderful having him around.

My prayer for you, dear friend and reader, is that you’ll take some time to connect with your family. Truth is that as much as you and I hate to think about it, they’re not always going to be around.

“I have no time” is not a reason. It’s an excuse. You make time for what you want to make time for.

So get off the chair. Close the laptop. Close your browser.

Make that phone call. They’ll love you for it.


This Man is the Reason I’m Still Here ( A True Story)

Once upon a time there was a boy.

This boy was born in the verdant tea plantations of Sri Lanka to a humble tea worker and his wife. The family of 7 was poor, but had everything they hoped for in each other.

Life was good. 🙂

Then Christmas happened.

Christmas that year was anything but merry. That night, the boy’s relatives had come to his house to mourn the loss of their uncle who’d tragically passed away.  A house of celebration was turned into a house of mourning when a corpse replaced the conifer as the centerpiece of his home. The boy was distraught. “This can’t be Christmas. It can’t get worse than this”  he thought.

He couldn’t be more wrong.

Just then, someone from the house decided to pump more air into the kerosene lamp because there wasn’t enough light.

All it took was one pump.

The kerosene lamp burst into liquified flames which spilled on a number of people. The mourning turned to wailing as people were trying to reach the nearest exit to escape the conflagration. The 10-year old screamed and shouted for help. With his crying baby sister carefully tucked in his hands, the boy rushed out of the burning house desperate to find the rest of his siblings.

As he rapidly surveyed the smoky air for someone who can help, his eyes fell on a familiar silhouette. “AMMA! (mom) ” he tried to scream above the screams. “WE ARE HERE!!”

The boy was elated to see the one person who’d always been there for him. That can’t be anybody else but her. “AMMA!! AMMA!! COME HERE!! WHERE ARE YOU?? WE ARE….”

Suddenly he froze.

As the smoke cleared just enough to see, the boy witnessed a sight that would change his life forever.

His mom was screaming while being burned alive by the flames.

She suffered from severe third degree burns all over her body and died a few days later.
After the death of his wife, the father sent the boy and his 4 siblings to the homes of his brothers because he couldn’t work and take care of them at the same time. The boy was scarred for life. He missed his mom, dad, and 4 siblings who were adopted by other family members. In addition to the emotional pain felt, the boy also endured physical pain caused by his uncles. Finally, on the 2 year anniversary of his mom’s death, the 12 yr old took his meager saving of 10 rupees ( less than a dollar), his luggage consisting of one white t-shirt and a blue pair of shorts, and ran away from his family in an effort to put his life back together.

fast forward 5 years.

The 16-year old was working as a house boy for some American doctoral students after weeks of being homeless, food-less, and restless. One of the students, Mr.Ron Walcott, took notice of the boy’s work ethic and offered him work as his assistant.  Soon thereafter, the boy would travel all over Sri Lanka to help translate Sinhala and Tamil to English while Mr.Walcott analyzed that data for his dissertation. For the next 4 years, the American would be this boy’s father, teacher, and mentor.

The dissertation was done. The time came for Mr.Walcott to leave Sri Lanka.

The satisfaction of a job well done was eclipsed by his imminent departure from the boy.  He knew that once he left, the boy would be left in the streets. Nobody is going to hire a dhemalaya ( derogatory term for a tamil-speaker) let alone a 3-rd grade dropout.

It dawned on him that the best thing he could do to help the boy was to provide him with a good education.

Mr. Walcott took the boy to the best high-school in Kandy at the time, argued with the principal to get the over-aged boy enrolled, paid his school fees for the next 3 years, and left the country.

—————

40 years have passed since.

I’m in southern California as I write this and I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the events that led up to this moment.

you see,

The boy was my father.

Because of the kindness of Mr.Walcott, my father was able to finish high school, meet my mom in the same school, get married, get a nursing degree, work as a nurse in Sri Lanka, and currently work as an orthopedic staff nurse in Oman.

A month ago, my father came to the States for the first time in his life to see his son graduate from college.

Today, for the first time in over 35 years, he was able to meet the man who literally changed his life forever.

And I took a selfie with both of them 🙂

I probably wouldn’t have been born if not for the kindness and benevolence of Mr. Walcott. My dad wouldn’t have been in school and never would have met my mom. But the Lord has been so kind to us through and through and has used a random American guy to deliver my dad from poverty and position his family for greatness.

If you’re reading this, you are privileged. You have something that someone else doesn’t.

I don’t care who you are or what you have, but you have the power to change someone’s life.

I invite you to make a decision to change someone’s life today.

One person.

All it takes is seeing a need and DOING something about it.

Who knows. You might even affect the lives of people who aren’t even born yet.

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