Jesus could have been vengeful.

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23 ESV)

I came across this verse tonight in my own quiet time and felt compelled to share it. When we focus on the suffering that Jesus Christ endured on the cross at calvary, we oftentimes focus on the pain and suffering. Since was God, he could have just snapped his fingers and the pain would have disappeared. Personally, I understand that the pain was necessary for him to exemplify the need for us to have a perfect lamb sacrificed for our sin. For it is said that in our weakness, He is glorified; Jesus came to do just that, and for that, I am indebted.

But what I stumbled upon in my reading was a clear statement that God could have responded with a vengeance, or a judgement… one that the pharisees deserved. I think about my reaction today while driving. In three separate instances while driving home, I felt justified using my horn to publicly alert (and shame) the poor decisions drivers around me made, all of which placed me and my vehicle in physical danger. I think about how quick I am in responding to little trespasses upon my own ‘right.’ My study bible eloquently says, “It is common to long for retaliation in the face of unjust criticism or suffering, but Jesus behaved like the meek lamb of Isa. 53:7.” The context of this passage is submission, and the lesson is Jesus was able to entrust himself and those who persecuted Him to God because he knew that God would make things right in the end.

I guess for myself, extending far beyond my occasional road rage, I’m compelled to entrust my sufferings to God as well. It’s easier to entrust my suffering to God when I feel like my circumstances in life are difficult, and no single person is culpable of being blamed. But I think that when there is a specific target trespasser or persecutor, I’m very quick to point the finger. It is not my natural inclination to think, “God will make things right” even though that person or people group are infringing on my personal boundaries. Examples that I can think of are classmates that take advantage of others, patients with an entitled attitude, church members with a consumer mentality, and the self righteous person (i think we all know someone like this). What is most compelling to me is that Jesus’ response is not the same as the modern/cultural teaching of ‘forgiving and forgetting.’ I don’t believe that Jesus ever forgot the suffering He endured; the further teachings of Paul prove it. I believe His initial response of enduring the cross wasn’t a sign of weakness. It was strength and determination, not in himself, but in God. Jesus defered to God for God’s judgement. As a man, Jesus submitted to God, trusting in God’s promise. He relinquished the responsibility of judging men, and instead, focused on His own responsibility of fulfilling the prophecy and dying on the Cross. To me, that’s real strength.

Fast

My best friend and I are beginning a fast. They chose social media, and I chose online shopping. Dealnews.com is my achilles heel. I spend so much time shopping online for things I don’t need. The first reason is the thrill and fulfillment of finding good deals. The second is the simple pleasure of buying and owning material things. While this sacrifice seems minor, my hope is by giving up this small portion of my life, I’m able to use my residual time to glorify God in all that I do.

I’m also giving up social media as well. For me, that isn’t Facebook, instagram, and snap chat. It’s mostly Yahoo, Youtube, ESPN, and Cnet. I will commit myself to studying hard for my next pharmacology exam, and not to wasting time keeping up with mindless bauble.

iPhone 6s

So, I preordered an iPhone 6s, and it will be arriving via mail today. Honestly, I’ve been waiting for this day for the last 4 months ever since I was eligible for an upgrade. What started as minor excitement has grown into an obsession – reading every review on the not-yet-released flagship phone, scouring for the best deal, determining what color and storage size to purchase, and the list goes on.

This morning, I hesitated, but I can clearly call it idolatry. While, I didn’t put my faith and trust in this singular device that I don’t yet have, I have let it consume my thoughts and attention. Even during the last two weeks when I was deliberating, I would pray sporadically to God that He would help me to use this expensive device for something other than a selfish purpose, that it might exist for something more than a status symbol or something to boast about. Today I’m willing to admit to you (my close brothers and sisters in Christ) that I’ve been failing at keeping that declaration to God and need help in this seemingly tiny area of faith. I know God wants submission to His will in all the areas of my life, including the areas of life revolving around every day life. To see every blessing I’m given as an opportunity to gather and grow His kingdom is something I am striving for. So my declaration today is a submission of my heart, that this iPhone will not continue to, nor ever become again something I idolize before God. Instead, it shall be seen as a gift and blessing that God gives just as He has given so many other things.

A last thought I have about this. I have been waiting eagerly and, at times, anxiously for the deliverance of this phone. In Luke 12:37, it says “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching.” While this is a parable of servants waiting on their master to return from a gathering, I think this can be equated to the simple devotion and patience we as delivers are supposed to have as we await Jesus’ return. Pray that I might grow in eagerness of Jesus’ return.

25 ¢

A quarter. I’ve picked up a lot of those in my life. Most of the time, I store them in the change compartment of my car. I save them mainly so I can use them at the carwash (which always requires 4 quarters to start, and at least 1 dollar more to finish). Each quarter I’ve ever spent was probably on something I needed, or thought I needed. It was a subjectively necessary purpose. So, the question I have for myself today is, “How did I spent my first quarter?”

This is different from saying, the “first quarter of my life.” I don’t know if God will give me a dollar or if he’ll only give me another nickel. But at the very least, He’s given me a quarter. So here’s a list of 25 things that I’ve done with my quarter. It’s a list of things I’m proud of and not so proud of. But in the end, regardless of whether  I rejoice and celebrate, I can walk in faith knowing that each cent was necessary.

  1. I went to Texas A&M. whoop!
  2. I went to optometry school.
  3. I have to retake pharmacology. bleh.
  4. I started playing volleyball, but I still haven’t gotten better.
  5. I tried to share the gospel with my family, and each attempt was probably as unsuccessful as the last. Won’t give up though.
  6. I started a christian organization on my college campus. #epicmovement
  7. I had my first real humbling moment during the summer after my freshman year.
  8. I took 4 years of mandarin in high school, but I never improved because I didn’t practice. I still feel guilty about it.
  9. I made the tennis team and made some friends. This was a BIG deal.
  10. I grew up thinking everything oriental was chinese in origin. For example, I thought pho was chinese noodle soup.
  11. I’ve visited a lot of places in the world, but I took those trips for granted by spending most of my time on my gameboy.
  12. I’ve become incredibly transparent about my life and am, as a result, shameless about most things.
  13. Through my dating experiences, I have learned what it means to date with the intention of marriage. However, I’m still learning what marriage means.
  14. I became a member at a church. Frankly, I’m still confused sometimes what I’m supposed to do.
  15. I’ve been a christian for 10 years but I’ve only memorized 1 piece of scripture (not counting John 3:16).
  16. I watched a lot of tv growing up. I can’t say I regret it. What else are you supposed to do when you don’t have many friends?
  17. I used to walk home from school (or take the metro), and I took a lot of pride in that.
  18. I still take a lot of pride in being exposed to poorer neighborhoods, as opposed to only living in suburbia.
  19. I know I need God’s grace to live and to go to heaven (which in essence are the same thing).
  20. My oratory skills still need work, but I’m more eloquent than I was at the age of 13.
  21. I’m no longer a teacher’s pet. I used to love hanging with teachers after school and getting the attention. Now, I can’t wait to get out of the classroom.
  22. I still have a long ways to go in terms of cooking.
  23. I’m not afraid of the stage, and I’m really happy about that. Singing ,dancing, speaking, you name it.
  24. I still don’t have a job, and I feel inadequate still being a student at the age of 25. Probably because I compare myself to others a lot.
  25. over the past 10 years, I’ve grown to enjoy reading my bible.

There’s obviously more; those are just some thoughts I have. I’ll add another penny to this list. The most important thing to me is that on August 6, 2005, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. My life hasn’t been the same since. So in a way, after the first dime and nickel, my life was no longer innumerable or finite. I have much more than a few quarters to look forward to. I get to spend eternity with God, and that should probably be the only thing on my quarter reflection list.

Reblog: Sincerely, One of Many Girls Who Care

I know I read this over a year ago, but a year later, it really is incredibly encouraging to reread these words. Purity is difficult to fight for, particularly in your own heart. It’s definitely encouraging to know that there are women (and other men) who understand that there is a real struggle among brothers to keep their minds pure. I want to keep fighting for purity as well.

One of the reasons why this post really gets to me is the blogger expresses compassion, a rare gift that only shows when a writer/person has an acute awareness of the audience he or she writes to. As a man who has struggled with purity, it seems very clear to me that I am her audience. Her words flow with compassion because she writes with the intent of sharing grace. Despite knowing it is my responsibility to lead well as a man, she forgives me for my struggle and failures and even goes further in saying, “I’m sorry because I know it’s hard to live righteously when you’re surrounded by so much temptation.” Her first and foremost goal is to affirm us men by sympathizing with our struggle. Her words are perceived as sincere because she actively tries to sympathize with men, kinda like how people say “Put yourself in my shoes.”

If you read the first 50 comments like I did, you’ll see many instances where commentators essentially said, “Why do you need to apologize? It’s not your fault. You’re blowing this way out of proportion. It is men’s fault that they struggle.” I can’t really disagree with their position because I think their point has merit. It IS the responsibility of men to lead. However, in my opinion, compared to her blog, these comments appear harsh, not compassionate, unsympathetic, insensitive, and insincere. The reason is because their words present truth without grace. In the blogpost, before she gives any sort of instruction, encouragement, and/or biblical reference, she makes an effort to affirm her reader – to acknowledge them or let them know that someone is on their side, even someone who could be a victim of their sin. Something I’ve recently learned about myself is that it’s difficult for me to accept instruction or encouragement if I don’t first feel affirmed by the person giving it. If those commentators were to write this blog instead, I feel like they would have probably focused on one or all of the following three points:

  1. You shouldn’t be lusting after women or fantasies
  2. Porn is destroying you and your relationships.
  3. You need to turn to God to reject the sin.

If you had shortened the post to just focus on those three points, while truthful, I  don’t think the blogpost would have had the same effect. Anyway, I’m grateful for these words, her compassion, and for the encouragement. Purity, ultimately, is something difficult to fight for, and I echo the words she shared at the end… “You are truly a light in this dark world. A protector of women, and a buckler for your future family. Thank you for loving your sisters in Christ the way the Jesus would.”

Be Malleable

Are you a boy?

I’m sorry.

Not sorry that you’re a boy… That’s awesome.

I’m sorry that you see hundreds of advertisements every week showing half-dressed women.

I’m sorry every time you go to the beach or your neighborhood pool you can’t look in any direction without seeing a girl basically in her underwear.

Or that you can’t scroll through Instagram on “women crush wednesdays” or any day for that matter without an airbrushed girl in a thong staring you down.

Or that your buddy showed you that one magazine when you were 9 and you’ve never forgotten that moment because that was the first time you first saw a completely naked woman.

When I think about the guys in my life who are striving to live with a pure and Godly mindset, it honestly breaks my heart that they’re surrounded with so much temptation.

I think about my 22…

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No more Game of Thrones

I’ve watched four seasons of HBO’s hit medieval drama, Game of Thrones. When I first moved back to Houston, almost all the people in my circle of acquaintances around my age (wow that’s a lot of prepositions) watched this series. Naturally, in order to fit in, I started watching it as well (and even binged) even though I knew about the graphic nudity and explicit slaughter. What I thought to myself was, “Well… these people are also christians in the church, and they don’t seem to be tempted or affected by the content. Maybe that’s just a sign that they’re more mature or that they have grown in their faith to a point where they can resist these forms of temptation. Praise God for that.”

Lately, as God has begun convicting me, I don’t feel like that sort of logic holds true anymore. Earlier in December, a friend introduced me to a new ABC hit TV series called How to Get Away With  Murder. This show’s storyline is just as compelling as GoT, but not nearly as explicit; they show many sex scenes though. When I was watching it, I kept rationalizing that it’s okay because I’m watching it for the compelling storyline, and I’m able to ignore the sex scenes which also include portrayal of homosexual relations between two men. I think sometime between the end of HTGAWM and the start of this GoT season, God has begun teaching me a new lesson in obedience. I’ve been learning that we don’t submit to his commandments only because He is creator and His way is best. I’ve never struggled with understanding that, and I’ve always logically understood that His way is best. The new lesson I’ve been learning is in our obedience, He is glorified. Many times, I don’t live with the intention of glorifying God through my actions and the intentions of my heart. I live for my own sake and for my own desires because it seems more fulfilling. However, this following scripture probably captures and resonates strongest with my recent conviction:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1-12 is the verse where those words come from. As I reflect on these words from the Bible, which are God-breathed scripture that He has intentionally left for us, which is also known as the word of God, which is also known as Jesus Christ, I can see no other way to glorify God than to obey his commands. In this single command, Paul says to us that its best to live as a living sacrifice – meaning as we live, we sacrifice ACTIVELY. I think God has convicted me of actively living in a way where I sacrifice things of my fleshly desire when they contend with the will of God. If I have a gift of discernment of what God’s will is through the Holy Spirit, then I will know what is good and acceptable and perfect (v 2).

So for that reason alone (I know there are plenty of others) I am discontinuing my viewership of Game of Thrones. Honestly, I don’t think I was able to watch four seasons of Game of Thrones unscathed. Unfortunately, I believe Satan has a foothold in my life now because I am exposed to many things of an ungodly nature. My hope is through my rejection of this show and others like it (most likely HTGAWM), I can continue to pursue righteousness through my obedience toward God. I think the most significant thing I want to leave you, as my faithful reader, is I’m not setting boundaries saying “as a christian, I can’t do or watch or enjoy these things.” Instead, I’m saying that I’m choosing to obey God rather than obey my flesh. For Romans 6:18 says,

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

Some other thoughts I had about GoT

  • I was just thinking, “What type of show would I want to watch with my wife/gf/family/children?” and GoT is just not on that list. Just like I would not watch pornography with any of these people, I wouldn’t want to watch this.
  • God calls us to sacrifice many things in order to follow Him. Jesus asked many people to sacrifice and give up things that were dear to them. Examples include the Rich man in Mark 10. In Luke 9, one of my favorite passages labeled “The Cost of Following Jesus”, He gives some seemingly ridiculous and egregious commands to commoners that if they want to follow Him, they can’t tell their family they’re leaving or bury their deceased father first. I feel like God has given the clear command to reject this show even though it’s something small. Watching GoT seems like something small to give up, but we’re still supposed to live as living sacrifices.
  • I think it’d be really easy to watch the show not tell people I watched it. I think it’d also be really easy to continue rationalizing that I’m strong enough to resist temptation. I guess, at the end, my own honor and integrity is on the line. To be frank, I’ve struggled with reconciling this all this past year. Finally, my integrity spoke up and I’m standing up against it.
  • I’m not condemning or looking down on anyone who wants to watch the show. If you’re a non-christian, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t watch it. It’s an incredibly compelling storyline with awesome fight scenes and attractive actors/actresses. Cliffhangers are pretty neat too. However, for my christian brothers and sisters who do watch GoT and other shows like it, I have two responses: I commend you for your strength that is found first in Christ to resist temptation OR I plead with you to search your heart about how you can live righteously in a an easily unrighteous generation. Ask yourself why you want to expose yourself to a show that can easily be a slippery slope toward a lifestyle not Christ-centered.
  • There were a few resources that helped me understand why I should or shouldn’t watch the show. John Piper provides this blogpost that helped me a lot: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/12-questions-to-ask-before-you-watch-game-of-thrones

I praise God for teaching and admonishing me in His Spirit. I praise Him for the words that He spoke to me through many sources including one from Greg where Greg referenced the fruits of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23). One of the fruits of the spirit is self-control (or discipline). In this moment, I’ve decided to exercise self-control to turn away from GoT. I love the show, I love the multiple storylines, and I love the huge budget they put into developing every scene. But, in the end, I cannot in good conscience continue to watch GoT, HTGAWM, and other shows like it. I repent for falling victim to Satan’s lies, peer pressure, the idol of seeking approval from others before seeking joy that comes from obeying the Lord.

Sharing in His Glory

I started dating someone recently, and Boy, has it been a blast. Being about to share experiences with someone and learn about who they are, what their interests are, their past, their future aspirations… it’s quite a joy and treat. But, my post isn’t about her, at least not directly.

Today, we walked around the new HEB near my house. I was really excited to share with her the experience of the new Central Market-like HEB because it’s close to my house, and I always think it’s exciting when something new opens near me. Overall, she wasn’t that impress, or at least, she didn’t seem that impressed. As we were leaving, she made a comment about how she would have rather gone to Trader Joe’s, which is down the street (honestly, I probably have to agree since TJ is more unique despite it being smaller). I was a little disheartened though when she didn’t share my enthusiasm about the new HEB, but I wasn’t bothered by it because it wasn’t something really important to me.

And then a thought crossed my mind later in the evening; This must be how God feels. Everyday, we are experiencing a fullness of grace and love from our LORD and savior, and we mostly respond by batting it away with negligence. If we don’t neglect Him, then we probably lack a true understanding of how significant and transformative His love for us is. In Romans 8:17, it says we’re children, and also co-heirs of His Kingdom. If we share in his sufferings (by walking alongside Him), we also share in His glory. Too often, I’ll neglectfully follow or openly disobey God because I don’t find the path of suffering alongside Him to be very joyful when in reality, that is the most fruitful and life-giving path to walk. When I was window-shopping today at HEB, I wanted her to be excited about the things I was excited about, but she just didn’t love it. With the same attitude, that is how I oftentimes view God and his plans for me. Innately, I just don’t love the things God loves, nor do I love the path of suffering He has put out for me. But, just like my hope for our relationship is that we’ll grow to appreciate the hobbies/interests/quirks of the other person, I pray for a myself to be transformed and molded to become a co-heir of Christ.

Relationships are convicting, srsly.

Men I Admire

When I look at men like Matt Chandler and James Moy, what I respect most is how they lead their families. My discipler is a father of 3 boys, and Matt Chandler is married and teaching pastor at the Village Church in Dallas, Tx. Both men are in different stages of life, but both have an acute awareness of their sinfulness. Now, out of context, you might take that as “Matt and James are big sinners and you can see their sin stamped on their foreheads.” Honestly, both those men can and have said that about themselves. Whether I’m listening to a podcast from Matt or having a 1on1 with James, they talk honestly and earnestly about their lives. They own up to their imperfections and share openly about how they struggle. In Matt Chandler’s new book, A Mingling of Souls, he clearly talks about the struggles accompanying dating, courtship, marriage, and family. When I talk to James, he always recites the difficulty that comes with marriage and family. However, it’s how they respond in light of these trials that earns my utmost respect for them. They know they cannot lead their families on their own and turn to the Lord in all His Glory  for guidance. They rejoice and turn to the Lord in their sin. I cannot stress how important this is to each of them; you’ll just have to talk to them each individually to understand who they are and what I’m saying about each of them.

They have humility. They’re not afraid to admit their sin. And they own up to it not by trying to fix their lives on their own but by turning to God for strength. It really is beautiful. These are men I admire. This is husband and father I want to emulate.

foreign relations

Not the type you’re probably thinking of. And no, this post isn’t really a platform for presidency or related to the State of the Union address. I’m talking about relationships, mainly friendships. In the past few days, maybe weeks, I’ve had the great opportunity to counsel several people through some struggling relationships, some current and some in the past. I’ve also been able to listen to their stories of reconciliation and unity. They have truly been inspiring stories reflecting the sharing and reception of grace in the midst of the dirtiness of this world. When we reconcile our differences and find consolation solely in the grace that our Lord Jesus Christ came to show us, we give glory to God who is most high. He really does work in relationships very powerfully.

So why is it foreign? What catches my attention is when someone else, particularly a believer, fails to try and befriend another person. In small group yesterday, we talked briefly about Matthew 25 – this chapter is singly focused on loving your brothers. One of the discussions that stemmed from this is, “If you attempt to love the world, but you lack love for you BASIC, are you really a christian?” In the church, we often feel compelled to care for those who are in need, but we can easily neglect those immediately around us who are struggling just as much. There’s something very fulfilling about bring food and shelter to the homeless, but something apparently less glorifying about praying for your fellow brother in Christ who is going through some financial troubles and pay for his kid’s piano lessons. Do we care little about the church? Is this behavior healthy? What I’m trying to say is, the concept of neglecting your fellow brothers is foreign to me. We should have unity amongst our church, but somehow we can get caught up focusing a lot on outreaching. I’ll speak for myself, but Im primed to believe that outreaching is more important than in-reaching. I care significantly about my community, but I can neglect them all the same. To make an allusion, I think united states foreign policy expends more resources caring for international concerns without fully addressing its financial and social needs internally.

But going back to to the foreign relationships topic, what is even more unsettling than seeing more outreach than in-reach is when a christian also fails to show or express a desire to love those who are in need. There are many who are in need, believers and unbelievers. I want to see brothers and sisters around me build foreign relationships with nonbelievers. Really challenging yourself to put yourself out of your comfort zone and love on them as if they were just like you. I don’t know; maybe that was reach.

Another cool note is, even through divisions of churches/countries/sects/denominations, God shows us opportunities to reflect reconciliation and grace. there are limitless opportunities to love those in need.