When Praise and Worship Felt Fake

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This photo is from Elevation Worship.

I grew up seeing church people freely dance, shout, clap and raise their hands while singing Christian songs in church. I’ve heard a lot of reactions from people with different religions. “I was shocked because I wasn’t expecting a live band,” I heard my friend said who is raised Catholic and is used to solemn Christian music. He was pertaining to our worship team with complete musical instruments include drums, guitars and keyboard. “It’s like a cult. They raise their hands and they murmur weird sounds simultaneously. It’s absurd,” some say. Others tell that born again Christians are insane because they notice that such people aren’t ashamed to express emotion like jumping with joy and shedding tears during praise and worship service. I’ve belonged to a born again Christian family since birth so this kind of church activity isn’t new to me but I tried to put my feet in the shoes of first timer attendees with dissimilar beliefs. I can imagine that they may feel self-conscious with their gestures. They may likely to clap awkwardly and reluctantly not to appear out-of-place with the crowd and they might lift their hands only if asked by the worship leader or a pastor. They may verbalize, “I’m not comfortable,” and decide not to come back again. I understand their comments and also understand the nature of our church service. I am one of the ‘crazy’ Christians who aren’t embarrassed to show emotions while singing. I clap my hands till my palms turn red and sing out loud till my throat hurts. I lift my hands high like I can touch the heaven and my eyes are often misty.

One time, everything seemed weird. I found myself in the midst of singing crowd. The worship leader was out of tune and the back up worshippers were staring blankly at the sheet of paper. The sound of drums were too loud I could barely hear the sound of keyboard. I felt like something was wrong. What were these people thinking as they were raising their hands? Were they doing it out of habit or pressure? Some appeared bored. Others looked like they were just obliged. Was this practice really a cult? Was this how a cult functioned? The way they were swaying their bodies and twisting their heads erratically were urging me to cringe. Was God pleased seeing us like this? I questioned all that I was seeing and I was standing still, stiff, uneasy, and unwilling to move. Was I deluding myself into thinking that this was how genuine Christians were expected to act? The worship leader was a snob before and she was praying like a total saint here. She was singing with eyes shut but I saw her rolled her eyes at me last week. All of a sudden the whole scene felt fake. My hands were too heavy to clap or raise. My eyes wandered every corner of the room like this was some kind of a joke. I couldn’t hear my own voice or someone’s voice next to me because the music was too loud it sounded like a noise. I couldn’t wait to sit down because my knees were sore. I wasn’t enjoying anymore unlike the good old times and I doubted if these people were enjoying too. The next song wasn’t a great choice because its melody was impossible to learn or was it because the musical instruments weren’t synchronized? Lord, if I didn’t dance and sing with them does it mean I don’t love you anymore? I thought. But You see my heart, God and You know that I have adored You since I have accepted You as my Lord and savior. Why do I feel like this? Am I turning away from You? My mind was troubled and images of food flashed in my memory and I was in the church but my heart was at home eating egg pie and melon shake. A song of Elevation Worship snapped me back to reality. I wasn’t like this before because the last time I remember I didn’t want to stop singing. I was ecstatic then. I closed my eyes now because I was distracted by colorful lights which resembled disco lights in the club which was odd because church must occur holy. Lord, show me the truth, I started to pray though everything was a distraction to me. Were You really here in this place or was everything futile? Words from scriptures flashed in my mind.

Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. -Psalm 150:1-5 NIV

The music was escalating.

I need you to soften my heart and break me apart

I need you to open my eyes and see that you’re shaping my life

I wanted to focus on the song and taste every word of its lyrics and my lips slowly curved into a smile for it was sweet. My tense muscles begun to calm as the beautiful music filled the atmosphere. The truthfulness and sincerity of the lyrics soothed my heart and I started to feel at ease as though a heavy load within was pulled out. Every beat of drum, every strum of guitar, every singing voice was now making sense. I kept my eyes closed as I opened my heart to discern the truth because my heart could see what eyes couldn’t. My eyes see what is visible on the outside but a heart sees what is beyond. Are You here, Lord? I opened my mouth to sing my prayer to Him.

Give me faith to trust what you say

I was singing along on top of my lungs and allowing my skepticism evanesced. If it was fake then why my heart and soul were now convinced that it was right? I was owning the music like a personal message to God. Lord, give me faith because there were many things I liked to doubt. Teach me to trust in You. Remind me of Your goodness and love.

Give me faith to trust what you say that You’re good and Your love is great

All the great things God has done and has given to me instantly ran through my mind and my heart was completely overwhelmed with delight.

I’m broken inside I’ll give you my life

I was broken and He made me whole and my heart might be broken again and again and He will not stop picking up the broken pieces of me and create something beautiful out of it. I heard everybody was singing in unison. I heard everybody was crying out to Him. I heard everybody was making sounds of praises. They felt it too! I wasn’t alone. These people were as broken as me but God also made them new. These people understood the pain of life and the happiness in Christ. These people love God as I love Him. I opened my eyes and everything I saw was spectacular. I felt like I was in a heavenly party and everyone was having a great time of their lives. We were passionately singing in harmony. These people were bold in their faith. These people were sinners but God changed their hearts. These fellows were the people I love to spend eternity with.

I may be weak but Your spirit is strong in me

My flesh may fail but my God You never will

I glanced at the worship leader and instantly desired to be like her. I wanted to sing for God. I wanted others to know that I was singing to God so that others would be encouraged to sing. I wanted to please God with my music like what she was doing. I couldn’t see anything in her but passion for Jesus. She was unashamed to be out of tune. She sang with confidence and grace.

All I am I surrender

With eyes shut I look into myself and I was reminded of my flaws and ugliness. Do You see the scars of my heart, Lord? This is all I am, this is all I’ve got. Will You still accept me and love me? My soul was rejoicing because I knew His answer all along. I felt this place was where I belong and this was the truest thing that happened in my life. The next thing I knew was my hands were lifted high in total surrender.

All I am I surrender

This was not insanity because insanity means irrationality. But worshiping and praising God reminds me of the most logical thing in this world: I am a child of God. I am not a piece of crap that stinks. I have a God, a good and merciful Father who knows me more than I know myself. Insanity is a condition of losing sense of reality. But only the heart can see rightly. My mind would persuade me that all was fake and I could criticize and doubt the genuineness of every living soul and went home tired and restless. But when I started to close my eyes and listen to my soul. My soul was yearning for the existence of its Maker. I couldn’t deny the longing in my heart that only my Creator can satisfy. When I began to open my heart and soul, everything looked perfect. Everything occurred marvelous I wanted to holler my thanksgiving, my praise, my worship. Insanity is a state of being sick. But worshiping and praising God refresh my soul. The heavy burden in me is lifted up as I lift my hands to God. I feel healing. I find refuge. No drug can cure a weak spirit. No medicine can cure a weak soul. But only the One who made it.

This is the song, Give Me Faith by Elevation Worship.

 

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4 Life Changing Lessons I Learned in 2016

IMG_20170101_080516_866[1].jpgGoodbye 2016 and I’m saying hello to 2017 with enthusiasm, unceasing faith and full of hope. Fear and anxiety are enemies to conquer but our God is always the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He always reminds us to be fearless and to be joyful in every circumstance. So let’s celebrate new beginnings and new opportunities as we bear in mind the lessons 2016 taught us. I would share with you my top lessons learned and I would like to hear yours as well.

1. Don’t let anyone’s criticism and judgment define who you are. Find and embrace your true identity in Christ. This is really a life changing for me because as I wrote on my previous blog post On The Mind of a Self-proclaimed Ugly, I grew up hearing criticisms and negative judgment about me that influenced how I perceived myself. I am never embarrassed to say that I was battling with insecurity and low self-esteem because God helped me overcome it. We are not defined by the mistakes that we made in the past, the physical attributes that other people see us, the money we have in our pocket, the family we grew up with, the ailments that impede us, our weaknesses and failures. You are beautiful because God created you in His image. You are His masterpiece, the apple of His eye, dearly loved and blessed. Those things had no huge impact on me before because I was skeptic. I was conforming to the world’s definition of beauty. I was blinded by glamorous faces with false eye lashes and perfect curves in pretty skirt and high heels. I’m living in the world where people treat the wealthy with so much respect and adoration while the poor is maltreated and discriminated. In this modern times, people became obsessed with compliments by posting too much on social media to boost their ego by the praises they can get. I wasn’t happy. We are not born to please this world. I realized that we are not created to become pleasing in the sight of handsome men who will only break our hearts. We are created for God and let Him define our real identity.

 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. -Ephesians 2:10 NLT

2. God is real no matter what you feel. There were times when I felt like God was so far away that I couldn’t even feel Him. They say some Christians’ faith becomes so intense and the other day that heat subsides. So you always have to keep that fire burning by constantly reminding yourself about God’s promises. The truth is there are plenty of distractions that lure us away from His presence. The temporary enjoyment that feels like heaven. But always remember that heaven God has promised is not temporary. I love the song Your Promises by Elevation Worship. The chorus goes like this, Doesn’t matter what I feel, doesn’t matter what I see. My hope will always be in Your promises to me. Now I’m casting out all fear for Your love has set me free. My hope will always be in Your promises to me.

I have learned that my feelings and emotions are temporary. Sometimes I do forget to pray and to pause for a while in the midst of busyness and fatigue. Sometimes we feel that God is just an idea we flesh out in our mind to save us from the abyss of misery. We doubt His presence when problems kick in or we become oblivious to God’s existence when we feel that everything is perfect. The past year taught me that my feelings are short-term but God is eternal, infinite. He is as real as the air that you breathe which is unseen, as real as the rays of the sun that warms the earth which is intangible, as real as the empty holes in our hearts that long to be filled which is unnoticed. God is real.

3. Accepting each other’s differences is the start of learning to love others. I wrote When is a Time to Hate and a Time to Love? in my previous post after the time I was struggling to love others the way God expects us to do. I learned to accept that others might have points of view and reactions which are different from mine because everybody has his or her own share of personal experiences that molded us into who we are today. When someone contradicts me because he or she has dissimilar idea, instead of hating and bashing that person I must remind myself that he or she also has her or his own opinion that matters. He or she might sound illogical and ridiculous but God also loves him or her the way He loves you. It’s not as simple as that, I know, but I keep on learning.

4. Private life is a happy life. Yes, I still post on social media especially on Instagram but I choose carefully which to post. I realized that I became happier when I protect myself from gossips and judgments by others based on my social media posts. I learned the value of privacy when it comes to my relationship. When your personal life is on display, you’ll get defensive. When you post arguments that you had with your partner, you’re betraying him or her. We can’t trust everyone. Save ourselves from invaders because it’s not their business and value the relationship more by not seeking validation from the world but from God.

Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. -Proverbs 26:20 NIV

There Is No Christmas Without Christ

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Photo credit: keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Merry Christmas and let us not forget the true meaning of Christmas. Family reunions and parties are the ways we celebrate it but those are not the essence of this special day. Christmas is not merely about exchanging presents, togetherness and eating good food. It is a season to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Some say Christmas is only for kids but the real essence of Christmas is about Jesus. The eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator came to earth in the flesh. He was born as an infant, lived and suffered with us and even died for us. Why would a God humble Himself greatly for our sake? Because His love for us is so great. I do believe that the spirit of this season is love because God first demonstrated love by coming down from heaven to save the world. We love because He first loved us.

The Birth of Jesus

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and Angels

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

-Luke 2:2-20 NLT

Three Reasons Why I’m Not Religious

picsart_12-08-08-21-10My secondary school teacher once said that being religious is different from being godly. There were two old women, she said, going to Catholic church, a little boy stumbled down and accidentally pushed the religious woman who was aiming to dip her finger into the holy water. Because of interrupting the religious woman cursed the boy. The godly woman in the other hand, helped the little boy to stand up before entering the church.

Dictionary defines religion as a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. Yes, it sounds Christianity but Christianity is much more than set of rules and beliefs used to worship God. I have been hurt by religious people masquerading as Christians. I have been disappointed by religious people who claim that their religion is the only religion acceptable to God so they hate those who have dissimilar beliefs. Religion teaches indifference. Jesus teaches love. Religion is man centered. Jesus is God-centered. Religion is fueled by fear and punishment. Jesus is fueled by love and mercy. Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is about Jesus who loves us with everlasting love and wants to be our father and friend, our Lord and savior. Christianity is a relationship with Jesus. I am not religious and there are three reasons why.

1. I go to church not because it is compulsory.

The main reason why I regularly attend church every Friday (Friday is the rest day here in the desert instead of Sunday) is because I want to feel the presence of God and in His presence I feel most elated and content. Nothing in this world can give me such delight and satisfaction. Winning in a contest or successful career or having a beautiful face can’t offer infinite mirth that I can only feel in the presence of the Lord. A father’s presence overwhelms his child. His embrace warms his child. His promises give hope and courage to his child and his love keeps his child alive. I am a child of God and He is my father for eternity.

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” -John 1:12-13 NLT

Worshiping God is not an obligation for me. It’s my happiness. Listening to His words is not a law for me that needs to be obeyed. It’s my life. Going to church for me is not merely a commandment that can’t be broken or a religious ritual that must be done. I am not driven by rules and laws of religion. I am driven by my love for God who loves me more than I love myself. Attending church services can make us religious but having a relationship with the Lord is what makes us a Christian.

2. I want to be a good person not because I want to be saved from hell.

Being a good person will not save you from eternal punishment because each of us has committed sins. Nobody can boast that he or she didn’t or will not ever commit sins. “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” -1 John 1:8 NLT. But because of Jesus our sins are forgiven if we have accepted Him as our Lord and savior. Doing good deeds does not save us from hell but Jesus does. Salvation is not by works. It is by grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

Given that I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior, it doesn’t mean that I have a license to sin. God calls His children to be like Him, righteous and blameless. As children of the Lord, we should resemble Jesus. I want to be a good person not because I’m terrified of going to hell but because Jesus Christ bought me with His blood. He was hanged in the cross instead of me. He was cursed and punished instead of me. He paid the price that I should pay. He did it all because He loves humanity.

“Christ bought us with His blood and made us free from the Law. In that way, the Law could not punish us. Christ did this by carrying the load and by being punished instead of us. It is written, “Anyone who hangs on a cross is hated and punished.” Because of the price Christ Jesus paid, the good things that came to Abraham might come to the people who are not Jews. And by putting our trust in Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit He has promised.” –Galatians 3:13-15 (NLV)

He loves us that He gave up His life for us. No other person can do that except Jesus. His kindness leads us to repentance. I am not compelled by religion but I am captured by His love. I am not saying that I am faultless but His grace is sufficient for me. Being a good person can make us religious but having a relationship with Jesus is what makes us a Christian.

3. I read the Bible not because church tells me to.

Religion encourages us to read the Bible even without understanding its context. Religion tells us to memorize and recite prayers repeatedly even without emotion. Religion obliges us to do religious things even without love. I read the Bible because it is where I find wisdom. Religion obliges us to read the Bible but having a relationship with Jesus opens our hearts and mind to comprehend His words written in the holy book. Reading the Bible can make us religious but having a relationship with Jesus is what makes us a Christian.

Like parents and their children, husband and wife, friends and their friends, there is no relationship without love that binds them together. I am not religious and because of Jesus’ love for me I have known love.

Red and White: The Two Kinds of People

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Photo credit: nouw.com/karolinamountain

I decided to write this post after reading a certain blog about atheism. I stumbled upon that particular blog while I was googling about religion for I was planning to write a blog entry about reasons why I am not religious (which will be my next essay after this). In response to the blog post entitled ‘10 Reasons Why I’m Not a Christian‘, I would like to post an opposite version of the aforesaid blog entry.

There are two kinds of people, introvert and extrovert, humble and proud, gentle and harsh, good and bad, optimistic and pessimistic, big and small, fat and thin, two opposing hues, red and white (I don’t want to sound racist so I changed black to red and I’m not literally pertaining to colors). There may be almost in between of those characteristics but there must be a larger portion that best classifies their kind. It has to be either cold or hot and it’s up to us if we decide to be lukewarm almost hot or lukewarm almost cool. We have given the freedom to choose. Are you a believer or unbeliever? Red

10 Reasons Why I’m Not a Christian (This is an excerpt. Read the rest of his blog.)

  1. A creator is not required for the universe to exist as it is. Religion offers no evidence but hypothesizes about the origins of the earth and human beings. According to science, the existence of a god is not needed for our universe to exist, nor is it needed for us to exist.
  2. The Bible is not convincing. There are many reasons why it is unconvincing. First there are the contradictions. The Bible was clearly written by a number of authors who disagreed on various things. There is also the fact that miracles and personal interactions with God don’t really happen any more. If they happened for 2000 years, why would they just suddenly stop?
  3. I have never seen any miracles. I have never personally witnessed a miracle and every miracle I heard about has a very natural explanation.
  4. Christians disagree with each other over almost all aspects of their religion. How do I know that you’re right and he’s wrong when you’re both giving me the same lack of evidence to support your version of the story?
  5. I don’t need God to be good.  Christianity is not the basis of morality and Christians are not the only ones with morals. I do in fact have morals. I get them from my parents, my teachers, my friends, etc. But I also get them from philosophy. It is philosophy that convinced me that abortion and euthanasia are not immoral and can, in fact, be moral.
  6. Even if the Bible was convincing, the Christian God isn’t worth worshiping. This is a God responsible for genocides. This is a God who ordered a man to kill his son to prove his loyalty, a God who killed their own son because they couldn’t figure out any other way to forgive humanity. This God even threatens to torture people for eternity simply because they can’t believe in him. Why would I worship this God?
  7. Of all the religions that exist, I see no reason why the Christian religion is more likely to be true than the rest of them. What’s more, all religions seem to be supported by the same lack of evidence. So why would I accept Christianity over all of the rest?
  8. Too many churches teach hate and encourage their congregants to view themselves as superior to all other humans. Why would I want to hang out with people who believe I’m less than them simply because I disagree with them?
  9. I don’t believe anyone deserves an infinite punishment for a finite crime. Am I deserving of hell for saying something about something I don’t believe in? Why isn’t imprisonment enough of a punishment?
  10. I see nothing wrong with not knowing the answer. It seems like a lot of people accept God’s existence because they believe it’s better to have any answer, even a wrong one, than having no answer.

White

10 Reasons Why I Am a Christian

  1. A creator is required for the universe to exist as it is. Science is the evidence of the Bible and I’ve read a lot of articles to explain this. I believe that we are not a product of mere coincidences. A computer will not form itself without a person who will assemble its tiniest details to make it work. I am not an accident in this world, neither are you because we are here for a purpose.
  2. The Bible is convincing. There are proofs that the Bible is true and studying and reading the Bible in day-to-day basis enlighten me. The word of God strengthens me whenever I feel weak, gives me hope when I’m hopeless.”He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” -Isaiah 40:29-31.
  3. I see miracles everyday. I’ve heard a lot of stories of dying people miraculously healed and victims of tragedies that survived. The fact that I am still breathing at this very moment without knowing when and how we’re going to die is a miracle. Isn’t it a miracle that once a skeptic like me, now a believer blogging about her faith?
  4. Christians agree with each other over almost all aspects of their religion. Reading and meditating on the Bible are essential factors to grow and mature as a Christian because the Bible should be the only basis of Christian belief. If a Christian doesn’t agree with another Christian’s belief, check whether his/her creed is just manmade or from God.
  5. I need God to be good. Human beings are naturally sinful and though morals can be taught in school, morality in the absence of God is just human convention and wholly subjective. If God exists, objective moral values exist or something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so. Read this article.
  6. God is worth worshiping. God became one of us, a human being. “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of humanity.” -Philippians 2:6,7. Why? God wanted to reveal God to humanity by His words and deeds. He became a man but hadn’t committed sins. He came to die for the sins of the world. He sacrificed Himself in the cross. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:28. We are unrighteous but by His blood we became righteous. I can’t simply tell you how deep and great His love for us. You have to experience it. I experience it and nothing can stop me from worshiping God.
  7. Of all the religions that exist, I see reason why Christianity is more likely to be true than the rest of them. Some believe in multiple number of gods and goddesses. Some worship curved images made of wood or metal or gold. Bible is more ancient than any other books written. I don’t want to compare but Christianity, I think, is not a religion that obliges people to follow certain traditions and rituals to be saved from eternal damnation. Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus.
  8. Christ taught and demonstrated love and encouraged us to do the same. Simply because He is love. He loves the ugliest in us and forgives the unforgivable in us. He taught us to love our enemies and forgive them. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” -1 John 4:8
  9. I believe in an infinite punishment. Because God is a God of justice. I used to question the idea of hell because the notion of everlasting torment was very difficult to grasp. Can all people be forgiven and loved by God? The truth is we all forgiven and loved by God if we accepted Him as our Lord and savior and repent. But sadly, not all people can accept it because God has given us free will. You have the choice and God is calling you now to choose Him. I’ve unintentionally watched a bestiality video for the first time and I was horrified by how a human being with higher intelligence than animals will ruin their bodies for lust. It opened my mind how vicious humans are getting. Even dogs understand that they aren’t supposed to have sex with cats but humans are having sexual intercourse with dogs. If I was dismayed how much more disappointed God was. God hates wickedness so He wants us to repent.
  10. The truth will set us free. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” -John 8:32

Are you either red or white? Choose.

Why We Shouldn’t Follow Our Hearts

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I thank God for this man.

Follow your heart. We’ve heard it from famous people, websites, social media quotes, songs, movies and books. It’s a belief that our heart is our guide to complete bliss. It sounds really tempting and liberating but as a person who sometimes uncontrollably obey her heart’s commands, I would like to share with you why our heart can be a trap leading us to complete destruction.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” -Proverbs 4:23 NLT

The heart has sinful tendencies.

I always assess my heart and I could find the most sickening things the human mind can ever conceive. Whenever I am filled with rage, my pulse races, my heart pounds and our heart urges us to pour out our anger to the person who hurt us. Hurt him back! Slap her on the face! Destroy her! Make his life miserable! The heart has sociopathic tendencies. The heart tells us to do things based on our selfish inclinations without proper judgment. Our heart is egocentric by nature and it doesn’t favor those who disapprove of us.

I honestly don’t trust my heart when I’m extremely infuriated because I know I can regret the things I might uncontrollably say or do. I might kill or blabber hurtful words more painful than killing. Once spoken, it can never be taken back. Though we can forgive, the damaging words can’t be forgotten. I don’t trust my heart when I’m hurt because I tend to care less than I used to and betrayal might replace sincerity and hate might replace love. In grocery shopping, I don’t trust my heart when I’m starved because I have a tendency to buy more edible stuff than I ought to. The heart is irrational and wicked because human beings are naturally sinful. You’re lying if you claim that you have never thought evil in your heart.

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” -Matthew 15:19 NIV

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” -Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

The heart is not a leader to be followed but a servant that should be tamed and led. Because to obey every impulse of the heart is to be enslaved by it and though difficult, it isn’t impossible to control our vicious drive. Self-control can be taught.

The heart must be changed.

God knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalm 44:21) and He knows exactly its depravity and weaknesses. He doesn’t tell us to follow our sinful passions but He wants our hearts to be made new. Knowing that our heart is filthy, God wants to give us a brand-new heart.

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” -Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

But how can God change our hearts? As we submit to His sovereignty, we humble ourselves before Him and we let Him turn our broken heart into a whole heart. We allow Him to change our polluted heart into Christ-like heart which is pure and purposeful. Is it possible that God can transform a completely evil heart and make it clean? If you’ve read my ancient blog which I deleted all the contents, you’ve known me as a self-absorbed whiner. I honestly created another anonymous blog where I blatantly raved about my bitterness and angst and cusses added spice to my suicidal write-ups. Old fellow bloggers and readers will likely to give a second look at this site and think that I’m entirely different person. God has put a new heart and a new spirit in me and I’m jubilant to know what kind of person I turned out to be: a blogger who has a heart which is after God’s heart and encourages others to draw close to Him and not the old one who had succumbed to her egocentric temperament and rarely wrote about happiness because she was downcast.

But we aren’t as perfect as Jesus. We still forget that God has already made our heart new whenever we let evil conquer us. But the changed heart will keep on following the heart of Jesus. I remember a song ‘From the Inside Out’, thousand times I’ve failed , still Your mercy remains. Should I stumble again, still I’m caught in your grace. As long as we keep on seeking His heart, He doesn’t count our mistakes.

Follow the heart of Jesus.

A brand-new heart that has changed by God is a heart that follows the heart of Christ. How well do we know Jesus? As a kid, I was taught that He is holy and I grew up celebrating His birth every 25th of December, though no one knows His exact birth date. But we shouldn’t stop there. To fully get to know Jesus is to be overwhelmed by his sufferings for the sake of our eternal life. The more I understand His great love for me, the more I love Him. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He wants to have a relationship with you, like a merciful father to his rebellious son and like a best friend that listens and understands. But when I was a child, I was looking for His physical presence, and thinking, ‘how can I speak to Him when I can’t hear Him answer back? How can He comfort me when I can’t feel His warm hug? Where is Jesus?’

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20

Jesus Christ is in us and His is spirit dwells in us when we surrender our selfish desires to the perfect will of the Lord. So whenever I want to feel Jesus, I let His spirit manifest in me and His heart be my heart. I know it isn’t easy but like a playboy who fell in love with a girl who also loves him dearly, his love for her changed him to become a better man.

This song is my personal message for Jesus who loves us more than we can imagine.

Meaningful Conversations

UntitledI am always after deep conversations. Small talk for me seems pointless and superficial. I often run out of words to say during social encounters. Awkward silence is too much to bear and to exit immediately is a relief. Because as an introvert, or as a person, merely talking about events and certain people don’t interest me that much. I am looking for ideas in everything. Isn’t it nicer if someone would walk into the room and would ask, “What makes you smile?” instead of “How are you?”

I love to listen before speaking and I listen very cautiously, seek meanings beyond every word spoken and pay attention to gestures, tone of voice, mannerism and choice of words. I’ve spoken to different kinds of people of different races with different cultures and languages. If anyone likes or dislikes talking to me, I can detect the reluctance or the excitement in one’s movement and chosen words even though he or she conceals it. Plato said that you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation. But for me, it depends upon what you want to discover. The way we speak and the chosen topic we prefer give hint of what’s our hearts content because anything goes out of our mouth comes from our hearts which defiles us (Matthew 15:18).

I talked to a kind of person who is really fond of explaining and describing his point of views. He’s good at selecting exact words that convey his exact feelings and he could vividly narrate his justifications. I listened to his series of stories and I waited for him to give way to my response and reactions being the one conversed with that is supposed to interact with him. He enjoyed expressing himself in speech that I forgot what I wanted to say because he kept on talking about his tale regardless of my obvious gesture to say something. So I remained quiet then he spoke again some more of his personal concerns. I figure that those kind of persons are just yearning for ears and are so-called narcissistic conversationalist. If we want to be heard we should take time to listen.

However, I still love conversing with interesting people with pleasing personalities. I can learn a lot from them as well as they can learn something from me. It’s therapeutic and beneficial. I would like to share with you some meaningful conversations I had with good people, mostly about spirituality and religion. I regularly read the Bible and we have weekly Bible studies so I believe that I have a good amount of knowledge to share about my faith. I attended several churches and tried to understand their beliefs based on how they interpret the Bible. I probed the source of their faith and doubt. I read too much; I ask too much and I think too much especially about humanity and spirituality. These are not made up. I tried my best to type down every word we chatted as far as I can remember. They are few minimal alterations which aren’t significant.

Conversation #1 with an atheist

Me: Do you fear death?

A: Yeah. (nodding)

Me: Why?

A: Because I enjoy and love life. Nobody knows what’s gonna happen after life.

Me: We never know when and how we’ll die so we must always be ready. My father was afraid of death but he died at 50 and my brother died at 24. Some died younger or older but we will all die. Nobody lives forever.

A: I want to live longer. Just enjoy life, love and be happy.

Me: But you and I, all of us will die. Maybe tomorrow or the next or the next, next day. We never know. (I was smiling, teasing him.)

(I was waiting for him to speak. He was silent so I went on.)

Me: Me, I am not afraid to die. I’m always ready anytime because I believe that something is bound to happen after life. I don’t have anxieties about death.

A: Nobody knows about after life. No dead person came back and reassured us about after life.

Me: There were written… (But he wasn’t listening so I didn’t continue to talk about the story of Lazarus and the rich man in the Bible.) Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1, but I didn’t mention the verse to him.)

A: (He was laughing.) Please don’t speak like Mother Theresa. (laughs)

Me: Of course I don’t. Why? (I smiled.)

(He went away laughing.)

Conversation #2 with a Muslim

M: Quran has the same prophets mentioned in the Bible.

Me: Bible and Quran have many similarities because Quran contains the old testament of the Bible. But Christians believe that Jesus is God and Muslims don’t.

M: We believe that Jesus was only a prophet. He was only a human. Do you have a Bible?

(I was delighted to show him my Bible sitting on my desc.)

Me: I believe that Jesus is the Son of God as written in John 3:16. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.

M: (He looked bored and unamused.) God has no son. He has no wife. He has no body like humans.

Me: We have different beliefs because I believe in the Bible and you believe in Quran.

M: Who wrote the Bible?

Me: The prophets and the disciples of Jesus.

M: The Bible wrote by human but the Quran wrote by God.

Me: But the Quran wrote by Mohammad.

M: (He is shaking his head in disapproval.) No, Quran is written by God. The Bible has too many versions.

Me: The Bible is originally written in Hebrew and translated in various of languages all over the world so that the whole world can understand God’s Word. King James translation is the closest to original Hebrew Bible but it’s too deep and some words can hardly comprehend. I think it’s important to read different translations so we can understand better as long as the meanings are not altered. Does Quran have translation?

M: Yes.

Me: That’s good.

M: Bible came first and after 300 years Quran came out as last revelation from God.

Me: Oh. (First time to hear that fact.) Then why did they disbelieve the Bible?

M: There is more knowledgeable person who can explain this to you very well.

Conversation #3 with an ex-Christian turned Muslim

E: Muslim believes in Jesus. I believe in the Bible.

Me: But you don’t believe that Jesus is God and it’s written in the Bible.

E: Because there’s only one God. Allah. Jesus, the prophet, never said that He is God. Mention a verse in the Bible that He said He is God.

Me: He says, ‘I and the Father are One.’ John 10:30.

E: He meant God and he have similar goals and vision.

(I creased my forehead in objection.)

E: Even Jesus himself stated that there’s only one God – Allah.

Me: Yes, there’s only one God, but in three different persona – God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

E: It’s very impossible to believe that there are three gods.

Me: I told you, one God but in three persona.

(He creased his forehead in objection.)

E: Jesus never died in the cross. It was a different person. God would not allow, as you claim, His Son to suffer and die. He went up in heaven without suffering and dying.

Me: Jesus died in the cross for our sins but after three days He rose up again.

E: Is it possible for God to die? (The tone of his voice indicated that he was mocking the death of Jesus.)

Me: Jesus died for us to be saved and have eternal life. He is God but He made Himself nothing, in human likeness, just for us, for whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. Isn’t it marvelous? (He was now looking uninterested and disgusted and ready to escape.)

E: When I was a Christian before, I went to church and then went home as if nothing happened.

Me: There are a lot of Christians like that, even Muslims. They go to church but they don’t have God in their hearts.

E: When I entered Islam, I found myself. Before I was lost and completely broken but when I got to know God, that He is always there us for, guiding us. I found my purpose in life through Islam.

Me: I understand what you felt. When I was new here in abroad, I struggled a lot but God’s presence never fails to renew my strength being a Christian.

(He cringed in distaste for what I told. We had so many series of conversations about Islam and Christianity. We were opposing magnets that can’t succumb to each other’s beliefs. I often apologized if I unintentionally offended him by my brazen remarks and he apologized too. There was a time when he came to me with troubled face and teary eyes and spoke to me about his love for his religion because it changed him for the better.)

Me: I understand you. I’ve talked to other people with different religions. I’m not telling these to convert you again to Christianity. I’m just sharing with you my beliefs like how you share yours. I’m interested to know others’ faith because I like to learn from it. What I would like you to understand is that don’t build a barrier in your mind thinking that your religion is the only right thing that prevents you to listen to other beliefs because you think they are all fraud.

I attended some churches such as Roman Catholic, Iglesia ni Cristo, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, Methodist and figured out their differences. I researched about Islam and Hinduism weighing every belief. My grandfather is a pastor, a minister and I grew up going to church but that didn’t hinder me to open my mind to comprehend other religions. I’ve also become bitter, doubtful and hateful to Christianity before.

Again, I’m not trying to convert you and also don’t try to convert me. But knowing first before rejecting is the wisest thing to do. Assess yourself on how well you understand Christianity.

Conversation #4 with a Roman Catholic

R: Karen, you told me about Exodus 20:4 that God forbade people to make images of any kind. Because of that I researched why Catholics have images and statues in the chapel and I found out why. God commanded Moses concerning the statues on it: And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. Exodus 25:18–19. (He was reading his Bible.)

Me: Cherubs served as ornamentation for the temple that time.

R: -which means God doesn’t prohibit creating images in any form because he commanded Moses to do it.

Me: -as a form of decoration. God doesn’t want us to make a graven image to be worshiped and bowed down. Exodus 20:4 to 6 says ‘You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.’ (I was reading my Bible.)

R: We don’t bow down and worship images. It’s just a representation.

Me: I’m sorry but I saw them bowing down to the images of Jesus, Mary and many other prophets.

R: Father *** was always reminding us that those images are just images that should not be worshiped. But should be at least respected because those are images of the saints and Jesus himself.

Me: How about during fiestas? They bring out the images and devotees are displaying excess fanaticism like the frantic devotees of the Black Nazarene.

R: They should be corrected.

Conversation #5 with an Iglesia ni Cristo

I: We believe that Jesus is just human.

Me: The same with Islam but their prophet is Mohammad and your messenger is Felix Manalo.

I: Jesus didn’t say He’s God.

Me: Do you still call Him Lord Jesus though you don’t believe He’s God?

I: Yes.

Me: I think it’s very essential to read the Bible in regular basis and not just to listen. Reading is confirming what is heard.

I: Yes, I read after the congregation because it will be very disorganized if all of us will read simultaneously. Listen, then read at home.

Me: Do you read daily?

I: Yes.

Me: Do you remember John 3:16?

I: No.

Me: (I was taken aback by his answer. John 3:16 is the very first memory verse I memorized as a child.) It says that God loves us so much that He gave His Son who is Jesus Christ that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

I: I invite you to come to our church and observe. Ask your queries and they will explain to you.

Me: I have nothing to ask. I understand your religion.

I: I can see that you have tons of questions and doubts in your mind. Come to our church and see. Don’t worry you will not be converted right away.

Me: I will go to your church if you will also come to our church. That’s a deal.

I: I was a Roman Catholic before so I know the beliefs and I don’t want to go back.

Me: I am not a Roman Catholic.

I: Your religion also believes in trinity which is similar to Catholic.

Me: I am willing to go to your church if you are also willing to come to our church.

I: I told you, I don’t want to go back.

Me: Then I can’t come.

(They are not allowed to attend another churches because if they would, INC would excommunicate [ititiwalag] them.)