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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When is a Time to Hate and a Time to Love?

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” -Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8 NIV

I thought it was a mistake when I reaquote-i-hate-you-i-love-you.jpgd it for the first time. In the Bible I wasn’t expecting to read something that induces us to hate. Isn’t God commanding us to love our neighbor? The Lord has wonderful ways to teach us.

There was a period in my life when I battled between hate and love. I felt was I was drifting away from God because my heart was darkened and poisoned by hatred that I thought has vanished but I just unknowingly hid and by slightest trigger it was provoked. I let the evil win again, I thought and disheartened. I wasn’t doing what I’ve written. I had always followed my heart full of filth. Then I began to realize that this is really me, flawed, weak and imperfect, just like all of us. This is who we are. We’re not hypocrites. We are human with real emotions and struggles.

Hate is a natural human emotion.

If I would list down all things I dislike I would write a 500-pages book. I detest people who look down on others and treat them unequally based on physical traits and financial status. I hate those who regard themselves as highly superior and others are unimportant. I don’t like those who befriend others just for the benefit they can gain. I loathe narcissistic who often babble about themselves and cut off others while they’re speaking because they aren’t interested. I hate being compared. I hate being talked about behind my back and keep their mouth shut when in front of me. I hate gossips and rumors about me spreading by someone I’ve trusted but doesn’t understand my feelings or unwillingly tried to understand. I hate being judged. I abhor those who also abhor me. I detest those who hate the ones I adore. I hate those who are overly concerned about their image and what others think of them. There’s more to life than conforming to the world’s standard. I loathe those who can’t appreciate small things. Gratefulness is the key to contentment. I despise those who are insensitive to others’ feelings, so full of themselves, arrogant and self-centered.

Everyone hates being treated badly and unfairly and so do I. We aren’t robot that if a person disrespects or humiliates us we will not be angered. If a person threw stones at you that caused your head to bleed, our first reaction is not to laud that person. Our first idea is to get even. We wish to throw larger stones so his or her head will crack and bleed even more and feel the excruciating pain that we’re feeling. We long for justice. We want to treat him or her the way he or she treats us or much worse. We want vengeance. Even an animal has a natural reaction to fight back when threatened. How arduous for us to offer also the other cheek when they slapped us on the right cheek! We tend to turn away from the ones who hurt us and rage and hurt aren’t like little flames that can be extinguished right away. How can we kill a tornado inside of us? How can we stop the blazing aversion caused by the agonizing pain they inflicted on us?

Do you know that the Lord also hates? He also wants justice. God doesn’t tolerate evil. He has mercy on abandoned children, rape victims, the orphan, the oppressed and the poor. God abhors sin and wickedness.

“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” -Proverbs 6:16-19

He knows our hearts and understand our pain and brokenness because He also hates evil things of the world. We loathe depravity as well as He does.

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” -Psalm 5:4-6 ESV

God Is Just

So if God hates depravity then why does He allow injustice, crime, inequity and corruption to happen? If He has mercy on us then why does He permit all kinds of evil things to exist? Many are turning their back out of confusion, bitterness, apathy and disinterest. Many people are questioning God’s existence because they can’t see and feel Him. If they only knew and understood God’s promises to us, they could find comfort and refuge in Him amidst sorrow and misery. God will punish the wicked in due time. The Lord will repay.

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. -Romans 12:19 NIV

God has given us freedom to make choices and He will judge us in the final judgment based on those choices that we made.

But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” -Romans 2:5 NLT

But do you know that God is a God of second chances, third chances, fourth chances and many chances? Many are anticipating the coming of the Lord but He is patient and forgiving. He’s waiting for us to change and to become a person that He wants us to be. He’s waiting for us to find Him because we belong to God. He hates sin but He doesn’t hate us. God loves humanity.

When is a Time to Love?

If our decisions, actions and motives are affected by the hate that occupies our heart, we become a slave of it. We can become a slave of our dark emotions and the only way to be free from it is to forgive, to understand, empathize, to ignore our own hurt which opens door for acceptance of each other’s flaws and mistakes, to get rid of pride and to humbly admit our own shortcomings, to be selfless, to love.

It is always easier said than done. How can we forgive others that aren’t sorry? How can we empathize for those who aren’t empathetic as well but cruel? How can we understand others when we also long to be understood? How can we ignore our own hurt when it is disabling us? How can we be selfless when it seems that nobody cares enough but our own self? How can we love when we don’t feel loved? Thus, we nurture that hate. We harden our hearts with such rage and bitterness. It may take time. We can shed tears night and day or plot a massive revenge but in the end of the day, does it make us really happy and content?

I will be truly jubilant when I start to let go of all the negative emotions and let God take over. I know, Lord, I’m imperfect so teach me how to accept other’s imperfections. I am not a good person but He always forgives me every time I ask for His forgiveness, then why can’t I forgive other people who have hurt me? I’ve always hurt Him by constantly committing sins but His mercy and grace never cease. His love is so great that even a murderer, a rapist, a thief or an adulterer will repent and ask for forgiveness, they will surely be forgiven. He loves everyone including those who aren’t deserving like how He let the rain pour and sun rise on all kinds of people.

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5:44-45 NIV

So when is a time to love? As soon as we remember that God first loved us even though we are unloving. He suffered and died in cross for the sake of our eternal life. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8 NIV.

“We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” -1 John 4:19-21 NIV

I love you not because you deserve my love but because God loves me even though I don’t deserve to be loved.

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.

4 Things I’ve Learned From My Unanswered Prayers

religionprayerhandsjpgI was taught to pray in every circumstance as a child. I have a clear recollection of my mother holding my hands, eyes closed, heads bowed down while she uttered her thanksgiving and requests to God when I was young. I was told that prayer was as powerful as a rainfall that inhibits little kids to play outside their dwellings until it subsides. I grew up believing that a prayer can do miracles because God hears and He is sovereign. I prayed for a new toy. I prayed that my buried dead dog would rise up from grave and be alive again. I prayed that our teacher would be absent. I prayed for good grades. I prayed for healing, success, wealth, peace, love, bliss and everything.

There were times when I was thinking that perhaps I wasn’t praying the right way or God didn’t listen because I committed sins. I became skeptic as my prayers went unanswered. My unanswered prayers increased my cynicism and shook my faith. I prayed for the healing of my father but he suddenly passed away. I prayed for the wellness of my sibling but he also unexpectedly died. I prayed for the success of my exam but I failed. I prayed for good weather but it terribly rained. What’s the difference between praying and not praying when both have the same result? To answer that question I would like to share with you things God put in my heart.

1. God is not a genie.

When I was a kid, I saw God as a magical fairy that would grant all our wishes if I behaved well. I’ve read a quote in social media saying, ‘Why wish upon the stars when you can pray to God?’ The scriptures also tell,

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” -Matthew 21:22 NIV

“And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.” -1 John 3:22 NLT

God definitely hears us and He answers either yes or no or even wait. When I prayed for the cure of my parent who died He answered a firm no. Grief was excruciating but it serves as a reminder that our days are numbered. “Teach us how short our life is so that we may become wise.” -Psalm 90:12 (GNT). We never know when and how but we’ll all wither and die in this world. Even though the Bible declares that we will receive anything that we ask for in prayer it doesn’t mean that He will always say yes in everything. I can imagine myself extremely ancient and brittle and my grandchildren and their grand kids are overly old as well but persistently praying for good health and strength of our loved ones forever while every ten minutes ten babies are born alive because parents are praying indeed until the whole earth is covered with undying people who diligently pray. I’ve learned that we will receive whatever we ask for if it is according to His will.

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.” -1 John 5:14 ESV

I assess my heart each time I have a conversation with God. Lord, if this is Your will for me then let it be done. I let God control my life and not control God by asking for things that are against His will. God’s will for His children is way better than what we think is good. (Romans 12:2)

“God is not genie in a bottle, and your wish is not His command. His command better be your wish.” -Mark Batterson

2. Life is a test of faith.

“The greatest test of  faith is when you don’t get what you want but you are able to say, thank you Lord!” -unknown

The life of Job in the old testament in the Bible never ceases to inspire me as a Christian. Job may be the richest man at the time but God allowed Satan to test his faith. He lost all his wealth and family except his wife who told him to “curse God and die” but he worshiped God regardless of his sufferings.

I examine my heart when I experience struggles and prayers seem useless. Instead of drifting away from God I choose to draw close to Him. God has given us freedom to choose like how Satan chooses to rebel rather than to obey. When everything goes opposite of what I prayed and hoped for I ask myself, how big is my faith?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:1-4 NIV

3. Sometimes we pray for the wrong things.

Surely, God wants us to bring it all to Him. He wants us to seek His presence with hands wide open and lifted up and confess all the things that matter to us. I am not saying that it’s wrong to pray for prosperity, handsome husband or high-paying job because He cares about all our desires but I’ve learned that God is more concerned with our eternal welfare than our worldly or temporary cravings. As our Creator, He already knows what we need even before we speak but sometimes what we want is not always what is essential.

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” -James 4:3 NIV

God is also concern with our hearts, thoughts, motives and attitude. Rick Warren also says, ‘God is more interested in shaping our character than answering our prayers.’ God wants us to renew our minds and change our perspectives so that we bring our prayers in line with His will. Our prayer might change from, “Lord, help me get a raise,” to, “Lord, help me manage my finances wisely so I have enough to share with others.”

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2 NIV

4. God knows the right timing.

God also answers wait, be patient, it’s not yet the proper time. I applied tons of jobs three years ago only to be frustrated repeatedly. I had been searching for work abroad since I had passed the board exam but I only made it after three years. I’ve learned that the Lord didn’t allow me to work in foreign land without any knowledge and skills of my profession. Trust His timing. I understand this by heart.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” -Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV

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.)

Watch Out! What You Feed Your Mind Determines Your Character

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This photo is taken from What Are You Feeding Your Mind? Check it out.

I remember I watched a Youtube video about how to get rid of acne and pimple forever. The video recommended eating organic eggs and Probiotics which led me to buy Yakult and brown instead of usually white eggs on my grocery trip. I watched several videos about Illuminati and read some pages on their website and I found myself discussing that issues to my boyfriend. “Do you believe that Illuminati has a control and power to manipulate the world? What do you think is the reason why one US dollar bill has symbols of Illuminati on it?” He yawned in boredom. I’ve recently watched a Youtube video of a lady doing her boyfriend’s make up and it gave me an urge to apply eyeliner on Marlon’s eyelids. I ruminated on what topic to be talked about on my next blog entry and I couldn’t decide of anything worthy of our time because what I was on my mind were just films and TV series and Youtube videos I watched in my idle times which mostly aren’t life-changing or mind-blowing or survival tips. My unpublished drafts which are fragments of random and raw ideas I couldn’t develop as a logical write-up outnumber my actual published posts. How can anyone write sensible stuff if he allows himself to consume shallowness? Or how can this be a happy site when the author is downcast. I can’t offer something I lack.

“You are the books you read, the movies you watch, the music you listen to, the people you spend time with, the conversation you engage in. Choose wisely what you feed your mind.” -unknown

Am I feeding my mind right amount of wisdom and knowledge or just superficiality and senselessness? I asked myself. I assessed the books I have on my shelves and the downloaded ebooks on my mobile. I thought of the videos I was engrossed in. Are they good sources of vitamins and minerals essential for my well-being or am I just wasting my time or poisoning my soul? Who are the persons we look up to or the people who surround us that somehow influence us unknowingly? Do they exhibit virtues or just showcase egotism and obscenity? Are the articles on the websites I read and the music I listen to lure me to become more vengeful or immodest or materialistic? 

“It is the food you furnish to your mind that determines the whole character of your life.” -Emmet Fox

We will become the kind of person we choose to be and I choose to be a mature one regardless of age. I read 4 Ways to Be Mature and I reflect on myself. (Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. -1 Corinthians 14:20 NIV) We aren’t getting any younger every single second and wasting time is wasting fortune. If I fed my mind on pornography, probably I wouldn’t value the sanctity of marriage any more. If I fed my mind on merely gossips and idleness I would only provide anyone who would read my blog trash impeding each other’s growth and productivity.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” -Philippians 4:8 NLT

What we feed our mind determines our character and our character determines our future.

I want to end this, anyway, with a song which is one of my favorite. I can’t think of music related to our topic but just always remember that you are loved.

It’s Not All About Me

What sometimes drives humans to take a photo of themselves and post it on social media is self-love. Human beings want to be loved and appreciated. Everyone eagerly waits for likes and comments to show up after posting a #selfie on Facebook. Our pictures say “Look at me, this is who I am” and the more likes we get the more it boosts our self esteem.

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Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.

But what if somebody commented on my photo and noticed the bad angle or the smudge of lipstick in the corners of my lips? What if nobody liked my picture except for my little niece?

When I was younger, I created an anonymous blog full of rants and whines. How disgusted I was by human behavior. How upset I was by criticisms and insult. It was mostly all about my distaste and rage for particular subjects. As I read them today, I’ve figured why I was always unhappy is because I was often focusing on own thoughts and preferences. “This is me, me, me, me. I am so annoyed because nobody is good enough!”

I realized I was being self-absorbed. Extremely valuing our own opinions and interests and showing little concern for other’s ideas and feelings are characteristics of self-absorption. I became defensive when hearing negative feedback instead of trying to understand another’s perspective. I had a tendency to blame others when something went wrong instead of thinking what I should have done. “This is me, me, me, me. Take it or leave it.”

I want to be a person God wants me to be so I decided to let go of my old self.

The world doesn’t revolve around me. There are billions of living things in this planet and I am just one of them. We are all equal in the sight of the Lord. I exist just like you and anyone else. After all, it’s not all about me, neither you.

“If anyone thinks there are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.” -Galatians 6:3 (NIV)

When someone hurt me I nurtured deep hatred for that person and focused immensely on how hurt I was. How broken and devastated I was. I self-pitied but hey, we should stop assuming that we are always the victim. Try to put ourselves in their shoes so we can understand why they behave and think that way. Were there also times that you did things that hurt others? Thinking of ourselves less is becoming more like Christ (remember he died for you) which is exactly He wants us to be.

God wants us to be like Him because we are His children.

“If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.” -Matthew 6:14-16 (GNT)

 “Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.” -Ephesians 4:32 (GNT)

I am posting these things not just to preach to you but to myself as well. I am still battling selfishness and self-righteousness. I’m flawed but forgiven by God so that I can forgive others. Difficult but possible. I’m not loving nor caring and I am full of bitterness in my heart but I let God take over.

“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)

I should always remind myself that it’s not all about me but Jesus.

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Photo credit: http://tando.org/archives/2893