01
Apr
20

Joy-Givers

As the days go by in this time of pandemic and quarantines, it might be strange to think about why we should consider the aspect of “joy”. The easy reaction to seeing such a post or statement might be to quickly say, “Check your privilege.” And the reality of the matter is that the majority of the world is truly struggling with the challenges of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

These struggles can range from mere inconveniences to life-threatening issues. And truly, to speak of joy is a hard thing to say to most of them. And so, this particular message of being a joy-bringer is intended for Christians, because the basis of this thinking is only found when one has faith in Jesus Christ.

For those whose lives have been entrusted to Jesus, studying His Word diligently we know certain things that it promises.

  1. We know that first of all, Jesus is Lord of all things. While difficult times are present in this world, they will not last forever.
  2. We know that the suffering and trials of this life are little compared to eternity, where His promise to restore us and this world to its intended perfection will take effect.

So these major points can, therefore, reassure we who believe, that everything we experience here on earth will pass and that in eternity, we will live well with our Lord. However, this kind of thinking and mindset is somewhat passive in orientation.

A more pro-active and effective (in my opinion) way of being joyful in this current time is being a deliverer of joy, which we have because of our faith. It may not be (or perhaps should not be) in the form of explaining our faith and beliefs, but of something simpler. I recall the statement Paul made, that he became all things so that he would be able to testify to Christ’s grace in his life.

Surely we too, can take a point from this, and embody certain things that Christ tells us to be anyway. One of the easiest ‘lists’ to let the Spirit work out through us is found in Galatians 5:22-23, which is the fruit of the Spirit. I reflect on these fruit and think, how can I be a channel of these fruit towards the people I’m with today?

Am I love? Am I peace? Am I joy?

It is something to focus my heart and mind on, to be these towards the people in my life even in these highly restrictive circumstances. How can I help to work with the rules of the household? How can I reach out to my friends and loved ones, through tech-assisted means? How can I help the community, while abiding by proper hygiene and quarantine protocols? What other things can I do that can warm hearts and bring comfort?

The opportunity to bring peace and joy, in contrast to anxiety and gloom, is endless. I hope that as a Christian, God helps me to be more consistent and active. Certainly, to be more outward-looking and not just selfishly oriented towards my own comfort and ease.

It sounds like a silly problem to have to deal with, but the formerly blind man cannot be choosy when he’s learning how to see color and paint with it. Thus, my hope lies in the Lord, that He who began a work in me will complete it. And then, perhaps along the way, I too will be a Joy-giver.

Sunday Message here: Be a Joy-Giver (Pastor Ricky Sarthou, CCF)

Discussion Questions (w/c Sparked this Post) here.

30
Mar
20

Hero Too

In this time of quarantine, I’ve had the chance to get to do a lot of catching up. Certainly, much of that is on important things, such as with friends and people, checking in on them and praying for their health and well-being. But admittedly, a lot has been on reading and watching some things, one of which is the anime-series “My Hero Academia” (or Boku no Hero Academia), Season 4.

BNHA Season 4

Due to the nature of this writing, I can’t help but warn out SPOILERS ensue below. Although the episode has been out already a couple of weeks as of this writing, there may be folks who haven’t yet joined the fandom of BNHA (or MHA).

The story in the UA School Festival Arc finds its climax back to back with Midoriya’s battle with Gentle Criminal, which is in the previous episode (E0-85), another thought-provoking story on its own. But the highlight of this story arc, in my opinion, comes together in the cathartic, explosive, and utterly cheesy, music & dance performance.

It is unabashedly a hopeful and cinematic performance, with lots of little moments for long term fans of the series. From Mineta’s harem bit to letting Aoyama literally light up the room as the center of attraction, the whole performance is just full of personality. This is anchored by the center of the entire thing – Jiro’s song.

See the song (sung in English by the way) below – “Hero Too”, performed by Chrissy Costanza:

“Hero Too” is a fairly simple, but heartwarming and hopeful song. At first, it took me a while to realize it was in English, but recognizing and understanding the lyrics together with the rest of the music just made it all the more meaningful.

It took some time to figure out why the entire scene provokes such an emotional response from me. Initially, it was just the mood and feelings generated by the quality of song. But as I listened to the entire song, it reminds me of that childhood dream of wanting to be a “hero” as well.

Perhaps not everyone wanted to be a “hero” of some sort, but I know I did for a variety of reasons. Still, there is a line mentioned in the episode by Bakugo (of all people), that they shouldn’t be performing for their own self-satisfaction. If they intend to do this, they better do it all out and not just for their own gratification.

This ties in well with the part of the lyrics that resonate with me the most as a Christian, which is towards the end and says:

I have met so many heroes in my life, gave me the strength and courage to survive, gave me the power to smile everyday.

Now its my turn to make you smile.

This reminded me of how Christ too, was a hero who was always there for me even before I took that leap of faith to trust in His hands. And it reminded me of the times I also had bad days and seasons, but nonetheless, He was there to give me that courage and strength to survive and find peace and joy in Him everyday. And this is the same hope and strength that I want to share and pass on to others in my life.

For we, those who have come to believe in Christ, (Ephesians 2:19) are no longer just who were before, but His “Heroes Too”.

04
Nov
19

psalmic viii

I look at all the times I have missed the mark, turned my hand to aid or work, and received scorn. I see the days gone by and the days ahead, knowing my self and capacity, and fear for the future to come.

What burdens lie upon me, little as they could seem to others, feel great and overwhelming. How can I bring about success? How do I fulfill their needs? How can I assure their happiness? I know that these are beyond my ability to ensure.

My strength of will is weak, wavering and undisciplined. A sliver of insight and a wisp of intelligence I am given in a little measure, but what has that brought me? Pride and sloth have rotted my years and left me like a rusted structure, brittle and unreliable.

It is for this reason the Lord breaks me and remakes me, casting me anew. Under heat and pressure are the impurities of the heart and mind removed. In the hands of the master and into His design I entrust myself.

Blessed are those who are shaped by His hands, whose path lead beyond this life into eternity.

19
Oct
19

quiet

A few days ago, I was doing a morning reading when I came across this rather interesting statement – “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” (1 Thes. 4:11)

In today’s society where it’s almost impossible to find peace and quiet, this can be very much against the flow. General culture points us to strive for success, to be go-getters and type-A people. In careers and businesses, it’s a dog eat dog world, where you have to be either more cutthroat and aggressive to survive against other people.

In personal life, we’ve often heard that we should pursue our passions, that we should never give up. We’re bombarded with a culture that caters to personalizing things, that have pervasive options for entertainment and interaction (social media, streaming, etc.). Indeed, our heart is often so full of things we desire, full of ambitions we want to have in life.

Many of the above things aren’t necessarily negative things, but when many of them are thrown into a cocktail of varying messaging, the net result is that the promoted lifestyle of today is anything but a quiet one. How strange then, it is, to be told to have an ambition of a quiet life.

The rest of the verse does clarify some possible questions when it declares also that we should seek to work and thereby avoid being a burden upon others. Clearly, this quiet life does not mean we should be lazy or slackers but seek a means to still be productive and sustain ourselves within this world, having a respectable life.

But what is a quiet life? What is quiet? What is a quiet spirit? This is the question that needs answering.

I turned this thought over, and looked at our world today, which one could probably describe as the opposite of quiet: noisy. A life that does not seek or is not enslaved to that “noise” of the world, being tricked into all the messaging that tells us to run for more, more, more. A quiet life or spirit, perhaps, is one that takes better stock of the realities around us and finds contentment or peace in it.

What is it that we really need? What are the things in life which should be really important?

We’ve become so used to a lifestyle of excitement and stimulus, that most of us have forgotten the sweetness of peace and quiet. Where we can focus our heart and mind on things which restore and can be pursued without draining us, whether we know it or not. These, I believe, are the things that God meant us to pursue in the way it is supposed to be pursued.

It is difficult to have this sort of heart or mind-shift, but finding the good in the quiet is nonetheless something that can help to anchor us in the hectic, storm that is modern life. It is difficult as well because having the position to pursue a quiet life is easier only for those with certain socio-economic privileges, psychological health, and many other factors. It might be doubly more appropriate then that the word used is “ambition” – because it is not easy, especially in this day and age, to seek and to have that quiet life.

13
Aug
18

form and substance

2018 saw me participating once more in a CCF Friends camp, FRIENDS 10. Truth be told, FRIENDS 10 was probably the one with the least anticipation from my end since I began attending. Compared to how things were when I first attended in 2012 (FRIENDS 5: Breakthrough), life was far more hectic in many ways. Work was by far more of a big deal than back then. Time spent with growing social circles in Davao (my home city) was taking up more of my attention.

Was it because I was drifting away from the Lord, then?

A quick review of the time I allocated for matters of ministry and of the Lord quickly told me that He was still a priority in my life. I had just recently been blessed with the honor of leading a bible study group. I was neck-deep in an online apologetics program with RZIM and enjoying my learning there. I was an active core member of a small ministry family for geeks called Level Up Game Nights (LUGN). I was a regular member of a local discipleship group and had recently gotten into a mentorship with a pastor.

And yet.

Yet, this lack of deeper connection told me something. It told me that the fire of the Spirit was not burning too deeply within me. That I was stifling something in my life. That I had been covering the light of joy that had used to spill out in waves and overflowed into every aspect of my life.

Yet, despite this, God sustained me. He had answered my prayers of old. That no matter how “disconnected” I got from Him, that He would never let me descend into a life that was too far from Him. That my lifestyle and behavior would have a higher, more ethical, more moral ‘baseline’. And this request He had kept. He kept me within the boundaries and grounds of His ways, despite my inner struggles and growing stubbornness.

And as always, He never let me stray too far from His side. The living water has softened the hardness of my heart. He has not allowed me to live in a way that blinded myself, that covered up the potential landmines in my thinking and behavior. No matter how difficult it might be, God has kept me on track in confronting that which needed to be removed from my life and what needs to be put into place into my life.

I needed to live out in truth some of the things I had been shying away from. In particular, living out and obeying the imperatives of self-control, compassion, discipline, and love for others. In many of these aspects, I view as dizzyingly uncomfortable. Or rather, in all these aspects. And yet, I also understand that to take that step out and to do these things are also good for me – both in the short and long run.

Some things, perhaps, cannot be taken in baby steps. Some steps require leaps of faith. It is becoming clear to me that the appearance I may have in life needs to be filled out in completion with the full essence of who I know Jesus is, in my life. And in doing these things, in being more of who Christ wants me to be, I know is a step closer towards a life that is not merely one of form, but of substance.

11
Aug
18

Meaning of Marriage

It is rare for a book to stay in my work bag long enough to become as battered as this book has been. Its rather long tenure in my backpack was due to the lengthy time I took to read it and process it in bits and pieces. During the course of long road trips (when not driving, of course), multiple flights, and random cafe down times, I got to appreciate the way these ideas on marriage was presented.

A little review of my life might perhaps be in order. I grew up in a family fairly typical of a Chinese-Filipino template. Asian culture tends to place a high value on the family unit and its traditional role in a person’s life. What it tends to be weaker on, perhaps, is unpacking underlying reasons for why such things are the way they are. If a lifestyle or behavior is not clearly explained or understood by me, I have a tendency to try and formulate own thoughts about it – which can be hit or miss, much like any other.

And so, to a person like me, who largely functions by understanding and processing information via written material like books, in particular, the regular exposure to what was visible in society and community wasn’t enough.  This was all the more so since I particularly wanted to avoid the missteps I’d made in personal relationships in my not-too-distant past. As a person who believes in Jesus Christ, it would then make great sense to observe and study the marriages and relationships of those whom I’ve witnessed as successful. And furthermore, to read material from those whose lives have been shown to be faithful and loving in their marriages.

I’ve long finished this book, but it still stands as one of the most grounded and well-rounded pieces of writing on the topic of marriage and relationships.  I feel and think that it is a must-read for anyone who wants to have a more mature perspective on marriage and romantic relationships – regardless of whether they believe in Jesus or not.

Meaning-of-Marriage

Image from timothykeller.com 

10
Aug
18

ramblings & musings 002

When did I mistake the ephemeral for nonsense? Or perhaps I misunderstood what appears to be ephemeral, when some of these things may actually be of eternal value? A gentle word spoken, an utterance of poetry, or a line of song? Perhaps these things are not considered of much weight in the field of everyday life, of work and business, and the things that move and shake the powers that be in this world.

But such little flecks of light, these little glimmers of fun, the glimpses of beauty, things we hear, see, taste, and feel, are but reflections of an eternal good that we can only experience as if peering through a glass, darkly.