Friday, February 26, 2010

everyone needs love

i've been running lately. around my neighborhood, trying to get back in shape. just yesterday, i had a thought. here goes:
we live in a world of cars. cars everywhere. all around us, everyone needs to get somewhere, fast. and here we are, these runners on the side of the street. some of us are slower than others, some of us are faster, some of us are walking, maybe some of us are taking a rest. most likely, we have a goal in mind. we want to get healthier, we want to look better, we want to feel better. but we know that that means sacrifice. that means getting out of our cars and actually doing something about it. and we know how hard it is. the times we feel like we can't go on any further. the times that we feel like we're on the runner's high. the times it feels like everyone's going faster and doing better than you are. the times you wish you were inside of a car instead. but in the end, you know you'll be rewarded for your efforts. your hard work pays off. and the people in the cars don't know what they're missing out on. they don't know the exhilaration of finishing the run. or seeing the fruits of your labor a couple of months down the line. they want everything now. they need to get somewhere and do something now. there's no time to stop and go running. they have their own busy schedules and agendas to follow through on to get to that destination. maybe some of the people in the cars know what they're missing out on. they see the the results in some of us and yet they never take the risk or the initiative to change up their schedules to start running. they feel it's not cost-effective. and so they pass the opportunity up.
now this may not be the perfect analogy, but for me, the cars represent people who are living their own busy lives and schedules without submitting to Jesus Christ. and the runners are us, Christ followers. we know that the way is hard. but we know the benefits. we know what happens in the end. some of us are doing better in our "runs" with God and some of us are a little weaker. some of us have to walk slow before we can get up to a brisk jog. but we know the exhilaration of being in a relationship with Christ. we know the excitement and adventure that He gives us in pursuit of Him. we live in a way that's radically different from the world. we practice patience when no one else can stand it anymore. we practice forgiveness when the sin and the wrong seems unforgivable. we practice love when there is no reason but to hate. the people outside sometimes don't understand why we do what we do. sometimes they do. but most are too scared to give up their comfort. too afraid of change. not sure if it's worth following Jesus. "what do i get out of it?" "how is following Jesus going to make my life any better?" "it seems difficult and long. and look how much they're struggling! i don't want to deal with that!" but who said reward would come without hard work?? we have to put ourselves out there too. it's participation with the Holy Spirit in our lives that's the difference. we're not just waiting around for God to do everything for us. we're asking God to use us, test us, build us, strengthen us, empower us so that we can live for Him. and in return, we not only receive reward in the end. we've already received more than enough. love. everlasting love. unfailing love. the punishment for our sins was taken by Jesus as He put them on Himself so that we could be made clean. God loves us so much. we know that our heavenly Father cares deeply for us and plays an active role in our lives! and the world is missing out on it because they don't think that it's worth it.
invite someone to run with you. give them a taste of what it feels like to not only sacrifice, but to sacrifice because someone else already gave everything for us. to sacrifice knowing that He continually loves us and blesses us beyond what we deserve. let the world see why we follow Jesus. it's all because of His love. there is no greater love than this. and everyone needs love.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

where's the angst for God?

this is a question i heard from matt chandler a while back. "where's the angst for God?" in other words, where's that deep longing?? where is that hunger and thirst for righteousness? where is that absolute need to see and touch God?? where is the yearning and the aching to be with the Father?
we know david was a man who was after God's own heart. we know the famous lines that now have been made into a song and even put on coffee mugs. "as the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee..." it's beautiful. but how often have we overlooked those lines and thought, "how nice. david longs for God as a deer longs for water." and leave it at that? where's the passion? where's the zeal? where's the desperation?? here's the passage in some more context:

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and

6 my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

8 By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”

10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

i read this and i see so much more than a cliche line strewn across calendars and coffee mugs. i see a man in desperation in need of His God! he's crying his heart out to see the Lord! his soul pants, needs, cannot live without God! that's how much he needs Him! he goes on to say, "my tears have been my food day and night while men say to me all day long, 'where is your God?'" this man is broken. this man has been crying nonstop. he hasn't a friend in the world. and he knows the only person who can satisfy is God.
are we ever this desperate for God? are we ever so in need of Him that we cry out for Him? i mean, like, literally cry out with everything that we have for Him? it seems like most of the time we stuff down our emotions with other things when we're in trouble. we stuff down our depression and anxiety with food or busying ourselves with work. we stuff down the tears and emotions with laughing and joking and leave the problem unsolved inside of us. we stuff down the frustration and anger ignoring the problem and living our own lives. we stuff down shame and regret by changing the subject and running away. rarely do we say, "God! i need you so much right now! this thing has got my heart wrecked! everything inside me is broken! please, please, please come to me!" we seem to fill ourselves up with anything but God. the one person who can lift our burdens from us and help us deal with the issue. where's the angst for God? where's the constant longing for the Holy Spirit to be working in our lives because we know we can't do this life without Him? is it because we're not willing to give Him that place in our lives? is it because we don't believe that He's that strong? or is it because He just falls behind all of the other alternatives?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

where your heart is

Teaching about Money and Possessions

19 "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
22 "Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.23 But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!
24 "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
25 "That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing?26 Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 "And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing,29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 "So don't worry about these things, saying, `What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?'32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of Godsabove all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.

matthew 6

where are my treasures? if i had to honestly answer right now, they would be a mixture of down here on earth and up there in heaven. i'm torn. my treasures seem to be my guitars, my laptop, my camera, my photos, my music, my family, my girlfriend, my friends, etc. my other treasures such as God, the Father, and Jesus are in heaven waiting for me. but it seems like if i was given a choice between the two, my heart would be very torn. i guess what Jesus is trying to say is that i should cherish my relationship with Him more than anything else because nothing else really provides for me and satisfies me like He does. when my treasures are all in heaven, then it's easier to let go of the things that i never really "owned" here on earth. the part that really convicts me is, "wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." i want the desires of my heart to be in heaven. i want to long, yearn, hunger, thirst for Jesus. i know that He is the only way. but i get so caught up in His blessings and forget to worship the One who blesses. i end up making His blessings idols in my life, things that distract me or remove me from my relationship with Him.

the eye in this passage is similar to the "heart" in Jewish literature (taken from khuong's esv study bible). and so if our eye, our heart, is good, our whole bodies are filled with light. and i talk about this a lot, but Jesus can't drive this point home enough! how good my heart is will start showing through the rest of my body, my actions will be good, and they will be filled with light. my life will shine God's light! but if my heart is bad, then my actions in turn will be a reflection of my heart. and if i actually thought that my actions were glorifying to God and uplifting to others when in reality, they were detrimental to people's faith and not glorifying at all, that darkness is even deeper! i've fooled myself into thinking that my actions were good and have no idea that my heart is not right with God. that's even worse than knowing your heart is not right with Him, because if it's plain to see that we need work, we can do something about it! but when it's hidden and we have no idea, we can go on for a long time before we realize it if we ever do!

verse 24 beckons back to the first part. money doesn't just have to be possessions and cash. it doesn't have to be just materialistic things like boats, cars, and houses or stocks or anything like that. it can also be your career, your school, your friends, your lifestyle, your comfort, your mindset, your pride, your status, even your own family. what Jesus is saying here is that i can't serve God and everything else in my life. i either choose to follow God or i follow everything else. i've learned that the jewish usage of hate is giving up one thing to grasp onto another. so we either give up the blessings that He gives us to grasp onto God or give up God to grasp onto His blessings instead. i'm learning how to give up His blessings to grab a hold of Him! it's like choosing between what a friend gives you and your friend. do you care about your friend or the benefits that he or she gives you?? would you rather choose how your friend benefits you or choose your friend without all the bonuses? this is what Jesus is trying to ask us. "are you choosing me or the things i give you?" and it's so easy sometimes to demand that we get what we want instead of what we need. and we get angry at God. when the entire time, He knows what's best for us. He knows that we need is Him, not His blessings. and we use that against Him all the time, don't we?

this last part has been the hardest thing for me to learn lately. when everyone around me is opposing it. even people at church who haven't fully surrendered themselves to the freedom of Christ advise me against it. i try not to worry about tomorrow. and yet it comes creeping up again and again. and i stop putting my faith and trust in God and start figuring out some way i can get it done on my own. and i read this verse about how God cares for the birds and the flowers and how much more He'll care for me and i stand in awe and stand in love. my Father loves me so much. how could i ever forget that He'll provide no matter what happens on this earth. the only reason i get sad is because i expect too much. when in reality, i've already received everything i ever need. His love and His salvation. and i've talked about it before, but it's good to remind ourselves of why we have a joy that doesn't fail, that doesn't fade. we've all received, as Christ followers, everything we've ever needed. we need to keep our eyes on heaven, on Jesus, because that's where are true treasures lie, and that's where we want our hearts' desires to be as well. =]

Monday, February 15, 2010


Teaching about Love for Enemies

43 "You have heard the law that says, `Love your neighbor's and hate your enemy.44 But I say, love your enemies!s Pray for those who persecute you!45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.47 If you are kind only to your friends,s how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

matthew 5

last night, the Holy Spirit convicted me and pushed down on me. it was a good thing. i was telling a friend how i was feeling distant and far from the group and how i feel kind of left out and "out of the loop." and of course, God would address that right after i finish talking about it! we were learning about humility. we were learning about how to seek the lowest status seat in the house at the party. for me, i was seeking the seat of highest honor. i've been thinking of myself as an important person. and i've been feeling as though nobody reaches out to me when i need it the most. last night was kind of a wake up call to how i've been feeling lately. "get over yourself, thien!" my savior, my God, my Jesus lowered Himself to the level of a servant to serve me. He didn't grasp at any of the rights and power that He had because of His Godliness but put it aside so that i could have a relationship with Him! what have i been doing?? i've been too proud to ask people where they were going to eat or even if they wanted to hang out with me. i didn't want to seem like some desperate loser when in all actuality, i am! i was thinking subconsciously, "i'm too good for that. i don't need to ask people to hang out with me. they should come to me!" looking back, i'm just like, "thien, get off your high horse. what a jerk!" i have a lot of people i need to apologize to. and the first person is God. i've lost the freedom of forgiveness. not so much others forgiving me but from me forgiving others. letting go of whatever was hanging over me. there's a freedom to letting the past go. i don't know what happened to my humility but i'm on a mission to get it back. and i can only do so through the Holy Spirit who guides me. this has been my prayer, "all glory, honor, power is Yours, amen."

alright, so onto loving our enemies. i think this speaks right into my situation right now as well. man, i've only been seeking people who are outside of church to talk to. i've even kind of isolated myself from a lot of them and i truly apologize for that. not that they're my enemies, but i treat them like it. i've been feeling like, since they're not helping me in my spiritual walk and journey with God, continually encouraging me and praying for me, i shouldn't hang out with them as much because they're a drain on my spiritual life. man, that was hard to type. and because i've been slowly distancing myself from them, i find bitterness and resentment taking place in my heart a lot easier. but i'm supposed to be perfect the way my Father is perfect. what Jesus means by this is, simply try your best to be like your Father, because He knows what's best. i haven't been praying for this church. i haven't been praying for the people lately. God's brought me to my knees, and i need to ask for forgiveness for just how off my heart has been. my heart needs a tune up. to be set straight. i need to pray that to the Holy Spirit to give me boldness and strength to do what i need to do. to set myself free from this hole that i've dug myself into. i need to fix my eyes on Him again.