Who’s The Underdog?

Is it the atheists or the Christians? Who’s being persecuted? Who’s really going against the grain? What is the grain? These are questions that, with inspiration from a fellow blogger, I have come to ponder.

The first question I will ask: what is the grain? I suppose you could define the grain as culture, or “human nature,” if you will. What does the grain value? Words that immediately come to mind are money, power, and sex. But what about faith, hope, and love? Can we not say that people often desire higher purpose as well as the most material ones? That they desire harmony, moderation, peace, and community?

Who is really going against the grain more? Is it the Christians who are supposed to be rebelling against the ways of the world? Or is it the atheists who are supposed to be rebelling against the childish and outdated desire for worship, higher purpose and “religion.” I saw a sign the other day which said “atheists against the world” or something like that. But wouldn’t it make more sense if it said “Christians against the world?”

Maybe so.

Of course, this is a very simplistic way of looking at the issue. So far I have assumed that there are only two world views, Christianity and atheism, which of course, is not the case. At this point, let me refine my focus. I will place Christians on one side, and everyone else, whether they be atheist, Buddhist, Muslim Hindu, etc, on the other.

Now if you’re not Christian, I suppose what I will quote next will have little meaning for you. Because how can you completely trust what is, essentially, an imperfect and ancient document that has been translated and translated, butchered and battered so much that it couldn’t resemble the true “word of God” if it tried. But of course, I am speaking in the manner of unbelieving friends.

Matthew 7:13-14

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

The Narrow Gate

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy,[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few

There you have it; Christianity is the narrow gate. Not that carrying the burden of the world is easy. Not that satisfying the flesh is always a cakewalk. Because, though it brings satisfaction, it also has costs.

But Christianity is the narrow gate because it goes against all the things that Satan has taught us to enjoy over the years. We delight in pride and vanity. We can’t help but abuse our bodies in the name of “fun,” and to strive to gather more possessions and experiences to rival our neighbors. We are versed in deceit from the time we are children; and from adolescence we are inflamed with absurd passions for the opposite (or the same) sex. Sure, we may disapprove of these things from time to time, but how can we really prove that we don’t believe in them when we keep doing them; OVER AND OVER AGAIN! Why then, would we really want to follow a God who condemns all that we know and love, all that we proclaim with our actions?

I do not doubt the plight of atheists. I am sure everyone has a plight. I am sure that everyone feels out of place at times. Let me assure you, Christians are no exception. It is amazing that even when we feel the closest to our Father, we often feel farthest from those around us. Sometimes it seems like the more God loves us, the more the world despises us.

Sometimes, in my humanities class, when the professor talks about the New Testament and reads passages from it, I just want to shout out “amen” or something like that. And when we have discussions, I can’t help but try and defend the book that I am growing to love. I cringe when people deride it, yet I am often afraid to speak out. I fear these people. I fear that they know my secret- that I believe. I wonder if they despise me, if every time I speak they are thinking about how much of a hypocrite I am. I wonder why I am afraid of them. God has will humble them in due time, and the wisdom of the world will pass. Why do I guard my image? And, more importantly, why do I guard my faith? Why do I fear persecution? Persecution is nothing, but the will of God is everything.

So you see, here is one difference between Christians and the rest. We are taught that persecution is acceptable, inevitable, and that we must love those who persecute us. We cannot fight the forces that persecute us, all we can do is struggle along, continuing to do the will of God. It is not our place to defend ourselves, to cry out for our rights, but rather, it is our place to humbly accept the cross that has been laid on our shoulders.

Who’s the underdog?

 

 

 

The Meaning of Life, Lost and Found

Do you ever feel so human that it hurts? 

I was consumed by this sort of greed. This desire to eat that had little to do with physical hunger. It was almost overwhelming. I tried to work, tried to read, but all I felt was myself. A slave to the flesh, that is how I feel sometimes, We all have addictions, or if not addictions, we have vices that distract us from God, that can even take the place of God. Sure, it’s weird to put it that way, but how else can I put it? 

A slave to the flesh. I don’t want to be that way anymore. I do not want to live for pleasure, for survival, for meaninglessness. I can’t convince myself that the world is right. I can’t think of any noble philosophy that will satiate my desire for purpose. I can’t accept the fact that there is no purpose either. Call me a fool, but I simply refuse to believe that the universe was a convenient accident. Call me weak, but I can’t live without the love of Christ. Without the love of Christ, I refuse to live. Not that I should have faith merely to stay alive, however. 

There’s just got to be more than living then eating, sleeping, and reproducing. There’s got to be more to life than working, partying, and going to church. I tell you, there is a spiritual life, a spiritual self that I have become out of touch with, but a spiritual self that is much realer than the physical self. We must meet our spiritual being. We must meet God. That is what living is.

 

 

 

Jesus Is For The Weak Part 2: Meeting the Mental Illness Stigma in the Middle and Finding Joy

For a long time, mental illness has been haunting me. I feel that I cannot speak openly about it anywhere, or they will bind me in a straight jacket and lock me in a padded cell for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be institutionalized, and I don’t want to eat jello every day. So I want to open up, but not too much. And the reason that I don’t want to open up too much is this. If you yourself are not well and you are reading this, I would not want your condition to be exacerbated. Everyone has enough of their own crazy thoughts. Those are not something that we need to be spreading to our brothers and sisters.

Why hasn’t this problem just disappeared since I started to believe in God? How does this stuff in any way contribute to a Christian lifestyle? Aren’t I a raging hypocrite, a hopeless lunatic? I myself wonder the same thing all the time.

It’s easy to talk about the past, but it’s difficult to talk about the present. Very painful. I can’t help but wonder what you will think of me when you read this. I fear that you will despise me. Nonetheless, I am compelled to go on.

The truth is, Satan often tells me to hurt and destroy, probably because he knows that I am weak mentally and he thinks there’s a chance I’d listen. He wants me to kill myself, and he would prefer it if I took others down with me. I will be no vaguer than that nor more specific.

Jesus was tempted by Satan too, for 40 days in the wilderness. Not that I am sinless like Jesus. Satan told Jesus to jump off the cliff, to turn stones into bread, etc. Satan even used out-of-context Bible verses in his argument. But Jesus always had a relevant come-back line, and he effectively repelled Satan. I wish I was as good at it as Jesus. I am convinced that I am not without sin, even though, apparently, temptation itself does not constitute in sin.

I ask God to heal me. I have done this on many occasions. And it’s true, sometimes this problem does get better. I should be thankful for that. But why has it persisted? And must I continue to torture myself with feelings of guilt? Why do I have to keep guarding this skeleton in my closet?

Should I continue to feel like the scum of the earth? Should I continue in tearing myself down? I feel that I must punish myself in order to justify myself. And yet, however right it feels, however you may agree or disagree, somehow this is not right. We can’t justify ourselves anyway. Only the blood of Christ can.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

What should I do in the mean time? I am afraid of myself. I am afraid of Hell. I am afraid of the truth and freedom of the Lord as well. I feel like a hypocrite almost every moment of every day. I wonder how in the world I have the nerve to judge anyone. And maybe I should wonder this. But I also wonder how in the world I have the nerve to preach the Gospel when I myself am so screwed up. Suddenly I am brought to tears because I am remembering yesterday, and how good I felt.

I was at a church picnic type thing. It was supposed to rain yesterday, and it did, but not hard enough to force anyone to cancel it. And thank God for that. I can’t easily describe to you how it was. If you are not a Christian, or if you are, like me, skeptical at times, you will likely see this as little more than phony, emotional, snake-charming, throw-your-baby-at-the-altar Christianity. Still, I will try to make you understand. I’ve already revealed an embarrassing secret. There’s no sense in stopping now.

It’s cold and windy. We are under a gazebo in some park, our bellies filled with carne asada. There’s people from all around the area here, people of all colors, ages, shapes and sizes, united for the sake of Gospel. And it’s an open microphone share-what’you-learned this-year type deal. It sounds boring, but it really wasn’t, until the end when I got so cold and tired I could hardly concentrate. And young people around my age are sharing things- they are proudly proclaiming their faith, saying the most profound and spiritual things. What stood out to me most was a girl saying, “I am not here because of my love for God, but because of God’s love for us” and someone else saying “The church is not a social organization.” And so many other things that I would love to repeat, but they just sounded so much better in person. It was as honest and genuine as it gets in our world. I’ve been with Christians before, but I’ve never seen anything exactly like this. And for a moment, as I was sitting there, I felt so complete. I knew that this was the real thing. All that I’ve heard about the Bible in college lecture halls, that wasn’t it. All that I’d ever seen on TV, all that I grew up believing, that was a lie, and this church, this body of Christ with all its beautiful members, this was real. It didn’t matter what I’d done in the past. I didn’t matter that I wasn’t perfect or that it was cold outside. My circumstances were good. There was nothing to keep me from proclaiming the Gospel myself. All this I felt, but if I were to have spoken, I’m sure it wouldn’t have come out as eloquently.

Unfortunately, these feelings pass. They pass faster than the temptations, or bad feelings that I have. But I know that they are “more than a feeling.” I know that that’s a song. I know that just because I feel these things doesn’t mean that they are real. The Kingdom of God exists outside of human feeling. Feeling is only a channel through which this truth passes.

Jesus came for the weak. I am weak. If you’re from a Christian background, you probably get tired of hearing things like that. You get tired of hearing people describe themselves as “broken” but Jesus “saved” them. It all sounds so painfully boring and meaningless sometimes, but I tell you, it’s true.

Some people think that the Bible is dangerous, that it’s a breeding ground for fanaticism. And I tell you, it is fanatical. Maybe not burning-down-hospitals fanatical, that’s Satan’s area of expertise. Yet I believe that if we took what was in the Bible and put it all into practice, the world would be a terrifyingly different and beautiful place. So the Bible is dangerous in a political sense, but in a spiritual sense, in a real sense, the Bible is our only hope, confusing as it may be. If it wasn’t for the love of God, for the blood of Christ, I would probably be dead, dead or eating jello. What meaning would my life have without God? I am weak. I can’t delude myself with high-flown phrases. I can’t subjugate myself to the rules of society, I just can’t force myself to love humanity. I am weak, physically and emotionally. I am a failure. I am socially awkward. I am unwell. I am a worry-wart. I am not a good person. But thank God I am weak, and thank God I find little comfort in the things that pacify most. For if I was strong, if I was “wise” and self-controlled and normal, I wouldn’t have any reason to put all my faith, all my being into a perfect God.

Everyone has weakness and everyone has strength. God will find you in your weakness and He will find you in your strength. He will find You in the lowest depths, He will find you on your highest mountain. He will find you in your humility, He will find you in your pride. He will find you in the margins of society and He will find you in the midst of it. He will find you in the 99% and he will find you in the 1%. There’s no escaping Him. Wherever You are, there He is also, watching. So it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. If He can forgive me, He can forgive you, and now you know that. You know that I am not just some goody-goody. You know that I have no right to look down on you. It doesn’t matter who you are, it matters who God is, and it matters if you want to have anything to do with what God is.

 

“Religion is for the Weak” Part 1 of 2

I am still alive, in case you were wondering (which you probably weren’t) but I have been busy cramming for midterms and the like. To say that I haven’t contemplated death in the past week would be a bit of a lie.

Personal problems came along, and boy, did they get the better of me. Worry, guilt, and depression robbed me of all my joy, all my sanity. I simply didn’t want to go on anymore. I could see nothing to look forward to in the future. I wondered whom my circumstances were benefitting. They don’t appear to be benefitting me, and I didn’t see how they are benefitting God either. Why does God want me to be persecuted? (actually, I’m not exaggerating that much. I am being persecuted a little).

The answers didn’t come in a prolific dream like I’d been hoping. But I am learning. Like in a fantasy movie or a video game where the path expands before you just at the rate you are walking, so life is gradually starting to make sense. I just wish it would make sense at a more comfortable pace.

First, a Bible study at school that I was finally able to attend. We read a little pamphlet called “the key to prayer.” I was skeptical. After all, I am even skeptical about parts of the Bible at times. Why wouldn’t I be skeptical about a pamphlet that seems very biased? I didn’t like how the title seemed to imply that there was some kind of magical formula to prayer. But I did get a lot out of the discussion. I realized once again that God isn’t a fairy godmother. It’s not like that cartoon show the “Fairly Odd Parents” where you can just wish for whatever ridiculous thing your foolish heart desires and it would just appear before you with a poof. Because, like in the show, we wouldn’t wish for the right things. We would all wish for silly things that wouldn’t help us one bit, things that would probably just make our lives worse. Prayer is “wishing” for what God wishes for. It is aligning our spirits with His, as my friends reminded me in the meeting. Therefore, we should pray for God’s will. And if what we want is what God wants, then we will get what we want, just like Matthew 7 says.

Then, on Friday morning, I arrived at school a little early. The parking lot was so oddly peaceful that I decided to hang out there. I opened the pamphlet for next week’s meeting called “The Burden of Prayer.” It’s not what it sounds like. I didn’t finish the pamphlet, but I did glean from it some information about “spiritual burdens.” They are simply nudges from God which direct you towards the building up of the kingdom. They are burdens. I have felt them before, and like the pamphlet says, you know it when you have a burden. When I was in high school, I had a burden to speak in chapel (I went to a Christian school and that was our weekly school-wide meeting). I myself didn’t want to do it at all. Getting up in front of all my judgmental peers to share something personal? No thanks. Eventually, it did happen, but it wasn’t nearly as intimidating or uncomfortable as I thought it would be. I also wonder if it did anything for God, but I guess that’s not for me to know.

Once I learned what a burden was, it seemed like they were everywhere. And I got a new burden, clear as day. I was walking to class, and again I saw some men sitting by a cardboard box labeled “Religion is FOR the weak.” The first time I saw this, I was sure that they were just an atheist group. But then I got to thinking, “well if that’s the case, then why is the word ‘for’ emphasized and not ‘weak?'” With the pamphlet in mind, I knew that I needed to talk to these people. So I got my Subway sandwich, and as I sat there eating, I thought of questions and argmuments. Then I rolled up my 2/3 eaten bag of chips and went over there excitedly. They were talking about something which sounded spiritual, but I couldn’t tell exactly what they meant by it. Then, seeing me standing there, they asked me if I was afraid of death. And I said, no, because I believe in eternal life. And the man started telling me basic Christian doctrines. I wasn’t sure what he meant by this. Was he mocking me? Was he just saying out loud what he thought I was thinking, but not explicitly saying? So I asked him if he was being sarcastic. And he said no! And the other guy, a very tall black guy with dreds named Peace, gave me, a complete stranger, a very good natured and sincere hug that I will never forget. So I thought that maybe I was going to have to witness to these atheists, but instead they were believers witnessing to me. And I stood there awkwardly (I hate standing for long periods of time, especially when I’m holding things) and I listened and talked to them. Jesus isfor the weak. He came for the sick, not the healthy (Mark 2:17). He came for people like me who can barely carry on a normal conversation without stumbling and stuttering. He came for people who don’t have it together, who don’t know why they’re living, but want to figure out. He came for His glory, but He also came for our benefit. He wants us to feel loved again!

Feeding the Thousands, Numbers Awesomeness

Matthew 14:13-21

Matthew 14:32-39

All four Gospels mention at least the feeding of the five thousand, and the numbers agree! Why are these numbers significant? anything has to be important if it was remembered all those years after Jesus’s death when these were written.

What’s more, secular scholars think that Luke and Matthew didn’t even share information. Why isn’t it possible that this stuff actually happened!

Feeding the Five Thousand

5 loaves (5000) + 2 Fish = 7

12 baskets left over (like the 12 disciples)

5+7 =12

The Four Thousand

7 loaves

7 baskets left over

 

5 loaves + 7 loaves = 12 loaves

Twelve disciples. Twelve tribe of Israel.

Jesus’ flesh is our bread! (Matthew 26:26) Man does not live on bread alone! (Matthew 4:4) Manna from heaven! (John 6:32)

Turn these stones into bread. No! Matthew 4:3

So much imagery! So little time, the Son of Man is coming! 

God will give us all we need. Man does not live on bread alone (nor tofu alone either) The Word became flesh (John 1:14)!!!

 

 

 

 

Essay About Jesus, and What in the World is Easter?

Why is it that writing an essay about Jesus (and Aeneas from the Aeneid) is the absolute last thing I want to do right now? I’m so exhausted and this is so tiring. I write about Jesus all the time, but I want to do it voluntarily, without having to think the whole time about how I’m going to get a bad grade on it. My goodness, what if everything I blogged about got a grade? That’s a scary thought. 

I should really finish this essay so I can celebrate Easter like a good Christian tomorrow. But what is Easter anyway? Is anyone else confused, or am I just crazy? How much of this paganish holiday can be taken seriously? Where’s the wheat and where’s the chaff? Not that there’s anything wrong with the Resurrection… but I don’t know, it seems a little bizarre to cram it all into one day. I wonder what God thinks about Easter.