The Renewing of the Mind?

If I am subconsciously telling you these stories about my day because I want you to think that I am a good Christian, then woe to me. If I bring them only to bring up a point, then by the grace of God, let this point be made.

Yesterday, I resolved that my life was going to change for real. I thought that actually talking to people about God might be a start. So I found a plastic crate, printed up a sign reading “Free Christian Books,” and I took my little box of free Christian books to school with me. It was easier to brave the traffic with the knowledge that my day had a worthwhile goal. So at lunch time I sat and waited. The Lord pitied my pathetic efforts. Instead of being mocked and ignored like I probably deserved, something a little different happened. 

First, two very nice and bubbly blonde girls started talking to me. They weren’t interested in the books because they were already Christian. 

Then, a presumably homeless woman entered the scene. This poor soul had a purse and about six grocery bags containing all her possessions. I didn’t know what to say to her. I even dropped a book because I was so nervous. Not because I was afraid she was going to gouge out my eyes or throw cats at me, it’s just that with social anxiety it’s hard to talk to anyone, let alone someone difficult to relate to. Eventually, she sat down with me and the two blonde girls. My, what an odd bunch we were.

I awkwardly invited her to lunch. I mean, it was really awkward. But thanks to food allergies and demons (she was afraid of going into the food court because she felt a dark presence there), that did not happen. I feel bad though, the lady deserved some food.

This woman, whom I will refer to as E, is Jewish, but she believes in Jesus. She seemed nice in a sort of quiet way, and was only a little batty. Probably much more normal than me since I was acting like an idiot a lot of the time. Some parts of our conversation were fine, but sometimes I just didn’t know what to talk about. I was so afraid of offending her, and as a result, I’m sure I did. I realized that a lot of what we talk about is sort of material and superficial. We talk about our gadgets, our favorite TV shows, our cars, homes and clothes… so what do you talk about with someone who doesn’t have any of that? Even food seemed like a touchy subject. Still, I found myself talking about my petty health problems and various little annoyances, but I realized just how trivial they seemed as I mentioned them.

I’m sure a more gifted conversationalist would have no trouble at all with a homeless person, but then again, I am not a more gifted conversationalist. I don’t know if E liked my very much. 

What is the moral of this story? The moral is that I clearly have a lot to learn. If I am letting worldly barriers get in the way of God’s will, there is something wrong. There is something wrong when I can only relate to people through the material world. 

And you know what else is wrong? My whole attitude. Like I’m doing E a big favor just by talking to her. And maybe telling people about Jesus is helping them, but it is really God who is doing the helping, and it is not our place to get all uppety. How dare I talk down to these people, my fellow creatures? “Oh, look at me, I’m talking to a homeless person.” That’s not true love. Get a clue, self! And the ironic thing is, E is probably a few sandwiches closer to a picnic than I am. 

I must admit, though, I did feel a little different today. Not necessarily better in every way, but different, not quite like myself. I was thinking more spiritually. At times, I was trying way too hard to be spiritual, but I did feel different, maybe a little less materialistic. I felt so detached from the rest of the world all day (probably because I was acting so weird and everyone could tell), and what’s more, I almost felt as if the rest of the world didn’t matter. Could this be the first stage of the renewing of the mind that I had prayed for? Or am I fooling myself again? 

Please say a prayer for E, friends. 

 

 

 

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Where’s Joseph? I want a dream interpreted please!

If it’s not already interpreted. I think sometimes we stress out about interpretations too much. If you interpret something a certain way and if the interoperation wasn’t Satan’s (okay, maybe I just scared you unnecessarily), then why couldn’t it have been an interoperation from God? Who’s to say that there can’t be more than one interpretation of something? Isn’t it possible that our God is a very complex being?

Interpretation applies to everything of course, but right now I am thinking of the BIble, and a dream I had the other night. I wouldn’t be talking about it if I didn’t think it was special. It was a very vivid dream, one of the most visually and spatially accurate dreams I’ve had. My house looked like it does in real life, and there were helicopters circling around all the time, which actually does happen to me (I’m not a fugitive, okay, it just happens). But in this dream I actually was sort of a fugitive! You see, the Chinese authorities were after me.  Random, right? Of course, there was kind of a subplot in the dream that was completely unrelated, and there was another setting, but here’s what I think is the important part. The Chinese were hunting me down with helicopters and they had my house surrounded. Which makes no sense because I don’t live in China, but it was a dream okay! Naturally, I wanted to hide, so I frantically searched. But no where seemed suitable. A closet- no, they would most certainly look through there. But I thought of my old toy box that was inside one of our closets, and it is in real life as well. Maybe they wouldn’t open the toy box. So I tried to fit in it. I remember worrying about spiders biting my butt which is funny because I know that there are probably some critters in my real toy box. But I couldn’t fit, my legs kept sticking out, especially since there were some toys taking up space in there. Dare I take the toys out and try again? No, that would be too suspicious. They would see all the toys strewn around and wonder why they weren’t put away. At that point, I wondered what I was trying to hide for. They were going to find me eventually. And it seemed like the right thing to do, the Godly thing even, to surrender and face my punishment for whatever it was I did. In the dream, there was no indication at all of why I was being hunted down by the Chinese. So I decided to surrender, and that’s when the dream ended and I woke up.

God usually doesn’t play a role in my dreams. Sure, my conscience is occasionally present in dreams, telling me to stop drinking so much. But it seemed that God was really in this one. I mean, He told me not to hide when it would have been going against every instinct of mine!

You can say that it’s just a silly dream and it has no real meaning, but I don’t really think so. I wondered, after I awoke, why the Chinese were after me in the first place, and then it occurred to me- maybe I was preaching the Gospel.

Epiphany! Lights flashing! Everything makes sense! No more worrying about career paths! My life’s goal is to preach the Gospel in China. It actually makes a little bit of sense if you think about it. Why not China? I am half Chinese. I don’t know the language, but I am somewhat familiar with the culture. I probably know more about China than some other places.

I read once in a pamphlet by Watchman Nee, who, ironically was a Chinese who was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, that if you have a burden from God, you’ll know it. You won’t have to discover it. But if that’s the case, why am I doubting this plan? Because what if it’s not my calling in life? What if God would rather have me here? Why should I rock the boat so much? And how am I ever going to learn Chinese?!

But at the same time, what could be wrong with it? If the crazy idea entered my mind and there seems to be justification, who’s to say it’s not a sign, just because it wasn’t accompanied by a burning bush? If it’s wrong to want to share the light, I don’t want to be right!

Wow, that was corny. But anyway, I’m not sure. I know I should be sure, but the thing is, I don’t feel sure. Maybe it’s because I’m just kidding myself. Or, more likely, maybe it’s because I just don’t have enough faith. That’s probably it. That’s probably the source of all my problems, a lack of faith.

 

By the way, if you have time, please pray for my mom! She is not a believer yet, and also, she is having pain in her temples and other pains.

 

At the Feet of Jesus

I don’t recall reading this parable in Bible study. Perhaps it’s because it’s a little disturbing.

Jesus is dining with a Pharisee, and something very interesting happens. From Luke 7:

37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

So he said, “Teacher, say it.”

41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wipedthem with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Perhaps I found this a little disturbing because I can relate to it. It’s happened to me before where I’ve felt so wretched, so sinful that I would violently cry and perform strange and self-depricating rites. Although I am persuaded I did not do any of it as sincerely as this woman here. She is aware of how grievous her sins are. She is literally at the feet of Jesus. What a profound image of submission! Jesus extols her for it, defending her before the Pharisee. He forgives her sin

We know something that this woman doesn’t know. We know that our sin is already forgiven thorough the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. How does that make us feel?

Often, we feel nothing. We are numb. We try to pay attention to the words of a hymn we are singing, we try not to yawn. And we tell ourselves what we are feeling, how God is moving us instead of simply feeling and being moved. 

Sometimes, the Gospel has no meaning for us. It is full of words, words that we have all heard before. We listen to interpretations of these words through sermons or speeches, possibly even films or songs, but still we are turned off somehow. 

But there is hope! There is hope for those of us who feel empty and neglected by God. Although we are asleep spiritually, in no time we can be awakened again, with more vigor than ever! Arise fellow citizens of status symbol land! The glorious kingdom of God is here! Which compels me to revisit the famous ask, seek, knock passage, which I think I am finally beginning to understand. From Luke 11:

And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for[b] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

There you have it! it is the Holy Spirit that the Lord is so excited to give to us if we only pray for it! And with the power of the Spirit, we will find our hope and our joy. 

 

 

 

 

“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!

Dear God

Dear God,

Let me shout the glorious truth for all to hear

Let me collapse joyfully under Your mercy

While my spirit soars

Let me sing without shame

Let me walk without blame

And dedicate my every step to You

Let me out of this rat race to no where

Let me free myself from the world 

The shackles of time

The chain of greed

The weighted ball of sin

Food delays

Wealth corrupts

Drugs destroy

Pride kills

The body decays

Ideas fall away

Buildings are subject to torment

And pleasure is but for a moment

God’s truth lasts forever

His Word is everlasting and precious

While the deeds of man are soon forgotten by the earth

Thank you for buying me back from my old master, O Lord

For He treated me harshly

Happily and humbly I will be Your slave forever

For You alone have won my heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Praying for People, Even the Perfect Ones

It’s hard to run out of things to write about when there are 66 books in the Bible. 

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

-1 Timothy 2:1-3

I didn’t know that it was specifically in the Bible that we should pray for rulers, but well, there you go. I stand corrected. It’s even says that we will have “peaceful and quiet lives.” Does that mean world peace? Who knows.

That brings me to my next point. I know its fashionable nowadays to curse Obama, even among Christians, but come on, is it really necessary? Maybe we could pray for him instead, that he might be saved (if he isn’t already) and make wise decisions… just a thought. I really don’t think he’s the Anti-Christ or Satan as some people think, even if he’s not Abraham Lincoln (who, by the way, wasn’t perfect either). Obama is a person. God wants all persons to be saved. 

I know this all sounds simplistic, but I forget it constantly. I think it’s especially easy to avoid praying for those people who seem to have it all together. You know what I mean. The people who seem to know everything, powerful people, popular people, rich people. We don’t always pray for them, especially if they’re mean or bossy. We think “Screw you, you know everything already, why should I tell you the truth? It’s not like you’d listen.” That’s probably why Paul brought up powerful people in particular. They might fall under the cracks simply because no one bothers to help them out, out of jealousy or fear. 

Maybe it’s not a good idea to singlehandedly undertake your Congressman or favorite celebrity’s salvation  with weekly letters. Has anyone tried that? I’m sure there is a point where we should re-strategize our evangelistic undertakings. Yet, we can always pray for people, even if they’re hundreds of miles away, and we can always think good thoughts about them. It’s God who ultimately saves souls anyway- not us. Let’s do our part. Let’s not presume to know someone’s fate or true character. Let’s not obsess and agonize. We’ll do our part, and the rest will just happen. 

 

Celebrating Small Victories

Sometimes, it’s hard to think of things to be thankful for. It’s hard to acknowledge favorable circumstances as divine blessings rather than the machinations of the world. And yet, that’s what they are. We are owed nothing in this world, and yes, we can’t take anything with us either. 

The Bible says, paraphrased, ask and you will receive (Matthew 7:7). Yet I don’t know if that is completely literal. I think it doesn’t necessarily refer to asking for anything that we want and getting it. If I ask for a Ferrari, will it just fall from the sky? I don’t really think so. I am inclined to think that it means that we will get what God wants us to have and what is really good for us. Even if it takes a lot of time.

Well, anyway, sometimes my prayers are answered. Here is an example. There was this one girl in my discussion class that I kind of wanted to talk to. I prayed/ casually asked God  that I would have the chance to talk to her. I just felt some kind of connection to this person, and like maybe, possibly, I could help her spiritually (if God wills it). I know it sounds weird. And I did talk to her, after a few awkward encounters. I saw her twice by coincidence, and she sat near me twice in the huge lecture hall. Is that really just coincidence? I don’t think so. So maybe it’s hard to explain the situation to you. Maybe it just sounds creepy that I prayed to be able to talk to someone. It is hard to get to talk to people sometimes in such a big university, and well, I’m not much of a conversationalist anyway. Judge me if you want. So finally, after all these chance meetings, I finally did engage in a real conversation with her, as we happened to be walking in the same direction at the same rate after class. I mean, only had to walk a tiny bit faster to catch up. Is that really just stalking? But I know and God knows that He had a hand in it. 

Well, I don’t know what you think about it. The point is that I got to talk to someone at school, which actually doesn’t happen to me everyday, besides just business. And here are some other blessings: I am still kind of healthy even though I felt a bit under the weather yesterday, my book is coming along (sort of), and I had two casual Bible studies with this girl from a student org. So yes, things could be far, far, far worse. That is a pessimist’s way of saying, “Hey, I guess I’m content.” Well, I suppose being content is a step in the right direction.