Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Treating God like the pope

Posted: September 25, 2015 in Life, Me and God

It has been concluded by many who are well versed with official Catholic doctrine, that the pope is in some way “like God” and hence he should be, in some ways, treated like God. Aside from the merits of such argument and whether or not this is doctrinally sound and ultimately trustworthy, or worth abiding to, I have sadly noticed that I (and perhaps many of us Americans) tend to do more the opposite, to treat God like the pope. Please allow me to explain.

The praise: There are a lot sublime-sounding phrases and verbiage to refer to the pope: “Your Holiness”, “Vicar of Christ”, “Vicar of Peter”, “Holy Father”, ”His Holiness”, “The Rock”, ”Shepherd of the Universal Church”, and many other capitalized tittles that echo with designations only given to God in the scriptures. Furthermore, his visit has taken over the news coverage and taken primacy in many conversations –a lot of people who you had never heard talking about faith, seem to be the most faithful believers this week.

The pull: Besides praising the pope’s importance, many emphasize –often quasi-stretching the truth, on how the pope’s views are in line with their own. Many liberal-leaning representatives would say “The pope urged congress with left-leaning message”. Likewise, the conservative side would say something like “Pope reminds us of the value of life before birth”. Everybody quotes and affirms the pope in what they agree; when they can use him to their advantage and to move their political ball against their opposition.

The drift: However, we all know that if the pope were to say “Mr. Obama, ban all abortions!”, or “Republicans! Grant citizenship to all illegal immigrants!”, no action would take place. Suddenly, the clear instructions from “His Holiness”, the great “Holy Father” would be far less than mere suggestions from some international figurehead that doesn’t apply to us necessarily.

 

And that’s how I have often treated God like the pope. I praise God, use his wonderful glorious names and address him with the highest theological concepts I have learned. I even quote Him when His Word helps promote my agenda. However, so often, at the moment He requires something from me; obedience, a sacrifice, repentance, a change in my opinion or actions, I treat Him –God, like if His command were far less than a mere suggestion from some figurehead that doesn’t apply to me necessarily.

I hope it is evident that I am not at all advocating for treating the pope like God. But I did find myself considering this week that verse that states

These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me… (Isaiah 29:13)….

…and I was challenged.

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Flags

Today is a good day to consider one of my favorite quotes: “inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument”. When facing controversial topics in this week’s news cycle such as the Confederate Flag and Same Sex Marriage, I suggest to keep a few things in mind that may save some time, pain, and reputation.

Is arguing with everyone profitable?

It seems to me that in general when it comes to debating arguments, there are two types of people: those who are willing to listen and consider, and those who no matter what, will stick to their pre-established opinion. Arguing with the latter, is usually a waste of time and a trap to fall into losing your mind –and temper; arguing with the former, has the potential of bearing some fruit. Therefore, I would suggest focusing on interchanging ideas with one who is willing to civilly and decently speak, listen and consider, and also, I suggest to strive to be one who’s civility and decency to speak and listen encourages others to dialog. Especially if you are a Christian, be aware and avoid the point in which your desire to argue for the truth, can quickly become the destruction of your and Christianity’s reputation.

Focus on form just as much as content.

It’s been said that people have the ability of cursing you and still make you feel good; or others, the ability to yelling at you, punching you in the face, stealing your lunch, and still somehow make you feel like asking for forgiveness. I hope these two make sense as analogies pointing to this skill of expressing opposing views accurately enough (content) while still having such grace and respect (form) that the other person doesn’t feel the need to raise a barrier of defense and ignore what you said. I‘ve noticed many times that the good content of someone’s message can be nullified by their bad form. I have also seen bad content being transmitted with such grace and politeness, that it makes the bad argument credible. I suggest to strive to communicate arguments without offensive words or calling names, avoiding exaggerated hyperbole and unnecessary diminishing comparisons. Especially if you are a Christian, I am not sure Jesus jumps with joy when you diminish, insult or offend someone.

Be consistent with your own arguments.

This is the heart of this writing. I have come to conclude that nothing shots someone off to hearing what you have to say, more than expressing irrational, incongruent or inconsistent arguments. Independently of how right or wrong your premise may be, being consistent may help you to make your point in a respectful way. Let me give you some examples, not without being upfront in that (1) every analogy falls somehow short from the complete intended meaning, and (2) I am not advocating for any particular idea below, but rather for a consistent presentation of whichever position one holds:

 

  • There are some who oppose to “banning the confederate flag” (external), because “it is not going to solve the racism problem” (internal). However, often times they are the same who claim that we need to “ban Same Sex Marriage” (external), to solve the “gay problem” (internal). It sounds that either you stand for freedom for people to do what they want to do (fly flag and Same Sex Marriage), in spite of who may be offended, or ruling a prohibition of both…. And how this same argument principle could be carried out to other issues: crosses, Bibles and bumper stickers in public places, Gay pride rainbow flag etc.
  • If you as a Christian advocate to change a law for freedom of religion, so that Christians can be legally allowed to pray in certain places or express their faith in certain ways, are you willing to concede the same liberties to Muslims, Mormons and …. Maybe Atheists? Or, if you oppose to –say, allowing the Quran to be studied at a schools, shouldn’t you be opposed to studying the Bible at schools?
  • If you believe that Christianity’s central message is one of sacrifice, and you claim you would give anything up for the sake of Christ, would you be willing to give up the confederate flag, your right to oppose marriage for homosexuals or the rights to express your faith publicly, so that bridges of dialogue are built towards people of other color, sexual orientation and faiths?

 

Stand for what matters.

As I mentioned before, I am not necessarily advocating for either point necessarily. I know there are plenty of views about these three topics both in the public and political sphere, as well as within various religious schools of thought –many with good, reasonable, and convincing arguments. Nevertheless I wonder if for anyone who believes in Jesus as God in human body who came to save, the faithfulness and integrity of the Bible, the great commandment, the great commission, and the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, would be easier to communicate and reason with others the message of the Gospel, if he/she gives up certain rights –for the sake of a higher call of love.

Consider Paul, who circumcised Timothy, not because he had to (he had the right from God not to), but in order to create a bridge to the Jews, he chose to give up a right for a higher call of love (Acts 16:1-3). How many Jews came to faith in Jesus through this gesture who, ironically enough, understood they did not have to be circumcised?

I wonder, if Christians were willing to give up certain legal rights, how many people would, through that gesture, open their attention, and come to faith in Jesus, ultimately agreeing with those argued-over Biblical principles Christians stand for, not forced to obey, but willingly from their hearts.

 


A few nights ago my 4 year-old asked me what it will be like when we die. As I tried to put it in a simple, pre-k-way to understand it, I started explaining that as soon as we close our eyes in physical death, we will open them back up in the presence of God.

Then she asked “what will we feel?” I proceeded to explain that we were going to be given a newer better version of our current body, similar to what we have today, but much better, like Jesus after the resurrection, a newer/better body that can move from here to there at the speed of thought, a body that has nothing bad and it is all good, a body that kind of looks like us today, but better, a body…like…like …like a SUPERHERO!!.. yeap, that’s how I explained it, that’s how it came out…. WE WILL BECOME SUPERHEROES!!……..And the more I think about it… it makes sense in more than one way.

When I think about it, the day I heard the message of salvation and what God had done for me, and what He was offering me as a free gift, I confessed with my mouth and believed in my heart that He –Jesus, is God, lived, died, was buried, and rose again according to scripture. At that moment, I was born again spiritually and Christ righteousness or ‘good standing before God’ became my standing before God. From that point, when God looks at Luis, God no longer sees Luis the sinner and all his past failures and shortcomings. Instead, God sees Jesus perfection on my behalf, when God looks at me, he sees Jesus, and when I direct myself to God, I can do so it as if I was Jesus –or ‘in His name”.

Iron+Man_wallpapers_274

Thus, when it comes to our relationship with God, we are like Ironman. When people see Ironman, they see the strong, admirable, multi-weapon super hero (IN whom Tony Stark is), and not the mere weak, fragile, human Tony Stark. In the same way, from the moment we were saved, when God looks at us, God sees Jesus’ righteousness. As far as God is concerned, we are in Jesus and all who Jesus is in relation to the father, we are (accepted, beloved, righteous etc.), and no longer the sinner we once were.

Now imagine how our lives could change, if we could live out this reality ALL THE TIME. How would it change our prayer life from early in the morning? How would it change the way we relate to our spouses, friends, neighbors?

How would it change our daily fears and emotions of inadequacy, rejection, pride and worries?

How different could our lives potentially be if we constantly have present the fact that since we are IN CHRIST:

We are complete in Him Who is the Head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:10).

We have the Greater One living in us; greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

We can do all things through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13).

We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).

We are a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We are joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).

We are raised up with Christ and seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12).

That there is NOW NO condemnation for us who are in Christ (Rom 8:1)

That in Christ we are accepted, loved, forgiven, empowered etc etc….


For the longest time I have wanted to write a book about the balance between “Christian dichotomies”, that is, Biblical principles that seem to be contradictory, like loving kids tenderly, vs. disciplining them, or doing things because you have to –out of obligation (which sounds legalistic), vs. out of love when you really feel like…. Or being spontaneous letting the Holy Spirit flow freely vs. planning and being prepared to be used by Him.

This came to mind because as I think of my life the last 40 years, I can’t help it but see awesome things happening in my life. My parents came to know Christ because some faithful small group leader kept on inviting them to church. Although they rejected the invitation several times, it wasn’t until I, as a ~6 month’s old baby, was dying in the hospital due to a respiratory illness, that my father saw no other option but to let these “Christians” pray for the baby, and a miracle happened. I was healed virtually immediately, started eating and here I am four decades later.

That was just the beginning. Since then, I have been privileged with having a fairly easy understanding of academics, especially music, math and languages. I have enjoyed pretty good friends, and even though growing up in a third world country, and in spite of living in poverty, I never knew we were poor -not that poor at least. Going into my teenage years I never had any major social problems and even when my dad walked away from the family, I always had some ‘father figure’ teaching me the basics of life such as driving, shooting, or camping. I have always enjoyed of very good jobs with very good companies and typically have gone up in the corporate ladder pretty quickly. I have traveled, enjoyed some of the finest restaurants, hotels and places. I have been privileged to meet and learn from Baptists, Presbyterians, Charismatics, and atheists, from various languages, cultures and walks in life. I had the opportunity to move to United States and today I have a house and a car and a job that the little 10-year old Luis would have never even imagined possible. I have a beautiful, hard working, godly woman as a wife, and kids that bring me joy and pride every single day.

When I was in my late teens I made a list of goals and how would I accomplish them, with dates and milestones. Not long ago I realized, I pretty much accomplished them all –or did even better.

Does it sound like I’m bragging? I kind of am. In fact, I have gotten used to friends telling me “you have a star” or “you are so lucky” and it is kind of true. My answer always is, “yes I have a ‘star’, His name is Jesus!”.

You see, anyone who has spent sometime around me knows that I am a very regular guy, not rich, not a genius, not even close to perfect in my walk at all. When I look back I can see how many times I have messed up, been lazy, dishonest and merely sinful, I have made mistakes and sometimes paid for them. Still, I see so many good things that my only explanation is: God loves me and gave me the life I live, the opportunities I find myself in, and the abilities I possess, for a reason. He, God, has been my provider, my helper, my protector and literally, the father to this fatherless. He has done it all, he deserves the glory, I am nothing but a story of God’s grace.

With that being said, coming back to the dichotomies, I would be doing a disservice to my kids if I didn’t teach them also that God, through my mother, other role figures, and experiences, has taught me that success happens when opportunity and preparation meet. Our job, no matter who we are, where we were born, and what we were born with, is to make the best of our resources and talents. Whether born in a third world country or in a country club in Manhattan, we all have limitations and abilities, that is the hand we were handed, and that’s that we have to play with, plan and use.

I’m pretty convinced that if you work hard, and seek to be best at whatever you do, success will come. Maybe not the success you thought, or success as defined by others, but success born out of knowing you did your best, and accomplished something. Choices have consequences and if I can instill this life principle in my kids, they will avoid so much pain and reap so much success.

It’s been a fun 40 years, but I still have lots of plans, dreams and goals. I don’t feel too old, this is just a springboard to greater success. Moses left his homeland at 40 and his real known actions were just starting. Joshua fought the battle of Jericho way beyond his 40’s, Saul of tarsus (Paul), also around his 40’s, went from a Christian’s killer to the influencer of the Gospel to the non-Jewish world for 2 millennia. Jean Eugene Atget, now considered one of the world’s greatest photographers, did not begin until he was 40. Renowned American folk artist Grandma Moses did not take up her craft until she was in her 70s and, Terri Tapper, at age 50, became the oldest female certified kiteboard instructor in the USA (and possibly the world). Harland Sanders was steamboat pilot, insurance salesman, farmer, and railroad fireman, but it wasn’t until his 40’s when he started cooking chicken, and becoming famous as the Kentucky Fried Chicken Mogul. Justinian’s codification of Roman Law, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Mother Teresa’s humanitarian legacy, and many many more great things have been accomplished after that ‘mid-life’ time.

So, maybe I’m not writing that dichotomies book yet, however if I was to write a book about my life today, and considering all the great things that have happened and the greatest things yet to be done, my book would be called “My First Forty years”.


We just came back from an amazing mission trip to Brazil. We (the team) enjoyed and saw God’s hand working –often very miraculously, in the lives of the children, volunteers and our team. As usual coming back from these type of activities, we are on a high. We came from battle victorious, we won the cup, we made it!!.

Nevertheless, it would be an incomplete picture to enjoy the victory and blessings of the trip without sharing the spoils with the rest of the troops.

In the book of 1 Samuel 30, we read of a battle that David fought and won, and he shares the victory  -not only with those who fought alongside him, but with those who stayed behind ‘holding the fort’, those who couldn’t go, those who supported his campaign in other ways.

 .. The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.”

– 1 Samuel 30:24

So, HUGE THANK YOU to all of those who, without coming to Brazil, were just as much part of the team, and of the victory.

  • Thank you to those who gave financially and contributed to our trip.
  • Thank you to all of you who supported us in prayer –believe me, God showed up!
  • Thank you to all of those who stay home watching kids, baby-sitting, grandparents, friends, roommates and husbands/wives who held the fort while their spouses were out in the front mission lines. We could not have possibly made it without you.
  • Thank you to all who suffered being away from their parents, kids and friends, your moral support gave us the strength to go on.
  • Thank you to all who helped to prepare the logistics of the trip beforehand. That in my opinion, was a huge contributor to the overall success.
  • Thank you to all who faithfully give to Graystone Church.

Because of all your support, many orphans kids were loved in tangible ways, the Gospel of salvation was preached, physical, emotional and financial needs were met, volunteers were encouraged, hope was raised, policies were changed, local missionaries were recharged, team members were challenged to serve more and with higher levels of commitment

It was a victorious campaign, and you all who helped, were just as much part of it.

Thank you!!

If you would like to read a detailed day-by-day of what happened in Curitiba, the mission trip blog  might be a great resource.

fwsvvvv


Some people claim to believe in Jesus, His life and teachings, but condense it to just “love thy neighbor”.

They portrait Jesus a softy ‘get-all-you-want-magic-genie’, ‘on-steroids-medic-on-demand’, ‘anti-religion’, ‘anti-theology’, ‘all-forgiving-no-matter-what’, and ‘live-as-you-please-D.Phil.’-type of character.

But, is that what the Bible shows us?

Jesus loved, and showed what love is in God’s eyes:

He was announced as one who’s mercy is on those who fear Him.
Jesus loved as He claimed the prophecy that described Him both as a preacher to the poor, a healer, a liberator, and the executor of God’s vengeance, one who loves justice.
Jesus loved, since early years, as He showed himself to be a remarkable theologian and Scriptures student.
Jesus loved by resisting sin and temptation standing on God’s commands.
Jesus loved through preaching and teaching; although for three years He went around teaching, preaching, healing, giving and being an example of kindness, one of His close friends summarized the purpose of Jesus’ whole ministry as “repent and believe in the gospel”.
Jesus showed love by being angry with those who made God’s temple of their own profit.
Jesus loved by having open arms, and narrow mind about how to experience God’s kingdom.
Jesus loved by speaking of men’s evil deeds and people being condemned for not believing in Him.
Some say He forgave the woman found in sin, but told her to sin no more.
Jesus loved the man at Bethesda by healing him and also telling him to sin no more.
Jesus loved the leper by healing him and then asking him to fulfill the religious requirements of the time.
Jesus loved us by upholding the validity and reliability of the Old Testament scriptures.
Jesus loved by affirming God’s protective boundaries for life.
Jesus fed physically thousands in two days, but provided himself as the spiritual eternal bread for millions upon millions –if they would believe in Him.
Jesus lovingly exposed one man’s heart problem by asking him to give all he had, but seemed to suggest to most other men to work hard, make wise investments and use them for God’s purposes.

Jesus loved so much that He gave Himself so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Nevertheless, Jesus is so much love, that He won’t force anyone to be with Him who does not want to. Therefore, anyone who does not believe, is by his own choice condemned already.

Jesus is love, apparently not in our own narrow selective definition, but in God’s supreme big-plan and perfect definition.


The Problem: I was kind of saddened as I watched last night the first episode of Preachers of L.A.” (Don’t judge me, I was just curious). My problem was not with the show necessarily; Is this what non-believers think all Christians and ministers are like? Is this supposed to somehow help others to positively consider what God has to offer? Maybe for some it will. The hardest part happened as I read some blogs and news forums that showed how one pastor criticized the t.v. show, another defended his position, and little-by-little, all parties (all of them Christians, mind you) became more and more hostile towards each other… as the world quietly but attentively observed the quarrel.

Earlier that day, I was saddened when reading a Facebook post from Mark Driscoll that read: “When it comes to abortion, the issue is not choice. The issue is murder. #10Commandments”. The status was not the problem, but the comments and arguments amongst participants (not Mark Driscoll himself). The harsh words between defenders of abortion, opponents of abortion, and anything in between; hard attacks and words from Christians to Christians. It made me wonder, how many people would come to Christ because of this back-and-forth ‘conversation’, and how many more would grow even more disillusioned of Christianity –and Jesus Christ, because of it

Similarly, last week I was heartbroken as I saw, on the one hand, a group of prominent Christian leaders to put together a conference called “Strange Fire”, aimed to “evaluates the doctrines, claims, and practices of the modern charismatic movement, and affirm the true Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.” –in many people’s words, to attack charismatic/Pentecostal beliefs. Of course, on the other hand, you had the Pentecostal/charismatics, who felt the need to defend themselves creating a blogosphere and cyber war camp where Christians of all angles met to lash out at each other…. And the world still carefully watching from their computer screens.

In fact, Just as I was writing this rant, I read a story about a Christian who didn’t tip the waiter, because of the waiter’s sexual orientation; “Thank you for your service, it was excellent. That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to GOD. [Slur] do not share in the wealth of GOD, and you will not share in ours,” the customer wrote.”

REALLY?? And that’s supposed to get the waiter to repent? I am sick and tired of Christians being Jesus’ mission’s worst enemy. Honestly, sometimes we seem to be ‘gifted’ in messing things up. Fighting, on TV, blogs, news forums and the media in general, as the world stares in disappointment and hopelessness. Isn’t there another way to work through our differences?…

What should we all do? What would Jesus want?

I understand we feel very passionately about what we believe –and we believe it to be a matter of life or death –spiritually and otherwise. However, aren’t we lacking a bit of wisdom and love in the way we approach public expression? Are we ‘judging‘ in a Biblical way?

I am not advocating for a watering down of the gospel message or condoning sinful behavior; sin is sin. If your conclusion is that homosexuality, divorce, unbelief, abortion, and preaching a false gospel/doctrine is a sin, fine! Believe it, preach it, and most important, live by it. However, let’s not ignore that lying, deceiving, hating, exaggerating to make others look bad, stealing, making ourselves God and taking His glory as ours, speaking harsh words to others, insulting, calling names, presumption and thinking we know it all, and are always right, thinking we understand the Bible better than others, and assuming others don’t read their Bibles or are not as serious scholars as we are, or are not honest seekers of the truth –or that they are not even saved true Christians because of how they act, it might be just as much a sin and damaging, as the ones we denounce. (I’ve been guilty of this myself).

We all Christians need to understand that just as damaging as sin is to humans eternal fate, so can be our unwise words and actions. You may think you are fighting or ‘exposing’ a false doctrine or erred teaching (call it baptism of the Holy Spirit, the end of the worldgiving to the poor, or even politics). Nevertheless, what if your interpretations are wrong? Hopefully being wrong wouldn’t make you any less of a Christian than the other person, just a confused one. So it may work the other way.

Remember that Paul wrote to the church of Corinth addressing problems of all kinds. Some were coming drunk to the Lord’s Supper, other was sleeping with his step-mother, others were suing each other, others had bad doctrine, abuses in the practice of gifts and all kinds of bad behavior. Although Paul didn’t condone their behavior, but rebuked it promptly, steering them to repentance, still Paul called them “Saints”. He didn’t seem to doubt their salvation. Their behavior was perhaps considered by Paul a result of ignorance and spiritual in-maturity, rather than evidence of ill intentions or false faith.

My hope: May we all extend the same grace to our fellow Christians (that is, whoever believes the scriptures are the Word of God and that anyone can be saved by grace through faith, by the resurrected Jesus who paid for our sins and gave us eternal life) independently of how different our views are in various secondary topics. May we all learn,  not to avoid controversy necessarily, but to be able to argue and interchange opinions in a way the outside world looking in says, “wow!, even when they disagree, they love each other in respect and kindness” (click for an example)That would get some positive attention! Exactly what Jesus would want.