Friday, February 15, 2013

Visualizing Faith

Must start seeing mustard seed: Matthew 13:31-32 
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

It has always been hard to grasp and visualize faith for me even with ample examples in the bible. But over the past year I've come to realize an interesting take I'd like to share with all of you. I hope I won't lose you in my convoluted mind  but let's try to visualize our life as a white empty room. That is the moment we are born.

Time passes by and we start filling our room with people we love or things we value. We decorate the walls with fancy wall papers; buy a closet and fill it with clothes we like, shoes, watches, cars or about anything that makes us happy. After all, it is our room. Somewhere along our life, we accept Christ and we're given this thing the size of a mustard seed called faith. This is why those who come to faith earlier may have an easier time accessing their spirituality - their rooms were less filled and it's much easier spotting the mustard seed. But even then, it is so small and we don't quite understand its value compared to all the other things we gathered in our room so we stash it away somewhere. We grow older and continue to pile our room with work papers, relationships that come and go, maybe a couple ipads and a few trophies to show our achievements that we're proud of.We are convinced that when we invite someone into our room that they will be so impressed with the possessions that we own or relationships that we've established.

Yet in reality those outside of your room jealously look in hoping you'd let them in. Your rooms too crowded so of course you have to be selective about who you let in. Those in the room...are they in the room because you're there? Or the things inside of it? One can seldom answer that question confidently. Who is really impressed by your room but yourself?

But to anyone who's been on a missions trip, myself included, and came back humbly admitting that "there's something different there"  regarding the level connection we felt with God and the people. The reason why so many people go back over and over...well that's because when we are on the missions trip we were invited into THEIR home.

The hungering people, the "less fortunate" with a room filled of white...when we walked into their room we see a tree. We can't identify it because while our faith is buried somewhere under our possessions, the missionaries and local believers there have nurtured theirs into a tree. 

Jesus did not tell people to drop all their belongings nor did he say discard all your wealth without any basis. It is those things in the room that Jesus knew would tempt us away from nurturing the seed of faith. Am I saying to clean our your room? No that is unrealistic to me in my current level of faith. But I am saying that we should not be displaying our possessions and such as the centerpiece to our room.

Let us find that seed again: those who've accepted Christ MUST have it. If you feel that you don't it is not because you do no possess it; it's buried deep below somewhere. Just as cleaning a room is tedious so is cleaning our perspectives. But once we find that seed, friends let us plant it firmly in the center of the room and let us cultivate it so that the seed will flourish. Do you know why Jesus said mustard seed and not any other tree seed? Mustard trees are neither big nor tall, commonly seen as strength in OUR standards: mustard trees spread like wild fire when nurtured and the mustard seed was critical sustenance for life. The hope of of it all is that when we invite someone into our room they can go back to theirs - with a mustard seed stuck to their shoe.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Faith or Fail

Faith or Fail: Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

In our years hearing pastors preach on what faith means, we've undoubtedly heard the classics such as faith without works is dead, actions with faith makes it perfect, and we live by faith not by sight. Stories such as Abraham bringing Isaac, his child, to be sacrificed paint a picture of faith. But really, who is going to be putting that test of faith into our lives now? More commonly so, we deal with disappointments in "Oh I tried everything but I can't lose weight at all!" or "I studied so hard for this test and I failed..." Maybe "this relationship won't work out...we just don't get each other."

What we need to understand first is our human nature. The term hyperbolic discounting describes our tendency to undervalue rewards begotten in the future versus overvaluing presents we can get today. Humans need a reward in order to convince them through a time of tribulation or simply put - invest time and effort. If we do not see the light at the end of the tunnel why go through the walk? It's completely logical and understandable but at the same time it directly goes against scripture concerning faith based actions. The simple fact of believing in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit AND striving to be like Christ in order to be with the Father for eternity is 1) to be identified Christian and 2) going through a very tough life with no proof that this reward exists. 

For those who are "Christian," this is the model in which we operate our lives, on a all encompassing sort of way but we often ignore the details. For one, we often complain a great deal on failures that we tried so hard for success. Too many times we THINK we have exhausted all of our efforts and FAITHFULLY acted for success.
There are many times people would tell me they tried everything but just cannot lose weight and keep it off. I see them bike at less than walking pace on a stationary bike for 15 minutes and crash diet for a month. Students complain about missing a grade they were hoping for...I see them study furiously one to two days before the exam. I see couples say they try everything yet when an argument erupts neither people would shut up and listen to the other. It's comical what WE identify as "trying." 
Often times than not we don't act faithfully because the reward is too far and we aren't sure if our efforts will result in what we hope for. Start studying at day one of the term? Exam's not until 4 months later. That 90% I'm hoping for is so far away. I'd rather hang out with friends because I know I'll enjoy my time. Yet two days before the exam suddenly that 90% looks like gold. Hanging out with friends? Not worth a thing to me right now. Proper exercise and nutrition means 4 months of hard work to maybe lose a few inches? How about crash diet for a week and lose 20lbs? Sign me up because I know I'll fit into those jeans. A relationship takes hard work for a life time? Let's just look for someone else because honeymoon phase always feels nice.
Daily Challenge
It's not coincidental that many Satanic cults have the belief of seeking instant pleasure over all else. It's not coincidental that Christianity seeks ultimate reward post enduring trials and tribulations. But what's funny is that humans seek instant pleasure whilst still expecting ultimate reward. Interesting wouldn't you say?

If God knows our hearts and needs before we do; and if our actions depict our faith, then wouldn't you agree that cramming in itself shows little faith of our knowledge? Exercising half-heartedly shows our lack of desire for change? Expecting to be heard but refusing to hear shows zero effort?

Often times people say "take the leap of faith"...Let's stop walking to the ledge and call that an effort while expecting to magically appear across the gap. Let's actually make the leap not knowing if we'll land on our feet. Even if we fall, I dare say God will catch us from the other side.