Attitude

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.

— Charles R. Swindoll

Patience is Love

There’s this reminder on my phone that says, “Write: I can be patient with her because Jesus has always been patient with me”. I put this reminder back in November of 2013. And here I am nearly 10 months later finally getting around to that reminder.

At the time I wrote that, I thought I just needed to wait through the time my girlfriend was oversees teaching in Spain. I consistently prayed for her every single day that God will show her what He always wanted to show her. For the most part, I prayed those things because I thought it was the right thing to do—that she wanted a break through in live and mature with the Spirit in ways (I thought) I may already have. When I look back on it, I may have prayed that prayer with a bit of selfishness because I really wanted her to get to the same place in life that I am at so we can get married and live happily ever after.

Day after day we would talk. Day after day I would pray with and for her so that she would surrender her independence and look towards Him at the start of every day. The trials, tribulations, and hardships that I had to hear week after week broke my heart. More than a dozen times I wanted to book a ticket to Spain just to be there and help her out any way I could. I felt helpless. All I could do is pray (which I am remembering that prayer ought to be our first response and not our last).

I called onto God asking Him what I ought to do during this time. He repeated the same words even prior to her leaving. He tells me, “Be patient.” That is all. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s so funny. Despite all the good I can strive for, I still succumb to habit. I already wrote a story back in 2013 of what happens when I do not obey God’s commands. His commands are out of love. His commands are love. They are to be obeyed to protect us. But it’s so hard to follow especially when He tells us to wait for the things that we want most. (Oddly enough, when the one thing we want most is God, there’s no need to wait for that.)

During this time of growth and maturity not only in my girlfriend’s life but my own as well, I find myself putting on that clothes that looks like patience but I really am I trying to speed up the process in my own way. As if I said that God’s way isn’t good enough. His way isn’t fast enough. I can really do things faster. I’d like to say I still had all that right intentions, but that fallen human part of my self just wanted to move things along and take things back into my own hands.

I constantly repeated these words whenever I found myself not getting what I want when I wanted it: “I can be patient with her as God was patient with me”. These words came about in my daily spiritual walk with God when I wanted to strive to be more like Christ. It just hit me with a ton of bricks that God has been waiting for me all my life and I can do the same with her. And when she came back from Spain, I thought all the waiting was over. I thought we can continue to move on in life together through God.

Patience wasn’t exercised as it should have been. Our life through God wasn’t happening as we wanted it. God was there, but we weren’t doing things through Him. So now we find ourselves in a place where we mutually agreed that in order to get ourselves back on track with God we need to give each other up for an arbitrary number of weeks. When my friends ask about it, they wondered if we were on a “break”. I prefer not think of it that way. I like think more like we’re “fasting” the relationship. Every time I think about her (which is a lot), every time my heart aches because I’m apart from her (also a lot), I lift her up to God in prayer for protection and love. We both wanted this. We both want to meet each other again through God’s heart. And it is in God’s timing—His growth in us as we  are apart—that I believe it will happen.

And this goes back to love and patience. Somehow I find myself back in 1 Corinthians 13:4. I started to read—”Love is patient, love is kind”—stop! It felt like the Spirit stopped me before even finishing that verse. He tells me those are the two things I need to hold on to during this time of fasting. I cannot forget that love is both patient and kind. Yes, I find myself waiting yet again, but I also found my emotions flying back and forth. I remembered how she treated me the last week before we mutually made this decision. I could have harbored resentment. I could plan and plot what I ought to say the next time I see her about how I felt leading up to all of this. But doing this is childish. I shouldn’t be led by emotions because they are not constant. I no longer need to be controlled by my emotions. I am more mature now and I can put away these childish ways1.

I need to remember that love is first and foremost an action. I am not patient, I am to be patient. I am not kind, I am to be kind. I think I heard it from Tim Keller (and I’m sure there’s a passage about this somewhere) that when you start doing these things of love, you’ll become these things of love. This love is completely separate from the emotions I feel. It doesn’t negate the emotions, the emotion is real. But I can keep those emotions under the control of the constant and loving God.

I pray that we both grow through God during this time. There’s a God-shaped hole in my heart that needs to be filled with God alone. I try to fill it with the world—whether it’s new shiny things, a successful career, or intimate relationships. But I want the both of us to truly seek God and only allow Him to ever fill that hole in our hearts. I pray this in His Son’s Holy Name—Jesus Christ—amen!

  1. 1 Corinthians 13:11 []

Hold on to Hope

I’m going to be shooting from the hip again for this post (honestly, that’s the best way for me otherwise there really wouldn’t be any new posts). So I’m going through this unexpected trial since I wrote about faith and the (lack of) works of it in my life. I had a feeling I was about to go through a trial in my relationship, but I didn’t think it would be as extreme as it is now. I’m not going go into the details, but in the most simplest summary I took a blessing from God and wasn’t the best steward of it. We ended up twisting the blessing and made it about us instead of making the blessing (thus us) about God. So we mutually (as difficult as it was) to take a step back and put God in the forefront in our lives. I don’t know how long it will take. It hurts just thinking about. But the truth is that we selfishly wanted our own desires for our lives instead of seeking and obeying to the desires God wants for our lives.

So just like the trial I went through last year when I explicitly disobeyed His commands, I am going through it all over again. In this I will trust God and I will go to Him in every thought of doubt in my mind. I know I will be spiritually attacked. I will be sad. I will feel pain. I will also find joy in the most unexpected places. I will find bits of happiness and excitement through this. And in all of those blips of emotions, I will go to Him about it all. That when I am feeling weak, I will go to Him and ask for His help. I will listen intently to His Word. I will surround myself with His love. I will love intently to those He has called to be around me. I want to understand and accept the life He wants for me.

I understand and consume all of those things. That whole thought process comes from my head and not such much from my heart. My heart wants to settle that what I have done with God’s blessing is lost. My heart wants to say that let’s just go on because this is something that cannot be restored (even though it is my mind that knows that God can restore anything). My heart is full of emotion and is full of hurt. It sends the signals to my mind and it is my mind that brings that emotion to God. But there’s a very root emotion my heart that my mind cannot compensate. And that is hope.

There is very little logic to hope. My mind cannot comprehend it. It knows it exists, but it cannot do anything with it. It cannot take any actions to bring hope into a tangible entity where it measure and adjust decisions accordingly. Unlike faith (and we’re talking about the works kind of faith that James writes about), my mind can act on faith. It sees the faith in Chris. (In other words, it sees the works of faith in Christ.) It imitates and acts out in love according to the faith we’re called to live. But hope remains a mystery to my mind. It’s something that only my heart can grapple with, and it can be so hard at a time like this where my heart doesn’t find hope.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Just like how my mind consumes the Word to gain the wisdom called infuses into it, my heart can also call onto God to infuse itself with the hope it requires. This is what Paul writes to the Romans:

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with the confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

– Romans 15: 13 (NLT)

God is constant. God is love. God is good. And just like how my mind calls out to God for wisdom, my heart ought to call out to God for He is the source of the hope it needs.

I feel like I lack of a balance between heart and mind. My mind so deeply wants to say, “If it’s God’s will.” It tries to justify what’s happening in my life (as I go through trials and find myself in the valley). It’s like it puts out a kindling fire of hope that my heart so wants to turn into a blaze. My mind fights with my heart, “God is good, but the thing that we want isn’t the same thing He wants for us.” And I just have to straight out call out my mind that that line of thinking is not true!

God, my father, I look towards the heavens and ask you to fill me completely with joy and peace. I trust you, LORD. For You being the source of my hope, I ask your Holy Spirit to start a blazing fire of hope in my heart. That both my heart and mind are parts of a unifying body to be drawn closer to you. That they become a balance to symbolize your power with wisdom and love. Let me hold on to You. Let me hold on to hope! I pray this in your Son’s name, Jesus Christ, Amen!

Misunderstanding my Faith

This has been tugging on my heart for awhile. It’s probably been this way for years, but it’s only recently that I’m understanding it. James talks about faith and deeds, and that without good works your faith is dead.

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

– James 2:17 NIV

In it’s most simplest form my good works—my actions—ought to come out because of my faith. Just because I know and believe that the Son of God came to die for the sins of humankind doesn’t make me a man of faith. Even James said that the demons also believe in Jesus1. To be a Christian is much greater than to just believe.

I’ve been wrestling with the words “faith” and “faithfulness” as well. At first I was incorrectly using them as somewhat synonymous of each other. But that’s not correct (semantically speaking). But I knew the two words were related to each other so I just kept using them with each other in a synonymous way. I incorrectly thought because of my faith in God would produce God’s faithfulness to me. Now, I never actually spoke of that misguided theology, but that is how I lived much of my Christian life. In other words, as long as my prayer and worship life was good with God (i.e my faith), He would continue to bless me as he promised (i.e. His faithfulness).

But I completely missed the point about God’s faithfulness (even though it’s been taught sermon after sermon, study after study, and story after story). That wrongful theology puts myself first before God instead God before me. I unknowingly did life in such a way that I still depended on myself and hoped to do life in such a way that God would continue to bless me. I missed the point that God is so much bigger than I could ever imagine for a much bigger life for me to live in order to glorify His name for Himself. And no matter what I do, His faithfulness will prevail out of the constant good and love that He is.

So where does that put my faith and what does my faith look like? James made it abundantly clear that my faith will produce good works. When I not only believed but declared that Jesus Chris is my Savior and Master, I became transformed and no longer need to be enslaved by the desires of this world2. I don’t need to fall into the patterns of this world. The things that I desired most should no longer be of this world. Instead my eyes have been opened to the pure truth and goodness of what God has in store for me. And before I make the mistake and turn this story He wrote into something I take for myself, I should make it clear that His story that He has written in my life will be about His goodness and faithfulness. My willingness to submit to the Holy Spirit makes my own soul aware that I was bought with a significant price. It is through that transformation my faith in Christ would be forged. I would live life to reflect what He has done for me. I would show others grace, love, patience, kindness, and goodness. I would recognize that every person I interacted with was also created in the very same image of God.

So I feel that’s the kind of faith James speak of. That I have been transformed and my faith speaks for itself. I know I am always a work in progress, but the very first fruits of this work is shown by my faith that I now outwardly reflect all the things that God has done for me.

Why did I need to write this? Well, lately I haven’t been reflecting my faith. I have the general “faith” that people speak of, but not the faith that James spoke of. I find myself talking more about my faith than living it out. And that is evident in my desire to go after the things that God has told me to wait and be patient. I want to get back to the James kind of faith he wrote about. I don’t need to talk about the goodness of God. I can merely show it through my actions. I don’t need to say a single word about His love, I just need to do it.

God will always be bigger than I can ever imagine Him to be. He will always work in greater ways that I can ever fathom. This life He has redeemed is His for His will to glorify His name. I pray that I never forget that. I pray that I would no longer put Him before any of my own desires. I pray that I will always yield to Him in every way He has called me to.

And most of all, whether I obey His every Word or continually fail, I know that He is forever constant in faithful in all He does.

  1. James 2:19 []
  2. As Paul said in Romans 12:2 []