Teach Me to Love You Right

Teach Me to Love You Right

Kiyomizu-dera Temple – Kyoto, Japan

Yasmin and I were in yet another amazing temple in Kyoto Japan, particularly the Kiyomizu-dera Temple complex, which was founded in 778 AD! (It’s present buildings were constructed 1633 without a single nail.) As I walked inside its great hall, I thought to myself, “Wow. This place is so amazing. We’ve seen so many amazing temples. It would have been awesome if Christians had built amazing monuments as well, then people would be flocking to see God’s greatness and be awed the way we are with this temple.” Then I realized, Christians have built amazing monuments, many of them, if not most, in Europe, such as the cathedrals and religious art, and people do flock to see them, but not necessarily to see God’s greatness, but to admire the architecture or the art, giving more glory to the architect and the artist than the Creator. So that shot down my “we should build great monuments” idea. Then I remembered a verse I have read many many times, “Your body is the temple”. And it kept ringing in my head: “Your body is the temple. Your body is the temple. Your body is the temple.” As I looked at the different features of the the Kiyomizu-dera temple, I would think, “Wow, that’s nice” followed with “Your body is the temple.” I would see an inner room where with a statue in the center and think, “Does God truly reside in my temple, my body, or do I have a shadow?” I saw kids enjoying the act of drawing water from three waterfall channels and would think, “Is my temple a source of great joy to others?” I saw the priests offering incense to their god in highly ritualistic fashion, and I saw religious ceremony in a new light. We like to bash religion, but religious ceremonies are activities that were devised to help man love their deity right. Wanting to love God right is not a bad thing. Loving the wrong god is obviously not right, and it is possible to love God wrongly, mainly by loving Him the way I want to love Him or the way I feel like loving Him NOT according to He has commanded me to love Him. This led me to the most sobering of the questions in my head, “Do I love God rightly? Do I want to love Him rightly? Am I seeking to learn how to love Him in the way He commands to be loved? Or am I loving Him the way I feel like loving Him?”

Throughout the rest of our trip, these thoughts haunted me. I remembered the words in Matthew 7:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

I thought to myself, “The person who claims to love the true God but loves wrongly is no better than the person who loves a false god.”

Loving wrongly means having the feeling of desire or attachment, or having an understanding of the greatness of God, yet not living according to His commands, not loving Him the way He commands us to. To love God, to truly love God, is to want to please Him, and that is called obedience. Is is very proud of me to say, “I’ll love God in my own way” as if I knew better than Him how to love Him, as if my style of loving is superior that I no longer need to learn how to love as He commands.

This led me to a simple prayer, “Father, teach me to love You right.” I understand now King David’s Psalms, when he asked God to teach Him His ways. He was asking God to teach Him what I’m asking God now, “Teach me to love You right. Teach me the things that please You. Teach me what makes You happy. Teach me how I can bless You. Teach me how I can bring You glory.”  King David understood that one cannot separate righteous living and holiness from loving God, for righteous living and holiness is the way to love God. But King David also understood that man is not capable and does not completely comprehend how to live righteously, so he constantly called to God to teach Him how to get things right, because he truly desired get it right for God.

To a lesser degree, I feel this with my wife, Yasmin. I deeply want to become the best possible husband, but I know myself too well. I particularly know how impatient, proud, and selfish I can be, causing me to be irritable and argumentative. Every time she calls me out or after an argument, I feel frustrated that I’m not able to improve myself fast enough, that because of my flaws the person I love gets hurt. Then I realized that was a good sign that I really love her, because there is a pain in me when I hurt her, there is a desire to correct it, and there is a desire to learn how to do things better, to learn how to love her better.

King David felt that way with God. Every time he made a mistake, he was in anguish, and he was running to God praying, “Forgive me! Teach me!” Our self-centered spirituality has caused us to forget this. We want to love God in the way we’re comfortable with. We no longer seek to love Him rightly, the way He commands. Can we say we truly love someone if we do not desire to love them the way they are supposed to be loved? No. How we love says a lot about who we love. If I love God the way I want to, putting my style or my convenience above His will, than can I say I truly make Him priority? No. It shows I love myself more, for my ways are held over His.

You can see why I would wake up really early every morning bothered by this. I realize that in many ways I was loving God wrongly, and what bothered me even more was the fact that I was proud that I thought it was right, that how I loved God, was my prerogative, instead of desiring to learn to love from the One who is love.

In my study, I was led to dig deeper into the idea of “Your Body is the Temple”, and that is the topic of my next post for another time. Jesus’ idea of a monument to the world was not great buildings but great lives. Traditionally, temples were places were gods resided, where man communicated with gods (prayer), and where man worshiped gods. Unlike other religions, in Christianity, God would would not reside in gilded rooms but in humble hearts; communication with God, prayer, would not be limited to a chosen few but be open to a priesthood of believers; and God would be worshipped (loved the way He wants to be loved) in spirit and in truth, in other words, in obedience. In my next post I will share the difference between prayer and worship (and they are different), and why one cannot truly love if one is not disciplined.

This next post will be followed by another post about another “body” the Bible talks about, Christ’s body: The Church, and how we’re not commanded to just go to church but be the church. This one will take a little bit more time as I am not a theologian or a church expert, so will have to consult with people who are experts.

I realized that there’s so much I don’t know. My early mornings and evenings are not complete without studying further. I do know this: I know I love God, not because I’m doing everything right (which I’m definitely not), but because it pains me to disobey, and because I desire to love Him, not just the way I feel, but in the way He commands.
#db

That’s Nice. Can’t Afford It Now. Maybe Someday.

That’s Nice. Can’t Afford It Now. Maybe Someday.

I had a wonderful trip with my wife, Yasmin. She’s so child-like and fun-loving that it’s almost impossible to NOT have fun with her. There were the occasional arguments and irritations but, like in anything else, it’s not the absence of bumps that’s important, it’s our response to the bumps that matters.

One phrase I found myself saying quite often when Yasmin would show me something to eat, visit, or buy, or I would see  something I would like to spend on, was “That’s nice. Can’t afford it now. Maybe someday.” It’s something I think more breadwinners should use with their family, especially if they’re already financially tight, such as startup couples like Yasmin and me. I don’t necessarily mean saying those exact words but communicating the three things the statement says:

That’s Nice…
When presented with something nice, even if it’s something we can’t afford, it’s good to be appreciative and acknowledge your partner’s preference. The temptation for me when I can’t afford something is to quickly say, “You don’t really need that.” or “That’s a waste of money.” or “You’re hungry again???” but instead I can start with appreciation and acknowledgement. Both these things don’t cost any money, don’t crush hope, and don’t require actually obtaining what ever it is they’re presenting. In fact, I learned on my last trip, it’s a great way to get to know someone, by just casually learning how to appreciate what they appreciate.

Can’t Afford It Now…
As a husband there is a deep desire to please your wife and give her the best. Few things feel as satisfying as seeing the gratefulness in Yasmin’s face when she receives something. So when she points out something she find nice or asks if we can buy something, my instinct is to want to buy it for her. There is also a deep desire to show that I’m capable of meeting her needs and wants, and during times where I’m not able to do so, I’ve felt a feeling of inadequacy, that I am not an excellent provider. But then I remember that while society places so much emphasis on a man being a spiritual, physical, financial, and emotional provider, a husband is first and foremost a head, a leader, not a chief lifestyle provider like I’ve described in old posts. This means he is first a spiritual leader, a physical leader, a financial leader, and an emotional leader, than just a provider. There’s a difference, and that is, being a leader means you’re responsible for directing where your family goes spiritually, physically, financially, and emotionally. In the post I mentioned, I shared that I believe that marriages are meant to achieve a purpose not a lifestyle, that a husband should be leading towards that purpose not trying to be Prince Charming, and that the wife should be a great partner in achieving that purpose not a princess. That purpose I believe is to honor God as a family by being so good at fundamentally improving the lives of others through excellence and service. The single biggest hurdle I see preventing families from doing this is not lack but materialism and a self-centered spirituality that believes the blessed life is a life where we get all the things we desire “from God”.

Given that the family has a clear purpose, our budgeting and spending needs to reflect that purpose. Our spending cannot be defined by impulse and we are not better providers nor better husbands if we are able to accommodate impulsive spending better. We are better providers and better husbands if we are able to first provide the leadership required to achieve the family purpose in a way where family needs and family joy is not neglected. So it’s part of our role as leaders to know our boundaries, in this case financial boundaries, and to operate within these boundaries.

It’s a mark of maturity for a man to be able to withstand the demands of anyone (even his own and his family’s) to do the right thing. It’s the mark of a mature woman to do the same. The right thing is to live according to principle not impulse. The right thing is to live according to conviction not convention, especially if that convention is a born from a materialistic society. The world needs mature people who actually understand that a man is a stronger leader when he is able to make unpopular wise choices, such as looking at the disappointed faces of his family and saying, “Not now. I want to give it to you. But more important than you getting everything you want or having everything you’ve desired, is learning stewardship, faithfulness, patience, and faith. So let’s pray about it. Let’s bring this request to God. Maybe someday.” That man is not driven by how people view him. And a truly principled wife would not only respect a man like that, she will cherish him, because she knows that he is truly leading, not simply providing.

Maybe Someday
While it’s mature to understand the cost of things, it doesn’t mean we can’t hope and believe for bigger and better. This is why I like to end this statement with hope: maybe someday. I say “maybe” because I really don’t know what the future will look like. For one, I don’t know what the political situation will be. I also don’t know whether I’ll have other priorities (such as if someone is sick, or paying off mortgage, etc). Most of all, I don’t know what God will be asking of me in the future. But another reason why I say maybe is because the reality is a lot of the things we think we want right now, we don’t really need nor even really want. It’s impulse. How many clothes do we have that we haven’t worn in the last year? How many more shoes do we need? How many more shoes does our family need? How many more calories do our already overweight bodies need? How many more video games? How many more toys? How many more TVs?

The reality is we don’t need much more. Our materialistic environment makes us want more. I know this because I always fall for this.

Maybe someday means, in the future, if God wills, and if we actually still want it, let’s do it. Because if God wills, then He will provide. And if we actually still want it, then we will truly enjoy, not merely experience.

Mature people are able to appreciate nice things, be good stewards of their resources, and have the faith to trust in God’s timing, His will, and His goodness.

Again, a Leader Not a Prince, Partner Not a Princess
I’m very grateful to God that I have a wife like Yasmin. God knows we drive each other nuts in frustrating and private ways, but we’re also learning how to support each other and enjoy supporting each other. It’s important to be dutiful and know your role, not buying into the crap about “only doing what you love” but being the type of person who “does what the world needs of him/her”, in other words, the servant of all that the Bible describes. Many wives I’ve observed aren’t partners. They’re princesses. They don’t really share in carrying the load. They’re part of the load. Being a partner means knowing what’s required, sharing in the responsibility, which includes sharing the blame when things fail, and sharing in the work of achievement. A princess begins with “Here’s what I want for our family”. A partner begins with “Here’s our family purpose.” A princess asks, “Why is our marriage like this?” A partner says, “How can I be of better service?” A princess says, “My partner needs to be like this for me.” A partner says, “I need to be excellent for my partner”. A princess says, “I will love you the way I feel.” A partner says, “I will love you the way God commands”.

Our selfish spirituality has led us to overemphasize the meeting of needs, the filling of love banks, and not enough on the achieving of purpose. In business, in my experience, the most drama and complaints come from the least impactful. I think it’s the same at home. When people are busying themselves with being amazing for others, they don’t have the time nor the luxury of burdening others with their attitudes of entitlement. When people are conditioned to think about their own needs being met and not achieving a purpose greater than their needs, we will become petty, so easily shaken when our relationships don’t validate our feelings.

One of the best pieces of advice I get regularly whenever I feel frustrated or want to self-pity is this simple phrase: “Man up!” I’ve heard it from my dad, from my brother Joseph, from my godparents, from friends. It’s basically them saying, “I’ve heard everything you’ve got to say about why you feel that way. But that won’t solve anything. So man up. Do the right thing even if you don’t like it, even if no one likes it.” And I don’t think giving into the impulses of your family is manning up no matter what anyone says. Charting a purposeful course, even if its unpopular, is manning up.

What kind of an example is the leader of the home setting if he is driven by what the family wants NOT by what the family stands for? And is this man following God’s example, who owns the world, yet wisely provides and withholds according to the wisdom of His love?

And I also think, women need their own version of “Man up”. A phrase that reminds them to think maturely not childishly. A phrase that cuts through the feelings and emotions to reveal the principle needed to make the moment great. I don’t know what it is.

I do know this: most of my impulsive decisions I’ve come to regret. If a family is run on impulsive decisions there will be regret, even if they go to church, give their tithes, and pray everyday.

 

 

What Does It Mean to be “Blessed”?

What Does It Mean to be “Blessed”?

7:36am | Tokyo, Japan

I was about to add a post on my page about how blessed I feel to have such an amazing wife, but as I typed it, I felt myself stopped by the thought, “What does it really mean to be blessed?” While I consider myself blessed to have Yasmin, there are times when this blessing and I don’t get along. Does she cease to be a blessing when we fight? Of course not. This is why I wanted to share my thoughts on being blessed, hoping that we won’t be so unstable, so easily impressed by stories of blessings and so easily rocked when our circumstances don’t seem blessed at all.

We see the word blessed used a lot and we hear it in church often. A guy gets a new car and he calls himself blessed by God. A lady meets someone who matches her list of qualities and calls herself blessed because God knew her “heart’s desire”. Parents teach their children to be good so that God will bless them with the things they want. There are so many examples of God’s blessing around us. While most of these are well-meaning, many times, I find that what we refer to as the blessed life is simply a life where we get what we want. We see proof of this when we quickly equate receiving something we want with blessing and not getting it a lack of blessing. Very rarely, if ever, have I seen anyone say ‘I’m in my forties, I’m single, I’ve always wanted to get married, but for whatever reason it hasn’t happened, and I’m blessed because of it.” Very rare is a Nick Vujicic who can say he’s blessed by God to have no limbs. Some people don’t have a certain mobile phone and they already feel cursed. This guy has no limbs and he says God blessed him with his situation. I believe this is because he has a proper understanding of what it means to be blessed.

Being blessed by God doesn’t mean that some divine being has aligned the universe to give us our heart’s desires. Being blessed by God means that God Himself has aligned the Universe to bring us closer to Him. Here’s a great article from Desiring God that explains this idea. I especially like this part:

One translation of the New Testament (ESV) has 112 references with the words bless, blessing, or blessed, none of which connect blessing to material prosperity. Consider these passages:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . Blessed are those who mourn . . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . . Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:3–11)

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven. (Romans 4:7; quoting Psalm 32:1)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. (James 1:12)

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. . . . Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:1319:9)

There is no hint of material prosperity or perfect circumstances in any New Testament reference. On the contrary, blessing is typically connected with either poverty and trial or the spiritual benefits of being joined by faith to Jesus. 

According to the Key-Word Study Bible, “The Greek word translated blessed in these passages is makarioi which means to be fully satisfied. It refers to those receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances” (emphasis added).

What is blessing, then? Scripture shows that blessing is anything God gives that makes us fully satisfied in him. Anything that draws us closer to Jesus. Anything that helps us relinquish the temporal and hold on more tightly to the eternal. And often it is the struggles and trials, the aching disappointments and the unfulfilled longings that best enable us to do that.

 

Our King-Sized-Bed-Sized Room


Two days ago, when arriving at our hotel room in Japan, upon opening the door, I said, “Yasmin! Our room is huge!” knowing that I had booked us in one of those business/travelers hotels with tiny rooms, which I said was so that she could “experience” it, even if my motives were more cheap. She walked-in excitedly, then started laughing when she saw how small our room actually was. She laughed as she said, “I really thought it was huge, that when I saw the place it looked even smaller!” We were both laughing as we struggled to find spots for our suitcases. It was really tight. We called it our “king-sized-bed-sized room” because the main part is practically as big as our bed at home. “Now this is a honeymoon suite!” I declared.

I have a feeling this is going to be a funny story we’ll remember forever, a story to remind us of how blessed we are, because we are closer to one another.

In this age where material things are the proof of success and the good life, where true spirituality has been lost to this combination of spiritual materialism and spiritual self-centeredness, which simply means my “spirituality must get me the life I want”, we must make it a point to deepen our soul and reject the idea that having is more important than being. To have things is nice. To be someone, to know who you are in Christ, is empowering. To have someone is nice. To be with someone is special. Yasmin and I have been enjoying our tiny room. (I’ll leave out the details.) We’re enjoying it even it isn’t the most luxurious thing, even if it is inconvenient, because we’re enjoying each other.

Someday, Yasmin and I will die, and one of us is going to leave the other to remember our king-sized-bed-sized room alone. Just the thought of that makes me very sad. I don’t even want to think about it. But I have a much greater blessing than Yasmin, and she has One much greater than me. I am blessed, not because of what I have, but because of who I am, a person loved by God. What an unshakable blessing it is to be loved by God. In all circumstances, richer or poorer, sick or healthy, even in death my blessing does not part with me.

This is what it means to be blessed: to be alive and so aware of God’s love, that every moment becomes a moment to share with Him, and a moment to share Him with the world, that others may live every moment with Him as well. That’s a lot of moments. That’s every moment. Everyone’s every moment with Him, what a beautiful thought.
#db

 

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