“People don’t really need answers. They need reasons. Most of what we need to know we already know.
Wake with light, sleep with the night. Sow in season and reap. Honor your father and mother, love your neighbor, and your enemies. Do not steal. Do not covet. Do not kill, not even in your heart. Do this, do that. It’s all there. Yet you don’t always do what you’re supposed to do you?”
“I can’t say that I do.” I answered embarrassed.
“There you go. You don’t need an answer. I’m giving you something more powerful. I’m giving you a reason.”
– I Found My Blue Sky, Destiny
What a Difference Jesus Makes
I feel like drawing. I feel like filling-in all my faceless sketches with a specific face. There’s a reason they’re faceless you know?
But let us leave them faceless. I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s not good.
Which is not unlike me. I find myself always thinking about the future, especially our inevitable future of death. I seem to have a more-than-average awareness of death, how easy it is for man to die, and how important it is to live in such a way that makes the most of the time we have alive. Of the many things I can be accused of, no one can accuse me of wasting time. I understand its finiteness and its continuously flowing nature, not stopping for me or for anybody, on and on it goes ushering us into the future at, as C.S. Lewis said, “the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is”.
Again, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before all the morbid talk I want to begin by thanking my Lord Jesus. I dedicate this post to Him. In truth, this article is a full-blown attempt to correct a large on-going mistake in my life, a mistake that bothers me daily. I will talk more about this later. For now, let us remain with gratefulness.
Last year I asked for one thing on my faith list for 2013: More of God, more of His presence in my life. It was a very different approach to years past that were filled with a ton of requests. For 2013, I asked for one thing. And I can say I feel His presence more today than I ever have. I feel Him listening to my childlike prayers, as I used to feel Him when I was much younger and way more innocent. I feel Him whispering to my heart, sweet words, the sound of music, poems, and dreams. I feel Him disciplining me with consequence, that painful result of my sinful heart is His loving reminder to return to Him, because there are things worse than pain, even incredible pain, such as the loss of loved ones and the ultimate loss of dying outside Christ’s embrace. I feel Him surprising me with a rainbow, or an act of kindness witnessed, or a beautiful sight, such as beautiful women. Haha!
And even when I’m at my worst, the darkest, most despicable me, I feel Him in forgiveness, and the reminder of “tetelestai” – IT IS FINISHED. My debt has been paid. What a declaration to hold on to, what a promise to reach and embrace. Everywhere I go, even in religious circles, I’m expected to be an amazing person, an example in church, a successful businessperson, a wise man, a creative artist, a fast runner, and I can’t say I’m extraordinary in any of these things, better than average for sure, but nothing special aside from the special pressure. But with Jesus, I am unburdened. No need to pay a debt that’s been paid. No need to fight a battle already won. No need to achieve an honour already bestowed. I only need to choose a love that’s offered, His love that is not forced on me because there is no true love without choice.
Still at times, many times I must admit, I don’t choose Jesus but my moment’s hungers and fears. Which I’m sure is not uncommon among people.
Yet the amazing thing about Jesus is this, when I open His word it tells me this: My pain is the result of sin, even the accepted sins of doubt, fear, insecurity. Sin is choosing to journey without Jesus, living a life separated from Him. And the answer isn’t to figure things out once more or pay some penance, it is simply to recognise the divine presence already with me, He is omnipresent after all, calling my name to acknowledge not only His existence but surrender to His beautiful love.
I remember in one particularly dark moment in my life, quite broke and in guilt, I was praying, and you can pray anytime, even when you’re in sin, especially when you’re in sin, and I felt Him with me. I wondered to myself, how He arrived so fast and in such a timely way, then I realised that though I had not been choosing Him, all this time, He kept choosing me.
So how can I not give Him all the credit? How can I be ok with taking honour that’s His, even the honour others give me freely, honour I truly don’t deserve?
This is the on-going mistake I spoke of earlier, this worship and honoring of man and forgetting God. I want to correct that, at least in my own capacity, which is through writing, to point my readers away from me, from my limited human wisdom, but to God, my source, and yours, of infinite love, infinite wisdom, and infinite grace.
I find, among the messages some readers send me or the comments, that too many miss the point of my writing, and it is this: to inspire YOU to become a great YOU by encouraging YOU to take what God has given YOU, where He has placed YOU, and to love the people around YOU.
It is nowhere in my list of goals to be your crush or anyone else’s, to be admired by you, for my blog to be read more than the Bible, and especially not my wish to have irritating idiotic stalkers imagining things about me and sending lewd messages.
It’s a mistake to worship anyone, including me, just because this person has done something relatively impressive, when worship is meant for God.
It’s a mistake to think that all love is equal. If one loves himself more than anything than his love for others will always be inferior. It’s also a mistake to think that loving anything or anyone, as long as it is love, will lead to happiness and fulfillment. What if one loves evil? What if one loves an asshole? What if one loves a lazy bum? What if one loves someone unfaithful?
To be so simple-minded about who and what we give our affection and attention to is to set ourselves up for frustration at best and disaster at worst.
Our culture, over and over, makes this mistake of turning into celebrities inferior people, setting up false Gods that take undue affections and attention, and we wonder why the picture gets worse as a whole – of course it will – we spend more time, money, and energy on fallible beings, even good beings, but still fallible. We give more tithes to the material and to the manufactured through our materialism and spending so much on entertainment yet can’t be bothered to give tithes or give token donations.
Attention and Affections
“Most everyone searches for true love all their lives, yet most miss it. They miss it because they’re looking at stones and metals, woods and fabrics, colors and shades, boxes and crates, and hugs and kisses, and entitlements, and sentimentalities. They’re looing at roles and positions, and haves and have nots. Most of all they’re looking at mirrors.”
– I Found My Blue Sky, Destiny
I like to remind my staff of this simple truth, “Remember this. Everyone is asking the same question. That question is this: ‘What’s in it for me?’ Figure out the answer to that and you can influence anyone. Live above that need to be validated and you’ll become special.”
Yet in all of us lie insatiable needs, needs that need filling and seek an ultimate source. Because we are limited the temptation to settle is strong. The temptation to choose the here and now over the unsure future is something we all fall for regularly. I see this when I lose my temper, when I want to satisfy my misguided idea of justice with the anger of the moment, not wanting to trust that God is just. I see it in my selfishness, not wanting to part with things I’ve hoarded, not trusting that there is manna from heaven for each and every day. I see it in many different areas of my life where I settle.
You see, when one is hungry even terrible food tastes good. When one is lacking intelligence even silly opinions seem wise. When one is starved of validation even shallow compliments can sway. When one is fearful even false securities feel safe – for a while. When one is impatient even the mediocre “right now” will do. Admirable is the person who challenges the moment’s hunger and braves the day’s fears to achieve tomorrow’s promise. And those quick to settle for the now, like I am prone to, will be left with this thought, “I wonder how things would have been if I had climbed. I guess I’ll never know.”
But we need more than information. Like I wrote in my novel-in-progress, “People don’t really need answers. They need reasons. Most of what we need to know we already know.” People need something more powerful than an answer to their questions. We need a reason, a motivation, to take the information we have and actually apply it.
For example. Smoking is one of the most brainless things anyone can do. It’s good for no one, not the smoker, not the people around him, not the environment, nothing. Yet why do we smoke? A habit? To distract us while we try to fit-in with stupid small talk? To make money? To help us deal with stress? To fuel an addiction? There are motivations more powerful than any information on the dangers of smoking. These motivations override the information.
Our motivations will always override the information in our heads because our affections, what we love, will dictate our decisions.
I prefer to stay at work or at home to paint, draw, sit on my bean bag and read or write, but when I like a lady, I find myself pushing aside my favourite activities to spend way too much time, money, and energy on her. Even during the years when I had little, I always managed to have something to offer.
What captures our affection will inevitably have our attention.
I’ve written many times about the dangers of celebrityism, about the need to have higher standards for who to give attention and affection to. My friends will tell you that conversations about shallow thinking wakes me into an angry monologue.
Too many people today, empowered by social media, are in the business of appearing instead of being. And too many of us can’t tell the differences. A friend asked me recently, “How do people fall for online scams or fall in love with fake profiles online?” I told him, “Well we’ve had a lot of practice falling in love with fake celebrities and false gods. When a people cannot tell the difference between what is truly noble and what is a projection these same people can fall for anything.”
We fall for politicians just because they go to the same church, forgetting that the church can be a hospital, and just like hospitals there are doctors and sick people. Be sure you’re not voting a sick person!
We fall for girls just because they’re beautiful. (Guilty! Haha!) No need to elaborate on this one.
We fall for guys just because they look secure, forgetting that the greatest security can only be found inside us and to rely on someone else’s external security is the fastest way to increase our insecurity because your safety is now based on a person you can lose whose security is based on something he can lose.
We fall for pastors because they preach well, forgetting that their role is to point us to Jesus. If you miss Jesus because you’re so impressed with your pastor then you’re going to miss the real benefit of Jesus having a personal relationship with you. And we wonder why so many pastors are killing themselves, so many pastors’ kids too, we wonder where things went wrong. Things went wrong the day we worshipped man more than God, even the man supposedly known as the “Man of God”.
We fall for formulas, “3 steps to get rich”, “secrets to success”, “kiss dating goodbye” because we think that by getting the steps right we are assured of our desired outcome, forgetting that life has infinite permutations. Not even the smartest scientists, with the most advanced equipment, can accurately predict the future every single time, what more our superstitions?
We fall for money-making schemes because we want to get rich so bad, thinking it will free us. If we are not free without money we will not be free with money.
We fall for the latest diets which science tells us over and over are fads, and that the simple most important thing to do with food is moderation – yet we don’t moderate because we want to eat whatever we want.
We fall and fall and fall for apparent solutions, for functional saviors, because deep down inside is the ultimate of false gods, we have made ourselves, the validation of ourselves, most important.
This is also why we turn on our ex-gods, like we turn on ex-lovers, or ex-pastors, or ex-bosses, or any ex that has let us down. We turn on them with a distaste much greater than the worship we once offered them. Forgetting that it is not only more plausible that a man or woman will fall, but that is a sure fact that in one way or another, every single human being WILL fall. But we cannot forgive them because we cannot accept their fall, this is because we expected so much from them, and we expected so much from them because they validated us in one form or another. Again, even in our admiration it is revealed that what we are asking is “What’s in it for me?”
In the story I’m writing, I Found My Blue Sky, the part about the feast, the single mantra that powers the evil done in that place is “me above all”. I wanted to capture how our desire to uplift ourselves has actually trapped us into a path of descending darkness. Let me share with you a part of the story:
“How the sweet words of the selfish blind the selfish.
The hungry boy, the pregnant girl, the toiling old couple, each had passed before her yet none she followed. Many times it is not the crucible that dooms us but the feather touch we enjoy so much.
With each blind eye turned, excuse accepted, and selfish rationalization, Sam surrendered, and surrendered, and surrendered, until she had surrendered it all.
Euphoria has a way of revealing the most vile things within us, and it always starts by celebrating “Me most of all”.
Sam could not remember feeling this much fun and freedom, and her simple mindedness gave way to the pleasure. This time confidently she joined the Fox in doing his rounds, sharing her honey with strangers and drinking from their glasses. She knew not what she drank yet she thanked them. They passed her along and held her in new ways, making her try new things, things she did not know what nor why they were to be done, yet she thanked them.
Worst of all, she knew not that her honey was running out, and this is the worst that can happen in a feast.
The music must never stop for the musician or who needs him in a feast? The laughter must always ring from the funny man for that is his job. The makeup must never come off the beauties, and they must always remember to tease, or else someone might actually realize their wrinkles stretched. The banker must lavishly treat or people might catch-on to his greed. The divas must sing, the models must strut, the chefs must cook and bake and prepare, the artists much farcically create, and everyone, including the so-called wise men, must pretend to understand how important all of this is to the universe, because here, “I am the universe in this universe of me above all”.
Instead, this 2014, Seek Ye First
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
– Matthew 6:33
Earlier I said that people don’t need answers to their questions, that we already know our answers. What people really need is a reason to fight for what’s truly valuable. We need to love something so true and so right that it makes us live differently.
I’ve found that most people don’t really want to get healthy, that what’s really important to them is to look good, so as long as they look “good enough” there’s really no need to alter diets or lifestyles, until they feel a little uglier, and go on little health seasons. But those who truly want to get healthy, build a lifestyle of health, not a seasonal thing.
Most people don’t really want to be free, they only want to do what they want, when they want, how they want, why they want. Isn’t that what freedom is? No. Freedom means being released from things that hold us back – including materialism, selfishness, fear, and insecurity. So I find people try to rationalize their freedom when freedom cannot be rationalized. One knows when one is a prisoner despite whatever external circumstances. And one knows when one is free even if his circumstances seem to imprison him.
In both examples the problem is not so much the practice but the root of those practices, the problem is the heart. More information, while useful, is not enough to save us. It is very typical for a man dying of cancer to read and study more about cancer but in the end he must turn to a doctor to operate or receive a miracle. What makes us think that more quotes, more uplifting articles, more inspiration, and more life rules will save our souls? We need to turn to God to heal the cancer in our souls.
We need a reason more powerful than the information. That reason is love.
I used to feel at times that God was this insecure person wanting all the attention to Himself. I know now that’s the wrong way to see things. He is a caring Father saying, “Spend time with me. What I have is infinitely,greater than what your friends can offer, even more, everything I have is yours.” He is a protective lover inviting, “Stay with me. No one will love you the way I do. Stop giving the best of your affection and attention, the first of your time, money and energy to dogs when you can have my best.”
I live in a country that’s so prone to looking for heroes to worship, prone to vicariously live through other people’s lives. I can be guilty of this many times too. To use this bad practice for my own benefit is prideful, selfish, and evil in my opinion. I’m guilty of many things as it is, I don’t want to be guilty of taking away affection meant for God and for the people around you.
This 2014, You go be amazing. Stop with the hero worship. YOU are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, prepared in advance for YOU to do. YOU go love YOUr parents. I have to love mine. YOU love your families. I’ll be busy loving mine. YOU show up for YOUr work on time and focus. I’ll be focused on mine. YOU take care of the people around YOU. I’m responsible for those around me. YOU be kind to YOUr maids and drivers instead of waiting for people like me to serve them. YOU be a hero to your kids before some idiot becomes theirs. YOU be committed to someone, to something. I’ll be committed to my work. Haha!
It’s so easy to be blinded by the manufactured stars we have been so trained to admire and it is so hard to appreciate the upside down kingdom of Christianity where the humble, the poor in spirit, and the lowly are blessed.
When Jesus came to die, He did not come to uplift a few talented or good-looking individuals, He came to bring freedom for the wise men and the shepherds, the rich and the poor worshipped Him together. The life Jesus promised is a life for every single person, so don’t ever believe that some people were meant to be greater than others. All were meant to enjoy faith, hope, and the greatest of these, love. All were meant to serve, and so be great in His eyes.
This 2014, YOU go be amazing, but if you’re not sure where to start, start with Jesus, in prayer, in church, in worship, and my hope for YOU this new year is that YOU’ll find, for YOUrself, that the God of the universe, has His own reason that overrides all, that reason is His love for YOU.