A few years ago, I learned a fact about Johann Sebastian Bach that really impacted my understanding of life. Whenever Bach was writing music, he almost always began and ended his compositions by scrawling three little letters:
These letters may sound random, until one learns of their meaning. Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God alone. Bach’s choice to include those 3 little letters reveals a lot about his character. For him, every action began by dedicating the work to God and ended by reiterating that everything is for God’s glory.
That idea stuck with me over the years and I’ve been hearing those 3 little letters throughout my life lately. Maybe it’s because I’ve been more aware of my actions or maybe it’s because I’ve been starting to give serious thought about the reasons behind my intended career. Every time I start to doubt my abilities or fear about what the future might hold, in my mind I keep hearing, “S. D. G.” over and over again.
Why? Because those letters sum up all that matters. Am I living for God’s glory and trusting him to make something spectacular out of my efforts or am I living for my glory? Am I living in such a way that my days are bookended and infused with the phrase, “Your will be done,” or am I silently proclaiming, “My will be done?”
I hope those 3 letters will undeniably dedicate and sum up my life. Although I know it might take a lifetime to see that desire come to fruition, I am confident that all God is waiting for is me to sincerely communicate those letters in some way and let his Spirit animate my reality.
“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.”—~ Colossions 3:1 (MSG)
I’ve been giving a lot of thought about the friendships in my life. I’ve tried to make people a priority because I finally reached the point where I realized I had nothing except acquaintanceships at best and remained a social enigma at worst. I decided that I would make relationships a priority because my life and faith require community. Over the past months, I’ve consciously asked God for opportunities to grow relationships and I began to initiate community rather than respond to it.
It’s been exhilarating.
The thrill isn’t the number of people I’ve grown to know. The excitement is not about specific events or actions. The joy has been the act of getting to know a person in depth: finding the preferences, thoughts, opinions, and everything else about a person; searching for ways to communicate my appreciation of him/her; and discovering that honesty is the best policy (even when it causes disappointment).
Above all, I’ve rediscovered one of the most important aspects of faith.
Getting to know people has taught me a lot about life, but the most important aspect is that you love people for who they are, not what they do. Love is not about what your needs and desires are for a relationship, but how you can serve a person after uncovering their uniqueness and becoming a piece of furniture in his/her life. I’ve known these truths for a long time, but recent experience has pushed them into my consciousness.
In relation to faith, it’s the same idea. When I approach God and ask, “Why do I love you?” the response ought to be obvious. I hope Jesus will reply, “Because you love who I AM, not what I’ve done.” Sure, Christ has saved me; however, my affections must transcend a love of a particular aspect of Christ.
Jesus is Savior, but he is so much more. When I love God, it should not be about my needs from the relationship. I must love God because I know who he is and want to serve him.
What will you hear when you ask God, “Why do I love you?”
As part of a class at my university, the professor gave us the option of writing a final paper about any topic related to mathematics or a mathematician. After gettingclearance
, I started looking into the faith of Leonhard Euler.
For those of you who are about to skip over this post, rest assured that it’s not about math; however, it should be noted that basically anything a person sees in high school algebra or precalculus relates in some way to Euler. He was a genius, but he also had an unshakeable faith in Jesus Christ. On several occasions, he spoke about Christianity and even wrote a series of letters about various topics related to faith.
Among his Letters to a German Princess, Euler addresses the reasons behind evil and suffering in the world. Curiously, he refutes any suggestion that God is anything except good by justifying the existence of suffering as situations in which God works. While acknowledging that suffering and evil are hard to understand in this life, Euler concludes:
We may rest assured that it is not from caprice [randomness], or merely to vex us, that God disposes the events in which we are concerned, but that they must infallibly terminate in our true happiness. Those who consider all events in this light will soon have the satisfaction of being convinced that God exercises
of words, but it is completely true. While it is hard to understand the purpose of suffering and we get frustrated when life happens, in hindsight a Christian always ends up seeing how God worked through those situations to bring him/her to joy.
As hard as it is to understand, God cares about you and chooses
to work in the midst of sin, death, and pain. That’s what I think Euler is getting at in saying God cares in a peculiar way. God is good, people are bad, and the world gets messed up from sin; however, God continues
to care to the extent that he is always at work even when we suffer. He is never far from us.
The question a person is left with after considering this truth is not if God is good, but why don’t more people respond? Why do people choose
other things over God? Why is it that we try to “tough it out” or “go it alone” when life is hard, when God is trying to bring us to his perfect joy the entire time?
“There is a big difference between blind faith and honest faith. I was raised in the church. I have had to wrestle with what it is I believe outside of my friends and family. An honest faith is one that wrestles with doubts and hard questions. As I was growing up, I was afraid to question what I had been taught. I feared the outcome if I were to really question the beliefs I had inherited. What I found was in the moments I expressed my doubts and searched out the truth, I actually drew closer to the faith. I realized it was deeper than religion.”—Chad Butler (via pressure-the-hinges)
“I used to think it was awkward to give random compliments to the people in my life. Now, I really don’t care if it’s awkward because I realize that my honesty might be one of those random instances where God whispers to a person, “I love you more than you will ever know.” Perhaps telling a person you appreciate them, pointing out a phrase or act that lifts your spirits, or greeting a person as beautiful/handsome might seem weird… then again, God works in mysterious ways.”—Thought about today. (via churchjanitor)
“I want people to see that my faith that goes beyond feel-good optimistic bumper sticker slogans that are disconnected from the realities of life. I want a faith that causes people to say, “That guy knows that life sucks, but he keeps moving forward with a confidence I’ve never seen in anyone else. He knows people can disappoint, yet he chooses to treat each person with dignity and love.” Basically, I want a faith that makes God tangible, which ironically would make a decent bumper sticker.”—Reflection on my life lately. (via churchjanitor)
God desires ALL men to be saved. Jesus died for ALL. If you knew those who would accept & those who would reject, why would you die for all?
Every added sin on Jesus added on His agony. My motivation for not sinning is not that I won’t be forgiven; I have been forgiven past, present, and future. I do not want to sin anymore, I don’t understand how it works, I don’t want to add on to the agony and pain of Jesus some 2000 years ago. I do not want to add to the agony. Every sin that was placed upon Jesus, it was not just nails, it was not just the crown of thorns, it was not just the whippings on His back. The greatest agony & the greatest pain was that Jesus became sin; every sin that would ever be committed. If I was God & I was pouring out the sins of humanity on my Son, I would only pour the sins of those who would accept the sacrifice of my Son. But the Father poured out, even if those who do sin never recognize that He already paid for their sins, Jesus took the pain & the agony of their sin even though they insist on paying for it themselves by not believing in Him.
I would never do it like that. Because I know, they would never accept the agony my Son went through on their behalf. But He came up under the agony of ALL sins that would EVER be committed by every human being that would ever live. ALL.
Why? There’s only one explanation: love. Love on such an irrational, illogical level.
Copyright: Judas Smith, The City Church (emphasis added)
You know that moment when you’re reading a book and you just have to stop and bite your lip and squeal or sigh or close your eyes and wrinkle your nose and forehead and press the book against your heart and just like sit there and try to soak up the gorgeous literature via osmosis?
“I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.”—~ Stanley Kubrick
“You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It wont happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.”—Joel Osteen (via thevoicesinsideher)
1. The gospel is the glad and merry news that God is good, he loves you, and he will happily give up everything he has so he can have you. Contrary to popular belief, God is not mad at you. He is not even in a bad mood. The good news declares that God is happy, he is for you, and he wants to share his life with you forever.
2. Learning to walk in the love of God means learning to walk in his grace. It’s following Jesus instead of Job. It’s no longer trying to impress God with your sacrifices and but being impressed with his. God will never make you jump through hoops to earn his love. He won’t love you any more if you succeed and he won’t love you any less if you fail. If you lead millions to Christ or none at all, he will love you just the same. God loved you while you were dead in sin and he didn’t stop loving you when you got saved. His love endures forever.
3. Your baptism into Christ’s death is just about the most important thing that ever happened to you, yet many Christians are ignorant of it. Ask them about their past and you will hear all the bad things that happened to them and all the dumb choices they made. Although their intent is to glorify Christ, the reality is they are living in the shadow of someone else’s past. Their present is haunted by the ghost of who they used to be. Just once I would like to hear a testimony like the apostle Paul’s: “I was born, I did some stuff, then I died. I was crucified with Christ, and the person I used to be no longer lives.”
4. We are constantly being told, “You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough, tall enough, rich enough, or cool enough. Your teeth aren’t white enough or straight enough. Your skin is the wrong color, your body is the wrong shape, and you smell bad.” Listen to this twaddle and you’ll end up a miserable wreck. You’ll make yourself susceptible to the seductive lies of advertisers and snake oil salesmen. If you want a proper estimation of your true worth, don’t look at your academic transcripts or your resume. Look to the cross. Jesus loves you more than his own life. That’s the message of the gospel and it’s the cure for mother wounds, low self-esteem, and all forms of rejection.
5. The market for acceptance and affirmation is a slave market. It perpetuates a system of human sacrifice based on envy and selfish ambition. It dehumanizes all who trade in it and fosters a distorted image of our heavenly Father as a loveless, scorekeeping judge. To end this unholy trade it is essential that we preach the gospel of acceptance, and here it is: The love of the Lord is not for sale. Like everything with grace, his acceptance and approval is a free gift that comes to us through Christ alone.
6. The church has an unhealthy obsession with sin. We spend our lives watching out for sin, resisting sin, fighting sin, hiding sin, running from sin, owning up to sin, talking about sin, turning from sin, and hopefully, overcoming sin. With so much emphasis on sin, guilt, and shame, is it any wonder so many of us don’t feel righteous? We need the Holy Spirit’s conviction of righteousness now more than ever.
7. The ministry of reconciliation is not telling people that a huffy God waits for them to sooth his offended ego with a bunch of repentance flowers and a box of confession chocolates. It is the thrill of proclaiming the glad, happy news that God loves them, his face is turned towards them, and he holds nothing against them.
8. It is ridiculous to think you can pay God to forgive you. Yet many sincere believers are examining their hearts for unconfessed sins because they think God is a sin collector who trades favors for sin. Hear that slapping sound? That’s the sound of a hundred-million angels doing facepalms!
9. You may be worried that you will disappoint God. It’s not going to happen. It is literally impossible to disappoint an all-knowing God… When you stumble he responds with unaffected grace: “I knew you were going to do that, but don’t worry, I still love you.” Jesus knew ahead of time that Peter was going to deny him and yet Jesus didn’t reject Peter. Instead he loved him and prayed for him. Jesus knew ahead of time that Judas would betray him and yet Jesus didn’t reject Judas. In the very act of betrayal Jesus called him “friend” signaling that even in that dark moment the door of acceptance remained wide open. We don’t deserve any of this. We have done nothing to merit his favor. If anything, we have done plenty to warrant his displeasure. Yet Jesus reaches out to a sinful world and says, “Open the door and invite me in for dinner.” Jesus’ acceptance is mind-boggling. It’s like nothing on earth.
10. The gospel is simple enough for a child to understand: God loves you. Period. That’s it. Bow your heads and musicians to the front because I am done preaching. I’m serious—it really is that simple. God loves you. We will spend eternity unpacking those three little words and exploring the immeasurable reaches of his love. This is what we were born for.
“The love for equals is a human thing - of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.
The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing - the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.
The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing - to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.
And then there is the love for the enemy - love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.”— ~ Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat
I'm extremely inspired by your dedication and faith with your beliefs, in your religion and our Holy Father. I was wondering, what hit you so fiercely (a blessing or a tragedy) that confirmed or strengthened your belief? What I'm basically asking is what event happened to you that makes your belief in religion and God, so true?
This is going to be a bit of a winded answer and probably will sound much like a testimony, but I hope it answers your question =]
Personally, I feel that what strengthened my belief wasn’t any particular event, rather it was my environment. I was born and raised as a catholic, but I always had this rather vague relationship with God. My social environment consisted of people whose life wasn’t centered around Jesus, which made it difficult for me to have any passion into developing a proper relationship with Him because I had no idea how great it could and would be for me.
My family and I were baptized to Christianity around 2 years ago, and to answer your question, this would be the event that confirmed my belief. I believe that my baptism was my mustard seed. I didn’t fully understand how it would impact me, but regardless of how much I understood, it was a big enough step for God to change me. Sure enough, over these past couple of years, God has helped me grow by blessing me with individuals - my family, friends and church - who are able to give me strong and sound spiritual support. These people have helped me in my spiritual walk on a daily basis, teaching me how to develop a proper, more intimate relationship with God. The accumulation of every spiritual encounter reconfirming His presence in my life continues to strengthens my belief in Him each time. I still have a lot to learn. I still stumble a lot. I still don’t rely on God as much as I would like to, but I’ve found that when I have these people around me who share the same beliefs, it’s much harder for me to forget that God is always there working behind the scenes in my life and easier for me to keep my trust in Him firm.
This is a question that is so frequently asked, yet is also one of the hardest to find the answer to. God speaks to people using many different ways, so there isn’t a ‘how to’ manual on hearing from God. Some may have the gift of vision and communicate to God through flashes of images shown by God. Others may have the gift of prophesying and just have God speak right with their mouths. Some may hear from God through the Bible; ask God a question and He’ll give you the verse. But for me, none of the above is applicable.
When people ask me this question I answer by saying that for me, “it’s a gut feeling or really strong thought, along with the occasional Bible verse that jumps out at me at the right time.” I wonder how many people would answer the way I do.
When I’m in a tricky situation, most of my friends & family members usually say “just pray on it, ask God," but really how do I do that? Rely on fleeting thoughts? My gut feeling? On many occasions such as these, i get so angry and frustrated at myself. I start worrying and doubting whether my gut feelings are really God’s voice. I hate when that happens, but I listen anyway because if not, i’ll never reach a conclusion. That nagging thought at the back of my mind though, that thought that i’ve been making everything up in my head doesn’t appear to leave.
Today at service, we had Ps. Andy Kubala come speak to us. He shared lots of stories on his experiences in healing, but the underlying theme of his message was faith. A statement that really rang to me is his statement on how most of the miracles he’s performed on non-believers are successful because they unknowingly took a step of faith when they allowed Ps. Andy to pray over their situation. After all, it says in the Bible:
"if you have faith as small as a mustard seed…" (Luke 17:6)
I was reflecting on his message when a thought (aka. gut feeling) came to me: “maybe acting on my gut feeling, believing it was God, regardless of my doubts, is my mustard seed of faith." Honestly, I don’t know how valid this thought is, I don’t know if this is what God wants to tell me, but I’ll believe in it because this encouraged me so much. I’ll hold on tightly to this thought. I want it to be my mustard seed of faith.
This half a year has been a big season of change for me - Lots of people dear to my friends were lost, friends moved, leadership opportunities opened up, and a great deal of struggling with myself on staying on the path I think God has laid out for me.
There were certainly many ups and downs throughout this time, but I hope to break the stereotype that negative memories are more strongly ‘preserved’ than positive ones. So…BRING ON THE JOY! ~ a few praise points that I’d like to share with everyone:
1) I passed all my courses last semester! THANK GOD hahaha (especially for my finance course).
2) Spiritual growth & development of leadership/organization skills associated with becoming a Bible study leader at my church.
3) Strong encounters with God & the Holy Spirit in my time of insecurities/anxieties - I recommitted my life to Him! =]
4) More opportunities to reach out to people, showing them a fraction of what God’s love should be/feel like
5) Vision and passion for this upcoming semester in my areas of service at church and establishing a solid, passionate relationship with God - including stepping up as head of visual media!
I am super excited for the season of changes, especially with the relocation of our church, and taking on new roles. But alas, as all humans are, I’m actually feeling quite anxious about the workload & time I must commit to myself, my Church and studies. I know that God never gives anything to us more than we can handle, and I am holding on to that promise tightly at this point of time. This upcoming week, I am looking at a jam packed schedule everyday, and I am just praying that I can get all that I need to do done on time. One thing that I feel i need to watch out though is complaining. I took on every single one of these duties knowing how much time, effort & commitment I’d have to put it. If I truly believe this is God’s plan for me, I need to charge through everything with gladness, joy, and a wholehearted attitude.
Despite all the possible stress, running around, and lack of sleep, one thing that I am truly thanking God for this season - felt especially strong this week - is JOY and PASSION!
So God, let Your will be done, and continue granting me a cheerful and passionate heart to do Your will.