Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Cause of Quarrels

Conflict. It’s been with us since the dawn of time…

“The woman You put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” – Adam, Genesis 3:12

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” – Cain, Genesis 4:9

“Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” – Brothers of Joseph, Genesis 37:19-20

Anger is a feeling that is neither good nor bad. It is not sin. However, anger can lead us to sin when we use the strength of our anger to beat others down and push them to change according to our will. Angry mean-spirited words wound and hurt others. They cause defensiveness and angry responses. They escalate the situation.

Jesus got angry but He didn’t use His anger in that way. He presented His case gently, tenderly and respectfully. He asked questions. He was invitational. He allowed people to make up their own mind and make their own choices, even if it was against His ways. Even though He is always right.

Anger is a feeling that comes to all of us. It can lead us to sin or we can use it as a sign, a kind of diagnostic tool to help us evaluate our situation. Maybe we need to have a conversation with another person to express how we feel. Maybe we need to draw boundaries. Maybe we need to flee from a hostile or dangerous situation. Maybe we need to get help. Or we can yell, scream, hit others or walk out in a huff. It’s our choice.

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” – Matthew 18:15-16

Jesus gave us a clear method for resolving conflict:

Talk to the person we are having the conflict with first. Not our girl friend, our sister, our mom or co-worker. Bringing a third person into the conflict first is seldom wise because often we are not looking for resolution—we are looking for validation. We hope our friend will agree with us and say the other person is wrong and we are right. This is called “triangulation” because we are creating a triangle when we bring someone else into the conflict. Especially when all in the triangle have relationships, it creates more conflict not less. When I tell my mother about the fight I had with my husband, what happens is I make up with my husband but my mother will still be upset. It is harder to just take it to the person we are having the conflict with, but no other two people can resolve it.

For me, I struggle with the conversation I have in my head. I discuss the matter with them in my head having both sides of the conversation—mine and theirs! When the conversation does not go well, I am still angry but then I never have the conversation out loud. You can see how this is faulty logic, right? The truth is we can never accurately predict how the conversation will go! We can pray and trust God. We can be open to having our minds changed. We can at least get our feelings out in the open. It is always best to talk it out.

Jesus urges us to settle matters with our adversary quickly. How do we do that? We must be tenderhearted, kind, and respectful. We must not only state how we feel and what we think, we must ask questions. We must be interested in how they feel, what they are thinking. We must be sympathetic and assume the best, not the worst. We must remain hopeful—not merely in them, but in the ability of God to changes hearts and work all things together for good.

Sometimes talking to the person we have the conflict with does not work and there are still concerns that need to be resolved. That’s when we need to bring another person in to help and talk to both parties. Bringing a wise trusted friend or counselor into the situation could add the light of Christ to it. What is said when two people are alone or at the kitchen table in front of only the children might sound different when said in front of someone else. A third person cannot resolve our conflict but they can ask questions we might not have considered, help us think through our feelings, and help us better understand each other. They may be able to come up with acceptable alternate resolutions we cannot see because we are embroiled in our emotions.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. – James 4:1-3

Sometimes we are angry because we are selfish. That’s what James is talking about. I want what I want and when you get in my way, well then I am angry and I am angry with YOU!

It is easy to see how this can sabotage a relationship. Sometimes we must choose between what we want and the health of our relationships. Jesus holds us to a high standard, especially in marriage. His law of love tells us we can’t just walk away when we can’t have our way. Indeed, we are called to submit in humility, to value the other’s needs as higher than our own.

In the light of James’ wisdom, let us closely examine what we want and clearly define it.
  1. What do we want exactly? Why do we want it?
  2. How does what we want align with God’s Word? Does it clearly agree? Is it a little bit shady?
  3. Does our desire reveal a character flaw? Pride? Greed? Envy? Ambition for fame or power? Comfort? Fear?
  4. Is our desire for someone else? Are we trying to control someone else’s life? Remember Jesus taught and invited but never controlled others even though He was always right!
  5. Could we be patient and trust maybe God has a better timing? Maybe God has an even better idea?
  6. Can we be open handed with our desire? Could we submit to the other person out of our love for them and our desire to be more like Jesus?
Our culture teaches us to look to our husbands, our children, our parents, our boss, our friends to provide us with love, acceptance, emotional support, financial assistance, etc. What if instead we saw ourselves as ministers to them? What if we chose to offer them unconditional love, kindness, encouragement, and respect? What we if we pause and remember we are instruments of Christ’s love in the world?

Jesus desires us to have peace. Peace with God, already settled by His blood, and also peace with each other. As we follow the Prince of Peace and trust in His truth and love, we will find peace.

Beloved Jesus, may everyone who hears these words be encouraged and strengthened to follow Your perfect teaching and find peace. May it begin with me.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Living Life Well

This year my Mom turned 90 years old. Certainly this is a gift from God. No amount of clean living and vitamin supplements can guarantee you to live to 90. But if you are going to live that long, Mom is showing us how it is done.

I remember many people warning me, “don’t get old” but not Mom. Oh she has some health struggles and aches and pains but she never lets them get in the way of real life. She is always going to meetings, luncheons and trips with the several clubs she belongs to. She recently joined the chorus. She is constantly redecorating her home. Recently while she was planning her next decorating project, Frank said to me, “When is she going to stop? She acts like she is going to live forever.”

And I replied, “So far, it’s working for her,” and it is.

A few years back we discussed when a woman should let her hair go gray, as both of us have hair as white as snow. I asked when she would let her hair go gray, at age 80? Or at age 90? At the time she said 90 but I guess not. 
Yes, I am inspired by Mom’s example. She is going to color her hair, apply her makeup, slip on her high heeled shoes, wear her red dress, attend every party and eat the dessert until Jesus calls her home.  

But even better than her outside beauty and vitality, is what is on the inside of Mom, in her heart. With Mom, we were always confidant of her love. It was never because of what I accomplished, whether I agreed with her or not, or if I was being naughty or nice. Mom loved me because that was her way. She loved us because love came naturally to her. She forgave us because that was what love demanded.

Our pastor recently talked about raising children and how we have them for only 18 years. Mom would disagree. Mom said once you are a mother, you are always a mother and never stop teaching, encouraging, giving to and serving your children. And that’s what Mom did for her children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren. Her one regret is not having more of them to lavish her love on.

Thank you, Mom for showing me how to live and love life to the fullest. May Jesus help me to be just like you when I grow up.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Babe, the God-Hero

Christmas Morning.

My life totally changed 31 years ago. I woke up that Christmas morning and the nurses brought me a beautiful baby with a red cap in a large Christmas stocking.

And then six months later, You came, Beloved and invited me into Your love. You change everything.

2000+ years ago You came in the dark of night, to a far-away land, hidden and yet in plain sight. Humble, poor and helpless, yet mighty and glorified.

A Babe lying in a manger.

But You would not stay hidden, You would come out of hiding to heal and teach and serve. You would die for us and be raised because death could not hold You. You brought peace and yet also a battle that still rages.

You are invisible again, except through us, we must proclaim You.

Christ is the Lord! Oh praise His Name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

We must not give up our hope in You to heal us, our family, our nation, our world. You will continue to build Your gathering of followers and the gates of hell will not prevail against us!

You will prevail, our Jesus, God-Hero, Prince of Peace!

Give us courage to continue to praise and proclaim Your Holy Name, Your Kingdom, Your Peace! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Asleep on the hay

Precious Baby Maya and Gio 
Away in a manger, no crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head
The stars in the sky look down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay

You left Glory to be lain in a pile of hay. You trusted a poor teenage girl and a young man to carry You, feed You, bathe You, care for You in every way.

You could have came to us in any way You wanted but Your choice was to become a poor helpless baby born before indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and cell phones.

You were God. More powerful than a hurricane. Wiser than anyone who ever lived. Holy and perfect in every way. Yet You laid it all down, left it behind and trusted Mary and Joseph, knowing they were frail and flawed.

You are more precious than the thousands of dollars I carried clutching in my pocketbook last week to pay cash for the car repair. More precious than the big party I fretted over as the last guests called requiring the altering of my carefully crafted seating plan. More precious than the millionaire houses that burnt in the recent raging fires. More precious even than the sweet sick friends I am praying for, although they are so very precious to me.

So precious, Holy God, Savior of the whole world and yet You trusted Your very life to them. You entrust Your gospel to us.

Why can’t we trust You then, dear Beloved? You showed us how to trust. Let me remember You did it first, You did it for us. You trusted us when You knew we could not be trusted.

Let me trust You because we know we can.

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

Saturday, November 03, 2018

The Road to Our Peace

Written by dear sister-in-the-Lord Ekko Luo, the day after our Liquid Church Group.
She often send us inspiring messages, this one was a must-keeper!

What is peace?

Racial, economical, political conflicts divide our nation. All sorts of illnesses, violence, prejudice, and loneliness plague our society. Unmet expectation, future uncertainty, money and health concerns, broken down communication, chores calling for attention occupy our homes and our minds.

What is peace in the midst of it?

I was driving home late last night from Women's Group. The gas tank indicator was very close to empty. But the dash board said I had another 75 miles on the tank. My house is 60 miles away. I didn’t want to stop at any gas station. First, it’s late, I was tired. Just wanted to make it home. Secondly, It’s my husband’s car. He is particular on what gas to put into the tank.

For the entire journey, I was split between believing the dash board, which showed I had enough gas to make it home; and the gas tank indicator, which was pointing to empty. I had no peace, right after attending a meeting about peace. I couldn’t concentrate on driving, couldn’t redeem my commute time mentally, and I started to let all kinds of thoughts getting into my mind.

Half way through, I stopped to get gas. Wow, that feeling of relief!! Knowing you have a full tank of gas to go anywhere within 300 miles!

The road to peace often has a fork,
will we choose His way or ours?
All of sudden I realized, that is PEACE. Even if my gas tank indicator and dash board both malfunction and warn me of no gas, but I know that I just had gas put in and I can go anywhere I want!

In our journey, if the gas in our tank is Jesus, then we have peace. And we can go places!

We can go anywhere we want, or we can go anywhere He wants!

And we know if we head to the place He wants us to go, He will continuously fill our tank and we will have peace and strength.

But, if we insist to go where we want to go, we may find ourselves in situations where we are out of gas: lack of peace, nothing works, everything irritates and upsets.

When we are filled with Jesus, His way, His truth, and His hope, we are muscled up to do good, to go places.

How do we get this peace? Charge it through prayers, His Word, godly gatherings, lots of practice on putting aside our fleshly self, and do and say what Jesus says it’s good, and lifting up our problems and our society’s problems to God, and trusting He will work all things together for the good of those who love God.

Praying for you and myself to welcome this November with increased peace and go on our life with full tank of Jesus.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 29:11)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

I am His

Jesus' creation is beautiful
and He came for me!!
He made all things
He upholds all things
He is heir to all things
All things express His glory.
He is superior to the angels
So much better than we can ever imagine
Jesus. He is God.

And Jesus, the God of the universe, King of kings and Lord of Lords
Came down
Became flesh
Humbled Himself to be a baby, born of a women
Took all of our sins
Past present and future
Onto His own body, His perfect body
He allowed Himself to be
Nailed to a tree
So that all justice could be upheld
And by His mercy we could be freed, sinless, adopted as children of God.

He came to save us but because love must be free, we get to choose.
Yes or no.

What will you say to Jesus?

Will you side with His party? Or will you turn away to side with your own?

As for me....
I am not republican or democrat.
I am not liberal or conservative.
I am not right or left.
I am not pro "this' or anti "that"

I am His. I belong to Jesus. He paid the price for me not to be a slave to anything or anyone, but for me to be free.

What He said is truth. His truth is the real and only truth.
What He commands us is good. Good for us, good for all.

I said YES,

What will you say?

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of his power. 

After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 

(Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Beans and Veggies and Open Hearts

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. (Daniel 1:8)

Daniel was far from home, taken captive by a powerful king, to be assimilated so Daniel could be of service in his kingdom. Daniel was a young man in a desperate situation with a choice to make. Would he hold onto the spiritual roots of his conquered county or would he conform to make the best of the evil nation that was his new home?

Daniel resolved but he did not rebel. He only spoke up and made a request. But the Lord gave him favor with his captors. And thus the name of the fast, the Daniel Fast. For 40 days, our church has called a fast.

As I reflect on Daniel's plight, aren't we presented with the same choice? As followers of Christ, we find ourselves in a nation filled with evil, children killing children, relative morality, selfish pleasures, pervasive drug use, divisive politics. Even social media platforms, where friends should meet, are contentious and filled with hateful dialog. How can we resolve to not defile ourselves? How can we not conform but be agents of change for good and God's glory? How can we help God's kingdom come to to this evil world that is our home?

And can we do that by eating beans and veggies for 40 days? Seriously?

I guess that is the point. We can't do it at all. Only God can. So we humble ourselves to fast and pray.

As I considered the purpose of my fast, my mind went immediately to my lack of self control. But You, my Beloved Jesus, want me to focus on Your heart and to depend on You for control. I want a stronger relationship with You, but You want to connect even more than I do. I want a spiritual renewal for my daughters and extended family. You, Lord, want a spiritual renewal for me. 

In our culture, we avoid hurt and even discomfort at all cost. As I prepare for the fast I feel Jesus saying to me: I died for you, an emotionally and physically excruciating death so that you would not have to die. Are you willing to turn away from what your sinful culture says is good and satisfying and life-giving so you can see that I am good, I am satisfying, and I am life-giving? Are you willing to be uncomfortable and even hurt in order to be closer to Me and to become the woman I always intended you to be?

Yes! Yes! And so I will be eating beans and veggies. I will pray. I will open my heart. Because God is good, Jesus is satisfying, the Holy Spirit is life-giving. As we allow God to change our hearts, one by one by one, He can change the world.

Are you with me?

#FAST40 Black Bean Soup

  • In a large pot, saute 2 chopped onions in olive oil. 
  • Add 2 chopped red peppers, 2 chopped stalks of celery and 4-5 peeled and cut carrots. 
  • Saute and stir often until the veggies start to wilt. 
  • Push veggies to the side and make a well in the middle of the pot, add more oil if needed.
  • Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic to the center of the pan. Cook about a minute then stir to blend. 
  • Season with Goya Adobo (or salt is fine), pepper, and cumin (a scant teaspoon)
  • Stir well.
  • Add 3 cans of black beans and their liquid plus a half can of water.
  • Add 8 oz tomato sauce.
  • Stir and cook about half hour.
  • Taste and correct the seasoning. 
  • Serve alone or with brown rice.