Time may Heal, but Does it Undo a Wrong?

CSLEWIS

As we come into Passion Week, we face the poignant truth of Christ’s crucifixion and our salvation. Facing this truth at times can be bewildering for the people who are ignorant of their sins or wish to spend Lent and Passion Week like they always do, for who likes facing their weaknesses? It is much easier closing our eyes on our wrongdoings than having to confess them, repent, fix, and keep the promises we have made to God. It is always easier to justify our sins, and it does feel better to grow a thick-skin to that stomach-aching feeling of guilt and remorse.

I can only imagine how God must feel when we refuse to face our sins and repent. I imagine it through a human experience when one is hurt and the one who inflicts pain refuses to acknowledge what they have done. Some inflictors try to ignore the problem as long as they can, hoping time would solve it some way or the other.

But the ones who’ve been hurt know– time can heal the wounds, but it cannot undo a wrong. If there is such a thing as undoing a mistake, it is by doing everything to make up for that mistake. By continuing to rebuild trust and walking the process of regaining hope with that person, is there a chance of putting back broken pieces together.

Yet, so often than not, do people hope that time will cancel their wrongs- as if hoping the broken pieces magically come together was the same thing as getting the glue, sitting down, and trying to get it together.

There is also another usual response from the troublemakers. “It has already happened. What am I supposed to do?”

Such a childish response, I have to say. At least children put on a guilty face.

What happened, happened. But what comes after makes a big difference. Apologizing and acknowledging a wrong is a start. Hopefully, the apologizing stems from a deeper conscience called guilt. Guilt recognizes that the pain inflicted on others, matters. In another words, “they” matter, not just “me”. That’s a big step. Then, what can help the healing process is fixing up. You cannot fix what has happened, but you can prevent the same mistake from happening twice. A house can be destroyed by water, but when it is rebuilt keeping in mind the weakness it had before, it can be made to withstand the next storm around.

We are no divine beings, but we can imagine how God must feel at our brazen attitude towards our sins. C.S. Lewis, that truly wise man, once said: “We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin.”

Time does not cancel our sins. It will not undo what we have already done. It will not help God forget our shame, nor will it come to pass when God somehow ignorantly finds favor in His eyes. I imagine God sitting on His throne, looking down at each of us, His sight piercing right through our stubborn brick souls. God is a loving God, and He is waiting to forgive us- but do we seek it?

Though man has his whole lifetime to learn how to forgive, God forgives at the blink of an eye. He gives without remembering our past. Though between a man and a man, it requires a constant and proving to rebuild trust- between God and man, it is a different story.

The Bible teaches us about God’s grace, that ultimate grace that no man can give.

  • Isaiah 43:25-26 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.  Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence.

  • Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

  • Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

This Lent season, why not take time to reflect yourself through the Bible? Though man cannot make us anew, nor self nor any other worldly teaching, the Lord can and will. He will wipe our sins like snow, and He will remember them no more. The only truly healing comes through repentance, and only by rebuilding your relationship with God can you find true peace in your life.

Talent: nature or nurture?

We tend to admire geniuses–people who are so different and so perfect in their fields. We learned from the biographies of those people that they were so different since they were really young. For example, Mozart showed his talents when he was only three years old and became an instant master performer at age three and a brilliant composer at age five. Pablo Picasso was also a child prodigy–at age of thirteen, his teacher, Ruiz felt that Picasso had already surpassed him and vowed to give up painting.

The debate on genius and prodigy (is it nature or is it nurture) has been the controversial topic amongst the scholars. For example, Dean Keith Simonton, a psychology professor at University of California, discusses in his book, Genius 101: Creators, Leaders, and Prodigies, that “geniuses are the result of both good gene and good surroundings.” On the other hand, the pop-sociologist, Malcom Galdwell addressed in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, that dedication and practice are the most important determinant of success (TIME’s 2009 article:“Is Genius Born or Can It Be Learned?). Simonton argues that gene play an important role because personality traits also matter. Geniuses tend to be open-minded, introverted, driven, and ambitious. He argues that these traits are partially inherited and also partially shaped by environment.

So…what does the bible say about the genius? We notice from the Bible that, we are all given talent. We are all born naturally talented. From the Parable of Talent (Matthew 25:14-30), a master, before going on a journey, he gives his servants his property. “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” However, the servants were given different talents:

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” (Romen 12:6)

God has given us the talent according to the grace given and to our abilities. You might complain that it is not fair to be given different amount of talent. However, “the amount” is not important here. “He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.” (Matthew 25:16-17). Both men with five talents and two talents had worked with the given talent and made profits, and they both were acknowledged by their master:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21).

However, the man with one talent, complaining that it does not amount to his peers’,  dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Then, the master took the man’s talent and gave it to the man with five talents.

This parable teaches us that we are given different talents. We are all born naturally talented–God has given us the talent.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” (Peter 4:10).

Therefore, the talents were given to glorify God and serve our neighbors. As we learn from the servants with five and two talents, we need to work on what we have given. Gladwell, the author of Outliers: Story of Success, mentioned about the 10,000 hours rule and showed that practice is the thing you do that makes you good. This reminds us of the servant with one talent–the given talent can be taken away, if you just hold it and not work on it. That talent was given to the servant with five talents.

References:

1) http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1879593,00.html

2) http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2013/11/01/is-talent-something-you-are-born-with-or-can-it-be-taught/

Where does the True Gold lie?

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Were you an avid watcher of the Sochi Olympics? If so, what were your thoughts about the games? Did you find this year’s Winter Olympics the best and most exciting thus far? I personally wasn’t an avid viewer of this year’s Olympics, but I did pitch in to some of the games and rooted strongly for the teams I supported. Otherwise, the only contact I had with the Sochi Olympics was through scrolling down my social media platforms and reading the titles of articles popping up on my newsfeed.

The final closing of the Sochi Olympics ended with the thundering spectacle of Russia’s glorious history. It boasted its national pride. It celebrated the champions, and congratulated the participants in a final boom. Furthermore, with the closing of the ceremony, the game has left athletes with either gold, silver, bronze, or other less precious medals. That also means that it has closed its curtains with fans either praising their country’s athletes and teams, or patting their players on the back and thanking them for their great sportsmanship.

Whatever the case, I think there is no better way to understand the value of the gold medal as demonstrated through the Olympics. For many of us, success or at least the sound of success (the one that sounds like a boom of explosion, with firecrackers bursting in the night sky, sparkling show lights, and the sound of cheers… I would imagine) comes in rather an ironic silence. It may come like a thief, silently and without being seen or heard, perhaps when you are busy maintaining that successful status. Yet, in an arena resembling a coliseum of people cheering and hooting for players who have waited and trained diligently for four years, success is visible and it is on the spot.

It’s going to be hard to argue that gold doesn’t matter. Most athletes that participate in the Olympics are there to win gold, even if they know they won’t be the ones going home with that medal hanging on their neck. But when these athletes are training, they envision that moment of standing on the highest podium, smiling and making their country proud.

But there is something interesting when each game ends. When their country’s team does not win, but their players have demonstrated exceptional sportsmanship and hard work, the often said words are: “It’s not about the Gold.”

But, does gold matter?

It probably does, doesn’t it. If it’s not about the gold, then what is all the hard work about? If the dream you envision, the one that was about that shining gold around your neck, doesn’t come true, was that a dream not worth having dreamt in the first place?

But, is it all about the gold?

The answer is no.

No, because even though gold does matter, it isn’t everything. No, because even if one’s goal was to achieve that gold medal, they have earned something exquisitely profound and invaluable that a gold medal would not have given. No, because even if the winners say that the world only remembers the ones that win the gold, people are moved by those who have a golden heart and shine because of their genuine hard work and a battle won against their limits.

Apply that gold medal to the silent victory in our everyday lives, among the people who don’t have the arena to hear the applause that they deserve. What does it mean to be the first and the best at what you do? And more importantly, how does the Bible teach us to understand success. Does it only prize the first and the best in class?

The Bible defines success in many ways, but one way it doesn’t is: one big bang with explosions in the air and a thrilling round of applause.

Rather, much like the response of many people all over the world who congratulated the Olympic players for their participation, hard work, and genuine sportsmanship, the Bible too resonates a message similar: “It’s not about the Gold”. There is something more, something more valuable.

It is the good well-played game, the fair play, the hard work and the payoff of it all. It is the thanking of the people who believed in the players who at times wanted to give up. It is the competing against the odds, playing in advantageous and even in disadvantageous situations. It is creating, for the next generation, a story of a person who had to beat all odds to make it to where they have. It is the lesson of challenging and trusting.

Though we don’t have every four years to test how much we have come, or the chance to visibly see and feel a glimpse of the so-called success, we go through a similar journey everyday. How much are we participating in this life? How fair are our fruits of success? Have we earned them with honesty and hard work? Did we put our complete trust in God with all that we do, so that even through our success and failure, we never forget why we do what we do? And have we remained steady in our faith, not losing hope in God every time we stumble on an obstacle?

Sochi is over, but not our game of life. Our gold medal lies not in the worldly signs of success but further:
“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:32-33)

Negative Feedback: How are you at self-control?

Negative Feedback, or sometimes called Negative Feedback Loop (NFL), occurs when the final result of a system affects the operation of the process itself in a way that it reduces the overall change in the system.

Negative feedback is a self-regulating process, adjusting the parts of a system to maintain stability of the whole system. Regardless of the direction of the external force, negative feedback occurs in the opposite way to reduce the effect of fluctuations. The most important aspect of any negative feedback loop is that the loop reacts to counter-balance, rather than reinforce, any changes coming in from the ambient environment.

Negative feedback system is really common phenomenon in our daily lives. For instance, many public policies, such as counter-inflationary action of Fed Reserve, are designed to be homeostatic in that they system activate automatically in response to changes in the condition they are supposed to regulate.

self_control

The importance of this self-control process is emphasized in many verses in the Bible. The fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 stands out as characteristics all Christians must have. The Bible tells us that self-control is something can be taught, learned, acquired and practiced.

Peter urged the Christians in Asia to exercise self-control in addition to their faith (2 Peter 1:6). It is important to keep in mind that we, Christians, must grow in wisdom to the point that we can apply God’s words to the various situations we face daily; we acquire this self-control as we become more and more familiar with God’s words.

How are you at self-control? Are there things in your life that need immediate improvement?

Don’t just let the things go, nor merely say you wish you could change some time later in your life. Remember, as mentioned several times in the Bible, it is self-control that enables us to have other aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit to our lives. Jesus exemplified in His life and Paul strongly encourages us to exercise in ours throughout the Bible. If we are to be made in God’s image, we will yield to God in this matter to glorify Him with our temperance in all things and rigid resistance to sin.

– T.S.

How do you become creative?

Creativity is an essential ability to succeed in life. Many people take training programs,read books, or travel to new places to gain creative ideas. People like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim-the founders of Youtube-  are the icons of inspiration because their outside-the-box ideas have literally changed and shaped the world. And there are yet so many people whose innovative thinking are effecting and leading today’s society.

So how can we as Christians, who are created after the image of God, become creative? If we are made in the likeness of the Creator who had planned out and constructed the whole universe, then aren’t we to be creative after His creativeness? Where do we turn to find the creative ideas?

TAC defines creativity as “discovery of the creation of God”. In Genesis chapters 1-3, we find that Man is created in the likeness of God, and God is the Creator of all things. This means that every single invention ever made in the past, being made in the present time, or to be made in the future, are all in fact the works of God’s creation and we are just discovering what has already been created by Him in the beginning of time. And TAC tells us to turn to the Bible, the Word of God, to seek creativity.

Jesus and many other biblical figures were always creative and did things that were extraordinary and different. Jesus performed so many miracles and did things that no one else would ever do, such as submitting to crucifixion without a sin. And every person of faith in the Bible did something extraordinary and new, while following God’s commands; Moses, David, Joseph, Jacob, Peter, to name a few.

Through the Bible, God gives us innumerable role models and examples to follow. And when we follow them, we gain pieces of wisdom that God has in store for us, including His creativity.

When we read the Bible, we can actually see the sources of inspiration and ideas for some of the inventions that people have made. Take technology for an instance. Who says computers are wholly new inventions of the twenty century? Computers, tablets, and smartphones are all constructed in the likeness of the Book of Life which visualizes each person’s life on earth. Or the parable of the talents shows the fundamental principle of how talents (abilities, wealth, etc) are multiplied or destructed.

The Bible is the word of God who has created the universe and the book indeed contains all things. I am in no way encouraging anyone to use the Bible as a means to merely gain ideas for personal and secular success. Bible is the book of Truth and it contains all wisdom. It tells us the right way to do in everything.

God tells us to cherish and read the Bible all the time in Deuteronomy 11. When we live by His words and keep studying the Words, we will learn of God’s wisdom and creativity.

God has created us after His image and has granted us His blessings to multiply, prosper, and dominate the world. Read the Bible to gain knowledge and wisdom about the world. When we keep His Words and live by them, then God will open our eyes and allow us to see the ways of His work.

 “But your eyes have seen all the great acts of the Lord which he did.” -Deuteronomy 11:7

K.P.

Not by Head but by Knees

In the internet, it is common to see people posting in their blogs things like “weight-loss project D-100,” or “10 self-help books that forever changed my life.” Apparently, people in all parts of the world are constantly striving to change their lives for the better, whether that change is physical or psychological. They report their improvements live via the web, and share their knowledge (or “wisdom”, or “know-how”) with the people all around world, who themselves are scavenging for “the insiders’ knowledge” to accumulate the maximum number of information they need to maximize their chances of success in an ever-demanding society. Everyone is restless. They are ever-more keen in their endeavors to make themselves a better person, to have better career, to accumulate greater wealth, and ultimately, to achieve lasting happiness. They want to be the superman, the over-achievers, so that they may add another zero in their salary. They wake up at 5 AM to jog in early January; they stay up until 4 AM to finish the second draft of their senior thesis; they embrace their famished stomach and look away from the clock that points to 8PM. They train their mind and body, happily embracing their hardships for the faint light at the end of a tunnel that seems to be stretched ad infinitum.

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Certainly, we are in the favor of God by not letting ourselves be idle. For, in Thessalonians 3:10 it says:

“…the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat…”

Or, in Philippiians 3:14:

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Jesus Christ.”

However, in the next chapter of the book (Philippians 4:13), it says:

“I can do all this through Him Who gives me strength.”

We all want to better ourselves by our own will, our own effort, our own strength. But, have we ever seeked God’s compassion? Have we ever dropped ourselves so low in front of Him that he may pity us and raise us back? Have we ever admitted our weaknesses and wrongs in front of Him that He may sympathize with us and grant us the strength we need?

Are we that dignified?

I certainly thought so for a while, until I received this verse from the Bible in the new year:

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

It is strange, for in words we readily admit our lack of abilities yet in action we depend on that alone.

And thus, let us strive to achieve not by our head but by our knees.

A.K.

Inside Every Block of Stone

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
― Mark Twain

photo (19)Wise words from Mr. Twain. There is no advantage over the ones who don’t have if the ones who do, do not make some use of what they have. I doubt there is a single person in this world who was born without a single gift to make themselves useful, not only for their own lives but for others. There is that common argument lazy students often give: “I’m not stupid. I’m probably smarter than all of you in this class, but the only reason why I’m failing is because I don’t try. Not because I’m stupid.” Wise words for a young child, but oh so wrong in several ways!

What probably frustrates a teacher more than anything isn’t the student who slowly but cautiously applies himself to the challenges of studying, but the student who pipes up about his intelligence yet shows no application of that so-called intelligence. It is also a trait that aggravates so many of our parents when a child refuses to work up to his capabilities.

There are no guarantees that any two people are built the same way: genetically, without a doubt, but also in factors of intelligence, personality, and capability. Yet what separates the doer from the observer is that one lives his life, and the other watches the doer living. The observer develops a sharp-tongue, a critiquing mind that parses the acts of the doer into multiple categories of good and bad. Yet, that is only a skill that has developed from spending time observing, comparing, and judging lives from the third person. Not to say we don’t need observers who put into study a comparative module of good and bad, but speaking solely of those who lay back and create nothing helpful or useful neither to themselves or those who they critique.

Yet, the doer, though slow in tongue he may be, lives his life. He changes, he develops, and he creates extensions of life by the works of his hands and mind.

In the Book of Isaiah, chapter 64, verse 8: “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand”. This confession promises not only that we leave it up to our Father to shape us, but furthermore, that we are shapeable. Inside every block of stone, there is masterpiece. Likewise, by the hands of our LORD, we can be made like valuable. We can be made into a new creation from the clay that we are.

It is a complete transformation. We have been made new.

And like our Father, have we worked, have we molded anything into something valuable? Meaningful? We may not have all received the same amounts and qualities of talents and skills, but have we expressed our gratitude for what we have by working and molding what we have into something better?

In summary, first let us entrust God with our lives. There is no door God cannot open, and there is no open door God cannot close. If God chooses not to use your talents, then no effort or work invested into your talents will prosper into anything you hoped for. However, as long as you stand righteous before God and entrust Him, discover what God has given you. There may not be a hundred, fifty, or even ten. But take whatever you have and constantly work on it. Farm it, water it, and nurture it with prayer.

Just as you are molded by Christ, mold what you been given for Christ today.