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)

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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.

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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.