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.

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Gratitude Quiz

How grateful are you today? What are you thankful of? Or have you been forgetful of your gratitude?

As Christians, we know that we have so many things to be grateful of in our lives. We are who we are today, all by God’s unconditional grace and love. We have been washed, renewed, and saved by the blood of Christ, and we have been chosen as His children to live forever in His glorious kingdom.

And God loves those who keep a heart of gratitude. He blesses those who remember to thank Him throughout their lives. God had chosen one man out of all humanity who kept a heart of gratitude for Him, and from him He raised twelve tribes which ultimately become the nation of Israel. Throughout the Bible we learn the stories of men and women whose grateful hearts were loved and blessed by God.

But personally and honestly,  I find that being grateful all the time is rather a very difficult work. I often see myself being irritated by and complaining about the smallest bits of troubles and in many cases the situations get worse because of my lack of gratitude.  I knew that if I said thank you and smiled instead, everything would have had been okay.

How grateful are you? Perhaps taking this Gratitude Quiz developed by a group of psychologists might help you gain an insight to your gratitude life. Take a moment to answer the questions and see your gratitude score here: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/take_quiz/6

Most of us are familiar with the idea that gratitude brings miracles. It truly does so, because God blesses the grateful hearts. People even have made an official holiday to give thanks, which is ten days away from today! Let us all remember and restore our heart of gratitude.

I want to share Rev. Goshen Choi’s (who is my pastor) advice for restoring a heart of gratitude:

1) Repeatedly give thanks. Give thanks through praising and singing.

2) Count your blessings. Examine the thread of your life and see how God has blessed you. The blessings come in many different forms through people and events.

3) Express your gratitude. Show it! Act upon your gratitude. Give offering to God to express your heart of thankfulness for everything He has been doing for you. 

Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! -Ephesians 5:19-20

 

K.P.

I Put my Life Your Hands because I Trust You

In my younger years of youthful ambition or rather, greed, I looked upon the Bible character of Isaac and felt only questions and frustration. I’ve always only made a personal liking to the characters who at the end of their journey made an evident victory over their evildoers or at least were pronounced and expressive intellectuals who in various periods of their lives were able to battle and win in the name of Jesus Christ. Someone like Paul the Apostle.

But Isaac? Who was he but a son who willingly and quietly laid on an altar of firewood so that he may be made a sacrifice to the Lord? Besides the story of complete obedience shown so clearly on that altar, what else do people remember him for?

Perhaps some of you will remember the story of Isaac successfully digging wells everywhere he went, only for those wells to be stolen by nomads or villagers in that area.

Some of you may also remember that Isaac too, like his father Abraham, told Pharaoh that his wife was his sister so that he may be saved. Ah, and perhaps also the story of how Isaac married the woman chosen by his father’s servant!

But besides these few, his story, though unquestionably a major part, never quite seemed anything like the elaborate and intense narrative of the other more “vivid” characters in the Bible.

It was only until my arms were completely chained and my feet shackled that I remembered the story of Isaac. My chains were already choking my neck, and the pain was unbearable. Life or death, it was. Nothing in between. All doors in my life seemed closed shut. Darkness enveloped my life and a form like death seeped into my bones.

Yet, like a sudden gust of wind, the story of Isaac knocked a door in my tight-closed chest. It was as if a dust-covered book suddenly came to life and before me was a wisdom I was not, until now, ready to learn.

Was I kneeling before the Lord, praying like Jesus did before the Cross, that God’s will be done? If I truly say I believe in the Lord, in Jesus Christ, have I submitted completely and have retained not even a little, not even an ounce of myself? Or have I conceitedly applied the Almighty God to the schemes of my desires instead of submitting to His great and Good will?

And therefore, what was repentance all along if I had only asked God for grace for the chance to sin again? Have I  asked for heaven when within me I retained that little bit of hell?

Then, I remembered the story of Isaac, that righteous humility to leave everything up to God. Like a lamb, he quietly followed the path to his cross, without once putting forth his greed for life on earth. To every land he invested his work and discovered prosperity (the wells), it was stolen by thieves who steal the work of others and make it their own. And like a mute, he did not fight back. He was able to let go of “possession”, made his by his work and sweat. He did not question God and ask, “God, why give me the opportunity to find, to dig, to build, to invest my work only to take it away from me?” Tell me, what brave and faithful person can let go of something they treasure so much? A well, water, signifies a source of life. If I were to be cut off from my source of life today, the source that feeds me day to day and what I believe I need in my life, could I faithfully let go of it when God takes it away and believe that God has prepared a new way for me?

I stopped and looked at my hands, holding on to the chains and shackles of my greed. My desires. My wants. My belief that I knew what was best for me. I repented for the obvious sins I sinned, not knowing the underlying sin of trying to play God in my own life.

I ask you today, do you really trust In God that He has truly prepared a better way for you? Even if that path is not necessarily the path of your dreams and desires? Can you let go of things you think you need in life when God says to, believing that He has prepared a better way? Or will you be like the rich man that asks Jesus, “what can I do to receive salvation” and walks away from the truth when Jesus says:

“go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven:and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

To give up the self and to follow Jesus… this was what Isaac had done. C.S. Lewis says:

“The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” Mere Christianity

Now, I ask myself, who was the wiser man? The one who constantly battled with the Lord to finally submit to His will? The man who began as a persecutor of believers and than was struck blind so that he may learn of the true God?

They are all wiser than anyone can judge, but it is now I understand Isaac a little bit more and why God was pleased in him.

The story of Isaac does not show much drama, and in his complete submissiveness to the Lord, his life seemed to me all too boring to make any human connection to. Of course I understood the teachings and the theological importance his story had to my faith. But in developing any further reason to declare I wanted to be more like Isaac, it was not so.

But how blind I was! In my struggles I have come to face again a fraction of the whole Truth that even in its small comparison to the Whole, is ever so monumental. And how blind I was because all along, the Truth was right there. Never moved. Never changed.

Let me leave this post with a quote by C.S. Lewis about what it means to truly trust God:

“…handing everything over to Christ does not, of course, mean that you stop trying. To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already.” – Mere Christianity

May we all trust in God.

Do you love Me?

As Christians we always know and say that we love God. We confess our love to Him through words and actions– we go to church, read Bible, listen to sermons, give charities in His name, and pray–all as ways of expressing our love and devotion for Christ. We say we want to devote our life to glorify God because we love Him. And many of us, especially young Christians, are inspired to become success in the secular world because we are told to become the Light and the Salt of the world. So we are driven to become the best in our work fields.

Simon Peter, a disciple of Christ, was probably just like us– always confessing his love for Jesus. Peter even left his wife and children to do the work of Christ. But one day Christ approached  Peter and challenged his love. He asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter answered that he did and that Christ knew of it. Then Jesus told him to “feed My lambs.”

Here, I found it to be strange that Christ had asked Peter to feed His lambs when Peter was doing His work all along. Soon for a second time, Jesus asked  Peter again if he loved Him. Peter repeated the answer that he loved Christ and that He knew of it. Jesus again replied, “tend My sheep”. 

When Jesus again asked Peter if he loved Him for the third time, Peter is hurt because Jesus had asked and doubted his love for Him three times. Grieved, Peter told Christ that He knew all things and that He knew his genuine love for Him. Christ then told Peter to “feed My sheep.” Jesus indeed knows that Peter loves Him with all of his heart. What is Jesus really trying to tell Peter here?

In the following verse, Jesus reminded Peter of his past and said that when he was younger, he had the control of his life and lived by his own will. But when he is old, he would have to do things he would not wish to do and be carried to places where he would not wish to go. Jesus finally told Peter to “follow Me.” The question here is for us: “Can you still follow Him?”

I often mistake loving Christ with loving the glorious promise that’s sealed within believing in Him. We often ask God to give us a glorious life so that we can glorify Him. I have never asked Him to give me a difficult life so I can glorify Him. But what Jesus tells us through the above Scripture is different; loving Him would require us to walk the path that we often wish not to go.

Can we still love Him? Can we still follow Him?  Will you stop feeding and tending your own dreams and wishes, and start feeding and tending His sheep? Will you give up the control of your life and really obey and live by His will?

Jesus asks us again today, “Do you love Me?”

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What is your answer?

Scripture: John 21:15-19 

K.P

*A daily reflection from Rev. Goshen Choi’s sermon 9/22/2013

Life’s Decisions

Life is all about decisions. We make countless and constant decisions and we live the consequences of our choices. This is so because God gave us the free will and left it for us to decide what to do with our lives. So we make decisions all the time, small and big ones, which eventually shape and mold the way we are.

Hence we are anxious and cautious when it comes to decision makings. ‘What if I choose the wrong way?’ ‘Am I going to regret this?’ ‘I wish I can foresee the future!’ Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” reflects our troubledness when we face a crossroad and  cannot see what’s ahead of both roads.

Few years ago, I had an experience that made me regret a decision I’ve made in the past and I was very disappointed and frustrated with myself. I called my friend and shared my thoughts. She consoled me but told me not to think like so. She said, “In everything, there is God’s will. You might think you haven’t done your best and so things didn’t turn out the way you’ve expected. But the will of God works bigger than your own will. God presides over everything we do and we need to find what the God’s way is in our lives.”

TAC emphasizes living a “Theo-centric” life. This means we place God in the center of our lives and do everything in His way rather than our own ways. Instead of following our own thoughts and judgments, we are to find God’s way and pursue what He wants us to do to glorify His name.

Only yesterday, I was on a highway returning home from a summer camp with young children. We were behind schedule about thirty minutes and we were rushing to get down in time. It was then we came across a huge car accident. The accident was bad and there were flipped cars with broken windows and blood everywhere. I had goosebumps all over me because the accident seemed like it happened just a while ago and the police were arriving and surveying the site. What if we were on schedule thirty minutes ago and was passing the place with those cars? I was again reminded of God’s providence in life.

How are we to search and find God’s way in our lives? Gideon the warrior in Bible (Judges 6) shows us a way to find God’s will. He prayed to God and asked Him repeatedly for His signs. He asked God to dampen a fleece but leave the ground around it dry and God answered him. He then asked God to dampen the ground but leave the fleece dry and God answered him again. This shows Gideon was very cautious and he relied completely on God before making a decision.

God has planned the entire universe and He has His plans for each one of His creations. If we disregard our own wills and ask for His will, then God will show us His plans for our lives. When we abide by His will, we can actually see the end of the road through faith. Therefore, let us not fear the unknown consequence of our decisions anymore. Instead, let us pray and find God’s will in every decision we are to make.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” -Proverbs 3:5-6

-K.P

Living the Christian Life

As Christians living in a secular world, we are very much familiar with words like “self-control”, “abstinence”, “temperance”, “restriction” and so on. The Bible strictly tells us certain things that we should not do and these things become sensitive issues in our contemporary world and we even see some people in the Christianity community saying ‘it’s alright to do them’ and easing the boundaries.

I’m not trying to raise a criticism or make a statement against a specific issue here. But I want us as Christians to make some thoughtful reflection about what it really means for us, individuals, to live as Christians and live the Christian life.

In a recent conversation with TACP, I had a chance to really think about what it really means to live as a Christian. Someone in the group brought up an issue of Christians and alcohol and mentioned that she was offered a drink by a friend who was also a church-goer. She said she wasn’t shocked by the offer since she knew that some Christians do drink, and she kindly declined the offer. But this incident made her reflect on what it is to live a Christian life and she wanted to hear some thoughts.

With a small anecdote, TACP shared her thoughts which left a lingering impression on me. She said that especially for young Christians, it is harder to live by principles since there are many factors that challenge our adherence to them. This is true especially when we try to climb up social ladders; we see that many professional and social events cater alcohol as their main drinks.

But, she said, if you have strong Christian principles and values and you know if something is wrong, then stand strong to your beliefs. It isn’t about forcing yourself to follow the rules without being persuaded, she said, but to really build a Christian value system, knowing in your heart that Word of God is the truth, and live by it.

Again, I am not trying to raise an issue with alcohol here. What I want to say is that when we have strong values, we must not fear to stand up for them. Christians have values that come from following Christ and we should not be molded by the ways of the world.

As a follow up, I want to share this heart-touching and powerful sermon by Reverend Billy Graham, delivered in NYC in 1957. The title of the sermon is “How to live the Christian Life” and this is a 35 mins speech, but I hope you give yourself a spare time to watch the whole clip and let a change take place in your life.

As a guideline perhaps, I will leave a condensed outline of the speech. But this won’t do the job of watching the sermon yourself and becoming inspired. I pray you take up the blessing of living a Christian life.

“How to live the Christian Life” by Billy Graham, 1957 New York Crusade

What is a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ? A Christian is a person who had a personal encounter with the Christ and who had made a decision to accept Christ as the LORD of his/her life.

1) A Christian has made a choice to accept Jesus as the Lord in the heart. By the act of will, one must say, “Yes, I will receive Christ.”

2) A change must take place in a Christian; a change in one’s attitude towards God and towards his/her neighbors. If there’s no change, no fruit in your life, then you need to doubt if you have really received Christ.

3) A christian has accepted a challenge, a challenge of Christ.

Then how to live the Christian life?  Just believing and loving is not enough. You have to say “I will.” Like a marriage, it is only valid if I say “I do” by the act of my will. But this is not all. This is just a beginning, as a marriage is a work. I need to mature and to mature, I need to learn and live by the following five principles of the Christian life.

1) Pray: We need to spend definite time and space to pray. Prayer is a work, not something that we only do when we feel like it, but it is an appointment, an interview with God.

2) Read the Bible: Word of God is the food of our souls. We spend a lot of time feeding our bodies but none for our souls when it is our souls that live on after our bodies die? Read the Bible, for God has a message for you every time you open the Bible. Read the Bible with reverence, expectancy, dependence, and adequate time.

3) Have a disciplined life: Christian life takes discipline, renunciation, and sometimes hardship. Bible uses words like “fight”, “wrestle”, “run”, “work”, “suffer”, “resist”, “endure”, “agonize”, “put to death”… Discipline your mind/thoughts, your tongue, and your bodies.

4) Go to church: Christian fellowship is not optional but it is essential. We have the Great Church, which is the body of Christ, but it has local branches all over (Presbyterian, Methodist, Evangelical, Lutheran, Baptist, so on).  God commanded it and you cannot live a victorious Christian life and have a peace and joy in your heart without faithfulness in your church. Stand with your church.

 5) Witness for Christ: You are to witness for Christ by the way you live. Be a model for people. Let Christ live in you and radiate out through you. When people ask ‘what’s your secret?’, tell them ‘It’s Jesus Christ!’  Witness Jesus in everything you do; work for the glory of God. We are peculiar people, set apart to be Christ’s witness. Become a salt and light in your community. Let the people know where you stand for Christ.

published by K.P.