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.

What is Your Action?

Have you taken any high school-level science courses before? If you have done so, then you may have heard about Isaac Newton—the most influential figures of all time, especially in many fields of science. Newton’s most famous achievements include the laws of motion, universal gravitation, and calculus.

In physics, classical mechanics, sometimes also called as Newtonian physics, is concerned with the motion of bodies under the action of a system of forces. Of Newton’s achievements, the study of motion of bodies becomes one of the largest subjects in science. The law of motion proposed by Newton in his outstanding work Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica are comprised of three parts:

  • Law I: When viewed in an inertial reference frame, an object either is at rest or moves at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force (Law of Inertia).
  • Law II: The acceleration of a body is directly proportional to, and in the same direction as, the net force acting on the body, and inversely proportional to its mass (F = ma).
  • Law III: When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body (F1 = – F2).

Among the above three laws of motion, we should give a careful attention to the third law, which is well-known as the law of action reaction. It says when an object exerts a force to another object, then the latter exerts the force that is equal in magnitude but opposite in direction. We can generalize this law: To every action, there is always a consequence following it.

If one’s action is to stand on the ground, the ground exerts the force that is equal in magnitude, but opposite in direction. The heavier you are, the greater force is exerted by the ground to the person. This cause and effect relationship is not only found in our daily lives, but in the Bible through the parables of Jesus Christ. Because Newton’s law of action reaction is considered as a universal law in science, this can be applied to anywhere—to even our daily lives and spiritual lives. Every action we perform leads to something in our lives.

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Jesus tells His disciples about the story of seed to emphasize the importance of having a good mind. He said: “one seed fell by the road…[…]…some seed fell on rocky gound…[…]…some other seed fell among thorny weeds…[…]…some other seed fell on good ground where it grew and produced a crop” (Matthew 13:1-9). At the end, He said “Let those with ears use them and listen.”

The seed that Jesus talks in the Bible is the Words of God while the places where the seeds are planted are our minds. The Bible explains the people with a good mind as those of who have love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the mind sets that are not innately born with, but can be educated through the power of Holy Spirit. If we want to have a desired consequences (reactions) in our lives, then the proper actions should be done on our part. If we say we truly love Jesus, then we have to make sacrifices.

Try to make time out of your busy schedules to worship God. Try to put efforts for studying God’s words. Try to speak with God through the prayer. And, you will be able to listen for God’s Spirit, as Jesus asked said in the Bible. The key to success is putting your efforts. For every action, there is a reaction following it. Your effort will lead to your success in your spiritual life!

– T.S.

The Silent God.

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In the initial steps of receiving Christ into one’s life, the most fundamental dilemma is the question of prayer. “If God does exist and He is Almighty, then He can surely answer everything I ask for couldn’t He?” This prayer stems from the most innocent hearts filled with desperation. Then whenever that deep wishful prayer isn’t answered, it leads to the next step in confusion. “If God has the power to answer all prayers, then why didn’t He answer mine? Did I not wish hard enough? Did I not express my heart truly and fully to Him?”

A spiritually young heart will kneel and pray again and again, asking for that one key that will open all doors. When the prayer is still not answered, other bubbles of questions arise: “Is God even there? Perhaps I am nothing to Him?”

The Silent God.

As we learn more and more about God, we begin to face the Silent God; the One who remains calm and passive to the tumultuous events in our lives. Where is God when I need Him most? Where was the Active God who spoke to Abraham, telling him where to go? Where was this active God who held up the moon and sun so that the Israelites could win their battle? Where was this active God who showed His people both His wrath and love with all the signs of the world?

Say we learn somewhere along our spiritual journey that all we do must lead to God’s glory. So you begin to pray not in just a wishful begging, but with a purpose. You promise God that all your success is for His glory, and that if this one key was to be given, all the doors that would thereby open would be His and for Him only.

Even after that, you may find yourself facing a hard locked door. What then? You begin to bargain with God, giving more and taking away bit by bit what you asked for. When you parse away enough of what you are asking for, you then realize this isn’t really praying at all.

How many of us have gone through these stages? I sure have, and still am. The only thing is that now, I have come to know the Silent God a little better, only just a little, and this has made all the difference in my spiritual life.

C.S. Lewis has once said:

“There is no question whether an event has happened because of your prayer. When the event you prayed for occurs your prayer has always contributed to it. When the opposite event occurs your prayer has never been ignored; it has been considered and refused, for your ultimate good and the good of the whole universe.”

It took one thing to understand what praying really meant, and why certain prayers are never answered. What it took was faith. Faith is the belief that God is Almighty. He is not Almighty because He answers your prayers and not because He has all the keys to unlock the doors on heaven and earth. His omnipotence is not conditional on what He can do with his omnipotence. It is because He can that He can also choose not to, and when you have the faith to know that God is good, then you can also believe that when God can but chooses not to, there is a divine reason for it; a reason that is good in His eyes.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says,

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The Silent God is not a passive God. While we sleep, He is at work. Though God works in mysterious ways we cannot understand, it is by faith alone we are saved, not just on the large scale of salvation but from all our day to day concerns and frustrations in life.

Wherever God leads you, remember that He will raise you up and lead you to the door of righteousness. That door you are knocking on may not be the door God wants you to walk through, and it may be for several reasons but whatever that divine reason is, have the faith to let go if it isn’t right, trust God, and keep walking. Praying is not just about telling God what you want, but also about listening to what He thinks of your prayers. Listen to His small voice, and have faith to lead a life of righteousness.

Remember, God is good.

The importance of Habit

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People tend to overlook the importance of habit when it comes to pursuing activities; the notion of habit is associated with thoughtless mechanism and as a result, insincerity. What exactly is habit, then? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, habit is a usual way of behaving; something that a person does often in a regular and repeated wayAttempting any sort of activities—from writing to playing musical instruments—requires reinforcement to get better, and living a life of faith is really not much different. When people think about praying, they commonly think that praying is only necessary when you need something, or simply want something. But that is a very elementary way of thinking about God, one that reduces the role of God to a mere genie in a lamp. God wants us to pray to Him regardless of whether we are happy or sad; whether we want something or are simply grateful for all that he has given us.

Just look at the Bible. You’ll see countless instances of Bible characters habitually praying to God. Out of many, two comes to my mind immediately. One is Daniel; in the Book of Daniel:

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

– Daniel 6:10 (KJV)

To give a bit of a context to the passage, there was a law issued in Persia that no gods were to be worshiped other than King Darius himself. According to the passage, Daniel knew that the writing was signed, yet he “kneeled upon his knees…prayed, and gave thanks before his God.” Perhaps the most important part of this passage is the word “aforetime.” Daniel had a habit of kneeling before God and praying towards Jerusalem three times a day. He knew that his life would be at stake for praying to God, but he still prayed as he did “aforetime.” The result, as many of you know, was that Daniel was saved from the lion’s den by God, and instead his political rivals were thrown into the den and eaten alive by the lions.

The other example is Jesus. Jesus also had a habit of praying, as stated in the Scripture:

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed Him.

– Luke 22:39 (NIV)

This was right before Jesus was crucified. Despite knowing that he would inevitably be crucified, he went to the Mount of Olives as usual to pray. As we can see, both Daniel and Jesus went to pray as they always did regardless of whatever was to happen to them. Both were faced with the threat of death, (and Jesus indeed dies from cross, and resurrects) yet did not skip their daily routine of praying because of grief and worries. From this we realize that praying to God shouldn’t be something we do impulsively out of worries or other surge of emotions, but something we do routinely to connect ourselves spiritually with God. Hopefully, the importance of habit in living a life of faith is somewhat clear now.

Though seemingly mechanic and methodical, our adherence to such habits becomes an important indicator of our own faith. The examples I gave above were in ancient times, where believing in God was potentially life-threatening. At ancient times people were crucified or tortured or burned alivefor their beliefs. Nowadays, these threats no longer exist. We seem to be living in a world where there is a freedom of religion. But the capitalistic society that we live in requires us to deviate from our daily habits of faith and focus on building careers, money and family by not wasting any time. If we have some spare time to pray, we might as well spend those time to expand our businesses, improve our personal skills, or catch up with old friends; we can’t go to church on Sunday—we attract the most customers that day! These subtle obstructions to our faith is our era’s test of martyrdom, because these things are hard to notice, like molecules that can only be seen when one scrutinizes its details through a powerful microscope. These microscopic obstacles to our faith creates a powerful momentum, like a splitting nucleus emitting a neutron which then clashes with other nucleus, ultimately creating a massive nuclear fission. It is so important to never be swayed from obstructions that prevent us from pursuing our daily habit of faith.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

– Aristotle

The truth is, developing a habit is hard. It requires discipline. This habit of praying can be especially hard, because it is not what people commonly think when they think of praying. It is not the same as looking up to God when you need Him (although you would need Him every second of your life); it is devoting your time to Him even when you feel like everything is swell and you don’t really need to pray to Him. The same applies in situations where you just can’t help but brood over your deepest worries; you need to make it your habit to pray to Him. It should be difficult at first, but we should devote our time to Him.

So, how about it? Let’s start slow. At any time of the day, spare at least a few minutes of your time to pray. Pray for whatever crosses your mind; the things you’re grateful for, the things you want God to listen to, your problems, your dreams, your plans, your family, friends, the world, everything. Do not let your mind filter what you wish to say to God, rather open yourself so that the Holy Spirit can consume you.

Good Luck! Let us know how you are doing by posting on the comment below!

– A.K.

Sources:

1. Reverend Goshen Choi (sermons)

2. TAC (Meetings)

3. Merriam Webster Online Dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit )

How Do You Want to End 2013?

How many times did you want to quit your job and just slam the resignation letter on your boss’s desk? How many times did you want to just walk out from the trouble and wish you were gone? It is always easy to quit and end something. However, when it comes to “completing” something, we need to think over and be more conscious. Even if your start wasn’t so great, if you completed it beautifully, then it becomes a meaningful “event” in your life and you earn a priceless lesson from it. Therefore, you can make a difference in your life by completing things well.

We are heading towards the end of the year and autumn is here (the season of harvest)! When we reflect back to the resolutions we made in the New Year, we will ask ourselves: how many of the resolutions did we keep? We make resolutions and begin the New Year with big expectation and excitement. However, reflecting back at last ten months, there were times when I forgot about the decisions I made and just followed my old habits. So, I asked myself today: Am I going to end 2013 like this?

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“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning…”-Ecclesiastes 7:8

The Bible also advised us about the importance of completing things well. Also, in the Bible, we see a lot of characters that started on the right path, however, unfortunately, become a bad example in the Bible, just because he/she ended up in wrong path, by going against God’s will. The first king of Israel, Saul, is one of them. All Israelites wanted him to become the king and God anointed him as the first king of Israel. He begins as an ideal choice to lead and judge Israel. When he followed the word of Samuel, the prophet of God, he led the army to victory against foreign countries. He becomes conceited after a number of victories and loved being glorified by his people. As a result, he led the worship without presences of Samuel, and listened and trusted the words of fortunetellers. In the end, he was defeated in the battle and committed suicide by falling on his sword.

Only two months left till 2014! How do you want to complete 2013? It can be determined by how you spend the last two months of the year.

By: Shua Kim

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.

Be the Salt and Light of the World

“You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16)”

A title is a word added to someone’s name, signifying the person’s official position and sometimes socio/economic status in a society, also known as Socioeconomic Status. Although some titles are hereditary, meaning inherited from parents, most titles we have seen nowadays are given by society where the people belong to. Furthermore, sometimes those titles reveal one’s achievement in his/her life.

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For instance, J.D. (Doctor of Jurisprudence) and M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) are professional doctorate degrees or titles that are extremely competitive to achieve. The primary purpose of giving such titles to a person was to celebrate one’s achievement in his/her life. Today, however, many people live their lives to achieve that titles; this change in Value caused many problems in the modern society as well as in Christian community.

Christian is a title given to those who believe in Jesus Christ. However, sometimes we notice ourselves that forget about the primary purpose of being a Christian. In the Bible, Christians are depicted as those who are “the salt and the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). The commonality between the salt and light is that they are essential for the world to exist.

Why does the Bible describe Christians as being the salt and the light? If we think about it, both the salt and light are important to humans and, thus, Christians must influence others as the “salt and light.” Although the universal importance of salt is not as readily apparent in our modern society, the mandate that Jesus gave to his first 12 disciples is still relevant and applicable to Christians today.

Our lives are to be an on-going witness to the reality of Christ’s presence in our lives. When we worship God with pure hearts as salt and when we love others as ourselves, we are the light shining—however we should realize that the light shining is not from us, but from Jesus Christ Himself that people will see in us, Christians.

 – T.S